Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hans Has (Re)Entered the Kitchen

We all have our guilty pleasures - mine is Starbucks' Crumble Cake. I don't know exactly how they make it or what's in it, but I know it can't be healthy - thus, a guilty pleasure. An avid reader of the Game Plan would be able to reference a post this summer in which I discussed how men should feel comfortable (and competent) in the kitchen. This morning I continued my quest for excellence in the kitchen with a first attempt at coffee cake.

The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook was the source of our recipe today. Katie and I spent about 25 minutes preparing the batter, and 35 minutes later we pulled out our first coffee cake from the oven.

What a delicious first bite! Katie wouldn't change a thing. I would make it a little less fluffy - Starbucks has set my standard for a firm coffee cake. The blueberries melted in the mouth and literally each bite kept getting better.

Emeril's job is secure, but I have to say I'm slowly making a name for myself in the kitchen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hot Lunch on a Cold Snowy Day

I never like this meal growing up, but my mom and her parents ate it growing up on the farm and I always new it was a classic: Campbell's tomato soup and grilled cheese.

I got home from a day in which we probably shouldn't have gone out. The snow flakes were huge and eventually very wet when you're working in it. I couldn't wait to get home and clean up, knowing the delicious meal ahead of me.

And I must say, our house truly comes into character on these winter days and nights. The old cottage reminds me so much of my grandparents' house. And tomato soup with grilled cheese is just the meal my grandpa would have eaten after coming in from his chores.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Perfect Dress Shirt - Like You Care

I've faced reality - not many men I hang out with appreciate style like I do. Now I'm not saying that I'm the most stylish man I know... but wait, I am the most stylish man I know. Let's give credit where credit is due - Katie has contributed a significant edge to my wardrobe over the last three years. But I've always had an appreciation for stylish clothes and creating a "look" of my own.

For a couple years now, I've been looking for the perfect dress shirt. It's a staple of the man's wardrobe. At first glance it's a necessity for black tie affairs (weddings and funerals), but more and more it can be worn with jeans with or without a tie. During these winter months I love a collar under a nice wool sweater. My search for the perfect white dress shirt was a joy to research. I'll spare you the ones that didn't make the cut. Every man should know that Brooks Brothers makes the perfect All-American dress shirt.

It was named best dress shirt by the New York Times Magazine. It's a classic. I know most people I run with don't read the magazines I read, so I'm here to tell you (and you should tell your friends) that it is widely assumed that Brooks Brothers has perfected the classic dress shirt.

Well Saturday night I was in Chicago with Katie and some cousins. We have made it an annual trip to the Windy City for a Christmas festival called Christkindlmarket and we make some time for good shopping. This year I told Katie the only thing I wanted was the Brooks Brothers dress shirt. In true Hans fashion, I let the crowd move on ahead so I could soak in all that is Brooks Brothers (what a great store on Michigan Ave). It was a quick purchase - he sized me up, still 15 1/2 and 34. He got it off the shelf for me, and I was done. Of course I wasn't done. I had to indulge in everything else Brooks Brothers had to offer, but I had gotten what I came for.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Well That Was Quick

If you blinked, you missed it. I guess that's not necessarily true because I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of Saturday's snowfall. It started right when they said it would - 10am. The next thing you know, the ground is covered with a white blanket. Katie and I spent the day getting the house ready to host some friends. The previous week I was working on green grass, but that changed after Saturday's accumulation. The day before, I was doing one last rake of the yard. I left the rake outside, and this picture kind of tells the story about how fast this year's first snowfall hit us here in Madison.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Many Storylines, Same Ending

Thursday night had many story lines surrounding the Packers-Cowboys game.

  • I could talk about Charter Cable and their battle with the NFL Network over including it in their basic package. The two organizations and their greed are hurting the fans they're trying to serve.
  • I could talk about working until 7:00 pm and missing kickoff.
  • I could talk about my shock when Aaron Rodgers took the field as Brett Favre was on the sideline getting a forearm massage. I couldn't lift my jaw off the ground for 2 full minutes as the scene unfolded.
  • I could talk about standing for the entire game, by myself. By Myself. My brother had a life group engagement and my other Packer-Fan-Friend is in California (miss you Todd). Actually, I'll probably talk about this story line later.

