Dec 30, 2013

Stock Buy Blow-by-Blow

Pigtails wants to start investing.  I'll walk the process of opening a trading account and feeding cash so she's ready to go with purchasing stock.

We'll start by setting up an account with a trading company.,, TD and are reputable online self-service brokerage houses.  I picked E-Trade for Pigtails, here's a link for creating the new account:

Dec 28, 2013

Taking Investment Ownership

Order of operation for short and long term savings should go something like this:
  1. Cushion the unexpected by saving six months worth of expenses for emergencies
  2. If family, life insurance
  3. 401K, contribute at least enough to score the full company match if your employer offers it
  4. Roth IRA, max limit is $5,500 per year, withdrawals are taxless
  5. Buy a house
  6. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds or gold
  7. If kids, then start a 529 college savings plan
Notice that retirement funding for self and spouse should come ahead of building a pot for your brat's education.  Also better to start on the 401K and Roth BEFORE buying a home.  The longer we wait saving for our hoary headed days, the more compound interest we forgo.  

I recommend letting the pros manage your 401K and Roth.  Principal is a solid retirement and investment company.

Let's talk about #6 above.  Over the past four years, I've transitioned to managing my own stocks via eTrade.  Generally, I buy $1,000 of stock from one company at a time.  After several years of throwing $1K at various companies, the portfolio starts to spread out and diversify.  I've got a range of corporations in there like the rusty but trusty General Electric and Ford to new tech, riskier bets like Tesla, Netflix and China Mobile.  

Dec 22, 2013

Honey Badger Don't Care - 6, Running in < 10F

Best to run with a partner or bring a phone when the mercury tickles < 10F.  A black ice slip with ankle sprain on a wooded trail means frostbite and worse if you don't prep for contingency.

Body warms up and stay toasting during the workout, but exposed skin will get cold burns, so cover up!  

Layering is similar to what we talked about last time for the 10 - 20F range.  Just need to thicken up the torso middle layer, go heavy on the gloves and make sure your cheeks are coated with scarf, gaiter or mask.

Dec 19, 2013

Honey Badger Don't Care - 5, Running in 10 - 20F

Blocking air flow down your neck hole is the secret to staying warm as temp slides under 20F.  A neck gaiter, balaclava or Insane Clown Posse mask will get the job done.  They prevent body heat from venting and retard icy wind infiltration.

Dec 18, 2013

Honey Badger Don't Care - 4, Running in 20 - 30F

Check the wind chill when lacing up for a run.  If the air temp is 35 and wind chill 25, dress for 25 degrees.  A thin nylon vest or jacket is an effective wind fence.  Zippers are helpful in regulating body temp.  Unzip a little on the tailwind when you're warm, zip back up against the biting headwind.

For a 20 - 30 degree run, combine a medium base layer:  

+ Plus + 

Running pants, thin vest or jacket, medium mittens and hat:

Dec 17, 2013

Honey Badger Don't Care - 3, Running in 30 - 40F

Yesterday's pop quiz: During a hard workout, max internal muscle temps reach:

A)  100F
B)  110F
C)  120F
D)  None of the above

Answer is D, muscles burn @130F when you really get after it.  This explains why you can head out in shorts and thin shirt at 30 degrees and still drip a sweat trail.  First 10 minutes of a winter run are chilly, then the internal furnace stokes and you're comfortable.

Base layers come into play in the upper 20s/lower 30s range.  Base means slim fitting wicking shorts and shirt to trap body heat and block the external chill.  Mostly it keeps your junk warm.

Heads up warning on the man spanx...I mangled Curls and Pigtails' eyes and innocence as they snapped these.

For a 30 - 40 degree run, combine a short base layer:  

+ Plus + 

Shorts, sleeves, thin gloves and cap:

Dec 16, 2013

Honey Badger Don't Care - 2, Running in 40 - 50F

Forecast shows the mercury's touching the 40s on Wednesday, yee haw!  Ideal running temps, I'll pack shorts, long sleeve wicking shirt, thin gloves and a ball cap to retain a smidge of heat.

The Most Important Part...
Let's talk running shoes.  Don't skimp on this one, otherwise the injury fairy may force you to tap out.

It will take some time to find the right brand and model that's right for you. Depending on how God decided to knit together your lower extremities, your foot either rolls inward (pronates) or outward (supinates) when you jog.  A neutral footstrike is desirable, and means your foot initially rolls outward as you strike the ground, then rolls inward slightly on push-off.

Dec 15, 2013

Honey Badger Don't Care - 1, Running in 50F+

A coworker asked what her 10-yr-old daughter should wear for the Jingle Bell 5K run.  Forecast was 10 degrees and windy.  Conditions sounded daunting, but loaded up with the right layers, her girl stayed toasty and smiled through the 30-min race.

I run a bunch, usually more than 2,000 miles a year.  We do the deed daily over lunch, plus 12+ mile trots Saturdays in all conditions.  Iowa temp ranges from -20 to 110, with clouds spitting all sorts of unholy precip'.  Experimentation, sweaty hands and CC (cold crotch) have taught me how to stay comfortable on winter powder trails and through 40 degree spring monsoons.

