Wednesday, July 30, 2008 has new sister site!

The thoughts of Brian and Courtney and now also represented by a new sister site!

MegaFireOnYourFace was created to be a picture only blog. The name comes from a late night comeback from Courtney. I said something, I'm sure it was assy, and she replied: "Mega fire on your face bitch!"

It was very funny at the moment and has been a running joke ever since. I guess we'll see over time how well our experiment goes ... wish us luck!

New York Trip Day Five

Day five.  June 9th, 2008.

Our last day.  How sad.  But at the same time it was so much fun!  My brother had to go back to work, so we were on our own for the day.  Our first stop was a trip across the Brooklyn Bridge.

It's about one mile across and many people who live in Brooklyn actually choose to bike across it every day to get into town.  We only ended up going halfway because it was horribly, horribly hot ... like 97 degrees hot.  Brian protested many times saying how much he didn't want to do it because it was so hot, but once we got to the middle, he really appreciated the beautiful architecture and he enjoyed reading about how it was built.  Plus there was shade, which helped out too. ;)

After we walked back across the bridge we were near the J&R electronics storefront (the internet site where Brian shops that has really great prices on electronics).  Their store-front is huge and takes up one entire city block.  We looked around a bit to cool off and ended up buying a used Blu-Ray disc of 3:10 to Yuma.

It was then about lunch time so we went to meet my brother at his work, but by the time we got there we didn't have enough time left to sit down and eat because.....

Brian had scored us tickets to see a taping of David Letterman!!  It was so cool (literally).  When we got back to NY, we might try to get tickets again, it was that fun.  It might seem like a touristy thing to do, but it was very cool.

Ed Sullivan theater is right near Times Square, so we walked through it as fast as possible- it was packed as usual.  We got to the theater and stood in line to get our tickets.  After we got our tickets they let us go for an hour to do whatever, so we ate lunch at Familia (a NY Pizza place) and then bought all of our NY souvenirs in a cheap place at Times Square.

We went back to the theater to stand in line and wait some more.  After waiting for about 15 minutes they funneled us all into the foyer of the Ed Sullivan theater, which sucked because it wasn't air conditioned and it was very hot and people smelled.

They finally let us into the theater which is kept at 52 degrees (I think) which felt awesome.  The seats are given out at random and we ended up to the far left of the stage, 5 rows back, right in front of the band.  I don't really think any seat is bad.  We got to see Dave interview Tom Brokaw and Eleta Weideman (daughter of Isabella Rosalini and grand-daughter of Ingred Bergman).  The guest band who performed was Gnarls Barkley- I think that was the best part.  The whole thing was over in about an hour and a half.

After the show we headed home to meet my brother for dinner.  On our way to Matt's apartment we saw a restaurant sign advertising half-price sushi- we had to go there.  It was really good and we ate a lot of sushi.  We also had jalapeno margaritas, which were surprisingly very tasty.  They used tequila that had been marinating with jalapenos for many days (I can't remember exactly what they told us).  The jalapenos just gave the margarita a little bite.  This is something we will be making at home sometime.

After dinner we were all full so we went home to relax and get to bed early because our flight left at 6:30am the next day.  We were very sad to leave, but I'm sure my brother was excited to get his bed back.  Thanks to Matt and his roommate Matt for letting us take over their apartment for a few days.  We can't wait to come back!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Patio Project - Weekend 3

Weekend 3 of our patio project started out pretty ominously. When I got home Friday I was presented with the challenge of hauling 8,000 lbs of gravel back to the patio.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="It's worse than it looks!"]Its worse than it looks![/caption]

Since you are supposed to compact only two inches of gravel at a time, I just needed to get half of it back there Friday night (so we could minimize the amount of time we had to rent the compactor on Saturday). Let me just say that this was an awful task ... I have never sweat so much in my entire life! Filling the wheelbarrow isn't too bad, its pushing and dumping the wheelbarrow that killed me. It took me 3 or 4 hours to move half of the gravel.

