Monday, August 31, 2009

Overheard in the kitchen: the birth of a loan shark

Saturday night, OhCountess was getting ready to go out for a night on the town with the girls from work. She checked her wallet and figured she was a few bucks short.

OhPrincess1 is saving her pennies like a Midas in an effort to buy a Nintendo DSi and earlier in the day had counted up the stash and found out she'd made her goal.

This seemed to create a match made in heaven. OhCountess was in a bit of a hurry and really didn't want to drive out of her way to hit an ATM for our bank and OhPrincess1 has a readily available pile of cash.

OhCountess, "OhPrincess1, do you think you could lend me $10 until tomorrow?"

"Sure Mom but I don't think I should just give it to you. I think you should have to pay me back a little more then you borrowed, pay me $11 in the morning?" said OhPrincess1.

"Honey, that's called interest," replied OhCountess, "and that's like 2,000%. That's pretty high, how about I pay 25¢."

"OK, I'll give you the money in ones and you pay me back in a ten dollar bill and a quarter. Deal?"

Mom laughs and agrees.

You just gotta love it when a 10 year old figures out complex banking concepts and negotiates usury rates on a short term loan.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Got grass?

Saw this photo today and just had to share it. It's from the web cam looking down at the new Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins.

Look's GRASS! It's so pretty, my eyes are tearing up (not really, real men don't do that).


BTW - Target Center kinda looks ridiculous with the grass roof...just sayin'.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Not quite ready to give up on summer

Hope you are working as hard as me today. Being a dad can be sooo hard.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Birthday Family Time

Here's a little preview of how we are spending this big birthday

Maybe your world didn't change

As crazy as this may sound to people, I'm a huge believer in the idea that we are all pretty much equal especially when it comes to men and women. Sure, for the most part, women are nuts, we can all agree on that, but at work and in our potential, women and men can pretty much do everything the same. I know, there are a few physiological differences, but the last I checked, we live, we breath, we love, we laugh and in the end...dust.

I've been asked repeatedly over the years if I'm disappointed that we never had a baby boy. That is one of the most bizarre questions I've ever been asked. Are you asking me if I'm disappointed in the two beautiful, healthy, happy kids I already have? Are you a friggin' moron? My answer for all these years has been the same. Why? Girls can play baseball.

One thing that will forever be different for men and women is the process of making your first baby. Not the beginning part, we should all know how that works and if you don't, go ask your mother. I'm talking about the gestation part. I don't know about you, but that was the weirdest 8 months of my life.

It all started about 10 years and 8 months ago. I came home from work to my wife smiling like the Cheshire cat. She handed me this little wrapped box and asked me to open it. I had no idea what this was. We got married in September, and it was the middle of winter so it wasn't our anniversary. We started dating in the summer too. Her birthday was in March. Is it Bastille Day? Do we celebrate that? Maybe it was MLK day and I missed the memo about exchanging presents. Nope. None of those were it. Inside the box was a little bib that read "I love my dad."

Um. Oh. Um. Holy crap! I knocked her up! Wait...I'm married to her. It's legal. Whew. OK...breathe...breathe...

And with that, we started a journey that would transform both of our lives forever.

Ladies, pregnancy is a really weird thing for guys. For the next 8 months, I would hear the stories and see the changes as my bride transformed from hot goddess of seduction I spent all my time wooing, to the most beautiful incubator of life. I could see the changes. She would tell me about them. She would run to the bathroom and puke her guts up. Lay there at night, not sleeping. But for me, the guy she married, I had no reference to what was really going on. As strange as this sounds, I didn't get it.

Months later, the baby bump, now a prominent fixture of my wife stature, was moving on it's own. Kinda like in the movie Aliens. Yes, to a guy, that's a valid reference. We can see things moving, we can feel the pressure, it was like she had bad gas. It was cool and she told me it was our baby, but still, I didn't get it.

