Returning to the Surf Dreams Foundation Mac-N-Cheese Cookoff

Three years ago, I scratched something off my bucket list: I judged a macaroni and cheese contest. An inaugural event called the Surf Dreams Foundation Mac-N-Cheese Cookoff was trying to make some noise in the community and I wanted to get involved. I participated in a social media contest and won a coveted role as one of the judges. I had a great time.

Sid and I at the inaugural Surf Dreams Foundation Mac-N-Cheese Cookoff in 2016.

After you do something as prestigious as help declare a winner in a macaroni and cheese competition, you can’t do much to top it. So, I stayed away from the 2nd and 3rd annual Surf Dreams Foundation Mac-N-Cheese Cookoffs. I figured allowing a few years to pass was a good thing before showing up again.

Just a couple days shy of the three-year anniversary of when I realized my macaroni and cheese fantasy, I returned to the festival. This time around it wasn’t an inaugural event. Instead, it was a much bigger and better organized event with numerous area restaurants participating. In fact, the 4th Annual Mac-N-Cheese Cookoff had grown so much that we had to be shuttled to the event site.

Sidney and I returned to the Mac-N-Cheese Cookoff on Sunday.

But the cookoff wasn’t the only thing that had grown; my entourage had too. Sloan joined us on Sunday to eat some mac and cheese in the sun. This year the festival was on the premises of Sara J’s Seafood Restaurant and we wasted no time purchasing sample tickets. Before we knew it, we were chowing down on different versions of my favorite dish.

The 4th annual Mac-N-Cheese Cookoff was much bigger and better than the inaugural event. This photo is of just one of the “aisles.”

Many of the macaroni and cheese dishes had some type of meat served with it. Whether it be chicken, chorizo, or ground beef, you could fill up on protein with your carbs. Multiple restaurants/vendors presented their mac and cheese offerings with fresh seafood. As someone who doesn’t enjoy most fish and crab, I saved my tickets when we passed those booths.

Many of the macaroni and cheeses at the cookoff came with meat mixed in. This sample that I enjoyed was topped with chorizo.

But there was also homage paid to classic mac and cheese as well. At one booth, the woman doing the serving said “This is simply macaroni and cheese just like your grandma made it.” I appreciated the many vendors who opted for the basic ingredients of noodles, cheese, butter, and lots of love.

The cookoff also offered good old fashioned macaroni and cheese made like your grandma made it.

This year’s cookoff evolved to include mac and cheese dishes not meant to be served in a cup with a fork. One such example was the macaroni and cheese pizza offered by Mellow Mushroom. This wasn’t a gimmick offered by a $5 buffet place. Rather, it was gourmet pizza at its finest. In hindsight, Sid and I wished we each got our own piece because it was the best thing we tried all afternoon.

The macaroni and cheese pizza from Mellow Mushroom was incredible! Probably our favorite.

We also had the pleasure of sampling mac and cheese spring rolls. These little guys were incredible and Sloan liked them too! They came from a food truck that specialized only in spring rolls. So, in addition to the obvious flavor, the vendor also offered spring roll options such as bacon cheeseburger, pizza, hot dog, taco, pulled pork, and even dessert options.

The mac and cheese spring rolls were awesome!

In my opinion, the story of our visit to Garden City wasn’t the mac and cheese pizza or the spring roll food truck – it was what I alluded to above. To see the strides made by the event was neat. My worries were unfounded that the lack of my judging expertise would negatively impact the young festival. Dumb joke, I know.

Sloan loved the Mac-N-Cheese Cookoff! This is her nibbling on a macaroni and cheese spring roll.

In all seriousness, congrats to the Surf Dreams Foundation Mac-N-Cheese Cookoff organizers for putting together a great event. My family had a nice time. Don’t Blink.

Wife is Right Thursday Rundown

Good evening, friends. I hope your first full week in March has gone great. It is that day of the week when I like to write about five random topics. Let’s get started with my latest Thursday Rundown…

Words Ring True – I listen to a Catholic podcast that is excellent. This morning while driving to work the topic was fatherhood. One of the clergy members said this: Children listen to their mothers but watch their fathers. Although Sid might disagree to an extent on the listening observation, I found the sentiment beautiful and telling. It is a great reminder to us dads to always conduct ourselves with integrity and love. Actions speak louder than words and our kids always have a watchful eye.

