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In which my kids kill me. I’m dead now.

Today was the kids last day at summer camp, which means it was destined for disaster.

It’s just under two miles to summer camp, so the kids and I ride our bikes, and then I hop on the train. Camp starts at 9, and the train leaves at 9:14, so it’s perfect. However, the next train doesn’t leave for another 30 minutes, so I really don’t want to miss that train.

So we left at a little after 8 and had a nice, leisurely ride to camp. As we were walking into the building, I said to Ollie, “Ollie, where is your backpack?” “Oh, I guess I left it in the car,” he said. “But we didn’t take the car…” I trailed off and Ollie looked at me blankly. A 45 minute bike ride with no backpack. No lunch.

It was about 8:50 and I knew there was no way I could ride my bike back and forth and still catch the 9:14 train, but I figured I might as well just start riding and not bother looking at the train schedule until I was back with the bag; no sense in making a plan without knowing how long it would take.

When you don’t have the kids, you can move a lot faster on a bike (I would argue that a bike is quicker than a car through the neighborhood), and I was peddling as hard as I could. Even with the stops and everything, I got back home in 10 minutes. Could I actually make it back in time for the train? I’d have to hurry. I hoped on my bike and went back the other way. I’d need to gain a few minutes if I was going to have a chance, so I tried to push harder, even though my legs were already pretty tired.

By the time I made it back and locked my bike up, my legs were a bit wobbly. Unfortunately, the return trip took me 10 minutes as well. I ran the bag in and dropped it off and hurried back out. 9:12. It seemed crazy, but the last thing I wanted to do was get up on the platform as the train was pulling away, and then have to sit there for 30 minutes. I was so close.

I ran.

As I was mounting the stairs to the station, I could hear the train pulling in on the platform. “Run!” I said to my legs. “Run!” They literally could not, and I’m not joking that my rubbery legs almost gave out on the stairs. Then I was up on the platform and the last passenger was getting on the train. This time my legs managed it, and I ran for all I was worth. I was so. close.

The conductors saw me huffing and puffing along and held the train for me (bless their hearts), which means I made it. The train was crowded, so I had to sit right next to someone, sweating like a monster and trying to catch my breath. My heart felt like it was going to burst, and my fingers were trembling so badly I almost couldn’t type to Sara, but I explained the whole disaster via text.

Me: “…sweat is just dripping down me. Home and back, lock up the bike, deliver the bag, then run to the train in 24 minutes. Put it on my tombstone. I’m dead.”
Sara: “That’s what you get for long shirt and pants.”

Let it be known that Sara’s last words to her husband were, “I told you so.”

I got a new job, part 2

So, as mentioned previously, I got a new job.

I didn’t mean to be vague in that post; I just honestly didn’t think anybody would care very much! But since so many people are asking about the job, I thought I better go into a bit more detail.

The long and the short of it is that my job doesn’t really change much. I work on user interfaces for computer programs. Whether those programs are used by rocket scientists, or automotive engineers, or now architects and construction firms, at the core they are still just buttons and checkboxes and pixels on a screen. You’d be surprised at how little difference the domain actually makes on how you program.

So I’m still programming, just sitting in a different location. What I’m not doing is managing. All of the hiring, planning, presentations, supervising, tech support, sales…all of that stuff is someone else’s job now. That’s kind of amazing! I haven’t been able to focus on just the programming for a long, long time.

I’m also really digging the train. I do have to keep my schedule handy, but it’s so wonderful to just leave the house and hop on a train. I don’t even need to bring my keys with me when I leave the house! Crazy. And it’s really nice getting some walking in, to and from work. Always before I just sat, and sat, and sat. Now I get to get out, see the sights, you know? Really…smell the smells of Chicago. And boy are there smells downtown. Yowza.

The job is cool. I mean sooo tragically hip, you have no idea. I keep thinking “this is too good to be true, somebody pinch me”, and then they come around and go, “Sign up on the list, we’re buying everybody smoothies!!” (This is not an exaggeration; apparently it’s monthly.)

