Where I stand


Everyone has a tipping point as to when they need to abandon their natural reserve or silence and make their feelings known.

My final tipping point was the white power tweet.  The absolute lack of consequences for that blew my mind.  How many elected officials stood quietly by as our current president tweeted out one of his supporters shouting this disgusting phrase?  The excuse of, “he didn’t hear it” is unacceptable.  There was no apology.  No contrition, not that there ever is, but the overall lack of outrage was bewildering.

As a teacher for 20 years, I have mostly kept my political feelings to myself.  I am a Lutheran teacher.  My biggest concern, (other than the AP US History exam each year) is to be an ambassador for Christ, and do what I can in my own small way to point kids to Jesus.  Now, I’ve always generally believed that my being overtly political in the classroom could be a barrier to sharing the Gospel with kids (both liberal or conservative).  Therefore, throughout my career, I have done my best to refrain from sharing my political opinions in the classroom.  The last couple of years, I have been a bit less clandestine, but I’ve tried to keep current politics, or my feelings on them, at a minimum.

For the time being, that silence has ended.

To make some things abundantly clear, I don’t love the Democratic Party.  I think both parties are highly flawed, and I am and always will be Pro-Life.  First, let elaborate my feelings on this one issue.

I am anti-abortion.  I believe it is wrong.  I believe one of the biggest things we could do to encourage more babies to be born is to institute a year-long national paid maternity/paternity leave to help people who worry bringing a new child into the world is too big a burden.  I also consider it an investment in our future.

I am anti-death penalty.  I believe that the government being able to kill criminals, regardless of crime, is wrong.  An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  Plus, a life behind bars seems the far worse punishment in my eyes.

I am also anti-euthanasia.  A person can reject treatment at the end of life, but no one should actively kill a person, even if they desire it.

With that said, I am very pro-Black Lives Matter.  The data regarding discrimination against black Americans is very strong.  In my mind, reforms that will save lives is an extension of pro-life thinking.  Ahmad Aubrey and George Floyd died unjust deaths.  Doing what we can as Americans to prevent this is an extension of these ideals.

For those who say that the Republican party is the pro-life party, I largely feel this is just lip service in order to get and maintain votes.  For those who are curious about this, just look up the stories of Rep. Scott DesJarlais and former Rep. Tim Murphy.

Once we get away from that issue, I find I have nothing in common with with the current Republican party, and their inexplicable continued support of our current president.

Our current president is an actual threat to the future of our country.  He is a habitual liar.  He disregards facts.  He has no respect for the office or its meaning.  He has no clear knowledge of the Constitution which he has sworn an oath to uphold and protect*.  He disregards and belittles our allies (Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany) and cozies up with nations that are clear enemies (Russia, North Korea).  He has stoked fear, conspiracies, and division of all sorts unlike any individual in modern American history.

*I would pay any reporter any amount of money they’d like to ask the president direct questions such as, “Can you name the rights protected by the first amendment?” or, “How many articles are in the Constitution and which one pertains to the presidency?”

Then there’s the tweets.  On June 5, 2020 he tweeted 200 times.  These ramblings have numbed the nation, and have lowered discourse as he lies and bullies along the way.  When is he actually doing work of substance?

It would be fine if he was just incompetent, or based on the amount of his Twitter usage, uninterested, but it also appears that he actively pursues evil.  Here is a man who has been married three times, with numerous examples of infidelity along the way.  There was the whole “Grab them by the ….” recording before the election.  Do you think he wants to keep his tax documents private because he is a big believer in the 4th amendment?  He created a “university” that by all accounts was a scam.  He has not divested himself of his businesses while president.  He has hired wildly unqualified family members for high positions in his office.  He had made statements to erode faith in the election process.  He supports torture.  He has continued and escalated a policy of detaining immigrant children in inhumane detention centers.  He is most definitely a racist.  “Good People” at unite the right, “White power” tweets, the stuff about “protecting our heritage.”  His campaign people chose to use Nazi imagery for political opponents on Facebook.  He has emboldened white supremacy to come out from the shadows, in ways we haven’t seen since the 1960s.  He has no empathy for others.  The statements he’s made about COVID-19 are just mind-boggling.  His administration’s convoluted response has directly led to confusion and resistance to things that are KNOWN to save lives.  He has made lives for immigrants, both legal and illegal more difficult.  We have experienced this as the host of two international students over the last few years.

Finally, this is what I want to say.  Our current president does not care about you.

You the farmer, who has seen unsuccessful trade wars drive and keep prices of crops down.  Our current president has never sat behind a tractor all day.  He has never been worried about too little rain, or too much.  He has never had a field of crops destroyed by hail.  He has never taken care of a dairy farm, or a herd of cattle, or a flock of chickens.  He does not understand or care about you.

You the factory worker, who has seen the continuation of jobs being lost or shipped overseas.  He has never welded, or milled, or worked a forklift.  He has never assembled, or created anything.  He does not understand or care about you.

You the miner, who works in some of the most dangerous conditions in our country.  He has never experienced the dark, dust, heat, or explosions.  He does not operate the machines that brings wealth for his cronies from beneath the earth.  He does not understand or care about you.

You the Christian, who believes in Jesus as your savior.  He does not repent.  He does not attend church regularly.  He does not confess the Apostles’ Creed.  He does not read the Bible (“It is A Bible”).  He does not love his neighbor as himself.  He does not display LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, or SELF-CONTROL.  He does not care about your ministry to the homeless.  He does not care about your ministry to battered women.  He does not care about your mission trips.  He does not understand or care about you.

My biggest concern aside from the health of our nation is the damage he has done to the church.  If you were a non-Christian who didn’t support our current president, would you be welcome to an invitation from someone who is a staunch supporter of him?

Going forward, I do not plan on making my class overtly political, there will be no Joe Biden rallies or anything, but I WILL call out the actions of our current president when they are wrong, and I will do my small part to oppose him.

We are housing another international student, because my wife and I want to welcome immigrants in our home and our country.  I will join the International Club and Mosaic Club at school.  I will encourage young people, regardless of party to vote and make sure their voices of protest are heard not on the streets, or Instagram, or Snapchat, but at the ballot box where it matters.

Finally, I don’t enjoy being political, but I have a decent knowledge of history.  During my lifetime, I can remember Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, GW Bush, and Obama clearly (I was too young to remember Carter).  As Americans, we all have moments where we agree, disagree, love, or hate a president, yet we’ve never lived in a time where one was an embarrassment due to their incompetence, or worse yet a danger to our country.  Beyond the presidents of my lifetime, there are some real duds, but none of them were tweeting about being a “stable genius.”

Because I care about my family, my students, and my country, I cannot and will not support Donald Trump.  Here I stand, I can do no other.





On Civic Virtue

Vegas Drivers and School Zones

When school gets back into session, I am going to ignore school zone speed limits.  How dare the government tell me that I have to drive 15 miles per hour from 2-3pm in certain sections of town!  My cars have hundreds of horsepower that are waiting to be unleashed.  It’s undermining our freedoms!  My comfort and happiness is just as important as those kindergarteners!  Also, what’s the difference between a kid being hit by a car going 15 miles per hour vs. one going 45?  Just let me be me!  How dare the government try to protect those who are vulnerable!

