Saturday, August 31, 2019

End of Summer and What Happened Over the Summer

Seriously! What happened to summer? It seems like 2019 just started and then suddenly summer is over. School starts up and feels like summer consisted of about a week and then we are back into downhill slide of the end of 2019. Each year it seems like summer moves faster and faster. Whatever I can do to make time feel like it is moving slower would be good for this next year because this year is flying.

The end of summer is marked by school starting, football games, and the push for teams in baseball to make the playoffs, but it is also the mark of Labor Day. I recall as a kid when Labor Day would arrive it always felt like the end of summer and the focus would turn only to school. The end of summer makes me want to remember what happened over the summer and possibly make it feel like time did not pass in an instant of a week.

I attended graduation from Washburn University for my nephew Spencer. I was proud to have him graduate from Washburn. The same month I attended the wedding of another nephew Brian. A beautiful service and a lot of fun at the reception. The same weekend that Brian was married, Carrie was in a play (her first) that ran a three day weekend. I missed opening night of her play but attended the next two performances. I could not have been more proud of Carrie. She had so much fun doing the play. I hope she is able to have the chance to do future plays as I cannot wait to see her perform again.

May also brought with it the end of my spring semester class. I am closing in on the end of the master's program. I did end up taking a class over the summer that proved to be a lot of work, as all the courses have been, but I think doing the course over the summer also helped to make the summer seem to fly. I take two more classes and then I will graduate with a master's degree. I cannot wait and while summer seems like it has been dragging, this process seems to be taking a longtime.

June started and Carrie was asked to be in a fund raiser for Topeka Civic Theater the "Art of Murder". She was excited to take part in the one night performance. I was far along in my class that had started and had a paper due, so I was unable to attend. I am hopeful that future plays that Carrie will be in I will be able to attend. June also brought another wedding with my nephew Patrick getting married. A beautiful wedding and fun reception, the whole family was able to attend and celebrate their marriage. Talking about time moving quickly, it seems crazy to think that I have two nephews that are now married.

July really flew by as I continued to work on my class. Class was due to end the middle of July, so a lot of reading, discussion boards, and papers to complete helped to make July skip by in a blink of an eye. The end of July we had scheduled a trip to Oklahoma and Texas for a vacation. Oklahoma was for a business trip for me. We had a good time stopping in Oklahoma City, OK for one night. Did some sight seeing, ate well, and left the next day to drive to Dallas. We then spent the next eight days visiting, having fun, and enjoying the company of our friends Javier and Corrie. Always fun to spend time with friends.

Our vacation ran from July 29 - August 6. After arriving back from vacation,  I found myself immediately back in the thick of trying to get prepared for classes at Washburn. No, not my class to start, but the start of the semester. Again, classes starting certainly makes the feeling of summer ending seem final and then suddenly here we are almost a month later with Labor Day on Monday and it really feels like summer is over. Sure, we might have more hots days, but summer is done. Now we prepare for football, fantasy football, end of baseball, and soon basketball will be starting.

All I want is for time to move a little slower as we finish out 2019. Making time to read for enjoyment, taking a break from the business that is life, and making sure to relax will help me to focus on slowing down the feeling of time flying by and enjoy being in the now. This is my goal as we finish out the year.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Beer Can Chicken Cook on a Saturday Night and I will Try Again to Improve My Process

Grilling on a Saturday Night
Smoke Rising from Grill on a Saturday Night
It has been a while since I have posted about a cook on the grill. We tried beer can chicken this evening. I have struggled somewhat with chicken on the BGE where I follow advice using indirect heat and end up with skin on the chicken that is not very good. Today, I searched around for different advice and recipes. I found one that had a good rub which included:
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt or kosher salt

The rub smelled and looked good. I applied it directly to the chicken inside and out. I then used a Boulevard beer as it was the only beer we had in the house that was actually a can. Cooked from 6:06 pm to about 7:30 getting the temperature to target temp of 165. I used two different probes to get an accurate temperature. The probe in the breast reached the target temperature before the second probe, so the probe in the breast got up as high as 177 before it was complete.

Whole Chicken Early in the Cook
Whole Chicken Early in the Cook
Spent time on the patio listening to the Royals who started losing in the first inning with a grand slam by the Indians. Great! I continued to listen as the chicken cooked and monitored the probes. Even though the Royals were getting beat, it was an enjoyable evening on the patio. A few mosquitoes but a nice evening, so was battling those away while tending to the grill.

