SURPRISE!!!!

My wife is turning 40 this week, and is feeling a bit down about it.  I remember a couple of years ago I kind of felt the same way.  It’s kind of random in that it’s really just another year, but at the same time, emotionally, 40 is kind of a turning point.  Many of us simply start to feel… well… old.  Physically and emotionally there’s really no difference between one day and the next, except on our birthdays.  For some strange reason, on that day WE’RE different.  But not really.

Anyway, she was feeling a bit down this past week due to the demise of her 4th decade of life.  Now, my wife normally LOVES to celebrate things.  Birthdays, holidays, imaginary holidays (like monthaversaries and half-birthdays), etc.  She decorates the house, buys balloons, etc.  We don’t get rid of the balloons until they sag enough to get in the way.  Last year our birthday balloons last about 10 months.  We REALLY were hoping they’d go the whole year, but oh well.

Now obviously you can’t plan your own birthday party.  Someone has to throw you one.  But she was conflicted on if she really wanted to celebrate or not.  So, I told her I’d organize a small get-together at a friends house.  Just a handful of her favorite people.  Something nice, but mellow.  She thanked me, and I could tell she was bummed we weren’t doing something bigger.

It’s okay, because that plan was a total fabrication.  A lie, if you will.  But a little white lie.  Because what I REALLY planned was right up her alley:  A little kids style birthday bash at the little park in our community.

Now I’m notoriously bad at keeping surprise events from her.  Not others.  If someone else is doing something for her it’s no problem.  But if I’M throwing her a party, or taking her to dinner, or something like that I almost always blow it before the event.  Not this time (although there were some CLOSE calls!).

We left the house yesterday to “go to our friend’s place for the party.”  I drove a couple blocks, and told her I needed to make a quick stop at a neighbor’s house to grab something.  This neighbor lives right against the park.  She looks over and says, “OH!  Someone’s throwing a party!  They have a bounce castle!  Wait… that girl looks like my sister.”  Huh… so it does….

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She was TOTALLY surprised.  I invited her friends, family, and co-workers, and told them all to bring their kids.  Everyone sang happy birthday as we walked over to the party.  Ordered pizza’s, played little kids’ party games, at birthday cake, sang happy birthday again (obvs).  What else am I forgetting?  Oh yeah, A GIANT BOUNCY HOUSE WITH A SLIDE!

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Yup.  I went there.  A giant bouncy house for my princess who was turning 10 (x4).  We 20180430_074136had a great party.  We also played ring toss, horseshoes, and corn-hole.  Naturally we had to do a round of Pin The Tail On The Donkey.

I actually had a few other games planned that we never got to do: Egg and spoon races, water-balloon toss, 3-legged-races, and a few others.

Well, I suppose there was one other game we had to play, that no little kids party could do without… POTATO SACK RACES!

 

So we had loads of fun, the birthday girl got to feel like a little kid again, and everyone ha an awesome time.  And, frankly, if giggles like these don’t indicate fun I don’t know what does:

Happy Birthday pumpkin-pie, I love you!

As always, thanks for reading, and you’re welcome.

Living the Dream,
Humble Dave

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The Way of Jello

During a recent experience you can read about here I learned about the wonders of #Jello, a medicinal miracle, excellent not only for your body, but also your soul.  Although sometimes you must seek it out, it will occasionally appear when you need it most brought by a helpful stranger in colorful scrubs and comfortable shoes.  Accept this gift.  For Jello Is Love, Jello Is Life.

This recent experience got me to thinking, is there a deeper meaning to this miraculous substance?  Is it possible to put into words the lessons that were imparted to me, or must they be experienced to be truly understood?  And the answer, of course, is “Yes.”

And here it is.  I give you, “The Way of Jello“.

