not terrible. but not great.

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I will say this after calculating the first points in the Twelve-point-five-th Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub): It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

I was expecting a figurative bloodbath. What I got instead is a majority of TPFAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) contestants scoring at least a couple points. And I even got two contestants who correctly picked three of the four actual Final Four teams, a thing that I’m going to go ahead and call miraculous this year.

Oh. And there are a few who are ready to receive this year’s first awards. Including me.

But let’s get to the points first.

If you’re on this list, I have good news and bad news. The good news? You scored two points, a remarkable achievement this season. The bad news? You didn’t pick your correct Final Four team to advance, so you’re done.

  • Sports Chump
  • Slappy White
  • Kewyson
  • Dish
  • Clumberkid
  • The Coochie Doctor
  • Matlock
  • AJ
  • Gina and her dog
  • Scooter
  • President Obama

This one-person list is for those who correctly picked two Final Four teams but had them both losing in the semis. And that one person is:

  • Lorenzo

Next up — contestants who picked just one Final Four team correctly, but can earn another four points in the semis. You’re not going to win, but you should be proud of your effort:

  • Redbuppy
  • Daria
  • Pghrugbyref
  • Calipanthergrl

And then we have contestants who picked just one Final Four team correctly, but can earn another six points if that team wins the title, as they have predicted. An exception effort, but this group can’t catch up with the leaders, even if their points are maxed out.

  • Otimemore
  • Carla
  • JD

One more one-person list, for the guy who picked two Final Four teams but can get just four more points:

  • Father Spoon

And here’s where it gets interesting. This group picked two Final Four teams correctly, and their picks to win the title are both alive. The bad news: their respective championship picks match those who still have more points, meaning even winning out isn’t going to get them caught up.

  • Pghrugbyangel
  • Yay Toast

And then there are two more. These guys are already winners in my book, because picking three of the Final Four teams this year qualifies you as a freaking college basketball savant. And if either Kansas or Villanova wins, I’m pretty sure one of these two will be your TPFAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) champion.

  • Curl Girl Michelle, who picked Kansas
  • Breaking Brews, who picked Villanova

And if Michigan or Loyola wins? Good lord, I have no idea. We’ll find out this weekend.

That accounts for all of our distinguished TPFAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) contestants. And, of course, we’re left with the not-so-distinguished TPFAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) contestants, those whose futility was so magnificent that they deserve awards all their own. Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present this year’s Blutarsky Award Winners:

  • Uncle Crappy
  • Momsbrain
  • Susan
  • HP
  • Diane the Beer Lady
  • Juan

For those of you who are still alive, get ready for a crazy weekend ahead. And for those who are not, thank you for playing — I hope, as always, you got your money’s worth.

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a learning experience.

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My yoga workshop weekend, Day One:

  • I got better in crow and learned some tweaks with my hands and arms that will help as I move toward other arm balances.
  • My core needs to be stronger.
  • Practicing with my teachers is inspiring — they are strong and fearless — and reassuring — they struggle with some of this stuff too.
  • I have a pretty good idea of where to not to go for a quick lunch on Carson Street. A slow lunch might be OK, though; I’ll let you know as soon as my food shows up.
  • I realized in this afternoon’s discussion of the yoga sutras — kind of the philosophy behind a complete yoga practice, rather than just the physical postures — exactly how much the mental side of the practice has helped me, especially in the last few weeks.
  • I’m still scared and excited and scared about tomorrow’s shoulderstand session.
  • I love my studio and my yoga family is awesome.
  • And so is Chrissy Carter.

See you back there tomorrow, yinz guys.

18. buckeye beers.

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I don’t have anything against Michigan beer. In fact, in terms of quality, I’d put Michigan up against nearly any other geopolitical territory on the face of the planet.

But there’s a unique football thing going on this week and next, and that means sticking to Ohio beer as much as possible. And as you can see from the Tower O’ Beer, shot Friday night in my folks’ basement, I’ll be off to a pretty good start by the time you read this Saturday afternoon.

