27 September 2009

Frisbee Golf

2 remarks
Who says videos games don't promote an active lifestyle? Up until a couple of weeks ago, I wouldn't have believed it myself. As I've mentioned before, my family enjoys the Wii Sports Resort video game. One of our favorite games to play in Wii Sports Resort is Frisbee Golf. Ari & I love to duel it out on the virtual golf course. I had never given Frisbee golf much thought in the past, but playing on the Wii got me interested in trying the sport for real.

Highland park has had a Frisbee golf course for a few years and it is free and open to all who want to play. One afternoon after work, Valerie and I grabbed a couple Frisbees, packed up the kids, and headed down to the park. Armed with our plastic Frisbees we received for free at the fair, Ari & I hit the course. I thought we would play a hole or two and be ready to leave, but we ended up playing 10 or 12 holes. It was more fun than I could have imagined!

Ari was really good. Throwing the Frisbee on the Wii really gave him a good understanding on how to throw a real Frisbee. It was really just like the game. It was also nice just walking through the park with my family and being able to play a game with Ari at the same time. The only downfall was that we played too much. Ari's arm hurt pretty bad after we were done from throwing so much; which in turn, has caused him to not want to play again. Every time I ask him if he wants to go, he tells me that he has to wait until he is four before he can play again. Oh well, he'll be four soon enough.

23 September 2009

Apple Pie - from Nonna

3 remarks

I don't remember how old I was, but I do remember a feeling of winning the lottery when Nonna handed me this card with her apple pie recipe lovingly handwritten on the front. I held in my hands the recipe for the best apple pie I ever ate. But, little did I know, merely having the recipe wasn't enough, executing the recipe properly was a whole different story.

Apple pie is not easy to make, at least for me it isn't. I remember Nonna's apple pies always turned out perfectly; tender, flaky crusts with the fork holes on top, apples at just the right consistency, and perfect little tapioca pearls scattered throughout. Delicious. Eating the pie was the essence of perfection. It was what instilled in me my love of pies.

Whenever I tried to make it, however, I always would do something wrong. I remember the first time I tried it, I overworked the dough, and it was neither tender nor flaky.  Along the way, I mastered the pie crust, but the tapioca caused me fits. I could never get them to cook all the way. The pearls would still be a little hard, and it took away from the enjoyment of the pie considerably. Tapioca pearls haunted my dreams. The flavor of Nonna's pie was there, but I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong with that darned tapioca.

A few months ago, my mom gave me a box of old recipes she found at Nonna's house. It was like a treasure chest of culinary gold. She told me of some of the recipes from her childhood, and they were all there for the most part. Other recipes from my childhood I recognized, too. I was so delighted to go through those recipes, anxiously rummaging through the box of goodies. I was like a kid on Halloween going through the candy bag at the end of a night of tireless trick-or-treating. As I was going through the box, I saw an old handwritten apple pie recipe. I looked at the recipe to see if there was anything different from the recipe Nonna wrote for me. The recipe was exactly the same, except for one ingredient. Instead of two tablespoons of small tapioca, this recipe called for 2 tablespoons of minute tapioca.

Minute tapioca! Maybe that was the answer! I resolved myself to wait until apples were in season to try this new ingredient. I literally thought about it all summer. Last week, I went to The Sunspot's farmers market to pick up some apples. On Thursday evening, I rushed home from work and got to work on the pie. It wasn't until Friday that we cut into the pie. The suspense was almost too much for me to handle as I made the first cut. As I served the first piece, I looked and the tapioca was completely cooked through. Success! The pie was very good! It still wasn't as perfect as the one's Nonna used to make, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. A couple more tries and I should have it down pat. Looks like I'll be going to the apple orchard this weekend. Hooray for pie!!

17 September 2009

Lightnin' Hopkins - Embryonic

0 remarks
"Lightnin' Hopkins" is the ninth track on R.E.M.'s fifth studio album Document released in 1987. The track shares it's name with Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins, a country blues guitarist from Texas.
The similarities end there, as it is widely assumed that the song really has no meaning at all. The song is also recognized for Bill Berry's drumming, which is pretty much the most frenetic and busy performance of any R.E.M. song.

I'm not a huge fan of the song, but my mom likes it a lot. Any time we talk about it and I tell her it's not one of my favorites, she always says, "But what about the drums!?" The early version takes place at McCabe's Guitar shop just a few months before Document was released in 1987. I also provided the album version for comparisons sake. This one's for you, Mom. Enjoy!

15 September 2009


3 remarks
Every year since we've lived on Main Street, I guess it would be about 5 years now, the tree directly across the street from us is the first tree where I notice the leaves changing color. It's always somewhat shocking to see it the first time. All the other trees in our neighborhood are still almost all green, but this one is in full swing of the abscission process.

I do enjoy this time of year. I love the autumn leaves, the crisp, cool mornings and evenings, and apples and pumpkins galore. Now, if there could only be a way to go directly from autumn to spring, I would be a happy camper. But I guess there wouldn't be an autumn or spring without winter, so I should be grateful for that, too.

