October 7, 2011

September Cooking Experiment: Lebanese Mezza

So our Cooking Experiment this month was a little Lebanese food, including:

Chicken Shwarma
Stuffed Grape Leaves (we bought these - cheaters)
Pita (bought this too)
Olives (different kinds)
Tzatziki - no idea what recipe we used

Overall it was delicious.  The shwarma recipe is great.

October 6, 2011

August Cocktail Of the Month in October: Mojito

Yum Minty Lime Deliciousness.  Here's my version.

1 heaping tablespoon powdered sugar
6-7 mint leaves, washed
1 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
2 oz silver rum
Club soda
Mint garnish

Muddle mint in powdered sugar in a pint glass. Add lime juice and rum and mix thoroughly. Fill glass with ice and then top with club soda.  Mix. I prefer to dump it into a second pint glass and back into the original. Garnish with mint sprig.

Perfect summer refreshment.  Yum!

October 3, 2011


Two weeks with pretty much no posts.  Well, things are happening that have kept me busy, and sadly the blog suffered the wrath.

I will be better.  Look for makeup posts this week across the various blogs here.

September 16, 2011

August cooking experiment: Chicken Vindaloo

This time we tried some Chicken Vindaloo recipe to knock out an Indian cuisine.  The recipe we used can be found here:


Though honestly, I was less than impressed.

This was really disappointing because I LOVE Chicken Vindaloo when we order it from our local restaurant.  Maybe we can find a better recipe (there are only 1000 out there) and try again.

September 9, 2011

Recap of the Big 12 as of yesterday.

A&M: We’re committed to the Big 12
Rest of Big 12: Cool.  Let’s sign a big TV deal.  Good thing we will all get more money now with Colorado and the Cornhustlers gone.
(one year later)
A&M: We’re leaving for the SEC
Rest of Big 12: Whatever, good riddance.
SEC: Yup, you’re in if nobody wants to sue you.
A&M: Hey Beebe, don’t sue us.  We’re leaving you.  And taking the dogs.
Beebe: The Big 12 won’t sue you
A&M: good enough for me, here we come
Rest of Big 12: Whatever, good riddance.
OU: Our conference is crap, we might leave
Rest of Big 12 (minus OU): OU – you think A&M is really worth that much?
OU: Not really, but we’re trying to get a piece of Texas’ TV money, since we’re ranked #1 and all
Baylor: That’s it.  If OU leaves, we’re losing our TV deal and stuck in the Mountain West playing on Boise State’s blue field.  What’s that, SEC?  We can stop all this by suing A&M?  Done.  Or at least we’ll threaten it.
ISU: We’ll sue too.  We’re not influenced by Baylor, but similarly have few options.
KU: Us too.
KSU:  Ditto.
TTU: On this train.  Maybe we can score some cash.
Missouri: We got lawyers, too!
OSU: Whatever, fine, we’ll sue you too, if OU leaves.  Unless they take us with them to the PAC 12.
Texas: OK, we couldn’t be first, but, sure, we want to sue too.  We just love making your lives difficult.
OU: (crickets)
A&M: Come on, you guys, you said we could leave!!! (wahhhh)  You said you wouldn’t sue!
Rest of Big 12:  No we didn’t.  That Bobo Beebe said that he wouldn’t sue you.  You heard what you wanted.
Beebe:  I am a bobo, this much is true.  And my last name is pretty funny.  Want to watch me backpedal?  I said the Big 12, Inc. wouldn’t sue you.  You should have known I don’t own the schools.  And by the way, if you re-read the letter, I just said that the SEC commish and I agreed it would be better if nobody sued.  Didn’t promise.  And my fingers were crossed too.
OU: Did BYU join the conference yet?  If not, we’re still probably considering potentially leaving.

September 2, 2011

July Cocktail of the month - French 75

Yes, July in September. It makes sense somewhere. And this, in honor
of Cheek and Mary's nuptial city. To make these at home:
Shake with ice:
1 shot (oz) lemon juice
2 shots cognac
1 tsp or so of sugar
Strain into champagne glass and top with approx 4 oz of dry champagne
(should be about half champagne and half lemon-cognac-water-from-ice

Oh, and I like to call these a Soixante Quinze instead of French 75.  You can figure it out.

