Game 7 Batch

DAY 47 -- Let's not mess around here with the insignificant events of the day. We'll not spend time talking about our visit to my dad's house or the enormous pile of fish he forced me to eat at an American Legion dinner. What happened in the ten minutes after that fish dinner is what's most important.

I believe I've mentioned this before, but I know a ton of Matts ... and one of those Matts came through for me in a big way!

If you've been paying attention to Jackie from That 70s Show, Jim Beam has been labeled the "official bourbon of the Chicago Cubs" and before I capped the proverbial bottle it was one of my favorites (feel free to keep your arrogant judgment on beverage choices to yourself here). Jim Beam recently released a special limited edition "Game 7 Batch" which I understand is pretty tough to find -- especially outside the Chicago area.

What's the big deal, you ask? The Game 7 Batch of Jim Beam matured on November 2, 2016 -- the night of the Cubs' Game 7 win securing their World Series victory.

Yes. That's very cool.

Anyway, Matt was able to get his hands on a few bottles and graciously offered one up to me. I'd just been waiting for my next trip to my hometown in order to pick it up from him. After stuffing my gut with more fish than it was designed to accept in one sitting, I stopped by Matt's house for the goods.

Even if I was still drinking these days, I wouldn't be opening this any time soon. In fact, I don't see myself opening it unless it's under some pretty special circumstances like another World Series win.

Here's to hoping I don't have to wait another 108 years.

Burger King Lucky Charms Shake

DAY 46 -- I think my wife is trying to kill me.

With a few exceptions, I feel like I've eaten healthier this summer than I have in a long time. Then I get texts like this from Amy:

Burger King has Lucky Charms shakes.

And I have no choice but to try one.

If this kind of stuff interests you in the least, don't get too excited about the Lucky Charms Shake. Imagine taking one of the old McDonald's shakes from back when they were served in a regular cup with a straw and none of the fancy stuff on top. Then take a small handful of Lucky Charms and crumble it up into the shake. Push 90% of the pieces down to the bottom of the cup so they block up your straw with every drink.

There you have it. The Burger King Lucky Charms Shake. Half the size and twice the calories of my usual Mango Kale from Smoothie King.

Honestly, don't waste your time. You can thank me later for saving your three bucks and change.

And, for the record, I don't really think my wife is trying to kill me.


Cap'n Pepper and Pac-Man

DAY 45 -- We've come to terms with the fact that we, as a family of five, are no longer able to travel comfortably. Rather than get rid of one of the kids, Amy and I decided to buy a car top storage container. The one we chose happened to be from Sears but our local store closed a few years ago. We looked into having it shipped to our house but the cost to do so was more than the cost of the container itself. The only option left was to drive to the nearest Sears location with one in stock which happened to be Peoria.

Amy made plans to take the kids to see Lego Batman. Needing as much car space as possible (i.e. no passengers) to get the storage container home, I headed out solo for Peoria. P-Town, as I hear the cool kids call it, is a short drive from Chillicothe. Chilli, as I hear the cool kids call it, is the home of two of my favorite junk stores.

. . .

First stop -- the "antique store" where I've picked up a few bargain items on previous visits. The last time I was there, Amy and the kids stayed in the car. Apparently, they didn't feel like the "Enter Here" spray-painted on the rusty door was the most inviting.

Now keep in mind that the term "antiques" typically turns me off as it usually means a bunch of old furniture and dishes at ridiculous prices -- none of which interests me. But this kind of antique store is right up my alley!

Thirty minutes and seven dollars later, I left with some treasures I didn't realize I was searching for.

A Fredbird lunch box may seem like an odd purchase for a passionate Cubs fan, but remember that I grew up in Cardinals territory. As much as I was a Cubs fan, there was no escaping the Cardinal Nation and the self-proclaimed best fans in baseball. Images of Fredbird and the old sweat-box Busch Stadium take me back to those days of watching baseball on St. Louis TV stations before we had cable and I was able to tune into the Cubs on WGN.

Despite the well-documented perviness of Bill Cosby, I wasn't leaving without this Fat Albert record.

If you're ever in the market for Christmas junk, cookie jars, or soda bottles, this place is your gold mine. Although I hardly ever drink soda anymore, when I do it's usually some Ski I've picked up on a trip back home. Today I left with a few old Ski bottles -- the one on the left is a current bottle I already had.

