Category Archives: Food and Drink

in which my son and i bottle our beer

I walked down the hallway toward the guest room, and started talking before I got to the door.

"Hey, I just looked at my calendar, and I miscalculated when we should bottle our beer."

I stepped off the wood floor of the hallway and onto the soft carpet we just had installed. I involuntarily squished it between my toes.

Ryan was sitting at the desk, headphones on, playing WoW.

"Hey!" I said, loudly.

He kocked one can off his right ear with the back of his hand. "What?"

"I miscalculated when we are supposed to bottle our beer."

He clicked the mouse around the screen. Numbers floated around the screen, words scrolled through the chat window in a blur, and for the millionth time I tried and failed to see the appeal of the game.

"Oh? When do we do it?" Click click click.

"Today. It's been three weeks, and our specific gravity hasn't changed in three days."

"Dude!" He spun around in his chair. "That's awesome!"

"I know, right?!" I noticed that some words had joined the numbers, and a bunch of little things were running around his player thing. "Aren't you going to, um, die?"

"No, I'm really high level. I can handle it." He said.

"Oh … well … there's a lot going on there and … numbers … are …"

Now I know how my dad felt when I tried to explain how awesome it was that we killed a Lich in D&D when I was 12.

"The important thing is, today we're bottling our beer." I said, "so we need to sanitize our bottles and everything."

He grinned. "Okay. Give me a minute."

"A minute minute, or an I'm-playing-a-game minute?"

"Sixty seconds." He clicked the mouse again and pushed some keys on the keyboard. A flurry of numbers danced around and some graphics that looked like blasts of Eldritch power shot out of his guy into something that sort of looked like a monster.

When I roll dice and do this in my head, it's awesome … but I just do not get this at all. I thought with a mental sigh.

I walked on down the hall, came to a door, and looked inside.

"Sorry, you'll have to put your boots on if you want to come in here," a guard in a tie-dyed shirt and nothing else said.

(I may have made that last bit up for my own amusement.)

Forty-three seconds later, Ryan joined me in my office.

"You killed that guy?"

"Yeah."

I searched my memory for dialog from The Guild.

"Did you make some … epic … loot … um … drop?" I asked.

"Nothing epic, but the other guys got some decent stuff." He said.

"Did you get … a … loot?" I picked up a six pack of bottles in each hand.

"No," he said, patiently, "there wasn't anything there I could use." He picked up a case of bottles, and we walked to the kitchen together.

"Well … um … awesome!" I said, secretly proud of my ability to fake it through the conversation, and grateful that Ryan didn't call me out.

As we began washing our bottles, I realized that we only had 30, about 20 bottles less than we'd need for the whole batch.

"I thought we drank more beer," I said.

"We did, but that was at comicon," he said.

"Oh, that's right." I plunged some bottles into the sink and let them fill with water.  They sank to the bottom and I picked up some more to join them.

"I'm actually looking forward to going back to college, because it'll give me a chance to detox my liver after spending the summer with you."

We laughed. "Hey, these beer bottles aren't going to empty themselves," I said.

"And we can't just pour them out, because that would be alcohol abuse," he added.

"See? This is what I'm talking about. Clearly, I've raised you right."

Once the sink was filled with bottles and my hands were dry, I counted one more time, just to be sure: we were about a case of bottles short.

"I'm going to run over to the homebrew shop and pick up a case of bottles. Do you want to come with me?"

"No, I'll stay here and finish washing these. I want to get the labels off the Sierra Nevadas."

"Okay. Be right back."

I drove to the homebrew shop in Eagle Rock. The man who we first talked to three weeks ago was working. I asked him for a case of 12 ounce bottles, and when he rang me up, I said, "I don't know if you remember me, but my son and I came in here three weeks ago. You talked us through the whole brewing process, and helped us get our kit and first batch of beer together."

"Yes! You looked familiar, but I couldn't figure out why." He said.

