Tuesday, May 16, 2017


These days there doesn’t seem to be much that people agree on. Here’s one thing we can all agree on: whoever hurt this dog last fall is a piece of shit.


Because I am currently incapable of committing to having a dog around forever, we’ve been fostering dogs once in awhile. In mid-December, we took in an about 6 month old Comet. When I met Comet, he was shaking. He had just had surgery that attached a metal rod to one of his hind legs to repair a badly broken bone.  In order to get the surgery, the dog needed to be surrendered by the original owners and the bill was picked up by a dog adoption organization. There’s no proof a lawyer would call solid, but I feel confident that piece of shit I mentioned earlier kicked Comet hard enough to snap his leg. I figured the shaking when we met was a combination of cold weather/shaved leg from the surgery, new people and a general lack of understanding of what was going on around him. Looking back, as I reached through a car window to pet Comet on his head, I’m sure the shaking was fear. Comet was completely terrified of me.

I’ve never seen this kind of fear in a dog’s eyes. When I came home, I was greeted with angry barks that felt like they were meant to warn everyone else that the monster was back. Wide eyes waiting for an attack that never came. Tail down, tucked between his legs. I was met with the same behavior every morning too starting the second I appeared at the top of the stairs. As I made dinner, I could hear Comet’s footsteps approach then see him as he kept tabs on my location before trotting away…only to be back about a minute later to check back in on me again.

The piece of shit that hurt Comet was a guy. Sad truth is it doesn’t take Columbo like instincts come to that conclusion. Dog has absolutely no problem with females, freaks out around all males. Here's an absolutely fascinating side note: Comet didn't give a transgender person a second glance. The dog's assessment of her was non-threatening female while he continued to closely watch some nearby males and huff at them whenever they walked past the doorway.

Based on a few other things, I believe that Comet saw this piece of shit hit women too. On Christmas Eve, an uncle raised his arms as he walked towards his niece to give her a holiday hug and Comet went nuts. Attack mode NUTS in making sure he didn't hurt her. Comet has seen stuff. Bad stuff. I think Comet’s injury was sustained while he heroically sacrificed his body jumping into harms way to protect someone from the piece of shit. I also like to think he got a few painful bites in while doing it. He's a protector. I took this picture of Comet protecting my youngest from that stomach bug that went around over the holiday break.

A trainer told me to keep Comet on a leash looped around a belt while I made dinner and occasionally drop treats. Even if he didn’t eat the treats right away, he would know they came from me plus he’d have to watch me not doing anything. It didn’t really work. Comet often ignored the treats and was mostly terrified of being attached to me. Pretty sure there were a few times that my presence literally scared the shit out of him. A weird twist is that if I was sitting down, I wasn’t as bad. Comet actually fell asleep on me a few times. 

But the second I stood up, it was back on. There’s an expression, “If my dog doesn’t like you, I probably won’t either.”  After the first week, I was pretty sure Comet and I were never going to be best friends. But I did not expect the complete and total rejection of a dog to be as demoralizing as it was. Almost all of my offers of friendship were refused. In his eyes, I was just like the a piece of shit that broke his leg. Comet would let me know that. Several times a day. In my own house.  After awhile it just wears you down.

Comet needed to take it easy for 6 to 8 weeks so that the screws in his leg healed. Apparently if the leg is over-stressed, the bone around the screw can shatter and that is a much harder break to fix. Through a miracle, Comet didn’t re-injure the break while he stayed with us. Unless he was sleeping, Comet was moving. And once the leg pain went away, Comet was fast. And a jumper too. Gates were just a recommendation. We had put him in a pen and went out for a bit. When we got home, Comet met us at the door. That little guy cleared a 42 inch tall pen wall with about 2 feet to build up speed for the jump. We returned the pen and got a crate.

After his stay with us, Comet spent a few weeks with a trainer/behavior specialist. He got better with other dogs and people. From there he moved onto a few other foster homes. Honestly, I didn’t know if Comet was ever going to find a permanent home. But a few weeks ago he did. We saw him recently with his new family. They clearly had already fallen in love with Comet. Comet looked happy too. I think he is still a little hesitant around men but his behavior was much more relaxed than when he moved on from our house. Comet smelled my hand and seemed to remember me. No barking or huffing. His tail never stopped wagging and he looked content. The huge eyes that used to be filled with fear were just excited puppy eyes wanting to play.

Good for you, Comet. You deserve it.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Tour de Burger

There should be a saying about families that go on food tours together...

Daniel at FUSSYlittleBLOG lead a tour of seasonal stand burgers this weekend. And now that they've done a few food tours, I don't have to drag the family. They come willingly. One thing that struck me as new for this tour was that I had already been to all of the stops. I had only had ice cream at two of them, but usually these tours have me exploring new-to-me places.