Liberty can no more exist without virtue . . . than the body can live and move without a soul.
—John Adams

What is Civic Virtue?  It is a concept that needs to be addressed more in our schools today, but I want to touch on it here.

“Virtue is excellence in the character of a person. It refers to a desirable disposition, which can prompt individuals to be good persons and to do good things in regard to others and the community in general. Civic virtue refers to the dispositions or habits of behavior that direct citizens to subordinate their personal interests when necessary to contribute significantly to the common good of their community.”

I love this definition, and it essentially means that we need to put others first for the good of those around us.  As a Christian, I can look to Jesus as an example.  He literally gave his life that I may have salvation.  Countless times, he put the good of those around him above himself, doing miracles when he was dog tired, caring for the downtrodden in society (widows, orphans, adulterers, tax collectors), and even encouraging us to submit to earthly authority…though the “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” has many interpretations.  The early church saw its members sell their possessions for the good of the community and fed and cared for the poor and widows among them.  We have a clear directive as Christians to put the good of others before our own desires.

As to government, James Madison (who is a complicated figure in American History), said this at the Constitutional convention:

‘‘Is there no virtue among us? If there be not . . . no theoretical checks, no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical [unrealistic] idea.’’

Essentially we will not have freedom or happiness if we as individuals aren’t capable of putting the good of the community above our own selfish desires.  Furthermore, we need to display some amount of virtue.

What is virtue?  Virtue is excellence in the character of a person. It refers to a desirable disposition, which can prompt individuals to be good persons and to do good things in regard to others and the community in general.

The idea of virtue goes all the way back to the Greeks and Romans (specifically Aristotle and Cicero), but our modern word goes back to the Latin word virtutem which roughly means, “moral strength, high character, manliness, goodness, valor, bravery, courage, excellence, and worth.”

Furthermore virtue is action.  Ben Franklin in his autobiography listed 13 virtues that he felt should be practiced in order to be a better citizen.  He certainly did not master them, but their pursuit is worthwhile and his ideas helped create an early idea of American civic virtue.  His list was made up of temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, chastity, humility, and tranquility.

For a long time, these core ideas of civic virtue underpinned our actions toward one another, and bolstered our society and government.  Sadly, I fear that the practices of civic virtue are disappearing or have disappeared, which does not bode well for us as a society or a nation for our future.  I spend a whole day on the idea of civic virtue with my students each year (though I wish we could spend more time on it), and I hope I demonstrate it in my daily life, though I am the first to admit there are many times I fail.

This all brings me back to the topic of face masks.  My analogy with the school zone at the beginning of this post is the closest thing I can come up with to our current situation.  I hear no one protesting slowing down for the safety of our children, or complaining how the government is taking away our rights.  Similarly, wearing a mask is done to protect those who are vulnerable.  My daughter, my immunocompromised mom, my brother in law going through cancer treatments, the elderly, and honestly all of us.  Is a mask inconvenient?  Yes.  It fogs up my glasses.  Is it as nice as walking through the store without a mask? No.  However, at the same time, you don’t have to wear it all the time (just like school zones), and it won’t be forever.  Yet every day I see people not wearing masks it basically makes me assume the thought process is, “I know I might be causing harm here, but I hate to have my glasses fog up or get my mouth area sweaty.”  Furthermore, a man scolded my wife in the grocery store FOR wearing a mask, and I had two gentleman at Starbucks loudly converse why they weren’t wearing masks around a group full of people who were.  (Largely about how it was the government trying to control us).  It’s been an issue that’s made me want to say something back at people, but following Franklin’s advice on silence, resolution, and tranquility, I stay quiet.

I could go on about how our current president refuses to set an example of civic virtue with masks (or basically anything), but I won’t here…I just want to leave you with this.  Virtue is a decision that YOU can make.  You can choose to put those around you first, at the store, at restaurants, and at places of worship.  I hope this has been helpful, and I hope that through INDIVIDUAL action, we can forge a better society for ALL of us.


You Can Do This! The Mini WSM


, , , , , , , , , , ,

IMG_7137It has been a while.  My Weber hobby has started to spiral a bit out of control, but with the patience* and love of my family, they have come to accept me for the addict I have become.

*Patience may be wearing thin…the eye rolling from my wonderful daughter is a bit much.

I’ve learned a lot this year about smoking and grilling meat, and I plan on sharing more on that in the future, but today I’m going to share an easy project to build a homemade meat smoker for less than $100**.

**I try to tell myself that I am partaking in a cheap hobby that is not taking food from the mouths of my children and not jeopardizing their college education.  I’d love to collect classic cars…but I couldn’t justify spending thousands of dollars on an old car…plus I’d probably horribly injure/burn/electrocute myself or my family…

The Weber Smokey Mountain meat smoker is the Cadillac of home smokers. Weber introduced it in 1981, and although it is a small part of their overall business, they have a very devoted following. If you buy one, GREAT!  It will serve you well and last forever.

Anyway, the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) you buy in the store has three sizes. The 22.5 inch “Behemoth” smoker, the 18.5 inch “Bigger than Usually Necessary” smoker (I picked up one on Craigslist for $40 last summer), and the new 14.5 inch “Reasonable Human Being” smoker. The Behemoth costs $400 new, the 18.5 BUN costs $300, and the 14.5 incher costs $200.

All of those numbers are larger than I like to spend. So a few years ago, the good people of the Internet introduced the Mini WSM. It is the marriage of a Weber Smokey Joe grill to a 32-quart tamale pot. If you have those two items, you are 90% there to making yourself a pretty sweet homemade smoker that will take up very little room in your yard, and very little money out of your pocket.


Smokey Joe Grill: These are $30 new in the store, BUT you can ALWAYS find them on Craigslist or OfferUp for CHEAP near you.

IMUSA 32 Quart Tamale Pot: Available at Walmart. I loathe Walmart. However, they are the only ones who have this pot for the ridiculous price of $21. Search online to see if any stores near you have it, otherwise order it off their website. A Walmart near me had it. If you live in the non-tamale belt (AKA the Midwest) this might be a bit harder to find than in Vegas.

Nuts and bolts:

THREE 3/4″, size 8 screws.

THREE 1½ inch size 8 screws.

Each bag of screws was 97 cents at Walmart. I also bought the matching size 8 washers. You only need six screws total, but you might as well buy the whole bag.

A 12 inch terra cotta saucer. I got it at Home Depot. Walmart didn’t have this. Mine cost $6.

OPTIONAL: Extra grill grate from a Smokey Joe, or a 18.5 inch charcoal replacement grate (if you want to have two cooking levels)


A cordless drill.

Metal drill bits.

Ruler or measuring tape.


Seriously, that is it. I cannot stress how UN-HANDY I am. However, over the past few months, I’ve gotten pretty skilled with Weber restoration, but I’d never used my metal drill bits. I was curious how it would go. Would they work? Will I horribly injure myself doing this? Can my son help with this? (Yes, NO, Yes)


  1. Get that Smokey Joe. You can find it at Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. Seriously though, find one on Craigslist. You’ll save money and you will rescue a sad, lonely, unloved Weber grill***…CUE Sarah McLachlan Sad Dog Song.