Saturday morning was better because Courtney was there. Courtney helped by spreading out the gravel after I dumped it, and she often came out front to help fill the wheelbarrow. My neighbor Mike also showed up for the last 5 loads- better than nothing I suppose :). The plate compactor ended up working badass and the gravel feels like concrete now. In the 20 hours that I worked on hauling gravel I managed to lose 7 pounds (from water I imagine).

Sunday morning I started working on the border around the patio. I decided to use 4x4s, mainly because I get off on overdoing things. After measuring, I notched the posts and then fastened them to the ground with 3/8 inch rebar driven 16 inches deep. I had to cut the rebar from 4 foot stock, and that presented it's own problems until I figured out a method.

I still have more border to do, but I can hopefully get that done this week, along with ordering the sand and getting that in. It's starting to look like something that will one day resemble a patio!

You can check our more pics here (along with a funny video of dogs humping). Sadly, my next weekend is a little hectic, so I don't know if I will get a lot done except for Sunday.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

New York Trip Day Four

Day four. June 8th, 2008

This was one of our favorite days of the trip because we got to play with Puerto Rican Superheroes! Okay, not really, but it was the Puerto Rican Day Parade, where all of the Peurto Ricans from the city and surrounding areas come into Manhattan and take over (literally). My brother warned us that it was probably going to be one of the worst days in NY because they are everywhere- and boy, he wasn't joking!

There were some touristy things that we wanted to do that my brother didn't want to do (really he just wanted to relax by himself for a while), so we headed out on our own.

We started out the day by heading to Central Park. This is was our first encounter with the Puerto Rican parade and where Brian coined the term "Puerto Rican Superhero". Many of the parade attendees wore Puerto Rican flags as capes, so it only seemed natural to call them that. We got to Central Park and walked around a bit and realized it was very hot and we had forgotten the battery to our old "big" camera, so we made a quick stop at home and then headed back out.

We went back down to Rockefeller Center and headed to the "Top of the Rock". This is an observation deck at the top of 30 Rockefeller Center (you know, where the sitcom "30 Rock" takes place) that has better views than the Empire State Building, so we chose to do this (and not go to the Empire State Building- maybe another time). You can see Central Park really well (which I guess you can't see from Empire State) and you also have a great view of the Empire State Building, even the Statue of Liberty. All of our "Top of the Rock" pics can be found here.

Afterwards we were hungry for lunch and we saw a bunch of people in line at a street vendor selling greek food (gyros, falafel, chicken and rice, etc. ) for really cheap, so we joined in. Let me tell you, "street meat" (as my brother later told us it was called) is the way to go for a good cheap meal in NY. It is actually very good.

After that we tried to go to the Nintendo Store, which is right in the Rockefeller Center area, but all the roads were blocked off. Yup, you guessed it- they were blocked off because of Puerto Rican Superhero Day! So instead we saw a Best Buy and went there looking for the Wii Fit. They ending up having it, which was actually better because I had coupons and a gift certificate I could use. They didn't have a bag to carry it in, so they wrapped it in black "plastic wrap" so at people couldn't see what it was. After that we headed home and finally went to Pinkberry with my brother for an afternoon snack. It was delicious. You pick a type of frozen yogurt (plain, coffee or green tea) and then you pick toppings you want on it. They have different fruits (raspberries, black berries, kiwi) or candy (chocolate chips, reeses), different cereals (granola, captain crunch) and nuts. It was really good and they should open up here in Kansas City. I really can't get my point across here ... Pinkberry is really good and you should partake at your first opportunity!

For dinner we decided to go back to Chinatown to a really great, dim sum restaurant called Dim Sum Go Go.

