Motherhood

Finding mothers are easy. They’re the people in the room who always seem more worried about everybody else than they are themselves. Easy to find, but difficult to define. I’ve had the good fortune of knowing some of the best. Being Mother’s Day and all, I want to try to paint a picture with words to try to put some context around a term that can be so easy and so complex to define, all at the same time.

Empathy. One of the most important words that I can use to define motherhood is empathy. My girls’ mommy always said that as soon as we had #1, that every child out there is hers, in some way. A child was hurt or did something great, she’d ponder it as though it was our child.

Selflessness. Something that has struck me of many of the mothers that I’ve known, is how selfless they are. If dinner was more popular than expected, or just came up short, they give to everybody else before taking for themselves. They seem to enjoy doing for others more than doing for themselves. Whether it’s buying clothes for little girls (ours or otherwise), or going to watch a live rendition of Blues Clues, something that seems to be common of mothers is the joy that they derive from the joy of others.

Determination. They will not be dissuaded. There is no task too large for them to handle, Managing a household of two, three, five ( <3 ), or NINE (God love you, my saint of a Grandma), with varying degrees of help is not easy. But, you’re adaptable, and will make it work with what you have.

I’m very grateful to have known and loved the mothers in my life. But, I’d be amiss if I didn’t differentiate the special kind of mom that my girls have. The kind of mom that makes jambalaya for a Princess and the Frog birthday party. Or, plans “Family Movie Night” which is more than simply watching a movie together. It’s watching a Halloween movie with pizza mummies for dinner and making crafty mummies out of jars and gauze. Or spends weeks planning Funner (what happens when school is out).

One day, girls, you will appreciate just how much your mom labors to bring you joy. Daily. Sadly, not everybody has a mom like you do. But, when it comes to moms, you have the best of the best.

Moms…what you do matters. You take young, impressionable little people, and help turn them into people who make the world a better place. Just like Moms themselves.

 

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See? My decision making isn’t ALWAYS suspect! Otherwise, how could I possibly have scored so well in the family department? Here are all of my girls, right after the arrival of my littlest princess, with my own Mom making a cameo in the corner.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Gift from a friend

Many moons ago, at an employer far, far away, I had the good fortunate of meeting a gentleman that became my friend. Though he was many years my senior, we always found things to talk about. Beer, technology, and family (I was a new and proud papa) were among the topics that I discussed with him as I worked on their Citrix Metaframe server. Millions of dollars were lost for every however many hours it may have been down, at any given time. At least that’s what the manager of the department liked to tell us.

During one of these discussions, my friend Curt and I were discussing either beer or bratwurst. I forget which. But we ended up discussing how they come together most beautifully.

And a fire was started.

You see, my friend turned me on to cooking with Guinness. Lots of people boiled their brats in beer, he shared. But, what kind of flavor does that really provide? By boiling in Guinness, he explained, you add a very definitive, unmistakable character to the sausage. A character which was further enhanced by adding a few cloves of garlic to the beer as you were boiling them.

My friend retired from our mutual employer shortly after 9/11/2001. To my recollection, I have not made bratwurst any other way since. A couple times, I may have experimented with another good beer, but I no longer was satisfied with some American macrobrew. He’d opened my eyes to the world of cooking with Guinness, which is now a staple in our kitchen. Just like salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

A couple of years ago, I started looking for him, so that I could share this information with him. Let him know that he’d started me down a path to foodie-dom. But sadly, I learned that he’d passed away in 2008. Not until after he’d gotten to spend a few years in retirement with the his wife, daughters, and his grandchildren.

And thanks to Curt “Please don’t call me John”, I will never hear the word “HORRIBLE!” again without smiling.

