Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Counting Down

Hey folks... a quick one here to point out a new feature on the blog.

If you look to the right of the page, you should see my "Days to Disney World" countdown clock. It's pretty awesome. That's how many days until I smell the sweet, sweet air of Walt Disney World.

Starting at 30 days out, I'll be posting a special blog entry every day, harkening back to my old Xanga blog where I did a "35 Days to Disney" extravaganza of blog posts where I listed 1 of my favorite things about Disney each day for 35 days prior to one of my trips. I've been 4 times since then, and experienced a lot of new things. Because of that, I've decided to do it again. I'm going to do everything I can to not refer back to the previous list, and then when I'm done, I'll compare.

You've got a little time before you have to endure it, but this is your warning. I'll still blog about other stuff (like football and things that annoy me, that probable venn cross-section, the Cincinnati Bengals.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm Engaged to a Pie

Hey Folks-

This past weekend I was feeling all domestic and shit, so I told the Tofu Muchacha that I wanted to bake, and I didn't mean that I wanted to smoke some weed. (I have no idea how I know that lingo. I've *cough* never touched the stuff *cough*.

I was feeling the need to explore the sensual art of pastry. Either that, or I just think it's fun to cook and I have a sweet tooth. One of those.

In my head I had this grand idea to make some sort of ornate chocolate layer cake with all kinds of complicated icing and whatnot, but there were level-er heads around (hers) and she brought out her Pillsbury Book of Baking or what I now refer to as "The Book". As in:

Her: What should we have for Dinner tonight?
Me: What does The Book suggest?


Her: What should we do tonight?
Me: Let's consult The Book.


Her: How do we get to Louisville?
Me: Why in the Hell do you want to go to Louisville?

You get the idea.

Anyway, I flipped through The Book for what seemed like an eternity, until I literally was simply too overwhelmed to function anymore. (Seriously I was drooling, and it wasn't because of the pictures.) Finally, I just decided to make her tell me what to make, and she selected a Peach and Blueberry Pie with a Streusel top. Oh yes. You just read that.

So after my run yesterday morning, (don't worry..there's a post about that coming up, to be certain), I went to the store to retrieve the necessary ingredients for the pie. I should mention that I'm not a complete beginner. I've baked a little before. I've cooked even more than that. I'm comfortable with flavors and the equipments and whatnot. I'd never baked a pie before, though, so this was new territory.

I'm a little embarassed to admit that I didn't make the crust. I know.. I know... but the reasoning is that I didn't want to overwhelm myself with a ton of unknowns on my first go-round. Crust can be disastrous, and since I was taking a couple of liberties already (you'll see), I decided to stick with the frozen crust for this time around.

I came back from the store, and here's my Mise en place:

If you're looking closely, you'll notice that there's at least one item there that doesn't always go in a Peach and Blueberry Pie... So that's the first liberty I took. I decided to add raspberries too. Let me tell you.. my gut wasn't wrong. Also, the streusel topping doesn't call for pecans, but I couldn't help myself. They smartly placed them right next to the berries at the store. The fuckers.

So anyway, the first thing I needed to do was to peel those peaches. The recipe calls for 3 cups of peeled peaches, and I'll be the first to admit... I had no fucking clue how many peaches it takes to make 3 cups. As it turns out, 1 cup is equal to 1 peach, give or take. I'd also never peeled peaches before, so I sat, watching Bride and Prejudice (humming the Bollywood songs the whole time.) in the living room with a big silver bowl and a paring knife and I peeled me 6 peaches. Here's what it looked like:

Not bad, right?

So the rest was pretty much following directions, which as any of you who know me can attest is not always my strong suit, but it went pretty well. I mixed the peaches, blueberries, and raspberries in with the cinnamon, confectioner sugar (I'm told this is unusual), and flour. It created a very pretty concoction also known as "the filling":See? I told you it was pretty...

I poured that big mess into the pie crust (now nestled safely inside another pie plate (Tofu Muchacha wisely suggested this, as the filling was copious, and this provided additional space.)