Bringing both of our kids to term was a challenge. I've written about this before. Each pregnancy was a sick game of chicken. How long could the baby stay inside before the strain on my wife would kill her. The first time through this, I was an emotional wreck with a rock for a facade. I don't know if even at this point my wife knows just how stressful it was for me to be asked by the medical staff to think about choosing between her and the baby. Inside, I usually just screamed, "Hm. How about fuck you? They will both live. Capice?" To a young husband...

But even through this, I didn't really get what was going on. My wife told me how she could feel this little life inside her. She told me how beautiful it was. Honestly, it felt like gas bubbles to me. I really didn't get it. I had no idea what any of this meant. I'm just a guy and this doesn't compute.

OhPrincess1 took about 2 weeks to deliver. That's sort of an exaggeration and sorta not. With OhCountess' health problems, they'd started inducing and then stopped and then started and then stopped and then I think I went toe to toe with a doctor and got his staff's mouths to drop when the dickhead doctor asked me, "Excuse me, do you know who I am..." and I replied, "Yes, do you know who I am?". Geez. Seems no one had ever stood up to him before. Oops. I missed that memo. Jack ass.

I still didn't get it. What was all this about?

A week after my encounter Dr. Dickhead, we were at our hometown hospital, the same one OhCountess worked at as an RN in OB - you don't know how handy this is :). At this time of my life, I was an intern that worked 50 miles away. This means any time missed is time not paid. We were still to young to really be able to afford all this starting and stopping so the plan was I'd go to work and she'd call me when things started to proceed. Induction can take time.

We made it to lunch before she called me. Please remember, this was 1999. I had a cell phone and this was a big deal. I was out depositing my paycheck (remember when we had to do that?) when it rang. "I'm on my way!" A call to the office triggered the "OhCaptain's wife is having a baby" emergency plan. The president of the company made it clear I only needed to make one call to the receptionist and to get the hell out of town and take care of my wife. Thanks!

I got to my bride's side. I held her hand. I watched the meters. I shifted in the chair. I went for a walk. I watched some TV. I read a magazine. I talked to the staff. This wasn't really going as fast as we'd hoped. At 8 pm, the doc came in and asked if we wanted to have a break until morning. We can do that? Huh, I didn't know. They turned off the drugs and my wife fell asleep.

We'd decided that since we lived less the 5 minutes away, I'd crash there and she would call me in the morning. All the staff knew me and several of the nurses assured me that they would call me with ANY news. I'll be honest. I'm still not sure what any of this is about, but food and zzz's sounded good.

6 AM, the phone rings. It's OhCountess they are starting again and I should get to the hospital. I raced in. I got to my bride's side. I held her hand. I watched the meters. I shifted in the chair. I went for a walk. I watched some TV. I read a magazine. I talked to the staff. This wasn't really going as fast as we'd hoped. My wife looked exhausted. She was noticeably uncomfortable. There was nothing I could do but sit there helplessly and wonder to myself just what the hell was going on and what this was all about.

By afternoon, things seemed to be changing. By then, I'd figured out how to read the machines. There was a monitor for my wife and one for the baby. There was this belt thing that monitored the heart rate of the baby and muscle contractions in my wife. I'd noticed a pattern in the muscle contractions and got pretty good at getting ready for a good she started noticing that I would stand up and take her hand just moments before the contraction. The doc comes in and removes the belt. I asked her not to. She told me she was "done with it", "but I'm not. You see this pattern here, she's about to have a contraction and I like to be ready."

"You just figured that out sitting here?" she asked. I am geek for Pete's sake.

I really don't remember much of the actual labor. The OB nurses were great and gave me some quick pointers on coaching earlier. I never went to baby class so I was winging it.

OhPrincess1's head was there! I could see her brown hair, but that was it. Just the very top. The doctor and my wife worked forever to get her out. She's stuck! More pushing...the doctor coaching. I still felt helpless. I still didn't get it.

