Why?

Adventures of a Modern Day, Middle-Aged Hero, on the Glory Road(to family security)

12.31.2013

Huge Challenge

Happy New Years Eve...I hope you folks have better luck making it to midnight than I think I will.  Had to work a full day today...up at 4:30, and with my normal bed time at about 9:30, midnight feels awfully late.

Oh well...it gives me time to work on my resolutions.

If I am not up later, Happy New Years to all of you. 

12.30.2013

Well that's nice! And not so nice...

The good news is that both my teams(The New England Patriots by upbringing, and the Seattle Seahawks by geography) have made the NFL playoffs.  The really good news is that they both made it is as high enough seeds that they get to enjoy the bye week to rest and coach up...but, that leads to the bad news. 

There are no professional football games on next weekend that I am emotionally attached to...and the in a month and a half, there will be NO MORE football on my T.V.

SOB!

In case you are curious, if the Patriots and the Seahawks manage to meet in the Super Bowl, I'm 100% cheering for the Patriots. 

12.29.2013

Didn't realize we were paying for that...

The world seems to still be moving pretty slow out there...I guess the place where I work isn't the only place that doesn't try to get much done over the holidays.  That means there have been a distinct lack of news stories to catch my eyes...and my ire.

So, we'll just have to roll with this one out of Oregon, about the hand wringing by the wind farm industry due to an expiring tax credit. 

This would fall into the category of 'things I didn't realize I was paying for'.  Since the hills and ridge lines of Eastern Washington are increasingly covered in wind turbines, there is a very good chance my local energy rate(a bit over 6 cents a kilowatt-hour), is being supplemented by this credit.  Do I want to pay 30% more on my electric bill each month?  No....but that doesn't mean a I think folks in Alabama should be paying to supplement my wind farm's up here!  Even though I'm willing to bet that part of my taxes are going to supplement something I would find equally upsetting in the south, if I am too lazy to go research that.

It's especially upsetting because to the best of my knowledge, the nuclear power industry is simply begging for permission to build new plants...I don't think they are asking for tax credits to create a 'safe business environment'. 

12.27.2013

A habit I need to break.

So...Friday afternoon found me sitting in a dentists chair, again.  Apparently, we didn't get all the evil sprits out of my tooth on Monday.  I felt much better Tuesday, and then a little better still on Wednesday(and it wasn't just the Christmas Spirit(spirits). 

Thursday, stuff started to change in mouth(maybe I'm allergic to work!).  While I had been aware of my tooth Wednesday...it was more of a pressure/fatigue feeling than pain.  On Thursday, the ache was back, and as the day progressed the ache started shifting to periods of full blown pain, to the point that I was laying awake in bed at 2:30 Friday morning...just like I had over the prior weekend. 

Friday morning was even worse. Between 02:30 and 9:00, I had already taken my 'recommended 24-hour limit' of ibuprofen and I had a decision to make...do nothing, and hope that my body could turn what was happening around on it own, or call my dentist back.  What made up my mind is that fact that it was already Friday morning.  If I had done nothing, and things didn't improve, then I would have been screwed all weekend.

So...the dentist went back into my tooth, and flushed everything out again.  He said the inside of the tooth looked okay, but there was signs of inflammation and 'weepage' from under the tooth, so he prescribed me a round of amoxicillin, and this time I said 'yes' when he asked if I wanted a prescription for something stronger than an OTC pain medicine.

Hopefully, the 2nd time is the charm...I don't want to have do this a 3rd time(although, I do on the 16th of January when I actually see the specialist...I'm sure he's going to go back in again to poke around...my poor gum line from being jabbed with the Novocain needle.)

12.26.2013

Le sigh.

Had to go back into work today, and I'm not sure why.  Oh...I know why...because I didn't feel like burning vacation time...I only earn 2 weeks worth a year, and between hunting and other family stuff, there isn't a lot to use at the holidays.  Years like this are especially goofy, with Christmas and New Years being in the middle of the week.  We got Christmas Eve and Christmas off, but next week, we only have New Years Day off...but then, don't forget we work 9 hour days, and so every other Friday is off, so...when you break it down, from December 19th on, my schedule went: 3 off, 1 on, 2 off, 2 on, 2 off, 2 on, 1 off, 1 on, and then 3 off, before we go back in for a full week January 6th.

So...not a lot of new stuff going on, just kind of making sure no one steals the tank farms, and catching up on year end administration. It does take me away from family though, and I was more than a little bummed to get in my car this morning and find that the 24-Christmas station had already gone back to playing light rock...and then coming home to find out that my wife had already stripped the Christmas Tree of ornaments.

Sad.

Focusing on the positive...what did I get for Christmas?  Well...I showed a picture of myself in my new UT Kilt yesterday, which was my big gift, accompanied by a new belt and belt buckle. I then also got 3 new books(2 Dresden files, and the final book of the Troy Rising series by John Ringo), 2 new cookie sheets, a new frying pan, and a box of outdoorsy/survival stuff from my wife and kids including: a little first aid kit, a 3-pack of Instafire tinder, an emergency dental kit(bought before my tooth problems this last weekend), and a cute little 1020 size Pelican Case.  That will come in especially handy, since my normal method of protecting important stuff while hunting is to throw it in a Ziploc bag. 

I also got smiles, lots and lots of smiles.

as close to a boudoir picture as I'll ever get

We'll save the family report for another day...the things that you think will be the favorites, aren't always the favorites. 

12.25.2013

Fun while it lasted.

I had a pretty great Christmas Day today.  Oh, there were one or two dips, which there always will be on 'emotional' days.  When you are hyped up for the good, the few hic-ups bring you down harder. 

I did finally figure out how to use the timer function on our camera, so I was able to get at least one functional picture of the 4 of us.


The kids were pretty happy with what they got...there were only one or two things that had been on their lists that they didn't get.  To be truthful, their lists were fairly small...4 or 5 items for each of them.  The only thing we really couldn't do anything about was my older daughter wanting 'Proof the Big Foot Exists' for Christmas.

Even our cat Reuben was happy, because there was space cleared back out from under the tree for him to sleep.


