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Monday, October 31, 2011

Ah, Om Nom, ah... Om Nom Nom.

It's cold. Today, as I sit in my home office, an unfinsihed room with no heat where I threw some desks and an internet connection, it is 55°F. I'm wearing jeans, t-shirt, sweatshirt, thick cotton socks, slippers, and a fleece bathrobe. I am comfortable, save for my fingers, which I could cover with gloves, but that would make typing too difficult.

My continuous trips to the kitchen for cups of coffee keep me moving, and the coffee does a good job of warming, if I don't let it sit too long (i.e. 4 mintues).

I received an email from a good friend of mine this morning that turned my thoughts to food, as my thoughts are frequently apt to do anyway. With his permission, I'll share said email with you:

Man, days like this I only want stew or chowder. It's fall so typically I really only want crock pot food...a thick beef or chicken stew with a biscuit...yeah...

When I eat chowder I like to pretend that I'm a grizzled old fisherman down in the hold of a boat during a cold rain.

When I eat stew it's more of being in a remote mountain cabin next to a fireplace in a blustery snow.

In the chilly morning mental haze of my mind, my first reaction was "No."

But then, as the neurons began to warm up the folds of my brain that hadn't yet thawed out, I realized that yes! Yes there are, and that was really a fun question.

I almost wish I could start this part of the post with "When I was a kid, I used to" but it would only be half honest. Perhaps it started as a kid, but truth be told, I still do it.

My imagination isn't quite as detail orientented as my friend from the email above. I never really filled in the background, or thought about the environment around me. I was more focused on the food I guess. I know, shocker, right?

Broccoli is one of the least liked veggies for kids. I, however, loved it. I used to (and now that I have kids, frequently do again, pretend that they were little tiny trees, and I was a huge dinosaur, eating the trees.

Another food imagination that only worked if I was gigantic is crunchy cheetos. I was devouring a bag of them one day, when I realized that they were shaped like a very small tree branch, which could be wielded as a club by a very small caveman.

These G.I. Joe sized (and apparently invisible) cavemen would grab a cheesy orange club and... well, fly up to my face, I guess, and swing with all their might. To their dismay, I, the giant or dragon or something, would chomp their weapon to the handle. Like a villian throwing an empty gun at superman after just unloading their clip (which amusingly if you recall, he'd duck the gun, after just standing in a spray of bullets...) the cavemen would throw the useless nub of their club at my face, which, of course, I'd eat.

Undeterred, the cavemen would return to the armory (bag) and re-arm to come back for more. Cheeto-cavemen weren't bright enough to realize that doing the same thing over and over would produce the same results.

And so now, it's your turn. I ask you: Any foods you eat that invoke your imagination?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Parenthood in a Nutshell

This has to be the best description of parenthood I have ever heard.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Comes First!

Very appreciated, Nordstrom! 

This blog post was inspired by my good friend Jim. If you appreciate the sentiment in the picture to the left here, I highly recommend you go and read his post that I linked. I'll wait.

Welcome back.

I decided to join in on this because it's something that I feel is important. Not necessarily because of any enjoyment I get out of Thanksgiving as opposed to Christmas or Halloween really, but mostly because I hate the fact that holidays that aren't mostly about merchants making money are being devalued.

My personal favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love the smells, I love the food, I love having family together. Granted, I love all these things about Christmas as well, but it's different. During Christmas I'm always wondering if I spent enough money on the gifts that I gave out, or if one person is going to be upset that their gifts didn't cost as much as someone else's or did I exhibit enough excitement over the gifts that I got. Did the givers believe that I really liked / appreciated the gift they gave me? I hate how much emphasis is put on the spending of money. I also hate it when someone spends a bunch of money on me, knowing that I don't have as much to spend on them, and they say "Oh, stop!". Sure, it makes them feel good to give, but it makes me feel like a freaking loser. Thanks, merry Christmas, you ass.

