31 May 2009

Toy Story 3

2 remarks
It's been a heck of a weekend and I was just getting started on designing Emilie's birthday party invitations when I stumbled upon the new teaser for Toy Story 3. Ari & I couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces so I wanted to share it with you all. Enjoy!

27 May 2009

I'll Take the Rain

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"I'll Take the Rain" is the third and last singled release from R.E.M.'s 2001 album Reveal. The song is not really one of my favorites, but the video is. The video for "I'll Take the Rain" is the first R.E.M. video that is completely animated. I've been thinking about this video a lot lately so I decided to post it. Enjoy!

R.E.M.- I'll Take The Rain

26 May 2009


2 remarks
Some see Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer, so I thought I'd do a summertime post. The way I feel about summer could not be better represented than in the above Calvin and Hobbes comic. Many of the activities that Calvin and Hobbes are shown doing are the same that I did growing up with my best friends. Digging holes, climbing trees, taking silly pictures, looking under rocks, gazing at the clouds, inventing games, lemonade stands, and catching lightning bugs are some of my most cherished summer memories of my childhood.

Calvin and Hobbes also hold a very special place in my heart. I remember as a child in elementary school, I would anxiously await the arrival of the Bookmobile. Whenever it came to my school I would always take a Calvin and Hobbes collection to look at. My parents started buying me the collections because I enjoyed them so much and I ended up owning every Calvin and Hobbes book. Being a kid, I didn't keep very good care of them, and some of them became damaged from frequent use and general carelessness. A few years ago, my dad bought me The Complete Calvin and Hobbes which is a hardback three-volume set containing all the strips. I was elated.

Since then I have enjoyed reading Calvin and Hobbes even more than when I was young. Rediscovering the strips and reading them as an adult further capture my imagination and make me appreciate the times I had when I was young. Ari really enjoys looking at the strips as well, as we often look at them when I put him to bed. I don't really read them to him, but just explain to him what's going on in a particular strip. I remember the first time I stumbled upon the above strip while reading to Ari; as I was explaining it to him, I kind of got choked up, it was so powerful for some reason.

Calvin and Hobbes encapsulate the best parts of summer. Playing outside, discovering, imagining, creating, exploring, and never letting a moment go to waste.

22 May 2009

The Chewy

3 remarks
We don't make chocolate chip cookies at our house; we make The Chewy. The Chewy is perhaps the most palette pleasing cookie of all time, and it's the only chocolate chip cookie recipe I use. No other recipe can compare. The Chewy is an Alton Brown recipe; and in the Good Eats episode in which it appears, Alton provides the viewers with three chocolate chip cookie variations depending on personal taste. The Thin, The Puffy, and The Chewy were all featured in the episode. He presented The Chewy last, and once I saw him make them, I knew this was the recipe I wanted to try.

I like my cookies soft and chewy, so this is the recipe for me. The slightly browned crispy edges leading into warm, chewy, melt-in-your-mouth center is exactly what I want in a cookie, and The Chewy delivers in all respects. I have taken The Chewy to many work and family functions and they have always been a huge hit. I don't know how many times I've printed the recipe for other people.

When making The Chewy just to enjoy at home, instead of baking them all at once, I bake them in batches of six and freeze the rest of the dough. I use a disher to scoop the dough out in cookie size portions and freeze in plastic wrap in batches of six. That way, I can have fresh baked cookies whenever I want them without doing all the work. Though they keep fresh several days after baking, there is nothing like a cookie fresh from the oven.

Also, there is no reason to only limit The Chewy to chocolate chips. I have made them with crushed Heath bars and M&Ms. Angela really enjoys adding a few Reese's Big Cups to the batter. I have also added some of my homemade peanut butter to the mix, but that made them a little too rich for my liking. The Chewy has been a staple at our household for several years, and if you're looking for something to take to that Memorial Day cookout you may be going to, The Chewy will not disappoint.