  1. One must be solid, but jiggly. Be viscous.  Immerse yourself in your environment, but don’t give up everything that makes you what you are.
  2. Let people see into, but not through you.  It’s important that you let people get to know you, but you don’t have to give away all your secrets.
  3. Explore a variety of shapes, colors, and flavors.  The world has so much to offer, don’t close yourself off simply because something appears different than what you’re used to.  Step outside of your comfort zone.
  4. Be delicious.  If someone gets close enough to put their mouth on you, make sure they enjoy the experience.
  5. Don’t be afraid to get a little mushy.  Sometimes getting a little emotional can be cathartic.
  6. It takes great change before we reach our full potential.  Like Jello, that strange powder which becomes an amazing treat full of life lessons and  awesomeness, if you’re feeling stuck don’t be afraid to make a dramatic change to shake things up.
  7. Subject yourself to a wide range of temperatures.  The proper application of both heat and cold is necessary to healing injuries to your body, as well as your soul.
  8. Step outside of your comfort zone. You must escape your little box to reach the next phase in your evolution.
  9. You make your strongest impact not on yourself, but on others.  Never underestimate how simply being yourself can affect those around you.  Like Jello, make it a positive experience for those with whom you come into contact.
  10. Always be prepared to perform at your best.  All times are your time to shine.

Remember: #JelloIsLove, #JelloIsLife

As always, thanks for reading, and you’re welcome.

Living the Dream,
Humble Dave

Dudes Can Cook Too, You Know.

For most of my life, the ladies did the cooking.  My mom is an AWESOME cook, and always made delicious meals despite my insistence on eating nothing besides bread and water.  AND WOE BETIDE THE FOOL WHO SLICED MY BAGEL FOR MY WRATH SHALL FALL UPON THEM.  Seriously, I was a pain in the… buns?  Does that bread joke work?  I’m going to leave it in.  But I digest…

We all know that guys can cook on a grill.  It’s manly and simple at a basic level:  Light fire.  Fire hot.  Raw food goes over hot fire.  Cooked food comes off hot fire.  Eat.  Happiness ensues.  Naturally grilling can be ridiculously complex, but I’d rather eat the complicated food than make it.

My brother-in-law is an awesome cook.  Kitchen, grill, smoker, wherever.  I’m fairly confident that if you give him a hot surface, a dead animal, and something that grew in the dirt he can make a incredible meal out of it.  No joke.  He once cooked some steak with an asphalt torch just to see if he could <Spoiler Alert: He could!>.  He’s the one who finally convinced me that it might be possible for me to cook food also.

So for the past few years I’ve been doing the cooking in our house.  Except on rare occasions, my wife simply doesn’t have the time to cook.  The rest of the time it’s mostly up to me, and I’ve been slowly transitioning from bbq grill, to broiler (which is basically an upside-down grill in the oven), to pots and pans meals.  For Chrismahanukwanzikah this past year they bought me an Instant Pot (IP).  Changed my world.  But more interestingly, it also opened my eyes!

You see (eye joke!  Woot!), the Instant Pot is a pressure cooker and can be incredibly intimidating to use, especially for a novice cook!  But he turned me on to an IP Facebook group where other users go to share tips, tricks, recipes, successes, and failures.  It’s been a huge help.

So about now you’re asking, “what the hell does this have to do with dudes cooking vs ladies cooking?”  CALM DOWN!  I’ll get there when I get there.  Now my train of thought derailed… … … okay I’m back.  Here we go.

It’s the comments on these IP Facebook group posts that got me going.  “My husband loves this,” and “I begged my husband to buy this for me,” or “My husband loves it when I use my IP for xyz.”  Blah blah blah.   It’s almost exclusively women talking about cooking for their men.

WHERE ARE THE IP DUDES?  Are they all lurking in the shadows, afraid of drawing attention to themselves?  We are wildly underrepresented in the amateur home-cooking online world.  I’ve made chicken casserole, teriyaki drumsticks, corned beef and cabbage, beef stew, chicken wings, baby back ribs, Beef w/ broccoli, orange chicken, and some other things I’m not even thinking of right now.

So I say, “MY DUDES!  RISE UP AND BE PROUD!  You cooked a thing people ate!  Be loud and shout I TOO CAN FEED PEOPLE!”

And for those of you who are just getting started, here are two tips to help smooth over the process:

  1. “What if my food isn’t good?”  Add bacon.  BOOM, it’s good.  You’re welcome.
  2. “Cooking is too stressful!” Two fingers of whiskey (neat) while you cook, along with some background music makes everything doable. Again, you’re welcome.


