Category Archives: Uncategorized

Solstice

When I was young I had a 9:00 P.M. curfew, except for the first day of the summer, for which my mother graciously extended our play time one hour to 10:00 P.M. in honor of the longest day of the year.  For a few years, this was our tradition–exploring the neighborhood by bike or by scooter until the last bits of summer sun had dissipated amidst the corn stalks and fire flies filled the sky.

One year we rode scooters down from the gravel road behind our house through the backyard.  Jeremy, disoriented in the darkness, inadvertently jumped his scooter off the three retaining walls in our side yard.  Our laughter echoed off the neighboring houses and our bellies cramped from the effort as we rolled around in the grass.  

It was only a few years before I was old enough that my curfew was extended, but the magic of that day lived on.  This year, Tara and I decided to take a walk through our neighborhood to Parley’s Park.  We found ourselves in an adventurous mood, taking streets we had never been on and following Parleys Creek far into the park.  When we reached the far end of the park, at a place where young people do something called “Shooting the Tube”, I realized it was 9:30 and we were nearly 2 miles from home.

So we walked back towards the sunset, the Salt Lake City skyline and Antelope Island in the distance pasted against the pink sky.

Farewell Grandpa Ploetz

This past Tuesday I received a call I’ve been expecting for a while.  In the same strong, calm voice she used throughout my childhood to reassure me there was nothing to fear, my mother told me my grandfather had passed away as he slept, never betraying, with even the slightest crack or break, that she had been with him the previous afternoon, said goodbye, and then waited by his side until the wee hours of the morning, and probably hadn’t slept since.

Grandpa did not speak a lot.  In fact, his voice was so gruff it almost sounded like it pained him to talk.  But when he did, it was often to tell a server if wasn’t finished yet as he white-knuckled his plate (Great Depression kid with a huge stomach), or to tell a joke.  He and my brothers and I shared an appreciation for big-breasted women and we loved sharing racy jokes.  This put my poor mother in the awkward situation of wanting her boys to bond with their grandfather yet disapproving of the topic.

When Grandpa laughed, his face would contort and his eyes would squint into a look of pure glee–an expression that beautifully contrasted his otherwise gruff, German demeanor.  When Ben laughs, he makes this exact same expression.

Once on a family trip to Buca di Beppo (our favorite restaurant while it was open in Omaha), my brothers and i discovered pictures of pin-ups adorned the walls of the men’s room.  We told Grandpa this and he immediately excused himself to go to the restroom.

Grandpa had a wide repertoire of jokes and euphemisms he had picked up during his time in the Army in WWII.  One of my favorites was “Used Beer Department”, which I referred to as “Used Mountain Dew Department” until I went to college.

He was impressively up-to-date on technology his whole life.  He was an early adopter of email and even had a Facebook account.  For a while, he was buying nearly every new Apple computer to come out.  He skipped over the first iMac (I imagine neon colors weren’t really his thing), but when he got the Sunflower iMac, I would make excuses to come up and play with it.

Oh how he used to pound the mouse and keyboard!  I’m not sure why he thought he had to hit the keys that hard.  Then again, I kind of do the same thing…

With a rich German ancestry and having been stationed in Belgium in WWII, Grandpa spoke fairly fluent German.  He was delighted when my brothers and I elected to take German language classes in high school and used to bark “Bitte leiten Sie die Kartoffeln!” across the table at us in true German style.  Alas, his dialect differed from the pasteurized German we had learned in school so we could never decipher what he was saying.

Grandpa loved his beer and wine.  Once on a family vacation in Arkansas, we visited a winery where my parents bought a few bottles and Grandpa bought an entire case.  A month or so later, he had finished all of his wine and was quite incredulous when he learned my parents had barely made a dent in theirs.

Christmas in Tahoe in 2011 was the last Christmas we’d spend together as an entire extended family.  We had 15 people crammed in Larry & Sonja’s cabin and it worked well enough.  I brought some of the stout I had brewed to share with everyone.  Grandpa took one sip and declared it good.  It is the best and most regarded compliment I’ve ever received.

I don’t think I fully realized how similar I am to Grandpa until after his death.  He was a man that never aged or became complacent mentally.  He was always learning, always asking tough questions his whole life.  I truly respect that.