Even when you get a gift that you wanted, it's sometimes not the end of things.  For example...I did get the kilt I wanted for Christmas...but I also got a mission to lose 10-15 pounds.  I was able to get the kilt on, and buttoned up....but for the first time in my life, I had to lay down on the bed to put some clothes on.  I went up on pant size, because my ego wouldn't let me go up two. 

 
Stupid ego. 
 
 
Hope you had a nice Christmas...tomorrow, it's back to the real world for me, so...good night.

Songs!

More to follow about how amazing it is to be me, but for now, songs!  One my traditional favorite, and the other, a new favorite.



The new one is from a band called Pentatonix...and it makes me wish I had watched more of the singing competitions on TV.  What these folks do vocally is pretty amazing.



A classic song with a new feel.  More later after the eating of the beast!

12.24.2013

All set here.

It's the toughest part of Christmas...waiting for the kids to be well and truly asleep so we can start packing stuff around the tree.  Luckily, everything is all wrapped and ready to go...we just need to move it, and stuff the stockings. 

Other than that...everything is good to go for Santa(lucky guy). 




Hope you folks wake up to everything you want from life. Merry Christmas to you all.

Crisis averted.

Oh my gosh...it's Christmas Eve and we don't have any cookies to leave out for Santa!  Quick...to the kitchen!


The goal for the day was Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies.  I'd never tried the recipe before, but it seemed simple enough...and I like chewy cookies. The chewier the better, and brown sugar makes for a chewy cookie.

 
 
And, once you've made the cookies, you have to taste test them...you don't want to leave Santa an untested cookie.
 
 


12.23.2013

Ah. Medicine, or sorcery?

Well, after suffering through most of the weekend with a bad tooth ache, relief was achieved today.  I have to say, I was initially unimpressed with 'emergency' side of Willamette Dental.  Things got bad enough that at about noon on Sunday, I tried using the automatic appointment scheduling phone number to get an actual live person.  It said to touch '3' for a dental emergencies...which did get me a live person...but it was just an answering service, where a nice lady took my name and number, and said she would forward them onto the Richland office for Monday morning. 

Sigh.

After that though, my impression of Willamette went way up.  I got a call at 6:40 this morning, a full 20 minutes before the website said their phone line opened up.  After asking a few questions to decide if I was really an emergency(how much pain was I in?  My truthful answer was that it only hurt if I opened my mouth to eat, drink, talk or breath...and then for the 20 minutes afterwards.), they asked if I could make it in by 9am. 

I was there at 8:45, at which time I was handed the usual stack of forms to fill out...but before I could even finish, I was whisked back to get my X-ray done, so they could see what was wrong with me, and then sat right down into a chair for the dentist to take a peak, and ask a few questions.  It turns out the problem was something that had been at least half expected.  A year or so ago, I had a deep cavity on one of my molar's.  At the time, the dentist had asked if I wanted to try to go the normal drill/fill route, or if I wanted to jump right to a root canal.  The negative with the normal route was that there was a potential that some of the cavity might get missed, leading to exactly the problem I now had...a decaying nerve causing pain, pain, PAIN.

At that point, things moved fast...the dentist asked me the right questions: are you on any medicine, are you allergic to anything? and then had the assistant give me a shot of Novocain to start numbing me up.  I would like to say the needle in my gums was the worst part of the day, but I had already gone through that.  During the x-ray process, I had to bite down on the X-ray plate to hold it in place...and it was at that point that I realized how much I had already been favoring the left side of my jaw.  Biting down on that x-ray plate just about caused me to faint it hurt so bad.

I was back out of the dentist office in less than an hour, and as I sit here typing this, the only thing in my mouth that still hurts is the two holes that the assistant put in my gums to put the Novocain in there.  The difference is like night and day...and amazing.  I'm very much looking forward to a good nights sleep tonight. 

12.22.2013

Frozen

Singing!  Dancing!  Talking snowmen and anthropomorphic reindeer best friends...it must be a Disney movie!

Frozen was pretty good movie.  It doesn't crack my Top 5 Animated Disney movies(Lion King, Toy Story Series, Tangled, Up, and the Incredibles(in no particular order))...but it might make the Top 15. 

The story is solid, and the animation, much like in Tangled, breathtaking.  As always in Disney movies, it's the combination of the animation and the music that sells it.  Kristen Bell, playing the younger princess does a passable job on her songs.  Tony Award winning actress Idina Menzel, playing the older sister and new queen, has the big show-stopper of a song, 'Let it Go'.



It is  Disney, and not Pixar, so the movie is a bit more 'straight forward' for kids, as opposed to having some of the 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink' type humor that ends up in a Pixar movie....but my kids loved it. What my wife liked, without giving too much away, is that the new generation of princesses don't need to wait for the hero to save them.  After setting you up to think that two different men were going to have to save Anna, she gets to save herself.

So yeah, good movie...although getting to see the trailer for The Lego Movie made it all worth it to me.

Dum, Dum, Dum, Dum, Dumb.

I'm a foolish, foolish person.  For the last few weeks I have been ignoring my indications that something was wrong....increased sensitivity to temperatures, and an occasional 'zing' of pain on the left hand side of my mouth.

Well, yesterday, things kind of flared up on me...which is why I am awake at 4:30 on the computer, after getting maybe 3 hours of sleep last night.

Now I'm just counting down the hours until the local Willamette Dental opens Monday morning...and then it's praying that they can do something for me...which will then have the potential to leave me unable to eat prime rib on Christmas. 

It's really not the time of year I want to be battling pain and lack of sleep in an effort to stay merry.

12.21.2013

Well...that's a little different!

Had a pretty good afternoon with the family today...lunch at the Sage Port Grille, and then a trip to see the new Disney movie, Frozen(review to follow).

While driving around and killing time between lunch and the movie, I heard a version of 'Winter Wonderland' I had never heard before...performed by America. 

The payoff comes at about 1:26. 


Straight Cash, Homey.

This whole Target thing has made me realize something...I think my wife, and I, along with a few rap stars, are the only ones who carry cash anymore. 

