School Lunches & Grey Hairs

Having three kids keeps you busy.  Very busy.  There’s always laundry, homework, showers, cleaning up toys and rooms.  And, then you of course have the other daily / weekly routines such as sports, friends and shopping.

It never was an easy adventure to be a parent, but it is amazing how much we can accomplish while sleep deprived. Whoever said having kids wouldn’t change you was completely disillusioned and I doubt he ever participated in the awesome responsibilities.

That brings me to my next topic – school lunches.

I bloody hate seeing all the these ridiculously perfect families on social media, who have oodles of time, and patience, to create the perfect lunch boxes.  Seriously, who have time to prepare mini sushi look-alike lunches, design cuddly sandwiches shaped like cute lions, serve small fried dish consistent of slightly fried vegetables, neatly sliced, mixed with fresh caught salmon.  Are you bloody serious!

Instagram, Facebook and other social networks are devil’s spawn.  How on earth can people find time to have these awesome creations?  I wish I could make my kids’ school lunches that fantastic, but I rarely find time to make my own.

My wife and I work 8.30 – 17.30 jobs.  We have to do the daily chores, play with our kids, do homework, and prepare the various meals.  There’s little or no energy left to spend designing next day’s lunch menu.  Kids will get the usual suspects; left-over food, peanut-butter jam, ham-cheese, chicken-cheese tortilla or other combinations.

We refuse to give them money for school lunches, as those are not healthy at all.  At least our lunches have fresh vegetables, meats, cheeses, and their snacks normally consist carrots, tomatoes, or pretzels.

That said, in recent weeks we have really made an effort making the school lunches more appealing.  It is important for the kids to open their lunch boxes, without fears of being laughed at or accused of eating items that looks like they are from another planet.

My latest creation was Lego shaped egg muffins.  Not the boring Eggos like in “Stranger Things‘, but little delicous egg muffins made with spinach, ham, cheese and eggs.

lunchI found our Lego baking shape and made a few awesome Lego shaped muffins.  And I must admit, and kids were not bribed, but they loved them.  It was probably the shapes, but I also hope they tasted nice.

These suckers were created out of normal parenting hours, after 10 pm, which is normally the time we start drooling on the sofa.  Actually, that happens around 9.13pm.

It’s tough being a parent, but I would not change it for anything in the World!

We parents do need to demand better school lunches on all schools.  It is not right that kids get pizza, fries, ice cream, sodas, chips etc.  This only encourages shitty food and increases the risk of childhood obesity.  Demand better food in schools!

Jamie, help us!  We need to start the food revolution … again.

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.

Homemade Beer Brewer

braumeister… or Braumeister as we call them in Germanic language, given the old beer making skill was kicked off at a larger scale in Germany in the 13th century.

“But from whichever it is made, whether from oats, barley or wheat, it harms the head and the stomach, it causes bad breath and ruins the teeth, it fills the stomach with bad fumes, and as a result anyone who drinks it along with wine becomes drunk quickly; but it does have the property of facilitating urination and makes one’s flesh white and smooth.”  – Scully, Terence. 1995. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages

viking drinking hornAs part of my native viking roots, I always had the urge to make the God’s nectar myself.  Drinking with Thor himself from a traditional viking drinking horn.

That day was realised when my lovely Inca flower (wife) presented me with a beer making kit for Christmas.  It wasn’t mjød (mead), but awesome black Irish stout mix.

I rarely consider the skill and patience required to make beer.  It’s just something that I enjoy drinking.  Pop a few cold bottles or cans on the BBQ table, and they quell your thirst.  It goes well with most dishes, expect deserts 🙂

Hear ye! Hear ye!  Making beer is not that simple.  I can testify to that after having kicked off a batch of the Irish stout in my kitchen.  Thankfully the kit comes with all the necessary gear and instructions for making a gallon of Irish stout.

