31 August 2009

September's coming soon...

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"Nightswimming" is the eleventh track from R.E.M.'s 1992 album, Automatic for the People. It is yet another R.E.M. song that I enjoy singing to Ari & Emilie before bed; and a song that I feel is a fitting tribute to the end of summer. Enjoy!


Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago,
Turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse.
Still, its so much clearer.
I forgot my shirt at the waters edge.
The moon is low tonight.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
I'm not sure all these people understand.
It's not like years ago,
The fear of getting caught,
Of recklessness and water.
They cannot see me naked.
These things, they go away,
Replaced by everyday.

Nightswimming, remembering that night.
September's coming soon.
I'm pining for the moon.
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
That bright, tight forever drum
Could not describe nightswimming.

You, I thought I knew you.
You I cannot judge.
You, I thought you knew me,
This one laughing quietly underneath my breath.
Nightswimming.

The photograph reflects,
Every streetlight a reminder.
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night, deserves a quiet night.

28 August 2009

Artistic Vision Realized

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Valerie wanted Ari to make something artsy craftsy to give to Marcia for her birthday, and I had the idea to buy a canvas, some paintbrushes, some paint, and let him loose. So we set Ari up at the table with his paints and let him do pretty much whatever he wanted on that canvas. We showed him how to clean off the paintbrush in some water and that's about it. The paint on the canvas was all his own; his own artistic vision.

When he said he was finished, I went to help him write his name at the bottom of the canvas. Our first attempt was unsuccessful and I was thinking about how he could sign his name. Before I knew it, he was painting the letters A - R - I on the canvas all by himself. This was the first time he has written his own name, albeit backwards, but he wrote his own name! I was so thrilled and tempted to keep the painting; but we still gave it to Marcia (she loved it by the way.) Though, Valerie did go out and buy another canvas so Ari could do another painting for us to keep.

The painting pictured is the second one he made. He did this one all by himself as well, with even less help from Valerie and I. He was painting in the dining room while we were in other parts of the house, so I don't really even know what techniques he used. There are some paint splatters on this one that weren't on the first, and I don't know how those got there. When he told me he was done, I asked him if he signed his name, and he did. The result is a pretty cool painting that I am proud to display in my home. Way to go Ari!

26 August 2009

Seal of Approval

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When I got home from work yesterday and saw the open envelope adorned with foreign postage and Eva's unmistakable handwriting, I knew that the catnip mouse prototype from BelleMereBelleFille had finally arrived. I was filled with glee as I asked Valerie where it was. She told me she gave it to Link on the porch where he was playing with it like he was a kitten again.

I went to the porch to witness the spectacle, and sure enough, he was out there batting it around, chewing on it, and rubbing his face against it. He was in kitty heaven. It's been a while since we bought Link a cat toy, and I don't think we could have gotten him anything better than this catnip mouse. He absolutely loves it! Thanks Eva!

24 August 2009

Culinary Napalm

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Sugar water...boiling sugar water. Hot stuff. As I've heard Alton Brown affectionately refer to it a few times in the past, 'culinary napalm.' Yes, I imagine if this boiling concoction made contact with the skin at 240 degrees it wouldn't be a pleasant experience; but oh, the wonderful things that can be created with it. My favorite iteration, marshmallows.

Ever since I saw the Good Eats episode Puff the Magic Mallow, I have been making my own marshmallows. Let me tell you, the home-made version is light years ahead of the store-bought varieties. There is a certain softness, lightness, and smoothness that isn't there in the mass produced version; plus, there is no chemically after taste. Bonus! The process couldn't be simpler; and if you plan ahead, there is no reason to buy marshmallows ever again.

Here's how to make them:

Homemade MarshmallowsRecipe courtesy Alton Brown
Printable Recipe


Ingredients
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Directions
Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.

Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes.

Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks

There you have it. Couldn't be simpler, really, and it's a lot of fun, too! The marshmallows are perfect for roasting over a campfire, for use in rice crispy treats, or for just eating all by themselves. Plus, there is the satisfaction of a job well done, and knowing exactly what ingredients went into the delicate little wonders.

20 August 2009

The Joy of Riding

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I remember reading this comic with Ari last year and thinking, "What an exaggeration! There is nothing that bad about riding a bike;" and "Ha! None of that stuff has ever happened to me!" You see, I just got my bike last year and began riding consistently; so everything was hunky dory. My bike rode like a well oiled machine, nothing could stop me! It's funny how much difference a year makes. After a recent series of events, this comic popped back into my head, and I saw there was actually a lot of truth to it.

