Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Goals for 2010

I don't like goals, aspirations, quests or pretty much anything where failure is one of the outcomes. I also don't like failure. Even when I set goals, they are rarely ever written down. If they don't work out, the failure is now etched in stone in my planner/mirror post-it/soul for me to always remember. I prefer the amorphous goals that are just floating around in my head. Then when they work out, it's like, "Oh yeah. I guess I was working on that. Bravo to me and my mad achievements."

I know that I am able to accomplish written goals. I do it every time I go to the grocery store. So this year, I have decided to publicly list (some) of my goals for 2010. I know some of them may seem obvious but I feel mighty proud when I can check something off a list.

Go on a one-year anniversary trip
Take a class in something
Buy a house Find a house to let the bank buy for us
Attend my 10-year high school reunion
Put laundry away
Get a new laptop
Play more basketball
Play more soccer
Be confident
Get a passport
Visit Vegas
Visit Utah
Visit Morocco (more of a "hope")

Do Not
Eat french fries. Ever.
Get on Facebook while at work
Laugh at the cheerleaders that have gotten fat since high school
Hit snooze
Be angry
Eat out as often
Be anti-social
Avoid my dentist bill (even though I HATE them)
Hate people
Be afraid

I will keep the blog posted on my progress on these goals. Maybe. How about I let you know when they go well. But if you ask me about such-and-such goal and I haven't done it yet, then I'll probably cry. And then next year's list will have to include "Suck it up and stop crying."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Goodness

Every year I face a dilemma of Christmas at work. I work with x-number of people. I socialize with some more than others. Who do I get gifts for? Who is giving me a gift this year? Do I get everyone the same thing? Is someone going to feel obligated to get me a gift just because I gave them one? Wha! Eh! Meh?! Mrgh. More Christmas stress! Last year at Christmas I was newbie at work. I didn't know the Christmas exchange procedure so I was by default excused from any Christmas present blunder. But this year, I don't have the excuse of being "new". Through careful consideration and input from coworkers, I found a solution. I am making baked goods. I will load up the break room table with Christmas goodies, send out a super-personal email wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas", and satisfy the work gift exchange requirement. After extensive research, I settled on the following recipes. (I'm sorry for another food post. My social life lacks in substance right now). And if you're wondering why I have papers hanging from the cabinets in my kitchen, it is my alternative to a cook book holder. I am typically  printing off recipes from the internet plus I have limited counter space. This seemed like an easy way to display my recipe as I'm cooking without it getting in the way and not accidentally laying it on a pile of cooking residue (which is most often the case). Tada!

The recipes were fun to make. If you don't like egg nog, you probably won't like the fudge. But it's a pretty small amount of egg nog and not too overpowering. It's actually very addicting. I've never made fudge before so I was happy with how this turned out. It was MUCH easier than I was anticipating! Highly recommend it, especially if you like egg nog.

The biscotti was more of a project but still relatively easy. The only thing I changed was I dipped in regular chocolate instead of white chocolate since I already had the white chocolate based fudge. The next time I will probably make the pieces wider. This is a very pretty dessert and it gives off an impression of something much fancier than it actually is.

The brownies. Meh. They're okay. They are very minty and chocolatey, which I love. But they are a little more cakey and dry than I expected. I like the idea of using the Andes mints but next time, I'll either bake less time or use a different brownie base.

Eggnog Fudge

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup dairy eggnog
10.5 ounces white chocolate bars, chopped into small pieces
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus a little more for the top of the fudge
One 7 ounce jar marshmallow creme
1 tsp rum extract

1. Line an 8 or 9-inch square pan with foil and let it hang over the sides. Butter the foil.

2. In a heavy, 3-quart saucepan combine sugar, butter and eggnog. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat or until a candy thermometer reaches 234°F, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.
3. Using a wooden spoon, work quickly to stir in chopped white chocolate and nutmeg until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in marshmallow creme and rum extract. Beat until well blended and then pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle a little freshly ground nutmeg on top. Let stand at room temperature until cooled. Refrigerate if you’d like to speed up the process.
4. When completely cool, cut into squares. Store in a covered container.
Yield: 30 to 40 pieces

