Friday, May 30, 2014

The Lunker Hunters

If there are two things I want to teach my kids, it's to have a love for the outdoors, and to not be afraid to touch a fish. I've got some work to do on both regards...

The Girl, who is now 5, caught her first fish almost three years ago, while we were on a camping trip across the border in the crazy land known as Wisconsin. We had been fishing from one of the many man-made fishing piers on this certain lake for about 20 minutes when the Girl's bobber suddenly disappeared. She cranked on her little princess reel as hard as her 2-year-old muscles would allow, and reeled in about a 4-inch-long bluegill that tried to eat her worm. Thankfully the Wife was nearby, so she came over and took a couple of obligatory "first fish" photos, which I showed to anyone who would stand still long enough for me to hogtie them. It's possible I was a little too proud of her accomplishment... When the fish squirmed, the Girl backed away and hid behind me. The fish was released unharmed, and untouched by anyone but me.

Despite a couple of valiant efforts, none of the kids have caught any fish since that day. Until this past weekend, that is. We took all three kids to the lake that Grandma R & Grandpa D live on. I snuck over there the night before to "scout" it out on my own, and had a blast catching bluegills and the occasional bass on my fly rod.

None of the kids know how to use a fly rod yet, so when we went over the next day we brought a cup full of worms from our front yard and their diminutive spinning rods. I wormed up the first rod and cast it out, thinking I would have plenty of time to get the next rod ready, but the bobber instantly went under, and I reeled in a nice sunfish. Learning from this mistake, I got both rods ready and called the kids over to be nearby when the action started. I'm glad I did, because bobbers were bobbing, worms were getting eaten, and fish were getting caught pretty much nonstop for the next hour. The Little One's first fish was a nice sized sunfish, and the Boy's first fish was a robust largemouth bass. It was as much fun as you could hope to have while fishing with worms, except for the part where neither the Wife nor I brought our camera. Thankfully the Wife's sister had her phone with her, so she took a few videos of all the action. 

Since we forgot to bring our cameras with, these are an artist's rendition of what the actual events looked like, except that the Boy didn't actually touch his fish. Other than that I think the artist was able to accurately depict the jubilation that occurred, but the fish seem a little small to me...

When I pulled the Boy's bass out of the water, he ran off to hide, much like his older sister had three years earlier. The Little One is the only one that stayed put for her first fish, and she even reluctantly reached out to touch it with one finger. That sure made her Daddy proud! Maybe some day she'll even bait her own hook...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wedding Food Review, Volume 1

I seem to have the reputation of having an insatiable love of food. Actually, it's more than just a reputation. It's the truth! I love food! I eat a lot, and I love every minute of it. I suppose this may come back to haunt me some day, and I already have slightly elevated cholesterol levels, but that hasn't diminished my love of food.

There is one drawback. My love of food seems to have clouded my memory. When I think back at all the weddings I have attended in my life, I tend to only remember the food that was served at the receptions. Oh, and the fact that my table is always the last to be released to go up to the buffet, not that I'm mad about that or anything...I'm sure the ceremonies were all quite nice, but, if you've seen one beautiful bride in a flowing white gown, you've seen them all, and let's face it, all the other brides pale in comparison to the Wife, so it's the food that I remember.

No offense to all you other brides out there, but none of you hold a candle to the Wife. Hopefully the food at your reception was memorable...
Yup, I remember the food, such as the chicken with cherries that my friends Mel & Darin had at their reception. Or the strange little pastry-like hors d'oeurves that were dipped in the also-strange red, garlic sauce at Tony & Mel's (a different Mel) reception. The Wife and I had a morning wedding and then a brunch reception with omelets and other breakfast foods. I remember it being really good, but that was the one wedding where I had other things on my mind. Gee, I wonder why...

We attended a lovely wedding just last Friday evening, and at the reception the groom told me he wanted to talk to me later to hear my review of the food. That gave me the idea of posting my first Wedding Food Review here on the blog. Let's see how it goes, huh?

Dan & Ashlee's Wedding Food Review

First of all, the wedding was beautiful. I thought I better get that out of the way while I still remembered whether it was or not. The food was really good, too. It was catered by Brasa, a local restaurant with locations in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. I had never been to Brasa before, but I have had several friends tell me it's one of their favorite places, so I was eager to try it out.