 

Guinness Brats
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Delicious, flavorful sausages. Intended to be eaten with mustard and onion.
Ingredients
  • Bratwurst- Raw. Do not buy the variations. What they do to them is not as good as what you will do to them.
  • Guinness
  • Few cloves of garlic
  • Onions
  • Buns
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan that's JUST large enough to hold all of the sausages that you're looking to cook, pour some Guinness into the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the few cloves of garlic to the beer. Personally, I'll slice it thin, but pressing it is fine.
  3. Add sausages.
  4. Cover the sausages with more Guinness
  5. Personally, it's important to me to keep the pan as small as possible. I want to make sure that I don't cook with more Guinness than necessary, as I can drink what I don't cook with!
  6. After you get the beer boiling, it probably cooks for ten minutes or so. As long as the brats are fully submerged, the sausages should be cooked for the most part. Pull them out of the beer, and put them on the grill.
  7. Warning-Keep the flame low, and watch them. They're' going to swell up after they were boiled, and will likely split. When they split, they WILL flare. And they're just not as good overdone. You're only adding them to the grill to brown them up a bit.
  8. Take 'em off, throw 'em on a bun with some chopped onion and good mustard, and enjoy. And maybe give a thumbs up to my man Curt for showing us the way.

 

Beer me.

Early on when I was thinking of this blog, I had a lot of ideas about the stuff that I wanted to discuss.

Meat. [little] Girls. Beer. Politics.

I’m a rather opinionated sort that loves to, as my big ol’ red-headed hillbilly buddy puts it, “cuss & discuss”. Beer, however, has been notably absent thusfar. It’s time to fix that. I’ve been known to jokingly refer to myself as a beer snob, but that’s not true. I’m not a beer snob.I’m a beer geek. In no way do I feel like I know more about beer about others. Except, perhaps, in that I like it more. 😉

So, here, I want to discuss some of my tried and true favorite styles, and I’m hopeful that you’ll share some of the same with me. Deal? Excellent. Then, let’s move on.

As you will notice by this list, I’m a hophead, in the beer vernacular. I prefer pale ales. There was a great article in Brew Your Own magazine a few years ago that really sold the idea of a pale ale. That it’s a really great beer to brew over and over and over again, because it can really stand out as to demonstrating the brewer’s skill.  I also really like India Pale Ales. You may notice a trend on my list, that I like high alcohol brews. All of mine, save for the Palmetto, I’ve had on draft.

Some favorite pale ales:

Palmetto Pale Ale- Palmetto Brewing Company. This brew leaves my heart as happy as my mouth. Though, it probably has something to do with me being in my favorite place when I’m drinking it.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale- Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. This is one of my favorite basic beers. When I can’t decide what I’m in the mood for, or if I want something that I can get almost anywhere, that anybody will drink, this is it. Good taste. Not too strong for the masses, but enough taste to satisfy me as well. Just an all around good brew. in my opinion.

Burning River Pale Ale-Great Lakes Brewing Company. Another favorite. A bit stronger in alcohol and in taste than either Palmetto or Sierra Nevada, but still not over the top. However, if you find yourself too deep in a friend’s keg after a long hiatus, you just may experience a bit of a surprise.

Favorite India Pale Ale’s:

As of today, I suspect that my favorite IPA is probably Smuttynose Brewing Company’s Finestkind IPA. For me, this is the one of my favorite non-session session brews. When a couple of buddies and I get together with some Smutty, it’s gonna be a good night, Tater! Though, I suspect that my drinking buddies aren’t accustomed to their session beers being almost 7% ABV. So, be careful!

I also really enjoy Victory Brewing’s Hopdevil. This one is starting to become for more serious hopheads. Though I haven’t had it recently, I remember this one having a strong taste, while drinking it and afterward. Great stuff!

Great Divide’s Titan IPA. Another favorite. High alcohol. High hop. Nice citrus tones. This one can also catch you by surprise, though, at 7.3% ABV.

And finally…

Last,but certainly not least, is the beer that is currently inhabiting my kegerator. Stone Brewing Company’s Arrogant Bastard Ale. Take the time to visit the site. It’s worth it. It’s certainly not a pale ale, nor is it for the faint at heart. It’s the one beer on this list that I don’t drink as a session beer. “This is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it. But, if you find that you do, you’ll have found yourself in some rather Arrogant company.

