Friday, August 28, 2009

Music Friday: "Feel Free"

Click HERE for a Jay Farrar classic. This song drips with dark irony.

This is tune I featured early on when I started blogging. If you want to read the lyrics, click HERE.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Parent Volunteering

Today I began my adventure as a parent volunteer at my daughter's kindergarten. Almost every Thursday morning from 10:15-11:10 I'll be helping out in Mrs. J's class. The students at that time are put into small groups and they rotate learning stations a couple of times.

The theme early on in Hannah's class has been bugs, so I got to hear some songs about those critters, especially a tune about the three main parts of insects: head, thorax, and abdomen. The singing made me finally realize why so few men take jobs as elementary school teachers. Could it be because singing seems to be the m.o. in the early grades?

Regardless, I was impressed by Hannah's teacher, an educator who gracefully balances too many kids in a class, attends to students' individual needs, trucks in positive reinforcement, and crafts lesson plans that connect to varied learning styles and forms of intelligence.

After learning time was done, it was lunchtime, so I paid two dollars and change to eat an industrial beef-n-bean burrito, pallid peas, and chocolate milk. I also got reacquainted with the spork, a utensil that wasn't helpful against that burrito.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stay Positive Wednesday: Silence

Amidst the cacophony of our world, silence is hard to come by.

After a hard day at work, kids who don't want to go to bed, and some late night work to be finished, silence is solace.

Silence provides a counterweight to the chaos of our lives.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I sure wish Coffee would have stayed for his senior year for Alabama, but it seems possible that he made a good business decision.

For a short video of his Week 2 work against the Raiders, click HERE.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Chicken Breasts with Aromatics

I made a pretty decent chicken dish tonight. The ingredients and directions are below.

3 chicken breasts
3 medium size carrots, cut into thin medallions
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly
1 bell pepper, cut into half-inch slivers
3 cloves of garlic, cut thinly
Roughly a pint of chicken stock
Enough Cajun seasoning to coat chicken breast
1 teaspoon Boquet Garni
Cracked black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Olive oil for searing

I sprinkled the breasts with the Cajun seasoning and seared them on both sides on medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet. After both sides were seared properly, I put the skillet into the oven on 375 degrees until the internal temp of the breasts was 185. Once the breasts were done, I set them on the cutting board.

I used chicken stock to deglaze the skillet by using a large wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan. I added the carrots, onion, garlic, bell pepper, Boquet Garni, salt, and black pepper and cooked that combo [medium-high heat] until the carrots were about fork tender. In the meantime, I cut the breasts into slivers and placed them back into the pan to soak up the stock and juicy goodness of the aromatics. After about five minutes, it was ready.

Music Friday: "Left of the Dial" & "Alex Chilton"

Click HERE to watch The Replacements play a couple of their classic tunes. They were a great band although excessive partying did them in.

I saw them in concert back in high school down in Cedar Rapids in some older theatre that I had never heard of and certainly can't recall now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Setting the Record Straight...

Click HERE and enjoy.

Or for a non-partisan take on all the crud out there, click HERE for "Seven Falsehoods about Health Care" by

Stay Positive Wednesday: Rediscovering Bands You Used to Listen To

Shortly after earning my Master's in English and working for a horrible salary as an Admission Counselor based out of the Kansas City area, I sold a bunch of CDs for some quick cash. If I remember correctly, I sold between twenty or thirty CDs that I thought I would never listen to again. I was wrong, and I've been rediscovering old bands lately.

The unloading of discs back in '95 let go of music from assorted bands and musicians of the "alternative" variety. Recently I've rediscovered The Jayhawks, a great band that garnered some attention with songs like "Waiting for the Sun" and "Settled Down Like Rain," tunes that received a heavy rotation on Mtv back when that station actually played videos.

So here's to discovering old bands you used to listen to. I'm pleased to meet me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Deep Thoughts from the Road

The boy and I went up to Iowa to visit my parents, and we got back this evening. While I had to deal with some heavy rain on the way up and a severe thunderstorm today on the way back down, I had plenty of time to let my mind wander. Here a some notes from the road.

I spent a little time at the beach and some quality time at the public pool this summer, and I've come to this solid conclusion through the powers of induction: tatoos don't age well.

I saw a wind turbine blade getting hauled by a semi. Those things are huge.

Most talk radio programs truck in self-aggrandizing or ill-informed bluster along with truthiness-inspired rants.

If you listen to people who follow the Cubs or tap into the collective unconscious of Cubs fans, the Cardinals really have to mess up royally not to win the Central.

Driving with with the radio on scan (I'm too cheap to fix the CD player) is like musical Russian roulette. Sometimes you find some good stuff, such as The Who and Led Zeppelin and Metallica and newer tunes, or you hit upon the bad stuff of Phil Collins, Bananarama, and Toby Keith. After the deluge at Bloomington-Normal, I turned off the radio and passively listened to Cars as Quinn watched the movie in back.


I was slowed from time to time from road work on the interstate brought to us by the Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Damn you Obama! How dare you provide money to the states to repair our country's crumbling roads. I need to shout at my elected officials about this. It's socialism, I tell you, socialism!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Music Friday: "Fight Like a Brave"

If you're interested in watching a vintage music video of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, circa 1987, click HERE.

For a long time, the Peppers were one of my favorites bands, with great albums like their self-titled release, Freaky Styley, Mother's Milk, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, and Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

But I never got around to listening to their later stuff. Anyone listen to them, and how is their relatively newer stuff?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stay Positive Wednesday[Th]: Kids Imitating Parents

What you're looking at is one of Quinn's attempts to stare a person down. He feigns a look of extreme disappointment and anger, a move he's learned from his parents.

