Eating Potting Benches

by Fat Daddy, Esq. on May 8, 2014

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When I was 12 years old I had a career path scoped out. I grew up playing sports and going to sporting events, mostly baseball games. My family traveled the country following a particular college baseball team. We also went to many professional baseball games. Aside from the game, I seemed to always notice the stadium.

Eventually I bought graph paper, drafting pencils and an architect’s scale. I began designing my own baseball stadiums, on 8 1/2″ x 11″ graph paper and to a rough scale. I would usually start by laying out home plate and the infield. It made sense to me as, by rule, first base is always 90 feet from home and the pitcher’s rubber is 60 feet 6 inches from the plate. Then I would decide on the outfield fence dimensions and other field boundaries, then the bullpen location. All of these items dictated where the seating began. I laid out the seating and aisles. I colored the drawing and designated different levels of ticket classifications.

This was fun, but it wasn’t enough. I knew that real architects created models of their projects so that was what I would do as well. My first order of business was to create the field. I mixed and poured plaster of Paris into a custom built wooden craft stick formwork and let it cure. Once dried I painted the plaster green, several dirt-brown areas, a white pentagon, three white squares, one small white rectangle and two small white lines extending from the points of the pentagon; all to scale, of course.  A playing surface was born. That roughly 576 square inch baseball field sat in my parents’ basement for years.

In my mind at the time it was an amazing accomplishment. Later, my older eyes were less than impressed. I never began construction of the stadium around the field. Somewhere along the way I stopped designing stadiums and when it came time to declare a major in college the architecture path somehow seemed less appealing.

In college and law school I began watching the New Yankee Workshop with Norm Abram. He made woodworking seem accessible. I was hooked. The garage in our law school townhouse became my intermittent workshop. I purchased a 10″ Delta Shopmaster Bench Saw and got to work. One of my first projects was a potting bench for my wife. Some twelve years later that potting bench still sits in our backyard, sagging and weathered. It needs to become firewood or compost. I plan to build a replacement. But I don’t want to get rid of it just yet. Not until Potting Bench 2.0 is ready for use.

Today I have a cabinet table saw, a planer, a jointer, a router table with several routers and multiple router bits, a dust collection vacuum, a shop vac, several power sanders and power drills, a dovetail jig, a dado blade set, not to mention all of the run of the mill tools one might expect a generally competent handyman to possess. And I seldom get to use them.

My tools are stored in my garage which also houses a minivan and ten years’ worth of accumulated crap. It is such a hassle to make room to work the work rarely begins. From time to time I am able to plan a project (often times with graph paper and an architect’s scale), gather the materials and tools, and in the end produce something that previously did not exist. When we moved into our house I built a custom entertainment center for our television. Most recently I built a bench for Thing 1 for her dance competition.

Another memory from my time as a preteen is learning to make scrambled eggs. My mom explained to me how to select the cooking vessel, crack the eggs and stir the curds. It was cool to see raw ingredients transform into something edible. And as a fat kid, I loved to eat.

I still make some really good scrambled eggs; my kids love my “cheesy eggs” and I can hold my own with any omelet bar buffet chef. During college I really began to expand my game and now I am the executive chef at Fat Daddy’s Home Kitchen (not a real establishment, any similarity to an actual restaurant or eatery is purely coincidental and the use of the term chef is not meant to ruffle the feathers of those who don’t believe you can call yourself a chef unless you have studied at an esteemed culinary institute). This was partially by necessity. Hot Mama owns a dance studio and since most small town elementary school aged children are in school from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. her classes take place in the evening. I could either wait for her to come home and cook something, which is certainly in her wheelhouse but would be served near bedtime; or one of us could pick up fast food, which isn’t very good for our health and is counterproductive to my quest to be less fat; or I can cook dinner for us.

Cooking is another creative outlet for me. Much like building a potting bench, I enjoy planning the project, acquiring the materials, using my skills and tools to transform the materials, and finally enjoying the end result and sharing it with others. Of course the end result does not usually sit in our backyard for over a decade.

Today I have an assortment of knives, an enameled dutch oven, a cast iron skillet, a cast iron griddle, a food processor, a blender, a stand mixer, a dehydrator, an immersion blender, a vacuum sealer, an immersion sous vide circulator, not to mention all of the run of the mill tools one might expect a generally competent home cook to possess.

Sadly Norm’s show is no longer on the air, although his website still houses great content. Now much of my how-to television viewing includes Alton, Christopher, Rick, Guy, or the suffering souls competitively churning out time constrained mystery ingredient comprised epiphanies.