I need to realize that Sloan is going to be watching me hard.

Wife is Right…Again – I like to think that our marriage is successful because we agree on major topics…you know…politics, societal issues, religion, etc. But, there is one point of contention that has been driving a wedge between us – toilet paper! No, I am not talking about the fact that Sid likes premium and I can live with the cheap stuff; I am talking about how you position a roll. Sidney sets toilet paper so it hangs over and I position it so it hangs under. This week, an article was released that set the score. Over 125 years ago, a patent was issued for a toilet paper holder that clearly stated it was intended to hold the product so that you  would pull from the top. I stand corrected!

Here is the patent that illustrates how the toilet paper should be placed.

Alex Trebek – I write so much about Jeopardy in my blog that I know people get sick of it. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t address Alex Trebek’s announcement yesterday that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Using his famous wit, he stated that while the diagnosis is bleak, he has no choice but to beat it because his Jeopardy contract still runs another three years. Although it says a lot about Trebek that he can joke about it, I have to admit that I am sad. When you welcome someone into your living room every weeknight for many years, you become a little attached. I respect Trebek and feel bad for his family. I am rooting and praying for him to defy the odds!

I hope Trebek beats cancer.

To the Dance – Seven years ago on this date, the University of Montana men’s basketball team punched a ticket to the NCAA tournament. Because the Griz won the regular season Big Sky Conference championship, we hosted the conference tournament in Missoula. What a fun several days! As part of our athletic department’s marketing team, I worked every game of the tournament. It all climaxed with a wild championship game against Weber State. The Griz would claim victory and I would accompany the team to the first round of the Big Dance in Albuquerque. The best part? Wearing that sweet sweater vest!

In this photo with my boss, Christie, I am wearing the outfit (that included a sweater vest) that was provided to the table crew. I never felt more like a stud in my life.

National Cereal Day – Today is National Cereal Day and I am sure most of you won’t be surprised to learn that I have written extensively about cereal in the past. In fact, I have written a blog post about my three favorite healthy cereals of all-time and my three favorite unhealthy cereals of all-time. Because I am feeling nice tonight, I won’t make you follow those links, I will just tell you straight up what my favorites are. In the healthy category, I like Sun Belt Granola, Honey Bunches of Oats, and Cracklin’ Oat Bran. For my three sugary cereals, my favorites are Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Reeses Puffs, and Rice Krispie Treats. Nothing like straight candy for breakfast, right?

I once had Sid sample Fruity Pebbles and a generic version of the cereal.

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Sloan has 10 days left as a 1-year-old so we got to make them count, starting with this weekend! I will check in again next week. Don’t Blink.

A Life-Changing Day

On this date five years ago, I interviewed at Coastal Carolina University. I had landed in Myrtle Beach for the first time in my life the night before. After falling asleep to the sound of waves in my hotel room that overlooked the ocean, I was ready to nail the day of interviews. The next several hours would prove to be extremely crucial for my future.

A selfie I took on the balcony of my hotel room on March 5, 2014. This was moments before I went downstairs to catch my ride to campus for my day of interviewing.

Three people chaired the interview committee. One person is now the vice president of marketing and communications at Utah State, one is now the athletic director here at CCU, and the other was recently named our interim chief communication officer. I was speaking to some pretty important (but very humble) people. I get nervous for all interviews so you can imagine I was a little anxious for this one.

I talked extensively with Bill, Matt, and Martha. I had interviews with the University Communication team and a group of campus staff members who also specialized in communication. I had to submit a social media plan and present it. What a day!

My interview took place on, coincidentally, Ash Wednesday. It was a rainy and cool day, much like today. Bill drove me back to the airport in bumper to bumper traffic as the rain continued to fall. He told me I would know in a week or two if I got the position. When we shook hands outside the terminal, I wondered if I would be setting my feet on South Carolina soil ever again.

If only I knew then what I know now, I don’t think I would have accepted a ride back to the airport. I would have told Bill that he had to hire me and that I would work for free if it meant him giving me the job.

You see, accepting a position at CCU turned out to be the best decision I ever made. Of course the job itself has been incredible and more than I imagined, but it goes deeper than that. If not for the opportunity given to me by Coastal Carolina, I would not have Sidney or Sloan in my life. To think about not having my two girls is devastating.

If not for five years ago, I would not have this!!

