Posts Tagged ‘Erin


Things I love Erin more than

For a long time now, I’ve occasionally taken a moment to tell Erin something that I love less than her. This is, of course, a substantial list. It has gotten rather long over time, as I would glance over at her and say, for example, “I love you more than The LEGO Movie and Titleist Golf Balls.”

Since I’m going to get to marry her this afternoon, I thought I would share with you a few of the things that I love Erin more than. This is, you understand, a woefully incomplete list. There are many, many things I love less than her that are not represented here, simply because really, who has that much time to do a complete list? But for now, until I see her walking down the aisle, here’s a partial list of things I love Erin more than.

A&W Root Beer
AA Batteries
Action Comics #1
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
All you can eat salad and breadsticks
Aluminum Water Bottles
Andy Richter
Back to the Future Part II
Barbecue Fritos
Barq’s Root Beer
Bejeweled Blitz
Benjamin J. Grimm
The Blue Lion from Voltron
Bluebell Ice Cream
Blueberry Pancakes
Bob Sagat
Bottled Water
Breaking Bad
Bryan Cranston
Bugs Bunny
Cadbury Creme Eggs
Candy Crush
Cap’n Crunch
Carrot Cake
Cheese Grits
Cheese Pizza
Cheesy Pita Bread
Chex Mix
Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza
Chocolate Bunnies
Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Chocolate Pickles
Christmas Crunch Cereal
Christmas Trees
Chuck Jones
Cinematic Titanic
Claw-Foot Bathtubs
Clerks II
Coke Zero
Color pencils
Comic Book Conventions
The Complete Works of Herman Melville
Conan O’Brien
The Constructicons all together (i.e. Devestator)
Corn Pone
Count Chockula
Cracker Barrel
Dalek/TARDIS Salt and Pepper Shaker Set
Drake’s Coffee Cake
The Dewey Decimal System
Digital Chickens
Don Knotts
Drive-In Movies
Ducky Momo
The Easter Bunny’s Chocolate Droppings
Egg Nog
Electric Blankets
The Electric Light Orchestra
Every German Gymnast
The Films of Matt Damon
Flintstones Push Pops
Forever Stamps
Freddie Mercury
French Toast
Fruit Stripe Gum
Garlic Bread
Garth Brooks
Geoff Johns
Ginger Ale
Girls with Scottish accents
Glazed Donuts
Glitter Paint
Grape Soda
Grilled Cheese
The Guild
The Hadron Supercollider
Hall AND Oats
Hershey kisses
Hot Dogs cut to look like Octopi
Hyperactive turtles
Ice Cold Spring Water
Ice Cream Cake
Injection Molded Plastic
The Internal Combustion Engine
Iron Man
Ironing Boards
Kettle Corn
Kinetic Balls
Kosher Dill Pickles
The Last Day of School
Lime Sugar Free Jell-O Cups
Lipton Green Tea
The Loch Ness Monster
The Lone Ranger
Lucille Ball
Macaroni and Cheese
The Magical Comedy of Mr. John Cleese
Malted Milk Balls
The Man-Eating Shark Saturday Night Live sketch
Marshmallow Peeps
Marvin Gardens
Maxwell House Coffee
Men’s Wearhouse
Michael Phelps
Mister Bean
The Mona Lisa
Monty Python
The Moon
The Mountains
The Movies of Jerry Lewis
MRI Scanners
The Music of Jerry Lee Lewis
The Music of Mr. Conway Twitty
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Nacho Cheese
Nasal Decongestant
National Novel Writing Month
Nestle Qwik
Not Being Sick
Olympic Bobsledding
One Froggy Evening
Optimus Prime
Pancakes, Blueberry
Park Place
Pasta Primavera
Paul Harvey
Penguin families
Period Costumes
Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese
Pickled Beets
Pixie Dust
Pizza Bagels
A Platypus?
PERRY the Platypus!
The Power of Shazam!
Precious: Based on the novel Push by Saphire
Pop Rocks
Pop Tarts
The Prometheus and Bob Tapes
Promotional Giveaway Lantern Rings
Pulp Fiction
Pumpkin flavored foodstuffs
Pumpkin Pie
The “Puppet Master” series of films
Radial Tires
Radon Detectors
Rick Riordan
Ritz Crackers
Robin Sparkles
Ryan Styles
Salvador Dali
Santa’s Elves
The Seas
Seinfeld reruns
Sesame Street Old School DVDs
Slumdog Millionaire
Smoked Turkey
So Long and Thanks For All the Fish
Socratic Method
Spaceballs: The T-Shirt
Spaceballs: The Coloring Book
Spaceballs: The Lunch Box
Spaceballs: The Breakfast Cereal
Spaceballs: The Flamethrower (Da kids love this one)
Spirit Halloween Superstores
Spring Rolls
The Stars
The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man
String cheese
The Sun
Swizzle Sticks
This List
The Tick (animated series)
The Tick (live action series)
Tide with Bleach
Totino’s Pizza Rolls
Traffic Cones
Troll 2
Twenty Percent Off Sales
Vinylmation Figures
Wayne Brady
Whipped Cream
White Chocolate Reese’s Cups
The Works of Agatha Christie
The World and Everything in It


