Oct 28

The time of year is upon us for some pretty cool seasonal food. I grew a few things this summer, and it always kind of sucks to have to wait for the fall stuff until… well… fall. I did well with buttercup squash and pumpkins. I only planted one pumpkin plant, and it only grew 4 pumpkins, but I think I’m set on pumpkin for awhile…

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A beagle and her pumpkins

Our old beagle has a spot in every room that she calls her own. In this room, pumpkins invaded her space. She was pissed.

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Now, I like pumpkin pie as much as the next dude.  Three of the four pumpkins we grew are in the picture above.  The two that are a darker orange color weigh over 100# each.  The lighter-orange pumpkin weighs slightly over 80#, and one more pumpkin not pictured weighed in at over 40#.  That’s over 320# of pumpkin… how much pie can a fellow eat?!?  Although one or two of these may end up wasted as jack-o-lanterns, this is way too much food to not find some different ways to eat pumpkin.  Deciding to try out the smallest (40#!) pumpkin first, I decided on a pumpkin soup and some pumpkin butter.  The pumpkin soup was okay, but the butter rocked, so I thought I would share my recipe and experience.

The first thing we did was to split the pumpkin, gut it, and bake it.

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40# pumpkin

Don't throw them seeds away! Clean 'em, soak them in salt water overnight, and roast them in the oven at 300 degrees or so for a couple of hours. Awesome snackin'!

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I cut a bit of it off raw to make the pumpkin soup, but the rest of it went in the over at 350° for about an hour.  Remember, this was a BIG pumpkin… I had to do 2 shifts to cook the entire thing.  I made the pumpkin soup while the pumpkin baked :)

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Baked pumpkin

The whole house smelled like Thanksgiving... in early October. It was awesome :)

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Once it was nice and soft, I removed it carefully from the oven and drained of the juices (there were a ton of juice cooked out of this sucker).  Then, I got out a knife to start removing the flesh from the shell.  Of course, being a dude, I like my knives big and sharp.

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Big knife

Big knives mean you get 'er done quicker, right?

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The big knife was, of course, a mistake.  Almost every time I get together with a knife in the kitchen, someone gets cut.  And seeing as how no one will enter the kitchen if I am holding a knife, it’s always me.

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Stupid knife

I always seem to cut little bits from the exact same place on my finger... every time. One of these times, it's just going to refuse to grow back.

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So, with my finger hurting, I soldier on and remove the pumpkin flesh.  It all goes into a bowl and I mash it up.  Now, as you can imagine, I got me a ton of pumpkin meat… way more than I’m going to need to make a little bit of pumpkin butter.  The nice thing about pumpkin is it freezes really well.  So, I decide I’m going to make about 8 cups of pumpkin puree into pumpkin butter, so I blended and set aside 8 cups.

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Pumpkin puree

I decided to use 8 cups because... uh... that's the biggest measuring thingie I had.

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I freeze the rest of the flesh just mashed.

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Mashed pumpkin

Nothing quite as appetizing as mashed pumpkin...

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I froze it mashed instead of pureed in case I came across a recipe where the pumpkin needed to have a little more substance… but I’m guessing it’s mostly going to go in soup, more butter, and some pies.  But, it’s easy enough to blend it after it thaws.

To freeze it, I just filled quart freezer bags with 4 cups of mash.

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Uh... Yeah... More pumpkin

Yummy... er... well, someday it will be.

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A neat way to get the air out is to stick a straw into the bag and suck as you seal it up.

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Pumpkin shake

Nothing like having your teenage son walk into the kitchen, spy you sucking on a bag of pumpkin, roll his eyes, and, without saying a word, turn right back around and leave.

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Okay, I’m getting close to ending the freezing of the pumpkin.  Of course, my hands are all slimed up with pumpkin.  I wash my hands and realize…

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Uh oh

Uh... this doesn't look right...

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… something is missing.  I know I had a bandage on my freshly cut finger.  I know it hasn’t been off that finger for very long.  I know I didn’t have it when I went to wash my hands.  For crying out loud, where could it be?

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Uh... Yeah... More pumpkin

... oh yeah...

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Oh no.  I had a pretty strong suspicion I knew where the bandage was.  See, the masher did a decent job of mashing the pumpkins, but every once in awhile, there was a piece the masher didn’t get.  I’d just stick my hand in that goop and mush it with my hands.  So, I went “fishing”.

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Fishing

Yeah, it feels as creepy as it looks.

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It didn’t take long until I found what I was looking for.

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The big catch

Strangely enough, I didn't end up reusing the bandage.

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Yeah, I just tossed it… the bandage, that is.  I’m not going to waste good pumpkin.  I just marked the package extra special so I knew which one not to eat myself.

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Special batch

That one's going into pumpkin bread to give away during the holidays :)

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Finally, I finished getting all of the extra pumpkin and was ready to start in on the pumpkin butter.

