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


Need to tie a string to my finger...

It's that time of year around here where it's 55-60 when I get off work, and it feels nice to crack a window on the way home, and let some fresh air in the car.

Of course, then I get home, and forget to roll my cracked open window back up again...

And then overnight, the temperature drops down to the 26-28 degree point, and I wake and find that the frost and ice aren't just on the outside of my windshield...it's on the inside of the windshield and the steering wheel...


Everything IS better on the grill.

A few weeks ago, while watching America's Test Kitchen, they had a recipe for Grilled Caesar Salad...but it was different than what I thought it would be. I mean, I have made Caesar Salad with grill chicken before...but this version called for you to grill the romaine lettuce.   

Interesting, and something I filed away as a possible for the summer.

Except, summer(or at least spring) has come early for us in the Northwest, so wanting something lighter for dinner Sunday, I decided to give the Grilled Caesar Salad a try.

It's not very tough.  I marinated some chicken thighs in Italian dressing, then grilled them. After that, since the grill was hot, I sliced up a baguette, and liberally coated it with garlic butter, then made some croutons on the grill, before finally doing the lettuce.  You just take a head of romaine, and split it lengthwise.  Then brush it with olive oil, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper before throwing it on the grill...not long, somewhere between 3-5 minutes a side.

Once grilled, you bring them inside and chop them up 'salad size', about 1-2 inch strips, and toss them with some dressing.  Throw in the croutons and chicken, and some nice shaved parmesan...and YUM.

My confession is that I didn't make a dressing from scratch, but I did jazz up a store bought one with a little extra oil, some lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. 

This will certainly be made again as we DO get into summer. 

Who woulda' thunk it?

After just kind of making fun of Lady Gaga a few days ago, I need to take back at least 18% of anything negative I have ever said about her, because that lady ROCKED a medley of songs celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Sound of Music on the Academy Award's last night. 

If you can sing like that, why would you hide behind 'Performance Art'?


So what you are saying is, advertising works.

Watching the Daytona 500, and that means watching a fair number of commercials.  Heck...this new 'side by side' thing, where they show the race on a corner of the screen while they still show the commercial means you have to sit through even more commercials than you used to. 

I haven't been excited by a video game since mid-2000, when Icewind Dale and Baldur's Gate 2 came out...but, if want to try to convince me to play your video game, there are worse forms of persuasion than Kate Upton in an armored bustier. 

Likewise, if I am going to drink whiskey, I prefer Canadian to bourbon...but I am much more willing to watch Mila Kunis convince me to drink Jim Beam than I am just about anyone else you could think of(although, Christina Hendricks makes a compelling case for Black Label.)


Curse you, restraint!

A few days ago, Commander Zero threw up a post about an interesting piece of gear, the Grabber Outdoors Space Brand All Weather Blanket. Normally in the $19 range he noticed that price had dropped to $10, and was nice enough to share that information. 

Not knowing what I was exactly was getting into, but being forever unable to resist any kind of sweet deal, I made an impulse buy before leaving for work Tuesday, ordering 4 of them. 

Because the internet is amazing, and we live in a world of impressive convenience(despite my complaning at least once a week about how bad the world is) my shipment of 4 was waiting for me Friday afternoon.

Man...I wish I had ordered 8-10 of them instead of just 10.  These things seems like they have the potential to be highly useful, doing the job of several pieces of equipment.  They are waterproof, so they would make a great rain parka.  They are lined with the same reflective aluminum material that many 'emergency blankets/bivy sacks' are made of...but it is much sturdier than most of those items. Finally, because it surprised me by coming with grommets reinforced in the four corners, you could use it as you would a tarp, either as ground cover, or as waterproof covering for a shelter.

Now...don't get me wrong...it's not a tarp...but it is tarp like.  I'm not going to use it to strap down a load of scrap wood or metal in the back of my truck, but, I'm not terrified to unfold it and play with it like those other emergency blankets. 

