The scariest image I could think of

30 10 2007

Happy Halloween.


If you like scary stories, be sure to check out this harrowing tale on Karen’s blog.  But remember, you’ve been warned!

CSI: Playroom

28 10 2007

Police responded to a call at the green house and discovered the dismembered pieces of the victim. Heading up the stairs the backbone, ribcage, and pelvis were found on the upstairs landing.


Upon entering the “play room” the left leg was found directly behind the computer desk.

left leg

The left arm (I think) was located on the floor in front of the television.

left arm

The right arm and right leg were found on a pillow in front of the wicker chair.

right arm & leg

The victim’s head was finally located under the chair.


Two suspects were apprehended, and have confessed to torturing the victim. They were the usual suspects.

mug 1mug2

Guest contributor: Mummy’s oxtail soup

25 10 2007

I can’t believe it’s been four months since I last posted about Trinidad food. Not having grown up there I don’t have a full arsenal of dishes at my disposal. Besides, Karen’s the expert in our house, and the only dishes that I’ll post about are the ones she doesn’t make.

Oxtail soup

Karen made oxtail soup once when we were newlyweds. This was long before I truly opened myself to foods from other cultures, so as expected my reaction was less than enthusiastic. Apparently this was quite traumatic to my young bride so she’s never made it since. Her mother is visiting us right now, so I asked if she’d be willing to share her recipe and wisdom with me and my blog for posterity. She graciously obliged.

My blog is called “Mark Ruins Dinner.” Did you know just how skilled I am at this? I can ruin dinner even if I’m not the one cooking. How, you may ask? First, I lose the rocker that goes on top of the pressure cooker that regulates the pressure. Without this, the pressure cooker is just a covered stock pot.

Karen found it later…

But Mummy knows this recipe like the back of her hand, so even my best efforts didn’t ruin the soup. It did, however, take about three times as long to cook. Here are the oxtails after an hour:

after an hour it still wasn’t done

That’s not what they look like when they’re done. And the split peas don’t look like that when they’re done either. They’d been in for a half hour at this point.

Also because of me there was one ingredient missing:

blame me, I can take it

Usually they’ll put one of these habenero peppers into the soup whole and let it steep. But I’m a wimp so they left it out. Can I blame the kids?

Any negative comments about this dish will be deleted.  This is Karen’s mother, after all.  Recipe follows.

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Coaxing the kids into dessert

21 10 2007

Pennsylvania in October means apples, and my favorite dessert as a kid was apple crisp. With ice cream, of course. Even apple pie can’t compare because it doesn’t have a crumble crust of brown sugar and oats. It’s been years since I’ve had apple crisp, but we’ve got company right now and why not experiment on them?

I’d been thinking about this for a while, but something kept telling me “it needs something more.” Then I thought of it. My dulce de leche.

all for me, none for you

Well, technically it’s Alton Brown’s dulce de leche. But since it came out so well last time I’ve adopted it as my own. It was a bit runny this time; I didn’t let it reduce long enough. Oh well. It was still good.

I learned something during this experience. My dish is too big. When the apples cooked down it turned out very flat. I need to go out and buy a smaller baking dish I suppose. This is all I had.

I guess the 8×8 baking dish wasn’t negotiable

My next challenge was to get Isaac to try it. If you didn’t know, my firstborn is allergic to peanuts. He remembers all too well the last time he ate a dessert with peanut butter hidden in there somewhere. Because of this he steers clear of baked goods not made at home, as well as all prepackaged cookies that don’t say OREO on the box. To him the oats looked like peanuts, and he just wouldn’t take my word for it that he’s not allergic to oats. The “Isaac, I’m your daddy and I’d never serve you peanuts” approach didn’t work. He apparently thinks I’ve been trying to kill him off for years. I’m amazed he even stays in the same house as me.

It wasn’t until I told him that he’s been eating oats every day for years that his resistance even weakened. I then trotted out all the cereal boxes in the house and showed him that they all have oat flour in them. Then the scared look turned into a smile. He tried it, he loved it. Of course he did.

Jonathan didn’t even try his, but just ate his ice cream. It wasn’t because he was scared; he was just being a turd. I ate his.

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The next lesson will cover the Immaculate Reception

14 10 2007

Last weekend Isaac and I made an overnight trip to go see the Steelers play the Seahawks.  We stayed with my sister Saturday night and drove to the game Sunday morning.  We parked across the river and rode the boat across to the stadium. Isaac was impressed at how big it was. We entered the stadium at Gate A. Our seats, however, were in Beaver Falls.

we had to walk this far

Isaac got a cool face tattoo. Then we decided we’d find some food and, more importantly, water. Say hello (or goodbye) to twenty bucks:

that’s right, 20 bucks

Then we made our way slowly to our seats. It was a long walk.  We got there a minute into the second quarter. Did I say it was hot? Holy cow, it must have been 95 degrees. We sat there for ten minutes. Isaac was dripping with sweat, so I suggested we find somewhere shady to watch the game. Isaac also got to see the Super Bowl trophies and the Great Hall.

