Tuesday, November 22, 2016

An old man's dream came true

Wow has it been over 5 years since I posted to this thing? It looks like a few things have changed also. I have to relearn how to do this. I just got back from an amazing weekend in Grand Forks and had to write something about it.

As most of your know, Brianna, my daughter is in her third year of college at the University of North Dakota majoring in music education. As a musician she has also participated in the Pride of the North University Athletic Band. So she has had the opportunity to perform pregame and halftime shows for the football team as well as play in the pep band for other sports like hockey and basketball.

This year she she was selected to be one of the two drum majors for the marching band so not only is she part of the marching band she gets to stand on a ladder and direct the troops. Needless to say she has some very proud parents.

Over the years we've attended some of these games and as a trumpet player myself, I've expressed many times how I wished I could be out there playing as well. This weekend Brianna and her boyfriend made that happen.

We already had made plans to go to Grand Forks for her flute recital which was to take place last Saturday and it just so happened there was a women's hockey game to be played later that afternoon against the University of Minnesota. The kids mentioned they often have a hard time getting a full band to sign up and that just maybe they might let an old duffer like me sit in. Last week I received a happy text directing me to bring my trumpet and that everything was set for me to play at the game.

After an amazing recital we made our way to the Ralph Engelstad Arena where I went in the back entrance and received my uniform jersey. Unfortunately, I had to give it back once the game was over. we got our instruments together and made our way into the stands.

I have to admit I was a bit anxious. I wasn't sure how the rest of the band would take to having this old guy come sit in with them. I needn't have worried. The band could not have been more gracious. One of them exclaimed, "We have a guest!" and they made me feel extremely welcome.

Brianna's boyfriend Josh gave me his music and started explaining how the procedure worked with when certain songs would be played and when. It's important the band only plays when they are supposed to. It is an athletic event and you don't want to distract from actual game play.

My first struggle was with the music. Marching band music is printed on little rectangles of paper with minutely tiny notes. In my younger days I had no problem deciphering the musical symbols. These days, I wear bifocals and I struggled to find the right distance from my face so things weren't all blurry.

Here you can see the blob of music I'm holding and me struggling to read them. Josh is on my right and Brianna is on my left with the saxophone. Note how all the college kids have their music memorized so they don't have the same problem I do.

My next struggle was how quickly they change from song to song. You have very little time to page through the music Rolodex and find the next song. Usually they were already halfway done by the time I started to play.

The next adventure was during the 2nd and 3rd periods the band lines up outside the arena and marches an impromptu parade around the concourse. They play the school fight songs and for some reason a catchy tune called, "In Heaven there is no beer". That was a hoot marching around having the spectators walking and clapping along.

Alas, all good things must end. UND tied the game but ending up losing the shootout. So it wasn't exactly a North Dakota victory but this old man had the time of his life playing with these kids. For a few hours, it was just like I was back in high school again. Then I had to turn in my jersey.

THANK YOU to Brianna and Josh. I will never forget this amazing experience!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Someone’s Always Watching

Our daughter is 15 now, yet I still remember her first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday. If she was nervous, she didn't show it. She's always had an independent streak about her. She was excited at starting a new adventure. All day at work I thought about how she was doing, whether or not she made any friends, if she liked her teacher. I was very interested in hearing all about her day when I got home. How the first big day of kindergarten went for her. We sat down to supper and I asked her how her first day of school was.

She suddenly got very serious and formal. I had to keep myself from laughing because it was so strange to see her acting like that. She said, very seriously. “Mom, dad, I am going to marry Matthew.”

My mouth fell open. I had gone through in my head all the things I expected her to say. I remember reading my baby book of how I described my first day of kindergarten. You want to know what I said? “It was great, we even got two desserts, jell-o and pudding.”

I expected her to talk about what they served for lunch, what her teacher was like, what kind of games they played at recess. Never in my wildest dreams, did I expect her to come home with a marriage announcement. For quite awhile neither my wife or I could say anything. When I was able to recover my voice, I told her that 6 years old was a little young to get married. She gave me this look like I just wasn't getting it. She said, “dad, we're going to finish school first, but I'm going to marry Matthew.” As if I didn't have anything to say in the matter.

If this young man was going to be my future son-in-law, I figured I should try to find out something about him. So later that evening I was talking some more about Matthew and asking her what made her so sure this was the boy she was going to marry. She said, “I want to marry him, dad, because he reminds me so much of you.” I confess, at first I got a little prideful, I thought, “this is is a smart girl I've got here. She wants to marry someone like me.” But later after we had all gone to bed I really thought hard about this. I do some of my best thinking in bed. If my daughter is looking for boys with the same qualities as me, as boyfriends or potential husband material, you had better believe I need to make sure I’m acting like the sort of man I would want my daughter to be interested in. It really put a whole different spin on this kindergarten marriage planning. Things suddenly got very serious indeed.