One thing I did notice...unlike the one on Amazon which is listed as 5x7 feet, my packaging says the one I have is 6x6.  I'm not sure it makes a huge difference...it's plenty roomy.  I think if I was caught in a downpour, I could see myself holing up, and wearing this over my outer-clothing AND a backpack.

The only thing this blanket/parka/tarp is NOT, is quiet.  It is not something you want to be wearing if you are trying to sneak past an enemy sentry.

I just wish I had bought twice as many of them...one for each back pack, one for each car, and a few extras.


Barrel Aged.

I'm not sure how many areas have something like Brew's Taphouse and Growler Fills...it's kind of like a bar, and kind of like a beer store.  I mean, like our local Growler Guys, there are 40+ taps of different beers that you can get your growler topped off at....but unlike Growler Guys, they have tables and a few TV's so you can chill and drink beer by the glass.

So, yeah...now we got that cleared up, this weekend Brew's was having a Barrel and Brew's event, with over 25 limited release Barrel Aged beers...all kinds of beers, in all kinds of barrels...wine barrels, whiskey barrels, bourbon, brandy, and tequila barrels. 

As someone who has been known to enjoy a premium beer or three, it sounded highly intriguing. 

Good call. It was a great opportunity to try a bunch of different beers without getting stuck with a stinker or two, even if I didn't make it through all 28 beers they had.

So...first flight, going from left to right: Paradise Creek's Quad(Tequila Barrel Aged), Bellevue Scotch Ale(Whiskey Barrel), Paradise Creek's Scottish Stovepipe(Brandy Cask), and Stone's Bang Bang(Bourbon Barrel). 

I was quite surprised with my response to these first 4 beers...My favorite was the Tequila Barrel Aged Quad, and my least favorite was the Paradise Creek Scottish Stovepipe...which is weird, because I had previously had the Scottish Stovepipe AT Paradise Creek in Pullman, and I really liked it.  However, while this started life as that same beer that I liked, the time it spent in a brandy barrel did not agree with me...plus it had has some extra things added to it to make it a 'sour' beer.  Just not something I would voluntarily drink again.

The Bang Bang and the Bellevue Scotch were both solid, tasty beers...just not as good as the Tequila aged Quad, which for a 11% alcohol beer was surprisingly smooth with a light citrus that I picked up as coming from the tequila. 

For my second sample flight, I went DARK.

Here we have Elysian's Bourbon Barrel Aged Split Shot, an espresso milk stout; and then The Abyss, an Imperial Stout from Deschutes which is aged in Bourbon, Oak, and Pinot Noir barrels; Hale's Ale Imperial Stout(aged in Rye Whiskey barrels); and last but not least, Laurelwood's Moose and Squirrel Imperial Stout(Bourbon and Pinot Noir Barrels). 

Let's get the negative out of the way first...I DID NOT like the Hale's Imperial Stout, but, as a disclaimer, I do not like Rye Whiskey, which I'm sure has something to do with it.  I liked it even less than the Sour Brandy Barrel Scottish that I had in my first flight.

Picking a favorite among the remaining three is tough.  I would probably say the Moose and Squirrel is 3rd, with The Abyss and Split Shot tying.  Actually...I'm going to give the nod the Abyss because when my beers were brough over, the head on The Abyss was perfect, and it had a better nose

All in all, with my limited experience, bourbon barrels seem to be fairly ideal for aging beer...it had the most mellow effect on the finished product. There were quite a few IPA's that were aged in gin barrels, but since I don't like either gin, or IPA's, I stayed away from those ones. I am thinking I might try to swing back by Saturday afternoon...even eliminating the IPA's from my list, there were still a few beers I was smart enough not to try the first time around, including a Chardonnay Barrel aged Saison that a number of people sitting around me were raving about.

But that will have to wait until after I go to the gym in the morning. 

I'll be there for you!

Through the magic of Netflix, my wife and I have recently started re-watching Friends...and I've got to tell you, it's an interesting experience revisiting something like Friends 8-10(wait a minute...that can't be right)...20 years! later.  1994 was 20+ years AGO??!?!?!?

Wow...that's a conversation for another time, I guess.