As I drove home from work after receiving the news, I reminisced on all my memories of Grandpa and said to myself, as tears of joy streamed down my face, “My grandpa was totally bomb”.  I’ve never used those words to describe anyone in my entire life.  Why they first came out to describe a 92 year old man, I will never know.  But it’s totally true.

 

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Christmas 2011 at Tahoe

Christmas Letter 2012

Dear Friend,

How have you been?  What is up with your Facebook profile pic?  Hilarious.  It’s hard to believe another year has gone by.  Things have been pretty good for Tara and me.  We didn’t do quite as much traveling as last year, but we managed to find other ways to spend exorbitant amounts of money.  In particular, on a new house.

Are you still living in that same place?  It’s been too long since we’ve been over there.  We’ve really enjoyed our house since we bought it and moved in back in April.  Aside from a tree branch falling on the roof during our first big snowstorm in October, we’ve been really fortunate as far as home maintenance goes.  The branch didn’t do any damage.  Rather, it ended up being small enough for the roofer to throw it off with his bar hands while I watched from the ground.  Pretty emasculating, but I hate ladders.

My brother, Ben, moved into the basement in August.  He just got out of the Marines and is now attending the University of Utah which is not far from our house.  He helps us out on the mortgage.  Also, my football knowledge has increased significantly since he’s made sure to have all the big games on.  You’d be impressed.

We’ll have to have you guys over some time.  You should come out for skiing.  The guest room gets a little lonely in the winter months.

Speaking of travel, did you go anywhere fun this summer?  We went on an Alaska cruise with my family in July.  It was awesome.  I would highly recommend it.  Just make sure you bring a wind breaker.  It can be friggin’ cold on deck.  Our favorite stop was Ketchikan.  It’s this sweet little fishing town surrounded by rainforest.  Someday we hope to return and backpack across the island.

We traveled back to the midwest twice for weddings over the summer and a third time for Tara’s Somer family reunion.  It seems like most everybody we know is married now.  I’d say it’s hard to believe, but I have 14,000 Sky Miles to remind me.  Not that I’m complaining: we love traveling back for weddings.

The Somer family reunion was a lot of fun.  Tara’s parents rented cabins on Lewis and Clark Lake for everybody.  Her dad had to say goodbye to the beloved family ski boat, which finally bit the dust that weekend, but we still got some skiing in with a rental.  We also held a small memorial service for Tara’s grandpa, Larry, who passed away in April.

We have a goal this year to go camping every month.  We started back in May and will hopefully continue through the winter hitting every month until next May.  The goal fosters creativity and hopefully when it’s all said and done, we’ll have camped some places we wouldn’t have otherwise.

I also did a little bit of solo “Mountain Manning” this past summer.  Tara was gone for a week on business, so I set up camp at a campground not far from the office.  For three days, I slept and ate in the mountains, coming down during the day to go to work.  I used a shower at the office to keep my coworkers from hating me.  It was quite the experience.  I would highly recommend you try it.

Have you done any good camping lately?  I keep thinking we should meet up in Wyoming for a weekend trip sometime.  There’s supposedly some good camping between Laramie and Cheyenne.  Vedauwoo, I believe it is called.

I hope you’re still enjoying your job.  Tara and I continue to feel rewarded by our careers.  Mine has not been without its share of excitement, however.  A year ago September, due to a growing complacency at my job, I developed a crazy plan to go to grad school for a Masters degree in engineering and MBA.  I had studied, passed the GRE, and been accepted into the program when it was announced in January that my company had been acquired by the largest DoD contractor in the world, Lockheed Martin.  Much change happened, including my job description, and suddenly work was exciting and fulfilling again.  I did not quit my job, nor did I show up for the first day of classes.  I have been tremendously pleased with this decision ever since.

In October, Tara and I officially joined the ranks of America: we bought a second automobile.  For the past 3 years, we shared our Dodge Stratus.  I’m sure you remember it–the paint chipping off the bumper and all.  At least the paint is no longer chipping.  It’s all chipped off!  Anyway, it now has to share the garage with a brand new Subaru Outback.

