Thursday, December 11, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

Dr. Who

As odd as this feels to write, I had a marvelous Thanksgiving. Honestly. Most holidays, you'll have to admit, have some amount of stress attached to them. As if all the planets mysteriously aligned, I had a great time. Most of it, I think can be attributed to the food high I had after going to Maria's house. I'm used to being around large volumes of food, but don't often have an entire full size chafer just to myself... so yeah, I'm still full.
Not to blow past the majesty of our meal, but I'm sure you all ate enough to imagine... Anyway, the next morning we were on our way back to Moorestown, and finally stopped at Rutgers since we talk about it almost every time we drive by. The first stop, of course, was the grease trucks. I feel like since I am passionate about food, the kids should be exposed to all sorts of things... granted, they don't eat much of anything at the moment, but we'll wear them down eventually. When we pulled up in the car, Sam (who once ate a piece of corn off of the ground in a chicken coop) first reaction was "It's a truck? That they make food in? Is that clean?" "Of course," I said, and then mumbled under my breath "if by clean you mean there isn't a raccoon working the grill". Of course, I had no choice but to get the Fat Cat for old times sake - which is a sandwich made out of two hamburgers, fries, lettuce and tomato, topped off with some sort of orange sauce. Oh, I think there was an egg in there too. Unfortunately, it was about 20 degrees out, so we had to eat in the car instead of right there on the street... but the grease still tasted just like Rutgers... We made some stops on the way out too - old houses, stomping grounds, bars, shops, and streets I've walked hundreds of times.
Back in Moorestown, I spent the rest of the weekend with some of my oldest friends at my 20th high school reunion. To be honest, there's too much to say... what I can tell you is that I came home feeling blessed. Blessed for what I had then, and for what I have now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Brown Paper Packages, My Ass

I've been meaning to write a post about the wedding, but haven't really had the energy to revisit the whole thing. For those lucky folks out there who haven't catered a wedding before, I'm not even sure where to begin... In general, if you were to call me on a Friday afternoon and ask me to cater a party for 150 people the next day - assuming I could get some deliveries and a few people to serve - I could do it without breaking a sweat. If you are having 150 people in for a wedding though, better give me a few months notice. The thing is, weddings are tricky. People are excited to have parties - sure, they're a little nervous and hope things go right, but for the most part they assume parties will be fun. Weddings on the other hand, are all about what might go wrong... oh, and brides (and grooms, to be fair) like to heap on at least one ridiculous expectation. This last one, for example, had a full hors doeuvres and dinner menu (with four different entrees, no less) and neglected to mention when she was deciding on the menu that the facility's "real commercial kitchen! Isn't that great?" didn't have any ovens.... Which was totally fine though - because in the end after weeks of work getting insurance riders, dealing with three rental companies, twelve different hires, coordinating with both set of parents and an anal-retentive florist (all of whom were so thoughtfully given my phone number by the bride), four truckloads (literally) of equipment and food, setting up tables, chairs and chair covers, tablecloths, place settings, centerpieces, a candy table and buffet lines according to the bride's AutoCAD rendition of the hall, not to mention actually making food - the last thing I minded doing was cooking in $1200 worth of rented ovens under a little tent outside in the blinding forty degree rain.
Yeah, that was sarcasm, in case you didn't notice.
In the end, a month of stress and assload of work lead to some unexpected realizations. For one, I realized that if you give a DJ enough food, they will play a Sugarhill Gang song whenever the hell you want them to.
Second, after stressing too much to give a damn about the rest of the world, when I'm finished I fall in love with stuff all over again. Passionately. Like lemurs, for instance. I've always had a thing for lemurs (meerkats, too) but I saw a show about lemurs the other day - almost cried. Seriously. Love me a good lemur show. Never particularly liked kittens or their whiskers, raindrops on roses, or clothes made out of curtain material - but I'm all about freaky looking primates. Oh, and you know what else? Mushrooms, duck meat, goat cheese, pumpkins, red curry and coconut milk, cheddar grits, and fresh figs.
Third, I've lost my patience for idiots. If you tell me you're a waiter and I have to explain what cilantro is, please know that for the rest of the evening until I pay you I'm going to treat you like shit.... and fresh out of today's paper - if you are a college student and break into a panda's cage to give it a hug because it's so cute, you deserve to be mauled. It's a panda BEAR, and you are a fucking idiot.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Finding the Pearl

Sara has been absurdly busy for the past couple of weeks, which make for a nutty household... makes me appreciate having kids that are a little older though. At the moment, Sam and Lily are old enough to fend for themselves a bit, and i can do things like take a shower without worrying that downstairs someone is putting cheese into the DVD player. Not to say that they wouldn't try if I happened to leave a pile of cheese in front of the DVD player, which is why (I'm assuming) cheese drawers were invented in the first place. This morning, for example, not only did I take a shower, but I had two - that's right I said TWO - double espressos before I got Lily into her ballet gear and Sam into soccer duds, squeezed every drop of pee out of them so we wouldn't add 10 bathroom trips into our schedule, fed everyone, and headed out of the house with our bag of snacks, drinks and water bottles, shoe changes, extra clothes, my newspaper, an epi-pen, and Nintendo DS for good measure.
On the plus side, I did come across an epicurean delight I wouldn't have found if Sara was home. We hardly ever have fast food, but every once in a while we'll stop somewhere... and the other night I ended up taking the kids to Wendy's after a few minutes of Wendy's-themed chanting from the back seat. Long staring-at-the-menu-story short, I ended up getting the 'Baconator' simply because, well, how can you not order something called the Baconator? Seriously. Could they have come up with a more delicious name? I think not. It just rolls right off the tongue. Try it - B-A-C-O-N-A-T-O-R. See? I want one right now. Couldn't be better if they called it the "You Are Really Attractive, Have A Great Sense Of Humor and a Large Penis" sandwich. Anyway, in case you haven't had one, they're spectacular. Granted, I had to go through a complicated desalination process afterwards, but it was worth it. I think if you skipped church and had a Baconator instead, God would be like, "Yeah, I'll give you that one."
So we're finally back at the house, drawing aliens and ponies and waiting for Sara to come home, but all is well. It occurred to me this morning that the best way to help her through hectic days is to make sure she doesn't have to worry about anything at home. So at the moment I'm trying my best to keep the kids happy and healthy... and me, well, as long as Wendy's doesn't scale back their menu in these trying financial times, I'll be just fine.
Oh, by the way, thanks for the pictures dad... perfect.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dragon at the Door

