Friday, January 27, 2012

Do You Have an Accent? You Know You do.

I love Pulp Fiction.
From time to time I talk on the phone with people from around the country.  It's no secret that I'm from Southern NJ, but a lot people think I have either a New York or South Philly accent.  I can hear those accents when I talk to people from those areas, but I don't hear it in my own dialect.  Anyway, a friend sent me a link to an online quiz called The American Accent Quiz.  So I took this quiz and damned if it didn't nail me as being from Philadelphia. Do any of you have accents?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Boy Scout Troop Committee Member - Neckerchief Slides

During the Troop’s December Court of Honor, it was painfully obvious to me that a number of scouts did not have neckerchief slides. Rubber bands, string and neckerchief ends tied into square knots (or granny knots in some cases) do not constitute neckerchief slides. A number of the more senior scouts have hand-made slides from various craft type merit badges (Wood Carving, Leatherwork, Indian Lore, etc.) from summer camp. The newer scouts have not yet had this opportunity. So, to remedy this situation, I have taken it upon myself to hold “Mr. Kill’s Wonderful and Wacky Neckerchief Slide Craft Night”.  We could just have the scouts buy standard issue neckerchief slides from the scout store for about $4.  That would be too easy.  Anything worth doing is worth turning into a huge production costing hundreds of dollars and dozens of lives.
Your standard, run-of-the-mill BSA Neckerchief Slide.

Mr. Kill is, of course, out of his mind and still has nightmares about the Carpentry Merit Badge. *flashback dream sequence*  Carpentry Merit Badge was an obsolete merit badge that was brought back in 2010 for the Boy Scout's 100th anniversary.  It was only offered for the year, and then retired again.  The troop committee thought it would be cool to have as many boys in  the troop as possible earn this badge because of the historic significance (something to tell your grand kids when they're in scouts).  And yours truly rogered up to conduct the classes and the final project, which was a simple foot stool, shown here: 

Simple, right?  Well the original Carpentry Merit Badge was active from 1910 (when scouting was founded) and discontinued in 1952 (replaced by Woodwork Merit Badge).  The main reason it was replaced - the invention of power tools.  To earn the Carpentry Merit Badge, you had to demonstrate your knowledge and use of such obsolete tools as a hand planer, rip saw and a spiral push drill. No power tools.  The final requirement was "Make a simple article of furniture for practical use in the home or on the home grounds, finished in a workmanlike manner, all work to be done without assistance."  So I had 19 scouts make 19 foot stools without power tools or assistance.  It took us almost 8 months, once a week during the regular scout meetings.   By the end I brought my cordless drill in and "helped" them with some of the holes and screws or we'd still be working on these things.  I had the boys take them home to paint the foot stools and bring them back for final inspection because there was no way I was going to deal with paint.

So with that memory still stuck in my head, I am setting out to hold another troop-wide craft event.  And it WILL last only one day.  To make this as simple (and painless) as possible, I (with the help of my less-than-willing alleged son, The Pudge) will make a bunch of blank neckerchief slides out of PVC Pipe and wooden discs before-hand. They will be pre-painted in black, green or brown (mostly green and brown and they will be available on a first-come, first-served basis). They will consist of either a ¾” long PVC pipe with a flat spot or have a 1 ½” wooden disc glued to the ¾” long PVC pipe with a flat spot. A hot glue gun (operated by an adult) and paint and brushes will be available to finish the slides.

So (and borrowing from an email I sent out to the troop) each scout will be required to bring some sort of object that can be firmly glued to the flat spot or disc. Some suggestions would be:

1. Something from a camping trip or troop activity such as a stone, sea shell or other similar trinkets.

2. Something from home or a family vacation that has meaning for the scout such as an arrowhead, board game piece (get permission from your parents on this one), decal or small figurine.

3. Craft objects that could be made into a design such as dried pasta, beads, buttons or nuts and bolts.

Keeping in mind the item they bring:

1. Will be permanently glued to the slide with a hot glue gun.

2. Must be boy scout appropriate. It has to be something that they will be proud to wear with their uniform and at the same time doesn’t offend anyone.

3. Must be durable. They will be sliding it on and off quite a lot and they don’t want to have to fix it all the time.

This is what the prototype slides look like before the junk the boys bring gets glued to it:

This got blurry, but you get the idea.

I figure I only have to make about 40 more.  Oh, the Scoutmaster has decided to do this in early February when we have the Webelos from one of the local Cub Scout Packs visit.  The last thing the Webelos do before aging out of the pack (at the ripe old age of 11) is visit local Boy Scout Troops to see if they would be interested in "crossing over".  Webelos that decide to continue on with scouting and cross over to a troop earn the "Arrow of Light".

So if they decide to join our troop, they'll already have a neat neckerchief slide.  If they join another troop, they will impress that troop with how prepared they are (the Boy Scout Motto).  If they choose not to continue with scouting, then they will have a neat souvenir that also doubles as a napkin ring or dust collector.

