Finally, a book for my children

I finally found a picture book suitable for the impressionable young minds of my children: The Very Hungry Zombie.

It’s practically identical to the original Eric Carle version, both in illustration and style. “On Wednesday he gnawed on three football players. But he found them tough and gritty.” (Yeah, that’s an actual excerpt…no word on if the zombie gets a tummy ache at the end of his feeding frenzy.)

So now my children can learn how to count as well as learn about the unceasing menace of the undead. Two zombies with one headshot birds with one stone!

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Baconfest 2013, Taste Test

Of course, the main feature of baconfest is the annual taste test. We had a nice collection of bacons this year. We didn’t get as many sort of rare or local varieties as I would have liked (especially compared to last year), but overall I thought everything was really good. It was a pretty wide range of flavors and appearances.

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Nathan:

Brand Rating (1-10) Comments
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  5  Good crisp – Light
Sobie Meats  6  A lot more tasty fat (by tasty I mean full body) thicker cut but still a crunch.
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  4  All the fat was at the end instead of throughout
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  2  super thing – nice for crunch but lacked flavor
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  5  very similar to #1. A good flavor, very light.

Amanda:

Brand Rating (1-10) Comments
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  7  Sweet. Thin. I liked the crispiness
Sobie Meats  2  Very meaty taste is strong. Like fish.
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  5  Smokey & salty
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  6  Not much flavor. A good breakfast bacon.
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  7  Taste is very different in a good way. I like how thin it is.

Sara:

Brand Rating (1-10) Comments
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  8  thin (which is nice), no overpowering flavors which is also nice
Sobie Meats  5  blah. has sort of a stale flavor, a little chewy
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  7.5  a little sweet, a little salty, tastes liek a delicious campfire
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  4  I confess to recognizing this one. Honestly, it tastes like nothing, which is better than I expected. The texture is fine
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  6  Has a subtly sweet flavor. Not bad, nothing fantastic either. Also, thin in a good way.

2013_04_06_9899Shane:

Brand Rating (1-10) Comments
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  5  average bacon, decent taste, bacon size was a little uneven
Sobie Meats  8  good appearance, just the right amount of fatty, good after taste, a little smokey
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  9  great flavor, salty, little fatty
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  2  blech
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  8  good taste, a little different, more tough than I usually like, but it all came together for me

Evie:

Brand Rating (1-10) Comments
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  6  smiley face
Sobie Meats  1  frowny face
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  2  unsure face
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  10  smiley face
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  8  smiley face

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Overall Results:

Brand Average Rating Average Rating (with Evie)
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  6.25  6.2
Sobie Meats  5.25  4.4
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  6.375  5.5
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  3.5  4.8
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  6.5  6.8

Very, very close this year. I can’t believe that Trader Joe’s bacon has won 2 out of 3 years! That’s crazy. It’s also interesting that the winner didn’t change with the inclusion of Evie’s rankings.

Ollie’s ballot was exactly what you would think Ollie’s ballet would be, each one signed with an “O” to be sure there was no hanky panky.

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I would like to talk for a minute about the Tactical Bacon from ThinkGeek.

Even though it lost pretty badly, everyone was very impressed with the TacBac. This can of bacon has been sitting in my pantry for more than THREE YEARS. Sara was so disgusted by the idea of it, that she couldn’t even look at the can. And given all that, i would put it up against any of the “precooked” bacons on the market. It was remarkable, and certainly worth eating in the case of a zombie apocalypse. In fact, you’ll notice Evie gave it a full 10! I think this is probably because she doesn’t like strong tastes and it has a pretty muted flavor, but nonetheless, if anybody can give old bacon from a can a 10, I think we’ve got a winner. (Full disclosure, I did drop the slices in the bacon grease from one of the other bacons to better disguise it.)

Bacon Level 11

Some people get tired of all the stupid April Fools jokes that run around on the Internet. It seems like every company has some “joke” up their sleeve, to the point where there’s just no chance of anybody tricking you on that day.

On the other hand, I like it. April Fools day has turned into something like an Internet holiday. Wearing a green, pseudo-Irish outfit and drinking beer doesn’t make sense either, but everybody goes along with it because it’s St. Patrick’s day, and why not? Putting out a silly fake ad or doing something dumb on your website is the April 1st equivalent of wearing green. It shows you’re participating.

So, in honor of the 3rd annual baconfest this weekend, I give you Scope’s contribution this year: bacon flavored mouthwash, “for breath that sizzles”

This is the perfect example of an April fools joke. It’s a ridiculous and terrible idea, and yet it’s *just* plausible enough that a bunch of talking head idiots at a company might try to capitalize on the bacon sensation. Plus, there’s some serious production value on that commercial. It’s more enjoyable than a lot of actual commercials.

