Friday, November 28, 2008

Meatball Sub Casserole

Fun Friday Feast happened on Thursday of last week since we were rockin' out to Trent Reznor Friday night and Brian didn't have to work this Friday.  I thought I would post this anyways since it is so good.

This casserole is awesome!  How can you go wrong with bread, cheese, meatballs and sauce baked into a cheesy, meaty bliss?  Not only is this dish good hot, but also cold- especially right out of the pan after a long night at work!

Meatball Sub Casserole



Ingredients:
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1 lb ground beef
1 loaf Italian bread, 1-inch cubes (1 lb loaf)
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonaise
1 teaspoon mixed Italian herbs (basil, oregano...)
 salt and pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
1 quart spaghetti sauce (or 28 oz can)
1 cup water
4 garlic cloves, minced (or pressed)


To make this recipe easier, I buy pre-made frozen meatballs and just toss a bunch in.  If I have time, I like to make my own, but that didn't happen today.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl, combine onions, crumbs & cheese; add beef and mix well.  Shape beef into 1-inch balls; place on rimmed cookie sheet; bake for 15-20 minutes (no longer pink in center); turn oven down to 350.

Meanwhile, arrange bread cubes in an ungreased 13x9 pan. 



Combine cream cheese, mayo, seasonings, and S&P; spread over bread.  Sprinkle one cup Mozzarella cheese over the cream-cheese mixture layer.  Combine sauce, water & garlic; add meatballs and gently mix; pour this over the cheese layer.  Sprinkle remaining Mozzarella.





Bake (uncovered) at 350 for 30 minutes.

 

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nine Inch Nails at Mizzou Arena in Columbia



As expected, Trent Reznor and company did not disappoint. It was an awesome show again, and we can't wait to buy the Blu-Ray concert DVD when it comes out.

We left KC at 3 P.M. so we could get to Columbia in time for dinner and make it to the show by 7:30 P.M. We had a reservation at the Hampton Inn nearest to the stadium, which was supposed to be one block away from the arena and a very short, easy walk, according to the person I talked to at the hotel (so we wouldn't have to worry about driving), but when we got there, the people at the desk said it was 3/4 mile away, which is more like a 15 minute walk, and we were not going to do that in 30 degree weather. This is just one thing that was disappointing about the hotel, but I won't get into all of those details. The room however, was great! I think you can figure it out:



Yes, that is a jacuzzi tub right next to the bed. Score!

We drank the two beers we brought with us an headed out for dinner. We were just going to get McDonald's or some sort of fast food, but we came upon Fuddrucker's. Both of us had eaten at one when we were little kids and remember it being pretty good, so we ate there. And we were not at all disappointed. It was very cheap and we both got really full off of medium rare burgers, french fries and onion rings.



After gorging ourselves on meat and potatoes, we headed to the arena. Our seats were for row 10, which we were a little disapointed in considering we had "first row" seats at the last concert, but once we found them we realized they were great seats. They turned out to be "first row" also! Part of the arena's seats were folded in underneath us, so we were actually the front row. See how happy we are:



The opening act was a band called Boris that we watched one song from, left to save our ears from the screeching guitar, and go down a few beers.



Opening acts are always hit or miss, and this one was definitely a miss.

The one bad thing about this arena is that they seem to not be set up to serve beer. They had one concession stand open that sold only beer in 8 oz. cups and they were $4 each. It was ridiculous- especially when the entire place had to come to this one stand to get beer. The line was out of control. Luckily, we weren't wanting to drink too much since we had to get up early the next day to come home and pick up the dog, so this helped us out, otherwise I would have been very upset. Maybe locals new this would be the case, so they just drank a lot ahead of time- we saw a lot of smashed people at the concert. Good times!

At 9 P.M. the Lights in the Sky show started.



See how close we were? That shirt that Trent is wearing actually has holes in the armpits, that's how close we were. We could see every facial expression, every drop of sweat, every blank stare of the bass guitarist.



