Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Part 5: The Christmas Projects

Mrs. BigKat had a great idea for the kids this year. Originally, she was going to have them make gingerbread houses. But instead she did something else. She made a big pan of Rice Krispy treats. Then she used a cut up milk carton for a mold and stuffed the Rice Krispy goop into it. She did this twice to make 2 huge Rice Krispy houses, one for each boy. She put some frosting into a ziploc bag with a corner cut off. The boys squeezed out the frosting onto their houses and stuck marshmallows, sprinkles, and little pieces of candy all over them.
Oddly enough, the messy red one was created by the 5 year old, while the nice neat one was made by the 3 year old.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
Up next, Christmas Part 6: The Cinnamon Rolls

Christmas Part 4: Heroscape Deals and the Crazy Lady at Fred Meyer's

I love Heroscape. If I had Heroscape as a kid, I think I would've played it every day. There are so many cool little guys that you can play with: robots, ninjas, cowboys, aliens.

Well, a couple of days before Christmas, I was preparing to make my Christmas candy. I started taking out all of the ingredients when I realized that I didn't have enough corn syrup (the marshmallows take a full cup of it). So I headed off to Fred Meyer's to get some more (if you've never heard of Fred Meyer's, it's not some guy name Fred's house. It's a big store that sells everything: food, clothes, furniture, gardening stuff...and Heroscape!). I found the corn syrup pretty easy and picked up a nice big bottle of it. Then I decided to take a look at the Heroscape aisle...just in case.

Now Fred Meyer's is not the best place to buy Heroscape. Heroscape is normally pretty expensive. But it's very expensive at Fred Meyer's. But I always go take a look, like I said, just in case. A couple of days earlier, I had went to pick up $30 of stuff for Christmas dinner and came home with $65 of Heroscape. They had a 20% off sale, plus they had all of the wave 3 expansion sets, which I had never seen before. I decided to pick them up...just in case. That way I could take my time and decide if I really wanted them (they're still unopened in their boxes). I came home with an armload of secret agents, highlanders, gorillas, shaolin monks, and other cool guys.

So I didn't expect very much when I went back to do my Heroscape check, since I had just been there a couple of days before. But it was a good thing I did! They not only had the 20% off sale still going on, but they also had a buy one get one half off sale going on as well. They didn't have any more small expansion set since I had been there a couple of days before. But they did have some castle sets that were 50% off! But it wasn't clear if they were on buy one get one half off. So I grabbed a couple, just in case.

When I got to the check out aisle, I told the lady that I just wanted to check to see if the Heroscape sets were on the buy 1 get 1 half off sale. She scanned them and said that they were. I told her that I would be back. I wanted to see if there was anything else good that I could snag. She told me that I could leave my corn syrup and castle sets there and she'd ring them up when I came back. This was my first mistake...

I went back to the Heroscape aisle and found a couple of forest sets that I've been wanting. The forest sets are very popular so they're sometimes pretty hard to find on a good deal. I was glad to get them. I went back to the checkout aisle and, to my dismay, there were a couple of people there with lots of groceries. The people in front had a full cart of stuff and it was taking a while for them to get checked out. The lady behind them was in one of those motorized carts and also had a basket full of stuff. All of the checkout aisles had customers in them, so I figured that I might as well just wait where I was, my second mistake. After a little while, the lady in the motorized cart told me that she also had another full cart worth of stuff that she was buying and I might want to switch lines. I told her that the rest of my stuff was at the front of the line, so I needed to stay there. I waited a while and the people in front finally got done paying for their stuff. That's when the fun began...

The lady in the cart told the checker that there was another motorized cart full of stuff a couple of aisles down. It had run out of power so she had to get a second one. The checker got on the phone and had to call around to find someone that could find the cart for her. This took a while. Then the person came and she had to explain to him what was going on and where to look for the other cart. This took a while as well. The checker started doing pretty well ringing up all of the lady's items. But there were a ton of groceries, and she started running out of places to put them. This slowed things down a bit. It got even slower because the lady in the cart kept having to make sure that all of her coupons were getting scanned. And she had to verify that, when the checker put bags of stuff on top of other bags, that the bags on top contained items that would not crush the stuff underneath.

The guy drove up in the second motorized cart. The lady in the cart then informed me that I was going to have to remove my items from the belt so that she could fit her items on. My things were kind of big and I didn't want to hold them. So I told the guy that I would unload the groceries from the cart. That way, I could keep my items on the belt and just keep moving them back as room was needed. When the checker saw the guy go away, she became very confused. She said something to the effect of 'Where's he going? He needs to unload the cart!' I told her that I was going to do the unloading. She asked if I was sure I wanted to do that. I replied 'Well, I've got nothing else to do.'

At this point, I'm really trying to figure out if I should just go back and get a new bottle of corn syrup and new Heroscape sets. Or just stick it out. Since I now had cart unloading responsibilities, I didn't have much of a choice. Besides, I had made it this far, it seemed like it would've been a shame to quit.

The checker was really running out of space, so she had to get on the phone again. She needed someone to come bring another cart to her. Again, it took a while to find someone. Then the lady in the cart let the checker know that she couldn't find any large packs of 'Ferrero Rocher' candies. So the checker had to call to find someone who could go look in the candy aisle for a box of these candies. This took a looooong while (they didn't have any).

Finally, the checker finished ringing up all of the lady's stuff. I was disappointed to find that the total was only $322. I was hoping that all that stuff was going to be at least $1000. Oh well.

I quickly paid for my stuff and headed for my car. I had been in that line for over 20 minutes. I could've went back, picked up new Heroscape and corn syrup, went into another line, and still saved myself 15 minutes. But I didn't. My quick 20 minute errand had turned into an hour long adventure. The store was closed at this point and people were told that they could only exit through the doors in front of the grocery part of the store. I was just about headed out the door when I realized that there was no corn syrup in my bag! I checked my receipt and saw that the checker hadn't even rung it up! It was the only reason that I went to the store in the first place.

I went back to the checkout aisle to go get my corn syrup. When I got there, there was already a nice line of people with full carts waiting to pay for their stuff. I went up to the checker and said 'I need my corn syrup.' She handed it to me...and I left.

That's right. I left the store. With the corn syrup. That I didn't pay for. I STOLE corn syrup! I just really did not want to wait in line anymore. I know, I know, I'm a horrible impatient shoplifter. But it was 11:30pm and I just wanted to get home and make my candies. (My plan is actually to give them the money for the corn syrup the next time I'm at Fred Meyer's. At least that makes it so I'm only kind of stealing.)

I got in my truck and called Mrs. BigKat to tell her I was coming home. She had actually started to get worried about me because I was taking so long. I told her what happened and we had a good laugh about it.

The thing I realized was that even though I wasted 20+ minutes standing in line, I now had a story that I could look back on and laugh about for the rest of my life: How I went out to buy $4 in corn syrup and came back with $40 in Heroscape. And how a crazy lady in a motorized cart turned me into a common criminal.

Coming soon, Christmas Part 5: The Christmas projects

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Part 3: The Candy

When I was little, I enjoyed dessert making. I used to bake a lot of cookies. That's mainly because making cookies from a recipe was not too hard. You just do whatever the directions says and, soon, you end up with a bunch of cookies. Just mix some stuff up in a bowl, spoon out some blobs, and then bake said blobs according to the instructions. Nothing real complicated. There might be some butter creaming involved at the beginning, but that's about it. And even if you're off a little, what you end up with is way better than Chips Ahoy. I would even venture into pies and cakes once in a while. I liked recipes that had easy to follow instructions as well as some room for error. And no complicated techniques. Just mixing and scooping.

So when I'd see cookbooks with pictures of interesting looking candies, I'd take a look to see if it was something that I could do. But the mere mention of a candy thermometer destroyed any hopes I had of even attempting it. I was very much intimidated by the candy thermometer. Candy making just seemed like some crazy mad scientist ritual with terminology that didn't make any sense. What in the world does hard crack mean? And what would happen if the thermometer got fogged up and I couldn't tell if it's on soft ball or hard ball? What if the temperature shot up too quickly and I was too slow to do anything about it? It all seemed way too...dangerous. I didn't want to deal with it at all, even if it meant not being able to make my own caramels.

Looking back at it now, I think that my main problem was that I didn't understand the science behind basic candy making. If I had, I think I really would've enjoyed it. Well, thanks to my favorite food show, Good Eats, I've learned a little bit about what goes on when you cook a sugar solution. And, you know what? It's really fascinating. And knowing things like what will happen to my candy if I let it cook too hot or if I don't add corn syrup makes me a lot more comfortable. If something goes wrong, I'll probably be able to figure out what to do about it next time because I understand what's happening when the candy is cooking. Also, using modern recipes that say '240 degrees' instead of 'soft ball' makes me much more at ease. So now I know what bazillions of other Christmas cooks have known for years. Candy making is really easy, and it's pretty fun too.

