Dec 30, 2012

The Final Countdown

Time's up tomorrow on the $ match for Quincy.  Thanks to you that have pooled more than a thousand dollars to upgrade his cochlear implants.   His mom, Steph, said she can't believe people she doesn't know are helping her son.

Doing the opposite of the masses often works out well.  Black Friday's a bore, the best day to shop is the morning after Christmas.  Caffeinated with a black Brazilian in hand, I headed out to reap the sales at 7:00 a.m. on Dec. 26.  Nary a soul in sight, I filled a bucket with Bath and Body Works smelly junk as gifts for next year.  A long receipt spat a total of $175.  She clicked the red discount key, the damage shriveled down to $61.

Dec 27, 2012


Pigtails doesn't have siblings to rough her up, so she takes it out on me.  She calls this one attackle, best out of 3 off the bed wins.


Dec 25, 2012

Frankincense and Myrrh

They saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him:  and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

Mom and dad raised us in the Missouri Synod Lutheran church.  Each year around this time, in Sunday school and sermon, we'd hear the story of the birth of Jesus.  I was always confused when we hit the verse about the frankincense and myrrh.

What in the heck were these gifts the three wise men gave?
What did they represent?
Frankincense and not a baby rattle, really?
Rather than myrrh, why not a sleeve of hazelnut Ferrero Rocher and underpants like mom shoved in my stocking?

Dec 23, 2012

Pass the Sprouts

Last year for Christmas, I got a kudos/crotch-kick combo in the comments for defending the defenseless.  This year, we're saying happy birthday Jesus, pass the Brussels sprouts.

My first and last encounter with the terrible tiny cabbages was 30 years ago.  Five years old, mom sat me down to a hot mound.  They smelled funny, I gingerly gulped a sphere of green mush down the hatch.  Cough, gag and splat, all over my lap and sister's.  I cried, my sister screamed and punched me.  Been scared of those smelly barf balls ever since.

Dec 20, 2012

Snow Day

As I was tucking her in last night, Pigtails says:

"Daddy, if everyone in my class wears their jammies backwards, we'll get a snow day tomorrow."

I peeled back the covers, sure enough, she had her footy PJs on backwards.

Woke up this morning to a foot of powder and no school.  Yippee, a snow day, both of us played hooky.  Blow drifts, cut cookies in the grocery getter and load up the neighbor kids to skid down the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi.  

It went like this:


Dec 18, 2012

Night Run

Cut this clip a year ago, a winter night run through my 'hood.  There is extra ordinary in everyday life.  You just have to search a little.  And be in shape.


Dec 16, 2012


Pigtails' mother was diagnosed with brain cancer five years ago.  Chemo and radiation shrunk the tumors and hogtied the cancer into remission.  She did well after that, went back to work and felt fine for a long time.

Cancer is patient, deceiving, relentless.  It hides for ages and tricks the host into thinking they've won.  Even as it quietly comes back stronger, bulking up and resisting the same treatment that worked before.


The neighbor behind me has a chocolate lab named Leo.  It started one day when Leo grabbed his ball in the jaw and flopped it over the fence.  As soon as I picked it up, his stubby tail wagged double-time.  He wanted to fetch.

Now each time I pull into the driveway or if Leo spots me through the back window making dinner, he grabs his ball and barks, tail a blur, begging to play. 


Dec 12, 2012

Interview with Pigtails - Cut the Coffee, Kid

It's been ages since our last Interview with Pigtails, so tonight we fired up the circa 1980s shoulder-mounted camcorder.  She's excited, imagine if she drank coffee:

Leave your questions for Pigtails in the comments, she'll get back with a video response soon.


Dec 10, 2012

Colon Lamp Lady, FTW

Bethany, a.k.a. colon lamp lady, took the win on the IKEA LED freebie with this:

The thread went downhill fast from there, somehow we ended with adult bedwetters and a pregnant man named Josh:

Dec 9, 2012

Sally Snags Seashells Along Sarasota's Seashore

Curls, Pigtails and I lazy looped Florida last August.  Here's the 3rd and final leg of our trip, a warm slog along the sugar Gulf coast. 