Their setlist was pretty much the same as the concert we went to in St. Louis:

999,999
1,000,000

Letting You

Discipline

March of the Pigs

Head Down
The Frail
The Wretched
Closer
Gave Up

Me, I'm Not

The Great Destroyer

5 Ghosts I
17 Ghosts II

19 Ghosts III
Piggy
Pinion
Wish

Terrible Lie
Survivalism
31 Ghosts IV
Only
The Hand That Feeds

Head Like a Hole

Encore:
Echoplex
The Good Soldier
Hurt
In This Twilight

There were some new visual effects that they had added since St. Louis, and Brian said he actually saw the blue screen of death. One of the new effects was a close up camera on Trent as he was singing that made him look pretty freaky. That's him in the background of this pic (you can see his mouth):



Trent also talked to the audience for a couple of minutes, which is pretty unusual (I had never heard so much as say hi to an audience). He asked if Missouri was a great place to live, talked about how he came from a place where there was nothing to do, he made a comment about someone's iPhone needing an update, and he made a comment about how his album was free, but you could just go ahead and steal all his other albums, he doesn't give a fuck anymore.

Here are some shots of the amazing effects the three HD screens and bank of lights can create:

(Trent Reznor is actually playing the marimba in this one!)





All three screens in action



We took a lot of different videos of the show, but we were so close the sound on the video is horribly distorted. The video turned out great, but Brian wants to try to overlay the studio versions of the songs onto the videos before he puts them online so that you can actually stand to watch them.

After the show we went back to the hotel and took full advantage of the jacuzzi tub. We filled it with bubbles, turned the TV on, and ate a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. It was a nice way to relax after an energy filled evening.

We woke up early the next morning, grabbed our "hot" breakfast of french toast sticks and sausage patties (yeah, this was just one of our many other complaints- no eggs, no sausage, etc.) and got the hell on the road.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

NIN Redux

This years Nine Inch Nails "Lights In The Sky" tour is the best tour we have ever seen, so we're going back a second time ... tomorrow!

Fullscreen those bitches!





Cat Torture

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lots of new stuff.

New shoes for the Honda.  Goodyear Assurance Triple Treds- Consumer Reports #1 Rated all-season passenger tire (as well as other excellent ratings).  Bring on the snow baby!



New shoes for our feet.  Brian bought the Nike Air Vomeros and I bought the Nike Air Zoom Structure Triax, which are awesome!  We both feel like we're running on air.  They are a lot more supportive than our previous shoes and will last us a long time.  Now we have no excuse not to go for a run!





New decor for the house- Christmas lights.



We weren't sure how many good weather weekends were left in the year so we went ahead and put them up last Sunday.



So far they are only on the lower half of the house (but Brian still had to use the tall ladder for the garage), but Brian will probably put them on the second story at some point.  It looks awesome already!  I can't until next weekend when we can turn them on every night (and then you will get a picture of them on at night- no peeking early!).

And last but not least, a new dish made by Brian- tuna noodle casserole.  A yummy, comforting, home-cooked classic (with a cheesy Velveeta surprise!).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Coldplay at the Sprint Center

The concert was awesome ... OK, I have to be honest-  I probably would have given the overall concert a rating of "above average", but Brian, Frank, Lynn and I were some of the lucky audience members that experienced a close-up acoustic performance of The Scientist! Towards the end of the concert Coldplay ran out into the audience and I was lucky enough to touch each band member as they ran by (thanks Frank)!  So as you can see, my original rating of awesome is a little biased. :)

The night started off well with dinner at our house.  I made salmon burgers with sour cream-cream cheese sauce, roasted red potatoes, and spinach strawberry and walnut salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing.  We left for the concert in Frank and Lynn's Prius after stuffing ourselves and getting a few glasses of wine down.



I really like the Sprint Center, it's nice, it's very clean, and the seats are cushioned, but they could have used a parking garage near the building.  We had to park a couple of blocks away and pay $10 (once again ... thanks Frank).

Once we got inside (after going through a metal detector- no pat downs!) we had to find a Quiktrip so Frank could get a donut.