Anyway...Friends.  Watching that first season(might not be 'again'...I'm not sure I watched Season 1 of Friends) is kind of tough.  It's like they were trying to stuff these characters down your throat...'Look, Rachel is a spoiled rich girl who doesn't know how to make coffee, but works in a coffee shop!'.  Watch us force feed Chandler one-liners because he's the funny one!  Phoebe is SOOOOO kooky, and Joey...he's a well meaning sweet hearted man-whore! 

Even worse though is the laugh tracks...very over the top.  The laughter doesn't feel that forced on more modern comedies like 'New Girl' or 'How I Met Your Mother'. 

One the positive side though...all respect to currently 46-year old Jennifer Aniston, who is aging beautifully, but...good gravy, I forgot what a stone-cold fox 27-28 year old Jennifer Aniston was...and those short, short skirts and short sets they had her wearing all the time...hubba hubba.

Even more impressive/surprising, is Courteney Cox...who is 5 years older than Jennifer, and has aged 5 more years since the show...but dang...there were a few years, like seasons 2-4, where she was just as pretty, if not prettier than, Jennifer Aniston.

And Lisa Kudrow was not bad looking either...


A new favorite.

So, over the last weekend of wine/chocolate tasting, while we went to several places we have been to before, we also checked out a few new places, and one of those really stood out...DavenLore.

Technically in the town of Prosser, which is mid-way between Walla Walla and Yakima, meaning it is the center of Washington Wine Country, DavenLore is actually about 5 minutes outside of town, a few miles up into the sage-brush country of the Horse Heaven Hills.  I took this picture from the parking spots in front of their tasting room.


So...one of the nice things about the winery was that there was no tasting fee...and, despite the fact that they weren't part of the 'official' Red Wine and Chocolate Tour Path, they were offering up chocolate covered goodies from Chukar Cherries, as well as fresh strawberries with their Rose.

What really sold the winery though was Gordon Taylor, the Winemaker.  What an entertaining and educational conversation we had.  In addition to being a winemaker, and a consulting process engineer for Ocean Spray, Gordon teaches classes in winemaking, agriculture and yeast use at the local colleges.  A lot of what he had to say was over my head, but I can't wait to bring our cider-making friends from Western Washington to meet him the next time they come over. 

They also have a great sense of humor...on Valentine's Day, they had a Four for 69 special...which we took advantage of to add to our collection.  Their Tempranillo and Syrah Forte' really stick out in my memory, even after too much wine that day.  In addition, their non-varietal, Recovery Red, was neat.  You bought a 1 Liter resusable bottle, and then when it was empty, you could visit several places in Richland, Prosser and Yakima, where you would trade in your empty bottle for a full new bottle...and it's 1000ml instead of the unusual 750ml wine bottle. 

My wife and I have to have a talk though...our Top 5 List of favorite wineries is getting longer and more crowded. 


Guess I waited too long.

I was just waiting for the right time!

Lady Gaga Is Engaged to Taylor Kinney

I mean, where else are you going to find a woman serious enough about prepping that she wears a meat dress!  Especially with price of beef these days!
picture from US Weekly

The hell of it is, back before she was Lady Gaga(when she was Stefani), she looked like the type of girl a young, single sailor me wouldn't have minded running into at a New England club(New York, New England...close enough for the point I'm trying to make).


Red Wine and Chocolate

For Valentine's Day, instead of trying to pick a spot for a fancy, romantic dinner, my wife and I decided we would go on a day-time date instead, taking advantage of the 'Red Wine and Chocolate' event that was being conducted at a lot of the wineries in the Columbia Valley.  Basically, you could buy a 'Premier Passport' that got you around the normal tasting fees at some of the wineries, and then  you had some chocolate based tasties matched up with some of your wine samples.

It was a great idea for a date...and I actually remember like 90% of it.  Unlike the East Coast, our weather the last week has been pretty freakin' perfect...mostly sunny, highs in the 55-60 range...and it continued on through this weekend, which meant my wife could dress all kinds of cute and spring-like.

