The holidays have come and my children have made out like banditos. My youngest is infatuated with Rescuebots and now has almost the entire collection. My daughter got her guitar she was hoping for (now we can make noise together). The middle child? He had a list a mile long. Toward the top of the list was an R/C Car. I knew that’s what I wanted to get him. But which one?
Finding a place that carries the good kind, the cars that will last more than a couple of hours is getting pretty difficult these days. With all of the online ordering, a stand-alone place is pretty tough to come by. I finally found Larry’s Performance R/C in Sterling Heights Michigan. That place has an indoor track and shelves full of R/C cars, boats, planes, helicopters . . . Helicopters! Very cool (ok, maybe in a geeky way)! What to choose? As I looked around, I became a little disappointed. They all were these ready to run cars that were all put together and came with everything you need to go racing. The problem is they are already assembled. Not good in my book.
You see, when I was my son’s age, I used to love these things. I remember saving up my money and buying one. I had carefully chosen out the perfect car for me. It had to have independent suspension and look somewhat realistic. So I saved my money and purchased my car (Tamiya’s Wild One), along with a controller, battery, and battery charger. I sat in the “rec” room over the next three days and put that thing together. The gearbox was easy, but those oil filled shocks were a bear. I still have nightmares over putting those stupid e-rings on the shock shafts with needle nose pliers and big pre adolescent fingers. I got it together, though. The payoff was applying the “Monroe” decals to those shocks. Come on, having shocks that real racecars used (at least a replica of them) was very cool, at least I thought they were. My Wild One will rule the street!
Original Tamiya promotional video, circa 1985 (courtesy of rcgrabbag)
I was so proud when I was finished! I did it myself! I ran outside and tried my car out. It was not good. It wouldn’t drive straight. The tires wouldn’t spin right. There was a plastic clanging noise. I couldn’t let my friends see this mess! Back inside I went and fixed it. I tore apart the gearbox and rebuilt it. I made sure the steering servo was aligned properly. I bolted on the rear tire better. By the time finished, I had a very fast machine! I could compete with anybody on my block. I built it. I researched what I needed to do to make it faster. I added ball bearings. I swapped out heavier parts for lighter ones. I had quite a lot of fun with it over the next few summers. I built it. I engineered it. It was all mine!
This is why I wanted a kit for him to build. I wanted him to engineer it. If it broke, I wanted him to be able to fix it. I wanted him to upgrade it and understand why the upgrades work. Toys, at heart, are instruments for education. Action figures, dolls, play kitchens, art toys are played with for a reason – to allow the imagination to flow. Advanced toys and hobbies take this one step further. They are using their brains to make it work and work better. It’s the experience that makes it educational.
It almost didn’t happen, though. The currently available kits are so expensive. Like over $300 expensive. They actually had a $699 kit. Well out of our Christmas budget. The cars in our price range are the RtR (ready to run) kits. 45 Mph out of the box! That would have made my Wild One pretty tame. The problem with these RtR cars is that he can’t build them. Being that he is a builder, not assembling the car would have taken out the fun of assembling it. It takes out the engineering part out of the process. Not what I wanted for my son. 45 Mph out of the box is pretty impressive, though. Maybe get him one of these? No, it was a kit and the process my wife and I were after. Kit or nothing it was. It was starting to look like another Lego Christmas and more of those things all over my basement floor.
Then I saw them. Up on a top self in the corner of the store. That familiar Tamiya logo was staring at me. They had a collection of some of the old Tamiya kits! I quickly looked for The Wild One, but they didn’t have one. They did have The Lunch Box, The Hornet, and The Grasshopper. I looked at the price, they were within our budget! I asked the salesman if those were old kits. He laughed and said that Tamiya updated and re-released a bunch of the old kits. They tried to keep original to the nostalgia, but improved them to fit today’s R/C market.
Oh the memories just looking at the boxes up on the self brought back. My neighborhood friends had some of these. Eric (the friend that had the track in his back yard) had The Hornet. Bobby had The Grasshopper. Stan had The Falcon. Cal had The Lunch Box. Chad had The Frog. The debate of what size wheels would make our cars faster. (No, putting the smallest wheels on the car does not make it faster guys. I was right then and I’m still right now). Oh the memories! I can still see the track, the races, the crashes, and just ramming around the yard with my friends. I can hear the whine of the gear box, the smack talk on who could win the three lap race, the laughter. These summers were the last holds of my youth before adolescence kicked in, before girls and being cool (OK, I was never cool) and the intricacies of being an American teenager were upon me. The last truly care free days of my life.
So, remembering back to those days, I made the choice for my son, and The Grasshopper it was. The Grasshopper was easy to assemble, very upgradable, and . . . wait for it . . . slow. Slow is good. Getting him the fastest car would have been a disaster. We have a smallish house in Michigan. It’s winter with no place to let the car go full speed. No need for a 45 Mph car. I also love that there are so many hop up parts for The Grasshopper. Ball bearings, larger engines, oil dampened shocks, and tires for all conditions are readily available and fairly inexpensive. So I purchased the car, battery, and charger (a relative bought him the controller) and off I went home, just waiting for Christmas day so I could share some of my youth with my son. I was like a 10 year old at Christmas all over again.