Left the lid closed for the first 30 minutes before opening to see what it was doing. Had a nice color happening on the skin and it was dripping a great deal into the lump. This would be the only reason that I would think about doing indirect and have a drip pan to try and catch some of that before it gets into the lump. But, I made the decision to cook without using indirect heat. I think the next time we try beer can chicken, I will do indirect as I had a few comments on BGE Forum and on the Reddit BGE sub that indirect is best and high in the dome works wonders for a crispy skin. Obviously, I did not do either of these as cooked direct and not high in the dome. So, ended up with skin that was not ideal but the meat was moist and good flavor.

Finished and Off of the Grill
Finished and Off of the Grill
Final product did not look bad. It had good color and smelled so good coming off of the grill. I think it does need to be attempted again using indirect heat. I like the flavor of the rub I used as the skin that we could eat we liked how it tasted. I just need to work on the process further and give it another attempt.

If you have a technique you like to use on your grill, BGE, or other, I would be interested to hear your technique. Feel free to post a comment.

Oliver at the Fense Protecting the Backyard
Oliver Protecting the Yard and Grill
Best part of the night was how much fun our dog has while I am grilling. He wears himself out as he patrols the back yard. Once Oliver sees me getting the tools for grilling, the lump, pulling off the cover, and generally walking in and out to prepare, he can hardly sit still. Runs to and from the door and knows exactly what is happening. He specially likes it when a drip or two falls off of a tool used for grilling. Not tonight little guy, but I know it will happen again and hopefully soon.

Until next time, have a wonderful rest of your weekend and hopefully I will post more cooks that I do in the future.

Reading Books, Goodreads, and Goal for End of Summer Reading

I am in no way an avid reader. I go through spurts where I read a lot and then other times where I read very little. I might go months without picking up a book to read. When I am taking classes and reading textbooks, I typically do not read at all. My summer class recently ended and I told myself I am going to try and read as much as I can between now and when the fall semester class starts which will be in the middle of October. So, I should have a chance to read a lot between now and then.


My Goodread profile was created back in 2013. During that time, I have not read many books at only 63. I think my most productive year of reading was last year. I pick up books that look interesting from the cover or a brief read of the info about the book from Goodreads. I have started a few books and then end up abandoning because I do not find it interesting. I need to rely more on the recommendations of other Goodreads friends as it seems that when I do find a book that sounds interesting it sometimes is not great and it takes a while to get through those as it is difficult to keep focus on the book.

Carrie has recommended a few books to me and one that I loved was Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime Discovery. It was a book I could not set down and found it inspiring to read about a true story of life in space. If you have not read the book, I highly recommend picking it up and enjoy the read.

I am always looking for new books to add to my read list, so if you have a recommendation, please feel free to comment on this post or friend me on Goodread profile to recommend a book.

My current book is Say You're Sorry (Morgan Dane #1) which I think I got for free through Amazon and being a Prime member. It is one of those books I started back in December, my spring class started, I did not read at all, summer class started, and I did not read, so I picked it back up the middle of July and continued reading. The book has been entertaining and I am almost done with it. In fact, I should finish it today as I am at 93% complete. Overall, I am enjoying this book that I found for free on Amazon.

Other than the books I get through Amazon, I typically get books from our local library through Overdrive. I only read electronic books and only on my Kindle. I sometimes will read with the Kindle app on my iPhone if I do not have my Kindle reader. Makes it nice as it syncs up from both devices including the computer. I know my mom, and others, enjoy the feel of a book in their hands while they are reading, but I prefer the e-book to a real book.

My goal is to finish two books before the fall semester begins in the middle of August. Not my semester, as my semester does not start until the second eight weeks of the fall semester as I mentioned earlier. But, I want to finish two books before the semester begins. If I give myself a goal, it helps to be able to stay on track and motivate for reading at least a chapter each day.

Please post a comment if you have book recommendations or connect with me on Goodread profile to share book recommendations. I would love to hear from you or connect with others on discussion of books.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Trip to Beloved Playa Mujeres in Cancun November 2017

Picture of Us Parasailing in Cancun Mexico
Carrie and John Parasailing in Cancun Mexico

Our vacation from 2017 and I realized I never finished this post which I had started back in December 2017 following our vacation. So, I decided to finish it out today.