The only requirement for Thanksgiving is that you stop, and you give thanks for the things you have. It's very aggravating to me that because you're not expected to drop a king's ransom on junk for people, vendors try to fast forward over it.

This isn't the only holiday I feel is squashed because it's not a big money maker. Columbus day, for example. There are no Columbus day decorations or flags, or anything like that. I can't even remember the last time I got the day off in honor of Columbus day. Martin Luther King day, is another one.

If this is something you agree with, please post a "Thanksgiving Comes first" post at your blog!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Greatest Minor Disappointments

Disappointment can strike at any time, in any way. None of us are strangers to disappointment, I'm sure. Some may be more familiar than others, but at some point we've all felt the pain of the wind leaving our sails, leaving us crestfallen.

As with most things I blog about, I'm not talking about the most serious cases. I'm not talking about being let down by a loved one, or failing a test, or getting into an accident...etc. Far too serious for my liking. I like to keep things less than severe here.

I'm talking about the little things. I'm talking about the things that you can laugh about only a few minutes afterwards, if not during. I'm talking about the things that seem like a bummer right then, but in comparison to the evening headlines, they're nothing. These are the things that will be a pain in the arse, but won't ruin your day.

I'm talking about:

You get up from your nap feeling satisfied and indulgent, but a bit peckish. You head to the kitchen, a peanut butter and jelly on your mind. You get your favorite jelly from the fridge, and the loaf of bread. You take out two similarly sized pieces from closer to the middle of the loaf than the end, and lay them on the plate.

You're enticed by the softness of it's feel, and the fact that there were no air pockets in the dough making holes the jelly will escape through to fall on your shirt. You spread the jelly on one piece of bread with a silly anticipatory grin on your face, feeling childlike excitement. You make sure not to leave any nook unfilled.

You reach for the jar of peanut butter only to find... no jar of peanut butter.

There are some foods that you could find a substitute for fairly easily from if you had to. Peanut butter is not one of them. When that's what you want, that's the only thing that'll do. Had there been no jelly, you may have been able to do with a different kind of jelly without much inconvenience, or perhaps just a peanut butter sandwich, but just jelly? Maybe it's good on toast, but you already have it on the bread. You don't want to throw it out cause your parents drilled into your head not to waste food, and honestly there's nothing wrong with it... Just... nothing right either!

I'm talking about:

The Redsox. I was watching the crucial game when the Sox were ahead, and the Yankees were killing the Rays 7-0. I went to bed before the end of the game. My wife came home late, and when she woke me, the Sox had just lost. "Oh well," I thought. "At least we're tied with Tampa, we'll play a tie-breaker with them for the final word on the post season."

The next day, around game-time, I put on the usual channel. Hockey?? What the hell? I got onto the interweb, only to find that Tampa came back from a 7 point deficit, and won. Talk about taking the wind out of my sails! I was all amped up to watch what would have been a VERY important game, only to find that like, 18 hours ago, it was avoided.

I'm talking about:

Pulling into your driveway, right when your favorite song begins playing on the radio and you have company waiting for you inside. Do you sit in your car and rock out while the folks inside watch from the living room window? Do you turn it off and head inside, knowing that the song is going to be stuck in your head until you get to hear it in it's entirety?

What kinds of things would you classify in this way?

Having Fun With Gmail Addresses

I'm one of those guys who will stumble across a newsletter and sign up for it thinking it looks fun. Currently I get mail from several places, including, but not limited to:

  • Tigerdirect - cause I love to see how cheaply they can sell refirbished computer equipment that I STILL can't afford anyway.
  • History.com "this day in history" - Apparently this day in 1985, "Take on me" by Ah-Hah hit the top of the charts in the US. 
  • Accuweather.com alerts - Evidentally it's raining in south eastern MA. 
  • Amazon.com - No activation fees when you buy sprint phones with service... 
  • Dictionary.com's word of the day - Harrowing. Extremely disturbing or distressing; grievous. I like learning these high-dollar words, even though in 20 minutes I'll forget them and never use them. It's handy for playing scrabble though.
There are a few others, but I think you get the idea here. There are times when I'm just too busy or disinterested and wont read them at all. Actually, 9 times out of 10, I'll just mark them read and move on.