Neither Brian nor I had ever had dim sum, so this was a new experience. It was really good, except the waiter for some reason never wanted to serve me (he didn't bring me beer at first, he didn't bring me a glass for water or a glass for sake), I don't know what was up with that. Pretty much dim sum is a lot of different "appetizers" or "tapas" that are dumplings. I don't think you could eat a ton of them. Maybe you would get some as an appetizer and then get a full plate of something else for your main meal. But we tried a lot of different stuff and it was all very good. It was a fun experience. We even tried this odd crunchy fungus (the white thing in the center of the upper right dish below) ... it was very odd!

After dinner we went home, looked at pics, relaxed, and went to the roof and took pics of ourselves. We finally went to bed, not looking forward to only having one day left in NYC.

BLT Pasta Bake

July 25th Edition

A little break from our tales of New York City.

This is another recipe from my Rachael Ray cookbook 365: No Repeats.  I really like Rachael Ray recipes, but I do think they take a lot longer than 30 minutes to cook.  I guess if you had a sous chef to prep everything for you (shred cheese, chop onions, etc.) 30 minutes might be more accurate.  This recipe took me about an hour to complete, including clean up, so it wasn't too bad.

Today I made BLT Pasta Bake.  This recipe has a few of my favorite ingredients in it- "b"acon of course, "l"eeks (not lettuce- I can't imagine that would be too good in a casserole) and cheese.  It also has "t"omatoes if you hadn't already figured it out.  It is goooood.

BLT Pasta Bake

1 lb elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon EVOO
8 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
2 large leeks, trimmed of roots and dark green tops
coarse black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups whole milk
1 cup chicken stock or broth
3 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese (I used swiss)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

Place a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When the water reaches a boil, add some salt and the pasta, and cook until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and chopped bacon and cook until crisp.

While bacon is cooking, split the trimmed leeks in half lengthwise, lay the leeks cut side down and thinly slice into half-moons. Fill a large bowl with water and mix the leeks into the water.

Allow the water to settle and the dirt and the grit to settle to the bottle of the bowl. Using your hands, draw the leeks from the water, taking care not to unsettle the dirt.

Drain the cleaned leeks on a kitchen towel, pat dry and, and then add to the pan with the bacon. Season the leeks with salt and pepper. Cook until leeks are tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.

To start the cheese sauce, heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add the butter and melt, then add the flour, cayenne, and paprika and whisk together over the heat until the roux bubbles; cook for 1 minute more.

Whisk in the milk and stock and raise the heat a little. Bring the sauce to a quick boil and simmer to thicken, about 5 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in 3 cups of the grated cheese and the mustard. Set aside.

Add the cherry tomatoes to the leeks and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Preheat the broiler.

Drain the pasta and add it back to the pasta pot. Combine the reserved leek mixture and the cheese sauce with the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the pasta to a baking dish. Combine the remaining ½ cup of grated cheese with the bread crumbs.

Top the pasta with the mixture. Place the dish under the broiler until the cheese melts and the bread crumbs are brown.

Friday, July 25, 2008

New York City Trip, Day Three

Day three. Saturday, June 7th 2008.

This day was a big day.  We were going to the Belmont Stakes to hopefully see the Triple Crown threat, Big Brown, win the his final race!  The Belmont Stakes are held at Belmont Park in Long Island, which is a 45 minute train ride from downtown Manhattan.  We boarded the train at 10:00 A.M. and finally got through the gates into the park at 11:30 A.M.

There was quite a crowd to see Big Brown race (~80,000- which coincidentally wasn't going to happen until 6:00 P.M.)

We had a full day of drinking, hanging out, and watching horse races ahead of us.

At first we had people saving us seats outside in the sun, but it was too hot to even sit out there for 10 minutes, so the guys found abandoned (broken) benches behind some doors and started dragging them out to the shaded areas of the stadium so we didn't have to endure the sun and heat.

Brian looks very hot.

Ahhh.  Much better (but still freakin' hot).

One cool thing about this place is you can bring in your own food, but you have to buy their alcohol- which is very expensive.  $11 for a 16 oz. beer- ridiculous!