A Very Nerdy Christmas

Next year, Erin and I will finally celebrate our first Christmas together. I couldn’t be more excited, and I know she’s already making certain plans in terms of traditions and decorations and the like.

However, over the years I’ve assembled a small but — I think — amusing collection of Christmas ornaments of my own. Many of them have been given to me as gifts, the rest have mostly been the result of Hallmark’s after-Christmas clearance sales. It never seemed sensible to spend a ton of money on decorations until I had someone to decorate with. So while I’m sure next year the two of us will bring together all her ornaments and all my ornaments and probably a bunch of new ornaments, today I thought I’d share with you guys my collection as it stands today, such as it is.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

First up is my Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. While not technically an ornament, it’s one of my most prized Christmas decorations and also will serve as the model for most of the upcoming pictures. Erin gave me this tree a few years ago and I love it. I actually wound up getting a second tree to place in my classroom at school, knowing that this tree was far too precious to risk in a room full of high school students.

“Oh come on, Blake,” you’re saying. “They’re in eleventh grade. Surely they can be trusted to be in proximity to a decoration with just a single ornament without worrying about them breaking it.”

Heh. It’s cute that you think that.

Doctor Who TARDIS

Doctor Who: The TARDIS

Next up is my TARDIS decoration. You may or may not know (except if you know anything about me at all, in which case you absolutely know) that I’m a bit of a Doctor Who fan. This particular glass ornament was given to me by my buddy and frequent Showcase co-host, Kenny. Thanks, pal! I know that Erin will want to be certain it gets a place of honor next Christmas.

Donald Duck Wakeup Hallmark

Donald’s Wake-Up Cup

I love Disney and I love Christmas, so it’s not surprising that many of my decorations are Disney characters. Of course, as I’ve done most of my shopping in the clearance sales, my selection is particularly eclectic. I’d grab whatever looked like it was worth the money, and the deeper the discount the lower that threshold would become. For example, here’s Donald Duck, having just rolled out of bed, drinking a cup of coffee. Probably because I got it for pennies.

Mickey Mouse Ears

Mickey Mouse Ears

From the “My parents went to Disney World and all I got was this…” line. A few years ago, my parents took a trip to Disney World and brought this personalized set of mini-Mouse Ears to me. (That’s “Mini” as in “small,” not “Minnie” as in “Mickey’s girlfriend.”) They brought an identical pair of ears for Erin. Hers are currently dangling from the rear view mirror in her car.

Scrooge McDuck from "Mickey's Christmas Carol"

Scrooge McDuck from “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”

Another Hallmark Keepsake ornament, this one depicts my favorite Disney Character — Scrooge McDuck — as he appeared in the classic 1983 animated feature Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Hey, speaking of A Christmas Carol, have you guys been following my Reel to Reel movie blog? All this month, leading up to Christmas I’m reviewing and analyzing different versions of Charles Dickens’s classic novel. All of your favorites are there — Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Mr. Magoo… go on, check it out.

Disney Vinylmation 2012

Disney Vinylmation 2012

My brother and sister are big fans of Disney’s Vinylmation figures — a series of toys all set in the same Mickey Mouse-shaped mold and decorated in an infinite number of ways. I’ve got a lot of them too, but I’ve been a bit more selective in my Vinylmation purchases than them. This one came out last year — it’s a regular Vinylmation figure with an ornament loop on the head. This one depicts Donald Duck trapped in a snow globe, presumably the work of a genie or his nephews or something.

Vinylmation Hot Chocolate

Vinylmation Hot Chocolate

Another Vinylmation figure-slash-ornament, this one depicts a chocolate bar in the shape of Mickey Mouse. As you can tell, whoever got this bar in his stocking eats his Mickey chocolate the same way everybody eats their Easter rabbits — he bites the ears first. This figure also smells like hot chocolate. Well… the box says it’s hot chocolate. There’s a definite cocoa flavor to the aroma, but I don’t know if I’d go that far.