Comment with some suggestions that I need to try. Please?

 

 

 

Parenthood

Good news! I found my attention span! Until I see another squirrel, anyway…

Once I fixed the blog, though, I knew that I had a few topics to write about. Parenthood. More specifically, fatherhood. Turns out, I have more first hand experience at fatherhood than I do motherhood. And, as some of our friends were meeting, and preparing for some of the challenges of parenthood,  I took a moment to reflect on my own experiences with fatherhood. I saw plenty of posts out there, primarily directed at women, or what women wanted men to know. But not much on the other side. An opinionated sort, I thought that might be something I could share,  having been ’round this block a few times, so I want to write about some of that for my next few blog entries.

Help Wanted: Management-NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY. No training provided. 

As I read one of the blog entries from the perspective of new mothers, pleading with the new fathers with regard to what they wanted, something struck me. Fathers are not bit-players in the lives of your new child.  This may or may not be something that you’ve planned for more than ten months or so. Ten months certainly isn’t very long. You’re both likely to have crisis of confidence. Due, in no small part, to sleep deprivation. Unless, of course, you didn’t sleep in the first place.

Share the load. Dad, be as involved as you can in the day to day lives of your new little one. Be assertive. Let Mom know that you WANT to help. It helps you establish a bond with your new little one. And Mom? Even if he’s not doing things exactly as you might, I plead with you. PLEASE don’t just take over. Not only will it undermine his confidence, but it will undermine the child’s confidence in him to meet their needs. He may not be doing things exactly as you would prefer, but in the vast majority of circumstances, I’m sure that it’ll be OK. One possible exception is if he feels the urge to hold your child off of a balcony, Rafiki style. Interjection may be warranted then.

The fact of the matter is, you’re both likely to be exhausted. If it’s your first, you may be learning that you have less free time than you did. Sharing the work as evenly as possible helps protect against resentment. It will also help create two confident parents. Not to mention a child that’s confident that both of their parents can meet their needs. Especially overnight.

What’s that, Dad? You say that you have to work in the morning? This may come as a surprise, but so does Mom. Unlike a 9-5 office job, parenthood is a 24 hour gig. For both a stay at home parent AND a work outside the home parent. It may be reasonable for Mom to get up the first time, as it may be plausible for her to nap with the kid if it’s your first, but there’s no reason why you can’t share the sleep deprivation. Who knows, maybe you and Mom can bond over it. My wife and I are just now getting to the point where sleep is getting better. That’s since 9/2006, when we had our middle daughter.

Keep Calm, buy a copy of “Go the F**k to Sleep“, and enjoy parenthood for today. It’s like weather in the Midwest. It’ll be different tomorrow.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”–John Hughes “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

Brisket: The day after

Every now and again, after we make a brisket, we’ll have leftovers. It’s not common, mind you. Usually, the brisket is simply gone, or close to it. Often, we’ll send it home with a friend, who I believe is brisket’s biggest fan. But, it does happen sometimes. And when it does, it’s pretty easy to find stuff to do with it. New Year’s Day 2013, we made brisket hash. Simple. Delicious.

Brisket: The day after
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Simple yet delicious breakfast out of leftover brisket.
Ingredients
  • potatoes (recommend Yukon Gold)
  • onion
  • butter
  • brisket
Instructions
  1. Add enough butter to cover the bottom of your skillet. Chop your potatoes and onions. Add to the skillet over medium heat. Cover and wait, to make sure that your potatoes become soft. Like with cat food, er canned corned beef hash, I like to flip the potatoes infrequently, to allow them to brown as much as possible. Best part, after all.
  2. Once the potatoes are close to done, add the cubed brisket and recover. Let it cook together for a few more minutes, and then remove the cover to add a bit of browning.

Yum.

 

Brisket, delicious brisket.