But the story line Thursday night was Packer Fan Community. Packer Fan Community was alive at the Great Dane, and probably every other establishment in Madison.

A lot of bad things happen in bars. People drink too much and get in fights. People drink too much and go home with someone they met, creating regrets for the next morning. People drink too much and then can't afford their bills. People drink too much and don't spend enough time at home with family. People drink too much, get behind the wheel, and become the most dangerous car on the road. Very bad things start at your local tavern.

But Thursday night at the Great Dane was electric. I got their late because I was working and had to take Katie home from the gym. I was supposed to meet some friends out, but they decided to watch it at the UW Training Rooms with another friend - I needed food and more excitement that 4 people watching the biggest game of the season. So I went to Old Faithful, the Great Dane Fitchburg. Our softball team has been sponsored by the Dane for three seasons now. It's familiar and fantastic - atmosphere, food, beer. I knew what the scene would be like, but I didn't care. There's just something magical to me when perfect strangers gather at a public establishment for a common cause - especially Packers' Football.

It was standing room only. I was directly under the projection screen, looking straight up for a quarter. Two men abandoned their spot, so I actually ended up with a front row view. To the NFL Network's credit, their camera crew is fantastic. The game seemed so much faster. And it all came to life when Ryan Grant made a cut off the line and broke free from the Dallas defense. The cheers at the Dane were special. I'm not a writer, so I can't describe what I felt at that moment, but hopefully you were somewhere that experienced the same excitement. Everyone in the room (and it's a big room) were as happy as they could be to see their team pull off a great play that went for 6 points. At that moment, life didn't get any better.

Camaraderie is magical to me. The bar is full of people like me - we want good food, good beer, and we don't have the freaking NFL Network. We're all together in the same situation, eyes glued to the same game, experiencing NFL football together. At that moment, we're all friends even if we don't know everyone's name (cue up the Cheers theme song).

The whole game was like that. Brett Favre went out of the game and was replaced with Aaron Rodgers, which didn't make fans happy, but Rodgers grew on us. The game got extremely exciting until our time ran out as Dallas got a first down with about 2 minutes in the game.

The most exciting Packer game I've seen this season was special in so many ways. Sure, I was by myself. Sure, I missed kickoff. Sure, my team couldn't pull out a win. But Packer Fan Community was alive and strong.

And this year there's always the Playoffs.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Just done being sore

I can't say that I'm complaining. The soreness that I'm just getting over is 7 days old now. At the annual Robertson family reunion, the guys get together and play some football. I tried to make a quarter of it tackle this year, but that didn't happen. And as it turned out, I got beat up enough playing two-hand touch.

We played Thanksgiving morning and the day after. I think I'm so sore b/c I didn't really take any plays off. I'm out there running as fast and as hard as I can. And I really miss (from the high school days) the rough tackling and blocking and diving on the ground. A little hitting before the game, some sliding catches during the game, and hitting Justin off the line makes for some aches and pains afterwards. And Uncle Paul packs more of a punch than I expected (nice blocking).

But what a time to bond with the guys. Throwing a football and playing the greatest game in the world. On the second day, there were huge flakes falling from the sky as we played. Tucked in a little field, it was a picture-perfect setting.

My one regret is that we didn't take any pictures - my bad.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

First Real Snowfall

Well last weekend I think there were a couple flurries in the air. I would be the one noticing b/c the first snowfall is noteworthy for me. But I can't say last weekend was our first snowfall. Nothing even came close to accumulating.

But tonight is another story. Tonight the flurries have started and we're expecting accumulation as the Thanksgiving traffic gets underway here in Madison. And what was I doing when the snow began to fall?!? I was out for a run. Bundled up in all my running gear, it was cool and a little damp, but picturesque indeed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Familiar Voice

For the last couple years, I've really enjoyed sports radio. I think it actually started with the Jim Rome show. Once you get used to Romie, you kind of like him. But then you move on to more polished and reputable hosts like Mike and Mike in the Morning. The afternoon show that I often missed was Dan Patrick, the former host of SportsCenter. Dan's one-liners have become a legendary part of the show, but he took his opportunity and went into sports radio. Dan would have Keith Olbermann on for one hour of the show and it was called The Big Show. These two were absolutely great together!