As it starts getting colder, layers need to be added in roughly 10 degree increments, else things will start to invert.  I'll split these posts into temp ranges and layers.  We'll start the series today with warmth and end the week with permafrost.

50+ Degrees
50F and above, shorts and shirt will do.  Be sure to wear wicking when working out.  A cotton shirt on a hot day will cling and feel like you're doing laps in a wet bedspread or a moist toga.

Workout clothes are branded with names like Dri-Fit and performance cotton, but they're all pretty much the same thing.  100% polyester or a blend of 85% poly' with traces of cotton and spandex for soft 'n stretch.

Target carries a Champion knock-off brand that I like.  The shorts have a built-in liner (look ma', no undies!), wick well on greasy days and are 15 bucks on sale.  I don't recommend buying a workout shirt, as nearly every race from 5K up gives out Dri-Fits with entry and they'll soon be coming outta your ears.

I probably have 30 race shirts, gently used, you want one?  This one's my favorite, the winged foot Market-to-Market Relay, with an ear of corn in place of wing:

Dec 9, 2013

A Svedish Smörgåsbord

Our family's only a few fingers of generations from ancestors that bucked the Atlantic, blowing from Horn, Sweden to New York in timbered ship.

Dec 4, 2013

B&P Week in Review - Pigtails Honks and Beard Interpretive Dances

I'll show you our week instead of tell you, carry on:

Track the B&P FB page this weekend for live updates on our Memphis Marathon trip.


Dec 2, 2013

Kickstarter, Crowdsourcing and Fresh Joe

Crowdsourcing - The practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

Our economy hightails down the path of globalization.  Automation, speed-to-market and the rise of computers are here to stay.  Employees that are innovative, flexible and work quickly are the baseline for what companies expect today.  You gotta paddle hard and keep up or prepare to cough water in this fast moving stream.  I'm a hyper sort of dude that likes to try new, so this all sounds good to me.

It's in this vein of globalization, technology and flexibility that crowdsourcing works well.

Nov 23, 2013

A Random Post

Life's rarely linear, but rather a series of small random happenings.  Here's a dump of what's going on at the B&P household.

Two winters ago, I shared a night run around my 'hood and mentioned a cozy bistro I wanted to try.  We took care of that, the 24-hour smoked brisket and cinnamon butter cornbread are without reproach.  Local owned Flying Mango doesn't disappoint and Urban Spoon confirms it.  If you live in the area or pass Des Moines, stop for a bite and request the corner nook.

Nov 17, 2013

Failing to Find Your Niche - 3

By your perseverance you will secure your lives. Lk 21:19

By now you've deduced the title's a word play.  It's not about failing to find your niche, but rather using failure like a machete to hack the thatch until you discover talent.

Yesterday mom said "Beard, reading your blog you sound down."  Nope, so wanted to be clear on the point of the series.

9 quickies I've learned from failing in order to find my niche, then we're all done:

  1. If there's an opportunity to try something new, do it.  The best (and worst) came when I said yep.
  2. Saying no in order to avoid failure is not better than saying yes and experiencing failure.  You don't know what you're missing without trying.
  3. You won't be good at everything, don't let it bother you.  Join the club.  
  4. Fear of failure, or not being certain we'll be good at something is not a good reason to say no.  Don't be a puss.
  5. We don't have to be perfect to make a difference.  Sometimes good enough is sufficient.
  6. If you fail at something, step back and decide if you should a) stop, b) practice until improvement or c) put it on hold and retry another time.  Often we fall short at first, but it eventually clicks if we stay on it.   
  7. Failure is usually a better teacher than success.  It hurts more though.
  8. History shows nearly everyone that made a dent first failed a bunch.  Steve Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985.  Later he said the eventual success of the company would never have happened without him getting canned.
  9. There are things you are good at that you don't yet know about.  Get out there and discover them!

'thon #13 done


Nov 12, 2013

Failing to Find Your Niche - 2

Coach Hofmann tossed a rope and helped pull me out of the muck in high school.

He's perpetually 65 years old; looked it when I was in school 20 yrs ago and is the same today.  Blue polyester shorts without exception, even through winter.  He was somehow able to pull off the Daisy Dukes and tube socks without being creepy.  Everyone was okay with it.

Nov 11, 2013

Failing to Find Your Niche - 1

To find your niche in life, you must first be proficient at failing. 

Growing up, I was not very good at many things.

Cello in grade school, little league baseball, neighborhood fistfights and wrestling.  Terrible, at all of them.  9th grade, I wrestled a boy that was born without legs.  He pinned my scrawn in 15 seconds.

Paper route when I was 13:  was lost my first few times, didn't realize I inadvertently dropped a paper to the front and back door of the same low income apartments.  It was an evening route, getting dark, I was confused and ran out of papers before the route was finished.  Surprised I didn't get canned.

Detasseling corn as an early teen, I was allergic to pollen, messed around too much, wasn't always able to keep up and missed too many tassels.  Foreman asked me not to return the next season.