This year, I made 2 different candies. One was the chocolate marshmallows that I had made earlier in the month. They turned out really well, so I made a bunch more. The other candy that I made was my toffee. A long time ago, a guy that I worked with brought some toffee in that his wife had made. It was some of the best candy that I'd ever had. Kind of like Almond Roca. But way better. I asked him if he could get the recipe for me, and he did. It took me a while before I actually tried making it (afraid of candy thermometers and all). And even when I did try it, it took some modifications to the recipe for it to come out right. Anyhow, what I have now is a recipe that I make pretty much every year at Christmas time. I make big batches of it and give it out to our friends. Everyone seems to love it, so I keep making it.

Here's the recipe in case you're interested:

1 cup unsalted butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

3 Tbl water

1 Tbl corn syrup

1 cup chopped walnuts

11 oz Hersey milk chocolate

1 cup finely chopped walnuts

1) Line a 13"x9.5"x2" pan with aluminum foil. Set aside.

2) Melt butter in a large saucepan.

3) Add sugar, corn syrup, water. Cook on medium high, stirring occasionally, to 280 degrees.

4) Take saucepan off burner. Quickly stir in chopped walnuts (NOT the finely chopped ones), and spread into the pan that you lined with aluminum foil.

5) Let pan cool about 10 minutes.

6) While you're waiting for the pan to cool, melt the chocolate. I do this by breaking it up into pieces and putting it in the microwave. Microwave it at half power in 1 minute intervals. Check after each interval to see if the chocolate is melted.

7) Lift cooled candy out of pan and place on flat surface.

8) Spread top with half of melted chocolate. Sprinkle with half of the finely chopped walnuts.

9) Place a piece of wax paper over the candy. Put an upsidown cookie sheet on top of the wax paper. Carefully flip the whole thing upsidown so that the cookie sheet is right-side-up with the candy in it.

10) Spread the rest of the chocolate on top of the candy. Sprinkle the rest of the finely chopped walnuts on top of the chocolate.

11) Let sit in a cool, dry place or refrigerate until chocolate has firmed.

12) Take a big knife and cut it up into squares like a checkerboard.

Tips:

Make sure you use butter, not margarine.

Pyrex pans work well.

You will need a candy thermometer.

Don't store in refrigerator.

If the toffee is too hard, you probably cooked it too long.

If the toffee doesn't have a nice carmelized taste, you didn't cook it long enough.

280 degrees has worked well for me, but you can move it up or down a bit to suit your tastes.

 

Up next, Christmas Part 4: Heroscape Deals and The Crazy Lady at Fred Meyer's

Christmas Part 2: The tree

For a long time now, I've been telling Mrs. BigKat that we should get a fake tree. And although, she's shot down my idea each year, she is slowly but steadily warming up to it. There are many great reasons to get a fake tree:

1) You only have to buy it once. Pick one up on an after Christmas sale and you're set.

2) You can set it up whenever you want. In the past, we've picked out a Saturday when we could go get it, only to have it start pouring rain. Then we have to wait a whole week for the next Saturday. And hope it doesn't rain again.

3) You don't have to cut it down. Cutting down trees stinks. And the trees we cut down always have these huge trunks. Not only do I have to spend a lot of time cutting through the massive trunks, but I also have to shave a bunch of the trunk off to get it to fit into our Christmas tree stand. Sure I could just buy a stand that holds bigger trunks. But I'm trying to get us to get a fake tree! And buying live tree equipment doesn't fit into my plan.

Besides, no one really has fun going to the Christmas tree farm. The kids have an ok time finding the tree. But they get pretty cold and bored waiting for me to cut it down.

4) You don't have to worry about watering it all the time or cleaning up tree junk all over your living room.

5) There's no bad spots. Unless you want to put one in when you're assembling it.

This year, we tried somewhere new to find our tree. In the past, we've gone to these big crowded tree farms. One we went to last year had a hay maze thing with a big slide. It had all these different attractions. Even pony rides! And you had to pay to use all of them. This year, if we were going to cut a tree down, I wanted to go to a place with just trees. No big parking lots. No bouncy houses. No gift shop with expensive ceramic Christmas knick-knacks. Just trees.

We found one near our church that looked pretty good. It was just a family farm. You parked in front of their driveway and paid in their garage. Perfect. We got there and I asked the guy how things worked. He said that for a noble fir (they had mostly noble firs), it was $40 per tree. Any tree. Could be 2 feet tall or 60 feet tall. Forty dollars. Mrs. BigKat immediately thought that this was a great thing and basically told me that we should get the biggest tree that we could find. Great. Now I'm all for getting a good deal on things and getting the most bang for your buck. But the thing that kept going through my head was: Big tree = Big trunk = BigKat with a Big backache.

Well, it didn't take us too long to find a nice tree. And yes, it was pretty big. Much bigger than any tree we'd gotten in the past. Mrs. BigKat and the boys took a look around a bit more to make sure that there weren't any better ones out there. And there weren't. So I got started cutting.

Boy was I miserable. First of all, the trunk was really big. I actually had to cut it down a foot off of the ground because the part next to the ground was way too big. Second, I was tired. I had run 10k that morning and I was still feeling the effects of it. Third, it started raining. No fun. And finally, it just took a looooooooong time. At first, I was making really good progress. And then my arms started to get tired. And it went much slower. Eventually, I felt like my arms were going to fall off. No fun at all.

Well, I finally was able to knock the tree down. Which made me feel good. For about 5 seconds. Then I realized that I was going to have to carry the Big Huge Tree up to the house about a hundred yards away. I started to drag the tree up. It only took 2 or 3 steps for me to realize that it wasn't going to happen. It was raining really good at this point and I wanted to get the kids somewhere dry. So we all started heading up to the main house (by the way, the boys actually had a great time while I was cutting the tree down. They were digging holes in the ground with sticks. They did this the entire time I was trying to saw the tree down. And they loved it. Even in the rain! Who would've guessed?). My plan was to see if I could get someone to help me bring the tree up. Well, it turned out to be a great plan. One of the guys drove down on this little tractor and hauled it up for me. And after he brought it up, he said that he'd load it in the truck for me. Perfect! Since they were doing that, I went in to check on the kids. Well, it turned out that loading it in the truck wasn't so easy. Mrs. BigKat saw them trying to put it in and said that it took 2 guys and a lady to lift it up and in. I'm not sure why it was so heavy. Maybe the rain gave it some extra weight? Well, I was just glad that someone else did it for me.

We got the tree home and put it in the garage. The following day, I set it up. Wow! It turned out to be our nicest tree ever! I just loved looking at it, especially after Mrs. BigKat put the lights on. I think it fit our living room perfectly. Nice and tall. But at the same time, not too wide. Just a very nice fit.

The funny thing is that as we were driving out to the tree farm, I think Mrs. BigKat was just starting to be convinced that we should pick up a fake tree after Christmas this year. Now, she's not so sure. Even I'm not so sure. You know, if I could get a nice tree like this every year for only $40, I may be willing to put up with an annual aching-back-arms-falling-off weekend.


Coming next, Christmas Part 3: The Candy

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Part 1: The Plan

Christmas is over. It seemed to come and go so quickly. But I think the recap is going to take a while. Therefore, I've decided to break  it apart into sections. Part 1 is 'The Plan'.

 

Here's how 'The Plan' started. Last year, Christmas was crazy. There were piles of presents under the tree. We got the kids some stuff, but they got a whole bunch of things from their grandparents. LilKat1 had so much trouble getting to sleep because of all the presents. At one point, I went to check on him and he said to me:

“I…CAN’T…GET…MY…MIND…OFF…CHRISTMAS!!!…I…CAN’T…GO…TO…SLEEP!!!”

And it wasn't really Christmas he couldn't get his mind off of, it was the presents. Christmas day itself was even worse. To begin with, LilKat1 got really mad when we started reading the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible because he just wanted to get to his presents. And when he started opening them, he was really just tearing through them without even really stopping to see what it was that he was opening. By the afternoon, our living room looked like Santa's workshop had exploded. There were pieces of toys and games strewn all over the floor and hunks of Christmas wrapping shrapnel covering the furniture. Not a pretty sight. It was quite stressful actually. The whole day was just so presents-focused. It really bothered me.

I decided that this was not going to happen again. I'm fine with gift giving during Christmas. I'm fine with grandparents giving their grandkids piles of presents. But I'm not ok with kids not being thankful for what they get. And I'm not ok with Jesus not being the focus of Christmas. My solution was to have almost all of the presents opened before Christmas. With the presents out of the way, Christmas could be just a big Happy Birthday party for Jesus. And by spreading the opening of the presents out over a whole month rather than all at once, the kids would not be as overwhelmed and would have some time to appreciate the things that they got.

It worked out really well. Our plan was to give the boys a present on each Sunday during Advent. On Christmas Day, they would still have the gifts in their stockings, as well as the things they picked out for each other, plus a couple of small things from us. The presents from the grandparents came a couple of weeks before Christmas. They were separated into small piles. The boys knew ahead of time which pile they could open on which day. And during this whole time, I kept explaining to the boys the reason why we were doing things this way. I think it worked. One time, My Friend Who Lies came over and LilKat1 gave him a very good explanation of why they got to open their presents before Christmas.

