Monday, January 26, 2009

My Crappiest Job Ever

When I was a young lad, there wasn't a lot of money floating around my house. If I wanted to buy the finer things in life such as Big Gulps, Gobstoppers, or Hershey bars I needed to earn money. I mowed the neighbor's lawn and worked for my Grandpa during the summer. When I turned twelve, I started delivering the local newspaper.

When I was younger, one of the neighbor kids had a paper route. He would deliver papers in our neighborhood after he got home from school. I helped him out a few times and it seemed like a fun way to earn a little extra cash. Between that time and the time I started throwing papers, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune changed from afternoon delivery to morning delivery. Afternoon delivery is col and fun; morning delivery sucks.

When I started, the route in my neighborhood was taken. I got a route that covered some condominiums and apartments about a mile from my house. I've been by since and they are pretty sketchy. Not the kind of place I would let my twelve-year-old ride around.

Every morning (7 days a week, 365 days a year) I would wake up at about 5:00 AM to find a stack of newspapers and inserts on the driveway. I'd lug them inside and start folding the papers. I'd put the insert in the paper, fold it up and secure it with a rubber band. On rainy days they gave us plastic bags to protect the newspaper. I'd load up my canvas bag, put it on the handlebars of my BMX bike and ride to my area in the dark.

I tried to get every paper on the porch believing that I would earn better tips that way. I got good enough I could throw the paper up to the porch from the street. This worked great unless I hit the screen door. The only sound louder than a hammer falling on an empty chamber is the sound of a newspaper slamming into a screen door at five thirty in the morning. After about an hour of throwing papers, I would ride back home, shower and go to school.

After I got home from school, I would pick up my stack of perforated billing cards, and go to all the customers in my area to collect for the month. I'd knock on the door, hope that someone would answer, and then pray that they had the money to pay the five dollar bill for the month. If they didn't have the money, I would have to come back another day.

Sometimes I would get a tip. Tips ranged from a quarter all the way up to a full dollar. I don't remember how much I earned for the month but it was probably about 50 dollars - not bad money for a twelve-year-old but not much for the amount of work.

There were no days off. Rain or shine, holidays, sick or well - the papers had to be delivered intact to the doorstep of the impatient, demanding customers. If the paper was wet I'd get a complaint. If it was late I'd get a complaint. If it was too far from the porch I'd get a complaint. Fortunately, I didn't get many complaints.

My sisters got a route a while after I started. My Dad drove my sister around while she delivered the papers. A little while after that, we consolidated the route. Judy and Sara got up early and folded the papers. I did the delivery. We did this for about a year and then we wisely quit.

I appreciate the responsibility a job teaches a young man. However, kids have a job. It's called school. My school work suffered when I couldn't stay awake in class. I got my first "F" in junior high.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mmmm! -- Whole Grain Goodness

My sister, Judy, started milling her own flour when she moved to Montana. She bought this gigantic grain mill and grinds various types of wheat into flour. She then turns the flour into the best baked goods you have ever eaten. Her sourdough biscuits are a particular favorite of mine.

When we visited Montana last November, we went to Mission General Store in St. Ignatious. I bought a small package of hard red wheat and a package of soft white wheat.

Now you're probably wondering what the difference is between hard and soft wheat. Hard wheat is higher in gluten (protein) and is used primarily for breads made with yeast. It tends to have a firmer texture and is chewier. Soft wheat has less protein and is used for breads made with baking powder or soda. It has a softer more crumbly texture. Hard wheat makes bread flour, soft wheat makes pastry flour, and a mix of both makes all-purpose flour.

I had my wheat but I had no way to turn it into flour. I looked at various grain mills before deciding to buy a KitchenAid Grain Mill for the stand mixer.

The mill arrived earlier this week. I immediately fed it two cups of hard wheat which yielded about four cups of whole grain flour.

The process was a little slow. If the mill builds up too much heat it can damage the flour.

I used the flour to bake a couple of loaves of whole wheat bread. Unfortunately I didn't knead the bread long enough so it wasn't very attractive, but it sure was tasty. I'm almost out of wheat but Judy is going to send me a bag next month.

I'm going to try using the soft wheat to make honey whole wheat pancakes. I have high hopes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From the Mouths of Babes

Aidan was watching TV last night when he saw "rockabama" on the screen. I'm pretty happy my three-year-old is so politically engaged.

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

A new President and fresh contact lenses.

Happy Birthday Pop

61 years ago Dan and Vera's youngest son was born into this world. Congratulations on a life well lived, so far.

I Didn't Sign Up for This

Between our not-yet-potty-trained son and two cats, I seem to spend a significant amount of my time managing poop.