August 30, 2011

Musings on Conference Realignment (2011 edition)

NCAAFootballBye bye, A&M.  At least that's what seems to be happening.  A&M, seeking as much attention as Texas got by looking at the PAC-12 expansion last year, is headed to the SEC.  They're getting the attention, but not the "Oh no, the Big 12 is going to die as a result" reaction that came last year (along with my predictions for the outcome, the first of which happened to be right - for a year - with the 10 teams).

Now, though, the Commish is saying we would take aggressive action to replace A&M, and some of the ADs seem even giddy to have A&M gone and get the chance to replace them.  So, if we did, who would get the invite?  ESPN has an interesting analysis, but my analysis is usually more ridiculous.  With random other candidates.  Some that make no sense.

That said, I still think the conference should aggressively pursue not 1, not 3, but 7 teams to replace A&M.  Not because A&M needs 7 teams to replace them, in fact, we could easily add any one of the following schools and end up just fine.  I just think the Big XII expansion to 16 teams allows for trademarking Big XVI before the Big Ten gets there.  That said, are there even 7 teams out there worthwhile?  Here are some thoughts on candidates (some of which have not been mentioned by others, just my pulling names out of a hat)

  • BYU - this seems to be the favorite choice of ESPN analysts.  I think it's a likely move for them as they're already playing Texas this year, and it makes sense from a viewership for the conference, too.
  • Air Force Academy - I still think this is a good fit and a worthy replacement for the missing Buffaloes from last year.
  • TCU - Questions are out there about TCU's attendance being too small, but they have been successful as a BCS-busting team for a few years and we know they still are upset they weren't invited the first time the Big XII was formed.  Maybe they join up before they play a down in the Big East.  And since they're playing BYU this year, perhaps that's a preview of a conference game to come.
  • Pitt - I'm not sure where this rumor surfaced either, but I read it in the Dallas Morning News yesterday.  But Baylor's Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett came from there, so maybe there are "ties" between Big XII coaching staffs an administration with Pittsburgh.  Not sure what this adds other than a totally new market for Big XII athletics.
  • Boise State - Obviously the problem here is "what do they offer outside of football and a blue field?" and that's a question, but perhaps if we're expanding beyond 12, all we need is football for the extra 4.  That's where the money's at.  Boise is ready to move to bigger, better conferences (which it thought it was getting by a move to the Mountain West before the MWC defections), and an AQ invite might be looked favorably upon.  I still think Baylor would be served well with a home field of gold.
  • Arkansas** - OK, would they really want to come back to join the SWC buddies?  Maybe, maybe not.  The money's gonna be better in the SEC, but then again, A&M could fit into the SEC as an Arkansas replacement, leaving the SEC without the "who's the 14th team" dilemma and fitting the Big XII with a good replacement.  And Arkansas gets to stay regional.
  • Clemson - on the non-regional front, Clemson might be a fit - they have a full complement of sports, and are a whole new geographic market.  And if there are any Clemson fans holding their breath to be the next SEC team, they should exhale.  There is already a South Carolina team and a pair of "Tigers" in the SEC.  They don't need a third.  Clemson could join Missouri in the Big XII and we could match the SEC in number of schools with a Tiger mascot as well.
Thoughts on other replacement candidates (realistic, previously mentioned, or otherwise):
  • Houston - Other than reviving the SWC and some top 25 football votes, I'm not sure what Houston adds other than potential for Art Briles to confirm he made the right move to go to Baylor.
  • SMU - Other than reviving the SWC, I have no clue why SMU would be considered, other than the fact that they are jumping up and down saying "Pick me, pick me"
  • Notre Dame - would be interesting, I doubt they will give up their independence, though.  This may cause problems in getting BYU, too, if they continue to play "copy Notre Dame" as their university strategy.
  • Louisville - Agree with David Ubben this could be a nice complement but not sure if they're being considered seriously.
  • Florida State - So the SEC wants a foothold in Texas recruiting?  How about the Big XII get one in Florida recruiting?  The ACC is not a powerhouse, and then we would have potential for some Big XII/SEC in-state rivalry games.
  • Georgia Tech - See Florida State.
  • Arizona - Have Bob Stoops call up Mike and start the negotiations.  Raiding the PAC-12 while unlikely sure would be fun.
  • Northwestern - Hey, having another private school might be fun.  Especially one in a Chicago television market and a full list of sports.  And maybe NU and KSU could get discounts on purple fabric (and TCU if they join as well).  Granted, would we want two sets of Tigers AND two Wildcats?  I dunno.  It's not really a fair trade for Nebraska, but it would also throw some spikes on the highway in front of Big Ten expansion plans.
OK OK, so likely scenario is that Big XII adds 1-3 teams, and most likely it won't be teams that truly solidify the conference's future before Texas decides to take a few of its friends West sometime in the future.

