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


Crash and burn.

Several times over the last few weeks while cruising around on foodgawker, I have seen pictures of a delicious looking Magic Custard Cake.  Tonight I finally tried making, following this recipe. 

I think I did something wrong. 

It's supposed to look like this:

What I got was this:

I'm not sure what I did wrong.  It was supposed to bake for 40-50 minutes. I left it on the oven for 100+ minutes, and it never set up.  I'm curious if maybe the eggs are to blame.  I used the eggs from my chickens...and it's possible that maybe our 4 eggs are equal to 6 'normal' eggs. 

Who knows.  I guess I'll try again in a few weeks. 

Sooooo disappointing.  I belong on a pinterest fail board...


First one of the year.

Some people mark the start of fall by drinking a pumpkin spice latte, but for me, it's the first pumpkin beer.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale.  Very good dark ale, with very little pumpkin flavor(which is usually for the best), although there is some brown sugar and nutmeg to contribute to the 'fall' flavor.


20 years, and it is still great.

Twenty years ago today, the movie Se7en premiered.  If you haven't seen it...where have you been for the last 20 years?  Do yourself a favor, and track it down. It's available through Amazon Prime for $4, and I think you can get it from Netflix through the mail. 

It's a great movie.  One of the best movies of the past 20 years.  Would make my top 20, and maybe even my top 10 list over that time period.  The acting is superb...Brad Pitt before he was ACTOR Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow in a roll where she seems like a real human being, and R. Lee Emery as the Police Captain.

It shouldn't work.  I mean...it's an out there idea, and then, it has plenty of clich├ęs...Old Tired Wise Cop paired with new Firebrand Cop...Criminal out Thinking The Cops all along, Newly Married Couple Move to the City...just...yeah...nothing unusual there...but, the story and the script work so well.

I don't want to say too much, on the very off chance that someone has actually somehow not seen this movie.  If you stayed away because you 'don't like police procedurals'...fear not.  This is not a police procedural.  This is not a Buddy Cop movie. 

This is a masterpiece. 


Another Wine Club.

Went and visited my mom this weekend.  As they approach retirement age, my mom and step-dad are starting to bat around the crazy idea of potentially packing up and moving to Florida for all the reasons everyone retires to Florida.

I think it's a bad idea.  I spent 18 months in Orlando for the Navy, and there is no amount of money you could throw at me to convince me to live in Florida.  Neither my mom or step-dad have ever spent longer than 6 days in Florida, but gosh-darnit, the internet says it's a good place to live. 

Puts me in a tough spot.  I don't think it's a good idea, but...my mom and step-dad have made it to their mid-60's without running their decisions by me or my step-sister.  You can only push fellow grown-ups so hard before you start alienating.  My wife has convinced me that my usually snarky response to something I don't approve of is the wrong approach to this situation.  Instead, we are showing them what they will miss.  Mostly, their grand daughters. And wine.

So, we took my mom out Wednesday to check out the Warehouse Wine District in Woodinville.  Since Chateau St. Michelle went into Woodinville in 1976, the area has turned into the main winery area in Western Washington, with two main 'districts' the Hollywood School District and the newer Warehouse district.  Not much wine is actually grown in this area...almost all of the grapes are imported from the Columbia Valley...but you are probably looking at 120 wineries with tasting rooms in Woodinville.  You could give me two weekends a month and I'm not sure I could get through all of them...especially when you figure in 3 breweries and two distilleries. 

Heck, I'd go broke even trying.  We only went to 5 wineries and one brewery this weekend, and I still almost went broke.

We didn't buy something at every stop, which is an improvement in my will power...and I bought the 32oz growler from Dirty Bucket Brewing Co. empty because I knew after a day of wine tasting I wasn't going to feel like more beer, and I didn't think it would survive the drive home in drinkable condition. I really liked their Naughty Autie ESB.