Brasa is known for its "comfort food inspired by the Creole cooking traditions of the Americas and Caribbean." I can't attest to its authenticity in that regard, but it was really yummy. The buffet line consisted of tiny cornbread muffins, yams & andouille, coconut curry vegetables, yellow rice, cabbage & apple coleslaw, rotisserie chicken, and smoked beef. I had some of everything (except for the coconut curry veggies - I am not a fan of coconut) and a lot of some things. My favorites were the rice, chicken and beef. I have always been a big fan of meat, and have a tendency to just go back for more and more meat, even when there are other tasty things on the menu. The chicken was tender and juicy, with a really nice roasted flavor, but I think the beef was the best thing on the menu. It was tender and flavorful, even without any of the sauces that were available to slather it in. I did sprinkle a little bit of the Brasa brand BBQ sauce over some of it, which gave it a little extra kick, but it was terrific without it.

Overall, I would say the meal at Dan & Ashlee's wedding was one of the best wedding meals I have ever had, making it one of the most memorable weddings I have been privileged to attend. If you're in the Twin Cities, I would definitely recommend going to one of the two Brasa locations next time you're in the mood for some delicious comfort food. For me, that is pretty much every day. Maybe I'll see you there!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Career Change?

I just got home from picking up the two oldest kids from their last day of preschool for the year, and I gotta say, I started thinking it might be time for me to change careers from whatever it is I do to a preschool teacher. Everybody was loving on those teachers! They were getting hugs from everyone, and the gifts! Oh my, the gifts! Every student gave every teacher at least a card, which I can only assume was filled with wads of money, and most also were giving wrapped gifts, potted plants, or enormous hanging baskets. I wouldn't be surprised if some parents slipped the teachers the keys to a new sports car. Not that I am too envious of the plants, but if I was a preschool teacher I would be all about the gifts, cards full of cash, or new car! I wouldn't even be very fussy about the color...

I was all ready to send in my application to preschool teacher school, when I realized why all those gifts were being doled out. It's because all the parents were so happy that anyone would take their kids off their hands for 2.5 hours a day, 2 or 3 times a week, 9 months out of the year. Parents will do pretty much anything if there's a slight chance that someone out there would be willing to let them get a couple hours of peace and quiet. The Wife and I are the same way. We love our peace and quiet, and I think maybe we took it for granted this school year...Makes me think maybe we didn't give the kids' teachers a big enough gift. Anyone know where we could get 4 sports cars real cheap? I'm hoping the color doesn't matter...

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Run to One Billion* Contest Winner Alert!

The Run to One Billion* was a huge success. Thank you for helping us get to our goal of a billion* pageviews on the ol' blog. We are excited to announce the winner!

But first, I need to explain something. Last time we had a big contest, I announced the winner via a wonderfully choreographed, beautifully filmed, and superbly written video clip starring me. It drew rave reviews (which is to say that nobody came right out and said it was terrible), and helped me to realize that my dream of being a movie star was probably dumb. Thankfully, I actually sometimes learn from my mistakes, so I decided to announce this contest's winner with an equally well-produced video starring the Girl. She is the one child that is most apt to actually speak up and enunciate well enough for you, the viewer, to be able to understand her. And, she's quite photogenic, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, she has been barfing her brains out for the past 3 days. So I put that plan on the back burner.
Will the winner choose the cookies? I guess we'll just have to wait to find out....

Without the help of the Girl, I thought I better just hurry up and announce the winner via the written word. In order to choose the winner this time, I assigned everyone a number, and then found a fancy-schmancy online random number generator to pick the winner. I am not sure how it works, but the website included lots of big NASA-sounding words on it, so it must be good.

The random number generator thingy chose the number 83, which happened to correspond with the name Heather Robbins from Illinois. Congratulations Heather! You have won the chance to choose your fabulous prize from the Personalized Golf Lesson, the Personalized Fly Tying Lesson, the Personalized Fly Fishing Lesson, the Guided Day of Trout Fishing, or a Box of Delicious Cookies. I know you will choose wisely! I will contact you personally to get your decision.

