Christmas Letters

Posted December 10, 2018 by joebowker
Categories: Christmas

Tags: ,

2018-12-10 10.57.10Every year at this time I write a Christmas letter. I have  been doing it now for about 20 years. I have most of the old letters saved in a directory on my computer going back to 1999.

I got the idea of writing the letters from Paula’s mother who did a Christmas letter every year. I felt that just doing cards was boring. I felt like writing to folks about what has happened in our lives, but doing it on each card was too much work. So I started our Christmas letter.

This year it will be going to about 125 of our nearest and dearest friends all over the world. One year I emailed the letter to most of our friends, but felt that was  boring.

Last year it went out to about 180 people. This year, I decided to pare the list down a bit. Getting a bit pricey at 50 cents per stamp.

So here’s my process. First, I save pictures over the course of the year and put in a Christmas 20xx file. I select pictures that might be good for the letter.

In mid November, I start reviewing the mailing list. I check for addresses. I check for deaths in the families. I don’t want to commit the faux pas of sending a letter to John and Jane Doe when Jane died during the year.

Beginning in early December, I start writing. Add pictures, then print and submit to editor in chief (Paula) who makes suggestions and corrections to my spelling and grammar.

Then log in to Amazon and shop for paper and envelopes. This year I have way more than I need. Extra paper and envelopes go into a bin for next year.

Next, print labels. I found an app on iTunes App Store that does a great job of printing labels. Click here for a pointer to the app.

Next, start the print run. Invariably, I run out of ink. This year is no different. Ran out of color cartridge. Ordered from HP. Should be here today. Once I have the ink installed, continue printing. HP offers free overnight shipping for ink cartridges. Good deal.

At this point, I hand off a handful of letters to Paula for people that she wants to add a personal note, maybe 20-25 out of 125.

Finally fold and stuff into envelopes and put on address and return address stickers. Finally add postage and drop into the mailbox.

If you don’t want to wait for the mailman, click here for your own copy.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Posted December 2, 2018 by joebowker
Categories: Movies, Reviews

Tags: , , ,

Saturday night was another “Date Night” for us. Paula and I were wanting to see “Bohemian Rhapsody” for a while now. We thought it might be getting to the end of its run in theaters by now. But we got tickets on the AMC app for the 6:40 pm show.

What a great movie. Paula says four stars all the way. It brings the story of Freddie Mercury and the rock band Queen to the big screen. You don’t want to watch this on your DVD player. You want to watch this on a big screen with the full theater Dolby sound system.

Freddie had an amazing voice. He could cover 4 octaves. (I can only cover 4 notes, let alone one octave.) I was impressed that a four piece band (drums, bass guitar, lead guitar and singer) could make such loud, beautiful sound. (Click here for the full Wikipedia article on Freddie Mercury.)

Freddie was born of Parsi parents on the island of Zanzibar and later in India. He later moved to England with his parents.

The finale of the movie is the performance at the Live Aid concert in 1986. Freddie Mercury died in 1991 of Pneumonia related to the disease AIDS at the age of 45.

So last night I downloaded the soundtrack album from iTunes and listened to it on the way to and from church. Nothing like the tune “Bohemian Rhapsody” rattling around your head during church. Maybe, I’ll play it at our OES meeting tomorrow.

Click here for the trailer on YouTube.

1SE for November

Posted December 1, 2018 by joebowker
Categories: 1 Sec Every Day, 1SE

Tags:

Here’s my 1SE (1 Second Everyday) for November. In December, I will be posting a video for the entire year.

Beaujolais Nouveau

Posted November 18, 2018 by joebowker
Categories: Wine

Tags: , , ,

2018-11-17 20.58.27The third Thursday in November  is Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Most people don’t know that. This is the day that the current year’s Beaujolais Nouveau wine shows up on liquor retailer’s shelves. I have it marked in my calendar on my iPhone.

