Sunday, September 28, 2008

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Allie, Julia. If you liked the spaghetti you had this afternoon here's how to make it:

I started by choosing a recipe that had the bare bones I needed to get started (the right types and proportions of tomatoes) and then I took it from there.

You'll need:

One big onion
Four slices of bacon
Olive oil
Four cloves of garlic (smash 'em good)
Two 28-oz. cans of whole tomatoes
One 16-oz. can of crushed tomatoes
One of those little cans of tomato paste
Some bay leaves
Finely chopped fresh herbs including:
A palm full of Italian parsley
Five big basil leaves
Onion powder
Dried red pepper flakes
A palm full of sugar
A cup of beef stock
A pat of butter
Salt and pepper

Mince the bacon and the onions (you hate onions so the finer the better). Fry the bacon bits to the point where they've given up all of their grease. Then toss in the onions and cook them until they've reduced down to almost a paste (remember, the reason you don't like onions is the texture so make sure you remove that obstacle). Hold off on the garlic until you're just about ready to add all of this to your sauce pot. Burnt garlic sucks.

Get the blender and puree the tomatoes, then throw them in a big ass pot along with the crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste. Then dump everything else I've mentioned above into the pot and bring it to a boil. Let it really boil for a few minutes and then turn it down and let it gently bubble for an hour.

I thought a little red wine might be a nice addition but maybe that's something you can add to help make this recipe your own someday.

While the sauce is cooking, time to make the MEATBALLS!

Pound of hamburger
Pound of Italian Sausage
Three large eggs
Handful of bread crumbs
Handful of Parmesan cheese
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Black pepper

Throw all the ingredients into a big bowl and scrunch them together. Then make little meatballs about the size of both your noses combined and put them on a cookie sheet (line it with foil and you'll have easy clean up). Bake them at 450 degrees until they're brown.

Take them out and throw the meatballs into the sauce and cook for another twenty minutes or so.

Boil some spaghetti and ask some people to come over for dinner because this makes a crap load of sauce. Sprinkle your pasta with some finely shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Throw some garlic bread and a salad into the mix and I'm guessing this will be enough to easily stuff eight or nine people.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just Right

This one's too slow.

This one's too fast.

This one's just right.

So I bought it.

I know. I know. My wife doesn't have a job. Aren't you putting your children's Christmas in jeopardy?!

Hardly. . .

I sold the Bandit for what I paid for it. Well, that's not true. I came down $50 because the buyer asked and I didn't want to be a total dick. I was surprised at how sad I was when the guy loaded it up on a trailer and drove away. Julia stood on the front lawn with me and said, "Bye-bye motorcycle," which choked me up a little. I did love the bike but like many of the things we love they are just not good for us. The Twinkies Deb slipped into my lunch box today are a good example. The Bandit was like a big, creamy Twinkie and the more I indulged the more likely it was going to do me harm.

The Bandit's engine was too big. It gulped gas and the bike's small fuel tank meant I was constantly at the pumps. Plus, big engine means big power and I abused it. Every morning I'd tell myself I was going to take it easy and every morning some truck or sub-compact would do something stupid causing me to twist my wrist way more than I should. But the weight and balance of the bike always reassured me that I was in complete control. But just about everyone who rides safely will tell you that anything above 80 MPH is probably unnecessary and almost always dangerous. That said my Bandit never really seemed comfortable at any speed other than above 80.

So I sold it. My rationale was it was too much bike and now is a good time to have some extra money in the bank (plus no insurance payment). It was a very sensible plan that worked out nicely for everyone until I started poking around on Craigslist. That's where I found the V-Strom.

This new motorcycle has caused some discord in my marriage.

I'm not a good negotiator. Wait. More accurately - I'm not a polite negotiator. Part of my job is negotiating and I'm always convinced that while my terms might favor my position they are always fair and clearly the appropriate course of action. This is why I have a very hard time making concessions. This is why when any part of my argument is challenged I'm unable to offer a counterpoint and listen to a response. I just get downright aggressive. And when the negotiation is with someone I'm very familiar with, I just get downright hostile.

