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Friday, November 15, 2019 2 comments

Granddaughter Dearest, an early peek

It’s amazing what they can do with ultrasound these days. They zoomed right in on Granddaughter Dearest’s face…

Look at those duck lips!
Her face is all squooshed… as the Genie might say, “itty bitty living space!” Looks like she has some hair, too, although that could be focus/distortion.

The Blessed Event is about a month away, now… although DD is starting to be less insistent about carrying her to term. “She could decide to come early," DD opined recently. I don’t hold out a lot of hope about sharing a birthday, but whatever the date, it’s all good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 No comments

Fixing supper, redux

Back in May, I blogged about Kroger’s Home Chef meal kits. They’re basically raw ingredients and a recipe card. None of the prep work has been done, which is the only thing that would justify the markup on those kits.

Well, they still have the meal kits, but now they feature recipes on their website as well. Even better, you can get a weekly “meal planning” email with links to five recipes. I haven’t seen a week yet where I want to try all five (each week, at least one of them requires an Instant Pot and I don’t have one), but one or two usually catch my interest and I add them to “My Recipes” for future reference. Of course, they have a helpful feature that lets you add the ingredients to your grocery list. Many have a very short total time listed, but I’ve found those wildly optimistic (or, in the case of the most recent, doesn’t count the time needed to cook pasta). Clearing off work surfaces adds to the total time, but that’s specific to FAR Manor.

So, here’s links and commentary to the recipes I’ve tried so far:
  • Italian Sausage and Pasta Bake—this one was a hit with everybody, including oft-fussy Mason. Wife doesn’t like casing, so I removed them before slicing the sausages. The only wrinkle is that I bought mild Italian sausage and it still came out pretty spicy. Maybe next time, I’ll use “sweet” sausage. And, of course, the total time didn’t include preparing the rotini.
  • Quick Mediterranean Chili—another widely-accepted dish, which actually came in fairly close to the posted prep time (and I doubled the recipe). Wife thought it was a tad spicy, even though I used half the paprika called for. I added a half teaspoon of the ghost pepper sauce The Boy made for me to my bowl, and it perked everything right up.
  • Bacon, Apple, and Sage Stuffed Chicken Breasts—the adults really liked this. The kids were just OK with it. I thought I had sage growing along the driveway, but it must have died out (or the wife hit it with Roundup when she was cleaning up the weeds). I subbed fresh lemon balm for the sage, and (on the wife’s recommendation) rolled them in bread crumbs. Next time, though, instead of slicing into the side to make a pocket, I'll go in from the top and add side chambers. That should keep more of the cheese inside. I like big breasts and I cannot lie, but these were big enough to make two servings per. What I ended up with fed my family and Daughter Dearest’s with some left over… maybe I didn’t have to double the recipe on that one.
Haven’t had a clunker so far, anyway. I have several others I’m planning to try. With any luck, I’ll soon be able to plan a week’s worth of meals and always have something ready.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019 4 comments

Snack break

Recently, those “Balanced Breaks” snacks have captured some attention. It’s a great premise—a snack that concentrates on protein with dried fruit (mostly raisins or cranberries) for carbs. Nice idea, except for all the plastic waste. The “lid” (also plastic) peels off, and there’s no tops that would make the containers reusable. A few probably find their way into basement or garage workshops, as handy trays for holding screws, but the vast majority are destined for the landfill. I suppose if they did make the containers easy to reuse, a lot of people would refill them and not buy more.

So I was in the supermarket recently, saw a display case of Balanced Breaks, and thought, “you know, if they carry small containers with 3 or 4 compartments, I could just make my own and not have to throw away more stuff.”

I wandered over to the container aisle—and though I didn’t find anything small with three or four compartments, I found 2-compartment “meal prep” containers. Close enough!

There was a block of medium cheddar in the fridge that has been waiting for a purpose; I cut it up and diced some leftover ham. Nuts and raisins were in the pantry. Here’s the result.

Looks good enough to eat!

I showed them to the wife and Mason; both liked the idea. “Can I have this one?” Mason asked. No problem, but he stashed it in the fridge. I made another, and that used up the rest of the ham. Since then, I've made some with thick slices of ham from the deli, and even some not-crab (the fake crab meat they make from pollock); one of Sizzle’s kids suggested shrimp. Wife complained that I was using “her” cashews, so I got some almonds (light salt and habenero BBQ) and peanuts. The fruit is either raisins or craisins (dried cranberries)—I should mix them for grins.

I’m calling this one a win.

