Sunday, September 9, 2012

Confessions of T-Shirt Hoarding Husband

"My name is Aiden and I hoard t-shirts."

"Hi, Aiden!"

Those lines are almost too predictable to even type, and yet . . .

On to the reason I have gathered you all here today:

I have a lot of t-shirts.  I feel I am like the average male in that sense.  Every once in a while I pass some shirts along to my son. Or, I'll give them to the girls as sleeping shirts.  Or, I might donate them to Goodwill.  But, some . . . . a very select few . . . the editor's choice, if you will, never go away.  Ever.
In my defense, I only have three or four shirts that I am absolutely attached to.  The kind of attached that, if-my-wife-threw-them-away-I-would-actually-be-mad kind of attached.  And there's good reason.  There's a story behind why these particular shirts are so special (cue Holly's eye rolling).

The 'Lucky Brand Dungarees' t-shirt, in gym shirt grey:
This shirt has been through more than one catastrophe (starring the same two people).  There's the infamous picture of me holding a very wet and frustrated two and a half year-old Ashley.  We were at the beach before leaving Disneyland when a wave knocked her over.  Wet clothes off, Aiden's t-shirt on.  Good to go.
See how pissed she is?  She did NOT like the ocean.

Then there's the time I rushed her into the house as Ashley (remember that name, as it might play an important role later on) was suffering from a nose bleed.
And then there's the time Ashley (I told you to remember that name, didn't I?) face planted off the slide area of the new playground equipment right on to a "rock climbing wall".  That's the one where I proved I could still run if necessary.

The 'Zebra Tattoo and Piercing' t-shirt, in faded black, sleeves ripped off:
I got this shirt as a promotional thing when I got my first tattoo.  That was almost twelve years ago.  Need I say more?

The 'West Coast ATON Conference' t-shirt, in navy blue, sleeves ripped off:
This was the last unit-type shirt I ever got in the Coast Guard.  And it was the only one, somehow, that survived all of my moves in the last ten  years.  I know I could buy Coast Guard shirts on-line, but there's something particularly special about a shirt you get while you're at your unit.  My Coastie friends will totally get it, and I'm sure my non-Coastie friends have a decent idea.

Those are the top three.  The shirts that would probably disappear in the dead of night if Holly could get away with it.  So, we made a deal.  I can keep them, but not wear them once they reach a certain point and some day Holly will sew them onto the squares of a quilt (or something like that). 

The only one in the "can't ever wear it again" pile is my Lucky shirt.  However, I'm currently in a flare-up which means a lot of pain.  And a lot of that pain is nerve pain.  And that means scratchy fabric is not going to work.  It also happens to be laundry day.  So, I dug the shirt out of the closet and threw it on, because (just ask Holly) this shirt always seems to make me feel a little better.  That, and it's really soft after all the washes it's been through.

I'm sure I have pictures of the other two shirts somewhere, but here's a couple of the Lucky shirt from tonight:

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Kid's Dream

Apparently, despite grumblings from a certain 10 year-old, I really like our kids.  We bought new furniture, a coffee table, kitchen table, and chairs (finally!) and some of the parts were wrapped in bubble wrap.  Fairly large sheets of the popping madness.  So I divided it up evenly amongst them and let them go to town!

I also included a couple pictures of girls from last week when they got all dolled up. 

Just popping it for now.  Trying to decide what to do!

Just dance.

The Squeaker dances, too.

Alex decided to be a fashion designer.
Here he shows off his first creation:
a dress.

He made clothes for the girls, too.
Ashley models a t-shirt.

Annie models a pancho.  Pronounced
paincho for the first 5 minutes.

Ta-da!  Annie in "the dress".

Ashley models "the dress" although
Alex doesn't look so sure.

Ashley got her hair and make-up done.
We decided to take Mama out for dinner.

The back.

Annie also got done up.

The back.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day Dinner

I decided to celebrate Valentine's Day by making a big dinner.  Unfortunately, Holly was sick on Valentine's Day, so we delayed the celebration and did it on Tuesday instead.  I made Chicken Marsala, spaghetti with browned butter & mizithra cheese, broccoli, French Bread rolls, and red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for dessert.  And here's some recipes for y'all!

