Thursday, May 24, 2012


Wait, it’s May!?! Where have I been? For all my lofty aspirations of internet fame and global recognition, I’m not helping my cause with my frequent prolonged absences. Not one bit! Before I make another hollow commitment to continue gracing you, the reader, with my, the writer of all things good, with my virtual presence, I need to backtrack a bit.

I hit a block in my blog a while back when a few things happened at the same time. I will present them to you as they happened without any tomfoolery because I hope to get on to my next hollow commitment in the near future.

First, I wrote a piece about my Grilled Cheese Chase to Perfection calling for an end to this grill-conceived plan with good reason. I just backdated the post here for yesterday, but I mention my now 8-month old kid as a 6-month old. I never posted it because the day that I wrote it the mailman became one of my favorite people.

The mailman, you see, made a speedy delivery of assorted cheeses, a gift from my brother-in-law. It was an awesome gift of fancy Spanish cheeses that I have never even heard of. Thanks, Matt! My grilled cheese desire was rekindled and excitedly flamencoed my way into these new cheeses the following weekend.

I began with the one with the best name, Drunken Goat, and it was fabulous. It has been a while now, but I remember it being both sweet and clean. I know “clean” is a weird way to describe cheese, but I’m not sure if cheese can ever be “refreshing” or “invigorating.” “Refreshing” should be reserved for a grilled cheese sandwich that is dripping with condensation on a warm summer afternoon. Continuing with the lemonade comparison, “invigorating” might be the early morning run to be the first in-line to the grilled cheese stand in a near-by park. I imagine the run home would be something other than invigorating.

The next day, I dove into another of the cheeses, the sharp Garrotxa, and this is where things went all wrong. Here’s a video:

I had all but forgotten about my cheddar-induced sweaty cheek syndrome. I always thought of it more as a party trick that I bragged about in college. I never considered that it could be the sign of something a bit more menacing, but after this video was shot my tongue and throat started feeling funny as well. While it was nothing a few Zyrtec couldn't fix, this event brought memories of scarier incidents and left me wondering if I had eaten a whole bunch of cheese that fateful day in 2008.

My attitude towards the new cheeses waned a bit after that, but I did try them in the coming weeks. The Iberico cheese was my favorite of the bunch. It was pretty good on a grilled cheese sandwich, but was excellent on homemade pizza.

A third, even more, troubling event took place that next week. I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around it, but I hope to explain it in the next day or two… before I make my next hollow commitment to blogging excellence! May your anticipation always grow!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wait Weight, You’re Gaining On Me & The Ultimate Grilled Cheese

It has been some time since I referenced my New Year’s Resolution directly. My Grilled Cheese Chase to Perfection began as a resolution and has been featured somewhat prominently. The focus on this one item on my list of resolutions, which I trumpeted as being “two typed pages, single-spaced,” has clouded another resolution: to lose weight.

With a top-secret target weight in mind, I set out to lose between ten and fifteen pounds. I have been carrying around these extra ten or fifteen pounds for years now, and it is high-time that I say good-bye. Unfortunately, so far this year, I have gained between ten and fifteen pounds and now look to lose between twenty and twenty-five pounds. It seemed much less daunting before.

I have taken a hard look at different parts of my life, deciding where to place blame. Could Red Box be the culprit? Perhaps my sweet tooth is finally catching up with me. My office life behind a spreadsheet could be the problem. Maybe I should replace my Grilled Cheeses with carrot sticks.

I’m still unsure how best to tackle this issue, but I feel I should begin by not glorifying grilled cheese sandwiches, so it is with some sadness that I post my last Perfect Grilled Cheese attempt.

It features delicious Oatnut bread with a combination of Havarti, Mozzarella, and a touch of good ol’ American Cheese. What makes this sandwich unique however is the outside. Instead of using butter to grill up the bread, I coated the slices with mayonnaise. The result is excellent. It not only adds a different taste, it looks wonderful as it toasts the bread very nicely.