Change a diaper, clean the cat box, change a diaper, clean the cat box, wash stinky clothes after a diaper leaks, take out the smelly trash, change a diaper...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Compromise - The Art of Parenting

Aidan usually takes a nap around midday for about 2 hours. Today he refused to go to bed.

He argued.

He cried.

I got angry.

Finally we reached a compromise - Aidan will play quietly in his room.

Somebody will regret this later.

ManUtd 1 - Bolton 0

Kevin Davies gets stuck in (photo from

Friday, January 16, 2009

Saving on Razors

I sprained my knee at work a couple of weeks ago when I missed a step in the dark. I've been off work so I decided to grow a beard. It's coming in red.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Crazy Coyote Tacos

Wind not visible

I took advantage of a break in Chuck's chemo to take him to lunch at Crazy Coyote Tacos in Cabazon. Crazy Coyote Tacos is a little taco stand just outside the gate at the Morongo Indian Reservation. They serve tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tamales and some other stuff. The only thing I care about is the tacos.

I ordered a two taco plate which comes with two tacos, rice, beans and a can of soda for eight dollars. You're thinking to yourself, "Wow, eight dollars is a lot of money for two tacos." It's not.

The tacos come in steak, chicken, chili verde and something else (I wasn't paying attention). I ordered two steak and Chuck decided to try a steak and a chicken. Several minutes later our tacos were brought to the window in Styrofoam clam shell containers.

We sat down at a table and tried to hold onto everything because the wind was blowing pretty hard. The tacos are made with homemade corn tortillas and are garnished with onion, cilantro, and hot or medium salsa. We had the hot salsa.

Wind not visible

The tacos are about six-inches across and are stuffed with the most savory steak you have ever eaten. The tortillas are tender and chewy just like Grandma used to make (well, not my grandma). The salsa is hot but won't peel the paint off walls. The beans are delicious. I guess the rice is good too but I've never tried it.

I love this place. It's a little bit of a drive but well worth it. I think they are open seven days a week from 11:00AM to 7:00PM. They are on the north side of the 10 freeway at the Fields Road exit.

You Are What You Drink

I was listening to the radio the other day when a commercial came on. This commercial spoke about the shame men feel when they drink diet soda around other men. It's apparently unmanly to drink diet soda.

I wasn't aware of this.

I did know that diet soda has traditionally been marketed to women who are constantly watching their waistlines. But I know plenty of guys who drink diet soda.

I didn't know we were sissies until now.

I used to think I was immune to marketing of this kind. I have a college degree and a deep skepticism, after all. I'm not immune.

I'm suddenly self-conscious of the can of Diet Pepsi Vanilla in my hand. Am I less of a man because there isn't sugar in my soda? Why have I only recently become interested in furry slippers and kittens? I feel a few quarts low on testosterone.

Fortunately, the commercial offered a solution: Pepsi Max.

Notice the steel gray can with modern sans-serif fonts. Notice the conspicuous lack of "diet" written on the can. There's just the name "MAX" and a big zero.

There is nothing more "MAX" than a real man.

It's got caffeine and ginseng. We all now what caffeine does (it gives you the shakes and a headache when you don't have your daily dose) but I'm not really sure what ginseng does. It must be something manly though.

Monday, January 12, 2009


We were walking around the neighborhood the other day when we saw a vacant house with a "for sale" flyer in the window. This home, the same model as ours but with an additional bedroom, was for sale for a price 180,000 dollars less than the amount I owe on my house.

That's a big chunk of change.

I'm confident that the housing market will eventually rebound and values will start to climb again. And I won't owe what I owe now forever. I'm paying down the principle on the mortgage a little bit every month.

But still!?!

What if I wanted to move? What if I had to move? We can't. We're stuck. For a while anyway. Fortunately I like my neighbors. I hope they like me because we are going to be here for a while.

If I had known the future, I would have sold our previous house and moved into an apartment, saving our profits and putting a little more away each month. And then when the bottom fell out of the market, I would have swooped in and purchased a really nice house, in a great location, for a bargain price.

But I can't see the future.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I Think It's Supposed to be Her Toy

Abigail got a Neopet in her stocking for Christmas. For those who don't know, Neopets are little stuffed animals that you register on a website. Once registered you can treat your Neopet like a real live pet.

It gets hungry. It needs a place to stay. It likes fancy clothes and jewelry. At least it doesn't have a litter box.

You can also play games to earn Neopoints that you can redeem for Neofood and other Neoneeds.

Abigail is getting a little frustrated with me. She can't play the games because I'm always playing them.

Maybe I need my own Neopet.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Another Helpful Parenting Tip

If your daughter is thirsty, don't just give her the purple stuff in the fridge.

It might be mulled wine.

To Abigail's credit, she thought it tasted horrible and couldn't rinse out her mouth with water fast enough.