*** I got this grill for FREE from our friends Steve and Thea in California. I explained my new hobby to them, and he was more than glad to give me this grill that had been sitting there neglected for YEARS in the lonely shadows of his house. It is from 1988. I cleaned it up inside and out (just use an SOS pad) and then made a homemade ash catcher from an old paint lid…this is not my standard procedure, but I like that it still has the name “Ramon” on the lid. I needed to add the ash catcher to stabilize the legs. Come to think of it, “Ramon” is a good name for this grill.

FullSizeRender (25)

  1. Bring home your IMUSA 32 Quart Tamale Pot. Check to see that it fits snugly in your Smokey Joe. Sometimes the top of the pot doesn’t fit snugly with the Smokey Joe lid. If this is the case, you can crimp it, or check to see if either your lid or the pot is out of round. Many people suggest taking your Smokey Joe to Walmart to find out which IMUSA pot fits best inside. Apparently not all IMUSAs are created equal…Imagine that, Walmart products not having standard quality!
  1. Drill a bunch of holes in the bottom of your IMUSA pot. This does not have to be precise at all. The holes allow the smoke from the charcoal chamber (the bottom of your Smokey Joe) to enter your smoking chamber (the pot). The important thing is to not drill too close to the curved edge of the bottom of the pot. We used the steamer insert that came with the pot as a template. I have a 7.2 volt Black and Decker drill. It is not the most powerful. Start with a smaller drill bit, the expand your holes with your largest drill bit. AS A SIDE NOTE: SOME PEOPLE JUST CUT OUT THE WHOLE BOTTOM OF THEIR POT USING TIN SNIPS. I do not own tin snips, and did not want to buy a set for this (see my cheapness). If you do have tin snips, first off, congrats. Second, make sure you leave space around the edge of the pot.

NOTE ON PICTURE:  My son only drilled a few holes under reasonable supervision while I took pictures…

FullSizeRender (28)FullSizeRender-2

  1. Now for some measuring. Using a ruler or measuring tape, measure down four inches from the top of the pot. Make a mark. Then about 14.5 inches away around the top of the pot, measure down four inches again and make a mark. Go 14.5 inches away around the top of the pot, measure down, you guessed it, four inches and make a mark.
  1. Now at the bottom of your pot, measure up 1.25 inches from the bottom at ROUGHLY the same places you made your top marks. Make three marks 1.25 inches up from the bottom.
  1. Using a 1/8 METAL drill bit…Oh, you’re not sure what a metal drill bit looks like? Neither was I! Google it Dear Reader! I can’t do all your work for you…Anyway, drill holes at each of your marks.
  1. Once your holes are drilled, insert your screws. Put the ¾ inch screws in the top holes you drilled. Just to be clear, insert the screw, place the washer inside the pot, tighten the nut on to the washer.   Put the 1 ½ screws in the bottom holes you drilled. Insert the screw, place the washer inside the pot, tighten the nut on to the washer. This is what it should look like when you are done:FullSizeRender


  1. CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve done all of the hard work. Now, you may have been wondering about that terra cotta saucer. Smokers usually have a heat diffuser or a “heat sink.” Large Weber Smokey Mountains have water pans, but clay works as a great heat absorber. This terra cotta saucer will keep your smoker from getting too hot. However, all the meat juices will drip on it as well making it kind of nasty. So, double wrap it in aluminum foil before putting it in your pot. You’ll need to rewrap each time you smoke. You will place the terra cotta saucer on the bottom screws.

THE TERRA COTTA SAUCER:FullSizeRender (29)WRAPPED UP:FullSizeRender-1

  1. Place the grill grate(s) in the pot. I have two Smokey Joes. I placed one grate right on the terra cotta saucer THIS GRATE IS OPTIONAL. NOW TO WARN YOU, you may have to use a little effort to shove the grates in place. My IMUSA pot must bend in a bit in the middle. Place your top grate on the three screws you inserted near the top of your pot.FullSizeRender-3


  1. Put the Smokey Joe lid back on, and take a step back to admire what you have accomplished. You have created your own meat smoker. Congratulations! If society collapses, and we no longer have access to electrical refrigeration you will now be able to preserve meat and game for your family. You go Backwoods Doomsday Prepper!

Seriously, it is a fun little project. I did it all after work on Friday evening. AND NOW FOR THE COMPLETELY SUPERFLUOUS WORK YOU ABSOLUTELY DON’T HAVE TO DO.

Many people who have made Mini WSMs online decorate them with their own personal touch. I love my St. Louis Cardinals****

****TOTAL ASIDE…Stan Kroenke of the Los Angeles Rams is THE WORST. I will keep this blog family friendly and call him that. The Worst’s argument that St. Louis is a baseball town that would never love football was hilarious. The NFL ran away from a city because they WERE AFRAID OF A BASEBALL TEAM. Big, bad football…losing to a baseball team. The Cardinals have to convince local consumers to come buy their product (tickets) 81 TIMES A YEAR, often on weekday afternoons, weekday evenings, and in the god-awful St. Louis heat. The Rams had to convince consumers to see “America’s Favorite Game” 8 TIMES A YEAR, on the laziest day of the week in a climate controlled building. And they failed…probably on purpose…but still…I’m pretty sure I could do a better job selling that.

ANYWAY…I LOVE THE CARDINALS. To commemorate that devotion, I printed out a STL logo, cut it out using the Exacto knife and taped it to the pot.  Make sure to tape some plastic bags to the top of the pot so you don’t get paint inside the cooking chamber!!!   Once I was ready, I went over the entire pot with Duplicolor HIGH HEAT Red Engine Paint. You must use high heat paint for this part (At least 500 degrees). After it dried, I took off the stencil, and there you have it. Although it is not perfect, I love it. For a more polished look, you could buy one of those window stickers and put it on your grill, then go over it with the paint. Being here in Las Vegas, Cardinals stickers are hard to come by.

Overall, this is a GREAT project. My cost came to $30. I was planning on giving it a test run this last weekend, but I got rained out yesterday. I’ll fire it up next weekend for the “Stupid Big Game that the NFL Won’t Let You Write About Without Official Permission.”

If you have any questions about this project, let me know!

FullSizeRender (31)

No.  I don’t have a problem.

All Hail the King of Grills!

It started with a fire.

When the lovely wife and I were married back in 2000, we received a giftcard from Sears*.  I still remember putting it together in our Milwaukee apartment with my friend Steve (Full disclosure, Steve did most of the work as I was as unhandy then as I am today).  That grill moved with us to Las Vegas, and served us well for five years.  When we moved back to St. Louis, the grill was going to be one of the last things on the moving trailer, but once we put it on, we realized we would have to pay $200 extra just to ship it back to Missouri.  So it stayed in Vegas with my friend Mike, where it serves faithfully as a grill to this day!  Well done Kenmore by Sears, well done.

*Can you imagine such a gift today?  It would almost seem like a punishment.

