How To Up Your BBQ Game With Grillstock

A good friend who in another life would be a BBQ pitmaster got me on to this book.

The authors set up Grillstock in UK which was a music and food festival in UK around 2013-18 with a US-style BBQ competition at its core, as well as several restaurants including Bristol (the group however went into administration in 2018).

Despite the business issues, the book is beautifully presented and full of recipes to make ‘house rubs’ for 8hr smoked pulled pork shoulder, and even an ‘Elvis’ toasted sandwich which they claim was the last thing he ever ate (the ingredients looks so crazy that I’ve added the recipe below).

I can tell it will be a game-changer to take my basic Aussie “throw a shrimp on the BBQ” game to another level.

I’ll kick things off this Sunday with the smoked pulled pork shoulder and Grillhouse rub. It turns out smoking is simple with a normal gas BBQ as just need the tray mix that sits on top of the grill (see below).

I can’t wait to give it a go. Will update after Sunday.

 

THE ELVIS

INGREDIENTS

FEEDS 1

2 slices of white bread

Butter, for spreading

1 tbsp peanut butter

2 cooked streaky bacon rashers

1 ripe banana, sliced

75g Pulled Pork

1 green chilli, deseeded and sliced into rounds

1 tbsp maple syrup

Method

Spread one side of each slice of bread thickly with butter.

Spread the peanut butter on the non-buttered side of one slice.

Lay the cooked bacon on the peanut butter.

Top the bacon with the banana.

Next, evenly distribute the pulled pork on top.

Scatter the chilli over.

Drizzle with maple syrup.

Place the non-buttered side of the second slice of bread on top of the filling. You should now have a pretty epic-looking sandwich with butter smeared on the outside.

Put the Elvis in a pie iron or cast iron frying pan directly on the hot coals (or on a hob over a medium heat). When the bread is golden, carefully flip it over and cook the other side until browned, about 5 minutes on each side.

Serve, telling your fellow diners that this is the last sandwich Elvis ever ate. Fact.

HelloFresh

It’s an exciting day today. Our weekly HelloFresh order of 5 tasty meals for the week has arrived..

Prior to lockdown we had started to experiment with HelloFresh. Perhaps a few meals per week every few weeks. Any service which can make preparing tasty, healthy meals easier and more convenient for busy parents will be a winner. Especially in a location (Guernsey) where online food delivery is very limited.

Since lockdown, we are now power-users moving to 5 meals per week, every week. I doubt this will continue, but for now it is our treat given that we can’t easily access supermarkets, restaurants or bars.

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Online Home-Schooling

A few weeks ago I posted here about managing our kids schooling during the first week of schools closures during lockdown. That week didn’t involve specific structure from the schools as they weren’t set up for online.

Last week was the first week of online home-schooling for our 4 year old, Angus (our 3 year old Georgina is at nursery which is closed).

Here is broadly what they did Monday-Friday:

  • Microsoft Teams as the tech platform e.g. comms, activities, resources, calendar
  • 830-9am live class VC welcome led by the teacher
  • 3 x activities to complete per day, led by a parent (Literacy, Maths, Creative)
  • Take a photo or video of each activity deliverable and submit
  • 230-3pm live class VC, typically a story

In short, it was difficult to manage, although we did complete everything each day.

It certainly felt like it was online version of what they actually did in the class each day. This makes sense as the school has only had a few weeks to prepare.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how it evolves. Obviously the power of online delivery enables different formats, customisation (e.g. advanced vs beginner learning), gamification, digital tools, apps, and other experiences.

Whether this happens (i.e. innovation) is probably unlikely unless lockdown continues for many more months. What is more interesting is whether some aspects of digital learning will be incorporated as part of physical classroom learning. We will wait and see.

Lockdown Learning

I saw a Ryan Holliday blog post today (here) where he talked about how to think about using your time effectively during the Corona Virus lockdown. In it, he referenced a quote from the author Robert Green:

There are two types of time: alive time and dead time. One is when you sit around, when you wait until things happen to you. The other is when you are in control, when you make every second count, when you are learning and improving and growing.

As we enter week 2 of lockdown, I certainly haven’t been proactive or strategic about learning or improving anything specific. But I have noticed the following changes in behaviours and habits:

  • Running to make up for no sport (45min runs with our labrador every other day)
  • Creative cooking (I cooked an amazing southern fried chicken – using panko breadcrumbs and buttermilk – and chips…on a Monday night!)