Here’s your rundown, from top to bottom:

  • It could be that the broad beer style that makes me happiest these days is the unassuming brown ale, largely because it can be a whole bunch of different things. I found Gnarly Brown, from Cincinnati’s Madtree Brewing, on Fourth of July weekend and have picked up a six of it nearly every time we’ve been home since. It’s a bit stronger than many of the browns (there’s a pro football joke in there for you) I’m used to drinking, and the coffee flavor and brown sugar sweetness mix nicely.
  • Panther robust porter, from Rhinegeist in Cincy, is a new one for me. But I’ve been craving porters and stouts recently (see previous post and the Bison imperial stout), so I can’t wait to give it a try.
  • Dear Pittsburgh friends: Grocery stores in Ohio are different. As I wandered through the Sawmill Road Giant Eagle tonight, I came across two sample tables. At the first, I got a generous pour of Bergamot Blue mead from Brothers Drake — great stuff, by the way. At the second, I couldn’t pass up a taste of Beard Crumbs, a just-released oatmeal-raisin stout from Land Grant Brewing here in Columbus. I’ve never had an oatmeal stout like it; the raisins add just a touch of rich sweetness to what would be by itself a very good oatmeal stout. Our mead needs for the week are already set, but I couldn’t pass up a six of Beard Crumbs.
  • The brewery’s name is Land Grant.Their home is Columbus. Their IPA is called Stiff-Arm. The can is scarlet and gray. Duh.

16. bailing with bullets.

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  • Samuel Johnson said patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Bullet posts are the last refuge of a distracted blogger.
  • I’m sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ house. I have prep work for tomorrow’s tailgate party done, and I’m enjoying the hell out of this bomber of Bison Imperial Stout, from Homestead Beer Co. in Heath, Ohio.
  • This will be a (mostly) all-Ohio beer weekend and, if I have anything to say about it, the full week that follows. That’s what back-to-back weekends of games against teams from the state up north will do.
  • There is an exception to the all-Ohio beer rule in place for tomorrow’s Michigan State tailgate party. Ethel’s brother-in-law Chris is in town and he usually brings along something delicious from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, where he lives. That’s totally worth making an exception.
  • If you’re hungry for grilled cheese sandwiches, our tailgate party tomorrow is the place to be.
  • The other thing I’m making? The Official Queso Dip of the Big Ten Network.
  • I’m going to have to learn how to spell “neuropathy.” I already know how to spell “peripheral.”
  • As I write this post, I’m listening to a Phil Lesh and Friends show from Hershey, Pa., in 2002. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Crappy and I were there for that one — we saw Phil in Hershey several times — but that’s not really what sent me down this path. I’m suffering tinges of regret (yes, I’m sure that’s different from the neuropoahy) over not seeing Dead and Co. in Columbus last week. I know Phil’s dealing with more health problems, but I’d love to see him tour a bit more, even if it’s a last go-round. His bands were always excellent; a full show from the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh in 2001 got me nearly all the way from Pittsburgh to Columbus this afternoon.
  • I am missing Mrs. Crappy. And Mr. Charlie.
  • As of this very moment, I am four days behind in my NaBloPoMo efforts. Any bets as to whether I can catch up?

dy-no-mite.

I’ve never been to Rhode Island. I now have a reason to go.

Mrs. Crappy has a subscription to Cook’s Country magazine and we received a new issue last week. The magazine publishes an index of sorts on back cover, and as soon as I looked at the new one, I saw something I knew I had to make right away: a big batch of Rhode Island Dynamites.

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The magazine explained that the sandwiches are a staple of Woonsocket; they’re a bit like Sloppy Joes, but spicier and with a turn towards an Italian flavor profile — in other words, right smack in my wheelhouse.

I can’t link to the Cook’s Country recipe, because they require a subscription; instead, I’ll take you through the modified version I made yesterday.

What you need:

  • 2 pounds ground beef (the magazine suggests 85/15)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon jarred hot cherry peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon brine from the jarred cherry peppers
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • A bag of deli rolls (6-inch sub rolls are the traditional thing)

What you do:

1) Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven, medium-high heat. Add the beef and water (which will help keep the meat tender). Season with salt and pepper (about a 1/4 teaspoon each). Break up beef with a spatula and brown until most of the liquid has cooked off and meat starts to sizzle.

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2) Add onions and bell peppers, along with another 1/4 teaspoon shot of salt and pepper. Stir frequently until veggies are soft.

3) Add cherry peppers, brine, tomato paste, garlic, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes. Stir until paste is fully mixed with the rest of the stuff.

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4) Stir in tomato sauce. Turn down the heat to a slow simmer. Stir occasionally. When it thickens to your taste, season with salt and pepper to taste, scoop into the rolls and serve.

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What I could have done:

The original recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of the diced cherry peppers, 2 tablespoons of the brine and a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes, but Mrs. Crappy requested a less spicy version, so I toned it down to the measurements in the recipe above. I think I went too far in the safe direction and next time, I’ll go more towards the what the original recipe calls for. Another variation I’ll try: using sweet cherry peppers instead of hot.

Even with my overly-cautious modifications, the sandwiches are delicious — layers of flavor and, as I said before, nearly perfect for my comfort-food sensibilities. I will eat these again and again, even if I never actually make it to Rhode Island.