Not me.
Now...part of this feeling comes from the fact that the people who got screwed on this are bitching about it, so you hear it at work and see it on facebook, while the people who didn't get screwed(other than me) are staying quiet and not bragging about it.

I'm not opposed to credit/debit cards.  I have a credit card that I use for online stuff, and emergencies.  Once upon a time, my bank tried to give me a debit card, and I cut it up and threw it in the trash, because I didn't like the idea(this was 6-7 years ago).  There have been one or two times(mostly at gas stations where a debit card would have allowed me to 'fill up at the pump' without needing to walk through nasty weather) where I wish I had a debit card...but I still don't think I would use for every-day spending.  I like money.  I tell myself it's easier to see what I'm spending.  Forking over a handful of 20's hurts me more than swiping a card would. 

None of this means I might not make a suicidal 'weekend before Christmas' visit to Target this weekend to save 10%...

12.20.2013

Buying Opportunity!

I was walking around Safeway with daughter, when she spotted this stock-up opportunity.


Yup...less than a week before Christmas, and Safeway is already stocking 'bake your own' Valentine's cookies. 

They weren't on sale, or I might have bought some.  What I should have done was looked at the expiration date, so I could plan for when they might go on sale.

Still fighting the fight.

For most of my professional life, I have been well liked.  Is it important to be well liked at work, especially by those folks that work for you?   I suppose some would say no...being a boss is kind of like being a parent...sometimes, you have to tell people things that they aren't going to want to hear, and so, it not easy to always be Everyone's Favorite.  In my case though, in what is a probably a sign of something wrong deep down inside of me, I have craved approval/grudging appreciation/being liked.  Be mad at the company, or the organization, but not at me. 

It was easier other places I worked.  Both in the Navy and PSNS, I moved up from within.  Stay on a submarine long enough, and show at least moderate competence, and enough other people will transfer off, and you will be placed in a position of responsibility.  At PSNS, I was competent enough, and motivated enough, to earn a chance to supervise pretty early on.  When I was first bumped up to supervisor, I was probably the youngest RADCON boss in the Yard by 3 or 4 years, and I was young enough to have a statistical effect on the average age...I was 31, the average age was probably 41-42ish. 

The common key in both these situations is, for all intents and purposes, I was the 'local Joe that made good'...and I NEVER forgot that is the people working for me who were going to make me keep looking good.  I've always remembered what it is like to have to climb up and down into an aircraft carrier reactor compartment 78 times a day, and treated people accordingly. 

Hanford is different.  First, I'm the new guy that just showed up as a supervisor(not that any of the 'techs wanted the job)...and also, there has just historically been a lot of...tension...between the craft and the management.  So...it's been a battle since day one, to be treated as a person, and not just a manager.

There are two things I have found you have to do for this to happen.  The first, is being a good boss.  If you don't prove you know what you are doing, so you can steer your guys out of trouble, and they can trust you, they just aren't going to care about you.  The other thing is, let's face it...bribery.

Hey...look at this box of donuts that showed up!  Or this half a birthday cake we didn't eat at my daughters party!  Or, as in yesterday's case, 'Hey, look at this tray of freshly prepared apple fritters I just cooked up!'


Yeah, they don't quite look like apple fritters you would get from your local donut shop, but they tasted pretty darn close...and fresh has a quality all of its own. I cut up 6 apples the night before(3 granny smith, 3 gala's) and soaked them in a water with lemon juice and cinnamon to minimize unsightly browning.  The dry goods(recipe here) were thrown into three plastic bags as well the night before, so all I had to do at work was mix up the wet(eggs, milk, melted butter) and do the cooking. 

For each batch, I double the recipe shown...and I ended up making 3 of those doubled batches, which yielded somewhere between 40-50 fritters(each one with a cooked volume of 3/4's to a full cup(not sure how else to describe the size to you)).  About half the fritters just got a sprinkling of powdered sugar...the others got the left-over salted caramel from my earlier brownie adventures drizzled over them(the caramel ones went first). 

I didn't just make them for my guys...if you are going to heat up oil, and make the smell of sweet things cooking, the correct thing to do is make enough for everyone which is why there were 40-50 of them.  Folk appreciated it...and I appreciated that they appreciated it.  For about half the crew, Thursday was their last day for two weeks, and fresh fritters got that off to a good start. 

Of course, my kids wondering I came home smelling like fried apples, and didn't bring any to them...


12.18.2013

A good team.

Yesterday for dinner, my wife made a roasted chicken for dinner. 

Afterwards, she threw the chicken in a pot, and proceeded to make a mess of stock, at which point I stepped in with the pressure canner, making up 4 quarts of stock to put out in the garage.


It's a little cloudier than what comes out of the can from the grocery store...but that cloudiness is flavor. 

Do you hear what I hear?

What can I say...I'm a sucker for pretty ladies doing pretty things...and they don't come much more beautiful than Vanessa Williams.



That girl can sing.  You can hardly say she hasn't had a successful career, but...it doesn't feel as big as it should have been for someone as beautiful and as talented as she is.

12.17.2013

Every Day Carry

Back in November, Tam had a post about her collection of small knives.  That's been rattling around in my head, since I have a small knife...and I finally decided to tackle it by talking about my every day carry items.

Since I work in a secure government facility, so there won't be any gun pictures here.  In fact, my every day carry is not very exciting, but I'm not going to put on airs.


Yup...they aren't much to look at, but since they attach to my lanyard, I always have them at work.

The flashlight is an eGear Jolt. What caught my eye is that if you unscrew the back cap, there is a USB adapter for recharging the flashlight.  No batteries to worry about = less for me to forget.  A confession though...when I first saw that the light had a USB adapter, I bought it because I thought it was a flashlight AND a memory stick.

If one believes the literature, it's a 25 lumen light...but I don't know if I buy that.  It doesn't seem as bright as my AA Maglite...and I thought that was rated at right around 15 lumen.  So...no tactical blinding applications, but,  I learned early on being stationed on a submarine that there is a HUGE difference between total dark, and total dark with ANY kind of flashlight.  This one is bright enough to look for something behind my desk, or check to see if a mark on a glovebag is scuff mark, or an actual hole. 