Following is what you will need to make a batch of pumpkin butter.  I actually made a double batch.  However, I went the slow cooker route to cook the butter (cause there is no stirring or watching or any of that crap) and I quickly realized that my concoction was a little much for a standard slow cooker.

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Full

Yeah... little full...

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It was a little messy.  If you want to double the recipe, do so at your own risk :)

* 4 cups pumpkin puree

* 1 cup brown sugar

* 1/2 cup white sugar

* 3/4 cup apple juice

* 1 Tbs vanilla

* 1/4 tsp allspice

* 1/4 tsp ground cloves

* 1/4 tsp ground ginger

* 1/2 tsp nutmeg

* 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

* 1 Tbs lime juice

That’s it.  Mix it all together and throw it in the slow cooker.  I cooked the double batch for about 12 hours overnight on high in the slow cooker.  A smaller batch probably won’t take quite as long.  Make sure you tilt the lid on the cooker so that a lot of the the moisture cooks off.

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Full lid

Tilt it, or crack it. I wrote "crack"... hahaha!

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You want your pumpkin butter to be nice and thick… you know, so that sticks to the back of a spoon.  You want it spreadable.  I love that word: spreadable. Sounds kind of sexy, doesn’t it?  Sweet and spreadable.

While I’m getting prepared to cook this overnight, the wife says to me, “Uh, that slow cooker looks a little full,”

“Yeah,” I say, “I want lots of butter.”

“You realize that is going to make a mess, right,” the wife says.

“Don’t worry,” I say.  “I’ll clean it up.”

Well, you see, I have this little habit of saying I’ll clean stuff up and then, for some reason, I never really clean it up.  Or rather, I don’t clean it up fast enough for the wife and she ends up cleaning it up herself.  Long story short, the wife doesn’t let me cook my pumpkin butter in the kitchen.  I am relegated to complete my cooking project in the basement.

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My cooking space... apparently...

For some reason, seems like a lot of my cooking projects end up here...

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After about 12 hours, my slow cooker full of goodness…

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Full

This is going to be SO much pumpkin butter!

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…had reduced to the perfect consistency.  Too bad so much of it was water.

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Messy much?

Okay... so it was a little messy.

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All that work and I get a couple of jars of pumpkin butter.

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Pumpkin butter

Not much... but it sure is good.

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I was trying to decide if I wanted to process the butter by canning to make it last longer (which isn’t apparently recommended), but I decided that it wasn’t going to take long for the family to go through what I had made.  I stuck one jar in the fridge for now and one jar in the freezer for later.  The hardest part was preparing the pumpkin.  The rest was a cake walk.  It sure is good… and I have the reassurance that if I want to make more, I’ve got plenty of pumpkin to make that happen.

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I can always make more...

How much pumpkin butter can one family eat?

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Now, I just need to figure out what I am going to do with my squash…

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Squash

Besides baking it, what do you do with this crap...?

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Oct 21

Fall

A few years back, I had a job that required me to spend a large portion of my time behind the wheel of a truck.  Early mornings were common, and I’d drive a lot of miles before returning home.  One memory stands out in my head above all others from that period of my life, and I believe that memory helped shape my current attitude toward the community I currently call home.

The day I remember must have been really close to this time if year.  The leaves had mostly turned, early mornings demanded a slight scraping of frost from the windshield, and the jacket I wore to brace against the frigid morning breeze rested on the seat beside me before noon.  Fall in Nebraska is almost like two seasons in one: the pleasant, warm time while the sun brightens the day, and the crappy, cold time when the sun, too, has had its fill of Nebraska.  On this particular day, I had left at around 3:00 am for some early morning business in Kimball.  The business in Kimball didn’t take too awful  long, and I found myself driving back into Scottsbluff at around 11:00am.  As I drove north on Highway 71 and drove over the bridge spanning the meek North Platte River, I couldn’t help but notice all of the leaves that littered the side of the road.  The area around the river is one of the few places where you can find a multitude of trees all in one spot in western Nebraska, and a significant wind must have blown through the previous night.  I can not remember a time before nor after that day where I have seen an exodus of leaves along the roadside of that magnitude. I was so impressed that I actually pulled over to the side of the road and just stared at the leaves.

A light breeze blew, and the leaves tumbled and twirled along the embankment.  Brown leaves, yellow leaves,  and even some green leaves and the occasional red leaf — leaves of all shape and size, though mostly cottonwood leaves — bustled along in an attempt to find the final resting place where decay could completely consume them.  The leaves fascinated me.  They were just a bunch of stinking leaves, but they were beautiful in their own way.  As I watched the leaves, I realized that they had all come to this stretch of road in Scotts Bluff County, probably through no choice of their own (I don’t think leaves have “choice”, do they?) either to die or because they were already dead.