The Quiktrip idea is brilliant because they sell a lot of the same food and drinks as the concession stands, but at Quiktrip prices.  Unfortunately Brian and I were only interested buying beer, which they do not sell.  Brian and I bought ourselves two 20oz. beers for $15 and made our way to our seats.



We were in section 105 (lower level) seats 1-4.  I was actually kind of disappointed with our seats.  They were pretty far away for how much we paid for them, and we also bought them right when they went on sale.  Oh well, lucky for us, it turned out awesome in the end.

There were two opening acts.  The first was called Sleeper Car.



They were okay.  We didn't really pay too much attention to them, we were busy people-watching.  It's a completely different crowd that comes to a Coldplay concert compared to our usual fair (NIN, Family Values, or even Talladega).  There were lots of yuppie-looking, pretty people!

The second opening act was just a single guy named Jon Hopkins.  He played electronica while trippy cartoons played on a screen next to him.  There were no words in any of his songs.  Brian really loved it; I thought it was okay and thought it was kind of odd to hear before a Coldplay concert.

After that guy was done they started setting up the stage.  Finally it was time! The lights turned off and the concert began:



Here is what I believe the setlist was:

Life In Technicolor
Violet Hill
Clocks
In My Place
Speed Of Sound
Cemeteries Of London
Chinese Sleep Chant
42
Fix You
Strawberry Swing
Glass Of Water (setlist position unconfirmed)
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face (techno version)
Talk (techno version)
The Hardest Part
Postcards From Far Away (piano instrumental)
Viva La Vida
Lost!
The Scientist (acoustic)
Death Will Never Conquer (acoustic - Will singing)
Viva La Vida (remix interlude)
------
Politik
Lovers In Japan
Death And All His Friends
-------
Yellow
The Escapist (outro)



During the song Lost! we noticed the security guards putting up red tape along the stairway right next to us.  Frank asked what that was for, and it was confirmed that Coldplay would be running up the stairs to play in the audience.

When the song ended the band ran through the floor level crowd and up the stairs right next to us.  I held out my hand, hoping to maybe get a high five, but instead I got a hand covered in sweat as I touched each band member on the chest or arm.  It was awesome!!!!  It all went by in a blur and we didn't get any pictures of that part.  But they ended up playing across the aisle from us and up about 4 rows.



They played an acoustic version of The Scientist (which is probably my favorite song)  The crowd around us just went nuts!

YouTube's "High Quality" version here.

Next they played a second acoustic song that the drummer actually sang and finally ran out the door (not back down the steps) and went back onstage to play 4 more songs and spill confetti onto everyone.



They ended the night playing the always excellent song Yellow with the audience singing along the entire time.



All-in-all it was a great concert.  I know Brian and I will remember this night forever (kind of like how I will never forget the night I kissed Dave Attell), and we will probably never get to experience something like that again.  Ultimately I thought some semi-crappy seats turned out to be some of the best in the house!  Thank you Chris Martin, for letting me rub my hand on your sweaty chest- I will never forget it!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lip Service

Ultimate List



Courtney and I were just trying to name every concert we've been to (collectively- excluding suck-ass know-nothing bands ... yeah yeah yeah, opinions vary):

  1. Nine Inch Nails (a bunch of times)

  2. Ratt

  3. Eric Clapton

  4. Monster Magnet

  5. Garth Brooks

  6. 311

  7. Charlie Daniels Band (he did Free Bird on the electric fiddle- most impressive song I have ever seen)

  8. Lynrd Skynrd

  9. Alice In Chains

  10. Rob Zombie

  11. Ozzie Osborne

  12. Stone Temple Pilots

  13. Tool

  14. Korn

  15. Puddle of Mudd

  16. Snoop Dogg

  17. Ruskabank

  18. Coldplay

  19. Linkin Park

  20. System of a Down

  21. Counting Crows

  22. Live

  23. Motley Crue

  24. Poison

  25. Whitesnake

  26. MC Lyte

  27. Janet Jackson

  28. Dave Mathews

  29. Creed

  30. Candlebox

  31. Phish

  32. Page & Plant (Led Zepplin -drummer)

  33. The Used

  34. Stabbing Westward

  35. Placebo

  36. Hootie and the Blowfish

  37. Better Than Ezra

  38. Cinderella

  39. Ultimate Fakebook


Shameless Plug:

Best concert ever? ... 2008 "Lights In The Sky" tour by Nine Inch Nails (honest to God) ... we're going again this Friday!