So, on this five-year anniversary of visiting Myrtle Beach for the first time and sealing what would turn out to be a job offer, I thank God for letting the stars align. I am one lucky guy. Don’t Blink.

Re-Charged: The South Carolina Catholic Men’s Conference

With Lent starting this Wednesday, I wanted to do something that would help prepare me for the holy season. Luckily, there was an event this past weekend that did just that.

On Saturday, I attended the South Carolina Catholic Men’s Conference. Held this year in Columbia, the conference is put on by the South Carolina State Council of the Knights of Columbus in support of the Diocese of Charleston. I registered to attend about three weeks ago and had enthusiastically looked forward to the event since then.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the South Carolina Catholic Men’s Conference.

I woke up at 4 a.m. on Saturday and met two gentlemen from our local Knights of Columbus council (Myrtle Beach #5086) in the Kroger parking lot. From there we drove together to Cardinal Newman High School in Columbia where the conference was held. The camaraderie I was able to share with my brother knights from my own council was one of the best parts of the trip! I had the privilege of traveling with our Grand Knight, Tom McElligott, and Paul Jenkins. Both men have been knights for years and are so strong in their faith. I was honored that they included me.

When we arrived at Cardinal Newman we checked in and then went inside the cafeteria for breakfast. Another great part of the conference that didn’t necessarily relate to the content covered was the opportunity to meet other male Catholics from across the state. It was a joy to chat with other guys my age who are just as dedicated to the principles of Catholicism as me.

I had the opportunity to hang with some great Catholic men. Directly across from me are Knights from own council (Grand Knight Tom McElligott in the the striped blue long sleeve shirt and Paul Jenkins in the glasses). To my left is Jeff Bips from Aiken and on the same side as Tom and Paul is Crawford Melton from Columbia. I met Jeff and Crawford on Saturday (*Photo courtesy of Eric Cannon).

The conference kicked off in earnest with mass. We filled the chapel at Cardinal Newman High School to hear the holy word and partake in the Eucharist. The gospel was about Jesus rebuking the elders who tried to keep children from approaching him (Mark 10:13-16) and Msgr. Richard Harris preached about the necessity of letting God form us in the way glassmakers creatively form their own work. Although I believe women have much better voices than men, it was unique and special to hear a gathering of only males singing the hymns with sincerity and reverence.

I snapped this photo of the Cardinal Newman chapel in the middle of the day. Not only was mass and adoration held inside it, but it was open throughout the conference for people to pray.

After mass we headed to the theater for the speakers. Father Dwight Longenecker, a priest and author from the Diocese of Charleston, spoke about the root of sin. From the beginning with Adam and Eve up until now, all sins (lower case) originate from one Sin (upper case), pride. Father Longenecker explained that people base their existence on being right and persecute those who deviate from their world construct.

Father Longenecker provided great Catholic insight throughout the day.

My eyes were opened and spiritual battery re-charged when the next speaker gave his address. Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers is a celebrity in the Catholic world, appearing constantly on EWTN (total geek-out moment for me). The conference was able to book him and boy did he deliver! He spoke about how to be a better husband, a better father, and a better man. Some of what he said brought tears to my eyes and I saw Sidney and Sloan in a different light after he was done speaking.

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, aka the “Dynamic Deacon,” is an INCREDIBLE speaker. He taught me a lot about how I can be a better Catholic man.

When the morning concluded, we headed to the cafeteria for lunch. It was another chance to talk with fellow Catholics and make connections.

The afternoon portion of the conference opened with holiness and grace. Father Flores, a priest from St. Mary in Aiken, led Eucharistic Adoration in the chapel. Through word, song, and plenty of sacred silence, us men adored the Blessed Sacrament. To be in the presence of Christ during Holy Hour was the perfect way to break up the two halves of the conference.

After adoration, it was back to the theater. We were blessed to hear from both Father Longenecker and Deacon Harold again. Both men discussed ways to fight against Satan. Father Longenecker counseled us to speak truth, accept responsibility, pray, and defeat evil.

A look at the Cardinal Newman Theater as the speakers were introduced (*Photo courtesy of Eric Cannon).