I'm not going to crunch the numbers this time. You'll have to wait for Daniel's tour results for a numerical analysis. The more I look at our score sheets, they more confusing they get. Unlike the ice cream tours where it was easy to get the same thing at every place, we went with a slightly different plan plus we had 4 people splitting an order. A quarter of a little burger isn't a lot. The plan was to get 1 plain cheeseburger and 1 specialty of the house burger. And a small order of fries because when's the next time you're going to get to try fries from 5 places in the same day? Too good an opportunity to pass up.

The first stop was Jack's Drive In in Wyantskill. The specialty burger there is a cheeseburger with fried onions and ketchup. That went along with a plain cheeseburger and a small order of fries for $6.97.

I liked the plain cheeseburger. Toasted bun. little greasy. It's what you expect at at roadside burger stand. The fries were nothing special and unsalted. You've got to hit the fires with salt right out of the fryer. Although, as the tour progressed, they're not alone in leaving the salt up to the customer. Where they lost me, was the fried onion and ketchup. I'm not the biggest ketchup guy. This was way too much of it and mixed with the onions, it just didn't work for me.

Amy -  thought the burger was tasteless, the unsalted fries took away from their taste and the specialty burger had twice the amount of onions than burger. She would have like them cooked more and the ketchup should be optional (it is, I did the ordering and this is considered "One, with"). She also noted the fast service. It was pretty quick.

Allison - Needed to add salt to fries, fries should be a little more cooked, alright, fast service.

Casey- On the onion burger I didn't even know it was a burger. I thought it was only onions.

A short ride brought us into Watervliet for a stop at Mac's Dive In. This is one of the ice cream only previous visits. It didn't win our vote as the best soft serve on the last tour, but it was our runner up. There didn't seem to be a specialty burger so we went with one cheeseburger, one bacon cheeseburger and a small hand cut fries. This order came in at $10 even.

Yup, that's a small order of fries. The order took a few minutes to make and was clearly made to order. My impression while I was eating at Mac's was that everything was pretty good. Nothing amazing. I started to appreciate Mac's more as the tour continued. I kind of wished I had some turkey gravy for the fries - only because it would be delicious, not because I thought they should. The burgers aren't what I think of when I think road side stand. The patties are bigger than most seasonal stands.

Amy - Super friendly, the fries were a huge portion, homemade and hand cut. The cheese was good and substantial and the burger fit the bun. The bacon was crispy (yeah!) and lots of cheese. The bun was good, maybe grilled a little, nice size.

Allison -  homemade fries, small fry was really big, bacon on bacon cheeseburger was good, bacon cheeseburger was bomb! Really good service, everything was good!, fries were bomb!!!

Casey - Employees are really nice, when you order a small homemade fries it is really big.

Quick ride into Latham brought us to On The Farm. If I am not mistaken, On The Farm won the first Tour De Soft. We didn't go on that tour. We've been here several times for ice cream, never the food though. There was a little confusion when we ordered. We had thought they had an OTF (On The Farm) specialty burger so I ordered the OTF burger, a plain cheeseburger and a small fries. This came in at $9.50. What we got was a cheeseburger, a plain burger and a fries because there is no OTF burger.

Now, I'm not holding that miscommunication on them, that's on me. It would have been nice to compare bacon cheeseburger to bacon cheeseburger, but it wasn't meant to be. That said, the plain burger was under seasoned. The salt from the slice of American cheese really helped the cheeseburger. Bacon would have helped too.  The fries were unsalted and improved with some added on top. All in all though, they were decent, greasy burgers. Definitely needs the cheese and would probably be even better with bacon.

Amy - Would have liked to try a bacon cheeseburger but got the OTF, Meat was good and flavorful, fries OK but not great, needed to be salted. Bun good.

Allison -  Fries needed to be cooked more and they needed much more salt, burger was pretty good but no OTF burger :(   (side note: I hope it isn't weird that I'm proud of her French fry assessment)

Casey - needs salt; didn't put salt on when the fries were warm so salt kept falling off. (I think Casey was more into the French fry portion of our tour)

Three down, two to go. A quick trip up the Northway to Exit 8 and we were at the Country Drive In. They are pretty well known for their onion rings so we added that to the order and got a cheeseburger, a CDI (Country Drive In) burger - which is where the confusion came from earlier, a small fries and a small onion ring. This came in at $16.59 but if you take off the $3.99 onion rings that brings it more in range with the other stops.