Perry Christmas from Phineas and Ferb

Perry Christmas from Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb is without question, the best cartoon for kids in decades. I dare you to find anything that’s even remotely as entertaining. You need to go back to the 90s heyday of Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. These kids rock.

Also, this was the last picture I took. I thought I was finished, I put my Charlie Brown tree in its place of honor (which is rather high up and out of reach of cats and three-year-old nieces), and when I realized I missed this one I just said the hell with it and took the picture on the table.

Dooby dooby doo-wah, A! GENT! P!

Dooby dooby doo-wah, A! GENT! P!

Courtesy of Target, here’s Phineas and Ferb’s best pal Perry the Platypus in his other identity: Agent P of the OWCA (Organization Without a Cool Acronym). I like to imagine here that he’s just stumbled into an insidious yuletide trap set by his arch-nemesis, Dr. Doofinshmirtz. Don’t worry, guys, Doof isn’t really that big a threat. And he actually doesn’t hate Christmas anyway, he has a burning indifference.

Prep and Landing Hallmark

Prep and Landing: Wayne and Lanny

A few years ago Disney introduced these guys, Wayne and Lanny, members of Santa Claus’s special Prep and Landing task force. These are the elves that scout ahead of Santa Claus to make sure the house is ready, the children are nestled all snug in their beds, and not a creature is stirring. If you have a Merry Christmas morning, it’s because Wayne and Lanny did their job right so that Santa could come behind them and do his.

Muppets Kermit Target

Kermit the Very Shiny Frog

This one is a Target find rather than Hallmark. Erin picked it up for me last Thanksgiving when we were shopping. This was either a few days before or a few days after I asked her to marry me, I don’t remember which, and it doesn’t matter. It’s special anyway. And yes, that’s a reflection of me and my phone in Kermit’s face. You try hiding your reflection when taking a picture of a shiny glass amphibian. It’s not that easy.

Peanuts-Erins Snoopy

Snoopy and Woodstock go for a drive

Snoopy and Woodstock here were a gift from Erin. She found it for me at work and included it in a stocking full of candy and little gifts last year. The girl knows me all too well, doesn’t she?

Peanuts on Ice

Peanuts on Ice

This is actually four separate ornaments put together. The “Peanuts on Ice” figures from Hallmark each have a magnet in the base, allowing you to connect them. I’m not sure how many there were in the series, but I know how many I got. Four. I got four.

You’ll notice that Sally, Charlie Brown’s sister, has no magnet and therefore is not connected to the rest of the Peanuts gang. I like to imagine that Linus, sick and tired of her years of sexual harassment, disabled the magnet in her base in the hopes that she would slide away and suffer a tragic mishap in the ice. Wow, that took a dark turn.

The Flash

The Flash

Another Hallmark ornament, here we have Barry Allen, the Flash. (How do I know it’s Barry Allen and not Wally West? Because Wally’s belt always came to a point in the front, only Barry wore the straight belt for his entire career in the Pre-Crisis era. Yes, I’m THAT kind of nerd.) Barry here, if I’m not mistaken, is actually the oldest ornament in my collection. I’m pretty sure I’ve had him since high school, and I don’t even remember when I got him.

Green Lantern

Green Lantern

Hal Jordan. Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814. Current leader of the Green Lantern Corps. Another Hallmark keepsake ornament. Are you sensing a pattern here?

Golden Age Superman

Golden Age Superman

I’ve got a few different Superman ornaments. Try not to be surprised.

This Hallmark ornament is actually two in one. In the front we have the Golden Age Superman, the way he first appeared in 1938. In the background is the second ornament, the cover of Action Comics #1, in which he made his first appearance. Actually, now that I look at it, the figure isn’t exactly right for that comic. His “S”-symbol, at that point, was actually just a yellow shield with the letter drawn in it, not the stylized version it would later become, and his boots hadn’t yet evolved to what we see here either. Wow, now I’m furious at the inaccuracy of my ornament. Christmas is RUINED.

Modern Superman

Modern Superman

This more modern Superman is a one-piece ornament, with the Man of Steel bursting out of the cover of a comic book. And this actually is a comic book, you can open that sucker up and read it. There aren’t any credits, but I think the short re-telling of his origin story was drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, a classic DC Comics artist who contributed a lot of art for various DC merchandise over the years. I told you, I’m that kind of nerd.

