Sunday, August 21, 2016

Weber Grilling Academy and the iGrill2

I'm going to step away from my usual topic because I have to talk about one of the most fun events I have done in awhile. Occasionally I will post personal things and I feel this is a great one to share. My birthday was August 11th and for my present from my Dad, he and I attended a Smoking 101 class at the Weber Grill Academy here in St Louis.  I am an avid reader but one of my other passions is cooking. I love to cook and grill when I'm not working, playing with the kids, or reading. 

I thought I knew everything there is to know about grilling and smoking meats so I went into this as a fun activity for my Dad and I to bond over. You see, I was born on my Dad's birthday so we have always celebrated our birthday together. This year we didn't on the day because he hit the big 60 and had a big party Last Sunday We still found a way to have our Father/Son birthday time on Saturday last week. Anyway, I thought I knew everything and after this class I realized I knew nothing. Matt and Keith were amazing teachers and taught me the proper way to turn my Weber Kettle into a smoker. I learned how to set up my grill to smoke different meats and the right way to do it based on the situation

I'm  a man who loves to cook, and I love to stand over a hot grill and cook for my family just as much as cooking on the stove. I love sitting outside with a beer and the smell of cooking meat no matter what the weather. I have grilled in blazing heat, rain, and snow. My Weber grill gets use all year round. Give me a good cut of meat and a good beer and I will deal with anything for a great meal. Getting back to the class I took, we made Teriyaki Chicken wings, St Louis Pork Steaks, Meat Loaf, and Corn bread. All of this being smoked to perfection. I had so much fun with this class that I begged my wife to let me make meat loaf smoked on a ceder plank. I begged because she just doesn't like meat loaf, and instead of being the cliche and saying, "You haven't had meat loaf till you have had my meat loaf", I just never made it. I took Weber's recipe and combined it with my burger recipe and made my own version of meat loaf just cooked Weber's way. 

One thing I loved about Weber's Grill Academy was that it wasn't just a sales pitch. Matt and Keith were only concerned about making sure we had the best techniques and skills possible to make the best meal possible. Not once did they try to force Weber products down our throats. Just amazing dishes. Oh yeah, not only did we prepare our own food per their recipes but we got to eat it after is cooked. With that and the steady flowing of Bloody Marys, which were amazing as well, this was one of the best presents I have had. Let me order a drink and eat while learning how to grill and you have my full attention.

Now they never once tryed to push product but knowing I am an avid griller I was asked if I would be willing to take some picture of myself using a product they recently partnered with. The iGrill2 is a grilling thermometer that is really cool and I was more than happy to help out. 

I've used meat thermometers in the past so I knew what do do for the best read. I have an old school one that is analog and I have a digital meat fork that has that built in but they never worked all that well. I still relied on the cut and check method where you cut the meat in the middle to make sure it was cooked all the way through. You loose a lot of juiciness this way which is always a bummer so I was anxious to try out my new toy.

So let's talk about my most recent meal. As a parting gift the Weber Academy did give us a parting gift. They gave us starter cubes which I have never used before. I always use newspaper in my chimney which leaves ash and sometimes I need to put in more paper to get the coals going. These were great. I used two, lighted them like you see here and they started my coals really fast. Where have you been all my life.

I made my loaves of meat and brushed BBQ sauce over them and let them warm to room temp before placing them on the grill. While I waited for that I had my coals going great and needed to prep my cedar planks. Like I learned in class I put them on my hot grill and cooked it until they were popping like popcorn. I then placed my loaves on the planks and placed them over direct hear. I put my thermometer probes in the meat, plugged them in and went inside to spend time with my wife and kiddos. What is really cool about this iGrill2 is it links to my iPhone. I was able to check on the meat from the comfort of my couch.

