Monday, July 6, 2020

I Got Some Bunk Beds Delivered

After a two month wait, the local furniture shop was finally able to install the bunk beds that I had ordered for one of my bedrooms. I had ordered them right before the COVID-19 restrictions hit and while the store was willing to do doorstep delivery, they couldn't do setup until the restrictions had been lifted. And, so, late least week, I watched once again as yet another furniture truck blew past my house because, as I am always saying, my place is incredibly hard to find. After hoofing it down the block and flagging them down, directing them to my driveway.

In they came, a younger guy and a fairly old guy who looked to be about 60. They asked which bedroom they would be setting the bunk beds up in and I directed them to the second door on the left. My dog barely looked up from her perch on one of the couches as the duo brought in the parts to the beds. I did some work on my laptop and listened to the duo put the set together while they argued. After about an hour, just as I started to wonder what was taking so long, my Nest doorbell notified me of activity near my door. I opened it up to see a man, even older than the old guy who was already in my house, staring back at me. "Alright, where are they?" the elderly man asked gruffly as he held up his socket wrench.

"Did you have to ask your dad for help?", I jokingly asked Old Guy #1. No laughs emanated from the room in which they were working.

After some clangs and scruffs, Old Guy #2 exclaimed "You've got the feet on backwards!". Excuses were spat out by the original duo but I couldn't make out what they were saying. After about ten minutes, Old Guy #2 came shuffling out of the bedroom, looked at me and said something along the lines of "Damn young-in's think they know everything...". With that, he saluted me with his socket wrench and walked out the door. The remaining crew cleaned up and left shortly afterwards.

As I was tossing the mattresses onto the bed frames, I was amazed at how bunk bed technology has evolved. Back when I was a kid, bunk beds were twin-over-twin. The one I bought is full-over-full and is much more sleekly built than the one that I slept on as a kiddo. My doggo indicated her own approval as she jumped onto the bottom bunk and curled up against one of the pillows. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Homemade Gin Kit

This Is NOT A Urine Sample!
I'm a bit envious of my girlfriend and my daughter making batches of Amish friendship bread to give out to their friends. I'd love to be part of the share-crafting, but, experience has shown that letting me bake anything is a recipe for disaster. I had always wanted to dabble in making my own beer, but, since Jim Koch and the Boston Brewing Company achieved perfection with their line of Samuel Adams beers, I figured it was a waste. I had also thought about making my own still-less moonshine after tasting a number of concoctions made by various friends over the years. But, after looking at various recipes, I felt that I didn't yet have the time available to commit to such long-term projects. So, I settled on making homemade gin and bought a kit from Bespoke Post.

The process for making homemade gin is easy enough: You basically take vodka or some other kind of cheap grain alcohol (I used 3/4 pint of a vodka that I got for $5), plop a bunch of juniper berries in it for 24 hours, then drop in some herbals for another 12 hours, strain it, and voila: bathtub gin. For my own process, I  cut up one lemon and one lime and added them to the juniper berries. Thirty-six hours later, the end result looked like my urine when I had that bladder cancer scare two years ago. But, the real question is: Can you drink it?

Well, I didn't go blind when I drank a shot of it straight (for Science!) so that's a start. Gin was never really my thing, so I can't compare it to anything, but, as a straight shot, I'm not a fan. This concoction does, however, make a decent Primm's Cup and a palatable Gin & Tonic (with some Jamaican bitters). 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Garlic Herb Butter Steak & Lobster Tail

Surf and Turf is a classic meal. But, it's also a tough one to cook, owing mainly to the lobster tail. If you don't get the lobster tail cooked just right, you end up eating something that tastes more like rubber than lobster. I've never had the confidence to attempt this meal before, but, thanks to Hello Fresh, I decided to take the plunge with their Garlic Herb Butter Steak & Lobster Tail with Lemony Broccoli & Chive Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes. The meal cost an additional $7.99 per serving. 

The description sounds like something out of a restaurant: No need to make a reservation at a fancy French bistro—bring the white tablecloth vibes to your dinner table with this surf ‘n’ turf dish. Lobster tails are basted with a rich, aromatic garlic herb butter, which is also used to top perfectly seared steaks. The duo’s paired with lemony roasted broccoli, plus an epic twist on your traditional mashed potatoes. Our secret? We blend in butter, chives, and a generous dollop of crème fraîche for ultimate silky goodness. Bon appétit! 

There's a lot going on in this meal. I usually operate pretty well in sets of three, but the 4 items in this meal put off my game a bit. One of the steaks was cut a bit off, so I had some issues cooking it fully. Otherwise, I'd say that the meal turned out quite well. My girlfriend and I both enjoyed it. My only other regret is that I didn't baste the lobster more while cooking it so that it would absorb more of that butter flavor. 
 
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Friday, June 19, 2020

Balsamic Fig Chicken

I made a subtle change yesterday. Instead of Hello Fresh for dinner, I decided to cook one of the meals for lunch. To me, Hello Fresh meals scream "dinner" so much more so than "lunch". So, just to change things up, I cooked Balsamic Fig Chicken With Roasted Potatoes & Lemony Broccoli for our noon meal. 

The description provided by Hello Fresh is pretty typical: We’re big fans of pan sauces because they’re a simple way to add extra flavor to dishes. Here, fig jam, balsamic vinegar, and fresh rosemary mingle with the fond—the crispy bits and drippings left by the chicken. The result is a condiment that you’ll want to drizzle all over your meat and potatoes before swiping up every bit of sweet and savory perfection. 

This took some effort to make, mainly because of the pan sauce. I wasn't ever sure if I had reduced it correctly. But, I was pleased with the end result and my daughter said that it was her favorite Hello Fresh meal so far. I don't know that I'd say that it was my favorite, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. 
 