Candy Cane Biscotti 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup finely crushed peppermint candy canes
14 ounces fine quality white chocolate, melted
extra crushed candy canes to sprinkle on top

1. Preheat oven to 350˚.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined - stir in crushed candy.
4. Evenly divide dough into 4 pieces on a lightly floured surface. Shape each piece into 9" x 1 1/2" round log. Place logs 3 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheet.
5. Bake until tops are cracked and ends just start to turn light brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 325. Cool logs 10 minutes on cookie sheet.
6. Cut each log diagonally into 1/2" slices with sharp serrated knife. (Discard ends, if you want.) Arrange pieces standing up back onto the baking sheet.
7. Bake until cookies are light golden brown and crisp on both sides, about 12 to 15 minutes. The centers may still be a little soft, but will firm up as they cool. Place onto cool rack and cool completely.
8. Dip half of each biscotti into melted chocolate - shake off excess. Immediately sprinkle with additional crushed candy canes and set on a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet until the chocolate has set.
Make about 4 dozen.

Andes Brownies

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar (white)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
about 1/4 cup (or however much you please, really) of chopped Andes mints

An additional package of whole Andes mints. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9 x 13 pan. Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Once melted remove from heat and add sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Blend together. In separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, and salt. Add dry mixture to the wet and mix well. Add chopped Andes mints. Pour into greased pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.

RIGHT when the brownies come out of the oven, layer the top with the whole package of Andes mints (or however many it takes to cover the surface). Let them stand for a minute or two, until they are smooth enough to spread. Using a frosting spatula or a flat knife, spread the melted Andes mints evenly over the brownie to cover. Cool, cut and enjoy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chili Time

Growing up, my mom made chili every winter. Or fall. Not really sure if it had any kind of significance to the time-frame but nonetheless, she made chili pretty regularly. And it was great fun. When I went off to school in Idaho, I decided my tradition would be to make chili on the first day it snowed. Being back in NC, I can't keep with this tradition since it doesn't snow much. This weekend, one that was particularly rainy and cold, Jericho and I had my parents over for lunch and I decided to make chili! I was crunched on time so instead of making the recipe that I usually use, I went for a variation that was a bit quicker. After much research I settled on this recipe that apparently is served at this restaurant. I changed it a little since it's chili and pretty hard to mess up and you can do whatever you want with it. I absolutely loved how it turned out. Just enough spice. Just enough meat. Just enough beans. After our second meal of the chili, Jericho told me that I had changed his affection for chili. Unknown to me, Jericho had a bad association with chili for a number of years (due to being sick at the same time as eating chili, not because of the chili) and therefore lost his taste for it. Yet another testimony why this chili is fantastic!

Here is my changed recipe:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package of pork sausage
2 medium onions, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 little can of tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
3 tablespoons Southwest Grilling Seasoning
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Two 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 16-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained
1 16-ounce can black beans, drained
1 16-ounce can yellow corn
2 cups water

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the sausage and cook over high heat, breaking it up, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, bell pepper and garlic; cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the onion is translucent, 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin and oregano and cook for 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes, beans, corn and water and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the chili with cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Some notes on my changes:
-  I don't have an "enameled cast-iron casserole." I'm not even sure what that is. I used a large saute pan for the first step, then dumped everything into the big pot when it was time to add the beans and other liquids.

-  If you get the sausage in links, remove the casings. I got the ground kind, like how you usually get ground beef. Much more convenient that way. I don't like a lot of meat in my chili but it would be perfectly fine to use more than 1 package. Don't go too crazy. This isn't spaghetti sauce.

-  I got a green pepper mainly because the grocery store didn't have any red. Didn't seem to make a difference. Green creates more color contrast though.

