The Hatfields and McCoys, oregano and Gumby.

The History Channel has been showing the miniseries, “Hatfields and McCoys”, with tonight being the grand finale.  Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton and a slew great actors took on this project and I have to say, it’s been pretty good.  Costner is a great actor, as is Paxton.  Honestly, at the end of the day it’s about two families who hate each other and kill, kill, kill until they get tired of killing, then they stop.  Not much to base a 6-hour mini-series on, but overall they did a real nice job.  I love the name Powers Booth.  (He plays an elder Hatfield, who also happens to be the Justice of the Peace.)  It takes a lot of balls to name your son, Powers.  But, it works.  Anyway….you should watch this.

Every year, I plant a garden.  Lately it’s been a modified potted garden, but still, it’s a garden.  My focus is on herbs, hot peppers and tomatoes.  I love oregano, mint and basil.  When it comes time to buy the plants, I turn into this herb-crazed addict who can’t get enough plants.  I tell myself every year, “Craig, you don’t need eight oregano plants.”  I promised myself this year I would scale back.  You can only dry so much oregano, right?  At last check, I had seven oregano plants going.  If only you could dry it and smoke it.  Then I would be high and rich.  I did find a spectacular hot oregano this year and it is VERY good.  Anyway, if you need some oregano…let me know.

What the hell happened to Gumby?  He used to be so popular and now its like he swims with the fishes.  Did someone kill Gumby off?  I need to know.  Gumby, I think, was the by-product of a three day binder of cocaine and Jack Daniels, but he was a brilliant invention.  Who doesn’t love a oddly-shaped, green thing with eyes?  Anyway, I am sitting here anxiously awaiting his comeback.  Gumby could so kick Strawberry Shortcake’s ass.

I wonder what would happen if Gumby and Pokey had a familial war with Strawberry Shortcake and Apple Dumpling…


Satellite radio, pampers and my struggle with cilantro.

Happy Memorial Day.  I would be remiss if I didn’t wish all of our Veterans the very best and to send them my prayers and gratitude.

XM radio is one of the coolest things ever.  You kids today can have your ipads and apps and all that jazz–I’ll take my satellite radio.  I can listen to Big Band music (40’s on 4 is awesome), and catch up on the latest news on NPR and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I love it.  Love.  Old time radio shows, politics, and every kind of music under the sun.  You can even catch up on Canada as I found out today.  Glorious.  I haven’t used the word “glorious” in a long time.  (Maybe ever.)

How many diapers go into the trash each day in America?  I wondered this as I changed my son Brantley for the second time in 15 minutes today.  Note to self: Feed your child watermelon and he will shit.  A lot.  I also wondered how much is spent per day on diapers and wipes.  It has to be astronomical.  It has to be a daily amount that eclipses most businesses.  Who invented the disposable diaper?  Are they as rich as I think they would HAVE to be?  What did caveman children do for diapers?  If the Neanderthal people had A and D ointment, would they have survived and be a flourishing race in America?  All of these questions entered my mind while changing 2 diapers in 15 minutes.  My mind needs rest…

Finally, I have this issue with the herb, cilantro.  Most people love it.  I don’t.  I think it’s too strong and overtakes the flavor of any salad or meal you add it to.  My mom however makes this corn and black bean salad with cilantro that I just can’t stop eating.  I ate enough of it for six people yesterday.  I just LOVE the cilantro flavor in it too.  I just can’t shake this love-hate thing I have with cilantro.  I hate it, but I have two plants going right now in my garden.  What about herbs I love, you ask?  Oregano?  Eight plants.  Mint?  Five.  My name is Craig and I am an herbaholic.  Is it bad that I allow a single herb to drive me crazy?  Why can’t I just relegate cilantro to second-class status like I do rosemary?

There has to be a satellite channel devoted to herb-related issues…..

Cooked sushi, green tea and my kid’s red wagon.

I love going to the grocery store.  Especially Kroger, or a world market-type place like the Andersons.  Lot’s of fun, always nice and chilly inside, which keeps me alert and it’s always fun to squeeze a good melon or two.  I have this weakness though when I shop and each time it happens (when I shop), I swear I will never do it again.  I pass by the sushi counter and grab what looks like a good lunch, or a great snack.  Eating cooked sushi is like taking a 5-iron and whacking yourself on the head about 6 times.  It’s just not a good idea.  Note to self: Just because sushi is in front of your face, doesn’t make it right.  Side note: I haven’t golfed in three years and can’t find my 5-iron.

