Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Often Does This Happen?

I pulled up next to Heather at a traffic light after work the other day. We weren't anywhere near the house or our offices, so I wasn't expecting to see her. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to surprise my wife, I scratched out this note, put it up in the driver's side window, and honked the horn.

I know. It lacks originality - and penmanship, but I only had a few seconds. "I heart you" was the best I could come up with on short notice.

I was peering around my makeshift sign as I honked the horn. Heather heard the honk and slowly turned her head with a look short of disgust, but not by much. She glared at my sign, rolled her eyes, and looked back straight ahead.

Huh? You would think the same thing had happened at the last four traffic lights. If my sign had said "show me your boobs," or my horn played Dixie, I would expect the reaction, but I hearted her. With a nice little beep. And she just rolled her eyes.

I wasn't going to let this go with her thinking (another) stranger had professed his love for her, so I slid the sign all the way forward in my window and honked again - a little longer than the first one. This time she looked over at me with full annoyance and disgust mixed with a little pity. If it wasn't my own wife shooting down my bad game, I would have been irretrievably shamed.

Fortunately, she saw it was me and laughed. I laughed too, but not quite as hard. At least I know my wife isn't interested in flattery from idiots.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Where the Sidewalk Ends

We live in a subdivision. At both ends of our subdivision are busy roads. We have nice sidewalks within the subdivision, so there's space to take the Baby Jogger.

As far as the options on where to go, we might as well live on an island, though. There was just nowhere to go, other than here. My walks around the neighborhood consist of seeing people working in their yards, people walking dogs and other people walking kids. I like our neighborhood, but seeing house after house just gets old. Houses and people. And dogs.

That is, until the powers that be decided the people in "here" needed the ability to go "there."

This is where the sidewalk used to end.

This was the end of "here."

Really, there is nothing wrong with here. I like here. It just got old. I wanted to go "there."

Now I can.

Isn't it beautiful. I went there on Sunday.

I don't know if the people who design and build the sidewalks know exactly what they've done for me. I have always been able to run or ride my bike out there, but I couldn't take the stroller on the road.

This is more of there, or the way to there, rather.

It goes all the way to - where the sidewalk ends now. A little over a mile further than it used to.

. . . which is here.

Surely I will get greedy and become dissatisfied with my new "here" and wish that the sidewalk ended there. Until then, however, I like it here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

All Day Chili

Last weekend, I made a big pot of chili. It's my favorite food for fall and football season. I love starting a pot early in the day and then keeping watch while the aroma fills the house. The long wait makes dinner that much better.

I have a "secret" chili recipe, but I can't keep it to myself any longer. This recipe started with LBJ's Pedernales River Chili, but right away I had to start changing it. LBJ's chili has 4 pounds of beef and only 2 cups of water. I couldn't make anything other than seasoned moist beef with that recipe. I guess when you're the first lady, people just tell you how great your chili recipe is and don't mention that they served it on a plate.

In addition to adding beer and beef stock, I've changed a couple things and tried additional ingredients. Some of them worked; some of them didn't. This is the result of about ten years of tinkering:

4 pounds lean stew beef [1]
Olive oil for browning beef
1 large onion or 2 smaller onions
6 to 9 cloves of garlic, minced
1 quart beef stock or broth [2]
1 pint Guinness or other dark beer
1 pint water [3]
6 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper [4]
1 tablespoon cumin seed
½ cup tomato paste with one tablespoon of cider vinegar (OR) equal amount of ketchup [5]
2 14.5 oz cans stewed tomatoes (with liquid)
2 4 oz. cans Old El Paso chopped green chilies (with liquid)
2 27.5 oz. cans Bush’s dark red kidney beans (rinsed) [6]
Kosher salt to taste

Chop the onion and place aside. Brown the beef in a large skillet using a small amount of olive oil in batches together with the chopped onion and minced garlic. Transfer each batch of meat with its liquid into an 8 quart stew pot (because the beef is lean, there should be little or no grease in the liquid). After you transfer all of the browned beef into the stew pot, cover with the beef broth, the beer and water. Put on medium-low. Stir in the chili powder, oregano, parsley, cayenne pepper and cumin seed. Add the tomato paste with vinegar (or ketchup), the stewed tomatoes, and the green chilies. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to get a low boil. Cook for about five to six hours, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt and add the rinsed beans about an hour before you are finished cooking. This recipe makes about 8 to 10 big bowls.