Time for the St. Auggie exodus.  Were were bummed about leaving, could've happily gotten stuck there for another week without phoning for rescue.  But Sarasota and the Gulf of Mexico were calling out, the white-powder sand and 90 degree sea tugging us towards with her tractor beam.

4 hours to go

Dec 4, 2012

Follower Freebie ~ JANSJÖ Jackpot!

B&P plus Curls did a recon' mission on Twin Cities IKEA over the weekend.  The Svedish water closets have fancy multi-select thrones that save whales:

    Mode 1 is stingy on water for the mellow yellow
    Mode 2 releases a torrent for the Big Deuce

Curls came out laughing, apparently Pigtails was confused by the two choices and asked, "but what button do you press if you have diarrhea, shouldn't there be a number 3?"

It was funny at the time, probably not so much if you're polishing off a greasy meatball marinara while reading this.

Nov 30, 2012

Commonly Accepted Financial Principles I Think Are Stupid

I've shared bits of my fiscal philosophy on past posts.  There's enough meat on this topic to scribble out some more money malarkeyPlus there's a shiny new $ tab up top there to bundle them together nicely.  

Today's episode picks at commonly accepted "conventional wisdom" on saving and spending.  You know the drill, I'm not an investment expert and could be making 84% of this stuff up.  Do what makes sense for your picture.  Let's go... 

"Buy a home, don't rent, otherwise you're flushing bills down the hole." 


Nov 28, 2012

Heli Hair

I'm learning to fly R/C choppers, this:


Starting small and hovered a little too close, I've got a ways to go.


Nov 27, 2012

Current Affairs

If you follow B&P on FB, some of this post will be leftover scraps.  For the rest of you, here's how our week played out.

Girl Balls 
On the way to the grocery store tonight, Pigtails asked:

"Daddy, are girl balls called Virginia?"

I coughed and said, "girls ain't got dem balls," then pointed and told her to "check out those pretty Christmas lights."

Please send help.

Nov 19, 2012

Giving Thanks and a New Pair of Ears

Whilst whittling a post of thankfulness to offset that childish turkey tantrum, my antique flip phone vibrated a text from Quincy's mom. 

"Hi Beard, I'm starting a fundraiser to purchase new cochlear implants for Quincy.  Let me know if you have ideas on how we can reach our goal."  

I asked permission to pen this post, she obliged.

Are you thankful for simple gifts like eyesight and hearing?  I took them for granted until recently.

Pigtails and I joined Big Brothers Big Sisters in July.  We wished to commit to an organization that positively impacts young lives.  BBBS pairs a Big with a Little, we meet for several hours a month for years, offering encouragement as the Little grows up.  

Nov 17, 2012

Birth of a Logo, Natural Style

I started this blog in January of 2011, we're nearly into the terrible twos.   B&P was born for a couple reasons:

     To help and encourage other single parents.
     To help myself get over the dissolution of my marriage.

Divorce of a spouse is more painful than death of spouse in some ways. I had a whole lot of angered hurt bottled up that needed poured out.

Writing is my medicine.

Like alcohol dabbed into a bloody knee, burning as it burrows, you know the antiseptic sting helps as it heals.  Writing forces me to poke at memories and unpleasantries I wanted to ignore, scabbing over the wound with each keyboard click.

Nov 13, 2012

Turkey Tantrum

Probably best to hurry up and unload my list of ungratefulness before Thanksgiving arrives next week.  Whining galore, here we go:

  • Milk cartons and orange juice containers with those annoying foil seals.  You know what I'm talking about, red faced as you apply 120 lbs. per square inch of force between thumb and pointer trying to remove the bloody thing.  Your fingers slip, the silver tab mocks and doesn't budge.  This is usually the moment another person walks into the kitchen and tug again, fart from the effort, the seal suddenly rips free as liquid explodes.  Modern minds can create the iPad, why not E-Z-Peel Juicy Juice seals? 