The knife is a Cold Steel Urban Pal. 
 
 
The vast majority of it's use is cutting up ham or roast when we do a pot luck at work.  Other than that, it's used to open boxes, pop cable ties, or ummm...whatever else you might want to a knife.  It's very handy, and the edge has held up amazingly well.  I want to say I have had that knife for over three years now, and I have never once really sharpened it...but I don't need 'super sharp'...other than it's easier to hurt yourself with a dull knife than a sharp knife.  I highly recommend it if you are looking for some kind of smaller knife.  

12.15.2013

O Holy Night.

Spending a few hours in the kitchen baking with Christmas songs playing on the computer yesterday really helped to put me in the holiday spirit. A few years ago, I listed out my favorite Christmas songs.  I'm not quite motivated enough to try to rank them like that this year...but I do feel the need to point out a few of the better ones...like 'O Holy Night', by Martina McBride. 




I am of the opinion that there is no finer vocalist that has ever graced the country airwaves than Martina.  It's a shame that she is not blonde and 22 years old, so that country music stations would still play her songs. 

Baking Day

My older daughter is going to a cookie exchange party later on this afternoon, and this evening, my wife and I are going to a Bunco/White Elephant Christmas Party, so my morning and early afternoon are going to be spent in the kitchen...something I pretend to dread, but my wife knows I really enjoy baking.  Strike that...I really enjoy eating the results of my baking...playing in the kitchen is a relaxing way of producing things I like to eat.

For the cookies in the morning, my daughter wanted to make chocolate chip cookies, so I busted out a tried and true cookie recipe for this one...Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have made these cookies many times, with many different fillings.  Sometimes it's basic chocolate, or my favorite, butterscotch chips.  This time it was a fancy bag of NestlĂ©'s 50/50 Dark Chocolate Chips and Mint Chips...very seasonal.


The only negative great part of this recipe, is that it makes a huge batch of cookies.  There were still two cookie sheets in the oven when I took this picture. 

After finishing the cookies, it was time to start on my 'grown-up' dessert for the evening.  When it's time to break out the big guns, I usually have to 'go-to' sources, Alton Brown, or The Range.  In this case, I went with Brigid, because she just recently posted a recipe for Bacon Butterscotch Brownies with a Salted Caramel glaze


More than a few eye-brows were raised when I described what was on the plate...and those that were brave enough to try them, enjoyed them.  The one thing to note, is that Brigid was just looking to make a small batch of brownies...so what you see on that plate is the result of quadrupling the recipe(well, doubling it twice...made two 8 X 8 pans, using two 12-ounce packages of bacon.)










12.14.2013

Practice makes perfect.

Sometimes, you don't get things right the first time. 

On the right, my first attempt at making a salted carmel sauce...on the left, my desperate 2nd attempt.


I had to make the 2nd attempt, because the 1st one tasted like I had soaked the barrel of my AK in it after a 1000 round range trip.  I guess I went a shade or two past the color I was aiming for.

The 2nd one tastes GOOD.  More will follow about why I am doing this in the first place...if I don't end up in a diabetic shock from everything I have been doing in the kitchen today.

12.13.2013

Just no need for that.

There are very few new ideas out there, and Hollywood has been in full-on reboot/remake mode for...a while.  Over just the last two years we've had Red Dawn, Dredd, The Amazing Spider-Man, Carrie, Old Boy, and Man of Steel...with Robocop queued up to come out soon. 

But now, with word that they are starting to work on a 'Naked Gun' remake...enough is enough.   You can't top perfection...and there is no doing it better than Leslie Nielsen played Frank Drebin. 




I am the opposite of excited about this news. 

12.11.2013

Indications are it's a bit cold, still.

So, even with a 25-watt bulb going in the chicken coop, things still seam to be getting a bit cold in there.  How can I tell?  Well...this is an egg that must have been laid Tuesday afternoon and missed by the kids.


Yeah...looks like the water inside of the egg kind of froze, and split the egg as it expanded. 

Sad. I thought it was warmer in the coop than that.  But then...it might be where the chickens are roosting, up closer to the light.

Either way, I'm still doing more for my birds than some people around here do...I guess I just happy chickens to make happy eggs!  Happy eggs contain good karma, which is WAY more important than Omega's 3's from feeding them flax seed. 

12.10.2013

Heck of a way to keep warm...

It looks like our younger cat, Dahlia, is trying to a job where I work...not many other places I have ever seen a head that far up an ass...

Ve appreciate your help, comrade.

Couple face fine for removing trees near Spokane River

This kind of chaps my hide.  The rules themselves are dumb...I hate rules telling people what they can and can't do with the property....but rules I see as dumb get passed every day. 

My real problem here is with loyal Party Member Guy Gardner, who out for a walk, found the downed trees, and felt it was his duty to report this 'amazingly irresponsible' act of cutting down trees which are not the least bit endangered in the hills around Spokane. 

The article says that the action was not clearly visible to the public, so dude, MIND YOUR OWN F-ING BUSINESS!  What are you doing taking your morning walk through their property?

If they had gone on to state land, or someone else's property to do this....then they are bad, bad people.  They simply cleared a few trees that had grown taller and were blocking their view of the river.

I'm sure everyone feels safer now.

12.08.2013

Place somewhere warm to rise...

You see...that's a problem.  Having recently watched a video for making Portuguese Sweet Bread, I decided a day with a high temp of 19 degrees would be a nice time to try it, since it was too cold to do much yard work. 

The only problem is, I keep the temperature in the house right around 65 degrees during the day(it's set at 63 overnight)...although I do spike it up when the girls take their showers. In search of a 'warm place', I left the bowl on the stove top while I prepared a few other things in the oven...but it just wasn't happening.  After two and a half hours, I finally gave up.  I had some rise, and I got a little more when I proofed the formed bread....but nothing like I should have.


The finished product tasted really, REALLY good...and while it was denser than it should have been...it was solid without being dry, or hard.  Hot with some butter melted onto a slice, it tasted just like I remember Portuguese Sweet Bread tasting. 

