Battle Royale

24 03 2009

Nate and Ben have been battling it out over toys lately.  It’s a toss up who’s going to win each one, but Nathaniel has been winning more and more of them.  Ben, however, has a secret weapon.  Once the toy is gone, he often loses interest. 

Let the games begin

This wonderful activity table was a Christmas present to the little ones from their dear Auntie Dawn.  It’s very cool that they can both play with it at the same time.  Nate still wants to keep pulling it away from Ben, though.






The groundhog was right this year

15 03 2009

I’m not sure if I’ve done a “signs of spring” post in the past.  This is my third spring in the blogoshpere.  But I don’t care.  After months of cold and wind sucking the life force out of me I noticed three things this past week that that boon a change in the seasons.  

The birds have come back.

He looks delicious.  I'll bet he's lean from flying all that way.

The crocuses have sprouted.

It looks like they've sprouted, seeded, and died all while I was locked inside.

And the lilac bush is budding.  

Right next to the trash cans.  They make our garbage smell real nice.

So winter is on the decline and spring is speeding towards us.  You know what that means.  I’ll have to start cutting the grass again.





Perhaps a little humility…

8 03 2009

It’s a very bad thing to upset karma.  Sometimes karma waits and pays you back after you think you’ve gotten away with something.  And sometimes you run out of the church after stealing from the collection plate and get hit by a bus.  I’m not sure how I got on the wrong side of karma. Maybe it was me claiming the ability to affect the outcome of Super Bowls (even if I was right).  I’m not sure.  But to whomever I offended, I’m sorry.  

“What is he going on and on about?”  Let me tell you.  Pull up a chair and enjoy the show.

The Death of the Cockroach

Karen’s car, the cockroach, the 14 year old Olds Cutlass, had been overheating.  I made an appointment with the mechanic and we took it in to be checked out last Wednesday.  I got a call midday telling me the repairs would cost $650.  This exceeds the value of the car, so we made a tough decision to say goodbye to the old girl.  I started shopping online for a car for Karen.  In the meantime Karen drove the van to work.

The next day – Thursday – I got a call from Karen after work.  “The van won’t go.  It goes – kind of – forward, but it won’t reverse at all.”  Yes, that’s right, after 150,000 miles of abuse the transmission in the van failed the day after we decide to replace the Olds.  So Karen bums a ride from somebody at work to the mechanic’s to drive the overheating Olds home.  I told her to get a ride to work the next day.  She drives the Olds to work anyway.

The next day  – Friday – I get a call from Karen on her way home.  “I’m on the interstate and the car is really overheating.  I can’t make it home.”  She drives back to work (stopping often to let it cool down) and leaves the car there while I find an angel of a friend to go pick her up and bring her home because – remember – I DON’T HAVE A CAR EITHER!!!!!!  No, I’m stranded at home with four kids while my wife maneuvers the interstate in a car that is minutes away from exploding into flames.

Saturday I get out of bed and I’m ready to go car shopping.  Except one thing.  You kind of need a car to go car shopping.  I call around and get my next door neighbor to drive me to pick up a rental car for a week.  I go car shopping.  I find a van.  I buy the van.  Everyone at the dealer enjoys my story.  But it’s an hour away from home and I’m in a mid-sized rental car that seats four.  Luckily the dealer offers free delivery so they promise to bring it to my house Monday morning.

Cars are evil.





Pepper Steak

2 03 2009

Every Valentine’s day the local butcher shop has beef tenderloin on sale.  And every time we get tenderloin we make a roast (this roast) because, well, it’s really good.  I tend to stick with winners when dealing with expensive cuts of meat.  As a result I’d never made a filet steak and now I had a perfect opportunity.  You see, I was planning a surprise dinner for Karen.  One thing I’ve learned is that if you’re planning a surprise dinner and they might come home late, a roast is a bad idea.  If you think that special someone is coming home at 6:30 and she comes home at 8:00 then you’re stuck with a really overdone roast.  But steaks cook quickly.  Steaks can be prepared while they watch, preferably after the kids go to bed.

Most of my culinary knowledge comes courtesy of Alton Brown.  And it is on his show that I was first introduced to Steak au Poivre.  (Here’s the recipe)  It’s got just a few ingredients.

