Monthly Archives: August 2013

August Photo shoot: Playing with Lighting

For My monthly photo shoot, I will come up with a theme and document it to the best of my ability and talent- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and strike a pose.

My theme for the month of August is lighting- capturing the contrasts of light and dark in a photograph, in (hopefully) an interesting way. The shots are all a bit disjointed, taken in various places, using different aspects of lighting control. I promise next month’s batch of photos will be much more cohesive! Click on any of the pictures below to view them all larger:

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2nd August Recipe Test with Anna!

We went tailgating at the Royals vs Nationals game during the retro Jersey night. We had so much fun tailgating that we missed out on getting one of the Monarchs t-shirts given away to the first 10,000 fans. Sad, but tailgating was awesome. It was crazy hot, but we had a blast ‘front gating’ in front of my car (the parking attendants tell you how to park) and watching the game day antics.

The Cast of Characters for the baseball strawberries:

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Piping the ‘stitching’ onto the strawberry baseballs:

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So cute! (Pinterest is awesome!)

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The Cast of Characters for the beer cheese dip:

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Soooo… I had a recipe for the pulled pork sandwiches. Then I got lazy and bought  a pre-made package. Who wants to spend hours slow cooking in the crock pot?

Aint Nobody Got Time for That Aint Nobody Got Time For That

My genius plan:

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We packed up everything in a box and a cooler and made our way to Kauffman Stadium to see the Royals game! Even though it was brutally hot, we had so much fun, and the food was delish!

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The Recipes:

Slow Cooker BBQ Apricot Pulled Pork Sandwich Recipe:
(Makes 8 servings)

Ingredients:
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 1/2 cups apricot preserves
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
3 pound boneless pork shoulder roast

Directions:
Combine barbecue sauce, apricot preserves, dry onion soup mix, dijon mustard, and soy sauce in a medium bowl.  Place pork roast in a slow cooker sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Pour sauce over meat.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours.  Shred meat with two forks and use a slotted spoon to serve on buns or rolls.

sports- dipped strawberries

Yield: 24 to 36 dipped berries

Prep Time: 60 min + freezing time

Cook Time: 12 min

These strawberries are fun for Father’s Day or sport’s- themed parties…

Ingredients:

Wilton’s candy melts- white, orange, cocoa and red
2 pints of strawberries

Directions:

1. Make baseball-dipped berries: Melt white candy melts in a glass bowl in the microwave (about 2 minutes). Stir until smooth. Dip strawberries in white and set on waxed paper. Once the strawberries are all dipped and set, melt a few of the red candy melts in a glass bowl (microwaved). Spoon the melted red into a piping bag (or use a sandwich baggie with the corner snipped off and a small tip inserted into the corner- Wilton #2). Carefully pipe laces onto the white dipped “baseballs.” Let them set before moving to a platter.

2. Make basketball-dipped berries: Melt orange candy melts just as you melted the white. Dip strawberries into the orange and set them on waxed paper. Then melt a few of the cocoa melts and spoon those into a piping bag with a small tip. Carefully draw basketball lines on the orange dipped “basketballs.” Let them set before moving to a platter.

3. Make football-dipped berries: Melt cocoa candy melts just as you melted the others. Dip strawberries into the brown and set them on waxed paper. Then melt a few of the white melts and spoon those into a piping bag with a small tip. Carefully draw a line across the bottom and the top of brown-dipped “footballs” and draw the laces down the front. Let them set before moving to a platter.

Tips:

*Candy melts can be found onlineand at craft and baking stores. They are GLUTEN FREE.
*If you’d like a darker line on your dipped basketballs, melt a few dark chocolate chips and use those for piping in place of the melted cocoa disks.

*These can be made early in the day and left at room temperature until ready to serve, or stick them in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Beer Cheese Dip

  • Serves: 3 cups
  • Prep Time: 15 min.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ to ¾ cup beer
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 packet (1 ounce) Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Dips Mix
  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese softened

DIRECTIONS

  • Combine Cheddar cheese, cream cheese and dips mix in medium bowl. Gradually stir in beer until mixture reaches desired consistency. Garnish with green onion and additional Cheddar cheese. Serve with pretzels or vegetable pieces.

1st August Recipe Test with Anna!

Earlier this month Anna and I had our first recipe test at her apartment- and found a new breakfast fave,  french toast with a maple-apple compote. Delicious! We also made a breakfast bite hash browns, which would be fantastic with some slight adjustments. It was a great breakfast, and start to the day!

The Cast of Characters for the french toast:

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The Cast of Characters for the hash brown bites:

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Making the breakfast:

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Delicious! (The maple-apple compote is good enough to be eaten on it’s own!)

