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Although it's still too cold for my liking here in Illinois, it's spring, and that means that it's time to start thinking about gardening... and our insect friends. There's a lot of helpful bugs that inhabit the landscape, and for years the folks at Insect Lore have been helping kids learn all about the life cycle of butterflies, praying mantises, ladybugs and ants. We've raised butterflies here at Rock Father HQ in the past, and right now I've got a praying mantis egg and some youthful ladybugs hanging out with me in my office. This Friday, April 6, 2018 - you're invited to join The Toy Insider, Insect Lore and The Rock Father™ for a fun-filled Twitter Party in which we'll be showing off all of the fun kits from Insect Lore while giving YOU a chance to win! You must RSVP to play along! Check out the video below to learn more...

Spring is a great time to think about painting projects, and for those who might be fans of Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Home line, now there's paint in the mix as well. Ace Hardware has announced the launch of Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines® Paint, making the brand’s first ever exclusive paint partnership with a hardware co-op retailer. The collection features 150 timeless interior paint colors personally crafted by Joanna Gaines, all of which fall into the "modern farmhouse" style (something I'm personally a big fan of).

Tony Stewart has long been known as “Smoke” on the track - a nickname earned for his ability to smoke the competition and burn up a set of tires when celebrating a victor. Now that name is coming to life as a car - specifically a one-of-a-kind pony. Stewart has teamed with Smithfield and car builder RTR Vehicles and the man behind it, drifting champion Vaughn Gittin Jr., to build a one-of-a-kind 2018 Ford Mustang RTR Spec 3 that will be given away to one lucky fan. This 700-horsepower beast finds Ford’s 5.0-liter V-8 engine receiving 12 pounds of boost from Ford Performance’s new supercharger. In the end, Tony Stewart’s Smithfield Smoke Machine will have the sound and feel of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion Stewart-Haas Racing campaigns in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with driver Aric Almirola. 

Aside from the fact that it featured a bit in Disney•Pixar's Cars 3 last year, dirt track racing doesn't tend to get much attention on the big screen. I've written a bit about it before - the fact that I grew up with it, spending many nights at Santa Fe Speedway outside of Chicago, and traveling to countless ovals around the Midwest as a kid, my dad being a track announcer at the time. Now comes Shifting Gears - a little movie with family at its core, and one set against the backdrop of dirt track action. The logline: "It's WE BOUGHT A ZOO meets DAYS OF THUNDER on dirt!" Check out the trailer and details below...

Unlike most of what I consider to be the "B-list" holidays, St. Patrick's Day is one I don't mind, and one that doesn't get it's due. It's likely because of its unfortunate scheduling, falling between two of the bigger names on the B-list: Valentine's and Easter. It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned that St. Patrick's Day is even stripped of its name in some schools, with "Shamrock Day" of "Clover Day" taking over. All that said, for me this day means corned beef and mint, and when I'm an a hurry, that means The Fast-Food St. Patrick's Day™ is in full-effect. I get a Reuben sandwich from Arby's (they have the meats!) along with a Shamrock Shake from McDonald's. It's extra convenient locally, as the two typically-warring fast-food icons are located next to each other. The video below documents my 2018 pilgrimage, right down to the inexplicable 7-minute wait for my Shamrock Shake. Enjoy!

Six years ago, I celebrated one-year tobacco-free with a journal entry about my personal journey. Then, in 2013, I posted again, celebrating the two-year anniversary of coming clean (indeed, cigarettes are a drug), followed by another post in 2014 documenting year three, and how I couldn't get Philip Morris/Altria to leave me alone (they since have, but only after I threatened legal action). In 2015, I posted again, noting that little bits had changed, like Cracker Barrel restaurants playing into the hands of Big Tobacco (presumably) not knowing it, and the rise of the e-cig and vape crowd. This was followed by updates in 2016 & 2017, and today I am posting once again, as it's the seven-year anniversary of kicking the habit. As I've done previously, I am re-posting much of my original entry here on THE ROCK FATHER, along with a few alterations and timely updates. Philip Morris/Altria and R.J Reynolds: As I've warned before, with each passing year, the targets on the backs of your companies and leadership continue to grow...

March 14, 2011 is the day that I officially quit smoking. At some point on the night of March 13, I quietly took the last puff of the last cigarette in the last pack that I ever owned. Upon telling my wife that I was officially ''done,'' she took it upon herself to clean-up some of the ''smoker's mess'' that I'd created. The ashtrays of both cars were scoured. The sand-filled flowerpots that I'd strategically placed on my front porch and near my gardening shed were disposed of, along with a ton of stray butts that had made their way into the surrounding landscape over the winter months. The cleansing had begun.

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