Lately he's been pretty good at telling his mom or dad to "Go away!" and "Go timeout" while crossing his arms in an adult manner when he doesn't like what we're doing or doesn't like what we've told him.

It's cute right now (see, I'm staying positive), but it might get a little old in certain situations. Regardless, it's pretty funny.

1st Day of Kindergarten

Today was Hannah's first day of kindergarten.

Does anyone know a word--English or another language--that describes feeling a mixture of sadness and excitement? That's how I feel.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Think Globally, Drink Locally

Click HERE if you're interested in reading a blog post about the reasons why it's a good idea to drink locally brewed beer. I did just that when we were in South Carolina since I imbibed in some beers by the Palmetto Brewing Company.

The blogger, a guy from Indy, references two solid microbreweries: Schlafly and Market Street Brewery (Nashville).

But the one counter-argument I have with him is that many folks also like some of the mass-produced brews, such as how I have been known, on occasion, to enjoy a Schlitz, PBR, or Old Style. While I can be a bit of a beer snob and also think true beer drinkers should test their palates with local craft brews, some occasions warrant a corporate brew but hopefully not some behemoth's beer-flavored water.

And when you're hankering for some Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or a Sam Adams Boston Lager or an Abita Turbo Dog, I say drink it, man, drink it. Sure, it changed a bit during the trip to you, but it's still good stuff.

Monday, August 10, 2009


As I was driving my daughter back from swim class, I saw a teenager riding a bike. The dude was texting while riding a bike.

I'm not a fan of texting because I don't like talking or messing with a phone in the first place. Hell, it took some serious persuasion to make me get a cell phone. But this penchant for texting while driving (a bike or even worse a car) is not good. It's not good at all.

I've heard about bills in Illinois and other states that will ban texting while driving, but I doubt the legislators have thought about the law covering bicycles or golf carts or horses or clown cars.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Music Friday: "Don't You Forget about Me"

As you might have guessed, with the death of John Hughes, this Music Friday is devoted to the iconic song associated with one of his most famous movies, The Breakfast Club, a movie I remember watching many times in high school.

Click HERE for the video.

It's mostly based on nostalgia, but I still like that movie along with one of my all time favorites, Sixteen Candles.

It's hard to forget the Donger. And Molly Ringwold and Anthony Michael Hall were great.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thoughts on Our Trip to Edisto Island

It was a nice trip for a few days down to South Carolina to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. My in-laws graciously let us use their points for their time-share with Wyndham, and it was nice to be back in the South for the change although some people (in particular, Chicagoans) would argue that our five years in St. Louis were spent in the South.

Regardless, once we stepped off the plane we had the humidity of the deep South smack us in the face. I thought this: "Oh yeah, I remember this."

While the town is technically called Edisto Island, it's not like you have to take a ferry or bridge to it since the area is South Carolina "lowcountry." In the case of Edisto, you can buy houses with "marshfront" property since one side of the town is situated on the Intercoastal Waterway, and the other side of the town faces the beach.

If you ever want to take a vacation to a place that is more of a regional vacation spot--it seemed like mostly people from the Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia frequent there--it's a great place, no Myrtle Beach stuff.

If we ever go again, I'm sure we'll take the kids and also check out Charleston.

Stay Positive Wednesday: Online Rating Systems

As much as I think the value of the internet and the Web gets overblown sometimes, online rating systems for products that consumers have purchased on various websites are very, very helpful.

We plan to shop for a new refrigerator this weekend, and trolling various store's websites has been helpful for find out how other people like or extremely dislike their purchases. Armed with Consumer Reports and people's personal experiences, we hope to make a good decision.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Makeshift Gazpacho

The big tomatoes in my garden are beginning to ripen, and they'll continue to do so as long as I can rig the plant so it stays upright.

So I made some this cold soup by picking and choosing ingredients and methods from recipes from the Food Network website. Most recipes call for tomato juice, but I forgot that item when I went to the store. Instead, I used low sodium V-8.

Here are the ingredients:
3 large-style tomatoes (I used a large, medium, and small size of a tomato similar to Better Boy or Big Boy) peeled and diced
1 yellow bell pepper diced
1 bunch of green onion chopped
1 lime forked for its juice
1 jalapeno pepper chopped
1/2 of a red onion diced
1 small bunch of cilantro (maybe 3 tablespoons) chopped
1 small bunch of sweet basil chopped
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 12 oz. cans of low sodium V-8
1-2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1-2 refined sugar

I put all of the ingredients in a big mixing bowl and used an immersion blender, one of the best kitchen gadgets out there, to blend it all together.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Belated Music Friday: "Ain't Life Grand"

Ok, I'm late. But I have a good excuse. Last Friday was our 10th wedding anniversary, and as I stated in my previous post we went down to Edisto Island, South Carolina.

It was a great time: slept in every day, went to the beach, ate fresh seafood, and kayaked on the "Sound" and in Mud Creek with dolphins.

I was lucky enough to discover a very good radio station as we tooled around the area in our rental car. The station is 105.5 "The Bridge," and it comes out of Charleston. They play tunes from Patterson Hood to Tom Petty, from up-and-coming bands to classic rock, from blues to soul, from jam bands to alt-country.

Click HERE to watch Widespread Panic perform one of the tunes we heard on that station while driving around.