Of the wineries we went too, one made a real impression on my wife and I...Page Cellars.  We liked them so much we actually decided to join their wine club.  One of the nicer things about a smaller winery though is that their wine club obligation is not too over the top either...two bottles, three times a year.  My mom belongs to a larger winery that obligates you to 16 bottles a year(and they are closer to $50 a bottle than $30 a bottle). 

It was a good time.  I'm no sure it was enough to convince my mom not to move...but in case it wasn't, it doesn't hurt to build some more memories. 


That was pain free.

Yesterday, instead of going to work, I headed down to the Kennewick Justice Center to take my turn at Jury duty.  It was about the easiest time meeting that obligation that you could possibly have. 

I showed up at 8, and by about 8:15 they had all of the potential Jury Members seated in a big room, waiting.  At 8:30, one of the clerks came in and called out 15 names to head down to the district court rooms, where we were put in another waiting room, and told that at about 9 we would be brought into the court to start Jury Selection, so...take this chance to use the rest room and get something to drink.

At about 8:55, the judge came into the room and said that the lawyers worked out a deal, no trial was going to be needed, and thanks for coming in and fulfilling our obligation.

Sweet.  I wouldn't have minded sitting on a trial, if it was only a day or two.  Let's face it...no one wants to end up on multi-week/month trial, but...it's nice to have a little refresher of how the legal system actually works.

Still, I'm happier with my deal than the folks who had to sit there until 10, before being told they could go home, but please call back Wednesday for an update on when they had to physically come back in. 


Oy vey.

Shortly after moving into our current house, I planted a few fruit trees...two plum, and two apple.  At one point this year, it looked like I was actually going to get a decent number of plums off one of my trees, but a heat wave and a wind storm put the hurting on the plums just as they were starting to fill out...leaving me one little apple on one of my trees.

How Cute.
So.  With yesterday being Rosh Hashanah I had decided I was going to make an Apple Honey Cake recipe for desert.  While we are not practicing, we do want to teach the kids something about the Jewish part of their heritage, and so...Apple Honey Cake covers the Jewish tradition of celebrating the new year with something sweet and blessed. 

I screwed up.  After the little cake jars had been in the oven about 15 minutes, I opened the oven to check on them, and noticed they hadn't raised very much.  All of the sudden, I realized that I couldn't remember taking either the baking soda OR baking powder out of the cabinet.  Gosh dang-it.

Yeah, they should have risen over the top of the jar.  Sensing my distress, my wife ran to the store and bought some vanilla ice cream.  Not sure what the Torah or Talmud say about vanilla ice cream, but I say bring it on. 

The flavor was actually pretty good, and I will have to try making these again with the right ingredients.  This method they did come out a bit floury, but the flavor was good, and the vanilla ice cream cut the floury taste pretty well.


I used to like grapes.

Thursday, my wife headed out to pick some grapes with the kids.  A friend of a friend has a bed and breakfast with a few acres, including some concord grapes.  My wife had a deal she didn't feel she could turn down: 25 cents a pound.  Only catch was there was a 60 pound minimum. 

No problem...off she ran with a few of our big Rubber Made totes, and started picking with the kids, figuring those two totes would add up to 60 pounds.

She was wrong...those two totes added up to 135 pounds. 

It more than she planned on coming home with, and since then we have made several trips to the store for MORE JARS!!!!!

Luckily she has a friend with a steam juicer, or I wouldn't have been able to sneak out of the kitchen yet long enough to post this.  The first night, we started the old fashioned way...placing grapes in a sauce pan, adding some water, then mashing and boiling them for half an hour before straining them.  We did 4 quarts of juice that first night in 3-4 hours worth of work. 

The steam juicer was not as fast as I pictured it being, but it was faster than the smash and boil method, and a LOT less work.  I helped through out the evening, but my wife stayed up until 2:30am, finishing the last 40 pounds herself.  All total, we got an additional 31 quarts using the steam juicer. 