Hey, you know how I start every post, don't you? That's right, "well it's been a long time since I've blogged..." I know, shut up.
Since the 'Hallmark' post we've been crazed - we spent our 10th anniversary in Philly at the Rittenhouse Hotel, and in case you haven't been, it's pretty freakin nice. Of course, since Vir and Ehren sent a bottle of champagne that was waiting in our room for us when we arrived, it made the room seem that much better. A side note to all of you readers out there - by all means, send us champagne. We'll like you more, and we'll make a make a mental list of all of our other friends that aren't spectacular enough to send us bottles... wine or scotch is also acceptable. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, my wife is great and all, blah blah blah, but the food we had that weekend was absurdly good. Really, really good. I don't even know where to begin. Plus, I had someone in a tuxedo bring me toothpaste on a silver platter... and there was a tv in the bathroom. I had a blueberry muffin while I was sitting on the toilet watching the end of Coyote Ugly. It was seriously one of the highlights of my life.
Sam started kindergarten and soccer the week after we got back, so we went right from the summer to rushing around to two different schools, soccer practice, teacher meetings, etc. It was wickedly stressful for me the first few days, and half of the stress was worrying about the boy. I thought it would be sort of a big deal for him - new school, new teachers, new friends - but he didn't seem to let it bug him for a second. As a matter of fact, I'm not so sure he even wanted me to pick him up as early as I did. I'm used to it now, but it's still weird to see him trudge off to class with his backpack bouncing off his heels at each step. He's just old. Creeps me out.
Lily, finally, has fulfilled her lifelong dream and become an official ballerina. She has the tutu, the ballet slippers, and a class of like-minded three year olds, so she's good to go. I'm honestly surprised she actually let Sara drive her home afterwards, I just thought she would abandon us entirely and start to tour with a tiny ballet company.
Still, September keeps me on my toes no matter how well things are panning out, and I can't help but feel like I'm walking a tightrope. Luckily, I've got a couple of things to hang on to...

Saturday, August 30, 2008


So ten years, it's been, since we tied the knot. Periodically throughout the day, Sara would ask, "so what were you doing right now ten years ago?". I suppose because of the nature of the day, I can actually remember the day pretty well - and my timing might be a little off, as well as the last hour or so at the hotel bar - but for the most part I can picture right where I was.
In retrospect, I guess there are a few things about the wedding that I would have done differently, and as long as we're being honest, there are more than a few things about the last ten years that I would have done differently. I would have gone to the pasta station, for one... and I'm certain I can fill in the gaps between then and now pretty easily.
I can't imagine ever changing the course of things, though. In the past ten years (and 18 that we've been together, as long as we're talking numbers) I've been through the best and the worst times of my life, spent moments speechless with joy, terrified, distraught, overwhelmed, and everything between. What defines those moments though, isn't just what was happening, but the fact that she has been next to me the whole time. Good and bad, without question or hesitation, when I expected her to be there, and even when I couldn't imagine she would be. So for those of you who are looking for a funny post, some pictures, or good Sunday morning read, I sincerely apologise for the next paragraph -
Twelve years ago or so, when we were living together and not yet engaged, my father in his not-so-subtle way of trying to get my ass in gear, asked me what our intentions were. At one point in our brief discussion on the matter, he said that the reason for getting married was to have the opportunity to say in front of all of your friends and family that you love the other person and intend to spend the rest of your life with them. A pretty romantic notion coming from my father, I thought. So in front of everyone I know, and everyone that lands on this page by hitting "Next Blog" at the top of the screen, I would just like to say to my wife - I adore you. I love the way your eyes look when you're tired, and the way your hand feels on top of mine. I love the way your hair looks like Tim Burton's when you wake up, the way you wipe chocolate off of Lily's face, the way your voice changes when you're on the phone, watching you cut the crusts off, the sound of your purse hitting the floor when you get home from work, the way your eyes wander off when you're ignoring me, and the way you tilt your head to the left while you're drying your hair. I love the trails from pretzel rods in our peanut butter jar, the fact that you've seen the movie "Major Payne" more than once, and the way you make every place we go feel like home.
So here we are, 18 years after we met, and ten years after we got married - and you know what? Maybe I should have had the pasta, but I wouldn't trade a moment with you for anything in the world.
Oh, and I forgot to get you an anniversary card...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Beautiful Blueberries

