Oh the hats in Chi – happy new year

The beginning. Pajama party. The end. 2013. You have been good to me. Challenging. But good. Thank you 2013. Dear 2014, you better be fucking amazing. And epic. And completely amazing. And epic. My third year in Chi for New Years, I wouldn't have it any other way. It's snowing out, the air is thick with alcohol. It's New Year's! It's a stay in party. An all week prep for a warm cozy night with old friends and new friends, all good friends. I love this crowd. Especially when they put up with my southern ways. What a spread. The food, simply amazing. The wine. The beer. The whiskey (see, they do know the southern boy). North side Chi-town hardwood floors. Perfectly cleaned with love and elbow grease. The reward. Purple Cowboy! The whole place smelled of heaven. It's the end of the year. It's actually an end to a lot more. It's a start of a new year. A start of a new adventure. They say you can either sink or swim. And I say that you cannot do either if you don't get in the water. So I jump in. My life is changing drastically in the next few weeks, and in times like these, traditions of being with true friends as the ball drops, yeah - that's what keeps me alive and awake. He drinks a whisky drink The future is not always certain. But I do know that the days will march on. And if I choose to not react and simply let time fly by. And if I choose to have no passion. And if I choose to be in the audience rather than the show. Well, then. Fuck me, I'm screwed. He drinks a vodka drink People are real. I swear. Cross my heart. I just found out myself, therefore will completely understand if you have a hard time believing me. Really, they are living and breathing the same air as you. Even in 3D (without any special glasses), which is pretty cool if you ask me. But because of this, it also means they can get hurt. Which also means that they will bleed. It can happen. He drinks a lager drink Men shoveling snow. It's still snowing. Are you chasing your tail? Is anything ever complete? Back home it is leaves. Do I rake every time a leaf falls or do I wait until they are all laying dead on the ground.  If you wait, will the sun melt the snow, the wind blow the leaves away. I don't have time to wait. It must be now. He drinks a cider drink Smile. Do you know how fucking much it means to someone when you smile at them. Even if it's just a friendly passing smile in the airport. There's energy. Compassion. Love. A simple "Hey, how are you.?" Get your heads out of your text message. In person. Be there. In the NOW! He sings the songs that remind him I think this year has taught me one big lesson Love me, hate me, I don't care. But regardless, I will love you in some capacity. I've had the deepest conversations with people I had never met before. Partially because I just wanted to talk. Something on my mind. I'll never see them again, so what does it matter. I no longer believe in bull shit. Let it come out. You have friends and family when it becomes a life issue. But really, who is to say that a random stranger can't offer another view point that opens up the reality and help. Unbiased. Honest. True. Brutal sometimes. Of the good times Southern comfort. Some nights. I count my blessings every day that I wake up in a bed. And every cup of coffee I pour myself. And every pair of jeans I pull over my tired feet. He sings the songs that remind him Maybe I don't have the best plan. But I have a plan. And that plan is to work hard and play hard. And worker harder. And I refuse to go down without trying. And if I fail. Well. Then I try again. And if I fail. Well. Then I try again. And one day... Of the better times The year 2014 will not be easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it. But. It will be real. And real is what I want. Need. Crave. So here's my real. Right in front of me. And I cannot do this without family and friends. Those that listen to my crazy ideas and support me. They may not believe in ny ideas, but they believe in me. It's balls to the wall. It's try to keep up or I'll leave you in my dust. To the hats in Chi, I love you. I live on the edge of insanity. You put up with me. I may act irresponsible. I'm the most grounded person you will probably ever meet. I got this shit. Yes, I fuck up often. I'll admit that when it happens. I'm out there. Trying. For me. If you want to go for a ride, hop in. Cheers & Happy New Year, Me (10)

