Friday, December 31, 2010

Channeling my inner Sheldon

Sure, Sheldon looks cooler in that shirt than I do and he is certainly wealthier but that still won’t stop me from wearing it.
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He’s also a tad thinner. I guess it’s time to cut out some of the donuts, and pizzas, and Cokes, and Krystal burgers, and cupcakes, and loaves of bread, and Big Macs, and Chinese food.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another New Year

Remember way back when New Years Eve was simply about watching B-grade TV stars like Daisy from “The Dukes of Hazzard” ring in the new year?

Now each year I’m filled with a bit of dread knowing that I will see Dick Clark and think “How tragic”. It’s hard to celebrate when you are reminded of that every year. That’s why I totally try to avoid him and watch Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin instead. Each year I wonder how she will top the insane things she said the previous year and each year I am amazed when she actually does it.

I think Anderson Cooper summed it up nicely in his statement from a CNN press release: "Once again, I'm terrified to be co-hosting CNN's New Year's Eve show with Kathy Griffin. It's often bitterly cold, and yet after being with her for a few minutes on live television, I find myself drenched in sweat."

Typically I end the year on the blog with a look back at all the things that happened in the last 364 days. This year I am not doing that. I wrote about all that stuff already and I apologize to anyone who came here looking for something interesting to read. I don’t want to put you through all of the gut-wrenching excitement that has been my 2010 again, such as all of my trips to the Waffle House and the times I locked myself in the bathroom to eat an entire box of Hostess Cupcakes. I’m just not sure your heart (or what is left of my mind) can take it.

Onward and upward – into 2011 we go!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Post Holiday Cleanup

I thought I would do a good thing last year. Instead of leaving garbage bags piled up by the trash can so the wind could blow them in the street and the dogs could go through them, I bought another cheap trash can and put the extra bags in it. Of course, the city left the trash in the can because it was not in their “city garbage can”. They want you to buy a second one from them to use on day a year.

So, this year, I just added some height to my current can with my specially engineered cardboard walls.

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I also went out and added a bag of stinky leftovers to the very top last night. It felt good.

Now I am engaged in a battle with the weather. I am trying to get all of the outside decorations down before they get soaked in the upcoming rain.

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I got part of them down last night and hope to get all of the lights off the house this evening. After that, it can pour.

Here’s a good song about rain. I like how they start the taped music before he is ready. That’s a lot of people they employed to make us think he was singing that live. We’re we so dumb in the 70’s that we didn’t realize how weird it was that most performances sounded exactly like the record?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas

I’m not sure how we will top this Christmas. We probably won’t. The kids got what they wanted. There was snow all day long. I only had to open two or three annoying toy packages. It was a Christmas dream come true. Of course, this is also a sign that the kids are growing up and don’t want toys anymore and it won’t be long before we lose the “magic” of Christmas. That’s something I just try not to think about and hopefully we can put up enough lights and stuff them with enough sweets to keep it going for a few more years!

Sara got a new Wii remote for the New Carnival Games that was about to be opened.

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Lindsay got costume beads for her about to be opened pageant dress that I am not sure where it will be worn to.

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Alex got a stocking full of toys that she promptly destroyed and then took Lindsay’s Pillow Pet unicorn as her own. Note that she has taught the unicorn who is boss by sitting on its head.

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There was snow a-plenty to play in.

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Can we just pause on this day and have every day be just like this one?

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve!

The house is oddly quiet now but that will all change soon. We brought all of the presents here and anal-retentively organized them by child to minimize Christmas Present Passing Out Chaos Disorder. CPPOCD is something children ages 4-11 are quite prone to. At 12, they turn into tiny hipsters and try to pretend they are cool and don’t care (even though they are about to poop in anticipation).

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The Elf on the Shelf finally stopped being such a high-flying daredevil and settled down with an old friend for his last night here at the house before tradition deems that he flies away until next year.