Sunday, November 03, 2019 2 comments

Charlie speaks (sort of)

A couple Fridays ago, I went to pick up Charlie from daycare, and this is what he looked like:

Fence 1, Nose and Forehead 0
…but he came out grinning!
Seems there’s a downslope at one edge of the playground, with a fence, and Charlie decided to take a trike down the slope at full-tilt-boogie. They said he put his hands out at the last minute, but it didn’t stop the faceplant (or was it a fenceplant?). The scuff scabbed over, and could be seen a long way off, before it finally started healing. Fortunately, it’s nearly gone now. I carried the incident report from the daycare around with me for a while, in case someone accused me of something they shouldn’t.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. Charlie’s speech therapy is finally starting to pay off. He still can’t do hard consonants, but he can say several things recognizable as words: “gah-dah” (Granddad), “gah-ma” (Grandmom), “ow-ooo” (out, as in outside), “uh!” (up), “banana” (his favorite snack food) and a couple other things on occasion. The therapist is working on getting him a Dynavox, a tablet with speech software. You tap an icon and it speaks for him. She tried him on one she was setting up for another patient, and he took to it right away. Still, the old grunt-and-point often gets him a long way toward being understood. He’ll put a whiny edge on it when he wants something, too.

I observed recently that he’s looking less like a baby and more like a little boy these days. He wants to do more things for himself, which is commendable. One recent evening, we read a few books, and he held one and turned the pages after I read the text. He’s been working on dressing himself as well, and can do all but the shirt (The Boy, advanced as he was, didn’t start dressing himself until he was 4). He is even showing a preference for which car he wants to ride in… either M.O. the B.B. (huge pickup) or the Miata (tiny roadster).

Now if I could only get him to expand his approved proteins list…

Thursday, October 31, 2019 2 comments

Sunset, sunrise… (2019 edition)

Together again!
And when I die, and when I’m gone,
There’ll be one child born in this world
To carry on, to carry on.
—Blood, Sweat, and Tears

The father in law passed away a couple weeks ago. This was something he’d wanted for a while, but especially after he fell and broke his leg a couple weeks after The Boy took his longest journey. He was mostly interested in reuniting with his wife, who has been gone about seven years now, but I like to think they also hang out with The Boy (and my dad).

So the wife has been at the manor a lot more than usual, and that’s a good thing. Daughter Dearest, Sizzle, and their kids have been coming by a lot as well (also a good thing). One of us cooks supper, we all eat, and sometimes we’ll hang out and play cards or whatever on the weekends.

And, coming soon, to a blog you’re reading… Granddaughter Dearest!

She's a lively kid, so says DD. Since she and I were both a month early (for much different reasons), I told DD she ought to have GDD a month early and maybe we could share a birthday. “Don’t even go there!” was the response I got.

So besides that, it’s the usual crazy at FAR Manor. The furnace went out to lunch, just as the weather decided to get serious about cooling off. With any luck, we’ll have that fixed tomorrow.

Saturday, September 28, 2019 No comments

At last… breaking in our new old camper

Beats camping in a tent, says my 60 year old back.
Not quite everything came together last weekend, but good enough: Mason had fall break, I finally got a plate for the Starflyer, we have M.O. the B.B. (Massive Overkill, the Big Butt, aka The Boy’s moving truck)—and most important, we got a brief break in the constant 90F+ weather. Time to go camping, dangit!

There were a couple of maintenance items I wanted to deal with on the Starflyer before we left, so I opened it up in the driveway Thursday evening. I poked at things, and Mason figured since we had it set up, we might as well sleep in it.

Why not? Of course, that meant Charlie would be sleeping with us, but he thinks the camper is really fun to hang out in. So that’s what we did Friday night.

I’m not ready to go to sleep just yet!
I was worried about Charlie’s sleeping arrangements—he’s a flip-flopper in bed—but then I looked under the dining table. A little experimenting found that two of the seatback cushions fit perfectly in the space where the table (usually) goes, and a crib sheet fits perfectly over them. I put the table outside, and had Charlie’s sleep cave set up in no time.

Of course, when Mason got in bed (back-side bunk), Charlie decided that was the perfect place for him to sack out as well. Mason protested, but Charlie didn’t give him too much hassle and both the boys were asleep before too long. I scooped up Charlie and put him in his sleep cave, adding a cushion at his feet in case he decided to migrate. He woke up in the 3 a.m. hour, which isn’t unusual, but I understood his motivation. The low that night was around 58F, and there’s not a furnace in the camper, and one blanket wasn’t sufficient. Charlie likes his feet cold, but not that cold. I put him in bed with me, made sure he was covered, and tried to warm his feet up. He pulled up close until he got slightly warm, then rolled away.

Saturday morning rolled around, and Mason was itching to get on the ROAD. I had a similar itch, but knew there were a couple things I needed to take care of first. One was easier than expected, one was close to estimated effort, and one was beyond ridiculous.

The easy one turned out to be the weatherstrip under the front (large) bunk. It's basically a plastic angle bracket, and all but about 6 inches had detached and was laying loose. The previous owner just stuffed 2" A/C foam in the gap and called it good. At first, I thought I might have to push the bunk in a couple feet, lay on the floor, and staple it up—instead, pushing it in about a foot was enough to kneel on a cushion and do the job.