In the meantime, don't let the end of the contest keep you (I'm talking to all of you now, not just Heather) from coming back and enjoying all the silliness here at Chaotic Kids & Clutter. And, if you feel like it, or even if you don't, tell your friends to check us out, too. We would love to get to 2 billion* pageviews in the near future. Helping us get there will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside (warm and fuzzy feeling is not guaranteed).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Breaking the Color Barrier

Have you seen blackberries lately? They're enormous. At least the ones I see in the grocery stores around here. They are so big, it's kind of scary. They don't look like the blackberries I grew up knowing, and it makes me wonder if they are even the same fruit. Let's take a look, shall we?

Exhibit A

The blackberry in Exhibit A reminds me a lot of the blackberries we used to find growing wild on the family farm over in western Wisconsin. We never found very many, but the few berries we did find were round, hollow in the middle like a raspberry, fairly sweet, and small - much smaller than any raspberries that you could find anywhere. And they were delicate, prone to falling apart if you looked at them the wrong way. You pretty much had to eat them as soon as you plucked them off the vine, and both my sister and I were happy to do so. These are the blackberries I knew and loved. You couldn't buy blackberries at the store, which made the few we found growing wild just that much more special.

Exhibit B. On a side note, if anyone from the Srixon company would like to sponsor this post, I would be all for it. I give Srixon golf balls two thumbs up!!

A few years ago, blackberries, like the one in Exhibit B, started showing up in our local supermarkets. They definitely weren't like the blackberries I had known as a child. In fact, they resembled the old blackberries from my memory in their color only - they were, indeed, black. Nothing else about them looked like the blackberries I knew. They were large, oblong, and crazy looking. They looked like blackberries that had been given BGH (Blackberry Growth Hormone). They looked out of place amongst all the other natural-looking fruits. In fact, it took me a while to feel comfortable eating them, and when I did, I noticed another strange thing: they aren't put together like the blackberries I knew; they aren't hollow in the middle, but instead there is a weird core that all the little knobby things are attached to. It's weird. It's like they're not even the same fruit as I remember...

So, all these strange things make me wonder, "What is going on with blackberries?" Have they evolved since I was a kid? Are they a totally different fruit that they are trying to tell us are blackberries? If I took BGH, would I be able to hit more homeruns in my softball games? And, would it be detectable in a drug test? I suppose I could get on Google and find answers to all these probing questions. To be honest, though, I've grown tired of this rant. I'll just eat the yummy things, BGH and all.

Monday, May 12, 2014

What Comes Right Before Part B?

Yes, we are throwing ourselves a party here today, because it's Chaotic Kids & Clutter's 2nd birthday! Woot woot! This blog burst onto the world innocently enough exactly 2 years ago, but since then has grown into the, well, um, I guess it's still pretty innocent, but maybe it's a little sillier now than it was at the beginning. It's hard to tell, because it was already quite silly back then, too. Innocent and silly. I guess that sums it up in a not-very-manly sounding way...

Yeah, I'd like to say that the blog has evolved a little since it was started, but, let's face it, if anything, I, personally, have probably de-evolved, and since I am the main brainforce behind this thing, the blog probably has too. Oh well.

Before I get back to all the party preparations, I would like to thank you, my loyal readers for being so, you know, loyal. It's been a big year around here, and you had a big part in it. You helped us win a coveted Bloggie Award, and we couldn't have done it without you. Your loyalty makes me want to keep sitting at my keyboard night after night, neglecting all my kids, dogs, and other responsibilities, so I can churn out all these silly stories. Thanks for everything!

Oh, that reminds me, we reached a billion* pageviews over the weekend, so we will be having a drawing for our Grand Prize Winner some time tomorrow. You have until Midnight tonight, CDT, to "Like" the Chaotic Kids & Clutter facebook page. If you do you will automatically be put in the drawing. We will have some kind of announcement in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled.

Thanks again for everything! Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to finish flambeing the foie gras for all of our party guests that are coming over. (That's a code for "I need to go do some actual work for my actual job." If you ever see me writing about foie gras, know that it is a lie. There is absolutely no chance I will ever eat or even enter the same room as foie gras, which is a paste made from duck liver. That's gross.)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fried Chicken, and Other Hazards of Living

I LOVE chicken, of all kind. But I really, really, really love fried chicken. I could eat it three meals a day for several weeks before I got sick of it. I can only say that because I usually eat about 5 or 6 meals each day, so even with all that fried chicken, I would still be eating some other, more nutritious, food. Theoretically...