Regrets?

  1. Pink Floyd

  2. Metallica

  3. GNR

  4. Nirvana

  5. Michael Jackson (not our time, but still ...)

  6. The Beatles (we're talking time machine here ... OK, what about Jimi Hendrix? ... Shit, this is getting out of hand)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Great Bathroom Remodel

Unfortunately the bathroom remodel is not for us, but for Brian's mom Peggy.

The idea started back at her birthday in August when Brian and I gave her a gift certificate to Lowe's and Brian promised her that he would spend his time off at Christmas redoing her only bathroom (something she has wanted for years). Brian had been telling his Mom for years that when he felt like he learned everything he needed to know he would remodel her bathroom- and with our basement project he finally got the hang of plumbing and crown molding (the last two missing pieces). The before shot:



Peggy wanted us to help her pick out fixtures before the week of Christmas, so we went down to Emporia this past weekend thinking we were just going to do that, but ended up doing a lot more.

We left Satuday morning around nine A.M. and got to Emporia around 11 A.M.  We took a quick look at her bathroom, heard her ideas and had a quick lunch.  Then we were off to Topeka to visit Lowe's and Home Depot because Emporia only has a Sutherland's (not much of a selection).

We ended up being able to buy everything she needed- new vanity, new mirror, new storage cabinet, new hardware, new fixtures and new lighting.  She is not replacing the toilet or cast iron tub (who could lift the darn thing).  She is going to put up bead board on all of the walls (no new dry wall- thank god!), and a new tub surround which we picked up in town at Sutherland's.

When we were done shopping I really wanted to eat at Olpe Chicken house again so we headed home to drop off the Jeep (packed to the gills with a new bathroom) and head out to Olpe Kansas for some home-cooked fried chicken.



Not only do I love the food, but I love the people watching in small towns.  There are some interesting folk that eat at Olpe Chicken house.  Oh, did I mention it is really cheap?!  Two beers and two dinners for only $20 is a steal.



After dinner, we decided to get a head start on the bathroom.  Brian's mom thought that there might be a leak around the toilet, so Brian wanted to get that solved before the week of Christmas, because you never know what kind of nightmare you will be dealing with when it involves 30 year old plumbing.

Brian decided to start by ripping out the old linoleum.  And as he did, a god awful smell emerged.  There had definitely been a leak that had been causing mold to grow and it smelled horrible!



As Brian kept pulling the linoleum up, it was separating from the backing because water had seeped everywhere underneath, so we had to scrape the glue and backing off of the concrete slab (she has no basement).  This was not exactly the most fun I've had, but at least I was doing something.  With most projects Brian does most of the work, and I am just the tool bitch.  But this time I got to participate by scraping slime off of concrete!  Yay!

After all the linoleum and gunk was removed Brian decided to go ahead and take down the current wall board the previous owners had put up.



That was fairly quick.  Next to go was the vanity and sink.  Yes, Brian's mom only has one bathroom, so her kitchen sink will have to be the only sink in the house for a while.




When that was done Brian wanted to look more into the leaking/plumbing problems.  I don't know anything about plumbing or what was figured out, but I know parts had to be replaced- partly due to the age of the original components.  He also installed all new innards for the toilet so it would be like-new as well. We finally decided to quit messing with the bathroom and went to bed around 3 A.M.



We woke up the next day at 10 and went to Sutherland's to pick up the tub surround.



Brian has decided that he will go back this weekend to install the tub surround, shower fixtures and whatever else he has time for.  He knows he will have to do some new plumbing when putting the new stuff in.  He is also wanting to put in a new ceiling light/fan combo that will take new electrical work (along with some new outlets).