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I think the kids will have a good Christmas. It’s our first year with very few toys. They’ve grown out of most of it. It won’t be long until all they want is a car and their freedom. So, we’ll enjoy the simpler times while we still can!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Almost Christmas

As we get closer to Christmas, The Elf on the Shelf have gotten even more brave and daring. We found him on the ceiling fan yesterday.

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This morning he went even higher. I think he’s nutty.

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Our snow chance has gone back up and that will sort of wreck our plans for my family to come to the house on Saturday. They won’t drive in the snow and if I try to drive there I will never hear the end of how I risked all of our lives!

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3 to 4 inches would be a whopper for us. We just don’t have the road clearing capability that they have north of us. When I lived in Cincinnati I drove to work one morning with 13 inches on the ground. 13 inches here would paralyze us for at least a week!

On thing we are doing different for Christmas this year is no longer having the Christmas cam on Christmas Eve. It was a hoot the 3 years we did it but this year I prefer to curl up under a Slanket with a nice cup of Egg Nog without having to go back and forth and check on the camera!

That’s it. Tomorrow, we begin the holiday weekend!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

3 days before Christmas and I am barely awake

Where, oh where is my holiday energy? I am dragging. There must be too much yule in the air and it is making me sleepy.

It looks like we might have our first White Christmas in 17 years! I’m not sure what possessed me to go out in the snow and take pictures of the last one in ‘93.

If the forecast holds together, we could get anywhere from nothing up to 6 inches starting late Christmas Eve! It just depends on who you listen to. I expect them to change the forecast to “Sunny and 80 degrees” tomorrow.

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We did get out and visit the recently reopened Opryland Hotel this week. The decorations were excellent as usual and the crowd wasn’t too bad. It’s hard to believe that most of the hotel was under 10 feet of water from the May flood and it’s even harder to believe that they fixed it all in just 6 months. I’ve been going there to see the Christmas decorations for years. There is something quite special about it.

One more day of work this week. How many cups of coffee will it take to make it through?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ode to Our Future Christmas Tree

O Clearance Tree, O Clearance Tree,

I’m so glad you were forty percent off.

O Clearance Tree, O Clearance Tree,

I’ll store you until next Christmas.

My four year old tree is wearing out,

Some branches no longer light up.

O Clearance Tree, O Clearance Tree,

The plastic poison fumes you’ll emit are still legal in China.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Dell E6410 laptop–goodbye and good riddance!

So, there is no good week for your work laptop to go kaput but you don’t want it to happen on a 4 day week and on your busiest day of the week.

Call it bad laptop karma. Around 2:30PM, I am feverishly keying stuff into the system when all of a sudden I appear to be unable to type correctly. For the first five minutes of getting more and more frustrated, I thought I needed a bit of coffee or I was having some sort of mental lapse. That’s when I realized that I was having to hit every fourth or fifth key twice. Then, programs started closing themselves and the computer would randomly type a letter here and there.

A reboot did not resolve it. A reboot with all of the USB stuff removed did not resolve it. By the third reboot, the keyboard was only staying responsive long enough to log in and the touchpad would not work.

I finally had to pull the hard drive to get my files off of it. I had last done a back up on 11/30 so there was quite a bit to copy over.

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Thank goodness I work in IT and have a laptop drive USB caddy. Thank goodness I didn’t turn in my old work laptop but kept it as a spare – just in case something crazy like this happened.

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I had nothing but problems with this laptop all 3 months I had it (I thought I had been suffering for 4 months until I reviewed the paperwork tonight). Windows 7 gave me fits. I had to redo the whole thing twice and still was having random blue screens and freeze ups. I can’t tell if I have a lemon or what but it is being packed up tomorrow and returned. I am done fighting this fight and will gladly go back to XP for now.

Geek talk over. More Christmas stuff tomorrow.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The DQ Blizzard Maker–making ice cream the old fashioned (1905) way!

