Toys and Goodies

We spent Christmas Day with Kristen's family in Cedar City. This year was fun because Eddie was able to open a lot of his presents himself. It was still a bit of a challenge to keep him on task ("...only 13 more presents to go!") and not losing him amid the piles of torn wrapping paper and opened boxes.

Our main gift to Eddie was this chair. It was the envy of all his little cousins on both sides of the family. They all took a turn trying it out. So why is Eddie sitting in an empty toy box?

Christmas afternoon we went up Cedar Canyon to go sledding. It was a good idea but we got kind of a late start. The sun was already creeping behind the mountain after only about 45 minutes, so we decided to head back to the house before we froze our baguettes off. Unfortunately there wasn't enough time to pull out my camera and capture Eddie's frozen red nose and snot-crusted face. Here's another photo of him opening presents instead.

The next day we packed up our loot and drove back to Salt Lake for the Barton festivities. As always there was an impressive buffet of food and goodies. This time it featured smoked turkey, shrimp, cheese ball, crab wontons, potatoes, homemade rolls, fudge nut bars, and chocolate cheesecake bites to name a few. Diet starts Monday.

Eddie didn't get his Batman ceiling fan, but his Grandma Barton got him the next best thing—a toy Batcopter with a trigger to make the propeller spin. Many thanks to both families for the thoughtful gifts and good company.


Last Minute Gift Ideas

Christmas is only a few days away. If you have yet to find the perfect gift for Krissy, Eddie or myself, here are a few last minute suggestions.

For Dave

Agent Bishop
True Stories from an FBI Agent Moonlighting as a Mormon Bishop. Available wherever cheesy LDS books are sold.

Ice Invaders
Even though there is no chance this would arrive in time for Christmas, I'll gladly take a rain check if it means getting to sip a beverage chilled by Space Invader-shaped ice cubes.

For Krissy

Twilight European Style Duvet Bed Covers
An instant cure for wives with alleged bed hogging husbands. There's no way I'd come within ten feet of our bed with ol' pasty face around.

Tony Little's Gazelle Freestyle
We've all got fitness goals, especially right after the holidays. Krissy hopes to achieve hers by spastically swinging her legs back and forth.

For Eddie

R2-D2 Peppermill
Pepper doesn't go all that well with Eddie's staple foods (cheese pizza, cheese quesadillas, macaroni & cheese, grilled cheese), but it would if it was freshly ground by his favorite droid.

Batman Ceiling Fan
What better way to celebrate Eddie's fandom of fans and Batman than with a Batman fan? Of course, he'd probably too busy gazing at its majesty to ever sleep again.


Elfing Around

Three years later, I guess it's finally time to give in and paste our heads in a dancing elf video. I think I picked the most obnoxious one. Enjoy!
Send your own ElfYourself eCards


His & Hers Holiday Grievances

Dave: Son of a Nutcracker

Surely poor Tchaikovsky had no idea when he penned his famous Nutcracker ballet that it would one day be exploited for every monetary purpose imaginable. If he only knew that every year some zany "family" holiday comedy would hijack the bustling "Trepak" to underscore the slapstick pratfalls and reindeer flatulence gags in its trailers and TV spots. And what would he think about the plethora of car commercials that feature a giant SUV blasting through a mountain of snow accompanied by "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy?"

Krissy: Santa Baby

Every time I hear "Santa Baby," it makes me want to shove three dozen candy canes into my ears. It doesn't matter if it's being sung by Eartha Kitt, Madonna, or Miss Piggy—every version of this song is an atrocity to humanity. Santa Claus is an innocent, lovable character whose sole purpose is to bring joy to children, not some ho ho ho cooing for him to "hurry down the chimney." I guess I prefer a younger, less hairy, not quite "bowl-full-of-jelly" kind of man, because I cannot fathom why anyone would want to seduce Santa Claus.