Orthodontist said I had to wear headgear all day, even at school.  Girls weren't keen on my headgear.

Nov 7, 2013

My Kid Leaves the Seat Up. My Kid is a Girl.

So this "situation" crops up a time or two each month.  I walk into the bathroom to brush teeth before work and it stinks like oxe pee in there.  The throne is mellow yellow, I start to get on Pigtails' case about needing to flush the toilet, but stop short after realizing the seat's up.

Chalked it up as I must have made a bandit midnight stop and forgot to flush or perhaps I'm going senile.

The situation happened again this morning:

     Stench strong enough to melt paint.
     Commence barking at her about flushing the thunder box, then pause after noticing the seat is up.

She couldn't take it any longer and started cracking up.  I stood there puzzled, trying to decode the porcelain pit mystery.

"Dad, I got you...I've been putting up the seat after I'm done so you'll think you forgot to flush."

"Isn't that a lot more work than just flushing it?"

Beaming, "Yep, but this is funny."

Told me this tomfoolrey's been going down for six months, it apparently began as an April Fools' joke and she kept at it.  Told her well done, off to school and work we go.

While at work, this thought came to:  where was the TP...why wasn't there any in the bowl, yuck, doesn't she wipe?!

Picked her up from school, asked her why she's gross and skipping the Angel Soft.  She scoffed and responded, "Duh Dad, I threw it in the trash."

Well played.


Oct 31, 2013

When Cancer is Not by Happenstance

Smoking and obesity cause 66% of all cancer in this country.  In other words, two thirds of cases are triggered by lifestyle choice.

Last weekend, local oncologist, medical director and chief of staff Richard Deming spoke at the Des Moines Marathon expo.  Dr. Deming founded the Above+Beyond cancer survivor advocacy group.  He encourages survivors to fully live life through adventure, tackling Kilimanjaro, marathons and Everest.  

Dr. Deming dropped some difficult numbers, he said:  "If people stopped smoking, and if everyone ate right and exercised, two thirds of all cancer in this country would go away."

Whoa, I didn't know that.  

Oct 24, 2013

Be Tween

She's 11.5, a tweener and confusing to her old man.  Help.

Pigtails' growth rate is weedy, often climbing half an inch in weeks.  Skinny jeans are baggy on the twigs and have a 3-month expiration date.  In two moons, her jeggings shrink to bare ankle pirate pants and the polo becomes a midriff. She wears size 7 women's shoe and they're getting snug.

Why does she need 5 pairs of shoes?

These are the days of an opposing rift between the little girl she's always been and the person she'll one day become.  Her maturity pendulum swings between kiddo and c'mon dad, that's so babyish.

Oct 18, 2013

Runner Roll Call

Running is my daily detox.
20 below or 100 degrees doesn't matter, we roll hard.
Stress is best busted on quiet singletrack or a salty paced Loop of Pain hill session.
Most importantly, a weekly 5,000 calorie burn lets me do no-guilt repeats on the Chinese buffet.  

This Sunday, I'll prod 30 people through 26.2 miles of the Des Moines Marathon.  Aiming to finish in three hours, ten minutes and helping our group qualify for Boston.  Pacing is a fun way to give back to the sport and more gritty than handing out Gatorade at aid stations.

Hopefully this time, I won't have issues with cheeks drooping out of the Daisy Dukes.

Memphis Marathon is next up in December.  Six dudes from our running group will cram a Honda Odyssey and migrate south to help pace the 'thon that benefits the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Tennessee posse, let me know if you live near Memphis and can help guide us to some messy ribs.  Corky's BBQ and Beale Street are on our list.  What else should we see and don't say Graceland.

It's not too late to get on the fitness horse this year.  Let me know what race you've signed up for this fall or healthy goals you have for next year.  If you've never done a 5K and your knees are not void of cartilage, make it happen.


Oct 14, 2013

Hank 3 @B.W.

Easing you into another Monday, here's a three minute of our Boundary Waters float from August.  We were deep north and six hours from a cell tower, Hank's playing.


Oct 8, 2013

Fireplace Fixup Stage III - Finish It

I get it, you're bored silly from a 5-pack of fireplace posts.  Let's finish it.  Then we can move on to more important topics, such as do you like it on top or bottom.

Stage III was cut and nail the wall trim, bolt the steel TV mount through brick (not simple, drill bit was smoking hot), snag a 1950s Umanoff reed rocker and hit my dusty junk with a lemon wet nap.

It finished clean, looking both techno and retro. 

Picky on flat panel selection, wanted something 1" thick with barely a frame edging the glass.  Float the screen and hide all cords.  Over-the-air HD antenna pokes out the top...I'll find a way to tuck it.

Oct 3, 2013

Fireplace Fixup Stage 2.5 - DIY Dojo

Prior to this fireplace fixup, I'd never worked with brick and mortar, malicious cat whiz or an oak floor refinish.  Figuring things out yourself on home projects is an effective teacher, a DIY dojo.