Occassionally, like this morning, I'll see one that I don't remember signing up for, and "UNSUBSCRIBE" will be very apparent on the email in my preview pane, so I'll go for it. I clicked the link this morning and it took me to a webpage where I could enter my email address and have it removed from their mailing list. So I did. However, it told me that my email address didn't match any in their database.

I sat scratching my head a moment, because my email address is matthewconlon at gmail.com, and they had a preview of it above the box that looked like: m*************@gmail.com... I knew it had to be that address, as none of my other gmail accounts start with M.

I flipped back over to my inbox, and realized that the email was sent to matthew.conlon, not matthewconlon. And yet, it still arrived to me. I did some internet sluthing, and apparently there's a bug in Gmail's system that just doesn't recognize dots in email addresses. So technically, I could send an email to m..a..t..thew.con........lon at gmail.com and it would still get to me.

Further reading revealed that you can also create aliases on the fly by adding a + to your address. Anything following the + is omitted by the system. So ma...........tthew.conlon+themanthe...myth.thelegend at gmail.com would also get to me.

As with any new information, my mind immediate begins to try to figure out what kind of mischief or practical jokes I could use this for. Unfortunately, like myself this morning, no one looks at the email address to which a message was sent if it arrived in their inbox... Other than signing friends up for newsletters like catfancy or pledging donations as them or something like that to "email+payback.for.locking.the.car.windows.after.eating.mexican at gmail.com", I couldn't really think of anything.

So I started wondering what practical use I could get out of this. Given my tendency to sign up for newsletters, it's actually pretty useful. Say I wanted to sign up for a newsletter from walmart (just for an example). I could sign up as matthewconlon+walmart at gmail.com. Then if some day I don't want it anymore, and I've clicked unsubscribe but I still get the damned newsletter (cause that does happen) I can just set a filter to delete anything that comes in to that address.

Another benefit is if I start getting spam to that address, I know who sold my contact information. ...not that I really know what to do with that information other than send a scathing letter to management telling them that I'm onto them, but would they really care? I'd probably just get a coupon for 15% off of any purchase over $600 or something like that, IF anything at all.

So, do you subscribe to newsletters? Any ones you'd recommend? Can you think of anything better to use this gmail feature for?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wordplay

If you stopped by for the blog hop, see my recommendations here.

I've mentioned before, I love words and the English language. I like jokes that involve word-play, and I love to play with words, even when there's no joke involved. I especially love puns.

My earliest memory of getting enjoyment out of words was when I was quite young, perhaps four or five, and my father told me to say "Toy Boat" quickly three times, and I couldn't do it. Obviously, I couldn't do it, cause my tongue got tied at first, but subsequent attempts were foiled because I couldn't stop laughing at myself. "Black Buick" is another.

I was told by my brother that if you get those mords wixed, it meant you had drain bamage.

As I grew older, I found enjoyment in tongue twisters, and found that I was actually quite good at saying them without issue. That's also in that post about words that I linked above, so I won't belabor that point..

I like to say things like, "What do you think I am? Anyway??"

Before bed, I like to shake a tower and get all nice and clean.

One of my favorite songs in grade school was Big Bird singing the alphabet... But he (Big Bird IS a he, right??) was sounding the whole thing out as if it were one word...



I used to draw duct work for a living, and when I'd send the drawings to the printer, I'd say "Someday, my prints will come."

When someone sneezed I used to say "It look sweat, but it snot."

I like to drink beer and tell people "I'm not as think as you drunkle peep I am."

