Rusty Weir, working with Elise, Austin Wranglers

I hurried home on Friday after work to mow the yard. A couple of months ago I had pulled up the existing owners’ flower bed/garden that was edged with landscape timbers and positioned awkwardly in our backyard. I found that there is now a plethora of sweet basil growing from where the bed used to be. I pulled up 20 of the young plants and planted them in my garden and in a couple pots. I’m thinking it won’t take long before grass will take over that old garden box area.

After my yard work, I hopped in the shower and went to the Austin Music Hall to see Elise. She catered her boss’s UT fraternity reunion. I ate fajitas and watched Rusty Weir perform.

Elise went back to work on Saturday morning. I got up and did some more leveling in the backyard for the to-be-built-someday deck. Then it was off to El Arroyo before going to the Copper Tank to help Elise cater Galleywinter’s GreenFest 2004. I’m guessing that I rolled 7.2 million fajita tacos. We had a lot of fun even though we were working and didn’t get home until 4 a.m.

Sunday morning rolled around too quickly and guess what? Back to El Arroyo. Elise and I drove the catering van out into the high rollers’ neighborhood to pickup some chafing dishes and tables from a previous event. On our way back to the restaurant, Elise rolled down her window and talked to a bird. Keep in mind, we’re driving around in a old, beat up baby blue cargo van in a very well-to-do neighborhood and my wife is leaning her head out the window saying “Hey bird, what kinda bird are you?” Had to have been there.

The van ran out of gas on 5th street 300 yards from the restaurant. Elise was already late for a meeting with a client and John was on his way to pick me up. Elise went to her meeting and John and I stayed and had lunch at the restaurant. We then went to the Frank Irwin Center to watch the Austin Wranglers lose to the New Orleans VooDoo. Although Austin lost, the game was a lot of fun to watch.

After peeling a parking ticket off of John’s windshield, we drove to CompUSA so John could price digital video cameras. We just looked. We went back to our house, hung out in the backyard until Elise got home and then ordered a pizza. Elise went back to work, John went home and I stared at the TV for the rest of the evening.

It was a busy, fun and way-too-short of a weekend.

No to bi-weekly mortgage payments

I wish I had found this article earlier and I could have saved myself a 20 minute phone call last week. Nine seconds (yes, I had a stop watch) after Elise and I closed on our house, our loan was sold to Washington Mutual. I learned before buying a house to send an extra payment each year and you can knock seven years off of your loan. I figured we were in a good position to do this because it’s our first house and our first payment was due soon. So I’ve adjusted our budget to where I send our full mortgage payment plus 1/12th of a full payment with a separate check with “Apply to principal” in the memo field each month.

I recently received a letter from Washington Mutual regarding their “Equity Accelerator” program that can withdraw half of our mortgage payment from our checking account every two weeks and knock 7 years off the life of our loan. I didn’t think that I would be making 26 biweekly payments (13 months). I thought it had something to do with compounded interest over two weeks versus a whole month. The payment would be the exact same. I thought to myself: you could enroll in this Equity Accelerator program and continue to send the additional 1/12 of a full payment each month to apply to the principle and reduce the life of our loan to somewhere around 15 years (instead of 30).

I called Washington Mutual and spoke to a very friendly customer service representative who told me that there is $200 up-front fee and a $2/month fee. Had I enrolled then and there, they would have to withdraw a full months payment to cover the following month while the account was setup and then would have to pay my standard mortgage payment at the beginning of the month. That would have been two months worth of mortgage payments plus an additional $200 in less than a month. It might be Spring but my money tree ain’t bloomin’.

I decided against the program because I didn’t see the point in having to pay fees for something that I can do on my own for free.

Janicek (JNCK) sees no gains second half of April

There are two truths in this world: Teeth and taxes.

I haven’t been my normal Seinfeldian self recently with the checkbook. I decided to give the online statement a gander today only to find that *gulp*… we have a lot of month at the end of the money!

At first I was mad, thinking that we had frivolously tossed our money around this month. I closely examined our e-statement to find that I shouldn’t beat myself up over this financial stress. I paid my dentist a large amount earlier this month for some new choppers. I paid the IRS half of what we owe. I paid off a large amount of our Basset credit card balance (even though we have something crazy like 57 years same-as-cash). I can’t stand being financially indebted. So, we’re struggling now but it’s for the greater good.

It’s Ramen and Kool Aid until May.