To be continued in February...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Culinary Smackdown - Battle Tofu?

Boxer is hostessing this month's Culinary Smackdown and she has named the theme - TOFU!   I'm actually Okay with this. Part of the reason we have the smackdowns is to use ingredients we may not normally use or try recipes we've never done. Tofu fits both of these criteria. 
I never bought or cooked tofu before. And, as I soon discovered, there really aren't that many recipes that feature tofu. And to complicate things, I need to find some way to get The Mrs. to eat it. Those of you who follow me know that finding something The Mrs. will eat is - a challenge.

Then I had an epiphany. But a back story first. A neighbor on the street owns an Asian Fusion restaurant that's right out side of our development. The food is very good and we try to frequent it as often as we can. A couple of months ago, The Mrs. and one of her friends went there for a girl's-night-out dinner. She told me about an outstanding soup that they had recently been added to the menu. It was a crab and asparagus soup - and it had tofu in it too. I remembered this story because The Mrs. doesn't like asparagus and I've never known her to eat tofu.  So I set out to find a similar recipe. The best I could do was Chinese Shrimp and Tofu Soup.   I substituted asparagus in for the peas (because The Mrs. won't eat peas either).  

So here's another back story to show what influences my cooking.  The day I wanted to make the soup I discovered a hole in the fascia board behind the gutter on the 2nd floor roof.  The Boy had been hearing something in the ceiling/wall of his room.  I set out snap traps a couple of nights before and caught 2 mice, but decided to get the binoculars out and do a perimeter check of the roof (good maintenance tip for those of you with a 2nd floor) when I found the hole.  I then discovered that my extension ladder was too short to reach the area of repair and none of my buddies had a longer one.  So I had to run out to a rental store, rent the ladder, and it needed to be back by 3:00PM or they'd charge me an extra day - and it was lunch time. 

I got The Boy to help (mostly steadying the ladder), went up the ladder, pulled the gutter back, discovered the hole was rotted wood with no evidence of teeth or claw marks, and proceeded to cut out the rotted wood with my sawzall (I love that sawzall).  Then I did about another 30 trips up and down the ladder, cutting pieces of wood, getting tools and screws and caulk and aluminum flashing and slapping it all together so it was watertight and rodent proof.  I got the ladder back to the rental place at 3:10PM and fortunately, the guys were still there.  This whole thing felt like the final scene from Goodfellas where Henry Hill is doing coke, cooking the veal, stirring sauce and being chased by a helicopter.  That's how I feel every day.

What does all of that have to do with cooking?  I didn't have time to go shopping for ingredients.  The Mrs. volunteered.   And she actually got me all the ingredients I needed, including pre-diced tofu.  Who knew there was such a thing?

Here's all of the ingredients including the stuff The Mrs. bought.  That's the pre-diced tofu in the strainer - straining.

Here's a closeup of the tofu. 

The garlic, shrimp and ginger.  Another thing The Mrs. did right - pre-shelled and veined shrimp.

The chicken stock with asparagus.

The Mrs. made a salad to go with the soup.  She actually hard-boiled some eggs - HARD-BOILED!

The finished soup.

The Verdict. The Pudge and I liked it a lot. I may have gotten a little heavy-handed with the ginger, but it had a good flavor and the tofu was an interesting, spongy texture. I don't thing the tofu really brought any flavor to the soup, rather, it was an absorber of flavor. The Mrs. - didn't like it. When I explained how I was trying to replicate the soup from our neighbor's restaurant, she started telling me all of the difference between that soup and mine. The asparagus was sliced paper thin, there was a hint of soy and there was not that much ginger (in fact, don't ever put ginger in my food again). These were things I would have liked to have known when I asked her to read the recipe. I'll have to try the neighbor's soup to see if it's all that (it probably is - he makes great food).

Friday, January 13, 2012

She Cut Down My Tree!!!!!!!

I think I mentioned here how The Mrs. got this idea in her head to add an addition on to the back of the house. Prior to that, she bought me a new sawzall so I could cut back the deck around the tree that grows through the middle. Well, SHE CUT MY TREE DOWN. She hired some tree guys and SHE CUT MY TREE DOWN. To be fair, she told me she was going to do it, It still doesn't soften the pain because SHE CUT MY TREE DOWN.

I'm sure it was here a minute ago.

She had the tree guys cut down two more because they might be too close to the new addition and we wouldn't want some sticks or leaves to fall on it.  That was the 2nd of my hamock trees to get the axe.  She was nice enough to have them cut just above the hooks, so I probably have another few years to lie in the hamock that I never have time to use.  And there's no shade there anymore either.

I now have a lifetime supply of firewood.  That I have to split after is seasons.

To make way for the construction, I had to take up a lot of the pavers that I cast and installed 14 years ago.  It took that long for the moss to fill in the cracks as you can see here.