Here are some examples of what he was given on Christmas (the video was from zuruzuru567 youtube channel)
Next up, Part 2: The Building!
Fall is upon us. Football is in full swing, school is in a routine, and the temperatures are starting to drop (I love sweatshirt weather). It’s my favorite season. Yet, Summer is great too. It’s a time to spend with the family. Since we didn’t go on a trip for our 16th anniversary, Wifey and I decided to get out alone more on “dates”. One of the places we decided to go to for an afternoon was Frankenmuth Michigan.
Frankenmuth holds a special place in my heart. A dark place. My best memory of Frankenmuth is beating their football team in a huge rivalry game as a senior in high school . . . and playing the Chicken Dance song. You see, I grew up near Frankenmuth (otherwise known as Chicken City). They were rivals. They hated us. We hated them. They looked down on us. We called them snobs. They called us hicks. We thought they might secretly be brilliantly disguised aliens with orders to take all of us prisoners and make us their pets. At least that’s what my teammates and I came up with.
It’s funny, you would think that time would erase those feelings. You know, time heals all wounds and such. It may heal wounds with those you are around every day, but those you don’t see anymore? Not so much. One of the things I have noticed being a teacher is that I remember my students as I had them. I get former students that come back to see me and I’m always impressed how they have grown and changed. Much like my former students, I still picture that town like I remember it. Just like in the glory days, the tourists are still lined up like sheep to take a picture of the glockenspiel. The year round Christmas store Bronner’s, and the restaurants Zehnder’s and The Bavarian Inn (hence the nick name Chicken City) are still the heart of the town. My son’s youth football team played Frankenmuth a few years ago and I think I was more pumped than they were!
Well, I found out much has changed in 21 years since I graduated high school. They had an art fair going on. They have a whole new outdoor mall area with some interesting shops (Grand Traverse Distillery and a shop that won an episode of Cupcake Wars, Sugar High). They have a Military and Space Museum. Many of the shops I remember are gone, replaced by new ones. It has grown tremendously. I’m ashamed to say that we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Frankenmuth. I suppose I will take some gruff from my former team mates for this post, but I would return with Wifey.
One of the places that has grown is the Frankenmuth Brewery. They have put in quite a nice restaurant and they give brewery tours. We took the tour and than I tried out one of their brews, a black ale called the Tornado.
On my notes I took:
Taste – Malt beginning and end with a hoppy bitterness in the middle. Slight hint of chocolate in the aftertaste.
Smell – Bitter chocolate, malt, and a hint of floral tones
Mouth Feel – Smooth, full bodied but not thick, feels like a stout, but not as heavy, foam has almost a creamy feel
Look – Great look. Dark with thick, beige foam.
They give you a great beer list and what to look for in their beer (I didn’t use this, just sayin’).
It’s a very satisfying beer. Then again, I do love black ales, but this is one of the better black ale’s I have had. Brewed right on the premises, it was fresh and flavorful. The tour was great. The Brew Pub, sits right on the Cass River, so the scenery was beautiful (we did sit at the bar inside).
The only issue I have with the beer is that it’s only available at the restaurant. It would be a regular of mine if it were available at my local purveyor of fine malted beverages. Are you listening Frankenmuth Brewery? Maybe bottling Tornado would go a long way in putting a bright light in that dark place in my heart.
I have a confession to make. I have to get it out in the open. No matter how cool and obscure my music is (I like Wilco, Ryan Bingham, and The Avett Brothers). No matter how many funny jokes I make (What did the doctor do to the chemist? Curium). No matter how well I play my guitar (not very well, but anyone who plays a guitar is cool, right?). Come on, I played college football! I’m a freaking legend in my own mind!
In my heart, though, I know the truth: I’m a geek. There, I said it. I’ll say it again. I’m a geek. You happy now? You might say, “Wait a minute here! You list so many things above that make you cool. You can’t be a geek.” Take it from me, I am. Let me prove it to you. I play fantasy football. I follow the NFL draft. I think Lord of The Rings and Star Wars are cool. I know what the T stands for in James T. Kirk. I actually sat around for a day in college and dissected American Pie. I could have been out chasing young ladies, but noooooo, I was too busy figuring out what “. . . As the players tried to take the field/ The marching band refused to yield/ Do you recall what was revealed/ The day the music died.” (It’s reference to the Kent State Riots, if you must know). I can recite lines from Monty Python and The Holy Grail. (She turned me into a newt! . . . . . I got better). I can look up in the night sky and name several constellations. I have a star guide app on my phone! I watch the History Channel for the history. Wifey and I went on a ghost tour of Fort Erie at Niagara On The Lake. When it was over, my comment was “What a great way to discover the history of the place!” I mean . . . I mean! I’m sitting here on the Group W bench and you want to know if I’m moral enough to join the Army after being a litterbug . . . There I go again, digressing into my knowledge of music (if you know what song that came from, I’m impressed). And the college football thing? I played on the offensive line. The only position geekier than that is the kicker. No matter how hard I try not to be, I’m a geek.