So...let's see if I can remember all the stops:

Started at Kestrel, then went to 14 Hands, and then DavenLore, which deserves a post all it's own.  After that, things moved in a hurry, with us wrapping up our time in Prosser visiting Airfield Estates, Milbrandt Vineyards, and Thurston Wolfe, before heading back towards Richland, and stopping in Benton City at Chandler Reach, Tucannon Cellars, and Terra Blanca, which seemed to be a good place to stop. 

Wait a minute...only 9 places?  I could have sworn it was closer to 14-16.  I was doing really good up until the very end.  Most of the places early on were doing samples that were closer to 'splashes' then full on samples...which was nice, and my wife was being responsible and setting a good example by using the dump bucket to dispose of wine that she didn't want to drink.  But gosh darnit...Tucannon and Terra Blanca make such good wines that I told her to stop dumping her wine and give it to me!  Huge Mistake.  Also a huge mistake was not accepting the occasional rice cake that my wife packed in the car, and that she was eating in between stops. 

She is SOOOOOOOO much smarter than me...and so gosh-darn pretty it hurts to look at her sometimes. 

I'm not sure I can put my finger which wine was the best...there was a lot of variety, and it's tough to compare things that be as varied as wine to one another.  I do know the ones that stuck out in my mind: Kestrel's 2012 Port, DavenLore's 2012 Tempranillo, Thurston Wolfe's Sweet Rebecca(a white desert wine), and Terra Blanca's 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Oh wait, and look...most of those are on my dining room table!

10 bottles of wine from 9 wineries is not bad for me.

As for the tasty treats...one of the most common offerings were some of the gourmet chocolate covered cherries and other fruits from Chukar Cherries...and the most surprising of those were the Tangerine Cherries...a tart cherry covered in chocolate with citrus essence in it.  Yummy...but the best treat of the day was early on, at Kestrel...they made a flatbread with Nutella and Strawberries on it...AMAZING...especially since it was served with their 2012 Port.  Great combination. 

After that fun day we had a nice dinner at home with the kids, including our traditional heart-shaped pepperoni pizza from Papa Murphy's.  And there was no wine drunk with the pizza or after dinner.


It seemed like such a good idea.

Wanting to do something special for the girls, but having a full day on tap tomorrow, I decided to whip them up some 'heart pancakes'.  I made up a batch of peanut-butter pancake batter, and then pulled half of it out, and added some red food coloring to get it a nice color.

Lesson one: batter that looks almost red inside a WHITE bowl looks a very light pink when it is cooked. 

Lesson two: if all you have are PLASTIC cookie cutters, you SHOULD NOT plan on placing them on the skillet and using them as a template for heart-shaped pancakes.  Luckily, I figured this one out early on before I ended up with melted plastic all over my skillet.

So...in the end, instead of nice white and red heart shaped pancakes for this girls, I made round pancakes that where beige and slightly pink beige, and then used the cookie cutters to shape them.

This picture is probably not going on pinterest....although, the girls loved the pancakes. 


Glad I picked a different career path.

While at work today, a local video swept through the office like wild-fire...footage of a few police officers in Pasco having a confrontation with a man, and then pursuing him when he fled, and finally, fatally shooting him when he stops running and turns around.

The link to the most recently updated story is here, but to summarize from several stories and slightly conflicting witnesses:

Most people agree that the police were first called because the man in question was throwing rocks in to the street at a busy intersection in Pasco(for what is said to NOT be the first time).  Upon being confronted by the police, he is said to have responded by throwing some rocks at them, hitting two officers.  He was then tazered by one officer, before the video above picks up. 

As you can see above, the tazering appers to have been less than effective, and the suspect(or victim depending on your point of view), runs across the street, at which point at least one of the officers opens fire, before they all pursue the guy across the street.  He then stops, and turns to face the officers.  His hands go up, and there are conflicting reports about whether there was another rock in hand or not, or if you could make a case that his hand was going to his waist band.  Either way, officers responded by opening fire, killing the suspect/victim.