Nov 9, 2012

Life Lessons from a Shattered iTouch

I often let Pigtails use my iPod Touch for games and flashcards.  She's memorizing the 50 states and capitals and likes playing Stack the States.

My rule to her when carrying it from car to house is this:

"Carry the Touch into the house with nothing else in your hands.  Then return to the car and make a second trip to get the rest of your junk.  Overloaded arms often leads to the drops, I'm trying to minimize whoopsies with a $200 device." 

So the other night after returning from the store, Pigtails is just kind of standing outside the back door by herself.  I open the door and see her shoulders shaking up-and-down, she's crying.

"DADDY, I'M SORRRRRY, IT FELL!!"  With tears, she slowly raises the iTouch up to me.  Sure enough, the screen's toast, white veins of death spiral from the home button.

Nov 3, 2012

India in 2 Minutes

I captured a few seconds of video daily to help bottle the memories.  Here are snippets from each of the 17 days, compressed into two minutes.  I want to take you there with me, hope this does it:


Oct 29, 2012

The Last Day

A squadron of 3-wheeled rickshaws surround and cut my ride like starfighters, their annoying RING-NA-DING-DING! two-strokes squirting blue smoky smog.  Driver Ranjit counters with a stab on the oil burner's go pedal, followed by a raunchy horn blast and veer into the buzzing intruders to let them know Homey the Clown doesn't play games.

The sun's down on my final day in the office, I weep a little on the ride home and realize:  This is it.

Can't quite put my finger on it yet, but something profound happened over the last two weeks that will stay with me for a long time.  It'll probably come to and become clearer after digesting the trip, but initial guess is it's the people.

Oct 20, 2012

A Week in Maharashtra

Week 1's in the bag, the bioclock finally adjusted to the sun and moon trading spots.  More difficult to acquiesce is a daily schedule that's three hours behind what I'm used to.  Punch the clock at 10:00 am, work past 7:30 pm, bob-and-juke through traffic to dinner @9, then weave home and pretend to sleep at one in the morning with a quart of hot curry pooling in my gut.  

The people of India are kind.  Not just a smile and "Hello, have a nice day" like we do in America, but this:  

You don't know me, but I heard you like Indian food and I'd like to take you out.  I'll drive, okay if we do dinner Monday night? 

There is a lack of distraction here, a desire to commune and willingness to listen that I crave back home. 

Oct 14, 2012

An Iowan in India - Day 1

I arrived in India today with two others from the office on business, a 10,000 mile flight from Iowa to Chicago, Frankfurt and Pune.  Here through the end of October, longer if I lose the passport.

My posts on B&P are usually random with wild topics swings, but for the next few weeks, I'll try to focus on putting out short, real-time posts about my experience in India.  I'll be working long hours during the week at the office and may have limited time to blog, so keep an eye on Facebook for quick updates.

Mr. Sandman is trying to drop me with the 10.5 hour loss, might as well cut another post to lighten the's how Day 1 went down.

Oct 10, 2012

St. Augustine

Vacation is separation from both reality and people, lounge-time for me started not in Orlando, but crossing St. Augustine's threshold.  20,000 humans crawled Disney like insects, I was ready to escape and plant my albino-white glutes in the sand, doing jack squat for days.

St. Auggie's a tasty casserole layered with 500 years of Spanish history, iced Atlantic and our AirBnB rental cut-and-pasted from a Nicholas Sparks beach flick.

The core of the oldest city in America is St. George Street, a lanky lane of limestone shops selling handmade leather sandals and jewelry, sea shells, thin crust pizzas and brew pubs.  We shuffled the bricks for hours, egged on by Kilwins honey-roasted pecans and a tall latte.  Curls gave in to a Japanese silk bracelet, Pigtails a lead paint mood ring.  I poured another bag of sugar pecans down my hole.