And on Christmas day, LilKat1 was actually very excited about reading about Jesus' birth from the Bible. Ok, I admit that right after we were done reading, he shouted 'Let's go open the stockings!' But he truly enjoyed listening to the story. And when I told him that before we opened the stockings, we were going to pray together, he happily joined in. Yeah, our living room still looked like a Merry Chris-mess when it was over. But we have some ideas on how to fix that next year. It's still a work in progress.

Anyhow, be sure to stay tuned for Part 2: The Tree.

New Record

See this ball?


I bounced it on my head nine times in a row last night!

I'm amazing!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Unlimited?

I just saw this, and it made me laugh. According to the article, Papa John's Pizza had some kind of a special deal on 3 Medium 'Unlimited Topping' pizzas. Sounds like a lot right? I mean, with Unlimited toppings, you could stack your pizza with 10 feet of pepperonis and still be within your rights to ask for more. Well...no. Apparently, in this case, 'Unlimited' means 5.

I tried to think about what would happen if this applied to other situations:

'Wow, so you're saying that with this new phone, I get unlimited long distance calling?'
'That's correct sir!'
'That's fantastic! I'll be able to talk with my parents everyday!'
'Well...not exactly...you can call them every day for 5 days...but then you have to wait until the next month.'

OR

'Have you seen this kid jump? I mean, his athleticism is virtually unlimited!'
'Wow, what's his vertical?'
'Five.'

OR

'Hey! The Mona Lisa! I've always wanted to see it! Can I buy it?'
'Sir, the Mona Lisa is priceless! It's value is unlimited!'
'I'll give you five dollars.'
'Done!'

OR

'Sarah! God spoke to me! He said to count the stars in the sky! That is how many descendants he will bless me with!'
'Abraham, that is impossible! The stars are too numerous to count! To my eyes, they are unlimited! I guess we will never know how many descendants we'll have.'
'Actually, it doesn't take that long. There's the big bright one, and the two next to it, and the one a little bit above it, and then the one on the other side. Soooo...Five!'
'Doesn't seem like much of a nation, does it?'

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Comic Book Guy

LilKat1 has been collecting a few Yugioh and Pokemon cards. He doesn't really know what these cards are for. There are some kids at school that have a bunch and decided to share some of their cards with him. So he has a little stack of dog-eared cards held together with a rubber band.

I thought it might be fun to buy him a few cards of his own. I didn't want to actually buy a pack of cards, since they're ridiculously expensive for little thin cardboard rectangles. But I thought I could go to a comic book/game store and buy some individual cards. Not the expensive rare cards, but the common ones that people end up with a whole stack of when trying to collect the rare cards and just want to throw away. I've seen a comic book store in town, so I decided to stop in and see if they have any cards that I could pick up. Anyhow, I drove down there and walked in the door. And do you know who I saw?

Seriously! This is the guy that worked at the comic book store! I don't know if this is just how he looks and really fits a stereotype or if he was just trying to go for this look since he's a comic book store guy (if this is the case, then he really hit the nail on the head!). I asked him if he carried what I was looking for and he said that he didn't. I tried to make some interesting conversation with him about comic books (I used to collect them when I was little), but he pulled out his elite-comic-book-snobby-nerd attitude. It was PERFECT! He even smelled funny!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Costco

So maybe someone can explain this to me. My boys are incredibly picky eaters. I mean really, really picky. Here's what they will eat for dinner:

LilKat1: Macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, sandwich (with butter and cheese only, sometimes with ham), grilled cheese (sometimes), spaghetti (sometimes), corn dogs, pizza, ramen

LilKat2: Chicken nuggets, hot dogs, spaghetti (sometimes), pizza, toast

Not a lot there, right?

But when we go to Costco and there's someone giving out samples, they will eat ANYTHING!!! Seriously! I really don't understand this. Today, LilKat2 had a chipotle chicken flauta. And he liked it! He ate the whole thing! You think he'd eat anything resembling a chipotle chicken flauta if I made him one at home? No way! But wait, you say! Why don't you just buy a box of the kind that they're selling at Costco. Surely, he'd eat that, right?

Nope...He'd have none of that. I guarantee it.

So here's my new plan. I'm thinking of getting rid of our kitchen table and chairs. I'm going to replace them with a couple of stainless steel carts. Mrs. BigKat will man one and I'll take the other one. One cart will be for the entree, and other cart will be for the side dish. Instead of cooking the food on the stove or in the oven like normal, we'll just cook their meals in toaster ovens that are on the carts. And instead of putting the food on plates, we'll just cut it up into small bits and put the pieces in little paper cupcake wrappers. When it's dinner time, we'll have the boys come over, and the cups of food will be available for them on the carts on little plastic trays. The boys can just meander back and forth between the carts, eating cups of food until they're done. Oh, and we'll probably have to wear white coats and shower caps too.

Think it'll work?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thumbs up

Every once in a while, LilKat1 will be using the potty standing up and he'll miss a little bit (and sometimes more than a little bit). This is not that big of a deal in and of itself. After all, a tour of any typical men's room would lead one to the conclusion that a good 95% of all men have this problem (on a semi-related note, I don't know if I wrote about this already, but a while ago, I was in the locker room at the YMCA and there was this old guy using the urinal. He had no clothes on. None. And I thought to myself...'Now there's a guy who's not afraid of cooties...' I, however, am afraid of cooties. Which is why, when I take my kids to play on the McDonald's play structure, I try to tell myself to always have them wear their slip on shoes. Because if one of the boys has to go use the potty all of a sudden, I'm not going to have them walk around the public men's room in their socks. I realize that often, in those gotta-go-potty-now situations, time is of the essence, but we still need to get those shoes on! Anyhow, back to the story...). But it is not very fun to walk into the bathroom (keep in mind that we have one of those houses where you're not allowed to wear shoes inside) and all of a sudden notice that the bottom of your foot is soaking wet. And then you look down and realize why it's soaking wet. Yucky...As LilKat2 would say, I can't really want that.

So I had to have a talk with LilKat1. I told him that I know that sometimes he misses the potty. And if he misses the potty, he won't be in trouble. But he NEEDS to tell me or Mrs. BigKat that he has missed the potty so that we can go in and clean it up before someone steps in it. He was fine with that.

Well, I'm happy to say that he has taken to this new rule quite nicely. In fact, he is quite outstanding at it. Now, he'll go into the potty, and a few minutes later, I'll hear a sing-song voice coming from the bathroom saying 'Daaaaaaaaaa-ddyyyyyyyy! I miii-iiiiissed! And then he'll poke his head out the door, flash me a huge grin, and give me a big thumbs up! That's my boy...

Mr. Jack

 

Mr. Jack is currently my favorite 2 player game. Want to know why?

1) The theme is fun: One player is Jack the Ripper. The other is the Inspector. Jack the Ripper is pretending to be one of 8 suspects. The Inspector has to figure out which one he really is before Mr. Jack can escape.

2) The components are quite nice: Little wood pieces with stickers on them for the suspects. Nice thick cards. And great artwork. As you can tell from the box picture, it's somehow dark and cartoony all in one. Fun yet...menacing! When I look at the board, I feel like the artwork fits the game perfectly.

3) Games play pretty quickly: The Inspector has only 8 turns to figure out which suspect is Mr. Jack. The box says that the game length is about 30 minutes. When Mrs. BigKat and I play, it's usually more like an hour (but we're playing at a pretty casual pace, making snacks, chit-chatting about the day, etc.). This works out great for us because we can easily fit it in during the evening after the kids go to sleep and not go to sleep too late.

4) A variety of characters: Each of the 8 characters in the game has unique special abilities. Not only does this help tie the game to its theme, but it also makes repeated gameplay much more interesting, as you figure out different ways to use each character more effectively.

5) Gameplay is easy to pick up, but has some depth (you can go here to find out the details of how the game is played): At first glance, this looks like it's a deduction game. Each player has access to all 8 suspects. As the suspects are moved around the board, the Inspector eliminates some of them from suspicion. This is done by moving the characters into or out of 'the light' (characters that are either next to a lit streetlight, or next to another character are in the light, all others are in the dark). At the end of each turn, Mr. Jack tells the Inspector if his character is in the 'light' or 'dark'. The Inspector then eliminates the appropriate characters from suspicion. In other words, if Mr. Jack is in the dark, then the Inspector knows that all of the characters that are in the light are innocent, and vice versa.

Now, clearly, this is not much of a deduction game. Knowing that a character is innocent because they are next to a lightpost when you know that Mr. Jack is not next to a lightpost is not a great exercise in logic. What you end up with is more of a puzzle game. The Inspector is moving pieces around so that they are split up evenly between light and dark, in order to get rid of as many suspects as possible. Mr. Jack wants to limit the number of suspects that can be eliminated as much as possible. In addition, if Mr. Jack can maneuver his character correctly, he can actually escape from the board before the 8 turns are up. It's hard to do, but it's something that the Inspector always needs to be aware of.