We were able to confirm that the Outback is indeed the king of road tripping vehicles by taking it back to Omaha for Thanksgiving with my family.  Four adults can ride comfortably for 13 hours with plenty of room for weekend bags in the back.  We also took it on it’s first camping trip down in St. George in early December.  This also went exceptionally well, except for when I learned that the car has a car alarm at 3:00 in the morning.

Well, I think that’s a fairly compete update.  We sincerely wish you and yours the best this holiday season and coming year.  If you’re searching for something, I hope you find it.  If you already found it, hold on to it and give thanks!  And if you ever need anything, don’t forget Tara and I are just a phone call away.  At the very least, we’re always available to listen.  I may even offer some unsolicited advice!  Happy Boxing Day!

Sincerely,

The Newcombs

 

In Which We Find Ourselves Homeowners

It started out as a game.  Home ownership seemed like something “old” people do.  We just wanted to pretend.  We’d sit at the sun-drenched table on cold Saturday mornings looking at the real estate listings in the paper while sipping steaming coffee.  The newspaper would be excitedly passed back and forth as one found something to be shared, be it of interest or just comical.  Thus we began to learn the attributes we both like.

The game progressed to a new level when some friends of ours, who were seriously house hunting, shared a website with us their realtor used.  Suddenly, we were able to see myriad high resolution photos of a given home instead of just one tiny picture of the outside with a cheesy description.  The site also had a monthly payment estimator which, optimistic as it was, helped us realize that even us kids were capable of buying a home.

We started a list of “requirements” for our future home.  Many of the items were heavily inspired by our rental house:

  • No wood paneling
  • No carpet in the kitchen
  • No pet stains/odors
  • Windows that actually keep out the cold
  • Basement I could actually stand up straight in
  • Newer than 1930

Then there were some wish-list items as well:

  • Window in the master bath
  • Master on the same level as other bedrooms (I was hoping to locate screaming babies as far from us as possible, but Tara reminded me that we’d be responsible for caring for the screaming babies and it would make sense to have them closer to us)
  • Open floor plan
  • Good sized kitchen with plenty of counter space
  • Garage
  • Reasonably sized yard
  • Granite counters
  • Anything that wasn’t build in 1995
  • Close the the university and downtown
  • Good interstate access
  • Close to the mountains
  • Ready to go as is (Not a fixer-upper)

Towards the end of March, we found ourselves with a Saturday with nothing planned.  I suggested we go out and hit a couple open houses.  Tara was suspicious of the idea, worried that it would be awkward, but I coaxed her into it.  We looked at 4 homes that day.  None of the houses were that appealing to us, but at the third house we met Gordon, who would become our realtor.  

Within a matter of days, Gordon had us in touch with a mortgage company submitting materials to get pre-approved for a home loan.  The second he learned we were approved, he began sending us tons of real estate listings which we were to go through and select a few to go see.  This process took hours and was both exciting and trying at times.  One of us would find something we really liked and then the other would point out a practical reason why that wouldn’t work.

We went on home tours with Gordon on 2 separate occasions.  It was the 2nd time out, the 2nd house we saw that evening, that we found ourselves in a house that singlehandedly met every single wish list item.  Not a single compromise would be made on mine or Tara’s part on that house.  2 days later we put in an offer.  It was the 9th house we set foot in during our search that had only officially began a couple weeks prior.

The seller accepted the offer less than 24 hours later, before noon on Saturday and we found ourselves under contract.  Throughout the 4 week process of due diligence, we kept telling ourselves that something would fall through and we’d be back on the hunt, but nothing did, and before we knew it, they were telling us that we could pick a date to come in and close.

 

We’ve lived in our house for nearly 5 months now.  We are mostly settled in.  The summer was so incredibly busy, I wasn’t able to find time to sit down and write this until now.  The house continues to be amazing, although I think we’ve finally gotten used to it enough to not feel like we’re just living in someone’s vacation home.  My brother, Ben has taken residence in the basement while he attends the University of Utah.  A portion of his GI bill helps pay the mortgage.

Many consider buying a house a fairly major life accomplishment.  I personally am not sure taking on the biggest liability of one’s life is grounds for a “Congratulations”.  Yes, we did plan, work hard, and save up for a downpayment, but the rest was just luck and our uncanny ability to combine tastes and find big purchases that we fully agree on.  Congratulate us once we’ve got it paid off!