Pigtails was out of the house last night for two hours, so I spooled up the orbital hand sander and chewed the wood floors beneath the bookshelves.  The oak was beat up where I removed the cabinets.  Scratches and residual cat piss needed tended to.

YouTube is a great place to find how-to video on home projects.  I watched a few clips to learn the rhythm of sanding and refinishing a floor.  Needed to remove cloudy old polyurethane, plus sand a few millimeters of oak to smooth scratches and cat skat.  24-grit sandpaper got after the topcoat.

Oct 1, 2013

Fireplace Fixup Stage II - Pale Shale

You'll save paint and get a better finish by starting with a bushy rough surface roller when slapping primer on brick.  Then switch to a semi-smooth medium nap roller for the first coat of paint.  Finish with a second skin of paint using a smooth surface roller.  I also hit the mortar joints with a brush so naked parts won't peek through.

Progress since v1.5:

  • Primed and painted the brick
  • Concealed power cord (chisled out a line of mortar and caulked in power)
  • Located wall studs and devised a plan for bolting TV bracket in front of wretched vents
  • They are reproducing, more vents found on the lower sides of fireplace; painted them flat black to match surround
  • Ordered a $25 TV mount on Amazon, this
  • Cat whiz stench be gone
  • Picked up trim and quarter round, getting busy with the miter saw
  • Swapped incandescent spotlights with Cree LEDs (130 watts down to 18 watts)


The color card say nimbus cloud, we'll call it pale shale with a blue aftertaste.

Sep 29, 2013

Fireplace Fixup Stage 1.5 - CPC (Cat Piss Corner)

Something smells.

Pigtails asked to spend the weekend with her mom's side of the family.  I don't blame her, they live on a 100 acre hobby farm with horses, 4-wheeler trails and a well stocked pond.  Seemed like a good time for me to get dirty with the fireplace and make hay on the dusty parts while she's out.

Order of operation is important when working a project.  I can't latex the brick without first removing the lower cabinets.  Yesterday and today went like this, 12 hours of work:
  • Sawzall, sledge 'n chopped the cabinets
  • Neutered the studs that held the mantel (tedious, hand chiseled the last bits)
  • Patched the brick
  • Painted the back and sides of bookcases to blend with the wall
  • Coated firebox and steel surround with high temp flat black epoxy
  • Removed the floorboards and quarter round; will need to cut and lay new trim

Here's how she looks at Stage 1.5, tape outline on the brick denotes size and location for the plasma:

Sep 25, 2013

Fireplace Fixup Stage I - Busting Chops

Time to fix my fireplace, here's what things look like before digging in:


-Hide the flesh colored heat vents
-Take the shine off the brass surround
-Brown brick is ugly, take care of it
-Do something with the side shelves and why are there kitchen cabinets in my parlor (what is a parlor)

I pulled the mantel to see how things look without it.  That thing was stubborn, took a lean into an 18" crowbar to pry the string of screws securing it to the wall.  Surprise, there are two wood studs protruding to support the mantel.  Slight overkill, mantel was used to hold photos, not a heifer.

Also removed the brass fireplace surround and glass doors so I can paint or keep it off if tidy beneath.  Good shape behind the brass, matte black metal and only a few visible screws. 

Sep 21, 2013


1990, a Boyz II Men cassette tape and Casio calculator watch were on my birthday list.  It was also the year Dad and I pumped the Schwinn 500 miles on Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.  14 yrs old and loose spandex, plugging away 3" behind Dad's gassy derriere.

The memories etched.
Little things like up at 6:00 am, pedaling through the cool of morning towards an orange dawn.
Hearing corn stalks rustle in the wind and the bike chain clacking through the derailleur.
Our country cruise powered by Methodist apple pie and pork chop stands littering the route.   
Camping at night and seeing Team Gumby build a giant slip 'n slide and get smashed on beer bombs and brats.

Wanted Pigtails to experience the ride as I did when a runt, so woke the tandem out of retirement for RAGBRAI this July. 

Sep 15, 2013


Buying stock is the shortest path to wealth.    

Money does not bring happiness.  But it allows more flexible use of time, additional choices and the ability to help others.  Which are three things that make me happy.

I mainly want enough saved up so I won't be stuck eating ramen and diet water when I'm old.

Some people are maybe not sure where to start when it comes to investing.  Or they don't feel like they have the knowledge and skills to get it done.  Hiring a pro to help guide our savings makes sense for many.  Just realize that route costs money, potentially tens of thousands $$ in fees over the years.

My 401K, Roth IRA and daughter's college 529 are managed by experts that (hopefully) know what they are doing. A few years ago, I had a small amount of play dough sitting, so decided to take the plunge and learn how to buy shares of stock on my own.

Almsgiving Mishmash

Just as it's important to diversify our investments, so too should we diversify our giving.  

Our church parish is on a capital drive to raise a million bucks.  Half the money goes to our church, the rest to the local diocese.

A member stopped by my house last week and asked if I'd be willing to chip in some change.  Told him I'd think on it a few days, then let him know.