If you’re thinking of BBQ in Carolina, you’re probably thinking pork. But, when you think about BBQ in Texas, you’re probably thinking of beef. And what kind of beef are you thinking about? Brisket.

Nearly inedible unless cooked correctly, it become a nearly unanimous favorite that can melt in your mouth. So, here, I’m going to share the brisket that is current the favorite of myself, my family, and all of my guests.

I prefer to start with a “packer’s cut”. A good guide to brisket selection can be found at the Virtual Weber Bullet.

Prep:

These days, I don’t do much trimming on my brisket before cooking. Why? Because  that fat melts over the meat, and it’s delicious! Besides, you can certainly trim after it’s cooked. However, one thing that do pretty reliably during prep is that I score the brisket before I apply the rub. This is because carving the brisket incorrectly can make it much tougher than it would have otherwise been. Carving a brisket across the grain is important, and it can be pretty tough to recognize the grain once it’s all dark and beautiful. So, before you rub the brisket, turn it fat side down, and score the meat across the grain. As close to 90 degrees as you get it is good. As you can see, I wasn’t that close this time. 😉

 

Now, it’s time for the inappropriate meat rubbing innuendo. It is sometimes necessary to do it yourself, but it’s always better when you can find someone else to do it for you! My current favorite beef brisket rub is the #1 beef brisket rub from Food Network. I do doctor it a bit, in that I use close to equal parts sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, I also add cayenne. The recipe calls for a teaspoon. I usually do a bit more than double that, so probably 2-2.5 teaspoons of cayenne.  Before applying the rub, I always rub the scored brisket with olive oil, and then apply the rub. Cover the rubbed brisket with cling wrap, and allow it to sit in the refrigerator. I usually hope for twelve hours or better.

As far as the smoke of the brisket itself? There are only two things that I personally strive for.

Keep smoker temperature as close to 225°F as possible.

Get the brisket to 190°F if at all possible. It makes a difference.

Beyond that, there is room for experimentation. My personal preference, is to use hickory as my smoke wood. I’m looking forward to trying some stuff that I haven’t tried, such as oak, pecan, and walnut, which are all said to be similar to hickory as a smoke wood, but a bit more gentle in flavor. This isn’t a problem in this house, though, as we all like hickory.  Beyond that, I personally prefer chunk wood as opposed to chips.

Do you have any tips or tricks that you like to use when smoking brisket? I’d love to hear about them.

Brisket Rub
 
Original recipe found at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-challenge/beef-brisket-rub-1-recipe/index.html
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons kosher or coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons coarse black pepper (use fresh cracked pepper)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano leaves (dried)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
Instructions
  1. Combine ingredients.

 

An open letter to Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Honorable Ms. Ginsburg:

First and foremost, I’d like to thank you for your service to the United States.

My daughters and I owe you a debt of gratitude. As do many in today’s “non-traditional” America. A peaceful warrior on behalf of equality, you’ve been steadfast in your demand for equality and your rulings have reflected as such. In 1996, you helped stand up to state sanctioned sexism when you joined the Majority opinion that the Virginia Military Institute’s “male only” violated the equal protection clause. You assisted in demanding accountability when it came to United States. V. O’Hagan. And, recently, there was her dissent with regard to the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber suit, where it seems that the parties agree that discrimination took place, but seems to have beyond the 180 days required by law. This action helped drive legislative relief in the form of the Lily Ledbetter Act.

Your actions have indisputably smoothed the path for women and other minorities. from resistance to appoint you as clerk in the beginning of your career, to your current position on the Supreme Court of the United States, your service is inspiring.

It is with boundless gratitude and respect that I plead with you, November 20, 2012, to retire from our high court.

Since you entered your dissenting opinion on Bush v. Gore, our nation has become increasingly polarized. We seem to have at least two starkly different opinions of what America should be. What protections should be in place. Who, exactly, is worthy of protection, and why. The continuum seems to exist mainly between unbridled individualism and light to moderate socialism. These splits manifest themselves in many ways, including the current fight over the privacy rights established under Roe v. Wade.