 

There is wine tasting in the pantry

The Kitchen

 

Tara thinks she is out of the photo

From the Living Room.  Can you find Tara?


She's just so cute

Tara tries to stay out of the pictures


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Master Bedroom


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Master Bath with our IKEA spa bench

15% More Time

Tonight I complain about time, or the lack thereof.  I spent the last couple years of college looking forward to all the time I would have once I graduated.  8 hours a day, 5 days a week, no homework, weekends free.  Sounded like vacation at the time.  Now I look back and laugh.  I totally had it tough in college.  Chilling out at the Coffee House for a couple hours every morning.  Hitting the gym for an hour in between classes.  Lazy, hung-over saturday afternoons.  I was such a workaholic back then.

Perhaps Tara’s and my problem now is having jobs that we care about too much.  8 hour days gradually turned into 9 hour days.  This is saying something because I remember when an 8 hour day actually only constituted about 5 hours of real work.  So now we find ourselves wishing we could have even 15% more time.  Funny how we humans always need 15% more.  15% more money, 15% more time, or in the case of Warren Jeffs, 15% more teenage wives.

I’ve tried to talk Tara into hiring a butler/maid that takes care of all our chores for us so we can just play when we get home from work.  That will probably never happen, but it’s fun to dream.  Then again, maybe I could put that time spent dreaming towards something useful…

A Tribute to My Mother

It is Mother’s Day, and in an effort to honor mothers everywhere, I have decided to put off all chores and relax all day.

I actually have quite the list of things to accomplish today, but topping the list is writing this post about why my mom is awesome.  And don’t worry, Mom, you will be getting a real gift and a phone call in addition to this.

One of the more interesting things about leaving home and becoming a real “adult” is you are constantly reminded how much your mother was right about.  I can remember when I was 16, had just gotten my drivers license, and was so eager to get behind the wheel and explore.  Having been restricted to a radius about the house accessible by bike for all my life, the possibilities of having a 4-cylinder engine at my disposal was teenage boy heaven.  My mother, avid reader of Bottom Line, a conservative, everything kills you, publication, was slow to increase my freedom.  She cited my underdeveloped Prefrontal Lobe and claimed my judgement not what it should be to operate a 1000 lb. automobile.  Erroneous! I told her, although I didn’t know that word yet.  I tried to convince her that I was not like the statistics and that I had it together.  But my mother held firm.  She did however, slowly increase the radius in which I was allowed to drive.  First just incredibly short joy rides and to and from school, and then longer distances for my paper route.

Years later, something would click in my mind and I would fully realize the dangers of vehicles, and the whole Prefrontal Lobe argument would suddenly make sense.  Although I still refuse to trust anything that is printed on Bottom Line, I have to concede that my mom was, in fact, correct.

I have utmost respect for my mom for letting me take risks in spite of her greatest fears.  And I now understand how hard it must have been for her to hand over those keys back then.  But those risks and that freedom helped me grow into the person I am today.  

  • Engineering:  When climbing trees, ensure the branch is strong enough to support your weight or you WILL fall.
  • Probability:  Hitting golf balls in the vicinity of windows WILL result in a broken window.
  • Finances:  Broken windows cost money to fix.
  • Chivalry:  Staring at hot joggers for too long while driving is never a good idea.
  • Physics:  Driving too fast on icy roads will likely put you in a snow drift due to reduced friction.  Having your friends sit on the hood while you spin the wheels increases friction and aids in getting out.
I, of course, am biased, but I’d say she did a pretty good job.  To this day, she is one of the first people I call for advice on big life decisions.  She can play devil’s advocate like none other, and I value her knowledge and experience (although sometimes I wish she would just tell me what to do).
 
Thanks for everything, Mom!  I love you!
 
P.S. You’ll get your gift when I see you next week.  That is because I want to give it to you in person, not because I haven’t gotten one yet…
 
 
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This picture has nothing to do with this post, but it is all sorts of awesome.  What the frig is Garin doing?  And Benjamin’s wind  suit is more epic than I know how to say.

AbsolutelyAndrew Categories Explained

It has come to my attention lately that my categories might be slightly less than intuitive.  I have therefore decided to share the inspiration for each one such that you won’t be scratching your head next time you see “Is your wife interested in photography?” at the end of a post.