Superman Luxor

Lenox China Superman

I think I’ve shown this one off before but I don’t mind doing it again. This Lenox China Superman figure has the trademarks of that elegant line of decorations — the white glass is used in his cape, and the Lenox gold lines the figure in several places. This, too, is a gift from Erin, which should be obvious because those Lenox ornaments are pretty expensive for a guy that, until now, got most of his Christmas decorations from Hallmark’s 20% off table.

Dwight Schrute: Talking Bobblehead

Dwight Schrute: Talking Bobblehead

From The Office, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Assistant to the Regional Manager Dwight Schrute. This ornament is actually based on the Valentine’s Day episode in which his girlfriend gave him a bobblehead doll of himself. The ornament is a working bobblehead, plus, it talks when you push that little button in the front. I briefly considered shooting a short video demonstrating these features, but then I realized that would require way more of a commitment than I was ready to put into this little article.

Elise's Ornament

Elise’s Ornament

Now we’re getting into the ornaments that have an actual emotional connection for me. This one, for example, was a gift from Erin’s niece Elise last Christmas. Hey — I guess that means she’s going to be my niece too. Cool.

For Erin's teacher

For Erin’s teacher

Another Erin find. This “For My Teacher” apple came to her at work and she brought it home to me. Go ahead: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaw…”

Engagement Encounter: Be Joyful

Engagement Encounter: Be Joyful

And finally, probably the most meaningful ornament on the list is this little Cross. Last summer, Erin and I attended an engagement encounter at a monastery in Pittsburgh. We wanted a keepsake of the weekend, and decided on this Christmas ornament. The message, I think, was just right.


I assure you, I’m still alive

IMG_3213Hey, everyone. I know I’ve been quiet lately — it seems I’ve entered one of my periodic “quiet but working” phases. I’ve got nothing huge to report at the moment, I’m afraid, but I am splitting time between three projects: the revision of The Pyrite War and the expansion of Reel to Reel: Lunatics and Laughter are the ones I’ve talked to you about.

The third is a little more personal but, hopefully, something you guys will like when it’s ready. As you may know, Erin and I are getting married next year. As you may also know, we’re broke-ass poor and the economy is craptacular. So rather than sitting on a sidewalk with my hand out, I’m working on something else that may help us out a little. I’m composing a series of (hopefully funny) essays about our relationship, the wedding planning process, wedding planning in general, and so forth. Once I’ve got enough of them done, I’m going to start releasing them in short eBooks, 99 cents each, about the same length as the Obligatory Everything But Imaginary collections. I’ve got four essays finished so far, not quite sure how many I want to put in each volume. I intend to get two volumes finished and release them both at the same time, hopefully with one of them for free to gin up interest (I’m gonna try to navigate’s intriguing rules about what you can release for free in the hopes of getting it into the hands of more people). Then, I’ll continue on with these essays for… well, as long as possible, and as long as people want to read them. Up to the wedding and maybe beyond.

So yes, I’m here. Yes, I’m working.

Just bear with us, because eventually, all will be well.


In 2013…

I will not be posting a list of New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions are vague and half remembered and frequently destined to fail. But 2012, in most of the ways that matter, was a good year for me. And I want 2013 to be good as well. So rather than Resolutions, I’m going to tell you my goals for 2013.

• Keep writing. I have twice as many items in the ebook market today than I did on January 1, 2012. I don’t expect to double again, but by 2014 I want you to have THE PYRITE WAR, OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES 2 (title TBD), REEL TO REEL: LUNATICS AND LAUGHTER and an undetermined number of short pieces in the market.
• Get better at marketing. Having stuff available is great, but if nobody knows who I am or what I’ve done, what does it matter? I need to get my name out there.
• Get more involved in the creator community. I’ve been really lucky to be involved with my frequent cover artist Jacob Bascle and the fine folks of the New Orleans comic scene, and I find those relationships to be satisfying personally and inspiring creatively. I love that. I want more of it.
• Along with Erin, plan a wedding that rides the line between being affordable and sane and giving her the fairy tale she deserves. Prepare myself for the inevitability that I will never again complete a meal, snack, or beverage without her stealing some unless it has nuts in it.

There are other things I would like, of course, other things I want, but these are the things over which I have the most direct control, so for now, I’ll leave it at that… And wish you all a wonderful, Happy New Year.


A very good day at the zoo

“So what do you want to do today?” Erin asked me. I didn’t actually have an answer. She didn’t know it, but I wanted to think of something nice, something special, something she would remember…

“How about the zoo?” she suggested. My mind started racing. The zoo? I can’t do it at the zoo, can I? Well… maybe… I guess that might be–

While I was thinking, my face must have shown a little hesitation, because she started suggesting alternatives. “Or we could do the Honey Island Swamp Tour.”