Don't get me wrong. I am almost always right (wink-wink). But that doesn't mean I have to be such an asshole about it. So when things do go my way often times I never know if it was a well presented argument or my unnecessary petulance that tipped the scales. If you want to know
which of the two it was in the case of this motorcycle you'll have to ask Debbie. I do know that the majority of our conversations regarding this purchase were not all that healthy and that's no way to live.

As of right now there is no acrimony between us. But I am tempering displays of enthusiasm. This bike was a bargain that did not require the involvement of much of our resources and passing it up would probably just mean paying even more for something similar at a later date.

Yes. That was a massive rationalization you just read. Even so, it still seems inappropriate to be seen grinning and giggling when I think about my new bike being parked in my garage.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008


One of my favorite children’s books, even before I began to read it to Allie and Julia, is Bread and Jam for Frances. It’s about a little badger who refuses to eat anything for breakfast, lunch or dinner but bread and jam.

I believe this book went far in shaping my parenting style. Frances goes for days without eating anything but bread and jam while her mother makes wonderful meals for the rest of the family. This passive aggressive torture finally shatters Frances. She breaks down and cries because she’s eating bread and jam while everyone else is slurping up spaghetti and meatballs. I have used this method in my many attempts to bend and snap the will of my children. It takes a lot of endurance but once or twice it’s actually worked.

But Frances’ mother wasn’t the only one taking part in breaking down her resolve to eat nothing but bread and jam. Frances’ buddy, Albert at school brings these incredibly elaborate lunches. Here’s an excerpt I found on the Web:

Albert took two napkins from his lunch box.
He tucked one napkin under his chin.
He spread the other one on his desk like a tablecloth.
He arranged his lunch neatly on the napkin.
With his spoon he cracked the shell of the hard-boiled egg.
He peeled away the shell and bit off the end of the egg.
He sprinkled salt on the yolk and set the egg down again.
He unscrewed his thermos-bottle cup and filled it with milk.
Then he was ready to eat his lunch.
He took a bite of sandwich, a bite of pickle, a bite of hard-boiled egg, and a drink of milk.
Then he sprinkled more salt on the egg and went around again.
Albert made the sandwich; the pickle, the egg, and the milk come out even.

Holy cow! Ever since I’ve read this book I’ve wanted to have an anal retentive lunch like this. Well, I’m writing to let you know that I’ve come pretty close.
Deb has been making my lunches each day and each day I’ve been impressed with the diverse and well executed menu she has prepared for me. Here’s what was in my lunch box today:

A bag of sweet baby carrots.
An apple.
A pluot.
Soy and wasabi flavored almonds.
Two sour cream cookies Grandma Ellen sent for my birthday.
String cheese.
A bologna sandwich with ketchup on white bread.

All this is accompanied by a napkin with a small heart drawn on it with a Sharpie.

I wish I could say I ate my lunch with the same panache that Albert demonstrates in the book but I don’t. I eat the carrots in the morning (I like them but not as much as everything else so I get them out of the way). Then I usually eat a piece of fruit soon after. Everything else gets wolfed down quickly around noon. Then all the debris gets shoved into a single baggie then thrown into the trash.

I avoid using the napkin with the little heart on it. I can’t seem to bring myself to get anything on it.

Lunch these days seems to be the only bright spot in my working day. I’m very grateful that Debbie takes the time to make my day. However, I am still waiting for the ultimate lunch. It’s the menu that Frances gets once her parents and Albert have finally broken her will. She gives up the bread and jam and the book describes what her mother makes her for lunch:

The next day when the bell rang for lunch, Albert said, "What do you have today?"
"Well," said Frances, laying a paper doily on her desk and setting a tiny vase of violets in the middle of it, "let me see." She arranged her lunch on the doily.
"I have a thermos bottle with cream of tomato soup," she said. "And a lobster-salad sandwich on thin slices of white bread. I have celery, carrot sticks, and black olives, and a little cardboard shaker of salt for the celery. And two plums and a tiny basket of cherries. And vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with."
"That's a good lunch," said Albert. "I think it's nice that there are all different kinds of lunches and breakfasts and dinners and snacks. I think eating is nice."