Here is my take on green tea.  I have read (and heard) of the amazing benefits one can receive by drinking it.  Maybe it’s the antioxidants?  Maybe it has a special blend of herbs that rejuvenates your cells and can bring you longer life.  And of course, anything is better than drinking a pop or a beer, right?  here’s my problem with green tea.  It sucks.  Green tea tastes like Llama urine and cilantro.  I’d rather drink pool water than a cup or a glass of green tea.  I’ve decided I am fine with living a few years less–green tea is just vile.  How’s that for over-dramatic?

When I was a kid, I had a red wagon.  Most kids can say that.  My red wagon was typical of any red wagon back in the mid seventies.  It was covered with lead-based paint, rusted like the tin man if you left it in the rain just once, and squeaked when you tried to make a left or a right turn.  We had no seat belts in our wagons, or fancy wall extensions.  If you didn’t keep your ass on the bottom, you fell out and suffered the consequences.  My kids have a red wagon that is the equivalent of a Winnebago on crack.  Made of plastic, not steel and lead-based paint, this thing has pull up seat-backs, 4 drink cup holders and adjustable seat belts.  The only thing missing is a Wi-fi connection and a Starbucks.

Kids today.  Maybe I will surprise them with a nice bottle of diet green iced-tea in their cup holders.  No pain, no gain.


Four Square, Hopscotch and Tevye trying to pass as Santa.

When I was in elementary school back in the late 70’s/early 80’s, we had this cool box painted on the playground–cut into four separate squares.  Although the squares were equal in size and shape, they were not equal in stature.  If you occupied the first square (upper left corner), you were the cool person that got to dictate the way the game was played.  If you were in square four, you were low person on the totem pole and had to scrape and claw your way back to the top.  Your only hope was for someone in a better square to fail so you could move up, like the Jeffersons did when they moved to the East Side.

Life is a lot like four square.  Sometimes I feel like I have occupied each of the four squares as an adult.  I’ve been the top gun in square one, strutting around like I was an A-list celebrity.  And I have been in square four as well, when I seemingly had to look up to tie my shoelaces.  Square two is an interesting place to be.  You are better than half of the game, but not quite where you hope to be.  Isn’t it sad how we lose the childhood innocence of a simple and fun game we played as kids?

Life should be more like hopscotch.  Everyone starts at the beginning with a common goal.  You start hopping and scotching through the boxes.  Sometimes you land on one foot, trying hard to keep your balance and other times the hopscotch board allows you the opportunity to relax and land with both feet on the ground.  Once you complete your task, you go back to the beginning and try again, only this time you go a little faster, with a lot more confidence.  The objective in hopscotch is to use the physical and mental attributes you bring to the table and complete the game to the best of your ability.  If you fail, you just try again (or go jump rope or something…)

Society should be more like hopscotch and less concerned about getting to the best square.  Sometimes the square you are in is where life wants you at that particular time.  And that’s ok, if you make the most of it.

Throughout history, humans have sought out greener grass.  Better jobs, newer cars, higher yielding stocks and even better mates than the one they have.  What we fail to realize is that there are people out there who have so little to live for and not a dollar to their name who would kill for a moment in our shoes.  If people could just stay true to who they are and not worry so much about being something they aren’t or can never be.  Now more than ever, people seem to be patently unhappy.

Trying to be something you aren’t is like Tevye trying to pass as Santa Claus.  Sure, he can fill out the suit and he has a beard, but when it comes time to say “Ho, Ho, Ho” and pass out the toys to the Nice-list kiddies, he’s exposed.  Tevye has a life of his own and it’s a damn good life.  He should be happy with that and let Santa do what he does best.

The reason I’ll take hopscotch over four square any day–It has a beginning and an end.  And you keep moving forward with each leap.  People need to figure out the importance of that for themselves.  If everyone did, the world would be a much happier place.

Lev Vygotsky and my son, Brantley.

Good ol’ Lev Vygotsky.  He came up with this wonderful thing called the “Zone of Proximal Development”, which basically states that:

“”The zone of proximal development defines functions that have not matured yet, but are in a process of maturing, that will mature tomorrow, that are currently in an embryonic state; these functions could be called the buds of development, the flowers of development, rather than the fruits of development, that is, what is only just maturing”.

This helps explain why my 20-month old son, Brantley is able to walk up to the DVD player, hit the correct button to eject a DVD and then vocalize that he would like to watch Toy Story for the 5th time in one day.  All on his own.

It also explains, to some degree why he also thinks it’s appropriate to stuff cheerios in the DVD player as well.  Ah, the buds of development… Maybe the little round pieces of toasted oats confuse him a little.  Anyway, we are going to have to work on that.  As Lev said, it’s all a process, and we are all merely players.  Ok, I added that last part.