Here's what I said when we later talked on the phone:

I think it's important to diversify both our investments and our giving.  I already fork over a fair pile to the church each year.  If I increase the contribution, I won't have anything left to help out with other charities. So I'm unable to contribute anything to the capital drive.

95% of the other families in the church said yes when asked to give.  I was the odd man out.

Sep 12, 2013

Erected in 1894 to Probe Uranus...

Telescopes, folks.

On my list for a long time, Pigtails and I finally visited the Drake Observatory this summer.


Each Friday evening, the dome opens to the public for a free speak and peek.  The lecture that warm July dusk covered moons in our solar system.

Sep 9, 2013

Burlap Sacks on my Glass

My life is so exotic, hanging at the JCPenney Home Store on a Sat. night, discussing draperies and other important matters with the curtain lady.

It started with a glass swap.  Nuked the picture window and pair of double-hungs, supplanted by a single sheet of commercial glass.  The new feels massive, brightens the small room and is clean without the screens, frames and spiders that shacked up in the old.



Sep 3, 2013

Fuzzy Ears

When a person needs help, talk is cheap.
Action makes the difference.       

Pigtails and I met Quincy a year ago through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa.  He's in 2nd grade and always smiling.  We hang out twice a month, every other Sunday afternoon for two hours.  We ride bikes, shoot hoops and read at the library.  I reinforce the importance of school and encourage him to stand up strong when a kid was hassling him.

Here's how last Sunday went down...crabs, chocolate covered chicken drumsticks and more (link).

Quincy was born deaf, but is able to hear pretty well after cochlear implant surgery brought the sound.  His sound processors, the curved computers that clip behind his ears, are six years old.  Like an Atari, they are obsolete.

Aug 26, 2013

Turn up the Bass

Pigtails was by her side when mom passed the day before 4th of July.

Sometimes she wakes up at night crying.  A few days after the funeral, daughter grabbed my antique flip phone and tried to speed dial her mom.  Took her a minute to realize nobody would answer.

She has a great school counselor, they exchanged handwritten cards this summer.  The first day of school, counselor pulled Pigtails from class for a few minutes so they could have a quiet talk.  Kids are resilient, she'll be okay.

Horrific few months.  I listen as people tell me about their sunny multi-week and lie when they ask how our summer went.

Fifth grade started last week.  She's looking more grown up lately.  Our conversations are maturing, lots of lady and special napkins and other such topics lately.  She talks to me about everything.  I love that, and hope she continues through the teen years.

Jun 29, 2013

Beaver Paddle

Floated the $149 Menards kayak down Beaver Creek last evening.  5 mile paddle hooking to the Des Moines river, with a mile portage through the woods towards home.  Mountain biked back to the car in the black of night, sucked a hard shell Junebug down my air hole.

Based on the color and ragged edges of my boat, I'm guessing it was molded from recycled Tide jugs.

Click the sun for 90 seconds of GoPro:

Wish I could do the Boundary Waters.


Jun 22, 2013

Game of Life

Here's mosh pit of updates on topics we've sampled before.

Summer Tan
I was feeling a little dispirited about dropping my daughter off at the school gym for another summer of $700 a month feces flinging.  Kids should spend the hot days drinking lemonade and lapping the pool. 

Readers offered dozens of ideas in the comments for a fun summer.  We were ready to try a camp or nanny when the neighbor girl casually announced one evening while I was out trimming my bushes:

"You know that my mom is going to watch her this summer, right?"   

I had the bewildered "shut the front door" look and dropped my hedge shears.

American Girl and Hospice

Pigtails headed up to the Twin Cities recently with her mom, mom's boyfriend and Aunt Angie (mom's sister) for a week of indulging in American Girl Dolls and other hooligan activities.

They arrived in Minneapolis on Monday.  By Tuesday, her mom's healthy soured quickly.  She was losing the ability to move her right side, and she couldn't see.  Angie called hospice to help at the hotel.  Her mom wasn't able to get out of the room, but Pigtails and Aunt had a good time on her birthday at the American Girl store.  She's 11 now, you know.

As the week progressed and her mom wasn't improving, Pigtails asked Aunt some hard questions.  This one was painful:

"Aunt Ee Ee, will my mom die when I'm 11 or 12?"

"Well, we don't know when, but it could be when you are 11."

She buried her head in Angie and bawled.

No kid should have to ask that question.  No 37-year-old mother should have to go through this. Pigtails continues with that sweet demeanor.  Except in the mornings, then her eyeballs fire hot lasers.

A decision was made on the Twin Cities trip that her mom would not return to Des Moines.  Instead, she moved into hospice in Ottumwa to be closer to her parents.  It's 90 minutes from DSM, we drove halfway there this morning to meet grandma so Pigtails can be with mom this weekend.  Grandma said there isn't a lot of time left for her mom to be able to communicate and stay awake.  

We're keeping the summer open so she can visit on weekends and ad hoc when needed.  I share this stuff with strangers on the blog, but most of the people I'm around at work every day have no idea what's going on.