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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Clovis Sings To A Scammer

Clovis got a call from an insurance scammer who told him that he could get a policy to cover his burial expenses. Clovis said that he isn't dead yet, so he doesn't need burial insurance. Clovis then went on about how he might actually be immortal so why would he need to buy something that he might not actually need? The rep said that Clovis was just lying to himself. Clovis relented and the rep said he wanted to give Clovis a quote. Clovis wondered what kind of quote he was going to get. A quote from a Kurt Vonnegut book?

The rep went into his spiel and said he'd like Clovis to "go on" which Clovis figured meant that he wanted Clovis to perform. So, Clovis did his best impression of Shug Fisher (a la Uncle Pecos from the old Tom and Jerry cartoons) and launched into a rendition of "Froggy Went-A-Courtin' (Crambone!)".

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Crispy Parmesan Chicken

For this week's Hello Fresh meals, I started with something safe: Crispy Parmesan Chicken. Getting a chicken dish from Hello Fresh is a safe choice. Hello Fresh does chicken well, but most of their recipes are just variations on a theme. Take the Crispy Parmesan Chicken with Garlic Herb Couscous & Lemony Roasted Carrots for example. It's very similar to Crispy Monterey Jack Chicken. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's okay to stick with a winner. It's called "comfort food" for a reason. 

I can't say that I bothered to even read the description on this one. Though, in hindsight, it's nothing exciting: Consider plain chicken breasts a thing of the past: in this recipe, the white meat gets gussied up in a gorgeous golden breadcrumb topping with paprika and Parmesan cheese. You’ll roast it and the lemony carrots on the same sheet—once they’re in the oven, the only thing left to do is boil the couscous and toss in the garlic herb butter. Simple, satisfying, and supercharged with flavor—what more could you ask for?

This was an easy meal to make, as it just involved breading some chicken, cutting some carrots and putting them in the oven while boiling the couscous on the stove. I was happy with the taste and the texture of the entire meal, and the chicken tasted particularly good when paired with the couscous. My daughter thought it was a good meal, but was not a fan of the lemon on the carrots. 

 
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Monday, June 15, 2020

I Attended A Wedding During The Pandemic

This weekend, I had the honor of being part of a wedding ceremony for a close friend of mine whom I went to high school and college with. Due to the restrictions on government services brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it's apparently very difficult to get a marriage license in any of the larger Illinois counties. So, the bride and groom opted to get a license in Macoupin County and, the next thing you know, my girlfriend and I are wending our way through the back-roads of Illinois to get to Sunset Lake in Girard, a town of about 2,000 people. We spent the day boating on the lake, cooking out, chasing the dogs  around and just generally having some wholesome, mask-less fun, which is a rare thing for all of us these days.

At Sunset, the small gathering of family and friends congregated at the dock and the ceremony began. It was short and sweet and began with a benediction from myself. Once the bride and groom were officially presented and congratulations were received, my girlfriend and I went off to meet the happy couple in Springfield for dinner and drinks at Obed and Isaac's. It was nice to get out to a "normal" dinner experience amid the current climate. After dinner, we walked down a few blocks and checked in to our rooms at the Inn At 835. My girlfriend and I had a room next to the bride and groom's and we shared a balcony which allowed the four of us to relax and have a few drinks while we mulled over the events of the day.  

It has been a crazy year so far, and it's only half over. We've been through an impeachment trial, Australian brush fires, Brexit, a pandemic, mass protests and riots. Our very way of life has been challenged in so many ways and there is a myriad of different opinions on how to handle those changes. And those opinions tend to boil down to right or left, Republican or Democrat, Trump supporter or rational human being. Whatever side you're on of the National debate, I think we can all agree that, when the chips are down, we all side with love. And I was happy to be a part of one couple's love story this weekend. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Crispy Southwest Corn Fritters

I  admit it: I don't know what a corn fritter is. I know what an apple fritter is: It's a doughnut with cinnamon and chopped apple. But, apparently, a corn fritter isn't a doughnut. But, it's in the doughnut family in that it involves fried batter. I'm told that this sweet and savory dish has its origins in Native American cuisine and was perfected in the Depression era. It involves corn kernels fried in a batter of some sort. Ultimately, I guess a corn fritter has more in common with a potato pancake than it does with a doughnut.  

To my knowledge, I've never had a corn fritter in my life. But, I was in the mood to try something new, and the description from Hello Fresh caught my attention: It’s hard NOT to love eating your vegetables when they’re fritter-fied, aka covered in batter and cooked until perfectly golden. This zesty corn version is as easy as making pancakes, and just as fun to eat! Southwestern spices and tender corn kernels go right into the batter, which you’ll fry until crisp. Paired with roasted sweet potato wedges, a crisp side salad, and plenty of creamy, smoky ranch dressing for dipping—this is a veggie-packed meal for the books.That's just what I wanted, an all veggie based meal. After all, I've been trying to lower my meat intake. But, is a fried corn fritter any better for you than a grilled chicken breast? 

This recipe wasn't difficult to make, though I do think that perhaps my batter was a bit too thick. The first corn fritter in the pan got sacrificed to the kitchen gods, as is tradition. The end result, while edible, didn't wow me. My daughter was unimpressed as well. The sweet potato wedges and the salad were fine as well, but, overall, the entire meal was a loser for me.  
 
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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Firecracker Meatballs

I didn't think much about it while I was choosing, but the second meal this week is a lot like the first. Instead of Southwest chicken over rice, we've got firecracker meatballs. 

I can't remember the last time I had meatballs as the star of an entree. Usually, the're relegated to co-starring status with my spaghetti, and, even then, they're overshadowed by the garlic bread. But the very idea of Firecracker Meatballs with Roasted Green Beans & Sesame Rice sounded interesting, at least. In my mind, I pictured Jim Carey in his Mask persona exclaiming "That's a spicy meat-a-ball-a". The description sounded enticing enough on its own: This recipe is here to blow up everything you think you know about meatballs. All dramatics aside, these meatballs are truly game-changing thanks to a certain onomatopoeic sauce. What exactly is “firecracker,” you ask? Well, mystery asker, it’s a creamy, spicy, sweet, and savory (yes, all those things!) sauce so good, it’ll make your taste buds explode! Once the meatballs are baked, they’re tossed in the magical condiment, then plated atop sesame-seed-flecked rice along with crispy roasted green beans (AKA more things to dip in sauce). Don’t be surprised when you find yourself swiping up every last drop. 