Carrie and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage on September 21, 2017. To celebrate, we booked a all-inclusive vacation to Beloved Playa Mujeres in Cancun Mexico. We had looked at a number of all-inclusive resorts before selecting Beloved Playa Mujeres. We booked our vacation for November 12 - 21, 2017 so we could be back in time for Thanksgiving break. We were in for a treat of a vacation from arriving in Mexico.

Night Before We Leave and Our Flight

Carrie and I Flying American Airlines to Cancun Mexico
Carrie and John on Plane
We flew on American Airlines. We stayed at Hilton Kansas City Airport so we would not have to rush Sunday morning to get to the airport from Topeka. It worked out great! On the drive to the hotel on Saturday, we were trying to figure out where to eat going through options we found on Google. Finally Carrie asked what about Minsky's Pizza which was within driving distance and better yet they delivered to the hotel. We had taken a cooler full of beer with us for the hotel stay the night before where we enjoyed drinking beer and eating pizza. We ate the whole thing and I finished off the beer.

After finishing pizza, beer, and dessert, Carrie proceeded to get ready for the trip with such things as painting nails. I found a movie I had wanted to watch for a while but never watched. The movie was one I remember my dad liking a lot and maybe watching a few times. I recalled to Carrie when I came across the movie that I remembered my dad telling me how good the movie was and would be one I would like too. Sure enough, I tuned into Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) and I watched it to the end. I loved it! I thought it was cool that the movie was playing and I was able to watch it before leaving on our trip. I felt a connection to dad as I know how much he liked this movie. Carrie shared with me following the movie that it was based on a series of books that I might enjoy reading... which I plan to read.

We both slept well that night and got up early Sunday, November 12, 2017 ready to catch our flight. We were able to leave our car at the Hilton Kansas City Airport for $8 a day, so that was not too bad. We took the shuttle to the Kansas City airport and had no issues with making our flight. The airport was not busy at all. Our first leg of the flight was to Dallas, Texas where we then had about an hour layover in Dallas before our connecting flight to Cancun.

Started Trip Right with Vodka Tonic
Vodka Tonic on Plane
No major issues with our flights although on one of the flights Carrie's knees were up against the chair in front of us. I believe this was the first flight to Dallas as we did not pay more for emergency exit row on that first flight. We both got a beverage to drink on the plane to start our vacation. Nothing like a little vodka before noon. We are on vacation!

The second flight to Cancun, I recall the flight attendant for American Airlines talked to us a lot and was so nice! We were even talking to her as we were going off the plane. She was telling us about her travel and where she was going after leaving Cancun. It was interesting to hear her discuss her plans. I believe she said she is currently living in Dallas but of course gets to travel to all kinds of interesting locations.

Arrival and the Resort

We arrived late afternoon on Sunday, November 12, 2017. Slightly overcast when we arrived, but the weather was not bad. We knew before we left that rain was forecast for late Sunday and most of the day Monday although we thought we would catch a break and miss the rain. It was a nice evening on Sunday as we checked into our room. We spent some time unpacking and enjoying some drinks in our room before we headed out to checkout the resort. We ate the first night at Isla Grill which was very good! I had steak and it was delicious. We never did have the bananas that we heard about as that first night we were too full to get that dessert and when we tried going later in our stay, they were out of them when we ate dinner the second time at Isla Grill. The flaming bananas sounded really good though, so we missed out on those.

A few pictures are below of the view from our patio which was Hermosa 2. We really liked the location of our room and being on the ground floor. Some days we left out of the back sliding glass and did not bother locking the room. We did this when we were going to the swim up bar or spending time in the area by the pool.

Picture from our PatioPicture from our Patio 2Picture from our Patio 3Picture from our Patio 4Picture of our Pool with Me In ItPicture of Drinks in our Room

I did not get many inside pictures of our room, but I think you can find those elsewhere. My favorite part of the room was the bar. When we checked into our room and they came by to check on us if we needed anything, we told them we would prefer black label Johnny Walker. We were initially told that we would have to give up two bottles from the four liquor bottles and one bottle of wine. The liquor that was in the room for us included rum, tequila, vodka, gin, and then one bottle of wine. After we left for dinner and came back, there was a bottle of black label Johnny Walker and they left the bottle we thought we were giving up... rum. Good thing because we ended up finishing off one bottle of rum during our stay and started another one. I was really enjoying the rum while on our vacation.

Another favorite of being on the ground floor in Hermosa 2 was that the ice machine was right outside of our door. The first few days I would take the ice bucket out to fill up with ice and by the end, I was taking just our glasses out to fill up with ice for our drinks. Worked out great!