Oct 6, 2012

Sea 'gustine

Pigtails, Curls and I spent 10 days in Florida in early August.  The adventure continues, the girls are on queue for SeaWorld in Orlando and our drive to St. Augustine. 

When we went to sea world it is not worth the money the best part about it was the shows and the rollercausters where the best. The rollercausters are huge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The car was nice it was a Chrysler 200. The house in st. Augustine had everything we needed it had a cooler a frige bathroom a pool a bed  towles and even more.  In st augaustine we went to a mexan place and it was great!  The day I first seat eyes on the ocean it was clouds everywere the water had foam in the water. And the water was cold but I still liked it and I learned how to boggi board.

Oct 3, 2012

The Random Rambler

Season changes are a gift, we milk the fall bounty with frequent day-trips to drink God's creation.  Windows down, cruising lazy Iowa countryside, plucking Golden Delicious by the peck and apple cider by the gallon.  Hopefully some day I'll live outside the city.

The orchards have stepped it up since I was a kid, now replete with air trampolines large enough to bounce Megatron, super slides and laughing goats.

Oct 1, 2012

Freebie Name Draw

Five people have a package of goodies coming your way, let's draw names for the Graziano goods.  81 names in the vat, I removed a few anon' entries plus my mom's.  She left a comment saying not to enter her name.

Robot picks the winners, drum roll....

Sep 28, 2012


Last year, I wrote the Double Down post about the early days of being a single dad:

"I understand what it’s like to work a full day, then come home and mow the lawn with your toddler strapped to the stroller, wailing from the porch.  With the smell of gasoline on your hands, you scoop her up, calm her down and kiss her red cheeks.  Then you scurry inside to bake dinner and bathe her."

Now look at her, 10 years later.


Sep 25, 2012

Graziano Booty

Time to spread some loot, up for grabs are 5 bags of Graziano Brothers Italian seasoning, hand-mixed at a local 100-year-old family grocer.  This stuff's delicious, with a slightly spicy pepper-flake kick.  I use it in my lasagnas and other yummy Sicilian bakes.

Leave a comment below to enter, I'll draw five random names next Monday, October 1 at 7:00 pm.  One entry per person, I'll ship for free to the lower 48, anonymous entries will be ignored.

Good luck!


Sep 22, 2012

Cooking Ninja

It's been awhile since we've talked food, so thought I'd step back a bit and share my cooking weapons of choice before poaching another hot dish.  Prepping the fixin's with the right implements speeds up the process and improves texture and flavor.  I'll share what works for me, although no expert so school me in the comments where I'm wet.

An Indian Adventure and a Subservient Chicken

I wrote this one for work, prepping for an impending trek to Pune, India.

Boss fired a feeler to see if I’d squawk at traveling to India to train and mentor.  I gave a little grin and said sure, but inside, pumped a fist thinking adventure of a lifetime.

Working beside our Pune posse will be a 180° flip:  night becomes day (10.5 hour time shift), dollars to rupees, meat and potatoes morph into tikka masala and kaali daal.

Sep 19, 2012

Trail Rat

Daughter dined with her mom last night, so I burned tacos on the trail with a GoPro in-tow.  Route's a 16 mile ring starting from the house, halfsies tarmac and singletrack.  Less of a workout than running, but storming quiet woods on the Raleigh makes me smile.  The front oil shock earns its keep, and my apologies for the crotch cam' partway through.

Eurythmics dropping the bass, a nut was lost in the making of this film (the camera's, not mine):


Sep 17, 2012

Festivals, Cubed

Festivals are fun, we ate our way through three this weekend:  Rose Garden, Fall and Latino.  The D40 does the heavy lifting on this one, I'm out.

The Rose Garden

Sep 13, 2012

A Few Things

It'll be a few days before I have time to crank out another post, so I put up a couple Florida photos on Facebook to hold back the wolves.  Head on over if you need some beach.

Sep 10, 2012

Self Publish, Yes or No?