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Recipes:

Challah French Toast With Warm Maple-Apple Compote

Ingredients
For the compote:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 cups sliced peeled Gala apples (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the French toast:

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup plain soy milk (or regular milk)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 12 (1 ounce) slices challah bread
  • 4 teaspoons butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet and place in the oven.
  2. To prepare the compote, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray; melt one tablespoon butter in pan. Add apples to pan; sauté eight minutes or until tender. Stir in the maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Keep warm.
  3. To prepare the French toast, combine the granulated sugar and one teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the milk, vanilla, salt, and eggs; whisk until well blended. Working with one bread slice at a time, place the bread slice into the milk mixture, turning gently to coat both sides.
  4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Melt one teaspoon butter in pan. Add three coated bread slices; cook two minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Place on the rack in the oven to keep warm. Repeat the procedure three times with the cooking spray, the remaining three teaspoons butter, and the remaining nine coated bread slices. Serve the French toast with compote.

Hash Brown Bites

Breakfast Bites 1 package of pre-shredded potatoes 3 eggs, beaten 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese 1/4 finely chopped onion (optional) 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder salt and pepper Preheat oven to 350. Grease mini muffin pan. Pour potatoes into bowl, add the salt, garlic powder and onion, stir to combine. Pour in egg and stir, add cheese and mix. Spoon into muffin tins. Bake 20 – 25 minutes. Eat warm, or cool and freeze into individual packs and heat for about 20 seconds in the microwave.

‘Cake Decoration’ 10: My Grandma’s Birthday!

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This past weekend we celebrated my grandma’s 21st birthday. It’s pretty awkward she’s younger than me! 😉 She’s a great lover of cherry pie, so instead of making a cake, I made her favorite, cherry pie. It’s cheating, but since this is my manifesto I say it counts. Happy Birthday Grandma, I love you!!!

1 Year, 100 Movies: #51 West Side Story (1961)

West-Side-Story-Broadway-PosterFor 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

I love musicals – and West Side Story, which won an almost-record ten Oscars, including Best Picture, is amazing. The story is based on Romeo and Juliet (not my favorite) but the plot unfolds naturally and feels realistic. The dialogue and visuals are incredible- and the use of color is incredible. I’m a sucker for emotionally rendered color palettes in films. The two sides in the story (à la the Montagues and Capulets) are two rival gangs – the Jets, made up of mainly second generation Americans of Eastern European descent, and the Sharks, the first generation immigrants from Puerto Rico. Some may poke fun at the dancing and singing gangs of tough guys, but this film has some real edge to it. The racism between the groups is palpable and real.

Our ‘Romeo’ is Tony, (Richard Beymer) a former member of the Jets, who is called back by the current members to help them out with the Sharks. Our ‘Juliet’ is Maria (Natalie Wood) the sister of the Shark’s leader Bernardo (George Chakiris). (It’s strange, by the way, that they would cast Wood, a woman of Eastern European decent as a Puerto Rican immigrant, but she pulls it off). We go back and forth for awhile as in the classic tale, but Bernardo and the Jets leader Riff (Russ Tamblyn) are determined to have their fight. Tony rushes to stop the fight at the request of Maria, but tragically Bernardo kills Riff, and then Tony ends up killing Bernardo. Maria forgives Tony but he later is given the incorrect information that she has been killed by a vengeful Chino (Jose De Vega) for loving Tony. He leaves his hideout, shouting for Chino to come and kill him too, but ends up finding Maria alive. They run toward each other, but Chino appears out of nowhere and shots Tony. As the Jets and Sharks all show up Tony and Maria reaffirm their love, with “Somewhere” and Tony dies in her arms. Maria takes the gun from Chino and threatens everyone in sight- on both sides- of the murders of Bernardo, Riff and Tony. It’s an emotional scene and hits the chilling message home. Tragedy has brought the feuding between the gangs to an end.

West Side Story is not a perfect film, but there is some incredible acting. Rita Moreno as Anita is simply the best. The filming, like that in Taxi Driver, is fantastic, following the action of the film and keeping us involved with the scene. My only qualm is that there was a lot of dubbing for several of the main actors. As great as the actors were while they were acting, I’m a firm believer in casting actors that can sing for musicals. Robert Wise was dazzling in the direction of this film- and I’m sooo excited for his next film up on the list, one of the movies high up on my personal Top 10, The Sound of Music.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

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1 Year, 100 Movies: #52 Taxi Driver (1976)

taxi-driver-movie-posterFor 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

Taxi Driver is a dark, gritty look at the life of a recent Vietnam vet, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), directed by Martin Scorsese. Travis is a loner who struggles with insomnia, so he looks for work at night and finds a job as a taxi driver. De Niro narrates the driving scenes, revealing his character to lack compassion for the ‘scum’ of the streets. While driving he spots Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a campaign worker for Senator Palantine. He puts her on a pedestal because of her beauty. He feels that she is untouched by the filth in the streets around her. He approaches her to ask her out, and is actually a bit sweet. Betsy goes out with him but after Travis takes her to an adult film she walks out and refuses to return his phone calls.

Travis doesn’t have anyone else to anchor him, and after the breakup begins his decent into madness. Travis builds up an arsenal while planning an attack on Senator Palantine, who he has fixated on because of the connection with Betsy. Before he can put his plan into action, Travis runs into a young prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster). She becomes his next damsel to be rescued. Instead of taking her up on her offer of “a good time,” Travis takes her to lunch and tries to convince her to leave her pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel). This scene leaves no doubt for the viewer as to why both De Niro and Foster were nominated for Best Acting Academy Awards for this film.

