I really enjoy Achewood.

Recently, I ordered the 5-volume set of cartoons so I could enjoy the comic offline and share its wonder with people who don’t spend their time reading stuff on the web. The comic is one of those things in life that takes a while to get, but once you do, it’s a wonderful world of really vivid characters.

If you’re going to start reading, I would suggest selecting Ray’s Startup #1 as a story arc to begin understanding the characters. One of my favorite characters is Phillipe. He is a 5-year old otter that represents innocence and naivety in their world. Here’s a great Phillipe strip and an animated version of a later encounter:

Achewood 12/5/2002    2 years later...
(Click for big image)
I’m getting Jen to read them now and tonight she laughed out loud. I think she’s starting to get it. Quagmire

Penne alla Vodka

My new Cook’s Illustrated arrived in the mail recently and immediately I saw a recipe that I had to try: Penne alla Vodka. Since we were hosting LOST at our house that week, it was the perfect opportunity to try it out on guinea pigs guests. I’ve had this dish in restaurants before and I remembered it having a creamy tomato sauce with a little bite to it. Perfect.

Research time. Okay, what kind of vodka should I use? The recipe says only to use a high-quality spirit since the cheap stuff gives the dish a really off flavor. Since I don’t know any drunks, I turn to my best friend, Mr. Internet! I wanted to buy something reasonably priced but still good quality. Narrowing it down, I finally decided on a bottle of Ketel One. But where to buy it? Maryland has strong liquor laws so you can’t buy alcohol in grocery stores. Fortunately, Hagerstown is full of liquor stores so I went to one called “The Wooden Keg” and bought it. Awkward!

About the time I got to the grocery store to finish shopping for my dinner, Jen calls me up.

“I think people might have a problem with the Vodka in the dish.”
“It all evaporates, it’s only for flavoring,” I replied.
“I don’t want to offend anyone.” emot-argh

After I got home, I called everyone who was coming for dinner and using my best telemarketing voice I recited this script:

“Hi (name), tonight for dinner I am cooking a dish called Penne alla Vodka. It uses a small amount of vodka for flavoring in the cooking process. The alcohol evaporates away in this process. Would you have a problem eating this dish?”

No one had a problem. Not even the bible teacher.
It was delicious.

Posted in Fun

Barn Par-tay

At the HVA Barn Party this year, the big addition was a square dance caller. He had a record player and speakers to play the square dance music and went through a square dance tutorial for those of us who were interested. We learned lots of Square dancing concepts like:

  • Your partner and your corner
  • Heads versus sides
  • Do-si-do
  • Promenade
  • Some twirly thing

Anyway, the best (or worst) part was that the music on the records were square dance covers of hits from the eighties. This is an example of what we heard:

Heads to the center (You can fly higher than an eagle)

Do-si-do (Cuz you are the wind beneath my wings)

Or this:

Promenade (I love you for your Pink Cadillac, Crushed velvet seats, riding in the back)

Face your corners, do-si-do (Oozing down the street, waving to the girls, feeling out of site, spending all my money on a Saturday night.)

Yes, he sang Wind Beneath My Wings and Pink Cadillac.


If I can get pictures from Stephen and Jamie, I’ll post them up.

Posted in Fun

OnStar, This is Jason…

Google Map 1Jen called me up yesterday from Massachusetts. They had just finished their day in Boston and were on their way back to Atlantic Union College but they needed to stop and eat somewhere.

“Are you near the computer?” Jen asked. Of course I was. That’s where I live.

“Can you find us a mall? We’re near Framingham and we need someplace to eat.”

Since I’m an Internet genius, I found a mall nearby:

“Just take 290 West, the first exit is River Rd. There’s a mall right there.”

Jen thanked me and promised to call later.

Fifteen minutes pass. The phone rings.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere!” she cried, “It’s trees everywhere, where is that mall?” I pulled up the Google Maps.

“Did you take the first exit?”

“Yes, we’re on River Road. We’ve been driving for miles!”

“Wait, you didn’t see the mall off the exit? It’s right off the exit? Didn’t you see it from the highway?”

“What? No, it’s just trees everywhere!”

I got them turned around and back the right direction.

“Okay, turn at Donald J Lynch Blvd and keep going.”

“There’s just a office building. Lots of trees. Wait, is that Best Buy? Olive Garden?!” I can hear the cheers of the kids as they rattle off the wonders of shopping. Borders! Macy’s! Linens N’ Things! Okay, maybe not that last one.

“Wow,” Jen said, “you couldn’t see anything from the road at all.” In the background, I hear these classic words from Danica:

“It was like the Columbian Rain Forest!”Google Map 2

Apparently, the map I was looking at should have been more like this:

Anyway, once all the shopping splendor appeared, my job was finished. Everyone was happy that they had found the best mall ever and I had fulfilled my duty as a part-time OnStar operator. In fact, Jen just called a few minutes ago looking for an Olive Garden and the one at Solomon Pond Mall looks to be the closest.

Until next time, thank you for using OnStar!

Posted in Fun

October Digestion

Sometimes life starts whipping by. Here are a few notable events:

We learned how to square dance at the Barn Party.

I started racquetball back up, going twice a week now.

I learned how to make Penne alla Vodka with all the shopping ramifications that entails.

Jen is in New England for a school trip this home leave.