I'm thinking about trying to publish a couple eStories through Amazon, Barnes or Apple.  Before going too far down the road, I'd like to check in with readers to see if the plan makes sense.

Start small, maybe do a short 3-parter on my faith walk.  I grew up Lutheran, joined the Baptist church when married, and finally came home to the Catholic Church in the last few years.  Roughly 15 pages per story, with a photo or two mixed in.

Sep 9, 2012

Dirty Blinds

A couple kitchen reboot postmortems remain, like hanging blinds and some other crud.  I asked readers for help on window coverings, you steered me towards natural bamboo shades.  Slapped them puppies up tonight:

Sep 4, 2012

Steampunk and a Wallet in the Throne

We did Old Threshers this weekend, an antique tractor and steam fest I've hit yearly since birth.

Dad infected me with the steam bug as a boy, dragging me with him to shows to learn about old iron.  He grew up farming on Allis-Chalmers tractors, so spent most of his time at Threshers talking to Allis owners.  However, I was drawn to steam power, hooked on stack music as 100-year-old engines barked and belched fire under load.  Steam engines seemed to come alive, hissing and rocking and blowing coal as they worked.

Sep 1, 2012

The Magic Kingdom

This was my third trip to the castle.

The first was with my family growing up.  The three of us kids fought like honey badgers in the back of the station wagon for 1,200 miles from Iowa to Florida.  Dad was a factory worker, mom stayed home with us, so cash wasn't exactly raining down.  We did Disney, but camped in a tent at night and ate baloney sandwiches for lunch out of a cooler in the parking lot.

Vacation was the one time of the year we could eat sugary cereal for breakfast and drink pop at lunch.  We didn't do Coke or Sprite.  Too expensive, so mom bought the store-brand generic colas, drinks named Diet Dr. Thunder and Hee Haw.  If we didn't feel poor before, we did after sipping caffeinated beverages named after hillbillies.

Aug 31, 2012

Sulbin's Sea Hunt

"Epic" is overused and played out online, but I think it applies to a video I stumbled on last night.  The BBC filmed a Bajau fisherman diving 60 feet and walking the sea floor to harpoon his catch.  Sulbin's the man, airless for 2.5 minutes with steely resolve for the kill.  FF to the 2:10 mark:


Aug 26, 2012

Get It Done

I wrote this post for work.  Told the blog cop I'd like to write one on getting it done, then it took me 12 weeks to get it done.  Oh well, better late than never.

Single parents must carefully guard our time to ensure everything gets done.  There’s a lone wolf to tackle the stack:  work, school, cooking, cleaning, mowing, house projects, shuttling the kid around and handling insurance, savings, doctor visits and bra talks. 

Here’s how I get it done.

Aug 25, 2012

Mud Bath

Some people crack a cold one, slump in front of a football game on the boob or nap to escape.  

An hour alone on the night trail does it for me.  

Minutes from the house is a multi-mile ribbon of singletrack, turned to viscous slime from today's drizzle.  Semi-slicks don't offer much bite, the back tire launched giant mud clots at branches 20 ft. above.   

Dank and dirty, nobody around as my heart rate tapped out.  More, please.  



Aug 21, 2012

A Disney Dissertation v1.0

Florida was a 10-day triple dipper, flavored with Disney, St. Augustine and Sarasota.  We'll start with the flight, food and lodging, Downtown Disney and Epcot today.

The recap's written in the order we partook in various shenanigans.  I rate our events on a 5-point scale: 1 means it smelled to high heaven, 5 is flawless and difficult to achieve for this picky writer.

Time to fly to the Sunshine/Deadly Alligator State.

Aug 13, 2012


Ah, that's better...a long break always feels good and loosens the spring on this tightly wound dude.  

Curls, Pigtails and I flew our burned buns in from Florida today.  It was my favorite vacation ever.  I don't travel much, so a trip to Dollywood is considered exotic in my book.  The blue hair advice from readers was spot on, you nailed it.  Thank you.