Dave: Tacky Christmas Decor

When Christmas lights are well placed, they can look classy. But when you only lace one sorry strand through your giant oak tree, the resulting jumble of zig-zagging lights just looks sad. Not to worry though, most people probably won't even notice the trees because they are too busy gawking at the seven foot inflatable scene of Santa and his elves flying a helicopter that resides on the front lawn. On a related note, for all the outrageous, overdone, and just plain bad holiday decorations you can handle, check out uglychristmaslights.com.


Christmas Time in the City

This past Saturday night seemed like as good a time as any to head downtown to have dinner and see the lights on Temple Square. We finally made it to local favorite Moochie's on 232 E. 800 S. to try out their Philly Cheesesteaks. Overall we were quite pleased. The steak was very tender and moist, and the onions and peppers were thoroughly flavorful. Our only complaint was that they weren't quite cheesy enough. As such, some bites achieved that perfect fusion of elements that you can only get from a transcendent cheesesteak, while other bites fell a little short of the mark.

Moochie's is rather small with limited seating. When I inquired about a high chair or booster, we were directed to an adjacent dining area out the front door and a short walk to the west. We found ourselves all alone in what looked like the front room of a house. It was filled an impressive array of mismatching tables and chairs that must have been painstakingly gathered over multiple trips to the D.I. (and the side of the road). Hey, it isn't voted one of Salt Lake's "Best Delicious Ruts" for nothing.

When we picked this particular evening to make this excursion, we failed to take into account a Jazz game and MoTab Christmas concert happening the very same night. Needless to say, the traffic and crowds were kinda crazy. After circling around for a while in the delusional hope of snagging the perfect parking space, we settled for a parking garage a few blocks away.

We bundled Eddie up in two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, snow boots, winter coat, knit hat, and mittens. Then it wasn't even that cold. Being able to put your arms down or turn your head is overrated anyway.

As we navigated the vast throng (or should that be thundering hordes?) of people, we did our best to suppress our usual surliness in situations such as this and just enjoy the spirit of our surroundings and of the season.


Christmas in the Stars

Holiday seasons come and go, and each year you ask in vain, "Where can I find C-3P0 and R2-D2 crooning Christmas carols along side a young Jon Bon Jovi?" Well, I'm happy to report your search ends here. You needn't look any further than Christmas in the Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album.

It seems like my family are the only ones in on this little secret. I owned the cassette as a child and played it year round, save when it would "mysteriously" go missing for long stretches. Years later, when all manner of old Star Wars merchandise was being re-released in the late nineties, my sister happened upon the CD and bought it for me that Christmas.

Nowadays, when I tell others that there is a Star Wars Christmas album, it always plays out the same way. Their curiosity is piqued at first. Then, once I share some clips, their face turns pale in horror. Yes, this album is truly awful without your nostalgia goggles (or earplugs, as it were). It is the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. Say, how about a track-by-track look at the entire album?

1. Christmas in the Stars
"Oh my stars!" The title track quickly establishes the musical style of the album—C-3PO awkwardly talk-singing the lyrics over a backing choir while R2-D2 beeps randomly. A storyline about a group of droids that make toys for "S. Claus" is also introduced. One of these droids mistakenly lingers under the mistletoe and gets kissed by Chewbacca. Hilarity ensues.
Lyrical Highlight: Everyone will have a cookie, I bought extra for the wookiee

2. Bells, Bells, Bells
C-3PO is shocked when R2-D2 innocently inquires, "What are bells?" He likens this simple question to being asked, "What is indigestion?" (something a droid could never experience), and, "What is Einsten's theory?" (someone who wasn't around a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away). Thus, C-3PO takes it upon himself to teach R2 about the "thunderous, wondrous sound of bells." H.G. Wells, Japanese, and cows also come up along the way.
Lyrical Highlight: Bells of every kind and sort, bells that play and bells for sport, chiming what the hour is now, or they'll lead you to a cow

3. The Odds Against Christmas
Inspired by the running gag in The Empire Strikes Back where C-3PO announces the odds of every dire situation, ol' Goldenrod muses about "the odds against Christmas being Christmas." What does he determine? 365 to 1.
Lyrical Highlight: You have to remember, when you're in December, that you're at the close of a year, what would you have done if time had run out before Christmas was here?

