Tuesday, June 28, 2016

12 Quick Years

My oldest daughter turned 12 today. So I'm flipping though some old pictures on the computer and sipping Scotch poured from the bottle I got for Father's Day.

Twelve years ago, she fit in a basket. She's taller than a lot of adults now.



Look at those itty bitty toes. That foot fits into a cleats and plays softball now. She made some really good plays this season.


Over the past few months, there have been two occasions centered around Allison that made me overcome with emotion. The first was was a red hot rage that I didn't know I was capable of feeling - and none of it wasn't her fault. I had a whole post written about it but decided to let it go. Mostly let it go. Let's just say I wanted something done for my kid who was in orthodontic pain, was flatly told "NO" and then I almost completely lost my shit. I felt my pulse go up, my cheeks got hot, that forehead vein was probably throbbing and I was rapidly blinking in disbelief. I don't remember if I clenched a fist but I was a single deep breath away from throwing a lengthy F-bomb laden tantrum. I knew there was a parental "you mess with my kid, you mess with me" protective instinct in me, I just had no idea how quickly, and possibly out of control, it could wash over me. I still get worked up thinking about that morning.

The second, much happier emotion, was how proud I was of Allison. At the elementary school graduation ceremony last week, a few awards were given out to the 5th graders. My daughter was presented with one of the awards. No one was told about the awards before the ceremony so it was a complete surprise. There was a 6th grade picnic after graduation and other parents congratulated me on her award. I thanked them, but it was all her.

Alright, I've gone on enough. Time to go make some pizza dough for a sleepover party she's hosting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Pizza?

I saw something last week and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.

I've never liked pizza screens. Lots of places use them but I believe their main purpose is to take some pizza making skill out of the recipe. Since the dough isn't actually on the floor of the oven, the bottom of the pizza is cooked at a lower temperature and I believe that impacts the quality of the crust. Plus, the screen leaves unattractive hash marks on the bottom of the crust, but that's less important.

I also know there are a lot of places out there that do not make their own dough. They either buy dough or par baked shells. I wouldn't have guessed that this is a big market, but I'm told I'd be surprised by how big it is. It doesn't really make sense to me because I would have thought most of the profit from a pizza would come from making the dough yourself. Flour, water and yeast are cheap.

On to what I saw...there was a gas fired dome oven. A worker was taking tortillas out of a plastic bag and placing them on a screen. The tortilla was topped and it was slid into the oven. When it was cooked, it was sliced Chicago thin style into small pieces - 9 square-ish pieces.

I didn't take any pictures or taste the tortilla pizza although I did get a pretty good look at one and skipped the piece that was offered to me from another.

Out of curiosity, I looked at the YELP reviews to see what other people thought.

Here's an oven picture from the owner. The photo caption says, "Enjoy fresh baked pizza from our authentic Wood Stone oven." Looks nice enough.


This one is from Isabella S. The caption is "'Margherita pizza' WTF????"


And another photo from Isabella S. The caption is "Thin as a tortilla."


After some service bugs, Nancy S. said the pizza "was disappointing as well. It was paper thin, almost like tortilla shell, and lacked depth and flavor." Now on the other hand, Scott S thought the "wood fired pizza was very fresh, with aromas of garlic and basil predominant. The sausage was spicy, but not overly so."

I believe this is a used, similar model of oven on Ebay. It might actually be a little bigger than the one I saw. The asking price is just under $17,000. No idea if the oven I saw was new, but I've got to believe buying that oven cost a minimum of 15 grand.

Probably cost significantly more than that delivered and installed.

It's being used as a very expensive toaster oven for tortilla pizza.

I can't wrap my head around that.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Charlotte

Turns out, I'm a bit selfish. I don't want a dog. Everyone else in the house does. I'm the holdout.

Which is weird, because my younger self had always wanted a dog. Really wanted a dog. I like dogs. There have even been a few dogs I'd say I loved. All of them, though, have been other people's dogs. I'm a great dog uncle. I'll play with a dog all day. Need someone to go outside and throw a ball at 11:00 on a cold, February night? I've done it....and then I went back to my dog-less life. My in-law's dog was perfect. Visit for the weekend, play with dog and then leave. No vets, no poop picking up, no getting up early to let him out. Only the fun stuff.

But I'm older now, grumpier now, and I don't want to pick up dog crap on a daily basis. Plus, I'm of the mindset that we are never here and that's not really fair to a dog. We're all gone before 8 and usually back around 5. Unless we have somewhere else to be and that seems to be the case more often than not. And there's the sleep. I don't really need a lot of it, but those precious hours of rest need to be in a row.

And even though I'm older and grumpier now, I caved a little and we fostered a puppy while the actual fosters were gone on vacation. Originally named Cilantro from a litter named The Spice Puppies, here's Charlotte.



The fosters didn't like Cilantro (can't blame them - it's a crummy dog name) and have been calling her Charlotte. Cute little bugger, right? Very friendly although she's still a puppy so she's got that teething/nippy thing that puppies do. She's even getting better with a leash and if she could, she would have absolutely followed the kids onto the school bus.