My wife is the one who introduced me to this guys recipe's...White Trash Cooking, on youtube.  He also has his own website set up, where all of his recipe's are archived in PDF form.  It's neat, because he shows you don't need a fancy kitchen to make good food...and he goes into a lot of detail on his recipe's without coming across as condescending. 


Rebelle

I'm kind of an old-fashioned guy, and I lack the enlightenment to think of boys choosing to play with dolls, or girls choosing to play with footballs.  Not that girls can't toss a football, or boys can't play with dolls(or 'action figures')...I just think even in 2013, if you have a table with a football, or a doll on it, greater than 90% of kids are going to pick along 'traditional' lines.

Now, this doesn't apply to all toys, or even most toys.  My daughters have stuffed animals, and dolls, and a dress-up clothes bin...but the dress-up bin isn't just princess clothing...it's got detective gear and werewolf masks in it also.  I would estimate that video games, Lego's and tinker toys occupy over 2/3rds of their time...and those are gender neutral as things can be. 

All of this is to point out that for Hanukkah, I got my girls new Nerf guns, and I was NEVER tempted to get them anything from the new Rebelle line. 

I don't blame the Nerf folks for trying to cash in on 'The Hunger Games' by strapping cross-bow braces onto their Nerf guns, or creating a neat little Nerf Bow...but I'm pretty sure that the bow Katniss used in 'The Hunger Games' didn't have pink and purple trim. 

Nope...my daughters got the Nerf Sidearm Blaster.  Now...it's not the fanciest blaster in their line up...but it's a load of fun.  What I like is that just like my Black Hawk, you can hold the trigger down and the gun will fire as fast as you can cock it. 

Hopefully Santa brings me something so I can play with the girls. 

12.07.2013

Cluckin' and Sproutin'.

Well, the chickens seem to be doing okay with our recent cold snap.  I have a 25-watt bulb going in their coop, and while I don't have an extra thermometer I'm willing to let get pooped on, by calibrated hand, it feels 20-30 degrees warmer in the coop than outside.  On the colder nights, where it is predicted to be single digits, I actually close the door to the coop too, trapping the girls inside from 9ish until 5ish.  Tonight will be the real test...they are predicting temperatures of less than zero tonight.  I will probably close the door, AND add a gallon jug or two or hot water to a corner of the coop.

With the colder, darker, shorter days, we have seen a decrease in chicken productivity.  In the fall, our 5 chickens were giving us 5, and sometimes 4 eggs a day.  Now, we are getting 3, and occasionally 4 eggs a day.  Still more than enough for our family...it just takes longer to build up to the point where we feel the need to give some away.

I also did some actual data collecting on my sprouting efforts.  Sprouting is good for two reasons...it converts some of the hard-to-digest part of the seed into more a more easily digestible form...plus, it DOES give you a return on your investment...more food mass.  If I was squared away, I would have this in a graph...but it's the weekend.

Starting with 52 grams of wheat berry's, I ended up with 152 grams of sprouts, 64 grams of lentils ended up with 294 grams of spouts, and 34 grams of clover seed gave 292 grams of spouts(showing here):

 
I actually let my stuff go a little further than people normally would for sprouts...the finished product is closer to fodder, than spouts.  The greening is a little better for the birds.
 

So yeah....from a straight 'mass' standpoint, the clover is the clear winner...but the clover seed I bought was over $6 a pound from an organic food store, while the lentils are like a buck a bag...and the lentils I've been sprouting so far are not new.  They are ones we bought in bulk and vacuum sealed some number of years ago (4-6?). 

We haven't found any type of spouts yet that the birds don't like.  I even did up a quart jar of kidney beans, just because I wanted to see if it would work.  

12.06.2013

Building character.

There is that old trope out there about fathers making their kids do something right on the edge of horrible 'for their own good.' We often call these things 'character building experiences.' 

Well...today I decided the time had come for my daughters to build some character...so after a stretch of 4 days where the temperature hasn't broken 28 degrees, we loaded up the car and headed up to Palouse Falls.  Having been there in the summer, I was more than a little curious what it looked like after a deep chill.

The answer is, beautiful, if you were able to keep your eye balls from freezing shut. 


When we arrived there, it was about 16 degrees outside...and so after an hour and a half drive, we lasted about 10...maybe 15 minutes outside.  More than long enough to put a twinkle in everyone's eyes.


After that, we piled back into the car, and headed down the road into Dayton, for some lunch and antiquing.  I also had a cup of gourmet style European Drinking Chocolate(please, do NOT call it hot chocolate)...and it was flipping amazing.  Oh, the price made Starbucks look cheap...but...yum, yum, yum.

It was a pleasant day.  For a good part of the drive(a four hour loop), most of the Palouse was snow covered, which I agree with my wife on...if you are going to have cold, let it be pretty and white, too.  We saw a few coyotes, and a field or two with pheasant in them...and I think the kids built a lot of character.


12.05.2013

That squeal you hear? It's me.

 A little-girl type squeal of pure, sweet joy.

'X-Men: Apocalypse' will open in 2016

It doesn't matter that all we have to go on so far is a title, and a release date of May 27th, 2016...if I had a calendar in the house that went that far out, I would have circled the date already. 

I'm a comic book geek...even though I have bought a new comic book in almost half a decade(at least).  I grew in the 90's when the X-Men was HUGE...and I have been pretty impressed with every X-Men related movie that has come out since 2000, when Bryan Singer's 'X-Men' came out(well...excepting roughly 50% of 'Wolverine: Origins'...and everything involving the bald, mute Dead Pool at the end).  News that that they still have a vision for the path forward is outstanding.

First though, I can only look forward to X-Men: Days of Future Past, coming out this next May.  It will have to do.


12.04.2013

Home Made Christmas

While I have been 'busy' cruising the internet and various stores busting out my Christmas shopping, my wife has been approaching things a different way.  Other than things on my list which require embracing consumerism, she is trying to make things by hand...which, is okay, because she is WAY better at than I am.  She is actually crafty and good with her hands.  Currently, she is working through crocheting a stack of dresses for some American Girl Dolls. 