-  Tomato paste- I don't remember the ounce size, but it's the smallest can you can buy. I put the whole can in instead of just the 2 tablespoons because I had no use for half a can of tomato paste.

-  The Southwest seasoning thing is one of those premixed seasoning concoctions that appeared in my cabinet, I think from a former roommate. I like these because I can be lazy when I'm cooking something like chicken or potatoes and I get tired of "Italian seasoning" on everything. I didn't have any cumin but this mix did, as well as a bunch of other fun spices that seemed like they'd be good in chili, so I dumped a bunch in.

-  I couldn't believe there was a chili recipe that didn't call for any kind of red pepper seasoning. I put in about 2 dashes, which I'm guessing was about 1/2 tsp. It was the perfect amount of kick for me. I like spicy but just the little-bit-of-linger kind, not the breathing-fire kind.

-  I added the first two cups of water and thought it looked like enough so I stopped. And it was. I'm not sure why this recipe would need 4 cups of water. Use your judgment.

-  I split up the beans into two kinds because I thought it would add some variety and it made it look prettier. Also the reason why I added a whole can of corn instead of just a cup. It did indeed make a very pretty chili.

Also as part of my tradition, I make corn bread with my chili. I got this recipe from a former roommate in college. We call it "Corn Cake" because it pretty much is. I've never served it to anyone that has felt the need to put butter on it, even my father.  You know how most corn bread crumbles like a sand castle at the slightest touch? Yeah, not this bread. It's that incredibly moist and sweet.

Corn Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup corn meal
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter, sugar, and eggs. Mix in dry ingredients. Add milk last (YES! you will use all of the milk). Pour into greased 8x8 pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. (I often cook for about 15 minutes longer than this, but it could just be my oven.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Planes and Turkeys

Jericho and I spent Thanksgiving in Ohio with Jericho's brother's family. We had never been to up to visit the Ohio Belchers so this was a great opportunity to visit out of state relatives. Plus, our new niece Katie Belle was born October 29 and we got to see her for the first time! She is such a doll and a great baby! Thanksgiving dinner was fantastic and I made sure to get some recipes from the SIL before we left (kind of at Jericho's request).

Jericho's brother is in the Air Force and stationed at Wright-Patterson. Also at Wright-Patterson is the National Air Force Museum. You totally just jumped out of your seat didn't you? Yes, it was exciting. Jericho and I spent an afternoon touring the museum. We were there for 5 hours and still didn't see everything. I never thought I could spend 5 hours looking at planes. I did bring my camera so that slowed us down quite a bit. In hindsight I probably shouldn't have taken so many pictures. Also because it drained my battery and have no other pictures from Thanksgiving. So... all you get is a bunch of pictures of REALLY COOL MILITARY AIRPLANES!!! Dud dud daaaa!!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Worst Christmas Songs, Part II

Last year I listed my top least favorite Christmas songs. This year I've decided to post something along those lines but a little different.

We all love Christmas music. It reminds us of eggnog and fire places and cinnamon and hugs and little children singing. We love the Eartha Kitt and Frank Sinatra classics. Even some of the bubbly pop Christmas songs. But everyone who has ever recorded music, and some that should never have in the first place, feels it is their duty to bring us a Christmas album. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. To demonstrate my point, I give you:

15 Completely Unnecessary/Shocking Christmas Albums

If you ever wondered what a Christmas album would sound like from the pack-a-day cashier at the local truck stop, this is the album for you.

Most country artists have Christmas albums. That's no shocker. But Toby Keith? Christmas with whiskey and cigars ya'll!! American Christmas kicks %@*! Red and green forever!!

I personally don't like either Kenny Rogers or Dolly Parton's music. Plus, I'm completely creeped out by this album cover.

As the song states: "Instead of turkey we’ll have mahi mahi grillin’, And pina colodas in the blender chillin’". I'm pretty sure Kenny's 365-day beachy tan is either from a bottle or the tanning salon. We're over the beach phase. Pick a new genre.

