Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quality Time

If you were to ask my son (and I have) what his favorite thing to do at home is, he would tell you "wrestle with Daddy".  If you asked me the same question when I was his age, I would have told you the same.  We dads have the privilege of being our children's best buddy if only for a short time.

In an age where we are becoming increasingly reliant on electronics and media to occupy our idle time, we are growing farther and farther apart as a society.  What would we do without our wii's, our 360's, our ipods, our laptops, our cell phones, our text messages, our facebook and yes, this blog?  If an enormous electromagnetic pulse hit the earth and every electronic device died simultaneously, rather than a chaotic panic, I believe there would be a prolonged silence as we all try to comprehend life without our gadgets.  We would not be able to function.

I visited with a friend the other day.  This friend is a facebook friend, he and I graduated high school together and we now live in the same town.  The town we live in is only about 3000 people and is the town we both grew up in, moved away from and moved back to.  He and I spoke face to face for the first time in more than 10 years.  I told him it was pretty sad that I felt it adequate to check up on my friends via facebook instead of picking up the phone and talking to them.  How pathetic is that?  What's even more sad is that my 5 year-old son is following in my footsteps.

We dads have an enormous responsibility to our children.  We need to instill in our children at an early age that we are creatures of community.  We need people in our lives.  We need to have social skills to be a contributing individual to society.  We need to know and be fully known.  We need to wrestle.

I am going to make it a point to spend more time with my son.  The computer usage will be at a time that doesn't take up his time with me.  There will come a day when I don't have a child to kiss goodnight anymore.  We dad's have to make it a point to give our children our time.  While you are practicing your body to body suplex or the figure four leg lock, you may just teach them a life lesson.  Spend some time with your kids today.  They will love you for it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Trying to Get Noticed


Remember when you were in high school and your dream girl walked down the hallway?  If you were like me, you just stood there staring--never saying a word.  Well, blogging is very similar.  When someone blogs, they are like that girl that everyone is afraid to approach because she is out of their league, so they only look; they don't get to know her.  I hope my blog has the opportunity for people to get to know.  I enjoy hearing comments on my thoughts and ideas, and I am really enjoying this blog.  Tell someone you know to check out my blog and post a comment.  I promise I won't bite.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


What do Juan Valdez, Orville Redenbacher and Mike Mills have in common?  You have no clue because you don't know who Mike Mills is?  He is the "King" of BBQ and will be the subject of a future post.  The answer is they are all tied to foods and drink that smell as good as they taste.  It is almost torture to have to wait for the finished product each of these men represent, but it is, especially in the area of coffee, definitely worth the wait.  Today's post will focus on coffee--a brief history, home brewing and coffee from establishments.

Now, I have to tell you up front that I am a novice coffee drinker.  I started drinking coffee when I had an hour and two minute commute while I was working sixteen hour days.  I had no choice but to turn to coffee to get me through my trip.  Once I did start drinking coffee, I was introduced to a whole world of flavor sensations.

According to Wikipedia, coffee dates back to the fifteenth century Ethiopians who were the first to discover the energizing affect of the coffee bean plant.  The word "coffee" entered the English language in 1598 via the Dutch word koffie.  At that time the Dutch colonies were the main suppliers of coffee to Europe.  Gabriel de Clieu brought coffee seedlings to Martinique in the Caribbean around 1720.  The plants flourished and by the 19th century had spread all across South America.  Today coffee continues to be a commodity traded on the open market.

So, you either are a coffee drinker and are sitting there asking, "What are you going to tell me about making coffee at home?  I already make a pretty good pot of coffee."  Or, you don't drink coffee and you are asking yourself, "Why am I reading this.  I hate coffee."  Well, I used to be one that didn't drink it because the coffee I had before was garbage.  If you have some good coffee, you may change your mind.  Those of you who already drink it and have your preferences, feel free to comment at the end.  I welcome any feedback.  

Most people have a coffee pot in their kitchen; even many of you who don't drink coffee have a pot somewhere in the cupboard.  You never know when you will need it for guests.  I will at least help you with making that rare pot for those guests, so you don't scare them away.  Things you will need:  fresh coffee (emphasis on fresh), filtered water and a coffee maker.  There are all types of coffee makers; the most typical being the automatic drip coffee maker.  If you have a percolator, I can't help you.  My rule of thumb for making coffee is to use one level tablespoon for every cup.  What's a cup?  8oz.? That 16 oz. travel mug?  The cup marks on the carafe?  1 cup is six ounces of water.  Now, if you go by the marks on your carafe, your coffee will be way too strong.  Those marks are at five ounce increments.  You have to measure out your water.  After you have the right ratio of coffee to water, you are good to go.  Put the grounds in a filter that fits your coffee maker, put the water in and turn it on.  Voila!  You may buy some coffee that says to use two tablespoons per cup, in that case I would do it because of the difference in the grind.  