Finally, around 6 PM, the doctor uses this thing that kinda looked like a toilet plunger and gives a tug. There she was! My goodness that's messy. "Do you want to cut the cord?" I can do that? Sure. Snip! They whisked that screaming baby away. Professionals were attending to my wife, more attending to the baby. I just tried to stay out of the way. Trying to just let everyone do their jobs. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing.

They brought the baby over to OhCountess. My wife had never looked more peaceful, happy. She had also never looked more beautiful. She held the little girl in her arms. It was perfect. I reached down and kissed her.

She kissed me back. "Do you want to hold her dad?"

Wow. Are you talking to me? My father wasn't in the room, was he? I'm not sure I'd ever held a baby before. She hands her to me, this little bundle. I held her in my arms and looked into her eyes. She was perfect. She was amazing. I got it. I'm a dad and this is my daughter. In that moment, I left my life as just a guy behind. Look out world, I'm a dad, a father.

Happy birthday OhPrincess1! Tens years has gone too fast.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Interesting speech, almost like it was given yesterday

A friend of mine sent me a link to this video. I have no idea how authentic it is or not, but I have also read the writings of people opposed to socialism from our past. Whether Obama is moving forward with socialism or not, we, as Americans need to consider this for our future.

I heard this morning, that every American agrees that there needs to be reform in our health care system. I think that is true, but I'm still not convinced this is a crisis that needs to be fixed by racing huge, sweeping legislation through congress that institutes a system that's flawed. We have time. Let's do it right and think very hard about what it is we are doing.

Waiting to do the right thing is always better then rushing to do the wrong.

This video is a speech given by Ronald Reagan. He's been dead a while but his words sound strikingly familiar. Give it a listen.

I'm not advocating one solution over another, I'm just asking that we stop and think about the problem. Define what it is, examine it's causes and look for a solution that is both pragmatic and affordable.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Air whipped sugar syrup is sticky

The temps here in Minnesota have finally returned to normal. For those of you that aren't from this great state, you may not realize that it's not frozen here year round. July and August are typically in the upper 80's and low 90's. Not south hot, but definitely not the arctic people think it is.

We had some special guests at our house this weekend. TheBiggTree (TBT) and company came to visit. TBT and his wife have 2 boys...almost the exact same age as our two girls. We love getting the clans together. The kids pair up by age group, the wives do wifey things and TBT and I...well, we have no one to tell us we are two old to play too much Wii and poker.

This weekend though, had one big item on the agenda.

You might remember, a few months back, he and MumblingSages began a bit of a rivalry. With TBT out to a 1-0 lead in the races, MumblingSages brought can of whoop ass and tied it up. Well done by both. Even Mrs. TBT ran. I manned the camera, but may have caught a piece of the running bug. We'll have to see.

The race didn't go as well as TBT had hoped. We got back to our house after the race and got cleaned up...well, they got cleaned up. I barely broke a sweat taking the pictures. While standing around trying to figure out what to do. TBT snacked on one of my friend Eloise's gourmet marshmallows.

I'm really not exactly sure how we got on the conversation, but somehow, we got to the point where I got to showing him how I could get YouTube to work on my TV, and to demonstrate it and that the world's greatest TV cooking show host, Alton Brown, had done an episode on how to make homemade marshmallows.

Here's part 1 of Good Eats episode S11E12 - Puff the Magic Mallow:

And here's part 2.

Well, that actually looked simple enough. Here's the recipe from the show. I'd write it out for you, but I'm pretty sure it's copyrighted...Let's just say, I went to the pantry to get the following ingredients:

  • 3 packets of gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
Seriously. That's all it takes + water. I'm assuming all of my readers have running water. If you have Internet and no running water or flush toilets. we need to talk about your priorities.