This was another super easy recipe to prepare even though my hands got a bit slimy since I had to roll the meatballs by hand. I swear that my grandmother had some kind of utencil that pressed meatballs and I found myself wishing for that. While I was a huge fan of the end result, my daughter was not nearly as thrilled. I think she expected Italian meatballs and these are much more in-line with the Swedish style. She said she would have preferred a BBQ sauce rather than a firecracker sauce. 
 
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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

I Won A Samuel Adams Cooler

I don't know how many times I've filled out one of those raffle slips in various liquor stores in the vague hope of winning some item that I would never have purchased on my own. When one of my local stores offered up a Samuel Adams Coleman steel belted 54 quart cooler, I just had to put my name in. Well, this week, the old Irish luck kicked in and I got a call asking me to come pick it up. 

I've got more than my fair share of coolers already from the classic Igloo 4 quart all the way up to a 70 quart Yeti knockoff. Did I really need a new cooler? No. And, at a retail price of upwards of $120, I certainly wouldn't have bought this on my own. But, I've got to admit, this is one snazzy cooler that's going to look awesome the next time I have a patio party. 

Samuel Adams Coleman Cooler

Monday, June 8, 2020

Chicken & Guac Burrito Bowls

Hello Fresh is on a big tear lately after their dismissal of spokesperson Lea Michele. They have been offering a $60 off deal spread out through 4 weeks worth of kits for people who are willing to join back up. So, I took the plunge with glee. 

The first box showed up this week and out of the three meals included, we decided to start with Chicken & Guac Burrito Bowls with Long Green Pepper, Salsa Fresca & Hot Sauce Crema. It sounds good, especially with the extended description: Bowls are way past “having a moment.” They’ve become a pillar of our lunches and dinners. Why? It’s simple: everything’s better in a bowl! (Nice knowing you, plates.) But seriously, the customizable combo of carbs, protein, veggies, and a drizzle of delicious sauce cannot be denied. True to form, this Mexican-inspired rendition is fully loaded. Steamy lime rice is topped with spiced chicken, fresh salsa, a tangle of veggies, hot sauce-spiked crema, and of course, a big dollop of guacamole. In our bowl, though, guac is never extra. Sounds, great, right? It's like Chipotle or Qdoba, but at home and without a cashier pushing chips and salsa on me. 

This was super easy to prepare as it just involved cutting up vegetables, mixing sauces, and cooking chicken and rice. The guac and "Southwest spices" came pre-made and packaged. I really liked how this tasted and I'd be very eager to track down ingredients to try making this on my own. I had thought that perhaps the chicken cutlets provided were too small to make a filling meal, but I was wrong. My daughter's only complaint was that she's not a fan of having lime zest in her rice. 
 
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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Another Credit Card Scammer Gets Angry

I have to admire the persistence with this particular credit card scammer, as he stayed on the phone for nearly nine minutes trying to trip me up. He called up trying to get my credit card info under the guise of getting me a lower interest rate. I tried to sound old and slightly senile. I went with the tried and true method of referring to my credit cards by the numbered space they occupy in my walled. The scammer asked for the expiration date on a specific card, so I just started making up dates for all of my cards and giving them to him. Whenever the scammer asked for the actual credit card number, I would give him some version of a customer service number instead. At first, he found it funny and laughed to himself, but he eventually got angry and told me to "shove all the five cards in your candy ass and jump like a fucking frog".

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Protest At Lafayette Square

Earlier this evening, The President Of The United States dispersed a peaceful protest in front of the White House so that he could walk across the street to Lafayette Square in order to get a photo-op of himself holding up a Bible in front of St. John's Church, a non-partisan place of worship. 

At 6:35pm, well before the DC curfew, Trump gave the order to clear the area. Federal police dressed in riot gear bum rushed protesters and reporters, gassed them and physically assaulted them. When Trump actually got to the church, he didn't pray and he didn't offer words of wisdom. He didn't even open the Bible that he brought with him (indeed, he held it upside down). Then, in a final insult, he stayed past the curfew that had been imposed on the city while military blackhawk helicopters hovered above. 

Even if you support Trump in general, you certainly must understand the gravity of this particular situation. Ask yourself this: Was there a compelling, immediate need for Trump to visit the church? Did he do anything of substance there? Was anything of significance accomplished? Is this the behavior of the "President of law and order"? Is this what Jesus would do? No. This is a flaccid attempt to show strength.  This is a campaign stunt as evidenced by the release of the footage set to music by the White House. This is a violation of essential rights and of our democracy. This is the work of a tin-pot dictator of a banana republic. America deserves better. 

"Woe to the land whose King is a child." - Ecclesiastes 10:16





Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Colorado Christian University Calls Otto

Colorado Christian University called Otto about enrolling in their online psychology program. Otto, concerned about possibly catching Coronavirus over the phone, asked the rep a few times if she was wearing a mask while talking to him. Upon being asked, the tried to end the call, but Clovis was persistent. The rep glossed over his question about the mask and pushed through with her pitch. When the rep mentioned that they were on a recorded line, Otto wanted to know why they were recording him. The rep said it was for training purposes, so Otto excitedly said he was ready to get trained. The rep again tried to end the call. Otto managed to steer the conversation back from the edge and the rep said she was going to transfer Otto to an enrollment counselor, which Otto misheard as "smelly aroma counselor". Otto wondered aloud why he would need such a thing, as he smelled just fine. The rep then ended the call.