[1] Stew beef can be a one of a few different cuts of cheap, tough beef - usually chuck pectoral or round. The meat should be lean and cut into cubes.
[2] Kitchen Basics makes good beef stock. Beef "broth" has more salt in it; adjust the salt accordingly.
[3] A good bit of the water is going to boil out over the five or six hours of cooking.
[4] This recipe makes a pretty spicy chili. Adjust the cayenne pepper accordingly.
[5] I used to use tomato paste and vinegar, but I used ketchup when I didn’t have tomato paste. The ketchup is just as good.
[6] Some people think adding beans to chili is an abomination. I think they all live in Texas, but I'm not sure. Just be aware that they exist.

I think the first pot of the fall turned out well.

The makings:

The cow:

The skillet:

The assembled pot:

The pot with beans, six hours later:

A bowl of the good stuff:

A bowl of the formerly good stuff after being adulterated by Heather with a handful of cheese:

She might as well put ketchup on a steak.

Happy Friday.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Heather vs. The Trashcan

When I heard the clatter from the garage on Saturday and then Heather angrily yelling at me, "I FELL DOWN IN THE GARAGE," I knew it wasn't going to be good.

Shockingly, these injuries were all caused by one fall. I count six distinct pre-bruises, one cut and one long abrasion that runs the length of Heather's arm. This one really looks to me as if she was defending herself from an attack or series of attacks. It was actually Heather wrestling a trashcan to the ground. The trashcan was OK.

Heather’s run-ins with inanimate objects are nothing new. She falls down a lot. And she runs into things. It used to freak me out, but after the thirtieth or fortieth time, I trust that she’s going to be mostly OK.

I fall too, but more often than not, I almost fall. You know that feeling where you almost fall down, but then you catch your balance and think: man - I almost fell down - that was close - I sure am glad I didn't fall. Heather has never had that felling. I’ve never seen her almost fall. She just falls. It’s not that she doesn’t put up a fight. Actually, trying not to fall after falling is inevitable is where things usually go wrong. She will begin to fall and then fight it, grasping for things, and hitting everything within a five foot radius all the way to the ground. Heather has passed this trait down to Piper, who once hit the changing table, the diaper pail, and a wall, all while falling the length of her eight inch legs. It's horrifying to watch, mainly because it take so long to happen.

In addition to being painful to see, I worry that people will think that I'm a wife beater because Heather always has at least one bruise on her. Usually, I have absolutely nothing to do with the injury, like when it's caused by her walking into the bed post or a door frame. On Saturday, though, Heather's trashcan match was initiated by two cases of bottled water.

I put them there, next to her car. This picture is taken from the steps of the garage that lead into the house. The garbage can, that was the immediate cause of the injuries, is three feet out of frame to the left. I can't help but feel partially responsible for this.

I know what your thinking: Gary, how could you possibly know that Heather would fall over the two cases of bottled water you put in her path with no room to walk on either side. I know. I know. Even though I could have never foreseen her falling over the cases of water piled next to her door, I still feel bad in a way.

Just writing it makes me feel better, though. I'm glad I was able to get that off my chest. Heather's fall on Saturday was really hard on me. My wounds are on the inside. They take longer to heal.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New Baby Walking and an Eskimo Kiss

Rosemary started walking in the last week. I took this video after work on Thursday and it's already a little outdated as far as her capabilities. She stops by taking a dive at you, though, so you have to be paying attention when she's coming. She fully expects to be caught.

Henry was being playful the other night at bedtime and I got this video of him giving Heather Eskimo kisses . . . and then eating her nose.

I googled Eskimo kiss to see if it was an acceptable term, and my results were inconclusive. I don't know what else to call it. Hopefully the term is acceptable when used in the context of a nose rub as opposed to an identification of ethnicity. I don't want to offend someone and get Eskimo punched.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reasons to Watch UF – UT

I know Florida and Tennessee fans are a small subset of college football fans, which are again a small subset of all football fans, which are still a subset of people generally. This weekend, however, there's a reason for almost anyone to watch Florida play Tennessee (Saturday, CBS, 3:30 Eastern). There's some human interest / drama going on. The following is what you will see during the game that has almost nothing to do with the football game itself.