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  • Blogging activity has increased (have posted 5x compared to x1 over past 3 months)
  • Significant more quality time with our 3 and 4yo (I’m doing the lion-share of home-schooling at the moment)
  • Significant more VCs with family and friends (this includes a 5hr session using HouseParty on a Sat night with 3 other local friends…let’s just say Sunday was very tough)
  • Sleeping has stayed about the same (I typically get around 8hrs per night, which I need)
  • Podcasts, audiobooks, books, online articles etc have remained the same

I have downloaded Duolingo although am yet to take the next steps. I need to co-ordinate with Lydia on which language we should attempt.

Over the next few weeks, I anticipate that the above will continue. A major addition will be an independent work project or 2, and hopefully be in early development by the end of April. Whether this is research, a product (e.g. online course, e-book etc) or something else, I am yet to decide. But I will post an update here soon when I know more.

 

Homeschooling

We are now one week into lock-down from Corona Virus. With schools closed and my consulting pipeline now zero, this has meant I’ve been on point with our 2 kids (aged 3 and 4) to manage the ‘homeschooling’. In summary, somehow it worked really well in that the kids didn’t kill each other, nor did I want to kill them, and nor did Lydia and I. It was only after day 4 that Lydia and reached for the wine (we assumed this would happen on day 1).

We knew that some structure would be needed – mainly to stop the kids and I from going insane – so I took each day as it came, but trying to balance three areas: learning, creativity, and physical activity.  Aside from some basic materials and ideas the school and nursery shared, I used what we had at home already, plus a few extra learning activity books I bought online. We got extremely lucky with warm spring weather every day which obviously helped.

Here’s very rough look at what each day entailed:

  • 9am – indoor physical activity (e.g. Youtube kids videos featuring Joe Wicks, street-dancing)
  • 930am – learning activities (e.g. reading, writing, drawing, stories)
  • 1030am – snack time and free-play (my favourite part)
  • 1115am – outdoor creative or physical activity (e.g. treasure hunt, school sports day)
  • 1230pm – lunch
  • 1pm – indoor creative activity (e.g. Lego building – my favourite part, puzzles)
  • 2pm – outdoor free-play (my favourite part)

Admittedly, after 3 days the structure certainly loosened and in line with the weather we spent more time outside in the garden.

In addition, we also did the following every other day:

  • Dog walk to the beach (remote area, obviously)
  • VC with family or their school friends
  • Watched BBC’s Our Planet series
  • Watched and listened to a book narration

A good idea which they enjoyed came from my mum. The kids did a ‘project’ where they chose a topic of interest to present back to her and my dad via VC. I helped them find ten facts, find physical items in the house, and find something for them to colour in. Angus chose dinosaurs, and Georgina chose princesses. Watching them (and my parents) use VC technology (FaceTime) to discuss their project findings was fascinating and obviously a basic observation of the future of learning. Next week it will be sharks and giraffes. And possibly wine much earlier than day 4.

If you have any homeschooling survival tips or tricks, please drop me a line at andrewessa@gmail.com

Perspective

Last month I took 3 weeks off for a trip to Australia with the family. It was the longest holiday I’ve had since I got married (7 years ago). We spent the majority with friends at the beach, hosted everyone at an amazing beach house we rented, & celebrated my 40th over multiple days. We also took a road trip to the tiny town where I grew up (and hadn’t been back for 29 years). We introduced the kids (2 & 3yo) to my home country for the first time. It was an amazing trip.

Reflecting on it now, the one major personal benefit was perspective. Being away from the daily grind freed up my mind to think about the bigger picture. To reassess both immediate & longer-term objectives & plans. To revisit & eventually listen to what my gut was saying.

Although not everyone is able to take that much time off, if you can, definitely do it. Or take as many shorter breaks as you can manage. Plus, bake in ‘perspective time’ into your daily week. This could be morning routines, fitness, listening to music or podcasts when commuting, or simply walking. I’m certainly more mindful of this now. For me, I’m generally pretty good at focusing on this. My week of perspective time generally looks like this:

  • 4x week of sport squash & fitness (weights, run, spin class)
  • x2 Podcasts per day (right now I’m into The Pitch, Without Fail, Product Hunt Radio, a16z, Business Wars Daily, Masters of Scale)
  • 5 min Journal morning & night (I’m generally poor at this)
  • Read for at least 15 min before going to bed (currently reading Michael Ovitz’s autobiography & Bad Blood, story of the Theranos fraud)
  • x1 week dog walk/run on beach

Given that we have a 2 & 3 year old I’m doing pretty well to achieve the above. Our next family trip is a week away in May which will be outdoorsy, staying in cabins in a forest outside the Cotswolds. We do it yearly and I can’t wait. Perfect for gaining perspective.