So far this year, I have had a flat tire, my chain came off, and I had my first wreck on my bike. The chain incident and the wreck were within a couple days of each other, and to add insult to injury, both happened on my lunch break. When my chain came off, my hands were too covered in grease for me to eat my lunch; and after I figured out how to put the chain back on, it had a kink in it that made riding less than enjoyable. I then spent the evening trying to work out the kink. Thankfully, I was successful. As for my wreck, I lost control of my bike while riding on some wet pavement and scraped my arm up pretty bad. I was in the park at the time, and used all my water to wash the dirt out of the scrape on my arm. I don't think the chain incident or my accident would have seemed as bad had I not been on my lunch break.

Even with these minor setbacks, I still love to ride; and I still ride to work and during my lunch whenever I can. The comic rings true now, though, and I could even add a situation not depicted there. Maybe something like riding five miles while pulling a couple of screaming children in a bike trailer. Yeah, that got old real quick.

All in all, it's been an excellent year for riding, and I have been doing plenty of it. The weather has been cooler and not as humid as we're used to here in Indiana, and we have had very little rain. I got a bike rack for my car, so we have been able to drive to some of the paved trails around the state. Even with the missteps, it's been a lot of fun so far and I look forward to the adventures and challenges ahead.

18 August 2009

A moment of unadulterated delight

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My anguish from not winning Good Eats 'Great Fan' contest was eased when I happened upon this link on the REM official website.

Scroll down to the last section labeled 'I Don't Sleep, I Dream' and click on the link. I was pleasantly surprised to see where it took me. I can't seem to wipe the smile off my face.

17 August 2009

The best thing I ever ate...

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When Ari and I planted tomato seeds back in March, I had two goals. The first, I at least wanted one tomato to be produced from the batch of seeds; the second, to be able to make marinara sauce from my own home grown tomatoes. Well, I am happy to say that I have now achieved both of my goals. Well, I didn't really achieve the first goal, the tomato plants did that all by themselves; but I did make the marinara sauce on Friday.

Since we planted those seeds, I envisioned a meal consisting of fresh pasta and home-made marinara. The time was finally right as we had an abundance of tomatoes taking residence on our kitchen counter. On Thursday night, I prepped the tomatoes by quickly blanching them in order to remove the skins. I then crushed the tomatoes by hand and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight. I used about twenty tomatoes.

After work on Friday, I hurried home to get started on dinner. I shredded a couple carrots, diced on onion, and sliced a few cloves of garlic and sautéed them on a saucepan. Then, I added the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and some dried herbs. I brought the mixture to a boil and then let it simmer on the stove while I started on the pasta. The marinara had a lot of reducing to do, so I saved my final seasoning adjustments for when it was at the right consistency.

The meal came together rather easily, aside from the final fluster of cutting and boiling the noodles. I had a few hiccups with my normally reliable pasta roller, but that's another story. Once the marinara was at the desired consistency, I added a little olive oil and some red wine vinegar. I don't normally pat myself on the back, but I have to say that dinner was the greatest meal I have ever had the pleasure of eating. I think it was the freshness of all the ingredients that really set it apart. The marinara had a subtle sweetness to it unlike anything I have ever had. The noodles were so delicate and flavorful, I just couldn't get enough.

To my delight, the tomatoes keep coming and coming, and I am saving some for another batch of marinara. The twenty tomatoes I used was just the right amount to feed the four of us and the kids on Friday night. It was such a memorable meal; and simple, too. I can't wait to make another batch!

14 August 2009

Cheers for ears!

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Ahhh...corn on the cob. Here in Indiana, it just doesn't get any better than that in the summertime. There is more than corn in Indiana, but there doesn't need to be. Biting those sweet succulent kernels off the cob one row at a time sometimes feels like a religious experience. Add a little butter, salt and pepper...mmm...no words can describe the flavor sensation.

Yep, the corn is finally in season this year here in Indiana. Pick-up trucks with their beds full of corn dot the intersections and it's hard to resist stopping to pick up a few ears. So easy to prepare, so fun to eat, truly a treasure for the taste buds.
Even Walter can't resist.

12 August 2009

Idea Thief

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As many of you may already know, my lovely wife has recently started her own blog. Yes, Fearless D & Girlish Glee is part of the World Wide Web. Great news right? Well, not for me; not with new post ideas being ripped right out of my hands!