It has been a lifetime, it seems, since I've been on this page. We've been on vacation and back, done some construction, worked, rested, eaten, laughed, cried, and recovered since I've been here. Believe it or not, I've actually learned some things about myself - where I want to be, what my priorities are, what I can forgive people for, and what I can't. Strange summer, when all was said and done. But do you want to hear about it, or even care? No, probably not... and even if you do, well that's just tough cookies, cause I'm pressing on.
I was getting ready to blog and composing a little post in my head about the last month while looking through some recent pics, and decided I had to get something up... which means, a picture-rich post is in order. Funny thing I discovered... when I look through the camera I see the chaos, fear, hilarious absurdity, and frenetic pace of my days captured in little rectangles... and scrolling through my album leaves me either laughing out loud or wishing I was Chris McCandless with a better map. The first handful of pictures are just that - attitudes, backrubs, puddle jumping and mohawks.
Last, you'll see Lily through my father's camera. The girl he sees makes me catch my breath every time I look at her, and sends chills from my cheeks down to my fingertips like pinpricks that make me want to shake my hands till the feeling passes. So for today, at least, I'm going to try and see things through his lens as well as mine.

Monday, July 14, 2008

On The Road Again

If there is one thing the kids didn't get from me, it's flexibility. Maybe it's because they don't have a choice in some things, but I'd like to think that they roll with the punches pretty well. We spent the weekend on the road again, and it turned out to be a pretty cool couple of days. We were at Griffin's baptism up in north jersey, and got to see a bunch of people we don't run into all that often anymore.
The kids and I hustled to Wagsworth Manor first thing in the morning, stopped at the store on the way back, picked up Sara and got in the car again, hauled ass for another two hours up to Scotch Plains, stopped at the church, back in the car to a restaurant in Plainfield, then back in the car to Mar's house in Scotch Plains, back in the car to dinner in Somerset, back in the car to Maria and Kevin's in Middlesex, off to bed on a comforter on the floor, back in the car to Malvern, and home to Berwyn by Sunday night... see? All that in one sentence. In between all of that GPS programming, I remembered why I miss everyone up there so much. No matter where we stopped on the road, it felt like home. Plus, Lily wore her Kimono Twingy for the first time. Who could ask for more than that?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Longest Yard

Looking back, I'm not sure I'll remember how much of a challenge these last couple of weeks has been - because there have been a few highlights that will stay with me for a while.
Sara has been working like mad this month, which kind of changes the way we roll a bit... and when she works hard, she doesn't just come home late and grumpy - she throws herself into things and stays up for days at a time... calls faithfully at nine every night to give goodnight kisses to the kids, helps them get dressed in the morning, and spends every other waking second on the phone or in front of the computer. It's pretty impressive actually, because I think that she is genuinely happy when she's under the gun, staying up till five in the morning but making progress... and somehow manages to keep the kids blissfully unaware that she is pushing herself like a freight train. My account of this, I'm sure, is different than hers - but never fear, by the time she gets to the end of this paragraph I will be corrected, and my next post will surely be a retraction of some sort.
Meanwhile, I've been slowly slipping from a busy season into a slow but steady stream of work. Aside from the sinus infection that was bad enough to have me thinking about dragging the kids with me to the hospital on Tuesday night, there were some bright spots that smoothed everything over. One of the people I cater for on a regular basis had me for a couple of days this week. Over the last few years she has become my favorite people to work for - don't get me wrong, she is more than happy to work me to death, but always tips really well and in general is a pretty cool person. After a couple of days at her house, not only did she tip well, but gave me a case and a half of wine because she was reorganizing her cellar. Eighteen bottles of Mad Dog would even be nice, but she threw together some things like a 1990 Bollinger Grand Annee, some 1995 port, some Pine Ridge Pinot, and on and on... feel like I just got married...
To top off the whole deal, we got a house in the Poconos for the long weekend so Sara could decompress from the deal she just finished working on. I wasn't really sold on the whole thing from the get-go, but we ended up having a pretty cool time. Sam learned to fish, and spent hours with me on the lake even though we only caught a few crappy fish... and both of the kids got a good dose of back-woods Pennsylvania. The lake where we were staying was pretty private, and you had to have access cards to get through the gates to get into the little complex of cabins, so we were in our own sort of manufactured seclusion - but once we went beyond the gates into the real world we were deep in the middle of Pennsylvania's NRA loving, dentist hating, roadkill recipe-devising heartland. There were some pretty cool flea markets though, and it was really easy for us to find bait, ammo, and fireworks. Plus, we got to see a woman with two teeth and a "Danger! High Voltage Bitch!" t-shirt. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't really surprised that she was wearing the shirt, and just can't wrap my mind around how she actually got the shirt. I pretty much ruled out gift, so she must have picked it out... but was it on a rack with other bitch-themed shirts, and if so, how do you choose? Bitch on Wheels? Sexy Bitch? Biker Bitch? I'm Not a Bitch, I'm THE Bitch , and it's MISS BITCH to You? Danger, High Voltage Bitch! That's it! That's the one! I am a high voltage bitch! Anyway, were back and smelling like roasted marshmallows and nightcrawlers, so I'm gonna shower...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Screwing With Magellan

