Tag Archives: friends

She’s Killing Me #10

“Noooo-ah!” But too late. She was the last person to get out of the car…again.

She’s killing me, I tell ya.

My Little Cake Boss Diva.

Even way up in Seattle.  Her killing me is not restricted to home.  It is unrelenting.


While some of her photographs will be shown below, a quick she’s-killing-me story first.

We weren’t even in Seattle for three hours when the onslaught continued.  (Don’t think she didn’t try to kill me during the flight.  Even my warning her of plain clothes air marshals being on board didn’t deter her.).

After quickly checking in, we met my good friend Rick; like any good buddy, he treated my two kids and me to dinner.

My good buddy Rick, a USAF veteran. He liked blowing things up. Still does… but all his Mustangs are slower than mine.

As I had brought some cigars for him but forgot them in the room, we had to return to the hotel.  While he and his gal waited in the lobby, I escorted the kids up to the room.

Knowing my Little Cake Boss Diva, I sternly said, “Brooke, do NOT touch anything, OK?”

“Okaaay-ah!” she replied… and I headed back down to the lobby, cigars in hand.

I wasn’t with him for more than fifteen minutes before I returned to the room.  Yes, I was worried she was up to something.

So I opened the door.  Wham.  A rush of frigid artic air hit me.  Mumbles (from Happy Feet) would have been pleased.

At the other end of the room, there she was on top of the air conditioner grill…sitting on a blue bed cover sheet with her butt square in the middle with her hands on either side trying to keep the sheet down.  She was attempting to stop the flow of air conditioned air blasting out of the A/C.  Talk about the Lucy Show.  She was Lucy.  I was Ricky, down to the “Ai-ya-yai, Lucy!”

Before I could yell, “Brooke!”, Jack immediately ratted out on his sister.

“Papa, she was doing something that she wasn’t supposed to and turned on the air conditioner!  She doesn’t know how to turn it off so it’s freezing in here!”  He was very pleased with himself for tattling.

Now I could yell, “Brooke!  I told you NOT to touch anything!”

“Hee-hee…” she replied with her trademark “I’m VERY innocent” smile making for a happy face complete with adorable chubby cheeks..

I turned off the air then she scampered over to the one cup coffee brewer.  What do you all that gizmo?  A Keurig?  Sure enough, there was one empty slot.  She had brewed herself some coffee.

19105232875_47cbae4ee2_o“Brooke!  What were you doing brewing yourself coffee?!  You don’t even know how to use that thing!”

“Welllll-ah!  I was freezing-ah!  And I can read (the directions) so I made myself something like a latte, okaaaay-ah?  Sheesh!”

She’s only twelve.  OMFG.


Anyways, that’s one of her traits…besides doing the opposite of what I say.  She has to try everything…except clean her room.

So as in my previous post – and not being pleased with the way Jack was taking pictures – she commandeered my pretty new bazillion dollar Canon DSLR for pretty much the rest of the trip.

I only gave her one pointer: to cradle the lens with her left hand while shooting.  For once, she actually followed my instructions.

wpid-20150626_103602.jpg c-10-337

c-10-340But anyways, here are some of her photos taken with my bazillion dollar camera:

Jack and me at the bottom left.
Handheld macro!
Handheld macro!


Handheld macro!

c-10-334c-10-328c-10-333c-10-331c-10-332So what do you think of her abilities?

Her photography… Not on how she’s killing me.

Homemade Double-Layer BD Cake (Kinda-Sorta)

In case you haven’t figured it out, my daughter is on the left.

My just-turned eleven old daughter had her third 11th birthday party.

That’s right.  Third one.  LOL

And, with the stuff that’s been going on our family life, I decided to try and make a “classic white double-layer birthday cake with raspberry filling and butter cream frosting” for her – from scratch.

Key word: “try”.

And dang, that’s long name for a cake, isn’t it?  Mary Poppins would be pleased.


My two oldest celebrated Brooke’s 11th birthday a week earlier during her real birthday.
That’s my beloved Green Bay Packers t-shirt… Oh, and my four great kids.