The filming in this movie is incredible- and one of the best examples is of the next scene at the senator’s rally- the shot is focused on Travis’ chest as he gets a pill that he takes to keep calm out of its container, suddenly sweeping upward with the pill as he pops it in his mouth we see that Travis has cut his hair into a mohawk. Trouble will clearly ensue. He gets close enough to the senator to shoot, but  thankfully the security spots him and he takes off running, only to shift his attention from the senator to Iris’ pimp and clients. This is a bloody blaze of gunfire and red that leaves men dead all over and Iris huddled in a corner scared to death. The overhead shots of the rampage are amazing, but sickening as well. So of course Scorsese nailed it. It ends a little strange for me- after nearly becoming a national terror threat, Travis is viewed as a local hero as the ‘savior’ of Iris. He seems ‘normal’ again, but after how far he tilted, this sudden realignment feels off.

The applause for this film should land squarely on the shoulders of De Niro, Foster and Scorsese. The acting and filming in this film are worth the price of admission alone. The late 70’s must have been an awesome time to be a film junkie. Taxi Driver is certainly not for little one’s eyes- or for anyone opposed to guns, violence and the like. While it is a solid film, and I agree it should have it’s place on AFI’s list, it’s not exactly a happy feel-good movie that you might want to sit down and watch for fun.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

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Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller

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This year I will read all of the Timothy Keller books I own– five of them, and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. 

The second book up on my list is Timothy Keller’s ‘Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work“.

It’s a wonderful look at God’s plan for work and helps the reader relate their work with God’s plan. It is split up into three parts- God’s plan for work, Our problems with work, and the Gospel and work. Keller speaks of how we are made for work and not to be idle. However work can become selfish, an idol a status symbol and take over our life- whether we see it happening or not.

Keller gives us an idea of what he is to explain ahead in the book with his story of J.R.R. Tolkien and his struggle with perfectionism. J.R.R. Tolkien had been working on the languages, histories and stories behind The Lord of the Rings for decades when World War II broke out. Britain was in a tough spot- invasion was imminent, and “who could predict that he would survive even as a civilian?” Keller writes of Tolkien’s despair of not finishing his life’s work. The thought of not finishing it was “a dreadful and numbing thought.” There was a tree near Tolkien’s home that he found one day to be cut and mutilated by a neighbor. Out of this incident, which he corelated with his struggle of not finishing his trilogy- he wrote a short story, “Leaf by Niggle.” It is about a painter going through the journey of life with one thought in mind- that of painting a grand picture of a country side, the main subject a beautiful tree. He wanted to finish this painting before he died, but as he spent most of his time helping others, he was unable to. After Niggle died, one lone perfect leaf remained intact on the crumbling canvas.

Once Niggle gets to his heavenly afterlife he hears two voices. One- Justice- says that Niggle accomplished so little and wasted so much time. The other – Mercy- says that Niggle had chosen to sacrifice for others, knowing what he was doing. When Niggle gets to the heavenly country he spots his tree and runs to it- “Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished; its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle had so often felt or guessed, and yet had so often failed to catch.” The world before death had forgotten Niggle almost completely, but in his new country- the permanently real world, he finds that his tree is in full detail and finished. It was part of the True Reality that would live and be enjoyed forever.

Tolkien had a very Christian understanding of art- and of all work. Niggle was assured that the tree he had felt and guessed was a true part of creation, and that even the small bit of it he had unveiled to people on earth had been a vision of the True. It was this understanding, along with loving prodding from his friend C.S. Lewis, that helped J.R.R. Tolkien get back to writing The Lord of the Rings. Everyone can relate to Niggle, because to a certain extent we all are Niggle. Everyone imagines accomplishing things, and everyone finds themselves largely incapable of producing them. What if this life is all there is? Nothing we do would make any difference, all good endeavors would come to nothing. “But if the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality ‘beneath and behind’ this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.”

“Whatever your work, you need to know this: There really is a tree. Whatever you are seeking in your work- the city of justice and peace, the world of brilliance and beauty, the story, the order, the healing- it is there. There is a God, there is a future healed world that he will bring about, and your work is showing it (in part) to others. Your work will be only partially successful, on your best days, in bringing that world about. But inevitably the whole tree that you seek- the beauty, harmony, justice, comfort, joy, and community- will come to fruition. If you know all this, you won’t be despondent because you can get only a leaf or two out of this life. You will work with satisfaction and joy. You will not be puffed up by success or devastated by setbacks.” -Keller, Every Good Endeavor

Once we reset our ‘compass’ for work we will stop working for selfish reasons, and start working for selfless reasons. It is liberating to accept that God is aware of where you are at in a particular situation, and that knowing that by serving the work you are given you are serving God. When your heart comes to hope in Christ and the future world he has guaranteed you finally have the power to work with a free heart. So have faith, fellow ‘Niggles’- our leaves will soon be revealed to be part of a beautiful Tree.