Great Father's Day weekend, thanks to the wife and our sea of offspring. I did have to wear a "World's Greatest Dad" medal from Lily on Saturday, and a "I Love My Dad!" shirt with a picture of Sam on it on Sunday, but I had such a nice couple of days I hardly even noticed everyone staring at my chest all weekend. There was all of the love and Hallmark moments of course, but the three things I'll most certainly remember from this weekend are a great find, a gift, and a story.
First of all, I found the Fisher Price Castle that I've been looking for for a couple of years. Not any Fisher Price Castle, mind you, but THE Fisher Price Castle #993 from 1974 that we had when I was a kid. I don't know what it is about this thing, but it's one of those toys that I remembered playing with for years... I remember all of the pieces - the pink dragon, the woodsman and knight, dining room table complete with painted drumsticks, and of course the secret room under the stairs - I don't even know how to describe it, but if any of you out there had one, you'll know what I mean. Sara, who didn't have one growing up, looked at it sitting in the hallway this morning and said that she thought the kids were too old, that they wouldn't play with it... of course, she underestimated the power of the #993, and by Sunday night they were completely absorbed... sucked in by the power of the castle....
When I woke up on Sunday morning - as if Sara could read my innermost thoughts and desires, even the stupid electronic-related ones - she gave me a GPS for the car. Amazing thing, this... On our drive into Jersey this morning, I asked for the fastest route, and blindly followed the instructions - and even though I wouldn't have picked the way it sent me, I was pretty impressed by how well it worked, and its route might have been a bit faster than mine. On the way home we were testing the limits a bit, and it didn't take much prodding to start screwing around. "Look, there are four cars lined up ahead of us, we should find an alternate route!" Sara said in as much urgency as she could muster. So we asked, and it gave us a detour... and I followed it - for a bit. Since I knew where I was, I simply ignored the next instruction and turned off to see what would happen. After a couple of beeps, a soothing voice comes on that says "Please make a legal u-turn at your next available opportunity", and when I continued on, I thought I sensed a bit of panic, "PLEASE MAKE A U-TURN AT YOUR NEXT AVAILABLE OPPORTUNITY". Two blocks later, "Please, just turn right here. I won't say anything, just go"... then some disappointed beeps, and then, "(sigh) Recalculating route..." No matter what I did, it found a way, but the coolest part was the ending. As we were pulling up to our house it gave us the last few instructions and then said, simply, "You have arrived". Of course, I thought, we live on the Main Line, I know we've arrived.
The icing on the cake of my weekend was Sam's book. He has a story journal of sorts, that he draws pictures in, and then asks us to write in the story that goes with the pictures as he narrates. So far he's finished chapter five of "The Spider and the Worm", and I've got to say, it's a pretty good read. Silverstein in parts and Joyce in others, but it's a work in progress. This morning, he started chapter six with a drawing of a couple of people playing and had Sara write out the first page. Just to give you a sneak peek, I'll share the beginning of chapter six that I think might be back-cover-of-the-jacket-quote worthy.
"Sam and Riley were playing with their balls, and then they got really tired and went inside for some juice."
I just can't wait to show his girlfriends in high school.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Wounded And The Whole

It's been a busy sort of month, in case you hadn't noticed by my lack of posts. Not a constantly working sort of thing, but more of a can't seem to catch up sort of thing, which is good in a way. This past weekend though, we just sort of putzed around...
First of all, we had a long overdue garage sale, which are always fun. In case you haven't seen our attic, we have an impressive amount of crap... and I don't mean "wow, you have a lot of stuff up here" amount of crap, I mean a Collyer brothers amount of crap. You could grease yourself up, dive into a pile, and find yourself in a Plymouth Valiant... or perhaps in the living room of a smaller family that set up shop in one of the mounds... Anyway, we scraped off the top layer of one of the piles and carried it down to our front lawn on Saturday morning, and when all was said and done we'd made a couple hundred bucks, and I only had to carry up half of the stuff I brought down... plus, I discovered two things -
1. My kids are natural salespeople. "Customers!" they would whisper to each other every time someone walked down the road, and then they would start their pitch. "Are we selling these books dad?" Sam would say, "These are good ones, especially the gorilla one, remember that one Lily?" and she would chime in from the background, "Oh yeah, those are good..." and the dance would begin. "Have you seen this rocking horse, mister? I used to love this..." Worked like a charm, I tell ya. Fools and their money...
2. People are crazy. Case and point - the forty something year old guy that came as soon as we opened and zeroed in on a cardboard box filled with black and red balloons, some paper Chinese fans and lanterns, little containers of bubbles with Chinese lettering on them, and some new Chinese take-out containers. "Is all this being sold together?" he said, "Well sure", I answered, "it's Chinese New Year in a box" (Sara's name for it, can't take credit...).
... and four dollars later, he was happily strolling away completely prepared for an exceedingly lame Chinese New Year party eight months early.
Next up, a white van from some plumbing company pulls up, and an unshaven wifebeater-wearing plumber (I assume) hops out and starts foraging through the box of kid books.
"Any Curious George?" he says, "No", I answer, "we had a few in there, but someone just came and scooped them all up."
"That's a drag. I'm really into Curious George right now."
Luckily, my inner salesman managed to stop the "what the fuck?" that was on the tip of my tongue, and instead went with "You might want to try Eric Carle, he's a pretty good read..."
Armed with our new-found wealth, we saddled up the kids and went to the Devon Horse Show on Sunday, and immediately felt like some of the poorest people on the planet. There's lots to do there, so we didn't need to know anything about horses (or even watch the show for more than two minutes), but did learn one thing... The amount of money you have is directly proportional to the size of your hat. We didn't even have any hats, and there were people there who had extra chairs in case the weight of their hats became unbearable... some big hats, is all I'm saying.
Since then, I've just been staring at Sam's pre-k graduation picture. Up until we got it, I wasn't paying much attention to the whole graduation thing - because really, he's just moving on to kindergarten - but since we got the pictures back, I'm pretty freaked out. Every time I look at it I see him confident, happy, ready to move on... and every time I see it I just feel old... crap...