While watching the leaves from my truck by the bridge over the North Platte River, I remembered a man I had recently seen at Walmart.  A funny looking man standing back in the dairy section caught my eye.  From a distance, the man appeared to be quite well-off.  He appeared to be dressed in a nice suit with shiny shoes and a stunning little bowler hat.

“How odd for someone to be dressed like that in Walmart,” I thought to myself, “and it’s not even Sunday.”

As I pushed my shopping cart closer to the man, his clean, crisp image began to unravel.  The man’s suit was not really very nice at all; it was haggard and stained… and it smelled… smelled bad.  His shoes (although it was obvious that a great deal of care had gone into their shining) barely had any soles, his right toe peeked out from not only the right shoe but the right sock as well, and the frayed laces appeared to be just getting the job done of keeping the shoes on his feet.  The white sweat stain that circled the man’s bowler added to the appearance of age that the runs in the bowler’s fabric created.  The old man seemed to be in a hurry to find something.  As I passed him, however,  he offered a sincere, toothless smile as he gently touched the brim of his hat… then he bustled on his way.

The memory of the man faded, and once again I watched the leaves — the leaves whose sole remaining purpose was to become fertilizer for the next generation — the leaves whose final resting place may be a stretch of road in the panhandle of Nebraska.

My mind wandered again, this time to the overweight population of Scottsbluff.  In 2009, Quality Health ran an article titled “10 Fattest Cities in America.”  Scottsbluff (not a community that graces many “top ten” lists) with 31% of its population classified as obese, came in at number seven.  Seventh fattest city in America… there’s something to take pride in.  See what a little corn-fed beef and buttered corn on the cob can do for a community?  And don’t forget about the wonderful high fructose corn syrup!  Corn… it’s what for dinner… and it leads to obesity!  Maybe people here just don’t know how to take care of themselves.  Maybe people here just don’t care.  Maybe people in the panhandle of Nebraska are just trying to tumble and twirl through life and get what little pleasure they can along the way.  A lot of pleasure can be found in a couple of Big Macs with a large fries and a Coke.

As I continued to watch the bustling leaves, I started to get cold.  The leaves I watched put on quite a show, but I started to realize that they really weren’t as beautiful as I originally thought.  I began to suspect that, upon closer inspection, the leaves might actually be kind of gnarly — full of bug bites and patches of disease and torn flesh and broken dreams.  I thought of the people that I know who have a bachelor’s degree in this or a master’s degree in that, and they are stocking shelves at a grocery store or working as para-educators  or slinging a construction hammer.  The leaves weren’t searching for a fulfilling life there along the side of the road in Scottsbluff, NE; they were there because they were dying or dead.

My appetite for watching the leaves gone,  I  suddenly just wanted to go home.  Still chilly, I slid on my jacket from the seat beside me as I started the truck and bustled toward home with the dawning realization that I probably had a lawn full of leaves in need of raking…

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Oct 11

The wife and I just celebrated our 17th anniversary.  I know, I know… the fact that there is a woman alive who would be willing to put up with my crap for 17 years may lead one to question her sanity.  Well, the fact that she is slightly tilted doesn’t make me love her any less.  Anyway, one of the biggest problems we have here in the craphandle of Nebraska when it comes to celebrating events is the lack of good places to eat.  We have a ton of little Mexican restaurants which are good and fine and all, but we weren’t in the mood for Mexican.  We have a Chili’s and an Applebee’s, which are pretty interchangeable chains.  We have a Shari’s and a Perkin’s, which, once again, are pretty interchangeable chains.  We have a few fast food places, and a couple of bar and grills that tend to be more bar than grill… and our anniversary fell on the eve of a Husker game… so being surrounded by a bunch of drunk Husker fans didn’t sound like the most romantic choice.  We wanted to go somewhere for a good steak-type meal, but didn’t want to have to take out a home equity loan to be able to afford it.  We have a chain here called Whiskey Creek that isn’t bad, but again… bar and grillish with a Husker game.  There is a place here called The Emporium, but it seems to be sort of European in flair (which means although the food is excellent, you get very little of it and spend a small fortune).  Last time we ate at The Emporium, I had to swing through the drive-through at McDonald’s just to get filled up afterwards.

One of the great things about Facebook is that it is filled with people more than willing to give their biased recommendations.  I put a post on Facebook asking for some recommendations for somewhere decent to eat.  Of course, I know all of the restaurants in the area, but I was figuring there may be one I just wasn’t thinking of that someone else could remind me of.  Lucky for me, just such a thing happened.  One of my Facebook friends recommended the Little Moon Lake Supper Club.  It had probably been 12-years since I had been to Little Moon, and I had forgot all about it.  I could hardly remember the place, but I remembered that I liked the food.  So, we were off to Little Moon!