Monday, May 18, 2020

MAGA-Mart Grand Re-Opening

The pandemic stay-at-home order has affected many small businesses throughout the country, and MAGA-Mart is no different. Clovis was unable to get a PPP small business loan, so, he decided that he needed to open up his shop in order to keep his business afloat. The way Clovis sees it, those COVID-19 death statistics are way over-reported, and his livelihood and First Amendment rights are under a more immediate threat than the doom and gloom portended from some faceless virus. So, as of this morning, MAGA-Mart is open for business again.

In order to celebrate the Grand Re-Opening of MAGA-Mart, and to showcase some of the new things he has to offer, Clovis put together this radio commercial:

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Credit Card Scammer's Tirade

Diksmash got a call from a credit card scammer who wanted to help him lower his interest rate on his credit card. Being a very old man, Diksmash informed the scammer that he is afraid of catching the COVID-19 virus over the phone, so he insisted that the scammer wear a mask. The scammer pushed past the request and asked Diksmash for his credit card information. At one point, the background noise in the scammer's call center got too loud, and Diksmash informed him that he could not hear him. The scammer talked louder, which hurt Diksmash's ears. Diksmash asked the scammer if he still had a mask on, which the scammer ignored. The scammer instead went on an expletive-laden tirade which lasted about 30 seconds while Diksmash responded with incredulity.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Italian-Style Chicken & Couscous

Chicken is always a safe bet when it comes to choosing a Blue Apron meal. So, when I chose Italian-Style Chicken & Couscous with Carrots, Currants & Kale for a Blue Apron meal, I was feeling pretty confident that I could cook it while attending a virtual happy hour with my beer group. With my brand new Pioneer Woman knife set and cutting board ready to go (don't judge) I delved into this kit while assuring my beer group buddies that I'm secure enough in my masculinity to appreciate the prettiness and craftsmanship of my kitchen utensils. The Blue Apron description of the meal sounded a little underwhelming: This wholesome dish is brimming with bright, earthy Italian flavors thanks to the blend of classic herbs (like rosemary, sage, and oregano) that coats our seared chicken, and the fragrant basil pesto we’re stirring into fluffy couscous. This is basically just yet another variation of breaded chicken offered by Blue Apron, so I've got a fair amount of experience making this. I'm not sure why my couscous turned out so green relative to the "Expectation" picture, as the directions said to pour in the pesto, which I took to mean "all of the pesto". I cut the kale a bit small compared to the "Expectation" but that was not an issue. 

Overall, it tasted good, and I liked the couscous despite it looking too green. The carrots, currants and kale was better than I had expected. The chicken, of course, was a safe bet and I really enjoyed it.  
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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Credit Card Scammer Admits She Is Rude

I got a call from a Credit Card Scammer who launched into the typical "lower your rates" scam pitch. I tried to sound a little mentally enfeebled and I had her on the hook well enough that she asked me about my cards and how much money I owed. I made the mistake of saying that I had them all maxed out and when she said she couldn't help me, I had to backtrack. She explained that I had to be in good standing, and I responded that I could stand up just fine, and that I didn't need a cane yet. She laughed. I asked why she was laughing. She said she was just acting like she was laughing. I told her she wasn't nice and she admitted that she was being rude. I asked for an apology and she gave one and then I asked to get my lower rate. She asked for my Visa card information and when I gave her the card number, I ended up giving her a 1-800 number. After toying with her a little more, she got fed up, said "I don't want to work with you" and hung up.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Crispy Chicken Katsu & Soy Mayo

The Illinois "Shelter At Home" order has given me many opportunities to up my cooking game. I've tried a number interesting recipes, some more successfully than others (we will not speak of the "Beer Can Chicken Incident"). Sometimes, it's nice to try out a recipe that you know is going to be both tasty and easy, so, I looked to Blue Apron for some inspiration.

I chose Crispy Chicken Katsu & Soy Mayo with Shrimp & Vegetable Udon as one of my kits and was pretty excited to try it. I had high expectations, since Blue Apron listed it as a "Premium" offering, and, as such, I had to pay an extra $18 for the kit. The meal was easy enough to make, though I may have slightly overcooked the chicken.

Coming in at 1,250 calories per serving, I was a little hesitant to completely dive into this. Indeed, the portion size of the shrimp and vegetable udon was huge, so I split the meal into three servings instead of two and shared the other two servings with my girlfriend and my daughter (hence the weird cut of chicken in my photo). But, it tastes good and everyone enjoyed it enough to make me want to try my hand at this dish outside of Blue Apron.

Expectation

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I Bought A New Mattress

I pride myself on being able to sleep just about anywhere. I've slept on concrete, I've slept on beaches, I even slept on the peel-and-stick tile floor of my old college buddy's rank-ass basement. I've slept through earthquakes, fire alarms and tornado warnings. As I get older, however, the physical cost of sleeping on something without any back support has begun to take its toll. For the last eighteen months, I've been sleeping on a memory foam mattress which felt more like it was a mattress topper than an actual mattress. It was fine if I was star-fishing in the center of it, but, it just wasn't working with two people sharing it. We were both waking up with horrible lower back pains. Mine was so bad that I couldn't stand for more than 30 minutes in the morning without my legs going numb. Clearly, it was time for a new mattress.

I've been bombarded with advertisements from a number of different mattress companies like Purple, Casper, Nectar, Sleep Number, Tuft & Needle and Puffy. At some point, amid all the Youtube ads and pop-ups, it all becomes noise. I did some research and decided that a hybrid coil-memory foam would work best for my need for both comfort and support. I soon settled on the Pressure Relief OEKO-TEX Certified iCoil® Hybrid Mattress by Zinus. I've had a good experience with Zinus box springs, so I figured I'd give one of their mattresses a try.

I want to give a pro-tip to those of you whom are going to buy a Zinus mattress: The cling wrap is what keeps the mattress compressed, not the thick plastic covering. I found this out when I pulled open the cling wrap in the living room only to find that the mattress was beginning to expand. I quickly yet very awkwardly maneuvered the mattress through the hallway and into my bedroom. I starting singing "What's gonna work? Teeeeeam work!" in the hopes that my teenage daughter would take the hint and lend a hand. No dice. But, with a little elbow grease and a lot of gumption, I got the Zinus mattress through the door and onto the bed.