Then I mixed up the streusel topping, which included most of my strays from the recipe (sorry Pillsbury!) It calls for the following:
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of flour
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/3 cup of butter

I added:
Another 1/4 cup or so of butter
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper. (You're reading that correctly)
1/2 cup of crushed pecans

Sounds effing amazing doesn't it?

So after mixing up that whole bit, I poured it into the pie, which now looked like this:
And into the oven it went for 40 minutes at 375 degrees. I killed this time by playing with my new IPod Touch, and finding free apps to download and amuse me. My favorite of the free ones is called "Sheep.... FREE!" where you launch a sheep into space and keep trying to propel it higher. That's pretty fun. Oh..and Google Earth, which is possibly my all time favorite computer program. I also found "Urban Spoon", which is pretty freaking great.

After the 40 minutes was up, I took this out of the oven: Doesn't she look beautiful?

We let it cool for a little while and watched a really odd French movie called The Bridesmaid I'm still a little unsure why I put it in my Netflix queue to begin with, because there was no nudity at all, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why else I'd get a French movie. I'm not saying I'm against foreign films, in fact I love many of them, but French films specifically are pretty much useless without boobs. (The one shot of the dude's butt doesn't count. In fact, it detracts.). The story wasn't bad though, I guess. For a boobless French movie.

We were finally able to cut and eat about an hour an a half later. This is what it looked like just before we took our first bites:

I grant you that it looks a little sloppy, but take my word for it, 1) that has much to do with it still being a little warm, so not completely set up, and 2) who the fuck cares? That shit was so delicious that I wanted to bathe in it. I wanted to take it to Vermont and get married to it. (thank you 30 Rock). I wanted to perform all kinds of unnatural acts all over it. It's seriously some good fucking pie. The pie's parents are all about me marrying it and making it an honest pie at this point.

To recap some of my innovations, I'd categorize them all as a success, but I'll break them down:
Raspberries: Total thumbs up. Delicious and added a little bit of a tartness that otherwise would have been missing.
Salt: I'm all for it. I may add a tiny bit more the next time, or some Kosher salt instead. I really like playing with the sweet/salty/spicy thing, and it gave it good depth. Could use some more.
Cayenne: See the salt comments, though instead of "maybe" adding more, this goes to "definitely". I had a hard time detecting it at all, and what little I did was so slight that it seemed pointless. I'd almost have to try it without to see if I could tell the difference. Don't get me wrong, I don't want spicy hot desserts, but giving it that flavor profile is interesting to me.
Pecans: Flavor-wise it was a good choice. I would probably give them a more course chop the next time, since it really was only a flavor change, and the added nutty texture could be cool.

My next baking adventure is in a couple of weeks, and I'll be doing cake. Tune in then!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Slot Machines and Hookers: The New Au Pairs

Your friendly, Vegas-Approved Childcare Providers

As some of you know, I returned recently from a long trip to Las Vegas.

Much fun was had, and little money was lost, which are the two absolute best things that can happen to a person in Las Vegas. They'll tell you other good things can happen there, but that's not true. Trust me. Fun and NOT getting wiped out are the best you can hope for.

I've spent a good amount of time on this blog talking about the things I love about Vegas. The shows, the food, the people watching... and this trip was full of all of those things.

I saw "Ka". The Cirque du Soleil show at the MGM Grand Hotel, and let me tell you... that shit will blow your fucking mind. Now... I have a fairly broad sense of theater and showmanship and production...or so I thought, but here comes this show with it's 100 flawless performances of extremely demanding physicality, and it's 100,000 pound stage that moves on an arm as though it weighed about 40 pounds and then rotates and then changes axis altogether to literally make you gasp in your chair (if you can even sit at all with the sheer magnitude of what you're seeing), and then they take it all down to a tiny, simplistic spot light and shadow puppets and you're suddenly a 4 year old child, completely amazed at the beauty of it all.

