They Grow Up So…well, eventually

The Boy really surprised me this Father’s Day. Part one of the surprise is that he actually remembered the day, although that may be thanks to Kat. The next part of the surprise is how nice a gift he got me. It was relevant and not cheap (Calphalon bakeware to replace some of the cheaper things banging around in the kitchen). Finally, we were at the local media store (books are such a small part of their stock) and he ran off to buy a t-shirt. He used that t-shirt to wrap the pans! Not only generous, but ingenious as well. And the shirt was Doctor Who themed, so bonus points there.

All around, I could not have asked for a better recognition that I’ve got some sort of place in his heart. Maybe this parenting stuff is working after all.

Everybody’s Special

Seeing as many birthday parties as I do (helping Kat at her job), it’s obvious things are different from When I Was A Kid. The new kid order is further highlighted by the end of the school year, which I’ll get to in a moment. First, parties.

Back when I was a kid, the only one who left a birthday party with anything other than cake in their belly was the birthday kid. I don’t know when it changed, but by the time Alex was attending birthday parties, the gift bag culture had developed. If you didn’t hand out candy and toys to the guests at a party, good luck getting your kid invited to anyone else’s. Are we teaching kids that even on a day when one kid is rightfully the center of attention, everyone is still Special?

When I was a kid, the only graduation ceremony you had (before college) was when you got a diploma after 12th grade. That is graduating. Any graduation that ends with, “See you in the fall” is not much of a graduation. I understand marking major events in a child’s life, but when Alex “graduated” from kindergarten, I don’t think he nor his classmates gave a damn about it. The whole thing was for the parents to prove their kid is Special. When he “graduated” from elementary school a year ago, I’m pretty sure the kids didn’t care much either. The boys seemed uncomfortable in their nice clothes, but otherwise they acted like it was just another day. Which it was!

I suppose in two years, he’ll “graduate” from middle school. It still won’t mean much to him, nor should it. Why have we started doing this? If your child doesn’t know how much you appreciate him on a regular basis, if your child doesn’t know how much you love him every day, do you really think a silly ceremony is going to make him feel Special? It seems like we’d be better off celebrating our kids’ individual (or team) achievements when they happen, rather than just wrapping up the year with one big ceremony. It seems to be an admission that we don’t have time to recognize actual accomplishments if we recognize “not being held back a grade” as worthy of a ceremony. When everyone is special, nobody is.

Kochu what now?

After finding great success with the BLT & watermelon salad last week, I decided to go old skool, back to my days in the land of the not-quite-right. Like gang jung, some things may be better left in the memory.

Pulled out the kochujang and tri-tip last night, and produced a meal of bulgogi, be kimchi, and pa jun (I hate Romanized Korean – it’s always just a little off). Alex, the boy who claims to love spicy food, found the kimchi too spicy to consider seconds. Kat declared the tri-tip to be a wonderful cut of meat and it should in the future be served with some potatoes and maybe a side of green beans. She also found the pa jun to be not her style – something about steak and eggs not being cool with her or something.

I guess that’s the end of Korean side dishes; the bulgogi was a hit, of course.

Best Meal of 2011 so far

Kat and Alex both agree – this is the best meal so far in 2011. Sage, shallots, and butternut squash in crispy wontons, all sprinkled with parmesan and toasted walnuts. I have no problem backing this determination, and combined with the return of the In-N-Out burgers just one week ago, I think I may have peaked too early this year.

Merry Christmas

This has been a great Christmas morning.  I got five new books, Alex seems to like his new skates, Kat and I have been having a blast with her Buckyballs, and breakfast was awesome.  Kat found a great recipe for salmon hash and asparagus.  Served with a fried egg atop the pile, with mimosas (and faux-mosa for the boy) on the side…such decadence!

We wish you and yours a great Christmas and a great new year!

Patty Melts Are Awesome

In previous installments of “Gary cooks whatever Kenji does,” we’ve tried the Double-Double Animal Style and some sliders. The latest was the patty melt. I’m a big fan of patty melts, so making them at home with two kinds of cheese seemed like a winner of a plan. They were yummy, and the onions ended up so caramelized they stuck in my teeth like the halloween candy we’re noshing on this week.

In a stunning upset, the sliders remain as Kat’s #2 choice of the three, while the Double-Double of course reigns supreme.  The Boy and I both prefer patty melts over sliders, but agree with Judge #1 that In-N-Out rocks, even in clone form.

Maybe I’ll try that Roast Beef Poboy next, that looks like an interesting sandwich…

Sliders

Following the success of the faux Double-Double, last night we attempted to duplicate Kenji Lopez-Alt’s slider recipe.  OK, recipe may be overstating things, how about method instead? I thought it odd to make fried burgers last time; you can imagine how difficult it was to get past the concept of steamed burgers. And, 1.2 pounds of meat to make a dozen burgers? That can’t be right.