Whenever you do any type of remodeling work, especially on old houses, you are always going to run into unexpected problems.  All of these types of projects take longer than you would expect, so for Brian, doing the remodel over a couple of weekends is better than trying to get it all done at Christmas.  Plus, he may not have to spend the whole week in Emporia.

We ended up leaving Sunday around 3 P.M. just in time to listen to another Chiefs loss.  We came home, Brian made dinner, I did laundry/cleaned up the house, and then we watched the movie The Lookout (it had been over two weeks since we have had any time to watch a movie!). Finally we went to bed, ending a long weekend (not wanting to get up the next day and go back to work).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

BACON

NYC Marathon (Congratulations Matt!!)

This past weekend we went to New York City with my parents to see my brother Matt run in the New York Marathon.  This was his first marathon, and I am sure it will not be his last.




Having never been a long distance runner, or ever running before the last three years, he did an awesome job, finishing the marathon 2,919 out of the nearly 40,000 who started.  He ran a 7:39 mile average over 26.2 miles.  I can't even begin to imagine how tough something like that is.  Again, congrats to him and everyone else who ran in the marathon.

Besides the marathon we also got to do, see, and eat some other really great things.

We arrived into Manhattan around 7 P.M. on Halloween just in time for our 9:30 P.M. reservations at Brasserie Les Halles.



This is a french restaurant that became famous because chef Anthony Bourdain worked there for a number or years and wrote the book Kitchen Confidential while working there.  Tony B. is no longer the executive chef, but I believe many of the dishes served there are his creations.  It was an awesome meal!  And of course the ambience was great- especially with every employeed dressed up for Halloween.

We started off with an appetizer of grilled octopus with black squid ink sauce.  It was delicious!



For the main course I had the grilled pork chop with mustard sauce and Brian had what we called the "meat parade" (officially known as the "Planche de Grillades").  Mine was excellent, but Brian's was even better.  He basically got a sample of every meat that they cook (pork sausage, lamb chop, lamb sausage, hanger steak, and 1/4" thick bacon) served up on a wooden platter with a side of frites (french fries).



We drank a bottle of Fronsac, "Selection Les Halles" Chateau Faure Beausejour (red wine) which complemented the meal nicely.  If I lived in New York I would probably have to come back to this place.

On Saturday Brian and I went to the American Museum of Natural History (or the "crazy evolution museum" as it was called it in a recent SNL skit making fun of Sarah Palin).  We figured that it would be less crowded than the Met or MoMA (both of which we still need to go to!) and we wanted to see some dinosaurs and the special exhibit on climate change.



The dinosaurs were very, very cool.  And very, very big.  I don't think I have ever seen dinosaur bones, so this was a great experience. Brian was like a kid in a candy store.



Brian says he could have spent hours solely in the human evolution section of the museum. On a more disappointing note, the climate change exhibit was not very impressive.  I think it was aimed more for young people or people completely ignorant of climate change.  There was no new information or interesting displays, so we went through it pretty fast.



We didn't go through the whole museum because there just wasn't enough time, but we got to see everything we wanted so we are satisfied.  Next time we are in the city we'll be visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We then met my brother and my parents for lunch at Cafe Frida.  We wanted to go to Shake Shack which has been in the NY paper a lot, but there was a line around the block so we went next door to Frida's.  We couldn't believe the wait for burgers and fries, but I guess going to the "in" place is what you do in NYC.  Cafe Frida is an upscale Mexican joint with really good, fresh burritos and guacamole.

After lunch Brian and I walked to the Hudson river which is on the west side of Manhattan island.  It was very peaceful over there, and had more of a neighborhood/park type feel.



You can see New Jersey across the river, so that was fun.



What was not cool was the 3.5 mile walk back to Matt's apartment to meet up for an early pasta dinner.  I guess we couldn't complain too much when Matt was going to be running 26 miles the next day.