Just the other day, we were out taking pictures of the kids. Ari was on his bike pulling Emilie behind him. How cute! What a perfect event to document on latent chestnut! Too bad my wife was thinking the same thing, only for her own use. How selfish of her!

Soon enough, I was browsing through her site and saw the pictures with a nice little write up. Well, there's one idea right down the drain. But Fearless D & Girlish Glee is dedicated to the kids so she can have it, I really don't mind. But if she starts to write about R.E.M. or cooking, then I may have a fight on my hands...

10 August 2009

New Kitchen Curtains...Hallelujah!

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The project completion train keeps chugging along as I put the finishing touches on some new kitchen curtains last week. They are a major upgrade from the ones we had prior...major. I thought about posting before and after pictures, but I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of the old ones.

I learned a lot from the curtains I made for Ari's room and these were a cinch to make; and I completed them in no time at all. I still don't know if I'm making them the 'right' way, but I guess the end result is all that matters. I would have posted a picture of the other curtain, but I couldn't find an angle to take a flattering picture.

I think they turned out really well and I am filled with the joy of a job well done every time I look at them. In my opinion, the fabric pattern is reminiscent of the wallpaper in Nonna's dining room. To me, it has the same style and feel. So that sense of familiarity and comfort makes them even that much more enjoyable. I am glad that they are part of my kitchen.

07 August 2009

The R.E.M. Quilt

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My quilt is finished and functional! No longer are my old R.E.M. shirts destined for a life of darkness and squalor in my bedroom closet. No! They have been given new life, a breath of fresh air and a chance to be apart of something so much bigger; united as one. Their destiny has been fulfilled and they will live on to be enjoyed by all who snuggle in their warm embrace.

Well, maybe I shouldn't be so dramatic...

I am happy though, a project that started in January after being conceived the month prior is finally finished. With the invaluable help of Eva and Katie, my dream was realized, and I truly couldn't have done it without them for so many reasons. Thank you Eva and Katie for all you have done for me!

I ended up tying the quilt layers together which proved to be quite time consuming. I'm sure I did more than a few things to make the traditional quilter cringe, but I got it done nonetheless. I ended up using two colors of embroidery thread to make the ties because I couldn't decide which one to use. That decision alone caused me many more hours of work.

Here is a peak at the back of my quilt to show the ties:


Pictures I took of the quilt didn't look a whole lot different from my last post showing the completed front, so I took a picture of it folded to show it is quite a bit thicker with the three layers.
I am also glad to report that is fits perfectly on our queen bed.
Looks pretty good, huh?

I absolutely love my quilt and I am so glad I decided to do it. It was so nerve racking cutting that first shirt, but the payoff was more than worth it. The memories ingrained in those shirts and in making this quilt are priceless and I will cherish them forever.


Please click the 'r.e.m. quilt' label in order to see the different stages of the quilt.

04 August 2009

My Good Eats Fan Video

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I did it. I entered a contest. I submitted a minute long video for a chance to to meet Alton Brown and be part of the Good Eats 10th Anniversary Special. If I win, it would truly be a dream come true. And how often does somebody get a chance like this. I couldn't let this opportunity go by without at least trying.

I found out about the contest from fellow AB fan Lisa over at the All About Alton blog. There are six winners, so I hope we are both part of the chosen few. I think the video turned out well, and I think I may have a fighting chance to be selected. The judging is next week, so I'll know soon enough. In the meantime, check out the video, if you'd like...



I have been getting reports of people not being able to view the video here. If that is the case for you, you can view the video directly at:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/happy-anniversary-good-eats/package/index.html

It is entitled 'Growing Up with Good Eats' and was submitted on 08/03/2009; it should be on the first 2 or 3 pages under the 'Most Recent' section. If it doesn't work here, try going there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

03 August 2009

Bounty

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The sun was shining and a gentle breeze cooled the air. Ari & I went outside for our daily tomato inspection. Some tomatoes were starting to turn red, so we were hoping to finally be able to harvest a tomato or two. Ari looked down at a beautiful plump red tomato and asked me if it was ready. I told him it was, and he picked the first ripe tomato of the season.
He held it up with pride and quickly took it inside to show Mommy & Em.
I sliced the tomato and we all delighted in the succulent summer treat. It was quickly devoured in no time at all, and I have never had so much satisfaction from eating a tomato. Our first gardening adventure is officially a success.

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