Personally, I prefer to dress like duck dynasty to make it more authentic, or just because I had not showered for a week. Any little ingredient makes it more personal 🙂

My photos only show until the fermentation phase, which takes 2-3 weeks.  Once that has completed, I will share the verdict.

Paying Forward

It’s not every day that you manage to emotionally affect people while grocery shopping.

zombiesThese outings are mainly people walking like drones around the supermarket, surveying food, pondering on expiration dates and diving into ‘super sale’ basket to find the best deals.  There’s very little interaction with any fellow shoppers unless you accidentally knock into their trolley or run over their feet.

As you get to the check-out area shoppers queue up quietly, mostly waiting patiently for the the assistant to work their way through the conveyor belt – it’s a first world problem.

The other day while I was picking up a few items at the local ShopRite I had a wonderful experience.  I know it sounds bizarre, as ShopRite is just a supermarket, but it was truly a magical moment.

I joined the shortest line and waited for my turn.  I’m a law-abiding shopper and waited patiently while the customer in front was packing up.

Suddenly the guy, who had picked out a few items (no more than 7-10 items) for the Memorial Day weekend, was looking frantically at the check-out assistant.  The look in his eyes were off and I could tell he was short on funds.  I offered to covered the difference, assuming it was $1-2, but he kindly declined and removed items instead.

Next I saw him leave the check-out with-out his groceries, and I asked the assistant if he was ok.  He was not ok.

According to the shop assistant he had been in an accident months ago and was only now finding his feet.  He needed a few items to carry him through Memorial Day weekend, but didn’t have enough on his foot-stamp card.

I asked how much and was amazed when it was only $13.55.

boehnersobbingWithout hesitating, I told her I would pay for his groceries if someone could get him back to pick them up.  It was an older assistant and she was getting emotional for my kind gesture and asked if I knew the man, to which I answered no.

Everybody hits a low in their life, and it’s important that we help each other to move forward“.  At that point a small tear was forming in her eyes and the customer in front of me was also getting emotional.

Honestly, it felt normal to me to help a fellow man.

The man came back with a rather puzzled expression on his face and was humbled by my gesture.  At first he refused to take groceries, but I told him they had been paid and he couldn’t return them – it was my gift to him I said.

He left the shop with a new sense of hope.  That was evident from his posture and spring in he walk.  He was happy and relieved.

As I gather my groceries and started to walk out, the cashier smiled and thanked me.  She had not witnessed such a gesture in a long time and it made her month.

I walked outside and was greeted by the same man who had just received my grocery gift.

He wanted to shake the hand of the man who had given him the best Memorial Day weekend in over a year.  It was men like me that made the World special, and who made him proud to be an American.  He was ever so grateful for my gesture.  I told him to enjoy the weekend, and he hugged me.

The man had been in a bad accident 11 months ago and only just gotten a new job two weeks ago. He had not received his first pay check yet and was still on food stamp card, which was running very low.  Hospital bills had taken everything he had.

To say the least, he was extremely emotional about my help, and was close to tears.

As I sat into my car, I was suddenly filled with emotions.  It was a strange and wonderful experience, and I realized what I had just done.

pay-it-forwardWOW!  It was such an amazing feeling.  Helping a stranger or someone you know, with small gestures, will go such a long way.  The feelings you will experience afterwards are so rewarding, and I can only encourage you to pay it forward.

Little act of kindness goes a long way and touches people that needs help.  It’s only money and doesn’t have to be millions to make people happy.

Coffee Greed – busted

old-starbucks-logoI normally don’t write blogs about news events or other media related activities, as I don’t want to get into lengthy debates with people.  But when something occurs that makes my pee boil, then I simply have to share my thoughts.  This discussion may perhaps be a little heated and biased at times, but it’s a way for me to debate this topic with my evil twin (in my head).

This latest attempt to seek easy money is making me disappointed in people’s greed.  How bloody stupid is this law suit!?  Starbucks Lawsuit – hot tamales.  A cop suing Starbucks for spilling coffee on himself.

