Jul 28, 2011

Siesta and a Slow Burn

Rough cuts patiently await a polish, including:  part 1 (training dump) of the Grandma's Marathon recap, hogtie the Kitchen Reboot, bolt together a guest post for another blog, plus a couple of hodgepodges I'm spinning through the remixer.   

Those can wait, for now a summer siesta's in order to let my Mac cool.  Nearly 100 posts in 6 months, but the hit counter on this blog is limper than a ____________ (fill in word joke of your choice).  So I'm in no rush to crank 'em out. 

I'll pick this up later...maybe you can ransack the Beard and Pigtails archives or something in the meantime.  Only need 3 more of you to leave a comment on the Follower Freebie Target Card.  Pigtails will draw a winner when we hit 20.  
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Eminem's a harsh punk, but he's right about relationships being tough.  Who can deny it?  Burn:


Jul 26, 2011

Lewis & Clarking the 'Coon - A Canoe Commute

When running pal Martin invited me to join a dozen brainy Commercial Pricing actuaries from his department for an outing, I thought: 

This group could get geekier than a herd of costumed 40-year-old virgins attending a Jedi/Yoda role-playing conclave.  

But canoes and river and peace and quiet were involved, plus I'm an IT programmer and second cousin once removed to actuaries on the nerd scale, so I responded to Martin: "sounds awesome!"

Martin's kayaked to work several times, I've been bugging him to let me tag along sometime.  He agreed and sent an out-of-blue e-mail invite last week, probably to shut my cake hole.  

Couldn't wait, a floating adventure snaking through the middle of downtown!

By the way, getting away on vacation is great, but I'm a strong proponent of finding fun in the day-to-day stuff, right in our own backyard.  This post is an example what I'm talking about.

I didn't know anyone there but Martin, but the group warm welcomed me and I could tell it'd be a fun morning.  The Big Bosnian was the clown of the group, frequently mentioning the GH (Get Huge) program he's on and asking if I wanted to photo his biceps.  Martin tells me the dude is trained to fire Russian AK-47 automatic assault rifles, so I had no choice but to laugh loudly at every single one of his jokes (OR I WILL CLUSH YOU!!).  Surprisingly, the crew uttered not a single statistical pricing quip or Excel spreadsheet guffaw (snort).

We dunked a half-dozen aluminum canoes into the river and flipped on the paddle wheels.  

Prose it:

Sun spraying humid streaks through the treeline.
Honking herons forking fish for breakfast.
Ducks waddle-squawking; what are they so mad about?
Sculls lapping water, river foaming round buried logs.
Laughter as a paddler nearly splits his shorts jerking his high-centered canoe off a sandbar.

Enough blab, ships ahoy:

Left to right:  Beard, stranger, stranger with exposed armpits, stranger, stranger, stranger, stranger, stranger, stranger, stranger, stranger, The GH Bosnian, Martin

Thanks to Martin and his co-workers for letting me join their flotilla!


Jul 25, 2011

Pigtailisms I

I try and jot down funny things Pigtails says so I don't forget.  Perhaps I'll pull a few of these from the archives to share on her wedding day.   

Below are funnies I've heard her say just this week:

"Daddy even knows how to make pancakes, and he's not a girl."

"Be pa-stick-it."
She was trying to say "specific"
Her first time running a kids race with real running shorts that have a built-in liner

"Daddy, do you know how to crotchet?"

"My ankles hurt.  I think I'm getting old."

"Dad, that's annoying, please stop, literally!"
She mixes up "literally" and "seriously"

"I like to tuck the envelope flap in, rather than lick it.  I don't want to get saliva on their hands."  Explaining why she tucks and not licks the birthday thank-you cards she wrote

What funny things have you heard your little ones say?  Share below in the comments.


Jul 22, 2011

Kitchen Reboot - 5, Oak Counters, Farm Sink and Glass Cabinets

My posts have been scattershot lately, mixing between a birthday party recap, marathon report, cat ass cootie couch write-up and other random nonsense.  Life is not always linear, tidy and orderly.  Neither is this blog.