You have scored a number of wins for women and minorities everywhere. I plead with you, please retire, preferably early, during the second term of President Obama, so that we may have a similarly progressively minded justice appointed to help protect previous decisions and ensure maintenance of the balance of the court for generations to come.

Thank you, Justice Ginsburg, for your wisdom and your service. You’ve assisted in leaving the country a better place.

 

The world you want to live in.

It’s pretty easy to be pessimistic. There are a long list of things that make me grievously unhappy. In fact, I read an interesting quote today.

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” –Ernest Hemingway

The resultant level of misery can certainly be difficult to overcome. But, if the way the world is makes you unhappy, you must have an idea of what you’d do differently, right? So, what would you do if you were given the opportunity to help make the world you want to live in? Once you ponder that for a moment, consider this.

You DO have the ability to help make the world you want to live in.

Myself? I wish that people were more thoughtful. More kind. More respectful. Admittedly, I’m a space cadet, so the thoughtful thing can be a bit difficult at times for me. But, I learned late last year just how therapeutic for the soul it can be to step up your game on making the world you want to live in. See, I’ve always enjoyed doing little stuff. For instance, shoveling for my neighbor. I used to do that sometimes even for our neighbors in Illinois. I’ve always thought that it was important to treat people with respect. But, I’ve learned that with just a little bit of money, you can change people.

After participating in the “secret Santa” initiative last year, I had a woman tell me that her teenage daughter felt so blessed to have been there when I went in to the local grocery store, that she cried all evening.

Last Mothers’ Day, again, I anonymously bought groceries for a woman at that same grocery store. No particular reason, just wanted to do so. It seems I need to work on my anonymity. About a week and a half later, Betty told me that there was a card at the service desk for me. The card made it clear that I’d touched the woman very deeply. She threw around terms and compliments that I was not comfortable with, but the fact of the matter is, me and my $25 made a DIFFERENCE for her. I improved her spirit. I lifted her up. I can’t express how that made me feel.

Since that date, I haven’t had any shenanigans at the local grocery store…yet. Well, except for purchasing three or four full Thanksgiving Dinners for families that need a little bit of hope right here in town. But, I’ve become a bit addicted to buying breakfast for older people. You know the guys, the ones that are at your local diner, eating by themselves. They never order anything extravagant It’s just part of what they do. And part of what *I* love to do is anonymously pay for their breakfast. But, I think that I’m going to change up my routine a little bit. I think one of these days, I’m going to ask them to join us. I not only want them to discover that someone is thinking about them, but I want them to know that I’m interested in what they have to say. They have a lifetime of stories to share. It’d be a shame not to share them.

And at the end of the day, I assure you. You feel better about the world you live in. And YOU helped to create it.

 

Decision/Despair/Disgust 2012

Decision 2012, in my opinion, is going to be a rather critical moment for this country. This is why it saddens me, that the decision is going to be so heavily weighted on one word.

No, that word is not socialism. Nor is it capitalism. That word is xenophobia.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/xenophobia

xen·o·pho·bi·a

[zen-uh-foh-bee-uh, zee-nuh-]

