Kung Fu Panda not included

pandaThe joys of being a house owner, amongst many cool and not-so-cool duties, is that we get to decide how wild the garden should be.  Are we going for the ‘garden of the year’ award or do we take a more relaxed attitude, believing in reinstating the natural ecosystem.

I’m probably torn between the two choices, and the only in-between option is called concrete. An option, but not a fan of concrete. My choice is unfortunately natural ecosystem, with some sprinkles of garden award.  Probably a fair 97-3 split.

However, on one of my gardening adventures, I decided to kill what to some is known as garden cancer.  It spreads like an evil network of underground roots, tightly intertwined with roots and tiles.  Literally impossible to get rid.  It also happens to be the favourite dish for the overly obese and cuddly panda bear.

Yes, you guessed it.  It is the fecking bamboo. It looks great at times, but a pain in the behind to prune or remove.

My bamboo bush had taken over parts of the garden and was slowly moving across the garden pathway, finding little openings between the tiles and slowly expanding.  So began the battle of the bamboo.

Only minor problems.  I do not have access to koala bears, pandas or sloths.  And, it was close to 95F/35C during the past summer.  It was a battle I was destined to lose.

There are a few ways to kill or get rid of bamboo.  They mostly require a lot of patience, plenty of time and interesting chemicals.  None of which I poses.

But, I discovered the best trick in the book, which came to me in a dream.  A dream that involved my old biology teacher, who was laughing through his Santa beard.  Freaky I know.  It was basic schoolboy knowledge that proved to be the trick to break the neck of the overly enthusiastic bamboo bush.

What was it?  Well, I will give you this DIY trick for free, and also share that you will lose weight while killing your friendly neighborhood bamboo bush.  It is simply photosynthesis!

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the organisms’ activities (energy transformation).

Bamboo bushes uses all it’s leaves to regenerate and expand.  You can cut away at the edges, pull up roots, but you will lose unless you remove the opportunity for generating photosynthesis.

The trick is, which reminds of the old Metallica song ‘fight fire with fire’.  You have to fight photosynthesis with photosynthesis.  It’s simple my friends.

Step by step instructions in your photosynthesis battle.  Something that Syn Tzu forgot to mention in his ‘Art of War’.

  1. Find your garden handsaw
  2. Put on work gloves
  3. Put on long-sleeved shirt
  4. With one hand, grab a bundles of bamboo, and cut it about 5 inches from the soil
  5. Repeat step 4 until you have eradicated the bamboo bush
  6. Inspect the bamboo patch for ridiculous amount of sprouts
  7. Remove all small bamboo sprouts and leaves you find
  8. Repeat step 7 every other day for two weeks
  9. Take a shovel and start to dig up roots

Step 9 is a very tiresome exercise, which is excellent cardio and fat burning.  I spent several hours a day, over the course of three weeks, and honestly believe I lost 6-7lbs.

I’m sure you can use chemicals to do the killing faster, but I do not like to pollute my garden, and is a strong supporter of hard labour – except when I have to do the work!

In the end, it was my awesome and creepy biology teacher who in my dream taught me to fight photosynthesis with my knowledge in biology :-).  Sometimes you can actually achieve a lot with stuff you learned in school.

Other options include inventing recipes for eating bamboo, building a bamboo raft, build a bamboo shed, design cool pens with bamboo casings, weave baskets, create matts, design furniture … the options are endless.  Only your imagination sets the limitation, and of course your ability to do it.

(btw, my old biology teacher was actually a pretty alright dude, and he did not do anything to freak me out)

killbamboo

Thank you America!

thanksIt is the time of the year where millions of Americans travel across the country to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It is probably the only holiday they can agree to celebrate, no matter which religious belief you might have.  These mass migrations take place leading up to the last Thursday in November, and the entire road, rail and air systems are gridlocked.  They want to spend time with their families, and eat an innocent turkey.

It is a sense of belonging and greatfullness that started back in the day, when the firtst settlers sat down with the native indians to eat food.  And, just because of that gesture by the native indians, the settlers survvied and learned to integrate into the American ecosystem.

The actual meal in itself is ‘just’ another excuse to eat excessively.  There is a large selection of scrumptious pies, multitude of sides, sweet potato mash with marshmallows, and of course the main star of the dinner – the turkey.

The turkey itself is most times larger than the oven.  It is actual difficult finding a turkey less than 18lbs, and I often wonder what they feed these suckers since they are that large.  They are not obese, but nice and firm.

We moved here 5+ years ago, and the US has taken us in and made us feel very welcome.  99% of the people we’ve met are super friendly, and they never question why we are here.