Speaking of Memorial Day, I hope you all have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend! I'm looking forward to a leisurely three days off with a couple of cookouts and volleyball highlighting the agenda. I'm hoping to squeeze in a nice bike ride, too. It's shaping up to be a nice weekend in our neck of the woods.

21 May 2009

Birthday Cakes in Review

2 remarks
Now that we decided we are going to have Emilie's birthday party at our house, it is time to start thinking about if we are going to have a theme, what decorations to have, and better yet, what kind of birthday cake to make.

We are still struggling with ideas, though we do have a few. I have discovered it's more difficult to find decorations for a girl's birthday, unless you want Dora or Disney Princesses. Maybe it was easier to do Ari's parties because it was easier for me to like at get excited about his party decor, and of course, the cakes. I have a feeling I'm going to have to get more creative for Emilie.

Here's a look at the cakes I have made for Ari's birthday parties so far...

For Ari's first birthday party, I made a Mickey Mouse cake. It was a butter cake with "snow white" icing. Obviously, I added black food coloring to the icing. Every one's mouths were blue after eating the cake, something I didn't consider. Oh well, it was all the name of fun.
For Ari's second birthday, he had a Dr. Seuss theme. The cake was based on the cake on the cover of the Dr. Seuss book Happy Birthday to You!. It was a just a white cake with vanilla icing. We had two parties for Ari that year, so I made a cake for each party. That's why I kept it so simple. I still think it turned out pretty good, though.

Which brings us to my favorite. For Ari's third birthday, we celebrated with a Super Mario Bros. theme. I made AB's Fudge Cake with chocolate icing. I made the cake to look like one of the blocks from the original Super Mario Bros. game for the NES. The pièce de résistance was the "Mario Party 8" logo that I modified to read "Ari Party" with the "3" taken from Super Mario Bros. 3. I was so proud of that, but I don't think anyone noticed without me pointing it out to them. I guess we needed more Nintendo fan boys at the party. Add the finishing touches of the Mario and Luigi figurines my mom got me for Christmas, and he had an awesome cake, if I do say so myself. Aside from the infamous Mario falling head first into the cake fiasco, the party went off without a hitch.
So, what will we do for Emilie? Only time will tell. I do know one thing for sure; she's going to have a tasty cake.

20 May 2009

By any means necessary

3 remarks

Emilie loves to walk. The thing is, she has to have some sort of assistive device in order to do so. Whether it's her walker, one of Ari's toys, Ari's desk chair, or holding someone's hands, she has to have something or someone else's support in order for her to do her favorite activity. Valerie and I think she can do it on her own. She is able to stand all by herself if she is focusing on something else, then once she realizes she is standing, she slowly sits down. I know she'll grow out of it, she's only 11 months old, but it's fun to see the things she comes up with to support herself.

19 May 2009

Good as New

2 remarks
After much deliberation on location, we decided to celebrate Emilie's first birthday at our house this year. Our yard is quite small and we want to have her party outside since her birthday is in June. We were thinking about having it at a park or at a relative's house who has a big yard. But after a scheduling conflict with one party, and an apparent lack of interest from another, we decided it would be best to just have it at our house. Hooray! Once we decided, we realized we had a lot of work to do outside.

So this weekend, my mom came over to help with some painting projects I had been meaning to get to. I painted the flashing on the house while she painted the garage door. I can't tell you how wonderful the garage looks now. It looks brand new! I didn't realize how much a fresh coat of paint would brighten it up. I wish I had a before picture to show of the garage, but the after picture will have to do, I guess. The best part is that my basketball won't get that white chalky stuff on it every time it touches the garage door. Thanks Mom!

18 May 2009

Strawberry Quandary

3 remarks
An old bit of knowledge was knocked out from the caverns of my brain last night: The strawberry is technically not a fruit. I knew this was true, but I did not know what classification strawberries belonged to; so I looked it up. As it turns out, the strawberry is an accessory fruit, false fruit, or, my personal favorite, pseudocarp. This is true because the flesh is derived not from the ovary but from some adjacent tissue.