New computer, late weekend with my parents

This past Friday evening I put a bunch of stuff on eBay. I watched School of Rock (boo) and went to bed. I finally reorganized our pantry and spice cabinet on Saturday morning. Damn I’m an exciting dude. I rebuilt my computer with a new Abit mainboard and 2.8GHz Pentium (insert annoying chime) 4 processor compliments of my parents. Seeing how I haven’t built a computer from the ground up in a few years it was much to my surprise that I put everything together quickly and painlessly. Painlessly until I turned the computer on and XP wouldn’t load. I called my mom, we tried to troubleshoot the issue over the phone but decided it would be best if she came to check it out.

Elise came home later that evening and I went to Blockbuster and rented The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Scarface and Radio. We stayed up until 1 a.m. and watched Radio. Good movie.

My parents drove in on Sunday in time for the four of us to have lunch at the Oak Hill Grill. Elise went to work later that afternoon, I went to the grocery store, Dad assessed the backyard for deck building and Mom reformatted my computer’s hard drive (which was all that was needed). I cooked Thai pork and fried rice for dinner.

I worked a half-day on Monday and spent the afternoon with my parents. Mom and I drove to Discount Electronics and bought a case, 15GB hard drive and 32MB graphics card to build another computer with my old motherboard and processor. I slapped this new computer together late that afternoon and grilled ribeyes, potatoes and squash for dinner. We all watched American Idol, The Swan and American Chopper.

I stayed in this morning to spend more time with my parents. They left around 10:30 and I went to work. Now I’m bummed because all of the excitement is over – my parents have gone home and I haven’t seen my wife in something like a month.

Maybe TKD will cheer me up tonight.

Pork tenderloin, crowns, garage repair, sidewalking

I grilled a pork tenderloin with a chipotle corn cream sauce (better than the Y Bar & Grille), grilled rosemary potatoes and sugar snap peas on Monday
night while Elise watched the Ms. U.S.A. pageant.

I sat in the dentist’s chair for 2.5 hours on Tuesday while Dr. Cox sawed out my old grill and fitted me for two new front crowns. That was a painstaking ordeal. If you ever find yourself in Austin during a freeze in 1996, do yourself a favor and don’t fall face first onto concrete. My dentist is a cool guy (and a neighbor I recently found out) as is his staff. One of his hygienist sings while she cleans your teeth and Anne, his assistant gave me a jaw massage while Dr. Cox was cutting out my old crowns because my mouth had been open for nearly two hours.

Needless to say, I was in pain for the rest of Tuesday. I drove up north to Fry’s and picked up a new motherboard and 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processor
that were on sale. 700MHz to 2.8GHz should make for a nice change of pace. I then drove over to Tommy’s to drop off a CD before heading home to
see if the garage door had actually been repaired…

Our garage door hasn’t worked correctly since we moved into our house. It would open halfway and then stop. We’d have to click the remote button again for the door to either go up or go down (depending on its mood). I found a coupon for Gordon’s Overhead Doors in our mailbox one afternoon and decided to call. A young lad came out to my house and worked on the door. That worked for a couple weeks and then the same half opening/half closing started again. I called Gordon’s Overhead Doors again and asked to have someone come out. Someone was scheduled to come out that Wednesday night. Nobody showed. I called on Thursday morning and told Aaron (the owner) that nobody came over to fix my garage door. He scheduled someone to come out the following Monday. Monday rolls around and nobody showed. Now I’m pissed and want my money back. I called Aaron from work and gave him an earful. I was told that one of his repairmen had told him that he came to my house and fixed the door. This obviously didn’t happen and I later found out that this guy was fired because of this incident. Someone was scheduled to come to my house this past Monday evening. Guess what? Nobody shows! I called Aaron and was about to jump through the phone and strangle him. It’s bad enough that I was stood up three times, but Aaron would always say “God bless you, sir” and “this is a Christian-based company” on top putting me on hold numerous times to the point that I’d have to hang up and call back and giving me
conflicting schedule times. Each time I would call and tell Aaron that a repairman didn’t show up, he would say “it says here that so-and-so was scheduled to be at your house [confirms address] between 7 and 9 p.m. last night” when I was originally told between 5 and 7.

Anyway, two repairmen from Gordon’s Overhead Doors showed up on Tuesday. The garage door works for now but I won’t call Gordon’s Overhead Doors for any new service nor will I recommend them to anyone else.

Yesterday afternoon I rode the bicycle home from work, trying my damnedest to keep my mouth shut. After around the 7.5 mile mark I started getting tired. I was almost to my street but needed to take a little break. I hopped off the bike and started walking with the iPod still blaring when I heard someone yell: “Helllloooooooooooooo…” I turned and saw an almost middle-aged woman and her parents on bicycles behind me, waiting for me to move so they could go by. I pulled one of the earbuds from my ear and said “Excuse me.” She peddled slowly ahead of me. I could have swore I heard her mumble something to the effect of “you shouldn’t be doing that on the sidewalk.”