One of the key things my wife and I have agreed upon, is that no-matter which country we live in, we have to integrate.  This integration starts with adoption and celebrating the holidays and key events.  You need to know these and show appreciation of the events.

We love thanksgiving.  We understand why it is celebrated and love the fact that this day is a very important family day.  It makes us feel part of the country and culture, especially when colleagues and friends invite us to their special days.

The other side which we we love is the food. OMG!

The food for thanksgiving is absolutely amazing.  No wonder I have gained 20lbs.  It’s another blog just to talk about food, but it is fantastic.  Many Europeans don’t really understand the excessive eating, but we have fully embraced it.

You will never integrate if you do not participate.  That’s what many foreigners don’t get.  It does not mean you have to give up your national identify and heritage, but merely that you respect the country you live in.  The country that has adopted you and given you opportunities to grow.  That is how you respect and thank it.

But why do we celebrate Thanksgiving in our family, since we weren’t here hundreds of years ago and have limited connection to the history of Thanksgiving?

We are proud to live here.  America has given us opportunities we didn’t have elsewhere.  We are thankful for being allowed to participate, and we are even more thankful for being included in their culture.  Our kids are flourishing.  We have met new friends.  We have a wonderful life.  We love life!

It is not easy to explain, but we feel at home here.  That is why we are thankful.  We thank the American people for welcoming us with open arms.

Thank you ‘Merica!

godblessus

The Carmine Code

carminesFor those not familiar with Carmine’s, it’s an amazing Italian family restaurant.  It opened its doors back in 1990, and pride itself to for making any meal feel like an Italian American wedding feast.

Many of my colleagues had spoken about Carmine’s, and I have heard reference to it on the radio and even in a few movies

… I think!

It was one of those places we simply had to visit, but we rarely went into the City.  If we did, it was mostly my wife and I, or perhaps just for a few business meetings.

A few days ago, the opportunity came knocking.  We had planned a visit to Broadway to see the “King and I” musical, as part of a fantastic offer with TDF who organises autism friendly performances.

After the amazing performance, it was late in the afternoon and we needed to refuel our bodies with some lovely food.  I unlocked my iPhone, opened the OpenTable app and made a reservation at Carmine’s.  It was like a new adventure was about to start.  Something mystical and mesmerising.

It was a journey to Shangri-La of food happy utopia, where we would sample wonderful dishes in a great atmosphere and among likeminded food loving people.

cloudyThe place itself wasn’t something amazing on the outside.  It was merely a small shop front, which led into a small bar area, full of people.  Then a dark magical staircase to the other side – to the promised land.

As we ascended the stairs, we were greeted by numerous scents and flavours.  It was in reality a smack to the face of gourmet food, and I was almost knocked off my feet by the sheer vapour bomb of food smells …. lovely food smell.

The waiter placed us at a family sized table, comfortable seating all five of us.  I glanced around the room and was pleasant surprised that this was in fact only large families.  People were happy, smiling, laughing and eating.  My kind of place!

We were Carmine virgins.  At least that’s what I told the very friendly waiter, and he was enthusiastic about explaining us the Carmine Code.  It was simple actually.

"This is a family restaurant
We serve family sized portions
The table share the food."

We ordered a salad, veal steak w/ mash and mixed plate of pasta.  According to the waiter, this should feed our hungry family.

Half way through the salad, which made Olive Garden’s salad tray look like a starter, I realized that we might have ordered a bit too much.

Then the two main courses arrived and I must’ve arrived in heaven.  In front of us were two large sized trays, filled with food.  Enough food to feed our family for a week.

I had to sample every piece, and it was fantastic.  Not Michelin star food, but real Italian style food, almost as mama would make it.  And, that was despite the amount of people who were eating with us, how many had been before us, and how many were coming after us.

I hit the food brickwall hard.  It was not unpleasant, but I was disappointed with my own performance.  We had barely made a dent in the past samples, and still half veal dish left.

heart-cloudsThankfully they have an excellent doggie bag attitude, and placed all the left-overs in tinfoil trays and a large shopping bag.

It was heaven.  We had just witnessed a food revelation and had in an instant become Carmine followers.  This was an amazing experience, and thank you food God for letting us experience utter stuffedness.

The Unwanted Visit of Jon-Ass

gingergrizzlyIt has been a very unusually mild winter on the East coast so far, with Christmas day hitting 70 Fahrenheit (21 Celsius).  Most days in December had blue skies and we didn’t even start the oil furnace.

