Sunday, April 22, 2012

Caught up

There. I did it. I kind of got caught up. There were some other things that happened in the last few weeks... But not all that notable.

I did find a new band last night: Darlingside. I don't really know how to describe them. They are wonderfully intense, and loud, yet soft, quiet and beautiful. I cannot wait to hear more from them.

This week will end with me in Pittsburgh hanging out at Gwyn's art show, then packing her up to move out here! It is going to be great! I cannot wait for her to get here :)

Weekend Warri-ing

The past two weekends I have completed two projects. The first one was a solo mission, but the second Wes and I were making our ancestors (most notably our fathers) proud.

I have been holding on to Reed's bottles since Freshman year of college. I have recycled my collection whenever I move, but I always want to do something with them. The opportunity finally presented itself. I was able to 'throw away' three shelves in to my car when some remodel work was being done at work.

With my new hand saw, and my dremel, I went from this:
Worth about $1.15 in MA
In to this:

Turns out a Reed's bottle is just the right height for a DVD. So this is now fully populated with DVDs, freeing a space under the TV for other multimedia goodies.

On Friday, Wed and I were brainstorming what we could do with his new circular saw... and decided that planter boxes were in definite order. Getting all of the lumber to build 5 of these in to my car was a little tricky, but we did it. It was great.

All ready for some dirt and plants!
Now I need to get some dirt and plant some plants! I am thinking Bell peppers, Basil, Chives, Green Onions, and maybe even some flowers! (I tried to spell that flour, and could not figure out why that was wrong for a good 20 seconds.... that means it is time for bed!)

Happy Easter!

I know it is way past Easter... but you all need to see the awesome pictures of my awesome meal.

Let me say first: What I know I learned from the master: My mother. Thanks Mom for being awesome! I wish you could have been here to help! Also my Dad gets an honorable mention for teaching me to carve a turkey. I wish I could have BBQ'ed the bird. That would have been great. I have also had a a lot of operational experience with Chelsea, I have helped her pull off such greatness before, and us Griffiths can spread out quite the meal. Stuff of legend.

Anyway: Wes, Marissa and Kita come over around 2 ish and we made a whole day out of it. Wes brought some Chilli (the chilli itself had a long and kind of tiresome story involving late nights, fire departments, his mother... and so on). I planned on Turkey, stuffing, green beans and mashed potatoes.

First the Turkey. Krissy (a friend in Pittsburgh who had me over for Thanksgiving twice) made her turkey in a bag. And it turned out great both times, so I took a stab at it:
In that bag is a turkey, some celery, chopped onions, and chopped apples.
It was wonderful, fast forward a few hours:
Pecker-dodle out. Ready to go.
That was way easier than I was expecting. I made gravy for the first time, the bag keeps all of the juice in one spot making it really easy. I made it a little thick, but it worked out great too!

On to the potatoes. Marissa brought some organic, locally grown potatoes. They were so cool! So colorful!
The purple ones are the same deep color on the inside too.
Once you mash them, you get an awesome swirl looking thing.
I did need one of my Grandfathers to mash... I can never get it fluffy enough.
So great turkey, great potatoes. I also made stuffing for the first time. This stuffing has been passed down from my Great Grandmother! I didn't take any pictures... you can see it later. It turned out great. I need to resist making that for every meal, it always tastes soooooo good!

And green beans: everything tastes good in bacon grease :)
Hey Look ME! And the food.
All in all the food preparation went really well. I had lots of time, things were smooth. I would definitely do it again.

My friends.
My food.
Oh, and I should not forget about this! Kita made amazing Bread Pudding. That was the perfect finish for a great feast!

I hope everyone was able to have a good Easter! I wish I could have had all of you here with me!

Wes' Pizza

This happened a while ago, but it is worth sharing.

Wes and I have been on a quest to find good solid pizza. Everything here seems to be hoity toity, 'Italian' or super low quality. We just want good ol' American Pizza. We would be ok with deep dish, we would be ok with NY style, we would be ok with what I call Parlor pizza (something no one knows of over here... I oddly miss 5 Mile Heights). So in this search Wes has been thinking a lot Chicago style pizza. He goes on and on about the tomatoes, and the cheese, and the dough... it all sounds great!

So this pining came to a head when one day he looked at me and said: "Hey, we are going to get Chicago pizza shipped to your place." 48 hours Wes, Marissa and I walked up the stairs to see a large box sitting in front of my door.
There was a 'opening' anthem sounded right about here....

Wes got 2 Roni, 2 Sausage, and 2 Veggie pizzas. They come in a large cooler with dry ice to keep them cold. You throw them in your oven, and there you have authentic Chicago style pizza. It was great.
Pizza Pies.