A few minutes later I confirmed in my own mind what she said and mustered the late rebuttal “What? Walking on the sidewalk?” It was one of those “Oh yeah… well the jerk store called and…

This week has been stressful.

Man enough to shoot the worm?

So I’m riding my (errr… John’s) bicycle to work this morning – I get to the top of the first incline on my street to where I can stop peddling and coast downhill for a bit. As I’m doing this, I open my mouth to take in some more fresh air as I’ve already started to get a workout and my body craves more oxygen and Expedition exhaust. I pass under a group of oak trees when phhhlump – a worm lands right on the back of my tongue and almost down the ol’ food tube.

I have done a little research and determined that my morning gag and near-epileptic fit was due to none other than Paleacrita vernata. Yes, it was the infamous Cankerworm. Have you ever just sat there and pondered the origin of Canker sores? Well, you can rest now. Canker sores come from kiss happy suburban bicyclists who involuntarily eat worms that dangle from oak trees on silk threads.

Click here to learn more about Cankerworms and other delectable Springtime provisions.

Easter weekend & finished the guest bathroom

This past Friday Elise and I had a group of old friends over for burgers and beer. Since the weather was so nice, we spent most of the evening out on our gigantic 8′ x 9′ patio.

Elise and I went to Home Depot (bad) on Saturday to buy a mirror for the finishing touches on our guest bathroom. We were in the HoPot for approximately thirty minutes. When we left, the temperature had dropped a couple hundred degrees and it was raining. We drove through the artic rain that is normal during mid-April in Austin to Our Glass and had Nick custom cut our mirror.

We then went to Bed Bath & Beyond to find a butter dish, a kosher salt container and a rug for the guest bath. We came home and finished our bathroom project. Elise and I took an old chicken coup window from Grandma B.’s farm, sawed out the center support, dry brushed it a rust color and turned it into a mirror.

Before and after.

Elise went to church on Sunday morning. I stayed in and cut a large chicken into four smaller pieces, marinated said pieces with homemade barbecue sauce and slow cooked them on the pit. I made cole slaw, Coors and chipotle mashed potatoes and pork and beans. Tommy came over later that afternoon for dinner and to hang out.

We then flopped down on the couch and watched the Matrix Revolutions before going to bed.

Creating a list of your mp3s

I use this simple command line prompt to create an ascii tree list of the directory in which I store my music files.

Start > Programs > Accessories > Command Prompt

You’ll then need to navigate to where where your music folder is. This
is old school DOS.

Your command line might read something like this:

C:Documents and SettingsAdministrator>

If your music files are on a separate drive, just type the drive letter
followed by a colon.

C:Documents and SettingsAdministrator>E:

If your music files are in a folder named ‘mp3’, you’ll need to change to that directory by using the CD (change directory) command:

E:>cd mp3

Type the following to print your list:

E:mp3>tree /f /a > mymp3tree.txt

Here is what your ascii list will look like.

John lends me some wheels, crawfish arrabiata

I was going to buy a new bicycle this past weekend but John talked me out of it. Instead of dropping $300 on a new bike, he said he’d lend me his. I think this is all because he wants me to spend my money on an iBook (I check daily for release information). I’ve been really itching to ride a bicycle again since mine (and Elise’s) were stolen last month.

So John brought his and Christine’s bikes over to our house on Tuesday. As a token of my appreciation I told him that I wouldn’t let his bike get stolen and I cooked him dinner. I sent Elise to Central Market for crawfish and prosciutto and I started making dinner. I fixed an on-the-fly arrabiatta with shell pasta, tomato, garlic, onion, basil (from my very own garden!), crushed red pepper, crawfish and prosciutto. I tossed that with a cheap chardonnay reduction, heavy cream and butter. I blush when complimented so John said it best when he noted that the sign of a good meal is when no one is talking. Elise, John and myself sat at the kitchen table without saying much. I had to point out that it was also 10 p.m. so I could have fed everyone cardboard filets topped with Cascade crème anglaise and still received the same response. Regardless, I thought it was good. I’ve enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen for four years now and like it when something turns out right. I become nervous cooking for friends because my friends are the kind who will tell you you have a booger hanging out of your nose while deep in conversation with someone of significance.

So I now have John’s bike. I’m going to ride to work tomorrow. 8 miles. Both ways. Up hill. In the snow. I’m curious as to how long that’s going to take me.