I guess I'll just add this to the useless information pile in my head, and now you can too!

15 May 2009


2 remarks
The first step is admitting you have a problem.

The thing is, I don't see it as a problem. I just like to have an unreasonable amount of pasta on hand at all times. It will all get consumed, eventually. Only to be replaced by more pretty blue and yellow boxes. Ha ha ha!

I'm just surprised it all fits in my pantry; except the pasta machine, I keep it out on display.

14 May 2009

LOST: The Birth of an Obsession

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With the fifth season of Lost coming to a close last night, I started to think about why it is that I am so fascinated by a television program. I remember that on the night of May 25th, 2005, I was flipping through channels looking for something to watch. I stopped on a show that was showing a man holding a corroded stick of dynamite in the jungle and explaining how dangerous it is. As he was demonstrating how to handle the dynamite, it exploded, sending pieces of him flying everywhere. That was the first time I watched any of the television show Lost, and I was intrigued enough to watch the rest of the episode.

It turned out to be the season finale that night. The cliffhanger was compelling, even though I had no idea what was really going on. I had heard people at work talking about the show, and saw lots of commercials for it, but I was never that interested in watching it. The summer went by and I started seeing commercials for the new season. I remembered how much I liked the finale so I decided to watch the season premier. I enjoyed the season premier so I kept watching the show. When I watched the following scene from third episode "Orientation" I knew Lost was my kind of show.

Having missed so much of the first season I realized that I needed to see all the episodes so that I could better understand what was going on. I asked for the season 1 DVD for Christmas and my mom got it for me. Valerie and I plowed through the first season in a couple weeks and were caught up before the new episodes started after the Christmas break. All the mysteries, characters, and twists and turns of the plot had me hooked. I soon found myself looking at Lost message boards and forums looking to see what other people were saying about the show. Then along came episode 17 of season two, "Lockdown." When the following image grace my television screen, Lost when from an interest to an obsession.

It is a picture of a map that has been painted on a blast door that only comes down during a lockdown that is supposed to only happen during a food drop; and it can only be seen in black light. It kind of sounds silly when I type it out of context to the show; but when I first saw it, it completely blew my mind. I was fascinated by the mythology and was on the edge of my seat during every new episode. I still eagerly anticipate every new episode, and love to discuss it and break it down with others who enjoy the show with me. I don't really get on the message boards or read theories like I used to, but I still like reading recaps of the episodes to get other people's viewpoints or to catch something I missed. Next season will be the last for Lost and I have no doubt that it will be just as riveting as the previous five. I know it's only a TV show, but it sure is a heck of a lot of fun!

13 May 2009

Ride on...

3 remarks
I read on bikeleague.org that May is National Bike Month. Not only that, Bike-to-Work Week is from May 11-15. If you want to get even more specific, Bike-to-Work Day is on Friday, May 15.

I have been riding my bike to work for over a year now. I went on hiatus from November-March due to the harsh winter weather. With May finally here, I've begun to ride more and more consistently due to the more forgiving weather. In fact, last week I was able to ride to work every day!

Riding my bike to work is one of the best decisions I have ever made. The cool morning air, the opportunity to spend time outside, and being able to get some exercise really help get me through the work day. It gives me something to look forward to. If you have never done it, and you have the means to do it, you really should ride your bike to work. What a better day to start than May 15?

11 May 2009

Welcome back lilac

1 remarks

Our lilacs bloomed for the first time in a couple of years and what a welcome addition they were to our spring. Last year a late freeze did it in; zapping all of the budding flowers. The year before, it was taken over by a renegade vine that had plans for world domination and was looking to take over everything in its path. By the time we realized what was happening, Valerie and I thought the vine may have suffocated the lilac bush to death. That's another reason why I was so happy to see those tiny light purple flowers welcoming the spring. Only after opening the dining room windows to let the wonderful aroma waft in with the breeze did I realize how much I missed it.