"Well, today we are bottling that batch, and I wanted to thank you for being so kind and helpful. I was so intimidated by the idea of brewing, if you hadn't taken the time to explain it to us, I probably wouldn't have had the courage to start."

He punched some numbers into the register, and I continued. "My son and I have had an absolute blast brewing since then. We've made a one gallon all-grain IPA, we've made ginger ale, and we've made two kinds of bread and dog biscuits with the spent grain. We've had this wonderful father/son activity, and it's meant the world to me."

He smiled.

"So … um … thank you, for that," I said, realizing that I'd been rambling.

"You're welcome! It's my pleasure. Once you figure out that it's really just some basic steps, it's not that difficult."

"I know! We're going to make a couple more recipes, and then we'll build something of our own."

I handed him some money and he said, "that's the best part. You can experiment with different kinds of grain to get different styles, and you'll have all kinds of fun figuring out how to make a brown ale and then a porter and then a stout, or whatever you want to make."

"We're keeping a journal, and I've read the Papazian book and the John Palmer's book. I just got the recipe book in the mail this morning, and I'm taking it on location next week so …" I realized, again, that I was rambling. "I guess what I'm trying to say is 'thank you for introducing me to something awesome to do with my son that I also know is going to be a passion of mine for the rest of my life."

"You're welcome," he said, kindly. He handed me my change and my case of bottles, and I headed back home.

"I just finished," Ryan said when I walked into the kitchen, "and I need to break for lunch."

"No problem," I said. We ate some food while I rinsed the Oxy Clean off all of the bottles, then we filled our bottling bucket and added some StarSan. For the next half an hour or so, we sanitized the bottles by hand, and set them out to dry.

"99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer," Ryan sang, softly, "you take one down, put it on the ground, and then you have to sanitize the bottles again."

I laughed. "Yeah, this is ponderous, man. It's fuckin' ponderous." Is Don on the phone? Get Don on the phone! And where are those pictures I was supposed to see today?! "I think we should invest in a kegging system."

We talked about quantum physics and this story we're writing together while we worked our way through the bottles. When we had about ten left I said, "You know, maybe this isn't so bad. I mean, it's something we're doing together, right? If we weren't doing this, you'd be playing WoW and I'd be reading Reddit. I'd much rather spend this time with you, washing bottles and talking about stuff, then doing anything else."

"Yeah," he said, "me too."

Finally, the bottles were all sanitized. We let them dry, then covered them with foil to keep out the bad stuff. We boiled our priming sugar, put it into our sanitized bucket, and then siphoned the beer out of our carboy and into the bucket.

"Holy shit," Ryan said, "that smells and looks like beer!"

I pinched the siphon and grabbed our hydrometer tube thing. I put some beer into it and handed it to him. "Go ahead and taste it," I said.

He took a sip, and I watched a thoughtful look pass across his face before being instantly replaced with joyful excitement. "OH MY GOD IT IS TOTALLY BEER!"

I shared his excitement as I put the siphon back into the bucket, and let it continue filling. We checked the temperature and took a gravity reading. "It looks like it's 1.024," I said. Ryan concurred. "I think that means we're going to end up around four percent or so, which I think is pretty okay for this style of beer."*

"I don't care what percent it is, as long as it tastes good," he said.

"Are you sure you're in college? I asked. I took the hydrometer out of the beer, and set it carefully on the counter. Then, I sipped the beer. "It is totally beer," I said. "I'm so proud of us!"

The bucket finished filling, and we moved it up onto the counter. We grabbed a cooking pot out of a drawer, and put some bottles in it. "Ryan, would you like to fill our first bottle?" I asked.

"Why yes, yes I would."

He put the siphon into an empty brown bottle. When it pressed against the bottom, a valve opened up, and beer began to fill it. When it was right at the neck, he took it out, and I rested a cap (sitting in our no-rinse sanitizing solution, of course) on top of it. Paternal pride swelled in my chest, and threatened to push something out of the corners of my eyes.