Jun 15, 2013

Prairie Pow Wow

Every other Sunday afternoon, we hang out with Quincy for a couple hours.  We wanted to try something new, I'd heard good things about Prairie City's 5,600 acre Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge.  Starving, what a coinky-dink the prairie happens to be in the same town as Goldie's.  Fill 'er up on tenderloins and shakes, Q wanted milk.

my cholesterol shrank from 255 to 205 this year, thank you very much

 They chalked their mark on the way out, notice how she signed.

WWYD - Front or Top Loader?

My washer and dryer have arthritis so I'm looking for a new set.  The old washer is a front loader and I've been happy with it.  Front sips less water and holds more junk per batch than a high efficiency top loader.

Several of the Facebook folks are rooting for a top loader.  Other than a higher upfront cost and musty smells if you don't keep the door open to dry out, I don't see any negatives to a fronter.



Jun 9, 2013

B&P Bento Box

What happens when you toss together my favorite local coffee, tea, candy and spices?

The B&P Bento Box!

I'm doing a limited run of the best that Des Moines puts out. The plan is to unload these puppies and get your feedback on what you like and how we can improve the set.  If there's additional interest after the first batch sells, I'll box a second helping so you readers can taste what I nibble on and write about.

Beaver 'Mallows

You've visited our 'hood.  Now I'll let you in on where we sneak sweets when no one's looking.

Beaverdale Confections is a local small business serving all manner of handmade treats.  Sea salt chocolate and butter fudge for mom and dad, peppermint sticks, jawbreakers and jellies for the brats.  The one-room shop sits a block from her school, I wonder if this is where Pigtails' lunch money is laundered.  Was that ketchup or a lollipop mustache staining her face when I picked her up from school last week?

Without a doubt, the #1 treat people return for is the gourmet marshmallow.

Jun 7, 2013


I live in Beaverdale, an old school suburb nestled in the northwest corner of Des Moines.  Born in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, it's made of tidy 1.5 story homes, stacked by red bricks kilned in a mason factory a few blocks behind my house. Century hard oaks soften the sun, a grassy median divides the main boulevard and pink peonies sweeten up the spring.

The original plan was to stay put for 5 years, pop out Pigtails, then sell and move out to a newer home to expand the family.  That was 15 years ago.  We're still here.

Jun 6, 2013

Beantown - 7, Smelly Finish and Feed My Face

Here's the last chapter of our Boston Marathon recap from a few years ago.  Finish it.

Beard:  A wet chill hovered, gripped my sweaty clothes and forced the shivers.  It was important to grab my bag and change into dry clothes pronto.  I’d tucked my bag inside of Curls' at the start, as it had ripped wide open and I was afraid my junk would fall out and disappear. The bags were numbered according to our race number, so I headed to the bus that held Curls’ bag. A lady on the bus looked me over and at my number and said, in that accent, “Son, whatcha doooin’ here, yaw bus it down a-that-away?”

Exhaustion and deep shivering made it difficult to articulate that my bag was tucked inside of Curls’. This confounded her, it was as if I had asked her to solve a complex riddle while splitting an atom. She finally understood what was needed, and began rummaging through the groups of bags like a black bear into a sack of Twinkies left inside a tent at Yellow Stone Park. Plastic bags were flyin’ all over in the bus, two of the Bostonian gals were shouting back and forth, an expletive slipped, the missing bag (or maybe they were referring to me ) was coined with a name that rhymes with mother shucker.

Jun 2, 2013

Loose Ends

Time to polish off a few loose ends that need tended to.  

Little Brother
I scribbled a post at work for National Volunteer Week, sharing the great experience we've had with Quincy through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa.  Mentioned the drive to raise money for Q's cochlear implant upgrade.  A few people at work emailed and said they'd contribute hundreds of bucks to help.  Someone else asked how close are we to goal.  I checked with his mom two weeks ago, the account was at $6,000.  $18,000 will buy a new pair, she said if they trade in the old processors the cost comes down to $10,000.  So $4K to go.


Glioblastoma is the most aggressive of malignant brain tumors, Pigtail's mom was diagnosed in 2007.  Treatment and remission for years, then it came back late last year.  More flasks of chemo, but no go.  Her latest MRI was in bad shape, the tumors are ignoring treatment.  Her speech has degraded significantly over the last two months, to the point where a simple conversation on the phone discussing a weekend handoff crawls and takes 10 minutes.

Earrings - Dad Caved

At first, she fragged me for days with:  "Dad, can we, dad, dad, ears dad, when?"

I put the kabosh on that, she was a good girl and left me alone for 10 minutes.

She turns 11 this month, I'd always had age 12 on my mind as the right time to pierce them puppies.  But I eventually softened and had a change of heart.  Pigtails will be with her mom for a week of vacation during her birthday, so last night, I surprised daughter and said, "Let's go get your ears pierced!"

She didn't believe me.
Then she squealed.
Bit her nails at the thought of a needle through her lobes.
Then she hugged my neck and yelped "THANKS DADDY!"