This is NOT going over well with the local community, as I'm sure you can imagine.

It's tough, and I'm not sure I'm willing to take a strong opinion either way.  On the one hand...yes, I acknowledge that a 'soft ball' sized rock could 100% be a deadly weapon.  On the other hand....really, a rock?  3 to one, and you shot him because he had a rock?  Then, on the gripping hand...and the heart of the matter for me...did the original complaint rate the type of response that it got?  Is a guy potentially tossing rocks in the street(no reports of him hitting a car), worthy of a response by 3+ police cruisers, and the escalating things to a shooting situation? 

Truthfully, I think I am more upset by the initial gun fire, which was targeted on the guy when the only thing behind him was an intersection full of cars, than I am by the shooting that resulted in his death.  I would love to see the final report on where those bullets ended up at. 

Sigh...I hate to second guess police officers...I said dozens of times it's not a job I am certain I can do...but man, in a case like this...would it have really been horrible to let the guy run a bit? 


I can pinpoint the exact time...

There I was, minding my own business at 7:45 this morning, when it happened.  One moment, I was perfectly fine, perfectly bored at training, and the next, my right eyeball started itching, and watering.  A few minutes after that, a tingling started just upstream from my right nostril...and within half-an-hour, the whole right side of my face was blocked up tight.

There is nothing in my nose, but like two inches above my nose, and an inch behind my cheek, nothing is moving...and its just one my right side. 

I'm sure at about 7:45 tomorrow morning, things will change.  The only question is, will it jump to the left of my face, leaving the right side alone, or will it just duplicate itself on the left hand side of my face?

I'm so excited to wake up in the morning and find out!


Any excuse for cookies.

Way back in the summer, my wife took advantage of the price of peaches to pick up a few 25 pound boxes, but then because of 'life', a few things came up before we got the chance to can them...so instead we chopped them up and threw some of them in a couple of gallon bags in the freezer. 

Now, we need something to do with those frozen peaches...and at the same time, I was in the mood for peaches, so why not combine those two things.  While I found quite a few recipes that called for 'dried peaches', recipes calling for fresh(or frozen) peaches were tougher to come buy...but I did find one that looked promising. 

Peach Drop Cookies

They came out really good, and I liked them.  Instead of peach preserves, I used some nectarine jam...close enough.  Since I am a big fan of 'soft' cookies, these were right up my alley...melt in your mouth soft. 

The only thing I might try different next time is subbing out some of the flour for some oats...maybe play up the 'peach cobbler' feel.  Also, on one of the batches, I gave a second sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar once the cookies came out of the oven...and that was a nice touch.


Bear with me....

I don't do 'pinterest', and it's very hard to find something you once liked on Facebook more than 24-36 hours after you originally saw it...so, I'll just throw it here. 

Quite the neat little use for an old pallet...and it might be inside the scope of my limited abilities. 


There is always checkers.

Earlier today, my wife and I were playing the 'what do you have/want to do today?'...and neither of us really had anything special planned...but we both knew we didn't want to not leave the house all day...so in a moment of inspiration, I suggested we go to lunch, and then go bowling. 

For lunch, we decided to go check out a local Thai place that we had never eaten at, but that we had been hearing good things about for a while.  I figured for a first visit, if things weren't good, then lunch would be a less expensive mistake than dinner. 

We needn't have worried...I thought lunch was pretty good.  The Emerald of Siam does a lunch buffet 5 days a week...and my wife actually liked the fact that each day, there is something different in the buffet line...AND there were times that the trays went empty, and you had to wait for a fresh batch of food to get cooked.  My wife tends to be fairly untrusting of buffet's in general...I think it is the nurse in her. 

I'm just not sure how big a fan of Thai food the kids are...the general conclusion from them was that while it was nice to have clear sinuses, they thought the food was a tad bit spicy. 

At the bowling alley...things weren't much better.  None of us is really what you would call a 'bowler'...it's the kind of thing we do on days we are bored, maybe every 9-12 months.  I almost broke 150...I got a 149, which I'm pretty sure is still my personal best.  The girls...well, luckily they tied so neither one of them finished last. 