The Little Moon Lake Supper Club isn’t in Scottsbluff, NE.  The Little Moon Lake Supper Club isn’t in Gering, NE.  The Little Lake Moon Supper Club is right outside Henry, NE.

“Where is Henry, NE?”

Henry, NE is in the middle of NOWHERE!  Little Moon is not in Henry, but is located about a mile back on a dirt road outside of Henry, and it is about 30 miles from my house… and it’s getting dark… and it’s raining cats and dogs.

We drove through the pouring rain.  This is the first decent rain we have had in weeks, so the roads are a little oiled-up-slicky.  We crept along at a safe speed well below the speed limit.  Now, I can’t exactly remember how to get to Little Moon, I just remember that there is a sign off the highway that points the way.  So, we were driving for over a half-hour when we finally got to Henry.  I slowed down and started looking for the sign once we passed town, and there it was.

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Little Moon Sign

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So we turned south and drove over a pot-holy, washboardy, rain covered, muddy road very slowly for the next mile.  This is what the visibility was like:

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Rainy night

Okay... maybe the visibility wasn't this bad, but it was for the camera on my Droid.

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Finally, after much bouncing and jarring and being splattered by muddy water, off in the distance, we saw what we thought might be our destination.

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In the distance

Is this it?

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“Is that it?” I asked the wife.

“I think so,” said the wife.

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Distance two

Really... this is it?

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“Not much too it, is there?” I said.

“No, but I remember the food being good,” said the wife.

Well, I guess if your first impression is bad, the odds go up of thinking the food is better than expected, right?!?

Once we got a little closer, it looked a little better… and I stress little.

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Outside

Night-time pictures taken by a Droid in a rainstorm kind of... uh... suck.

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Once we got inside, things started to look a even better (or, at least I can take a little better pictures).

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Inside

Yes, I believe the decor dates back to the 60's, but I'm not sure... since I wasn't alive for most of the 60's.

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We walked in and there is like no one there.  I saw tables up ahead, but there is no one sitting at them. There was one dude wandering around with a jacket on, but he appeared to be slightly disturbed, so we left him alone.  This seems strange, since the gravel parking lot was pretty full of cars.  I looked to my left and there’s a bar, but there is no one at the bar.

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The bar

Kind of reminds me of the bar in The Shining... as most empty bars do.

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There were some people leaving, and the disturbed dude in the jacket, but I didn’t see anyone eating fabulous grub.  Finally, a harried lady came shooting out from a little room on the side and asks how we’re doing.  We told her we were fabulous, and she asked if we have reservations.

Oh crap.

We most definitely did not have reservations.  The lady said that they have room and that wouldn’t be an issue, they just need to do some rearranging.  She quickly disappears back into the room and I saw her darting back and forth past the door and stuff clanged and clattered.

“Oh crap, do you really think they have room?” I asked the wife.

“I’m sure she wouldn’t have told us they do if they don’t,” said the wife.

The harried lady jetted back and forth past the door a few more times as more clanging and clattering transpired.  Finally, she reappeared back by the bar, brushing her hair away from her sweat-covered brow.

“I can seat you now,” she said.

So, we followed her through the little side door and found ourselves in a nice little dining area.  The paneling on the walls, carpet on the floors, and lighting hanging from the ceiling all screamed “I was cool before disco was a glint in it’s father’s eye,” but it was clean.  There were a few empty table, but most of the tables held groups of people who were dressed a lot fancier than the wife and me.  We sat down and scoped the place out.  There was apparently another room off of the dining room we were in, because people came in and went through another door in our dining room and disappeared… never to return.  Also, the waitresses would disappear back in that nether-region, but they would reappear.  So, there was either like a private party going on back there… or those unlucky guests who disappeared into the “special” seating section were actually what we ate later that evening.  Either way, there were only two waitresses on duty, and they both seemed as harried as the seating lady.  There did seem to be an awful lot of people for only two waitresses.  Guess that’s why places like you to make reservations.  I made a mental note.

In addition to the two waitresses and the seating lady, there was a young woman who, I’m guessing, was on her first night as an employee.  The young lady looked like she may still be in high school, and she appeared to be terrified of screwing something up.  She was very fun to watch.  Harried-seating lady directed the young-one to get us water.  Young-one nervously brought over a pitcher and attempted to pour out of the side of the pitcher into the wife’s and my glasses.  She did the wife first, and a small splash of water spilled over onto the glass-topped table.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Young-one.

“It’s alright,” the wife smiled.  Really, it wasn’t that big of a spill.  In fact, we wouldn’t have probably even noticed the small spill if Young-one didn’t seem so nervous and hadn’t apologized for it.

