May 31, 2012

Follower Freebie - Goodness Grazi'

*6/8 Drawing* - 96 names in the bucket, picked the numbers:

69 - Krista (the first Krista in the comment list)
18 - r8chel
65 - Jeremy
64 - Ruth
9 - Jill (the first Jill in the comment list)

Please send me your mailing address at, I'll get your stash shipped out this week!  

I did the Tour de Graziano's today to reload on hot sausage and hand-mixed Italian seasoning.  Their 4 oz. caches of taste are only a couple bucks apiece, so I grabbed extras to share on the blog.  

Shop owner Frances Graziano bags the secret recipe each morning, it's potently fresh.  Take a whiff and your nostrils will demand a trip to Milan.  Basil, oregano, parsley, garlic and red pepper flakes, they're ready to Gatling-gun your boring cauldron of Ragù with flavor.  I lay it heavy on my lasagna.

Leave a comment below to enter, I'll draw 5 names on Friday, June 8 using  Please click the follow button at the top if you haven't.  One entry per person, I'll ship for free to the lower 48 states, good luck!


May 28, 2012

A Few Short of a Full Load

I wash laundry once a week, on Saturday mornings.  So you'd expect roughly 7 sets of skivvies in the hamper for each of us. 

Here's a shot of this week's damage.  Does something look a little "off" to you?


Note:  mine are on the left

I think it's time for a chat with the kid about rotating in a fresh pair each morning.  She gets on a kick with her favorites and finds it a waste of time to swap them out.   

Am I the only parent here that's a few underpants short of a full load?


May 25, 2012

Dolphins Bumping My Junk

Whittled down the summer vacation wish list to three:

  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • A driving trip west through the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone
  • Someplace in Florida

Myrtle Beach was the top pick.  I wanted Pigtails to relive my favorite childhood family trip.  Some quick Google searches showed flights to SC are close to $600 per butt.  Forget that, we'd have to drive it or bust.  The idea of burning four days of vacation for travel wasn't appealing, so I looked at Yellowstone.  

A Yellowstone road trip would consist of my kid ragging me for 2,500 miles about snacks and pee breaks and 50 are we there yets.  Plus driving that far isn't relaxing, so I looked at Florida flights.  Curls suggested Allegiant Air.  I carefully bit together my teeth in prep' to grind 'em at ungodly prices, when Google came back with $230 a seat round-trip.  We have a winner!

You blue hairs that live in Florida and Mickey Mouse SMEs, I'd like your help nailing down the plan. 

Which 3 would you pick: 

     - Magic Kingdom
     - Epcot Center (Pigtails will be 10, too young to appreciate the 'cot?)
     - Animal Kingdom
     - Disney Hollywood Studios
     - Sea World
     - Universal Studios

Discovery Cove is expensive but looks fun.  Who's been there, was it worth the coin and did the dolphins poop on you?  My last experience with a "dolphin encounter" in the Bahamas was 500 pounds of gray blubber randomly bumping my junk.  Then me handing over a hundred bucks.  The end.   

We'd like to spend 4 days on the sand, 2 days on 2 different beaches.  Should we park it on the Gulf side or the Atlantic?  Initial leaning is the Gulf, maybe Fort De Soto or Siesta Key.  

We'll build in a free day to relax and shop.  Any recommendations for local-owned restaurants and shopping joints in the Orlando, Tampa or Sarasota areas?

What else you got?


May 21, 2012

My Worldview - 2, Corn Fed

The virgin chapter of the worldview series burned rubber around the Rings of Influence.  It bored into how shoring up the innermost rings of nuclear family and social circle better equip us to serve the outer national and world rings.  

The Rings demonstrate my druthers when buying goods.  I like to go local.  

For example, my grocery preference plays out like this:

     1)  Grow it in zee garden
     2)  Farmers' Market (post coming your way, the f-market in this town is wild)
     3)  Local grocer
     4)  National chain grocer

When we eat out, the Rings say local diners dominate national chains in my book.  Although an Outback Steakhouse bloomin' onion is yummy yet devastatingly unhealthy to hork down once a year.