Oh, by the way, I scanned this picture into the computer through my printer... looks pretty good, doesn't it?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Watermelon Code

Another year has rolled by, and another art show gave me the chance to screw around a bit. Last year was the pirate ship, which I couldn't see doing again lest people start to wonder if I was just a one trick pony. For the life of me, though, I couldn't figure out what to do. I spent a few days cooking with a garnishing & fruit carving book sprawled out in front of me, turning the pages when I had a free hand. Nothing really caught my fancy though, and the night before the show I was eating dinner in front of a watermelon... a plain, uncarved melon, just sitting there... mocking me. Anyway, long story short, I realized that I was only thinking of some sort of sculpture type thing, and had completely ignored the obvious. Why whack apart a perfectly good melon?
I thought of Picasso's "The Dream" first for some odd reason, but when I looked up a picture for reference, I scrapped that idea pretty quickly... plus, I thought it might be a better idea to go with something that everyone would know. By eleven that night I was putting on the finishing touches and shaking out my hand cramps from holding onto my little Global bird's beak peeler like grim death.
I figured out that what I like most about this sort of thing is the fear. Halfway through, there's no telling what it'll look like - could be something great, could be a big piece of scratched fruit. It's the same thing with catering, but on a smaller scale. I did an auction last week that was a solid week of prep, and the day of the event was fifteen hours of ten people in constant motion. Halfway through that too, you can never tell exactly what will happen. A hundred things to do, and every time I give someone a job I have to reorganize and re-prioritize the list in my head so that everything can get done when and as it should... and there is always a brief moment of sheer panic about three hours before start time when everything falls to pieces in my head... which, oddly enough, seems to coincide with the time when I usually start getting pissed at everyone who isn't moving fast enough. With a watermelon, there's still the fear, but I always figure if it gets really screwed up, I'll just eat it.
Anyway, without further ado, some crummy pictures of a juicy and delicious Mona Lisa.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On Being Immortal

I learned a lot of stuff in college, both in and out of class, and to be honest, I've forgotten a good chunk of it. Took a class in Russian history once, and don't remember a thing. Sociology, meteorology, communication, etc., etc... bits and pieces, sure, and I can usually pull up relevant bits of info when the occasion calls for it... but most of it has long since drifted out of my head and been replaced by what I'm certain is dumber bits of information. I've held on to most of the stuff from my English classes though, even irrelevant tidbits of trivia like the fact that the TA in my Victorian Lit. class was a bartender at J. August's during the week - a bar that I never even went to... I had a creative writing class my last year there, and at one point the professor was talking about writing for a living. "There are only a handful of ways to become immortal," he said, "invent, contribute something that changes the world, or write." Of course, there are other ways that you can make an impression that will last forever. I'm sure I have emails floating around out there in cyberspace that will come back to haunt me years from now. One day there might even be a wing of the Smithsonian called "The Wing of Joe" where people will look at some of my old emails and think "eeeeew... I can't believe we named our library after him. I feel so dirty..."
What the hell was I saying? Oh yeah, changing the world... Small steps for now I think, maybe there are a lot of things I can't change about the kid's daily lives, but we can make little steps. As a wee little group we scratched a cooking show together to try and get them used to the idea of eating different things. Plus, the ten minutes you'll get to see came out of a whole afternoon of messing around and getting covered with flour... picking out vegetables... forgetting to push the off button and taping 10 minutes of Sara's chest while she cradled the camera in her arms and waited to tape the next scene... and eating some damn fine scraps.
A quick word of warning though - it's damn funny to me, even though it might not be to you, and it's ten minutes long... so get comfortable, turn your sound down a little if you are at work, and have at it. Without further ado, Cook-A-Nation...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Some Thanks, And A Bit Of Exercise

Really goofy post here. We started uploading videos yesterday from our new camera, and I thought I would share a quick few. First and foremost, a long overdue thanks to Amelita from Sam for all of the candy she sent from Australia. We're still picking through the stash, and it occurred to Sam yesterday that she might not know what a Peep is, so we thought we could give her a quick look into the majesty that is American Obesity.

Of course after you ingest ridiculous amounts of Peeps, what better way to work it off than with a spot of exercise? What we lack in exercise equipment, we make up for in dog bones and scrabble boards...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