Newlywed Husband: “Hey we got a giftcard…from Sears.”

Newlywed Wife: “What is a SEARS?”

Newlywed Husband: “It may be a disease…like SARS.”

Newlywed Wife: “I mapped it and it says there is one 50 miles away.  Ugg…let’s regift this to our mortal enemy.”

Back in 2000, going to Sears seemed like a completely reasonable thing to do.  Today, it would be behind Amazon, Costco, Target, Walmart, and Craigslist as my shopping destination.  I kind of feel bad for it, since when I was a kid, the Sears catalog was still a big deal.  I sometimes wonder what store that is huge now that will be an afterthought ten years from now.

When we moved to Missouri I went to Walmart (moving down in the world), as I needed a new grill.  I bought a Uni-Flame (ironically named) three burner gas grill with cast iron grates (fancy!) for $200.

For one glorious year this grill served me well, and cooking was as simple as turning on the gas, flicking the igniter switch and foomp!  the burner would come alive with bright blue flame.  I was firmly in the Hank Hill camp of “Sweet Lady Propane.”

Then the igniter went out.  I’d press the button, click click click click click click…nothing.  No worries!  I’ll just get the long handled matches and risk my hand and arm being horribly burned in lighting the grill with a trusty match.  Another year went by as I gleefully spent the summer grilling meats with ease.

One day in 2007 we invited some friends out to the farm for a barbecue.  They are a family of five, so it was going to be a pretty big cook.  If I remember correctly I was going to be making burgers and brats, so I wanted to get going early on the brats so they’d be ready soon after our guests arrived.

I went out on our wooden deck, turned the knob on the gas, lit my match, stuck it down by the burner and watched the bright blue flame burst to life.  I turned the knobs to start the other burners, when suddenly, I heard a soft crunching sound and looked down to find one WHOLE SIDE of the burner assembly had completely disintegrated.

THINGS ESCALATED QUICKLY!  Immediately flames started to pour directly from the tube connecting the grill to the gas tank at the bottom of the grill chamber.  THIS IGNITED ALL THE GREASE IN THE BOTTOM OF THE GRILL.  There was a little grease catcher below the main chamber and it burst to life like an unholy, disgusting goblet of fire.  The ENTIRE grill was then ablaze.  A Uni-Flame if you will…see what I did there…licked the interior and exterior of the grill with flames enveloping the whole grill as grease and gas burned in Uni-flame unison.

The lovely wife was inside, and I immediately shouted something along the lines of “Oh Shucks!”  Which brought her attention to the situation.

I gingerly reached for the knob on my propane tank and turned it shut.  I then waited for the grease to burn itself out.  Once the flames died down, I closed the lid removing the oxygen supply from the grease inside, and I watched as the greasy goblet of fire merrily burnt on for several minutes.

The grill was dead, and we still had guests coming in about a half hour.  The lovely wife and I wondered what to do, and then I remembered we had what I had considered up until this moment a piece of junk sitting in our machine shed.

The Weber Kettle Grill.  It had belonged to my parents, and I had remembered it getting sparse use during my childhood.  It now sat neglected in our machine shed, about 30 years old, and unused for AT LEAST 10 years, as my family had switched to Sweet Lady Propane as well.  We had no charcoal, but I blazed down the highway to Walmart and picked up a bag as well as some lighter fluid getting home slightly before our guests.

And so that night I began down a path that would drive me to near obsession.  I cooked everything necessary on that old grill that evening.  I knew nothing then of the vocabulary I know well know.  One touch, Master touch, silver, gold, metal bowl handles, performer…all I knew was that I was cooking old school, and I liked it.

I searched high and low online for a picture of that grill, but THIS is the only picture I found with my first Weber Kettle, ironically still sitting next to the broken Uniflame it replaced.  I have NO IDEA what is going on with this picture, but clearly my son either HATES dandelions, feeling grass, the gentle touch of my lovely wife, or the fact we still owned a Uniflame grill at this time.  You notice my first Weber in the upper right hand corner.  Ignore the child in the foreground who is clearly experiencing some sort of nature related trauma.

sad brendan grill pic

I used that grill for the next two years and during that time I learned to love it.  I bought a chimney starter (lighter fluid is the devil), and despite being hit by a lawn mower that bent the legs, that old Weber grill survived two moves before finally being put to rest upon the purchase of my Weber Performer Grill.

For those who don’t know what the Performer is, it is the Lexus of the Weber world.  It has a propane assist, meaning you start your coals with a propane flame, getting them piping hot in about 15 minutes rather than what can often be a 30 minute or more affair.  It has a handy work table, an enclosed ash catcher, a bin to store your charcoal, and hooks for your tools.  It is SO SWEET.  It makes prep, cooking, and clean-up a snap.  From 2009 to 2014, I used this grill exclusively.  I loved it, but once again, a move was on the horizon, and shipping it would be costly.  So I left it with my dad who has made use of it a few times since.

Here is a picture of my son and I grilling on my old Weber back in Missouri.  Once again, the picture is a bit…odd.  I don’t think it was that cold, yet my son seems to be wearing his winter clothes…

In 2014 we moved to Las Vegas, and we had an income gap for one and a half months.  We were stretching every penny, but one of the things I missed most was grilling.  So, with thrift in mind, I searched Craigslist, and one day I found a gas grill for $25.  It looked to be in good condition and included the tank.  It was NOT a Uniflame (or a Weber for that matter) but you couldn’t beat the price.  I picked it up, and…

IT SUCKED.  Low flame, no flame, high flame, low flame.  I hated it.  I had succumbed to the supposed ease of the gas grill.  After a month, I was pretty bummed.

Then one day, my passion for Webers was rekindled.  A Performer popped up on Craigslist for $50.  I IMMEDIATELY called the guy and he delivered it to me that night for an extra $10.  My new house suddenly became a home.  The performer was from 1997, but it worked as good as new.  Plus, it was an old style with the stainless steel table.  The world was right again, and I was back to delicious charcoal grilling.

Around the same time, I discovered a website called the Weber Kettle Club.  It had cooking tips, recipes, and suggestions for taking care of and improving your Weber.  But, for the first time I realized that Webers came in colors OTHER than black.  I HAD NO IDEA…BUT I WANTED THEM ALL.  So, one grill became two, two grills became three, and suddenly, a year later, I’m sitting here with five (soon to be seven.)  I swear I’ll stop soon, and some friends have suggested an intervention.  BUT, in my defense**, I’ll give you several reasons why this is a cool and good thing:

**I’ve heard addicts defend their addictions…”I only use heroin on Wednesdays to get me through the week!”  Sorry…no more heroin jokes.