Purchasing threads for Pigtails, I prefer hitting a privately owned consignment shop and buying used vs. blowing wads on expensive national brand retailers.  I find clean skirts and shirts for my kid at 1/3 the $coin$ going this route.  If you have a bambino that grows like a weed and you've never tried a consignment shop, get on it. 

The last couple months, I noticed the crusty Serta "beautyrest" (more like back-punch "crappyrest") was center-sagging after 6,000 sleeps.  Back when I bought that mattress fresh out of college, I headed to the jumbo furniture store like everyone else and cut a check for the most popular national brand.  

I've matured a bit since then and the Rings have solidified...this time when it was time to wheel-and-deal on a new sleeper, I beelined to a factory-direct store that sells mattresses sewed together in Iowa.  Compared with the Serta it replaces, the local-built bed is higher quality, costs less, the dealer was knowledgeable and the store delivered next day.  Plus the factory can customize firmness and I was able to twist him down a little on price. 

Egyptian long-staple cotton is king, so I tapped the outer world ring when coating the new mattress with sheets. And this one's confusing: the pillow's from Czech Feather and Down, crafted in Cedar Rapids, IA.

I ran up to the kitchen just now and jotted down the local list.  Here's the damage of corn-fed junk:

     - A big friggin' table scratch-built from local 1800s barn boards
     - Rada knives cut in Waverly, IA
     - A brown-glass growler of root beer, tapped from Peace Tree Brewing
     - Big Daddy's BBQ sauce
     - Orlondo's salad dressing and Gino's spaghetti sauce, flasked in DSM
     - Tone's spices from Ankeny, IA
     - Spicy Italian sausage mixed at Graziano's
     - A&E milk, butter, sour cream, cheddar and cottage cheeses
     - Blue Bunny mint-choc' ice-cream
     - Whole grain wheat bread from a local baker
     - Almond butter whipped at the Farmers' Market
This summer, we'll pound locally harvested sweet corn, garden tomatoes and peppers, Farmer's Market treats and lean Angus slaughtered on my Uncle's farm.

Why go local?
I find that the food tastes better.
The service is friendlier.
The prices are palatable.
The pillows are softer.
There's better visibility into what goes into the products.
And I like supporting small businesses. 

Do you go local?  Or do Wal*Mart and Target win?


May 17, 2012

Harden Not Your Heart

Crank up the estrogen, this one's scrawled by a girl.  Warning:  Curls is frighteningly pretty.   -Beard 

Curls here.  Hi!  Beard has asked me to step in as guest blogger for the day. 

Some of you have inquired about whom I am and what I think of Beard’s diatribe posts.  I’ll do my best to be honest and forthright, but we may have to take this a post at a time.  Let’s start at the very beginning. 

Beard and I have been tight for 5+ years.   We initially met through a shared interest in running and, as we spent more time together, quickly bonded over witty stories and a plethora of other antics that solidified our friendship.   

Upfront, Beard was very open about his situation.  I admired the way he stood strong, despite the fact that life did not quite turn out the way he thought it would for him, or his daughter.  Plus, I immediately fell for the darling Pigtails.  I began to sense what a real family might mean for me.   

You see, I’ve never been married.  I’ve never dated anyone who had been through a divorce.  I’ve never dated anyone who had children.  You might be thinking, “Why should that matter”, but let me tell you, it does.  Just as I had been shaped by life experiences, so had Beard.  Things got real, real fast. 

I’ve not lived what Beard has been through.  As hard as I might try, it’s dishonest to say that I can completely relate, nor be expected to.  I can lend understanding, empathy, support, patience, and compassion, but I alone can’t be the fix-all for this windburn he writes ofFilling the void he feels isn’t going to instantly take away that kind of pain.  This gap between how it is (divorced) and how it is meant to be (marriage till death do you part) has haunted Beard for a long time and presented itself in the form of suffering.  It took me a long time to recognize and, eventually, accept this.  Is it tough to read of his trials?  You bet.  Do I want to help him?  Absolutely.  There is so much in regaining… 

Trust.  So delicate.  Absolutely essential to a healthy relationship.  But when that trust has been violated, or isn’t upheld to the highest of standards, it’s laboring to “harden not your heart” (Psalm 95).  Who wants to be vulnerable (again) when the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual stakes are that high?  Once bitten, twice shy. 