4. What Can You Get a Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)
In their next appearance, the toy-making droids review their Christmas list. Scarf for Skywalker? Check. Perfume for the Princess? Check. Ear muffs for Han Solo? Um, okay. But what to get the wookiee? Uh oh, they got him a comb last year! A tie clip, galoshes, and shaving foam are all ruled out. Eventually they settle on "love and understanding, and good will to men." I'd like to see how quickly their arms get pulled out of their sockets when Chewie opens up that load of crap on Christmas morning.
Lyrical Highlight: What can you get in a hurry for a furry kind of friend like that to take home?

5. R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas
C-3PO gives R2-D2 his Christmas present—a children's choir singing this sappy song. One can't blame R2 for feeling slightly uncomfortable by his friend's awkward gesture, that is until Jon Bon Jovi makes his promised appearance to sing lead vocals! Now C-3PO's shot through the heart, and Jon Bon Jovi's to blame.
Lyrical Highlight: And if the snow becomes to deep, just give a little beep

6. Sleigh Ride
Not only does R2-D2 not know what bells (or Japanese) are, he doesn't know how to sing, the silly bucket! Luckily, C-3PO, who has been talk-singing for half an album now, is more than happy to teach him the basics. Borrowing the melody of "Sleigh Ride" he explains, "Add a note to one you sounded just before, and another one after that, and then another three or more, and suddenly you are singing notes galore." As Han Solo would say, I'm glad the professor's here to tell us these things.
Lyrical Highlight: Just get your circuits buzzing, a near half dozen will do, if you can get them ringin' then we all will be singin' with you

7. Merry, Merry Christmas
The droid choir finally thinks up a better gift for Chewbacca—a brush. Bet you didn't see that coming! They go on to sing about all the cool toys they have been building, such as a baseball that throws itself, a toy robot that puts itself to sleep by counting sheep, and a costume that makes you disappear. Would you believe that Chewie steals said costume intent on some droid tickling mischief?
Lyrical Highlight: Here is a hammer without a head, so when you miss the nail you'll never hurt your thumb instead

8. A Christmas Sighting ('Twas the Night Before Christmas)
When some of the droids speculate that "S. Claus" doesn't really exist, C-3PO interjects with an "S. Claus" sighting from his memory bank. In other words, it's a recitation of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas with a few bits changed to be more Star Wars-y. Hey, at least we get a break from his singing.
Lyrical Highlight: Needing a wrench that I couldn't find, I went back to the shop leaving R2 behind

9. The Meaning of Christmas
"S. Claus" finally shows up at the toy factory, but the droids are confused when he isn't quite the bowl full of jelly that C-3PO described. The man reveals that he is actually Santa's son. Apparently there are too many children in the galaxy for the real Santa Claus to handle, so he outsources some of them to his kids. Then, with a warbly singing voice worse than even C-3PO's (Jon Bon Jovi totally should have been "S. Claus"), he wraps things up by explaining that the true meaning of Christmas is peace and love, or something generic like that.
Lyrical Highlight: Not only this year, but every year, as far back as anyone can remember, and way into the future

Admit it, you want to hear this train wreck for yourself. So go ahead, indulge your curiosity. As my Christmas gift to you, I have made the complete mp3 album available for download below. And just ignore that uneasy feeling in your stomach. It's not indigestion.

Click here to download Christmas in the Stars (32 MB).


Garlic Knots

In my first attempt to make the most heavenly of pizzeria appetizers, I used a hybrid of internet recipes. The ones from Food Network and Bakers' Banter were the most helpful. Follow along at home!