So now we have a fun puzzle game right? Well, not really. It turns out that near the end of the game, even if the Inspector doesn't know exactly who Mr. Jack is, he should have a 50-50 guess (or possibly at worst a 1 in 3 guess). The trick then becomes to figure out which one of the remaining suspects is guilty based on the previous actions of the Mr. Jack player. Is there one player that Mr. Jack always played? Is there a character that Mr. Jack seemed to need to protect or try to put near an exit? Are there any characters that Mr. Jack didn't seem very interested in protecting? This is where a lot of the fun comes in to play. As Mr. Jack, you not only need to protect your character from being revealed, you also need to keep them out of suspicion. Which makes the game into an interesting bluffing game! Do I make this move, knowing that it's the safest move because it will protect Mr. Jack, or do I do something riskier because it will cast more suspicion on another character? I remember one time while playing as Mr. Jack, I needed to allow Mrs. BigKat to control the guilty character because if I didn't, she would easily figure out which one he was. Fortunately, the bluff worked and she suspected the wrong person. But she could've easily move my character to a spot where I would be unable to hide his guilt and lost immediately.

And this is basically why I love this game. A nice puzzle, with some depth. Not too light and not too heavy. Great replayability with a fun theme. For me and Mrs. BigKat, it all adds up to a fun evening together.

Blanket Project

So, remember what I wrote about on Friday about What's it to Ya? Well, the guy that created the game, Mike Petty saw it and sent an email to me, which I thought was nice of him.

He gave me some information about the Blanket Project. Last year, Mike was able to go down and help some of the families who had their homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. It inspired him to do more to help people in need, so he came up with the Blanket Project. Basically, the royalties from his games go to the hurricane relief efforts.

So there's yet another reason to go buy What's it to Ya? Not only is it a great game but it also helps people out that need help.

This has got me started thinking about ways that I can take the things that I'm good at and creatively use those skills to help out other people. Generating a bunch of barbecue for the the 'soup kitchen' ministry at our church? Finding good deals on toys and giving them to toy drives? One thing that I'm currently looking into is starting an outreach sports ministry for kids at our church. Hmmm...we'll see. Definitely something to pray about...

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Chocolate Marshmallows

Ok, here are the marshmallows after they've been dipped in chocolate. They're very good...


Friday, December 7, 2007

What's it to ya

Last week, My Friend Who Lies (MFWL) and his girlfriend (MFWL'sG) came over to play some games. We decided to break out 'What's it to Ya?' It's a party game, kinda similar to Apples to Apples, but a little different. Here's how it works...

The game comes with a big stack of cards. Each card has a noun on it, like 'Truth', 'Patriotism', 'Garbage Collectors', 'Theatre', 'Family', 'Fast Food Restaurants', and 'Dentists'. 5 of the cards are drawn and displayed for everyone to see. Then someone puts them in priority from most important to least important. There are several variations that you can play. The way we did it, one person would prioritize the items, and the others would try to guess the order that they put them in. We also tried it in pairs, where one player of each pair would be the prioritizer and the other player of the pair would be the guesser.

We had a great time with this. The sign of a good party game is how much laughing it generates, and this game generated plenty. On one turn, 'Birthdays' and 'Criticism' were two of the cards. I consider Criticism to be pretty important. I mean, how can you improve on stuff without any feedback? Obvious, right? My partner was MFWL'sG, who I think is pretty level-headed, so I went ahead and put Criticism down as A (A is most important, B 2nd most, and so on down to E). I gave Birthdays a D. They're fun and all, but really, when you think about it, every day is someone's birthday. Take today for example. Millions of people have their birthday today. Millions! But it doesn't really feel like it's a special day.

Well, it turned out that I was a little off. MFWL'sG had put down A for Birthdays and D for Criticism. Next thing you know people are laughing at me and making comments like 'You think getting yelled at is more fun than having a birthday? BLAHAHAHAHAHA!' and 'Oh yeah, I really value getting yelled at! BLAHAHAHAHAHA!' I tried to explain that Criticism is different from Getting Yelled At. But I don't think anyone listened to me because they were too busy laughing at me.

I think this is a great game to add to a game collection. I got mine here and it wasn't too expensive. It's a great way to have some laughs, get to know your friends a little better, and create some fun memories that you can bring up now and then when you feel like making fun of your spouse. In fact, I was just telling Mrs. BigKat, who rated Spoons over Rights, that it brings a smile to my face imagining her in Braveheart telling a group of soldiers that...'they may take our lives...but they'll never take OUR SPOOOOONS!!!'

Marshmallows

The other day, I was thinking about marshmallows. I've always purchased them from the store, but I don't think I've ever seen a homemade one. I asked Mrs. BigKat if people ever make marshmallows. They just seem so round and poofy and un-homemade. She said that she didn't know. We both wondered if Alton Brown would ever do a marshmallow show. Well, he did. About a week after we had that conversation. Scary, huh?

Well, since the Food Network obviously has my house bugged, I felt compelled to try my hand at marshmallow making. It's actually pretty easy. You basically put together a sugar syrup, cook it up to 240, and mix it together with some gelatin really, really fast for about 15 minutes. Then pour it out into a pan, use some sugar/cornstarch to keep it from sticking, and let it sit for a while. You end up with something that looks like this:

That big poofy rectangle is officially the biggest marshmallow that I've ever met in person!

Next, you just cut the rectangle up into little squares and you end up with...


Homemade marshmallows!

These were pretty fun and easy to make. But spreading them out in the pan is an adventure. The stuff is incredibly sticky! I tried using an oiled rubber spatula, but I may as well have been using a giant sucker. They have to sit out overnight to set, so I was able to try one this morning (only one though, since I haven't had breakfast yet). It was pretty good! Definitely more homemade tasting than a regular marshmallow (although LilKat1 says it tastes the same. And yes, I gave my son a marshmallow to eat with his breakfast).

Next step: dip them in chocolate...mmmmmm...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Coach

The boys have a couple of friends over to play right now. They are brothers, 5 and 2. The older one, K, was on LilKat1's soccer team. So now, both boys call me 'Coach'. Even the little one. I'm just imagining them older, maybe like teenagers or something, and we have their family over for a barbecue. When I'm handing out food, will they say 'Coach! Can I get cheese on my burger?' I'm very curious to see how long the 'Coach' name sticks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Warriors

Last night, the Warriors beat the Suns. I don't get the game up here, so I had to 'watch' by sitting at the computer with the box score open and periodically pressing Refresh.

And it was still exciting! The Warriors are doing really well! They started out 0-6, but have won 6 of their last 7 since then. Last night, they snapped Phoenix's 8 game winning streak, officially making the Warriors the best team in the entire universe right now (yes, I said official! You read it on the internet didn't you? Official!)

Anyhow, no one but serious Warriors fans (and I am one of them) would enjoy this clip. The sad thing is that if I thought hard enough, I might've been able to win this contest...



By the way...Popeye Jones...

100

I reached 100 miles today! It took me about a month and a half, but I did it! Woo hoo! Here's a picture of the certificate that they let me print out to commemorate my achievement...


If you would like to print out your own copy, go here.

Yay me!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Challenge Results


I just finished my 2 running challenges. I did pretty well in my How-Many-Miles-Can-You-Run-In-A-Week challenge. I actually did a lot more than I thought I would. I ran just under 30 miles. Not too bad! The hard part was that it was pretty cold and rainy during some of the week, but I still had to go out and run. On the last day of the challenge, it was particularly cold and rainy, and I wasn't feeling well. I was thinking of just running a little over 3 miles, but once I started running, I decided to bump it up to 4 miles. Once I got my 4 miles, I figured that I was already miserable so why not run a little farther. I ended up doing my longest run yet, a little over 5 miles!

I got 2nd place in that challenge, although I think the person that won seems a little fishy. They were behind me, but then somehow did just under 20 miles in the last day. Cheaters!

My other challenge was to run 50 miles before Christmas. I noticed that because I ran so many miles for my other challenge, that I was almost there. So I decided to see if I could do finish it before Thanksgiving. Which I did. Yay!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

PrincessKat

PrincessKat is a little over 1 year old. Here are some things that she can do:

1) Tell you what it is she wants by pointing and screaming.
2) Grab you and pull you to where she wants you to go.
3) Climb EVERYTHING.
4) Put her hands together when it's time to pray.
5) Dance when someone starts singing and dancing on tv.
6) Stand on things that were not meant to be stood on.
7) Give hugs.
8) Give kisses.
9) Chase kitties.
10) Play ball (LilKat2 and I played a game with her where LilKat2 would throw the ball to me, I'd hand the ball to PrincessKat, and she'd run over and give the ball to LilKat2).
11) Knock over blocks.
12) Wave.
13) Blow kisses.
14) Put stuff in her bucket and carry it around.
15) Sense that you are going to wipe her nose with a tissue and run away.
16) Respond to her name.
17) Drop whatever she's holding on the ground when you tell her that she's not supposed to have that (or sometimes run away when you tell her that she's not supposed to have that. I guess it depends on how much she wants it.)
18) Make her brothers laugh by sneaking up on Dad when he's lying down, sticking her fingers in Dad's nose and mouth, and pulling his face like it was a bowling ball.