Ouch!  For me, the one on the other side, it’s a tough pill to swallow.  I believe very much in the gift of marriage.  It’s a lot of emotional work to put aside my own feelings, as I feel I must, for the time being.   Yet some gifts are worth waiting for.  There’s nothing I want more than for Beard to (re)discover the joy that a true gift can and will bring. 



May 14, 2012

CelebrAsian 2012

Japanese seaweed sushi rolls, iced Thai tea, Indian henna skin art and hand-to-hand martial arts ported us to Asia this weekend.  14 villages tented the Capital lawn for the 10th annual CelebrAsian party. 

They pretty much had it covered:  Vietnamese, Hmong, Tai Dam, Cambodian, Lao, Japanese, Malaysian, Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Filipino, Chinese and Nepalese.  Plus one pasty white boy from Iowa.

The food's always the gem of local festivals.  Whiffs of spicy grilled beef kabobs, steamed dumplings and Indian curry rode the breeze as traditional Hmong wedding song and dance pulsed on stage.

Oh yeah, this is going to be good

I want one for gardening

"No you can't have it, just hold it up and pretend"

What the heck, Pepsi's from Asia now?

Japanese Tamaki Bento Box = yee haw!

California roll

Miso soup, I drained it in 53 seconds

Wrapped and fried in front of her filthy mitts

Sticky rice carb' attack

Indian chickpeas, served up by Baba

Rolled to order

Place a tub of vegetable Pad Thai on her lap and the girl turns feral


Iced Thai tea > bubble tea

Scratching tatt's:

The game of sepak takraw is ridiculous, squirting a rattan ball over the net using only your feet.  A perfect game for people that love volleyball but have no arms, the dudes were flexible and kicked like ninja Rockettes.  And I'm pretty sure they'd beat my britches if they heard me saying that.

Tons of Eastern games, traditional dances and authentic garb.  Free festivals, FTW.



There was a bunch more going on that day, but alas, blogging time's up.  11:45 pm and I'm up in 6 hours for work.


May 10, 2012

Born to Eat - 1, Love Handles of Death

Mr. Fickle, I started crafting a crabby cabbage post on the concoction below, but decided to rewind a bit and share my philosophy on food and health instead.  As I smacked the Mac, it was clear I need to break this into a series. 

My B&P blog motto is fast becoming:

    Make you angry.  

I hope this food and health series causes more thinking than rage, but who knows.  Let's do this.

Which factor below presents the greatest risk to a person's health:

    A) Smoking
    B) Obesity
    C) Crazy tanning-bed lady
    D) Heavy drinking (alcoholic)

Ding dong if you answered B.  That's a surprise, I'd peg smoking as most harmful.

So we have a weight problem in America, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 35% of adults and 17% of children are obese in this country.  Nearly 70% of adults are overweight or obese.  Heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, stroke and tight pants are all yoked directly to obesity.  U.S. obesity-related medical costs approach $300,000,000,000 (that's $300 billion) per year. 

You get the point.

Another question for you...which of the following is more effective for weight loss:

    A) Diet
    B) Exercise

I'd guess exercise, but the correct answer is diet.  This is especially true for women, research shows ladies may lose NOTHING with vigorous exercise alone, if they don't also trim their fat intake.  

From what I've read, here's my understanding of weight loss mechanics:
  • Diet alone is the simplest and most direct method for cutting weight.  It's often easier to reduce 500 calories from your day than to sweat out 500 calories.  Burning 500 calories = a 5 mile run.  Most people won't run 5 miles a day, but many can trim 500 calories from their plate with simple changes.
  • Diet and exercise combined cut weight the fastest, but require extra time and commitment to pull off consistently.  Exercise can spike the appetite, which is fine as long as the burn exceeds your caloric intake.  
  • Exercise is effective for maintaining weight, but incoming fat needs to be kept in check.
  • Extreme dieting and fad diets are dumb.  They eventually backfire and often cause weight gain in the long run. 

The best diets are those that are realistic and sustainable for a lifetime.  Mom was on Weight Watchers growing up, she literally weighed and tracked every morsel of food.  That's silly, it's not realistic or sustainable to expect a person to scale food every day of their life.  So I'd argue the Weight Watchers plan she was on was flawed since it was impossible to stick to.

