December 14, 2008 (Greeting Card Photo by Chip Patton)

"It's not a Christmas movie, that's for sure;" I overheard someone say, referring to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. And I had to agree, having just seen it over Thanksgiving with Madelyn and Caralyn. It's more the ilk of Das Boot: both excellent films that I don't care to ever see again. I also just saw another non-Christmas movie for the first time, Shakespeare in Love, which was a good bit more fun. I watched it through the magic of Netflix, which I've mentioned elsewhere. I'm not sure it was worthy of 7 Oscars and another 6 nominations, especially when the Best Supporting Actor nom. went to Geoffrey Rush and not Ben Affleck. I'm not usually a big Ben Affleck fan, but he was deadpan dynamite here. And there is a Christmas movie with Ben Affleck, where I really enjoy both him and the film over and over. I haven't seen it yet this year and I'm looking forward to it: Reindeer Games. Despite the whimsical title this is definitely for Mature Audiences Only -- pure escapist fun with an evil Gary Sinise, seductive Charlize Theron, a tidbit from Ron Jeremy and an early career appearance by Ashton Kutcher, among others. If it doesn't show up on TV soon I'll have to adjust my Netflix queue.

Thanksgiving had some other highlights this year, like Nathaniel being home for the week. He'd been home from Auburn University (he's a sophomore this year for those trying to keep up) a couple weekends earlier but that was to referee soccer and we barely saw him. Even at Thanksgiving he headed back early because of his R.A. (Resident Assistant) duties -- and he just likes the supported independence of college. I'm glad of it and proud. But he was here for T'Giving dinner, the novelty of which was Madelyn's homemade cranberry sauce. It was the usual smashed berries and orange juice, with orange zest (orange zest is cool), but the real taste sensation came from the fall spicing: clove, ginger, cinnamon and pretty strongly so. Very nice.

Nathaniel missed our trip to Disney World. But if there had been four of us we couldn't have been Epcot's "Family of the Day", which we were, and got VIP treatment -- mostly that meant cutting the lines and going "behind the scenes" a couple times. Caralyn was a wary of the welcome from Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy; but she quickly adjusted to the advantages of the F.o.t.D. She's had a good year albeit some adjustment back to public school. She's in 7th grade, stressing over tests and then acing them, just like her aunt Cathi did back in the day. Caralyn's also soccering: usually a defensive star, she scored the winning goal to put her team into the playoffs their last tournament.

Madelyn is still working at Bruegger's Bagels a couple mornings per week, long enough to watch a coworker open a restaurant of his own (a Noble Roman's on Madison Blvd -- good wraps and better breadsticks. While I'm plugging eateries, my friend Ernesto has opened a quick serve Sushi / Japanese Grill called Sakoa in Bridgestreet Town Centre. He's very dedicated to it and it shows in the food.) Madelyn's also still a school nurse sub -- plus runs our household. And she's feet running too; she helped a couple of girlfriends get through a marathon yesterday, her (and their) first. Oh, and triathlons and duathlons. She and I ran-biked-ran a duathlon on Presque Isle in Lake Erie in July.

I'm running a little. Most of my energy though goes into work (Intergraph -- making software to run in cop cars and such) and to family and running the table tennis club. And toward making this a more tolerant world. I'm cautiously optimistic even under the current economic cloud. Here's hoping that you can tolerate your clouds until they shred into blue skies -- and that you catch a good film or good food or stumble into some unexpected VIP treatment. Happy holidays and have a fabulous new year,

-- Chip, Madelyn (, Nathaniel and Caralyn