I’m no longer the only Guitar Hero in the family.

I pan-fried salmon freshly caught in a river in New York.

My laptop at work had a profile meltdown. emot-argh

I wrestled a four-year old for an hour.

There’s a story behind each of these, but I find I don’t have the time to tell them all. However, if you want more detail, leave a comment for the story you want and I’ll whip out a post in no time.

Black Widow

Black WidowSo, on my way into the school building today Jenny was picking up the pile of newspapers delivered by our handy-dandy local company, the Herald-Mail, and she shrieked: “A black widow!” I rushed to her side. I’ve never actually seen one, but I’ve always been terrified of the legendary red hourglass that is supposedly visible on this potentially deadly arachnid. We stoop down to look at it–oh my goodness! It is the most perfectly shaped red hourglass ever! As Stephen said, it was as if someone had painted it on the frightfully large, round, black body. It appeared to be dead, so Stephen kicked it around with his foot. And–how repugnant–it rolled around, like a blueberry, all over the sidewalk. We kept saying: “Step on it! Step on it!” But he didn’t want its guts all over his shoe. So, we’re all trying to find a rock when the thing comes to life and starts running away!! Stephen slammed a piece of paper down on its head and then brought his foot of justice down on the paper. It was over for that Black Widow. I rushed in to my classroom and found the attached picture on wikipedia. It might as well have been taken of “our” spider. The personal resemblance is eerie. Now I’m a bit more frightened of all the spiders that inhabit our basement and bedroom…

Bus:1 Mailbox:0

I woke up this morning to a loud screeching sound followed by a crunch. Peeking through the blinds, I saw the HVA bus having its way with my mailbox. After plowing almost the whole length of the bus over it, the driver realized something was wrong and propped it back up:

Crunchy Mailbox

The agony!

The driver is coming to fix it tomorrow, but I’m afraid the paint job has suffered a bit!

Elder Jen


On Sabbath, Jen was ordained as an elder for the Highland View Church. She has been an elder for the last few years, but it wasn’t until just now that they got around to making it official. I decided to do a little research into what it means to be an officer of the church. Apparently, there are some requirements: moral and religious fitness. What do church officers do? They guard and feed the church. They are not to be hurried into office and those opposed to unity are not suitable for office. It is also unsafe to choose those who refuse to cooperate with others.

Elders specifically are considered the highest and most important office underneath the pastor. They must be a strong religious leader in the church and capable of ministering the Word. I didn’t know this, but an elder is supposed to serve a 1-2 year term and you are not officially an elder until your ordination.

I was very proud to see Jen ordained as an elder of our church. Her ministry through her music and through drama is fantastic. Congratulations Jen!

Rogan Josh

Rogan Josh

When I woke up this morning, I hadn’t really planned much of an evening. By the time work was over, I knew it was time for something special. I stopped by Martin’s and picked up some of the ingredients I would need: Cilantro, Ginger, Yogurt, and a good sized leg of Lamb. Rogan Josh is an Indian dish that is basically a really good lamb curry. It really is the epitome of comfort food for me. The only thing that could have made it better would have been hot Naan. For those who are interested, I will describe the process of making it.

Still here? Great. Here’s how to do it.

I took about a finger-sized piece of ginger, peeled it, and ran it through my garlic press into a bowl. Then I took 5 large cloves of garlic and put them through the press into the same bowl. Set that bowl aside.

I washed the leg of lamb and trimmed off the fat. One side was basically a layer of fat that you could almost just peel right off. If you’ve worked with lamb, you know the consistency and texture of the meat. It just pulls apart from fat and bone with not much effort like it hasn’t had time to set together. Well, yeah it hasn’t had time. It’s lamb. Anyway, once you’ve trimmed the meat and boned it, chop it into small chunks and set aside.

Chop 2 onions and heat a large pot on high with a few TB of vegetable oil. Once it’s nice and hot, add all the onions and keep stirring for a few minutes until they lightly brown and soften. Throw in the garlic and ginger. Keep stirring. Now it’s time to add the spice. I hope you’ve read this over once and didn’t just start cooking from sentence one because at this point you would be screwed. I added 1 TB of Garam Masala and 2 TB of Penzey’s Rogan Josh spice. If you don’t have the specific Rogan Josh spice, make your own by putting in 2 tsp. of coriander, 2 tsp. of cumin, 1 tsp. of turmeric, and 1 tsp. of red chili powder. Garam Masala, well, you just have to have that. I don’t know how to make that stuff. Seriously, go buy some. emot-hurr!

Throw in 2 tsp. of salt while you are it too.

Once it’s smelling good, toss in the lamb and keep stirring till it gets some good browning in. Now toss in a large can of diced tomatoes (28 oz. or so) with all of it’s liquid. Don’t drain it! Stir that up and then add a large dollop of plain yogurt, maybe a cup and a half or so. Stir, stir, stir until you get it up to a boil. Turn the heat down until it is at a simmer. It has to cook about an hour and a half, but you only have to stir it every half hour or so. After you stir it at the hour mark, this would be a good time to make a lot of rice, basmati if you have it.

At the end throw in a bunch of chopped cilantro, about a fistful and mix that in. You should end up with a pot that looks a lot like the above image. I hope you enjoy!

If you want a more definitive recipe, that measures stuff, etc. I would recommend this excellent guide.

Posted in Fun