08 May 2009

Gardening update

1 remarks
We transplanted the tomatoes into the outside realm and they are doing well so far. We had a severe downpour last night and they got pummeled, so I hope they bounce back from that. I have such an emotional attachment to them, and I really want to see them succeed. Is that weird?
We also planted a couple of blueberry bushes that Gramma and Pa gave to us. They are looking good, too.
I also have a nice little herb garden going on the front porch. So far I've got marjoram, chives, cilantro, and dill planted in the small pots; and basil planted in the large pot. The basil was a birthday present, and Ari & Emilie painted the pot for me. Oh, in the bottom left hand corner of the picture is an avocado pit that I am trying to get to sprout. I know I can't do anything with it if it does, it's just a fun little experiment. So much for just planting tomatoes this year...

07 May 2009

Pineapple = Yum

4 remarks

I guess you could say I have recently developed a passion for pineapple. Ha! I was shopping with the family in Meijer the other day; and on a whim just picked one up and put it in the shopping cart. It turned out to be quite hazardous because Ari kept poking himself on it since he was in the back of the cart. We then tried putting it up with Emilie, but she couldn't keep her hands off it either. So we had to put it on the bottom of the cart so no one would get hurt. Once we got it home, I immediately dissected it into wedges and quickly savored its juicy sweet goodness. Heavenly, to say the least.

I can't remember the last time I had purchased a fresh pineapple before that. I was always intimidated by them. What if I didn't pick out a good one? What if it isn't ripe? How do I cut it up? Et cetera, et cetera. My main experiences with pineapple came from the canned variety and I usually used the rings to make Pineapple upside-down cake. Not the healthiest of uses for it, I know. I've recently noticed I'm becoming less and less afraid of foods and techniques that I've never worked with before, and I don't know what to attribute it to. It's quite exciting really. I hope I continue to expand my horizons.

So, if you haven't done so before or even of you have; go out and buy yourself a fresh pineapple. Here are some tips for picking out a good one; look for one that is heavy for its size with plump glossy eyes. The color to look for usually depends on the variety, but green usually means it is not ripe. Another trick is to pull on one of the top leaves; if it comes out easy, you're good to go. Then, just cut it up and consume in mass quantities!

06 May 2009

More Alton

4 remarks
After I posted about Alton Brown yesterday, I stumbled upon a blog called All About Alton Brown. It is a wonderful site created by a devoted fan, check it out if you can. As I was scrolling down the page, I noticed a cool picture with a caption that read "AB's new cookbook available in October!" I excitedly clicked on the picture and it took me to a page that described the new book. Here is what it said:

Alton Brown is a foodie phenomenon: a great cook, a very funny guy, and—underneath it all—a science geek who’s as interested in the chemistry of cooking as he is in eating. (Well, almost.) Here, finally, are the books that Brown’s legion of fans have been salivating for—two volumes that together will provide an unexpurgated record of his long-running, award-winning Food Network TV series, Good Eats.
From “Pork Fiction” (on baby back ribs), to “Citizen Cane” (on caramel sauce), to “Oat Cuisine” (on oatmeal), every hilarious episode is represented. Each book—the second will be published in fall 2010—is illustrated with behind-the-scenes photos taken on the Good Eats set. Each contains more than 140 recipes and more than 1,000 photographs and illustrations, along with explanations of techniques, lots of food-science information (of course!), and more food puns, food jokes, and food trivia than you can shake a wooden spoon at.

I can hardly wait! I use my other Alton cookbooks all the time! I know what some of you may be thinking; why do I need the book if I can just go to foodnetwork.com and get all the recipes I want for free. I'll tell you. It's not because of the behind-the-scenes photos, or just so I can add it to my collection. If this cookbook presents the recipes in the same format as the others, giving the weight as well as the volume of the ingredients, I will be thrilled.
Because of Alton Brown I like to measure my ingredients (such as flour) by weight instead of by volume because it provides a more accurate result. Most of the recipes on foodnetwork.com only show the volume, and it is important to be as exact as possible, especially when baking. Just think, this new book could take The Chewy to a whole new level.

