Brothers and Sisters

I was able to hang out with my big brother and sisters this weekend for The Cookster's 80th birthday this weekend. I get to see each of them separately, but rarely do we get the four of us together and we like to mark it with a sibling picture.

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Quietly making noise,
Fletch

"Taco Adventura 2012"

Our Goal: The Best Taco

Last weekend I loaded three of the Mango Kids into the MangoMobile for something we called "TacoTruck Adventura 2012." Adventure? Sure! Although it was really more of a quest. We were on a quest to find the best taco from a Taco Truck in our county. I had put the call out on facebook and received quite a few suggestions. But I knew deep in side that the only way to know which truck made the best tacos was to hit the road and put it to a test.

Here's what we found out:

Stop#1: "Viva Taco" - Canal/Geer Rd, Turlock CA
(Photos: In the bus, the MangoMobile parked, Nate pounding a Mexican Coke) 

Wow! We went to order at the window and we were invited inside. We loved this place and thought it was going to be hard to beat. Actually, it's a great place to go if the weather is lousy. It has a very clean interior and they make a very good taco. The only negative we found that was the actual taco was too watery and they did not cook their corn tortillas. Other than that, a really good place to eat tacos!

 

Stop #2: "Jessica's No. 4" - 7th and H Streets, Modesto CA
(Photos: Jessica's Truck,  Four Carne Asada Tacos, Preparing to devour)

Local readers will know this location well. There are easily six taco trucks in one strip between G and H Streets in downtown Modesto, but everyone seems to think Jessica's tacos are the best. As you can see from the picture above, the presentation is beautiful and there were several people in line (good sign). The only downside was the questionable characters lingering around the trucks. Overall, they were only average tacos that were pleasantly spicy, but we thought the whole location was just so-so.

Stop#3: "El Mexicano" - @Napa Auto Parts on Salida Blvd, Salida CA
(Photos: DriveUp tacos, Empty Cokes, "Hello, My Name is Chile Colorado", Scoring the tacos)

We were told over and over that Salida had the best tacos in the county. Several facebook friends mentioned the taco truck here, but only one mentioned a location (near Napa Auto Parts). We were sorely disappointed in this truck. There was no place to sit, no shade and the tacos were barely average. However, from our parking spot we noted two additional taco trucks in Salida, which makes me think we might have had the wrong truck. Take this recommendation for what it is worth. (We will make another visit).

Stop #4 : "Tacos Vallarta" - 14th and D Street, Modesto CA (near the DMV)
(Photos: Great parking, Great meats and a bold declaration, Nice ambiance near the tires)

This was another location based on a facebook recommendation. Everyone likes to talk about the taco truck near the DMV. Truthfully, this was a really good truck and they have a nice environment. Lousy parking, but really good tacos. 

Stop #5 : "El Primo, #2" - Yosemite and Santa Fe, Empire CA (at the train tracks)
(Photos: El Primo #2, Final scoring with orange Jaritos, Enjoying tacos in the shade)

This was our final stop and just happened to be the best tacos on flavor. Odd enough, this is the closest to our house. Although Tacos Vallarta was a close second, the ladies at El Primo #2 serve a mighty fine taco.

Final Ranking and Comments
#1 - El Primo, #2 - great flavor, great parking, great seating, but overall the best tacos!
#2 - Tacos Vallarta - very close second. Horrible parking.
#3 - Viva Taco/Taco Bus - Loved the seating and the great welcome we were given. Tacos were a little watery.
#4 - Jessica's - Good food, bad location. 
#5 - El Mexicano - not worth the effort to drive to Salida. 

Taco Adventura 2012 is complete and it was a success. I recommend you put your own trucks to the test. It was a fun afternoon of good food!

Quietly making noise,
Fletch 

SkyMall

Last week I mentioned our trip to the east coast for the 2to1 Conference in Virginia. In my attempt to pack light, I forgot to bring any airplane reading material (not that reading ever gets done, because I love love love to sleep on the airplane and cannot remember my last take-off).

With a lack of quality reading, I decided to skim the Sky Mall catalog. Frequent travelers are familiar with this catalog of non-necessities. I consider it the print version of the late night infomercial. Know what I mean? A darkened room, late at night, with a glowing television and a belly of Doritos can cause you to make very bad informercial purchases ("Why yes...I would like to lose weight while I am at work!"). Similarly, there is something about high altitude plane trips that can make you actually consider purchasing crap things out of the Sky Mall catalog.

To better illustrate what I mean and to save you the cost of a plane ticket, I collected a few of my favorites from our recent trip. Ignore the quality of my iPhone photographs. I was told repeatedly by the flight attendant to turn off my phone, so I entered stealth mode for most of the photos.

1. WATCH STORAGE CASE - $89.95 (or $69.95 if you aren't dripping in timepieces)

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Seriously, I own one watch. Who has this many watches that they need an entire case? And then, who wants to display them? I can imagine having a guest over: "Hey thanks for coming over for dinner, but before we sit down to eat...how'd you like to see something real special, because I have a collection of Casio watches you need to see..."

2. SLEEPING COCOON - $79.95

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This is on the borderline between awesome, stupid and creepy. I was very disappointed to find this on my trip home, because this is how my wife thinks we should sleep in every hotel room we've ever stayed in. In any other catalog, this would be labeled "sleeping bag." At the same time, Sky Mall stopped short on their guarantee and full advertising potential. Yes, this will prevent 100% of bed bugs, but sleeping in a cocoon will also prevent any possiblity of starting a serious relationship with someone of the opposite sex (and you can rule out any form of procreation as well).