Now this screen shot is from when I first started cooking. I was so excited I didn't think to screen shot the finished product or take a picture of the finished product. All you need to know was it looked, smelled, and tasted so good!!! My wife doesn't like meat loaf as I mentioned earlier and she said she liked this and would like to have it again. I call this a win. I loved the iGrill2 and can't wait for this coming weekend to get things going again. I'm going to slow smoke chicken with some of Weber's Beer Can Chicken seasoning. It should be good. Thank you for reading this one. I know it was lengthy but I really could have gone on and on. If you are a big griller or know someone close to you who is, please check out the iGrill2, it was a lot of fun to use and I love it. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Magicians by Lev Grossman


This is the third book series I decided to read after watching the Television version first. It is also the only one I liked. I watched Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and liked the show but the book was a struggle to get through. It was so boring. The other series I watched before I read was Dexter. Again, I liked the show so much better than the books. This book was pretty good. There were quite a few differences from the show but I really enjoyed listening to this and looked forward to being able to read this even time I put it down. 

This book is kind of a cross between Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. Our main character Quentin is someone who is really hard on himself, suffers from depression and feels he doesn't fit anywhere. Instead he looses himself in children's books about a family of children who go to a magical place called Fillory which is the Narnia parallel. Quentin wants so much for this place to be real because the real world is not for him. On his way to an interview for college his life changes forever. Arriving at the appointment he finds his interviewer dead and a paramedic hands him a packet with what turns out to be the 6th book in the Fillory series that has never been published.

Walking around trying to make sens out of the gift that just landed in his Quentin wonders through a portal and ends up staring up at a large school known as Brakebills. This is a school of magic that has chosen Quentin to learn how to use his gifts. This is a dark book and at times the plot can make little sense. Overall I liked it and where I will admit I enjoyed the show more than the book I still really enjoyed this book. My only complaint is the plot tease. Let me explain, towards the beginning of the book we get this man who finds his way past the school defenses and kills a professor and frightens a class. Here I thought the story was really going to get started but then we don't hear anything about this person again until the very end and even that is rather brief. Quentin goes about his schooling over the next 5 years. Yes you read that correctly, this one book covers 5 years of schooling up past graduation. I was kind of shocked that so much would have been crammed into this instead of capitalizing on multiple years of school like in the Harry Potter books.

The lack of follow through with what could have been a pretty decent plot aside I did enjoy this book. Reviews for this book are very mixed and it seems like people either loved or hated this book. I liked it and felt kind of middle of the road but it was slightly better than just ok. With that in mind I will round up from 3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars. There are two other books and a second season coming so I will continue on with both. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Injustice Gods Among Us Vol 1 by Tom Taylor


I finally got around to reading this. I have no idea why I put it off so long. I played the game on my iPhone and iPad as soon as it came out until I got bored with it an moved on. I also read Year 2 Vol 1 a long time ago because NetGally and DC Comics were kind enough to let me have an advanced reader copy. It was a little hard to read that book and not know what was going on in the first 2 volumes. I happened to be at my library and this was sitting there on the shelf so I picked it up and I'm so glad I did.

This book is such a contradiction in a good way. This book is dark and light, full of pain and friendship while at the same time tearing it apart, and love and betrayal. This makes no sense at all and just typing that sentence seemed like I wasn't doing this justice. Pun not intended. If you played the game you will know that heroes fight each other and villains even turn against each other and side with the heroes. Reading this I can see a strong air of politics laced in these pages. Friend's turn on each other and all for the simple reason that they want peace, but can't agree on how to get it.

I know this is fiction and even more it is comics, fantasy, and yet I have shed tears over this book as well as felt anger and rage. This book takes some liberties with the story and mythos of the characters in small ways, but most notably with Superman. The story opens up with Superman finding out Lois is going to have a baby. Now this has been a huge topic of discussion among Superman fans and comic readers because we know that it isn't possible for Lois to have Superman's baby. The physiology doesn't work or something, but it has been mentioned int he comics a few times that he can never have children with her. Injustice doesn't fit in the same universe as the on going series so I let it go.

