Archive for February, 2009

Political Rant About Lead Poisoning…

February 20, 2009

If you don’t want to read my rants and raves, it won’t hurt my feeling(s).  I’m upset about a recent federal law that was passed that impacts motorcycles, so again, if you’re not interested, today’s not your day to read my blog.

 

A Congressional act issued in response to last year’s Chinese lead-tainted toys scandal could inadvertently end the sale of children’s motorcycles like the popular Honda CRF50F.”  Well, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed last year and was enacted into law on February 10th.  This seems like a good thing.  Our children will have fewer toys with lead paint or lead tainted parts that can make them sick.  In order for them to become sick, they need to ingest the lead.  Children don’t typically eat motorcycle parts of course, and unfortunately this law is so general and broad it’s now illegal to sell motorcycles designed or marketed to children age 12 and under.

 

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When I was a kid, about the third or fourth grade, my father bought me a Yamaha JT1 60cc motorcycle.  He bought two in fact, used, one in pieces and the other to ride.  It was one of the most important things I had as a child and something that I’ve thought about for over 25 years now.  My motorcycle was red, and I called it “Little Red”, after John Steinbeck’s, The Red Pony (I was a reader when I was young, and liked Steinbeck).  Seems weird maybe to name a motorcycle, but I did.  When I wanted to ride I’d say something like, “Dad, I’m going to take Little Red out.”  I must have dropped that bike a thousand times while owning it.  Probably a hundred times before I could ride it with much confidence, then hundreds more as I decided to ride jumps, off camber hillsides and through desert washes.  That bike represented to me: freedom, responsibility, and a lot more.  It also was a symbol of my father’s trust and confidence in me.  There is a lot of responsibility in having the ability to leave the house, on a motorcycle, as an elementary aged kid, and not be seen for hours.  I think a lot of us remember that, going out to “play” and coming home when the sun went down.  I don’t know if kids today have that opportunity, but it’s something I remember with great fondness.  “Little Red” was a big part of that in my life.

 

It wasn’t long before I was riding that bike as fast as it would go, throttle pegged.  I’d watch a motorcycle movie like “On Any Sunday”, then go out and try to get it sideways into corners thinking someday I’d be a flat track racer.  Or, I’d try to ride a wheelie farther and farther, or hit a jump a bit faster than I ever had before, thinking one day Evel Knievel would be watching me hit a jump and fly over a dozen or more school buses all lined up between the take-off and landing ramps.  None of that happened of course.  At the time, there wasn’t anything more important

 

I graduated to a bigger bike, another Yamaha, but 100cc this time.  I couldn’t reach the ground so my father set a railroad tie (a large square piece of wood) in the field across the street from our house so I could get a foot on it to keep from dropping the now larger bike.  I’d have to walk the bike across the street, to the field and next to the railroad tie.  I’d have to stand on the piece of wood, swing a leg over the bike and kick start it without losing my balance and falling to the other side where I didn’t have a support.  I’d try to stop right at that railroad tie, hoping I wasn’t coming in too hot and fast so I didn’t overshoot it, then have to walk the bike back to the house to get more gas, or lunch.  I’d ride until I needed more gas, or it got dark.  I’d let my brother and friend from across the street ride, we’d take turns burning laps around the vacant fields near our houses.

 

There were other motorcycles in my life, other dirt bikes I owned, and a couple of street bikes too.  I rode a motorcycle in college in fact.  So, when I met my girlfriend in college, now my wife, I told her that there would be motorcycles in my life, and in the life of our kids if we had them.  We did have kids, two, and I’ve always thought they’d have the same experience I had.  That I would be the father mine was to me, that I’d have the opportunity to give them the motorcycle experience.  I’ve been trying to come to terms with what’s age-appropriate, because I wanted to buy a motorcycle for my son when he was only two, then three, then realized I should wait and have him sit on a couple motorcycles when he was a little older.  We went to the local dealer a couple months ago, just before Christmas and he sat on a Honda CRF50 and looked so excited.  I decided I’d do what I needed to do to make that his next Christmas present, for him and his sister.  Unknown to me, there was a federal law that would take effect, in order to prevent him from ingesting lead from Chinese toys, that would take that dream away.