Not on the Swamp Tour. Not on the Swamp Tour.

“The zoo sounds like fun,” I said.

We’ve been to the Audubon Zoo before, of course, but it had been a couple of years and, really, it’s the sort of thing that always has plenty of repeatability. It’s a fun little outing and, on a Tuesday in November in New Orleans, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. We went in (she bought the tickets because on the way she managed to coerce me into calling the Swamp Tour people and making us a pair of reservations for Wednesday) and started to go through the exhibits. She spent a long time taking pictures of the elephants, we took silly pictures together in front of the fountain, we saw the White Tiger and the monkeys and the alligators.

And throughout, I kept looking for a chance to do it. Too many people here. We’re standing on a wooden bridge, what if I drop it? Not now, that vulture just pooped.

I thought I would have a chance in the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit. She was sitting on a rocker in a mock-up of an old swamp store front. There was no one around. We talked and I tell her I love her and how much she means to me and–

And she saw the wasp nests overhead and said, “Nope!” and started walking away.

“There aren’t any wasps here!” I said. “I don’t think those are even real!”

“Nope!” She kept going so I jogged after her. After a few minutes she says, “I interrupted something really sweet, didn’t I?”

“Kind of,” I said.

We kept walking and looking at the exhibits. Again and again, other people show up and break the moment, or I can’t find a good place to stop, or there’s an emu staring at us that’s kind of creeping us out.

Finally, we went to the sea lion exhibit. She loves the sea lions. She could stand there and watch them swim around all day. After a few minutes, we went to the bottom part of the exhibit, a secluded little spot where you can watch them swim through the glass. She took out her camera to take a “blue picture” of the two of us, lit by the sunlight coming through the water. She didn’t know, when she took the photo, I already had it in my hand behind her back.

She looked at the picture. “The only thing that would be better is if we turned around and there were three sea lions waving at us.”

“The only thing?” I said.

“Well… not the only thing.”

“What could be better?” I asked.

“If you had a puppy in your pocket,” she replied.

“I don’t have a puppy,” I said. “They don’t fit in your pockets.”

“Okay,” she said.

“But this does,” I said, and I took out the ring.

After that other things were said, other questions asked and answered, but it was a little bit of a blur and I don’t remember them exactly and it’s none of your damn business anyway. There was one important word.


And she said it.


Where have I been, you ask?

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, friends. I’ve been a bit busy lately. It’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month. It’s the holidays, which meant that I spent last week in Pittsburgh with Erin and her family. And it’s near the end of the semester, which means I’m busy as a teacher.

But I definitely want to give you guys some Christmas content, especially after Halloween being dedicated entirely to the Story Structure project. So starting Thursday, December 1, I’m going to try to get back to a regular schedule, with as much Christmas stuff as I can throw at you. Thanks for your patience, and have a great yuletide season.


Dangerous Hiring Practices

A glittering jewel of perfection. (This definition can apply to the snack, the jewelry, or Erin, depending on who's asking)I love Snowballs.

For those of you who don’t live in New Orleans and think I’ve finally flipped my gourd, allow me to explain.

A “Snowball” is a frozen treat made of very finely shaved ice topped with flavored syrup. Now, those of you who live in the north are probably saying, “Oh, he means a Sno-Cone.” No, my friends. No. A Sno-Cone, with all due respect, is not fit to melt at the foot of a New Orleans-style Snowball Stand. The ice is shaved much finer, the syrup filtering down into every nook and cranny, and if you add a bonus topping such as condensed milk… this is the frozen snack food of the gods. (Literally. It’s not a coincidence that every Snowball Stand in Louisiana offers “nectar” as a standard flavor option.) It’s a treat so emblematic of our region that local jeweler Mignon Faget created a line of pendants based on the Snowball, and I gave one to Erin for her birthday, and her niece tried to eat it.

That’s how good they are.

I could easily devour these things every day, but in an act of extreme self-control and denial, I typically manage to restrict my intake to one every week or two. The issue, therefore, is that since I don’t get them as often as I would like, there are a great many flavors that don’t quite make my rotation. That becomes even more complicated by the fact that the best Snowball Stand on my route home from work happens to employ a very large, bemuscled gentleman with a beard that makes mine feel bad about itself. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very friendly chap and highly competent at his job. But when I step up to the stand to order from this guy who looks like he may have taken my lunch money in high school, I look at the menu of nearly thirty delectable flavors and find myself incapable of ordering anything that would make me sound too much like a wuss.

