Friday, January 18, 2019

Soup Is Not a Meal! (Or Is It?)

I'm a farm boy from Idaho. I'm a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. (Especially if those potatoes are in french fry or hash brown form.) When I think of dinner, I'm thinking of a good, hearty meal that I can stick a fork in, cut with a knife, or pick up with my bare hands. When I sit down to eat, I want something substantial, something that says, "Now that was a meal!"

I don't like soup.

You can't eat soup with a fork. You can't pick it up with your fingers. You can't cut it with a knife. What can you do with soup? You can sip it. You can stir it. You can slosh it. If you're not careful, you can spill it.

Soup isn't a meal, it's what you get before a meal instead of salad. (Salad isn't a meal, either. Don't get me started on salad!)

Do you know what they serve with soup? Crackers. Do you know why they serve crackers with soup? To make it more substantial. Do you understand that? In order to give soup some substance and make it more of a meal, they serve crackers with it! Has anyone ever said, "This steak is nice and all, but you know what would make it better? Add some crackers!" Of course not!

When I was growing up, the only time I ever enjoyed soup was when I had a cold and Mom made me some chicken noodle soup. Yes, that's right, the only time I liked soup was when I was too sick to know any better.

Soup was something that came in a can. And, in order to properly prepare it you would have to pour the soup out of the can, then add a whole other can-full of water to it! It was already mostly water, but then you would add twice as much water to it! Yum, nothing is quite as satisfying as warmed-up water!

Soup = Warm water with a hint of flavoring.

There were a few exceptions, like my sister-in-law's homemade chicken noodle soup, with its big chunks of chicken, and the zupa toscana at Olive Garden, which features nice bits of sausage. (Sausage is like the back-up quarterback of bacon.) But generally, I didn't like soup.

And then, I got married. And my wife started making me soup. And slowly but surely my anti-soup stance started to soften. Sometimes she would disguise the soup and confuse me by calling it a "chili" or a "chowder." (I'm easily confused.)

Over the course of the years, she's gotten to me with her taco soup (which is meaty, like a chili); her ham and potato chowder (with so many chunks of wonderful ham) (ham is the very skilled third-string quarterback to bacon and sausage); and even her simple cheese and broccoli soup (which doesn't even have meat in it, but is still excellent!) They are all delicious, and I enjoy eating them. But, whenever she says, "We're having soup," part of my brain still thinks back to the days of emptying out a can of glop and then adding another can of water.

I guess you could say I don't like the idea of soup, but when it comes down to the actual substance of the soup my wife makes, I like it a lot.

Even if I can't eat it with my bare hands.

Edited from a post originally published on 12/27/2016.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Striving for Perfection (One Box of Mac and Cheese at a Time)

Nobody's perfect. Not even me.

Over the years I've made a lot of boxes of macaroni and cheese. You're probably thinking, "Oh, sure, we've all made a lot of macaroni and cheese." But what I'm telling you is I've made A LOT of macaroni and cheese! I was single until I was 40 years old, and as a guy living by myself I probably made macaroni and cheese at least once a week for twenty years. And now that I'm a father of four, I've got three kids who love mac and cheese and request it all the time. (But not all four kids, because there's always got to be that one who makes things a bit more difficult.)

What I'm saying is I've got more experience making macaroni and cheese than just about anyone around. So, you would think that by now I would be able to make a perfect box of macaroni and cheese every single time.

Nope. Almost every time at least one little thing will go wrong.

You're probably thinking, "Come on, how hard can it be to make a perfect box of macaroni and cheese?" It's more difficult than you might imagine. Just keeping all of the noodles together can be problematic. Noodles can get away in several steps of the process, such as:

*Dumping the macaroni from the box to the pot.-- Sometimes, when pouring the dry noodles from the box to the pot a noodle or two might miss the pan, or you might get a noodle that sticks to the box.

*Stirring the macaroni in the pot.-- Every once in a while, while trying to stir the noodles one or two of them might escape from the pot.

Noodles are escaping!
 *Draining the water from the noodles.-- When draining the water from the noodles, sometimes a noodle or two will spill out. Or maybe the colander you are using has openings that are big enough that a noodle or two can squeeze through.

Of course, there's more that can go wrong besides noodles getting away. You could undercook the noodles. You could overcook the noodles. You could put in too much milk, leaving your macaroni and cheese a little soupy. You could put in not enough milk, leaving your macaroni and cheese a little dry. Or, probably the most common problem, the cheese sauce won't mix in quite right, leaving random glops of bright orange powder mixed into your macaroni and cheese.

Perfection isn't easy.

But hey, who says we have to be perfect every time? Sometimes just trying to be perfect is good enough. Steph Curry is widely regarded as the best shooter in the NBA, but he has only had one season in his career where he made more than half of his shots. No baseball player has gotten hits on more than four out of ten tries for an entire season since Ted Williams in 1941. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees set a record for percentage of passes completed this season, but he still threw incompletions on more than one out of every four throws.