Dad wants pie

Well, he does! I suggested that I would bring the normal drunken pumpkin pie for dinner tonight. And then I called him the other day and told him about the mamey sapote I had ordered for what I hope to be the last batch of wine this year (no, that's a lie, lavender is also happening this year) and somehow he got on the subject of sweet potatoes. And raisins. So the request changed to "Dad wants sweet potato pie with raisins" and my Caribbean rum loving self says, "and rum." Because what pie isn't better with rum! So yesterday, off to the store for sweet potatoes, milk and eggs. Yeah, no, I came back with all sorts of goodies. Ground lamb for chili tomorrow (unless Mom sends home leftovers and then it's Saturday chili night). Oh, and raisins. Which reminds me once when my sister and I were much younger, still living in Ohio, Mom had these little pie dishes and we made raisin pie. I don't recall if they were good or not, my 6 or 7 year old taste buds probably thought they were delicious. Or maybe it was just the fact that I was baking with my sister. I think we also made Cheerio pie once, who knows. Which then got me to thinking about where I am now. And yes, also about the Thanksgiving holiday. If there really even is one. I mean Black Friday was bad enough, only once in my life did I venture out. But no, now it's Fucking Thursday. And I don't mean the thing that happens in bed (or on the kitchen counter). Sure, you go line up at 7 PM at that Wally place to get your $69 LCD TV and your  $10 deep fryer. Because you know, that shit is more important. Damn, just come to my house and you can have my TV for free. But you will stay and have a drink and we can chat and hang out because I could give 10 shits about my TV, but I give a shit ton about you. All of you. Those people in my life that are friends, family, acquaintances. No, I don't "need" the holidays. I need my kids, my family, my friends, the people that make life rich and full of awesome sauce. The ones I would drop anything for and they would drop anything for me. That is what I am thankful for. And I can celebrate that every day of the year. But I am looking forward to sweet potato pie.

He quit

Yes, he quit. That guy that we all take for granted. He just up and left. I don't know how long I can make it. 10 minutes. 10 hours. 10 days. It's been close to 10 days. So I'm thinking maybe 10 weeks before I look for a replacement. Knowing me, it could be 10 months. It better not be 10 years. Meanwhile, I keep a flashlight handy for those midnight snacks. I don't know what I did or did not do to make the little man that turns the light on in the fridge quit. Maybe it was the benefits package. The pay. He was making way more than he should have been. Working conditions? Yeah, it's cold, but that was in the fucking job description. I suppose he just got burned out after 7 years. It can happen. He knew the contents so well, he shined! I'll miss him. All I can do is wish him a bright future as I search for someone else to light my fridge.

I ain’t your mama’s guacamole

I stand in front of the window watching the shadow of a hawk in the grass, circling. Around and around it goes, waiting on some unsuspecting prey to swoop down and sink it's sharp talons into the steaming hot flesh of another creature. It's eat or be eaten. This has been one heck of an intense week. Designing for documented requirements is easy, to listen to the business and interpret their future needs and undocumented requirements and design for it, yeah, not so much. But it's done, for the most part. And everyone walked away happy. And I got an extra hour in some super warm southern California sunshine. I properly executed this extra time on the patio of a local sports bar. What happened though, is that I was once again working on other things. I have an addiction to crowd funding, start ups and conceptual ideas lately. So I took some personal time to satisfy those needs and I realized something. I miss my kids terribly, six more days before I can hug them with all that I am. And then it dawned on me, tomorrow is my six year anniversary of traveling and consulting. That's a long freaking time. The thing is, I still love it. Does it take me away from my kids more that I want sometimes, yes. Does it provide for them, yes. Does it excite me, yes. Would I change it, no. So happy 6th to me from me. And I offer you what has kept me [relatively] sane through six years of traveling. 1. Leave a penny somewhere hidden in EVERY hotel room you stay in. 2. Buy  a shot glass from every airport you end up in (Not sure what you do with them after that, I have hundreds) 3-10. Put your heart in it, do it for you and enjoy every freaking stinking minute of it - or you will never be happy [with whatever you do].  