Ok, I've put off what starts this whole mess long enough. Only one person could set all of this in motion and turn heroes against each other; The Joker. The Joker gets bored trying to get Batman so he goes for an easier target, Superman. Joker kidnaps Lois and then finds a way to make Scarecrow's fear toxin affect Superman. He thinks Doomsday has returned. I wont say how it happens but Superman kills Lois and his unborn child. To make matters worse a nuclear bomb was linked to Lois's heart and when it stopped beating Metropolis was wiped off the map. Racked with grief he clearly ins't thinking clearly and no amount of super hero interference stops Superman from killing the Joker.

Superman now has nothing to keep him tethered to his morals and the limits he placed on himself so he decides he is tired of the criminals always getting out and doing what they do best. He is also tired of the fighting and wars all over the world and he is done sitting back and watching this happen. Superman takes in upon himself to fix the problems of the world and stop the fighting. Superman's best friend Batman tires to turn him away from his extreme methods and bring him back from his grief without success. This is what causes the fighting and tears our heroes apart.

I loved this story and I am definitely going to read all of this series as I can. I wish I didn't put this series off as long as I did and would highly recommend this to any fan of DC Comics. 5 out of 5 stars for sure. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King


I'm just going to say this right now. It is impossible to write these reviews without spoilers. I wont write anything to spoil this book in my review but I will refer to events in the first book. So if you haven't read these books and want to then I would suggest turning back now until your own journey to the tower can begin. 

The man in Black has left a dried up corpse of himself behind and Roland is left wondering how much time has really passed in his Palaver. Now Roland can continue his journey to the Dark Tower and try to deal with the prophecy the Man in Black set forth before the end of their palaver. Roland will build his Ka-Tet in order to make it to the tower. A Ka-Tet is like a family made up of different people with the same goal. The prophecy mentions three that Roland will come across on his road. He will meet The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows, and The Pusher.

Roland wakes from a dream where he is the one who drowns and not Jake. He's troubled by the loss and the fear that the only thing he cares about it the dower. This drive gets him moving to wallow in his mistakes. Along the road he comes across these Lobster creatures called Lobstrosities which takes off Roland's first two fingers on his right hand. Now fighting infection and trying to keep his wits about him Roland comes to the first door labeled the prisoner. This is where we meet Eddie Dean, the man imprisoned by his addiction to Heroin. This is actually a very large part of the book. The other two doors are shorter. Eddie is no bigger a character than the others but his story is the most detailed. I loved this part but it does feel like King (or his editor) decided he needed to get to the point already so the rest was abbreviated.

The second door Roland and Eddie come to is labeled The Lady of Shadows. Odetta Holmes is the lady of shadows. She has had a rough life and has the split personality and handicap to prove it. Odetta  is the sweet southern bell who has this twisted racist dark side named Detta. To make matters worse she was pushed onto the tracks of the subway and had her legs cut off. These women in one body become the second of the Ka-Tet. Now Roland is dealing with spreading infection, a crashing withdrawal ridden Eddie and a woman who hates him to his core on the trip to the third door.

Door three is labeled the Pusher. This door leads Roland to a man who character is utterly despicable. The pusher refers to his hobby. This make likes to push people under the bus. Literally, he pushes people into oncoming traffic and trains. He is this power hungry business man by day and a psychopath by night. This is a shorter story to round out the three doors, but the ending is not what you would expect.

I loved this book and for me each one gets better and better. Here are the main characters we are going to follow on this epic journey. I'm so glad I got around to reading these again. There are just some books you can read over and over and still love them. 5 out of 5 stars and I highly recommend this series. This is one of the books I am still trying to locate in hardcover illustrated edition so wish me luck. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor Part 2 by Robert Kirkman


Well this book picks up right where the last leaves off. You'd think this is obvious since it says Part 2, but I have read a lot of books that are continuation stories and yet they begin on a completely different plot before they swing back around. The Governor is out of commission trying to recoup from the attack that left him half a man in book one. He is subjected to battle field medicine since the doctor for Woodbury is now a zombie and the only person they have who might be able to help the Governor is the town drunk who was an army medic long long ago. 