It took about 48 hours for my Zinus hybrid mattress to fully expand. In the interim, I found that the middle rose up faster than the sides which made sleeping arrangements a little odd. But, once that was done, the Zinus Pressure Relief OEKO-TEX Certified iCoil Hybrid Mattress became great to sleep on, but even better to wake up on. Not only have I slept better, but I haven't had any of the back problems that have plagued me for the last several months.

At around $700 for a king mattress, I find that the Zinus Pressure Relief OEKO-TEX Certified iCoil Hybrid Mattress hits that sweet spot of affordability vs benefit. And, with a 100 day no-risk satisfaction guarantee, it's well worth trying if you're in the market for a hybrid mattress.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Ale Horn

This Is What An Ale Horn From AleHorn.com looks like!
Ale Horn
Honestly, I think that my home suffers a lack of quirky barware. Sure, I have a few beer steins and number of Red Lobster glasses of every size and shape, but those options just aren't quirky enough for the over-the-top beer group parties that I'm hoping to start hosting again once the pandemic is behind us. Enter the ale horn, from AleHorn.com.

Have you ever wondered what beer would taste like if you drank it from a mug crafted from a bovine horn? Have you ever wanted to drink from a vessel worthy of being drunk from by Bro Thor? Yeah, me either. Still, an ale horn sounded like it would make an interest gift for my siblings this Christmas and it's never too early to do research. So, I bought one. The folks at AleHorn hand craft their Viking-style drinking horns from 100% ethically sourced bovine horn and also offer custom engraving including custom logos. I didn't go all out and have my family crest engraved on the front. I just went with my name on the handle.

The first thing I noticed about my ale horn was how light it felt. The weight is somewhat equivalent to that of a plastic cup of the same size. That's not really a bad thing, I just figured that the bovine horn material would result in a heavier tankard. I like the look of it, as it has plenty of natural marks that add character; my mug looks like it has a few stories to tell. But how does it drink? Will it make your beer taste weird? Some beers taste weird enough on their own, but, after sampling a few different beers in mine, I can tell you with confidence that the taste of your beer will not be affected. And the handle helps the tankard fit snugly in your hand while you drink. That being said, I do think that ale horns are best suited to thicker, heartier beers than, say, lighter beers. But, overall, I'm pleased with the result and will be ordering some more, this time with a prominent logo on the front.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Clovis Prays With A Scammer

A robo call with an automated voice called Clovis looking to sell him some shystery-sounding "final expense" coverage. Clovis quite liked the lady that he was talking too and thought that he was scoring some points. Unfortunately, he got transferred to an actual "live" rep who rained on his parade. Clovis told the rep that he wanted to be transferred back to Samantha, and that the rep wasn't his type. Clovis eventually asked the rep where he was from and was told Australia. Clovis didn't believe him and said that they should pray to Jesus together for forgiveness. After a very heartfelt and moving prayer, Clovis got kicked from the call.

Monday, April 20, 2020

I Had A Buffet Table Delivered

One of the few good things that has come out of this whole "shelter-at-home" order for me has been the fact that I have been able to spend a lot of time re-decorating my house. Since Day 1 of  me buying the place, the dining room has needed some attention. I was content to use the small dining room table and chairs that the previous owner had left behind until I could decide what kind of decor I should go with. Once it became clear that I'd be hosting more and more large get-togethers, it became vital for me to deck out the dining room. I went with a French Farmhouse inspired theme and picked up a great looking table and some chairs to go with it. In order to complete the look, I purchased the Gracie Oaks Jaydin Sideboard.

It took a while to get a delivery date confirmed, and, once it was, I was told that the delivery company could not bring the sideboard into my house, but still could assemble it before delivery. No problem. I recruited Jason to help me bring the thing in and put it in its proper place. Jason arrived just before delivery and we sat there in my dining room wearing our COVID-19 masks. I looked at him and remarked "How the hell did we get to this point?".

"This is the darkest timeline...." he replied with a sigh.

My house is very hard to find, so, of course, the delivery driver called me to get better directions and Jason and I ran out of the house, our faces covered in cloth masks, to wave down the driver. The driver dropped off the buffet table, un-assembled, and headed right out. Whatever. Jason helped me drag the box into the dining room while I sang "What's gonna work? Teeeeeam work!", much to his chagrin. I had the Gracie Oaks Jaydin Sideboard put together within 20 minutes. It, of course, looks great. My barware goes in the middle and my dinnerware goes on the ends with my Fiestaware occupying a place of particular pride on the right, ready for my next dinner party. Whenever that might be.



Gracie Oaks Jaydin Sideboard
Gracie Oaks Jaydin Sideboard

Monday, April 13, 2020

Dalgona Coffee

Dalgona Coffee aka Whipped CoffeeEaster morning was notable for two reasons this year: 1) The Easter Bunny, in a flagrant defiance of the state's "shelter at home" directive, trespassed onto my property in order to hide eggs for the kids to search for. He wasn't subtle about it either! 2) My girlfriend made up a batch of dalgona coffee, known throughout social networking sites as the most addictive, delicious coffee trend this season.

Also known as "whipped coffee", the fad known as dalgona coffee first blew up on Tik Tok before taking the rest of the world by storm. And it's no wonder that the stuff is so popular right now; with so many "shelter in place" orders in force throughout the country, the drive to stay indoors and experiment is high (I even experimented with a new chicken and noodles recipe). Plus, this stuff looks like a poop emoji sitting on top of a billowy cloud of milk. What's not to like?

You can find a lot of similar recipes out there for dalgona coffee, but we went with the one suggested by Delish.com. Some dalgona coffee recipes often call for the use of a milk frother, but we found that using a hand mixer, or, in our case, the Kichen Aid mixer, was a better option as it produced a more consistent coffee dollup that floated on the milk better.