One of my favorite things to do when I was young (and even still, though most of the time I do it automatically now, so there's actually less goofy enjoyment) is to play with names. I used to sound out peoples names backwards, and see if it sounded funny. If it did, that's how I'd address them. It was uncommon that it worked out well enough to stick, most of the time it was just gibberish, but occasionally there'd be a gem. My own name is kinda boring, nolnoc semaj wehttam... Wet ham? Meh.

I actually sort of marveled at how difficult it must have been for J. K. Rowling to come up with "Tom Marvolo Riddle" from "I am lord Voldemort". What a pain in the arse that must have been.

My cousin and I started playing with names a lot togheter, sort of one-upping each other with celebrity names...

Regis Philbin, for example, became Fegis Rhilbin. And then Rhilfeg Binis... or something. etc.

Uma Thurman became Thurma Uman... And then ultimately Thurmumana.

If you're still with me, I urge you to try this... Let me know some of the funny ridiculous crap you come up with! :D

Blog Hop Recommendations

So for this blog hop, I have to recommend three blogs I think everyone else should read.

I don't like to blog about serious stuff, I think the world is full enough of that junk as it is. I like to come here and relax or share a story and a laugh. I try to keep things leisurely here.

As most of the folks I've come across via these events are writers of literature, and are recommending other such folks (not that I have anything against that) I'm going to cover some other bases.

When I started blogging, it was kinda lonely because I didn't know where to go, who to read, or how to even find other blogs, outside of googling for them. Eventually I stumbled upon a few (and it wasn't via that stumbleupon website either.)

Like myself, these folks are just sharing thoughts and stories. They're not selling anything, they just have something to say.

Jim Sullivan (Suldog) does voice-overs for a living, loves critters, and plays softball. Hell of a guy, and can tell a story like it's his job.

With his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, Uncle Skip enjoys a good story, tells a good story, and has a great eye for photography. I know I just shared two blogs for him, but it's the same guy, and he could have just done it all on one blog... Just think of it like one blog, with two separated locations.

Buck is one of the nicest twice-retired guy (USAF and IT industry). I love to stop by his blog especially when I've had a long day at work, or I'm feeling a little tightly wound. He enjoys cigars and a wide array of beer and great music, often posting during happy hour with what he's drinking, and what's on the radio.

That should do it! Unfortunately three folks was the limit, and although I wouldn't get jailed or blackballed for recommending more, I think it wouldn't be fair to anyone whom I recommend, because there would be some who would get omitted... But if you liked these recommendations, when the blog-hop is over, drop me a line, and I'll point you in other directions that you'll enjoy!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pay it Forward BlogFest

I've joined a blog hop! The idea of this blog hop is to list 3 blogs you visit and would like to share with others. You sign up for the blog fest (which can be done below - although I think it might be a little late right now... Sorry) and all who signed up visit all the others who signed up, and visit the blogs those folks recommend!

If you didn't sign up, or it's too late to do so by the time you read this, feel free to visit the folks in the list below anyway!

 




Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beef and Wild Mushroom Stew ( From Good Housekeeping's "Soups & Stews")

This recipe was so amazing, I took the time to type it up. HIGHLY recommend making this, if you like the ingredients.



Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 2 hours 15 minutes
Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and each cut in half
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 package (1/2 ounce) dried mushrooms
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into thirds
2 Pounds beef for stew, cut into 1.5” pieces
½ Can (8 oz) chicken broth (1 cup)
¾ Teaspoon salt
¾ Cup dry red wine
1 Large onion (12 oz), finely chopped
¼ Teaspoon dried thyme
1 Bay leaf

In 5-quart Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add fresh mushrooms and cook until tender and lightly browned and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes; transfer to a small bowl. You will not add these until the stew is almost done. Cover and set them aside.

Meanwhile; in a small bowl, pour 1 cup boiling water over dried mushrooms; set aside.