What made me take a long look at myself and come to that conclusion is my total immersion in the book series of A Song of Ice and Fire. You may not know this book series by name, but I’m sure you have heard of the TV series it inspired: A Game of Thrones. It has everything: knights, dragons, swords, big magical walls of ice, castles, maidens fair, maidens foul, feasts (hey, this is a food blog), magical beings that only come out during long winters, ten year summers, prophesies and prophetic dreams (we will get into that later) and a mouthy little dwarf. This series is not for the feint of heart. It’s gory, graphic, and sexual. But those aren’t the real reasons I like this series so. I absolutely love it for the political intrigue and unpredictability.
Maybe it goes back to my hobby of figuring out the meanings of song lyrics, but trying to predict what happens next is so intriguing to me. There is so much to predict. The books are written from a point of view (POV) of certain characters. You know what they know. The backstories are tremendous, and give just enough information to make you connect the dots, but leave out enough to draw the wrong conclusion from. The story takes twists and turns. Characters aren’t what they seem. Don’t get attached to certain characters, as you may be disappointed.
The characters themselves are neither good nor bad, but a mix of both. Hero’s make poor choices and their personalities lead them to their mistakes. You feel empathy and even sympathy of the worst of the antagonists as they go through their trials. The books give a gritty realism of what I imagine life was like back in the medieval times. You not only follow the kings, queens, lords, ladies, knights, and maidens, but the common folk. Whether it is or not, the story feels real. Parallels can also be made about life today. They really make you think. I love that about the books.
So join me on my journey through the books. I will be reviewing my thoughts on each. I’ve read them all but A Dance with Dragons, and that’s being shipped from Amazon as I type! I will have spoilers, but not too many. I will also try my hand on a few of the prophecies and predictions. For now, I will leave you with one of the trailers from Season one of The HBO series. Enjoy!
Sometimes you’ve just got to try something new. White Russians and Onion Juice can only go so far and Wifey and I wanted to expand our palate. Tradition says we just go into the cupboard ‘o booze try and find something to mix. I pull out the creme de cocao and Irish cream. Looking deep into the cupboard, I see some vanilla vodka. Nice start on this one. I remembered we had bought some Chambord a couple of years ago for a recipe, and I thought it would go well the other ingredients. We mixed it up and after a few trials, this is what we came up with:
1 part Creme de Cocao (Kaluha would work with this as well)
1 part Vanilla Vodka (regular vodka is fine)
1 part Irish Cream
1/2 part Chambord
Fill a drink shaker with ice and add the ingredients and shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and enjoy. Watch out, though, they will come up and bite you real quick!
Too funny for a geek like me not to put up on my blog!
Here’s the link to the webpage. Give a positive comment if you like!
Having a couple of drinks with the wife can difficult sometimes. You see, I’m a beer snob (a music snob, and a football snob as well) and like my “craft” beer. The wife does not like beer one bit. Wine is good, but we can only do that every once and awhile. So if we are going to have a couple of drinks together, we have to get creative! One I have found is kinda trendy, a Mojito Slushy. I have even come up with a few drinks of my own like Onion Juice. I have also come up with a frozen fruity drink that is very versatile. I call it a Caribbean Blizzard.
This is what you need:
3 cups frozen strawberries
2 frozen bananas cut into slices
Juice of 2 limes (or 1 lemon)
¼ cup Triple Sec
½ cup Light Rum
Add the ingredients into a blender and mix. There is enough for two “drinks” when put into a margarita glass. You may have to add more water (or rum/triple sec) if you like yours a little thinner. I don’t mind eating mine with a spoon. These are really good, though, so you have to be careful. The great thing about this one is you can change the ingredients to fit what you like or, more importantly, what you have. As long as you have the two frozen bananas, the lime/lemon juice, 3 cups frozen fruit, and an additional 1 and ½ cup liquid, you can make anything! We have made this with watermelon, OJ, with no booze. You can add tequila instead of rum. You can even add dark rum if you like. The only limit is your palate (and your pantry/freezer).
I will admit it. I’m a bad blog owner. Since I know I used to have a rabid following that probably burned my image in effigy, I need to make it up to my people (all four of you). So I have decided to blog some more. Not just about food, beer, and wine, but some of my other interests as well. Hopefully, this will keep me busy and you entertained! If you like food, beer, wine, football, Game of Thrones (books and series) and other random topics, stop on by every once and a while. You can even comment here or on my twitter feed! I look forward to interacting with you all out there in the electronic world!