Cheers,

Humble Dave

 

Gum Control

What an important topic.  I’m not even confident that I can do it justice, but I’ll take a whack at it.  It affects all of us, in one form or another, so it’s fair game.  We’re going to discuss the flaws in the system, starting all the way up at the manufacturers and working our way down to the personal responsibilities of each and every one of us.

First off, the manufacturers.  Why do half these brands give you 4 or 5 chews before all the flavor is gone?  THAT’S CRAP!  It’s infuriating, and it should be illegal.  Or really, in a perfect world the people would rise up DEMAND longer lasting gum, voting with their wallets and either put these crooked gum manufacturers out of business or force them to put out a product that isn’t a piece of used tire dipped in “strawberry” flavoring or whatever.  Seriously, it’s infuriating.

I was going to end that there but it’s just so darned INFURIATING!  WHY?  WHY DOES MY GUM FLAVOR HAVE TO WEAR OFF IN SECONDS?!  ARGH!  “Oh, this is delicious.  Nom nom nom nom ugh.  This is a gross piece piece of rubber and I’m chewing it because why?  Because I hate my life?  There isn’t enough misery in the world that I have to make the simple act of fake-eating (seriously, that’s basically what gum is anyway) into a miserable, teeth-hating, jaw-aching experience?  We’re either all a bunch of masochists or we’re just too apathetic.  It makes me sad.  AND ANGRY.  But mostly sad.  About the gum, that could be so much more.

So, we already know that gum manufacturers could do more about the flavor.  But that’s not the only problem, is it?  Yup, now I’m looking at you, gum-chewers.  OI!  SHUT YOUR gum chewer open mouthMOUTH WHILE YOU CHEW YOUR GUM!  The whole world doesn’t need to hear you masticating all over the place.  It’s disgusting.  Also, you look stupid while you do it.  And we all hate you.  But all hope is not lost!  Chew your gum with your mouth closed and all will love you again*!  You’ll be respected, probably get that promotion you’ve been hoping for, and the guy/girl/other individual you’ve been pining for will notice you and ask for your hand in marriage**.  Give it a try.  The world may not thank you, but I will.  Thank you.

gum-chewing pull
Also, if you do this with your gum…. stop.

Now there’s one other topic that’s so critical to this vital debate that we couldn’t even discuss Gum Control without it.  People who spit their gum on the ground, or stick it underneath things.  We all hate you.  You are just the worst.   And why?  There are garbage cans everywhere these days!  Spit it into a piece of paper and stick it in your pocket.  Don’t have paper?  WHAT DID YOU DO WITH THE PIECE THE GUM CAME IN ORIGINALLY?  Man, I’m getting fired up here.  And as a last resort, if there’s truly NO WAY you can dispose of it, SWALLOW IT.  You won’t die***.  Seven years from now it will work its way out of your system (according to childhood rumors).  It’s not too much to ask.  People like you are the reason chewing gum is banned in Singapore (with a few exceptions).

So let’s all work together and solve this problem.  Share your thoughts and possible solutions in the comments.  As always, thanks for reading, and you’re welcome.

Living the Dream,
Humble Dave

*     Maybe
**   Probably not, though.
*** Probably

It’s The Simple Things

homer drooling

If you know anything about me, it’s that I love French Fries*.  Shoestring?  They’re okay.  Skinny fries are good. Crinkled?  Yes please!  Waffle fries.  Love ’em; they’re like a meal all on their own.  Steak Fries. Oooooohhhh steak fries.

