Saturday, February 17, 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018

Doe. A Deer. A Female Deer... RAV. The Car That Hit the Doe.

There is a large open field near our house, and while driving by we often count the number of deer we see. I just didn't count on seeing one up close.

It happened so fast. One moment I'm driving Charlotte to school in busy traffic, and the next moment I'm watching a large doe bounce off the crumpled hood of my RAV4.



Thank God no one was hurt. I was able to keep my car moving in a straight line, so no other cars were involved. From the lack of blood on my car, I think the deer also survived. She did leave the scene of the accident, so that doe is in trouble if the police catch her.

Luckily, Charlotte was distracted for most of the incident. She was listening to a book with her headphones on. All she remembers is a loud "thump" and an animal's body flying away.

She later told me she thought we had hit a Great Dane. Our neighbors have a Great Dane, and he is as big as a deer, and yeah, thinking that you had killed Scooby Doo would be pretty horrible. Char also said she felt a lot better when I explained it was a deer, not a dog. "Dogs and cats are way smarter than deer, Dad." I agreed.

I also agreed with the police officer who wrote up the accident report. He said the RAV looks rough, but it is safe to drive. The headlights and blinkers still work, and although the radiator is bent inward, it holds fluid, and the engine doesn't overheat. I'll drive it the repair shop on Monday.

It's going to be tricky managing three schedules with only one vehicle, but we'll see if we can make it work without renting a car. I'm not happy that a deer got up in my grill, but things can always be worse.

 "Accidents will happen." - Elvis Costello

PS. When the front of your car looks like the mouth of a decomposing jack-o'-lantern, other drivers get out of your way. Also, patrol cars follow you.

Monday, February 12, 2018

1. Go to Goodwill 2. Start a Band

When we consider summer vacation spots, I like to see if there are any Goodwill stores near possible hotels. Google Maps makes this very easy.

Here's a Goodwill in California.


Let's go in.


Holy cow! Look at how many guitars they have! There are three racks full? Does GW stand Guitar World?


They also have a percussion section. Check out those Peavey amplifiers towards the back of the picture.


Okay, these pictures were taken in July of 2013, so none of these instruments are going to be there now. Still, this might be the tipping point on picking California as a summer vacation spot.

Admission: I can't play the guitar or the drums, so there really isn't any reason these pictures should make us choose to go to San Francisco. There also isn't any reason for me to already own two guitars from Goodwill. 

But I do.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Because Nothing is Friendlier Than Rows of Sharp Teeth

Char's bringing a shark to her second grade Friendship Party.

This year Charlotte and Daphne built the ummm, Friendship Box..? I think it looks realy cool.


Char told me, "You take the picture, Dad, and I'll be all like, 'Ah! I'm holding a shark!' Okay?"
(Maggie retains her composure despite the danger.)


Actually, I think Charlotte should bring a shark to all co-ed parties.

Monday, February 5, 2018

That's a Good Question

While we wait for Netflix to air season 2 of The Worse Witch, Char and Daphne have been watching Just Add Magic on Amazon Prime. It's currently Charlotte's favorite program.


Just Add Magic is about three 'tween girls who discover a magical cookbook that contains recipes which cast spells. 


The girls lose a dog they had been pet sitting in the third episode. They cast the "Lost and Found-ue" spell to help find him.

That gave us the idea to make cheese fondue for our Super Bowl Sunday Snack. There's a fan-created Wiki page that has recipes from the show, and we thought Char would get a kick of making "Lost and Found-ue". Daphne checked; HyVee doesn't stock "Night-Blooming" fennel. 


I have an old fondue set, but I have no idea where it came from. Daphne says I had it before I met her. I don't know if it belonged to my parents or if I picked it up at a thrift store. Like most fondue sets, it has hardly ever been used.


Maggie wants to know what color her fondue fork is.


Gooey. Cheesy. Two words that sound great together.


We thought Char would have a lot of fun dipping bread and veggies into the melted cheese, but she didn't feel well, and she spent the evening wrapped up in a blanket watching TV.

The best laid plans of Mom and Dad...

Daphne and I enjoyed it, though. After a few bites, she waved her fork in the air and asked, "Why don't we fondue more often?"

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sauced and Found

Making dinner on the grill is a family tradition. I have memories of my dad lighting charcoal with a coffee can chimney when I was Charlotte's age.


I was in fourth grade when we moved to Rock Valley, and the house we bought already had a gas grill permanently installed in the backyard. It was connected to an underground gas line. That allowed Dad to grill all year round. It wasn't uncommon for me to come home late after a football game, a wrestling tournament, or a track meet and be greeted by my folks and a grilled steak.