More Resort and Our Activities

For most of our vacation, we spent either by the ocean or by a pool. Duh! We got up early (by 9 am) most mornings as we did not want to waste any daytime as the days were rather short. Carrie read six or seven books while we were on vacation and I read two and half which was our goal for this vacation. Not have anything planned, relax by the ocean/pool, read, and enjoy adult beverages which is exactly what we did on our vacation. Oh, we also ate well at the resort. 

Picture of Ceviche from Sushi Bar
Ceviche with Octopus. Yum!
The sushi bar was really good! We did not spend as much time at the sushi bar as we could have done. We basically had sushi twice while on vacation. The first night we had the ceviche. Oh my! It was really good! The ceviche had shrimp, white fish, and octopus. We were not too thrilled about eating octopus, but I think it was our favorite of the combination. Really nice job with the ceviche at the sushi bar. We had ceviche again later at another restaurant, but the first night we had it was the best. They did a really nice job with the sushi at this location. We had no complaints and ate plenty of sushi. This was one of the first places we went when arriving to the resort and then we re-visited again a few nights before we left to enjoy sushi and drinks.

Our Dinner at Excellence Playa Mujeres
Dinner at Excellence
Playa Mujeres
On Tuesday, November 14,  2017, we were able to have dinner at the neighboring Excellence Playa Mujeres that we were able to eat at for "free" because we were staying over seven nights at the sister related restore of Beloved Playa Mujeres. It was fun to go over to see the other resort which was a lot larger than where we were staying. So large in fact, we had a hard time finding the ocean after we were done eating to walk back to our hotel. Anyway, we were able to hang out at Excellence Playa Mujeres for a while to drink and then eat. So many more people at this resort, so it was fun for us to be able to see that side with more people everywhere. The staff were very nice to us when visiting the other resort. They were attentive to our needs and we had a wonderful time. We were able to walk around the resort following dinner to check out the sports bar which happened to be playing Kansas basketball against Kentucky Wildcats. It was a fun night although we got out of there late and back to our room about midnight. (This might explain why we had problems finding the ocean after leaving the resort.)

Wrap Up and Conclusion

A wonderful vacation that we cannot wait to do again.  Excellence Playa Mujeres was a wonderful place to stay. The staff and various places to eat/drink were enjoyable. It had been a long time since we had been to an all-inclusive resort and hopefully we do not wait as long to do so again in the future. We have been on three cruises and enjoy those, but there is something special about all-inclusive and drinking or eating whatever and whenever we want.

See all of our pictures from our trip by clicking on the picture to the below. A memorable experience and look forward to going again.


Cancun 2017
Picture Album from Excellence Playa Mujeres from November 2017

Friday, July 19, 2019

Long Over Due for Post, Grilling, and Summer is Flying

It is sad to look back at my blog and see that I have only posted twice during 2019. One was first NCAA March Madness and the second was to displays the top three winners of the bracket for the NCAA bracket. My summer class ended and spring was rather busy with another class, so I decided it was time to try and get my site going again with some regular posts from yours truly.

Untitled
Grilling on a Summer Night
I have been grilling frequently the past few months although I got out of the habit of writing about it or posting pictures. I did snap a picture on a beautiful night a week ago before it started getting hot. Grilled burgers and they turned out great!

Hard to believe that the summer is almost over. It seems the days go by faster and faster. I remember as a kid thinking the day was so boring and moved so slow. Not anymore as the days fly by not to mention the weeks, months, and years. Reminds me of my grandpa when I was young and I would tell him I was bored and the day was going so slow, he would tell me just wait until you are older. I had not idea what he meant. I think I know now but time seems to fly by at warp speed.

I hope your summer is going well and not flying by. Enjoy your summer and I hope to post on a regular basis at least until my fall class starts up again in October.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

March Madness Hopefuls ESPN Tournament Winners

Follow up on who won the ESPN Tournament Challenge 2019. Every weekend was fun with so many good games. But, this post is more about the winners for the tournament challenge March Madness Hopefuls.

Looking at the top four teams that all picked the national champion correctly with Virginia were Dos Try, Crashing the Boards, The B Team, and NastySplash. A narrow margin of victory allows Dos Try to pull ahead in the Final Four and get the win in the national championship game with all four top teams getting 320 points.

Removed the owners from the below listing, but they are left on the links above. Fun March Madness!