When he finished the rest of the bottles, we moved them to the counter, refilled the pot with empties, and then filled them. We repeated this process until we had bottled just about four and a half gallons.

"Okay, let's cap these little beauties!" I said.

I held the first bottle steady as Ryan put the capper onto the top, and pressed the handles down. He lifted it away, and we both just stared at it for a few seconds.

"Dude," Ryan said, "that's our first bottle of beer!"

Earlier that afternoon, I'd bought some 1/4 inch round stickers at the store. We'd loaded an OpenOffice document and made a sheet of 24 for each of us that said California Pale Ale in our own font and color, so we'd know which beer belonged to whom. I picked up Ryan's sheet of labels and stuck one of his stickers on the bottle.

"I want you to have the first one," I said. I don't know if it was as important and meaningful to him as it was to me, but when he thanked me and carefully set it to one side, I thought that maybe it was.

We capped all of our beers, putting labels on as we went. We numbered the first ten bottles because we're nerds and we like to do that sort of thing. Then, we were finished. We looked at the counter in my kitchen, covered with bottles that were filled with beer. Our beer. Beer we had made. Together.

"I love that we did this," I said.

"Me too," Ryan said. "Is it two weeks, yet?"

I smiled. "Nope. But it will be two weeks before we know it."

When that day arrives, it will be bittersweet for me. On one hand, we get to try our beer for the first time, but it also means that Ryan will be going back to school a day or so later. But I'm looking forward to getting on Skype with him in a month or so, and through the miracle of technology, having one of our beers, that we made, together … and as far as loot goes, that's pretty epic at any level.

* After writing this, I checked my notes and looked at all our charts and conversion tables. Surprise! I misread the hydrometer. We were actually at 1.018, which should come out of the bottle between 3 and 4 percent ABV. Or I was right, I'm going to have an exploding, beer-filled closet in a week. I'll just play the waiting game until next Friday, and then I should know.

Okay, waiting game sucks; it's time for Hungry Hungry Hippos.

on birthdays and making beer

Anne and I took the train up to Santa Barbara for my birthday, and it was awesome. Because I've complained about Amtrak employees who were dicks in the past (K. Williams on the southbound Surfliner to Comicon, I'm looking in your snotty, sarcastic, condescending direction), it's important to me that I compliment everyone we interacted with on this trip, both Northbound and Southbound. The conductors were friendly and helpful, and so were the ticket agents in Santa Barbara. I love the idea of train travel, and I especially love going along the California coast. I always want to ride the train up to PAX, but I never have time … one day though, I'm totally going to do that. I'm not sure what it is with Amtrak, but I always feel like I'm flipping a customer service coin, and I don't know if it's going to land on "friendly" or "asshat". Someone at Amtrak should do something about that, because I'm not the only person who feels this way.

While we were in Santa Barbara, we ate lunch at the Santa Barbara Brewing Company, where we had their IPA. As a fledgling homebrewer, it was probably more exciting to me than it should have been that I could watch their brewmaster tending to his beer, but Anne patiently listened to me while I pointed out every piece of equipment, and explained what it does. When I drank my IPA, I'm pretty sure I could taste Cascade hops, too, which made me stupidly excited because Ryan and I used Cascade hops in our IPA.

A lot* of people have been asking me how the homebrewing is going. The short answer is, pretty good, even though we made some mistakes with our first batch. Once it conditions in bottles, though, I think we're going to have a very drinkable beer.

I'm going to speak in beernerd right now, so if you may want to skip this paragraph if you aren't at least conversant in homebrewing. The longer answer is that we definitely screwed up our California Pale Ale in two pretty big ways: we boiled too long, so I think we boiled off a lot of fermentable sugars, and we racked to secondary about a week too soon. I've taken gravity readings the last two days, and it seems to have settled down right around 1.020. I know that's not where we want it to be, so we're going to let it sit for another week and hope that it drops. Right now, our potential ABV is only 4%, which seems low to me (but the Googles told me that most CPAs sit around 5%, so that's not too bad.) The really important thing, as far as I'm concerned, is that it tastes really good, and even though I don't think it's going to be exactly what we were going for, it's still going to be a tasty beer. It's still a little green, but it isn't bitter at all, it isn't too sweet, and the color and texture are terrific.