This all goes along with our Avengers marathon. We have been making it through all of the Marvel movies that lead up to the upcoming Avengers movie. We finally made it past Captain America last Thursday.

Generally these marathon days open with a bit of Golf after work, then food (this week I made Enchilada's) then a movie. It has been wonderful!

Phad Thai

I am just going to post pictures... Ill modify this post if you really want the recipe. It is a really good one! I have won over many hearts with it. I think the only reason Cassie Tomlinson likes me is because of this recipe (don't worry Cassie, Ill make it for you any time)

Along with this recipe was a trip to H-Mart. H-Mart is a Korean shopping market and general cultural hub. I was told that I needed to experience this place that is right next to my apartment. Every weekend, all day, it is packed. I ride my bike past it all of the time, and am amazed. So I finally went in.

It was intense. I started in the food court for some lunch. I wast not feeling overly exploitative, and just went with fried rice. It was great, but there were so many other options that I will have to go back for later.

I then ventured in to the store. I didn't know what 75% of the things were... it was great! Part of this lack of knowledge was the abundance of new things, and also the lack of English. Most products have minimal English, and a lot of, what I assume, Korean. This caused some confusion, both with me, and from a couple who approached me (being one of the only other white people there) asking for directions... I laughed and commiserated with them.

I eventually made it out, but with only a few of the items I needed... I guess that is what I can expect for trying to by Thai ingredients at a Korean place. Lucky for me Market Basket (my normal grocery store) had everything I needed.

So here are the pictures, with no other captions. Let me know if you want the recipe.

Italian Knot Cookies

Another request. Marissa asked if I could make these. They turned out great. These are more or less a sugar cookie with a Anise frosting (this could easily be switched out for any flavoring).

Based on this recipe.

Italian Knot Cookies

1 Cup (8 oz) cream cheese
1/2 Cup (4 oz) butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 teaspoons baking powder
5 cups flour

2 cups Powdered Sugar
3-4 tablespoons of milk
1/2 teaspoon Anise extract

Hundreds and Thousands (aka Sprinkles)

Makes a (insert whatever expletive you think is appropriate) ton.
Prep: 30 mins to 2 hours
Cooking: 6 mins per batch.

So these cookies are hand formed, so you can make them as big as you want, or tiny like I did. I know my audience, so I tend to make small finger cookies, not big ones. After 50 mins of hand rolling and 'tie-ing' a hole bunch of cookies, I started experimenting with shape and size. You can make 2 dozen huge ones or a whole bunch of small ones. It is up to you, and your hands.

You can do this in a mixer, I chose this time to hand mix it. Throw in softened butter and cream cheese, add sugar and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking powder. Slowly add flour mix to above batter. This will start to form a dough that gets really hard to 'stir.' Remove and kneed in remaining flour until workable. Mound all of this in one big ball right next to your work surface.

Pull out an ungreased cookie sheet. Now get ready to tie. Grab some dough, roll between your hands (you will need to get flour on them to keep the dough from sticking to your hands) and roll/tie in to knots. Or whatever else you want. If you don't want to deal with knotting you can just twist them in to little spirals too.

Once you have a pan ready, throw it in the over for a short amount of time. You are just lightly baking them. You only want the bottom to turn brown. In my oven, I just cooked them for 6 minutes. If you have big ones, go a little longer. This takes a little modification per batch. You can figure it out.

Remove from pan, cool on racks.

When cooling, get ready to frost them. Combine all the frosting things together, milk last, only little bits at a time. It is really easy to make it too runny. If you need it thicker add more sugar, if it is too thick add some milk.

Dip each cookie in the frosting, place on wax paper. Sprinkle with hundreds and thousands. (not to be confused with jimmies or sprinkles). Eat. Enjoy!

After being introduced to the word 'jimmy' in Pittsburgh, I have looked in to the naming convention of sprinkle-able items. Look it up.

These reminded me of those little frosted animal cookies, the pink and white ones.

Chocolate Rugelach

As per new found tradition, a few Sundays ago, someone suggested I make Chocolate Rugelach (that is pronounced like Arugula (but with a guttural 'ach' and an R)). If you have not heard of this, I had not either, it is a Jewish pastry cookie.. that is a. maze. ing. I really liked these.. possibly a new favorite cookie. (but I always say that ;)

To give credit, where credit is due, I based it off of this recipe here.

