Susan has a knack for finding tours that are both interesting and free. One she found during this trip was a tour of the Jelly Belly Factory, located in Farifield, California.
Outside the factory are several “bean-wrapped” cars, including this one, a van, a VW bug, and several box trucks. These must be a great deterrent for road rage. How can you get mad at a car covered in jelly beans, even in California traffic??
The festive look continues inside the factory lobby.
While waiting for the tour to begin visitors are encouraged to visit the free Jelly Belly bar, where they can get two Jelly Bellies of three different flavors for free. I tried sour apple, pie a’la mode, and vanilla ice cream. Susan picked from the “gross out” menu and picked (I am not kidding) barf, snot, and (I think) skunk. Her response? “These are gross!” Our response? “DUH!”
Throughout the tour there were several Jelly Belly murals such as this one. Unfortunately most of them were inside the factory, where photography is not allowed. The murals varied in size and each one contained “between 10,000 and 14,000 individual beans.” This one of Ronald Reagan was in the lobby. Ronald Reagan loved jelly beans so much that a special container was built to hold them on Air Force One, and the blue Jelly Belly (blueberry) was created in 1981 for Reagan’s inauguration so that they could have red, white and blue jelly beans.
The factory tour consisted of walking around on a catwalk built above the factory floor and watching machines mix, tumble, and sort jelly beans. I’m not sure why photography was not allowed; it’s not like one could build a competing candy factory based off of a few iPhone pictures.
At one point in the tour we saw 8 people standing around a giant bin of jelly beans, picking red ones out by hand one at a time. Apparently someone dumped the wrong flavor into a mix and they were being manually removed.
Another thing I enjoyed seeing were these “Belly Flops,” Jelly Bellies that are abnormal in shape and get sifted out of the main mix. These were available for sale, although I believe they sell them in stores as well.
Like most tours of this kind, the tour ends in the gift shop, where shoppers (who have been smelling jelly bean wafts for 30 minutes) arrive with credit cards and appetites in hand. Susan got some Jelly Belly flip-flops while the kids and I got some bottles of Jelly Belly Cola. We all also received complimentary packages of Jelly Bellies.
Over the weekend, Susan, the kids and I drove down to Dallas, Texas. A little over halfway there the kids were getting hungry for lunch and I told Susan I knew of a nearby restaurant named MG’s. MG’s is hard to miss as they have the back half of an MG mounted to the front of the building, and the front half mounted over the front counter. I pulled up the address and a few minutes later we arrived.
Unfortunately it looks like MG’s closed some time ago, but in its place we found the Burger Time Machine. With a name like that, we had to give it a try!
The inside of the restaurant had a “time machine” theme, starting with six movie posters: Austin Powers, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Hot Tub Time Machine, The Terminator, Planet of the Apes, and Back to the Future.
The menu had some interesting items including a Time Machine burger, the Terminator, the Star wars burger, the Star Track burger, the Don Quixote Burger, and the Plant of Ape burger. Susan talked about getting the Country Peanut Butter Burger and I considered the Planet of Ape burger with fried bananas, but we both settled on the Star Wars burger. Mason had the Star Track with pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and pizza sauce, and Morgan had the chicken strips.
While waiting for our food, we mingled with some of the Time Machine locals. While I was busy talking to the robot from Lost in Space…
…Susan was mixing it up with The Most Interesting Man in the World.
While we were doing that, the kids had their eyes on these arcade games.
The conversations made the wait for our food go quickly. Shortly before it arrived, I took this picture just to prove to the world that I’m not crazy. There’s a reason this place used to be called MG’s!
We still have no idea who would come up with a “time machine” motif for a restaurant, but I definitely have to say the food was great. I love a greasy burger from time to time, and this place hit the spot. The next time we’re passing through Denton, Texas we’ll be sure to stop back by and go Back… to the Burger!
I’m usually pretty good at eyeballing and copying things. I can typically study something crafty or artistic and make a passable copy of it. One year I even made a Thanksgiving Turkey out of a cantaloupe based on a tiny picture I found on the internet. This skill apparently does not extend to Thanksgiving cookies.
Earlier today while searching online for Thanksgiving desserts I found this picture:
The instructions said, more or less, “make cookies, add Reese’s Pieces, wrap in a green Fruit Roll-Up.” I can do this!
