Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sydney Smale Gorrie

On Saturday we attended a Memorial Service in Burbank at the iconic Smoke House Restaurant for Laurie's uncle, Sydney Gorrie.

I always found Sydney to be a person of interest during the traditional Gardner family reunions at Christmas and the Fourth of July. He just always seemed like a good guy, the type of man that you wanted to know a lot more about or hang out with at the local pub listening to his recounting of endless stories about his life experiences. Alas, four hour chunks at these family gatherings was just never the right venue to have known him better.

After 87 wonderful years of life, Sydney recently passed away. Saturday was another time of gathering and reflecting on his life, the important things in life and how Sydney touched so many people in wonderful ways by just doing simple, kind and generous deeds.

The Bloom of Youth

In the lower right corner, is a young, bright-eyed Syd in the 1940's I suspect, with his bride and high school sweetheart, Maxine Gardner. Behind Maxine is her sister Geraldine, next to her husband Kelly McGraw. Next to Kelly is Beryl Gardner, Maxine, Geraldine and Laurie's Dad Bill's Mother.

I think that this picture is from Sydney and Maxine's wedding day, they were married for 60+ amazing years!

Maxine and Laurie

Laurie always has had great admiration for her Aunt Maxine.

The Gardner Clan continues to grow with the addition of new little people.

Mike, Patty Jo and George Fairchild

Patty Jo is Geraldine and Kelly's daughter.

Catching up

Laurie with her cousin Dianne Silvestro

Dianne is Sydney and Maxine's daughter.

Ian, Maxine and Bill

Ian is Sydney's brother and Bill Gardner is Maxine's brother, as well as Laurie's father.

The Cousins

From left to right: Gayle Hicks, Laurie Contreras, Linda Neumeier, Dianne Sivestro, Patty Jo Fairchild and Janet Specht.

Sydney and his bride Maxine were still in love all these many years later.

When the day ended and we were driving away, I again felt that desire to pull into a pub for that elusive meeting with Sydney.

Busy College Football Weekend Update

The Thanksgiving Holiday was one endless stream of very enjoyable college football games!

As always, let us recap the key games of interest to our readers in Catania, Sicily and Hässleholm, Sweden.

As we have noted in earlier posts, the seasons are over for Willamette (Brandon), Hardin-Simmons (Matt), San Diego (Taber) and Wabash (Denver).

Nebraska-Omaha, 7-4, (Larry) continued to tune up for next Saturday's Kanza Bowl game in Topeka, Kansas vs. West Texas A&M.

Arizona (Jason) improved to 7-4 with a great win over Arizona State 20-17. The Wildcats will finish their regular season at USC next Saturday and then will await their Bowl game assignment.

The 2009 Apple Cup Champions

My Washington Huskies, 4-7, routed our archrivals, the Washington State Cougars, 30-0! The Apple Cup will reside in Seattle for at least the next 12 months!!! We will finish our season at home against the California Golden Bears next Saturday.


A great weekend for the Hässleholm Hurricanes two favorite college football teams.

The Miami Hurricanes, 9-3, defeated South Florida 31-10 to finish the regular season. They too will go Bowling in a yet to be determined game.

Finally, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 5-7, finished their season with an exciting 33-30 overtime win against Memphis.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Friday

Our Thanksgiving was extended into Friday, a GOOD THING INDEED!

We picked up Laurie's Dad Bill and his wife Florene and drove down to Orange County to celebrate our blessings again, this time at Laurie's sister Gayle's home with her husband David and their family.

Andy and Jenn were able to fly in from Las Vegas for the day, Mike and Vanessa joined us and most of the cousins would be there as well.

The Signs of Fall

Gayle loves to garden

Gayle and David's backyard was aglow with nature at its nicest.

Pre-Game Snacks

Another day, another turkey

Why don't we eat more turkey year around?

The kitchen was the nerve center of the day yet again!

David carves the turkey, Gayle checks the yams in the oven while Amy stirs the all important gravy.