My first grill was a used gas unit fed by a propane tank. It worked fine, but keeping track of the propane was a pain.

I discovered how much better it is to grill with charcoal in the late nineties. A vintage Weber grill was an impulse buy at Goodwill, but when I got it home I discovered that I had no clue how it worked. There were no instructions.

 My first Weber looked like this one.

My house didn't have the internet, so I did a lot of research at the library. "They're called books, kids!"

I read as many cookbooks as I could get my hands on (books on camping have a lot of grilling recipes, too). In June you can't throw a stick at a magazine rack without hitting a "Summer Grilling!" issue. I still flip through those, but back in the day I would buy one or two every season. They were tools that were as valuable as my meat thermometer.

I'll admit that grilling with charcoal is less convenient than grilling with gas. I'd compared it to listening to a LP on a home stereo versus streaming a YouTube song on your computer. You arguably get the same product, but one experience is much more satisfying than the other.

I now have quite a few outdoor cookbooks at home, but I didn't toss those old magazines - they are full of great recipes and memories. That is why the past nine months have been so frustrating. I've been wanting to make beer-can chicken on the grill since May, but I can't find the magazine with the recipe I use for white BBQ sauce. I know I made the white sauce at our old house, but we haven't lived there for four years. A lot of things can get lost in four years.

I can't even tell you the magazine's title. All I know is that it contained a reprint of an old recipe that was easy to make and had simple ingredients.

Is having the white BBQ sauce that big of a deal? I suppose not, but have you ever lost something you really liked, and you can't stop thinking about your loss? I'll get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, and when I get back in bed I can't get back to sleep because I can't remember where I put that dang magazine.

I have looked through all the magazines on our cookbook shelves at least once a month during the past summer and fall. I checked our recipe box, and our family cookbooks several times, as well. I know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So yes, searching for this thing is driving me a little crazy.

Where are you?

We have great BBQ in Des Moines. If you believe the results of the National BBQ Circuit, we have some the best BBQ in the nation, if not the world. I know the local joints have their own white BBQ sauces, but I want to make mine.

So, I did what you would do, I googled "white BBQ sauce recipe".  I found a slew of recipes. Sadly, none of the them looked right. They listed ingredients like lemon juice, corn syrup, garlic, hot sauce, creole mustard, sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and even hickory smoke powder. I don't recall using any of those.

Each time I read through a new recipe's ingredients list, I think, Nope. It just wasn't this complicated. 

An online article about white sauce on Southernliving.com confirmed my thinking:

"As for the ingredients, well, purists such as Myra Grissom, owner of Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q in Birmingham, insists there are only four: mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and coarsely ground pepper. 'Everyone says they have a special recipe, but there’s really no secret. You start with the basics, and you can’t go wrong,' recommends Myra."

There was a recipe link on the bottom of the Southern Living page, but that recipe listed also garlic, spicy brown mustard, and sugar. Cue buzzer sound here.

Last week, while I was thinking about motorcycles, I remembered a stack of car magazines that were stored in the basement. I ran downstairs, flipped through those, and taa-daa!, tucked between Old Skool Rodz and Hot Rod Deluxe was Food & Wine's "Grilling in the U.S.A." June 2000 issue!


The recipe is on page 152. My greasy fingerprints in the left margin are now old enough to vote.


The "Grilling in the U.S.A" feature was written by BBQ Guru Steven Raichlen, "White barbecue sauce is served throughout northern Alabama. It sounds weird. It is weird. But one taste of the chicken at Big Bob Gibson Barb-B-Q in Decatur - smoked to the color of mahogany, then tossed with a creamy, peppery white sauce - will make you a believer. Don McLemore, the third-generation owner of Big Bob's, says his grandfather came up with the recipe in 1925, using [only] vinegar, mayonnaise and black pepper. My own contribution is spoonful of prepared horseradish."

I knew it! The recipe isn't complicated! I'm writing this recipe down in case I misplace my magazine again.

White BBQ Sauce
MAKES ABOUT 1 1/2 CUPS

1 cup mayonnaise
2 to 4 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly grated or prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. 
Make Ahead - The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week.

Since I haven't been to Alabama, and couldn't buy a bottle of authentic Big Bob's sauce in 2000, this is the white sauce  I "grew up on". I'm pumped to use it again.

If it wasn't going to be so cold on Super Bowl Sunday, then I'd have a chicken thawing in the fridge and my hickory chips soaking in water, but I'll have to wait a bit more before firing up the grill.