12 September 2009

3-year-old Finds Cure for Hiccups

1 remarks
So, Ari and I were in the kitchen making biscuits this morning when I was suddenly struck with a mighty bout of hiccups. Not a fan of the hiccups, I complained as they kept coming with reckless abandon, one right after the other. Seeing that I was uncomfortable, Ari looked at me and said, in a very manner of fact manner,

"Daddy, if you laugh, then your hiccups will be gone."

"Laugh?" I asked him, to make sure I heard him correctly.

"Yea, laugh." He said as if I should have known.

So, I let out a hearty laugh, and sure enough, my hiccups were instantly gone. Ari knew how to cure my hiccups! I gave him a big hug and high praise for his astute wisdom. I have never heard of laughing to cure hiccups. I guess it's true what they say, laughter is the best medicine. Thanks Ari!

10 September 2009

Pastry Cream!

4 remarks
It would be an understatement to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed Alton Brown's new book Good Eats: The Early Years. I have been reading sections of it every night since I got it; digesting all the wonderful nuggets of information thoughtfully placed on it's pages. It is truly a must have for any Good Eats fan, Alton fan, food fan, or really anyone! It's just that good. The book covers the first eighty episodes of Good Eats and is chock full of recipes, fun facts, trivia, and good ol' cooking know-how. So far, I only have one complaint; where's the Stove-top Mac & Cheese?

My excitement for the book grew to an even higher level yesterday when I was flipping through the pages and saw a recipe for pastry cream. Pastry cream? I don't remember that recipe on Good Eats. I turned to the page prior and saw that it was grouped with the recipes from the Choux Shine episode. "No way!" I yelled as I realized what I was seeing. In the actual episode, after Alton makes a batch of eclairs and cream puffs, he tells the viewer to use a pudding mix for the filling. Pudding mix? That doesn't sound like AB. Why would he tell us to use pudding mix? As it turns out, they did not have time to include the pastry cream recipe in the episode and he goes on to say that it really deserves an episode all to itself.

So, why am I so happy to have this recipe for pastry cream? I guess I don't really know. Maybe it's because I felt like the recipe was incomplete. I'm Just Here for More Food doesn't even have a recipe for pastry cream in it. It could be also that I didn't know that the name of the stuff that fills the eclairs is called pastry cream. I was looking for custard and pudding recipes, I didn't know to look for pastry cream. It may also be because I made eclairs a couple weeks ago and my pastry cream turned out lumpy. I didn't really use a recipe because I couldn't find one and just made it on the fly, so I really have only myself to blame. But now my eclair recipe arsenal is complete! Look out world!

08 September 2009

Wuhu Island Dilemma

1 remarks
Always wanting to have the latest greatest Nintendo developed video game, it was a no-brainer to purchase Wii Sports Resort a couple months ago. Wii Sports Resort is the follow-up to Wii Sports and includes many new games for the whole family to enjoy. The sequel comes with the new the Wii MotionPlus accessory that augments the Wii Remote's capability to track real motion, making user input incredibly accurate and precise. These new controls help revamp classic events like Golf and Bowling; and make new ones such as Archery, Table Tennis, and Frisbee Golf possible.

The game is a blast and Ari has become rather accomplished at it. He is quite the competitor and it is all I can do to beat him in a 3 hole match of Frisbee Golf. Don't even get me started on Fencing; I simply can't beat him. His favorite game though, is the island fly-over. All the events take place on Wuhu Island and in the Island Flyover you're able to fly freely over the island for five minutes, exploring Wuhu Island and its environs. The main point of the flyover is to collect i Points, which hover above certain points of interest on the island. You'll also be able to shoot balloons once you unlock them. There are eighty i Points in all and Ari can tell you where most of them are.

Ari has been talking about Christmas and his birthday a lot lately; every time he sees something he wants at a store, he says he wants it for Christmas. The other day he told me that he wanted a Wii Sports Resort game for Christmas. When I told him we already had the only Wii Sports Resort game available, he proceeded to tell me specifically what he was talking about. He wants an actual island that we can set up in the living room, and he wants his own little plane that he can fly around with his hands to collect the i points.

I was taken aback by the sincerity and innocence of his request. Why wouldn't there be an actual island for purchase? He has a Mario Kart track, Toy Story toys, Thomas train tracks, and countless Cars cars, it's only common sense for there to be a Wuhu Island set out there somewhere. I want more than anything for Ari to have an actual Wuhu Island play set for Christmas, but I have no idea how to pull it off. I know what he wants doesn't exist and I have no modeling experience whatsoever. It's not that I think he has to get everything he wants for Christmas either; I just think it would be so cool to have something like this. Unfortunately, this may have to be a Christmas wish that goes unfulfilled, but I haven't given up yet...

04 September 2009

Is The Wizard of Oz (1939 film) a musical?