Andy, Mike and Sarah catching up

Lyndsey giving thanks that she graduated from USC as she ices and decorates the cupcakes

Andy and Jenn watching. . .

. . . Nebraska at Colorado

Lyndsey's husband Craig is a Colorado graduate and she was REALLY into the Buffaloes' upset bid Friday. It didn't work out for CU as the Huskers won 28-20.

Mike with the only surviving member of Gayle's Pumpkin Patch 2009.

Guys just hanging out!

The Adult's Table

Place Settings

As well as names at each place setting, Gayle also added a fun touch with a picture from the past of the person to be seated. This was Andy's spot with a picture from about the fourth grade ready to greet him.

At the head of the Adult's Table was a picture of Grandpa Bill with a one year old Laurie.

Yams with brown sugar and marshmellows

More importantly, why don't we eat these taste treats year around?


Tim, Sarah, Florene, Bill and Andy at the Adult's Table.

The Adult's Table is reserved for those who desire the tradition of serious Holiday discussions about politics, the cosmos and philosophy while you dine.

The Kid's Table

Here Craig, Amy, Laurie, Scott and John finish singing a rousing chorus of "Louie-Louie"!

For the third time. . .


Just the right combination of delicacies to finish off two days of Power Eating!

The Holiday Season truly IS a great time of the year!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving's Three F's: Food, Football and Family

In America, Thanksgiving Day means three things. . . Food, Football and Family!

On Thanksgiving Day we traditionally assemble at my Mother's home to feast. It was a little sparse this year as Andy and Jenn were in Las Vegas and could not attend while Mike and Vanessa spent their first Turkey Day as a married couple with her family.

Not to worry, we will see the four of them on Friday as we attend a second Thanksgiving Day at Laurie's sister's home in Tustin.


My Mother's Dining Room
in San Marino, California

This will eventually be the scene of our Carb-Feast 2009!

Funny thing this week, I received e-mails from Claudio Mangano in Catania and Linus Lindén in Hässleholm, both wanting to know about how to prepare a real American Thanksgiving Day meal.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here goes. . .

My sister Linda holding DELICIOUS Cranberries

IRONBEER, the Traditional Soft Drink of Cuba

First time I've ever seen it in a liter bottle and caffeine free to boot! Not a part of any real American Turkey Day but it worked at Casa Contreras today.

Laurie stirring the gravy to slather on the turkey and stuffing.

I personally mashed these Sweet Potatoes into submission!

Add a lot of butter and some chutney. . .YUM!!!

A Honey Baked Ham is a good supporting dish but. . .

The Turkey is CLEARLY the Star of the Meal!!!

Linda accidently put it into the oven upside down. The result? All the juices made there way down to the white meat which made for incredibly moist meat!

Sometimes accidents are REALLY good!

The Thanksgiving Buffet

My First Plate

The key is to start slowly and calmly build up to a ferocious pace. No. I am not a ham guy. Bring on the gobbler!


The traditional pumpkin pie and my niece Lauren's phenomenal cranberry concoction. I had a sliver of both with some vanilla ice cream.

Some in attendance believe that I may have set a new Personal Record for most calories consummed in one meal!


The NFL only played three games today.

A staggered triple-header with no two games conflicting on the tube.

First up was Green Bay at Detroit. We watched the first half in Camarillo as we got ready to drive to San Marino and listened to the second half as we drove.

Final Score #1: Packers 34 - Lions 12

Next up was Oakland at Dallas which we saw entirely at Casa Contreras.

Final Score #2: Cowboys 24 - Raiders 7

The final NFL game was the New York Football Giants at Denver. I could not have cared less and did not watch any of it.

Final Score #3: Broncos 26 - Giants 6

Dallas Halftime Show

I found it curious that The Salvation Army sponsored it as the scantily clad Cowboy Cheerleaders did their thing on stage.

I gave Thanks for their outstanding contribution to the spirit of the day!