I don't know if your kids (or kids you know) actually eat anything, but mine don't. Not literally, of course, but their diet consists of about ten things, shuffled around from day to day so they don't have exactly the same meal twice in a row. I know that this is a very parent-y thing to say, and I hear the same thing from other parents we know... but it is especially frustrating for me since I try to eat anything that isn't bolted down or walking away. Sara and I have had a lot of conversations about how to fix it, and a couple of things have worked a little bit, but nothing we do seems to make them try new food. For a few days I was actually convinced that the kids would rather wither away and die than put something new in their mouths. Since we can't have them withering away (and thought that someone would eventually contact some child service agency) we've just been trying to wear them down.
Out of the blue, my wife had a brainstorm of sorts... "What would you think," she said to Sam and Lily, "if Dad and I took videos of you guys cooking dinner, and we posted it on the internet so you could have your own cooking show?"
... granted, it was a good idea. Wish I thought of it, as a matter of fact. The kids were totally into it, and Sam even came up with a name for the show, Cook-A-Nation. Unfortunately, I had just seen Sweeney Todd the night before and all I could think of was cooking the neighbors, but once I got the image of simmering human flesh out of my head, thought it was a good idea.
We started slowly on Sunday, just taking pictures until we get a new video camera and letting them make something we were pretty sure they would eat, but all in all it was a rousing success. Sam and I rolled out pasta and made ravioli... even though it had eggs and ricotta cheese in it, neither of which he eats. Meanwhile Sara and Lily made chocolate chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen, and aside from the fact that Sara thinks I talk to Sam like Gordon Ramsey, the meal was stellar from start to finish.
On a totally different note, you know what I can't see happening? Cutting myself on a meat slicer, and trying to Google what to do about it. You know what else? I don't really want to know what cobra shit looks like... but oddly enough, these are just two of the Google searches in the past couple of weeks that pointed their way to this blog. Although I hope both of these people were entertained, I'm a little concerned that the guy who typed in "first aid procedure for finger sliced on a meat slicer" wasted valuable time reading the blog... and the person who Googled "poop cobra"... I think you should really see someone. Seriously.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Charleston Chew

You want to hear something shocking? I don't mean, like, "ooh, that's shocking", I mean like, "WHAT?!?!" sort of shocking... I had, get ready, an almost perfect vacation. Seriously.
Take a minute to absorb.
Here's the deal - Got up early last Saturday, drove down traffic-free 95 to get to a waiting shuttle at the parking lot. Walked in (keep in mind, on a spring-break Saturday morning) to an almost empty airport, checked in at the counter with a real live person and was through security all within 10 minutes. Boarded first, rolled into Charleston 75 minutes later, and was in an upgraded rental SUV and driving to our hotel with all of our luggage 20 minutes later... with a free 'no need to refill it' tank of gas, I might add.... and on and on, it just didn't stop the whole week. We even rolled out of Charleston after lunch on Thursday and were eating dinner at home that night. Crazy. The only hiccup in the whole week wasn't even that bad... When we got back to the car, the battery had gone dead for some reason or another, but as soon as I called the parking lot guy from my cell, he rolled out and gave us a jump while the kids were watching a movie in the back seat. I don't even think they noticed... I don't even know what to say... kids did a great job on the trip, we saw some cool stuff... I'm at a loss...
Ok, I'll focus. For one, Charleston is a city like any other, there are good and bad parts. We stayed in the historic district though, so it was pretty upscale... and the good parts of Charleston were amazing. Every place we've gone has beautiful parts that stick in my head - like the olive groves in Umbria, the cobblestone side streets of Dijon at night, caves in New Mexico, the water in Costa Rica, the comforting plumes of smoke and cardboard ash that billow out of the drums lining the streets of the Italian Market, etc., etc. - but the grounds of the Magnolia Plantation were unparalleled. We spent almost three hours walking around the grounds and it felt like the blink of an eye, with every turn of the path bringing something that was literally breathtaking. Sweeping Magnolia trees draped with Spanish Moss were everywhere, and framed every picture we took... fantastic.
Blah, blah, blah, scenery was lovely, whatever. The food, ahh, the food. Let me just say, I had grits every single day we were there, and on some days, for more than one meal. Grits with hot sauce, grits with shrimp, grits with lobster broth and scallops, grits with tasso, grits and eggs, and my favorite, grits with extra grits. The grits were so good, I was ashamed that I ever made grits at home because they weren't nearly as... I dunno... gritty. On top of that - red velvet cupcakes and pecan pie, jambalaya, handmade walnut and spinach ravioli, honest to god fried chicken and collard greens - it was heaven.

It was the kind of vacation that made me think at least a few times every day, "I should blog about this..." and now that I'm home, there's just too much to write about, so you'll just have to imagine from my picture-rich post.
oh god I almost forgot... the icing on the cake of this perfect week... I got so much done while we were away. Sent our tax stuff out to the accountant before we left, sent the amp plate from my subwoofer off to Polk to be fixed, and dropped my beloved espresso machine off at the shop to have a few things done. Now that I'm home, everything is shiny and new again, and after installing a new water filter and letting the boiler warm up for a few hours I had a perfect shot to end a perfect week.... heavenly...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Words Of Flesh And Bone And Leaf And Flower