We only played one game before deciding that the arcade might be more our style...but I can't say that the time was wasted, because we did get this sweet picture of my wife and her mini-me.


You can buy anything on the internet these days...and man, does it make Christmas Shopping easy.

I'm sure if you look hard enough you can find a local source...but just in case you can't allow me to point out that my daughters have started taking pre-orders for Girl Scout Cookies, and with flat-rate boxes, I'm more than willing to eat the shipping costs. 


Glad we never had to have that fight.

A lady my wife knows through one of her homeschooling groups is currently a divorce.  One of the things her husband is holding against her is the fact that they homeschool.  Looking at the prospect of being a single-mom, this lady has made the smart move of enrolling her children in public school...but as my wife explained the results of that process to me...it's possible her soon-to-be ex husband has a point.

After testing, her kids are being enrolled a year to two years behind where they should...for example, her almost 11 year old was plugged into 3rd grade, which is tough, for the kid.  With some digging I got my wife to admit that this lady engages in the technique of 'Unschooling'. 


I am sooooo glad that my wife never once expressed an interest in 'unschooling', because every time I hear the word the hackles on the back of my neck go up.  Done properly, 'unschooling' shouldn't be horrible...basically, you are letting the kids pick subjects that they are interested in, and giving them the time to indulge those interests.  Done improperly it's a complete lack of schooling, the results of which can be very unpretty.

I had enough reservations about homeschooling early on that there was no chance I was ever going to fall for an 'unschooling' plan. 


Setting goals, earning rewards.

A while ago, my wife proposed an idea to me...as we were acquiring some quality bottles of wine...why not tie them to a specific goal?  I mean, sure...you could always just drink a $50 bottle of wine because it's Tuesday, but...it feels less indulgent if you go label some of your bottles wine with goals, like 'Pay off Truck' or 'Didn't beat the kids this week'.

Today, I reached one of my goals.

Yup...I accepted a new job offer today.  Same company, but I accepted a position to be a Training Specialist, getting me out of the supervisor business.  It's only a lateral move financially, but I have been so disenfranchised with the supervisory role the last few years that I had actually discussed being willing to take a pay cut with my wife if that's what it took.  Luckily, I didn't have to.

The wine for the night was among my most favorite...a 2002 Malbec from Terra Blanca Estate Winery. 

No word on when the personnel transfer will go in to effect, and I will continue you to do my current job to the best of my abilities, because...things happen, and I don't believe in burning bridges. 

But tonight?  It's a celebration!


You tell 'em Freddy.


Way to go Patriots. 

Pleasure before business, before pleasure

Usually on weekend, I try to 'front-load' my schedule...get all the chores out of the way Friday/Saturday so I can do some guilt free lounging.  This weekend, I shook thing up a bit.  With the Super Bowl not starting here until 3:30 in the afternoon, and me having no real interest in watching 5 hours of pre-game coverage(especially not because I have been watching the sports shows all week already), I purposefully saved a bunch of things to do today.

That meant I had to find something to do on Saturday, and taking my wife out for a Wine Tasting date sounded like fun, especially because even though we are already deep in the heart of Washington Wine Country(something like 130 wineries between Yakima and Walla Walla), new ones are opening every day, so yesterday, we made an effort to visit some of the new/smaller ones.

A new one we are going to keep an eye on is Tucannon Cellars, who had some great wines...and, while they weren't cheap, they didn't cost quite as much as other 'boutique' wineries, especially with the 20% off a half-case special.  My wife even struck up a conversation with the owner, and offered to help with an upcoming bottling run. 

After hitting 4 wineries, my wife finally cried mercy, and begged me to take her to lunch.  Probably did that in the wrong order. 
Still...it was a good time, and getting to enjoy lunch with my wife was a nice end to the date.
This morning, it was work, work, work....go to the gym, clean the chicken coop, make a dump run, and make up some baked ziti to enjoy for dinner during this little football game scheduled for this evening.