May 25, 2013

Market to Market Relay

A couple weekends back, seven of us raced as team Brown Chicken Brown Cow in the first annual Iowa Market to Market Relay.  I jog with most of these ladies over lunch and weekends in Des Moines.  Alex and Louis I met for the first time that day.  Age 22 to 40 and all in similar shape, we had depth and some randy fitness on tap to give the other 200 teams side stitch.

Tube link:

73 miles of tag teaming from Jefferson, Iowa to Des Moines, 17 legs @2.5 to 5.5 miles each, all on blacktop bike trails.

May 20, 2013

Piggy Bank

Are you financially prepped for a rainy day, the golden oldies and a date with your maker? 

If not, you should be. 

Here's how I fill the pig for the short term, retirement and death.

Short Term and Emergency Savings
Shore up at least a thousand bucks in savings, interest bearing checking or short CDs for the dry stretches.  $5K or $10K is even better, and will beat back the collectors a bit longer.  A lack of debt stretches the dough if jobless or under hardship.  That's why I encourage living more modestly than we can afford, and burning the mortgage early

If the house is obese with a side of credit card payments, you may need to hoard $20K+ in short term savings to let life continue as usual in case of a career malfunction.  Otherwise, be ready to sell a kid, tap into the retirement satchel or win the lotto.

Make sure the money is highly liquid and can be pulled out immediately if needed.  Don't intermix short term and long term savings.

May 19, 2013

Beantown - 6, The Marathon

Curls: While I had successfully earned my way into Boston, I was disappointed to learn that I was not assigned with the 1st wave, 10 o'clock start time, but rather would be assigned to the 2nd wave, 10:30 start. What's the big deal, you're wondering? Well, I was the lone wave-2er of our Iowa running group. Tough! Not only would I be behind the lead pack by a good 30-minutes, but the split times displayed on the clocks along the course would also read 30-minutes longer, from my actual race time. Ugghh. I would have to subtract by 30, each time I passed a clock. Many will back me up in admitting that it’s tough to do even simple math while running a marathon. At any rate, I relied upon my own watch for mile split updates, which seemed more motivating, but was also a tiresome distraction.

I made my way to my corral with only about 5-minutes to spare. I engaged in a quick conversation with a local gal from the area, who informed me that this was to be her 11th Boston Marathon. I would venture to guess that she was in her mid-to-late fifties and tops my list as one of the friendliest strangers I've ever had the fine pleasure of conversing with. She told me to soak in the scenery and have fun out there. Kind words!

And we're off!

May 16, 2013

Summer Corral

Mom stayed home with the kids growing up, the three of us spent our summers getting raisin fingers on a city pool pass and an icebox of ham sliders.

I feel bad for my daughter, she's mostly without mother and her summers are less alive than mine were.  Parents always want the fruit of the loins to have it a tad bit better than we had it.  It's not quite working out that way for Pigtails.

Every year for the past five summers, she's corralled in the school gymnasium like a red-butt baboon, grunting, making paper crafts and flinging feces out on the playground.  The group occasionally takes field trips to a movie or park, although not as often as I'd like.  And it costs me $700 a month.  Which is crazy money, nearly a half-year of tuition.

Perhaps a nanny would unknot the bind.  Although it would require a deeper bite on the wallet, and she wouldn't be around other kids to play/bicker with.

Summer camp could close the gap, but only for a week or two.
Her mom is not healthy enough to spend long amounts of quality time together.
I want a 10 week sabbatical to show her America.  Yeah, that ain't happening soon.

Help a brother out, what other options do I have here?  Something that will bring her the lazy sunny laughs I had as a kid, without costing my third leg.  What does your bambino do come June?


May 12, 2013

B&P Does CSA

May frost delayed planting the garden this spring, Pigtails and I will sink tomatoes and peppers in the backyard soon.  Sure wish I had more room, I'd do spinach, squash, potatoes and sweet corn if we lived my dream and left the city to settle an acreage.  But the city is so dang convenient when you have kids, we'll stay put and round out zee cupboard by joining a CSA. 

What's a CSA?
Do you like the idea of receiving a box of organic, fresh plucked greens each week for 5 months?
Grown a few miles outside your town by a local small farm?
For less than you'll pay at Whole Foods, about $12.50 a week?

That all sounds swell to me, we took the plunge and purchased a half share from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  Rick and Donna run the Garden Destination CSA, we visited their farm 45 minutes outside of Des Moines to get the scoop on their voluptuous kale.

It was overcast, chilly and quiet when we stopped by last week, the city stress level fizzled out as we hung a left on the gravel lane towards their brick silo.  A black mare galloped in the back 40, a gang of chickens strutted and pecked at grain.

I sniffed a deep breath, wafts of pork manure and fresh air rode the breeze.

May 5, 2013

Random Stuff

It's been a busy week folks, here's a recap of B&P happenings.  Some of this is a rerun if you follow us on FB.

Most marathons offer pace groups, which are herds of runners that hang together for 26 miles and hope to finish with a similar time.  I led the 3:15 crew last weekend at the Illinois Marathon in Champaign.  This breaks down to 7:25 per mile, the Boston qualifying time for men age 40 - 44.