"This lavish holiday set has been called the greatest rock and roll Christmas album of all time." It's true. Nobody says Merry Christmas like a convicted murderer.

Their O Come all ye Faithful is set to the melody of "We're not gonna take it". In case we all forgot what song made them famous.

There's nothing blatantly weird about this album. Just that it's probably the most useful thing she's ever done with her talent. It's the only album she's produced that can be listened to by people with any amount of moral fiber and not feel tainted.

Amazon Review: "A good antidote to Mariah or Christina, but if you're here, you probably know that anyway."

It sounds like "Christmas with the Karate Kid ". I'm not lying. Go listen to the clips.

The only reason a Christmas CD should ever have a parental advisory warning label is if there's a song called "Santa Claus isn't real!!". 16 of the 16 songs have [explicit] lyrics. You will have a very special place in hell if this gets you in the holiday spirit.

Amazon Review: "If you try to stay still while listening to this collection you'll hurt yourself!" I think I'd hurt myself regardless.

John Tesh has not 1 but 8 Christmas albums. Why buy the Best Of when you could have 8 different ways to make you want to stick needles in your eyes?

The other album in this series is called "It's a Denny's Thanksgiving."

Did Billy Idol even play the piano? "The best excuse for the existence of this album we could come up with was that he owed a bookie money."

Amazon review: "David Hasselhoff + Christmas = magic... It's a magic that only exists between Hasselhoff, his fans, and his Trans Am. Give this CD to a non-christian friend and watch them forsake their religion, their family, and their country." Either for Christianity or Hasselhoff worship, not really sure which one this guy is talking about.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I half-heart Twilight

This weekend I saw New Moon, the second movie in the Twilight series. This isn't so much of a review of the movie as a defense of my dignity. I like Twilight. I do. I read the books a few years ago when they first came out (thanks to recommendations from my mama and SIL-Elisa). But that's it. I like Twilight.

I saw the Twilight movie when it came out. Now I have seen New Moon. I went to both movies on opening night. Not because holding out seeing it beyond opening day would throw me into a conniption, but mainly because I like to people-watch the crazy obsessed fans. Have you seen these people??!! (I would say "girls" but as I learned at my viewing on Friday night, teenage boys are also developing crushes on the actors). They scream in the theater. They dress up like vampires. They (grown women) wear underwear with characters names on them. They get Twilight tattoos. I'll be honest, I kind of turn my nose up at them in an air of "I like Twilight but am better than you because I still have a firm grasp on reality." I guess it's just not my personality to become that emotionally attached to a book/movie/actor/anything beyond the real people in my real life.

(click to enlarge)

If there is something I don't agree with and don't understand, it's typically because I'm not informed enough on the given topic to really know what the deal is. So I don't worry about. In this case, I HAVE read the Twilight books and seen the  movies but yet still fail to understand the unhealthy, annoying obsession that girls have with Twilight. And it's not just girls. It's the Twilightophiles. Grown women. Women with husbands. And educations. And lives. But whatev.

I disclose this defense because, due to these types of obsessive fans, I found myself becoming a closet Twilight fan. These fanatical fanatics make it impossible for us normal fans, those that merely *like* the books/movies, to be out in the open. In our current society, it seems that one must choose one extreme or the other. You must either despise Twilight, hate it, loath it, boycott all actors, directors, writers, sound editors, and costume designers associated with the films, or love them. Love them and wish the lives were your own, that you had your own vampire/werewolf love triangle, and that if you love it enough, the story might actually become real and one day, you too might wake up to a creepy, stalker-ish vampire watching you sleep. With these two alternatives at hand, I'm at a loss of what to do. For now, I'm staying neutral. I'm entertained but I don't love it. I don't hate it, but I my life could go on without it, and I wouldn't be suicidal.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Git-Mo Torture Mix 2009

What is your personal hell? It changes for everyone. And apparently at Guantanamo Bay, they found that hell for some of the detainees is music. Since 2002, various songs have been blasted at prisoners for hours, even days, on end, to try to coerce cooperation or as a method of punishment. In a recent article (read here), the artists whose music is being used are issuing complaints to the government, mainly on some sort of moral ground that they don't agree that their life's work should be used in such an inhumane way. (As I'm sure what the prisoners did to get there wasn't inhumane, but whatev). I think they're just ticked that someone would consider their music torture-worthy.

