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The B-BLT Pizza – The Summer of Pizza

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SummerofPizzaWell, I guess it was bound to happen.  After 2 pretty good returns on the pizzas, I had my first setback in the Summer of Pizza.  In retrospect I don’t really think that it was totally my fault (of course it wasn’t right?) but it still resulted in a really small pizza. So here’s what happened…to save time (as a parent of twins saving time on meals is a MUST) I used premade dough from the grocery store and I’ve started halving the dough to make the crust better and thinner.  I put the unused portion in the freezer and I think that ended up taking some of the moisture out of the dough and also messed with the yeast, all of which meant that the crust ended up about half the size that I wanted it to be and was too thin as well.

So while it wasn’t a total disaster, it still could have been better.  But I digress.  The pizza of choice was a B-BLT, which is a Blue Cheese – Bacon Lettuce Tomato pizza.  Premade tomato base with zliced cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar goes on top of a flavored olive oil on the crust and then the precooked and crumbled bacon and blue cheese goes on top to melt in.  Finally it all gets topped with grilled heart of romaine lettuce and there you have a B-BLT pizza.

The pizza itself, aside form the jacked up crust, was pretty good but I think since it was so small and I had a ton of extra toppings, it ended up being a little too much and the blue cheese was a little overwhelming.  It’s one I’d like to try again at some point but for now the summer of pizza rolls on.

Photo May 31, 7 48 38 PM

Drunken Shrimp Pizza – The Summer of Pizza

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SummerofPizzaThe second round of the Summer of Pizza definitely saw some branching out in terms of toppings and flavor and honestly showed why this experiment is so interesting as I don’t think I’d ever try shrimp on a pizza if not for this idea.

Drunken Shrimp Pizza consists of shrimp that have been marinated in vodka, hot sauce, olive oil, and garlic and then grilled and added to a pizza of cheese, sauce, kalamta olives, and lemon zest, then topped with salt & pepper.  It was a good pizza, but as my Wonderful Wife pointed out, cheese and seafood can be a little tricky sometimes. I think that I was expecting a little more kick from the shrimp thanks to the marinade but they ended up being pretty mild.  It was still pretty good though.

The crust though, was amazing.  I used about half as much dough this time and completely nailed my cooking times based on my experience last week and the crust was just the right crispyness and thickness and it turned out great.  So I’m pretty sure I’ve got that part down now and can be confident the base for the rest of the Summer of Pizza.

Drunken Shrimp Pizza

The Summer of Pizza

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It started innocently enough.  I saw a recipe for a good pizza on twitter and decided to go for it.  When all was said and done the pizza was good, the kitchen was blazing hot, and my Wonderful Wife and I had decided that I need to continue to make homemade pizzas, but maybe make them on the grill instead.  Good call.

Less than a week later she came home with the Pizza on the Grill cookbook and I started drooling…I mean flipping through it.  I love cooking on the grill and use it most nights in the summer so why not expand my repertoire to include pizza?  The instructions seemed simple enough and after buying a pizza peel to use, it was time to make the maiden voyage.

I went with a traditional recipe pizza for the first one, just sauce, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil.  It was good, to be sure, but there was also room for improvement.  My crust was a little thick and a little burnt, but that didn’t prevent us from deciding that this would be the #SummerOfPizza.

So keep an eye out both here and on twitter and we work our way through the cookbook and enjoy all the unique and delicious recipes contained therein.  And if I happen to learn anything about cooking pizza on the grill along the way, I’ll pass that along too.

Here’s the first attempt and while it looks small, it’s actually fairly large.  And pretty tasty too.

Pizza on the Grill 1

Mother’s Day – The Other Side of Celebration

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I’m sure you are aware that yesterday was Mother’s Day.  And it was entirely appropriate and wonderful that an entire day was set aside to celebrate the impact and influence of mothers in our lives.  But this year, more than most, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about the other side of Mother’s Day.  I’ve been blessed to have an amazing mother who loves me and did a wonderful job in raising me (at least I think so) and has always been there for me.  And this year I was able to celebrate  my Wonderful Wife as a mother to our two boys for the first time.

But maybe it is the fact that as we were celebrating with those sweet little boys, their birth mother was having another day without them, that gave me pause.  And I started thinking about how Mother’s Day is an incredibly hard day for many people for many different reasons.  In the past year I’ve had friends that have miscarried, lost a child, lost their mother, or have gone another entire year without being able to have a child.  And it makes me sad.  For them, each social media post of faded old pictures and proclamations of greatest mother ever is a reminder of what was, what had been, or what isn’t.