My youngest daughter has been bugging me to make DQ Blizzards ever since she got the DQ Blizzard Maker for her birthday. It’s a pretty hot selling toy – she actually got two of these plus we had almost bought her one.

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The big thing standing in the way is me forgetting to buy Half and Half 3 different times. My brain just doesn’t function like it used to so I keep leaving this off the grocery list.

It looks so easy (on the box) so I thought I really need to get this going and we’ll be rolling in cool, tasty treats in no time. See – just 4 easy steps!

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I did finally open the box Friday to see what other things we need to do to make a delicious ice cream treat. Imagine my horror when 4 easy steps turned into 19 mind-numbing tasks.

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Yep, by the time you’re done, you’re going to be too tired to eat the ice cream. You see, you’re churning this the old fashioned way – like my great-grandmother probably did at my daughters age – back in 1905. I can hardly get her to pick up her shoes or brush her hair right and I should expect her to manually churn ice chunks and salt for 10 minutes?

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To even get all the way to the history lesson in step 12, you discover in step 3 that you need another machine in addition to your DQ Blizzard Maker– an ice shaver. Or, you can beat pieces of ice wrapped in dish rags with hammers like we did back in the 70’s!

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And don’t think you’ll get the beautiful end product that the box shows.

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Near the end, you pull the red “door ball” and it slowly goops out.

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One good thing is this gets your child ready for how things really work in the corporate world or in government – which ever way they would like to go.

So, to the millions of kids that get this under the tree next week, I wish good luck to their parents. Find a good place to store it now because by step 14 you’ll throw your hands in the air and just drive to Dairy Queen, which is exactly what Dairy Queen probably intends to have happen!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Weekend!

The snow is over. School is almost out for the holiday. I had a cavity-free dental check up this morning. I have a day off tomorrow. I’m watching the new Big Bang Theory and tonight is the last night that Larry King will be on television. Can it get better than this?

The only thing that stands between me and this glorious three day weekend is two hours of elementary school Christmas parties where I will have to eat hardly identifiable homemade concoctions and resist the urge to hit unruly children in the head with inedible burnt sausage balls.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Saying “Thanks for the memories” to The House Foundation

Just under a year ago, I wrote about changes at the morning radio show I’ve been listening to for over twenty years.

Tomorrow morning, the show ends. After losing two members last year due to budget cuts (which have sucked the personality out of radio across the country), I had a feeling that Gerry House would be gone when his contract ended this year and that his longtime male companion, Mike Bohan, would leave also.

So, what is my attachment to a radio show and why does this sadden me? For starters, I have had to get up early for work for years. I normally start working at 6AM or even a bit earlier when needed because the morning is the busiest time where I work and our company stretches across 5 time zones. The first thing that goes on when I get up is the radio. Through all of these early mornings, the House Foundation has been there for me – keeping me sane when I thought I was about to lose my mind by keeping me laughing. I have kept a radio with me in each office I have had.

What is missing in radio today that Gerry House provides is a conversation. He gets personal. He has real opinions. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you don’t. He’s not on a soapbox. He is just a real person. We live in a city where the number one radio station has no announcers and it appears that the younger generation is embracing this type of radio. I am one of the dinosaurs.

I grew up with Mike Bohan on local television and I was quite happy when he joined the show in 1995. He is a warm and funny man who just happens to share my birthday.

I’ll sure be sad to see my two morning friends gone. I’ve got a lot of great memories and no two guys deserve a happy retirement more.

Here’s a letter I sent to the local paper last week that was published in a slightly edited form on Monday. If you’re not from here, you may read this and still not really “get it”. But, if you’re a dinosaur like me, where ever you are you too probably have your own fond radio memories.

To the editor:

It was inevitable that the House Foundation would one day end. People retire. All good things must end. When Al and Duncan left last year, I had a feeling that goodbye would not be far off. On December 15th, Nashville loses much more than a disc jockey.