05 May 2009

AB & Me

2 remarks

Hey look! That's me with filmmaker Alton Brown. "Filmmaker" Alton Brown, you say? Well, in the first commercials for Good Eats, that's how he was advertised. I remember Angela and I making fun of those commercials, wondering why they had to promote him as a filmmaker and not a chef. But, I watched the show anyway, and after I realized how much I learned about cooking from Alton Brown, I was hooked.

Angela and I watched a lot of cooking shows when we were growing up. There was no Food Network prior to 1993 and I don't think our cable provider carried it until around 1996, so cooking shows were few and far between back then. I remember watching The Frugal Gourmet, The Graham Kerr Show, and Paul James' Home Grown Cooking. I don't know what drew me to watching cooking shows; I have just always enjoyed them.

After we got Food Network, I was in cooking show heaven, and soon after I started watching it, I realized Good Eats was different. Instead of the TV chef just showing me what ingredients to mix together, Alton Brown actually told me why I was mixing these ingredients together and what the result would be. It was almost like watching Mr. Wizard or Bill Nye only with food, and it just doesn't get much better than that.

I still watch Good Eats, and new episodes are still airing. I joke that it costs me about $40 to watch a new episode, because I am usually inspired to make whatever recipes Alton Brown presents on the show. So, if that means going out and buying a new kitchen gadget or some ingredients I've not worked with, so be it. I have learned so much from the show and Alton Brown has expanded my culinary knowledge so much, it was an honor to have met him.

04 May 2009

Chicken salad

1 remarks
I was able to check chicken salad off my list of new recipes to try the other day; and I must say, the recipe did not disappoint. I got the recipe from a fellow co-worker whose husband makes the salad for her on a regular basis. He has even started bringing sandwiches to other people in the office when he makes a batch. Several people asked him for the recipe, but he said he didn't have one, he just made it from memory. He did write down what ingredients he used, and they were photocopied and passed around the office.

I was intrigued by the recipe because of the reaction the chicken salad got at the office. I had never tried any that he brought in, so I decided to make some myself. The only ingredients are shredded chicken, diced celery, chopped dried cranberries, chopped hard boiled egg, and mayonnaise. For the shredded chicken, I roasted some chicken breasts in the oven and once they were cool, I shredded them by hand. I then made a batch of mayonnaise and chopped some celery, dried cranberries, and egg, and just mixed it all together. I then added some salt and pepper to taste. We made sandwiches for lunch, but it was also good on some club crackers for a snack. Overall, it is a very simple recipe that I plan to use much more in the future, especially with summer just around the corner.

01 May 2009

Food Snatcher Extraordinaire

2 remarks
His name is Walter, and he is proud to call himself a food snatcher. He may look like an innocent ordinary beagle, but something ominous lies beneath that soft silky fur. Food snatching capabilities unmatched by no other are what make this harmless looking beast so unusual. His choice of prey provides an interesting glimpse into his shrewd mind. He chooses not to seize food from the hand of an adult, but from the hand of a child. What a monster, I know! Yet, he is not malicious in his ways; never has he inflicted the tiniest bit of physical harm to his victims themselves. But the emotional toil could be everlasting.

His methods are curious to say the least; I even find myself in awe of his abilities at times. The way he obtains his food is akin to that of the "Jedi mind trick" of Star Wars fame. He seems to impose his will onto the children; as strong as their desire may be to eat their food, Walter overpowers their minds and makes them to give the tasty morsels to him. This is evidenced by the fact that almost immediately after the food is given to Walter, the child begins to cry once it is realized that the food is now gone; the trance was broken once the food was apparently given to the dog freely.

His craft must have been developed with much research and care. He knew he could not be scolded for eating the food if it was given to him. I can only imagine the countless meals he had to sit through trying to hone his ability. Once he figured it out, he could not be stopped. To see that small hand reach out with a cracker or cookie only to have it hastily snatched without a thank you or any other form of gratitude is heartbreaking to say the least. Can he be stopped? Will he be stopped? Only time will tell...


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