When Deacon Harold came back up to the podium, he used David vs. Goliath as a metaphor for the modern man vs. the devil battle. He reminded us that the Catholic Church gives us plenty of “slingshot ammunition” to keep Satan away. Saying the rosary, receiving the sacraments, going to mass, and showing up for adoration are just a few of the “weapons” in the Catholic “arsenal” for protecting ourselves. Deacon Harold spoke about temptations that men face and reminded us of our duty to always put the women in our lives first. If only you could hear his preaching style…

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers pulled out his rosary to show us a valuable “weapon” we can use when faced with evil.

Aside from what I briefly outlined, a lot of other things went on during the conference. Confession was offered, songs were performed between sessions, vendors sold spiritually enriching materials, and the chapel was always open if you wanted to go pray. As I mentioned above, it was a day that allowed you to re-charge.

I want to thank the South Carolina State Council of the Knights of Columbus for holding the conference. I also want to thank the Knights of Columbus Council #6847 for handling the event logistics. Most of all, I want to thank Tom and Paul of my own council for allowing me to go with them to this awesome conference. I really enjoyed hanging out with both guys. I can’t wait for next year! If you have any questions about becoming Catholic, or if you have been away from the faith and want to return, never hesitate to reach out to me. Don’t Blink.

Toasty Thursday Rundown

Good evening, my readers. To be honest, some days I am more excited than others for the Thursday Rundown. But tonight I am pretty ecstatic! Let’s get started with the five topics.

Discussing TikTok On the News – On Tuesday, Amy Kawata from WMBF news came to my office to discuss the social media app TikTok. Her main goal was to get safety tips for parents. You see, TikTok is a social media outlet that is embraced by Generation Z. Many grade school kids and middle schoolers are on it. The app let’s users create 15 second videos while providing them with some sophisticated editing tools. As you can imagine, there are perverts out there who prey on young TikTok users. I gave several tips on how parents can monitor the TikTok usage of their kids but I also cautioned against banning the app entirely. In my opinion, TikTok helps promote creativity and other important digital skills. Click here to watch.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Amy Kawata of WMBF News about TikTok.

Bookstore Score – When Sid and I were touring Charleston the other day, we randomly turned into one of the many shops on King Street. Imagine our surprise and joy when we discovered that we were inside a Catholic bookstore! We had found Pauline Books & Media, a store run by the Daughters of St. Paul. We looked around and decided on a couple books for Sloan – a coloring book that depicts the different scenes of mass and a beautifully illustrated guide that explores the sights and sounds inside a church. The bookstore even had a small chapel inside of it and a connecting meditation garden.

We picked up some great books for Sloan while at Pauline Books & Media.

Fun Week at Daycare – It is Dr. Seuss Week at Oxford Children’s Academy and Sloan has participated in each spirit day. Monday was based on “Sleep Book” (she wore pajamas), Tuesday was “Green Eggs and Ham” (she wore green), yesterday was “Wacky Wednesday” (she wore mismatched clothes), and today was “The Cat in the Hat” (she wore her favorite hat). We have had fun getting her ready each morning and taking photos. The best part is taking her to daycare and seeing what the other toddlers are wearing while they check out what she is wearing! Thanks for another great activity, O.C.A.

Sloan dressed up for Wacky Wednesday (even her socks weren’t matching) and Cat in the Hat Day.

Student Success – I always take great joy when a student I know well achieves success. I met Adrianna Seals during my first full year at CCU. She participated in one of our social media campaigns and continued to get more involved with our program. She served two years on my #CCU Student Advisory Group and contributed her ideas and time. Today I saw her for the first time in at least a year. She was on campus to talk to a Writing for Broadcast class because she is now a hot shot news producer for Myrtle Beach station WBTW. It was really cool to see her having such a big impact in the community. Now I don’t know if this is true or not, but she said her involvement in #CCUSocialMedia has already helped her in her young career. Day made.

It was a joy to see Adrianna having success.

How Do You Eat Your Toast? – The other day, Sid and I were watching TV and this chart appeared on the screen. Immediately Sidney accused me of making my toast like #16. She told me that I really don’t make toast, I just “make warm bread.” Well, well, well. It is true that I like my toast a little rarer than most, but I would put myself at a #11.

According to this chart, how do you eat your toast?

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Thank you for your time tonight. I am really excited about this upcoming weekend and hope to report on it next week. Hope everyone stays away from the flu. Don’t Blink.