I seriously considered preparing the Christmas feast on the BBQ, light the fire pit and then do some insane Marshmallow rice pudding creation for dessert.  In the end I opt’d for the traditional dinner in the oven.

People really enjoyed the mild winter and I was careful not to jinx it.  But, deep inside I knew we would get snow, and it would be back to snow clearing the ridiculous long driveway.

The news started to report about strange weather behaviours and snow was falling in Nashville.  Our local weather-guy forecasted the arrival of a Nor-Eastern storm, bringing a lot of snow.

Stage is set for the arrival of Jonas (aka Jon-Ass)

Not sure who comes up with these storm names, but Jonas Brothers were indeed an annoying phenomenon … they came, stayed for a brief moment and left us with annoying songs.  And, the equally Jonas Berggren who gave us Ace of Base.  You get the point, Jonas is annoying!

girls
Girls at Work

Late Friday evening the first flurries were dropping, and by the time we woke up we had about an inch.  Not much, but the sky was only getting started, and the intensity grew.

By 1 pm we had about 8 inches and the girls braved the blizzard to go hit the slopes (i.e. our silly long and steep driveway.

I stepped outside a few times, but each time my beard was filled with icicles, bringing back memories of my viking days sailing around the fjords of Alaska.  Back then, we only went to shore to pillage and sleep with the locals.

By Sunday morning, the snow had stopped falling, and the total accumulation was closer to 16-18 inches.

It looked absolutely stunning.  The white landscape, the silence and the powdery snow was only disturbed by the local wild life.

BUT, looks can be very deceiving, especially as we have a stupid long driveway.  It’s paved, but that does not make it any easier to clear.  Thankfully I have it almost down to a science.

Here’s the snow clearing recipe:

  • clear 95% with snow-blower; this will cause you to be covered with snow all over, resembling the abominable snowman.  It’s rather painless exercise, but wrists may become sore as you push engine forward.
  • scrape the remaining layer manually, to see black tarmac; this is a painful activity, which will keep on giving for several hours after you are done. However, if the sun is out, this will result in quicker melting
  • sprinkle the magic; by far the easiest job, and one you will have to compete for with the rest of the family.  You simply sprinkle some snow/ice melting salt over the areas, to remove the remaining snow.

Although, it also make you feel like a retired WWII veteran.  You back is killing you.  Muscles you did not know you had will ache. Some exposed body parts will be numb due to cold and limited blood circulation.

Two hours of hypothermia, white knuckles, icicles in beard and eyebrows, can’t-feel’my-knees sensation and frostbitten eyeballs.  It’s worth it man!

My driveway is now spotless.  Pride of the neighbourhood.  I’m the driveway-snowclearing-hulk … or just the ginger grizzly 🙂

BEFORE
BEFORE
AFTER (and I found three cars)
AFTER (and I found three cars)

Merry Christmas – hope you’re not offended

123ae2681b367cb92eb1d77ec787fdafIt is obvious – we live in a World were freedom of speech has become a misused verb.  It has lost its value and has been replaced by an exaggerated use of political correctness, which is driven into us by the media and daily routines.

Heck, even this blog might be considered inappropriate and offend people.  It may even go viral, but somehow I doubt it.  It’s just a post written by a middle class white immigrant dude, who’s enjoying life and living the American Dream.

What do I mean?

People can no longer express opinions, be assertive or even be proud of their heritage without worrying about how people might react.  We are stepping on glass, and at times that prevents us from being creative and drive progress.

Personally, I could care less what color, religion and political views you have, as long as you treat people the same way you want to be treated.  It’s rather simple really.

In an ideal World, we respect each others believes and traditions.  Just because you have a Christmas tree in your front-garden, and greet people with ‘Merry Christmas’ does not mean that you are attempt to offend people.  Heck, you are just happy and want to pass on your happiness to others no matter background.

  • I say Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends and Happy Eid al-Fitr to Muslim friends.
  • I hug my African-American friends just as hard as I hug my Irish/Danish relatives
  • I drink Guinness just like my Irish friends (not as much 🙂 )
  • I love food from around the World, no matter who cooked it
  • I’m utterly amazed with cultures and sights when travelling

We have to be careful we don’t put up too many obstacles for people to enjoy each others company. Some people will always be offended, and they will never be happy.

It’s like dealing with Father Jack (Father Ted series) or Archie Bunker (All in the Family series).  You just can’t make them happy no matter what you do.  But, let’s be polite to each other, respect each others celebrations and traditions.

So, my words to you during the festive season “Merry Christmas y’all.  I love you all and hope you will have lots of love in the future”.