Anyway, they turned out quite like the sliders you may love or hate – oniony, cheesy, moist, and a little messy with a pretty high bun-to-meat ratio. Although sliders were Kat’s idea, she found them to be not as much to her liking as the In-N-Out style burgers – I wholeheartedly agree.  Alex, on the other hand, ate four of them. The sliders do have the benefit of being much easier to make, with far fewer ingredients to juggle (making your own secret sauce, slicing tomatoes, leafing lettuce – none of those are needed for sliders). But, the D-D have the benefit of being quite a bit tastier.  Sliders are a bit of a one-note song, while a nice Double-Double Animal Style is a near-symphony of ground meat goodness.

Next on my burger hit parade?  Maybe patty melts.  I love me some patty melt…

We All Scream For…

Newegg had an entry-level ice cream maker for 25 bucks last week (refurb Cuisinart ICE-20), so of course I got one.  My first attempt, a sugar-free chocolate custard-based base with peanut butter cup chunks, was really good (although apparently lacking in chunks). So, I made a few batches this weekend. The Boy and I whipped up a simple vanilla base (eggless), and made two variants.  One, chocolate chips and toffee bits, is very yummy and creamy and must be kept away from me for its own safety. The other, Alex’s choice, involves toffee bits and chopped gummy bears. This may seem like a good idea, but when you freeze gummy bears they lose the gummy.  So, toffee and teeth-chipping bear ice cream.  Yeah, that’s all his.

Finally, to finish up the weekend, another sugar-free custard-based ice cream, with blackberry puree added. Alex tasted it and claimed it had “too much flavor up front” and I tried it both before and after it solidified in the freezer – meh.  Fortunately Kat likes it, so I guess she can be secure in the knowledge that her blackberry ice cream is safe from the menfolk in the house.

Maybe a cheesecake base with strawberries next.  Mmmm…

Vacation 2010 – Back to Cali

Facebook updates aside, I’ve been remiss in documenting our most recent vacation. So, here goes…

I’d been holding to a tradition of taking a “big” vacation in even years, and just short trips in Texas in odd years.  Then there was the unfortunate contract recompete that led to my job being gone for six weeks, and coming back at a 15% lower salary, so we doubled up on the Texas years. This year, we finally had the cash to stumble out to the west coast again, so we did.

For several years, The Boy has wanted to take a surfing class. Kat had an abiding distrust of Disneyana, and a love of animals. I love Monterey. All these combined to produce our itinerary of San Diego, Anaheim, and Monterey.

Continue reading Vacation 2010 – Back to Cali

Bread is easy

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this great book my baby got me for Xmas – Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  We’ve had cheddar bread, sun-dried tomato bread, brioche sticky buns, pizza, naan… Good stuff, and not remotely difficult.  Alex made a couple loaves without assistance (guidance sure, but I never touched his dough!).  Here’s the most recent, a chocolate ganache-filled brioche loaf.

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Falsehoods a Child Can See Through

The other day, I was watching the news when a clip from Fred Thompson’s radio show was played. The person talking to Thompson was Betsy McCaughey, a constitutional scholar and former Lt. Governor for New York, claimed that the health care plan being promoted in the House would mandate that all elderly people get counseling on how to end their lives sooner. This meme has been promulgated far and wide, and a video was next on the news, with the President being asked by an audience member at a town hall meeting whether the rumors were true that his hoped-for health care public option would encourage the elderly to die.

My son, all of nine years old, was able to see how ridiculous this was, and said there’s no way that anyone in the government would try to kill off their own citizens. He didn’t have any sophisticated analysis of this, of course, but even he has enough of a BS detector at his age to wonder why anyone would believe such ridiculous statements.

It’s a sad state of affairs when seemindly sane adult human beings can actually believe that their government wants to kill them (hard to get votes that way) and that the President is a foreigner (Snopes, people!). Evidence be damned, we will continue to believe ludicrous things because they reinforce what we want to believe. And the pundits who encourage this behavior? Yay for the First Amendment, you can say and believe any fool thing you want, but this is just shameful behavior. Fanning flames of anger and fear (always fear – talk to any winger and you’ll hear the words afraid or scared frequently) just to get ratings or get political points…disgusting.

Run any statement any politician or pundit says past a nine year-old; if he says it’s ludicrous, assume it is.

Bankrupt Parks still fun

Although Six Flags just filed for bankruptcy, I can report that their original park is doing a good business. Pretty sure the light crowds today could be attributed to two things: it’s 96 degrees in Arlington, and a lot of schools around the country don’t end until late June. But, most rides were well-attended and The Boy enjoyed himself immensely. His boast that he would stay until park closure tonight was met with disbelief by yours truly, and indeed Father Knows Best. We took off before 5pm, but since we’d arrived before the park opened at 10am, we still had a good long day of roller coasters and other fun times.