Chocolate Rugelach

1 cup unsalted Butter
1 cup (8 oz.) cream cheese
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour

6-8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Approx: 4-6 dozen cookies (depending on size)
Approx Prep: 1 hr
Approx Cooking time: 30 mins if you can get it all on one pan (or two)

To start: be sure your butter and cream cheese are soft. For me this means taking it out of the fridge, and throwing it in the microwave for a little bit on low power, just until it starts to bend over (you don't want completely melted... just soft), same with the cream cheese. You can do this by hand, but it is way easier in a mixer.

Mix butter, cream cheese, sugars, and salt until completely mixed. Once a nice consistency is reached, add vanilla. Then add flour.

Take dough out on to floured surface, massage a little, then tightly pack it all together in to a ball, wrap in plastic wrap. Throw it in the fridge.

While this is chilling, prepare the filling. I didn't really have anything other than a knife to do this, but I guess a food processor might work... You need to chop (or shave) the chocolate in to small pieces, nothing bigger than a BB. Use everything you get from chopping, including the chocolate dust, mix with sugars and cocoa powder. Mix this well.

Wait for the dough to chill at least 30 mins, if not longer.

On a floured surface, roll out 1/4 of the dough. You are aiming for a rectangle. If you are trying to make smaller cookies, make this very long and narrow (no smaller than 2 inches), if you want bigger cookies (you could even get away with a roll type cookie) go for 5 or 6 inches. I stuck with the suggested 4, and it turned out great. Trim your dough, so you have a nice rectangle.

Spread 1/4 of the filling in to the center of your strip (long ways), you should have a long line of filling, running the length of the rectangle. Lightly press the filling in to the dough.

Roll the dough in to a long tube. Roll is sort of a hard word to describe.. I did more of a fold. Fold one side of the rectangle over the filling, then fold the other side overlapping. Either way you should now have a long tube-ish thing.

Slice your tube in inch segments. You are then going to have to transfer them to an lightly greased cookie tray. I went with a cut, then transfer method, using a fork to mitigate the spillage. As you try to pick up the slice, the filling will fall out. Try to keep this from happening... you want the most filling in the cookie as possible. The cookies do not change shape too much, so you can fit a lot on a pan, just be sure they don't touch.

Keep repeating this process until everything is cut and placed. In a small bowl, mix topping sugar and cinnamon. Liberally sprinkle over cookies.

Bake until golden. 20-25 minutes

Remove, cool, enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


If you, like me before I moved here, do not know what Patriot's Day is... let me inform you. Back in the day, some very forward thinkers got together and said 'Hey! We are not going to take this!' This was later the influence of a great Twisted Sister song, and give birth to our beloved country. These Patriots stood up for Liberty and Freedom and sent their British oppressors back to the ocean. Well, almost... they were pushed back to Boston, and then started the Siege of Boston... but that did not happen on Patriot's day. That happened after Patriot's day.

Patriot's day is an observation of the starting of the Revolutionary War. Starting at Midnight with the ride of Paul Revere (yes, he sets off from the North Church around midnight, and takes the same path) and moving through the days events. The most interesting to me, as my proximity made it very accessible, was the Battle of Lexington. I may have mentioned this, but I drive past the Lexington Battle green everyday going to and from work, and is a short bike ride from my apartment.

So I set off at 5:30. Thinking that I could get there by 5:50 and see the reactors. No problem. Who shows up at 6:00 AM to watch some silly guys in old clothes.... well turns out a lot of people show up:

This was the general theme....
I am not good at guessing these types of number but I would guess, from my limited perspective, that there were upwards of 10,000 - 15,000 people who had the same idea as me... but they came prepared. With ladders.
This was almost as impressive as anything else.
 Ok, so for some historical buildings. I suggest everyone read the Wiki page on the Battle Of Lexington and Concord if you want more info. So on the way, I jumped off my bike to snap this picture of The Hancock's house (a house owned by the Hancock family, and used as refuge by John H. and Sam Adams during the fighting).
To think about the conversations had in this place... crazy.
After being stunned to not see any of the battle green, I walked around until I saw a little clearing. Of ladders at least, and made perch. Thanks Mom and Dad for giving me long legs... I could kind of see if I was on my tip-toes. And the people in front of me were not holding their child on their shoulders. This place happened to be right in front of Buckman Tavern (were the Militia met before the battle)