But I can hope.  And I can hope that Baylor is able to stay in the Big XII and not end up in Conference USA.  But if the replacement teams are Conference USA teams, have we accomplished much?

We'll discuss again in 2012 when this happens again.

**Note: I have since read an article indicating that Arkansas could stand to make at least $2 million a year MORE by taking A&M's revenue share. I thought the SEC model would give them more money, but perhaps I am wrong. If you have more details on this feel free to share in the comments.

August 29, 2011

What I did on my day off - I made the bed

No, literally, I made a bed.  Here's some info on building a King Size Bed based loosely on Ana White's Farmhouse Bed plans.

Purchase List
One 4'x8' sheet of 3/4" plywood (cabinet grade)
20 - 8' 1x4s
5 - 8' 1x3s
2 - 8' 4x4 untreated posts (I found some douglas fir posts, they did not have untreated pine)
5 - 8' 2x4s
2 - 8' 1x6s
2 - 8' 1x12s
4" screws
3" screws
2 1/2" screws
1 1/2" nails
2" nails
wood putty
stain or paint
polyurethane lacquer

Cut List
Headboard plywood cut 77" x 30"
Footboard plywood cut 77" x 15"
8 - 1x4s cut 77" (head/foot top/bottom trim)
6 - 1x3s cut 23" (headboard vertical trim)
6 - 1x3s cut 8" (footboard vertical trim)
2 - 4x4 posts cut 54" (headboard legs)
2 - 4x4 posts cut 21" (footboard legs)
2 - 2x4 cut 84" (headboard/footboard header - cut to fit)
2 - 1x6 cut 86" (headboard/footboard top - cut to fit plus one inch each side)
2 - 1x4 cut 39 1/4" (footboard inside brace - cut to fit)
2 - 2x4 84" (side rail braces)
1 - 2x4 cut 74" (footboard brace)
2 - 1x12 cut 80" (side rails)
4 - 1x4 cut 80" (side rail top/bottom trim)
4 - 1x3 cut 4.5" (side rail vertical trim)
2 - 1x3 cut 80" (side rail top)
8 - 1x4s cut 77" (support slats)


Attach trim to headboard and footboard panels.
Add upright trim pieces - measure to put the center piece in place.

Do the same trim on the reverse side.

Pre-drill holes in the 4x4s to countersink the screws.
Attach legs to headboard and footboard with 4" screws.
Add 2x4 header along length of headboard (no picture) using 3" screws.
Add 1x6 header - first, mark the width of the headboard (or footboard) on the bottom of the header to help center it when you nail it on with nail gun.
Attach header with nails.

I found that with this modification in design, I had to add additional 1x4 to the BACK/INSIDE of the footboard so I would have a place to attach the 2x4 frame.
Attach 2x4 frame to headboard/footboard. (no picture)
Build side rails and attach to frame. Used 1x4s for top trim and 1x3s for veritcal trim, then a 1x3 header to the whole thing.  Attache to the side cleats using 2" screws.  The slats will end up with 7" on each end and a spacing of about 6" each.

Then use wood putty to fill all of your gaps and nail holes and mistakes.

Finish the project using paint/stain/etc. I recommend using a coat of polyurethane over it (but realize it will be at least one level glossier than you think it will be.  So if you want semi-glossy, use satin, hahaha).

And then reassemble in your bedroom and put the mattress and box springs on it.

As you can see, our bed is now GIANT. So my next project will be to take some plywood and 2x4s and create a pair of "pseudo box springs" that is much shorter to take the place of our box springs and lower the mattress into the bed box a bit. Currently we're like 20 feet off the ground which is not a preferred sleeping height.

July 14, 2011

June Cocktail of the Month - Loch Lomond

OK - I'm a little late posting June's cocktail and I have not yet figured out July's (though it will probably be a Cuba Libre Supreme - not what you might think).  Here's what I tried last month.  The Loch Lomond:

1 1/2 oz scotch (for my purposes I used Tamdhu)
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 dashes angostura bitters

Shake with ice, strain into martini glass.