I scheduled this post to go live at 5:30 am Friday morning.  I'm at this moment commuting to work by river canoe.  First time attempting this, for some reason, I picture myself standing up in the boat as the person in front turns around with their paddle and inadvertently knocks me into the water.  Better go ahead and air up those water wings.  

Back to the kitchen, pow: 

One of my goals for the reboot was to have a different look than what I normally see out there.  Cliche is cashed out. 

$2,000 granite counters wilt down to $200 when the old-growth oak option is checked on the supplies list.   And I'd rather plunk granite coin into CSTR and GG stock.

Butcher block countertops are not exactly set it and forget it.  They take a bit of tender loving care to seal and shine.  Done right, they'll make standing water pool like a waxed car.  A light sanding/double oiling combo seals them for 6 months.  I'll repeat by the time the snow cools this winter.  If the wood gets damaged or stained, it only takes 10 minutes to rub her down with a fine-grit sanding sponge, slap on some oil and we're back in business.

The counters look rugged, deep-grained and warm in person.  A couple of you have stopped by recently to gawk.  Come on by, ya'll here?

The old double-tub stainless steel sink skedaddled once the Big Bertha farm sink arrived.  With the old layout, the width of the double-wide didn't leave enough room for the dishwasher to fit beside.  So it hid in a corner on the opposite side of the kitchen.  Slopping dirty dishes 8 feet from sink to dishwasher left greasy skid marks ("greasy skid marks" reminds me of a potty training story, I'll save that for another day) on the floor.

  Hid the robo' washer behind a cabinet panel with a nickel steel pull.  Stealthy...♫..oonz...♪♫:

IKEA cabinets are a great value, the pair of top cabinets are roughly $100 each.  Well built and smartly engineered, the front face literally snaps to the frame with no tools.  The hinges are adjustable, so the cabinet doors can be slightly shifted up/down, left/right while mounted for perfect alignment. Need to remove a door to spray and wipe when a glass bottle of Aunt Jemima explodes and pukes pancake syrup floor to ceiling?  Clip (door's off), spray wipe, snap (door's on again).

I opted for pullout cabinets rather than old school side hinged.  Had to get down on my knees with the old cabinets to reach stuff on the back bottom shelves.  Pullouts are at least 103% more convenient; no more rummaging around like a 'coon to find Golden Grahams and hidden pasta wheels:

The dividers inside are extruded aluminum, modular and adjustable.  Tidy and a ban on plastic:

Drawers are spring loaded and hydro-dampened.  Give 'em a nudge, auto-close the rest of the way with soft-shut the last couple inches of travel.  Lower cabinets are on legs for a freestanding look (and, I've found, a convenient place to sweep and hide spilled lentils):

Went with small 15" glass-front cabinets up top.  Only need to store plates, bowls, glasses, mugs and meth' there, so sized them the minimum width to fit my crap.  Smaller cabinets = more wall space and the appearance of a larger kitchen.  Low-voltage, high output halogen lights flank the inside and bottom of the upper cabinets.  Shelves are glass, which lets light bounce around plates and trickle through shelves like a game of Plinko on The Price is Right.

The slider below is only 12" wide, but eats a ton of junk of various sizes.  From 1" cumin containers to 12"  flasks of olive oil.  Flanks the cooktop, putting in reach everything I need to shake some Cajun heat on the fish.  Drawers are steel, rated to withstand fistfuls of kilos each:

88" tall cabinet houses the built-in micro' and oven.  Also has double bays to hangar pots and pans.  The jumbo 16" steel wok and 2 gallon jambalaya pot even fit.

Dinky kitchen that holds it all, with zero clutter.  Check √.

Let's talk appliances (snore) and table next time in part 6 of the kitchen reboot.  Final touches and before/after pics in part 7. 

Hang with me, we'll get through it.

Thanks for reading!


Jul 19, 2011

Follower Freebie - $20 Target at 16 and Counting...

16 signed up for the Target card now, yeehaw!  Four more to go before Pigtails draws a name. 

