25 February 2010

Icicle

1 remarks

Now that's an icicle!

23 February 2010

Pasta, pasta, and more pasta

3 remarks
Knowing I have a penchant for pasta, my Uncle Lee thought of me when he came across an illustrated pasta identification guide on the internet. He found this link as the result of a web search for "Elicoidale Medio", a type of pasta that had been marked down at Big Lots:

http://www.molpasta.com/catalogo2006.pdf

The link opens a quite large PDF document, so I provided a couple screen shots of what is inside.

Most of the document is in Italian, so I used an online translator to see what the text of the document says. As it turns out, the document is a brochure of sorts, displaying the different pasta dyes or presses this company sells to make different pasta shapes. The first part of the catalog shows pictures of the pasta shapes in their actual size, while the last few pages contains an index of the names of the shapes.

It is a nice reference guide to the different cuts and shapes of pasta. I never knew there were so many! I did, however, notice one glaring omission to all the pasta shapes this company provides. You guessed it, no ditalini. Oh, the humanity!

21 February 2010

It's only a matter of time...

3 remarks

Yes, I know it's only a matter of time before my son poses this very same question to me. I can't really blame him if he does. But hey, at least now I will have a witty response.

I know this blog has had a very heavy dose of Super Mario lately, but I assure you, it has run it's course. Thank you all for your patience. I don't know if some of you were planning an intervention, but it is not necessary. Now, back to variety!

19 February 2010

Super Mario Bedroom!

0 remarks
It took a while, but we finally finished Ari's room. All the final touches were made, and he really loves it. He and Emilie play in his room a lot more than they used to, and it brings a smile to my face every time I go in. I told Valerie that if he ever wants to change it, we could move into his room and we could redecorate our room for him. As I expected, she wasn't too thrilled with the idea. Nevertheless, I don't see this room changing any time soon. Enjoy the pictures!





17 February 2010

Super Mario curtains

5 remarks
My mom is awesome. She not only helped me paint Ari's room, she gave me the idea to use iron-ons for the curtains I was making for him. I knew I wanted to do the brown blocks, but I didn't know what other Super Mario elements to incorporate into the curtains. I was explaining to her what I wanted to do, and she came up with the brilliant idea to print characters on the iron-on sheets and put them on a solid colored fabric. Needless to say, I loved the idea, and got to work on the last element of Ari's room.

I decided to use a total of five squares of fabric for each curtain and alternate between the brown blocks and the characters. For the blocks, I cut out the individual brown 'bricks' and then sewed them together with the black 'mortar' in between. The blocks turned out really well, and came out looking pretty authentic compared to their video game counterparts.

As for the character squares, I had four squares to use for characters; so the challenge was to decide which characters to use. I didn't want to use Mario, Luigi, Goombas, 0r Koopa Troopas, because they were already represented on his wall clings. I thought about using power up items like mushrooms or fire flowers, but that didn't seem too exciting to me. After some serious debate, and looking for high quality images on the internet, I decided to go with some 'bad guys'.

I ended up using pictures of a Hammer Brother, Lakitu, Bowser Jr., and a Bullet Bill for the character spaces on the curtains. After I ironed the images onto the fabric, I sewed all the squares together and added some tabs to the top for the curtain rod. I couldn't be happier with the way the curtains turned out. The character iron-ons really give them that authentic Super Mario look. I doubt any other kid has curtains like this, with item block curtain rods, too! They were the perfect finishing touch to Ari's room. Thanks again for the idea, Mom!


16 February 2010

Super Mario curtain rods

9 remarks
I decided to make curtains for Ari's Mario room, and inspiration struck as I was looking at his curtain rods. Why not be a little inventive with those as well? The ends of his curtain rods just screwed off, so it got me thinking about what Super Mario item I could screw on. I thought of using the plastic figurines, but that could get expensive. Then, I remembered a little tin Super Mario star filled with candy that we put in Ari's stocking.

I retrieved the star and began examining it in order to determine how I could make it work on the curtain rod. I figured I could just drill a hole in the side of it and screw it on the curtain rod. I was quite pleased with the prospect. I consulted with Valerie and she gave me the go ahead to purchase more star tins to complete my project. Ari and I headed to Bed Bath and Beyond since that is where we purchased the star tin.