Our children and grandchildren are watching every move we make, whether we know it or not. Children learn by example and by copying those around them. I remember one evening we gone over to my wife’s aunt and uncle's house for supper. After the meal, we were sitting around drinking coffee and visiting. The kids were at the table also with drinks of their own. My son was studying me like he was about to take the most important test of his life. He held his cup exactly the same way I was. When I took a drink, he took a drink. When I set my cup down, he set his down. He never took his eyes off me. It made me wonder how long he was studying me before I realized it. Our children are watching us all the time. And when we start to think no one is watching us or cares about what we are doing, that's when we need to be especially mindful of our actions and the words we say, because they are probably looking at us closer than ever.

The point of this whole message was reinforced with sledgehammer-like blows just a few weeks ago. My daughter had just gone through a very messy break-up. Things were not happy in the Meissner house. This was one of the occasions we are so fortunate to have a two-parent household. My wife was in charge of damage control. My job was to get the men out of the house. So I said to my son, “let's go fishing!”

Later that night, during the “dad’s de-briefing”. My wife told me during the most difficult part, with tears streaming down her face,  our daughter cried, “Why can't I just find someone like dad?”

As these words met my ears, I felt the heavy weight of fatherhood so much it was as if I would be crushed by it. I feel as if I'm being measured by a standard I can't possibly live up to. But I have a family depending on me, so I have to do my best to try, don’t I?

The next morning, I had to take our daughter to band practice and I asked her how she was feeling. “Better than yesterday,” she said. I felt like I should say something. So I reached way down deep for the best piece of fatherly advice I could manage, and said, “you may not want to hear this, but it doesn't matter if it takes until you are old and gray. Good guys are worth waiting for, and you don't deserve anything less than a good guy.” Not bad, huh?

And as she left for school and I drove off to work, I resolved once again to be the best husband and father I can be.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sandwich #3–Comet Morehouse

I’m very behind in blogging. I’ve got several things I wanted to write about, but alas, have not found time to get it done. But I’ve used that excuse too many times already so I’ll just press on.

To review, I’m on a quest to consume all 16 sandwiches at Erbert & Gerberts (E&G) sub shop. As a card carrying member of the sandwich society, I get a free sandwich if I try every one of the sandwiches on their menu. In blogging terms, I’m on sandwich #3, but I’ve actually had 3 more sandwiches since the last blog so I’ve got some “catch-up” writing to do.

My last sandwich was tuna fish which has been the worst one so far. I was much more excited about the Comet Morehouse. The ingredients were more to my liking. I’ve said before, these sandwiches aren’t fancy. They try to use simple but fresh ingredients. The Comet Morehouse was your basic ham and cheese. Ham, provolone cheese, tomato, lettuce, and, of course, Hellmann’s Mayo.


First, the good points. IT WASN’T TUNA! Ham and cheese is right up my alley. There was plenty of juicy deli-sliced ham. Provolone cheese isn’t my favorite (I’m partial to aged cheddar or pepper-jack), but was just fine mixed with the other fillings. They put just the right quantity of mayo, not too much, not too little.

I also got a kick out of the "bag". I'm so glad they labeled it. I'd hate to confuse this brown paper object for any other purpose. A few weeks later, I got 4 sandwiches for the whole family and chortled when I received a bag labeled, "big bag". I suppose it must be more for the sandwich makers to make sure they grab the right size bag for the "to-go" orders. Still, I love a business with a sense of humor.

Then, the bad. The tomatoes were awful. Pale colored, mushy, and no flavor whatsoever. Granted, I ate this sandwich February 18, so it really wasn’t tomato season, but I’ve had better tomatoes from other places. I also went with wheat bread. Probably the last time for awhile. It was dry and hard, just like my last sandwich. The “guts” were even a bit dry. Usually the inside bread scoops are the softest, tastiest bits of bread. According to the nutritional information, there really isn’t much health benefit compared to the white, so I’ll be eating white bread the next time. 3 out of 5 stars.

Now for the story. If you remember from the Bornk Sandwich blog, I had to sneak into the women’s rest room to get the story from the plaque hanging on the wall. It was amusing but very embarrassing. I was delighted to buzz out to the E&G web site and find they now have the stories for each sandwich posted for curious individuals to enjoy. I sent two emails to their customer service and received no response whatsoever, but me and quite possibly several other people, finally got through to their marketing folks and they got their web site changed!

Strangely enough, the cute coloring sheets they did have are no longer there. How hard would it have been to just add the stories, but leave the sheets? Good grief people! Alas, I don’t have a coloring sheet link, so you’ll have to click here for the story, and an “already colored” picture of Comet Morehouse is below.