RankBracket R64R32S16E8F4NCGChampionTotalPCT
1
Dos Try
200260240160160320Virginia134098.9
2
Crashing the Boards
24028024080160320Virginia132098.6
3
The B Team
23030020080160320Virginia129098.0
4
NastySplash
22024020080160320Virginia122095.6

Until next year! Have a great spring and look forward to seeing you back for March Madness 2020 next year.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

March Madness 2019 Tournament Challenge

ESPN Tournament Challenge Picture

Hard to believe it is that time of year again. Short write up with information on accessing the ESPN Tourney Challenge. Same name as last year and hopefully you will share with family, friends, and co-workers so we can get a lot of people in this group. Directions for joining are listed below.
  1. Visit the link to ESPN which will take you directly to the March Madness Hopefuls.
  2. If you are already signed into the ESPN web site, you can immediately create your bracket. If not signed into the site, you will need to sign in first.
  3. Join the group and use the password: haverty (No password is necessary -- Open Group)
  4. Repeat the above process to create additional brackets. In the March Madness Hopefuls bracket, you can have three entries.
Be sure to submit your entries by 10:00 am CST Thursday, March 21. This will make sure you get your entries submitted and have time to get them submitted. First game tips at 11:15 am on Thursday March 21.

If you have any questions or problems, please post a comment to this post.

Good luck and enjoy March Madness!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Two Turkey Cook for Thanksgiving and then Lots of Leftovers

Hard to believe it has been so many months since my last update. So much has happened. Grilled a few times and got out of the habit of taking pictures, posting, etc. I am still having a lot of fun with my Big Green Egg. Still have not cooked a lot of items I was hoping to cook by this time, but we have done a lot of cooks. Still have plans for doing pizza, wings, and some of type of stew, but hopefully that will come this next year.

We decided to do turkey on the grill this year. First time we had done turkey although I had been talking about wanting to do so since we got our grill. Carrie and I decided to get turkey breasts without the extras for this cook. Overall, I was happy with how it turned out.

Grill Preped and Ready to Cook
Grill Prepped and Ready to Cook
I got up early Thanksgiving Day to get started. We discussed cooking Wednesday night, but I think it worked out better to do so Thursday morning. I will get into how long it took a little later, but this was the start of the process. I cleaned out all the old lump that had been used previously. It was pretty well broken up as I had done a few cooks since last cleaning it out. I wanted to make sure that I had fresh lump for this cook. I used an old cooler to clean out from inside the BGE and then scoop out ash from the bottom. Using the old cooler worked much better than trying to use plastic bags to get the old lump and ash into. Although, I still need to get some plastic gloves or something as my hands get filthy removing the old lump by hand. I have a shovel, but I found that using my hands works better.

Turkey Breasts Finishing up on the Grill
Turkey Breasts Almost Done
We did a salt and pepper on the two turkey breasts. We let them thaw for about two days prior. They were 8.5 lbs each and I set the grill for 400 and put the birds on the grill. I used my Weber iGrill temp meter to monitor the birds while they cooked.

I placed the birds on the grill front to back. I think that was a mistake in terms of grilling as the back bird cooked really fast. I estimated it was going to take about 3 - 4 hours to cook, but the turkey toward the back of the grill cooked in about two hours. Target temperature of 165 degrees and the back turkey came off the grill almost two hours exactly. The turkey toward the front took a full three hours to cook. The next time we do turkey, I will put them on side to side instead of toward the back. I know that it burns hotter toward the back of the BGE so I will make sure to not do that again in the future.

Turkey is Done and Ready to Eat
Turkey is Done and Ready to Eat
The first turkey came off and we let it rest for 15 - 30 minutes before craving. Taking a few nibbles, it was nice and juicy. I was really happy with how it turned out and very juicy meat. The second turkey cooked another hour and finally removed it from the grill, let it rest, and then carved it up. It too was moist and good flavor. I was concerned that cooking another hour it was going to be dry, but it turned out great.

We wanted to cook enough turkey to have leftovers long after Thanksgiving Day and we accomplished that task. We had turkey with dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Oh so good! For lunch a few days, we had turkey sandwiches which were also very good.

Happy with the cook and the process. I look forward to cooking turkey again next year.

I trust you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and time with your family. We had an extra day off here in Topeka with a winter storm that came through causing blizzard conditions. Tomorrow, it is back to work and back to eating food other than turkey meat. I do hope to start posting more often and not have a long gap between this and my next post. I know Eunice will be happy to see I am finally posting after a long time off. Or, at least she will stop giving my brief in our fantasy football league about not posting.