Seriously. Go see "Ka" and tell me it's not the most incredible thing you've ever seen.

The food? Well... the food is difficult for me, generally, but I still managed to eat pretty well. The highlight would be The Mesa Grill (Bobby Flay's restaurant.) I had the Blue Corn Pancake with Barbeque Duck, and the Spicy Chicken and Sweet Potato Hash (with poached egg). Pretty amazing stuff. I see why the guy is where he is. We also went to The Bellagio buffet, which is great, but totally wasted on me, and The Carnegie Deli, which is something to behold. (Incidentally, while there, I saw 2 girls with the collectively most inappropriate outfits of the entire trip, which says something. Also, there's absolutely no way they'd touch any single thing on that menu, so I don't know what they were playing at. I'm almost certain this was a mail order bride situation.)

And Ooohhhh the people watching... It was glorious. As always, people watching is not meant to be discussed later, because one can never do it justice, truly, but I will say that the amount of ludicrously short skirts was at an all time high on this trip. The amount of class at an all time low.
Some highlights include:

- The completely drunken guy with nothing but a backpack and a literal fist of cash searching for the bus stop. He passed us again 5 minutes later. This time with no cash.

-The Jamaican guy who sat down next to me at the Pai Gow table, smoked an entire cigarette in 3 drags, lost 75 dollars in one hand, and got up and left. I don't remember how I know he was Jamaican, but he was. He ended up coming back about an hour later, losing another large chunk of cash, and leaving again.

- The strange conflence of old douchebags and young who met up in the sort of courtyard area in front of Ceasars. It was odd, because they all sort of matched up, and they all had slutty women with them of appropriate age. It was like some sort of time warp where they were running into themselves as the time-space continuum overlapped.

- The completely friendly and insanely unsettling people at Mermaids Casino. They were nice. They were also likely high on LSD.

But anyway... That's not why I'm blogging about Vegas. Really, it's all about a single question that I have:

Why, for the love of all that is holy, would you bring a child to Las Vegas?

I honestly don't understand it.

Is it the wholesome surroundings like GAMBLING? and PROSTITUTION? and FREE ALCOHOL EVERYWHERE?

Is it all of the wallet friendly food options? I believe that the cheapest meal I had (and trust me, since I can barely eat anything, I can generally eat pretty cheap) was the bowl of soup and coke I had at the Ceasars Palace Food Court that came in at around 12.00.

Let me get this straight... You bring your whole effing family to a place where minors are not even allowed to ENTER most areas of almost every place you can go. The kid-related things are so awful and overpriced, (because I guess they're prisoners already, may as well squeeze every sucker cent out of them), that the most interesting kid-friendly attraction I saw was a roller coaster at the Sahara that was ten dollars PER RIDE . There's actual pornography being passed out on the sidewalk of every street where you're not likely to get mugged. At least half of the shows have nudity. The other half are at least 100 dollars a ticket, if you even planned far enough in advance to get 4 seats together. There are literal prositutes hanging around common areas, which are some of the only areas kids are allowed. You're basically encouraged to start getting drunk by ten in the morning. Smoking is also not only allowed, but promoted by the oh-so-classily dressed strolling vendors in every Casino (if the little tykes happen through from the elevator to the pool. )

As far as I can see, the only thing a kid can do in Las Vegas inexpensively is roast like a fucking tomato drenched in olive oil at the giant, over-crowded casino pools. A priviledge that probably costs the same for your 4 day trip as a lifetime pass to the neighborhood pool. Oh... and the odds of swimsuit tops coming off at some point in the constant drunken debauchery surrounding them are so high that the wager has been taken off the board.

So you get what I'm saying right? If you have the means to pay for these boat anchors to wander around with you during your trip to Vegas, you certainly have the means to send the poor kids to fucking camp where they can learn useful skills such as macrame and having dirty dreams about the girls from the camp across the lake. You know... as opposed to happening across that same scenario re-enacted at 1 AM on Cinemax on your complimentary premium hotel cable, though not with quite the same childlike innocence, if you know what I mean.