Chicken Marsala

  • 4 Boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 egg whites beat with 2 T cold water
  • Italian style bread crumbs
  • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces prosciutto (Holly doesn't like prosciutto so I use plain ol' regular bacon)
  • 8 ounces crimini or porcini mushrooms, stemmed and halved ( prefer crimini)
  • 1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine (found in the dessert wine section, usually by the Port Wine)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  1. Pound chicken breasts or cut to make about 1/4 inch thick.  Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a shallow platter.  Cover chicken in egg white mixture, then cover in bread crumbs.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before frying.
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat inn large skillet.  Fry chicken approximately 5 minutes each side.  Remove chicken.
  3. Lower heat to medium and add prosciutto or bacon to the drippings in the pan.  Cook for about 1 minute.
  4. Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Pour Marsala in pan and boil down for 30 seconds to cook off alcohol.
  6. Add chicken stock, simmer for about 1 minute.
  7. Stir in butter, return chicken to pan, simmer for about 1 minute.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste.  Put extra sauce in a serving dish to have on the table.

Crimini mushrooms (darker
brown than standard white)

Porcini mushrooms

Buy the sweet variety, and
remember it doesn't have to
expensive or fancy (I spend
$6.00 - $7.00 on a bottle).

Spaghetti with Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese
  • 12 ounces of spaghetti
  • 6 tablespoons butter cut into chunks about 1 tablespoon each.
  • 4-6 ounces mizithra cheese (Can be found in the specialty cheese area near the deli in most grocery stores.  Our local Safeway carries it, but Wal-mart does not.)
  1. Cook spaghetti al dente.  To cook al dente style boil water with 1 teaspoon salt and a splash of olive oil to prevent noodles from sticking together.  Add spaghetti, maintain boiling.  Cook for 7-8 minutes until pasta is firm, but not crunchy.
  2. While waiting for water to boil, shred cheese and set aside.
  3. While pasta is cooking put butter in small pan (preferably non-stick) over medium heat.  As butter melts it will appear to boil or foaming.  Use rubber scraper to continually scrape bottom of pan.  Brown specks will begin to appear on the bottom of pan and the butter will start have a nutty aroma.  Brown lightly, being careful not to overcook.
  4. Drain pasta and return to pot.  Add browned butter and mizithra cheese.  Toss together.  The cheese likes to settle to the bottom of the pan or serving dish, so make sure to get all the way to the bottom when serving.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.  Be careful not to over salt, as the mizithra cheese is fairly salty.  Also, fresh ground pepper tastes best.  My family likes garlic powder on it, and I prefer salt and pepper.

The browning butter process.
Photo from

French Bread Rolls
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105 -115 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups flour
  1. In large bowl stir together warm water, yeast and sugar.  Let stand until creamy, approximately 10 minutes.  The mixture will foam.
  2. Add oil salt and 2 cups of flour.  Stir in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from sides of bowl.  If using a stand mixer, mix on setting 1 for about 4 minutes, or until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. 
  3. Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.  If using stand mixer, mix for about 2-4 more minutes.
  4. Lightly oil large bowl, place dough in bowl and turn to coat all sides.  Cover with damp cloth.  Let rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.
  5. Punch dough and put on lightly floured surface.  Divide dough into 16 equal pieces.  Form into round balls.  Put on lightly greased (I use cooking spray) cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.  Cover with damp cloth and let rise until doubled in size, approximately 40 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  7. Bake 16-18 minutes.
    *For crunchier crust mist dough with water before baking and several times during baking.
    ~Adapted from recipe at

Lastly I made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  It was my first time making them and they turned out wonderfully!  I used Paula Deen's recipe, followed the directions to a T and everything worked out great.  The one exception being I had about 1/2 of the frosting left over!  lol!  Also, I highly recommend the strawberries and pecans to top the cupcakes with.  Wonderful!  Rave reviews from my three harshest critics, as well as rave reviews from my wife!

These are topped with raspberries and
pecans.  I used strawberries as
raspberries are hard to find
this time of year.  I'm sure raspberries
taste great also!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Rotten Business

Maybe I shouldn't complain because my medical care is covered by the VA.  Or maybe I should complain because I'm not actually receiving any medical care right now.

A couple weeks ago I learned that I had a new primary care physician (PCP), but she hadn't actually gotten to my file.  And the rheumatologist had handed my case back to my PCP, except I didn't really have a PCP.