I had to take out part of the fence so the backhoe can get in.  I'm pretty sure she told me this was a turnkey project and I wouldn't have to do anything.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Haiku Monday - Nocturnal

Boy on Winter Break.
Midnight XBox cussing blitz.
Pitch-black stair creeping.

This week's Haiku Monday is being hosted and judged by Scout over at Preserving The South.  So many rules - and she makes them.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Christmas Traditions - Christmas Eve Escarole Soup

 For as long as I can remember, my mother always made Escarole Soup for Christmas or Christmas Eve Dinner.  I'm not sure what started this tradition (a traditional Italian soup, my mother was Irish-Polish-French) or where the recipe came from, but it remains a staple of the Kill Family Christmas Eve Dinner. 

Since my mother's passing 4 years ago, this tradition has been taken up by me.  My oldest sister K has taken up hosting the family dinner and making the traditional Kill Family meal of lasagna, meatballs and sausage (and sometimes braciole).  She actually had to break with tradition this year because of new floors being installed (way behind schedule) in her house.  She went with a simpler menu of ham, beans and potatoes.  But I still brought the soup.

My mom's original recipe - created on a typewriter.

My marked-up version of the recipe.

The boys helped me this year and rolled all of the little meatballs.  Usually, they start to get bigger toward the end, but they stayed pretty uniform in size this year.

The Pudge actually does wash his hands.  That's the escarole draining after it was cooked.

The finished product.  I waited until I got to my sister's to add the egg-cheese mixture.
I forgot to take my camera to my sister's house to show the finished product.  You'll have to take my word that it was good (I only had one serving left that I had for lunch a few days later) and that we drank a lot of wine. Belated Merry Christmas to everyone!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Halloween January

So here we are in 2012 and I haven't posted in like 2 months. Mostly because of the holidays, school schedules, the in-laws visiting for several days and the Mrs' insane idea to add an addition on to stately Kill Manor (more on that in a minute). I discovered in coming back to the office this week that I can now access blogger again. I don't know how long that will last, but I'll take advantage of the magic as long as I can.  I need to look away from my work every now and then (to keep my sanity) and what better place to look than all my favorite cyber people's thoughts.

Anyway, I've been sitting on these Halloween pictures for a while and decided now would be a good time to post them.  This is the annual Haunted House that the Pudge and his buddy Birch do every year.  I talked about it here.  I had the distinct honor of being in the last group of the season and took a few shots from various sections of the house. 

That's the Undead Pudge on the left (I like that he's in a cage).  I'm not sure who that is on the right.  It's not Birch, though.

That catches me up through October.  I might have a Thanksgiving post.  We'll see.

Editor's Note:  The following rant gives you, my loyal readers, an idea of why I haven't been blogging much and it makes me feel better at the same time.

So back to the addition.  The Mrs' reasoning for needing an addition is because we have a relatively small kitchen and when we have people over for dinner or drinks, it gets cramped fast around the kitchen table.  I would agree with this.  However, is it worth a third of our house value to change it?  This is where our opinions differ and my opinion, well you know what that's worth.  She's totally out of her mind, of course. We have like 6 mortgage payments left to pay off the house and she now wants to (actually did) take out a HUGE home equity loan to add about 400 square feet to the back of the house. This will expand the kitchen and den areas.  And when I tell you HUGE, if you haven't shopped around for general contractors lately, the cost is outrageous - even in this economy.  And of course...I said yes.  I always say yes.  And we agreed that because of the cost, this would be our Christmas present - for the next 15 years.

Even with saying yes, she's pissed at me (at least I think she's pissed at me -  because she's not talking to me).  And I think it's because I did give her a Christmas present.  Several in fact, as she did for me.  But I spent way more money one her, including some expensive earrings that she picked out.  I think the center of her pissed-atude is a really cool Belgian Waffle Iron with 6 boxes of really good (according to Amazon) waffle mix.  The backstory here is that the Mrs loves waffles, always has.  We had a very cheap, basic waffle iron that was rarely used because it was a pain in the ass to clean.  And I noticed that at the last Marriott we stayed in for vacation, they had the nice, rotate-around waffle iron that she used for almost every free breakfast the two weeks we were there.  Great idea right?  Wrong.  As she very coldly put it, "She's not Suzy Homemaker and why am I giving her kitchen appliances?"  To top it off, she gave away 3 of the boxes of waffle mix to members of her family at Christmas dinner.  Sigh...

And this was only the tip of the iceberg.  This is what I'm up against.  There's a whole lot of other things going on that I won't go in to.  Don't get me wrong, I love her but this is a tough time for her and we don't have a dog for her to kick when she comes home from work...there's only me.  So now that she's not talking to me, I find that I have time to blog.  Woohoo!  I get the feeling there will be more rants in the future.

Happy New Year to all!