Some of the peeved bands include R.E.M., Nine Inch Nails, and Rage Against the Machine. Specific songs mentioned in the article include Queen's "We Are the Champions" and "March of the Pigs" by Nine Inch Nails. One former prisoner was forced to listen to rapper Eminem's song "The Real Slim Shady" for 20 days. I don't know about you but if I had to listen to "The Real Slim Shady" for 20 days straight, they  wouldn't be able to get me to cooperate with anything as I would have already shot myself in the face. And as for R.E.M., can you imagine listening to "Shiny Happy People" on repeat for 20 minutes let alone 20 DAYS?!

Also included were the theme to "Sesame Street", Don McLean's "American Pie", the Meow Mix jingle, and Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.". So what would be YOUR torture song(s)? My list would include the following (I could name more but these were the first to come to mind):

Time of Your Life - Green Day
Tub Thumping - Chumbawamba
Poker Face - Lady Gaga
Anything by Smash Mouth (Hey now! You're an allstar!)
Landslide - Dixie Chicks
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper
When You Say Nothing at All - Allison Krauss

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Woolly Worms

I love the fall. Love. Love. Love it. For a number of years growing up, my family made a regular trip to the mountains in the fall in either Virginia or North Carolina. They were some of my favorite family vacations. I think those trips play a part in why the fall is my favorite season. Sadly, I had not been to the mountains in the fall since high school! I made Jericho promise me that we'd go to the mountains this fall. On one of my family's trips, we went to Banner Elk for the Woolly Worm Festival. It's a great little small town festival every October so I decided that that was the weekend we should go. This past weekend, Jericho and I drove up to Banner Elk and Valle Crucis for two really enjoyable festivals. Where else can you watch people racing woolly worms up pieces of strings all day?!

In addition to venturing to the mountains, I plan to make some traditional fall food. I've already made some pumpkin muffins for a work function and I bought a big bag of apples from the festival that I have yet to figure out what to do with. Anyone have any good fall food recipes that wish to share? Yes, that's right, I just asked for recipes. It's not going to becoming one of those blogs. I love the fall. I was just going with it. Okay. I'm done now. Enjoy some pictures.

Oh. And I bought a new lens for my camera. I'm in love. All of the pictures from the weekend were taken with it. It's a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. It doesn't zoom! It was awesome to shoot without relying on a zoom lens.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's come to this...

It's been two weeks since I've posted anything new. Yes. I'm slacking. I have nothing to blog about. I have started a few draft posts and they're all crap. Crap. Crappity. Crap crap.

So, for your viewing pleasure, I give to you a compilation of really cool pictures that are NOT photoshopped. I know this feels like a stupid email forward, but they really are cool pictures. (From Cracked.com. While these pictures are clean, there a few articles on the site that are not, so venture at your own risk. I mainly just referenced the link so it doesn't look like I'm hijacking someone else's work.)

Build your own Fortress of Solitude!! These are cave crystals in Mexico. It's a very fascinating phenomenon. The crystals are so fragile that the caves are restricted to humans for only a certain number of times per year and only for short intervals.

What seems like a glitch in the Matrix is actually a wire-frame sculpture. Don't believe me, go here.

What would have happened had Ray thought of a rubber ducky instead of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man and a way to completely freak out your 2 year old in the bath tub or a work of art

Stanley's dream come true. It's a ginormous crossword puzzle on the side of a building in the Ukraine. There are actual clues hidden around the city and the building lights up at night to reveal the answers. 