Her way of getting ready for Christmas seems to be less stressful, and get her snuggling time too.

12.02.2013

It only LOOKS old

Ashley Monroe, a member of Pistol Annie's along with Miranda Lambert, has an okay solo career going for herself also.  In her newest video, 'Weed Instead of Roses', she looks like she should be sharing a stage with Tammy Wynette or Barbara Mandrel.  Looks are deceiving though, because the lyrics of the song are something that neither of those other two ladies could have gotten away with in their time.  Not that I don't think they wouldn't have jumped at the opportunity...it's just that Tammy Wynette never got the opportunity to sing about smoking the mary jane.




Christmas List

Yeah, we were just thankful for everything we have, and here I am being all material...but my wife wants a wish list for me, and this seems like as good a place as any to put it. May be it will give someone else an idea.  Had to get done in time for Cyber Monday.

First off...I want a kilt.   Now...keep in mind that in junior high school, I wanted to grow a rat tail in my hair 2 years after all the other kids started growing them...and about 6 months before everyone cut them off. What I'm saying is, I am not the most up-to-date on trends...but I know more than one person who wears a kilt.  I am 100% certain that the folks at Utilikilt make a great product...but if I asked for one from there, there would be no presents for anyone else. Rather, a few of my buddies have bought kilts from U.T. Kilts, and they have been very satisfied with them.  Waist size 42...color...anything other than blue/black/grey...which leaves several shades of khaki and green. 

Books:  There are several series that I am reading that I have been unable to locate the next book of at the used book stores...and spending $10 on a book for myself this close to Christmas is out of the question.  But, as a gift, well, that's different.  I have read through the 6th book, Blood Rites of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files.  Book 7 is called  'Dead Beat', and book 8 is 'Proven Guilty'.  I can also use the 3rd book of John Ringo's Troy Rising series: 'The Hot Gate'. 

The big thing, and in the real world I am not sure if the budget is going to stretch this far this year, is a 6-position Recoil Reducing Stock for my Mossberg 500. Something like the Blackhawk Spec Ops 2(also here).   This would be a nice toy.

More important, and affordable in the shooting sports realm, would be some noise canceling electronic earmuffs.  I'm sure there are nicer ones out there, but Harbor Freight has some for under $14(either online or in the local store here in Richland).  A guy at the local range had a set of these very muffs...and for the price, he was extremely happy with them.

Let's see...if I am getting a kilt, I am going to need some new socks.  Not necessarily thick, HOT wool socks...but some socks that would look appropriate sticking out the top of my boots I will wear with my kilt.

Finally, in the world of emergency equipment...I need a jack for my truck.  Would I LOVE a 48" or 60" Hi-Lift X-Treme...you betcha'!  But...that falls more in the category of actual 'tool'(jack, clamp, winch and Jaws of Life)...I really just need a simple bottle jack...something like this 4-ton unit(also available at Harbor Freight...or Amazon, or Walmart).

As always, if all else fails, one can never have enough knives or flashlights. 

12.01.2013

Day-em.

That whole Mississippi Pot Roast...it's pretty tasty.


It goes in the 'Do Again Soon' rotation.  The flavor is hard to describe, other than 'yum'.  It has some zing due to the pepperoncini's, and a tang due to the ranch dressing powder. 

Good, good, good. 

Hold onto your butts.

In Jurassic Park, the catch phrase of ill-fated chief systems engineer John 'Ray' Arnold(played by Samuel Jackson) as he is trying to reboot the computers is 'Hold onto your butts'.  Now, since he ends up getting eaten in both the book and the movie, this might be a poor choice of a motivational line for me, but...eating is involved, so, let's go with it.

After weeks of reading about, and hearing about it, I finally bought the stuff this weekend to make a Mississippi Pot Roast


Well, in about 8 hours, we'll see what all the fuss was about.  If it doesn't turn out right, rest assured I'm blaming it on the fact that I have sliced pepperoncini's and not whole ones. 

11.30.2013

Let the count down begin.

After two days of being trapped in the house while my wife and went out and had 'fun' shopping, we decided to get out the house for a bit, and headed downtown to watch the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. 

It actually warmed up above freezing today, so it wasn't a cold evening, but due to temperature inversion we've been dealing with for about a week now, it was a bit clammy. 

Now worries, I brought my own smiles with me to warm the cockles of my heart.

 
 
 


Even with the smiles, it got kind of chilly, and I was glad that we only spent about an hour waiting for the lighting.  That is one great advantage of the short days...by 5 o'clock it was dark enough to appreciate the town green being lit up.

Whole Wheat!

It can't be anymore than twice a month that I need to find something to do with the bananas rapidly moving past their use by date on the counter.  Having spent most of the last three days around the oven, I didn't feel like making banana bread, so instead I found this recipe for Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes. 

As usual the first time trying a new recipe, I followed this one as closely as I could, right up to the end, when I decided these pancakes would be a great use for the half bag of chocolate chips in our freezer.  Since that wasn't enough, my older daughter, who LOVES peanut butter and banana sandwiches, asked me if I could spread some peanut butter on the completed product. I did her one better, spreading on some peanut butter and then stacking the pancakes on the griddle.  Finally, since we already had peanut butter involved, I decided that honey would be a better toping than syrup.


Now, that is an energy packed start to the day. 

11.29.2013

Offically Over

Got the last of the left-overs properly put away today, marking the official end of Thanksgiving.

I purposefully asked my wife to pick up the largest turkey that she could after pursuing the different adds and figuring out which deal was the best. 

The end result was a Twenty-two pound for my two kids, my wife and I.


Well, someone didn't pull their weight, and so when it cooled down, we were left with roughly 6 pounds of meat.  Rather than freeze it, my plan all along(and the reason I asked my wife to pick up such a large bird) was to break out the pressure canner

2.5 hours later...I was done, with 7 new pints of shredded/diced turkey cooling so it could go out in the garage. 

And how did we get here?

If someone had asked me 5 years ago of what I would be doing the day after Thanksgiving...I'm not sure 'using the garden trowel to chip frozen chicken shit out of the coop' would have made it on the list. 