Here’s what I started with. Note that no store in a 50 mile radius of me carries green Fruit Roll-Ups. We found two alternatives. One was “wacky fruit stripes” that had red, green, yellow, and orange stripes. Susan thought we could just cut the green and yellow sections out and use them. A second stop revealed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Fruit Roll-Ups — and they were green! Surely one of these would work!
First, I would need the cookies.
As you can see, I’ve never made cookies before. These look terrible. They don’t look like corn cobs at all. They look like piles of raw McFlesh or something. Had I studied the source picture more closely I would have realized that those cookies were much, much smaller. Oh well, I was sure these would work. I handed the tray to Susan and said “make these into cookies!” and she did by placing in the oven and later removing them.
Susan’s suggestion was to make one prototype and then do the rest assembly line style. That sounded like a plan and so I took one of the cookies, covered it in icing (white icing from a can with a few drops of yellow food coloring added), added the Reese’s Pieces and the green Fruit Roll-Up and… oh my.
There are so many things wrong with this dessert that I’m not even sure where to begin. For starters, it looks like an alien fish caught in a lettuce wrap. I didn’t overlap the candy like they did on the original, which makes the candy look more like buttons than corn. Oh, and this was actually the smallest cookie in the batch, as most of them were made to the “corn you get at the fair” scale. I also realized after making one that I did not have enough green Fruit Roll-Ups to make a dozen cookies, so I broke into the TMNT Roll-Ups…
…which are covered in Turtle Tattoos. Are you kidding me? Susan found that if you soaked them in water for a minute you could somewhat squeegee the words off by running them between your fingers (or at least smear them to the point of illegibility).
This is me, soaking strips of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Tattoo-covered Fruit Roll-Ups in a bowl of water attempting attempt to remove the writing and make them look more like corn husks. The camera built into the iPhone is pretty amazing but I’m not sure it truly conveys how disgusted I was with the whole project at this point. Maybe it does.
This shot shows that the table looked like at this point. I really wanted to capture how much effort went into making the dumbest Thanksgiving cookies ever. This was taken probably two hours into the project.
At least the final product would look like oh dear God what are those?
Great Jehoshaphat they look like candy remote controls served as week-old sushi. This is not what I had in mind. Again, the source photo:
Mason said it best when he came downstairs, took one look at the tray of cookies, and said to me, “They look great, Dad. What are they supposed to be?”
A few months back I wrote about the food trucks in Washington DC I visited while I was there. I love the concept of food trucks. When I’m in Washington DC, it is so convenient to simply walk out the front door of our building and have 30 or more food trucks to choose from. I wish we had something like this near where I work but, we don’t. I have only purchased food from one food truck in Oklahoma (Big Truck Tacos) and that was because they have catered a few events we’ve attended.
I’ve seen the name La Gumbo Ya Ya a few times on Facebook (and really, how could you forget it) but hadn’t had the chance to try their food yet. They claim to offer “the BEST New Orleans style Po-Boys in Oklahoma City,” but unfortunately for me they tend to offer them on the north side of town and I work on the south side. “Po me.”
Through social media I heard that La Gumbo Ya Ya was offering free lunches to furloughed government employees with their furlough letters in hand. Since Susan and I are (a) currently furloughed and (b) always up for an adventure, we decided to take the Gumbo truck up on their generous offer. With our furlough letters in hand (and our badges in our pockets, just in case) we sought out La Gumbo Ya Ya for our free meals. The simplest way to find where La Gumbo Ya Ya will be is by following them on Twitter or Facebook, where they post both their upcoming locations and their daily menu. Wednesday, their menu included “Crawfish Jambalaya, Shrimp Gumbo, Sausage PoBoy, and Rice-o Rico,” and they were located at 525 Central Park, about 20 minutes from our house. (Spoiler: I will drive 20 minutes for free gumbo.)
After locating the truck we approached with our furlough letters in hand. After presenting them we were told to order anything we like. Susan’s not a huge fan of seafood so she ordered the Rice-o-Rico and I had the Shrimp Gumbo. The couple running the truck said that we were the first two “free furlough lunches” they had handed out. One of the owners told us a little about the history of po-boy sandwiches and how the tradition came from the 1920s, when free sandwiches were handed out to workers on strike. He said it seemed only fitting that La Gumbo Ya Ya keep the spirit alive and do the same. He also told us that he was serving in the military during the last furlough, so he knew what it was like.