Ryan and I had so much fun brewing our CPA, I ordered two all-grain 1-gallon kits from Brooklyn Brew Shop: an IPA and a Porter. I figured that it was just one gallon, so if I completely screwed up the all-grain process, it wasn't that big a deal … it turns out that it was incredibly easy, just as much fun as the first batch, and we used the lessons we learned from the first batch to prevent repeating the same mistakes. We won't bottle that until around August 8 (Anne's birthday, for those of you scoring at home), and I can't wait.

I can tell you, from my personal experience, that making beer is incredibly easy and incredibly fun. They say that if you can make oatmeal, you can make beer, and they're totally right. Oh, and the best part of doing an all-grain beer has been using the spent grains to make doggie biscuits for Seamus and Riley, and two loaves of bread for the rest of us. I made this one last night, and had a slice with breakfast, and I have a loaf of rosemary that's rising in the kitchen right now that will be ready in time for dinner tonight. AWESOME!

The funny thing (to me) about this whole experience is that I was always intimidated by the idea of making bread. But I figured, "Hey, I can make beer, and bread is pretty much the same ingredients assembled in a different way. Why not try it?" There's something tremendously satisfying about combining a bunch of ingredients that don't look or feel anything like the food I turn them into, and then eating (or drinking) it. It feels sort of … magical, I guess.

I AM A FOOD WIZARD! COWER BEFORE MY SILICON SPATULA OF SCRAPING! MUWAHAHAHA!!

Um. Sorry about that.

Yesterday was Ryan's birthday. He turned 22, and a whole bunch of people on Twitter joined me to wish him #HappyBirthdayRyanWheaton. It was pretty amusing to me that I had to write my happy birthday message to him in a way that would make it clear to 1.8 million people that it was, in fact, me writing it, instead of him.

Before I get to work, I have two quick things:

1) Felicia and I are back on Eureka tonight! Come see us on the network-formerly-known as Sci-Fi at 8pm. #TeamParrish

2) DriveThruRPG and Bards & Sages are teaming up for an awesome charity sale called Operation Backpack. Check it out:

August usually means back to school shopping for most Americans. But each year, thousands of children living in homeless shelters and foster care return to school without even the most basic of necessities. Operation Backpack, a program operated by Volunteers of America, helps provided these needed supplies to our country's most vulnerable students and gives them a chance to continue their education.

In an effort to support this wonderful project, Bards and Sages has partnered with other independent authors and publishers to create a special charity ebook bundle. 100% of our profits from this bundle will be donated to Volunteers of America to support Operation Backpack.

This special charity collection includes seventeen independent speculative fiction titles with a retail value of almost $50. A complete list of participating authors can be found on the Bards and Sages website under the Charity tab.

This collection is comprised of two zip files, one containing PDF files and one containing mobi/kindle format files.  Both files contain the same titles, simply offered in different formats.

Oh, did I say two things? I meant three things. 3) In case you missed it, there's a new Humble Indie Bundle.

That's all for now. See you on the Twitters, the Tumblrs, and the Google Plusses.

*Or alot, if you prefer.

an update on the wheaton and son homebrewing experience

Today, Ryan and I racked (that's fancy homebrew language for "moved") our beer from its primary fermentation into its secondary fermentation. We know now that we probably moved it a little early, but since we're learning and everything, we'll just chalk it up to experience and hope for the best.

I've been worried about our beer (I know, I know, that's explicitly contraindicated by the system's operating instructions, but it's part of my firmware), because we made some mistakes: we didn't oxygenate it nearly enough after the coldbreak, we didn't rehydrate the yeast, and we forgot to put liquid into our fermentation lock for close to 24 hours.