This stadium is pretty neat, but according to my brother, is the most "ghetto" horse track.  They had an area behind the stadium where a lot of people set up tents and watch the races on TV from their own lawn chairs.  The girls called this the giant frat party.

After about 5 hours and 8 beers, Brian and I were looking for restrooms only to find out that they had been shut down due to low water pressure.  This was probably the biggest crowd ever at the Belmont, and the facilities were not able to keep up. This is when we finally got fed up.  They had only put four port-a-potties near the stadium so the lines were unimaginably long.  Your only option if you had to go pee was walking clear out to the parking lot (through the frat party- a ten minute trek), where there were plenty of stalls.  It got so bad inside the stadium that outside the men's restroom was a trash can where men were lining up to relieve themselves.

This was it for me.  I was ready to leave (yes, before the big race).  Our plan was to take the train back into Manhattan and then watch the rest of the races from the comfort of a bar (with working restrooms and cheaper beer).  We ended up making it to an Irish Pub (that I can't recall the name of) in time to watch Big Brown lose the race.  He ended up in last place of course- the first time a Triple Crown threat had ever done so. You can see more Belmont Stakes pictures here.

We then headed home to meet my brother (who had stayed for the whole thing) and got cleaned up so we could go out and try some frozen yogurt at this cool place called Pinkberry (they're only in NY and California and Matt said we had to try them). Sadly, the line was too long and we went to a really great ice cream shop called Emak and Bolio's instead.

We came home and started watching There Will Be Blood, but Matt and I fell asleep (Brian watched the whole thing).  After the big day, it was nice to crash fairly early.

-Brian Anderson was a contributing editor on this story.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New York City Trip, Day Two

Day Two. Friday, June 6th 2008

We didn't have a lot planned for day two except for an eating tour that started at 1P.M. and the Royals vs. Yankees game in the evening. This was probably a good thing. When I woke up and came out into the living room all I saw were beer bottles, an empty whiskey bottle, and a 2-liter coke bottle that had the top cut off of it. Later I find out that the 2-liter was left in the freezer and had frozen, so they chipped it away and used it as ice for drinks- brilliant! Apparently the guys had stayed up a little too late and weren't going to be getting up any time soon. In the meanwhile I took the opportunity to go back up to the rooftop in the daylight and take some pictures of the area.

You can see the Hudson river in this one:

The guys ended up getting up around 11A.M. so we went to eat a brunch across the street at Gracie Mews Diner. They had the best fresh-squeezed orange juice we'd ever tasted!

After brunch we took the subway to the intersection of Essex and Delancey to meet up with our eating tour guide.

The eating tour was more of a walking history tour with small snacks representative of the culture/people from that area. The tours are done by grad students in history and they really know their stuff. The tour took us through Chinatown (formally all Jewish), Little Italy and some other neighborhoods that I can't remember right now. I do, however, remember all of the food we ate: fried plantains (Puerto Ricans), full-sour pickles (a NYC tradition), Jewish halva made from sesame seeds and honey, dried prunes, rose petals and spicy tofu (Chinese), regular cannolis, mozzarella, parmesan, and pork sausage (Italians). The cannolis were the best!

The famous place we got the pickles from (The Pickle Guys are online too):

Brian eating a cannoli:

After the tour Brian and I did some shopping in Chinatown. which included me haggling with a street vendor over the price of a souvenir. Another interesting thing were the "apartment" merchants wanting to sell us "handbag", "watch", and "sunglass". These were the folks trying to sell us authentic looking knock-offs of popular brands of course. One example of how it works: you are walking down the street and some guy is just standing on the corner, holding a cell phone up to his ear. As you get close he says in a low voice "handbag?". When you ignore him he will just go back to his fake phone conversation. Brian really wanted to do this, and he kept trying to talk me into getting a Coach purse knock-off, but I was too worried about what happens when you get in their apartment and don't want to buy anything! You can see all of our Chinatown pictures here.


