Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Reviews are In

Daphne has conferences twice this week, so Char and I will have two daddy-daughter nights. I thought we could make one of them a movie night, but there isn't anything in the theaters for us right now. Might as well check the Redbox website.

We've already seen the popular movies like Cars 3, Moana, and Boss Baby, so I was looking at the titles that I hadn't heard of. I've been pretty good about checking product and seller reviews on Amazon and eBay, and it was natural to read the customer reviews.

The comments look to be more entertaining than the films.

If you want to rip on a movie for making mistakes, maybe you should check your own spelling first?

Like telling someone, "I love how you don't care about your looks," this review is a bit of a backhanded compliment.

I think we'll check Netflix.

Monday, November 13, 2017

You Put "------" in Your Chili?

Fall is here, and I'm looking forward to comfort food - stews, soups, loose meat sandwiches, and casseroles are just a few of the highlights. The crock pot is autumn's best friend. I started looking through our recipes last week, but I got bored just reading the ingredient lists. I needed some new recipes to get me fired up about the kitchen this season.

Saturday's cooler temperatures and its sulky, steel-grey sky set the tone for a classic fall meal: chili.

We went to the grocery store to get the red grapes that I needed for the chili. Grapes? Yep. I had searched for "unique chili recipes", and the Better Homes & Garden's recipe for "Fire and Ice Beef and Grape Chili" caught my eye. A chili recipe that calls for a frozen mixture of grapes, red onion, red wine, and red vinegar? I couldn't get that out of my head. This was a recipe that I was excited to make.

"A frozen red wine ice cools our spicy beef and pinto bean chili. To serve, top the hot chili with the frozen mixture and eat immediately." (picture and quote taken from

I couldn't find a pound of boneless beef short ribs, so I used a pound and a half of boneless beef country ribs. (If there is a difference between the two, I don't know it.) Since I increased the amount of meat, I added more chili power. I didn't cook the grapes whole as stated in the recipe's second step. Grape skins are pretty tough, and I didn't think 45 minutes of simmering was going to break them down. To get more of the grapes' flavor, I halved and then quartered them.

How did the chili turn out? It was really good! Adding the frozen wine mix is creative, and it feels a bit "fancy", if that's possible when eating chili. I think the sweetness of the grapes balanced nicely with the chili powder's heat. With ample meat and beans, I didn't ever think I was eating a spicy fruit cocktail. In fact, the grapes weren't a distraction at all, but I don't know if they would work in a recipe that did not include wine.

About that wine, since it doesn't cook down, the alcohol is still in there. At two tablespoons per serving, it's not much, but it's more than what I would give Charlotte. That's a mute point because she is too picky of an eater to even try a taste of this dish.

Chili always gets better after a night or two in the fridge, and I'm looking forward to having leftovers tonight.

Here's the chili without the frozen wine mixture:

Wine mix:

I should had taken a picture of the two together, but was too hungry.

Here's a link to the recipe: Fire and Ice Beef and Grape Chili

Thursday, November 9, 2017

That's No Moon!

Before I begin the actual post, I'd like to take a moment to write about the fine line between "showing" and "showing off". 

I spotted a coworker at a public event a few weeks ago. I introduced him to Daphne and Charlotte, and he told Char that her dad brags about her all the time at school. He was giving my daughter a compliment, I think, but later I thought more about the word "brag". 

Charlotte, I love talking about you and Mom, but I don't do it because I want other people to feel jealous. I don't brag about you two or your accomplishments. I talk about you because you are two of the most important people in my life, and you are never far from my thoughts. Some guys have sports, some guys have politics, some guys have work or something else to talk about. I have you. How could I not talk about that?

Also, I don't write this blog because I want to show off. I blog about my interests, and I have fun writing about them. I really enjoy fitting the puzzle pieces (pictures, events, reflections, and videos) into a small story. Writing about my life, family, friends, and hobbies is also a hobby. Writing a blog post can be as satisfying for me as fixing a pinball machine, or a car, or bicycle, or a scratchy, vinyl record.