When we got to the store, we discovered they no longer had any of the star tins in stock. Bummer. However, they did have tin Super Mario item blocks filled with 'coin' candies. How clever. I realized that these would look even better than the stars, and promptly purchased five of the item block candy tins. I only needed four, but purchased a fifth just in case I ruined one. As Ari talked up the cashier regarding her Mario skills, I explained to her my project. Leaving that poor cashier confused and bewildered, we then headed home.

I took all the candy out of the tins, and headed to the basement to start drilling holes in them. To my surprise, the project was completed in no time and was actually much easier than I was anticipating. The end result was quite pleasing as well. I don't think they could have turned out any better, and I got the satisfaction of making them myself. It's fun where a little ingenuity can take you. The item block curtain rods were complete, now on to making the curtains...



15 February 2010

Twirl-Whirl

0 remarks
The ceiling fan in Ari's room, complete with Propeller suit yellow Toad, and a propeller mushroom power up; or as Ari likes to call it, "twirl-whirl."

We thought it would be fitting to put these images on the ceiling fan blades to give them a flying effect.

12 February 2010

Merchandise materialized

2 remarks
I've previously mentioned my affinity for Calvin and Hobbes. Truly one of the greatest comic strips to ever grace the newspaper funny pages. Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, held tight in his stance not to merchandise his creation. That meant, no Calvin and Hobbes action figures, stuffed animals, TV shows, or clothing. No Calvin and Hobbes puzzles, cutlery, mugs, board games, stickers, nothing but the comic strip itself, and the book collections. By the way, those urinating Calvin stickers on vehicles are a complete rip off.

As a ten-year-old kid loving Calvin and Hobbes, it was especially hard to understand why I couldn't buy a Calvin and Hobbes toy. I remember scouring the toy aisles looking for anything to do with Calvin and Hobbes, only to leave empty handed. I could just imagine how much fun I would have with my own stuffed Hobbes. The thought of having a little Calvin figurine was so exciting to me.

Alas, the Calvin and Hobbes toys never materialized, and I later learned such toys never existed and probably would never exist. I moved on, still loving Calvin and Hobbes and rediscovering the brilliance of the comics by reading them to Ari before bed. He received a stuffed tiger for Christmas one year that we call Hobbes, due to the fleeting resemblance to character. But, that's the closest we have come to bringing the world of Calvin and Hobbes off of the pages and into our home. Until...

I recently came across some iron-on sheets at Jo-Ann Fabrics. I wanted to get Emilie a Fresh Beat Band shirt for Christmas, but could only find a "craft" to make my own with the iron-on sheets. Skeptical, I bought a package and went home to make the shirt for her. It turned out really well, even after making a minor misstep. I began thinking of what other shirts I could make for the kids, and immediately Calvin and Hobbes came to mind.

So, I made Ari his own Calvin and Hobbes shirt; in fact, I made a couple. He has received a lot of compliments on it and the iron on is holding up quite well to the abuse that little four-year-old can dish out. I think he may be the only kid with a Calvin and Hobbes shirt, and I don't know if that makes me happy or sad. I do know one thing for certain, he sure is happy about it.

04 February 2010

More Mario!?

2 remarks
He's an addict. He's addicted to Mario. No, I'm not referring to myself, though Valerie may disagree. But I know how Ari feels. I mean, there's not a whole lot to do to keep yourself entertained when it's 20 degrees outside. Super Mario Bros. is fun, and it can keep a person entertained for hours, even playing the same level over and over again, as I've recently had to experience (World 1-3, anybody?).

But, as parents, we have to draw a line somewhere. We can't let the boy spend his whole day playing Nintendo, even if I'm playing with him. I can't believe I just said that. There are times, though, when it's all he talks about and all he wants to do. So, standing firm, and not buckling under the constant whining, I got a little creative.


We brought Mario into the real world, and used our imaginations to create our own levels. Using the Mario Bros. figurines we already had on hand, we pretended that the game came to life. I made a Bowser flag to symbolize the end of the level (it even slides down the pole) and we used some chocolate gold coins to represent the three star coins that are scattered throughout each level. I would hide the three coins around the house and Ari would have to find them before he could reach the flag, dispatching of goombas and koopa troopas along the way.