 While this was all going on, there was a guy giving a narration/monologue of the events leading to the Battle, and then a little overview of the battle itself. This served to set the stage, and to explain somethings as once the reenactment started, there was no narration. About this time I looked over the green to see yet more Bostonians on a roof:
They really like doing that here.
 And shortly after the narrator stopped, Paul Revere rode up to the Tavern and roused the Militia.
Sorry for the blurriness, he was riding really fast.
  Then, a few at a time, they started to come out... A warning shot was fired (look at the Wiki for the cool way the Patriots communicated) and Patriots started filing to the green.
As they were assembling, you could hear Captain Parker giving orders, assembling the men. There was an air of uncertainty... the crowd got the feeling like something was about to happen, but it was rather nervous... people looking around, people whispering. It was a really cool effect. I don't think it was overly intentional, but it added to the mood. You felt the unease of the Militiamen. After a bit of time, you could start to hear the drums of the British... and then, slowly, the tin whistle. And then a the Red Coats started filling out the rest of the green.
 It was interesting to see the disorganization and confusion of the Red Coats... Eventually they formed ranks and advanced toward the Patriots. Shouts were exchanged... lots of yelling. And then the fabled Shot. I could not see where it came from... I could barely see the fighting at all... but I could hear it. I would guess that every single musket on the green was discharged at least once if not more.
As this was going on, I started to hear shots from behind me. I then remembered stories of this, that there were men in the Tavern who took shots at the Red Coats back. Turns out, I was standing (along with 50 or so other people) between the tavern and the Red Coats...
You get 'em!
Then, after about 1 minute of shots being released, the Patriots retreated to Concord and the battle was over. The British reassembled, and marched on.

On the battle field, there were several dead Patriots. The narrator came back on and started reading off the names of the dead Patriots, and they would stand and salute, or wave, while their street, house number and Family name were read. A number of them received loud and intentional cheers from certain sections of the crowd (I assume either people who live in the house, or near the house, or who are family members). I thought it was an awesome and great way to end the reenactment, and pay tribute to those who lost their life.

What a great day... and that was only up to 6:20 Am! You should hear about the rest of my day! CODDING! I went out with Wes, Ben and Marissa to explore the Cape. Ill try to get some pictures, and ill tell you about it :)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Southie Saint Pattys Day

Better late than never, here is how I celebrated the day after St. Patrick's day. In South Boston. With 750,000 of my closest friends.

 First... lets focus on that. I have a hard time visualizing numbers. I see them so much, that there is a gap between the idea and what 750,000 people actually look like. In other terms this would be 3/4ths of 1 Million people. Or... more than the entire population of the Tri Cities of Washington. Assuming that the average bus holds 40 people sitting down, and 60 people crammed in, that is somewhere between 12,000 -19,000 bus loads. Assuming average width of a human is 20 inches (you know, reasonable shoulder to shoulder width) that would make a parade route 118 miles long (with people on both sides...) which is almost as wide as the state of Massachusetts. So what does this mean? I took a commuter train from Burlington to North Station (also known as the basement of the Boston Gardens (also known as the home of the Bruins, Celtics and that day the regional hockey championship)) then the subway to South Boston. All of these trains were full... and it got worse with every train, where by the last leg of my trip, 3 'Big Red' standing room only trains passed me. When I got to the final station, there was almost not enough room to get off the train.

I emerged from the station to a bunch of people, and a bunch of police. Apparently, there is 0 tolerance for rowdy behavior (understandable). I walked down the parade route until I found a nice retaining wall with two guys standing there, and took my perch. From here I would survey the entire event. It is this point when I realized the scene. On the sidewalk curb were the families, small children lots of young faces. Jut behind them were the parents. Behind them was a ever flowing stream of people, then the 20-40 year old people who were already a little drunk (or still drunk from last night). Then me an the other -not so drunk- observers. Oh, yeah... and people standing on cars. And roofs. And hanging out of windows.
And the parade started. It was exactly what I would expect from a working class neighborhood with lots diverse people. There were floats and large groups of people for all of the major unions, there were the politicians shaking hands and throwing candy, There were reactors in full dress, from revolutionary to WWII. Just about all of them either driving tanks looking like a victory parade in Europe or firing off their muskets. And all mixed in were groups like the Ghostbusters (there were at least 40 guys, and 2 Ecto Ones) and a strong branch of the 501st Legion (Star Wars guys).

It was wonderful. I was glad that I tested the waters and saw some things. After a slow down, the last group was the city street cleaning crew... I thought it was a float for a little bit, but it was just this huge truck with a big vacuum hose flanked by two large street sweeps and force of men picking up everything. And the crowd dispersed...

I knew I did not want to get on the train right away to go back. That was going to be full. So I did some exploring. I didn't really know where I was, I knew I was South of the main city, so I crossed some train tracks in to a more commercial area and headed north. I found this great restaurant called The Intermission in the theater district and had a great hamburger. Then continued wandering north... and in no time, ended up at the Boston Commons. At this point I got really excited as I had been here before, and I knew where I was... also there was a T stop so I could go home...

To my left...
To my right...
I do love Star Wars

What parade would not be complete without a St. Patrick?