A Bohemian Star is Born

Thanks to the magic of Redbox, Sidney and I were able to properly prepare ourselves for the 2019 Academy Awards. In preparation for Sunday night’s awards show, we watched the two movies we had wanted to see since they hit theaters. Although we would have liked to watch both of them on the big screen, viewing them in the comfort of our living room proved more than sufficient.

The films we watched? Best Picture nominee blockbusters “A Star is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Having already watched “Roma” a couple months earlier, I crossed my fingers that out of the Best Picture nominated films I watched that one would win the coveted Oscar. Although all three were denied the statue, they are still winners in my heart. In tonight’s blog post, I wanted to briefly review the movies we watched this weekend.

“A Star is Born” – The first thing that came to my mind when I started watching the first few minutes of the film? How nice Lady Gaga looks without her trademark stage makeup. She is a naturally beautiful woman without all the “Gaga” accessories. She is also a naturally talented actress! She delivered a tremendous performance but what Bradley Cooper did amazed me even more. Not only did he prove his acting versatility with his portrayal of Jackson Maine, but he did something that he had never done before…sing. Although his preparation for the role is well-documented, I was still blown away that he had no formal singing training until a couple years prior to the production of the film. Now that is talent!

“A Star is Born” has great performances from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

The singing in the film is superb and has the power to bring you to tears. For a movie that runs over two hours, it goes fast. I personally think the film could have lasted for another 30 minutes and perhaps built up Ally’s rise to fame a little more OR chronicled the post-treatment relationship more in depth before Jackson’s sad ending. But that would be my only critique. Let me also go on record by saying I really enjoyed Sam Elliot’s supporting role!

One last thing to address…the undeniable chemistry between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Obviously it comes across in the film (they are actors, right?) but how about the performance from Sunday night? There is no faking that. Also, listen to Gaga speak about “Bradley” (never Brad) on talk shows. There is definitely a spark there! If you have not seen “A Star is Born” or even if you already have (my student intern saw it three times in theater), make sure to watch it this week.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Let me start with this: Rami Malek didn’t win the Oscar for Best Actor for nothing. The way he portrayed Freddie Mercury was simply entertaining. Eccentric, arrogant, creative, and CRAZY talented, Malek emptied his soul to deliver a performance that captured the distinguishing traits of the Queen lead singer. I know the surviving members of the band had a lot of creative control with the project so you can bet that Malek’s portrayal of Mercury was as authentic as it gets.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a rock and roll good time!

The movie itself is a rock and roll singalong blast. It contained all of my favorite Queen songs along with a couple that I didn’t even know they performed. I loved it how the director incorporated scenes explaining the origin of the band’s major hits – if true, they are some real doozys. The actors portraying the band members did great and the wild and hard life of rock stardom was satisfactorily conveyed.

I think another strong point of the film is that there is an established “villain” who will make you want to pull your hair out. “Bohemian Rhapsody” explains the complicated personal life of Mercury but I wish it would have gone further showing the very end of his career when AIDS had taken over his body.

However, if that was to be the case, the triumphant Live Aid concert would not be the ending of the film. The whole movie leads up to Queen’s legendary performance in Wembley Stadium. Basically duplicating the entire set in real time, it was a satisfying ending, even if I wanted a little more.

The movie was good enough to inspire Sidney and I watch Queen videos on YouTube and listen to the band’s music on the way to and from Charleston. Trust me, you don’t need to be a rock and roll maniac to like “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

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Do I need to take the time to watch other films nominated for Best Picture in 2019? If so, let me know! Promise me you will watch “A Star is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and then let me know what you think. Don’t Blink.

A Sunny Day in Charleston

I know Charleston well. Besides Myrtle Beach and Conway, there is no other South Carolina town I feel more connected to than the state’s oldest city. Charleston is where I took my first road trip with Sid, where I spent time with my family during our wedding week, where a talented doctor cured Sloan of a scary condition, and where we routinely go to hop on planes to take us across the country.

Today I had the chance to visit this special city again. I took the day off from work because Sidney had a couple doctor appointments at MUSC in Charleston. After dropping off Sloan at daycare, we drove two hours to Chucktown for our day trip. Because Sid’s appointments were spread out, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, we had the middle of the day to explore a bit.

We spent today in Charleston. We could not have asked for a prettier day.

With the first appointment out of the way, we went to a restaurant in the West Ashley district of the city called 3 Matadors. The tequilaria offered an eclectic Mexican menu in a rustic setting. We enjoyed a meal together without a certain busy girl climbing on booths and overturning salt and pepper shakers.