That’s a good lunch!? What the hell, Albert? He’s a badger for crying out loud. We all know he should be happy gnawing the heads off half-rotten earthworms. But for this particular, metrosexual badger a lobster-salad sandwich makes for just a good lunch. Not incredible, or spectacular or the best lunch ever. It is good. And that’s enough to teach us all a lesson about adding more than just bread, jam and half-rotten earthworms to our diets.

So as much as I can’t wait to open my lunchbox each day I’m still waiting to experience the ultimate, Frances lunch (cardboard shaker of salt and all). Maybe I’ll make it this weekend. I can’t wait to see how Julia reacts to black olives, let alone lobster-salad. I’m guessing the paper doily is the key. It’s either that or another dose of passive aggressive torture. As for me I’m thinking paper doilies are passive aggressive torture.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Q & A

Q: Why did you kick me?

A: I didn’t kick you.

Q: You didn’t kick me?

A: No. As I walked down the stairs you smashed your face into my shin then the forward momentum of my foot slammed you into the wall.

Q: So why did you kick me?

A: Because you’re an idiot.

Q: What’s an idiot?

A: An idiot is an animal that hurls itself against something and then slinks around for an hour as if it was attacked. You should Google it.

Q: I can type?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Can't Buy Me Love?

It started this morning when Allie brought down her piggy bank. She wanted to see how much she had inside the thing. I told her that if I cracked open the little door in the bottom of her pig that all the dough inside was going into her bank account.

She agreed.

If Allie had her bank downstairs, that meant Julia had to have hers. When I explained the same deal to Julia she burst into tears and screamed that she didn't want anyone touching her money. Fortunately Deb found the girls' passbooks. I explained to Ebenezer that this deal was going to make the number recorded inside grow. Next I pointed out that it was indeed her name on the account and suddenly she was cool with handing everything over to the bank.

For a while now both girls have been walking around with a fairly big wad of cash that they've collected from holidays and gifts from family. A great deal of Allie's stash came from her lemonade stand sales. I told the girls that because they made substantial contributions to their savings accounts that it would be okay to spend their non-piggy bank funds on whatever they wanted.


We took Julia to the Mattel outlet store which allowed her money would go a lot further than it normally would. She brought home an enormous Polly Pocket jumbo jet. This thing is pretty cool and Julia had a difficult time doing anything but play with it this evening. In fact, we had more than one blow up over this jet and so I'd really like to just move on from here if that's okay. . .

As for Allie, she had her heart set on an iPod Shuffle. I put a kink in her plans by letting her know she had accumulated enough money to buy a bike.

If you have ever witnessed my daughter endlessly riding around our cul-de-sac you would know that she loves her bike. She has spent hours riding up and down our street only to stop for a drink of water or to pee. No change of scenery is required for her. All she needs is a strong pair of legs, a decent sense of balance and, of course, her bike.

Maybe I'll get an iPod for Christmas.

Deb said they had bikes at Toys-R-Us. I really didn't believe her and if she was right I was certain the selection would be anemic.

Toys-R-Us has a shitload of bikes.

After about 15 or 20 minutes of deliberation Allie chose "Belle". Sea foam green Belle has hand brakes (a minor issue), six gears and shock absorbers on the front forks. We went 70 (Allie)/30 (us) on the purchase which in my mind means Allie bought her own bike.

We were glad that no one was behind us as we counted out quarters at the register.

As I type this, Allie would have her new bike in her bed next to her if she could. But it's parked in the garage for now; waiting for Allie to wake up and go for a ride.