Gerry House doesn’t just play songs – he has given us “regular joes” who have nothing to do with the industry true buy-in into country music because, as a songwriter, he shares with us what makes country music tick. If you have listened to the House Foundation regularly, you’re not just a casual country listener. His passion for the music is contagious and his devotion has made us devoted and excited for the music that has made Nashville what it is today. He has championed the songwriters who are normally never given public acknowledgement for the hits they have made. He has supported new acts that otherwise might not have gotten the exposure they needed to breakthrough.

No matter how you feel dragging into work each and every morning, it seems like The House Foundation has always been there to lift us up and they’ve done this for us even while dealing with their own personal ups and downs. Mike Bohan, and Duncan Stewart, Al Voecks, Devon ‘O Day, Richard Falklen, Chris Romer, the not forgotten Paul Randall, and so many others (including Gerry’s mother and even reluctant advertisers!) have been an integral part of the success of the House Foundation over the years. It has been like having another family with you for four hours every morning and it has truly been a blessing.

They’ve helped countless charities and individuals in the community over the years. They’ve supported the military and honored not only those in service but the families left behind that are missing them.

They’ve made me laugh, they’ve made me think and they’ve even made me tear up on occasion.

Gerry House, Mike Bohan and the rest of the House Foundation have been a part of my life for so long that it’s difficult to consider mornings without them. The pants of controversy are about to be folded up and packed away, Nashville radio is about to lose a legendary show and we are all about to lose two cherished friends.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowy Sunday

We beat the snow down to the shopping center but it made it before we could get back to the house.

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It was just a tad slick out there as we made the way home. We couldn’t get on the interstate because some nut tried to take the on ramp too fast and crashed!

Arriving home, I knew my fate was sealed – there would be no school on Monday.

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The snow is being followed by some very cold weather – 10 degrees tomorrow night. I’m already tired of the really cold weather. What happened to our 40 degree winter days?

Now it’s time for hot chocolate and pj’s while my penguin guards the house.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

The word for Saturday is RAIN

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The rain has been with us since about noon. The drops seem large than average which is quite annoying. Of course, I would take the rain over the blast of freezing cold weather and the two to three inches of snow we are expecting tomorrow. Remember – it only takes about a half an inch of snow here to paralyze the city!

Last night, we had the opportunity to go to the Grand Ole Opry and see the Rockettes kick it Christmas-style!

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I sneaked in one highly illegal photo before the show started. Shhh – don’t tell the Rockettes.

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This morning, I drove over to the office and dropped off some computers I imaged this week for backups. I know it sounds exciting. Then, I headed up to my parents house to work on some computer stuff for them. It was nice and dry this morning before the rain hit.

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Instead of going interstate the entire way, I drove through the part of Nashville where my grandparents lived. Talk about going down – it was just a plain mess. At least the dumpy Sir Pizza was still there. Some things never change – not that I would be brave enough to get out of the car and go in there without a Kevlar jacket and a taser.

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Now we just wait for the snow. The rain is still pelting the side of the house and the wind has really picked up. We’re supposed to have a break while the temperature drops and then the snow is forecast to move in mid-morning. This means the kids will most likely be home Monday. I now must go and mentally prepare myself for that and make sure I have a stash of cupcakes available for when I lock myself in the bathroom!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

If flu shots don’t make you sick, is it just a coincidence that I feel like I’ve bit hit by a truck?

I don’t know exactly what has happened but I have felt “off” since I got up this morning and I must have woke up about 10 times last night. All of this has happened after getting my super-mega-flu shot yesterday.

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I didn’t go there particularly for the flu shot. I went because I had an appointment with my nemesis, the sphygmomanometer.

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Once again, I squeaked out right under where I would have to be to go on the high blood pressure meds full time. It’s actually down compared to last year which is amazing because I would think the stress level is actually up due to the holidays plus I haven’t lost much off of my full-figured Santa belly. I just have to keep checking it at home and call back if it moves up. Thanks to my good reading I get a six month refill on my allergy meds! What a reward!