You can’t go up to a dude this size and order a “Margarita” flavored Snowball. Or a “Pina Colada.” Or, god forbid, “Passion Fruit.” You have to stay with very basic flavors. “Grape” is safe, or “Orange,” or “Lemon.” You can get away with “Green Apple,” since there’s an implied sourness to the flavor, but for the most part, you’re restricted to the flavors you would get if you bought a pack of eight scented markers, because if you look a dude like this in the eye and ordered a “Strawberry Cheesecake” flavored Snowball, you just freaking know you’d be walking away from that stand with a wedgie.

So on behalf of other insecure males everywhere, I have a request to make of the Snowball Stand operators of New Orleans: stop hiring people tougher than us. The following are acceptable concession workers, because they are in no way threatening and therefore safe to order a Dreamsicle Snowball from:

  • Young mothers whose only reaction to any given flavor will be to tell you how their 14-month-old reacted when they let them try it.
  • Teenagers who are still immature enough that you suspect they’re pouring the syrup on the counter and trying to conjure up ant races when business is slow.
  • Somebody’s grandmother. Anybody’s grandmother, really.
  • Males that are a minimum of 18 inches shorter than me, provided they have not earned a belt in any documented martial art and possess a maximum of three bladed weapons. (Sorry, Kenny.)
  • Emmanuel Lewis.
With any of these individuals helming your frozen snack enterprise, your business shall rise exponentially. At least at the stand closest to my home. Thank you for your consideration.
Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the upcoming suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at

A wonderful week with a wonderful girl

Erin and I have been together for quite some time now… since before the days when Facebook and Twitter (and now, I suppose, Google+) were hard at work keeping everybody appraised of what everybody else was doing at any given moment of the day. As a result, I sometimes worry that my compositions telling the world how we enjoy our adventures together have become redundant. But I enjoy telling and sharing, and I know Erin enjoys it as well. So while you may well know an awful lot of what I’m about to say if you follow us on those aforementioned social networking sites, that’s okay. It was worth living all over again.

  • Erin arrived on Sunday, July 3. This wasn’t a trip that was planned months in advance — just a few weeks ago, Erin realized she could sneak in a visit with me and my family in time for our annual Fourth of July extravaganza. Being an extravaganza on the Fourth, though, that meant there was an awful lot of work to do on the Third. After I picked Erin up from the airport and got us lunch, she was sweet enough to help my mother watch my niece, Maggie, while I joined my father, brother, and brother-in-law in assembling the tents for the barbecue and taking care of other such preparations. After it was all done, we went out for dinner and then headed our to the St. Charles Parish Independence Day Fireworks, held (as always) on July 3. We got there a little later than expected, however, and Erin and I joined my sister Heather, her husband Will, and little Maggie on the side of the interstate watching the fireworks from a distance. And despite some mosquito invasions, it was still great.
  • Monday was the bash. My family has had these barbecues for as long as I can remember, and once again Ama was flooded with Petits, Faucheuxs, and numerous other families that have married into or befriended ours over the years. There was — as always — way too much food, but there was an unexpected surprise this year. My family has done this for over 30 years, and on all but a handful of occasions, the event has been soaked by rain. This year: not a drop. So we all got to swim, there was a marathon Pictionary session, we ate several herds of grilled animals and several vats of homemade ice cream, and everybody went home happy.