I love the Wife's fried chicken, I love KFC's fried chicken, I love our local supermarket's fried chicken. I  haven't tried Popeye's fried chicken yet, but I hear it's outstanding. I can't think of any fried chicken that I wouldn't like.

Unfortunately, I have been trying to eat healthier lately, so I haven't had hardly any fried chicken for several weeks. I've been cooking my own meals at lunch a lot, including a lot of fish, and grilled chicken, if I have chicken at all. Last week, though, I had had enough. I was totally jonesing for some fried chicken. In what can only be assumed is a communist plot, the KFC by work closed down several months ago, so I decided to go the local Cub supermarket and get a "bucketload" of fried chicken from their deli. (I put bucketload in quotes back there because they don't actually serve it in buckets, but that was the most descriptive and universally-understood way I could word it.)
Look at that golden mountain of greasiness! I need to go to another website so I don't drool all over my keyboard. You stay here and keep reading.

I took it back to work, grabbed a fistful of napkins from the kitchen, and sat down at my desk to stuff myself. Oh, it was so good. And, oh, did I feel so bad afterward. Apparently my body had forgotten how much fun it is to be filled with delicious greasy chicken, because it immediately rebelled as soon as I pushed the last bite down my gullet.

My head hurt. My sinuses hurt. My tummy hurt. I felt like I could hardly walk. (I will fully admit that part might have just been in my head.) I felt bad, ladies and gentlemen. And not the normal kind of good-bad I used to feel after gorging myself on fried chicken, but a legitimate bad-bad, like maybe this meal had just taken about 12 years off my life. I didn't like it.

So, I guess my "healthy" eating has affected how much bad stuff my body can tolerate. I suppose I better eat more bad stuff to build up my tolerance again. It's the only logical conclusion I can come to...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

There's a Strange Magic in the Air...

There is definitely a strange magic in the air today, and not just because I've had the song "Strange Magic" by Electric Light Orchestra in my head for the past two weeks. I'm sure you must have noticed it. It's almost like an aura, or possibly an aroma, that is wafting around, making the world seem sparkly and effervescent. On my way to drop the two older kids off at preschool this morning, I saw some turtles doing the cha-cha across the road, and in a yard I saw a duck having a coffee with a wolverine. That is definitely some strange magic right there. Oh, and don't forget that my belly button has been puckering and unpuckering all morning. Yes, there's something magical in the air today, and I know exactly what it is: tonight is the opening night of my Recreational Church Softball League. Woohoo!!!

Can you see the strange "aura" around me? It's a magical day...
Every year I, and I have to believe every one else in the entire Upper Midwest, can feel the excitement as a new softball season bursts forth. I'm not going to say that it's a lot like the excitement you feel while expecting the birth of a child, but if you want to think that, I won't try and stop you. We won our league a couple of years ago, and came in second last year, so I am expecting great things out of the guys again this year. Wish us luck as we march towards another championship! And keep your eye out for wolverines. The magic only lasts a little while.

Monday, May 5, 2014

(Insert Random Baseball-Related Cliche Here)

I just signed the Girl up for t-ball. I don't know how she feels about it, but I am SUPER-PUMPED, so I guess I'm going to be one of those parents. At least I know now so I can try to control myself once the action gets going. Before we had kids I envisioned myself playing catch with them every night straight out of the womb. That vision hasn't come to fruition, so I can only hope she has some skills. I know she has started throwing a big bouncy ball pretty well, but I'm sure she'll need some work on her hitting and catching a ball in her glove.

All this talk about t-ball takes me back to my glory days on the t-ball diamond. I don't have very many memories from my childhood, but there is one t-ball play that will occupy space in my gray matter for all of eternity.

It happened like this: I don't think I had exhibited any great t-ball skills up to this point, but for some reason my coach had me play shortstop for an inning or two. In later years I would find out that shortstop is usually reserved for the best player on the team, but apparently that wasn't the case in t-ball. Or maybe my coach knew as much about the game as I did at the time.