The paths we take to get where we are...they aren't always straight. 

Bah Humbug, Vol. 1

Yes, I know yesterday was our Day of Thanks...but please, let me be the first to throw a wet blanket on everything.

This:


What problem, exactly?  I'm guessing they are talking about this relatively new phenomena of stretching 'Black Friday' into Thursday evening.  Although, from the graphic, they are trying to tie that in to 'support of an $11 minimum wage'.  I'm not going to address that one right now, other than to say I am against it, and the whole concept of a 'Living Wage'.  Like I said...this is about Bah Humbug's.

As far as the attempted forced outrage at having stores open on Thanksgiving...Stop...just stop.  You can blame my wife for putting me in this mood.  She had a friend on facebook that just hired on to Macy's two weeks ago as 'seasonal staff' complaining about all the hours they were asking her to work this weekend.  You hired in specifically to make more money over the Holidays!!!!!!!!!

There are MILLIONS of people that work on Thanksgiving. Some of it is for important stuff:  Keeping NFL games on TV, Military, police and firemen, nurses and doctors.  Some of it is for less important stuff: Commerce. 

To steal a quote from Commander Zero: you’re missing the point of preparedness. If theres an opportunity to save money and acquire necessary gear, then I don’t care if it falls on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or VoodooMan Day. I’m not about holidays, I’m about preparedness.

Now, in this case, I didn't spend enough time in the adds or on the internet looking for black Friday deals(or Thursday night) deals...so I don't spot anything worthy of getting me out of the house.  And trust me...a deal would have to be insane to get me out of the house on Thanksgiving night...just because I am lazy.  Thanksgiving evening I am usually quite full/bloated and pleasantly drowsy.  The last thing I feel like doing is elbowing my way through crowds for the consumer electronic crap that is usually being dangled in the face of the masses.  I have no need for a bigger T.V, or a $3 Door Buster Toaster. 

If someone has a Black Friday deal on .22 ammo, or Celox...I'm there...but that is what the internet is for.

As for the concept that Thanksgiving is sacred...it's a day.  It was picked as the 4th Thursday in November and not tied to any date because....it's not that important.  You shouldn't need a calendar to tell you to cook a turkey, and mashed taters, and over eat....or invite some friends and family over to spend time with them. 

11.28.2013

Only one problem..

Thanksgiving was a success today...stress-free, and a good time with the family.  Everything made it to the table on time and warm.


It looks like a Very Brady Thanksgiving! 

The biggest difficulty encountered during the day was trying to get a picture of the whole family...kind of 'group selfie'.   Luckily, most of the raw material we get to work with is Grade 'A'.


Tomorrow is another day.  I will doubtless get up early and see my wife off on her shopping adventure, before getting busy in the kitchen again.  We bought a pretty huge turkey(22 pounds!) specifically to have left-overs, and tomorrow I will break out the pressure canner to make up 6 or 7 pints of canned turkey.

Frosty.

It's a nice day to be inside today...it's more than a little frosty out there.


Those are some tough birds.  The hoar frost makes it much easier to see the holes and tears in the netting over the chicken run, but it makes me feel guilty about them being out in the cold.  Guilty enough that at some point I'm sure they'll get some warm turkey and all the trimmings...and maybe even some pie. 

Inside, it's pleasant.  We are staying home today...the first time in 4 or 5 years we have eaten Thanksgiving dinner at our table.  The turkey is already at 145 degrees, the mashed taters, mashed rutabaga/parsnips, and cranberry sauce are ready, and just need to be heated up.  The stuffing is ready to be baked, as are the Rosemary Yeast Rolls with Sea Salt

Should be a stress free family day...and I hope the rest of you out there are as content as I am.

11.27.2013

Early, or late, depending on your point of view.




Seemed a little strange to be setting my turkey into it's brine on the same night that we were lighting the menorah.  Unlike those folks who say 'Wow...Hanukkah's early this year, I know the truth...those 'Johnny-come-latelies' on the Gregorian Calendar(Thanksgiving and Christmas) are just running late.

Happy Thanksgivukkah! 

Thank you, drive through.

Sorry...stuff's been a little slow and unmotivated around here the last two days or so. Please check back later for real opinions/insight on life.

For now...cat's snuggling in a basket of blankets(well, afghans).

11.25.2013

Got the prayer all picked out.

There are many things to do to get ready for Thanksgiving...check one more off the list.  My daughters helped pick it out.

11.24.2013

What do we have here?

Let's look at everything on the table:


Hmmm...a pound of soaked kidney beans, a Red Hook Ale, Ro-Tel, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, spices, chocolate, and 3 pounds of meat(ground beef, sausage, and cubed venison round)...looks like chili fixings!

And it was good, especially with homemade whole wheat tortilla's on the side. 
 
 
It's a good thing I made it too...it took every ounce...every hour of simmered goodness AND 3 Leinenkugel Vanilla Porters to guide my Patriots past the Denver Bronco's.


Bed time...and a good start to the short week.

Could you say that again into the microphone...

Yesterday my wife bought a new broom/dust pan for the house...and it's not what I would have picked...but it just proves she has her own special brand of genius.


My younger daughter couldn't wait to get her hands on the new polka-dot broom.  After dinner, the girls take turns...one cleans the table, the other sweeps the floor.  Usually, 'cleaning the table' it the preferred job...it's easier.  Sweeping the floor requires moving chairs, and poking around in corners.

Heck...this time my daughter asked if she could clean the floor before dinner, gushing 'Mommy, I love sweeping with this broom!'

We'll see how long that lasts, but for now, chalk one up in the win column for my wife.

11.23.2013

Well, I wasn't ready for THAT...

Well, today was my 2nd Annual Pain Day...the day when it is my turn to accompany my daughter on her Girls on Track 'Season' ending 5K run. 

Last year when I went, things were bad.  I went into it 100% unprepared, having run no further than from my car to the front door during a rain storm for...a while.