  • On Tuesday, the excitement calmed down, Erin and I got down to a more conventional visit for us — beginning with helping to babysit Maggie while my sister was at work. Maggie was little more than a month old the last time Erin saw her, and now she’s close to nine months, so she was looking forward to playing with her again. She also introduced Maggie to her friend Wash T. Dynosaur, the traveling Apatosaurus. After Maggie settled down we headed out — I got Erin (and Wash) a snowball that matched the pendant I gave her for her birthday, we did a little shopping, and went to see what has become my favorite movie of the year so far — Super 8. I’ve seen it before, but Erin hadn’t, and she was very satisfied in her choice of film. (She also got some Raising Cane’s chicken, something she can’t yet get in her home state of Pennsylvania.)
  • Wednesday was the day we began to get adventurous. Erin, being more of a traveler than I am, was looking to do things we’d never done before. We decided on a tour of Destrehan Plantation, one of the many gorgeous old plantation houses that line the Mississippi River here in Louisiana. I’ve been to the Plantation many times for various events, but I don’t think I’d ever taken the tour before, so we both got an education before heading out for some more shopping (it was Wednesday, new comics had come out), then meeting up with my family for dinner at the Quarter View restaurant in Metairie.
  • Our adventures continued on Thursday as we traveled to Baton Rouge, a place Erin has wanted to go for some time. We realized early that we would have to do this again, as there were just too many things to do in that lovely city than we could accomplish in one day. We did manage to get lunch at Cheeburger Cheeburger, found a used bookstore Erin located online, and hit the Mall of Louisiana. Later, we met up with my brother Chip and his wife Kayla, who live in nearby Gonzales, and they took us to a great Mexican place for dinner. It was a great little visit, especially since (living in Gonzales as they do) they don’t get to join us as often as the rest of my family.
  • On Friday we headed into the French Quarter in New Orleans, something we’ve done many times before, but always enjoy. But my friends, I’ve got to tell you something. Friday… was… hot. I’m talking about “gallons of sweat cascading down your face” hot. After a few hours walking around and talking pictures of Wash at local landmarks, we headed off to the New Orleans Area for our next “new thing.” Will — an athletic trainer whose job happens to include working the New Orleans Voodoo arena football games — got us tickets to the team’s final home game of the season. We met up with Heather there, bought some dry Voodoo shirts to change into (we’d sweat through our other ones) and enjoyed the festivities. The Voodoo didn’t have a great season, but we had fun.
  • Saturday was the day we got together with my friends, something we try to do at least once each time she’s in town. We met up at Izzo’s Illegal Burrito (it’s as good as it sounds) before heading back down into the French Quarter. After a few hours of wandering around, we decided to find some place a little cooler and went into Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans. With our semi-regular Vegas trips, Erin and I are old hands at casinos, and we find we really do enjoy doing them together, especially when we come out ahead. The rest of our group didn’t fare as well as we did (sorry about losing that parking garage ticket, Mike), but we put in $20 and came out up $139. Not too bad. Afterwards, we all had dinner at a new TGI Friday’s that opened in Metairie — good food, but you could tell it was a new restaurant. The servers were overwhelmed. I’ll go back to the restaurant, but not for a few months.
  • Sunday was the day Erin went home, which is always sad, but was made worse in that she had an early flight. We managed to have lunch before I had to take her off to the airport and fare her well, but it wasn’t as bad as it sometimes is. We’re going to see each other again in just a couple of weeks, when we travel to Maine together for a friend’s wedding.