I got the idea from a recent list of the Top Ten Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in America published in Food & Wine magazine. Roxey’s in Boston is famous for their use of mayonnaise, so I cannot take credit for it. The list is another reason I’ve grown weary of the project. Like the name of my 6-month old, it suddenly seems trendy.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Shopping Wizardry and Grilled Cheese Magic

My local grocery store of choice is Giant. Most folks go to the trendy new Wegman’s with their oversized cheese shop and sushi bar and movie-night and … well, I could go on and on, but what Giant lacks in glamour and chic, it more than makes up for in a little something I like to call being-a-grocery-store. That’s right. It’s a grocery store, not a destination. But, with their new shopping tool, it offers quite the entertainment.

The tool is a wand that lets you scan in and tally up your products as you shop. The one I used had a core of unicorn hair... it really was quite magical.  When you are done, you just hand the wand to the cashier and pay; there’s no lines, no conveyor belts, no bagging, no awkward small talk. It is wonderfully easy, especially with U-Go bags which are reusable bags that clip onto your cart. (Note: not all small talk is bad, but good cashier small talk is hard to find… and always appreciated.)

There are a couple of downsides to these shopping wands. First, they are located to the side of the entrance, so they are easy to pass as your mind is busy focusing on either the mental grocery list that is too large to remember or on the front right wheel of your cart that is already driving you crazy.

Secondly, it really tests your good behavior. The wand operates on an honor system similar to the self-checkout lane. The only thing stopping you from taking the five-finger discount is that little voice inside your head. The two are different however as there is some face-to-face time before you leave when using the wand. Whether that is enough to deter vile miscreants from taking advantage of the system, I’m not so sure.

I should say that many of the self-checkout lanes around where I live have reverted back to the manned lanes. Presumably, the honor system had some flaws. Low-lifes… ruining it for the rest of us.

Not entirely unrelated, after my first time using the wand, I excitedly rushed home to continue on my Quest for Grilled Cheese Perfection. This time I used thickly sliced “Texas Toast” bread and two pieces of haughty Jarlsberg cheese. The results were delicious:
Jarlsberg Grilled Cheese sandwich with Spicy Mustard
I had thought Texas Toast was a brand of frozen garlic bread, but it is a thick soft white bread that other breads should emulate.  I think the only way to improve from Texas Toast would be to use birthday cake for slices of bread.  But let's don't be silly.

I had high expectations for this pricey Jarlsberg cheese, being featured in a movie and all, and it did not disappoint.  Jarlsberg cheese melts up and becomes the right amount of gooey for the perfect grilled cheese.  In fact, where other great grilled cheeses (mainly Cheddar on Rye) have slipped is in their melted-gooey levels.  If we were measuring on a scale of 1 to Awesome, this sandwich would be Stupendous!

The flavor of Jarlsberg is unique but reminded me a little bit of Swiss cheese, so instead of ketchup, I went with a dijon mustard knock off.  It was a great choice.

Long Live the Grilled Cheese Sandwich!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Leo Screams

Here's what I have of Leo from yesterday.  It's similar to a previous video where he is laughing, but instead of laughing it is more of a scream.  I think he's having a good time though.

Oh... and before you silently judge me, I got a haircut as soon as he went down for a nap.  Here's the new me...
I'm going for the Leo look - really short on the sides and thinning on top.  I have to do what I can to recapture some of the limelight and attention in this household, and it's like they say, if you can't beat your child, you should try to look like them.

That didn't come out right.  Okay, now you can resume your judging.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Car Charger Station

This is pretty cool:
Electric car charger.
Today, for the first time, I saw an electric car charger.  It was in front of the Manassas Museum in downtown Manassas.  It's pretty crazy looking and I had to do a double-take in the form of a second, and third, drive-by in my old-fashioned gas-powered engine car.  I finally stopped to get a closer look:
Five-month old Leo was asleep in the backseat, so I did not take the time to get a good picture or really look into how it works.  I assume there's a card swiper somewhere on it.  I did watch the electronic message long enough to learn that each charge is $5.  I'm not sure what exactly that means, but if it fills up your battery and then you can get 100-miles plus, it's a heck of a deal.  $5 in gas would take my car about 40 miles, and I have a Honda Civic, a pretty fuel-efficient car.