Well sadly Dan Patrick left ESPN in August. He said he was returning somewhere, sometime - but we didn't know the details. Well I heard he was on Fox Sports Radio (100.5 here in Madison), so I tuned in Tuesday morning. This may sound funny to those who don't appreciate sports like I do, but hearing Dan's voice back on the radio was familiarity rediscovered. Sports are such a big part of our culture. While I need to keep my fanatic behavior under control, sports radio has pushed me to think critically about football, baseball, basketball, and the players in the headlines. (I draw the line with car racing and condemn ESPN for including it as a sport -- "you're driving a CAR". )

And my critical thinking has lately come to this: When I was younger (yes, I'm pulling out that line that solidifies the fact that I'm 30 years old) ---- when I was younger, athletes and sports were role models. There were guys I didn't care for, but there were superstars that were bigger than life. Today, athletes just disappoint me. Now someone 10 or 15 years older than me might say we had those kinds of players back in the '80s, too but I would disagree with the extent of letdown these players are exhibiting.

What a privilege to play a sport for a career! You throw and catch a football to collect a paycheck. You hit a ball and run on a manicured field like I dreamed about since I went to my first game and County Stadium. You get paid millions of dollars and years of wonderful publicity to do it. And now you're extremely likely to let us all down and force us to sift through our favorite athletes knowing it's entirely possible that you're two days away from having a major character malfunction.

Micheal Vick: a dog-fighting ring, disgusting
Marion Jones: steroids
Pacman Jones (stupid half-brother?): hanging with thugs involved in a shooting in Vegas
Ricky Williams: can't stay off weed long enough to take three handoffs
Stephn Marbury: gets benched, blackmails coach regarding coach's sex-abuse case
Barry Bonds: takes HGH, lies to a grand jury, and will disgrace the MLB record books

Athletes will let us down. It's not an epiphany for me, but it's sinking in as a reminder that they are just humans, and that they are part of an athletic culture that is often bigger than the games that they play.

I wouldn't compare sports radio to journalism like the New York Times or Fox News, but sports radio gets and keeps my attention. It forces me to think critically about issues and people. And it helps me keep sports and the athletes in perspective with the happenings in the rest of the world. Dan Patrick is back on my radio - life is good for a couple more days.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Leaves falling like snow

I was working off Post Road last week and experienced a sight that reminds me how much I love autumn. The maple trees in the neighborhood were bright yellow, and the sun was just strong enough to light up their color without making it too bright. The wind had been blowing that morning, so the trees were dropping all their leaves around the base of the tree - circles and circles of leaves as we drove down the street.

When we parked our trucks, we got out and I couldn't help but stare as leaves were falling like snow down the entire street. Just like when it's raining or snowing, I became so engaged with nature because it was happening right there in front of my eyes.

Leaves turn colors, leaves fall - but for me to see them falling off the trees and usher out and in a new season, I couldn't help but stand in awe of God's creation and the beauty of autumn.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

David Crowder*Band at House of Blues

There's nothing like a great show to remind you how much you love a band.
David Crowder*Band at the House of Blues Chicago did that for me Thursday night.

My brother invited me about a month ago to attend the show with a couple other guys from church. We ended up having dinner at the House of Blues which was decent. The cool thing is that if you have dinner there, they put you to the front of the line for the show. We ended up being three rows deep, dead center - great spot. I know bands often get the crowd jumping, but Crowder's music is perfect for making an entire crowd jump around in unison. Literally the floor was flexing at least an inch. We were double-jumping on a wooden floor like it was a trampoline!!

Crowder brought out the key-tar and then the guitar from a new video game, Guitar Hero. Fully plugged in, it was a unique sound and a lot of fun.

I felt a little bad for the bartenders. We got a round of drinks and were like the only people at the bar. The venue was at capacity - some 1,300 people!! Great showing, but I guess we were the only 4 Christians who felt comfortable buying a beer.