Yellow Blood

LilKat2 had a bad dream the other night. We went to go check on him and he was sitting in bed crying. We calmed him down and I sat with him for a bit while he tried to settle himself back in bed. Here's our conversation:

Me: Did you have a bad dream?
LilKat2: No.
Me: Then what happened?

(pause)

LilKat2: I have blood.

Me (a bit alarmed, and trying to quickly scan for blood in the dark): Blood? Where do you have blood?

LilKat2: Well...it's yellow...

Me (a little confused): Soooo....what do you need?

LilKat2: A tissue

Me: Ok, you got it
(gets LilKat2 a tissue)

So what I've learned is that if you don't teach your kids the words 'booger' or 'snot', you end up with Yellow Blood.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My first challenge

Well, I'm still running. In fact, I just entered my first 2 'challenges'. Challenges are these things you can sign up for on the Nike Plus website. If you win them, you get a little award on your screen. The first one that I signed up for was to run 50 miles by Christmas, which meant that I had roughly a month and a half to go 50 miles. Not too bad. The other one that I signed up for was to see who could run the most miles in 1 week. It said 'Beginners only', so I figured that this wouldn't be too bad either.

I was wrong. It has not been easy. First of all, there are some non-beginners in the challenge. At least I would consider them non-beginners because they're running 7 miles at a time. Second, there are people who include their walking distances. So they can run 3 miles, walk 3 miles and it counts as 6 miles. I'm only counting my running distance, so it's pretty tough for me to keep up. But the main problem is that my super-competitive instincts are starting to kick in, and it's wearing me out. The challenge started on Sunday night at 10pm. I seriously considered going out for a run right at 10. But my mom was over for dinner, and we played some boardgames afterwards. By the time she left, it was past 11. But I still wanted to go run.

Well, I didn't run that night. Instead, I ran the next morning...in the FREEZING COLD WIND and RAIN! I did a shorter run, just over 5km. But then I also ran again that evening, another 5km to make up for not running the night before. The next morning, it was cold, but not raining. I did another 5km. But I didn't run again that day and felt really guilty about it. Which brings us to today. Last night, I was in first place. But today, the run/walker did a 4+ mile run/walk to go ahead of me. So I decided that I was going to go ahead of them. I did 4.25 miles, my longest run by almost half a mile. And now I'm in...2nd place still. The 7 mile workout guy did 2 workouts and is now way out in first place by himself. I'd have to do another 4+ mile run to catch him. Which I would actually consider doing, if I didn't have basketball tonight.

But I am considering trying to do another 4+ mile run tomorrow morning. And I know I would be miserable the whole time. The morning after basketball, my body is usually pretty sore. Plus, I think it's supposed to be another cold, rainy morning.

When I did track and field for the community college several years ago, the coach said that I had a problem with overtraining. I'm starting to think he's right. I also think that I will be much happier once this week is over.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Funny Sunday School moment

There's a family at our church, the L's, that are one of my very favorite families. I had their older son in my Sunday School class a few years ago, and now I have their little girl, M. Now this family is a very nice family. I enjoy talking with both of the parents. And the kids are great. But sometimes, things happen that remind you that even the nicest people have their bad days. And if you happen to have one of those days around your kids, you may get unexpected results.

Well, this weekend, our family went orienteering. I've been telling the L's about orienteering for a while now, and they keep telling me about how much they'd like to try it out. So Saturday morning, I called them to let them know that there was an orienteering event at one of the local parks. No one was home when I called, so I left a message. The next morning, they came in to my Sunday School class to drop off M. They thanked me for the message and said that they would've loved to have gone, but they were busy all day. I told them about what a nice day it had been, perfect for orienteering. The dad said something to the effect of 'Well, it sounds like we would've had a lot more fun doing that than what we ended up doing' and his wife nodded in agreement.

After M got checked in, she started coloring with me and some of the other kids. I asked her what her family did all day yesterday. She kind of scrunched her face thought about it for a second. After a few moments, she said 'Well...my dad was yelling at my mom...then I was late to a birthday party...but I got to see them open presents...' Right after she said 'my dad was yelling at my mom' I started laughing. It was too funny.

When M's parents came to pick her up, I said to the dad...'So I asked M what you guys did on Saturday...and she said 'Well, my dad was yelling at my mom...'' He just kind of looked down, wiped his hand on his forehead, and said 'Yeah...it was just one of those days...'

Now I'm wondering what kind of things our kids say to their teachers about me and Mrs. BigKat!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Stuff I read on the internet

Here's a couple of interesting things that I found today...

1) Remember that show, American Gladiators? I loved that show. When I was a sophomore in college, I was watching it on tv and they said that they were going to have a tryout right by my house. I decided that I had to give it a shot. I knew that one of the challenges was to do 24 pullups in 30 seconds. I was in pretty good shape, so I could do this fairly easily. One of the other challenges was to run a 40 yard dash in under 5 seconds. I knew I could do this as well. One of the funner looking challenges was when they matched you up with another candidate in a game of PowerBall. I wasn't sure I could do all of the challenges, but I knew I could at least do a few of them.

Well, it turned out that I couldn't do even one of them. The first challenge that everyone had to do was the pullup challenge. Unfortunately, what I didn't realize was that they didn't use a normal pullup bar. Instead, they brought in some scaffolding for people to do pullups on. The scaffolding bars were very thick. I was pretty much just hanging on by my fingertips. I ended up falling off of the bar twice and only got 17 pullups in. A lot of the guys that made it used pullup straps so that they wouldn't have to grip the bar. If I had done that, I truly believe that I would've been an American Gladiator champion. Well, I would've at least gotten to play PowerBall.

Anyhow, this article says that they're remaking American Gladiators and are going to have a new show on NBC. Looks like I need to start practicing my pullups!

2) A long time ago, did you own the game Mastermind? The original box looked like this:

 

My parents owned this game, and the box sure made it look like it was a very grown up game. If you had this version of the game and grown up, sophisticated people in the picture intimidated you as much as they did me, then you should read this article.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Tennis

When I was little, tennis was one of the big sports in our family for some reason. My dad played a bit. He had a bunch of fancy tennis rackets. My uncle and aunt played a lot. I remember one time going with my dad to play a game of doubles against my uncle and my cousin. I was a bit intimidated, especially since I really didn't play tennis much at all. First of all, my cousin was older than me (still is actually), so he was 'big'. I even think he may have been a Teenager at the time. Second, tennis seemed very important to their family, so they played a lot. When they played doubles, they would actually run plays! My uncle would say something, and then they'd both run to the net. And then there was me, the kid who couldn't even serve properly (actually, I still can't serve).

I wasn't very good at tennis since I rarely played, but I did enjoy it. I also liked watching it, Wimbledon especially. For some reason, I liked rooting for John McEnroe. I remember getting really excited when he beat Bjorn Borg. I also remember watching Wimbledon at my aunt and uncle's vacation house in Santa Cruz and being shocked that this Boris Becker kid actually won Wimbledon. He can't win! He's not even seeded! McEnroe should win, not Boris Becker!

I don't follow tennis at all anymore, and I never play. But I just watched this commercial and it brought back a bunch of those goofy tennis memories.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

DIY Project

Ok, I found the perfect science fair project for my kids. No need to make blue celery or baking soda volcanoes! This is much better!


Cotton Candy Machine - The best home videos are here

More on the Warriors game

A couple of other things that I forgot to mention about the Warriors game:

1) Deron Williams is very good. He is very, very good. He's big so he's a tough matchup for smaller guards. He's a very good passer. He can play a halfcourt game as well as an uptempo game. He's a good defender. And he makes clutch shots. Not much more you can ask for in a point guard.

2) Andre Kirilenko does not do much in the Jazz offense. But on defense, he blocks a lot of shots. There were several times when one of the Warriors would think they had a layup, and Kirilenko would fly in from out of no where to knock it away.

3) Boozer is also very good. He can put up a variety of shots from the post, and they all seem to go in. He's also very strong and gets a lot of rebounds.

The Jazz are a good team. They have a good young core. As guys like Duncan and Nash get older, the Jazz are in good position to become one of the elite Western Conference teams (right behind the Warriors!).

Trinity/Millsaps

Here's another video of the Trinity/Millsaps play, but from a better angle and with more detail. I didn't notice this in the original video, but the lateral at the end, the ball actually skipped on the ground before it got to the guy that ended up scoring.

Warriors - Opening Night

Yesterday, I was very excited to watch the Warriors play the Utah Jazz on opening night. I don't get to see too many Warriors games, since I don't live in the Bay Area anymore, but this was going to be a nationally televised game on TNT...except that it wasn't. When I checked the listings, the TNT games were Portland/San Antonio  and Lakers/Rockets. I was very disappointed.

Well, for some reason, I decided to flip over to the Fox Sports Bay Area channel, just in case they were showing the game. There would be no good reason for me to have the game though since a) I don't live in the Bay Area and b) I changed my DirecTv package so that even if I lived in the Bay Area, I wouldn't have the game.

But when I changed the channel, I was NOT greeted by a black screen with the 'call 1-800-something-or-the-other to request this channel' message. There was an actual commercial! And after the commercial, there were Warriors! Playing basketball! I was so excited! I was going to get to see my game!