ThinkGeek, on the other hand, continues to use April Fools “pranks” as a way of beta testing perfectly good ideas to see what people actually want to buy. Seriously guys, there is an art to a good April fools joke. You have to start by making something that’s ridiculous, and then convince me, despite my skepticism, that it is a real thing. That’s a well done joke. Just showing me some products that you could make and sell, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet, is not a joke.

Scope link via Sylvain (and it should be mentioned this video came out *before* April fools, lending it credibility).

I wish I had these when I was a kid

Remember those little army men you used to play with when you were little? I used to love those things, but what could you really do with them? Not much. And honestly, is it really appropriate to have kids waging little wars? Probably not.

UNLESS those army men were doing something a little more constructive than fighting wars, such as fighting zombies. Thanks to ThinkGeek you can now get scaled down zombie and zombie fighter army men.

Not just for kids either: now you can practice your zombie plans easily and accurately. You want to talk about constructive toys that can really teach your kids something worthwhile…

ThinkGeek, my love for you knows no bounds

Most catalogs or emails from companies are an annoyance. Maybe you bought one item one time, and now you are forever cursed to receive correspondence from this company. Page after page of crap you don’t want. But every once in awhile, you have a company that is just totally on your wavelength. Every single item is awesome, and receiving a catalog or email from them puts a smile on your face. For me, ThinkGeek is that company (Probably less useful than Sara’s company, which is Boden, and actually sells useful clothes and stuff). Just when I think they’ve exhausted the total list of possible cool items, here’s two totally new items that are totally awesome.

Item 1 – The Panic Button Light Switch

Basically, it’s just a kit to replace a standard light switch with a mad-scientist-laboratory-emergency-cutoff-style giant red button.

It seems so obvious when you see it, doesn’t it? How much more dramatic would turning lights on and off become if you could slap a big red emergency button to perform the task? And you can even turn the button like a dial for a dimmer switch. A little too expensive to actually replace all the switches in your house maybe, but still a great idea.

Item 2 – Scizza Pizza Cutter

Okay, you can’t improve on something as simple and straightforward as the pizza cutter, right? Wrong.

Okay, at first it seems crazy, but bear with me on this one. If you think about a regular pizza cutter, it’s not exactly perfect. First off, we often bake our pizza in a cookie sheet, so I can never cut through the very edge of the crust because the wheel hits the lip of the pan. Then, I have to run the cutter back and forth to get all the way through, but I never quite hit the same line, so I just end up making multiple shallow cuts. So there is some room for improvement, and this design would probably handle those issues. Also, once the pizza finally is cut, I usually turn the pizza cutter sideways and use that as a spatula. So it was particularly brilliant to include a built in spatula on the bottom. Besides, with a regular cutting wheel, cutting on the pan must wear out the blade, right? Another problem solved. Brilliant, top to bottom.

(Side note, literally as I was writing this post, ThinkGeek just emailed me to tell me they had deposited bonus Geek Points into my account. Coincidence? Maybe. Creepy? For sure. I told you they were in my head, they even know what I’m typing!)

Harry Potter and the end of an era

Over the weekend, Sara and I had to go to a movie to maintain our average of 1 movie in the theater a year since Evie was born. Just to recap, the other 3 moves were Slumdog Millionaire, Public Enemies, and Avatar. That’s right, we go to so few movies in the theater, each one is worth a blog post. Now, 2 of those movies were really good. But if you’re only going to see 1 movie a year, you can’t afford to have just an average movie in there. So this time, we didn’t want to waste it, so we saw the last of the Harry Potter movies.

I saw a lot of people being bummed about the end of the long-running series, and calling this the “end of an era”. I don’t know, I just didn’t feel any sentimentality over it. Maybe it was because I was into the books more so than the movies, so my era already ended. Certainly I was very excited to see the movie (but then again, that might just have been the fact that Sara and I were getting away from the kids for the 4th time ever), but I didn’t feel any sense of loss or absence or whatever afterwards.

The movie was really good. It was fast paced (after all, they had to wrap up an 8 movie series in just over 2 hours, which the shortest of all the movies), it was well done, it was superbly acted (especially Alan Rickman), and it did everything it needed to do, which is apparently harder in a series finale than you might guess.

Now that all is said and done, I doubt I’ll ever go back and watch the movies again. I tried watching the first one awhile ago, and man is it silly. I didn’t notice at the time, but now that we’ve seen the darker movies, it’s hard to go back to the early, goofy ones. It’s how they had to do them, however.

In fact, I’ll go on record saying that’s the single biggest reason why the Harry Potter series was successful.