So, on with the blog. Let me show you what I have been doing.

Back in the early 90's, I found eight Pink Floyd albums on vinyl at the DAV. Ummagumma, Meddle, A Nice Pair, Atomic Heart Mother, Relics, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall were all for sale for a quarter each. The problem was that there was no artwork. The records were only in clear, plastic sleeves.

That was strange, but the LPs were in nice shape, and even my new teacher's salary could afford a $2.75 price tag. I've been hauling these "naked" records from apartment to apartment to house to house ever since.

Because of my renewed interest in playing and collecting records, I've decided to find the coreect covers and sleeves for the Pink Floyd albums. That isn't anything I have to do, but it will be fun. To save money, my strategy is to find decent LP covers with junky records inside them. I'll toss the poor record and replace it with the nicer one from DAV. 

I suppose this eBay seller thought I was a chump for paying $10.63 for a warped and heavily scratched record. 

But the cover art was in pretty nice shape, and that is what I wanted.

$10.88 is not bad for a now complete Wish You Were Here.  

It is too bad that the DAV didn't have a Dark Side of the Moon for sale back in the day. I had the CD, so I didn't take the opportunity to buy a nice LP when they were cheap. Now it is easy to spend $100 up to $1500 for an original pressing of DSOTM. I finally bit the bullet and bought a "players copy". 

The condition of my copy isn't too bad, but cleaning side one with a wood glue treatment removed a lot of the pops and surface noise. 

While the glue was drying on side two, I noticed that the record had a lunar look to it. That kind of looks like the moon.

But once the glue completely dries, the surface goes "dark".

That matches the record's title pretty well.

Monday, November 6, 2017

"Seasons Eatings?" from the Monsons

We were shopping at Target last weekend when we spotted the Halloween section of the store. Everything was 90 percent off. We bought a few decorations that we wouldn't buy at full price. And for $1.38, Maggie can dress up next year, too.

Char picked out the ice cream cone and the hamburger "costumes".

Of the two, Maggie was least offended by the hamburger, but I doubt she'd keep either on for more than a block. To go with Char's ice cream sundae outfit, we also bought a hamburger costume for me and a French fry outfit for Daphne, so at least Maggie can match the family for a photo op next year. 

Hmmmm. Or maybe a Christmas card? Hey, that's an idea!

"Daphne? Can we talk about this year's Christmas card?"

We Have Our Holiday Decorating Done!

What? Doesn't everybody?

I'm just kidding. This is just a movie display at Flix for A Bad Moms Christmas movie.

It kinda puts me in the holiday spirit. But only kinda.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween!

Unlike the rest of the world, we Trick or Treated last night on the 30th. Don't get me started on weird Des Moines traditions...

After twenty minutes of scanning Google images, Char decided she wanted a pumpkin with these eyes:

And this mouth:

I think I did okay.

Char seemed happy with it.

This year Char went as an ice cream sundae. The weather was pretty good last week for Trunk or Treat at church.

But Char and mom had to bundle up last night. It was pretty cold (even for an ice cream). Luckily the costume fit right over her winter coat. I stayed home to hand out candy. 

She doesn't know it yet, but after she goes to bed, this kid is going to be robbed of at least four Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. 

After the robbery, I'm going downstairs to watch Get Out. It's my Halloween movie pick for this year.

PS. Maybe next year I can convince Charlotte to go as a Bald Knobber...

Monday, October 30, 2017

Those Bald What?

I spotted this LP while flipping through a box of records at Goodwill. 

I didn't think much of Shepard of the Hills; I'm not into classic country music. I kept working my way through the box, but then I stopped myself. Did I see what I thought I saw? Were those guys wearing hoods?

I flipped back to "The Ballad of Jim Lane" and sure enough, those guys are wearing hoods.

What is going on here? Why are they armed with pistols and torches? 