Please tell a friend about this blog, kindly ask them to Follow and leave a Comment, and we'll hit 20 people in a jiffy.

  • SingleMama
  • Gr8Spirit
  • Christine
  • Andrea
  • Laura
  • Big Sis Shell
  • Robin
  • Brooke
  • Lilly
  • Sarah
  • Genny
  • Cari
  • Becka
  • DSMama
  • Rachael
  • Audrey
  • Toni
I also promised to give away a $50 prize to a random Follower once we hit 50 Followers.  10 to go, getting close!


Jul 15, 2011


Nine girls (and one boy, Will's the man) celebrating Pigtails' 9th birthday, blowing out several of my nine lives.

Summer birthdays are the best. 

Grill hissing at beef patties and Hebrew National dogs. 
Sweet-tart lemonade cooling down brown sugar beans and classic Lay's.
Sprinkler dishing it as the sun pokes.
Cupcakes, candles and muddy chocolate smiles.
Bags of cheap Chinese party favors.
And spit wads?

The party theme was Minute to Win It, but the girls mostly enjoyed tossing toilet paper around and firing spit wads from straws at anyone in splat range.  I took a couple of sloppy collateral damage hits.  Don't let their curls and innocent chipmunk voices fool you...they're disgusting, all of them! 

The years blow by, seems only months ago Pigtails was a pup, smearing red marker on her face like a clown gone berserk:

Nikon tells a better story than me.  And I suspect some of you don't read and just look at the pictures:

Tossin' TP in the air, what a chintzy host


Jul 13, 2011

Follower Freebie - $20 Target Card

Help me get rid of this $20 Target card. We need 20 people signed up before I'll draw.  If you are reading this and have not yet signed up, please leave a comment below with your follower account and you're in.  

Easy as that, no tricks.

Pigtails says it with sweetness (link):

My sister claims she can't leave a comment on the blog when she accesses it from work, probably a filter clogging things up.  If you are having trouble, send me an e-mail at beardandpigtails@gmail.com and I'll add your name to the hat.  

Below's the list, thanks to each of you that have signed up.  We need some dudes to enter, where you at Kip, Greg and Riggs?

  • SingleMama
  • Gr8Spirit
  • Christine
  • Andrea
  • Laura
  • Big Sis Shell
  • Robin
  • Brooke
  • Lilly
  • Sarah
  • Genny
  • Cari
  • Becka
  • DSMama

Now's also your chance to sling questions at Beard and Pigtails.  I'll answer in an upcoming post, below is the gauntlet so far.  Drop your questions via a comment if you have more:
  1. Do you consider yourself a strict parent? What does Pigtails' say on the subject?
  2. You seem like a very hands on Dad (no choice as a single parent I know). Has being a single parent nurtured that, or, have you always been hands on?  
  3. What is the biggest misconception about being a single dad vs. single mom?
  4. Do you have any pets?
  5. How tall are you? 
  6. What was prison like?
  7. Does Pigtails have an agent (if Pigtails is even her real name)?
  8. How did you figure out how to do Pigtail's hair when she was little? My husband struggles trying to put our daughter's hair in a little ponytail and it makes me giggle.
  9. When did you start running?
  10. Did you really have headgear? Photos please. I had braces FOREVER but no headgear. My brother had a retainer that he had to crank once a week that we later found out was basically splitting the roof of his mouth open. Gag.
  11. Obviously you take hiking trips and perhaps the random marathon without the lil' one but do you take time for yourself in other ways? 
  12. And, I'll ask - do you date?
Blogging is more fun when everyone participates, jump in!


Jul 12, 2011

Rice Krispies Treats Feet

"Daddy, your feet smell like Rice Krispies Treats.  
And they have lots of blisters on them.  
Are blisters contagious?"

So said Pigtails tonight as we crashed to watch the boob tube.  There's a new couch in town, shaped like an "L", and my crusty stubs ended up by her head.  Surprised she said they smell of RKT's and not rotting squirrels. 