Maybe tomorrow I will wake up feeling 100% and ready to take on the world in various calm, low stress activities.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Remembering John Lennon

When I think about today being the thirtieth anniversary of the senseless assassination of John Lennon, several things come to mind.

First, it’s hard to believe that 1980 was thirty years ago. Where did the time go? The world sure has changed in the past thirty years and it’s almost seems crazy to be old enough to have that kind of perspective.

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Second, how would music be different today if John Lennon was still alive? He already defined one generation and I think that much of his solo music is just about timeless. He was a genius and an innovator. The music he was working on that was released after his death is certainly not defined by the style that was popular at the time. I think we really missed out on some great work and I think he would still be writing and performing today.

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Finally, the main question is still “Why?”. Mark David Chapman seemed like a real nut when this happened but the world today is filled with who knows how many people who are just like him. They feel that the fame associated with doing something like Chapman did is worth whatever the outcome.The reason it doesn’t happen to celebrities is because they must surround themselves with all types of protection and the reason they do is because of tragedies like this.

Here’s the single I bought when it was released back in 1984.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday!

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It seems unusual to be worried about pipes freezing up here in December but the cold January weather has arrived a bit early this year. We have a short break coming up later this week and then snow and even colder weather forecast next week. Winter hasn’t even begun and it’s already too cold. Can’t we have some of those brisk 40 degree days to transition us to frostbite?

This week is crawling by. There is so much to do and typically those full days fly by but the last two have been creeping along. I have a doctors appointment tomorrow to make sure my blood pressure is still under control and to get the super mega flu shot. I wonder how long I will have to sit bored in a stupor awaiting for my appointment. I’m not sure why I bother making an appointment for the doctor since I always sit there for an hour regardless.

That’s all I’ve got for today.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love? (It should be called “A lot of eating, not much praying, and you call that love?”)

So, just from the title you can tell exactly what I thought of the Julia Roberts movie I was forced to sit through on Saturday night. I am glad it was just a $1 rental at the Redbox because I would hate to pay more for a movie that just makes me want to scream at the television.

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It’s not that that movie is totally bad – the scenery was incredible and all of the film of great food (and there is lots and lots of great food displayed and consumed in this movie) left me pretty hungry. There are also a lot of quick editing cuts that are sort of cool to watch.

As for the praying, she seems to have no spiritual center at all and that is a part of the problem. She ends up turning to the teachings of a religious guru for advice and when she ends up in India at this guru’s enclave, you see other characters that have ended up in the same place who are just as messed up as she is. I was left wondering how they ended up there and noted that they seem to leave not much better than they were when they arrived! You can also tell that she sees nothing more important than herself up until the very end of the movie and you are still left wondering how the relationship at the end will work out. Obviously, from her second memoir about her marriage, it has it’s ups and downs but they do appear to be sticking it out!

What annoys me is that it seems totally unrealistic but this is supposedly a true story! If it were straight fiction, I think it would be easier to accept but this is based on the memoir of a real person! I wrote earlier this year that it would sure be nice to have the money and ability to leave all of your life and responsibilities behind when you hit a bump in the road. Time and time again, our heroine in mostly self-created distress does very little to not make us think she is totally self-centered. From the beginning (where she seems to wake up one morning and feel totally trapped in her marriage and the only reason ever portrayed seems to be that she has gotten bored) to the end(where she acts like she is doing her new love an incredible favor by letting him sweep her off her quite spoiled rotten feet), it’s watching what her self-centeredness does to the people around her in this movie that is just about cringe-worthy. I think she was just plain fussy and extremely high maintenance but who knows – maybe she has discovered her true inner whatever now and is the perfect picture of spiritual balance.