OK, I love Scotch, so I wanted to do something that had Scotch in it.  So I tried this.  I did not like it enough to try it again.  But hey, that's what it's about, I guess, finding new things.  It does not mean that you will like them all.

July 11, 2011


So we have decided to try our hand at some variety in cooking, and are looking to the various cuisines of the world to help with that.  As such, this month we decided to try some paella, from the Andalusian region of Spain.  It's basically a chicken, sausage, seafood mishmash in rice.  We started with Tyler Florence's recipe from the Food Network, but made a couple of modifications, noticeably removing the clams (couldn't find any) and swapping the entire chicken for a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Also, Tyler says this makes 4-6 servings.  I would call it 8-12.  You can EASILY halve this recipe.

1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons oregano
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in large chunks
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 chorizos, cut in large chunks
1 Vidalia onion or 1016, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1 bunch flat (italian) parsley, chopped
1 can of whole peeled tomatoes, drained
4 cups medium grain rice
6 cups water
big pinch of saffron (this stuff is way expensive, fyi)
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 lobster tails (we had to peel ours to get them to cook right)
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

  1. Rub paprika and oregano all over the chicken breast pieces.  Salt/pepper the pieces as well.  Set in a bowl in the refrigerator for an hour.
  2. Cook chorizo in oil until browned over medium-high heat in a large pan.  It will separate into what appears to be ground pork.  Set aside.  You can start this after chicken has been in the fridge 45 minutes or so.
  3. Cook chicken pieces in the same pan until browned, cooked.  Set aside.
  4. Reduce heat to medium.  Cook garlic, onion, and parsley in the same pan 2-3 minutes, turning frequently.
  5. Crush tomatoes by hand into the mixture, stir, and cook another 4-5 minutes.
  6. Add rice, and stir into onion mixture.  Add water, and simmer for 10 minutes - don't worry about bringing to a boil, that may cook too much liquid off (what we did).
  7. Add chorizo and chicken back, and pinch of saffron.  Add shrimp, and cook for 8 minutes, turning occasionally.
  8. Shake the pan heavily, cook for about 5-10 minutes.
  9. Add lobster, cook another 5-10 minutes until cooked through.
  10. Turn up heat to high for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes or so.  Sprinkle in the peas and serve.

That's it - hope you enjoy it.We had it with some Crianza from the Rioja region of Spain.  I presume it would go well with white wine as well.

June 20, 2011


So I had this great idea to plant sunflower seeds every two weeks from March until July, so I would have staggered growth and sunflowers blooming for a long cycle, but nature beat me to the punch and these remnants from last year's seeds came up first. We'll see if the rest make it.
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June 11, 2011

Half Dark

Well, one of my light fixtures blew a bulb, and then when I turned it over, I found that the plastic end to the plug had totally come undone, meaning I couldn't even put a new bulb in.  So, time for new lights.  As you can see, the aquarium is currently sporting a pretty fancy half-and-half look.

Did you know that aquarium lights are EXPENSIVE?  No?  Well, they are.  Some even range up into the HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS FOR A SINGLE LIGHT.  Luckily, I found some that were not as expensive (difficult considering I'm buying two sets at 36" apiece), and was able to leverage an Amazon Gift Card to make that happen with zero out of pocket cash.  I'll end up with dual bulb fixtures, too, with a 6700K light and a plant grow light (something my plants have wanted anyway, but I was hesitant to give them, ha).

Hopefully they show up soon, and I'll snap another pic.  Also did some maintenance Thursday night, including refilling my CO2 canister (yeast-based) and swapping out some filter media.  Yay for aquarium maintenance.

June 8, 2011


First this year - a couple of Cherokee Purples and a couple Rutger's Select (ripening). I always try to pick before they "vine ripen" so the pests don't get them. They'll ripen on my counter just fine.
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May 9, 2011

May Cocktail of the Month - Mint Julep

OK so this post is a little late for you to get your pour ready for the Kentucky Derby, but you might as well enjoy this cocktail once this month.  I bought a little too much mint (don't do that), so I have a few more probably to make later in the month.