Does that stop the hoards and hoards of people from bringing every one of their offspring to middle of the god forsaken desert to torment every adult who wants to have a fun, child-free time? No. In fact, I'm almost entirely certain that The Excalibur Hotel AND CASINO is likely the real mouth of hell. There were points when I saw toddlers walking, unsupervised, across a casino floor at one in the morning. I'm sure there was some guardian or parental figure nearby... or am I?

It all comes down to this my friends:

If you want to have a fun, adult oriented vacation where you may drink a little. You may gamble a little. You may take in a gawdy show with boobies... Go to Vegas.

BUT, if you have kids, and you have this strong need to take your kids with you on your vaction, perhaps take a gander at my blog. There's this other place that I mention occasionally where you're certain to spend a lot of money (just like Vegas) only your kid may have an actual good time... it's called Walt Disney World. (I've provided a link.)

Good day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Additional Adornments

Hey Folks!

Remember me? Well... I'm sorry to have been so quiet all these many weeks (I know how hard it must have been for everyone.)

Here are some of the things I did, some of which have inspired me to think about blogging.

-- I opened and closed another show. This one went really, really well. The audiences seemed to really love it. The cast was fantastic to work with. My dad directed the show, which is a rare treat for me. The Tofu Muchacha ushered many a night. It was an excellent time.

-- My sister's 21st birthday present from my parents was a trip to Las Vegas. I tagged along. For a week. Maybe a week is too long. I'll be discussing this and other Vegas topics in a Vegas blog coming soon. Maybe even tomorrow. We'll see.

-- I started another show. This one is a classic... Romeo and Juliet. I'm playing Lord Capulet... Yes, I'm a little young, I suppose, but since it's a love story about 13 year olds getting married, I'm pretty sure my ripe-old-age of 29 isn't really that insane. What is insane is my complete and utter disregard for the fact that I really need to learn my effing lines. Like... whoa.

-- Oh... and I got a new tattoo... Well... not NEW exactly. I had an Icon Mickey tattoo on my leg. Sort of looked like this:

So you at least get the idea. It was basically just Mickey...floating there. I ripped this picture from a picture you'll see later, so it's not taken straight on, so don't worry; the Mickey is symmetrical.

I just felt like it was too lonely..too floating in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to give it context. So I started thinking about how I'd fix it up. You know...fancy it up a bit. Give it some class.

I got the initial tattoo in May of 2006 and in the span of this last 3 years I've grown to truly admire Walt Disney, so I knew I wanted to honor him in some way in the update. I thought about his birthday, but that's dumb. I thought about going crazy fancy with like a silhouette of Walt himself all looming over the mouse, but that would be expensive and sounds better in my head than it could ever be in real life. I settled, after a while on his initials in that classic Disney script. It took me a while to find the font, but here it is:I also wanted to sort of frame it up and give it some texture. I had it in my head that I just wanted sort of a simple antiqued metal look. Like wrought iron. Kinda like this:

Not the big flower, but that leaf really appeals to me. I love the texture and coloration of it, and I felt it would nicely incorporate into the green and black too.

So I came up with a general design that I gave to the artist so that he knew kinda the shape and general idea of what I was looking for:

I didn't really like the leaves in this one, or how it connected at the top, but it got the idea of it across pretty well...

After talking it over with him, and looking at pictures, and after an hour of work on my leg, we came to this: Pretty fantastic, no? I'm super pleased with how it came out. The guy that did it, Jake Lewis (of Queen City Tattoos in Milford, OH) is an exceptionally talented guy. He did my fish tattoo last year too. I highly recommend him for any of your tattooing needs.

Here are some further pictures of the process, for your enjoyment.

Jake working on the leg.

The Collection of Inks.

Jake wiping the excess ink away.

My bloody, not yet wiped, completed tattoo.

P.S.: A special prize for the person who can guess where the leaves came from...

P.P.S: Photos courtesy of The Tofu Muchacha