Hah! Get it?!?! They look like butts!! Ha!! They're actually mammatus clouds, aptly named for their resemblance to udders or other such udder-like objects that we're not going to name since this is a family show. They show up most often during really strong storms or tornadic activity. Talk about your udder disaster!! Zing!

Moments later, the car burst into skittles. I have no other explanation for this other than it's real. But only to a few people. Due to light refraction and a bunch of other science mumbo jumbo, the people in the SUV wouldn't see this phenomenon, only the people from a certain vantage point.

I've seen some gnarly stuff at the beach but I count my blessings we have nothing this satanic in North Carolina. That's a real trash can. That's a real crab. It's called a coconut crab. Designed by the hands of the devil himself.

That is a helicopter pad turned into a tennis court. On top of this (totally where we're going on our one year anniversary). And who else to play but the Swiss Maestro and the great Andre. Really? Does Dubai have nothing better to do with their gobs of money than build gigantically useless structures? I hear they also use small bills for toilet paper...

Not a fun-house mirror reflection of a regular building. Not part of a set for a Tim Burton movie. It's a tarp! Genius! What better way to cover ugly construction than to design an awesome tarp to distract people and make them feel like they're stuck in Salvador Dali's brain.

 This is much cooler if you don't know how they're doing it. But if you still want to know, go here.

I knew this guy that had the foot and a half long Mag-lite like the one cops have. His buddies called it the testosterone flashlight. I'll end the joke there. Clearly the Swiss Army lost the concept of the "pocket" part of the pocket knife since this thing so hugely useless, nothing can actually be accomplished with it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Death by Peanut Butter

I don't have anything to blog about right now.

So until something substantial comes along, here is a picture of the birthday cake I made for Jericho. Feel free to just look at it, or continue reading for the recipe.

Jericho's food sin is any peanut butter/chocolate combination. I will typically buy him a big bag of Reese's Peanut Butter cups for a present, but this time, I made a cake- I shall call it a Chocolate Peanut Butter Peanut Butter Chocolate cake. Even if you don't use the cake and frosting for an ice cream cake, they were both very yummy. The frosting was some of the best frosting I think I've ever had. And I'm picky about frosting.

Chocolate Cake
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder (the higher quality the better)
1 cup granulated or turbinado sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup strong brew coffee (I didn't use the coffee and it turned out fine)
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 oz finely chopped dark chocolate (60-70%) (I also omitted this step b/c I was already adding a 1lb bag of Reese's cups to the rest of the cake)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 9-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl (use electric beaters) or Kitchen Aid stand mixer, place the butter and sugars. Beat on high until creamed. Add the eggs, beating until smooth. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla and coffee, beating on medium until well blended. Add the dry ingredients slowly, continuing to mix until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Fold in the chopped chocolate.

Evenly divide the batter in the prepared pans. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until spring to the touch. Remove from oven and allow cakes to rest in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to completely cool.

Peanut Butter Mousse Frosting
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 to 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Place the butter and peanut butter in a bowl. Whip with electric beaters on low until mixed. Add the remaining ingredients, beating on high speed for 2-3 minutes until light and very fluffy.

The other layers
Ice cream- Sweet Cream from Coldstone with chopped up Reese's cups. Chop up and add them yourself and it's much cheaper than asking them to do it.
Fudge- 1 jar of Smucker's chocolate fudge with chopped up Reese's cups. (This cake is much easier when you have an electric chopper.)

For those of you that have never made an ice cream cake before, it's pretty simple. The order that I choose to do things is as follows:
1) Make the cake (preferably two  8" or 9" pans)
2) Let the cakes cool, wrap like crazy in plastic wrap and freeze overnight
3) Take desired amount of ice cream (1 layer= about 1 - 1.5 qt). Line one of the round cake pans with plastic wrap and spread out the ice cream in the pan.* It's much more solid to do it this way than to spread it out on the cake. Freeze overnight.
4) After everything is good and frozen, assemble. In this case, I prepared the fudge layer and frosting the same day as assembly. They spread easier when they are room temperature.
5) Once assembled, put back in the freezer for at least another hour for everything to get all frozen and set.