What you need:
Crushed Ice
muddler or wooden spoon

How to make it:
  1. Take about 15 mint leaves and put them in a glass (if you have a julep glass or collins glass, awesome, but if not, use a rocks glass like I have inappropriately used above).  Sprinkle in about a teaspoon of sugar (you can use more, it won't hurt) and a little bit of water (no more than a tablespoon).  
  2. Take your wooden spoon or muddler and smash the mint leaves around and around until the sugar is no longer visible in there (this point is debated by julep fanatics, but is not debated by me).
  3. Fill glass to the brim with crushed (as finely as possible) ice.
  4. Add 2 1/2 ounces (I use a shot glass as a measuring device, but don't use one that's too big) of bourbon to the ice.  
  5. Stir it up with your spoon, you should see some mint come up into suspension in the ice.
  6. Top it off with more crushed ice.
  7. Stick a sprig of mint in there as a garnish (you bought too much.  What else are you going to do with it?)
  8. Drink it, but hold it from top or bottom so you get a nice frosty frost on the outside of the glass.
  9. Enjoy!
Congratulations to Animal Kingdom for winning the Kentucky Derby and also for having what I considered to be the worst name of any Derby horse in the running this year.

April 8, 2011

Decluttering: 4 Steps to Less Junk

Clutter in basement Every now and again, there comes a time to stop and look around, and realize that you have lots of crap that you don't use.  Hopefully you catch yourself before your basement or closet looks like the picture there (no that is not my house), but when I start to feel a bit "cluttered" I get stuck thinking about how to go about fixing the problem, and often get stuck in "analysis paralysis" where I start overestimating the amount of effort required to fix the problem and use that as justification for procrastination.

That said, we have recently begun looking at how to reduce the amount of junk we have that we don't use, and get a bit more organized around the house while we do it.  Here's the method that we're looking to employ.

Create a Plan
First step is to know what we're going to do.  First and foremost is determining "rules" for what to get rid of.  For us, it is primarily to get rid of things we have not used in the past two years or so and don't intend to use in the next year.  There's some exceptions to this, where we have some larger, more expensive items that we intend to use again in three or four years and would not want to have to repurchase, given the decreased amount we could get if we sold them, baby items that we or friends might be able to use, and some others, but for the most part, we have our rule.  Because, for most things, if it has not been used in two years, it is not truly something we need.  Once we have our rules, the next part of the plan is to figure out "which room is first."  So, by making a list of every room and closet in the house, we can prioritize and figure out which rooms to start on, and get started.

Divide and Conquer
When going through the items, there are two important decisions to make.  The first: keep or get rid of.  Luckily with pretty good rules, this decision is pretty easy, and the "exceptions" can be relatively few and far between or would require tweaking of the rules.  The second decision: what to do with the things that you are getting rid of.  My strategy?  Divide it into "disposal piles" based on which of the ways you plan to get rid of them.  Do it now and you won't have to do it later.

Dispose, Dispose, Dispose, and Dispose
Doesn't matter how you do it, once you have tons of crap to get rid of, you need to get rid of it.  I generally have two goals when getting rid of stuff, though:  1) try to keep it out of landfills and 2) get some money back on it if I can.  So here's my five-pronged disposal approach:
  • Sell - Selling is obviously the best.  Using sites like eBay are a good first step for anything that might actually bring some money.  But since money is not the "big" objective, we are likely to list some stuff for $1 or $5 and see if it sells.  Books and CDs and stuff we might take to Half Price Books or something like that and try to unload them, though I know they will pay like $2 for 100 books.  Still, gets them out of our house and into their warehouse.
  • Donate - If it doesn't sell, I am not going to kid myself trying hard to keep selling it (anymore.  I have stuff that I have tried to sell and didn't that is still sitting around because I think it is "worth" something).  Donating (and getting a receipt) equals a tax deduction and voila - a wee bit of money (next year).
  • Give Away - Things we can't donate but people might want we could give away, or post somewhere like Freecycle.org.
  • Recycle - if we can (torn up books, plastics, etc.), we'll recycle it.
  • Trash - If all else fails, to the landfill it will go.  Hopefully this is just small items.
If we fail to sell something, try to donate it, and on down the list.

Go Digital
Doesn't really help me with the current clutter, though I might be scanning in some documents, etc., but going digital with some things (old useless photos, etc.) might save some space.  Going forward, I'm relying on mp3 download purchases and Kindle books to eventually replace 90% of my physical media versions of those "items of content."  So if you're looking to buy me a CD or book for my birthday, hop on Amazon and gift me the digital version instead.

So - onward.  Let's see how it goes.  And if you have tips for decluttering, leave me a comment - I may need more advice than this.

March 30, 2011


Despite some damage from the freeze last month, the irises are still blooming.
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