I don’t know what I do about this.  I don’t know that there is anything that I can do about this, except to pray for my friends and realize that if I, in my limited view, know of this many people that are struggling on this day, that surely there are others in my life I don’t know about, and that their experiences are multiplied many times over across our world.  It’s probably weird to think about these things on a day when so many people are so happy and celebrating, but my relationship with God is such that I truly believe I am called to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep, sometimes all in the same day, maybe even in the same breath.

I don’t know what their pain feels like.  I can’t relate to their frustrations and longings in a way that carries much meaning.  But I can let them know they aren’t alone and that others know that yesterday was hard for them.  And if you’re reading this and yesterday was hard for you, I’m sorry.  I wish it wasn’t.  I wish I had better answers for you and I wish I could make all things new again.  But I can’t.  I know the one who can though, and while it doesn’t make life here any easier, please know God loves you more than you could ever even begin to imagine.  And if you aren’t in this boat, try and be sensitive to those around you that are hurting and be ever thankful for the blessings you have.

Sam’s Choice: My Top Songs for 2013

SamsAnother year has come and almost gone and with it I have discovered more new music.  And since I’m such a swell guy I’m going to share my favorites with you here.  If you’re interested in my past lists you can take a look at 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.

And just a qualifying note before I get started…while most of these songs came out in 2013, that isn’t necessarily my criteria since I make playlists according to seasons of the year and then cull my year-end list from them.  So if a song catches my ear and I’ll always remember it for whatever season it was, then that’s where it goes.  So without further ado, I present to you the songs I’ll remember 2013 by…

Teach Me To Know by The Lone Bellow

Look, I can’t say anything more about The Lone Bellow that I haven’t already said, but just trust me, if you aren’t listening to them you’re missing out, and if you haven’t seen them live, then you haven’t lived.  Right, right, Zach is a friend of mine and I am likely the most biased observer of theirs ever, since I’ve been going to Zach’s shows for 10 years now, but these folks bring an energy and vigor to their music and stage that most bands would only dream about.  To be in the audience when the show turns from concert to sing-along is remarkable and I’m just selfishly glad these guys are finally getting some national recognition because that means they’re touring more now and I get to see them play live more.  Just buy their album already.  Also, might be worth it to buy stock in guitar strings since Zach kills about 2 sets per show.  Dude is intense!

Always Alright by Alabama Shakes

I first heard this song when my Wonderful Wife and I went to see the movie Silver Linings Playbook and I remember thinking “Hey, that sounds like Alabama Shakes but I have all their songs and I’ve never heard this.” Of course the song was released on the soundtrack to the movie and then about 2 weeks later Alabama Shakes played on SNL and laid down the above performance.  As my Wonderful Wife and I watched she turned to me and said “Holy cow, when did they get so tight?”  And she was right, these kids went from local band made good to legitimate stars with this phenomenal performance.  It’s a toe-tapper of a jam and definitely one of the best songs of the year.

Most People by Dawes

Dawes was one of those bands that I always kinda liked and thought were good but never really paid too much attention to.  And then they opened for the above Alabama Shakes at a show we went to this summer and I really enjoyed their set.  Like a lot.  Enough to re-evaluate my previous position on them and they are now one of my favorites.   They’ve got a good laid back rock vibe while telling cool stories in their songs.  This song is a perfect example of why I like them so much and why they made this list this year.

Miracle Mile by Cold War Kids

I’ve been a big fan of the Cold War Kids since their debut album so I was pretty excited about their new stuff coming out this year and this song definitely did not disappoint.  It’s vintage Cold War Kids, catchy, fun, and edgy without being too much of any of those things.  And I love that these guys have such a distinct sound that you can always know when a song is theirs, even if you don’t know it.  The piano, the voice, the vibe; it all combines to make great music and that’s why I love it.

Time to Run by Lord Huron

Lord Huron was probably my favorite band discovery of 2013.  My best mate James texted me one day and said “I’ve been listening to this band Lord Huron and I really think you’d like it”.  Since he and I have similar taste in almost everything (seriously, music, movies, sports, sense of humor; all the same) I had a pretty good inkling I’d like them and I was right.  Their entire album is fantastic and I actually spent a ton of time listening to them as I went on my runs this summer and fall.  Their music has a sort of fast-paced dreaminess to it that seemed to make my running pace work well and so I just kept listening to them.  And never tired of them either.  Really good stuff. (Sidenote: My Wonderful Wife is way cooler than I am.  After listening to Lord Huron for about a week I said to her “Hey, I really like this band Lord Huron.  You should check them out.” I played her a song and she said “Oh yeah, these guys are great.” Pretty sure the lesson here is marry someone cooler than you and you’ll always have good music around.)

