As I touted last week, I took some days off to spend time with the kids while they enjoyed their winter break. Unfortunately, our oldest daughter in Florida does not get winter break – it’s a weather thing. Tough for her, although I’m sure she’s enjoying blue skies and warmer temperatures.
Spending time away from the office on PTO is hard for me. I’m passionate about what I do and how my team operates, and I have an unhealthy need to stay involved with all projects and service issues. So it is hard to disconnect and let my team work, even though I know they can manage independently.
Nevertheless, I track email and MS Teams threads and find it increasingly hard not to interact to the point where I bite my knuckles in an attempt not to participate in conversations. Some say I do not trust my team, but I say it is because I’m proud of the team and the infrastructure I’ve built over the past three years.
But spending time with the family is vital, so I took three days off to do some sightseeing, help a friend, play Xbox with my daughter, and cook delicious meals.
Too Old for Call of Duty
I spent many hours playing Command & Conquer and Halflife on the computer in my younger years. I might have thrown in a few hours of Call of Duty too. I would rate myself relatively high on the bad guy kill ratio and moderately skilled on tactics – but with the help of a keyboard and mouse.
However, I think I’ve met my equal in my daughter. She kicks some serious ass on the Xbox, both with the Call of Duty series and Fortnite. Her eye and finger coordination is of another world as she navigates through several hair-raising levels, being shot at from multiple angles and still perfecting her kill skills. I’m damn proud of her!
I promised to play Xbox with her during Christmas, and she would teach me how to use the bloody controller. But, unfortunately, I think I’m too old to learn the sophisticated level of eye-finger coordination.
I started at the kindergarten level (according to my daughter) and barely made it through the relatively simple introductory levels. I’m not sure how many times I got crushed by the train as I attempted to jump to another train, to the point where my daughter impatiently demanded to do this part of the game for me. I refused to hand over the controls and died another eight times before landing on the other train.
Two hours later, I gave up and prepared lunch for the gang. My fingers were sweaty, and my heart rate elevated with anxiety as I failed to kill a few Nazis on a novice level. Not my finest gaming moment, but I will be back!
NYC tourist for a Day
Much to the dismay of our youngest daughter, we left the house around 8 am, hoping not to get caught in heavy morning-hour traffic and still arrive in lower Manhattan by 10 am. Mission accomplished as we parked near Battery Park around 9.58 am.
We slowly walked to the 9-11 museum. The last time we visited the site, our youngest daughter was still in a stroller. They had only just opened the wonderful tribute waterfall for all the victims, such as a mighty monument for the people who tragically lost their lives.
We walked down the North Tower stairs a few minutes later into the underground memorial and museum. We were greeted with a 10-minute movie about the tragedy unfolding two decades ago.
The museum was compelling and brought back a lot of memories. I was not in NYC when it happened, but I can see how visiting the museum for NY/NJ/CT residents is overwhelming. Memories of the horrors are on display, and the visitors get a reality check when they see the artifacts, images, video, audio, and molted/twisted iron from the twin towers.
After two hours of walking around the two underground exhibitions, we invested in refreshments. I use the word investment intentionally, as a simple soda and muffin cost $5 each.
The next stop was the new World Trade Center, Freedom Tower, where we wanted to visit the observation floor to get a fantastic view of the NYC skyline. Unfortunately, the ticket cost to ride the elevator up was $40 per person. I suddenly turned Scottish and refused to pay $160 (+ taxes) to ride an elevator. So instead, we walked to the Charging Bull for a typical tourist picture. Funnily enough, the line to take photos with the Bull’s balls was longer than the front end.
Afterward, we drove to Lower East Village for our next stops; Katz, Knish, and Churro.
Katz has served the best pastrami sandwich since moving to the US. The meat is served hot and melts in your mouth. It is roughly 1lbs of warm pastrami at a whopping price of $26 for a single sandwich. But, a visit to Katz is worth it.
Once we had consumed the massive sandwich, we strolled further down the avenue and found an old traditional Knish bakery, where we sampled a few flavors.
On the way back to the car, my girls (wife and daughter) spotted a churro shop, so we had to stop to get a bag of warm and fresh churros with a cup of hot chocolate dipping sauce.
We were “lucky” to hit rush-hour traffic leaving the city when we left Manhattan and East Village. Two hours later, we pulled in at the house; we went in darkness and arrived home in darkness. It was a great day with the family.
Short and Easy Week!
Since I was off for five days, I had plenty of time to plan and prepare for the coming week’s meals. It was time to spice up the lunch and dinner options for the family.
A lot of protein and bread for the kids’ school lunches, starting with grilled turmeric spiced chicken, then homemade pizza, a new creation of pizza wheels, and a few more adventurous options.
I wanted to attempt to make a proper Philly cheese steak by marinating and frying the meat and then pouring a homemade cheese sauce over the meat before pressing the bread on top.
Afterward, I prepared my family-famous sourdough, which needed to rise for 18 hours. Once it is ready, I bake it on my Traeger for 45 minutes. It turns out amazing and is fantastic for grilled sandwiches.
Our dinner options had different kinds of protein; pork, chicken, shrimp, and bangers (sausages). Of course, some meat is healthier than others, but they all taste fantastic.
I was very impressed with my pork medallion dish, which I started on the stove, then 10 minutes on the Traeger, only to finish with a bourbon fire searing the dish. Fucking excellent!
We wrap up the week with a somewhat meatless dish to support my wife’s meatless Friday lent promise. She can pick out the small pieces of pancetta.
Lunch & Dinner
|Monday||Tumeric grilled chicken skewers with rice and beans||Chicken tomato soup|
|Tuesday||Homemade pizza slices||Pork medallions with applies and bourbon|
|Wednesday||Philly cheesesteak||Old Charleston-style shrimp & grit|
|Thursday||Grilled cheese on homemade sourdough bread||Bangers & Mash|
|Friday||Pizza wheels||Orzott with mushrooms and pancetta|
One day, I might get so organized that I will link the meals below to my recipes. We can only live in hope!
Have a fantastic week, my friends. I hope you enjoy these meal plans. It is much easier to make food in advance, although you must invest several hours preparing meals during the weekend.
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