*The problem with this method is that the ice cream layer ends up being wider than the cake layer. You can either trim it down to size (and eat the scrapings) or use 9" pans for the cake and 8" pan for the ice cream.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Product Review

For his birthday this year, Jericho requested an at-home, pull-up bar. Our apartment complex gym is lacking in equipment for such a workout-er as Jericho and he would love to be able to do pull-ups at home. So I bought him a pull-up bar. He researched some and found a couple for me to look into. I looked up the user reviews on Amazon and found this gem. I'm not sure if the guy is really so enthused by this product or if he has too much time on his hands. I look for passion and belief in a product when I'm looking at reviews. This guy definitely covered that criteria.

I love this more than my own mother.
April 12, 2009
I was a little leery of making this purchase. Normally, products that seem too simple for too reasonable of a price just never end up satisfying in the way you hope (e.g. The Dodge Neon, anything on Jack in the Box's value menu, my two years at DeVry). But this? Oh. Oh, my faith has been restored in cheap American products.

Because, you see, kids. This is a WELL ENGINEERED cheap American product. Yes, a rarity. I was worried that it would be difficult to assemble. I was worried that it wouldn't really hang from my door frame. I was worried that it would break under my underwhelming 155lbs. I was worried the Utah Jazz wouldn't be able to gear up and start winning road games as the playoffs grew nigh.

I mostly worried for naught.

I assembled the Iron Gym Extreme in about 15 minutes. Probably could have done so a lot more quickly, but I was distracted by Boston Legal on DVD, and by gunning my power ratchet wrench at my cat to stop her from playing in the packing materials.

(Note: You do NOT need your own tools to assemble this product. It comes with a little tool. But you can speed up the process with your own tools. You should have your own tools anyway, you know? Be a man.)

Once you assemble the Iron Gym Extreme, you'll need to pick a doorway. It seemed to fit all my doorways perfectly, but I have heard word of older houses having issues. You will need to insert a small metal wedge into the top of your doorjamb. This helps to secure the device and make sure it doesn't fall on anyone's head. It's not as scary as it sounds, you just kinda shove the thing behind the wood. Then you kinda wiggle it and say "Will that hold it?" Then a few minutes later you say "Gol-darn, it WILL hold it. Ain't that somethin'." Should any friends be standing nearby, this would be an excellent time to exchange high-fives.

I then chin-upped. Well, I tried. God as my witness I had no idea I was such a wuss. I had like no upper-body strength. I'm pretty sure I heard my cat laughing at me somewhere down the hall behind me, but the blood was thumping in my ears so I can't be sure. But the bar sure worked!

I didn't give up and kept at the bar. Now, no, several weeks later I'm nowhere close to entering any Ultimate Fighting Competitions or anything, but I can do buttloads of reps now, and my cat has stopped mocking me.

This product has been excellent. Buy with confidence.

The Utah Jazz, however, appear to be headed towards a first-round sweep at the hands of the L.A. Lakers.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grammar Nazis

In a splendid episode of Family Guy, Stewie finally takes over as president of the world. He gives a television broadcast to inform the country of his takeover and implements four new laws. One of which is that anyone caught using the words "all of the sudden", "a-whole-nuther" and "irregardless" will be sent to a work camp. It was fantastic.

A while ago I came across the most glorious website (seen here). It is a list of common errors in the English language. It's the most extensive list I've found and is extremely helpful for pretty much anyone. I use it on a regular basis when I find myself stuck on something like effect/affect.

I thought I would research for more misused words in the English language and found quite a few sites and articles devoted to the topic. From various articles, here are a few words that are often used erroneously:

What people think it means: regardless
What it actually means: absolutely nothing. "Regardless" means "without regard" and "ir-" means "not". So then irregardless means "not without regard"? WTH does that mean?
*It is, however, a very yummy restaurant in downtown Raleigh. 