We ate at 3 Matadors Tequileria, a restaurant in West Ashley. I ordered a burrito bowl.

We then drove to downtown Charleston and walked up and down famous King Street on an absolutely gorgeous late February day. We popped in several different stores and enjoyed the special and historic atmosphere that surrounded us.

The Charleston streets were sun soaked today.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t soak up the sunny streets as much as we would have liked. Sidney’s second appointment was drawing near and we needed to get to the doctor’s office. Conveniently, this one was at a downtown MUSC office opposed to the one from earlier that took place in a Charleston suburb.

We enjoyed looking at the shops on Kings Street; we even found a really cool Catholic bookstore.

The final appointment concluded and we were almost ready to go home. However, we needed to check an item off our list before leaving Charleston. As we prepared to exit the city, we stopped at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the mother church of the Diocese of Charleston. Although I have lived in South Carolina for almost five years, I had never visited the cathedral, despite being married and having Sloan baptized within the diocese. To finally walk through the holy doors of St. John the Baptist was special.

Today I visited the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the mother church of the Diocese of Charleston. I snapped these photos during our visit and was very intrigued by its long history.

Our day wasn’t done just yet. Although technically outside of Charleston, we stopped at nearby Mount Pleasant to visit the Baby Gap. It is photo day for Sloan on Friday and Sid wanted to get her a dress. After finally settling on an outfit, we celebrated a great day by sharing an ice cream cone at Marble Slab.

We concluded our trip with some ice cream at Marble Slab.

Inspired by watching “Bohemian Rhapsody” yesterday, we listened to Queen on the way back to Myrtle Beach. We picked up Sloan and made it home, just a tad bit tired. Regardless of fatigue, it sure was nice to spend a sunny Monday with my wife in a city that means a lot to us both. Don’t Blink.

Resourceful Thursday Rundown

Sometimes these openings to my Thursday Rundowns seem so awkward. Like, why waste time with small talk? You just want the five topics, right? Well, your wish is my command. Let’s get started with the randomness…

Jeopardy All-Stars – For a Jeopardy nerd like me, the next two weeks should be fun. Alex Trebek has invited the 18 best players in the history of the game to compete in three-person teams. It is called Jeopardy All-Stars and a $1 million dollar prize will be awarded to the winning team. The tournament debuted last night but it was more talk than game play. Interviews, flashbacks, and commercials were in greater abundance than trivia as only one round was played. Hopefully the pace will pick up a bit over the next several days. Oh yeah, Sidney now leads our running Jeopardy competition by a 57-54-11 margin.

A look inside our living room as we watched Jeopardy All-Stars last night.

A Wedding Resource – My sister-in-law recently set a date for her wedding. Circumstances are different for her special day than they were for Sidney and I, but I still sent her the blog post I published that chronicled all the wedding updates I wrote the year leading up to our nuptials. I sent the post yesterday morning and I thoroughly re-read it that night. It brought back so many good memories. It also reminded me how much Sidney, my mother-in-law, and our church did to get us ready for that day. If you or someone you know is getting married (especially a guy) and you want a more realistic/humble timeline than what you might find in a wedding magazine, you might want to check my post out.

On a weekly basis, I documented the progress we made with planning our wedding. (photo courtesy of Nicholas Gore Weddings Photography).

A Delight from @ItsFoodPorn – It has been several months since I shared a tweet from my favorite food account so let’s change that tonight. How perfect do these ice cream cookie sandwiches look? The M&M cookies are beautiful and look like they just came out of the oven. The ice cream fits naturally between the two cookies in a way that you wouldn’t have to worry about making a mess. Of course, I am partial to this type of dessert. My mom used to make cookie ice cream sandwiches for me to take to school on my birthday, always a major hit.

These look delightful.

Wife’s Genealogy – For her birthday, my mom got Sidney a premium 23andMe test. This week, my wife got her results back! She has mostly British and Irish blood but there was one very interesting discovery that we didn’t expect…she is 1% Sub-Saharan African! Thought to enter her genetic makeup 5-8 generations ago, it was a humorous surprise. The test also revealed that her muscle composition is common in elite power athletes (no joke, this is something that 23andMe tests for). Also, because she took the premium test, she was given health information, including conditions she might be predisposed to. Because we have both now taken genealogy tests (I took an Ancestry test in October), we have an idea on Sloan’s genetic makeup.