Booking beach cottages vs. hotels sealed the deal on making this trip aggressively relaxing, hooked us with the goods.  Our abode in St. Augustine was especially fetching, Victor's the man at building out this 1920s gem into something rediculous.

Moon and lighthouse from the floating dock by night:

Our other rental out of Sarasota didn't fail, $85 a night for a quiet stay on a property assessed at $3.5mil (yep, we looked it up).  Open view to the bay with sea kayaks and bikes available in case of emergency bordom:


Florida beaches were stout and comely, the Atlantic and Gulf coasts wonderfully different.  Siesta Key was purtty but not our fav', we found better.

 We ran into a mouse and princess, too.

More to come, the full recap will needle towards informative than entertaining.  Hoping it may serve as a guide for those looking to head south to drink the sun.


Jul 7, 2012

A Little of That...

Mother of Pigtails let me borrow the kid for the 4th fireworks.  As I ran up and knocked, daughter poured happy tears and wound her wiry legs and arms around me for a hydraulic hug.  We're leading into the final 3rd week of summer break away with her mom, I miss her. 

Something Old, Something New
Quiet time's good for catching up on a project at work and wrapping a couple small upgrades around the house.  Hung an iron-spun lamp in the basement and crammed it with an Edison long-filament bulb.  The modern metal shade emits antique 1880s light, sluggish yellow rays making the Karlstad corner the new best reading/blogging spot in mi casa.


Deploy the "swag" kit.

Iron shade looks a little like a rounded French bombé chest.

Gold-copper inside.

Cool bulb.


Visited my folks last weekend, nice to get out of town for a couple days.  
Soiled at a tractor pull with Dad
Gazed at the mighty Mississippi from Mosquito park, 
Took in a mean Mongolian grill and destroyed some DQ cones.
It's relaxing coming home.  
I know you lady readers crave more turbo diesel, this one's for you:

Where I grew up.
Rodent Ears I asked for Florida advice and received back a helpful stack of detailed input from you to help shape our trip.  Thank you for that!  Here's the plan:
  • I can only handle 3 days of elbowing greasy crowds over teacups and Space Mountain, so we're shutting it down at Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Sea World.  My daughter's fond of princesses, robots and whales, so we should be covered.
  • Consensus is St. Augustine and Siesta Key are the bomb, so we're doing both.  Should have enough time along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to absorb a sizable amount of sand, local shops, salty seafood, museums and a general display of sheer slothfulness.  Can't wait.
  • A couple readers recommended for shacking up in a house rather than hotel.  Right on, I was pleased to find a charming cottage with private pool for $85 a night.  We'll give it a try and see how it goes, looks promising.
After weeks of feeding Pigtails useless, vague clues, we did the reveal by scavenger hunt.  She's most excited about flying in a bird for the first time and is hoping for pretzel handouts at 30K feet.  Don't blame me, I didn't dress her, outfit's from her mom:   
The HTML's gone mad and line spacing broke, switching to bullets.
  • No duh it's hot, we tasted 102 with a real-feel of 110+ this week.  Runs have been tough, the needle nudged 90 as we finished a 13 miler this morning.  The parking lot pavement turned black beneath Riggs as a pool of sweat 2-feet wide dripped from his torso, legs and sopping Sauconys while stretching afterwards.  Cycling's more bearable, I pulled the Cannondale and rode Tuesday with the local racing crew for a 45 miler at 23 mph.  Mostly thick-thighed Cat I, II and III riders, I hung with and smiled dropping $4K titanium rides with my 20-year-old bike from high school.  When will cyclists learn it's the engine, not the wheels that matter?  Fitness and judicious use of the paceline, FTW.
  • I'll measure and order bamboo or seagrass shades today and post photos when finished.  There's a good chance they'll soak up pork chop grease and stink after a few years in the kitchen, who knows.
    • Break time to allow B&P to cool down a bit, I'll catch you in a week or two with new posts.  In the meantime, keep cold sweet tea on tap and enjoy your summer!