1. Lane Kiffin. Newly appointed 34 year old Tennessee football coach, Lane Kiffin accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of recruiting violations at one of his early public events. The SEC asked him to apologize, which he sort of did. The spunky youngster has since made a few other comments to get under the skin of the Gators. Urban Meyer claims not to be mad, but the players are talking about it. After Urban Meyer got pissed at Georgia and ran up the score last year before calling two end-of-game timeouts to make Georgia stay on the field, who knows what could happen if Florida plays well in this game.

2. Layla Kiffin. Lane Kiffin's wife is an absolute lightening rod. Today, had this picture with a caption that said: “The vivacious Mrs. Kiffin was decked out in Circus Peanut orange for game day. And whore shoes.” If a UF student doesn’t have a poster that says “Lane Kiffin’s wife wears whore shoes,” I will be surprised.

3. Tim Tebow. You can count on the announcers gushing about Tebow ad nauseam. I am a Tebow fan. A big one. But if you listen to what the announcers say about him just to fill the empty space between plays, it can really get a little weird. They will talk about him so much that you can make a drinking game of it. Pick any Tebowesque phrase as your drink word and you will find yourself on the floor in the third quarter. Examples are: Heisman; character; leadership; Philippine(s) and/or orphanage; or, if you just want to kill yourself from alcohol poisoning, take the word Tebow. Even if you don't play the drinking game, you might still puke from all the man on man Tebow love (not that there's anything wrong with that).

4. Layla Kiffin's Dad. Layla Kiffin's dad, John Reeves is a former Florida quarterback. At one time he held the NCAA record for career passing yards and still holds the NCAA record for most interceptions thrown in a game (9 vs. Auburn in 1969). Actually, that's just trivia, but I say there's a 50/50 chance it will be the Aflac trivia question during the game. If the game is on and you see a duck walk across the screen, yell "John Reeves!" and you will either look very smart or very crazy.

So, there's your Florida-Tennessee preview that involves absolutely no Xs or Os. Happy viewing and Go Gators.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chicago - U2

I had a few days in Chicago this past weekend for the opening of U2's new tour. Heather doesn't like U2, crowds or loud noise, so I was solo on the trip.

This was my first time in Chicago. My plan, in a addition to seeing U2, was: 1) to see Wrigley Field; 2) have a steak at Gibson's; and 3) eat a deep dish pizza.

Wrigley Field - check:

Steak at Gibson's, Friday night - check.

World famous Chicago deep dish pizza - not check.

The plan was to head over to Soldier Field in the morning and unload some extra General Admission tickets we had bought before we got better seats and then have pizza and beers for lunch.

We went to Soldier Field and saw the General Admission line, in which we were happy not to be waiting.

After that, we waked through Grant Park and saw these neat leg things.

Then we started having beers at about 11:30 on a nice patio.

And we went to the John Hancock Tower to see the slightly hazy view from the bar at the top:

. . . and the next thing we knew it was time to get ready for the concert and we had forgot to hit the pizza place. I went all the way to that city and missed what was probably #2 on my list of things to do next to the show. I love pizza and love deep dish pizza. I really dropped the ball on that one. Maybe I'll get another chance one day.

The show, which was U2's first stadium show in the U.S. in about 12 or 13 years, was just incredible. It was like rock show meets Cirque du Soleil. I don't know if that is necessarily a good thing, generally, but it was a sight.

The production and the sound were so good, and the stage was so huge and doing many synchronized visuals, that it was hard to believe that even the crowd's flash bulbs and numerous sing alongs were not somehow half faked with lighting effects and pre-recorded audience vocals. It was all perfect - a little too perfect. I think everything the crowd appeared to be doing was real, just because of the repercussions a band would face if they faked something like that; it would be like a reverse Milli Vanilli. But, it is possible to make a show too good. This one was about 2% better than what I thought was realistically possible.