I was/am in such severe pain that I'm not sleeping well, struggling to get around the house and at times literally crawling from one place to the other.  My back has hurt the most at night, thus no sleep.  So I called and talked to the nurse attached to my PCP.  Besides the fact that she didn't listen, she obviously didn't have a clue what was going on with me.  I asked to please get a referral to the pain clinic because I am so miserable and the doctors here apparently don't want to do anything about that.

Today I received a letter from aforementioned nurse.  This was my response:

Full on snot crying for 30 minutes.  Thanks VA!
 The letter said that they were waiting on the rheumatologist to determine if they need to see me before June.  Strike one.
The letter said that they would decide on giving me a referral to the pain clinic.  In June.
Strike two.
The letter said I would need to discuss my sleep "issues" with my mental health provider.  Even though my sleep issues are completely related to my pain, not my mental health.
Strike three.
I called to speak to the nurse because I need help and I need it soon, not in June.  The fetchin' doctor doesn't have voicemail set up.  And they are always with patients, not at the desk. 
Strike four.

I hate the VA so much right now.  It's really frustrating to be doing everything I'm supposed to and everything I could possibly do to get help.  Apparently I get to be miserable until June.

Okay, I'm done bitching now.  The kids are home, they're in good moods and being pretty dang good.  And my wife is taking us out to Mexican for dinner.  There will be Coronas involved. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reaching Outside Yourself

We have a neighbor who is disabled.  She's as sweet as can be and has a little yappy puppy named Panda that the kids love (even if he doesn't love them).  We don't see much of her, especially in the winter as I'm certain she's in more pain.

We try to help her out, even though she has a nurse or aide that visits her daily.  The kids help with the garbage cans on garbage day, we drop off cookies, shovel her sidewalk.  It's just the thing that neighbors do. 

Today when I prepped dinner (stuffed shells) I had extra.  So, I put some in a small pan, wrote down the baking instructions and walked it over to our neighbor.

I'm not telling this story to brag.  I'm telling this story because after hearing her thank you's and seeing the smile on her and her aide's faces, I had a sudden rush that has done more for my pain level than even my best medication.  And it got me thinking: When we remove ourselves from our stuff and immerse ourselves completely into someone else, even if just for a moment, we can't help but gain euphoria from it.  Healing, nurturing, good feelings!

I didn't do anything grand.  I didn't really do anything.  I had leftovers.  I walked 50 feet next door.  But for a few moments my heart was with someone else, a stranger.  Not caught up in my aches and pains and struggles.   And it felt amazing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

When Life Gives You S*#!, Build a House

It's a safe bet that anyone reading my blog knows I had a little scuffle with a VW Beetle 8 years ago.  By "little scuffle" I mean, I got mowed down by a car and it really messed up every life plan I had made.

I'll keep the story brief: I got hit, got hurt, moved back in with my ultra-religious, ultra-conservative folks in Alaska, got medically discharged from the Coast Guard, moved to Spokane, WA where I knew two people, and two years later was still in physical therapy.  I had tried working, but it was too rough.  I went to college for the first time and was treading water in an unhappy relationship.

During this time I met Charissa, who has done about half of my tattoos.  I had wanted to do some sort of tattoo in memory of the accident, as I really believe the tattoo process is great for healing.  So, we talked.  My not-so-artistic idea got morphed into this:

Thanks, Charissa!
That, my friends, is a scarab.  More affectionately known as a dung beetle. See the little hidden VW symbol?  And wouldn't you know it, the VW that hit me was blue.

So, why the dung beetle?  In the words of Charissa, "When life gives you sh*#, build a house."  You can't change the cards dealt you.  The dung beetle didn't decide one day to roll around in crap.  And I certainly didn't decide to get ran over by a car.

But about 3 1/2 years after it happened, in a town I never, ever thought I'd live in at a community college I never planned on attending I met a girl who made me realize that all the plans I had made were wrong.  Because they didn't include her.

And now I have this beautiful family, my beautiful wife, and our beautiful home (which, is no longer made of poop).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Am Complicated! (Or, I Am Unique!)

I am not your average guy.  I like to cook and clean and genuinely enjoy being a stay-at-home parent (I say as I ask my six year-old to stop waving the broom around like a sword).  But, I also like war movies, basketball and baseball, and getting sweaty working on some "guy project".

However, I can not find a better way to sum me up then what I saw when I got up from the couch:

Yes, that would be my fuzzy drop stitch knitting project (scarf for seester Leanne) and a rather gruesome first hand account of two of the major Pacific Theater battles from WWII.

And that's all I have to say about that.