New chesterfield (gracias, Thesaurus.com) replaces the old green striped filth I had for 15 years.  When married, we had a cat named Elijah.  Eli would lift his tail and slide his butt down the armrests, using them like textile toilet paper.  Other than years' worth of cat ass cootie build-up on the sides, it was in good shape.  Gave it away via the classifieds, I forgot to tell the gentleman to avoid the armrests and perhaps go ahead and burn them off.

IKEA Karlstad in gray now coddles my scrawny butt.  I hope Karlstad is not Swedish for "greasy cat cheeks."  This big beast came in pieces, took some time to hammer together, but it turned out nice.  Replaced the birch legs with nickel steel to tap into the techno gray and black basement.  Fabric has a rough weave to it, perfect for absorbing Rice Krispies Treats odors wafting from my hooves.

Old cat scat:

Build a couch:


Jul 9, 2011

Grandma's Marathon 2011 - II, SCRC Serving 2:33: Deal With It

The marathon's a crotchety old beast to slay.  

A dozen ingredients must be tossed into the pressure cooker in just the right order and amount to crush it:  training regimen, general health, lack of injury, taper, carb loading, temperature, wind direction and speed, cloud cover, humidity, course elevation, a fast pack to push the pace and plenteous amounts of bovine growth hormone.  Murphy's law typically rears and a few variables are cruddy on race day:  too hot, hamstring injury jabs a leg or I forgot to smear runner's lube in the crotchical area. 

And yet, once or twice in a lifetime, every single factor that needs to be just right is so when the gun fires.  

This is that race.    

June 18, 7:32 am:  The pistol's yet to smoke, someone yells "MOVE THAT BUS!!" as 6,500 runners fidget and spit.  Light drizzle tapered a half hour ago, water drains from the cracked asphalt of Highway 61.  48 degrees, a crispy tail/cross wind nips and whispers:  fast conditions, let's go. 

Greg and Ryan are wearing matching $3 Royal Spice Wal*Mart women's jackets, we nudge the throttle into a comfortable rhythm.  First mile in 6:09, Greg unzips his nylon/polyester/parachute/horse hair abomination, chucks it at a nondescript lady and yells "I'LL BE BACK LATER TO PICK THAT UP, YOU HOLD ONTO THAT NOW, YOU HEAR ME?!"  Martin and I crack up, Ryan wads and tosses his jacket and blows a snot rocket.

Mile two splits 5:55, lock the speed control and maintain for a 2:35 finish if our quads don't shred.  Our original goal was 6 minute miles for a 2:37, but the cool tailwind allows us to readjust and crack the whip.

Martin, Ryan, Greg and Tank
I'm usually mute on game day, opting to keep the calories bottled up for deployment after mile 20.  Not this morning, the four of us talked continuously.  Flying along Lake Superior in formation, with only a small smear of sweat down the back, it felt effortless.  We're used to red-facing it through 90 degree soup (it's all about the dew point), so this chilly morning was a Susan G. Komen breast jog compared to our regular swelter-tempo runs.

Passed a she-Kenyan a few miles in, Martin offers encouragement/taunting with a "nice job, you're almost there!"  By "there", I think he meant the next mile marker, since we had 23 to go.

Squirrel bladder needed relief at the 30 minute mark.  My training buds can attest I'm used to stopping a half hour into every long run to sign my initials in yellow.  This day, they'd drop me in three blinks if I tarried for a turbo pee.  So  I did what had to be done:

1)  Find a long stretch of road with no spectators in sight.
2)  At full stride, pull the ol' wiener out the left leg hole.
3)  Fire!  Er...hold on, wait a second...wait for it...still waiting.  I had stage fright and was shooting blanks.

Failed to get the trickle started, D1 makes it look so easy.  Someone suggested water sounds might help, so Martin made some gurgling water whooshes and popped his cheek.  Problem solved, I relaxed and let 'er rip.  Greg was also run-and-gunnin' beside me.  Hot piss was spraying everywhere like a dirty power sprinkler, some of it more than 6 feet high.  Was praying the MarathonFoto paparazzi were nowhere near, and where's a lemon scented wet nap when you need one?  