Salt is mandatory, but ketchup (what the heck is catsup anyway?) is usually a nice addition.  Especially bacon ketchup, but I suppose that’s a whole blog post on it’s own.  Now ketchup packets were a wonderful invention, making it easier to travel, and was probably born of the fast food craze (hooray drive through!) but I’ve done zero research on that so I wouldn’t go repeating it as fact at your next ketchup party (as crazy as the world is, I’m fairly certain that’s a thing somewhere).  But the packet hasn’t evolved much over the years until fairly recently.

heinz dip&amp;squeeze
This is the next evolution of the ketchup packet, and it’s genius.  Sometimes I don’t want to spray ketchup all over the place.  Sometimes I just want to dip my fries in the container, like chicken nuggets into a bbq sauce container.  It’s so simple, yet so elegant.  If you want to dip, you can dip.  If you want to squeeze your dead tomatoes all over your dead potatoes, you can do that too!  Clearly I have fries on the brain.  Obviously you could use this to squeeze ketchup onto a sandwich or something besides fries if you wanted to do so (even on your spaghetti, Dad).  It’s just amazing.  Now I don’t know if Heinz has some kind of patent on this or they buy them from a company with a patent, but I do know this: It should be shared with the world.  So simple, yet so much joy.

I suppose everything has its downside.  It looks like there’s more material, so more for the landfill, which means it’s probably terrible for the environment.   But it’s all about perspective, right?  The environment will absolutely try to kill you if given half a chance.  It doesn’t seem SO bad when we reframe it as self-defense.  Of course, if we kill the environment we won’t have anyplace to live, so that’s bad too.  Oof, I don’t think I can solve this puzzle in a ketchup blog.

This was supposed to be another short blog.  Literally just a picture of the ketchup thing and “These are great.  Go try ’em.”  Ah well.

Anyway, sound off in the comments if you know of any other genius inventions that are this simple and awesome.

As always, thanks for reading, and you’re welcome!

Living the Dream,
Humble Dave

 

*I capitalized them because French Fries DESERVE to be capitalized.  We capitalize your name and you haven’t made half the impact they have.  Show some respect!

Coke Zero Sugar is Better than Coke Zero

You know what I’m talking about, right?  Coca Cola just tweaked their Coke Zero formula and rebranded it Coke Zero Sugar.  I tried it a month or two ago and immediately liked it better.  I was predisposed to dislike it.  I don’t always respond well to unnecessary change… change just for the sake of change.  But I really like it.  I’m a fan.  Way to go, Coke.

But that’s no longer the focus of this post.  When I went hunting for a good “Featured Image” as wordpress likes to call it, I found something that caught my attention.  Incidentally, am I stealing pictures if I just pull something off google images?  I mean, I don’t make any money off this blog, so I’m not using it for commercial purposes, so who cares, right?  Right.

Anyway, so I found this picture above of the new Coke Zero Sugar and Coke Zero poured into some glasses that I assume whoever took this photo just thought looked cool.  I happen to recognize them, as I have a couple in my cabinet.  They’re Glencairn Whisky glasses.  If you drink whisky (or whiskey) these are great glasses to use.  If you’re pouring soda into them you might want to re-examine your life-choices.  Because if you’re a fully functioning adult and old enough to drink whisky out of special whisky glasses, you should probably have normal drinking glasses for your soda if you’re too hoity-toity to drink it out of the can.

Anyway, this was originally going to be like a two-sentence blog.  “Coke Zero Sugar is better than Coke Zero.  That is all.”  That was my whole plan.  One day I’ll write a short post.  Today is not that day.

Living the Dream,
Humble Dave

I LOVE MY INSTANT POT!

If you haven’t heard of an Instant Pot yet I can only assume you live someplace that doesn’t have TV, Internet, or the ubiquitous Kohls/Target/Walmart circulars that show up at my door at least once per week.  Because they’re advertised constantly in all these places.

What is an instant pot?  Basically, it’s a pressure cooker.  It’s also a slow cooker, but… I don’t care?  I’ve only used the pressure cooker feature so far because if I wanted to spend 8 hours cooking dinner I’d buy a $20 crock-pot.  It’s NOT the kind of pressure cooker your gram-gram owned where she blew up the kitchen that one <insert random family get-together here>.  Nope.  These bad boys were built with safety in mind.  You know this, because I’ve now used it nearly a dozen times and haven’t burnt, steamed, or blown myself up.