In large bowl, toss beef with salt. In same dutch oven, heat remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add half of beef and cook only until browned, 10 to 12 minutes, using slotted spoon to transfer beef to bowl as it’s browned. Repeat with remaining beef. Reserve drippings.

With slotted spoon, remove mushrooms from soaking liquid. Rinse to remove any grit, then coarsely chop. Strain liquid through sieve lined with paper towels. Set aside mushrooms and liquid.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Add onion and 2 tablespoons water to drippings in Dutch oven, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

Return beef to Dutch oven. Add dried mushrooms and their liquid, carrots, broth, red wine, thyme, and bay leaf; heat to boiling over high heat. Cover and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes longer. Discard bay leaf before serving.


Each serving: about 370 calories, 36g protein, 13g carbohydrate, 18g total fat (6g saturated), 87mg cholesterol, 480mg sodium.


This recipe is from Good Housekeeping’s “Soups & Stews” cookbook. I added a couple of notes above, and below are my notes from my first time making this dish. I personally found this dish amazing, although I didn’t stick completely to the recipe, as remarked below.

I was unable to find dried mushrooms. I ignored these steps completely.

I forgot to get tomato paste. I had just made a spaghetti sauce, and added what little sauce was left over, but realistically it was less than a tablespoon and probably not even noticeable.

I do not have a Dutch oven that I can put in the oven, due to plastic handle. I cooked everything in a large frying pan, and transferred to a 4qt bake ware dish.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Five Things New Parents Don't Expect

I've been a parent for six years and a couple months, and a parent of two for two years and a month or so. Nearly every day I marvel at the things that I just didn't see coming.

Before you veteran parents start saying "Well duh," Let me just say that before I had kids of my own, my brother had four, and my wife's brother had a couple, and we were always babysitting someone. We were no strangers to child care when it came time to have our own.

We knew that diapers are gross. We knew that kids like to do what they want to do. We knew that we'd have sleepless nights for a while. We really knew everything we NEEDED to know... What we didn't know, were things that would have been NICE to know... I.E. the things that come from left field.

Of course, there's the obvious list of things that people who have any sort of analytical abilities might be able to come up with. You never knew how much you could love something, you never expected to WANT to stay home on Friday nights, blahblahblah. No. Still not what I'm talking about.

Here are some of the things I've learned that no amount of preparation could really get me ready for. Things that you could have told me about, but I never would have been able to appreciate until I'd experienced it first hand:

1 - Poo
I've blogged about poo before and that blog post is definitely relavent to this topic, so go read it.

Welcome back. I'm sorry to say, I have multiple poo stories.

If you (or in the case where you're male, your wife) is in favor of breast feeding (and I'm not saying I'm against it) be aware that even the smallest of babies can produce projectile bowel movements such that you will not believe, even to the degree that you will blog about it. ...And here, I validate that statement...

We didn't breast-feed one-of-two. However, we did use breast milk. My wife spent most of her life feeding, and then pumping. This way, I could assist with the night feedings.

Now...

One time I was changing one-of-two, and I had her on the kitchen table (with one of those folding changing pads beneath her). I learned that day that breast milk, in addition to giving the baby the anti-bodies of the mother and all the other benefits, blahblahblah, also makes for some explosive excrement. Like a nine-pound water balloon, one of two erupted in a stream of mustard colored poo, that shot OVER the edge of the table I had her on, and all over my shirt.

I was frozen in dumbfounded disgust. Miraculously, there was nothing on the pad, or the table, or the floor... Just me. How fortunate.

My wife loves that story.

2 - Everything is just wetter.
If I had to sum up parenthood of a child under the age of 4 in just one word, that word would be WET. I'm not just talking about drool either. Everything you have to handle in your normal routine is going to be wet. Whether it's slobber on your keys, or spilled formula on your favorite chair, or urine on your bed (which I hope was not something you were used to anyway) or a glass of soda you had on the table that was grabbed or knocked over... EVERYTHING is just wet.