This ol’ mechanic thought he could throw this cake together easily…  You know, like if I was Major Nelson with Jeannie at his side.

And I wish I did have Jeannie.  Only for her blinks, of course.


Most of the key ingredients. By the way, I use old medicine cups that came with children’s medicines to pour in extracts.  They even have markings on the side.

I followed the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.  Its recipes are proven battle plans for old mechanics that are easy to follow with predictable results.

But they forgot to consider my age and my (poorly) man-equipped kitchen this time.  Unthinkable.

This time, two (and a half) things went wrong while making the cake:

1.  As I didn’t have a flat beater for my KitchenAid stand mixer, the cake flour/butter mixture couldn’t get “crumbly” enough.  I believe this kept the cake from properly rising while baking.  (Well, there were three things that went wrong: it was overbaked by a couple of minutes.)

2.  I over-whipped the frosting, making it REAL tough to spread…  It was worse than cold peanut butter.  But it tasted just fine.

And while no fault of the recipe, I ran out of frosting; because the cakes had domed too much, there was a gap around the circumference my belly could have sneaked through.  I ended up shoving a LOT of frosting in to fill the gap.

Smuckers raspberry preserves over the almond-buttercream frosting. Spread from the inside to just short of the edge. It’ll squish out.

Since Brooke has gotten hooked on “Cake Boss” (darn fake reality shows), she has become an eleven year old expert on how to frost and decorate cakes.  She was “lovingly critical” on how the frosting was being put on…a little after midnight.  “Pa-paaah! I told you.  You should have cut off the domes.  It’s too high now so you’ve got a HUGE gap!”  (My oldest, Robyn, is probably snickering to herself, “Haha.  Now you know what its like!)

You have no idea how close I was to being fired by the household Cake Boss, let me tell you.  But since it was after midnight (yes, she was still up), I would have received double-time.

For a cake stand, I had to improvise.  The cake was first placed onto the bottom of a 9″ springform pan.  Then that bottom was placed on top of a 9” Pyrex pie dish which was atop a mixing bowl.  Complicated.  Pain to use.  But I did it.  Frustratingly.  With the Cake Boss still cracking orders to boot.


Anyways, the girls ate it.  They said it was good.  I made sure they said that.

Brooke’s four closest friends.

Below, you can see the HUGE gap between the layers I was nearly fired over.  Admittedly, the gap (all the way around the cake) measured about an inch:


So now I know better next time.  And I did order the right flat beater and a revolving cake stand.

But the 11 year old Cake Boss is still here.

I have a great idea.

I should join the baker’s union.

They would keep me from being fired.

A Smoldering Butt

Just thought that was a catchy title…albeit a bit misleading like our media.  Just a tad misleading…’cuz the butt’s the other end.

I guess the news guys are finally rubbing off on me after all.


But as I watched my kids and their friends play in the front, I felt like playing around with my new, fancy-schmancy Canon point and shoot – specifically hand held close-ups of the business end of a nice cigar.

It was amazing that an inexpensive camera such as this could take such equally amazing (yuk to some!) close-ups:




I did switch to my standard Canon DSLR to snap these fun snapshots of my kids.  Little Brooke likes the distortion that erupts with this Canon 10-22mm lens…although a certain pro photographer buddy of mine will likely BBQ me over a slow but hot flame for using it.



The Joy of Neighbors

As they say, you don’t buy the house.

You buy into the neighborhood.


I was reminded of how wonderful our little neighborhood is this past Sunday morning.

No words necessary… Smiles on all of them. Brady, Jack, Jacob and Brooke.

I invited our neighbor’s two youngest kids out to have breakfast.  We had such a nice time albeit much too brief.

Although Old Man Jack and Mr. Johnson are no longer with us, the integrity of the neighborhood remains.

It is a neighborhood where I feel safe.  And I feel the kids are safe.

They are safe because our street is filled with good people.  Good parents.  Good neighbors.

They even bring in our trash barrels if they get home first.  It’s swell.


But I marveled at how ALWAYS nice Jacob and Brady are with my kids…from when Jack and Brooke were born.