But, how does it taste? It's good, and, overall, I like Dalgona coffee. I found it to be very filling and it did inject enough of a caffeine jolt that, after our own Easter egg hunt, my daughter and I decided to hide eggs around my best friend's yard before he awoke. I figure, if I can't torment my best friend in person, at least I can torment him via a socially distant means. 

Monday, April 6, 2020

Innr Zigbee Smart Plug

In my continuing quest to eliminate most of the wi-fi smart home devices from my smart home setup, I had to consider what to do with my wi-fi smart plugs. Since I have to switch out some of my home's electrical outlets, I briefly thought about replacing some of those outlets with GE smart outlets. However, that would likely involve a lot of wire stripping to get access to the neutral wires, so I ultimately decided against doing that. Instead, I went with the Innr Zigbee Smart Plug. The most important feature of this plug is the fact that it's compact enough to keep from blocking off any adjacent sockets.

I ended up purchasing a total of 4 plugs and each one of them connected to my Samsung Smart Things hub quite easily. The Innr Zigbee plugs have been installed at each end of my house and have had no problem staying connected to the Smart Things hub. And, that's really all you can say about these things: They pair easily to the hub and they stay connected. And I prefer using Zigbee as opposed to Wi-Fi for smart plugs, as there are fewer connection issues involved.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Samuel Adams Mountain Berry Beer

I think I've made it pretty clear on this blog over the years that I'm a huge fan of the Samuel Adams brand. So, whenever something new hits the shelves, I'm usually keen on trying it. For some reason, I hadn't been able to get around to Samuel Adams Mountain Berry until now. Maybe it's because I'm not a huge fan of fruit "gimmick
" beers. I've always been a fan of Samuel Adams Cheery Wheat, so I figured that this one would be fairly close riff on Cherry Wheat. And, guess what? It is. Samuel Adams Mountain Berry tastes like Cherry Wheat but with raspberries and blackberries. That being said, it's a pretty decent beer. It's light and crisp and the fruit doesn't overwhelm the taste like a lot of over fruity beers tend to do. There's a little bit of a sour taste in there as well, but it's just a hint. There isn't much of a head on the beer after a pour and it's not very hoppy which is something that Samuel Adams beers tend to overdo with some of their creations. Overall, it's a very drinkable beer, one that would probably go down best as a light Summer offering in the place of some kind of Summer Shandy. Unlike Samuel Adams Summer Ale, it's not a beer that I would want to have a lot of, though. So, Samuel Adams Mountain Berry is, at the very least, worth a try.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Clovis Is Not Dead Yet

A scammer called Clovis trying to sell him final expense insurance. Clovis responded that he's not dead yet and he's tired of people saying that he is. When asked if he had a life insurance policy, Clovis said that he didn't and blamed Obama for it. As usual, Clovis accused the rep of hitting on him, and when the rep tried to rephrase the offer by saying that "the condition to purchase is not required". Clovis thought the rep was offering him cheese and told him about his issues with lactose.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Orbitz Is Overwhelmed

We were just starting to pack for our Spring Break vacation two weeks ago when things started to look dicey. Coronavirus cases were climbing fast and cities across the country were shutting down attractions and restaurants. The writing was on the wall: We were going to have to cancel our vacation. I had booked the suite directly with the hotel which had a policy of allowing for cancellation 24 hours before check-in. It took me all of five minutes to cancel that. Cancelling the flight, however, would prove to be much more difficult.

Ordinarily, you're pretty much out-of-luck if you want to cancel your flight. But, Orbitz, in anticipation of the pandemic, allowed for a generous cancellation window. I tried to cancel the flight through the Orbitz website. An hour later, when I hadn't gotten any kind of acknowledgement, I tried to cancel again. And yet again the next morning. I finally gave up on the website and called the Orbitz customer service number and was met with a message saying that the had high call volume and could not take my call. I tried several other numbers and finally got through. I was put into a wait queue and sat on the phone for over an hour until the call got disconnected. I called back and got the option to schedule a call back with a rep. I did that and about 90 minutes later, the call came in. I picked up and an automated message said I was being transferred to a customer service representative. The call got dropped.

Calling American Airlines directly was a much easier experience and I got through before very long. I told them that I would be cancelling my flight and they said they'd take care of it, but I'd have to contact Orbitz for a refund. The day of my flight, I tried over and over again to get in contact with Orbiz to no avail. I then decided that it might be smart to call in at 2am. After an hour wait, I was connected to a customer service rep out of the Philippines who basically told me that he couldn't issue a refund.

At that point, I was tired of trying to deal with Orbitz and I called my credit card company to dispute the charge. They'll notify Orbitz of the dispute and give them a chance to respond. The way I see it, Orbitz is likely overwhelmed, so they likely won't even respond. And, even if they do, I have it well documented that I tried to call and cancel and that American Airlines via Orbitz was offering refunds under the Coronavirus circumstances. I have heard some anecdotes about Orbitz sending successful chargebacks to collections, but I'll deal with that if and when it comes along.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Clovis Plays The Numbers

Clovis is always excited when these credit card scammers call him to offer him the opportunity to get a lower rate on his credit card. As usual, Clovis said that he had five cards, and listed them off by numbers. The rep asked Clovis about his Discover card and wanted to make sure that Clovis was the primary account number. Clovis then went on a rant about his wife being on the card as well and spending too much. When asked for the card number, Clovis kept giving the scammer the customer service numbers. The rep kept getting angrier and angrier at him until he just hung up.

Monday, March 16, 2020

So Much Empty

The absurdity of this world never ceases to amaze me. In a world where there is an ongoing pandemic that we haven't yet reached the peak of, the main thing that is being hoarded is toilet paper. It hasn't affected me or my family, as, I tend to buy non-perishables in bulk either from Costco or whenever the stuff is on sale at the local grocery store. So, as of right now, I've easily got enough for an extended quarantine. But people who made a run on this stuff? I guess that this sort of hoarding of toilet paper does eliminate the risk of running out if quarantined, so, mission accomplished there. But, moreso than that, it's likely borne out of a need for control. People might not be able to eliminate their risk of catching coronaviru,s but they can eliminate their risk of running out of toilet paper. Personally, if I were anticipating a long quarantine, I'd rather spend the money on food and medicine.