Whoops. Kind of important things, there, it turns out. I understand that it isn't the biggest of deals, and we're going to learn from our mistakes for our next batch, but I still feel a little silly for making, well, rookie mistakes.

I never saw bubbles in the fermentation lock (our primary was a bucket), even after we put some vodak into the fermentation lock, but I just hoped for the best … and got a plesant surprise a few days ago when I bumped the lid and the lock bubbled, indicating positive pressure inside, and GOOD THINGS HAPPENING GO YEAST GO HUZZAH! This morning, we took a SG reading and saw that it had moved from 1.045 to 1.022 (temperature corrected). I couldn't find anything in our notes or on the recipe that told me when it was safe to rack it to secondary (which, I also know, isn't something you need to do with an APA, but a choice we made anyway) so I assumed that, since it was a bit more than a week later and the SG had fallen, we were safe to move it and let it keep fermenting in the carboy.

I think we may have racked it too soon, because I'm told by the Twitters that I should have waited until it was closer to 1.018 … and I may have screwed my FG if I didn't get enough active yeast into the secondary.

But even if we messed up, I'm not all that upset about it. It was still really fun and exciting to see and smell our beer for the first time since we locked it away in the fermentor. We're not giving up on this one, and we planned to do another batch pretty soon, anyway. In fact, I have two kits coming from the Brooklyn Brew Shop that we're going to make next week.

Question for the Homebrewers: did we screw up? If we did, how badly did we screw up? I don't think we got enough yeast into the secondary, because there was a huge yeastcake on the bottom of the primary when we were done. Can/should we pitch some more yeast into the carboy?

In which my son and I make our own beer

Ryan is going to be 22 at the end of the month. For those of you who have been here since I wrote the 13 on 31 post, you now know how I feel every single day. The rest of you can get off my lawn before I call your parents.

So the other day, he and I were having a beer together, and Ryan said, "We should make our own beer while I'm home this summer."

I tried homebrewing once when I was about Ryan's age, and it ended … poorly … I've wanted to try again, but I've always been intimidated by what I remembered was a complex and peril-fraught process. When Ryan suggested that we do this, though, the excitement and joy of doing something together gave me a natural 20 on my Save Versus Fear. Besides, even if it's a spectacular failure, it's still something we did together, something we can bond over, and something that will stay with us — success or failure — for the rest of our lives.

"That would be the most awesome father/son activity, ever," I said. "Plus, we get beer when we're finished!"

The next morning, we did a little research online, and the entire process actually looked a lot simpler and more straightforward that I remembered it being coughmumble years ago when I was 22. As long as we could follow a recipe and do our fermentation in a place that was temperature-controlled, we'd probably be able to make some beer that didn't suck.

We found a local homebrewing supply store, and went there yesterday to get our kit and ingredients.

The late afternoon had given way to early evening, but it was still 90 degrees as we parked the car and walked up the sidewalk toward the shop.

"I'm really excited about this," I said, partially because it was true, and partially because I needed to calm the nerves that were working themselves up. What if they laughed at us when we walked in? What if whoever worked there wasn't interested in helping a couple of noobs get started? What if I said something stupid and embarrassed my son?

"Yep," Ryan said.

'Yep'? That's it? 'Yep'? Not "Me too dad this will be awesome!" Not "Yeah, I'm looking forward to this, too." Not even, "Don't embarrass me, dude." Just 'yep'. Okay, Wil, don't blow this.

We walked into the store. It was cool inside, and smelled delightful from all the different types of grain that were in tubs along the walls. A man sat behind a counter at the far side of the room, reading a computer screen. I took a breath, and decided that it was go time.

"Hi," I said, "I tried homebreaing once about 15 years ago, and it was a disaster. My son's home for the summer, though, and we wanted to make our own beer together. Can you help us get started?"

He looked up at me, and smiled. "Sure, just give me one minute."

Awesome.

For the next twenty minutes or so, he literally and figuratively walked us through the entire process, showing us equipment and ingredients, and explaining in simple and precise terms exactly how the whole thing worked. I'm not entirely sure, but I think this guy could cast Dispel Fear as a free action, because by the time he was done, I felt like I was ready to go home and start brewing right away.