We don’t have a minivan parked in our kitchen and the counters rarely accumulate more than several days worth of crap. Every day I can get out my graph paper and sketch out a menu, go to my pantry for materials, get out my tools and create a delicious project. Not every project is heirloom quality. Not every project is made of mahogany. Sometimes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich suffices. Last night was a sous vide ribeye finished on the outdoor grill alongside fire grilled asparagus and grilled pineapple slices with a honey-lime glaze. I am not a total food snob but there are few restaurants we frequent that best my crab cakes. And while I will happily eat almost any pizza my homemade version is a house favorite.

I may never build a baseball stadium, I may rarely build a table, but several times per week I can build a meal with wholesome ingredients that nourishes my family’s need for food and my need for creativity.

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Perfect Angels

by Fat Daddy, Esq. on January 31, 2014

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Once upon a time Hot Mama and I lived a carefree newlywed life where we could stay up late; sleep until noon; and walk around our clean house in the nude, not that I ever did for obvious reasons and sadly she didn’t nearly enough. Nowadays we may stay up too late from time to time but we pay for it in the morning. We can’t remember the last time we slept past 9:00 AM on a weekend morning. Our house is so dirty that it’s hard to walk around regardless of our level of dress. I still refrain from horrifying any onlookers and she goes au naturel even less than before.

What has changed? Things 1, 2, and 3. And just like their Seussian namesakes they prance around doing just as they please leaving destruction and despair in their mischievous wake. Now that they are on the scene Hot Mama and I don’t stay up late because we are passed out from exhaustion at 10:30. It’s hard to sleep in when there is a toddler sticking his feet in your face while groping his mother’s milk bar while his older sisters are professing their hatred towards each other at the top of their lungs. And we gave up on having our home featured in anything other than Cluttered Homes and Weeds magazine a long time ago.

Toys and clothes scatter the floors while arts and crafts litter every horizontal surface available and three sides of the refrigerator. Dirty towels lay on the water soaked bath rug after once again the bath water mysteriously couldn’t contain itself in the tub. Food wrappers pile up under the bed because the wastebasket across the room is just too far of a trek.

It’s not like we don’t care. It’s not like we don’t try. But with school and work, dinner and homework throughout the week it piles up. Saturday morning has become the time for cleaning up the accumulated mess. No big deal, we’re a family of five, we can knock this out in no time. Right? Wrong. For some reason when Hot Mama or I ask them to help clean the house the older two seem to hear “we are going to slowly tear off your fingernails with rusty pliers while we waterboard you.” That’s right, cleaning up is tantamount to torture. Thing 3 is starting to pick up on his sisters’ protestations and is realizing the magnitude of unfairness he soon faces.

We’ve tried being nice, we’ve tried being mean. We’ve tried taking away privileges. We’ve tried taking away electronics. During our last clean your room battle royale I threatened to take away every item but their mattress from their room and explained it would be like being in jail. They finished cleaning their room late Saturday night to escape their jail sentence. By Tuesday the room looked worse than it did Saturday morning.

Which is why it thoroughly pisses me off when I get a report from friends, family and teachers who interact with our children. We have seen how they can suck the fun out of a room as they fight, whine and thumb their nose at authority and respect so we kind of cringe when we ask how the kids were while they were out of our presence. And then we get the report that they were “perfect angels.” A kid that doesn’t listen at home gets glowing reviews at the parent teacher conference. A kid that won’t pick up a single dirty sock in her room helped tidy up her friend’s living room after a sleepover. A kid that screams and cries for mommy when it’s just me around goes to sleep without a hitch for the babysitter.

I suppose we should be proud that we have such well-behaved, thoughtful children. We should be happy that they get these glowing reviews from others. It’s as if the kids are allergic to their parents. We bring out the worst in them. Or maybe we just spend a lot more time with them.

I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression. We are very proud of our kids. We cannot imagine a life without them and are constantly amazed at their intelligence, ingenuity and compassion. They excel at many activities and can be very loving towards their parents and each other. For all of their slobby, lazy, shitty behavior there are plenty of times when they are truly delightful. Sure most of that time occurs between 11:00 PM and 5:30 AM and they are unconscious, but to watch them sleep you would agree they are perfect angels.

photo credit: National Library of Ireland

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Pumpkin Pie

by Fat Daddy, Esq. on November 29, 2013

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Thing 2, my beautiful 6 year old daughter, spent the past week talking about pumpkin pie. Not turkey, not dressing, not cranberry sauce. Pumpkin pie was her sole focus. Oh, and whipped cream.

Thanksgiving day arrived and the pumpkin pie talk went into overdrive. Our family gathered for lunch at a local event space large enough to accommodate our crew and then moved the party to my aunt and uncle’s house for football and dessert.