Perfection isn't easy. But, we don't have to be perfect every time. If we make a mistake, we just have to move on and try again.

And hey, if you add enough cheese, everything will turn out just fine.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Toilet Paper People Are Squeezing Us

We all use toilet paper. (I hope.) But it's not something we talk about very often. Toilet paper and how we use it is not generally considered a proper topic of polite conversation. So, I hope you'll pardon me if I broach this subject today, and I apologize if my talk gets a little graphic.

Recently I was using some toilet paper in the way in which it is meant to be used. As I was doing so, I realized that something wasn't quite right. It seemed the normal amount of toilet paper wasn't doing the job that it usually did. What was the problem? Was my butt getting bigger? I guess that was possible, but not very likely, especially since my favorite donut shop closed down a while back. (I'll have to find a new place to get my apple fritters.)

So, if it wasn't my butt, what could the problem be? I wasn't sure, but then I remembered that we had recently purchased a new package of toilet paper. I didn't think much of it at first, because it was a name brand, and I was pretty sure it was the same brand we had just been using. Butt, I could tell something was different.

After I finished my business, I went to the other bathroom and tracked down a roll of the previous toilet paper. I compared the two rolls, and the difference was staggering:

The new roll was a full half-inch shorter (or less wide) than the old roll! That's quite a difference.

I looked at the packaging on the new roll, and it touted the many advantages of this product. "Ultra Soft," "4 rolls in 1," and "MEGA." (I'm a bit confused. Does "MEGA" mean "smaller?")

That's great, Mr. Bear, but next time try using that tape to measure height instead of circumference.

The packaging did not, however, claim: "Now with new, smaller rolls!" Or, "New and improved with less width!" Or, "It'll make your hands look so much bigger!" And while these claims may seem crazy to tout, this particular company has a history of some rather odd advertising choices. For years their spokesman was a creepy grocery store clerk with an obsession for squeezing toilet paper. And now their ads feature bears who poop in the woods, but wipe their bums with toilet paper.

Does a bear poop in the woods? And if so, what toilet paper does it use?
So, I guess the moral of this story is to stay vigilant. If they try to slip shrunken toilet paper by us, what will be next? (They better not try to make my apple fritters smaller!)

Edited from a post originally published on 1/13/2017.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

January Is Bleak

Christmas is over. All the parties and the presents and the family get-togethers are finished. The tree and the decorations are back in their boxes. December is done, and with it all of the fun. January is here. January is bleak.

Why is January so bleak? Here are a few reasons:

* It's cold-- How cold? So cold that you have to worry about bringing cans of soda in from the car because you're afraid they might freeze and explode.

* It's dark-- The sun isn't up yet when you leave for work in the morning, and the sun is already down when you come home from work. Where did the sun go? (Yes, I know that the days are actually shorter in December, but all those Christmas lights make the dark a bit more tolerable then.)

* It's snowy-- Have you ever tried to shovel the driveway while it's still snowing? It's an exercise in futility, and it's not fun.

* It's icy-- Who doesn't love scraping ice off of their windshield?

*Everyone is grumpy-- Lots of people start the new year by trying to lose weight. Pies and cookies make people happy. Avoiding pies and cookies makes people unhappy. Unhappy people make other people unhappy.

So, yes, January is bleak. But it's okay because once January is over we get to welcome February, and February is...oh my gosh, February is even more bleak!

Is it Spring Break yet?

Friday, January 4, 2019

Am I My Mother?

I love my mother. She's a wonderful woman. She brought me into the world. She raised me and taught me not to talk with my mouth full, not to burp at the table, and not to go swimming until at least one hour after eating. She helped make me the man I am today. She loves me very much.

And sometimes, she even remembers my name.

My name is Joe. I have one brother; his name is John. And, for as long as I can remember, my Mom frequently calls us by the wrong name. She calls me John almost as often as she calls me Joe. (If I had a nickel for every time my Mom called me John instead of Joe, I'd have half as much money as I would if I had a dime for every time my Mom called me John instead of Joe!) (That's a little math humor for you.)

And, as her sons, John and I have the responsibility to tease my Mom mercilessly about this. Over the years we have teased her about not getting our names straight seemingly innumerable times. (If I had a quarter for every time....)

On the left, with the skinny tie, is John/Joe.
On the right, with the not-quite-so skinny tie and mustache, is John/Joe
(That's Mom in the middle.)
But now, the tables have turned a bit. I am a father, and I have four kids. We have two boys and we have two girls. And yes, you guessed it, I have started to call them by the wrong name. Frequently. Some might say it's poetic justice for all the grief I've thrown my Mom's direction over the years.