"Is there one type of beer that's more difficult than another?"

"Not really," he said. "Most of the beers you're going to make are pretty simple and forgiving. The hardest thing to make, honestly, is something like Budweiser."

Before I could say, "I said beer," he continued: "That's a very pale lager that doesn't leave much margin for error."

So they make that shit taste that way on purpose? And it's difficult? Wow, I learned something today.

"What about a California-style Pale Ale?" I asked, hopefully.

"That's very easy," he told us, "it's one of the most popular styles." He gave us a recipe to follow, and helped us pick out the various ingredients to make it. I thought it was really cool that he didn't just show us where things were, but also explained to us what made each specialty grain unique, how different types yeast worked, and the benefits and risks associated with each one. I never felt like he was trying to sell us anything, but that he was educating and truly helping us. It was really great.

Ryan and I gathered up all our individual ingredients, including Caramel 10L, Caramel 40L, and Columbus and Cascade hops. We paid for everything, and I thanked the guy on our way out.

The whole way home, we talked about what we'd just learned, and I may have repeated several times that I was excited to get started and do this together.

We're going to do our brewing on Sunday, so we can continue to research and learn about the proper way to make it go. I asked Twitter for advice on forums, and here are the most frequently-recommended sites:

Are you a homebrewer? I'd love to hear any advice/warnings/stories you have.

Soup. Black Bean. Hot.

"What are you making?" Anne asked.

I looked up from the cutting board, and put the knife down so I wouldn't somehow cut my hand off when I wasn't looking (yes, I am that clumsy). "Black bean soup," I said.

"Is it from a recipe, or are you winging it?"

"I've made so many different recipes from so many different places, I just looked through the pantry and refrigerator and wung it."

We looked at each other. "Wung it?" I said. "I think I mean I am winging it What's the past-tense of winging it? Wang it? Winged it?"

"I don't know, but it's not 'wung it,'" she said. I couldn't argue with her.

"Anyway, it's fun to feel confident enough in my limited cooking skills to pull together some ingredients and combine them in a way that seems to make sense, based on my previous experiences."

She nodded, and left me to my work.

That was about an hour ago. I'm currently sitting here, eating an absolutely delightful bowl of soup, that's a little sweet and spicy. I'm so proud of myself, I could fart a rainbow (and I probably will in a little while.)

Because I did this on my own, I think I can share the recipe without breaking any rules or stepping on any actual chef's toes, so here you go:

SOUP. BLACK BEAN. HOT.

You need:

1 can black beans

3 tomatoes (I used Romas)

2-3 cloves garlic

1 small yellow onion

1 chipotle chili (you can get these in the Hispanic foods section at the store for next to nothing and they make all sorts of recipes kick ass.)

1 Teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped

1/2 Teaspoon cumin

2 Tablespoons olive oil.

Juice of one lime.

Salt and pepper.

OKAY GO!

Chop the onion and mince the garlic.

Heat the olive oil in a 3qt soup pot or similar-sized saucepan over medium high heat for a minute or so.

Sautee the onion until translucent, about 4 or 5 minutes. While it cooks, chop up the tomatoes into small chunks and chop the oregano if you're using fresh. When the onions are translucent, Add the garlic and cumin, stir it all around, and continue to sautee for about another 2 minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic burn.

Shake up the can of black beans, open it, and pour it all into the soup pot. Stir, and then add the tomatoes and oregano.

Chop up the chipotle chili (you can use more if you want, but be careful not to use too many or all you'll taste is the spiciness, and that's not fun.) Stir again, and then add the chopped chipotle.

Add the lime juice (if you're hardcore, just juice that little green bastard right over the simmering pot, and say some Bond Villain stuff about how you expect it to die.)

Add about 1/3 cup of water (more or less, just don't let it get too watery or too thick) and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, until the beans are tender. 