• Pizza Dough
• 1/4 cup butter
• 2 tbsp garlic, minced
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tsp coarse sea salt
• Parmesan cheese
• Italian seasoning

Prepare your favorite pizza dough. Remove risen dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out into a large rectangle, about 16 by 8 inches.

Cut the dough into 16 strips about 1 inch wide. Gently roll the strips back and forth a few times to round off the edges and lengthen them a bit.

Tie each strip into a loose knot. Take the end of the knot that’s lying on top and tuck it underneath and into the center. Then take the end that’s lying underneath, and bring it over the top, tucking it into the center. Hopefully that makes sense. Kristen and I had to study this step-by-step image from the Baker's Banter recipe for a few minutes before we figured it out.

Place on lightly greased baking sheets about 2-inches apart. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle the tops of the knots with salt. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise 30-45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the knots until golden brown and risen, about 20 minutes. In the meantime, combine butter and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Cover, remove from the heat and set aside. Keep warm.

When the knots are done baking, brush them with the warm garlic butter, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese and italian seasoning. Add salt to taste if necessary. Serve immediately.


A Cinematic Christmas

After cranking out ten polls in 2008, this is only our fourth of 2009. What can I say? We haven't bought any new fish that need names, and my favorite film franchises have largely been dormant. Luckily, this follow-up has been brewing ever since last year's poll about Holiday Specials.

In narrowing the plethora of holiday movies down to five choices, I'm sure I have left someone's favorite out in the cold. If this is the case, please vote "other" and write in your choice in the comments. After all, every time a reader leaves a comment, an angel gets its wings.

It's a Wonderful Life

Release Year: 1946

Heartwarming Message: Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he? Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.

Gift Idea: The moon
Zuzu Bailey: Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

A Christmas Story

Release Year: 1983

Heartwarming Message: Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at it's zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.

Gift Idea: An Italian ("fraa-gee-lay") leg lamp
Ralphie: I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!
Santa Claus: You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

Christmas Vacation

Release Year: 1989

Heartwarming Message: Oh, the silent majesty of a winter's morn... the clean, cool chill of the holiday air... a redneck in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer...

Gift Idea: A set of glass moose mugs
Clark: Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?
Eddie: Naw, I'm doin' just fine, Clark.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Release Year: 1993

Heartwarming Message: It's simple really, very clear, like music drifting in the air, invisible, but everywhere: just because I cannot see it doesn't mean I can't believe it!

Gift Idea: Nightmare-themed Travel Yahtzee
Mayor: How horrible our Christmas will be!
Jack Skellington: No. How jolly!
Mayor: Oh. How jolly our Christmas will be.


Release Year: 2003

Heartwarming Message: The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Gift Idea: Singing lessons with Zooey Deschanel

Buddy: Why don't you just say it? I'm the worst toy-maker in the world. I'm a Cotton-Headed Ninnymuggins!



I hadn't planned on compiling a follow-up to my THIS TV tribute, but after another memorable month of programming, I couldn't resist. Octopus men! Magical spheres to freedom! Zombies for Hitler! Chuck Norris! THIS is it! (As before, we haven't modified these synopses in any way.)

Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner (1976) Reporters discover that the director of an exclusive theme park plans to replace world leaders with sophisticated robots.

Kerwin Mathews, Pier Angeli (1971) Explorers run into an upright octopus-man in Mexico.

Revenge of the Zombies
John Carradine, Veda Ann Borg (1943) A mad bayou doctor makes zombies for Hitler after practicing on his wife.

Lone Wolf McQuade
Chuck Norris, David Carradine (1983) A Texas Ranger helps the FBI stop a black-marketeer who deals in Army bazookas, grenades and tanks.

Driving Me Crazy
Thomas Gottschalk, Billy Dee Williams (1991) Crooks in Los Angeles steal an East German inventor's modified two-stroke car fueled by turnip juice.