This time, I got a little more prepared.  I've been using the elliptical machine/recumbent bike at work during lunch twice a week for about 6 months, and because there is really no substitute for actually running, I have been running at work twice a week(instead of the elliptical(I ain't THAT motivated)  for the last month or so.  Even in that month(maybe 8-9 times doing a 3-mile loop at work), I have seen improvement.  Not saying I can run the whole 3 miles, but I've gone from 200 yards before I need to take a break to almost half a mile I before I need to take a break...and running maybe 30% total the first time to running/jogging 60% now.  Imagine if I got really motivated?

Anyway...I didn't want to limit my daughter, so I've put a little bit of effort in this year.  What I wasn't prepared for(what there is really NO way to prepare for), was the weather. The front that passed through this week dropped overnight lows into the low-teens. 

 
 
See how happy we are?  It didn't last long...air temperature when we showed up at the park to meet the rest of my daughters team was a Gosh-Awful 13 degrees!   Now, I know I spent a lot of the summer complaining about how toasty it can get in The Tri-Cities, and so I promise, I won't complain about the cold again, but...there is a difference between getting to bundle up and go to work, and trying to stay flexible enough to run. 
 
But you see(and this was the WORST part)...we didn't get to run right away.  Because they were trying to organize some 300+ 8-12 year old girls into their 'teams', and get group pictures, they wanted us there at 8:30, for an event that didn't begin until 10!  We had to stand out there in 13-degree weather for over 85 minutes, for a 40 second picture session! 
 
That was pain.  It may look like my daughter is grinning in our 'after' picture...but don't be fooled...that's a grimace. 
 
 
Still...it was a great father/daughter bonding time...and hey new long sleeved T-Shirt!  Plus, when it was all over...breakfast.
 
 
Might have to do 5K's more often...


11.22.2013

I'm a week early!

It's that time of year when those of us with freezer/pantry space should be looking for deals.  Last week, I found boneless turkey breasts on sale at Safeway for $3.00 a pound...which, is not a bad deal when you start shopping at the grocery store deli, and realize you can rarely find sliced turkey for under $7.00 a pound.

I bought two of them, which is thawed in the fridge, and then brined last night.(gallon of water, 2 cups of kosher salt, 1 cup brown sugar, bay lead, cinnamon stick, rosemary, whole pepper corns). 

Today, I pulled them out of the brine and rinsed them off, before throwing them on the grill for an hour and a half(indirect heat and wood chips to give them some smoke...temp between 250 and 300), and then placing them in a 350 degree oven until the got to 170 degrees. 

 
 
After I pulled them from the oven, I let them cool to right around room temperature, before starting to slice them as thin as I could by hand.
 
 


Now...here is where the math get's wonky, and I need to do some more research.  I ended up with just around 2 pounds of sliced turkey on that plate...which is not what I expected to end up with.  I'll admit...I pulled some fairly inedible skin off each breast, and I did some sampling during the slicing, and my wife had one slab of turkey that was probably 3-4 'slices' thick for her dinner(passing on my pancakes).  But...we didn't do enough sampling to account for a 66% weight loss.

One thing that has my highly curious is how much the turkey breast initially weighed.  You see....the package came with a pouch of 'turkey gravy' already wrapped up with the bird...and I'm willing to bet it weighed at least 8 ounces...and maybe even close to a pound.  That's a pretty huge difference, and I wish I had weighed the breast prior to starting...and still a label around to glare at.  Did the label say 3lbs total?  Can I got stick it to Safeway because they said the turkey was $3 a pound, when it was really 2 pounds of turkey and 1 pound of gravy in each package?

All I know is that this mystery is the difference between 'Great Deal' $3 a pound turkey, and 'That had better be the best stuff you've ever eaten' $8-$9 a pound turkey. 

Luckily, while the final calculated price is not as cheap as I hoped it would be, the sliced turkey on that plate is about 17 times better than anything I ever bought at the store deli counter.

Got to be an easier way.

Earlier this week, like most of the northern tier of the country, we had a weather front pass through.  The temperatures dropped from an unseasonably warm 60ish, with my snapdragons trying to spit out more buds, to an overnight low of 10 Wednesday into Thursday. 

This had me WAY worried about my chickens. Everything I have read says that they are fine with temperatures down around freezing...and that colder temps won't hurt them, but could make them unhappy enough that they will stop laying.

I mean, I guess I could have prepared for this earlier in the fall, since it's a certainty at some point the temperatures in the inland Northwest will drop into single digits.  But, umm...hunting and football!

So, not being prepared, I took to the internet and settled on a very 1800's type solution. 

Hot Water Bottles.  I read about several people who place water jugs full of hot water into the coop, and let it go at that, so that's what I have done the last few nights.  Last night I even upgraded from plastic milk jugs to one of my spare glass beer growlers, which let me use water that was close to boiling.  Then you go place it in an out of the way corner of the coop.

This morning, when I replaced the bottle and opened the door of the coop, I checked the water temperature, and it was still 41 degrees.  Now...that doesn't mean that the air temp inside the coop is 40+ degrees...there is no fan forcing effective heat transfer...but, I don't need the coop kept balmy, I need it kept above 'egg-laying' temperature(or worst case, above 'fatal').

Still, even though this method is working, technology is our friend, and last night on the way home from work, I picked up a clamp light and a 25 watt red bulb.  Today I'll find a way to mount it in the coop, and run an extension cord.  While the water bottle method appears to be working, it requires me to make a trip outside at 6ish, 10ish, and then right after I wake up at 4:30ish. 

Mounting a light would be much nicer to my cold toes.  

11.20.2013

Bullseye.

Last week, this cartoon was making the rounds on facebook, and some blogs.


This week, I had annual respirator refresher training at work.  To partake in this training, you can't have any facial hair along the 'seal line' of the respirator.  Since my wife used to refer to the facial hair I had in the Navy as a 'molest-ache' as far as she is concerned, my choices are either 'goatee minimum', or bare. 

Sigh.

The positive side, is that I lose about 15 years in the process.  The before(with beautiful assistant):


The after(sad and lonely):

 
 
Worse than how I look is how I feel.  A cold front passed through yesterday, dropping temps from above average, to chilly, and bringing 20-25 mph winds for the last day or two.  Brrrrr.