It was a great time, and as always, I’m left more in love with her than ever. If you spent a few minutes with her like I have, I know you’d feel the same.

Here are some photographic highlights of the trip. If you want, you can see more in my Flickr album: Family Summer 2011.

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A quiet week for me…

Just wanted to pop in and explain my lack of updates this week. Erin is in town, we’re spending time together, so things like the ol’ blog take a back seat. Hope you all understand. Have a great week!


Erin, Vegas, Love

Every time Erin and I have a trip together, be it in Louisiana, Pittsburgh, or someone else entirely, I’ve taken the time to write a detailed yarn about it afterwards. That’s gotten a bit harder to do as time goes by, not because my love for Erin has abated in the slightest (quite the opposite), but because it’s getting harder to think of new things to say. Also, thanks to Twitter and Facebook, I often feel like I’ve already covered everything that happened, such as on our trip to Las Vegas last week:

  • Sunday: Erin’s flight is delayed. As this happens on roughly 80 percent of the trips in which she flies, neither of us are surprised. It is a bit inconvenient, however, as we are supposed to be checked in to our hotel — the Stratosphere — by 11 p.m. and now we don’t have a chance to get there until 2 a.m.
  • Monday: We’re supposed to borrow a car from Erin’s dad for the trip, but he’s not feeling well and is unable to meet up with us. Instead, we take the ride to the top of the Stratosphere and take in the best view of Vegas, provided you aren’t afraid of heights, which I am. (I was actually okay up there for the most part, because it was enclosed. But I wasn’t getting too close to the glass…) Erin also succeeded here in getting shirts for both of her nieces, one of whom had put in an order for a purple shirt, the other for pink. That night, we caught a cab to the Strip where we met up with my friends Jason and Andrea, who also happened to be in Vegas that week. We walked the strip for a while, topping things off with a wonderful dinner in an Italian place in the Miracle Mile. It’s the only place in Vegas where you can have a classy Italian feast sitting “outside” of the restaurant, and look across the plaza to see a 20-foot fiberglass stripper.
  • Tuesday: Again, Erin’s dad was unavailable. We decided to rent a car, picked up Jason and Andrea, and went down to Fremont Street. This is “old” Vegas, with some of the classic casinos and joints, live musicians and street performers, and the world’s largest LCD screen overhead, flashing a musical show every hour on the hour. We went there last year and did it again this time, stopping in for a prime rib dinner at a place Jason found, and Erin found a stuffed puppy dog that we decided would be a perfect present for my niece, Maggie.
  • Wednesday: I’m a geek, which means that on Wednesdays I need to go to a comic shop, even in Las Vegas. After finally meeting up with her dad at the Stratosphere brunch buffet, Erin and I sought out a place we’d been to before called Maximum Comics, a very nice (and female-friendly) shop that’s a lot of fun to visit. It also helps that it’s only a couple of stores down from a place called Rocket Fizz, which is full of sodas and candies from all over the country, many I’d never heard of before and others I didn’t think were still in production. We also walked the Strip a bit more, with visits to two of my favorite shops, the Coca-Cola store and M&M’s World, where I picked up another Maggie present.
  • Thursday: We indulged Erin’s love of nature (which, I confess, is greater than mine) with a drive up to Red Rock Canyon. While I’ll never be a nature boy, this is a really lovely national park, with a fantastic visitor’s center well worth the trip before you begin the 13-mile drive through some of the most gorgeous mountains in the world. I’m led to believe that these mountains are also the 5th most popular destination for serious rock climbers. I’ll take their word for that. We made it back to the city in time for dinner with Erin’s dad, his wife, and Erin’s aunt and uncle. We capped off the night with a visit to the Rio hotel and casino, where we saw their “show in the sky” — a Mardi Gras-style parade with floats running along a track in the ceiling. As a New Orleans native, I was very impressed with the look of the floats, less impressed with the bead-throwing prowess of the performers.
  • Friday: Jason and Andrea were flying out Friday afternoon, so we met up that morning to catch a movie (Battle: Los Angeles, which actually wasn’t that bad) and have lunch at the Orleans casino. We then bid them farewell and went on for our longest day on the strip — and also our most profitable. We won small amounts of money at the Imperial Palace and Paris Casinos, the latter of which included me showing Erin how to play roulette. We only won $10 at the roulette table, but it was a lot of fun regardless. We began a system of playing the same $20, cashing out any time we went over $30, pocketing the difference and continuing on with just the original $20. By the end of the night, we were up about $70, which we decided to put towards dinner at the strip’s newest restaurant, the Sugar Factory. After putting in our orders, we were told that there was a “wrinkle” in the kitchen and the restaurant couldn’t serve any hot food. It’s a good thing this place also has a candy store, because a restaurant that can’t cook won’t last long. Erin, whose heart had been set on the chocolate fondue dessert, was understandably disappointed, but cheered up when we got to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, which featured great food, strong drinks, the best waiter we’d had on our whole trip, and a great live band performing.
  • Saturday: On our last day in Vegas, we checked out of the Stratosphere and then took our our still-viable $20 from the night before, playing a bit more. Erin wound up closing the trip winning $42 on a “Deal or No Deal” machine and we decided to quit while we were ahead. Our flights weren’t until that evening, so we had time to do a lot of things we still wanted — lunch at The Egg and I (our favorite breakfast/brunch place in Vegas), a search for a second comic shop (which was a little disappointing), one last trip to the Coke Store and M&M’s World (where I finally got to see the free 3-D movie, something that had evaded me in the last three visits), and a bit of cruising which brought us to a Disney Character Store, where remainders from Disneyland were sent and sold at a discount. We’re going to have to go there again. Finally, we made it to the airport where — fortunately — we were both flying out of the same concourse. For the first time, we got to go to the gate together and I kissed her goodbye before going back my own flight, a red eye about two hours later.

This is the short version of the story, of course. It was a wonderful trip, and I’ve got a ton of pictures to share. I’ll include a slideshow here and send you on to my Flickr album as well. But I’m not quite done yet. Erin and I have one more tradition that we’ve done on every visit we’ve ever had: we write each other notes. It started on our first trip, where I wrote her a little letter and left it for her to read, and she did the same for me. Since then it’s become a tradition. The problem with having all day together on the last day of the trip is that neither of us remembered to do it in secret until we realized we’d have no other time to do anything in secret. So I promised her I’d send her one later.

I started to write it here, to let the world to see, because I thought that would be a romantic gesture. Halfway through it, I stopped because I realized it’s too personal. It’s just for us. But here’s the gist of it:

I love Erin more than anything or anyone I’ve ever known, I’m thankful every day that she’s a part of my life, and everything in my world is better because she’s in it.

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Even more pictures available in my Flickr album.

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