Sid’s 23andMe results came back this week.

End With Laugh – I came across this Dennis the Menace comic seven years ago and it showed up in my Timehop today. Why not share it, right? I always enjoy reading Dennis the Menace and Family Circus because they both feature funny situations of kids either embarrassing or innocently complicating the lives of their parents. Perhaps I won’t be laughing as much when Sloan gets a few years older and starts doing it to me.

Sorry about the punchline being cropped. It says “Oh sure. We’ll be happy to send you a thousand dollars.”

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What’s more awkward than my Thursday Rundown introductions? The endings! Time to put this post out of its misery and sign off. Have a great weekend! Don’t Blink.

The Crazy World of Chinese Buffets

On Saturdays, I usually eat something other than pasta and Sidney eases a bit on her Keto regimen. This past weekend was no exception. After mass, we went to the Myrtle Beach China Buffet for dinner. It had been years since I last went to a Chinese buffet but the concept has not changed. The location we went to on 38th Avenue reminded me of all the other Chinese buffets from my past. Whether it be a booth in Spokane, Las Vegas, Missoula, or even Myrtle Beach, five endearing characteristics of Chinese buffets seem to always register with me.

This is the Myrtle Beach China buffet we ate at on Saturday.

To-Go Boxes – There is no China Buffet restaurant I have frequented more than the one on Brooks St. in Missoula, Montana. When I was a bachelor, I would often drop in and pick up a big white Styrofoam container to fill to the brim. I would go down the buffet line and pack the container with meats, fried rice, and chow mein. Half embarrassed, I would go up to the register and the lady would use a scale to weigh my container. I can’t remember the price charged per unit, but I usually paid more for my to-go container than a regular dine-in buffet price. No matter, I had Chinese food for at least two days. Anyway, point of this story is that all China buffets (including the one we ate at on Saturday) allow customers to purchase to-go containers on a weight system and it is awesome.

Chicken On Chicken On Chicken – If you like all types of Chinese chicken dishes, regardless of how well they are cooked, a China buffet is for you. Imagine if your favorite Chinese takeout restaurant offered a chicken platter…got that vision in your head? You can create it at a China buffet. Before I can even get to egg rolls, potstickers, dumplings, and other fun Asian fare, I have to get a plate full of poultry. It is always a representation of Americanized Chinese at its best as I load up on Generals Tso’s chicken, sweet and sour chicken, almond chicken, and sesame chicken. Last weekend I even got black pepper chicken. A bit overwhelming, huh?

American Food Surprises – You will notice that all Chinese buffets offer a small American section of dishes. Think mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, pasta, and pizza. Most of the time I will pass just because I want to eat what the restaurant actually specializes in. But every now and then, you can find some quality options. I was with my friend in Las Vegas and we stumbled into a Chinese buffet in a hidden spot on the Strip. We liked all the regular food well enough but the dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets really made our meal spectacular (and helped fill our stomachs with something other than booze).

Donuts – It is not a Chinese buffet unless there are donuts included in the spread. No, no, no, I am not talking maple bars and apple fritters. I am talking Chinese donuts. These morsels of goodness are fried dough tossed in sugar. Hot and fresh, there might not be anything better in the restaurant than these. For the sake of my cholesterol, I was going to pass on Chinese donuts over the weekend but Sid brought a plate of them to our table and I just couldn’t resist.

Ice Cream Machine – Typically at the far corner of the buffet floor you can find a rinky-dink soft serve ice cream machine. Usually with just the basic vanilla, chocolate, and swirl options, it isn’t Baskin-Robbins by any means but if you are still hungry after eating heavy, salty Chinese food, it is kind of a nice touch. Don’t get your hopes up because there is always the chance that it is out of order. However, I have found that the old, basic ice cream machine is a hallmark of Chinese buffets.

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Eating at a Chinese buffet is definitely a unique experience and is not for everybody. As I have grown older, I have come to the determination that it is an experience that I can handle about once every five years. Do you have a good story from a Chinese buffet? Let me know! Don’t Blink.

Windmill Playhouse: Feeling Like a YouTube Star

Click here for a video of Sloan at Windmill Playhouse

This past weekend, Sloan and I found ourselves on the other side of a YouTube video. After several months of obsessively watching children’s YouTube star, Blippi, visit brightly hued playhouses in the western United States, we visited one of our own. It was a bit surreal.