We've been doing the back and forth thing lately, Sara and I, caught in this odd cycle of work. For a few days I worked late, and to catch up, when I was finally home with the kids she would stay late. Funny thing is, everything seems amplified when we live like this... In some sense it's harder (especially the 12 hour days, one after the other, that keep me on my feet cooking like mad until I sit down in the car for the ride home), but in a way, I like the pace. Days like these my legs and arms ache with each movement, everything I do seems timed to the second, and I hang on each bite people lift up on their forks... waiting to see how their face changes, if they snap into focus.
Days like these I'm taut like piano wire in the kitchen, but when I walk in our front door aching and burned, home is a fairy tale. Past our front door, I can hear the kids padding around in their socks upstairs, and can almost feel them in the air... and for a while they're perfect... telling me about their days so fast that each word spills over into the next. If it's anywhere after eight o'clock Sara is, of course, lying in bed with her laptop at the ready... but on days like these with the goofy hood of her pajamas pulled up tight she still has the same smile that knocked me over when we met eighteen years ago. Tired as I am it's days like these I'm electric, and when everyone is asleep I want to write like Beryl Markham (or at least her husband) and have every word that's typed out be true and worth the telling. I want to start lifting again... I want to buy a duck press even though I have never had the need to press a duck... and want to learn how to play the Sitar on the off chance that someday someone needs a Sitar player, or marijuana is legalized, whichever comes first.
Then there are the days when she's late, and for a few brief shining hours the kids are just mine, and I can mold their little brains in ways that Sara would never put up with. This week, for example, I played "Are you gonna be my girl?" at an absurdly high volume often enough for Sam to learn all the words (and Lily a good chunk of them), and played old Underdog cartoons on YouTube until long after the point when they should have been getting ready for bed. Plus, we put whipped cream on a few foods that never, ever, should have whipped cream put on them. A noble experiment, sure, but believe me, not something we'll repeat.
When it comes down to it, I like these weeks a bit more every now and then. Sure, I'm tired, sore, and bitchy - but all of the effort makes the rest of my life shine a little brighter when I walk back into it. Plus, I get paid...
And to top off a week like this, I couldn't have asked for anything better than the enormous package I got from my new friend Amelita. A while back we started talking a bit about this and that... food stuff, for the most part... and she suggested we swap a few goodies and start a little USA-Australia food connection. I sent a package a couple of weeks ago stuffed with a few fun things from work, some spices and quinoa, some Tastycakes, etc... and lo and behold today I got a box in the mail absolutely stuffed with TimTams, dried mushrooms, jams, spices, chocolates, pink salt, raspberry tea, jelly crystals, olive oil... and almost every other category of food you can imagine. An entire dining room table full of stuff as a matter of fact. I restrained myself and waited until the kids were home before I opened it, and let our little Australian cornucopia spill out in front of them so that we all could root through it. Plus, she sent along a book of photographs of the town and beaches of Townsville, where she lives, for us to flip through while we munched our way through the box. Perfect end to a perfect week....

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Kid Gloves

It's really strange how things work sometimes. I've catering small dinner parties every now and then, and to be honest, they're a little bit stressful. When you think about it, it makes some sense though... huge raucous parties don't really have a single focus, but when you set plates in front of six people, you can bet that everyone is taking a moment to size you up. Plus, I'm always sizing myself up a bit more too. With a few plates sitting in the kitchen, every flake of pepper out of place stands out like a sore thumb.
On the other hand, I has a fundraiser on Friday that was a whopping 420 people, and it was hands down one of the easiest things I have done in a while. The number of people was a bit overwhelming, but the menu was a simple buffet, and since it was a fundraiser, we had a dozen people volunteering to help with the dinner. The hardest part of the whole thing was wrangling the volunteers - they're great, don't get me wrong - but they aren't really going to stick their neck out too far if something goes wrong. Running low on salad, roast beef, rolls, etc.? As wonderful as they are, bet your ass they aren't going to run down to the kitchen to tell someone or get more... it's much more likely they'll say, "oh, sorry, looks like we've run out of roast beef today..." Jaded, you say? Pshaw, realistic is more like it. So Friday was easy, but most of my time was spent running around behind the tables, checking on this or that to make sure everything was flowing the way it should, and filling in the gaps when volunteers would randomly disappear to go to the bathroom or wander the hall... or go home... Believe it or not, the best of the bunch were the high school kids we had, because they're easy to psych up. Joke around with them a bit, make fun of them a little, tell them they are fantastic, and you're set.
Afterwards, of course, no matter how straightforward everything was, it helps if you look slightly frazzled, and say "whew!" under your breath as much as possible... that way, all of the people organizing the event say, "wow, you really pulled it off! 420 people! I don't know how you guys do it! Do you cater private parties?" Good times...
Did I say too much?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blog Pimp Hand

We're in a slew of birthdays over here - mine, my mother's, Sam's is today, and Lily's is on Thursday. It hasn't been a sea of parties though, mine was pretty mellow, and the kids birthdays are more controlled chaos than anything else. There were some highlights though... for one, I was left alone on my birthday weekend (for the most part) which is what I really wanted, and all that I can really ask for... we got Sam a new computer (which I'm typing on now) so that he'll stay off of mine (so it really was a present for me anyway)... and we had a tear-free Little Gym party for Lily which was fun to watch. The best part, I have to tell you, was when she called me over at the end. "Dad!" she whispered really loudly, "come here!"... and then whispers in my ear, "you know what? This is the best party I've ever had." Fan-freakin-tastic. Love that chick.
OK, blah blah, love my kids, yadda yadda, lets get to the meat of the post. On Thursday night I was making something for Sam to take to school for his class. He wanted me to come in and make juice with our juicer, but since I didn't feel like hauling our 50 pound juicer (seriously, it's huge) into his school, I had to come up with something else. So after wandering around the fruit section for a while I left with a few melons and made a mini watermelon pirate ship chasing a honeydew two-masted schooner... added a ton of fruit to make the sea, some bowls of melted chocolate for dippin', and we were good to go. Right in the middle of the process though, I was cutting some bamboo to make the masts, my serrated knife slipped... of course... and I sliced through my right index finger. It was a pretty good slice, and within a few seconds I had a fantastic stream of blood flowing. In any first aid procedure, step number one is to bend over and grimace for about a minute, which I did... and since that didn't do any good, I got a paper towel, wrapped my finger up and went upstairs to get something to hold my finger together. When I got to the bathroom, Sara was getting Sam ready for bed and I had to squeeze by them to get to the medicine cabinet. Of course, since my wife is a wonderful person, as well as a caring and thoughtful wife, as soon as she saw the bloody rag she said, "Oh my god, did you get that all over the fruit?"
and then there was a this little pause as she read the balloon with those words in it coming out of her mouth, and then she said,
"oh my god, please don't write that in your blog"... which of course, I would never do. Except now, but only to illustrate the power of the blog. Go ahead, my friends, say whatever you want.. oh, I'll write about it. I will. Go on... say it...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Career Day