Leading a pace group is my way of giving back to the sport, it's a fun workout to meet runners from other states and offer real-time coaching and encouragement as they labor towards the end.  Pacing requires consistency and understanding the dance, hitting each mile +/- 5 seconds and finishing within a few clicks of goal.  With 26 miles on tap, if we're off more than 2 seconds per mile, we miss goal.  There's little room for error.

The U of I is impressive...I did a 4 mile jog around campus the day before to check things out, it's huge at 1,500 acres.  50,000 enrolled, the incoming engineering class averages 32 on the ACT, and most of the school budget is paid by private gifts vs. state taxes.  Alumni founded PayPay, National Football League, FireFox, pet rocks and Tesla Motors. Running by a multitude of students of various nationalities, I thought:  there's not a more diverse country on the planet.

Beantown - 5, The Marathon

Curls: Ring-ring! Ring-ring! It’s 5am and that’s my wake-up call. I can hear the rain thundering against my window. “Good God, what am I doing?” I wonder out loud although there is no one around to hear me whine. I take a gander out the window, toward the Charles River. It doesn’t look good. I’m on the 9th floor, my glance moves down toward a U.S. flag that is flapping wildly in the wind. Yes, in alignment with the previous night’s 10 o’clock news weatherman’s prediction, we will indeed be running through the eye of what appears to be a hurricane.

Curls' window towards the Charles

I hate admitting this, but taking all of this in at that very moment was demotivating and threw me into a ball of nerves. Nonetheless, I got dressed, grabbed my bright orange cinch bag and headed out to meet my fellow SCRCers at the Park Street T-stop. Riding solo on the subway on my way toward downtown, I engaged in an early morning conversation with a couple of fellas from Seattle. They were complaining about all the rain, which I boldly pointed out was rather ironic because Seattle receives something like 10,000-in of precipitation a year and by golly, if anybody should be used to this inclement weather, it should be these guys. They were not amused. <sigh> Wimps!

Apr 28, 2013

My First 5K - Week 8

Last Week's Progress
We're two months into this circus, a month to go.  Liz logged 15 miles last week and 77 miles total since she started sweating.  Early on, she was only able to walk the workouts.  Now, she's jogging part of the time, and tells me she can do a flight of stairs without being out of breath.  The scale's also getting lighter, keep at it.

This Week
I asked Liz to help put together her training plan for next week.  Haven't heard back yet, so will try and get her input next week.  Let's try this for now:
  • Saturday - 3 mile walk, alternate regular and fast walking every other minute
  • Sunday - 10 mile bike ride
  • Monday - 2 mile fast walk
  • Tuesday - 3 mile walk, alternate regular and fast walking every other block
  • Wednesday - Cross-train for 45 minutes
  • Thursday - Same workout as Saturday, try to finish one minute faster
  • Friday - Rest
Also, go ahead and eat 8 cookies and 2 sodas if you want, the elite Kenyans do (spotted at Drake this morning):


Apr 26, 2013

Beantown - 4, Packet Pickup and Bacon

Beard: I stirred early Sunday morning, the day before the marathon. My folks were washed, dressed and pressed, four eyes trained on me in bed. 

We walked across the street to The Greenhouse restaurant for breakfast at Harvard. Dad and I each ordered the #8 special.  The waiter barraged me with questions:

1. Eggs fried, poached, scrambled, over easy or sunny side up
2. Bacon or sausage
3. Orange or grape juice
4. Coffee or tea
5. Buckwheat, plain or fruit-laced pancakes
6. White, wheat or rye toast
7. Butter or margarine
8. Skim or 2% milk

The menu interrogation was ruthless.  Dad chuckled, then did his best to defeat the pimply waiter: “Yes, I’ll have #8 with poached eggs, bacon, OJ, coffee with creamer, buckwheat cakes, rye toast, butter and 2% milk."

The waiter paused, then a slow smirk: "Do you want light or dark rye toast?  Waiter won.

Apr 23, 2013

Beantown - 3, Walking the Freedom Trail

Beard: Curls checked into the Taj Mahal, then a T ride to Boston Common for packet pickup. The subway cars were full, we stood and grabbed a pipe.  I inadvertently fondled passengers in close proximity with my bony limbs.

Train accelerated, my body pressed firmly and seductively against the burly African-American gentleman behind me. Deceleration, my body thrust forward, face inches from a frightened female stranger, our noses nearly touching and snorting lung exhaust on her glasses.  

It was a traumatic experience for everyone.  

Apr 22, 2013

Beantown - 2, Flying

Beard: It’s 5:30 am, doing my best to get both eyes open and the noggin engaged. Mom and Dad will be traveling east with me, they stayed overnight and we'd fly together. 

Mom yells into the bathroom at Dad:

“What are you doing in there, what’s taking so long?!”

Pause, then, he yells,

“I’m wiping!!! I’ve got to wipe, just wait a minute!!!

I stayed in bed a tad longer to let the tempers and air settle.