When I started watching, the Warriors were up by 3. That was the highlight of the game for me. It all went downhill from there. But at least I got to see it! The Warriors didn't look so good, but there were some bright spots.

Here's the good:

1) Baron Davis looked good. He got to the rim a lot, gave a bunch of assists, and drew a lot of fouls. He also played some good defense as well. On one fast break, he sensed his defender was right behind him, so he suddenly stopped and pulled up for 3. The defender ran into him, and Baron proceeded to sink the 3 free throws. He had a few sneaky plays like that.

2) Pietrus actually did a good job. He did the things that he's good at and avoided things that he's not good at. For a while, he was the only Warrior providing any offense. And he actually snagged a few rebounds as well. When he got the ball, he either took the open shot if it was there (3/5 from 3 point) or he passed it to someone who can dribble the ball without turning it over.

3) Monta Ellis had a stretch where he drew 3 quick fouls on Deron Williams. Monta is very quick and had some very nice moves to the basket. Williams couldn't keep up with Monta's speed.

4) Patrick O'Bryant only got in during garbage time, but he looks like he has the potential to be really good. He has really long arms. I think it's possible that he could guard guys like Boozer just because he is so tall and long. Boozer had trouble getting his shot of against him. And when POB was able to get in good position, his long arms helped him to get some rebound. He was much more aggressive than last year and looked like he was really trying hard on the boards. He also has a nice jump hook that is very difficult to defend.

5) Azibuike looked pretty good. He's got some development to do, but he can do things at the 2 position that Richardson couldn't do. He's better on defense, and he can actually drive to the basket.

6) Belinelli looks like he can shoot the ball pretty well.

7) Harrington looks like he's trying harder to get rebounds.

Now here's the bad:

1) Baron made it to the line a lot, but he missed a lot of free throws. Actually, a bunch of the Warriors missed their free throws. If they keep leaving that many points at the line, they're going to lose some close games.

2) Barnes was bad. You know how I said that Pietrus did what he was good at and didn't do what he was bad at? Barnes was the opposite. Horrible shot selection. Not much rebounding. Not very good.

3) Biedrins was not very effective. Boozer scored on him at will and easily outrebounded him.

4) Monta could not guard Deron Williams. The only Warrior who could stay with Williams was Baron.

5) Troy Hudson was a horrible backup point guard. He looks for his own shot way too much. And then misses them. If we wanted that, we would've kept Derek Fisher.

6) Too many missed open shots. Monta, Harrington, and Baron all had a lot of good open looks that they just missed. If the Warriors can't make their open 3's, it will be hard for them to win, especially without a good low post option. Also, when they're not making their shots, the defense can sag off of their man and swarm to Baron when he gets in the lane.

7) When they get outrebounded as badly as they did last night, it is hard for them to start their break. This really slows their offence down and takes them out of their game.

8) Monta is not a good point guard. He's got a long ways to go. He turns the ball over way too much to be an effective point guard right now.

9) They really need Steven Jackson back. I think they're much scrappier when he's in the game. That leads to them getting more loose balls, forcing more turnovers, and making the other team do things that they're not so comfortable doing. He also provides leadership when Baron is off the court.

10) It is hard for Brandon Wright to replace Jason Richardson's offense when he's sitting in a chair on the bench wearing a suit.

So yeah, the game was ugly, but it was fun to be able to see the Warriors again. I still have a bunch of the playoff games from last year on my Tivo. Hopefully the Warriors will get things figured out soon. I think right now, they're just trying to survive until Steven Jackson's 7 game suspension is over. If they go 3-4 over that stretch, that wouldn't be so bad. If they can start hitting some more of their open shots, get a few more rebounds, and start harassing people on defense, I think like they'll start to look like the team that no one wanted to play last year at the end of the season.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Busy Busy Busy

I haven't done an update here in a while, but I have several posts that are half done. I've found that it takes me a long time to do a really interesting post. And lately it seems like it's very hard to find any free time. But the fall soccer season is officially over now, so hopefully, that will make things a little less busy. Although we are thinking of signing both boys up for basketball. We'll see.

Anyhow, here are my 3 interesting things for the day.

1) One of the cats threw up on my VOIP router. It still works, but it's pretty yucky.

2) I made my first 2 running goals! Now I have 2 little medals!

3) I just saw this video:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Running Update

Now this is something unexpected. I've ran every day for the past 5 days. I even ran on Sunday! Sunday is our busiest morning because I have to leave the house really early because of Sunday school. But I NEEDED to get a run in so that I could move my running graph farther over. I actually woke up super early on a Sunday so that I could run. Weird.

Here's how I did:

Saturday

2.29 miles

20 minutes 07 seconds

8 minutes 45 seconds/mile pace

333 calories

The last part of the run was great. I clicked my power song on and ran up a big hill. And when my workout ended, Paula Radcliffe told me that I had just completed my longest run. Wow! Now that was exciting! Paula Radcliffe talked to me! What? You don't know who Paula Radcliffe is? Actually, I didn't either. But I figured she was some runner that is sponsored by Nike. It turns out that she's the women's world record holder for the marathon. Here she is in a commercial:

I took a look at her personal records. She can pretty much clobber me in any race from 400m on up. And not just a little clobbering. It would be a really good clobbering. I imagine that I could beat her in 100m, but I couldn't find any data on her times so I'm not sure. To be safe, if I ever have to challenge her to a race, I'll try and keep it to somewhere between 10 and 40 meters (probably closer to 10 would be better).

Here are my Sunday results. I didn't have that much time, so I just ran 2 miles:

2 miles

16 minutes 41 seconds

8 minutes 18 seconds/mile pace

291 calories

At the end of this run, Lance Armstrong talked to me and said that I just ran my fasted mile! Lance Armstrong! You've heard of him right? He runs the marathon 45 minutes slower than Paula Radcliffe.

Well, that brings us to today. I was all set to try for a 5k today. That's 5000 meters. 3.1 miles (although, I think 5k sounds much more impressive than 3.1 miles). But I wanted to make sure I could reach my goal, so I set the time for 25 minutes. I figured that if I felt good at the end of 25 minutes, I'd run a little extra and finish up at 5k. I made sure to start at a nice slow pace so that I'd be able to run the whole distance. My slow pace lasted for about half a block. WHAT? Ok, so things started to go south a little early. Right after I turned the first corner, I saw this lady running ahead of me. She was probably going at about a 9 minute/mile pace. My naturally competitive side kicked in and I HAD to pass her. And I HAD to be going FAST when I passed her. So I picked up the pace and blew by her. Because I'm just TOO FAST! And afterwards I kept going TOO FAST! I imagined her behind me, staring in disbelief at my blazing speed as I left her in the dust, slowing her pace down to a stop before turning around and walking home in disgrace, where she attempts to heal her agony of defeat with 3 eskimo pies and a box of mini-donuts (I don't know if it happened for sure, but I think it did). Anyhow, after about a half mile of this, I start to wonder if maybe it wasn't such a good idea that I went out too fast. I start to slow down quickly and finish my first mile in 8'37". But the section ahead is all downhill, so I get to pick up the pace again! Until...

 

CRACK!

 

That yucky sound we just heard? Yeah, that was my ankle. I stepped on this uneven part of the ground near the gutter and rolled it. OW! So here I am hobbling downhill. And I wonder, just for a split second, if I should just stop here and head home. But then I quickly realize that this is out of the question. Why? Because I need to make the line on my distance graph move over! That's why! So here I am hobbling downhill. I get to the bottom of the hill, and the ankle is still pretty sore. I check my pace and I'm at 9'58"/mile. Great...

But after a little while, it starts to feel a bit better. At this point, I'm only halfway done with my workout. The chart of my run shows my pace doing a nice shallow downward slope over the next 10 minutes. This represents me getting really tired and wishing that I hadn't tried to annihilate that running lady. But the last portion of the graph is a steep dip. That would be me struggling to get up the 1/4 mile hill at the end. My pace for that last section? A little slower than me hobbling with a busted ankle. Not so good.

After I got up the hill, I had only a minute or so left. I ended the workout promptly at 25 minutes. No extra for me today. I was beat. But Lance Armstrong came on again and congratulated me on completing my longest run. Lance is so nice.

When I got home, I decided to weigh myself to see what kind of effect my running was having. I stepped on the scale...I'm heavier than I was before.

So here's the results of my running: my legs are sore, my back is sore, my ankle hurts, and I'm 2 pounds heavier than I was before. But I have to keep it up because of my distance graph!

I have 2 goals set right now. One is to run 16 miles in 4 weeks. The other is to run 8 times in 4 weeks. I'm already over halfway done with both of them. When I finish them, I'm going to get 2 little medals. And when I logged in today, it told me that I've completed 11 miles and I need to keep going so that I can get up to 100! I think I get a little ribbon for that.

I'm not sure why little computer pictures of medals and ribbons and a bar chart of my distance is motivating me to do something that I don't like to do. But it is. Like I said, unexpected...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kyle Update

Remember Kyle? Well, it turns out that he's an actual kid. And he has a name. But his name isn't Kyle (close, but not quite). Anyhow, Mrs. BigKat found out who the boy is and now LilKat2 knows his correct name. Yay! Mystery solved!