Anyways, this wasn't intended to be a save-the-world, go-green post, but I do really like the idea of rethinking the car.  A recent post about how much I spend on gas going to the Lake Where I Eat Lunch Often got me searching for how much I spend on my 50-mile daily commute to and from work.  With current prices at $3.65 for my area, I spend over $6 a day on gas... almost $7 if you include my lunch break.

Electric cars have always been neat inside my head.  They somehow were always in the distant future, though... alongside space elevators and helicopter hats. But now that I've seen a handy-dandy charger in a nearby small-town, they seem much more real.  The future is here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Red Box

Hold the phone, because in the past two weeks, I have rented three movies! While unfortunately none of those movies were Captain America , all three were very good. Better yet, thanks to the next generation of home movie viewing, these three movies cost just $1.50 each! Life has never been so good! So I would like to send a big Thank You to Red Box!

Ahh… I remember the good old days when a gallon of gas was just $1 and you could rent a movie for just $4. Well, today, gas costs $4 and, with the conveniently-located Red Box, movie rentals only cost $1! It is so cheap that I don’t feel guilty upgrading to blu-ray for an extra $.50. That is however a per night price, which is fine by me. It wasn’t like I was going to Blockbuster and spending $4 with the thought, “Oh, this will be great to watch three nights from now.”

The other side of this per night pricing is that you have to get back to a conveniently located Red Box to return your movie the next day. So if you are like me, it becomes a problem as you rent a movie on a Friday night and then don’t go anywhere the next day because of this:

It suddenly is 7 o’clock on Saturday night and you still need to return the movie, and more importantly, find something to do that night, so you rent another movie. In this way, you kill two birds with one conveniently-located-Red-Box-shaped stone! How great is that? Oh, but it gets better, as I can kill a third bird with Red Box! Do wonders never cease!

You see, at 7 o’clock, I still haven’t eaten dinner. There’s a chance I haven’t even had lunch! My stomach’s growling, and since I am going out anyways, thanks to Red Box, I pick up some tasty take-out for dinner. Luckily, there’s an awesome Italian place right next to our conveniently-located Red Box! To say the least, my wife and I have been eating well the past two weekends. All thanks to a box full of movies.

An argument could be made, in fact, that conveniently-located Red Boxes are the great savior to the local economy that will rebuild the American dream back into American hearts. Of course, with the convenient solution to dinner these movie rentals cost about $25 a pop, which is neither saving my economics nor building any of my dreams. And, that tasty take-out can’t be very good for my heart either.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Blog-O-Matic

Once again, it's been awhile, as I have been selfishly hoarding my ideas for what to write about. I could blame my busy schedule full of most-important activities that prevent me from writing anything down, but then I would have to make up activities that sound “most-important,” which is easier said than done.

Instead, my great and wonderful ideas find the same end as say “the best Christmas tree on the lot” that breaks free from its precarious ties atop the family car and crashes and rolls haphazardly along the road. It’s pretty badly beaten up, but you still stand it up in your living room. Eh, it’s good enough.

What I need is a machine where I insert a good idea and it spits out a blog post that is good enough to post. What I need is the Blog-O-Matic! A handy device for any casual blogger, the Blog-O-Matic would look like something out of a Dr. Suess book that shakes and quakes with hiccups and burps as it beeps out a blog that will probably work! I’m excited about this idea. I hope it has to be operated by the fur-covered Neeps from Nemacapoo that are excellent operators of O-Matic products.

For instance, I would like to write about renting movies from Red Box. So into the wondrous machine, I would drop a handwritten note that reads “Red Box” and with some whizzes and boinks, the fanciful contraption would spit out something equally as impressive as this post.  (Perhaps, the Blog-O-Matic would take about 24 hours to work.)