I did my usual grocery shopping trip yesterday and bumped into a sweet old lady who asked me why all of the Jack's Pizzas were gone, but there were still plenty of DiGiorno's. More bang for the apocalypse buck, I suppose, as one DiGiorno costs about as much as two or three Jack's. Suits me, as I like DiGiorno better anyway. By examining the empty aisles at my area Aldi and Wal-Mart, I surmise that, in a crisis, people really want to have clean asses, want clean and fabric softened clothes, want to stay hydrated and want eggs. They want milk, but not lactose-free milk or almond or oat milk. They want bread but not oat nut bread. And they want a lot of cheap frozen pizzas. What they don’t like are fruits and vegetables and obscure ethnic food. I guess it pays off to be weird and like the obscure stuff.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Credit Card Scammer Calls Me Stupid

A fast-talking credit card scammer called me trying to get me to give him my credit card numbers. He went into his pitch and, when he asked me what my credit card number was, I told him that my Mastercard was card number two. He then asked for the sixteen digit number and I gave him the customer service number. He kept trying to get me to give him the correct number and I kept giving him the customer service number. The scammer kept getting angrier. He told me to flip the card and I told him that I did so and that it landed heads up. The rep then got frustrated and told me that I'm stupid and that I'm just playing with him.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Duchesse de Bourgogne

Duchesse de Bourgogne beerIt wasn't too long ago when we were sitting on the couch binge watching Worth It, a Buzzfeed show where two annoying dorks sample three different tiers of a particular type of food and decide which one gives the most bang for the buck. Early on in season one, during the $2 Hot Dog Vs. $169 Hot Dog episode, Steven and Andrew are served a beer called Duchesse de Bourgone and are told that they will either really enjoy it or simply not like it. Upon tasting it, Steven and Andrew declare that it tastes like fruit punch or a Starburst. That sounded interesting, so we made a point to keep an eye out for Duchesse de Bourgone at any of our nearby liquor store chains.

Duchesse de Bourgogne, named in honor of Duchess Mary of Burgundy (daughter of Charles the Bold), is a Flanders style red ale beer produced in Vichte, Belgium with a focus on maltiness over hop flavor. It is matured in oak barrels for 18 months after a primary and secondary fermentation. The final product is a blend of a younger 8-month-old beer with an 18-month-old beer. The end result is a delightfully sour ale with fruity sweetness as well as the tannic bitterness of a heavy red wine.

We picked up a few large bottles of Duchesse de Bourgogne, chilled one for a few hours and then got into the hot tub to enjoy a few glasses. If I hadn't known better, I would have sworn that this was a sparkling wine rather than a beer. It does indeed taste like a fruity wine with notes of black currant, sour apple and cherry. This is the perfect beer for a Summer patio party (yeah, I know, it's not Summer yet).

Monday, March 2, 2020

The Impossible Whopper

One of the best things about having a getaway weekend is that last grasp at alone time before you have to return to civilization. We'd had a good night with dinner at a nice restaurant, cutely-named yet tasty drinks at the hotel bar and then back to the room for a bottle of beer that we'd gotten the name of from a Buzzfeed show. What could we possibly do to wrap this weekend up with a nice little bow? To me, the answer was obvious: Lunch at Burger King.

Burger King has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, in some ways, more so than White Castle. It's like a better tasting yet somewhat less sanitary version of McDonald's. And I have been wanting to try the Impossible Whopper for quite some time now, but hadn't had the opportunity. I had reviewed the Impossible Slider from White Castle last year and found it to be decent, but not something that I would go out of my way to order because it tasted like its own thing rather than tasting like a White Castle slider. I was more hopeful with the Impossible Whopper, though, because Impossible Foods promised that "The Impossible™ Whopper® is just like the classic Whopper®, but made with an Impossible™ patty made from plants".

The Whopper has never been my go-to burger from Burger King. I generally prefer the double cheeseburger. But, since the Impossible burger is currently only available in Whopper form, I went with it. I got some chicken fries on the side just in case I couldn't stomach the Impossible Whopper and because, let's face it, Burger King fries are bland. With equal amounts of trepidation and excitement, I bit into the Impossible Whopper. And it was good! I mean it, this is a good burger. It actually tastes like what you'd expect from a Burger King burger. I could eat this on a regular basis and be very happy with my choice. I'm actually hoping that they'll expand the Burger King menu to offer Impossible burger versions of some of their other items. But, if they don't, the Impossible Whopper might just become my go-to item. With chicken fries.

So, there we were, sitting in a booth at Burger King, chowing down on our Impossible Whoppers while wearing our Burger King crowns. For me, it was the perfect denouement to a weekend getaway. 

The Impossible Whopper From Burger King
Behold The Impossible Whopper In All Its Glory!!!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tilapia With Almond Parsley Gremolata

Tilapia's Revenge: This Time, It's Baked!


The weekend. It's a time for relaxation, reflection and re-decorating the dining room. After putting together a bazillion dining room chairs and stationing them around a new dining room table, it was time to actually use this new furniture. And that's when it was announced that we'd be having tilapia from Hello Fresh again. After the mediocre Valentine's Day offering from Hello Fresh, I was apprehensive about having another tilapia meal from them. But, this particular meal had two things going for it:


  1. The tilapia would be baked this time and not pan-fried. 
  2. This meal would not be prepared by me. 

You gotta love the description: "Fishing for a delicious, sea-faring meal? We’ve got just the thing. Flaky tilapia fillets are rubbed with a bold seasoning blend, then roasted to perfection. Once they emerge from the oven, they’re drizzled with an enchanting sauce known as “gremolata.” In it, there’s fresh parsley, crunchy toasted almonds, garlic, lemon, and olive oil. On the side, there’s roasted green beans and buttery Israeli couscous. Yeah, that’s a whole ’lata weeknight goodness."