Pepper, cream, and brandy works for me

Step one is to season the meat all over with salt.  Then crush the black peppercorns and press them into the meat, covering both sides.  Then cook the steaks.

No I didn't set off the smoke detector

When the steaks are done take them out and let them rest.  Then pour in some brandy and let the alcohol cook off.   Now I’ve read elsewhere (like Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook) that to make the sauce you need veal stock and demi-glace, but Alton just adds heavy cream and that’s good enough for me.  Let it reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.  You’re done.

It's almost done here, but not quite

Now I looked for more interesting things to serve it with than merely potatoes, but I haven’t seen many who mess with tradition.  Who am I to disagree?  I served mashed potatoes and a green salad that, I’ll admit, I asked Karen to make.  But I made 2/3 of dinner.

Nice dinner, yes? Only if the kids are asleep.

I did, however, overcook the steaks.  They were medium well to well, just a tiny bit of pink in the middle.  Too bad.  I’d rather they moo in pain when I cut into them.





Talent show ’09

27 02 2009

In the school that the boys attend the talent show is a pretty big deal.  Last year Isaac was in it for the first time, and he loved it.  This year when the time came to sign up he wanted to play more music from his Legend of Zelda video games on the piano, so we were more than happy to oblige him.  But his teacher also wanted them to sing a song as a class, and so did Jonathan’s teacher.  That meant that for the duration of the show Karen and I would be sitting with just the babies.  No small feat, but undeniably easier than having Jonathan on my lap at the same time.

They went in order of grades, so Jonathan’s kindergarten class went first.  They sang a rousing rendition of Down by the Bay, complete with visual aids.  Then some first graders did some stuff, and then Isaac’s class sang This Little Light of Mine, complete with little flashlights to “let shine.”

see?  they're shining!

After another couple of acts Isaac took his turn at the piano.  He played the Clocktown theme from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

he says he wasn't nervous

He played it perfectly (of course).  The crowd was so moved there were cell phones in the air.  And at the end he took a nice deep bow, to the sound of thunderous applause that threatened to send the roof crashing down on top of everyone.  

I'll be here all week.  Thank you!

I’m expecting a call next week finalizing the record deal.  

But something odd happened.  All those acts from last year in which girls danced along to Hannah Montana songs weren’t there.  I was stunned, because there were at least ten of these routines last year.  But there were a lot more acts this year, so I suppose they found other things to do.  In all it was a great evening out with everybody, and when we left (which was a bit before the end) Isaac and Jonathan didn’t want to go.  They’re already making plans for next year.





For my sister, whom I may have offended

17 02 2009

While I moved away from western PA after college, my sister moved BACK to western PA.  This has proven over the years to be beneficial for many reasons.  One of these is that occasionally she sends us items that are of a Black and Gold nature.  A delivery of that sort arrived less than a week after the Super Bowl.  T-shirts for everyone in the family (provided that I’m the same size as my 8-year-old) and that was way cool.  She asked me on the phone if they were going to feature in one of my now-famous Tuesday Twosday posts, and my reaction was something like “Oh, not this week.  It will be at least next week, if at all.”

Hmmm.  That may have been a little rude.  In my defense, two of my children and one of my wives were sick that weekend so I was a little preoccupied while on the phone.  

So this past weekend I decked out the little ones in their new shirts and Isaac helped me with the photo shoot.  It was fun, even if nobody smiled.

Look!  Daddy's doing something silly behind the camera!

Later I gave them a toy to fight over.  

back off buddy, don't make me use this

Taking these pictures is going to be very fun for a few months.





Some love for milk chocolate

15 02 2009

There are levels to being a chocoholic.  Karen has her favorites, but she lies says that any chocolate will do.  I know better. 

make enough for seconds or she'll eat yours too

There was an article in Food & Wine magazine which mentioned that a lot of pastry chefs, as well as chocoholics, only love dark chocolate.  The bitterer the better.  Karen can be counted among them.  She views milk chocolate as unfit for consumption except in case of emergency.  I, however, am one of milk chocolate’s biggest fans.  So I was thrilled when that same article had recipes for milk chocolate that looked awesome.  I know, this is my second chocolate post this year, but I had to.  Click the link and look at that picture and tell me you don’t want it right now:

Milk Chocolate Pots de Creme (or something like that)

At first I thought it was going to be like the chocolate soup I made earlier, but it wasn’t.  It was way better.  It’s got a custard base, so it’s much smoother.  I’m getting hungry just writing about it.  But the picture in the recipe makes it look like it flows like soup, and if you don’t cook it as much as they tell you to, it may.  But I followed the recipe and it was a pretty firm custard.  That’s not a bad thing.  So the picture is a little misleading.  Really, who cares?