Again, no salt on the fries and they weren't very good. I thought the onion rings were good, but not amazing. I didn't like the cheeseburger at all. This was the first flamed broiled burger of the day and it had that off char taste you get from cooking a burger in grease flare-ups. The CDI burger was better, it was a bacon cheeseburger on grilled toast (although Steve N made a good point that technically it's a patty melt and not a burger). Overall, I was underwhelmed but I'm curious about the ice cream side of the drive in.

Amy - Unsalted fries would have been SO much better with salt. The CDI burger was a nice burger on the bread, nice balance of cheese & bacon with burger & bread & grease. ONION Rings were grand! Crispy, tasty and large portion.

Allison - CDI burger wasn't on a bun - it was bomb! had lots of cheese, cheeseburger was dry, fries were unsalted, onion rings are bomb! (the girl likes her onion rings and apparently saying "bomb")

Casey - CDI burger was unique and tasty.

Off to the last stop, Jumpin' Jack's in Scotia. We come here at least a few times a year. It's on the way to my in-laws and we've come for a water ski show too. Little bit of history - the first time Allison really got "walking" was at Jumpin' Jacks. I messed up the order and forgot the fries. So I went back to get them. One cheeseburger, one Jack burger - which is a double decker cheeseburger with cole slaw and then the fries. This was $12.

More unsalted fries. I thought everything was disappointing. The cole slaw really helped the Jack cheeseburger. I usually get a clam roll and onion rings when when I'm here. I think Jumpin' Jack's is more about the memory than a great burger. I can't go there without looking at where Allison teetering around and getting some speed. There a sense of nostalgia to the place. Like it's lost in time, but the food isn't great.

Amy - unsalted fries, Jack burger was nothing special, just OK. Burger had some flavor.

Allison - No salt on fries, but when we put salt on them they were good. burger was really good, beef was just alright; they always have long lines.

Casey- (she ran out of things to say and left this one blank)

The final part of the scoring was "Which was your favorite and why:"

I thought Mac's had the best burger, best fries and was a decent value. I'm surprised. I much rather pay $10 for the Mac's experience than the $12 Jumpin' Jacks. And I was also surprised by how little I liked Jumpin' Jacks when compared side by side to other stands. At the start of the day I thought Jumpin' Jacks would be my favorite. I expect to be at Mac's at least a few times over the summer.

Amy: Mac's. The bacon cheeseburger was the best. The bacon and homemade fries made it!

Allison: Mac's because their burgers were good, the bacon was awesome and the fires were salted and good.

Casey: Mac's because they gave you a large amount of fries and had delicious bacon cheeseburgers. The employees were also very kind to their customers.

We voted as a block again. I'm not sure how much that skews the whole tour. There was a pretty good turnout so Daniel has his work cut out for him in tallying up some results. I look forward to seeing how other people scored the day. I'll post an update when the official results are in.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the official tour results.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Cookie Season

This year's Girl Scout Cookie season has come to a merciful end. This year the troop focused more on booth sales. I've actually gotten pretty good at moving a lot of cookies around with a hand truck. Anyhow, one afternoon the troop had two booths set up in Crossgates Mall and it wasn't a very busy day at the mall. In order to have a booth sale, you need to pre-buy the cookies. We left the that sale, which was supposed to be the last one, with over 100 boxes of unsold cookies. Now I like Girl Scout Cookies, but I wasn't thrilled with the possibility of eating 10 cases of them.

This year, the troop also added a booth in a retirement community. The women of the Greatest Generation...they were Girl Scouts. And for the most part, they like Thin Mints and the new S'mores cookies.

Instead of looking at just my family's sales, this year I'm breaking down the entire troop's cookie sales.

At the bottom of the list, Savannah Smiles (lemon cookies) and Toffee Tastic (gluten free) were tied for 3% of the sales.

The next grouping was Do Si Do (peanut butter sandwich) and Trefoils (shortbread) with 7% of the sales. S'mores was next at 8% but we only bought 5 cases of them. Troops were unable to re-order S'mores cookies so you made a guess and hope you sold them. Our troop bough 5 cases and they all went. I think more would have sold, but I'm not sure they would have made it to double digits in percentage of sales.

Tagalong (peanut butter with chocolate) were 17% of the total sales.

Next up were my personal favorite, Samoas (coconut caramel) with 24% of the sales.

And the Undisputed Champion and winner every time I have done this cookie analysis, weighing in with 31% of the sales: Thin Mints (no need to describe them, you know what they are).  A number of times, someone would buy a box of Thin Mints and then excitedly cradle the cookies like they had something precious. In most multiple box orders and purchases, Thin Mints are one of the boxes. People love these cookies and apparently eat them by the sleeve. No judgements here.