Common sense eating is a good way to ease into intake changes.  Begin with simple tweaks like cutting soda, limiting junk food to twice a month and pounding down water.  Once that solidifies into a habit, slowly introduce additional food changes while adding on a daily 2-mile walk/jog combo.  Slow and steady, molding habits through consistency are what count on the wide timeline of a healthy lifestyle.

So we know obesity jabs health harder than smoking.  Diet controls weight better than exercise alone.  This means what we eat is deadly important.  Since our children's eating habits are molded by what they are fed growing up, parents should be careful about what's for dinner.  

I'll dig more on what I feed my kid and why next time on the series.

I'd like to shape the flow of this food and health discussion by your input.  Please share in comments your thoughts on the matter.  Speak up and tell me where I'm wrong.  And let me know if there's something specific you'd like me to write about on diet and exercise.

The health screening today showed my cholesterol pegged at 254, send help.

 Bon appétit!


May 6, 2012

A Little Backyard Garden

Week 1 - 5/6/12

Mother Nature's hustling in an early summer, her south breeze airdropping 80-degree May days.  Time to twist the spade and convert black soil into heirloom tomatoes, cilantro and sweet peppers. 

There's a decent chance a garden thread will put you to sleep, so I'll update this post as the garden grows rather than pushing out new pepper posts.  If you have a green thumb, check back every week or two to see if I'm able to chase off the greedy bunnies this growing season.  

Critter deterrent question:  Human hair keeps rabbits away or is it fox pee?  Or human pee fends off deer?  At any rate, the neighbors may see me spreading human hair and fox/human/monkey urine in the vicinity to keep my precious lettuce from getting destroyed.

Shopped the garden center this weekend, here's the damage:

  • Bradley Heirloom
  • Bonnie Grape
  • Better Boy Hybrid

  • Red Bell
  • Sweet Banana

  • Buttercrunch Bibb Lettuce
  • Moroccan Arugula

For the Kid
  • African Marigolds
  • Succulents
  • Calibrachoas
  • Sunflower Seeds

I might also snag a jalapeño plant and green bean seeds if we have room.

Rather than plowing the entire garden, I'll experiment with no-till this season:  dig a hole or row and loosen the soil only in the areas to be planted.  There's a 3" decaying layer of leaf/grass combo covering the plot, leftover from last autumn's mulching.  I'll leave that be and let it continue decomposing, hoping it helps choke the coming weeds.

I had time to prep the garden this weekend, but a rainy doubleheader stopped me from plunging plants into earth. 

Here's our spot in the back corner of the yard, it needs a little TLC.

A hoe, steel rake and spade are my shanks of choice, I don't use any power tools.

Turned the top 2" of mulch and raked it evenly to help break it down and decompose.  We'll see how it goes this year with minimal cultivating of the soil and keeping the shredded leaves intact to strangle the weeds. 

 If the rain holds, we'll plant in a couple days.

Week 1 - 5/9

The rain abated, so we got busy getting dirty the last two evenings.  Pigtails carefully troweled Marigolds and Calibrachoas into tubby terracotta crocks.  She did a fetching job jazzing the front stoop.

An empty IKEA clay pot's hanging from a rail in the kitchen, so I jammed a succulent in there.  It offsets the white subway tile nicely with a shot of green.

Sissy flowers put to bed, I headed out back to sink vegetables into soil.  The loam was damp and wormy, such potential lurks in the muck! 

Playing in a garden is more than just a relaxing way to reap fresh produce.  I tell Pigtails it demonstrates God working in action.  He provides the nutrients, water and sun needed to fabricate bushels of vegetables from dirt and tiny seeds.

Of course, God also built the pesky wabbits that mess with my greens, so there's that.

Next up:  Soak the soil and jot down in a notebook the number of days to maturity for each type of plant.

Week 2 - 5/19
Mapped out the vegetables and jotted approximate harvest dates.  The maps helps track where I planted so I can better distinguish evil weeds to be plucked vs. good plants.  The schedule reminds us when reaping's ready.