4 remarks
The last time we got together to play cards, an interesting topic presented itself and soon became a heated debate. The conversation always flows like wine during poker night at the Wheeler's. Whether it be about a song that is playing, rekindling memories of card games past, or just playful banter, someone always has something to say, and it's usually good for a laugh.

I don't know how we got to talking about it, but the movie genre of the musical became the topic of discussion and Michael and Marty were declaring how much they disliked the musical, and how they refused to watch them. I, for one, am fond of musicals. By no means do I deliberately seek them out, but I don't avoid them or turn a movie off if a character breaks into song.

In fact, some of my favorite movies are musicals, mainly one's starring Danny Kaye; I have my mom to thank for that. Some Danny Kaye musicle favorites include Up In Arms, Wonder Man, The Court Jester, and White Christmas.

Plus, how can you go wrong with Mary Poppins or The Wizard of Oz? And that's when things really got interesting. When I mentioned The Wizard of Oz, Michael and Marty looked at me like I was crazy and told me The Wizard of Oz was not a musical.

Huh? There are about twenty times during the movie where the characters break into song. How could it not be a musical? Still, they stood their ground and Valerie even went on the internet to see if she could find the definitive answer. While she couldn't find anything that stated The Wizard of Oz was definitely a musical, she did find the definition of a musical film on wikipedia. It states...

"The musical film is a film genre in which several songs
sung by the
characters are interwoven into the narrative. The songs are usually used to advance the plot or develop the film's characters."

Well, if that doesn't sound like the formula The Wizard of Oz used, I don't know what does. Still, Michael and Marty were not convinced. I don't think it would have been such an issue if they didn't like The Wizard of Oz so much; Michael even said it is one of his favorite movies. How could one of his favorite movies be a musical when he despises them so much? My point is, don't dismiss a movie just because of the way it is labeled. So what if they sing a few times, as long as the story is good, what's the difference?

Since we could find no absolutly difinitive answer, I'd like to know what you think. Is The Wizard of Oz (1939 film) a musical? Please feel free to comment on the subject. Thanks!

03 September 2009

End of Summer Party

1 remarks
This past weekend, Valta hosted the first annual 'Sunspot End of Summer Party' and it was a rousing success. After we got there, Valta showed us around and we immediately spotted the paddle boat peacefully floating next to the dock. Valta said we could take it out and Angela and I were all over it. Valta got some life jackets for the kids and we were off.
Ari got to steer and he even paddled a bit himself. We went all over the pond and then decided we had better let someone else have a turn. It was tremendous fun, and Ari and Piper really enjoyed themselves. As we were waiting for the food, the kids took advantage of the hill that lead from the house to the pond and played on it for quite some time.
Ari had a blast rolling down the hill; and watching him brought back a lot of memories from my childhood. This was the first time he rolled down a hill successfully; we tried to show him how to do it on the hill at Jackson Morrow Park last year, but he just couldn't figure it out. He got it on his first try this time, and it was hard to get him to stop so that he could come eat dinner. After we ate, we were treated to the musical stylings of the Eleventh Hour.
It was an awe inspiring, rocking good time! It's always fun to watch them, and they put on a memorable show. The kids were dancing, spinning, and running to the music; they were having the time of their lives.
It was a wonderful party, and I was happy to hear that Valta said she would like to host it every year. Looks like the start of a tradition to me!

01 September 2009

The Real Fordly VonBeaglesford

3 remarks
The August topic for the Ditalini Press was to create a Tall Tale and make up a folk hero and build a legend around that character. It was a daunting task, indeed, but ultimately fun to write. Inspiration struck as I thought of my dog, Walter, and decided to build the story around him and some of the adventures we have shared together. There was no doubt of the name I would give my canine folk hero; one of my favorite nicknames I have given Walter...Fordly VonBeaglesford. Don't ask.

We have taken many a walk with Walter happily romping along; nose down ever so close to the sidewalk. Sometimes we get the strangest comments from people as we pass by. One of the most memorable, and one we still laugh about today, is when someone inquired "What's that? One of them smell hounds?" I've never heard the term 'smell hound' before that day. Another comment came as we passed a shirtless man with a beer bottle in his hand, and out of nowhere he said, "I got three pits at home." How do you respond to that? We just smiled and walked on.

Another element of Walter I had to include in the story was his insatiable appetite. Some of you may remember the Food Snatcher Extraordinaire post I did a few months ago. Well, the hound's appetite still hasn't changed and he still eats anything he thinks might be food. I'm just thankful he didn't develop an appetite for tomatoes or we would have had to watch him like a hawk every time he went outside. I can't say the same for the peanuts we throw out for the blue jays, though; if there are any left in the yard when he gets out, they are as good as gone.

I love my beagle, and I could not ask for a better dog, really. He is wonderful with the kids, a good listener, and just a lot of fun to have around. I've told Valerie that Walter is going to be our last dog. Not because I think he is going to live forever, but because I really don't think there could be a better dog than good ol' Walter. If you'd like to read my Tall Tale that was inspired by my trusty 'smell hound', just click here. I hope you enjoy it.


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