Chinatown smells bad on a hot day:

After all of our wheeling and dealing we headed home to get geared up for the Royals game. My brother's friend, Matt #2, joined us at the subway (which was totally packed with fans headed to Yankee Stadium).

Our seats were pretty good, except for the fact that we were surrounded by very hard-core Yankees fans who kept asking us questions about the Royals team, players stats, etc. of which we had to reply that we didn't know. They all laughed and said it didn't really matter as long as we weren't Red Sox fans (sort of like a Chiefs/Raiders hatred I guess). We had multiple Yankees fans say the following to us:

"It's OK that you are a Royals fan, but if you were a Sox fan I would punch you in the face."

The two Matt's assured they were very serious. The Royals actually ended up winning, so that was fun to see. You can see all our Yankees Stadium pictures here.

After the game we headed out to a bar near the apartment called Bar Coastal (we were actually at this same bar for the Chiefs/Broncos game a couple of Thanksgivings ago). We played a lot of music from the digital jukebox next to our table (like Thriller, which everyone enjoyed), ate wings, drank beer and then called it a night at 2 A.M. It's so nice not to have to drive anywhere. :)

-Brian Anderson was a contributing editor on this story.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New York City Trip, Day One

Back at the beginning of June, Brian and I took a trip to New York City to visit my brother, Matt. He has lived in Manhattan for several years now, and it is nice to take advantage of him while we can (I don't think he wants to live there forever, and I don't blame him). We've been there two times now, but we still need to go back at least one more time to check out the museums (we haven't seen a single one). This November my brother is running in the NY Marathon, so maybe we can go then (if Vegas and Talladega don't break us). Anyways, onto the trip... I will also be posting more about our adventures in the next couple of days.

Day One. Thursday, June 5th 2008.

We begin at the airport in KC of course. Our plane is already delayed an hour so we decide to go grab some booze at the bar. This wastes a few minutes, but the food and beer (6$ drafts) is so expensive that we leave after one round. We finally get on the plane (Midwest of course) and arrive in NY at the La Guardia airport, three hours later. This is our first time having to get a taxi ourselves, but it is easy because there is a line right outside the door for yellow cabs.

I don't think any taxi driver speaks English, but that's okay because they always manage to understand where you want them to take you. Every taxi ride is also an experience, and on this particular day it was rush hour- so there were a lot of cars surrounding us, all trying to get into the city at the same time. Let me just say that NYC taxi drivers are crazy aggressive (and everyone honks their horns constantly)! Here was our view:

It took about 30 minutes and $30 to get to my brother's apartment at 81st and 1st. He lives in what is called the Upper East Side. It is a very nice area and there aren't a ton of people around, unlike downtown or Times Square. Here is a picture of the outside of his apartment building:

Somehow I did not take a single picture of the inside of his apartment, but it is actually pretty decent sized. It is a two bedroom apartment that has one bathroom, a long galley kitchen, a nice sized living room, and space for a small dining table. I think the rent for this apartment is in the range of $2850 though (a whole lot more than we pay for our mortgage)! Example of what apartments cost:

My brother was not home from work yet, so we decided to get out and walk around his hood. It's nice to just be able to get out and walk everywhere, no need for a car. We walked about a two square block area before he got home and we decided it was time for dinner. Last time we were in NY we never got down to Little Italy, so that's where we went for dinner. It's a pretty cute place at night.

As you walk down the street all of the restaurants have a host outside trying to get you to come eat at their restaurant by yelling at you about their great specials and shoving a menu in your face. After a bit of walking up and down the street, getting yelled at by everyone, we decide on Da Gennaro.