The downside of all this tragic hipness, is that it actually kind of makes me feel old. It’s been 9 years since I’ve started a new job, and I kind of forgot how hard it is. I’m used to doing things a certain way, and I’m used to knowing everything, inside and out. I’m used to being in charge. Suddenly I have to figure everything out all over again, and ask all the hip youngsters to teach me how to do these new tricks. I have to keep reminding myself that 1) I just started, I shouldn’t know how to do anything yet, but it will come with time, and 2) getting to learn a bunch of new things is a feature, not a bug.

But that’s really a rather minor concern. I feel very compelled to do a good job, show them that they made a good choice by hiring me, so I just feel a bit of frustration sometimes that I’m not yet operating at peak efficiency.

One of the main things the company focuses on when looking at candidates is personality. Because of that, everybody is super outgoing and friendly. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Company culture is a really, really big deal to them (to us!) so they have a very intense training / orientation period at the headquarters in Pasadena.

So they wanted me to come to Pasadena for 3 weeks, and I said, “my wife will kill me”. They said, “we don’t want your family to feel anything other than excitement over you joining the company” which is pretty damn classy, if you ask me.

So instead I spent 2 weeks in Pasadena, which is a lovely town that is ABSOLUTELY CHOCK FULL of amazing restaurants. I mean, seriously. And I was living out of a hotel room, so I just HAD to go out for every meal. It was a rough life. I may or may not have had 12 year old bourbon WITH BACON IN IT.

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I guess we’ll never know.

I also managed to meet up with a dozen or so SoCal writers who I ‘Internet-know’ but hadn’t met in real life. That was definitely a highlight of the trip. Everyone was even more wonderful than I imagined they would be.

All joking aside, two weeks is a long time to live out of a hotel with your wife and kids on a two hour time difference, and I was very ready to come home. With all the new stuff I’m learning, I kind of need the routine and stability of home to balance it out. I knew it would be busy starting a new job and changing up our routines, but I didn’t really realize *how* busy it would be. For the past month or so, I have had very little time (you may have noticed a lack of blogging lately).

So here’s to getting back to the routine, settling in, and letting the ‘new’ become the ‘old’.

::raises a glass::

::eats bacon out of said glass::

Pirate Party

Since I was gone for a couple of weeks (more on that in a post later this week), we just now got around to celebrating Evelyn’s birthday. Evie had the idea to do a “murder mystery” party (you know, like most 8 year olds), but they strangely don’t make a lot of those for kids.

Sara looked around online and found a company that makes kid-friendly equivalents. However, there were like 8 princess ones, and Evelyn said, “absolutely not” to that idea. So instead, we ended up with pirates.

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It turns out, hosting a pirate mystery party is a tremendous amount of work. Not only do you have to prepare everything for the kit and come up with really awesome food ideas, you also have to deal with the fact that the company involved thought it would be a really good idea to have the scavenger hunt lead to rooms such as “the master bedroom” and “the main bathroom”. And you can’t just stuff all the mess in a closet or something because, hello, it’s a scavenger hunt, where do you think the kids are going to start digging first?

So, yeah, lots and lots of cleaning.

Of course, Evelyn also demanded a chocolate cheesecake, because it can’t be easy, right?

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Luckily we borrowed a truly authentic looking pirate chest for the grand finale (filled with Pirate’s Booty, natch). We gathered clues, solved mysteries, swabbed the deck, played pirate guessing games, and told pirate jokes, but when the kids found that pirate chest, they lost their freaking minds. I doubt real pirates, with real gold, were ever so excited about finding a treasure chest. Or, if they were that excited, I bet their screams were not quite so high pitched.

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Despite the tremendous amount of work, I don’t think I exaggerate to say it was the best party I’ve ever given. Everybody had a blast (even the adults), and it lived up to all of Evelyn’s expectations (something that, needless to say, is difficult to manage on the best of days).