  1.  In total, I have spent $300 on all the grills.  This is less than the cost of one brand new Performer, or about the cost of a low to mid range gas grill.
  2. Weber grills are the grandfather of modern grilling.  George Stephen was a frustrated father who wanted to do a better job grilling.  In 1952 he cut a metal buoy in half from the Weber Metal Works where he was employed…the rest is history.  If you enjoy grilling, you owe a lot to this guy.
  3. These grills last FOREVER.  Porcelain coated stainless steel construction is basically weatherproof, and if you do have a problem with your bowl, Weber offers a 10 year warranty on the bowl itself.
  4. They are beautiful.  I love the look of them.  Simple, timeless design.
  5. They make awesome food.  Grilling, smoking, making pizzas, these grills can do a lot of things once you get the hang of it.  Although gas has its merits, burning wood or charcoal releases FLAVOR BLASTERS (there’s a science name for these chemical compounds but let’s just call them FLAVOR BLASTERS) that enhance the flavor of your food.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my five grills (plus the two I am waiting to have in my house)

The performer.  This is my go to grill.  I use it AT LEAST twice a week when I’m home. The cart is from 1997, but the bowl is from 2008.  I got another friend interested about Webers and when another popped up on Craigslist with a blue lid, we went and got it.  I chipped in $20 and I swapped out my black bowl for the new blue bowl.


The 2014 copper One Touch Gold.  These are still available in stores for $150.  I got it for $40 this summer from a guy who was moving and had listed it on Craigslist as a “”BarbAcue BBQ”…which is why I think it was sitting on Craigslist for two weeks.  This is the lovely wife’s favorite color.

The Simpsons Smokey Joe.  Made only in 1999 for the Simpson’s 10th Anniversary, some people sell these on Ebay for $50-$60.  I picked it up for $7 across the street.  It will go camping with us next week.

The 1969 Mediterranean model.  My newest purchase, and my first restoration.  I will write about this guy separately later.  It is often referred to as an “avocado grill.”

This one is not a kettle, but a Weber Smokey Mountain, which is a smoker.  It is an amazing piece of equipment.  I smoked twenty pounds of ribs on it a few weeks ago.


Lastly, here are two that I own but am waiting for.  A 1980s era brownie sitting in St. Louis and a red grill from the 1970s that will be delivered to me next week.

Overall, I have really found this to be a fun hobby.  The lovely wife allows it as she said I don’t really spend money on much of everything, and yesterday I just sat out back watching the smoke gently curl from my copper grill as it merrily made twice baked potatoes for a fun Sunday night dinner.  So, dear readers, I’ll ask you these two questions.  First, do you have any questions about Weber grills or the glories of charcoal?  Let me know.  Finally, do you have any unusual collections?  Share your odd passion!

Echo and Rig


, , , , , , ,

Last Wednesday, the lovely wife and I decided to have one last lunch date before the school year began.  During the school year, school lunches are a humble affair.

Generally speaking, our lunches involve whatever leftovers we had the night before* stuffed unceremoniously into a ziplock bag, then placed into a used grocery bag.  We rush to school, jam our lunch into an overcrowded communal refrigerator where it waits with its equally humble lunches until we get to eat at 12:50.  At 12:50, the lunch is hastily plopped onto a styrofoam plate, and often eaten cold.

*Today we had leftover Costco tortellini, along with leftover salad, grapes, and bananas.  Tomorrow, however, is leftover Cuban sandwiches!  (Shameless plug for earlier blog post that involved dangerous cooking activities with students and COMMUNIST DICTATORS)

So with that in mind, we went to Echo and Rig last Wednesday to enjoy a more refined lunch before we set off with vigor into the new school year.

Echo and Rig is best described as a steakhouse and high-end butcher shop seamlessly combined in one.  It’s located in the Tivoli Village shopping center located at the corner of Rampart and Alta on the west side of town.

When you enter Echo and Rig, the hostess takes your name, as well as asks you if there is a reason you have chosen to dine with them that day.  As you go upstairs to their open, uncluttered dining area, she jots down your information, and hands it to a manager upstairs.  The manager greets you by name, seats you, and briefly talks to you about your reason for visiting that day.  It may seem forced, but I have found it pleasant each time I’ve visited.

The lovely wife and I decided to splurge and each ordered a small plate as an appetizer.  She ordered the Tomato, Cucumber, Watermelon and Red Onion Salad…the light, healthy, summery option.  I ordered the Grilled, Thick-Cut Bacon with BBQ Sauce.  After serving us some homemade bread made in-house, our appetizers arrived, and we were both very pleased.  The salad was a marvelous pairing of sweet, acidic, and bitter flavors with a hint of citrus.  The bacon was just the way I like it, crispy along the edges and chewy in the middle with the right amount of smoky and salty flavor, although I didn’t care for the BBQ sauce that much.



We each ordered a sandwich, and after another helping of bread, the sandwiches arrived.  I had the Flat Iron Sandwich, while the lovely wife had a Grilled Cheese sandwich which had short ribs as a bonus.  The Flat Iron sandwich is as close as a steak sandwich can get to perfection.  Prime beef grilled to medium rare and sliced at an angle made for succulent red pieces of delicious beef.  What made the sandwich was the combination of toppings melded into the house made roll.  Spinach cooked to just past wilting was combined with peppers and a bright chimichurri (another favorite of mine).  It was fairly big as well, and considering you are eating prime beef, well worth the $13.  The lovely wife enjoyed her sandwich as well, though I can’t say that I tried it, as I was focused on the beautiful sandwich (and lunch companion…love you honey!…dodged a bullet there) in front of me.


Flat Iron Sandwich


Grilled Cheese

The service was outstanding with an attentive waiter who made sure our drinks were full, and our bread fresh.  The manager came to talk to us again, and our hour at Echo and Rig flew by.

I love Echo and Rig, and STRONGLY encourage you to try it out if you find yourself on the west side of Vegas.  They make you feel at home, do the little things exceptionally well (try the salt scrub in the restrooms), and serve some excellent food.  Finally, they take their meat seriously, and even had a display of a Weber grill in the front window.  All in all, my kind of place.

Alas, those days are behind us now, and we are left to bag our leftovers again day after day after day.  However, summer will come again, and Echo and Rig is just down the road to remind us of what summer tasted like.

What I did on my summer vacation…2015


It’s hard to call today the last day of summer.  It’s a pleasant 106 degrees* here in Las Vegas, and tomorrow we’ll finally cool off to a more manageable 101.  We’ve had what I’d call a “soft opening” to the school year.  The sixth graders (including my daughter) started yesterday, my son went to school for his first day of third grade today, and we’re all back to school tomorrow.

*We are under an EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING here today…what’s the threshold between normal Las Vegas oppressive heat, and EXCESSIVE…who makes that call?

Therefore, this may be my last opportunity for reflection for some time.  But I promise the reflection will be BRIEF and HUMOROUS.