Down Below by Overseas

I really like Pedro the Lion so it is no surprise that another David Bazan project would end up on this list.  But if you read the note about my Wonderful Wife above, then let me also say that she got me a gift subscription to Paste Magazine for our anniversary this year.  It is a digital release that includes a sampler of music each week and one of the first weeks I got it, this song was on it.  It drew me in and now here it is on this list.  I’ve definitely gotten a good amount of great music this year from that subscription and if you’re looking for some good new tunes, I’d highly recommend you check it out.  Have I mentioned my Wonderful Wife is cooler than I am?  She is.

Birmingham by Shovels & Rope

Besides Paste Magazine, the other ways I discovered new music this year was the greatest local radio station ever, Birmingham Mountain Radio, a public radio station out of Minnesota that I discovered on a business trip, The Current, and NPR’s music show The World Cafe (quick tangent: One night I got in my car to run an errand and as I turned it on The Lone Bellow were being featured on The World Cafe and I heard Zach speaking and it was weird and awesome at the same time…).  If I am driving in my car from 7-9pm there is a really good chance I’ll be listening to The World Cafe and likely hearing some new music and that is how I first heard Shovels & Rope.  Their song Birmingham is not only named for the city in which I currently live, but is also a great modern folk song, so here it is as one of my favorites for this year.

The Ceiling by Wild Feathers

What can I say? I’m a sucker for a catchy song that breaks down into a rollicking jam that has 4 guys on guitars rocking out, jumping up and down, and standing on drum sets.  It’s just a given.   So yeah, when I heard this song I knew that it’d end up here because it encompasses so many of my favorite elements like a slow build, a frenetic peak, and a catch rift to hold everything together.  I am nothing if not consistent.  Enjoy.

Wake Me Up by Avicii

Speaking of catchy, this song takes the cake for this year.  It falls into some nebulous category that I like to call Pop Rocks (not to be confused with Pop Rock) and I can’t really define it but to say that it contains some kind of an unexpected dance/synth break in it that is so dang catchy I just want to listen to it over and over again.  It’s another toe-tapper head-bobber that I always am a sucker for and that’s why it ended up on this list for 2013.

Ride On/ Right On by Phosphorescent

This song is a funky jam that has an insanely catchy hook and any song that makes use of an organ is usually going to be something that I enjoy.  I first remembering hearing this song in the background while working and as The Current continued to play it, I finally stopped and listened to it and realized that I really enjoyed it.  Plus the whole Ride On/Right On thing strikes me as kind of a cool play on words, so there’s that too.

Heavy Bells by J. Roddy Walston & The Business

I have no idea what in the world is happening in this video, but this song is pretty awesome.  It’s a hard-edged funky song that really rocks and is yet another product of The World Cafe.  And there is something about the crazy hard chorus combined with the catchy hook from the verses that contrasts together to make a whole song that just kinda feels like a frenetic episode of something that just leaves you out of breath when you’re done.  Might not be for you, but I love it.

Shake by The Head and The Heart

This is the first single off of their new album that came out this year and in my humble opinion it is the best.  It showcases all of the things that have made this band take off into the national consciousness including a driving beat, a meandering piano rift, strong vocal harmonies, and general music making merriment.  And handclaps.  I’m always a sucker for handclaps.  So anyway, these guys are good and their sophomore album is good stuff.

Wildfire by John Mayer

It has never been a talent issue with me and John Mayer.  Dude has absurd guitar skills, there is no doubt about that.  But I banished him to the No-Listen List for a few years after a few of his less-than-desirable interviews came out and he did a few things that I found kind of objectionable.  But with his apparent transition to bohemian hippy and the movement of his music with him, I’m back.  I really love this song (and to be honest I went back to his last album and really liked some of the songs there too) and just how light-hearted and fun it is.  It’s just a good song and I’m glad he’s back to making good music and seems to be happy and free and not all moody and weird (though sometimes you go through those phases to come out the other side, so it’s cool John).

Tape Deck by Jack Johnson

This is my favorite track off of Jack’s stellar album that came out this fall.  It just seems to capture the innocence and excitement of a high school garage band and having seen Jack play this song live in Nashville I could that he just really enjoyed it.  In fact, getting to see him play at the historic Ryman Auditorium (the Grand Ole Opry used to be there) was an incredible night.  He seemed so relaxed and into his songs and really seemed like he was having the time of his life playing with his band.  He played a bunch of old stuff to go along with his new stuff and (The Lone Bellow notwithstanding) that show was one of the better shows I’d been to in a while.  So if by some small chance you’ve not picked up this new album, you need to check it out.

When We Were Younger by The Careful Ones

This was a pretty late entry into this list…like I was working on this post and this video got posted by a good friend of mine that knows good music so I checked it out and I loved the song.  Such a hauntingly beautiful sound that drew me in immediately.  Apparently this is the first song from their new album that comes out later in 2014, so check back with me next year to see if they have another song that makes the list…but for now, just enjoy this lovely song.