I’m already a little nervous about what she’ll want next year…

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Quote Monday is not a compliment

Evie: “It smells like daddy in here.”
Me: “Well, that’s an improvement.”
Evie: “No, it’s not a compliment. Daddy smells weird.”

::Me, trying on a new shirt::
Ollie: “That looks fancy on you! …Even though it’s tight.”

Ollie: “When you wear your favorite clothes, they don’t have to match.”

Ollie: “It’s so hot in the car, I don’t even want to open my mouth.”

It must have been HOT!

Gumby Goes to the Movies

Did you ever wonder what your favorite movies would look like if re-done in claymation, Gumby-style?

Well of course you have!

And that’s exactly what you’ll get at Gumby Goes to the Movies. I mean, it’s pretty self explanatory. Take a famous, recognizable scene from a movie and insert Gumby. Movies range from the very recent:

To the classics:

To the REAL classics:

You know, there is nothing I love more than people spending countless hours on something for absolutely no reason at all. And we call that, “The Internet”.

Burst Tomato Galette with Corn and Zucchini

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

Recently, I received this email from Sara in regards to the recipe:

“This is not on your blog?!  Must be made, photographed, and eaten weekly in august.  Get ready.”

And here we are.

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The Journey:

You don’t *have* to start with corn from the grill, but on the other hand, why wouldn’t you?

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I really don’t remember how we stumbled upon this recipe in the first place. This is one of those recipes where the sum is greater than the whole of its parts. I mean, sure it sounds good, and that’s why we tried it. But once the first forkful hits your mouth…

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I do want to mention that the dough is the stickiest thing you can imagine. Even though I’m telling you this, there will still come a time when you think you’ve made a mistake. You can’t possibly flatten this into something flat, and even if you did, it would never turn out.

That is just a normal part of the process.

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Somehow you manage to form this sticky mess into something resembling a sloppy pizza and you think, “What a disaster. I am definitely not making this again.” And then you eat it, and then you don’t really care what it looked like while you were making it.

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The Verdict:

Om nom nom nom nom!

This is the perfect summer meal. Tomatoes, corn, and zucchini, and just enough cheese to pull it all together. The crust is like magic; somehow it comes out perfect every time, no matter how sure you are that *this time* you messed it up.

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The Recipe:

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen:

For the pastry:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup ice water

For the filling:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse Kosher or sea salt
  • 3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1 ear corn, cut from the cob (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small zucchini or summer squash, diced
  • 1 bundle scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

Glaze:

  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Make dough:

  1. Whisk stir the flour and salt in the food processor.
  2. Cut in bits of butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture.
  4. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

Make filling:

  1. Add olive oil, tomatoes, salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes to your saute pan then cover and heat over high heat. Roll the tomatoes around from time to time so that they’ll cook evenly.
  2. In a few minutes, you’ll hear some putts and pops as the tomatoes burst a little. When most have, remove lid, turn heat down to medium and add zucchini chunks.
  3. Saute for two minutes, until they soften.
  4. Add corn and cook one minute.
  5. Add scallions, just stirring them in, then turn off heat.
  6. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  7. Transfer mixture to a large plate and spread it out, so that it will cool faster. You want it cooled to at least lukewarm before assembling the galette.

Assemble galette:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round and it really doesn’t need to be perfectly shaped.
  3. Sprinkle tomato-zucchini-corn mixture with half of parmesan and spoon the mixture into the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. If any liquid has puddle in plate, try to leave it there as you spoon.
  4. Sprinkle with almost all of remaining parmesan, leaving a pinch or two behind for the crust.
  5. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.
  6. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze. Sprinkle glaze with last pinches of parmesan.

Bake the galette:

  1. For 30 to 40 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.
  2. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Oz Park

The kids and I recently had a chance to check out Oz Park.

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