Charlotte is very good with kids and was hugely popular at the softball fields the both times we brought her there. She also likes being under things like tables or chairs. Here she is on the lower shelf of a table. I mentioned she's cute, right?

Alas, there's that sleep thing. I don't know if I read it or heard it or really even if it's true but I'm working under the assumptions that young dogs can only hold it for an hour for every month of their age. I think Charlotte is a little less than 4 months. I'd take her out around 11:30 or 12 and then we'd go to sleep. She'd usually get up before 5. Sometimes earlier. Saturday night I kept her up until 1 AM and she almost made it to 6. There was a day last week that I almost completely melted down from sleep deprivation - blurry eyed tired, headache, nauseous - I was a mess. My wife handles the early bathroom break but it was enough to wake me up and I didn't sleep right after it.

My youngest daughter promised she would do everything she could to take care of a puppy. And she did. From the second she woke up she was right there taking care of Charlotte. She took these pictures (and about 75 more).

Not sure how big Charlotte will get. The most educated guess I received was about 50 pounds. I am certain, she will be a very friendly and loyal dog wherever she ends up. It will be nicer too when she is fully trained to use a lawn instead of a carpet. And do they make glow in the dark collars? This dog is invisible at night.

The original fosters picked Charlotte up this afternoon. The house is much quieter now and it is a little weird. Nothing is lying across one of my feet sleeping as I type, which was not the case last night. I suppose you could say I miss her a little, but selfishly I doubt that will be the case as I'm snoring straight through the night.

If you would like information on adopting Charlotte (aka Cilantro), you can find information here. She'll be a good pet, and that's coming from someone that doesn't want one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Meet Ron



A lot of oven builders go with a Harbor Freight 10 inch wet saw because you can be set up to cut bricks for under $300. The only problem with a 10 inch wet say is that you can really only cut bricks up to about 4 inches. Probably a little less. A standard firebrick is 9”x4.5”x2.5” so there would be a lot of brick flipping to cut all the way through. My plan was to buy a bigger 14 inch saw, use it to build the oven and then sell it for a little less than I paid for it. Kind of like a long term rental.

I first saw Ron last summer on Craigslist. For a little over a year I’ve been scanning the Craigslist sales within a 150 mile radius of Albany for 14 inch wet saw. I hemmed and hawed and there was another saw for sale near Syracuse but it didn’t have a picture…and then within a week of each other both saws were gone from Craigslist. Oh well.  There was another tempting, but very pricey, saw in Elmira and a surprising amount of wet saws are for sale on Long Island. Then in November, Ron was back on Craigslist. This time I called.

The owner is contractor and hadn’t used Ron on a job in two years. He figured he’d sell it and get it out of his shop. But he was a little reluctant to sell thinking that as soon as he sold the saw, he would need it again. A number of things delayed me in making an offer again – replacing one of our vehicles took a lot of time this winter. And then in January, Ron was gone from Craigslist once again.

My search continued. There was decent looking saw in Andes, NY that was a little cheaper than Ron. But by the time you factor in a 2 hour drive each way to even look at it, it didn’t seem worth the $100 in savings.

Through the magic of cell phone logs and a saved Craigslist search, I still had Ron’s owner’s phone number. In late April, I gave him a call to make sure Ron was sold. Seemed like there was a good chance he just took down the ad again. We played a little phone tag and yes, he did still have Ron and even better, he was still willing to sell.  He’d have his mechanic give Ron a once over and get back to me. A few more phone calls and we agreed on a time for the sale.

With a little bit of effort I managed to get Ron set up in my garage. He’s really big. And he can run on 120 or 240V. Apparently on 220V he can really slice. I’ve ordered a new blade for him and started working on a few jigs. I’ve built one that can cut an adjustable angle with a set 5 degree bevel. The hinge has a pin so I’m going to make a few more jigs that can slip into the same base.

 

I’m also debating on repainting his tub. Get rid of a little rust and make the basin shine. Normally I wouldn’t really care, but I want to keep the firebrick shavings that will settle in the tub to help level the oven floor.

Nice to meet you, Ron. I look forward to working with you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The other side of the fence


My oldest plays softball. In general, I've always tried to stay out of a coaches way. The league is run completely by volunteers and they really do put a lot of time into making sure kids have a good time playing softball. We've always been a "if you need something, ask" kind of parents. This typically turns into warming a pitcher up or throwing pop ups at practice. I've helped with the bases and putting down the foul lines a few times before a game or covering if someone doesn't show up to work in the concession stand. One time it was pretty windy so I hosed down the infield before the game to prevent a dust storm. I like to think of it as helpful without initiative.  If you need something, let me know otherwise I'm going to sit here assuming you're all set.

On the registration form where it says are you willing to coach or manage I wrote "Will help out as needed." The league runs a pre-season clinic. While checking in my daughter to the clinic, one of the coaches greeted us with excitement and pretty much said (I'm trying for a direct quote here), "My assistant coach hurt her knee and can't really get around, you wrote 'will help out as needed,' I need you. Please, please, please, please."