A Day in the Life: This one is obviously stolen from the Beatles song.  Do you get shivers hearing John’s eerie wail?  I still do.  This category typically contains narratives about things we’ve been up to.

Crooked Crowbar: This is for DIY projects.  I just like the way it sounds–an eloquent alliteration, if you will.

Here’s What I think of That: No fun backstory here–just a category for my opinionated ramblings.

Is your wife interested in Photography?: Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink–do you get it now?  One of my most favorite Monty Python sketches.  This is, of course, the photography category.

Little Nuggets of Wisdom: This is a posh category reserved for when I write something that I think is smart.

LMFAO!!!: Seeing this written in response to something has always greatly amused me.  For times when a simple “LOL” just doesn’t quite express it.  These are my attempts at being funny.

The Great Outdoors: This one is obvious

 

New Stuff

For some time, I’ve been intending to add a page of my old poetry, and I finally did so!  It was an incredibly frustrating process trying to copy and past all these weird-ass fonts into a single document (Evidently I used to think it was cool to write sonnets in gradually increasing text size).  And for some reason, MarsEdit doesn’t like to go from Times New Roman to Helvetica.  So it’s a little kludgy still, but I was so fed up, I just posted it.

I’ve made a couple exciting new additions to the AbsolutelyAndrew Endorsed Blogs list. Be sure to check these out.

Lastly, there is now a history drop down.  This way, if you’re racking your brain trying to figure out what that AbsolutelyAndrew post was that you want to pull a quote from for that important business proposal you’re working on, you can jump to the month you think it was posted in!  Can you say innovative?

Lastly, Dooce is getting divorced.  WTF?  Your readers got you through postpartum depression, but they couldn’t help with this?  Come on, Heather.

Blog Dares 2012!!!

Its a new year which means it’s time for another round of AbsolutelyAndrew blog dares!!  If you’re new to the blogroll, this is how it works: I give you a dare, and you post it to your blog sometime this year.  It’s that simple.  Those who choose not to participate will be publicly humiliated on January 1st 2013.  That’s right–I will be posting your bared html for all to see!

Gavin’s Stuff: Write an informative post entitled “How I ____” or “Why I ____”.  Examples: “Why I got a cat” or “How I Seduced Pat Benatar”

Reynolds Tribe: Write a humerus Sloan Crosley/David Sedaris-Style essay about a life experience.

Amanda: Create a new marriage blog, and, for the love of God, title it something other than “Amanda&Chris”.

Easily Inspired: Marriage Advice!! Make it funny–no chain letter crap.

Officially Different: Newlywed Habits–take whatever direction you want.

Laura K Peters: You didn’t do last year’s dare, but you comment regularly, so you get a 2nd chance.  Find the craziest old-school camera you can get your hands on and do a series of candid portraits.  Extra points if it is a pinhole camera.  Extra Extra points if it’s medium format.

Get musing! Only 360 days left!!

 

Ben Visits Utah

Fall is a busy time of year for Tara and me.  Taking full advantage of the nice weather just before winter, we tend to jam pack our weekends.  This year, we were also fortunate enough to have a few visitors from out-of-state, one of which was my brother, Ben, who stayed with us for a few days at the end of August.  He was loving the temperatures here, which were hot for Utah standards in the high 90s, but much cooler than Yuma where he is currently stationed with the Marines.  As we showed Ben some of our favorite spots around Salt Lake City, we ended up having a few firsts of our own.

  • Salt Lake City bar crawl, complete with drunk-dialing Garin, whom we mistook for being drunk as well, but was actually just having a mellow evening with a few friends in the Neihardt lobby.
  • Camping in a massive thunderstorm.  It was such an incredible experience and we stayed nice and dry in our new tent.
  • Swimming in the Salt Lake.  I am convinced that this is one of the most tranquil and relaxing things you can do in Utah—as long as you can ignore the smell and the shrimp that is.  The increased buoyancy of the salty water allows one to float easily and the lake is so perfectly peaceful.

 

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Catherine’s Pass after a rainy hike.  Ben’s not actually that sweaty.

 

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The Marine proudly surveys the waterfall he discovered.

 

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Antelope Island

 

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Framing credits go to Ben on this one.