Next up was the sink faucet. Starcraft cut too much wood out of the countertop for the faucet, leaving the screws in the back trying to grab air. Someone came up with the “clever” idea of turning it backwards, allowing the hand pump to function… but with any torque in the opposite direction, the faucet lifted off the countertop. My clever idea was to use longer screws, because there was some wood for them to bite into down below, but it didn’t work. My solution was to replace the wood screws with long machine screws, using a washer and nut to hold it in place. It worked! Longer-term, I’m going to replace that countertop.

The hard one was the tires. They want 80PSI(!), and my air compressor had a cracked hose. Try as I might, I could not get more than 50PSI into the tires. Fortunately, I was trying this part on Friday evening, so I knew I needed to get a new air hose on Saturday. But then I had to find a connector that the air chucks would snap into, and find an air chuck that would actually push air into the tires. Fortunately, I had them here at the manor. The spare needs to be replaced, because it has cracks in the sidewalls, but the primary tires were fine and I was only going 40 miles.

Time for the main event! I backed M.O. the B.B. into position. A few years ago, I was coming home from work and found a drawbar with a 3-1/2" drop on the road… with a 2" ball, which just happens to be the Starflyer’s size. In a way, someone’s loss was part of what got me serious about finding a camper. I really need a 6" drop drawbar with this behemoth, but it got us there and back.

Now let me tell you about M.O. the B.B. Earlier this year, The Boy needed a truck to pull the 26' moving trailers he was using for his new business. Due to a number of circumstances, mostly having to do with my employer getting acquired, I had a large pool of cash in a brokerage account. I figured that (assuming the business worked out) I could get a better return on investing in Let’s Get Movin’ than any CD and most stocks. So we bought him this gigantic TPC: a Ram 3500 diesel dualie. I’m not exactly sure what the tow capacity is on this thing, but it’s measured in tons. The Starflyer’s empty weight is 1700 pounds, and I would have to pack lots of junk to get it to a single ton.

The other thing: I had hoped The Boy would come with us on this trip. I had planned to give him and Mason the big bunk up front, and I’d go to the back of the camper. It would have been worth it.

But I digress. As expected, the truck was going “Trailer? I’m pulling a trailer? Really?” all the way to the campground, LOL. The dualie’s big butt is wider than the 7-foot camper; so I knew if I could see stripes in the side-view mirrors, the Starflyer was on the road. It inspired confidence… which evaporated as soon as I tried to back into the site we selected. I need lots of practice backing a trailer. This was something I was hoping The Boy would help me learn. But I figure he was having a good laugh at my expense, as Mason kept going “You’re about to hit the TREE!” and similar sentiments. Eventually, I got it backed in, detached, and we got set up. I had a leveler and extreme-heavy-duty extension cord, but neither were needed. There was some drama associated with the water hookup, most of which was debris in the threads, but I think a new washer will fix it. The A/C was less easy to deal with: it spun up, but I didn’t feel any air coming out the vents (cold or otherwise). After about 15 minutes, it shut down and would not start again. I think something froze up and blew a fuse.

Otherwise, I think the spot I selected was perfect: right across from the bath house (the Starflyer has a Porta-Potti, but that’s for late-night needs), almost across from the playground, and a short walk to the lake. Of course, the lakeside sites were occupied, but we had plenty of space. Mason spent a lot of time fishing (no luck) and meeting other kids more or less his age (better luck). I cooked meals, rode my bike around a little, and had some quality time with my Kindle. If you’ve never been camping, and have kids, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. The kids take off, and leave you with lots of quiet time. I remember this from the camping trips we took when I was a kid… thankfully, some things don’t change.

Sunday had us going to Newnan for Zoey’s birthday party. That ran longer than I expected (and Mason hoped), but we still had lots of fun and I let Mason stay up late to compensate. He rode his bike around the dark campground until 10:30 or so, then he was ready to pack it in for the night.

Breakfast, anyone?
Each morning. I used the inside stove to heat water for my French press, and poured the excess into a pump pot for washing and the like. For everything else, I have this three-burner Coleman white-gas stove that the father in law gave me. It must be close to 50 years old, at a minimum. I replaced the pump seals a year or two ago, and there was still pressure in the tank when I opened it Saturday morning to add fuel! Bacon and eggs in the morning… breakfast of champions.

As expected, Mason made himself scarce for the breaking-camp part on Monday morning, despite me telling him we had a pretty tight schedule (I had a work call at noon). I got him to chuck a couple things into the truck, but that was about it. Fortunately, I had planned for that. I got camp broke down, and we got on the road in good order.

The big question now is: how soon can we get out again? The way things are going this year, we should have good camping opportunities (weather-wise) well into November and maybe later.

Sunday, August 18, 2019 2 comments

All the boys

I found this after the fact: Mikel, Mason, and Charlie, all in one pic. It was from last December, when he came up to spend Christmas with us. This is one of the few shots I have of all three of my boys in one place… and almost certainly the latest.

The boys hanging out

Gotta love the Pocahontas pillowcase that I gave Mikel that night!


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