I've developed quite an eye for Fisher Price Little People items in places like this. I can glance along a shelf from across the room or sift quickly through a dusty box and typically pick this stuff up with ease. It was no problem today for me to spot this bathtub accessory at the bottom of a box filled with blocks and baby toys.

More on Cap'n Pepper in a bit.

For a couple bucks, I found this Pac-Man card game -- surprisingly complete with all 42 cards -- which reminded me of the Pac-Man board game I had when I was a kid.

. . .

At the other place in Chillicothe, I didn't find much. Just a Hardy Boys book and a Sherlock Hemlock puzzle that I was drawn to for some reason. Both for a buck total.


. . .

At this point, I called Susan -- an old friend of mine from college who lives in the area. If you ever have the chance to meet Susan, ask her about Full House. She loves that show.

Check out these youngsters from 20+ years ago.

Yeah, that's me with the stupid half-grown mutton chops.

Anyway, having not seen each other in a while, we met up for lunch and a conversation mostly about our mutual appreciation for buying cheap junk we don't need. (Maybe you remember when I drove to Peoria early one cold Saturday morning just to pick up a Fisher Price Little People castle set from a friend? That was Susan.)

Food-wise, I intended to eat healthy as I've been doing a lot of this summer. This intention went out the window when I read the menu and saw "Peoria's Best Breakfast."
Eggs your style, bacon or sausage, hash browns, white cheddar biscuits & gravy.
Oh, good lord. Just take my money and fill my stomach with that breakfasty goodness.

Conversation-wise, here's what I learned from Susan today:
  1. Her kids are super cute.
  2. Her sister has an Instagram account called @ADollarWillDoYa where she posts things she finds for a dollar to show what a dollar can still buy these days.
  3. There are four junk stores within a five mile radius of where we were eating just waiting for me to come buy stuff.
Two things were for certain -- I'd be going to those stores and I would be starting an Instagram account called @TwoDollarsWillDoYa.

In all seriousness, some of my dearest friends come from my college days and I wish I could cross paths with them all more often. It was great seeing Susan and her kids today.

She loves Full House.

. . .

Heading out to start my afternoon of junking, I passed my new favorite road sign.

Call me juvenile, but I laughed about this for a longer than appropriate amount of time.

Whatever happened to speed bumps?

. . .

Stop number one of four -- a place where I was told I'd find a Little People A-frame house. Sure enough, I found it -- but it was missing the main piece on the hinge that closes off the house. No thanks.

But I did find something that I knew Mason would love -- an Adventure People van like the one I had as a kid (the one he plays with at my dad's house when we visit).

Here's a look at my brother and me with ours on a back-in-the-day Christmas.

. . .

The second stop was a total bust as it seemed like more of a pawn shop than a thrift store. The only thing in the place that caught my eye was a jewelry box exactly like the ones that my parents bought for my brother and me when we were young.

Super cool to see but absolutely not even in my ballpark with a $35 price tag. At this point, I'll settle for my memories of using the jewelry box as a secret hide-out for my G.I. Joe figures.

. . .

The next stop was a store that was clearly a non-profit mission-type thrift store. Lots of furniture, appliances, and clothes. Not much in the way of stuff I like. I was just about to leave empty-handed when I decided to look through the box on the front stoop.

Remember that Pac-Man board game I mentioned earlier? Yeah, this one.

It really is a stupid concept for a board game -- a plastic Pac-Man that gobbles up marble pellets much like the structure of the actual video game.

Stupid? Yes.

Stupid enough that I wasn't interested? Nope.

I carried the game back inside and was informed by the woman working that everything outside was free.

Wait. What?


I felt guilty so I made her take two dollars. Then on the way out, I took two more items off the table -- Cap'n Pepper who you met earlier and a CD that looked intriguing.

Cap'n Pepper is clearly related to Dr. Pepper and works with Cap'n Crunch.

He was free. I had to.

. . .

The last stop added one more item to my haul for the day -- a documentary about the 1989 Chicago Cubs.

Looking forward to firing up the VCR for this one.

. . .

Anyway, after taking care of the main purpose of this trip and picking up the car topper, it was time to head back to reality and I headed home with a little bit of time to spare before Anna's last softball game for the year.

We'll see what adventures await us tomorrow...