noun

an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.
An opinionated sort, with an interest in politics, it’s no surprise that I’m very interested in the opinions of the masses. The source matters not. Comments on articles. Discussions on facebook. Discussions with imaginary friends on debate boards. There are a lot of important things to discuss, in my opinion. We have very real topics to discuss. Topics like national debt and deficit, and how to improve it. Topics like jobs, and how to create them. Topics such as women’s rights to equal pay and their medical autonomy. Or, perhaps healthcare as a whole, and who should have access to it? The list of important issues that are owed some intelligent discourse is long.
Which is why it causes me such anguish that the important topics of this election, according to the comments, seem to be whether or not Barack Obama, or even Mitt Romney, is a Christian. Or, that he was born in Kenya. Y’know, as if that shouldn’t have been put to bed by the Hawaiian authorities coming out in support of his birth certificate. Barack Hussein Obama may have what, to Americans, is a “funny” name.  But, it doesn’t make him less American. He’s not a Muslim, though there would be nothing wrong with him ACTUALLY being a Muslim. If, y’know…he was.
Why is it that this is what people are looking to attack him on? Some of this stuff is not only false, it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to me, as an American, that this is what Americans are talking about. We’re not talking about the fact that President Obama is preferred to continue on as the leader of the free world., according to a BBC poll. By every surveyed nation but one.  Apparently, Pakistan apparently still isn’t thrilled with him.
This really isn’t intended to be a political opinion piece. In the interest of disclosure, I’m supportive of another term for President Obama. But, that’s not the part that gives me despair. It’s the fact that so many Americans, in 2012, will vote for anybody BUT President Barack Hussein Obama.
Why? Because he’s black.
Or, because he’s a Muslim, serving terrorists.
Or, because he was born in Kenya…
There’s plenty of room for dissent as far as what direction we should be heading. Some of my favorite people on this planet are most assuredly voting for Romney. Bless their hearts. 😉 I did hear one of them has recently switched teams, though!
I quite enjoy my discussions with them. They can hold intelligent conversations as to what they feel should happen. I don’t want someone to agree with me, I want someone to make me think.
All the people who want to talk about how “I’ll never be convinced Obama is a Christian”, or the birthers carrying on about “Obama is an illegal president”, or making sure to reference Obama’s middle name, because it may illuminate how you feel he’s different from you?
There’s a term for you. It’s called xenophobe. And, in case you were wondering? It’s YOU that is wrong with this country. If one guy lost because more people agreed with the other’s platform, that’d be one thing. This platform, as far as I can tell, though, seems to be predicated upon refusing or revoking the civil rights of others, and I can’t get behind that.

Teaching empathy and gratitude?

Today, I knew what I wanted to write about. What I wasn’t prepared for, was how difficult it has been for me to start. My personal thought is that the two are very closely related. In my case, I’m pretty sure that I understood empathy before gratitude. I was raised by hard working parents. Growing up, I can only remember a single vacation longer than a weekend. It just wasn’t in the cards, I suspect. Dad had a good job, but would find himself laid off by the factory, and find himself in a position where he had to take what jobs he could to provide for his mealy-mouth kids. For her part, Mom pinched the pennies as tightly as she could. To this day, I’m not much of a fan of turkey. This is because Mom would make the biggest bird she could find for Thanksgiving. I swear to you, the four of us would eat that bird until Christmas. Any idea what we had for Christmas dinner? I’ll give you a hint. It fed us until damn near February.

As a result, I feel for the ever-growing numbers of people who struggle. Who are trying to deal with the last thirty years of inflation with wages that haven’t kept pace. It’s always been easy for me to consider walking in their shoes. That said, it got a lot easier when we moved to Nowhere, OH. I’m pretty certain that a not-insignificant portion of town is “food insecure“, where they don’t know if they’ll have enough to eat today. I’m certain that there were plenty of food insecure people where we were in the first place, but I don’t believe it was as conspicuous. So, when we got here, my gratitude for all that I’ve had, whether I had to work for it or not, became much greater.

Important ideals, in my estimation.

More challenging, is how to pass that on to my girls. At what point do they even become capable of empathy? Until they become capable of empathy, is it even possible to teach them about gratitude? If they can’t consider how someone doesn’t have enough, how would they feel anything but their own disappointment at not getting a bigger ice cream dish, or a root beer float? We work to make sure that they understand that some of their classmates may not have enough. Last Christmas, I took them out to participate in the secret Santa phenomenon, paying off layaways at the local-ish KMart. One for each of the girls. I wanted to demonstrate that doing things for others is benefit enough, even when you don’t get anything more out of it.

What more can be done to help instill these values that, in my estimation, are suffering greatly in our society today? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. As a society, we’ve become so overly individualistic that I’m afraid that we’re going lose the ability to empathize. And if we can no longer empathize, I fear for our future.