We had pretty good seats in what was supposed to be a special section, so I thought I might see Vince Vaughn or Oprah or some other fancy pants Chicago person. My hopes were exceeded when I saw Kenny Powers on the way out. I had to act cool and not talk to him, but I got the picture.

That beautiful mane. It made me want to reach out and pet it, but I exercised restraint. My self control probably kept me from taking an ass kicking at the hands of a Midwestern corn-fed redneck. I hear that the Midwestern redneck is smarter and more agile than the Southeastern redneck, so I don't want to tangle with former if I don't have to.

All in all, the trip was great up until I opened my eyes Sunday and realized that I was 600 miles away from my family. This was my first trip away from the kids and the weight of being gone hit me as soon as I didn't have major distraction. I really wanted to be teleported home right that second.

I was scheduled to be home in time to do afternoon bath-time and have some quality time with the kids before dinner and bed. My plane was really late, though. I have missed meetings and social events because of late planes before, but I don't think I have ever been as pissed at an airline as I was at the thought that I would miss putting the kids to bed.

I am glad I went and I had a great time, but I think the best part of my trip was hurrying into the house on Sunday to see that Heather was able to keep the kids up a little later, reading a book, ready for me to kiss them goodnight.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Little Gators

I ordered the kids' Gator outfits for the football season just in time to go to a pre-football-kick-off tail gate fundraiser weekend before last. We took the triple stroller because it has big tires and we didn't know what the terrain would be like. It's also a lot easier to eat, drink and be merry when both Heather and I don't have to tend a stroller.

I really shouldn't be that surprised that we didn't fly under anyone's radar by dressing the kids in bright Gator gear and taking them to an event in a 4 foot wide red stroller. We attracted more attention with the kids than I can recall before, but I've begun to accept our kids making people smile at face value rather than thinking they are being treated like an exhibit at the zoo. We had fun and we met some nice people, but we didn't make it more than about 10 feet from where we parked the stroller when we got there.

Most of the SEC and local alumni groups had tail gate tents set up at the tail gate. I had the best of intentions on taking pictures of all of the tents and then posting them on here and making fun of them. But after meeting people from almost every tent and finding out that the LSU fans didn't really smell like corndogs, I changed my mind. I also didn't get a chance to take any good pictures of the tents because I was busy chatting about the kids.

Henry got to ride on my shoulders for a little while until Heather said it looked dangerous.

I'm no expert on kid carrying etiquette and I didn't want to look like the jackass with a baby on my shoulders, so that didn't last long. In my defense, I was holding Henry's legs, so the worst thing that could happen is that he would fall backwards and yell while I flailed around trying to figure out how to get the upside down crying kid off my back. I guess that could look bad to the untrained eye.

Then, this past weekend, we had the long-awaited opening weekend of football season. We dressed the kids in their little outfits again and tried to get some pictures around the house.

This is as good as it got.

Florida defeated the hated Buccaneers of Charleston Southern, but the kids were in bed by the end of the first quarter. They just don't care about football, or anything on TV for that matter. Year 2 of the Gator indoctrination is off to a slow start, but I have a couple more years of brainwashing before they ask for non-Gator sports gear.

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Gator Flag

I come from a long line of flag people.

We always had an American flag on our front porch growing up, lest someone mistake our home for a miniature foreign embassy. My dad has no less than 30 flags for various occasions and organizations to fly on his boat. I don't care to admit it, but we may have done a little car-flag flying as well. If there was reason to fly a flag, you could bet my family would do it.

Naturally, when Heather and I bought our house seven years ago, I found the best place to fly a flag and told Heather where the flag pole could go. I wanted an American flag for the Fourth of July and other patriotic holidays and a Gator flag for the other 363 days of the year. Heather said: 1) you aren't drilling any holes in our new brick; and, 2) I don't want a big ass flag flying off of the front of my house.

So, this is my flag.

No holes in the house and it's small. Really small. It's in the flower bed in front of our garage.

It doesn't say "suck it" to the other SEC fans in the neighborhood, as I would like, but being in the minority of fandom in the Poverty Hills section of Nouveau Riche Estates, it's just as well. I don't want any flaming poop bombs on my front door step if Florida has another good season.

Happy Plaid Pants Friday and Go Gators.