Jacob and Brady are growing up so fast.  They are becoming young adults now and very busy.  Yet, they find the time to play with my young kids.

Jacob is a super athlete.  Heckuva sportsman and is heavily sought after by the high schools.  Even now.  His dad is a jock so he’s a chip off the ol’ block.  (Don’t worry, dad.  You’re not THAT old.)

And Brady… She already is a boy-killer…and a heckuva dancer.  Smart one, too!  (Don’t worry, mom.  I won’t tell ANYONE I have taken over at least a hundred of my chocolate truffles.  Funny Jake and Brady rarely tell me if they were good or not… ;))

But most of all, they are great kids.

July 2003
July 2005
September 2006
September 2006
August 2006
August 2006
August 2006
March 2008

Jacob and Brady always take their dishes to the sink when they eat here.  Brady even cleaned off my (DISGUSTING) rangetop when she watched Jack and Brooke so that I could have my “date” with a varsity cheerleader and old friend for my 40th high school reunion last month.  I’m still on a high from that, by the way.  Thanks, Brady!

I had Jacob clear this irritating climbing ivy “someone” planted in my backyard.  It was climbing all over the place…and into my neighbor’s yard.  There wasn’t one branch left after he finished.  He even pulled out the roots.  Problem no more.  Thanks, Jacob!


One other amazing piece of “togetherness”…  There are eight kids between our two families with an amazing connection…  The kids’ first letters in their names coincide – and in birth order, to boot!  They are:

  1. Robbie and Robyn
  2. Taylor and Takeshi
  3. Jacob and Jack, and lastly,
  4. Brady and Brooke

And one last (and upcoming) connection…  Robbie and Robyn are both getting married next year.


Soon, Jacob and Brady will be seeking their own niches in life.  While Jack and Brooke will be sad, at the same time, I know their hearts will be filled with happiness and gratefulness for all their love, care and fun afforded them throughout their first years of life.

So many things to be thankful for…and Jacob and Brady are two of them.

My “Date” Last Night

A young at heart couple…and childhood friends.

I had a date last night…and she was a varsity high school cheerleader, no less.  Any man’s dream as they say.

It was the most wonderful evening for me in close to two decades.


Oh, her name is Mari Jo and very happily married.  Darn.  Double darn.  Her loving Husband was kind enough to “lend” her to me for our 40th high school reunion.  They both bought me my ticket to make sure I’d go to the reunion.  How embarrassing for a man of old ways.

Mari Jo and I have been friends since six or seven years of age – from around (ahem) 1960 or so.  We went to a great elementary school in the heart of East Los Angeles called 4th Street Elementary.  It still stands.  Brick auditorium, too.

She had a touch of freckles, blond hair with the slightest of curls and an infectious smile back then.  More than 50 years later, she still does.  Priceless.

True childhood friends.  The best.  No walls.  No mask.  Out in the open.


Nearly all of us were pretty much in the same boat.  Our families were trying to make ends meet.  Since we knew no other lifestyle, we all looked upon each other for support.  I see this in hindsight now.

Mari Jo is at the left on the third row. Me? Guess.

It seems as if mom stopped by for this “May Day” dance perhaps in 1966.  Mari Jo can be seen being twirled around by another childhood friend Ralph – he’s the tallest one on the left.

Tall one on the left is Ralph. The cute blond girl he is twirling around is Mari Jo. The “Asian” in the middle… Well…


We were all blessed to have stayed together through what we called junior high school back then.  That school, too, is still standing.  Junior high school would end up giving Mari Jo a lot of memories – both painful and happy.  One of her proudest moments…  I think she looks fabulous, don’t you?

Mari Jo was a “Tower Queen Dance” princess in 1969.

Mari Jo was cheerleading even in junior high.  She is at the far right.

You know which one is Mari Jo by now…off to the right.


In high school, our friendship continued.  Mari Jo was a popular young lady.  She was funny, outgoing and cared about others…and she was one of our varsity cheerleaders.  Odd that bubbly Mari Jo would be one.  Are you kidding me?