And a cop of all people, who I deeply respect for their bravery and protecting people, should know that coffee is hot, given many cops drink it with their doughnuts (just a silly stereotype statement 🙂 )

OK.  Coffee is hot, although it is not necessarily hot enough to cause severe burns, unless you order it ‘extra hot’ at the counter.  If that’s the case, then the coffee is about 180 Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius), which is not the actual boiling point of water.

Don’t get me wrong, it hurts like hell to spill coffee (or tea) over yourself and can give you some nasty + painful burn blisters.  Here’s a little Mythbuster-like review of burns … not tried at home, but found on Google:

  • Most adults will suffer 3rd degree burns if exposed to 150 degree water for 2 seconds
  • Burns may occur with a 6 second exposure to 140 degree water
  • Burns may occur with a 30 second exposure to 130 degree water
  • A temperature of 120 degrees, and a 5 minute exposure may cause 3rd degree burns

In my humble opinion, this is just an attempt to get money from a large corporation for your own stupidities.

To state that it has impacted intimacy with his wife, resulted in surgery, flare-up of his Crohn’s Disease, affected his kids and caused him from not being able to do his job as a police supervisor is stretching the power of coffee a little too far.

And, do they really think it sounds realistic and generous that they reduced their original claim from $10 million to “only” $750K.  How do you even calculate that number?  …. DUMB ASS!!  Let’s break this down, another Mythbuster-like analysis:

  • $15 for dry-cleaning
  • Coffee purchase $2.45 (this would most likely be refunded by Starbucks on the day)
  • Embarrassing moment when dropping pants (Kodak selfie moment) – priceless
  • $2 for petrol to drive 5 miles round trip to get new clothes from the house (based on fuel consumption on my El Camino)
  • $10 for the ointment to rub on the affected area
  • $35 co-pay for doctor’s visit
  • Total possible compensation = $64.45

Shit happens. You spill coffee, you take off the clothing and put on cold water.  Why did he need surgery?

No wonder so many products and companies have weird disclaimers – it’s to prevent dumb ass people to make stupid claims.

starbucks troopersA similar case made the news a few years back and the judge threw out the case.  Just Because Tea is Hot!

Europeans laugh at the Americans when they read such articles and it does not serve well for the reputation of a great Nation and its awesome people.

Now, had the waiter throw the boiling coffee on him, by accident or intentionally, then that changes the game entirely.  Still not a $10 million claim.  But that was not the case.

Long story short, I fully support valid claims and lawsuits to help people who are truly affected by actions or events outside their control. They need to be compensated, especially considering the insane health costs that comes with even the smallest injury.

Lawyers need to review cases more realistically and not encourage outrages claims.  Would it hurt to perhaps challenge the “victim” by discussing logic with them first.  If the coffee is steaming and ordered hot, then be careful.  Once you take the cup, you are responsible for your own actions.

Unfortunately we have people who try their luck and who have equally greedy lawyers.  As such, judges need to take a stance against these claims.  It affects us all in the long-run (conspiracy theory) as prices and insurances will simply go up to recover the legal charges companies are fined with.

Be safe – Be honest – Be positive

(disclaimer – this post is not sponsored by Starbucks and I have not been offered payments to support the Starbucks engine – although I could use a nice tall Latte!)

Barista Moments

A few barista statements that I found while searching for coffee temperatures, based on an interview with a Starbucks barista; Extra Hot Coffee – why?

1. When it’s cold outside. “When I worked at Starbucks in North Dakota, the temperatures would reach -30F plus wind chill, so drinks cooled down QUICKLY if taken outside/ordered in a drive thru,” Morgan wrote.

2. When you are ordering a milk-based drinks. Creamers, even when steamed, can cool down the temperature of a coffee. Tell the barista you want the milk steamed to 180 degrees, and it won’t negatively affect the taste of the espresso or coffee.

3. When you don’t plan to drink the coffee right away. If you want to enjoy your coffee at work but there’s a convenient Starbucks location closer to home, ordering it extra hot will keep it warm during the commute.