The back of the album is just a group shot of the band. Not much help here. But apparently two of the band members play the double barrel shotgun. 

I showed the album cover to other people, and most reacted like Daphne did; she grimaced and said, "Gross."

It was then quite a surprise when my friend Tim looked at the cover, gravely shook his head and said, "Yea... look at those Bald Knobbers." 

"What did you say?"

Tim explained that he has family in southern Missouri, and down there they know all about the Bald Knobbers. He probably could have told me more, but the bell was about to ring, and we both had class.

So, I did what you would do. I googled "Bald Knobbers". Turns out that Missouri, like a lot of places, was pretty unlawful after the Civil War, and a group of men who were tired of seeing what they thought were injustices decided to fight back. This first group of vigilantes met at Bald Knob Hill, and there their name was born. 

I think they initially thought of themselves as the "good guys" (why the masks, then?), but power corrupts, and soon their violence was probably on par with the "bad guys'" deeds. You can buy books on the subject on Amazon.

After cleaning the LP, I listened to "The Ballad of Jim Lane". The term Bald Knobber is mentioned once, but it is sung so quickly I wouldn't have heard it if I wasn't listening for it. Spoiler alert! Jim is killed by the Bald Knobbers after he announces that he's leaving their group.

Actually, the album cover is pretty tame compared to actual pictures of Bald Knobbers. 

"Depiction of Bald Knobbers in the 1919 film The Shepherd of the Hills" (wikipedia).

Home Sweet Home...

I have no idea if these two are Bald Knobbers, but since it is Halloween, I thought I'd include this picture. Look at that kid's expression. 

Over all, I'd say the Bald Knobbers were a scary and intimidating group. Well, except for this guy on the album cover. He looks like a Teletubbie.

I have lived in the Midwest for my whole life, and I've never heard of the Bald Knobbers until last week. This world is so big, and I only know a tiny bit about it.

Corn Maze Success!

It took another visit to the Pumpkinville Big Corn Maze, but after two more hours, we had our punch cards completed!

Charlotte and Mom took a selfie by the last punch station we needed to find.

Last time we missed it by one lousy punch, but this year Char braved the cool temps and the rainy mist. She also had fun with fake eyebrows. 

We then left the maze to celebrate: Char ran across the hay bales, I got myself a two-dollar hot dog, and Daphne filled out our punch cards for the drawing.

That pretty much sums up our personalities: Char's about fun, I'm about food, and Daphne's the responsible one.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sing Me a Story

The Karen Acres music program put on their fall concert on Tuesday night. 

My chest tightens anytime I see my daughter's name in print. I don't know if that is caused by pride, love, or fear for her. It's probably a mix of all three.

I thought Charlotte might be nervous when she saw the crowd. But as soon as she was on the stage, she smiled broadly and gave her mom the *heart* sign.

Daphne suspects that Charlotte was lip syncing for part of the concert, but Char was doing her part during this song. 

Charlotte had a line to learn last year. This year she got to perform a cabasa solo instead.

When Daphne first told me Char was going to play the cabasa, I thought she said the kielbasa

I knew that wasn't right, but I was still hoping they'd have food at the concert. They didn't. So, we finished the night by going to Orange Leaf. I was too busy eating salted caramel fro yo with nuts, M&Ms, and peanut butter sauce to take a picture, though.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Day Care: Then and Now

Charlotte didn't have school yesterday, but Daphne and I had In Service. So, we had to find something for Charlotte to do. Char could have gone on a field trip with her Adventuretime group, but she asked to spend a day at Kim's house, where she used to go to day care.

Kim is very thoughtful, and every so often she would send us pictures of what Charlotte was doing while we were at school. It was a highlight of my day. Yesterday was no exception.

Char has gone from being fascinated by fall leaves to running through them.



She has also graduated from needing bottles to feeding bottles.



Did you hear that "Crack!"? That's the sound of parental whiplash.