Since our main character is out for most of the book this story is really about Lilly again. Lilly is the kind of person who used to be skeptic and didn't trust the Governor. She felt there was something off with the man and the town was a little to perfect that it had to be hiding something. Well that takes a complete 180 turn in this book. This character goes from being a skeptic and careful to being the Governor's major champion. Even other characters in the book don't understand this sudden change. Lilly steps up and fills the role the Governor has temporarily stepped out of. She begins to take over the plan of attack and hunt for our heroes at the prison.

Lilly is clearly getting lined up to take over once the Governor has fallen and needs to be replaced. I wondered how this series was going to continue without the governor but now I get it. This story in the comics is so epic that I was expecting so much more from this book. I was kind of let down by the time it got to the good parts. The ending was very good but if you watch the show you have already been through it and if you read the comics it's the same thing. This book did lend even more emotion to the ending because we get this from the perspective of characters we haven't been through this with before. I'm sure my review is making less and less sense so I'm going to end it here. 3 out of 5 stars from me. I am also out of available audio books so it may be awhile before I can continue on in this series. If I decide to carry on. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Colorado Kid by Stephen King


I have heard a lot about this book and knew that the show Haven was based off of this. This book is part of the Hard Case crime series which is comprised of books written by a bunch of different authors. I love that pulp crime style of story so I had high hopes for this book. So let me start off by saying this was a pretty good book but not what I was expecting. 

This book is a story about two older newspaper men telling their old stories to the new young girl who writes a column and strives to be more. The setting is a lunch meeting with a big shot reporter from Boston. He cam to this tiny little coastal town to find out all the wierd unsolved cases the town might had for a piece he wants to write. These guys of course give the big city reporter all the stories you hear over and over in a small town. Mysterious poisoning at a church picnic, boat found with one dead body and 15 others missing. These were not what he was looking for so he heads home to Boston. Heading back to the office our newsgirl has this felling they weren't telling all the cases that have gone unsolved. 

Have you noticed, this is all about weird unsolved cases. So don't expect a resolution at the end of this book. Yup I spoiled this letting you know you don't find out what really happened to the man from Colorado who was found dead on the beach.  The story was a little slow in parts and I kept drifting my attention away from this book. I have no idea how Haven is based off of this book unless it takes place in this town but I have yet to watch the show. It is on my to watch list at some point. 

I may have drifted a bit but there were parts of this story that I was really interested in. I'm glad I read it but this wont be on my re-read list. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor Part 1 by Robert Kirkman


I have enjoyed this series but if I'm being honest the best books in the series are the ones that involve the Governor more. This makes no sense because it is part of the Governor series. Book one is all about the Governor and how he goes from the beginning of the Zombie Apocalypse to what he eventually becomes. Book two introduces us to a new character Lilly who finds her way into Woodbury. The bulk of the second book and the beginning of this one is all about Lilly. However, the second half of this book is all about the Governor and when he meets our heroes from the comics and and show. 

In this book the Governor meets Rick, Michonne, and Glenn and immediately turns on them and attacks them, kidnaps them, and tortures them to get information on where they are located to either take it over, raid it, or wipe it out. What he puts these three through is hard to read but if you have read the comics you have already seen it. Don't get me started on what comes later for the Governor. That is even worse. Anyway I am getting ahead of myself and teetering on the edge of spoiler territory.

I really liked this because it was a different view of events I have already read and seen on the show with the main characters. It was really interesting to not only see things from the Governor's perspective, but to really get a better feel as to how far gone he has become. This man has lost his damn mind and sanity has left the building. The Governor has become an expert on manipulation and is a psychopath. This story had me glued to it even through I knew what was coming. These books are direct tie ins to the comic books.

I liked this book and easily give this 4 out of 5 stars. If you are a fan of the Walking Dead this is a must read. I am looking forward to the next book but knowing what happens in the future I wonder how they keep these books going. The title of this book is the Fall of the Governor.