  1. Where we went: This summer we ALL visited: Hawaii, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma! (sorry), and Missouri.  The lovely wife and kids ALSO went through: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, Colorado, and Utah.  I went to: Poland and Germany (Frankfurt and Munich airports only)…
  2. Hawaii is the best…we see all those window stickers here in Vegas belonging to the large Hawaiian community here.  I totally get that pride now.  Hawaii is the best part of the United States.  The mangoes, passion fruit, coffee, and chocolate isn’t to be missed.  Also, Hawaiians have a special doughnut called a malasada that is heavenly.  I swam with dolphins one day and sea turtles REGULARLY…to the point that the kids were unimpressed with them by the end of the trip.  One last thing, we had one tour guide at a coffee plantation say that she just plants her trees in lava rocks, not soil, and they just grow.  I assure you, I could not plant fruit trees in our Mojave desert willy nilly.  Mahalo, Hawaii, mahalo.
  3. I love road trips.  The daughter went to camp in Arizona when we got back from Hawaii, and we then went to pick her up before driving back to St. Louis.  They may disagree, but the unfolding landscapes of the west are still pretty mesmerizing.  I find New Mexico oddly charming.  There is a GREAT truck stop on the border of NM/TX on Interstate 40 that had an incredible car museum.  Great place to stretch our legs.
  4. Make sure when you are reserving hotels online that you make the reservations for the correct day.  I am an idiot.  That is all.      IMG_0508
  5. The highlight of our time in St. Louis this summer was the Lantern Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden.  If you haven’t been yet, you should go!IMG_0595
  6. I did a mission trip to Poland for the fifth time.  This year we went to a new church in Bielsko-Biala.  Its nickname is “Little Vienna.”  What a beautiful little city.  I had a fantastic time, ate wonderful soups, talked about Jesus, and had an adventurous time with my host family…
  7. In Poland I did LUGE fulfilling a lifelong dream!  I also went mountain biking for the first time…at night…without a helmet…and a pedal fell off my bike while I was riding it.  Most of the time I was rumbling downhill thinking, “I’m going to die, I’m going to die in this pine scented forest!”  On a related note, I just sold my bike.
  8. Poland was HOT.  St. Louis in August hot.  This is not normal for Poland, and everyone struggled with it a bit during camp.  (90+ degree heat did NOT keep us from having a piping hot bowl of soup at lunch every day.)  IMG_0682                                                              But here’s the thing I still don’t get about Europe…THE CONTINUING REFUSAL TO ICE THEIR DRINKS.  We know you have freezer technology.  You know the recipe for ice, so what’s the problem here?  On the last night at our church we had a BBQ for about 70 people, and they finally put our a SMALL BOWL of ice to go with our Coca-Colas.  About enough ice for one cube per person…HOWEVER many people still refused.  When I saw the ice, I felt like putting my hand on my heart and singing “God Bless America.”
  9. My host family was awesome, but may have been trying to kill me with kindness.  One morning for breakfast I ate three kielbasa and two hot dogs.  This is not the FDA recommended breakfast, and does not lead to feeling “morning fresh.”
  10. Finally, back to Hawaii.  I just look back at it and think, “Was I really there?”  I remember when we got back in the car from spending a morning with a private tour kayaking, swimming with dolphins, and snorkeling on the most beautiful reef with just a smile glued to my face.  Or the time we watched the sunset on Mauna Kea, followed by more stars than we’d ever seen.  Or the time we we were in a parking lot at an O Bon Festival, doing Japanese dances with a VERY diverse group of locals, having a great time while watching the sun set over the ocean. Or the lovely wife and I sitting on a seawall under palm trees watching the waves crash in during the evening.  Or the time we hiked across the crater of an active volcano…or the…anyway, just go to Hawaii.


There were some rough times too this summer, but I’d rather not dwell on those.  I’d rather spend my last 15 hours of freedom remembering the things that make summer great: freedom, family, friends, food, and travel.  Here’s to a successful 2015-16 school year to you and yours, and I’ll see my good friend summer again next June 3.

Stloueats a Year Later…


, , , , , ,

The lovely wife reminded me last night that I used to be a blogger.  Apparently, I was a fairly good blogger from time to time.  Yet, about a year ago, with a final flourish, I ceased to be a blogger.  I wrote a very well received goodbye letter to St. Louis*, (read over the air on Y98FM…the peak of my fame) and I closed that chapter of my life to go on to bigger and better things.

*Apparently the St. Louis metro area responded to my goodbye letter by going through a period of rather self-destructive behavior.  I really hate to see it, and I hope this difficult period brings about some real change to the whole area.

That bigger and better* place is Vegas.  LAS Vegas.  Spanish for “the meadows.”  If there is a more inappropriately named city in the United States, I’d like to find it.  We have settled in nicely, with our children’s resentment of our move lessening each day. Except the days we find scorpions.  In the toilet**.

*Completely inaccurate.  St. Louis metro is bigger, and Las Vegas is only questionably better…

**We previously lived in Las Vegas for four years and NEVER saw a scorpion.  That has not been the case this time around.  Earlier this summer, around bedtime, my daughter bellowed from upstairs words you never think you’ll hear, “DAD…THERE IS A SCORPION IN THE TOILET!”  He had himself(herself?) nestled in the front of the lower bowl…Let’s just say you were sitting down to do some business, it would have been primed to strike in a number of unfortunate areas.

Las Vegas is well known as a culinary destination, but the vast majority of the famous, high end establishments are located on the strip.  I like to avoid the strip like the plague.  It is Vegas’ reason for existence, and I am thankful for those who choose to partake in its hedonistic excess, but the lovely wife and children don’t seem to be terribly interested in high-stakes baccarat or clubbing.

So, what to write about?  Well, I think I’ll focus on local establishments on the west side of town.  I also have developed a new passion over the last year, and that is the humble Weber Charcoal Grill.  I’ve collected a few, and find myself wanting to grill everything, as it gives me a chance to get outside, make fire, and cook something delicious.  I’m not sure if I’ll have any revolutionary tips, but that’s where my life is right now.  Finally, I think I’ll try to share tidbits of my life every now and then.  I still think my favorite post was about my trip to the dentist, and I’d like to share more of that.

Overall, I think I am starting this up again with the intent to flex my creative muscles, and give the random reader out in let’s say, Uzbekistan*** (ONE VIEW ACCORDING TO WORDPRESS!) something to brighten their precious time for a few minutes.

***Sorry…last thing!  I was just reading an article in National Geographic the other day that the government of Uzbekistan FORCES its citizens to pick cotton every year at harvest time.  HOW DO PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS?  Government forced labor in 2015.  Scary.  Soooo…if you ARE that reader in Uzbekistan, I sincerely apologize for my incredibly easy life.  ALSO, RUN AWAY!  FLEE!  ESCAPE UZBEKISTAN!

I have just been banned in Uzbekistan.

My Top Ten Favorite Posts


, , , , , , , , , , ,

Strike while the iron is hot!  I’ve had a lot of people looking at my farewell letter to St. Louis, so I thought I’d parlay that attention into MORE attention.  Perhaps I should of done this sooner…I am not as strategic as my lovely wife.  So, if you liked the Open Letter to St. Louis, here are my favorite ten posts that I’ve done over the last two years.  By the way, you may wonder, “Why did this talented young (Am I young anymore??) man take such a large break between his his second to last post and last post?”

Because this last school year kicked my butt.  Feel free to judge (especially if you are a soldier, firefighter, police officer, miner, fisherman, or any job requiring hard manual labor), but I did not have the drive or mental stamina to post ANY witty thoughts with any regularity over the last ten months.  

So, without further ado, here are the diamonds in the rough of St. Loueats.  