Young-one slowly brought the pitcher to my glass and hesitantly poured from the side, shaking the pitcher slightly in an attempt to get some ice into my glass.  She would shake and pour a little bit, and then stop… and breath… and then shake and pour a little bit more.  After several start and stop combinations, she finally got my glass about half full.  I think she decided that was about all the fuller she could risk getting my glass without spilling, because she stopped at half, set my glass down, and left.  I looked at my half-full glass and then at my wife, who was smiling.

“Poor thing,” said the wife.  “She seems so nervous.  Must be her first night.”

“Yeah, poor thing,” I agreed.  “You don’t think she’s our waitress, do you?”

We saw Harried-seating lady pull Young-one aside.  Harried-seating lady took Young-one over to an empty table at the far side of the dining room and proceeded to show Young-one how to properly fill a glass by pouring from the side of a pitcher.  Young-one nodded and a light seemed to go off somewhere in the recesses of her consciousness.  I don’t know if she actually understood what Harried-seating lady was saying or if she was remembering a fond memory from her childhood… from a couple of weeks ago… but she seemed to understand something, and that made me feel good.

Harried-seating lady finally returned to us.  “All of our menus are out, so it will be just a couple of minutes before we can show you a menu.”

“That’s fine,” I said, looking around at all of the other diners in our dining room, not one of whom had a menu.

“Can I start you with something to drink?”

So, I order iced tea and the wife ordered a Sprite.  Harried-seating lady hurried off in search of our drinks.

When Harried-seating lady left, I asked the wife, “Where do you think all of those menus are?”

“They must be in the other dining room,” she said.

I looked again to the door leading to the mysterious dining area from which diners entered but never returned.

“Yeah… the other dining room,” I said.

From the kitchen, Young-one emerged carrying a glass of iced tea in one hand and a glass of Sprite in the other.

“Watch this,” I said to the wife in anticipation of something funny.

We watched Young-one carefully bring each glass to the table… without spilling a drop.  She gently set each glass down, smiled (in relief, I believe), and scampered on her merry way.

“Dang it,” I said, “she didn’t spill them.”

The wife rolled her eyes.

Finally, one of the two harried waitresses brought a couple of menus from the “other” dining room and handed them to us with a smile.  I glanced over mine for traces of fresh blood, but found none.  We looked over the menu and both decided that steak sounded quite good.  After this stupid new “eating healthy” crap that we’d been doing, a little red meat seemed like an excellent choice.  Also, I ordered the appetizer combo… ’cause nothing says “cheat day” like a big pile of deep-fat-fried crispiness.

While we were waiting for our cardiac-arrest appetizer tray, our waitress brought over a surprise relish tray.  I like surprises… even if they are healthy.

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Relish tray

That's right... the little bowl is filled with pickled herring... and I love pickled herring for two reasons. First, I love the way it tastes. Second, the wife hates pickled herring... so I get it all.

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In anticipation of the big cheat we were taking from our new healthy way of eating with this meal, the wife and I had barely eaten anything all day.  We polished off that relish tray in short order.  And then came the appetizer.

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Appetizer

There was actually more than this. We both dug into it before I could get the Droid out to take a picture.

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Oh man, was that greasy stuff good.  There were fried mushrooms, fried mozzarella sticks, and some of the biggest, best homemade onion rings that I have ever seen or tasted in my life.  We almost polished off the appetizer tray before the steaks came, but not quite.  We had a little left over to take back for the kiddos.

The steaks arrived.  I’m kind of pissed, because I took a picture of my steak dinner in all of it’s glory, but my stupid Droid didn’t save it.  Picture if you will a beautiful piece of seared meat, blood slowly spreading beneath it’s rare goodness, surrounded by crispy french fries and a Mexican corn medley.  It was good sized, even though I ordered the small ribeye (yeah, I knew with the fat-filled appetizer I wouldn’t need a large… even when splurging, I was being a little health conscience… ’cause I would have never ordered a small before).  I could have sliced it with a butter knife.  The first bite absolutely melted in my mouth.  I don’t know if it was just because it had been over 2 weeks since I had eaten any real red meat, but that was the tastiest steak I have ever tasted.  I didn’t even care if it wasn’t beef… if, perhaps, it came from some illicit activity in the “other” dining room… I ate that whole thing in no time flat.

While we’re eating, Young-one noticed that our drink glasses were empty.

“Would you like refills?” she nervously asked.

“Why, yes, thank you,” I replied, and she scampered off with our empty glasses.  She sure liked to scamper.

“Poor thing,” mutters the wife.

During the course of our meal, I had a blast watching Young-one take increasingly larger and larger piles of dirty dishes from the empty tables to the kitchen.  I could see her self-confidence growing as her piles of dirty dishes grew larger.  She seemed, to me, to be growing reckless… and I was loving it.

“Ooh…ooh,” I whispered to the wife, “watch this.  I think she’s gonna lose it.”