We noticed the first elite Kenyan pulled over to the side of the road at mile 6, maybe he thought the weather was too frigid, no?  A college runner in orange joined us to make 5, said he was aiming for sub-2:37.  The kid mentioned he runs 31 minute 10Ks in school.  Sounds legit, keep up.  He stayed with us for a few miles.

Martin goes white boy gangsta
Waved at Greg's wife, she was smiling a couple spots along the course.  It was nice to see a friendly face among a sea of strangers.  

We yakked and annoyed anyone in earshot, asking questions of runners we passed, yelling at the crowd to wake up, telling others they were almost done (hours remained).  One clump of spectators stood there in a daze looking at the ground.  I yelled "C'mon, clap or something, quit being awkward!"  They responded with a tiny sympathy clap.

There's the bagpipe player alongside the road in his skirt kilt.  I'm a little warm, a light rain dribbles for 10 minutes to cool us off.  It was as if God was up there flipping toggle switches on the clouds and wind to keep us comfortable and hauling the mail.

Thump slap, hear those footsteps moving in?  
The SCRC train's rollin' through, jump on or move over. 

Passed a few runners, but there weren't all that many in front of us.  We'd go several miles and not see jack squat, only trees and Lake Superior on our left.  The half came at 1:17:35, we needed to be under 1:18:30 to punch 2:37.  Our second half was over a minute faster, but we only passed 20 people the last 13 miles.  Brutal when we did pass:  a four-part cluster bomb surrounded our victim, fragged 'em, then tightened the screws and vanished.   

The four of us made a gentleman's agreement to stick together the first 18 miles.  Then it would be a free-for-all death march after that.  I knew I'd likely get dropped by Martin and Greg the final 5 miles, but would keep them on radar and stay within a minute. 

Mile 19:  As a beast of burden leans into the yoke, Martin dips his head down and strides out.  We chewed the mile in 5:40.  Caught up to a Luther runner, Greg's arch nemesis from his college glory days.  Greg served him by shouting out the entire Luther fight song 12" from the dude's face, then we said bye bye. 

Going strong into 20 miles, heavier breathing and a deeper dig on Powerade at aid stations were the only indicators we were burning coal.  Finally caught Robin of Runablaze, we'd been choking on her fumes the past 7+ miles.  She was reeling in 3-time winner Mary Akor, we told her to hang with us.  She fell back and yelled, "wish I had a rope!"  Robin finished in 2:35, good enough to hit the Olympic Trials A standard time.   Not shabby for a 38-year-old with a couple kids.

Martin slowly pulled away mile 21 and 22 heading to Lemon Drop Hill, I barked at Greg to go with him and I'd see them at the finish.  5:40 for me eating the hill, Greg got the jump on Martin cresting Lemon Drop and was in the 5:30's.  Ryan was fading.  Bruno Mar's The Lazy Song blasted on speaker as we were going for broke working on mile 23.  Beer foam and underage drinkers lined the streets; we'd passed from quiet country the first 20 miles to vuvuzelas and broosky bombs the waning 10K.

Three miles to go, my right calf twitches and seizes as thighs soften to pulled pork.  Kept the boil on and pace under 5:48, let's get this mother done.  Mile 24, I suppress a gag past a vendor frying chicken, the grease reeks.  We bound on brick, loud crowds push from both sides.  

The final mile's a punch in the stomach, looping around the pier close to the finish line, with a 90 degree turn tossed in to dissolve the legs.  

Martin crosses in 2:32, I hear the announcer yelling Greg's name up ahead as he finishes.  I squint to see if Greg's doing his "punching midgets" dance move across the line.  The digi-clock's counting up from 2:33, ridiculous and not a time I'd ever expect to touch.  Martin, Greg and I high five beyond the finish line, then train on the clock and watch Ryan fly in at 2:37.

Limped to the massage tent for a deep tissue rubdown, then regrouped and waited for the rest of the 10+ in our contingent to finish.  Martin's second marathon, he PR'ed by 13+ minutes.  Greg and I bettered our best times by 10+ minutes, and Ryan by 3 minutes.  