Tee Ball & Pot

DAY 44 -- Mason wrapped up his tee ball season tonight which frees up Tuesday nights for the first time in two months.

Here's to hoping he keeps his interest in baseball.

And learns to love the Cubs.

And to hate the Cardinals.

. . .

I spent much of the day working on my summer project of clearing the berm at the back of our yard. After today, I feel like I'm finally making some serious progress.

The story from today, I may have found some pot in the berm.

I may have found some jar, too.

A Beetle Bailey Kind of Day

DAY 43 -- Some days are productive. Others are not.

Today I watched a bunch of Beetle Bailey cartoon episodes on YouTube.

Today was productive.

Not to be outdone...

DAY 42 -- Anna wanted to take a morning walk with me as everyone in the campground was just starting to stir.

It couldn't have been a more beautiful morning and as we talked, I thought I'd take the opportunity to go a little deeper with her.
"Anna, you know what I like to do on quiet mornings like this before everyone is awake?"  
"Sometimes I talk to God and say thanks for the beautiful world." 
"What are we having for breakfast?"

. . .

Todd Snider tells a story of how he became a musician. As he watched Jerry Jeff Walker sing and play the guitar, he thought to himself, "Well, shit. I can do that."

I can only assume Mason thought the same thing as he watched Anna ride a bike without training wheels on Saturday. Coming home from a night of camping, Anna couldn't get outside on her own bike fast enough. As she took off on two wheels, Mason said to me, "I can do that."

Tired from camping and doubtful of his claim, I went ahead and decided to let him try.

And that's all it took.

One push and he has off.

We are now a family free of training wheels.

Camping, Biking, Leaf Man

DAY 41 -- I remember when I was younger and a sleeping bag and a backpack was all I'd need to go camping. This morning our family of five packed up and headed to Kickapoo State Park to camp with some friends.

On the way there, a few times I heard "Kickapoop" from the back seat and I knew somewhere my mom was enjoying a moment of what-goes-around-comes-around.

We set up camp and headed out for a trail hike in search of a mysterious tree with a small door at the bottom. Apparently the idea is to leave a treasure inside the door for whatever mysterious creature lives there. A fairy, maybe? A troll?

Whatever. We hiked.

And we found the tree which was already filled with random "treasures" left behind by other hikers.

Later ... Dinner on the fire. Marshmallows and lightning bugs. High temperatures in the 70s. This was pretty much perfect.

I haven't camped regularly since I was in college when the experience usually involved a case of Rolling Rock and a pack of Backwoods cigars. After such a long hiatus, I think I've got the camping bug again. Only now, beer and cigars have been replaced with ghost stories and glow sticks.

. . .

Speaking of ghost stories, our friend Matt told a pretty memorable one as the kids started to wind down for the evening. His story was about Leaf Man -- the cousin of Bigfoot who would come to your tent at night and put a leaf under your pillow if you had littered during the day. Leaf Man was smarter and more environmentally conscious than Bigfoot because he had stayed in school.

The moral of the story: don't litter and do your best in school.

Or something like that.

Anna put a leaf under Mason's pillow the next morning.

Mason was not happy.

. . .

The biggest news of the day came from Anna who took a liking to her friend Gwen's bike and sped off on her first no-training-wheel ride as though she'd been riding a bike for years. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of the time we where there she spent on that bike riding circles around the camp sites.

She was pretty proud of herself.

Rightfully so.

Astronaut, Ancient Treasure, Jump & Shout

DAY 40 -- Astronaut.

. . .

Smoothie King. Five Dollar Friday is my weakness.

. . .

Mason and I also visited the library sale today. Dollar CDs are my other weakness.

. . .

Anna wrapped up her Jump and Shout cheer camp today.

. . .

I cleaned out my closet this morning and discarded a pretty decent pile of clothes that I haven't worn in years. So long ringer tees and oversized sweaters.

. . .

Found an ancient treasure in the berm today. The kids have no idea what it is.

. . .

Tonight the kids were introduced to a classic.

Nacho, Zima, Lonzo

DAY 39 -- I had a cat named Nacho when I was a kid. My mom often called her Nacho Duck. Like Macho Duck from the Mickey Mouse Disco record we had. Sometimes she'd just call her Duck.

. . .

I bought some new athletic socks today. Black ones. Twelve pair.

. . .