That guy running around the neighborhood in tights? Yeah, that's me...

It was a little cold this morning. There was quite a bit of fog out. So much in fact that when LilKat2 walked outside, he quickly turned around and shouted 'MOMMY! The world is BLUE!'

The combination of the cold weather combined with the fact that I need to keep running so that I can tell myself that I didn't waste $29 on my iPod running gadget forced me to break out the blue running tights. Yeah, I have blue running tights. But you didn't see it, so you can't make fun of me.

My legs were tired from yesterday, so I decided to do a timed workout this time, rather than go for distance. I set the gizmo for 20 minutes. And I remembered about starting off slower today. Anyhow, here is how I did:

Distance: 2.28 miles

Time: 20 minutes 17 seconds

Pace: 8 minutes 52 seconds/mile

Calories: 331

Hey! Not too bad! I was thinking that I would do a lot worse than yesterday since my legs were tired, but my pace was only a little slower and I went 1/4 mile farther. I was also able to include a .4 mile hill in the run too. Maybe I'll bump it up to 25 minutes next time.

I also got to use my 'Power Song' (Suckerpunch by Five Iron Frenzy. Ever heard of it? I hadn't either. I got it from a free download.). It's cool to see my pace go up on my running chart after I turned the Power Song on.

Well, my first goal is to run 16 miles in 4 weeks. I'm already 1/4 of the way there! Woo Hoo! It's kind of sad compared to what I used to do when I ran track and field, but I'll take it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nike + iPod

So back during my spending spree, I bought one of these Nike + iPod running gizmo's. I got it in the mail yesterday, and decided to give it a try this morning. Here's how I did:

2.02 miles

17 minutes 51 seconds

8 minutes 48 seconds/mile pace

294 calories

And it was not easy getting there. I'm not in very good shape right now. Hopefully this thing will motivate me to stay running. It actually serves a nice purpose for me. When I run, I really like to know my progress. I need to know how far I've gone and what my current pace is. This is why I like running around a track. However, running around a track is BORING! And I have to do math in my head while I run in order to calculate my pace. This new running gadget does all this stuff for me, allowing me to run wherever I want. I really enjoyed that.

It also uploads your running data to this nike website. You can take a look at your runs and see how you did. You can see a chart of your pace so you can tell how fast you were going throughout your run. This is helpful to me because I can tell from my chart that I started out a bit too fast. Next time, I'll slow it down at the beginning and maybe I can get an extra mile in.

Anyhow, it's a pretty cool toy. We'll see if I will actually continue to run with it. It does eliminate one of the big things that I don't like about running and adds some new interesting analysis capabilities that I like. However, it's starting to get colder and rainier and that always seems to thwart my attempts at becoming physically fit.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

49ers Bad News or Good News?

Bay Area sports writer Ira Miller wrote an article about the sad state of the SF 49er running game. Frank Gore, the 49er running back, is having a particularly bad year. To illustrate this, Miller says:

Throw out that 43-yard touchdown run on fourth down against the Rams, and Gore is averaging only 3.1 a carry.

to which one of his readers replied:

Throw out all his other runs and he is averaging an amazing 43.0 a carry.

So I guess it all depends on how you look at it. Aren't football stats fun?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Spending Spree

Ugh...I just spent more money on another slick deal. This time, I got some more Lazer Tag toys. A while ago, I purchased 4 Lazer Taz bazooka things for $5 each. LilKat's 1 and 2 have been wanting to play with me. Unfortunately, the bazookas are about as big as they are, so they end up having a really hard time carrying them around the house. So I got these new toys to make it easier on them.

Here's the really bad part. The Lazer Tag set was $20. I wanted to get the free shipping, so I had to bump my order up to over $25. The only thing that I had planned on buying in the future was the Nike + iPod Sport Kit that helps you run. That was $30. So I just spent $50 that I hadn't planned on spending AND I have to start running again in order to justify $30 of it!

Oh, and the other day, I spent $20 on the Heroscape lava set. But I got 2 of them! It was a really good deal!

Bob Ross

When I was little, back when my cable channel changer was a big box with a row of 20 buttons, there was a time in the afternoon after 'Leave it to Beaver' and before G.I. Joe where there was nothing on TV. I had a choice between soap operas and this guy with poofy hair that painted pictures in 30 minutes, Bob Ross. Today, we don't get much chance to see Bob Ross. Between Tivo, Noggin, Nick Jr., Disney, PBS Sprout and Veggie Tales, there is always something on for our kids if they want to watch a show. In fact, there's probably a good 200-something things on. Well, yesterday, LilKat2 was watching a show and it ended. It must've been a PBS show because right afterwards, Bob Ross came on. I was in the kitchen and took a look to see what was going on, and there was LilKat2 lying on the ground watching Bob Ross paint a big blue patch of sky on the top of his canvas.

LilKat2: That's the sky...

Then Bob started painting another big patch of blue on the bottom.

LilKat2: That's the water...it's deep, deep water...

I walked back into the kitchen, thinking how strange it was to see LilKat2 watching Bob Ross. I mean Bob Ross is the show that you watch when nothing else is on! You'd never flip through your Tivo menu and say 'Hey! We got a new Bob Ross! Let's watch it!' But LilKat2 was really enjoying himself.

Suddenly I heard LilKat2 say 'Dad! Come quick! He's making clouds!'

Sure enough, several 'happy little clouds' were forming as Bob patted the canvas with a round bushy brush. LilKat2 watched for a while. He got to experience Bob making 'little rolls of paint', 'playing games' with his mountains, smoothing things out with his two inch brush, having 'no pressure...no pressure at all', and creating 'happy little mountains' in the background.

I'm not sure why, but I just thought it was so funny that he was enjoying the show so much. But he didn't get to see the finished product. About halfway through, he sat down at the kitchen table with his paper and markers and said 'I'm going to draw a mountain!'

I think it would've looked just like Bob Ross's mountain too, but I don't think they make washable markers in Titanium White.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Pizza with Egg

I read this article about a guy who took a Totino's pizza (you know the kind, 99 cents each in the frozen food aisle...yeah, don't deny it...I know you've got 3 of them in your freezer from back when they were buy one get one free at Safeway...) and gussied it up a bit by putting a fried egg on it. Just looking at it makes me think that I need to try this. But I'm not sure why.

I wish I could think up good snacks like this. My homemade snacks are things like leftover spaghetti and meat sauce sandwiches on garlic bread. But this egg on a frozen pizza thing is far more creative.

Ok, next leftovers I have, whatever they are, I'm putting a fried egg on top of them.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Golf is EASY!

My dad came up to visit last weekend. Saturday morning, we went to the driving range. Now, I am normally quite bad at golf. I've been trying a couple of things to improve my swing that haven't been working. I have a tendency to hit it to the right a bit, which I don't want to do because when I actually play a round, I always end up in the trees to the right of the fairway, looking for my ball. Every once in a while, I'll hit a straight shot, but it isn't very repeatable.

Last Saturday, I tried a couple new things to fix my swing. Well, they must've worked because I was actually hitting the ball straight! And far! One of my shots went past the farthest flag on the driving range. I have never even come close to that flag in the past.

I was having a great time. Not only were my drives going nice and straight, but my irons (which are probably worse than my drives) were going where they were supposed to as well. I couldn't believe it.

But the best part was that I was hitting the ball way past where my dad was hitting his. Now, you have to understand that my dad plays golf pretty much every day, which means that he hits a lot of golf balls. I only play once in a long while. So I had great fun telling him that I'm a better golfer than he is. When we got home, I had great fun telling Mrs. BigKat that I'm a better golfer than my dad is. I even found the LilKats and told them that I was a better golfer than their grandpa is. My dad kept trying to interject something about putting, but I wasn't listening to that part. I just thought it was funny that I can hit the golf ball better than he can. Now, whether or not I can do it again the next time I go to the driving range or on a course is a different story. But I'm not going to worry about that right now. It's more fun to assume that I will.

More Games

Our family has been really busy lately. School, soccer, Sunday School, people visiting, men's basketball, birthdays...our weeks have been pretty packed lately. But this week, after the kids have gone to bed, Mrs. BigKat and I have found time to play some games. Here is one of the new games that we've played...

It's the new Heroscape Swarm of the Marro Master Set. There isn't as much stuff in it as the first one. What you basically have is a team of 5 guys (an army guy, a flying lady, a ninja, a guy with a little dragon, and a big robot) against a whole bunch of aliens (including the giant alien shown on the box, and a 'hive' that produces new aliens). I had been waiting to get this set for a while. Mrs. BigKat knew how much I wanted to try it out, so she said that she would play with me (she's the BEST!).

The scenarios that they provide actually worked quite well for us! One new feature is that 3 of the scenarios build upon each other in kind of a story mode. Basically, the 5 good guys are battling the aliens, starting with just a few aliens, but leading up to a big battle against all of them.

