28 December 2010

The Legend of Zelda Link quilt

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Why stop at Mario? There are so many other 8 bit Nintendo characters out there just waiting to be turned into a quilt!  Link, from The Legend of Zelda, is almost as iconic as Mario, and a perfect character to be made into a quilt.  I gave this quilt as a Christmas present, so I didn't do any progress posts in order to keep it a secret. 

These 8 bit character quilts are easy to design, though.  I just do a Google image search for the character I am looking for, then insert the picture into an Excel spreadsheet and color in the squares of the spreadsheet to match the pattern of the character.  From there it is simple to calculate the size of the squares to make the quilt as big or as little as you like. 

The Link quilt couldn't have turned out better, and I was delighted to give it as a gift.  Even though a small part of me wanted to keep it.  One can't have too many quilts, right??

25 December 2010

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Merry Christmas!

24 December 2010

Best of the season from R.E.M.

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R.E.M. is feeling quite generous this holiday season.  Pre-order "COLLAPSE INTO NOW" on iTunes and instantly download It Happened Today.  I figured since I am going to buy the album anyway, I might as well do the pre-order to get the new song.  R.E.M. also released a lyric video for the song, so you can hear it before you buy it.

Also available for your viewing pleasure is a trailer for "COLLAPSE INTO NOW" featuring some live in studio snippets of some of the new songs.  Lots of new and exciting news on the R.E.M. front!  What a nice way to get into the Christmas spirit.

18 December 2010

Discovering Discoverer

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It's been quite a week to be an R.E.M. fan. First, I received the fan club Christmas package which included a Christmas card, 2011 calendar, and a CD. The CD includes Mike Mills singing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," featuring Bill Berry on drums, and an instrumental mashup of three tracks off their next album, COLLAPSE INTO NOW, entitled “IHT>U>EDIYTW (Dubmix).” Based on the title, I assume the three songs are “It Happened Today,” “Uberlin” and “Every Day Is Yours to Win.” It was a wonderful early Christmas present indeed.

Little did I know, R.E.M. was just starting to spread the holiday cheer. On Wednesday, I was browsing through facebook and saw R.E.M. posted a link to download the first track of COLLAPSE INTO NOW. The song is called "Discoverer," and as soon as I got home, I downloaded it. I love the thrill of hearing a new R.E.M. song for the first time. I probably have a goofy smile on my face the whole time. The song does not disappoint, either. I found myself thinking that this song would fit perfectly on the album, Green, it has a "Turn You Inside Out" feel to it; which is definitely a good thing. Have a listen:

You can own the song for free, too. Just go to http://remhq.com/get-discoverer.php, enter your e-mail address and country, and a link to the song will be sent to your inbox. Mine was marked as spam, so I didn't know I had it at first, but it was sent almost immediately.  My excitement for COLLAPSE INTO NOW has increased tenfold, March 8th can't come fast enough!  Free previews to R.E.M. albums don't come along too often, especially in the form of a full length song, don't miss this opportunity!

15 December 2010

Breakfast Sausage

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I love sausage, especially breakfast sausage.  It reminds me of my childhood.  When I was young, every Sunday morning we would go to Grandma and Pa's house for biscuits and gravy.  Sausage gravy, to be more specific, and there were always extra sausage patties on the side.  To this day, the smell of sausage cooking on the stove reminds me of walking into their house on Sunday morning, anxiously anticipating that first bite.

My fondness for sausage inspired me to make my own, especially since many store bought varieties have less than desirable ingredients.  When my dad bought me a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer, there was no holding me back.  Armed with a recipe from Alton Brown, I set out to make my own breakfast sausage.

To my surprise, making the sausage is especially easy.  The most time consuming part for me was dicing the pork butt; but after that, it's a breeze.  Once the pork was diced, I combined it with all the other ingredients and put it in the refrigerator for an hour. 

It already smelled like sausage, though it really looked nothing like it.  After an hour, I fed it through the meat grinder.  Sure enough, as it came through the other end, it looked exactly like sausage!

So, if it smells like sausage, and looks like sausage, surely it must taste like sausage.  Right?  Right!  In fact, it is some of the best breakfast sausage I have ever had.  All the herbs and spices compliment each other perfectly, and there is a hint of sweetness from the sugar.  Plus, there is a freshness that isn't there with the store bought brands that put it over the top. 

Making my own sausage is well worth the effort. It tastes so much better than the mass market varieties and it is much cheaper per pound as well.  Delicious and cost effective, I can live with that!