I think close to 80% of this is going to go in the pantry as just juice, with the other 20% being turned into jelly as I type this. 
The last two quarts my wife did she put in the fridge in one of our pitchers, so I got to have some today...and it's pretty good.  When buying from the store, I prefer white grape juice...it's more refreshing.  This stuff though...I'm not sure I would grab a glass when I came in from mowing the lawn on a hot day, but, as part of a 'complete balanced breakfast'...yum, yum.
And yes, a steam juicer is now on the Christmas list.



So, each year, the company I work for has a 'morale' fund budget. Usually, this goes to t-shirts or other goodies for the work groups, and the occasional sponsored feed.  My group still had a few hundred dollars left to spend before the end of the fiscal year, and so, a cookout it was.  We have a Traegger at work, and so, I have been the primary cook at feeds before, but, typically, it's burgers/dogs, and maybe chicken...because that is cheaper to buy with the money folks chip in. 

This time though, with the budget we had left, it looked like we were going to be able to afford actual beef.  Maybe not Prime Ribs, but it looked like we would be able to swing Tri-Tip.  I've never really worked with tri-tip, but I've got a reputation to live up to, so, I started planning. 

Cash and Carry had two options for tri-tip, untrimmed, or 'peeled'.  Wanting to save money, I bought a 12 pound bag of untrimmed to see what I was getting into.  The 12 pound vacuum sealed bag had three separate roasts in it...and by the time I had trimmed off the fat cap and silver skin, I was left with 8 pounds of meat.  Redoing the math showed that going the 'peeled' version would probably be cheaper, and it was. I bought a 19 pound bag of peeled, and it had 6 roasts, and I only lost 22 ounces when getting silver skin and stubborn fat/gristle off.

That gave me 9 tri-tips totaling right around 26 pounds, and I'm not sure the Traegger could have handled one more.

Because I knew the lid was going to be open for a while, and Traegger's lose heat bad, I started out at 325, and kept it there for 15 minutes, before dropping the temp.  They cooked way faster than I thought they would, and for the next two hours, I alternated between 180 and 'smoke' setting.  Right at the end, since I still had to do some chicken and corn, I cranked the temp up to high, so, the tri-tip got a last little shot of heat. 
In the end, I'm going to say that the meat came out a little more done that I would have preferred at home, but, with slightly different weights(and even having 4 thermometers), it seemed safer to go to 145ish than 135ish.

I was actually very surprised how moist and juicy the meat stayed, especially once I saw how lacking in pink it was.  And the flavor...yum.  I had rubbed the meat Monday after cutting them up with a rub based around brown sugar, salt and garlic powder and cumin, and love. 

Best of all, I didn't even cut into two of them roasts for lunch, so after lunch, I was slicing them as thin as possible, day dreaming of sandwiches for lunch Thursday. 


One Party After Another.

This weekend, one of my friends had her 40th Birthday Party.  It was a good time, and a sizable party...probably like 40 people. 

Rather than an actual gift, we were supposed to bring something based on our last name...either cheese, chocolate, or beer.  We were lucky, and got the beer category.  Since anyone can just bring beer, my wife wanted to try something she had seen on pinterest.  It's so easy for things to go south when you are using pinterest as a guide...but my wife is better than most. 

As much as I like beer, I still think I would prefer a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting. 


One heck of a shindig.

Over the weekend, my wife and I went to a Masquerade Party being held as a fundraiser for one of the local performing arts groups.  The theme of the party was 'An Evening in Rivendell', and the dress code called for either Elven/Hobbit costume, or formal dress.  I decided that I would split the difference, and give the Full Dress Kilt look a try.

The kilt, shoes and hose were mine, and I originally had thought I was going to be able to wear my tux jacket...but, man...I always forget how high my kilt fits.  Instead, I had to go on the internet and rent a Prince Charlie jacket and vest.  How cool of a world do we live in that I can go on the internet to Atlanta Kilts, and within a week have what I need in the mail? It wasn't cheap, but I think it was worth it. 

Of course, I already had the best accessory in the world at the house with me.

It was a nice night.  All the local arts groups put on performances, and there was beer and wine and munchies.  And pretty girls in pretty dresses.  As I expected, the masks didn't last all evening.