Jaws of Satan
Fritz Weaver, Gretchen Corbett (1979) A herpetologist, a priest and a local doctor fight the devil, who is disguised as a cobra.

Jami Gertz, Lukas Haas (1986) Orphan roller skaters follow a magical sphere to freedom from fascist police of the future.

The Heavenly Kid
Lewis Smith, Jason Gedrick (1985) A teen angel from the '60s comes down to Earth in the '80s to show a loser how to be cool.

Daughters of Satan
Tom Selleck, Barra Grant (1972) An American in the Philippines buys a painting of three burning witches, one of whom resembles his wife.

Little Monsters
Howie Mandel, Fred Savage (1989) A nice monster called Maurice lures a boy through the floor, into an underworld of prankish goons.

A Breed Apart
Rutger Hauer, Kathleen Turner (1984) A conservationist and a widow meet a mountain climber hired to steal bald-eagle eggs.

Nobody's Perfect
Chad Lowe, Gail O'Grady (1990) Shy Stephen dons a wig and makeup and becomes Stephanie, his prep-school girlfriend's new roommate.


Floor It

As we were getting ready to continue with the next phase of home improvement, we were nearly swayed by a sexy new flat screen TV. However, practicality won out in the end, and we stuck with our original plan of replacing the linoleum in the kitchen with laminate floor.

Goodbye, linoleum.

Kristen's dad and brother did most of the work, but I pitched in where I could (moving appliances and standing around trying to look useful).

Foreman Eddie barks orders through his megaphone.

Other than some minor trim work and touch up painting, we finished things up late Saturday afternoon. We are quite pleased with our choice—now we just have to keep it clean.


Ten Things...

...You May Not Know About Kristen

Today Kristen hits the quarter century mark. While she has done some nice blog tributes for me on my birthday, last year I posted a cheese ball recipe on hers. This year I figured I'd better get on the ball (and I don't mean one that's made of cheese). Happy birthday, honey!

10. Instead of blood she has Dr. Pepper coursing through her veins. And instead of marrow in her bones she has thinly sliced salami.

9. She shares her birthday with chick flick queen Katherine Heigl and, um... Donald "Duck" Dunn, bassist for Booker T. and the MG's (sorry, slim pickins).

8. She has an irrational fear of birds. This made the potential trip we were planning to Bodega Bay where The Birds was filmed all the more enticing.

7. She loves to get funky with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

6. She does this great stealth walk that is a cross between an alien and a velociraptor. Ask her to show you some time. She'll never do it, but at least you'll make her blush.

5. She can make the world stop spinning by bugging out her eyes.

4. She was allowed to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street at a neighbor's house when she was 5. Freddy Krueger still freaks her out to this day.

3. She is a creature of comfort, yet she gets restless if she stays in one place for too long. Don't ask me how this makes sense.

2. She likes to modify regular words into her own unique language. Take the days of the week for example. Friday is "Freitertag." Saturday is "Snooterdoodle." Where does she come up with this stuff?

1. She has no patience for stupidity. This was one of the main things that attracted me to her.


Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Dave and I like to take vacations. Before Eddie came along, we used to decide a few weeks in advance that we were going to go somewhere, and we would do it. Of course, at that point, we had a lot more money and a lot more freedom. Since we got married, we've been to New York, San Francisco, Orlando, and Long Beach. Since Eddie was born, we've been to St. George, Logan, Cedar City, Oakley... you get the idea.

So by this year, we were aching for a vacation. We thought of all sorts of great ideas—none of which came to fruition. So here they are, the 2009 vacations we planned and didn't take:

Grand Canyon

Dave has never been to the Grand Canyon, and I have only been when I was really little, so I don't remember it. We thought it would be fun to take a road trip to see all the sites between here and there that we have never seen. I mapped out our route and everything... but then we realized that a long road trip with Eddie might be a recipe for disaster—not to mention the ridiculous gas prices of earlier this year and our lack of funds.