So I'm an assistant coach. I had to go to tryouts with a clipboard to take notes and rank players as if I had a clue. Seriously, I have no business judging the ability of players. For the most part, my scouting report didn't really matter. Since the tryouts, I've spent a lot of time on YouTube looking at drills and things to do in practice (Anyone have ideas? I am very open to suggestions." We've had two practices so far and for the most part they went well. I tried to run a pickle drill but the team isn't quite there yet. They got the general idea, but couldn't pull it off in slow motion. Full speed in a game isn't going to work.

The next 6 weeks are going to be very busy. We've got 2 more practices and then the season starts. Not sure I'll ever get used to anyone calling me coach. In terms of softball knowledge, I am an imposter on this side of the fence. I'm an out of shape pizza enthusiast. I don't really have any business instructing sports.

Need help cooking dinner, I'm your guy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Annual Girl Scout Cookie Tally

Ever year I take a look at the Girl Scout cookie sales and every year, they are pretty much the same percentage wise. Looking at the entire troops sales to date:

31% Thin Mint
28% Samoa
17% Tagalong
9% DoSiDo
7% Trefoils
4% Rah Rah Raisin
3% Savannah Smiles
1% Toffee Tastic

And here is all that data in a pie chart because...well it was already in Excel so why not.


Thin Mints continue to dominate with Samoas (a personal favorite) trailing slightly behind. Keep in mind Toffee Tastic is gluten free and cost an extra buck so clearly sales aren't going to be huge. One thing I've noticed, especially at booth sales, is that some people are fiercely loyal to their favorite cookie. For example,  one woman that stopped at the troop's table in Crossgates, said she'd be right back, went to an ATM for cash, and then bought 5 boxes of Rah Rah Raisin cookies.

Cookie Sales Demographic Fact: Men between the ages of 18 and 25 really have a thing for Tagalongs. To the point where when a guy wearing a SUNY tshirt walks up to the table you could say, "How many boxes of Tagalongs would you like?" Usually the answer is 2 boxes. One box is immediately consumed while walking around the mall, and the other box probably gets eat later that night. During the last booth sale, an out of town men's lacrosse team was in the mall killing time. After they walked past the table, they were now killing time with a box of Tagalongs.

It should also be noted that people shopping in Crossgates are very generous with people often stopping just to donate money without buying cookies or spend $5 on a $4 box of cookies. If you are looking for some Thin Mints or Samoas or happen to be a 20 year old guy needing a Tagalong fix, the troops last scheduled booth sale is tomorrow afternoon in Crossgates Mall in front of the Starbucks near Uno's and Best Buy.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

So long Explorer

We've been vehicle shopping since before Christmas but it really took off in January. Shopping for a car is terrible. Just truly terrible. You constantly feel like everyone you talk to is trying to take advantage of you. The most blatant example of this was during a negotiation on Saturday. If the sales manager had treated us decently, we would have bout a car that afternoon. But he didn't. Felt like he was trying to take advantage of us. His opening offer for our trade-in was $250. We had already been offered $1000 from a car wholesaler when looking at used cars on his lot. The tires on our Explorer are worth more than $250. Donating the car to a charity would be worth more than $250 to us...and a charity. After 40 minutes of "let me talk to my manager in the back" bullshit our trade was suddenly worth $1500. I wish you said that in the first place.

We walked. Probably never to return to that dealership.

But this isn't about getting a new car. It's about saying good bye to our old car. It is very bittersweet.

My first car was a handed down, 2 door '84 Honda Civic hatchback. I loved that car. Even occasionally hugged it. In the winter of '92 when my wife and just started dating, the timing belt broke while I was driving on I-95. The car held on for awhile longer but was never the same. That did some damage. The next car for me was a '95 Saturn. It was 1995. Everyone bought a Saturn. The car was good, reliable and lasted a long time but I never loved it like that Civic. Reminiscing earlier today I said it was my "rebound" car from my first auto love.

When I got married, I had the Saturn and my wife had a handed down F-150 pickup. My sister-in-law called them Beauty and the Beast. The truck was Beauty. I don't know what was wrong with the wiring in that truck, but every year to 18 months, it would fry a battery and alternator. They would both be under warranty and we got pretty good at swapping them out.

My wife was pregnant with our first child when Beauty went under the weather. We need a good, reliable family truckster. We got this gold 2003 Explorer used with about 23,000 miles on it in the spring of 2004. I drove it to the hospital with my wife in labor for both our children. I vividly remember those drives. Car seats left permanent marks in the back seats. We set up makeshift beds in the back so the kids could take naps down at the lake.  I once got rear-ended with both kids in the back seat. I was a little sore, but we were all fine - I called the accident a successful test of a 5 point harness child seat. Plenty of fun in there too- road trips, a few trips with 3 adults, 4 kids and a dog crammed in there, beach vacations. Here's her good side. The passenger side has a bit of rust at the rear wheel well.


I'm incapable of keeping the same radio station on for more than a song (when I'm alone - I wouldn't constantly scan the stations slowly driving a passenger insane). My hand wore out the plastic beneath the preset buttons.
 

I've been driving that Explorer for two months shy of 12 years and now its future is probably a parts car or scrap. So long Ford Explorer. You were good to us. Thanks for the memories.

We got a minivan. Seems nice enough. I plan to drive it for the next 17 years.