She is off to the far right – it is from a frame from one of my surviving negatives from back then.

Not a very good shot (I would crop later) but there’s Mari Jo on the far right cheering on our football team.

Did I mention she was a ham, too?  She was one of my favorite candid photography subjects.  I was apparently known as the guy who always had a camera hanging from my shoulder.  While sports photography was where I exceled (with basic equipment), many of my photos ended up in the school newspaper or the yearbook.  I had taken tens of thousands of photos, then developed the negatives at the house then printed them.  And the friends I gave the prints to were happy… and that made me happy.  The plumbing was never the same after all the processing and printing.  That didn’t make my parents happy, I’m sure.

I treasured the negatives for decades…but about six years ago, my littlest firecracker Brooke decided to let the air out of an IMMENSE three tier inflatable pool full of water…  but the darn wife had put the IMMENSE pool IN the garage (where my CAR should have been) so that the kids would not get dark from the sun.  Why have an IMMENSE three tier pool bigger than Lake Erie if you don’t want your kids to get dark??

When my angelic Brooke pulled the plugs, the garage flooded – and all but one set of the high school negatives were ruined.  The prints from those precious days that survived were also gone…including my most favorite one which was a double-exposure of Mari Jo immediately after losing the football league championship game in the final seconds.

A devasted Mari Jo – and school – sobbed after losing in the final seconds.  Scanned from our yearbook.  My most favorite photo of all.


I last saw Mari Jo later that year – 1972 – after graduation.  She was moving to Las Vegas to get married.

While we had written a letter or two soon thereafter, for the next 37 years, I oft thought of Mari Jo (and of two other childhood friends, “Fritos” and Ralph)…  What happened to her?  Was she happy?  I was so angry at myself for failing to stay in touch…

Then…  I came across a lead.  I sent off another blind email like I did for my dad’s high school yearbook; I guess that’s my MO…  and she replied!  OMFG.


We learned of each other’s paths since parting.  But most of all, she was HAPPY.  That was all that mattered to me.  She is now happily married with two great kids…and a granddaughter!

But good ol’ Mari Jo…  She knows of my life’s recent events and she – with her good husband’s encouragement – came to my rescue last night.  If I can sum it up as best I can, she said basically you plan for life – but what happens is life.  Life is but ambiguity and dwelling does no good… to move on.

Before we met, I kidded her my hands were sweaty and that I was nervous…  like a certain escort she had one night when she was young.  She called me poop head.  Loved that.  But I was nervous.

She snuck up on me and surprised the dickens out of me… and man, it was worth it.  She looked stunning – gorgeous if I may say – but it was Mari Jo.  That same infectious smile.  From 4th Street School.  In East LA.


Speaking personally, I had the most grandest of times…  It started with Mari Jo screaming – just a tad.  After picking her up from her hotel, I did a burn out in my car.  It was just a little scream, Husband.  Really.  Well, it was more a case of Mari Jo sinking her manicures into the ceiling.

Needless to say, she was the most ravishing one there… and she was my date!  Thank you, Husband!

I felt so good, I did the cha-cha with her…  Well, kinda.  I had forgotten how to… but the song was “Suavecito”.  An East LA favorite.  My legs hurt this morning.

I won’t go into the reasons but the varsity cheerleaders and I overall had a special relationship – and four of the eight were there!

Three of the four cheerleaders there at the reunion.

Aren’t I a lucky old fart?


Thanks for rooting for me, Mari Jo.  You blew in fresh air and helped rekindle a smothered flame.

An old flame at that.

Love ya.

Chocolate Truffles by a Former Mechanic

My homemade chocolate truffles are popular with the gals.  Unfortunately, they’re pretty popular with some of my buds, too.  Oh well.

Following the well explained recipe in my cooking bible, Cook’s Illustrated, I made a batch to take to a couple of my friend’s 4th of July block parties.  Frank Sinatra would’ve been jealous with all the attention I got from the ladies.

The ganache is the secret.
Rolling the ganache into balls is the tough part.
My knife skills are non-existent. But being a former mechanic, I cheat. The “hammer when in doubt” approach always prevails.