When we arrived at the house we were greeted with a large spread of sweets. Pecan pie, chocolate cake, apple pie, pineapple cream pie, cheesecake, and a particularly tasty bread pudding with bourbon sauce. But no pumpkin pie. I looked around the kitchen to see if the holiday staple was waiting in the wings. No luck.

I do not try to spare my children from any and all disappointment and pain. They have heard me tell them life isn’t fair more than once. But this injustice could not stand. My daughter wanted pumpkin pie and pumpkin pie she would have.

I got in my car and headed to the local Walmart. Just earlier that day I had negatively remarked about another Walmart that was open on Thanksgiving. Now I was thankful to see those doors sliding ajar. I hit the bakery department and spotted an orange custardy pie gleaming on the shelf. Thanksgiving was saved. Just before I triumphantly removed the pie from the rack I noticed the disappointing label. Sweet potato. The bakery shelves were otherwise decimated by the holiday shoppers.

Plan B sprung into action. Time to gather the ingredients and as my soon to be three year old, Thing 3, says “I do it me-self.” I hadn’t grabbed a cart because I thought I was just getting a pie. I found a few remaining cans pumpkin pie filling and located a can of evaporated milk. Next was a six pack of eggs. a box of pre-made pie crusts and a can of whipped cream. Then I made my way through the gathering shoppers to the home furnishings section for a pie pan. The pie filling can called for an hour of baking time for a standard pie. We did not have that kind of time. Instead I opted for two mini cupcake pans to minimize cooking time. Just as I was about to find the round cookie cutters to complete my list, the can of whipped cream fell out of my arms and went rolling down the aisle. At least it wasn’t the eggs. I picked it up and cautiously walked to the front, trying not to drop anything else. The cashier did not seem particularly troubled to be working on a holiday and I made sure to thank him profusely for scanning and bagging my eight items and pushing the credit card button on his computer.

I drove back to the house, ready to complete the mini pumpkin pie project and save the day, and found Thing 2 joyfully eating pumpkin pie. Apparently shortly after I left on my hero’s journey, my aunt arrived home and retrieved a pumpkin pie from the back of her commercial sized refrigerator. It wasn’t entirely a wasted trip. Thing 2 was excited to make the desserts and said they tasted great. She appreciated my efforts and thoughtfulness. Although she would have appreciated it more if it weren’t for that damn pumpkin pie hiding in the back of the cooler.

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Neutered

November 17, 2013
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“Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.” So said the coolest game show host of my youth, Bob Barker. Hot Mama and I had many talks and decided that we didn’t want any more puppies. We had grown tired of cleaning up their messes. And it’s difficult to take a long […]

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Couple: An App for Two

August 7, 2013
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Communication is key to a healthy relationship. When I was in junior high the telephone was the popular way to talk to a girl. Text messaging is the popular way to communicate these days. It seems only natural that texting your spouse would be a popular way to keep in touch. It is quick and efficient […]

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The Story of Us

July 14, 2013
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Yesterday I went to the car wash to make my vehicle more presentable for the evening. Hot Mama and I were going out with friends to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. As I was spraying down the car with the power washer it made me think of the first summer she and I were together. […]

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Happy Birthday, Chica Dulce

May 17, 2013
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The Mexican restaurant in town, like most small town Mexican restaurants I’ve been to, makes it a practice to, upon learning of a diner’s birthday, slap a sombrero on the patron’s head, sing them a tune in Spanish and present them with sopapillas. At our joint they like to smear whipped cream in the face […]

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TECHSHOW 2013

April 4, 2013
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I’m here. Hot Mama is at home with Things 1-3. I rarely travel alone. I am a homebody. I like my bed. I don’t like cramming my fat ass in a tiny airplane seat. But walking through the airport I began thinking about my previous trips to this event and began to get excited. I […]

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The Case for Electronic Case Files

January 2, 2013
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This is the scene after an associate attorney was rear ended by a tractor-trailer on a snowy turnpike. After his spinning car came to rest, he walked away. But his files were not so fortunate. See that piece of cardboard sticking out from where his trunk once was? That was a banker box full of […]

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Fun With Pleadings

September 7, 2012
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An attorney from Oklahoma alerted me to a recent paper scuffle that took place in the District Court in and for Tulsa County. Apparently a civil defense attorney took issue with the plaintiff’s attorney’s alleged habit of delay in mailing pleadings and filed with the court a “Notice of Failure to Timely Deliver Filed Pleadings” […]

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Fat Daddy’s Submarine Test, Date TBD

August 16, 2012
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John Mayer’s new album, Born and Raised, contains a song that has already become one of my all-time favorite songs. Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967 tells the tale of a man who wants to escape to a new world and after much study and tinkering finds himself alone in the ocean in a “homemade, […]

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