The game was an instant success, and Ari and I spent hours playing. He even created the elusive level ten that he still thinks might magically appear in the real game. There was even an extra element that we weren't expecting; keeping the mysterious beagle monster from finding and devouring the chocolate coins before we do. We've since had to abandon the chocolate coin in lieu of some plastic ones; it seems we were no match for the mysterious beagle monster, and the mommy monster wouldn't let us use them anymore.

In the end, everyone gets what they wanted. Ari gets his Mario fix, and Valerie and I don't feel like horrible parents as we watch our little boy play his life away on the Nintendo. Ari still gets to play the real thing every once in a while, but it sure is nice to have another option. It doesn't hurt that it's a lot of fun, too.

03 February 2010

The love of a dog

2 remarks

I have been hearing a lot of dog talk around work lately. A co-worker just had to say goodbye to her faithful dog of many years, while another just brought in her new six week old puppy. Definitely the two extremes of owning a dog colliding at once. The joy of a new puppy and sorrow of letting one go.

All the canine banter has got me thinking about my own dog, Walter, and how lucky I am to have such a good little beagle. I could not ask for a better companion. Walter is five years old now, and it just seems like it was yesterday that I was standing outside in the bitter cold potty training him.

Walter's been through a lot of changes since coming to live with us. With the two biggest changes being the arrival of Ari and Emilie. It's silly now to think we were worried about how he would react to Ari, because he has done nothing but love them since they have been born. In fact, he has become much more protective of the house since they have been born; barking at every strange noise, and every person or animal he might see walking by.

I've said many times that he will be the last dog I'll ever own, just because I don't think we could ever have a dog as good as Walter. I really wanted to give a quick tribute to the good dog. He's always there to give us love whenever we need him and asks for nothing in return. He does his fair share of the barking in our neighborhood, but if that's my only complaint, I think he turned out pretty good. Here's to you, Walter!

01 February 2010

Ricotta Cheese

2 remarks
Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most enjoyable; I find this to be especially true with cooking as well. There are so many simple techniques and applications that go by the wayside in favor of 'instant' and 'convenient' products; when a lot of times, making these foods from scratch is 'instant' or 'convenient'. I thrive on discovering these 'new to me' culinary treasures, and I love adding to my arsenal.

Marshmallows and peanut butter are the main things I make from scratch that I once thought to be complex to prepare. However, both are simple applications and far superior in taste to their mass market counterparts. My interest was peaked one evening while watching "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" when a restaurant owner added a little lemon juice to some hot milk; gave it a couple of stirs, and had a batch of ricotta cheese.

Talk about simple. I had to try it myself. I got on the internet to see what the exact ingredients were, and was able to find a recipe. Not having tried it before, I waited until our cousins dinner in December to give it a shot. Eva and I had a gallon of milk in a dutch oven and heated it to 200 degrees and added 3 ounces of lemon juice. We gave it a stir, and right before our eyes, the curd separated from the whey. We drained it in some cheese cloth, and we had our ricotta cheese for the lasagna. It was a real treat.

A couple weeks ago, I made some more ricotta cheese. This time, I was making calzones and cannoli's. Angela and I tried making cannoli's before, but the filling was way too loose, almost liquid. I used store bought ricotta, and I later read that it needed to be drained before using it. I thought home-made ricotta would be perfect for the cannoli's so I decided to give the recipe another try. This time, I used two gallons of milk since I needed the ricotta for both the calzones and cannoli. So, I started by heating the milk in my stock pot.

I then added six ounces of lemon juice and stirred it all together. Almost instantly, the reaction occurred.

I then poured the whole batch into some cheesecloth and let it drain until the ricotta was the consistency I was looking for.

The calzones were gone before I was able to take a picture. They were by far my best batch yet. As for the cannoli's, they turned out remarkably well this time around. We made our shells from scratch, too, and the filling was just divine. I am so glad I found out about home-made ricotta cheese! I'm even more excited about what new simple culinary treasure awaits.

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