It worked! I can't really believe that a Chia Shrek actually grew... I'm shocked... It was the kids that made me do it (aside from the fact that I've always secretly wanted a Chia Pet of my very own... and a lava lamp, but I'll get to that later...) and for weeks before Christmas they were walking around the house singing "Chi chi chi chia!". It has filled out some since I took the picture too, and is starting to look a bit like a young Gabe Kaplan. Fantastic stuff, the Chia. I'm kind of wondering what else we could grow off of the head... which of course, makes me wonder if in colleges all over the country, kids are trying to get Chia-weed to grow. Note to self - put together marketing proposal to the Chia people - "Chia-Rasta".
In the midst of a somewhat tumultuous week at work (annoying personnel issues) I had these little moments of unexpected shenanigans that made for a few spots of fun. Fridays are typically the day when we catch our breath a bit... we actually feed more people on Fridays, but the menus are pretty simple, and we tend to blow through the day without having to put too much thought into it. I was in a groove this morning - coffee, knife, etc. all in place - when someone rolled into the kitchen in a bit of a panic. "Joe", she said, "the Headmaster needs to see you upstairs right now." Since I couldn't actually think of anything I did wrong (today, anyway) I thought it was another annoying chapter in our personnel problems, and scuttled upstairs. Since I'm trapped like a veal in our little kitchen for most of the day, I forgot about the career fair that was about to begin, and stepped through the lobby doors into a sea of students, alumni, and presenters jostling to get to their tables. In the middle of the mess was the Headmaster, who smirked as he told me that the Chef they had asked to come was nowhere to be found... and, long story short, I spent the next hour and a half giving groups of students the rundown on culinary school, the restaurant industry, etc., etc... It was fun, actually, and most of the people who had signed up to hear a presentation on culinary arts as part of their morning didn't even seem to notice that I was just making it up as I went along. Plus, a lot of them had some really good questions, and I think might have actually come away with a somewhat realistic idea of what the industry is like... even the girl who asked me if I had ever seen someone cut their finger off... which I have, by the way... but just part of it, I assured her, and last time I saw it, it still looked pretty much like a finger, so no worries.
On a completely unrelated note, we have new cleaning ladies. Our old one was a bit of a nut, and we never knew if the house would be clean when we got home, or if everything would just be shiny. I don't know how she did it, but even when things were obviously left dirty, they had a pleasant shine to them that sort of fooled us the first few times... and on top of that, she liked to mop our wood floors with a vinegar solution that left our house smelling a bit like a deli. Anyway, we have two women now that are just dreamy. First of all, they're cheaper than our old nutjob, and they actually clean everything. It's awesome. Plus, they re-hang all of the towels (bath, hand, kitchen, etc.) with this neat little fold in them... and even better, they make the top tissue in the box into a little fan, AND THE TOILET PAPER IN TO A LITTLE ROSE! It's freakin fantastic. I'm so excited when I get home I poop just so I can be the first one to use the roll. They're coming again on Monday, and already I'm thinking I should set aside the weekend's Parade Magazine, complete with a Heath Ledger interview that went to the presses sometime in December, for a little light bathroom reading....

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Winks & Rags

I had a long time to think about a holiday-type post (I'm sure some of you might have noticed the insanely long gap between blogs) but to be perfectly honest, I wasn't quite sure what to write about. Things were fast and furious in December, as I'm sure they were for everyone. Between work, catering, holiday parties, and scrounging for gifts, the first three weeks were a blur... and the mad dash of the time I had off made December go by in a flash.
On the plus side, I got to see my sister for a while, which doesn't happen that often... and on top of that my nephew gave us all a new expletive (Rags!) that he muttered under his breath when things went sour... and of course, I can't stop saying it. It's really satisfying. Try it, it's helped me out a lot so far this year. Stub your toe? Rags! Sour milk in your cereal? Rags! Called for jury duty? Rags and more rags! Seriously, I have to curse under my breath all the time, and now I can just yell out 'Rags!' willy-nilly, and people just think I'm an idiot... which I'm fine with.
It might sound odd, but the best thing to happen to me this past month was Lily learning how to wink. Most of the things that the kids learn, they repeat until I'm ready to tear my hair out. Knock-knock jokes, new songs, dance moves, etc., get worn into the dirt until they pick up something else. The cool thing is, Lily doesn't hand out winks all that often, but slowly doses them like they were precious cargo. Every once in a while, Sara can get her to do it on command, but for the most part, it just comes as a surprise. This morning, in the hustle and bustle to get out of the house before eight, the kids were eating breakfast and I was putting on my boots and checking my email - when Lily poked around the corner with her crooked smile and knocked me out a wink before she disappeared again. Why did she spring out for a morning wink, you ask? Well, how the hell would I know? She's two... we have little pretend tea parties, and she serves me coffee with salt in it... I have no idea what goes through her mind half the time. What I do know is that when she doles out a wink for no reason, I feel like silk inside all day.
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