This is where I'll remind the readers that this content is copyrighted. Stealing shamelessly a good idea will only get you in if you are a TV executive and think this idea rocks...let me know...but TBT and I had some really cool ideas for a TV show...let's just say the name of that show could be, "MOM! Dad's in the kitchen!"

TBT and I are both well versed in the kitchen. We are grown men that know how to cook. Get over it. It happens. Anywho, neither of us had ever made a sugar based candy before. The hardware you need to make marshmallows have two items that if you don't have, you don't want to try this until you do. You MUST have:
  • A candy makers thermometer
  • A stand mixer
You don't have these, just step away from the sugar bowl. I'm assuming that the following are a given in any kitchen:
  • small sauce pan (5 cups or a little bigger would be good)
  • spatula or as my home econ. teach would say, a rubber scraper
  • 13X9 pan
  • aluminum foil
While these don't get mixed into the recipe, you will never want to handle air whipped sugar syrup with them:
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • corn starch (which tastes like shit. I tried it. Nasty stuff)
  • powdered sugar (doesn't taste like shit. Actually, it tastes really good. Made me want a donut)
If you watched those video, you should get the idea that when you are making homemade marshmallows, being one step ahead of the game is very important. This really is all about making air whipped sugar syrup and it's VERY sticky.

We had done our homework and got all of our ducks in a row. We laid the entire mess out on the counter in our kitchen and set it. Starting with the gelatin in the mixer, we carefully covered all of the powder with the ice cold water. We had no idea what blooming was all about, but hey, it's in the recipe.

The next step was to put about every last bit of glucose we had in our house into the sauce pan. It's hard to believe it, but you are supposed to add 1 1/2 cup of granulated sugar into a half cup of water. It's not really edible's a little thick. Adding the corn syrup makes it look a bit more moist. Get it all boiling and watch the thermometer. We took this opportunity to prepare the 13X9 pan. It was about to have the world's stickiest goo dumped into it.

Both of us had spent enough time in the kitchen to know that when making candy by this method, the listed temp was VERY important. When a recipe calls for 240°, they mean it.

At this point, we were anxiously waiting to get to the next step. Watching the red line on thermometer move ain't real exciting, but when it got to 240° we sprang into action and got the molten sticky stuff carefully loaded into my stand mixer and cranked her up to 10. I was really disappointed I couldn't get to 11, but top speed is top speed.

The really cool thing about this process was you could hear the mixer change speeds when the goo started to change states. We stood. Watching the mixer. We had 14 minutes to kill and no idea what we gonna expect. A few minutes in, it really started to look like whipped cream, but we weren't sure if it was right.

At the 14 minute mark, we were 1 minute away from done, so it was time to add the vanilla. I'll just warn you, when you add this, it will provide just enough lube to send your mixer spinning like a top again. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

The next step was the one spot you will really want to have an assistant. When the 15 minutes was done, you are gonna want to get this sticky mass out of the mixer and into your pan as quickly as possible. This stuff is VERY STICKY and starts to set up pretty quickly. A well lubed rubber scrapper will help a lot. Below is what ours looked like in the pan. I suppose you could shoot for pretty, but why? If you must know, the whisk attachment and the rubber scraper tasted delicious. Could you say no?

The next step is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do. You must wait for 4 hours for the blob to set up. Yikes. The urge to dive in is so strong...I wish you luck.

When we got to the end of the wait time, we promptly made a huge mess. You are to snap this pan over onto a sheet of parchment paper that's well covered in magic dust (corn starch and powdered sugar). For reasons that can only be explained by proper breeding, we got the bright idea to just snap and pound this into the counter. Did I mention it was well dusted with magic dust? POOF! I was covered in sugar and starch. I'm so glad my camera was no where near this.

Once out, it was time for cutting. The pizza cutter suggestion that Alton mentions works great! The following picture shows the pile of heavenly pillows we made. They were disappearing pretty fast...
The deed was done. All that was left was the eatin'

OhCountess had a pretty awesome idea. We make a pretty mean chocolate fondue. The recipe is to add the following ingredients to a fondue pot on a pretty low heat. Ours is electric and 2 to 3 is just about perfect.