 

There aren’t any parts of a motorcycle that a kid would eat.  You can’t get lead poisoning from riding a motorcycle.  Dealers are no longer allowed to sell 50cc – 80cc motorcycles.  They can’t do maintenance or repairs on them (the repair or maintenance parts might have lead in them).  I’ve done what I can to let my congress-people know what I think, but it’s still the law.

 

There are no more opportunities to purchase a “Little Red” for my kids next Christmas, and today, I’m sad.

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Pork and Rice

February 13, 2009

 

Ingredients:

2 pork chops (bone-in or otherwise; although bone-in seems to end up more tender and juicy)

1 – 2 cloves minced/crushed garlic

1 cup of rice (doesn’t matter what kind, whatever you like)

1 onion, minced or chopped

2 cups water, chicken stock or broth

 

 

Heat a heavy bottom skillet or pot, on low-medium heat (hot enough to brown the pork chops).  Spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray, or a use a small amount of oil and add the chops.  Brown the chops, approximately 3 – 4 minutes per side.  You are not trying to cook them through, just brown them.  Also, you do not want the pan so hot that the bottom of the pan starts to scorch.  If that begins to happen turn down the heat.

 

After the chops have browned on both sides, remove them to a plate and pour the rice into the bottom of the pan.  Add the crushed or minced garlic, onion, and rice.  Stir this to incorporate the ingredients.

 

Brown the rice with the garlic and onion.  You probably don’t have to do the browning of the rice, I do, but don’t know why, it’s just the way I do it.  You’re trying to get the onions to sweat a bit and start to caramelize or brown as well.  You don’t have to use any particular rice, so use what you like, but not instant, as it will have to cook for approximately 20 minutes (or as long as your rice is supposed to cook). 

 

When the rice is browned, turn down the heat, and pour in your liquid.  Bring the rice to a boil (which it will likely immediate do because the pan is already hot, so watch out adding the liquid, it might boil and splash up on you).

 

Place the pork chops on/in the rice and put on the lid.  Immediately turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 – 20 minutes.  It’s important that the heat be low so it’s only at the point of simmering.

 

After 15 – 20 minutes, remove the pan from the heat, with the lid on and let rest for 15 minutes.  This allows the pork and rice to rest and the flavors to “meld” even more.

 

You can add any spices you like to the pork prior to browning, salt, pepper, whatever.  You can also add any herbs to the pot prior to putting on the lid (i.e., cayenne, paprika, red pepper flakes, parsley, cumin, cilantro).  Depending on the herbs you use, it’ll change the character of the dish and seem a little different every time you make it.  You can make it a Latin dish, an Italian dish, or an American dish depending on what you add.

 

If you like vegetables, like celery, or broccoli, you can also add those as well.  Changing the amount of water you use may be necessary, depending on additional ingredients or what type of rice you use.  Letting the pot rest seems to help a lot with it not being too “mushy” or too dry, but experiment.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

February 12, 2009

Ingredients:

 

1 – 2 chicken breasts, cut in 3/4″ cubes

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 large onion, diced

1 bunch of celery, chopped

1 7 oz can of diced green chiles

1 12.5 oz can of diced tomatoes; or chop/dice fresh (peeled)

   or stewed tomatoes

2 cups of chicken stock

3 – 4 cups of water

jalapeno to taste, I start with about half a 4 oz can

1 – 2 pinches of fresh cilantro (optional)

1 – 2 handfuls of crushed corn chips

 

Over low heat begin warming a medium to large heavy pan (i.e., a five or six quart French/Dutch oven, stock pot), for a few minutes.  You don’t want the pan sitting on the flame too long without anything in it, but you want to warm it before adding the oil or ingredients.

 

Coat the bottom of the pan with a small amount of oil or non-stick cooking spray, over medium heat, brown the chicken.  As the chicken begins to lose it’s pink color add the crushed garlic and allow the garlic to brown as the chicken finishes browning.