The NCAA also had a football game on the schedule

The #3 ranked Texas Longhorns invaded College Station, Texas to take on their archrivals, the Texas A&M Aggies.

I LOVE college football SO much more than the somewhat dull, low scoring games that the NFL tends to produce. This game did not fail me!

Colt McCoy is the Longhorn's
Heisman Trophy Candidate QB

Great game tonight with 304 yards passing and 4 TD passes as well as 175 yards rushing and a TD!!!

"I did NOT block him in the back."

Final Score: Longhorns 49 - Aggies 39

Now that was fun shoot-out! Texas finished the regular season at 12-0.


The best part of the day is still seeing your family and/or friends on this great American Holiday. Today lived up to the billing, mostly in the kitchen.

Laurie and her gravy

My sisters
Linda Contreras and Marilyn Wintroath

Even I got into the act a little bit!

It was probably at halftime.

Family Photo

From left to right; George, Chuny Contreras (Mom), Lauren Wintroath (niece), John Wintroath (brother-in-law), Linda Contreras (sister), Marilyn Wintroath (sister), Laurie and Katie (aunt)

A short break in the action

I just had to catch up on the Texas-Texas A&M game between dinner and the serving of the desserts!

One last look at Casa Contreras before driving back to Camarillo

What a GREAT DAY!!!

Fillmore, California

Wednesday afternoon I drove over to Fillmore which is the prime example of small town America in Ventura County. No malls, just a quaint downtown area with small, locally owned stores that supply all of the simple things that are the fabric of people's lives.

My main purpose to visiting this town that was founded in 1888 was to stop by Fillmore H.S. to watch their evening practice in preparation for this Friday's C.I.F. Quarter-Final playoff game at Bishop Union H.S.

I got there a little early so I decided to take a walking tour of Fillmore's downtown.

A Salute to Fillmore's sons and daughters in the Armed Forces

These are posted all up and down Central Avenue.

Fillmore City Hall

I love the ancient Firestone Tires sign

Still only $6 for a haircut? WOW!

What says southern California more than palm trees?

They even have a Pool Hall for your pleasure

Established 1919

Ninety years old and still kicking! You can find all of your hardware needs here I'm sure.

A simple but effective advertising strategy

The Fillmore Theater

The upscale Central Market . . .

. . . competes with the down home
Victor Market

121 years of Fillmore's town history awaits you inside.

The Glessinger Winery is always possible diversion

Fillmore prides itself on its long history with the railroad industry.

Christmas decorations are already up near Fillmore's Railroad Visitor Center

Lots of vintage railroad cars are on display.

Hook me up, I want to go!

California's premier railroad line

The Fillmore Mystery Dinner Train

As the name implies, dinners on this train ride through the country get to figure out "whodunnit" as they eat while a live murder mystery plot unfolds on their trip.


The old 101 is indeed "Radio Equipped"

Now it was on to Fillmore H.S.
"The Home of the Flashes"

Fillmore H.S.'s Weight Room

They have about 60 kids out for football and the formula here is basic but highly effective. They concentrate on "The Big Three". From left to right you go from Squat to Power Clean to Bench Press.

Their Field Turf Stadium is ready

Head Coach Matt Dollar

Matt runs the defense and has great rapport with his players and coaches. Their Frontier League Championship this year is their first outright title since the 1970's!

The Scout Offense running one of Bishop Union's favorite plays.

Installing a new play to spring on unsuspecting Bishop Union.

Buck Sweep Drill

The Flashes run the Delaware Wing-T which I fell in love with 30 years ago and ran throughout my career as a head coach in high school. I want to run it again in Sweden so I wanted to catch up on any and all new wrinkles that have been added in the last ten years, since I've been on the defensive side of the ball as an assistant coach.

Coach Curtis Garner in the Offensive Huddle

Curtis coached with me for several years at Rio Mesa H.S. when I served as their head coach. We ran the Wing-T together at that time and he has continued it at Fillmore.

Curtis is a good man and an excellent coach. I plan on meeting with him several times before I depart for Hässleholm.