Isaac in the great hall

I knew going in that I wasn’t going to see a lot of football. It turned out to be more of a sightseeing trip than anything. That was cool, we had a great time.

We won!

When the score went to 21-0 we headed back for the boat.  We left the game and went straight home. Poor kid zonked out on the ride home.  He walked all day long without complaining.

ride home

Isaac’s favorite animal is the tiger, so last year he told me he likes the Bengals. Well, going to that game last week changed everything. He now bleeds Black and Gold. Monday he didn’t have school (Columbus Day), and he printed out some coloring pictures that he then hung above his bed.

He’s now a Steeler fan

That week he drew a picture at school that says “Daddy! I like you because you watch football.”

…and now his teacher knows it.

Mission accomplished.

You can’t make a cheese sauce with skim milk

10 10 2007

I was making mac and cheese for the boys the other day when I got this great idea. “I’ll just make a nice cheese sauce and pour it over the pasta when it’s done.” (Let me say at the beginning that there were no blue boxes in the house, so I was on my own.) Usually I wait until the mac is done cooking, drain it, and then put in some cheddar cubes, milk, and butter. This time I decided to make the cheese at the same time as the mac.

I got off to a bad start when the milk almost boiled over. Yes, a mere quarter cup of milk almost boiled over. Skim milk, remember, plus a pat of butter. So I put in the cheese and let it sit so it could melt a little.  When I came back to it two minutes later I was greeted by what appeared to be baby vomit mixed with cottage cheese.

The only reason it wasn’t a complete disaster was that I never poured it over the pasta.  When the pasta was done cooking I proceeded just like normal. Instead of skim milk I used half n half, and it turned out fine. Later that evening there was a Good Eats episode on mac and cheese. Alton said something about cheese clumping when it melts too quickly. So I’m not sure if it was the milk or the high heat that did me in. Probably both.

As I was washing it down the sink I thought to myself, “I should take a picture of this, it would be a great story for my blog.”


7 10 2007

I really mean well. Really I do, but here we have another example of what I thought was a great idea turning on me.

Your kid signs up for soccer. You think two things, right? Shin guards and cleats. That’s what he needs. Isaac has had cleats since he was five playing U6 soccer for the AYSO. So when Jonathan was getting ready for his first soccer practice I went out and got him shin guards and cleats, and his very own blue soccer ball. They make soccer shoes very narrow for some reason, and Jonathan has wide feet. That plus that equals we had to buy cleats for him that were a half size too long. That’s okay, they look great.

stylin in those nikes!

Then he gets out to the soccer field. Wouldn’t you know it, his uniform is black and red, just like his new cleats. Way cool, Daddy’s the hero! Celebrate!

Hi there.  I play soccer.

But there’s just one problem. Jonathan is four years old. The cleats are a half size too big. They play on grass in a very uneven field. Figured it out yet? Well, let’s just say that sometimes he has trouble lifting those cleats out of the grass, with the result being he falls over.

At least there aren’t any rocks in the field.

I break laws of nature when I cook

4 10 2007

Karen seasoned the chicken on Sunday night, so all I had to do was stick it in the oven for Monday’s dinner.  Except Monday comes and I’m running short on time.  I take it out of the oven and it’s undercooked.  No, it wasn’t yet undercooked, that would assume that it was partially cooked.  I’ll call it what it was, it was raw.  I finished it off in the microwave.

So if it was still raw when I took it out of the oven, why was there all that burned stuff in the bottom of the roasting pan?  It took forever to scrape off.  How do I do this?

Saying goodbye to Pappy

1 10 2007

My mom’s husband died in an accident last week.  People ask “so he’s your stepdad?” and the answer is “not really.”  They got married when I was nineteen, so he wasn’t so much of a father figure as he was a companion for my mother.  But he was Pappy to my kids.  Being three (sometimes four) hours away, we didn’t get to see them as much as we’d liked.  And when we did see them, of course the visits were too short.  We’d just had dinner with them at my sister’s house a few short days before the accident.

Pappy’s youngest daughter gave a very moving tribute to him during the funeral service.  This past weekend I saw a family devastated by tragedy celebrating the life of their patriarch.  It’s funny how everybody in the family (myself included) has their own impersonation of his booming voice.  I can honestly say that if I’m as beloved by my family at age 75 as he was I’ll be a very happy man.