While I am not just saying this because it was free, but in the parking lot of Central Park that day I had the best bowl of Shrimp Gumbo I have ever had. The shrimp, okra and rice were perfect, mixed with just enough spice to bring the dish alive. Susan said her bowl of vegetables were delicious too. While we were grateful for the free lunch, we were more grateful to receive a bit of generosity from a local business. Susan and I are by no means anywhere near starving, but saving $15 during lunch during a week of no pay helps. Aside from all that, La Gumbo Ya Ya has absolutely delicious food and earned two new customers out of the deal.
In a previous post I shared what the case my Raspberry Pi came with:
It’s big and dumb. The other day while shopping in Big Lots, I ran across the following item:
(To be honest, I’m not even sure what this thing is meant to do. It looks like it’s a thing that you could put Poptarts in to put them in a kid’s lunch or something. Huh.)
The wheels began turning, and for $2, I had to find out.
Pretty much everything I know about using a Dremmel, I learned from watching television. I know it spins really fast and can cut and grind things. I’m sure this is the part of the project where I’m supposed to provide blueprints and explain my thought process, but… c’mon, $2. Also I bought two of these cases so consider this a rough dry run.
My only real goal was to provide access to all the ports while maintaining the case’s original structure, which consisted of small hinges on one side and a clasp on the other.
Wow, using a Dremmel is kind of hard. I mean, using one is really easy, but making straight cuts is really hard. Once I was done cutting I used a grinding wheel to even up the sides, and a piece of sandpaper to smooth off the edges.
The cuts look pretty amateurish, but the case is completely functional. The last step involved running two small screws through the Pi’s screw holes to anchor the thing in place. Most of the ports are accessible without having to open the case, so that’s a plus. Now that I’m sure everything fits I’m going to take it back downstairs and do a bit more sanding.
This will work until something better comes along. Although it looks pretty terrible it’s so funny that it makes me laugh every time I look at it.
Whenever I visit our nation’s capitol for work, I end up either at the mall area or in Navy yard. Shortly before 11am, both of these areas become packed with food trucks. I’m sure this happens in a few other areas as well.
People who live and work in the area probably take them for granted, but I find the whole experience quite exciting. This Oklahoma City Food Truck Tracker lists 7 food trucks, most of them novelty in nature. FoodTruckFiesta.com on the other hand, a website that tracks food trucks in the D.C. area, lists 118 different trucks for downtown, with another 28 for Arlington and 13 for Fairfax.
One thing I like about the food trucks is all the variety. Literally steps away from one another I found Mexican food, Korean food, Indian food, and Italian food. Last time I was in D.C. I had a burrito from the Chupacabra truck. This time I settled on a trio of tacos (one chicken, one beef, and one fish) along with a bag of chips and a bottle of water from the DC Taco Truck. Prices are slightly higher than fast food (my lunch was $10 even). I probably wouldn’t eat at the trucks every day if I worked in D.C., but… okay, I am lying. I would eat at the trucks every day if I worked in D.C. For what it’s worth, everything I’ve had from the food trucks has been tasty and fresh.
The food trucks are much more advanced than I would have guessed. Every one I’ve visited accepted credit cards. Many of them are also on Facebook and Twitter and announce daily deals and discounts online.
I believe variety is the spice of life, which may be why I enjoy the D.C. food trucks so much. I love all the different colors on the trucks and all the different types of food you can get in such a small area. I can’t wait to try a new one the next time I inevitably go back.
The Christmas present I ended up with after this year’s bout of Dirty Santa was this collection of hot sauces. Containing “Flavors from Around the World,” the box contained the following seven bottles:
- Peruvian Garlic Sauce
- East Asia Teriyaki
- West Indies Cayenne
- Pharaoh’s Revenge
- South West Jalapeno
- Jamaican Habanero
- Cabo Juan’s Chipotle Sauce
As I alluded to yesterday, on New Year’s Day we picked up some fresh tamales and while they are always great, they were made a little bit better with a bit of Jamaican Habanero sauce on them!
(Sorry. It’s the only way I could get it to rhyme.)