3. THE LED MATRIX WATCH - $129.95

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I have never seen a more confusing watch. I only use the light on my watch in the middle of the night. The last thing I need is a complex series of lights and grids for me to calculate that it's still time to sleep. Why not just create watches with mini sun dials on them? Maybe it's just me, but I think our culture has been pretty successful with the whole "short hand/long hand" system. And, if "telling time" isn't your thing, I think the digital format of "hour:minute" works really really well too. This watch appeals to a very small portion of our population who can do algebraic equations and evaluate geometric patterns while wearing a ridiculously large faced watch (seriously, is this for your thigh or wrist?). *Note: the one good thing about spending the money on this watch...you can put it in your custom watch holder (See #1).

4.  CAST IRON GIRAFFE TOILET PAPER HOLDER - $29.95

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First, this is stupid. Second, it seems disproportionate in size. Shouldn't the giraffe be used ONLY for the paper towels and then a shorter necked creature for the toilet paper? I think the ostrich is better suited for the toilet paper. Again, did we need to improve on the toilet paper roller on the wall? Some things just work and we should all agree as a society to leave them alone, because I guarantee that if we bought this giraffe it would never hold toilet paper. It would be played with by the two smallest mangoboys and that's just what I want...Christian and Joe playing with toilet paper, bronze giraffes and toilet water. 

5. STEP STOOL/LADDER COMBO

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I'm sorry, I didn't get the name or price on this little treat. First, this looks ridiculously dangerous. Second, I've created something like this in my kitchen with my existing chairs when I want to reach a light bulb (so I can confirm this is stupid). Third, this picture looks weird, like the furniture is alive and having sex with one another.

6. THE PEEING BOY OF BRUSSELS STATUE AND FOUNTAIN - $199

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I only included this, because since I was a little boy we've had this same exact statue in our back yard. When my parents moved out to the valley with us. This statue came with them. Yup, there is nothing like a statue of a little boy peeing to encourage our own little boys to pee freely in the great outdoors. This photo has spurred on a brilliant idea for theMangoTimes blog (keep your eyes open for a new series called "Stuff My Dad Owns"). 

7. LITTER KWITTER - $49.99

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To fully appreciate this gem, you need to read the description. First: "You can teach your cat to use any human toilet in eight weeks or less"  So, let me see if I am reading this correctly, I spend 50 bucks and then spend 8 weeks training my cat to poop in a toilet. Could I? Please! Sign me up for "Cat Poop Training" and let me give you 50 bucks at the same time. Second: "It works in multiple cat households" I apologize. People who have a lot of cats, probably have 8 weeks of free time to train their cats to poop in a toilet. But, unless these cats learn to flush, I don't want to know what a house smells like that has multiple cats pooing in a toilet. Lastly, and this is just a side note, even the cat in the photo has a look that screams: "Are you kidding me?"

8. BIGFOOT, THE GARDEN YETI STATUE - $1,495 (lifesize)

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Buy this and then book time with Dr. Phil, because your younger kids are going to be in therapy for the rest of their lives. Notice that this is "New Life Size" which I assume means that there were many disappointed owners of the smaller version who begged this company to create a life-sized model! This is also "hand painted for startling realism." Does anyone else see a problem with the phrase "startling realism?" 

9. BIGFOOT, THE BASHFUL YETI TREE SCULPTURE, $69.95

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What is with Bigfoot? This sculpture is for the people unwilling to fork out $1500 for the lifesize walking version above. "If you've never spotted Bigfoot, perhaps it's just because he's been hiding behind the nearest tree!" Uh, yeah, or perhaps it's because he's NOT REAL!" I actually believe the advertising on this one, because you will make passers-by look twice. Believe me, after looking twice they will begin to slowly move away from you and never return. Believe it or not? I choose to "believe NOT."

Let me know if you buy any of these or already own them (especially the cat poo training system), so I can end our relationship officially.

Quietly making noise,

Fletch 

Know Your Audience

 

Kenj and I travelled to the 2:1 Conference in Virginia this past weekend. It was a conference for Christian homeschool bloggers. Certainly a narrow sampling in the blogging world (yes, there were more than three people at the conference), but it was a really cool opportunity to meet and network throughout this small world that I share my words with as a homeschooling dad.

All weekend I was asked two basic questions: "Why do you blog?" and "Who is your audience?" The first question is simple: we live in a funny world with crazy people, I think someone should write some of this stuff down. I have a standard answer for the second question: I blog for three people and I truly have them in mind as I think through what I am writing. (I know, you are wondering...am I one of them?).

But what about the rest of you? I was encouraged to remember my audience. With the advent of microblogging through social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, commenting on blogs has declined dramatically, but I am constantly shocked to discover who is reading, lurking, skimming my words.

 

This isn't a plea to let me know you are here. I assume I have folks that laugh along with me at the funny things I write about. I know there are thinkers who join me in pondering faith and questioning life. I know I have my critics who look for the latest piece of evidence that Fletch has jumped ship and departed their version of orthodoxy. I know there are lurkers (I met some of you this weekend) who just read in the background. Cool! You are all welcome to hang out here.

Wondering if theMangoTimes is a blog you should share with others? I have put together a new page to help you decide: Should you read theMangoTimes? Yes. I fully expect my readership numbers to drop dramatically! :)

Quietly making noise,
Fletch