"Believe it or not, I'm walking on air..."


My family used to take a big vacation every year, but we haven't gone on one since Dave joined the family. This last spring, we planned to go to Orlando, Florida with the whole clan. After convincing my mom that the kids would enjoy it more when they are older, and realizing that none of us could really afford the trip, we scrapped the whole idea. It was supposed to be postponed until next spring, but now it will probably be postponed even longer because my sister-in-law is having a baby in March.

Southern California

We have both been to Southern California many times, but as it is the most convenient place to visit the beach from here, we considered a short road trip sans Ed. Plus, the Yankees were playing the Angels in Anaheim, so we thought it could be fun to see a game. I planned out all sorts of activities for us to do, including visiting Balboa Island (the site of one of our favorite TV shows, Arrested Development). But it wasn't to be. We reconsidered this trip later on when I found out that I could get into Disneyland for free on my birthday. Then we decided to re-do our kitchen floor instead. Ah, the joys of adulthood.

"There's always money in the banana stand."

Mexico Cruise

When the Andrews family Florida trip didn't pan out, we realized that we might not get a vacation at all this year. This sent me into panic mode and I started looking for bargain trips. I found out that it is reasonably cheap to take a Carnival cruise to Mexico and we considered that for a while. Needless to say, it never happened.

Northern California

We have been to San Francisco, but haven't seen much of the rest of Northern California. So we planned a road trip to visit such great places as the redwood forest, more popularly known as the Forest Moon of Endor, and Bodega Bay, where Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Birds.

Doesn't this look relaxing?

Pacific Coast Highway

The last trip I planned was sort of a combination of the other California trips. We thought once again about ditching Eddie for a week, then driving I-80 to Northern California. After visiting Bodega Bay (which we still want to see), we would drive south along the Pacific Coast Highway, all the way to Los Angeles. I researched all the interesting things to see along the way and still think this could be a really cool trip to do. The only problem is that you need at least 5 days, but probably more, to really be able to enjoy the trip and do more than just drive and sleep.

It is now the end of November and the longest trip we have taken this year was to St. George for one night. Of course, if someone would like to sponsor a trip, my birthday is next Tuesday and I can still get into Disneyland for free that day. Anyone? Anyone?


Olive Garden Salad

Every time we go to the Olive Garden, Kristen orders the cheese ravioli without fail. The only time I can remember her getting something else was because they were all out of ravioli. As for me, I don't really have a favorite entrée. The prospect of endless salad and breadsticks is what gets me excited about eating there.

I have been meaning to search the web for the Olive Garden salad recipe for some time now. We've had a few get-togethers recently where we've been assigned salad, so that gave me the opportunity I needed. This is a close enough facsimile to satisfy my cravings. I guess now I just need to work on perfecting the breadsticks.

• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 1/3 cup white vinegar
• 1 tsp vegetable oil
• 2 tbsp corn syrup
• 4 tbsp dry parmesan cheese
• 1 clove garlic minced
• 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
• 1/2 tsp parsley flakes
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tbsp sugar (optional)

Mix the dressing ingredients in a blender until well mixed. If this is a little to tart for your own personal taste, add a tablespoon of sugar.

• 1 bag American blend Dole salad
• 4 sliced rings red onion, halved
• 6-8 pepperoncinis
• 6-8 jumbo black olives, pitted
• 1/2 cup croutons
• 2 Roma tomatoes, quartered
• Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
• Peppercorns, freshly ground

Pour 1/2 package of the salad blend into a large salad bowl. Top with 1/2 of the onion, pepperoncinis, olives, croutons and tomatoes. Add dressing to taste and toss well. Add the other 1/2 bag of salad and more dressing to taste. Toss well. Top the salad with the remaining onion, pepperoncinis, olives, croutons and tomatoes. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and ground black pepper.