Sloan’s best friend, Jacqueline, invited us to play at Windmill Playhouse on Saturday morning. I had not heard about the place until that moment and immediately thought playground instead of a playhouse. Even though it was inside, I still expected more of a jungle gym type setup than a rainbow paradise.

I typed in the address in my Navigation and it took me to the X Gym warehouse located off of George Bishop Parkway. A building with multiple businesses, Windmill Playhouse is located on the side of the building. I parked the car and we walked through the doors and into a world of imagination.

We walked in and looked straight ahead at this.

Like I mentioned, I wasn’t expecting a fancy play area you see in internet videos. But, much to my surprise, that is exactly what we walked into. In front of us was a play oasis complete with slides, tunnels, bridges, a ball pit, and the trendier equipment you see on YouTube.

This is the layout of Windmill Playhouse (photo courtesy of the Windmill Playhouse Facebook page).

We were so busy looking straight ahead that we almost didn’t notice the woman standing to our left at the cash register. She finally caught our attention and I paid the admission price. For Sloan it was $15, a bit pricey if you ask me. But don’t get too turned off – parents are free! Yes, moms and dads are invited to play with their kids at no charge. That definitely makes things a lot more reasonable.

The price per child at Windmill Playhouse is a little steep, but when you figure that adults are included it is pretty reasonable.

I texted Susannah, Jacqueline’s mom and friend of ours, that we had arrived and that we would wait for them before entering the play area. Talk about wishful thinking! Sloan couldn’t resist the vibrant scene in front of her and ran straight for it. Her daddy had no choice but to follow.

How could I hold this girl back?

Sloan had enough time to wade in the yellow, green, white, and brown balls for a few minutes before Susannah and Jacqueline arrived. Once they did, we went back to the register to greet them. The two toddlers then led the way back to the play area where they would go hard for 90 minutes.

Sloan playing in the ball pit at Windmill Playhouse. She couldn’t resist!

The slides are a focal point of the playhouse. There is a smaller slide for two passengers and a larger slide for three passengers. Sloan rode them both but sat on my lap for the bigger one. The smaller slide was flat and ejected you into the ball pit with greater force than the larger, grooved one. The whole time we were there, Sloan kept saying “Slide! Slide! Slide!”

Sloan and I right before we went down the “big” slide.

Multicolored padding allowed for kids (and adults) to crawl up the structure. You also had plenty of netting and regular platforms that also enabled “players” to reach the slides. A balance beam is also placed within the structure to test coordination.

Jacqueline and Sloan crawling up the multicolored padding (in perfect unison).

Some surprises in the main play area await. Ball guns and a ball levitator give you the sense that you are at a sophisticated play place. Although we couldn’t exactly figure out how to make them work properly (could have been operator error) they were cool to look at and Sloan still liked to shift the ball gun around in different directions.

Sloan playing with one of the Windmill Playhouse ball guns.

Those in the ball pit are encouraged to throw balls at a giant TV screen affixed to the wall. When a ball makes contact with the screen, which seems to display video game content of some sort, a digital flame reaction occurs. Also in the ball pit are inflatables for toddlers to jump on and roll around inside.

You can’t forget the trampoline in the main structure nor the swings on the ground level either. Kids can jump in play cars and cruise around in the area under the structure, they just have to be mindful of the other children on the swings.

Sloan and Jacqueline crossing the balance beam.

Aside from the main structure, there are a couple of other attractions as well. There is a roundup type piece of equipment that children can climb inside and be pushed around in circles. Or, they can sit down on the bicycle type seats on the rim and manually move it themselves. There is also a merry-go-round type ride with colorful mats for kids to sit on. There are plenty of other “extras” as well that you will just have to explore and see for yourself.

Sloan tumbling down the padding as Sussanah and Jacqueline watch on at Windmill Playhouse

After an hour and a half, Sloan and Jacqueline were still going strong but the adults were ready to wrap things up. Although definitely no Blippi, I think I held my own on the equipment. When we arrived at 10:30 a.m. we had a lot of the facility to ourselves but by noon it was starting to get crowded. Windmill Playhouse is a hidden gem in Myrtle Beach and I encourage all my friends with young kids to check it out. Don’t Blink.