10.  I Like Big Butts.  An ode to the pork shoulder, AKA pork butt, picnic shoulder, Boston butt.

9. Llewellyn’s Winghaven.  A snarky review of a good restaurant…with some reminiscences of Las Vegas.  Reading it may make you wonder why we’re moving back. 

8. Food with Friends, An Ode to Oysters.  This post is worth it for the pics of live lobsters holding Natty Lite alone.  It also delves into a bit of family history regarding this humble bivalve.  Also, that was a great weekend with friends.

7. How Do You Say Fiasco in Chinese?  Quite possibly the worst (or best if you are a third grade student) cooking club ever.  I solemnly swear to never attempt pot stickers again.

6.  Of Elves and Type One Diabetes.  A Christmas tearjerker.  By the way, UP YOURS DIABETES!  YOU SUCK!

5.  German Oven Pancake.  This is a family tradition in our house, passed down from my grandparents, that we have passed on to other families.  You should try it.  Like all German things, it is more threatening than a normal pancake, but it blows regular pancakes out of the water.  

4.  Let the Grilling Season Begin.  This is THE RECIPE for successfully charcoal grilling a THICK ribeye to medium rare.  I self reference this post myself to remind myself how to grill a THICK slab of beef.  However, now that beef is approaching the price of platinum, I may not be using this much in the near future. 

3. REVOLUTIONARY SANDWICHES FOR THE PROLETARIAT! Have you tried Cuban sandwiches?  You should.  I just had one today!  This also contains my thoughts on Communist Dictators.  Don’t you just love that Kim Jong Un gets crazier by the day?  I mean I hope he’s overthrown soon, to end the suffering of the North Korean people, but he IS highly entertaining in a crazy uncle sort of way.

2.  Dumped.  I don’t think this is my best post, but it has an adorable picture of my pleasant children.  Therefore, it caught fire on Pinterest because women love adorable children and dessert, and is somehow my most seen post.  By the way, dump cake is good…

1.  A Trip to the Dentist.  This isn’t about food, but it is the most hilarious experience I’ve went through in the last couple of years.  I went back to this dentist just last week and they apologized AGAIN for this…even though it had been a year.  My sincere apologies to Doris.  

Well, there you have it.  The Best of St. Loueats before I leave STL.  Enjoy!


An Open Letter to St. Louis


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dear St. Louis,

I’m leaving you.  Again.  We’ve been through this before, but this time it’s different.  Last time, I couldn’t wait to leave you, and swore I’d never return.  This time, you made it so hard to leave that the mere thought of leaving you was one of our top reasons we thought we’d stay.  Last time I left you, I was young and alone.  This time, I’m twice as old, and have been blessed with a wife and wonderful children.  Last time I thought I’d never be back.  This time, we swear we will return*.

*My son said in the car the other day out of the blue, “I think I’ll live in Missouri again someday.”

Regardless, we are leaving for Las Vegas again.  They made an offer we couldn’t refuse.  It is with a heavy heart we pack, we visit places we love for the last time, and say goodbye to many friends and family here.  But I suppose the fact that it’s hard this time means that it has been good.  And so with that, I’d like to say thank you and tell you why you’ve come to mean so much to our family.

Thank you, the Arch.  I think I’m starting here not because you’re my favorite thing about St. Louis (you’re not), but because of the history you represent and the opportunities you’ve given my family over the last few years.  You’re still visibly stunning, and I think you’ll only get better with your renovation connecting you with the rest of the city.  My seven year old son REALLY LOVES YOU and wants to visit you all the time, and I’m sorry I didn’t visit you as often as he would have liked.  Finally, I am looking forward to telling people it’s the ARCH not the St. Louis Arc…no joke, I’ve heard this more than once, and I will be more forceful in correcting these ignoramuses in the future.

Thank you, Missouri Botanical Gardens.  You are my favorite.  We have visited you so often through the years, and even joined you as a member for the last several years.  Heck, we visited you today for the last time.  We’ve LOVED the Chihuly glass exhibit, the Lantern Festival, the Christmas lights, and just regular afternoons strolling your beautiful grounds.  We’ve fed the koi, watched the bullfrogs in the Chinese Garden, and the geckos in the Climatron.  We’ve sampled the Best of Missouri Market, handled the hordes at the Japanese Festival, gotten lost in the maze, toured the Tower Grove house, and taken the Tram tour enough that I’m fairly positive I could give the tour.  But mostly, we loved the regular days where we stroll through the English Country Garden, and watch our kids race leaves that they place in the stream that runs through it.  My wife loves the irises that bloom in May, and I love the day lilies that are blooming as I write this.  I truly think it’s the best attraction in St. Louis and has something different every time you visit.

Thank you, Forest Park.  You are amazing.  The view from the top of Art Hill when the fountains are going below are spectacular.  But really it’s what’s inside you that counts.  The Zoo, Art Museum, History Museum, and Science Center.  With that said, here’s a mini message for each of you.  Thanks St. Louis Zoo, for the numerous days we’ve spent gawking at your spectacular creatures.  From the terrible tarantulas in the insectarium to the hilarious hippo habitat, you’ve entertained my family many times through the years.  I LOVE that you’re free.  However, sometimes your crowds make me hate you just a bit.  Also, until this weekend we’d never seen that sneaky cheetah…until this Sunday he appeared.  That was awesome.  Thanks, the Art Museum for letting people see some of the world’s greatest paintings for  once again, FREE.  I love your collection of George Caleb Bingham works showcasing Missouri in the 1800s.  More people should visit you.  Thanks, Missouri History Museum.  I feel like I should have used you more.  Thanks, the Science Center for both terrifying and thrilling my children.  Both my children had trouble with the T-Rex when they were younger (that poor triceratops has been waiting to be put out of his misery for years now), but have enjoyed your various exhibits as they have grown.  Hey, did I thank you for being free?  Overall, I’d like to thank the people of St. Louis City and County for subsidizing our visits through the years.  They voted in 1969 to have a portion of their property tax support these great institutions.  There is NO WAY such a thing would pass today, but man, it sure makes St. Louis a GREAT place to have kids.

Thank you, unique food.  St. Louis, you don’t get the credit you deserve.  You’ve got some great signature foods going for you.  Thanks Pork steaks, for being a super cheap, super delicious slab of meat to feed a crowd with.  Give me some Maull’s Sweet n Mild, a cold beer, and you’ve made my weekend.  Thanks, Gooey Butter Cake.  It’s pretty obvious why you’re good, and Tina from church makes it best.  Thanks, Provel cheese.  Don’t let the haters hate.  “It’s a processed cheese.  It’s too rubbery.  It tastes weird.”  They’re all just jealous.  Your rope goodness is perfect on salads, no one can touch you.  A St. Louis style Italian salad with Provel CANNOT be beat.  Our friend Tracy makes the ultimate salad with Zia’s dressing.  I could eat it all day long.  We are going to miss St. Louis style pizza.  My wonderful wife recently had an opportunity to photograph THE Imo family, and they were so kind and friendly.  It makes me feel even better about supporting a local product.  Here are my top five reasons St. Louis style pizza is fantastic.