Here are the story highlights. Comet Morehouse is the evil villain. His name and character are based on an actual comet spotted in 1908. I’m a closet astronomer and so I can’t resist talking a bit about it. Non-geeks may wish to skip to the next paragraph. Comet Morehouse appears to be a parabolic orbit which is essentially a curve, meaning it won’t be back. If it is a closed elliptical orbit (race-track like) it won’t be back for several million years.

Geek-speak off. The villain Morehouse had always been extremely upset that Halleys Comet (another sandwich) got to return to earth every 76 years. Watching Halleys comet get all the fame and notoriety fueled his anger and resentment. Several eons ago, Morehouse was taken over by demons and now attempts to foster evil and cause harm wherever he can. Fortunately Halley’s comet, along with Erbert and Gerbert, always arrive in time to save the day.

I still haven’t found a sandwich better than my beloved Flash, but I’ll keep eating.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Making Sausage

I had the opportunity several weeks ago to participate in something I’ve never done before. My brother-in-law recently acquired some sausage making equipment and my mother and father-in-law came into possession of large amounts of ground beef as well as some venison that was still in the freezer. It was time to make some sausage. Me and my son, Brian, got invited over for the fun.


It was quite the process, let me tell you. All the recipes they used required a certain amount of ground pork. So the first stage of the operation called for grinding massive quantities of pork shoulder. As with most things, having good equipment makes a world of difference. Here we have an electric grinder making quick work of the pork. I imagine the venison also had to go through the grinder as well.

Next came the mixing. This looked like the most arduous part of the procedure. They made the venison (deer) sausage first. Ground venison, pork, some seasonings, including an interesting mixture called “freeze ‘em pickle”. I had to research this a little bit because I’ve never heard of it before. It is a curing agent consisting mostly of sodium nitrate. It adds flavor to the meat and acts as a preservative. A few years ago, they also started adding some shredded cheddar cheese to the mix. This was really good. It melts inside while the sausage is cooking and really gives the sausage a nice juicy flavor.

All this was mixed by hand along with some water to keep the meat moist and to aid in the stuffing process. It looked like a lot of work. Kind of like mixing a meatloaf for a small army.


Then the fun begins. You load up the mixture into a canister and put it into the stuffer. Then you slide the casing over the stuffing tube and turn the crank. It does work best with three people. My father-in-law, Jim, is working the crank, brother-in-law, Dave is feeding the casing, and my son, Brian is coiling the sausage. They look they’ve done this before.


Another shot of the stuffing crew.

After the venison was finished, it was time for the beef. Their plan was to make slim-jims and summer sausage. I really like slim-jims but I know they aren’t for everyone. They are a bit on the spicy side. This recipe called for beef and pork and slim-jim seasoning purchased from the local butcher. I was also told some more pepper was added for a bit more “zing”.

More mixing, and mixing, and mixing. Then we took a handful and fried it up to see if anything needed to be added. It was delicious but wow, what a kick! It was quite spicy and everyone agreed nothing needed to be added. I don’t have any pictures of this but the process was the same. The stuffing tube was just smaller.

After the spicy was done, they mixed up a batch of teriyaki flavored. A sample of this was also fried up for taste testing. It was much sweeter with a hint of brown sugar. Really good for the mild palate. Into the stuffer with that.

Next on the agenda was summer sausage. Beef and pork again, along with summer sausage seasoning with some mustard seeds thrown in. Mixing, mixing, mixing. Then into the stuffer. This one called for the big stuffing tube.


I got to take a turn at the crank.


After the summer sausage was stuffed, the ends had to be tied. Here’s Brian keeping it upright so the tying could take place.


Stuffing completed, time for stuffer disassembly and clean-up.

It was a lot of fun. The slim-jims and summer sausage went to the butcher for smoking. The deer sausage went through a vacuum sealer.

Thanks to my generous in-laws, we were rewarded for our efforts with a portion of the proceeds. I haven’t had a chance to try the deer sausage yet, but am not worried. It’s always been delicious in the past. The slim-jims were probably my favorite. After the smoking process, the spice wasn’t so overpowering. The raging inferno was tempered to a slow burn. I do like spicy sausage and they really came out nice. We had them all eaten within the first 2 weeks.

My wife and son liked the teriyaki flavor better as it wasn’t as spicy. It was good, but my preference is still the heat.

The summer sausage was fantastic. The seasoning and smoke were mixed really well. We probably wouldn’t have any of this left either but I’m rationing it. I only take a log out of the freezer every so often so hopefully it will last a little longer.

I’ll probably fire up the grill and cook some of the deer sausage this weekend now we’ve been blessed with snow-melting temperatures. It may rain, but that shouldn’t stop me.

I must thank my wonderful in-laws for the experience and gift of meat. It is most sincerely appreciated. I look forward to another invitation to a sausage making party.