Now that I found Food & Wine, June 2000, I can breathe easy again. Waiting will be a snap.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Super Saturday

FYI: I have been posting on this blog for almost six years, and this is blog post number 800. 

Daphne was busy at school with her band students for most of Saturday. Char was sad that Mom was missing all the fun, and she asked me to update Daph with texts and pictures throughout the day. I'd thought I'd share them here, too.

Char's having a blast taking a drama class at the Des Moines Community Playhouse. I suspect that athletics will not be her forte. Here's our poser posing on the Playhouse's stairs.


One of Char's favorite places to eat is at the buffet at Prairie Meadows Casino. It's been a few months since we have been there, and Char was disappointed that all of the autographed rock posters and signed guitars had been removed from the hallway. She did like the new photos hung by the buffet's entrance. Char wanted me to take a picture of her pointing out the cardinal for Daphne. Cardinals are special because they symbolize the memory of Grandma Deb.


Some people place slices of cucumbers on their eyes to reduce swelling and puffiness. Char prefers the potato round treatment.


I needed to stay on the east side of town because I was going to surprise Charlotte by taking her to the Shriner Circus at the fairgrounds. Bass Pro Shops is close to both Prairie Meadows and the fairgrounds, and there quite a few things to do and see there. 

When we pulled into the parking lot, Char read the building and asked, "Who would go inside to see Outdoor World?"

That was a good question, and all I could say was, "Well, we're going to."


The space inside is decorated with all kinds of taxidermy.


Char thought the displays were neat after I lied explained that all the animals had died a natural death. When I was a kid in the 70's my parents would take me to the West Sioux hardware store in Sioux Falls, SD. The store had several mounted animals on display behind glass. I always thought that store was cool and weird at the same time. Bass Pro gave me that same feeling. West Sioux closed its doors in 1981, and you can now see the stuffed animals at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls.

I couldn't get Charlotte to pose by the grizzly bear standing on his hind legs. Even in death he was too scary. She would pose by the huge fish tank, though.


She liked the statue that greets customers near the Fish Bowl bowling alley.


She's trying to look tough while test driving sunglasses. 


We pretended to fish off the back of one the display boats.



Here's what Char caught and released.


Then it was time for my big surprise. I wouldn't tell Char where we were going at first. I wanted her to guess.
"A movie?"
"Nope," I replied.
"A show?"
"No," I countered,  "but it is like a show."
"The circus!" 
"Yes! But how did you guess?"
"You said it was like a show, and the circus is like a show."
"A lot of things are like a show."
Char turned her head to look out the window, "Not the way a circus is."


We made agreement. I would buy her anything she wanted to eat, but I wasn't going to buy a plastic sword, a blow-up animal, or a huge balloon. During the intermission I bought her a (What! Are-you-kidding-me! Ten dollars for a cup of melted sugar?!) large bag of cotton candy.



There is no way to eat cotton candy without making a mess. By the time the bag was empty, she had grown a cotton candy beard and was wearing cotton candy gloves. I would have taken a picture, but I was too busy trying to clean her up with napkins I had soaked in the drinking fountain. Circus-made wet wipes really don't work very well, by the way.

We attended this circus 2014, but I forgot how loooong it is. We arrived a little after 2:00, the show started at 2:30, and we left at 5:35. Three and a half hours is a lot circus for your money, but there's quite a bit of downtime.

The Shriner clowns throw free t-shirts in the crowd after the intermission, and Charlotte was given a shirt four years ago.


She got lucky again this year. The circus was packed when it began, but by the time intermission was over about half of the crowd had packed it in. We had just moved to an empty row when a shirt landed a few seats from us. No one else was there to snag it.


I tried to buy a McDonald's Happy Meal on the way home, but the Johnston McDonald's was out of Chicken McNuggets. How does that happen? Someone really dropped the ball. Luckily, Char was happy to go to Burger King where they have their head in the game. Take that, Ronald.

Charlotte finally got some screen time when we got home.


Daphne opened the door at 7:00, and Charlotte excitedly told her all about the "best daddy-daughter-day ever!" As the two talked, I walked downstairs in triumph.

And there you have it. That's little story #800.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

As Seen at Hy-Vee

"Which danish do you want?"

"Is the one on the right half price? It's already half off."


Seriously, who steals half a danish?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Breakfast with Earl

On Mondays and Thursdays Daphne's jazz band has morning practice, and she has to leave the house by 6:30. Char gets screen time with my work computer while I get her breakfast and her ready for school.

Since I was feeling under the weather this morning, Earl helped Char play JackSmith at coolmath.com.




It's not a bad way to start your day.