“She is not,” the wife said.  “Don’t be mean.  Poor thing.”

Needless to say, she never lost the dishes.  Needless to say, I was disappointed.  I mean, it was neat to see that young girl smile with pride as she navigated the large piles of dirty dishes flawlessly to the kitchen, but it would have been neater to see the dishes crash to the floor and her fleeing the dining room in tears.  Just sayin’…

Anyway, Young-one returned with our filled drinks and easily set the wife’s Sprite down in front of her.  As she was sliding my iced tea into position, her wrist lightly brushed against the lemon placed on the rim of my cup, and the lemon tumbled down into the basket of butter on the table.  Young-one bit her lower lip, and I swear her eyes suddenly grew moist.  She set my glass down, started to reach for the lemon wedge, and drew her hand back.  Her hand flew forward again in an attempt to grasp the lemon, only to return to her side as her eyes grew increasingly wet.  I just smiled, watching in amazement.  The wife nudged me, but I ignored her.  Finally, Young-one reached forward one last time and gently placed her index finger and thumb on the outer rind of my lemon wedge.  She was careful to only touch the outer rind.  She held the lemon wedge up in front of her chest, looked at it, and then held it out to me like it was something she wished dearly to get rid of.

“I didn’t want to touch it,” she whispered to me as she blinked back tears.

I took the lemon from her and dropped it in my glass of tea to show her that I wasn’t afraid of her cooties.

“That’s okay,” I said.  “No big deal.”

Her trembling lip turned up in a slight, forced smile as she turned and walked quickly out of the room.  I started to snigger.

“Poor thing,” the wife said, but she sounded like she was ready to burst out laughing as well.

We were in such a good mood that, even though we were stuffed, we ordered a piece of pecan cheesecake to share… and it was awesome.

We had a really good time at the Little Moon Lake Supper Club.  The service was exceptional (especially considering the fact that I think they may have been a little short on staff).  We didn’t wait an unacceptable amount of time for any of the courses.  All of the food was exceptional… not a thing sucked.  Young-one’s entertainment was superb.  I really hope she doesn’t get discouraged and quit, ’cause she’s fun :)   Even the price was very reasonable.  With tip (and we tip pretty well), we got out of there for around $60.  Of course, we didn’t drink the alcohol, which I’m sure would add heavily to a tab, but we were both stuffed on good food and we even had some to take home.

If I were to give out stars or thumbs or anything like that, I’d give the Little Moon Lake Supper Club in Henry, NE some stars, and my thumbs would all be up.  Good value, great food, pleasant staff, and the funny new girl.  Poor thing…

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Oct 09

When I was a kid, I was pretty involved in sports. In elementary school, I played basketball, Little League, flag football, and participated in track. I was very young and relatively skinny then, so I (like most young, skinny kids) did pretty well at sports.

Then I entered high school, and everything changed.

In high school, I started to put on weight. I stopped growing vertically, but I didn’t limit my eating, so I began to grow horizontally.

In other words, I got fat.

Even though I was fat, I tried my hand at various sports. Okay, not really “various”… more like a few. And two is really more like “a couple” than it is “a few”, so I really participated in “a couple” of sports in high school: football and track. Needless to say, I really pretty much sucked at both of them.

I went out for football because my dad really wanted me to. I went out for track so that I wouldn’t put on a tremendous amount of gut-fat before the next football season.

I totally sucked at track. I attempted the javelin, discus and shot put. I was too fat to run or jump, and I wasn’t strong enough to excel at any of the “strong guy” events. I remember one of the coaches didn’t like me very much. In fact, I would dare say that man hated me. I wasn’t good enough to really even be on track, but I went out all four years. This may be hard to believe, but I was kind of a smart-ass in high school. I was never disrespectful to my teachers or coaches, but I liked to make people laugh… and apparently this coach didn’t share my sense of humor. Also, one of his pet runners was one of my best friends. This coach felt that I was a bad influence on his pet. Little did this coach know that his pet was far more of a bad influence on me that I could have ever been on him. However, I liked my friend and was happy when he had success with his running. So, I put up with all of the crap that jackass coach dished out solely to me. I can’t remember a single thing that I did to that man that would have made him hate me so much… but he never once had a kind word for me… not even a smile. Whatever. It’s not like I hold a grudge or anything… that miserable son of a …

Anywho, football was a little more up my alley. I understood the game, and I even came to enjoy playing it. I actually came to believe that I wasn’t half bad at it. My junior year, our varsity team went undefeated and won the Montana Class A State Football Championship. That championship was in 1986… and was the last year to date that a Glasgow, MT football team has won state. I should be proud, right? Well, seeing as how I really didn’t have anything to do with it, nah. In fact, that championship year actually kind of ruined sportsmanship for me. I am probably the poorest loser ever… and I have had plenty of practice.