I believe the 13 dollar “all you can drink” cup is an ingenious piece of marketing for the park. The cup is far too large to secure in your pocket, so every ride that demands no “loose items” requires another dollar fee to the locker monsters. Genius, I tell you.

International Year of Astronomy

The Galileoscope is finally being produced, and it’s a bit later than most people had hoped. When you’re trying to get people into the “International Year of Astronomy” it may be helpful to get the telescopes out before the middle of the year.  That being said, it looks like the $15 telescopes are making an impact even before anyone has one – Celestron has brought out a $50 scope that is tied to the IYA and is much better at light-gathering than the Galileoscope, while offering a 75x objective compared to the 50x objective on the Galileoscope. Cool deal, if you can’t wait for June.

I’ve got two Galileoscopes on order, and I’ll definitely have photos of The Boy assembling and using one when they finally show up. Patience…

They Grow Up So Fast

He’s nine?  How the heck did that happen?

First of all, I love this squirrel:
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That little critter is the only mammal at the Nature Center that tries to escape through the roof of its cage. We start humming the Mission Impossible theme music whenever we see him.

Alex’s love of all things military continues, so even though he asked for a birthday party with lots of animals, he still got this cake:
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He loved wearing the snake and was great with the tarantula:
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More photos in the gallery, as usual.

Kat coerced three other Nature Center folks to help with the party (a task which is usually relegated to just Kat), so the kids got to see over a dozen animals, and everyone was able to touch and hold them. A few animals were brought out that have never been brought to a party or event before – Kat rocks.

Alex has had a pretty good year, with his trips to several Eastern states, a trip to ride nearly every roller coaster at Fiesta Texas, Schlitterbahn, lots of toys, games, and just a lucky time for the boy. Fortunately, he’s also a great kid. Every time I have other children his age over for dinner, I’m reminded again how well Alex’s mother and I have done in instilling a modicum of manners and not instilling a distrust of vegetables and “weird” food.  He loves to try new things, and although I may want to strangle him some days, I’m very happy that he’s in my life.  Happy Birthday, boy.

Weekend Wrapup

First, thanks to all who wished me happy birthday this past Saturday.  I appreciate it.

The lovely Kat put together an unusual method of gift-giving – a scavenger hunt. I wandered around the nature center, following her rhyming clues, hoping not to be told to put my hand in the viper cage. It was a very cool haul of presents, including a few pans to be used for various stir fry and baking needs, as well as a few books I’ve been looking at. Of course, the cocktail shaker got a good workout this weekend, making a few batches of raspberry margaritas to accompany the Serrano ham-wrapped figs.

Sunday morning we hit the lake, after applying what appears in retrospect to be insufficient amounts of sunscreen. Kayaking across 3 miles of placid water, watching for critters, and watching The Boy splash around in the water – good times.  The eventual “seen animal” list included a bevy of turtles, a flock of birds, a swarm of dragonflies, a school of jumping fish (none near the fishermen, though), and a couple water snakes. The first snake was a cottonmouth (aka water mocassin), which was swimming away from the crazy humans at a good clip. It must have been at least 4 feet long. The second slithery critter was a diamond-backed water snake of much smaller size.  It popped up and then slipped beneath the surface, never to be seen again.

We also discovered that paddling a tube is not very efficient (no bow or stern, so you tend to paddle clockwise and counter-clockwise rather than forward).  Well, The Boy discovered this, after much instruction on the proper angle of attack for the paddle.  Then, we discovered that The Boy likes to paddle the kayak.  Come back here, you little monkey!

Overall, a great birthday and good weekend. Now, if my coworkers would just stop saying, “Got some sun this weekend, eh?”  SO original.

Year the Second

Although I’ve been battling a cold since Sunday, yesterday was an especially good day for Us.  Kat first drove down from Lubbock to see me one year ago, on the 14th of May.  To commemorate this momentous occasion, we went for a bicycle ride to the river with The Boy, then for dinner we had fish tacos (her favorite of my cooking thus far), and knocked back a fabulous bottle of Moscat Spumante to finish up the night.  I didn’t even know that spumante was made with muscat grapes, but it was very nice – not at all dry and very very drinkable.

I’ve told her that one anniversary per year is all you get, so next year there will be no date-aversary.  Gotta hold the line somewhere…

Turkey Day Review

Ham, mashed potatoes, bacon & leek dressing.  Cherry/Orange scones with whipped cream.  A cat that meows so much it must be using the sound as sonar.  Two dogs that don’t know how to sleep without people under them.  One boy who got to put up ornaments and didn’t break any.  One hot woman who gave me a new fuzzy robe to stay warm. High temperatures of 40 degrees.

And now, finally, three days late, Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.

Cheers.