Oftentimes I'll catch myself halfway in to calling one of my kids by the wrong name, so I'll correct myself in midstream, giving my kids weird hybrid names. As an example, if the names of my boys were Chachi and Roger, I might often find myself calling them "Cha-Roger" or "Ro-Chachi." Or if the names of my girls were Tammy and Wendy, I would probably call them "Ta-Wendy" and/or "We-Tammy." Sometimes I might even cross genders and go with a "Cha-Tammy," "Ta-Roger," "Ro-Wendy," or maybe even something like a "Ta-We-Ro-Chachi." There are a myriad of possibilities, and I've ended up using most of them. (It's to the point where I now frequently call them, "You!" or I'll point at them and say, "That one!")

When I told my wife what I was writing about, she said, "And then there are the times you don't catch it at all, and you call the kid totally by the wrong name and don't even notice it." I'm sure this isn't true. I would never call my child by the wrong name. It's not in my nature. And if, by some strange happenstance I did call a child by the wrong name, I'd find some way to blame it on my Mom. It's the genetics.

So, yes, I have become my mother. The question is, the next time she calls me John, should I cut her some slack? Maybe. (I just wish I had a dollar for every time....)

Edited from a post originally published on 1/10/2017.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

4 Ways to be Happy ALL New Year Long

Happy New Year!!!

How many people have wished you a 'Happy New Year?' Do you think they are just wishing you a Happy New Year's Day, or are they wishing that you be Happy for the whole New Year?

Is it even possible to be happy all year? Probably not. But, you can definitely be happier. Here are a few ways how:

1. Try to make the people around you happier.--One way to be happy is to surround yourself with happy people. And that'll be easier to do if you can be the source of some of their happiness. This doesn't mean to subvert your will and always do what someone else wants. But it does mean to do little things (or occasional big things) that will bring a smile to their faces. Surprise your spouse with flowers or a little getaway. Play a board game or read a book with your kids. Do something to help a co-worker. Heck, just smile at people. (It might be unnerving at first, but eventually they usually smile back.)

One smile will usually lead to a lot more smiles.

2. Step away from your rectangles.--We spend way too much time staring at our rectangles. There are a lot of different rectangles that we pay attention to, including cell phones, laptops, and/or televisions. (Some people even stare at the microwave oven, waiting impatiently for that food that is taking so darn long to heat up!) These rectangles can be entertaining and informative, but they often divert our attention from the real world. Interacting with people and/or nature is a bit more difficult if our face is transfixed by a rectangle.

3. Don't focus on the negative.--When you pay too much attention to the things you don't like in the world, it just might make you unhappy. If you despise Donald Trump, don't spend your time digging through every last word that he tweets. If you are a fan of Trump, you probably shouldn't watch CNN. Don't dwell on the negativity unless you want to be consumed by the negativity. (Oh, and stay the heck away from any comments sections! Those people are nasty.)

4. Try something new.-- It's pretty easy to get stuck in the rut of our everyday life. Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something you've never done before can add a thrill and maybe even a bit of happiness to your life. I read a book once by a philosopher that emphasized how if we try new things we might find that we like things we didn't think we would. (I think it was called Green Eggs and Ham, or something like that. You might look it up if you get the chance.)

So, if we want our "Happy New Year" to be for the whole year and not just New Year's Day, it really isn't that difficult. (January 2nd deserves a little happiness too!)

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Day After Christmas (a Poem)

Christmas is over! Long live Christmas!

'Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
All the garbage was strewn on the floor and the couch;

The stockings, once hung by the chimney with care,
Were down on the ground, contents flung everywhere.

The children were still nestled snug in their beds,
Asleep, with their favorite new toy by their heads;

And Momma and I, still in need of a nap,
Were staring at wrappings no longer a-wrap.

Looking over the living room, so full of clutter,
That I thought it was hopeless and started to mutter;

There was paper, and boxes, packing peanuts, and more,
There were those stupid twisty ties-- all over the floor.

Then, all of the sudden, I moved like the Flash,
And gathered up garbage to throw in the trash;

The Wife and I picked up and swept with the broom,
And worked 'til we'd cleaned up most all of the room.

When what to my wondering ear did appear,
But the sound of the garbage truck rumbling near;

With a little old driver, all bearded and thick,
That he looked, for a moment, like a grungy St. Nick.

I gathered my bags and I ran to the street,
For I knew that the garbage truck I had to beat;

'Else I'd live in a house full of garbage all week,
And if it sat around that long, no doubt it would reek.

I stuffed bags in my dumpster, one, two, three, and four,
And when I thought it was full, I stuffed in several more!

I filled it so full I could not close the top,
It was bursting with garbage; it was ready to pop.

Then the truck it approached, and it was sort of smelly,
It picked up my trash and dumped it into its belly.

And dropping my empty bin back to the ground,
The truck pulled away with a loud revving sound.

And the driver yelled out as he left in a streak,
"Merry Christmas to all! I'll be back here next week."

Edited from a post originally published on 12.26/2017.