To the pot we add:
1/2 cup of carmel dip for apples (store bought tub)
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 bag of chocolate chips (I like to add the equivalent of 1 bag but use 3 different types of chocolate - I'm a chocolate junkie...sorry)
1 tablespoon of hazelnut flavoring

heat until smooth.

The picture on the right shows that this goodness is best served with a buffet of dipping bits. We used apple, banana, kiwi (my fav!), strawberries and you can see the marshmallow squares again.

For a little extra goodness, we crushed up some graham crackers and bought a bag of the Heath Bar toffee chips. You guessed it. First dunk the apple in the chocolate fondue and then roll it in the toffee bits.

The marshmallow of course tasted amazing plain, but the chocolate was taken up an notch...and rolling it in the graham cracker...pièce de résistance.

Easy peasy. I had spent most of this day twittering about this. I think I made people hungry.

These were a blast to make and even more fun to eat. Any questions? Let me know if you try it, I'd love to know how you did!

Sunday, August 02, 2009


This first weekend of August every year is reserved for River City Days. Remember, we only live about a 45 minute drive away from my hometown, but this is the one weekend a year I actually spend time out and about, mingling with people. Most of our visits are spent with family and followed by quick exits.

OhCountess and I both spent time growing up here and we both have family that still lives here. So there are roots, but where we live now has really grown to feel much more like home. I guess this is what happens with time.

According to my mom, for the last 24 years, she's been the coordinator for the River City Days Arts and Crafts Festival. Of those 24 years, I've helped some number smaller then 24 but larger 10. I don't have any idea when I started helping out, but I know that for most of that time, OhCountess has been right there, ready to go. She only missed one year since we got together, the year OhPrincess1 was born. There's just no way to convince a very pregnant woman that spending a weekend at a park, walking around, is a good idea.

This year is no different, we are here again. One of the weird things about this is I have no idea what really goes on anywhere else in this festival. We spend all weekend hanging out at the craft show, talking to vendors and answering questions. This year, I've had a harder time then ever, answering the questions about my hometown. Sure, I'm pretty good with the history, but when it comes to "where do I buy this?" and "what restaurants are there?" I'm having a much harder time. One guy asked me a question, that 15 years ago I could have rattled off a long list with sale prices, "where's the liquor store nearest here?" Um. I haven't bought booze here in a VERY long time.

So far, the reunions have been very rare. I met one person I graduated with. Granted, I graduated from a class of 204 people, but still. I'm hoping to up that number today. I'm also quite sure I walked right past someone. As much as I'd like to be paying attention to the people, I'm usually focused on the inner workings of the show.

Facebook has really opened my eyes back up to the people of my past. Years ago, I moved on from looking to the past. I was enjoying my own path through life and rarely took time to look into the rear view mirror, but lately, it's been pretty cool seeing the lives of the people that made up the first half of mine.

Much like Las Vegas, a few days here is plenty for me. I'm beginning to long for home. I'd still like to come here and spend some time with my camera, the good one, not the one on my phone. This town is so beautiful. It's an old river town, along the banks of the northern Mississippi. There's history and stories that I'd love to capture. I also figure that seeing things through the eyes of my memories might also make for some interesting pictures.

If only there was time. It's been a lot of fun, sharing these weekends with the kids. Even OhPrincess2 is having fun. She's the only member of our household that wasn't born here. OhPrincess1 was born here, but I don't think she really remembers too much about it. She was around 3 when we left and by then, we were spending a lot time in our new hometown.

I suspect it's time to get back to work. A few more hours of the show today and our duty is done for another year. OhCountess hasn't quite spent what we get paid yet either. Sunday is the day she traditionally finds the things that give back to the show what we make.

Maybe I'll see you here sometime.