So what the heck is Beaujolais Nouveau? Okay, Beaujolais Nouveau is the name of the French wine made with the first harvest of Beaujolais grapes. You’ll notice on the bottle that the vintage is listed as 2018. You won’t see an earlier vintage, because once it is sold out, that’s it. No more until next November.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a smooth, mellow, light tasting red wine. I usually serve it at Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is on the 4th Thursday and Beaujolais Nouveau is on the third. How convenient.

And Beaujolais Nouveau goes well with turkey. Also, it won’t break the bank. Usually a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau sells for under $10. Often less. Friday we bought four bottles plus a couple of bottles of white. Albertson’s gives a 10% discount for 6 bottles which brought the price down to $9 a bottle.

If you tend to not like red wines like Cabernets or other red blends, give Beaujolais Nouveau a try.

Here are some pointers for further reading about Beaujolais Nouveau:

Enjoy!

Pea Soup

Posted November 15, 2018 by joebowker
Categories: Cooking, Recipes

Tags: , , ,

Today I am cooking pea soup in our crock pot. This is one of Mary’s favorite meals. She will usually eat a whole soup bowl without any nagging on my part. When I was a kid, my mother would make pea soup and I hated it. I guess when I came to adulthood my tastes had changed.

And it so easy to make. Prep time is about 20-30 minutes. Cook time about 4-5 hours.

Here are the ingredients:

So we have:

  • 4 Carrots
  • 2 Celery stalks
  • 1 bag of dry split peas (usually found in the grains section)
  • 1 Medium onion
  • 8 oz. Diced ham. (Our super market sells packages of 8 oz., just the right size.)
  • 48 oz. Chicken stock (We prefer the low-salt variety)

Peel and chop the carrots. Wash and chop the celery and onion. Add to the crock pot.

Then wash the split peas in a colander. Add to the crock pot.

Finally, add the diced ham. Add the chicken stock with enough fluid to cover everything in the pot.

Cover and cook on high for about 4-5 hours. Good idea to stir once or twice during the cooking. Don’t forget to plug it in. (I’ve done that once or twice.)

I use plastic crock pot liners to help in the clean up later on. Available in the plastic bag aisle of the grocery store.

Done. Take a nap.

The Tatooist of Auschwitz: A Novel

Posted November 15, 2018 by joebowker
Categories: Books, Reviews

Tags: ,

TatooistI just finished a book titled “The Tatooist of Auschwitz” about a young Slovakian man who was imprisoned at Auschwitz during World War 2.

I could hardly put the book down. This is the story of a young Slovakian man named Lale who was imprisoned in 1942 in Auschwitz. Somehow, Lale survives and manages to get a job of  “Tatooist” which was a person who inscribed inmates with their identification number on their arm.

It is a story of one man’s survival in a German prison camp. Lale manages to survive and even thrive. He manages to not only survive but meet a woman named Gita and fall in love. Then, after the war become his wife.

One of the skills that Lale had that helped him survive was that he was fluent in over four languages. He was useful to the Germans. I really enjoyed this book. I could hardly put it down. I went through it in about three days which for me is light speed.

Go ahead and download it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Fire!

Posted November 10, 2018 by joebowker
Categories: California

Tags: ,

We are in the fire season right now. Bill Patzert (climatologist) once said that there are four seasons in California, drought, fire, rain and mudslides. Right now we are in “fire season”. The above seasons, it seems are not of the same length. It seems that we have been in “fire season” for a long time.

These seasons are a vicious cycle. First comes the fire, which burns away all of the scrub grass, then comes the rain which creates mud (and slides) and finally drought. And then, we start all over again. Rainy season is generally accepted will start some time in January.

The most recent fire is called the “Woolsey Fire” which is currently burning about 70,000 acres in an area north of Malibu in LA and Ventura counties. At our home in San Pedro, we get a small scent of burning wood when the wind is blowing out of the north. We are not in any danger right now.

You know that you live in California, when you have an app on your phone that shows the current fire “map”. By the way, the app is free. Here’s the current fire map of California. Note, the two red dots just north of LA. These are the two fires that are near us.

Here are a few pictures:

Evacuation from Malibu