Gross, right? Well, that's not really the worst part. The worst part is that you get used to it! There was a time in my life when I would have said that no way would I ever have human waste in any of it's forms on me. How little did I know.

In the beginning, a pee spot on your shirt will be disgusting, and you'll drop what you're doing and change your shirt. As disgusting as it sounds, and you parents know it's true, after a few years of it, you will examine the size of the spot, and wonder if it'll dry without being too big of an inconvenience. The fact that it's pee isn't as big a problem, but the fact that it's wet means it's cold.

Sometimes your child is going to pee through his or her diaper, and you're going to find him or her in wet clothes in the morning. The first time that happened, I was grossed out, handed the bundle of soppy joy to my wife, and went and washed my hands. These days, I'll check the bed to see if the blanket is wet, and the sheets, feeling around with my hands, etc... I'll even go so far as to smell it to see if it's pee or a leaky cup that I didn't know she'd taken to bed. ...as if it matters right? They're wet, regardless of what it is, wash em! That's how little I'm bothered by it, I can actually be curious enough to sniff.

3-Your Food is No Longer Your Own
Your child will always know when there's something in the house that you don't want him or her to eat. Cookies, ice cream, etc. In the beginning, he or she may ask for permission. Do not assume this will always be the case.

Case in point: This happened just yesterday. I came out to the kitchen, to find 2 of 2 on the table...

Your child WILL attempt to get some of these things after you say no, when you're not looking. Sometimes he or she will get them, other times, not. Getting caught doesn't really matter, as long as the objective is met, and the cookies are enjoyed if only for a few minutes.

The sooner you realize that there's little you can do about this, because consequences of getting caught are not enough to discourage a peckish toddler, the better. You'll just have to take it to the next level.

Before long, you'll find yourself buying these things when you're by yourself. You will sneak these things into the house, and you'll hide them in strange places. Sometimes your kid will find them anyway, but chances are slimmer. Sometimes you'll forget where you put them too, so maybe write yourself a note. You can leave said note in plain sight until your kid learns to read.

Kids are smart when it comes to getting what they want. One of two likes to poke her head out every time she hears something going on in the kitchen. If I'm making for my hidden stash of whatever, even if she doesn't know it's there, there's a good chance she's going to catch me eating it.

You'll find yourself yelling at your kids when they are caught hiding with cookies or something like that, only to realize that you are now frequently do exactly the same thing... You hippocite! (or however that's spelled... spell check doesn't seem to agree with me on that word no matter how I change it.)

4 - Keys Make Great Toys!
You'll spare no expense when it comes to toys. You'll find yourself buying things that you never would have thought you'd buy. Silly things that cost way too much. Puzzles that will never get put together before half the pieces are lost. Books that'll be ripped apart. Cars that will get thrown. Dolls that will get beheaded.

Friends and relatives will shower you with their used toys that haven't been too damaged, or expensive things for birthdays that you would never have acquired otherwise, and in almost all cases, that make noise... It's amazing, batteries in my flashlight die in a matter of minutes... Take a few batteries from the same freakin pack, and put them in a noisy kid's toy, and they will last forever!

Despite the sheer volume of items SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED for kid's to play with, in your home, nothing will ever be quite as fun to play with as your car keys. I once had to burn a sick day from work, because I could not find my freakin keys. I did eventually find them shoved into the trunk of a Barbie car.

5 - Your Paper Is Not Your Own!
This is especially inconvenient to me, because I work from home. Anything flat and blank is a viable writing surface for a creative six (and five, four, three) year old. Any younger than that, the only difference is that the surface doesn't need to by flat or blank. Skin works just as well as paper.

They'll also produce writing implements from unknown places. Pens and markers you didn't know you had, or hadn't seen since long before you had kids will suddenly show up in hands that moments ago were idle.

There are many more, I'm sure, but I thought I'd give you guys a chance to share some of yours. Anything I didn't list? Anything I did list that you would just like to add to?