Mowing with lawndarts

I mowed the front yard for the first time yesterday afternoon. I grabbed the iPod, the lawnmower, cranked up some Britney Spears and went to mowin’.

“But Josh, why would such a manly man who exemplifies all that which is manly listen to Britney Spears while mowing your lawn?” is what you might be asking.

Simply put: Because I was wearing these.

Do not buy lawn aerator sandals from I mowed for approximately ten minutes before looking at the bottom of my feet to find that 95% of the aerator spikes had broken off.

Tommy’s b-day, Y Bar & Grill

Last Friday Elise and I went to Tommy’s to celebrate his birthday. I ate too many pizza bites.

I woke up unusually early on Saturday, paid bills, called Apple Care in an attempt to get my computer to see the iPod and cleaned my office. The garage door repair guy was supposed to come to our house between 10 and noon. He didn’t show. I called to reschedule for Monday (yesterday). He didn’t show last night either.

Anyway – I took Elise out for a nice lunch on Saturday afternoon. The weather was beautiful we sat on the patio at the Y Bar & Grill. Elise had the Creole Crab and Crawfish Salad Sandwich. I had the Smoked Pork Loin with Chipotle Corn Cream Sauce. We shared the intimate patio with a gaggle of pink-laden baby shower giddies who shrieked “Precious!!!” in unison every time a present was opened.

The food was good for the price but there was room improvements. The croissant that Elise’s sandwich was served on was soggy. My pork loin was dry. For the sandwich I would have toasted the croissant and used lettuce and thin slices of cheese to prevent liquids from getting to the bread. For the pork loin, I’m sure it was precooked or left over from the night before. I’d take the pork loin off the lunch menu or just undercook it when prepping. The Chipotle Corn Cream Sauce was very good though. So good that on Sunday when Elise and I went the grocery store, I bought a pork loin and extra chipotles so I can fashion a similar meal.

After lunch we went TJ Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond and Home Depot. I know we’re supposed to dodge the HoPot in April but we had to go to return the guest bathroom faucets. We stuck to our guns and didn’t spend much.

We then spent two hours at CompUSA where the Apple representative and sales manager tried to figure out why my computer wouldn’t recognize my iPod. No luck.

We went home, Elise worked on the guest bathroom, I broke my computer and ordered a veggie pizza from Mr. Gatti’s. We wasted an hour watching Saturday Night Live and went to bed.

Elise worked a brunch on Sunday morning. I fixed my computer and ate cold veggie pizza from Mr. Gatti’s. Elise came home and we went to HEB and got groceries. We went to John and Christine’s later that evening to watch the Sopranos. I made a very complex queso dip that if I told you what was in it, I’d loose any chance of becoming a renowned culinary adventurer. I can, however, tell you this. One ingredient is cheese that “is made with real cheese”. Elise noticed this on the box of “cheese”.

We drove to Tommy’s late that evening so I could get my camera that I had left over there on Friday night. We hung out for an hour or so as we watched the rain pour from the balcony.

Another short weekend.

Venison tenderloin stuffed with chorizo

We try to come up with three recipes a piece before we go to the grocery store. I winged a few recipes and Elise picked out a couple from one of her Weight Watchers cookbooks (which actually has good recipes). Last night was supposed to be broiled ginger and rosemary tuna steaks but I neglected to read the recipe beforehand which indicated that the steaks were supposed to marinate for 6 hours. I had to improvise which rendered a pretty good dinner.

I stuffed a venison tenderloin with sautéed yellow onion, green pepper, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, garlic, chili powder and chorizo. I grilled the tenderloin to a medium rare and cut in into medallions. I served it with a mango, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro and vinegar reduction and chipotle whipped potatoes. Elise doesn’t really like game or chorizo but cleaned her plate as fast as yours truly.

While indulging in improvised culinary craftsmanship, we enlightened our minds by watching two hours of Average Joe: Adam Returns.

Venison Tenderloin Stuffed with Chorizo

We try to come up with three recipes a piece before we go to the grocery store. I winged a few recipes and Elise picked out a couple from one of her Weight Watchers cookbooks (which actually has good recipes). Last night was supposed to be broiled ginger and rosemary tuna steaks but I neglected to read the recipe beforehand which indicated that the steaks were supposed to marinate for 6 hours. I had to improvise which rendered a pretty good dinner.

I stuffed a venison tenderloin with sautéed yellow onion, green pepper, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, garlic, chili powder and chorizo. I grilled the tenderloin to a medium rare and cut in into medallions. I served it with a mango, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro and vinegar reduction and chipotle whipped potatoes. Elise doesn’t really like game or chorizo but cleaned her plate as fast as yours truly.