We were supposed to have Meet and Greet tickets, but our names never made it on the list. So Chad was trying to talk to a security lady, but she was pretty cold (can't blame her). Well, as we were ready to walk out, she abandoned her post and we paused at the door. As the other three in our party stood around, I walked through. I made it to the end of the hallway and turned around and no one had followed. I decided to explore the back hallways of the House of Blues.

I went two flights and ended up in the kitchen. I decided then to go up a level. I found a door that said "stage", so I went in. I was back in a control room with no one in it. I peaked around a corner and was literally on stage, but I heard guys talking so I made my way out.

I was back to the stairwell, and I figured everything was up. There were like 6 levels, and I went to what I think was the top. Through the door, I found a room where the band eats - food and drinks of all kinds spread out. There was a table with a MacBook Pro on it - must be a trusting atmosphere. Then I heard a bunch of talking behind a door, and I knew that was the Meet and Greet.

Sure enough, I came in and jumped right into a crowd of people meeting David Crowder and the band. I introduced myself and got a quick video with him b/c I knew none of the guys would believe me. Actually, I knew they'd believe me - I just wanted video proof. It was quite an adventure to sneak around the back hallways of the House of Blues into all the rooms so few people get to see. And then to make it to the desired "event" was really fun. I tried calling my brother, but no answer.

I went downstairs and out of the music hall - big mistake. They don't let you back in after that, and soon my brother called and said they waited for someone's All Access pass as they were coming out - they were in the Meet and Greet. I told him I was already there, and assured him they should stay and hang out.

My journey to the Meet and Greet was way better than theirs, but I'm glad we all got to meet Crowder.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Football - 'Tis the Season

Saturday we had tickets to the Badger game, which was homecoming. It was good to be HOME. And the beautiful thing about this season is our location - we walk to the game!!! Katie and I stopped for a brat on the way.

We sat with Matt and Amanda at about the 5 yard line.

Then since we didn't get enough of the Cranney's (and b/c we don't have cable), Katie and I went to their place Monday night for Brett Favre Day - I mean Monday Night Football. Did you see that game?!?!?! Some people were a little critical of the Brett Favre Love-Fest, but I can't get enough of him. Think about it - he's going to be gone very soon and then everyone's really going to miss him. He's a living legend.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Adventure One on YouTube

Last April I documented a little bit of our trip to Europe. Well then I got home and put together a video and posted it on YouTube. I thought I'd link to it here.

Adventure One

Fair warning -- it's 10 minutes long, but the music is great.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Kitchen Essential - Custom Apron

A man's place is in the kitchen. Sure, Katie is 10 times the cook that I am (ask for her jambalaya). But men need to feel comfortable and proficient in the kitchen. When I purchased my cast iron skillet and chicken fryer, I started to look at cooking in a whole new light.

Well cooking can get messy. So an essential item is an apron. You don't work in the garage in your best jeans and collared shirt, do you? An apron is the uniform of the kitchen, and it's as manly as you make it. Fortunately I have an unbelievably talented wife, so I had her make me a custom one.

In my kitchen, breakfast is sacred. Eggs, sausage and hashbrowns are usually on my skillet to start my day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


About three years ago, I bought a mountain bike with the consultation of a good friend, Andrew Tainter. He and I found a bike at Budget Bike Shop for about $600. Andrew said the components were really good, especially for the price. The bike was a really good deal, especially for an entry-level bike.

The next three years I used the bike occasionally for commuting and leisure rides around town. I knew I had this performance bike that was not being utilized. Then Matt Ehn called.

He said he and his roommate were going mountain biking in Kettle Moraine. I joined them for my first single-track experience about a month ago. We had such a blast! The John Muir Trails are considered by most to be the best in the state. Mens Journal calls it the best in the Midwest.

Single-track is the term for mountain biking over an area of... single track. At the John Muir Trail, they have 4 or 5 different routes from 3 to 10-mile loops. The single-track takes you through open prairies, and then into the woods. You go up and down hills of varying degrees with a few obstacles in the way: branches and limbs laying across the trail, pits filled with mud, tree roots, and all shapes and sizes of rocks.

This time when Matt and I went, we got better at picking up good speed. But when speed and obstacles come together, you have crashes. We both fell a couple times, but no big injuries. Matt's shoulder took on a small tree - the tree won.