Speaking of the grind.  I mentioned that you need fresh coffee.  The coffee you buy at the store sitting on the shelf, says it's fresh, but more than likely it was ground weeks ago and has lost a lot of its flavor.  I recommend grinding your coffee and only grind what you intend to use in the next day or so.  A grinder is an added expense but worthwhile if you want to really enjoy your java.  If you do go with the store bought stuff, brand isn't always the indicator of being the best.  Some of the best coffee I have enjoyed is Eight O'Clock Coffee, very good stuff and for the money is quite a good buy.  Make sure to keep your coffee in the refrigerator (the freezer is even better) because the cold slows the oxidation and evaporation process of the ground coffee.  If you have whole bean coffee, you are not releasing the essential oils until you grind it which is why freshly ground coffee tastes better.  Filtered water is also a key ingredient.  Tap water is no good because of all of the deposits in the water prevent the flavor compounds from fully releasing during the brewing process and you end up with a cup of coffee that tastes "muddy".  Filtered or bottled water is best--stay away from distilled (you need some trace minerals).

Now for my favorite part, talking about establishment coffee.  Like I said, I am still a novice coffee drinker, but I do have my favorites just as all you do.  I am always open for new experiences, so if you have a favorite I don't list, please let me know so I can try it.  I have to start with my favorite coffee, Starbucks.  I know!  It is expensive!  Tell me about it.  I wish I hated it, but I don't.  I like their plain coffee, I like their holiday blend, and there are so many different types of coffee I like from there.  My drink of choice there is the Venti Caramel Macchiato.  It has a double shot of espresso, some milk and caramel, and it is awesome!  My second favorite has to be Casey's Kona Blend coffee.  Very nice flavor, but I highly doubt it has much Kona coffee in it.  McDonald's coffee isn't too bad.  I like my coffee on the dark side, so I don't mind their coffee.  The coffee shop in the Goodwill store in Springfield isn't too bad.  Very nice people run it.  Burger King coffee isn't good.  I stay away.

Well, all of this talk about coffee has me wanting a cup.  Again, I welcome all comments and suggestions on other establishments to go to for coffee.  Thank you for reading.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wet Shaving

When did our dad's decide that throw away razors and shaving cream out of a can was the right thing to do?. What was it that made them think that a not-so-close shave was an alright trip? Yes, we like the rugged look, but if you have a job in a field other than hunting guide, archaeology or beard model you have to go under the knife on a regular basis. I know, it is a drag--literally--a daily chore we painfully endure. Without the right tools, we are doomed to a life of razor burn and styptic pencils.

Alas, there is wet shaving. "What is this you speak of?," you ask. Wet shaving is how our fathers were brought up shaving. It involves a straight razor or safety razor (my preference), some shave soap and mug or shave cream in a bowl, and a shave brush. The method is simple. You soften your beard with heat and water (the shower works best for me), you keep your face wet, you lather on some soap or cream and you shave it off. You can find several more detailed descriptions of the process on MSNBC and .

I have been wet shaving for 6 months, and I actually enjoy shaving now. I borrowed an old Gillette butterfly safety razor from my dad, bought a cheap boar's hair brush, some awesome shave cream (more on this later) and some $1.99 Personna razor blades. I used to use a Gillette Fusion. The replacement blade cartridges would last me maybe a week if I was lucky and at $4 per cartridge, shaving was getting expensive. Besides that I wasn't getting a close shave after the first two shaves. I was introduced to wet shaving and I won't go back. The closeness of the shave, the fragrance of the shave cream and the absence of razor burn have made me a believer.

I recently replaced my hand-me-down razor with a new Merkur Futur safety razor. I picked it up from Vintage Blades . I went with an adjustable razor just so I could fine tune the shave. I am looking for the closest shave I can get. There are many much less expensive models out there as well as non adjustable models all giving a quality shave. The Futur is super heavy and glides across my face. When I upgraded my razor, I also upgraded my brush from a boar's hair brush to a pure badger brush from Vulfix . The reason you need a brush is two reasons, first the brush exfoliates your skin to allow the shave cream or soap to better penetrate your skin to help moisturize and it allows for a closer shave. If you start looking at brushes, you will find that they can get pretty expensive, but pure badger brushes are immeasurably better than boar's hair. Badger hair is softer and holds water a lot better than boar's hair, and the boar's hair brush I had lost bristles all of the time. Last, I upgraded my razor blades to some Feather Hi-stainless blades, and according to are some of the highest rated blades for closeness. I haven't tried these out yet, but I will update my findings.

I wanted to set aside a paragraph about the save cream that I use because this is some awesome stuff. After reading the MSNBC article, I bought my first brush and continued to use my regular shave cream out of the can until my first tub of Taylor of Old Bond Street shave cream arrived. I didn't notice a huge difference using the brush with the canned cream. I could not believe the difference when my tub arrived. This stuff is awesome. It lathers like no other shave cream I have ever tried. The other big difference I noticed was when I used the Taylor cream, my face was still moist after shaving. With the canned stuff my face felt dried out like I just washed my face with alcohol. Their fragrances are something also. The first tub I got was lavender, and you may laugh, but that scent was pleasant when going through my morning ritual before work. That tub has lasted me 6 months, so you do get your money's worth out of it. The most recent scent I picked up from Vintage Blades is Shave Shop. This fragrance reminds me of the smell of the barber shop my brother and I went to when we were little. It is great.

If you are tired of hacking through the underbrush during your morning routine, try wet shaving. For a small investment, you will have a more enjoyable experience and will start your day on the right foot.