The day will come (and soon), when young Brantley will be able to handle the entire DVD process on his own without assistance from yours truly.  My daughter, Kathryn (age 6), picked up that skill very young.  When I was a kid, I had a Fisher Price TV set that played “Hey Diddle-Diddle” and likely contained lead-based paint.  Today, kids have a number of fun remote controls that work expensive electronic equipment, to navigate.  With each success, they seem to become more independent and a hell of a lot more curious as to what they can turn on next.

In conclusion, while getting cheerios out of a DVD player is a daunting task, I suppose for now I should be happy my son chooses to snack in a healthy manner.  More power to him–I think cheerios taste plastic and rubber; ironically the same things used to make DVD players.

(Maybe Buzz Lightyear and Woody can make a how-to-video for toddlers….hmmm.)


Pass the mustard.

It seems to me that it’s trendy now to cook with weird grains like Quinoa and Black Rice.  Grains seem to be taking over along with fresh herbs and heirloom tomatoes.  Healthy, fun, flavorful salads and sides are all the rage.  I like it.  Eating healthy makes me feel all gooey inside—like I am doing something positive and will get rewarded, when my time on earth ends, at the pearly gates.

Seriously though, vegetable shopping at the green house this year was a blast.  I have never seen so many specialty herbs and types of tomatoes.  Hot peppers are in-style too—I mean hot-mofo peppers that could peel the paint off the side of a barn.  I know hot peppers have always been trendy, but the latest “heat-o-meter”, with newly discovered peppers from India and Trinidad is what has people chatting away. 

I guess it excites me because food has this incredible power of bringing people together.  Think back to some of the greatest family moments you have had and I bet it involved some kind of meal.  (If it didn’t, you are lame and should stop reading now.)   Lately, I am getting into brunch and fancy dishes and cruets and crocks and glasses…it’s all so hip and lovely.  It’s so much fun to create new things like jalapeno tabbouleh or a guacamole that you eat so much of it makes you sick.  I love sharing these creations with my family over dinner.  It makes for great times, when we can all put down our god-damned cell phones and actually communicate.

I wonder—what sort of things are you into these days when it comes to cooking?  Grilling and charring things seems to be in-style—have you been doing that?  Do you fondue?  What makes you tick when it comes to food.  If you don’t cook, or refuse to try, you are really missing out on something great.  Not only is it wonderful therapy, but it gets your creative juices flowing.  There are no rules in my kitchen, except that I have fun and keep things relatively clean.  I’d love to hear from you on things you like to do in the kitchen.

Forget fast food and take out.  Take some time to relish in cooking.  And for those of you (like me), who cook for one most of the time—don’t listen to the nay-sayers!  You CAN cook for one.  I can’t stand it when people say it’s silly, or not possible.  Make tonight a special food night and surprise yourself.  It’s all about sucking the marrow out of life, isn’t it?

PS: I still hate asparagus, and always will.

Do it.

So, you are a parent.  What is the best gift you can give your kids?  I’ll tell you.  Learn how to help them if they choke.

I am reminded all the time about the importance of being able to aid children if they are faced with a situation where they are choking and cannot breathe.  Tonight, a friend of mine was able to save her infant child because she knew what to do.

You plan for parenthood.  You buy the crib, get the finest diapers and plenty of A and D.  (A and D by the way is awesome.  I love it).  You do everything you should do except one thing–you don’t prepare for the worst possible thing–your child choking.  You don’t even have to go to a class in this day in age!   You can learn enough on You Tube to get the job done.  Just an hour or two of preparation can save your child’s life.

The Red Cross offers classes on CPR and choking.  Prices average around a hundred dollars for a 3-4 hour course.  One day.  A hundred bucks for some awesome peace of mind.  It’s the best insurance policy you will ever buy.  I remember Halloween 2010.  After trick-or-treating, my daughter was eating a roast beef dinner when she started to choke.  Everyone in the room panicked but me.  I knew what to do.  I was scared out of my mind, but I knew what to do.  She coughed it out, but I decided that day that I would become the most prepared father on earth.  I’d walk through fire for my kids–the least I could do is become an expert on what to do when they are choking.

If you think you are too cool, think again.  You will feel much better when you have the capacity to save a life–especially that of your own kid.  Tonight was a perfect reminder for me.  Not knowing what to do can be a life-changing experience you won’t be able to live down.  Learn what to do when your child is choking.

Do it.