Whatever the case, I was playing shortstop. I don't remember the entire inning, but eventually the opposing team had loaded the bases, and my team hadn't gotten anyone out yet. Perhaps they had already scored a multitude of runs on us...that is not an integral part of my memory. In fact, my entire memory begins with the crack of the bat, as the 5-year-old who was up to bat hit a scorcher of a line drive that seemed to be heading straight for the outfield. All of the base runners took off, since the ball was obviously going to get over the infield

But then it happened: I jumped as high as I could, and made a miraculous catch with the tip of my glove.

I don't think the base runners knew what happened, or maybe they hadn't fully grasped the nuances of the game yet, because none of them tried to get back to their base. I tagged the little boy out who had wandered off of second, and I could have tagged the one who had been on first, too, because he was cruising into second. Instead I threw the ball over to my first baseman, Tommy, for a triple play. But then Tommy made a genius play by throwing the ball back to our third base kid, Ralph, to get a force out on the boy who had been on third, but who had already crossed home plate and was celebrating with his teammates on his bench. With one amazing catch I began what I can only assume is the only quadruple play in t-ball, and maybe even baseball, history. Jubilation erupted on our team, even though none of us really understood what we had done.

If only somebody had invented smartphones back then, maybe my miraculous play would have been a YouTube sensation. Instead, it lives only in my limited brain space. I think I better get a smartphone before the Girl's season starts... with my genes you never know what she might be capable of!
This kid has the greatest swing in the history of mankind. In my memory it's exactly like the kid who hit the scorching line drive...

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Nerve of Some People...

Let me lay out the scenario here... For those of you who don't already know, the Wife and I work at the same place. She is one of the owners, so things are pretty flexible for us, which allows the Wife to work from home four days a week. Along with working from home on those days, she also has to deal with at least some, if not all, of our crazy kids. So, obviously, I don't envy her at all.

I go to work on those four days. Wednesdays, however, the table is turned, sort of, and the Wife goes to work while I stay home. I would say that nobody should envy me on those days, you know, to make it seem like I have it rough, but to be honest, I drop the Little One off at her grandma's house every Wednesday morning, and then I take the two older ones, the Girl and the Boy, to preschool. I have the entire morning free to do whatever I want. I would like to say that my afternoons are worse, but I pick the two preschoolers up from school, and then drop them off at the aforementioned grandma's house, so I have my Wednesday afternoons free, too. Granted, I usually do a bunch of work in, on and/or around our house on those days, but at least I don't have to watch the kids!

Except, that is, for the next three weeks, when I do have to watch the kids. Grandma and grandpa snuck out of town and went on a three week-long cruise. Can you believe it? The nerve of some people! How can they expect me to have to look after my own kids for three straight Wednesdays?! It's incomprehensible how rude some people can be, isn't it? Grandparents who leave town and make me watch my own kids are the worst...

On a totally unrelated note, they don't have wi-fi on cruise ships, do they? Just wondering...
Look at them all - happy, full of delicious cruise food, and mocking me because I have to stay here and take care of my kids. How rude!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Throwback Thursday, or How the Wife and I Really Met

The Wife and I met when we were both in our late 20s, but we've always wondered if our paths had crossed at an earlier point in life without our realizing it at the time. We worked just a couple of miles from each other. We frequented many of the same restaurants. Her dad even shopped at the store I worked at. It would have been almost impossible for us to not have run into each other at some point.

I have imagined how it probably went, many times. I had walked down the mall to the China Buffet with my friends and co-workers Mo, Ge and David. The Wife had also come to the China Buffet with one or two of her co-workers. She and I probably were in the buffet line at the same time, and maybe I even moved out of the way so she could get a scoop of the delicious chicken lo mein. Perhaps our eyes met, and she mouthed the words "Thank you" to me as we passed. Then I went back to my table and told the guys about the hot chick I talked to in line, and she went back to her table and forgot all about me. Turns out I don't have that expansive of an imagination...

Now I finally have proof that we did meet at an earlier age. I was leafing through some old photos, looking for something to post for Throwback Thursday, when I came across the doozy below. It's photographic proof that we met when we were babies.

That's me with the towel/underwear on my head, and that's the Wife in the little bouncy seat thing. It seems weird that, despite my younger age, I am the giant baby crawling around, and she is the one that seems like she is just a month or two old. Yet, photographs don't lie, so we need to assume it's a fact. Finally, my vivid imagination can take a rest.