Joke's on you, Hello Fresh, we were going to be eating this stuff on a weekend! And we didn't need some kind of fancy mathematical conversion rate from weeknight to weekend in order to calculate our enjoyment. No! We'd be diving right in and we'd be the once to decide whether or not this contender would knock our taste-buds out. 
Expectation

Reality


I liked this one a whole lot better than the Ginger-Turmeric Tilapia from last week. I've never been a huge fan of couscous, so I swear that these meal kit companies must be infusing them with crack before shipping them because I just can't get enough. The tilapia was good enough that I'd actually have it again or attempt to make it on my own.

Monday, February 24, 2020

First Alert 2-in-1 Z-wave Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detector

In some ways, I feel like I've betrayed Nest Protect buy purchasing the First Alert Z-wave COMBO 2-in-1 Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm. It's not you, Nest Protect, it's me. You're absolutely brilliant in my common areas like the kitchen and the bedroom hallway, but, for smaller settings like bedrooms and the home office, I think that the First Alert Z-wave COMBO 2-in-1 Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm is a better solution. It's cheaper, smaller, and it doesn't connect directly to my wi-fi.

Of course, the real test of a smoke detector is how it operates when there's a fire and/or when there's carbon monoxide. I'm not UL certified, so I won't be running field tests on this thing. And neither should you. So, the best I can say is that the First Alert Z-wave COMBO 2-in-1 Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm connected to my SmartThings hub easily and it was a simple thing to install it in all the places that it needed to go. I hope that the time never comes when I need to test its functioning. But, I sleep a little better at night knowing that its there.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Ginger-Turmeric Tilapia

Ah, Valentine's Day. It's a day for exchanging Hallmark cards with your special someone and wolfing down a special dinner. I thought it would be a romantic gesture for me to handle Valentine's Day dinner, so, while the kids got a heart-shaped pizza, I looked to Hello Fresh for a meal idea that I could make without worrying about whether or not it would actually be good. And nothing says "romance" quite like Ginger-Turmeric Tilapia with Buttery Coconut Rice & Green Beans, right? Don't answer that.

Of course, I was taken in by the description: "Want to take your taste buds on a trip to the tropics? We’ve got just the thing. This dish has warm and sunny flavors guaranteed to brighten up dinnertime. First, flaky tilapia is rubbed with golden-hued turmeric. After crisping up in the pan, it’s served alongside fluffy brown-sugar-simmered rice tossed with toasted coconut flakes and lime zest. There’s also a side of steamed green beans for a bright crunch. For a dynamic finish, the fish is drizzled with a ginger, shallot, and cilantro-flecked pan sauce. Now all you need is someone to bring you a piña colada!"

Well, instead of piña coladas, we went with Moscow Mules. But, who wouldn't want to take their taste buds on a trip to the tropics, especially in this cold, miserable weather? My work, studies and parenting duties demand that I stay close to home in-season, but, darn it, my taste buds were packed and ready!

In all seriousness, I think I kinda messed this one up. The tilapia fell apart and I botched the reduction. Plus, massaging turmeric into the tilapia left me with yellow fingers for the entire weekend. But how did it taste? Meh. It was okay, not spectacular. My girlfriend was a real trooper and choked down most of her tilapia like a good sport. Now, whether this lackluster dinner was the result of a design flaw or a launch failure is up for debate. Either way, this isn't something I'd have any desire to try to re-create on my own.
Expectation

Reality


Monday, February 17, 2020

Insurance Scammer Says My Name Again

Another car insurance scammer called recently trying to get me to switch my insurance company to some fly-by-night scammer insurance carrier. When asked who my current insurance company was, I said "Zoo Station" insurance. The scammer then asked me if I had any DUIs. I said that I had had six and that I was due for another. "Due for a DUI" I said jokingly. When asked my name, I replied with the usual "Heywood Jablowme" and asked the insurance scammer to say it back to me. It took a few attempts, but when he finally did, I told him that he wasn't my type.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Crispy Monterey Jack Chicken

By Tuesday, it already seemed like it had been a long week. I've moved to a new, private office at work, had a ton of papers to grade, started work on a faculty lecture, had to medicate the dog's ears and started planning our Spring Break vacation. All things considered, dinner wasn't high on my list of things to think about. Good thing there's Hello Fresh.

This weeks box included Crispy Monterey Jack Chicken. It's also known as Monterey Jack Un-Fried Chicken, because you bake it in the oven rather than fry it in a pan. The description, which includes the promise of a quick prep and cleanup, sounded like it was exactly what I was looking for: "Crispy chicken is always a recipe for success. Add melty Monterey Jack and Ranch seasoning to the mix and you’ve got yourself a winning dinner. Once baked, the cheesy panko crust turns golden brown while the meat stays juicy and tender. The crunchy cutlets are served with sriracha-spiked mayo and sides of buttery green beans and crispy potato wedges. If this all sounds complicated—it’s not! 35 minutes is all you need for this delicious dish to land on your table."

I did most of the prep work right when I got home from work. I then put everything in the fridge for a few hours while I did some work from my home office. When dinner time approached, I kicked on the oven, put everything in and cleaned up while everything cooked. The end result garnered mixed reviews.

Expectation

Reality


While the chicken was very tasty, I was personally a bit disappointed with the size of the portion. It's a pretty measly breast cut. In contrast to that, I felt that there were way too many green beans. Maybe this is an indication that we need more vegetables in our lives, but, I ended up saving about a quarter of these for lunch the next day. The potato wedges were okay, but not spectacular. I'm told that I needed to put more oil on them in order to crisp them up.

This is a meal that I would likely make on my own, though I would probably go with mashed potatoes or even a Little Potato Company product for the side next time.