 

Add the diced onion and chopped celery.  This should add moisture and any “carmelization” on the bottom of the pan will begin to loosen.  Allow the celery and onion to cook for ten minutes, or until the onion starts to become soft and translucent, stirring as needed to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  If your heat is not too high you can cook them even longer this way, fifteen or twenty minutes.

 

Add the can of diced tomatoes, diced chiles and jalapenos (I start with half a can of jalapenos).  Stir in these additional ingredients to incorporate, and add liquid.

 

Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat, to low, and allow to simmer for at least one hour.  I typically will allow it to simmer for at least 2, and closer to 3 – 4 hours. 

 

Approximately 30 minutes prior to serving add a handful or two of crushed corn chips.  I typically put the corn chips in a sandwich bag, or freezer bag and then crush them rather small.  The crushed corn chips will thicken the soup and add additional flavor.

 

chicken-tortilla

 

I serve this soup topped with corn chips, cheese and sliced avocado.  You can add cilantro to the soup at the last minute, stir it in, or put a pinch of cilantro on top as a garnish.  Experiment with the amount of crushed corn chips, jalapenos, and other toppings to get it the way you like it.

Jokes – kids style

February 10, 2009

Ok, Susan thought the last post was “blah”.  So, I figured I’d give you an idea of my kid’s great sense of humor.  They come up with some of the best comedy.  Here’s an example of a knock-knock joke Thomas came up with, all by himself:

Thomas:  Knock, knock.

Me:  Who’s there?

Thomas:  Cheese.

Me:  Chesse who?

Thomas:  Cheese, I’m so many cheese.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it.  I’m sure I don’t either, but Thomas does, and he thinks it’s the funniest thing he’s ever said.  He’ll probably still be laughing when we put him to bed tonight.  Wait, you wanna hear another one?  Nah, I didn’t think so.

Saving a couple bucks at the grocery store

February 9, 2009

I’ve found I can save a few dollars (actually, significantly more) at the grocery store(s) by doing a little pre-planning.  So, what works for me?  Menu planning, and making a list based on the menu, seems to work well for our family.  But you have to be prepared to stick to the plan.

Every Sunday I sit down, with the wife if she’ll participate, and create a menu for the up coming week, specifically for each day of the week.  It’s really not that hard to do, just think of a few items on the plate, and only a dinner menu.  We eat relatively the same, a meat, a vegetable, and a starch.  We also usually pick one night a week for picking something up.  Breakfast and lunch are easy meals for the kids and the wife will take a frozen lunch or some leftovers from dinner, so dinner is the only dedicated, strict item to plan.  Also, because the menu is written out I’m able to include prep for the upcoming days, like taking down chicken on Monday so it will thaw for the meal on Wednesday.  I can also include those days when I, or the wife, will be late or not home.  This makes it easier to stick to the menu because it’s not ambiguous, and there aren’t days you’re thinking, “Oh, sh*t, I forgot to take down chicken” (although it still happens, just not as often).

I’ve found if I prepare a menu, then prepare a list of items needed to make only those things on the menu I can save a significant amount of money over going to the grocery store thinking of what I’d like to eat for the week.  I am very strict, to the dismay of those who shop with me (Anna wanted several various cereals this week, chocolate covered pretzels and a host of other items that were definitely NOT on the list).  This obviously doesn’t work if you’re not willing to then prepare the meals on the menu, and it does take some give and take on the wife’s behalf.  She can’t call on the way home and say, “How about ‘X’ tonight?”.  That just doesn’t work if you’re going to stick to the plan; however, I do allow mixing up the week (I’m not that strict!).

Then, I go to Costco (yes, the store where every visit costs hundreds of dollars).  We eat fish, beef, chicken, and everything in between, so I budget for a large “meat” purchase.  Whether it’s chicken, fish, beef, pork, it doesn’t matter, because once a week I buy ten or twenty pounds of it.  Then the following week I pick another big ticket item and purchase that.  What ends up happening is we have a rotating quanity of “staples” in the freezer to choose from.  This was costly at first because I bought everything at once, but now we don’t need any one thing of significant cost more than it comes up on the rotation.  People always seem confused that I shop at Costco, on a budget.  I can do all of the grocery shopping, and get out of Costco for less than half of what I used to spend.  It’s all about planning, and sticking to the plan.