I can’t remember the last time someone gave me a New Year’s Resolution, but Susan has declared that in 2013, our house will be “sugar free”. It’s no secret that Susan and I have both struggled with our weight for years and years, and we don’t want our kids to have those same struggles.
What we’ve come up with is a simple weekly/monthly reward system for not eating sugar. This means no candy, no desserts, and no sugary pop. Each week the kids will get a small prize, something like a dollar or two. (We’ve also talked about matching that money and putting it into a jar for the kids to open at the end of the year.) At the end of each month, anyone who makes it all four weeks will receive a larger monthly reward — the kids have already suggested going bowling or going to Bounce Town as monthly rewards.
We can control the food that’s available to eat in our house but not what the kids eat when they’re out of our sight. That means getting some cooperation from Granny when the kids go over to visit her on their respective Granny Nights, and it will also require the kids to make good choices on their own — like picking white milk over chocolate milk at school. Both of the kids are excited about the rewards and being healthy, so I know they will be able to do it.
With the impending deadline rapidly approaching we’ve spend the weekend bingeing on sweets. I think we’ve had shakes either in between every meal or with every meal. Yesterday Morgan had to throw her Icee cup into the trash to make room for her shake from Freddy’s Frozen Custard. I bought a bag of jelly beans on Sunday and ate them like there’s no tomorrow because … well, as far as eating sugar goes for me, there’s no tomorrow. After dinner on Sunday we all had big bowls of chocolate ice cream with marshmallows mixed in. I can tell you that none of us feel great after eating all this crap. I hope to reflect back on this post and remember that if I am tempted in the near future.
Susan is already taking bets on the order that we will fall. I’ve already told her that I will be last, so that’s a moot point. (She does not agree.) We’ll see how long all of us and any one of us can make it. Of course all the rewards and the betting is second to getting our family in healthier state, which is the ultimate goal.
Saturday before the show, Susan, myself, Tim and Dawn met for a pre-show dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. If you’ve not been to one, the Hard Rock Cafe is a chain of restaurants that combines lots of rock and roll memorabilia with good (but slightly overpriced) food. I’ve been to Hard Rock Cafes in Miami, Chicago and Las Vegas, and spent a few days in the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago as well. They’re all kind of different, and they’re all kind of the same.
Here’s me in front of KISS (well, their outfits). The Las Vegas location features lots of playbills, posters and guitars belonging to bands of varying degrees of fame. The guitars hung up high belonged to Eric Clapton and Van Halen. The lower ones at table level belonged to Smashing Pumpkins, Slaughter, and Jakob Dylan.
I didn’t visit the gift shop this time around because they don’t carry t-shirts in my size. They do carry hats. I have three Hard Rock Cafe hats, one from each restaurant I’ve visited, and none of them fit quite right. I didn’t buy a fourth one.
Right before we left for the concert, Susan pulled out the “rockin’ bandannas” she brought with her and made me put one on for this picture. I wore it for 30 seconds, just long enough to take this picture. Fortunately I haven’t seen it since.
Located in the Imperial Palace just off the Las Vegas strip is the Hash House A Go Go. According to the website there are seven locations nationwide, five of which are in Las Vegas. (The other two are in San Diego and Chicago.) The four of us (myself and Susan and our friends Tim and Dawn) showed up for breakfast/brunch (breakfast according to Las Vegas local time, brunch according to our internal clocks).
For breakfast Susan ordered a coffee with cream and sugar. I ordered a 20oz Watermelon Margarita. It was 8am. Welcome to Vegas.
You know you’re at the right place when the menu mentions “Man vs. Food,” “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” and “Unique Eats.” Susan ordered a $12 plate of pancakes. I won’t lie, I thought $12 sounded high for pancakes. Then the pancakes arrived.
I believe that’s whipped cream, along with the eggs, bacon, butter and syrup on her pancakes. I ordered off the smaller menu and ordered the breakfast quesadillas, which were also about twelve bucks. I wish this picture showed the scale better, because it was gigantic.
The bill was higher than you would guess thanks to a couple of mixed drinks — yes, for breakfast — but everything we tasted there was fantastic. I’ve read complaints online that the service can be slow, and I can see that during high traffic periods as each dish is cooked to order. We personally had a great experience, and to anyone who enjoys big breakfasts that will keep you full until dinner, I would highly recommend a visit.