We only got a couple pictures b/c we're still so excited to be on the track, that we don't pull off to the side and take some better action shots. Hopefully there will be better shots of the single-track in the future.

For an excellent workout, take a mountain bike on some single-track. I can honestly say that those two rides were some of the most fun I've ever had. Matt and I were laughing the whole way and extremely "stoked" when we got to the bottom of a big downhill run that was littered with boulder-moguls as you weave in and out of trees and around hairpin turns.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Inaugural Trip to Lambeau (regular season)

There are some things in life that I just get "geeked" about. The Packers and Lambeau field are right at the top of the list. The history of the Packers is fascinating to me. Did you know that Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the U.S., doesn't have an NFL team, and Green Bay, the 257th largest, does?!?! That is so awesome (thanks Rick Reilly).

My dad and I went to Lambeau quite a few years ago for a pre-season game on a Monday night. They played the Browns. I'll never forget my first trip to Lambeau field. As cool as that was, pre-season just isn't the same as the regular season.

Two weeks ago I successfully bought tickets from a friend at work. Katie and I made plans for the Sunday night game. I could write for pages about our experience. If you've ever been there, you know how cool it is. Let's put it this way: Katie started to get REALLY excited about the atmosphere - she ended up admitting how cool it is there, it's just special. She went on to say Badger fans are lame - Packer fans are where it's at.

She's right. Fans tailgating at Lambeau are just different - in a cool way. All that green and gold never looked better. Everyone's really nice. It's fanfare at it's best. We at at Brett Favre's Steakhouse - good burger. Our seats were fantastic. Ok, they were average, but I would sit anywhere in that stadium.

John Madden was doing the game for NBC - here's his famous touring bus.

Here we saw A.J. Hawk getting dropped off and entering the stadium.

So they're playing the Bears, which made this sign the biggest laugh of the day.

So we've all heard about the season ticket waiting list. If you put your name on the waiting list today, you would be number 74,659. An average of 70 people give up their tickets every year, which means you'll have your tickets by the 3074 season.
Luckily you'll still catch Brett Favre's last year.

Sadly, we all know the Pack lost its first game of the season to the arch rival Bears. But I can honestly say that my first regular season game was so memorable and special - there's extra excitement around the team this year with their great start. And Brett Favre is a living legend. Even if I had the opportunity to get season tickets, it would be hard - the time, the money, and the impossibility all are stacked against me. But getting to Lambeau once every couple years would be the way to go for me.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Four Pillars of a Man's Heart

I just finished reading a book I put down four years ago. I was given Four Pillars of a Man's Heart in 2002 and for whatever reason, I never finished it. Boy, am I glad I picked it back up. When I read, I'm an underliner - everything that catches my attention gets some ink. It really helps me so I can re-read sections and cement it into my head. And this book got it's fair share of my ink.

The Four Pillars, described by Stu Weber, are foundational for men to hold in balance. As men, we need to carefully discern which pillar needs our attention at any given moment, with any given person, for any situation.

-- A man of vision and character... a King.
-- A man of strength and power... a Warrior.
-- A man of faith and wisdom... a Mentor.
-- A man of heart and love.. a Friend.

Here's a little synopsis of the book. I don't like giving things away, but if this gives you a good idea of the content of the book, then mission accomplished. Fantastic book!

Weber's background is in the military and he's an outdoorsman, so he's got some great stories. For any man looking to learn about four Biblical pillars of manhood, check out this book.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Rappelling at Devil's Lake

Earlier this week my cousin Brad invited me to go climbing and rappelling with him and some friends at Devil's Lake. My experience in the tree business has gotten me comfortable hanging on a rope and swinging through the air. But it took me a little bit to get comfortable in the rappelling setting. All the principles and even techniques are similar, if not the same. But with the trees, so often you have branches to hang onto and even stand on. Today, the context was a little different - just a face of rock to push against, and certainly nothing to stand on.

Nevertheless, my first rappel was safe and controlled. The second one was a lot faster - I had the figure-8 hot from friction when I got to the bottom.

Here, Scotty's getting Brad set-up for a descent.

Brad took these of me coming down.