What people think it means: first; very ultimate; super most fabulous ultimate ever
What it actually means: next to last. It's not even the ultimate of last-ness. It's the runner up to last.

What people think it means: an amusing coincidence
What it actually means: an outcome opposite of what one would have expected
Ironic: If Michael Phelps drowns in the bathtub.
Not ironic: If Michael Phelps began endorsing Nair.

What people think it means: mildly amused
What it actually means: bewildered or confused
This one is tricky because the word itself sounds like it should mean "sort of amused." But it doesn't.

What people think it means: enormous
What it actually means: outrageous; heinous; atrocious
War-crimes are enormities. A ten-foot wide super-pizza is not.

What people think it means: a lot of something
What it actually means: overabundance; excess
A "plethora of pinatas" is only accurate if El Guapo decided he only wanted 20 pinatas for his party but in fact he had 50.

Do you mind?/Would you mind?
Most people answer these types of questions with "yes" but when you say "yes" you are telling them that you would object to whatever it is that they're asking. If you are okay doing what they ask, you're answer should be "No, I don't mind."

"I could care less"
What people think it means: I don't care at all; not one little inkling of care. 
What they should say: I couldn't care less. Otherwise, if you yell "I could care less about who Billy is dating!!! Jerk!!", you really are saying that on your personal level of caring, you only kind of don't care. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the least amount of care possible), your caring is anywhere from 2-10. Not really all that impressive.

This is just a small list. What others have you noticed? What ones make you cringe whenever you hear them used? There are many that I find myself using and try to catch. If you find that I've used numerous grammatical errors in this post or any previous post, please hold them to yourself and let me enjoy my moment.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Project: Flower Panels

As previously mentioned in my clock post, I have been striving to put crap up on the walls of our apartment and since I think wall decorations are overpriced, I have been making mine. I anticipated this post would be up earlier since I anticipated the project not taking months and tears and sore fingers to be completed.

In my old apartment, I made this. Apparently wall decals are one of "the hottest trends in home decorating" but can also be expensive so I researched on how to DIY. Mine is made from tracing and cutting out black contact paper (that stuff you put on the bottom of drawers or kitchen cabinets). It was so cheap and fun and turned out so well that I decided to take on another contact paper mural for my new apartment. This time was a bit more difficult. I found a picture of panel decals (similar to this) and decided to recreate that design.

One of the reasons I decided to post this project is for the benefit of those that might want to try this at home so you can see just how much harder it is to do by hand instead of buying someone's computer guided laser cut decals, even if they are upwards of $100.

 Exhibit A: another sad, blank wall. But look at the pretty TV! Oooo!
This is my sketch of the first panel of the design. It's a flower. I used the paper from a desk calendar I found shoved behind a desk in my office. It's from 2006.

After sketching out the design, I cut it out with an Exact-o knife. Then I took the design and taped it to the back of the contact paper (reversed), traced it onto the contact paper, and then Exact-o-ed the design again.

Then we carefully applied the decal to the wall after we measured about a thousands lines to make sure they would be straight. The white pieces are the designs for the next two so we could space out and mark where they'd go once they were finished. The wall looked like this for some time. But I persevered...

Skip ahead about a month... And this is the finished product.

And this is from an angle that you can better see our new super-cute IKEA lamp.

I know it seems like I skipped over some steps but the next two panels were the same process. The last one was the hardest to draw and apply. Luckily by that point I figured out that I needed to put little pieces of tape on the black side after the design was done so the decal stayed put while I applied it to the wall.

My conclusions from this project- while it's nice to be able to pat yourself on the back when you look at something cool in your apartment and know that you did it with your own two hands, sometimes it's okay to spend the extra money. This project took FOREVER! Cost wise, this project cost me less that $20. Time wise, I have no idea. It did give me chance to catch up on summer reruns on the CW.

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