Add salt and pepper to taste. You can serve it with plan yogurt or sour cream to cut the spiciness if you want.

This recipe made enough to feed me and Anne, though I'm sure it could easily be doubled for more people.

[bee | pu]rrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I saw this image on Geekosystem yesterday. It made me smile, and I thought it was a good excuse to dig this out of the archives:

Snow Pants

You may note that, in the linked image, the adorable cat is sitting next to a "beer", unwilling to even consider drinking it (smart cat) but in this image, Freddy Snowpants (RIP) enjoyed his first Stone Pale Ale so much, he felt strange but also good and couldn't even open his second one.

good evening (and good night)

"I want to have a date tonight. Do you want to have a date tonight?" Maybe I should have passed her a note that said "check yes or no" but after fifteen years together, I often think of these cute and clever things hours after the fact.

Anne looked up from her magazine. "I like having dates with my husband," she said.

"Yeah, I was talking to him online earlier today, and he said that he likes having dates with you."

She closed her magazine and tossed it onto the coffee table. "Where do you want to go?"

"Someplace we haven't gone before. That'll be an adventure."

Yeah, I've been suburbanized so long, going to a restaurant I haven't been to before now qualifies as an adventure. Twenty-two year-old Wil just put down his copy of Naked Lunch long enough to shake his head in either sadness, or disgust, depending on what angle you're looking at him from.

"Let's try that cafe on Raymond," she said.

So we did, and it was amazing, and we'll be going back frequently in the weeks and months to come. 

(Parenthetical highlight: during our meal, a woman in her late 40s, wearing a fur leopard-print bucket hat and a shiny patent leather overcoat sat down next to us. It was such a stunning display of wrongness that I involuntarily stopped talking in mid word, and just stared at Anne. She looked back at me and very calmly said, "I have … comments." I laughed so hard, it must have looked like I was having a seizure.)

After dinner, we went to BevMo to get a present for one of our friends. While we were there, I picked up a Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale and a Rogue Chipotle Ale. 

"I thought we were just here to get [REDACTED BECAUSE OUR FRIEND READS MY BLOG]," Anne said.

"It's so weird when you talk in all caps like that," I said. She looked back at me, patiently.

"Well, we are … but if I don't buy these beers, the terrorists have won."

"What is this, 2003?"

"NEVER FORGET, ANNE."

She gave me a look that said Tired of Your Shenanigans, Next Exit.

I got the message and quietly took my place in line.

(Incidentally, our time in BevMo may not have transpired in precisely that manner, but as I found the creation/retelling of this experience entertaining, I hope you will indulge me this bit of creative memory.)

When we got home, the night was still young, so I suggested we watch a movie together.

"What did you have in mind?" Anne asked.

I turned on our Roku and went to my Netflix queue. "How about … Thank God It's Friday?"

"The Disney movie?"

"What?"

"… oh. That's Freaky Friday. Never mind."

We laughed together. "This is a disco movie that was made in 1978, and features Donna Summer and The Commodores, plus career performances from Debra Winger, Terri Nunn and Jeff Goldblum."

"You had me at 'disco movie,'" she said.

I was delighted to see that it was streaming in HD, thanks to my ISP temporarily forgetting to serve up about a quarter of the bandwidth I'm paying for, which is their custom.

The movie was just spectacular, and a ridiculous amount of fun. If you have 90 minutes and the means to view it, I highly recommend it.

About twenty minutes into the film, Anne paused it and looked at me. "You know what would make this movie even better?"

"Something I wouldn't want to recount on my blog?" I didn't actually say, but you must admit just made you giggle. 

"Scotchy scotch scotch."

"It goes down … down into my belly!"

I went to our liquor cabinet, and pulled out a bottle of Laphroaig. I poured two small glasses and gave her one of them.

"To cheesy 70s disco movies and dates together," I said.

Clink!

"I just love my husband," she said.

"I love you the most," I said.