This worked really well for a number of reasons:

1) Mrs. BigKat had played Heroscape with me before and doesn't like it when she has to move too many guys. The first scenario really eased her into things because she only had to worry about 3 guys. One of the guys was the guy with the dragon. Normally, Mrs. BigKat wouldn't like to play with him because his special abilities are a little more complex than others, but since he was only one of 3 guys, she was able to figure him out pretty easily. I think she is now more willing to play with characters that have interesting special abilities.

2) The first 2 scenarios definitely provide an advantage to the good guy team (because if it didn't, then it would be pretty difficult to get to the grand finale in the third scenario). I'm a bit better at Heroscape than Mrs. BigKat is, so having a natural handicap was quite helpful and made things more fun for the both of us.

3) The new set comes with multiple copies of some of the alien squads, allowing you to have a whole bunch of them at once. I don't have many of these 'common' squads, so it was fun for me to be able to try them out.

We finished the first 2 scenarios. Mrs. BigKat won both of them, allowing us to proceed to the third and final stage. It looks like it will probably take a little longer, so it will probably have to wait for an evening where we have a little more free time than usual.

I asked Mrs. BigKat if she actually liked the game, or if she only played because I wanted to play. She said that at first, she only played because she knew I wanted to play. But then when we started playing, she actually had a lot of fun. This made me happy. My wife likes Heroscape!

 

We also played another game of Battlelore last night, this time using the Lore rules ('Lore' in Battlelore is where you get to use these special cards that throw fireballs, or move guys from one side of the board to another, or cause earthquakes...cool stuff like that). She was a bit intimidated by the Lore rules at first. Battlelore has a lot of different rules that you have to remember for combat, and I think she didn't want to have to worry about another thing. But as we played, she realized that the extra Lore rules were not very complex and added another interesting element to the game.

The interesting part about the game was that we didn't even come close to finishing (we got a late start on the game), but we still had a very enjoyable time just playing together. I think it was because we were both having fun trying something new (it was only our 2nd time playing Battlelore together and our first with the Lore rules). There were some funny moments (like when I spent several turns, trying to save up 9 Lore tokens so that I could unleash 'Creeping Death' upon her army, only to whiff on all of my rolls when I was finally able to play it).

I like it that we both like boardgaming. With 3 kids, it is very hard to find things that we can do together. We like to watch movies together, but there isn't a lot of interaction during movies. We like hiking together, but our main time together is after the kids are asleep. Boardgaming works well for us because we get to talk and interact and enjoy each others company while we have a great time playing the game. And there are so many great games available that we can pick the game that best suits our time frame and energy level. Plus, since we're already at a table, we can eat dessert while we play!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Sucker

LilKat2 just came into my office. He had a yellow sucker in his hand. He showed it to me, and said 'Look what I've got.'

I said 'That's very nice! You have a yellow sucker.'

He said 'But I'm not eating it. I'm licking it.'

 

And he left. Not a very interesting story, right?

 

Well, apparently there was a lot more to it. Mrs. BigKat had to take PrincessKat had a doctor's appointment today, so LilKat2 had to go along as well. When they got there, the nurse gave him the yellow sucker. He was quite pleased with this and said 'I'm going to show this to my daddy when I get home!'

The nurse told him that she didn't think it would last that long. But he insisted that he was going to show it to his dad. PrincessKat had her appointment and LilKat2 sat there, just taking licks of his sucker, making sure that he didn't crunch it. As they were leaving, he told the nurse again that he was going to show his daddy the sucker when he got home. The nurse still didn't believe him and told him again that she didn't think it would last that long.

In the car, LilKat2 carefully held his sucker, making sure that he only took licks and not bites. On the way home, he told Mrs. BigKat, 'I'm going to show this to my daddy when I get home.' It sounds like he said this repeatedly (not surprising).

When he got home, the first thing he did was head straight up to find me. Which lead to him coming up to my office and showing me the sucker. I wish I had known the whole story. I would've been more impressed!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Slickdeals.net

I love Slickdeals.net. It's a website that helps you find good (sometimes great) deals on lots of different things. If Slickdeals.net did not exist, I would have a lot more money. But I would also have a lot less cool stuff!

Here are some of my favorite deals:

100 GB Hard Drive for $5

160 GB Hard Drive plus 200 GB External Hard Drive for $20 total

Tonka Mighty Dump Truck (with flames) for $5

Lazer Tag Master Blaster for $5 (got 4 of them)

 

Other good deals include:

Free Schick Quattro razors

Free can of some green energy drink that I can't remember

200 CD jewel cases for $2

3 boxes of Nestle Crunch Sticks for Free

 

But my all time favorite deal was:

28 twelve pack cases of various flavors of Pepsi

3 24-packs of bottled water

12 bags of Lays/Tostitos chips

for $20 (actually $120, but with $100 in Safeway and Home Depot gift cards). And if I turned in the cans for the deposit money, it would be free!

 

I still have a bunch of the Pepsi left over. When I first put it in my garage, it looked like someone had just dropped off a pallet of Pepsi at my house. And our cupboards were full of chips.

 

My newest SlickDeal is a cast iron hibachi for $40. Do I need a new grill? No. I already have 4 grills of various sizes. Am I buying it because $40 is not very much money to me? No. I could really use $40 (I could almost buy Tide of Iron with that money!). Can the hibachi do things that my other grills can't do? Not really. Anything I could cook on the hibachi, I could easily cook on one of my other grills (although, if I went to the beach or tailgating, the hibachi would be much easier to bring along. Unfortunately, I can't think of the last time I did either of those things).

You know, I just saw the deal on the front page and, somehow, my love of grills, cast iron, good deals compelled me to make the purchase. I really like SlickDeals, but it has a way of very slowly chipping away at both my disposable income and my available storage space.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Kyle

LilKat2 made a friend in preschool. His name is Kyle. So far, each time he's come home from school, we ask him the standard questions: what did you do, what did you have for snack, who did you get to play with. And each time we ask him who he played with, he gets a little grin on his face and says 'Kyle'. So he really likes Kyle.

Today, when Mrs. BigKat dropped LilKat2 off at school, she asked his teacher, 'So, which one's Kyle?'

Her response: Kyle? We don't have a Kyle.

 

hmmmmm...

 

So now we're trying to figure out who Kyle is. We think that he's either a fake kid or a misnamed kid. Mrs. BigKat questioned LilKat2 about it and she thinks that Kyle is a boy that LilKat2 likes to play with, but doesn't quite know his name, so he just calls him Kyle. We're going to try and get more clues to help solve this mystery on Friday.

New camera

I just got a new camera. We have a standard digital point and shoot camera that we've been using for a while. It's been fine, but with small kids, it seems like I miss a lot of good shots with it. I wanted something that was more responsive and could take better quality pictures. So I decided to try out a digital SLR camera. I went with the Nikon D40. It had many of the features that I wanted and the price was much lower than the other cameras that I was looking at. I was able to get the camera, a bag (actually 2 bags), a 2GB memory card, the standard kit lens (18-50mm), and a zoom lens (55-200mm) with built in image stabilization for just over $800. The major thing that I'm giving up is that it has a 6MP sensor rather than the 10MP sensor that most of the other entry level DSLP cameras have. Anyhow, here are a couple of shots that I took while playing around with it.



How much does my wife love me?

You know how much Mrs. BigKat loves me? She loves me so much that she played Battlelore with me last night! It's not her favorite style of game in the world, but she played with me anyways. She's the best! And so is Battlelore!

 

It's a miracle!

So at Sunday School last week, I miraculously healed a little girl. When she woke up that morning, she said that her stomach hurt and that she didn't want to go to church. The family went anyhow, and she told her parents that she still didn't feel well. She wanted to stay in the main service with her parents and not go to Sunday School. They still brought her up to class. She walked in the room, saw me, and was immediately healed! She told her parents that she felt fine and joined the group. A miracle!

Ok, here's what really happened...I've been this little girl's Sunday School teacher for 2 years now. My class was the K/1st grade class. The little girl is now in 2nd grade so she thought that she was going to have a new Sunday School teacher. According to her mom, she was not happy about this at all. Well, things changed a bit and I am now the 1st/2nd grade teacher. When she saw that I was still going to be her teacher for another year, all her troubles for the day just disappeared. So apparently, I just made her year much better! Hearing stuff like this from parents really helps motivate me as a Sunday School teacher. I want kids to learn more about Jesus, to learn more about the Bible, things like that. But I think that it really helps when going to Sunday School is a place that they really look forward to going to.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Back from school!

LilKat1 is back from school. We went to meet him at the bus stop. Our next door neighbors and across the street neighbors were also their to meet their boys. They all got off the bus together, came over to us, and immediately started playing together.

 

Which meant that I didn't get to hear about how school went.

 

So I went back inside to work. The kids rode their bikes in the front yard for a while and then went over to the next door neighbor's house to play. After they came home, Mrs. BigKat gave me an update on how LilKat1's day went. Here's what he said when he went over to play next door:

 

"Today was the best day ever! I got to ride the bus, I got to go to school, and now I get to go over to my friend's house!"

 

So I think things went pretty well. But I'll have to wait a bit to find out the details.