Most of the restaurants in New York open up huge doors and setup tables on the sidewalk (which is quite cool). All of the food was excellent. The seating was so close to another couple we ended up talking to them towards the end of our dinner (some good old Bush bashing). They took this picture of the three of us:

You can see all our Little Italy pictures here. After dinner we went back to my brother's apartment to relax and have a few drinks. We went up to the roof and hung out a bit and tried to take pictures, but we didn't have the nice camera for this trip (another reason to go back) so they didn't turn out too well. We went back inside and I went to bed, and Brian and Matt stayed up and bonded until 4 A.M.

Stay tuned for day two.

-Brian Anderson was a contributing editor on this story.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Patio Project - Weekend 2

So, I think we are done with the excavation of our patio. Let's break down how shitty it was:

We had to remove about 205,632 cubic inches of soil- that converts to 4.4 cubic yards (the cubic inches sounds so much more impressive). According to a few sites I found referencing industry standards, a cubic yard of soil weighs roughly 1.5 tons, or 3,000 lbs. That means that we relocated somewhere in the neighborhood of 13,200 lbs of dirt- using only shovels and a wheel barrel ... um, damn.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="I think we did 12 of these."]Imagine 12 of these in a row.[/caption]

I started the final weekend of excavation Friday after work. Although it was raining I decided to start digging anyways (I wanted to get a good start on the weekend). I discovered that wet dirt is really heavy dirt (who woulda thunk it). While I was dumping my second load out in phase 3 of our neighborhood a car happened to drive by. I imagined that they were thinking something along the lines of, "WTF is that crazy man doing?" ... which in turn made me think, "WTF are you doing Brian?". Once I determined that my actions were those of a nutty bastard I decided to call it a night. I was pretty muddy myself, but you should have seen our dog. Taigan looked kinda like a chunk of mud ... only breathing (he was having a blast though). I had to wrap him in a blanket and carry him straight to the tub.

Saturday wasn't much better, as it was humid and a bazillion degrees outside. Courtney and I managed to get two more loads hauled off before we were too tired (and sunburned) to continue. When we returned from dropping off our final load of dirt we were surprised with a visit from our neighbors Nusty and Diki. They were preparing/drinking for the Foo Fighters concert, so we hung out on the deck for a few hours and drank some beer. Eventually we proceeded to Longboards for some grub.

Thankfully we didn't have too much to do on Sunday, due to the fact that Courtney and I got stupid and partied in our basement from Saturday night until 6 AM Sunday morning. I got up around noon and did an hour of digging and measuring (it was once again a gigillion degrees) while Courtney kept the couch warm inside. We finally got some real steam in our engines around 7:30 PM and Courtney mowed the yard while I made a late change of plans and widened the patio\hole by 6 inches.

Here is the final result of our excavation (more pics here):

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="I think the stairs best demonstrate how much soil we removed."]I think the stairs best demonstrate how much soil we removed.[/caption]

Next weekend we are going to fill that hole with 3 cubic yards of crushed stone ... I can't wait!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fun Friday Feast

July 18th Edition

I don't really have any commentary on this recipe.  Brian likes Mexican food, pastry shells are tasty, and this recipe is easy to prepare (a common theme on Fridays).

Taco Pot Pie

2 frozen pie shells, thawed
1lb ground beef
1 package taco seasoning
1/3 C water
1 head of garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 can diced green chiles
1 can of black beans
1 can of whole kernel corn
1/2 C salsa
1 T vegetable oil
2 C shredded mexican cheese

Sour cream and salsa for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brown meat in a large pan on medium high, about 8 minutes.  While meat is browning heat oil on medium high in a skillet and cook onions, garlic, and green pepper until soft, about 7 minutes.  When meet is done browning, drain and add water and taco seasoning.  Mix thoroughly.  Add in corn, black beans, green chiles, salsa and cooked onions, peppers and garlic.

Spread 1/2 cup of cheese on bottom of one pie shell.  Put half of the meat mixture on top.  Top with another 3/4 cup of cheese.  Put the rest of the meat mixture on top.  Top with the remaining cheese.  Place second pie shell on top and seal the edges.

Cook in oven for 30 minutes.

Yummy stuff.