Twenty-two year-old me turned up Chet Baker on the CD player, and sighed wistfully. He didn't have any idea that in less than a year, he would meet the girl of his dreams.

the frozen pretzel conundrum

I am slowly but steadily finding my way back to that mysterious land where I feel motivated and inspired to write something every day. I blame Fallout: New Vegas for wrapping me up in an interesting world every night, and a giant stack of comic books that reminded me how much I love superhero stories. I've been working on a short short story (about 2K words) that I hope to release soon, but holy shit is it kicking my ass. I have a ton of respect for authors who can stick with a full length (or even 10K or 15K) story, because I am having a very hard time getting out of the "well, this was a good idea, but the execution really sucks" part of the process.

Anyway, that's not why I sat down to write this post. This post is about this frozen box of pretzels I bought yesterday, which can allegedly be heated to perfection in the microwave, dusted with salt (that comes in a handy packet and everything) and then enjoyed the way one enjoys a pretzel that does not suck.

What. A. Load.

Seriously, I don't think there's enough beer and mustard on the planet to make this pretzel — which is more chewy unsatisfying lump of salty dough than what is traditionally understood to be a pretzel — enjoyable.

But it's sitting here, on my desk, looking all sad and lumpy and pathetic, one bite taken out of it, almost apologetic. If this pretzel-like thing could talk, it would probably say, "Hey, man, I'm sorry. When I was at the pretzel place where they make pretzels, I came out of the oven and I was perfect. I was warm, I had that pretzel thing going where the outside of me is slightly thicker than regular crust, so the inside of me was all soft and kind of lighter than regular bread, but when they froze me and put me into the box, well, something just died inside of me, man."

I feel like I should apologize to the pretzel for hating it so much — it's not entirely its fault that it sucks as much as it does — but unlike everything else that surrounds me, this particular inanimate object doesn't seem interested in having a conversation with me that I can transcribe. Uh, beyond the one prepared statement, I guess.

I guess it's my own fault for ignoring a lifetime of disappointing microwavable bread products and ignoring the sage advice of my wife, who said, "That's going to suck, and you're going to be pissed that you bought it, and you keep complaining about feeling tubby so why are you eating pretzels, anyway?"

I guess the moral of the story is: don't go shopping when you're hungry.

In happier news, I have three pretzel-shaped frozen hunks of bread to throw at the next group of surly kids who refuse to get off my lawn.

i really love trader joe’s

This week’s LA Daily is all about an awesome cookbook Anne and I discovered entirely by accident, and how it’s made cooking fun again:

When I was in my early twenties and had the dual luxuries of copious time and disposable income, I loved to cook. I cooked different things all the time, experimented with various styles of cooking and ingredients, and wasn’t afraid to take a chance on something exotic. “What’s the worst that could happen?” I thought. “I’ll just make something different if this doesn’t work out.”

Then I got married and had kids. My days got longer, my responsibilities grew exponentially, and the whole concept of free time became a memory so distant, I wondered if it had ever really existed at all.

I still cooked, but I had a new set of priorities. Instead of grabbing a cookbook and picking out a recipe that looked interesting, I had to ask myself: How long would this take to prepare? How much is it going to cost to feed two growing boys in addition to two adults? How likely is it that the kids I’m working so hard to feed are going to complain about the uniqueness of the meal I’ve prepared? Wouldn’t it just be easier to order take out or throw something in the microwave?

I had resigned myself to a lifetime of culinary boredom until last month, when my wife and I came across a cookbook that singlehandedly made cooking fun, easy, and affordable again. It’s called Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s, and it is exactly what it sounds like: choose a recipe, head into your local Trader Joe’s to pick up the ingredients, and make your friends and family think you’re a hell of a chef.

We’ve been making something different every night since we got this book, and it’s just awesome. I wish I’d discovered it years ago.

fish should be dead 5 hours before deboning


I’m pretty sure that voice over is Mike Rowe, and assuming this is real, there’s no way the people behind this didn’t know exactly what they were doing.
(via cglynne on Twitter)