Amy recently picked up a six-pack of the supposedly-limited-run of Zima. I laughed when I saw her drinking one. Zima was the first alcoholic drink I ever had. I was almost 18 and drank it warm out of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles water bottle I won at Six Flags.

. . .

I had a Kit Kat shake from Steak 'n Shake tonight. Although it was amazing, I regret having a Kit Kat shake from Steak 'n Shake tonight.

. . .

I've continue sorting through a lot of the video footage I've acquired over the years. I'm of the opinion that the theme from Perfect Strangers is one of the five best TV theme songs ever.

. . .

As expected, Lonzo Ball went to the Lakers. Also as expected, the Knicks continue to show no interest in winning.

Big Feet, Ostrich Riding

DAY 38 -- Playing racquetball this morning, I noticed that my shoes were starting to look pretty rough. I'm guessing that I shouldn't be able to see my big toe poking through the top. With Anna at camp for the morning and Charlotte and Amy off to do some study they're part of at the university, my man Mason joined me for a morning of errands.

Dick's Sporting Goods hooked me up with a new pair of shoes and a new racket. Here's what I learned from Dick's -- my feet are bigger than I thought. For years -- probably since early in college -- I've been buying size 10 1/2 shoes. Sometimes 11, depending on the brand and style.

For the first time since I was a kid, I decided to put my foot in one of those metal things to measure my foot. Much to my surprise, I apparently have a size 12 foot. After discussing this revelation with the kid working at Dick's, I walked away with some super-comfy shoes a size-and-a-half larger than what I was expecting.

I suppose that explains my toe coming through the top of my old shoes.

So with new shoes and a new racket, I can only assume I'll be unbeatable when I play again on Friday.

. . .

Dick's is an anchor store at the mall so Mason and I made our way to the carousel before I grabbed a few things at Old Navy. It was early in the day, so he had his pick of any animal on the entire ride.

He chose the ostrich.

. . .

I took two naps today.

I regret nothing.

Vet, John Malkovich, PS2

DAY 37 -- One of our cats has had a watery and slightly swollen eye so off to the vet we went this morning. Charlotte was pretty excited to go along and be the comforter to a pretty nervous kitty.

No damage to her eye. Nothing foreign body in there that the vet could see. So after a good eye flush we were sent on our way with a bottle of eye drops and a follow-up scheduled for later in the week

. . .

Amy had Mason at a check-up appointment of his own and Anna was a morning camp. This left Charlotte and I with a few hours to kill so I asked her what she thought we should do.

"Can we go to the junk store?!"

Be still my beating heart.

There are certain questions to which a parent simply cannot say no.

Can I have more vegetables? Of course you can.

Can I go play outside? Please do.

Can we go to the junk store? I'll start the car.

. . .

Off we went to my favorite store...or should I say our favorite store.

My junking partner came home with a Barbie car (she's been playing with Amy's old Barbie dolls a lot lately) and a Beanie Baby she's "been looking for forever." She even picked out a few things for the rest of the family -- a book for Amy, a bear for Anna, and a Mater toy for Mason.

Unfortunately, I realized once we got home that Mater talks -- something that Mason took no time in discovering. Now we have Larry the Cable Guy cruising around our house.


. . .

As my my haul for the day, it was pretty random.

A bag of Lite Brite pegs for a buck.

These suckers aren't cheap if you buy them new and the kids drug out the Lite Brite a few days ago. It was also purchased at the junk store and came with a very limited amount of pegs. Now they'll have enough pegs to make words like "poop" and "butt" glow in vibrant colors.

How's this for random? A set of nesting dolls used to promote the movie Being John Malkovich...

The movie was okay but this set was too weird to leave behind.

Much like the Seinfeld DVD set for a few bucks that included the promo items -- a ketchup/mustard salt and pepper shaker set, script book, and Seinfeld playing cards.

Again, too random to leave behind -- especially knowing that I already have the Seinfeld episodes so I'll easily make my money back on this by dumping off the DVDs somewhere for cheap.

Although very small and limited to a tiny corner of a table, the newly added video game section of the store caught my attention and I picked up a Wii game for the kiddos and a few PS2 games.

Why would I buy PS2 games? Even though I've often regretted doing so, I sold my PS2 at least ten years ago.

Good thing they had one for sale at the junk store for ten bucks.