1.  The small square pieces mean you can eat innumerable pieces before being full.  If I counted them, there are many times I’d be ashamed (maybe a little proud?) of what I’ve done.

2.  You can fold said squares into mini pizza sandwiches.  Delightful!

3.  You really taste the toppings, and not a mouthful of dough.

4.  The small pieces are easy to handle.

5.  It is NOT Chicago style pizza.  I do not want a giant dough blob with the cheese under a pile of greasy toppings that takes a thousand years to bake.  Boo.

Thank you, beer.  First off, although none of us were fans of the Belgians taking over AB, the side result of that has been some wonderful microbreweries starting up in the St. Louis area.  I’d especially like to thank Schlafly Kolsh and Urban Chestnut Zwickel for quenching my spring and summertime thirst.  Schlafly Pumpkin Ale for easing me through fall, and a wide variety of beers from O’Fallon, Schlafly, and Urban Chestnut for seeing me through the winters.  O’Fallon, bring back your Wee Heavy!  It was AMAZING.  Finally, Thank you, AB.  Your brewery tour is great.  It makes the Miller tour look like some guys threw a brewery together over a weekend.  Beautiful flowers, Clydesdales, stained glass, a spotless factory, and free beer make for a happy local and tourist alike.  Also, Grant’s Farm is quite possibly the best idea ever.  A ZOO WITH FREE BEER.  “Hey kids, here’s a dollar.  Go defend yourself against hungry baby goats.  Daddy’s going to have a beer then watch a ginormous African Elephant blow up a ballon, play a harmonica, and spray children with water.”  Presidents.  Mini-safari.  Ravenous goats.  Entertaining elephants.  Free beer.  Oh, AND GIANT HORSES.  It is the American dream in miniature.

Thank you, the arts.  First off, I’d like to thank the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for offering dozens of memorable date nights for the lovely wife and I.  We have subscribed the last few years, and your programming has taken us through time and around the world through music.  I love the symphony because it gives me about 90 minutes of time to stop, listen, and think without distraction.  We will truly miss you.

The Fabulous Fox Theatre is stunning, and we’ve seen some great shows through the years.  I got a wow out of my daughter the first time I took her this year to see Alton Brown.  Finally, we JUST saw Circus Flora for the first time.  I’m sorry I’m such a fool for not visiting you sooner.

I’d like to thank the many restaurants that have enriched our daily experiences and broadened our children’s horizons.  There are a few of you I’d like to mention.  Thank you, The Bridge, for being so unique and fun.  Some of our favorite evenings out have either began or ended in your balcony seating.  I could eat your foccacia bread with assorted cheeses forever.  Thank you, Pastaria for being so good that my 10 year old daughter would choose to have her birthday dinner in your restaurant…who am I to argue with her on that?  Finally, I’d like to thank India Palace.  I still think you are one of the gems of the area.  If I said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea.  Let’s start a restaurant with a mildly intimidating ethnic cuisine.  Then let’s put it at the top floor of a slightly run down hotel that you need to take a vaguely marked elevator to get to.  Oh yeah, let’s make it hard to get to, with no obvious road access, even though you can see it from a major highway.  Oh, the restaurant used to have some Polynesian Tiki Bar theme?  KEEP IT!”  If I came up with that plan, I would fail.  Yet, you somehow manage to not just survive, but thrive.  It is the best buffet I’ve ever had.  I would eat it every day.  You have been wonderful to my kids.  They absolutely love it.  I have yet to go when you have charged me full price for both of them.  Thank you.

There are many more restaurants out there that we love, and I don’t want to leave anyone out, so I’d just like to say, GREAT JOB.  The food in St. Louis has gotten so much better the last nine years, and I think it’s only going to improve in the years to come.

Thank you, the Cardinals.  I will always be a baseball fan first, but you have worked your way into my whole family’s hearts.  Cards games are clean and I’ve never had to explain something bad to my kids later on.  The games are still (relatively) affordable, and the product is fantastic.  I try to explain that the Cardinals are to St. Louis what the Packers are to Green Bay.  It’s the closest thing I can compare it to.  We recently went to the new museum in Ballpark Village.  It brought me to tears.  The kids loved it.  Heck, I got to HOLD Stan Musial and Willie McGee’s bat.  You are a class act and we will continue to love you from afar.  We’ll always have 2006 and 2011!

And then there are the Rams and Blues.  Blues, keep trying hard, you can do it!  I wish I could take my kids to your games, but the things I’ve heard there may melt their delicate ears.  Rams, I like football, I’m just not sure if you guys like football.  It seems like you struggle with it.

Finally, I’d like to thank our family, friends, students, parents, and church members for enriching our lives so much since 2005.  You are truly what will keep us coming back.


Jason, Sarah, Katie, and Brendan Crowder

Lazy Man Crock Pot Roast


, , , , , , , , , ,


The school year has commenced.

The beginning of the school year means different things to different people, but it certainly means that life is now just a bit busier for everyone.  With that in mind, I present to you a dinner that makes your hectic life a bit easier, and one that is bound to be popular throughout the year.

It involves a crock pot, frozen meat, and wine.  If you are turned off by any of those things, stop reading now.  If not, press onward.

Earlier in the summer I came up with this recipe when we had a busy day ahead, but still wanted dinner at home.  So, I came up with this and it turned out great.


frozen chuck roast *really the only type of roast I like.

one onion

dry red wine

a handful of grape tomatoes

seasoning mix to taste.  I have an adobo spice mix I make myself and use for pretty much everything, but I’ve also used Weber’s Chicago Steak Seasoning with great success.


Cut up onion into large slices and place in the crock pot.

Put the frozen roast in the crock pot on top of the onions.

Season liberally with the spices.  I know that it seems kind of crazy, but the flavors will eventually come through with the beef and especially the broth later on.

Add a few grape tomatoes around the bottom of the roast.

Pour wine CAREFULLY around the bottom of the crock pot, until it comes up to the bottom of the roast.  You don’t want to pour it on the roast, since that will cause the spices to run off.

Turn on low for about 10 hours.


No browning the roast, no defrosting, virtually no mess.

I know this isn’t the Alton Brown preferred method, but I’ve tried this three times now, and I love it.

EXTRA WORK (If you want to)

Two times I’ve done this, I’ve made a bit of a gravy to go over the roast.

When the roast is done, take it out and set it on a plate, then cover it with foil to let it rest.

Ladle out three scoops of the wine-infused broth with a couple of onions and tomatoes for good measure.  Place in a saucepan and get out your immersion blender.

Blend that stuff up.  It should puree the tomatoes and most of the onions.

Then bring it to a boil and let it boil down for about five to ten minutes while your roast is resting.

It should thicken, and you will have a fancy, wine based gravy to go on your roast.

All that being said, you don’t have to do that, you can just ladle some of the juices on your roast as well.

Overall, this is a very easy weeknight meal.

The picture at the top makes it seem fancier than it was, but the Caprese salad was leftover, and I use the roasted asparagus recipe from The Pioneer Woman, and that takes just 15 minutes to prepare.

So, there you go, an easy recipe for your busy back to school world.

Do you have any easy recipes for busy people?  Share below!