The summer before our big championship year, my buddy and I started hitting the weight room. At first, we were the only football players there. We really wanted to get a shot to start on a team that we both knew was going to kick butt. Slowly, more and more of the kids from the team started showing up in the weight room. By the end of summer, most every starter on that championship team was in that weight room lifting weights, every starter… and me. I could press a mean bench, and I could squat the crap out of those weights, but I weighed all of a buck-75, and I still wasn’t extraordinarily fast… so I got to sit the bench. Those who tell you that if you want something bad enough and work for something hard enough you’ll get it… are full of crap. I learned this when I was 16-years old. It’s a lesson that I have never forgotten.

Because I showed such dedication in the weight room, the coach must have felt like he needed to throw me a bone. I was put on special teams. I was the center for PAT (point after touchdown). I believe I was on the kick-off team as well. Bones for those who have the determination and put forth the effort… but really aren’t good enough. Some people just aren’t meant for athletics. I hate bones.

So anyway, the team went undefeated in an impressive way and slaughtered most of the competition. Of course, the summer in the weight room was the last time I really ever felt like part of the team, but I was happy for them. And I was ready for the next year.

Another summer was spent in the weight room, a bunch of talented seniors graduated, and I knew that I should have a starting spot. I really like playing middle linebacker (which is where I played in junior varsity), and I didn’t mind center (which I also played in JV). The season starts, and I get both a starting linebacker spot and the starting center spot. Finally, I get to play real high school football and contribute to the team.

The first game comes and goes, and we lose. I felt like I did pretty good. A got a couple of tackles during the game and had several assists. The next week, during practice, the coach pulls me aside and says, “Rich, we don’t have anyone to back you up at center. If you get hurt, we’re in trouble. I’m pulling you from linebacker and we’re going to have you focus on your duties as center.”

I wasn’t stupid. Apparently the coach thought I was. Almost every other player on that team played both ways, and there were many of them who were a hell of a lot more important to the team than I was at center. Like our quarterback, and our running backs, and our receivers… all of whom played both ways. Also, there were two guys who could easily replace me at center… one of whom was a year younger than me but was awesome. He went on to be the center for the Wyoming Cowboys on a scholarship after high school. The coach was feeding me a line of crap, and I knew it. He probably wanted to stick someone else at center as well, but my commitment to the weight room and the fact that I was a senior probably led him to feel obligated to keep me in a starting position… for at least half of the game. I came really close to quitting the team, but I figured I’d stick it out for my final year.

“Sure, Coach, whatever you need me to do,” I said.

We went four-for-four that year. Not nearly as impressive as our predecessors the previous year, but not too shabby considering that a large volume of talent graduated the previous year… and considering that all focus from the coaching staff had gone into those (mostly) seniors and that team.

Still, old people in Glasgow, MT at that time lived and died by Scottie football. It reminds me a lot about how stupid people in Nebraska get about Husker football. I remember one evening, a lot of us football players waiting outside the high school before a basketball game or something. We had a boom box out there and were listening to some tune-age before going in to root for whatever Scottie team was playing in the gym that night. I remember this crusty old piece of crap coming right up to me (why me… I don’t exactly know… probably because I was only 5’7” and he didn’t feel as threatened by me as he did the larger players) and he says something like, “If you boys concentrated more on the game and spent time listening to your loud music, maybe you could actually win a game!”

We were all stunned. The old man hobbled past us and into the building. We turned the music off, staring at our shoes. No one knew who that old man was. No one had ever seen him before, and I don’t remember ever seeing him after. All that I know is that old fart brought down a bunch of teenaged boys very quickly… a bunch of teenaged boys who were doing nothing more than having some innocent fun being what we were: teenagers. Some of the guys went in to watch the game inside. Most of us just went home. Even though I don’t know who that guy was, I hate him. I’m pretty sure he must be dead by now… and that warms my heart just a little bit. It boggles my mind how people get so wrapped-up in sports… or, as I like to think of them, little kid games played by people way too old to be playing little kid games. Old farts past their glory days living vicariously through the efforts of those much younger… playing a little kids’ game. That old fart probably never even played football, yet he took our having a little fun outside of the grueling practices and intense games as a personal assault on what he expected us to be doing. Like I stated earlier… knowing he’s probably dead warms my heart just a little.