We'd labored and trained together for 6 months, raced in a pack under perfect conditions and beat our goal.  It was magical, I'll never forget this one.

I'll finish with word from my cronies.  I asked each of them to do a quick dump on what this one meant to them. 

Martin"A picture is worth a thousand words.   This one sums up the 24 hours leading to the gun, screen shot of the radar 2.5 hours before the race:

 Quote's I remember:

'C'mon CHEER!  YEEEAH!' - Tank/Greg
'We're GUYS!' - Tank in response to hearing 'Go, Girls!'

This marathon was much different from the other marathon I've run.  It was just like a Saturday morning run with the fellas, joking around through mile 20.  Then the race started.  After finishing, 3/4 of the group waited for the 4th with an eye on the clock as he finished right at our 2:37 goal!  We trained together, raced together, and celebrated our achievement together.  That was the best part."

Greg:  "2:37 seemed like a stretch goal when we started training in January.  I put together a plan and with each passing month and race tuneup the 2:37 became more of a realization.  After Dam to Dam I decided I wanted to go for 2:35:14, but it would be a stretch goal.  Anything from there up to 2:37:20 would be acceptable in my eyes.  

Race day brought perfect weather conditions, no injuries to worry about, and the hay was in the barn.  The 2:37 crew played to the crowd and felt effortless for 20+ miles.  From mile 20-finish the “race” was on and we increased our cadence.  With three miles to the finish I realized that sub 2:35 was in the bag and a good push could bring me to the 2:33 range.  2:33:09!!!  I never considered that a possibility and feel like we really did something special.  The stars aligned for one day, and it was truly an enjoyable run.  I can’t say that about my previous two marathons.  Third time is the charm!  Three is the magic number!"

Ryan:  "I've run 21 marathons now and out of any of them, I had more fun training for this one than any other.  I haven't had this type of team and camaraderie since high school.  It was a pleasure to train and run this race with you guys.  By the end of 6 months of training I was feeling burnt out.  But after as well as we all ran, I've never been more excited to run another marathon.  Two years ago I never thought I'd even get under 2:50 for a marathon and now I'm thinking about sub-2:30.  I can't wait to see what we can do next."
Lace 'em tight,

Jul 5, 2011

Independence Day: Birthdays, Fireballs and a Plastic Trophy

Pigtails lassoing fire
We made the weekend count, road trip to Mom and Dad's house to celebrate Independence Day/Dad's birthday.  He was born on July 4, 172 years after our country axed Britain's pompous shackles.  They can keep their scones, those things suck.

I must've accidentally nudged the Nikon D40's setting dial a notch too far, from fireworks to paparazzi, as it shot a 100 pics and wouldn't quit.  So I'll let it do the heavy lifting and tell the story through photos.  Much to cover, keep up.  I pity the fool pulling this post up on a tiny 3" smartphone with a tiered data plan; this one will redline your MB limit.

Tractor pull with Dad, just like when I was a boy.  Twin turbo diesels snorting 100 feet of soot, nitromethane stinging our nostrils.  So I'm 1/4 redneck, half removed on my Dad's side, deal with it:

Crack the convertible, digging deep into Illinois countryside:

Cute kid:

Mean, ugly dad:

To a quiet cornfield, hanging with my sister, bro-in-law, niece and nephew:

Sun dropped, launch 'em:

Something went terribly wrong with a shell.  Excellent fireball, I could feel the heat and shock nuke my torso.  Nobody was hurt (other than some fried eyebrows), big whoopsie was better than the fireworks:

Happy birthday, Dad!  Wish and blow:

 Bingo alongside 85 year old ladies rocking blue hair.  It was more fun than you'd expect:

Hometown 5K trail race, Beard duked it out with high school and college kids.  Nudged by and took the win.  Note that I was awarded a plastic trophy worth approximately $3.09, yet a random walker wearing Hush Puppies and purple sweatbands won a $100 door prize.  What gives?