Breakfast Sausage
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Printable Recipe

2 pounds pork butt (2 1/2 pounds with bone), diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 pound fat back, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Special equipment: meat grinder

Combine diced pork with all other ingredients and chill for 1 hour. Using the fine blade of a grinder, grind the pork. Form into 1-inch rounds. Refrigerate and use within 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. For immediate use, saute patties over medium-low heat in a non-stick pan. Saute until brown and cooked through, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

10 December 2010

Two Years of Chestnuts

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It's hard to believe it's been two years since I started latent chestnut.  So, since I did a year-in-review post last year, I figured I should do one for this year, too.  2010 didn't bring me my highest high since I started the blog (that occurred here) but it was exceptional, nonetheless.  As I was reviewing the vast array of posts over the last 365 days, I found that my main focus can be summed up into three categories:  cooking, sewing, and Mario. 

From pâte à choux to ketchup, I made a lot of new things in the kitchen this year.  The best moment, though, was rediscovering Nonna's pizza and learning how to make it myself.  Other culinary highlights include making my own riccota cheese, crème fraîche, dulce de leche, bagels, and chicken stock from scratch.  I made all of these for the first time over the past year, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  I also posted a few of my own original recipes for the first time this year; the apple crisp being my favorite.  I was also really happy with the way my pie crust tutorial came together (thanks for the idea, Eva!).

Speaking of Eva, I gave her sewing machine quite a workout over the year.  I know I didn't do a huge number of sewing posts, but I feel like I've had one or two sewing projects going throughout the entire year.  I tried my hand at making clothes for the first time when I made the pants, shirt, gloves, and shoe covers for Ari's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Halloween costume.  The other major sewing project I posted about was my (or should I say Ari's) Super Mario quilt.  I am so happy with the way it turned out and I think it is the most well made quilt I have completed yet.

The Mario quilt only scratched the surface of custom Mario creations I made this year.  We gave Ari's room a Mario theme and I made some Mario curtains and curtain rods.  The Mario curtain post is the most viewed page on latent chestnut, by the way.  Apparently there is a big demand for Mario curtains out there.  Though, I think the curtain rods are even cooler than the curtains, and they were a cinch to make.  I also made some Mario onesies for Thomas, and got some awesome items from Club Nintendo. 

Overall, 2010 was a pretty good year for me and latent chestnut.  I can't wait to see what 2011 brings! 

Thanks for reading!

07 December 2010

Before and After

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I am a big fan of before and after pictures. That direct comparison is really rewarding, especially after completing a big project, or simply making a change. Too often, though, I forget to take the 'before' picture to use to compare to the 'after'. 

On a totally unrelated subject, my lovely wife bought me a new recliner this year with her Christmas bonus.  I was beside myself with joy as we made the purchase at the furniture store.  I had a really nice recliner that was given to me by my dad a few years ago.  However, it is about 20 years old and beginning to fall apart.  I had a hard time admitting it because it is still so comfortable.  The final straw came when a bracket broke inside the reclining mechanism which resulted in a loud popping sound whenever someone got out of the chair.  Feel free to read about my discovery of the broken bracket here.

I loved that blue chair, but it was falling apart.  It was becoming more and more evident that it's days were coming to an end.  After searching a few furniture stores for a worthy replacement, we finally found one.  I loaded it in the back of the SUV and headed home.  As I brought it inside, I felt a little sad to relegate my blue recliner to the basement.  I mean, I have enjoyed sitting in that chair for almost 20 years; now that's a lot to live up to for this new one.

Before I took it out of the living room, it hit me, I should take a picture of it.  I don't know why, but it felt fitting.  So, I decided to do a before and after.  My new chair is so comfortable as well, and we are still breaking it in.  It doesn't squeak, creek, and pop like my old one, and that's definitely an improvement.  I think the kids are using it more than I am, but that's fine.  Maybe someday I'll give it to Ari and he will love it as much as I love my blue chair.



04 December 2010

Winter Wonderland

4 remarks

In the front yard Ari and I built a snowman
Then pretended he was Parson Brown

We had lots of fun with Mr. Snowman

01 December 2010

Alphabet Soup

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As I was ladling my first batch of homemade chicken stock into freezer bags, I realized what I should make with it first.  Alphabet soup.  I couldn't think of a better meal to highlight the flavor of the stock, all while enjoying one of my favorite childhood comfort foods.

I simply cooked the alphabet noodles in the chicken stock seasoned with a little salt.  Once the noodles are cooked, I ladled the soup into bowls and finished it with a pat of butter.  A little freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top is a nice touch as well.  A delicious bowl full of memories. 

The chicken stock was more delicious than I could have hoped.  There was a wonderful chicken flavor and it was very filling and satisfying.  A perfect meal to enjoy my chicken stock for the first time.


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