The books (and consequently the movies) started out as kids books, but they didn’t stay that way. They grew with the audience. Children who read the first book at an appropriate age were 10 years older when the final book came out. If the books would have continued to be written for children, they would have ceased to be interesting to the kids who were no longer kids.

So the question is, will something like Harry Potter ever happen again? Well sure, in the sense that there will always be some sort of high-selling-cultural-phenomenon that everybody just has to go see. So in that sense, I guess Twilight is/was the new Harry Potter? There are a couple of significant differences though, and not the least of them is the fact that Twilight focused on a much narrower audience (mostly teenage girls)(and before you yell at me, I read them all, so don’t try to tell me they’re not focused on teenage girls), and Harry Potter has something for everybody.

I would certainly think that making 8 movies with virtually the same cast would be the hardest part of it. To me, that is the most amazing part, and I’m still impressed they were able to do it. Think of everything that had to go into that. You had to have actors that were able to carry on the roles that long (consider how many were unknowns, and how many started as kids and ended as adults). You have to have no scheduling conflicts or egos demanding more money (maybe that last is the hardest one). You have to have a studio that is really committed to doing everything right, with no egos on their end who demand changes or certain directors, etc. You have nobody who decides they don’t want to be typecast, or wants to move on to something new (I guess this goes back to the ego thing, but hey! This is Hollywood! Ego plays a big part.)

So that’s it I guess. I’m looking forward to someday reading the books with Evie and Oliver. That won’t be for quite some time I think.

Oh, a final note about seeing movies in 3D…I’m over it. The 3D in the movie was interesting, maybe even neat, but at the end of the day, it added nothing. It is certainly not worth paying a couple of bucks extra to see. Movie studios won’t stop doing it until we stop paying for it people. Stop them now before there are no 2D options left! (Of course, we can always go buy 2D glasses from ThinkGeek to down-convert 3D movies into 2D movies…)

Christmas Extravaganza

We went to church on Christmas Eve, and Evie was really excited. However, we’re still struggling to find a Christmas service that both starts at a reasonable time, and is around an hour or so long. They tend to draaaaag. I understand, you want to get your big choir in, and read all the best readings, and have a Christmas play, etc., but it is very, very stressful to try to keep Evie entertained and quiet while all of this is going on. Especially when you factor in that you have to get there 30 minutes early if you want a seat.

There were still some good moments though, like Evie playing peekaboo with the president of the Cook County board, who sat right behind us. The big thing for Evie was singing Christmas music. Of course, she likes the more commercialized songs and the church ones tend toward the religious. She asked me if we were going to sing Deck the Halls and I was like, “I don’t think so honey.” She likes Hark the Herald Angel Sings, so I thought we might have a better chance with that. However, when we looked in the program, sure enough, Deck the Halls was on there! Who would have thought?

Of course, once we opened the door to Deck the Halls, as far as Evie was concerned, everything was fair game:

Evie: “Are we going to sing Santa Baby?”

Of course, Deck the Halls was at the end of the service and Evie didn’t quite make it. It was a big relief to me when she fell asleep, since I didn’t have to threaten her anymore, but I knew she would be disappointed that she missed it. The first question she asked when she woke up was, “Was it beautiful?” Then she made us all sing it when we got home in reenactment.

As far as the presents go, there were so many under the tree that the meager additions from Santa sort of went unnoticed. The presents I was most excited about were the balance bike, the sizable donations to college funds, the “my first bacon” from Uncle Nathan, and the beautiful, amazing doll house that Sara and Anna had when they were little (which Evie adores).

The bacon, in particular, has caused quite a stir. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said, “I’m bacon!” in the past few days. It was a present for Oliver, but Evie is the one who keeps playing with it.

Evie: “Mommy, shh! Bacon is sleeping!”

However, there were two presents that really take the cake.

Well, the first wasn’t technically even a present. For months now, Evie has insisted that the only thing she wanted for Christmas was a new bed upstairs where everyone else sleeps. Her bedroom is downstairs, by itself, and she’s terrified. It makes me feel pretty bad. So naturally she wants to sleep upstairs where everybody else is, and who could blame her? So, since Santa gave her a bed last year, she figured he’d be good for another one this year.

So my mom had a trundle bed she was willing to give up, so we got that to put into Oliver’s bedroom upstairs. We tried to make it very clear that it was not a Christmas present. It’s Oliver’s big boy bed in Oliver’s room, that he doesn’t mind sharing with her while he’s not using it. Her bed, and bedroom, remain downstairs.

For my part, the grand prize was my new accordion. I have really been wanting to learn how to play the accordion for some time now. I don’t know the first thing about it, but you know what they say: the first step is buying the accordion!

Something tells me you might hear a thing or two about the accordion on the blog in the future…