Too, it’s important to have an idea of what things cost.  This too was difficult at first, because I didn’t know.  I just put things in the cart and paid for them.  Now that I’m on a budget I make a list, on a full sized sheet of paper, with columns for each store I’ll need to visit (does this sound anal yet?).  I also include a small line next to the item so I can write down the price as I add things to the cart.  By the time I’m at the checkstand I know what my bill will be.  I don’t have to have the “whoa!” feeling when the cashier is done ringing things up.  I don’t get blindsided, and after time I know what to expect.  I know when items have changed in price, even slightly, and if that’s the case I can buy Fuji apples instead of Donagold, or vice versa.  I also know if something is a good deal and maybe it’s better to buy an extra few pounds of hamburger, or buy steaks this week instead.

Now, there are limitations to being strict to the menu.  My wife and I recently went to Costco and found boneless rib roasts on sale.  I asked the butcher how much a bone-in prime rib would be.  He asked, “How much do you want?”  I hadn’t really thought about that, so I said, “How much is it per pound?”.  “$4.99 or you can buy the whole rack uncut for $3.99 per pound.”  Well, 3 racks later (about 50 pounds) I was headed to the check out with the “whoa!” feeling and enough prime rib roasts and ribeyes to last all year.  Can you guess how I spent the next day?  A sharp knife, and elbow deep in beef!  We came away from that experience with 16 ribeyes and eight prime rib roasts…and a sore shoulder from cutting it all up.

Comme des vagues roulantes

February 6, 2009

I hope I got all the accents and grammar right on this.  I wrote it for Susan almost 16 years ago.

Comme des vagues roulantes,

sa chevelure en cascade,

en bas de ses epaules

et en travers de sa poitrine.

 

Et moi,

dans une rivage oppose,

je me souviens d’une nuit belle

avec un femme belle.

Daddy, Daddy, Dad, Dad, Daddy

February 4, 2009

I love being a dad, a stay at home dad even, but every now and then I just can’t take another, “Daddy, Daddy, Dad, Dad, Daddy”.  I’m sure you know what I mean.  I mean can I get a minute of free time, just quiet, maybe even a quiet 15 minutes to watch television or just think about something more adult than a three or five year old.  Instead, it seems my entire day is full of one child or the other saying, “Daddy, can you get me a brown crayon,” or, “Dad, can I have a snack,” or, “Daddy, why do you get to make the rules, why don’t I get to make the rules”.

Sometimes I have to wonder, do these kids know I have a blog?  I mean obviously right?  They must read it, just like the other two or three people out there reading it, right?

Uh oh, I hear an “oh Daddy, I need help wiping my bottom” and that’s not going to wait.

Why am I the only one tired at nap time?

February 2, 2009

My son doesn’t take naps anymore, at least not often.  I didn’t take naps much when I was young either, and almost never now; however, if I could I would.  It seems now when it is nap time, I’m the only one tired.

Today, and almost everyday, driving home in the afternoon, my littlest one will fall asleep.  She’ll be so asleep you can hardly wake her, except when she’s laying down.  I can pick her up, quietly, from her car seat, carry her into the house, remove her shoes and she doesn’t stir.  I’ll gently lay her on the bed and as soon as she goes to a horizontal position her eyes open and she seems to realize she’s being put down for a nap.  She immediately will say, “I’m not tired.  I don’t want to take a nap.”  I usually whisper something like, “don’t worry, it’s not a nap, you’ll just rest for a few minutes”, but by the time the last word escapes my lips she’s on the floor running into the other room.

Today, I’m tired.  I don’t know why but I’m waking up every morning an hour before I need to be up.  Today, I want a nap.  So, what do I do?  I’ve tried to convince the kids to lay down, watch a movie, or a cartoon, or just rest.  Nothing is working.  I just tried again, and the response, “Daddy, what do bunnies eat?”  What does that have to do with taking a nap I’m thinking.  Why would Anna ask me a question like that after being asked if she wants to lay down?  I know exactly what it has to do with taking a nap, absolutely nothing, because again, I’m the only one tired at nap time.