So many people talk of the importance of sports… how it teaches teamwork and good sportsmanship, and blah blah blah. For those people, I’m gonna have to call a BS-time-out. In all of my years of school athletics, I didn’t learn how to be part of a team… and I surely didn’t learn good sportsmanship. When we won, it was great. It’s easy to be a good sport when you win. When we lost, I hated life. I was depressed for days after a loss, replaying in my head every mistake that I personally made that in any way could have contributed to the loss. I beat myself up, and I hated the victors for making me feel that way. And when I’d find a way to not focus on what a loser I was and would start to enjoy life again, some crusty old fart would come along and make me feel like garbage. Such is life. Losing is part of the game. In athletics, however, you may learn from your mistakes… but if you don’t have the natural athletic ability, or are not of the right physical composition to acquire that ability, you learn that losing is going to become commonplace. You learn that you, not the team, are a loser at certain things and there is nothing you can do to change that. My belief is that a young person can learn just as much about teamwork (perhaps even more) through clubs and other non-athletic activities that will benefit the young person more later in life than athletics ever will for the average student. America, however, focuses (too much, in my opinion) on athletics. After all, most people aren’t gong to rake in a multi-million dollar contract with a signing bonus by being good at debate. Most won’t even get a small scholarship to a small college to continue with sports after high school. Those same people who focused most of their attention on sports in high school would benefit from being able to enter into a lively debate… but that doesn’t matter. In our society, chase the money and fame even if they realistically don’t have Frosty’s chance in hell of obtaining it. Besides, the starting quarterback has a better chance with the ladies than the president of the chemistry club (at least in high school)… even though the head of the chemistry club will probably make more money in real life. Instead of focusing on developing skills that could actually benefit me in the real world, I played sports… poorly.

I don’t regret my years wasted playing sports. I had some good times and made some good friends. However, if I could do it over again, I probably would chose a different path for my high school years. But hell, if we could do anything over again, I’m sure most of us would change a thing or two (or a thousand). Life doesn’t work that way, at least not until I find that stupid genie’s lamp, or catch that elusive leprechaun.  Until then, maybe I should start going to the local high school’s athletic events.  I can look around for a bunch of student athletes and tell them how their behavior off the field is causing their lack of success on the field… whether that’s true or not.  Maybe, just maybe, I can make myself feel better by making them feel like crap.

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Oct 05

A friend of mine runs a state preschool in North Platte, NE. The preschool is funded with grant funds, which are in short supply this year. The friend has made a video for a contest that could help get her preschool $300 in winnings to help pay for supplies. If you happen to stumble across this and would like to help some preschoolers out, please visit the following link, register (you don’t have to buy votes, you get 20 free just for registering), and cast your 20 votes for the Lincoln Preschool video. They are getting really close to winning some much needed funds! The voting ends tonight (10/5/2011) at midnight (central time).

Thank you in advance for helping a preschooler out :)

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Oct 03

With my recent high blood pressure diagnosis and my brand-spanking new high cholesterol discovery, I have decided to start eating healthier.  I do not want to do this.  This is not a choice that I enter into lightly.

I love food.  I love fatty, carb-filled, salty, sugary food, and I love eating it until I feel like my stomach is going to explode and my brain erupts into toe-curling, food-fueled orgasm.

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The Big Food O

Food... a necessary pleasure :)

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Did I mention that I love food?

Now, food that is good for you tends to taste pretty ass-tastic.  Normally, if I were given a choice, I would almost always chose a nice, juicy hamburger with a side of crispy fries

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Burger/Fries

Mouth-watering, ain't it?

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… over a healthy alternative.

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Not really that happy...

Just because it's "smiling" doesn't mean I have to...

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Healthy food is bland, non-filling garbage.  Who could possibly feel satisfied after eating a broiled fish and a side of steamed broccoli?  Not me, that’s for sure.  But, here I am, trying to burn at least 500 more calories than I’m taking in every day to lose a pound a week… for the next several months.  This is going to suck… but I think it’s probably time.

I’m exercising harder than I have in the past.  I used to get on an elliptical and sweat away for 30 minutes.  Now, I get on an elliptical and push myself to the verge of a heart attack.  I still only go for 30 minutes, but by the time I’m done, I can hardly catch my breath and every muscle in my body (including my heart) is screaming.  As long as I have to suffer from the absence of the pleasures of good food, I at least want to get a relatively-ripped body.

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after?

My body-image goal

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Of course, I have a long way to go.

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before

Ripped body... 1 pound per week... looks like I only have about 7-years to go...

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Who am I kidding?!? I’m never going to get in any sort of real shape.  I’m going to be a butterball for the rest of my days; I guess I’ve just got to focus on adding days… days filled with the torture of exercise… and crappy, flavorless food… and expensive daily medication.

Not sure I want to add too many days…

Oct 03

Thanks, once again, to Stacy for coming up with a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to make my blog a little less bland.  I love holiday headers!
Halloween HSJ
Are you homeschooling your kids?  Ever thought about homeschooling your kids?  Want to have a friend home-school your kids so you don’t have to look at the little rugrats?  Well, I recommend checking out Nancy’s blog.  On this particular post, she is having a little contest… and you can WIN stuff… for free… that may be of interest to you if homeschooling is up your alley… and help keep you organized to boot!  Check it out! :)

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