Is this a little more romantic than Karen’s Valentine’s Day gift last year?





An old friend

11 02 2009

Ben is almost three.  Looking back on each year it’s inspiring to see the progress he’s made.  And that’s a good thing, because day to day it can seem like there’s not much happening.  But there is.

Long long ago there was a time when Ben couldn’t do much.  He couldn’t sit up without support, he couldn’t roll over.  He could, however, hold a toy in his hand and “play with it.”  By this I mean that he would wave it in front of him.  He could also stand in an exersaucer and bat at toys.  But his three positions during the day (besides on my lap) were in the saucer, lying on the floor, and sitting in the swing.  He napped (and got fed) in the swing, and when he was there he had a favorite toy.  It was one of those toys meant to put over a carrier-type car seat.  Baby pulled on the ring, it came towards them, and vibrated on its way back up.  Ben loved it.  He’d play with it for long stretches of time.  But eventually he became bored with it.  So it got put away.

Nathaniel arrived last summer, so we’ve been getting some old toys out again for him to get bored with, and the old bumblebee was one of them.  Ben is rarely in the swing these days so he hadn’t seen too much of it.  But the other day I set him there while he napped and he started playing with it again.  Pulling it, letting it vibrate, never letting go.  He always liked feeling the vibrations.  

swinging himself and lounging around

So I sat there watching him pull and relax, pull and relax.  He was remembering just like I was.





One week in

9 02 2009

We’ve got some rules in our house that we actually enforce.  One of them is “No video games during the week.”  The boys have come to accept this rule, but it usually means that on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday they want to do nothing but play video games.  We also have a “no video games before lunch” rule.  So the actual time spent may be relatively small in relation to the week, but the amount of space in their minds occupied by the games is very large.  Time was not kept by the position of the sun in the sky or by the phase of the moon.  Time was kept by marking how many days were left until the three day gaming binge.  Obsession is a dangerous thing, and these kids aren’t even ten yet.  So we decided to prove to them that there are other things to do than sit in front of the TV with a controller.

We designated February as “No Video Games Month.”  When met with the expected protests we explained that at least February is the shortest month of the year.  We could have picked March.  We could have picked JULY, when they’re home from school (we still may do that one).

next year he performs at the grammys

So here we are, one week into our screen-free month (no TV either) and what’s been happening?  I can tell you one thing that hasn’t been happening.  Much to our surprise we haven’t heard one complaint.  There the game systems sit, in full view of the children (and parents), and I haven’t heard one question about leniency on the rule.  Isaac has, however, delved into Zelda strategy guides as if he’s living vicariously through them.  I’ve hid those now, because I find it a bit creepy.  

Jonathan is summarily unfazed by the whole idea.  While he loves the idea of being free to play video games, in truth he could give or take them.  He often plays for a while then puts the controller down and does something else.  In this case he’s gotten hooked on one of their Christmas presents from my mother, the Smart Globe from the Discovery Store.  

actually looking for Carmen San Diego

He’s played with it so much that when they ask him to locate countries on the globe he can do it pretty quickly.  He was even helping Isaac do it (and mocking him at the same time).  So far I’d say that this experiment is a success, and it’s one we’ll have to repeat in the future.





I’m Now Accepting Bids

2 02 2009

It wasn’t the refs, it wasn’t the crowd, it wasn’t the weather.  The difference in the game was my cooking and you know it.  Two years in a row now I’ve picked the Super Bowl winner correctly based solely on my cooking.  If any team would like my services I would be happy to start the bidding at two tickets to the game.

Ben was riveted by the game the whole time, honest.

And one other thing.  I can officially say that the most effective Super Bowl ad was the one for the Hyundai Genesis.  With all those people yelling “Hyundai!!!” a two-year-old in the room started yelling it too.