What can you do with it?  I haven’t even been able to scratch the surface if the possibilities.  My BIL can do all kinds of crazy stuff in his.  He made Vanilla, Cheesecake, as well as more traditional meals.  My successes to date have been limited to:

  • Chicken Wings – OMG so much good.  Finished them in the broiler to give a little crispy exterior and caramelize the bbq sauce. Ridiculous.
  • Chicken Drumsticks.  Same as above.  They come out obscenely good.  Finish in broiler
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  • Chicken Casserole – One of our favorites.  Lots of leftovers for the week!
  • Beef Stew – Another winner.  Perfect with some french bread.

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  • Orange Chicken – Maybe a little too much orange zest?  But still delicious with some brown rice!
  • Beef with Broccoli – NOM NOM NOM
  • Baby Back Ribs – Another big winner.  Finished in the broiler.
  • BBQ Country Style Boneless Pork Ribs – This was my most recent meal.  They came out AWESOME.  Also took the longest.  45 cooking time for 2.6 lbs meat.
  • Pot Roast – This was my first attempt and I think I used a bad recipe.  Should have put the meat in first, then added potatoes and other veggies later.  Still came out good, but not great.

And like I said, haven’t even scratched the surface.  Need to make some chili soon and give the pot roast a second attempt.

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Now I hear what you’re saying, “Why does every picture of the pot have whiskey in it?”  That’s an excellent question.  The answer is simple.  I’m not much of a cook.  The whole process stresses me out.  I need simple recipes and simple cooking tools.  The Instant Pot seems complicated at first, especially with all the buttons.  I use… maybe… 4 of them?  Pressure Cook, Pressure Level, Saute, Cancel.  The rest of them are basically presets.  The whiskey is MY “pressure release valve” so I don’t explode during the process.

When you get right down to it, maybe that’s why I like this thing so much?  We have a lot in common.  We both get hot under pressure.  We both love food.  I like pushing buttons, and it has buttons to push!  It has a pressure release valve, and so do I.

Ultimately, it goes like this:  You put raw food in the pot, and a relatively short time later, delicious cooked food comes out.  During the cooking process the lid is locked and secured so it can’t be opened.  We really only have the Instant Pot company’s word as to what’s going on in there.  It’s like Schrodinger’s Pot.  Think about it.  Mind-bottling*.

Living the Dream,

Humble Dave

*I know you’re thinking, “Did he mean “mind-boggling?”  The answer is no.  Per the ancient wisdom of men’s pairs figure skater Chazz Michael Michaels, “You know, like when things are so crazy you get your thoughts trapped, like in a bottle.” – Blades of Glory

Chazz and Jimmy

Homemade Street Tacos and Beer

So, over the past year or so I’ve taken up cooking.  By “cooking” I mostly mean throwing seasoned (read: salt and pepper) raw meat on something hot (or in something hot) taking it out after a predetermined amount of time.  I’m starting to get kinda good at it.

But, I’m also lazy and have reached Master Level Procrastinator.  This means that I either don’t feel like cooking, or I didn’t do the prep in time to cook what I actually want to eat.

Yesterday afternoon I’m on my way home from work and thinking: I basically have 3 choices for dinner: 1) PB&J – I have the supplies and they’re low maintenance.  Totally unsatisfying as a dinner, though. 2) Order delivery – It has the benefit of being easy and low maintenance, but the downside of being unhealthy and extremely expensive (comparatively). 3) Go to the grocery store and buy food to cook.  Fine.  I’ll cook, damnit.  But what?

Well, obviously I spoiled the surprise right in the title of this post, didn’t I?  Street Tacos.  Why?  They’re easy.  I bought pre-marinated flank steak, pre-diced bell peppers (red, yellow, orange, and green!), and corn tortillas.  I already had salsa, shredded cheese, spinach, and avocado at home.  I also bought beer.  Beer makes all cooking better.  And more manlier.

Opened and sipped beer. Grilled the flank steak (medium-high, 3 minutes, flip, 2 minutes).  Finished beer during that process.  Opened another beer (sip), then chopped the spinach, sipped beer, sliced the steak, sipped beer, threw the tortillas right on the open flame of my stovetop (sip sip sip).  Spread, pour, drizzle, and drop the misc fixings, and bing bang boom – tacos.

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I ate four.  They were delicious.  Go do this thing.  I recommend it.

Live the Dream!

-Humble Dave