So that’s about it for now.  Sorry I haven’t been more bloggy in recent months but having twins is kind of a time/energy/free time drain.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my boys and wouldn’t trade them for anything, but blogging hits low on the priority list right now…but hopefully things will level off in 2014.  But thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed all the songs.

Love and Sweatpants!

Music that Moves Me and Makes Me Move

I just spent the last hour or so watching and listening to music and performances that really get me fired up.  I’m not sure the connecting trail that led from one to the other, but I thought I’d share nonetheless so that you could get your head bobbing and your toes tapping.

Started out with The Lone Bellow and their brilliant performance in this tiny little barn thing.  Seriously, no idea what is going on there but whatever, they kill it anyway, as always.

From there I moved to the Alabama Shakes and their funky song Always Alright played to perfection in Australia.

That in turn lead me to Wilco shredding the song Hoodoo Voodoo complete with shirtless roadie killing it on the symbol (wish I had moves like that dude).

Next came Damien Jurado losing himself in the song Let Us All In as he and his band absolutely hammer away at it.

After that I watched John Mayer and company make Jimi proud by taking on Wait Until Tomorrow.

And I finished things off by watching The Gourds take apart and put back together the Snoop Dogg song Gin and Juice (along with a few other songs mixed in) but the lyrics are pretty rough so I’m gonna let you find that one for yourself…

Well, at least I thought I was done until I started looking through my iTunes to see what else might work for this little post…and so I then added in The Avett Brothers doing At the Beach with what can only be described as joyful glee.

And it went on from there but I’ll just leave it with that…

I can’t exactly put my finger on what the unifying thread of all of these songs are besides the fact that I can’t listen/watch these performances without being totally and completely caught up in all of them, bobbing my head, tapping my toes, and knocking my desktop.  So maybe you got some enjoyment out of it like I did and just maybe these fun songs all brought a smile to your face.

Fostering Love

I eat alone a lot.  I travel for work and since I’m usually in strange towns by myself I end up eating alone.  It isn’t that bad, so long as the food comes out in a relatively timely manner.  Last night was not one of those occasions and it got to the point where I was sitting all alone in the booth in small restaurant and feeling kinda awkward.  So I had a lot of time to sit there and observe the people around me and think.  There were a few kids in the restaurant and some were much more rambunctious than others.  It started me thinking about this journey my wonderful wife and I are on, that of becoming foster parents.  Like possibly in the next week.  And I started freaking out.

We’ve prepared as much as we can and know to.  We’ve read books, taken classes, practiced on nieces and nephews, talked to people, accumulated stuff, organized, prioritized, and agonized.  But last night, for whatever reason, I started feeling completely inadequate to be a parent, let alone one to another persons child or children.  I figured that the doubts and questioning would come eventually, but I thought they would come at 2 in the morning when I was trying to comfort an inconsolable child, not at 8 in the evening sitting in a restaurant by myself in East Texas.  Have we made a huge mistake?  Have we bitten off more than we can chew?  Are we really capable of doing this?  Am I ready for this?

The questions swirled around as I sat and thought about it.  Eventually my food came and I ate and I calmed down and I stopped freaking out.  Finished my meal, paid my bill, got in my car and started my drive to my hotel.  As I looked for something to listen to on the way, I landed on NPR’s This American Life just in time for Act 3.  The theme of the show was Babysitting.  And the story that was told in Act 3 was moving and sad and funny and made me sit in the parking lot of my hotel for 10 minutes to hear the end.  Essentially, a girl makes up a family to go fake babysit for so that she can get out of the house.  You need to listen to the whole story for it all to make sense, but the gist of it is that her mother was really strict (and likely mentally ill) and let her brother go/do anything, but was really harsh on the girl.  So she invented this family to give her, and eventually her brother, some modicum of freedom to go do what they wanted to.  The story ended up being more about a terrible mother and her neglected children and how they had invented this family that they wished was theirs that they fake babysat for.  Reading more into it, I sort of think that they did this as a coping mechanism because they were so desperate for someone to love them.  Thankfully they had each other, but their mother, for whatever reason, was not capable of loving them and so they created a fantasy that contained parents that were loving to their children, and in turn welcomed these two children into their (pretend) family.

I don’t know if any of this makes any sense at all, but as I sat in a hotel parking lot in the middle of nowhere listening to a 70 year old man give an interview about how he decided at age 10 that he’d never ask her for anything or need her again, it made me realize that even if I am a terrible foster father, I can still love the children placed in my home and at the bare minimum let them know that there is someone real in the world that loves them.  Just for being them.  Unconditionally.

You’ll probably get a better sense if you go ahead and listen to what I heard:

Click here to listen

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