We ate dinner at a family style Italian restaurant near my brother's apartment named Tony's.  It was pretty good, but we've now eaten there twice, and I don't think you are supposed to eat at a restaurant in NY city more than once, so we probably won't be back.  My aunt, uncle and cousin from Maine were able to meet up with us to eat since they were going to be in New Jersey staying with my cousin for the night and then coming to watch the race on Sunday.



After dinner everyone went back to Matt'a apartment to hang out for a little bit before he had to go to bed at 10:30 P.M.  After everyone left, Brian and I went back out and had a drink at a random bar, Swig, and then got Pinkberry for dessert.



On Sunday my brother left for the race at 6 A.M.  He had picked out a spot for us to stand so that he would know where to look for us as he ran by.  My parents stood at 63rd and 1st and we stood at 68th and 1st (farther down from my parents) so they could call us as he ran by and we would be ready for pics.  At this point in the race the runners are just coming into Manhattan from Brooklyn and Queens, so there us a huge crowd that really gets the runners pumped up.  I think this is around mile 16 of the race.  When my brother ran by he didn't even look tired!!  He was smiling and hi-fiving people as he ran by.



I think some of the runners have a little more fun with the marathon because we saw people run by taking pictures, stopping and doing little dances in front of fans, and even running with small video cameras.  It was actually pretty wild to see.  Since there was nearly 40,000 runners, there was a constant stream going by and it was fun to see all the different types of people running.



Once my brother ran by we quickly walked to a spot near the finish line.  You can't actually see them cross the finish line unless you have made reservations and pay big bucks.  We actually only saw a few marathoners walking at the finish (maybe 2 or 3) of the race.  I thought there would be more people near death after running for 3 or more hours.  We saw my brother finish- he looked a lot more worn out this time, and then we walked up to where our final meeting spot was set.  After the race the runnners have to keep walking for 10-20 minutes and are given a foil "wrap" to keep their muscles warm or they will quickly cramp up.



After the race my parents took my brother back to their hotel so he could shower up and relax.  He wasn't going to be able to get back to his apartment right away because they had 1st Avenue blocked off for the race and he was on the other side of it.  Brian and I had been wanting a gorilla pod for our camera and there was a giant photo and video store in mid-town Manhattan called B&H Photo so we decided to go there.

This store was amazing!  It was largest, most specialized store I have ever been too.  It reminded me a lot of Nebraska Furniture Mart, but it was all photo and video equipment.  They literally had hundreds of camera tripods on display, as well as many, many other products.



We really wish we would have spent more time in there, because there is no other store that even comes close to their selection anywhere near us.  Oh, another interesting thing about this place is that is full of hasidic jewish men.  I bet 95% of the people working there were jewish (you can read why here).



The store also uses a track system to move products from the warehouse to the floor and when a customer wants a specific item to purchase, the employee inputs the request into the computer and the warehouse retrieves the product, places it in a green bucket, puts it on a conveyer belt and sends it to the department that is requesting it.  Then, after confirming the product, it is put back onto the conveyer belt and sent to the checkout counter where you will pick it up after you pay for it.  It is amazing to watch, and as far as we could tell, it works great and is very efficient.



We will be visiting this place again when we go back.  Any video or photo jumkies out there should visit this place.

After B&H we grabbed a couple of slices of NY pizza on our way to meet the family at a bar near my brother's apartment for celebration drinks.  It was a pretty small bar, but it had good atmosphere and was filled with my brother's friends (some of whom also ran in the marathon).  We didn't stay too long since my brother was pretty beat and we went back to his place and ordered a shit-ton of sushi with his roommate Lisa and her brother Eugene.



It was a great ending to a great day and and great trip overall.

My brother crashed early, Brian went up to the roof to take some time-lapse photos with the new Gorilla Pod and I fell asleep on the couch.



We woke up early Monday morning, flagged a cab, drove in bumper-to-bumper traffic, waited forever behind really slow people at the Midwest counter, waited again behind really dumb people in the security line, and then waited again in a long line of airplanes to take off and finally get home.

It was a great trip overall, and again, we can't wait to go back.  You can't run out of things to do and see and eat in New York City.

Go here for all the pics of our trip!