I did like one quote in the movie which I must assume comes from the book and which seems to be pasted on blogs and Facebook pages all over the place:

“If you're brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”

It’s really good advice and quite hard to do. It’s part of having to accept that you can’t be all things to all people and if you can see those who drive you nuts as teachers, they you do breakthrough your own ego just a bit and sometimes just a bit is enough to keep your sanity and you may even learn something about yourself in the process. I have not always been good at this and I certainly have my good days and bad days but it is something I continue to work on. Hearing it in this form in this movie was a pleasant surprise and it is one of several shining moments that made sitting through the whole thing worth it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Anal retentive Christmas exterior illumination tips

I think that it’s time to share some of my tips from many years of suffering that I have endured while decorating the outside of the house for Christmas and other holidays.

The most time confusing and tedious part is hanging up the icicle lights.

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I’m not a big fan of heights so I use a telescoping Christmas light install pole with little plastic gutter clips like this one.

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I test all of the lights before I put them up. I do this because it is no fun to put up lights all the way down the house and then discover that a whole strand is out. That is something that happened last year. I start at the far end of the house and move right. One key to doing this quickly is that I pack them at the end of the year and number the strands so I know which one goes where down the line. I know that is incredibly anal retentive but it saves me trying to make sure I am not putting up too few lights to make it all the way down the house (which happened three years ago).

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Wind is a real factor here. It’s not uncommon to have cold fronts come in with 40 to 50 mph wind gusts this time of year. Because of this, I use plastic stakes to anchor all of the plastic stand up figures like the bear and the penguins. This is also a deterrent for the little heartless thieves that like to steal Christmas decorations! I drill two holes in the base and hammer the stake right through to the ground.

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I have a spiral Christmas tree that I have to hold down with stakes and a nice brick.

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Rain is also a big part of late fall and early winter here. I wrap most of the electric connections where decorations plug into extension cords in aluminum foil. This helps keep fuses from blowing when the surprise monsoons blow in (as they did about 5 years ago!).

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For lights around the front door, I used to use flexible tube lights. They are a pain because they love to burn out and I found the only real way to hold them up was with electrical tape. So, I switched last year to traditional Christmas lights and I started using Velcro Christmas light clips. They are much better.

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I used to use a manual timer which had a dial and a ring of little plastic “hammers” around it that you pressed in to set the on/off time. It was so annoying and never seemed to keep time right. (I only have the lights on from 4:30PM to 9:30PM). So, this year I went digital. Also, note in this picture the extension cord with a zip tie around it that is not plugged in. That is the cord with only my two 7 foot inflatables on it. I keep them on their own cord so I can unplug the inflatables when the wind is going to be high (again with storms or cold fronts). Wind above 25 will shred the 4 strings that hold up the inflatables. This way they can be easily unplugged while still leaving the lights on.

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Speaking of 7 foot inflatables, 4 strings anchor them to the ground using 4 hooks. When packing them up for the year, put each string in it’s own sandwich bag or these things will actually find a way to tie to each other. I don’t know if it is evil magic or what but I learned my lesson on this one a few years back!

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See the lizard in this picture? That is another thing to keep an eye out for while messing with lights and other stuff outside this time of year. These little guys will jump on you if you are not careful. They have sticky toes and they don’t like to let go. It’s the Christmas surprise that is a little icky and gross.

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Finally, I have learned to keep a small stash of spare light bulbs and fuses because you have no idea what is going to go out when. The weather here is extreme right before Christmas. It was 75 degrees the day I put these up and it will be 14 tomorrow night. Some bulb somewhere will not like this. It’s also a good idea to keep extra strings and hooks for the 7ft. inflatables. A good time to get spare parts is the week after Christmas when it is typically 50-75% off.

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My folks never decorated the outside of the house at Christmas and I sort of understand why due to how much work it is. But, the kids seem to enjoy the fact that people typically slow down driving past the house at night to look at the lights and Christmas is all about keeping the kids entertained with my repeated near-misses with electrocution.

Once it is all finished, it is quite a site to behold. (I need to take a newer picture since our Thanksgiving turkey has now been replaced with a 7 ft. reindeer). I’m sure we also make the electric company quite happy!

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