Ducksgiving in (hopefully) 10 easy steps

It has been some time since I've entertained in the multi course dinner arena, so what better time to test my skills than with a themed Thanksgiving dinner using an ingredient I've never cooked with. (Quack) Three days before: 1. Salt, pepper, 8 sprigs of thyme, diced shallots and minced garlic 1/2 under and 1/2 over 4 duck legs and thighs skin up covered and in the fridge for 2 days.  In the mean time, assemble grocery list and don't forget anything.  Have a glass of wine. One day before: 2. Preheat oven to 240°, melt 4-5 cups of duck fat in a sauce pan.  Brush seasonings off of duck pieces and pat dry with a paper towel.  Arrange them snug in a casserole dish and pour the duck fat in, be sure to cover the pieces entirely.  Take a sip of wine.  Place the dish in the oven for 2-3 hours, making sure that you have only a slow bubble (reduce or raise temperature if needed).  Have a glass of wine.  When the timer goes off, remove from oven and allow to cool.  Have a glass of wine.  Cover and store in the fridge.  Have a glass of wine and curl up on the couch with a book 3. Make some pumpkin pies and a pecan pie (actually, make some pumpkin pies and since you bought a frozen pecan pie, read the directions to determine when it needs to come out of the freezer).  Have a glass of wine. Turkey Day: 4. Have a glass of wine.  Wash arugula and pat dry.  Julienne carrots, wash off mushrooms and remove stems, slice into happy size chunks. Shred red cabbage into hearty size pieces.  Remove duck prosciutto from fridge and wonder how to slice it.  Cut baguettes diagonally and put them in the oven for toasting purposes, toast another glass of wine. 5. Boil some potatoes until they are squishy, smash 'em up and mix in some heavy cream, duck fat, minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste and 1/2 package of cream cheese softened then stir, or get a kid to stir for you.  Don't forget about removing the pecan pie from the freezer.  Take a sip of wine, it's getting a little warm in here.  Take the duck confit out of the fridge, need to get it at room temperature before final rendering. Have a glass of wine. 6. Arrange the baguettes on a serving platter and do something creative with the prosciutto, pipe some black truffle butter is a dish and provide a sip of wine, I mean, butter knife to the arrangement.  Hiccup.  Saucepan time, mix in a bit of walnut oil, white wine vinegar, pinch of salt, spoon of sugar, handful of dried cherries and a bit of dijon mustard.  You'll know when it's done.  Have a sip of wine.  Sliced smoked duck breast into 1/4 inch think pieces and arrange 2-3 slices per plate.  Arrange arugula on the plates, sprinkle with finely ground walnuts, drizzle with the stuff you just, hiccup, made and then some good quality Parmesan cheese.  Have a sip of wine and serve. 7. Boil gnocchi, in a skillet, throw in some duck fat, sage and 1/2 cup of pumpkin pie filling.  Once the gnocchi are done, add them to the mix and stir until the gnocchi have a slight brownish color to them.  Serve in a shallow bowl, pipe some pumpkin pie filling and a sprig of parsley.  Time for a sip of wine and serve. 8. Take the smashed taters and, using an ice cream scoop, arrange mounds on parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Preheat oven to 400°.  Have a sip of wine. In a saute pan, more duck fat and the carrots.  Cook until soft, but still crunchy and then add cabbage and mushrooms.  Plate and drizzle with a reduced balsamic sauce.  Remove pieces of duck from confit, place the mashed potato mounds in the over for 10 minutes.  Brown the duck pieces in a saute pan and then place in an over proof dish, these guys go in for about 15 minutes.  Have a sip, hiccup, of wine. 9. If the kids haven't touched anything yet, make some Mac 'n' Cheese.  Have a glass of wine as you plate the mashed potato mounds and the duck, garnish with something green and serve with wine.  Put the pecan pie in the oven if needed. 10. Celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with family and a glass of wine.  Hopefully, everything turned out OK.  Eat pie, then have another glass of hiccup, wine, hiccup.  Hire someone to clean up the mess tomorrow. Hiccup!