Sandlot Hero

5 04 2009

Opening day for Major League Baseball is this weekend.  This post is not about that.  It’s about sandlot baseball, whose opening day isn’t until the last day of school.

A few years ago ESPN counted down the top 25 sports commercials of all time, and I’ll never understand how this one wasn’t even on the list:

An egregious oversight.  I identify a lot with that kid.  I loved playing baseball with the neighborhood kids, even though I was terrible at it.  When you’re the youngest they send you to deep right field like this:  “Keep going… keep going…. farther…” and after you cross the street they’ll say “Perfect!  Stay right there and don’t let anything past you!”   

Only four months left until the Little League World Series.





Talent show ’09

27 02 2009

In the school that the boys attend the talent show is a pretty big deal.  Last year Isaac was in it for the first time, and he loved it.  This year when the time came to sign up he wanted to play more music from his Legend of Zelda video games on the piano, so we were more than happy to oblige him.  But his teacher also wanted them to sing a song as a class, and so did Jonathan’s teacher.  That meant that for the duration of the show Karen and I would be sitting with just the babies.  No small feat, but undeniably easier than having Jonathan on my lap at the same time.

They went in order of grades, so Jonathan’s kindergarten class went first.  They sang a rousing rendition of Down by the Bay, complete with visual aids.  Then some first graders did some stuff, and then Isaac’s class sang This Little Light of Mine, complete with little flashlights to “let shine.”

see?  they're shining!

After another couple of acts Isaac took his turn at the piano.  He played the Clocktown theme from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

he says he wasn't nervous

He played it perfectly (of course).  The crowd was so moved there were cell phones in the air.  And at the end he took a nice deep bow, to the sound of thunderous applause that threatened to send the roof crashing down on top of everyone.  

I'll be here all week.  Thank you!

I’m expecting a call next week finalizing the record deal.  

But something odd happened.  All those acts from last year in which girls danced along to Hannah Montana songs weren’t there.  I was stunned, because there were at least ten of these routines last year.  But there were a lot more acts this year, so I suppose they found other things to do.  In all it was a great evening out with everybody, and when we left (which was a bit before the end) Isaac and Jonathan didn’t want to go.  They’re already making plans for next year.





Cooking the redbirds

30 01 2009

For all you Cardinal fans, please do not be offended.  All of this is done in good fun.  

Last year I made my Super Bowl prediction based on soup (here’s the link).  I made Manhattan clam chowder, it was a success, and the Giants won in the Chowder Bowl.  This year my team happens to be playing in the Super Bowl, so the pressure has been raised to an all-time high.  If my dinner is lousy and the Steelers lose, it will be all my fault.

When selecting a dish to represent my home city of Pittsburgh I thought first of the Primanti sandwich. But then I’d need to make slaw, french fries, and a burger (along with everything else).  That would require two people in the kitchen, and baby #4 just won’t let that happen.  So in the end I chose a symbolic dish.  Something that I hope happens on Super Bowl Sunday.  Yes, a close game is very exciting, but how about a good old fashioned blowout?  Let’s cook us some birds!

Tandoori chicken was introduced to me by my lovely wife Karen.  It’s not a Trinidadian dish, it’s Indian.  But somehow she had the recipe and the spices and it quickly became my favorite food.  Then she started making her own Tandoori seasoning and it got even better.  For mine I decided to use Gordon Ramsay’s recipe from one of my favorite cooking shows, The F-Word.  Here’s Gordon’s recipe for tandoori paste.  We’re going to follow my progress as if it’s the Super Bowl.  

So how did the game go:

Playoffs: It’s crazy cold in the Burgh.
Yes, the cornish hens come frozen.  I had to thaw them in about two hours so they could marinate overnight.  Luckily they’re small, it worked just soaking them in some water.

too bad the super bowl wasn't last week when it snowed in tampa

Super Bowl Week: The teams arrive in Tampa.  Wow, it’s warm here.
Step 1 of making the tandoori was toasting coriander and cumin seeds.  Makes the kitchen smell good.

it doesn't look like much but a little is all it takes

Super Bowl Week:  Lots of talking, lots of waiting.
Once the tandoori paste was made and the hens were marinating, they go off to the fridge to sit overnight.

it's a lot like watching media day coverage

Super Bowl Week: The Steelers tweak their game plan.
I had planned on just making some rice and broccoli to go with the chicken, but that’s way too boring so I get out one of Karen’s Indian cookbooks.  I find some recipes that use ingredients we already have in the house. 

I used yellow squash instead of zucchini

Gametime!  After a week of practice the work is all done, time to play the game.
Actually once the chicken is done marinating it’s pretty easy to just slide them in the oven at 375˚.

is this Kurt Warner staring down the Steelers D?

First Quarter: The two teams act cautiously, trying to find an advantage.  The Steelers think they’ve found one.
After putting the hens in the oven, I start to prep for the side dishes.  I chop up some onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, and yellow squash for the veggies and get the stand mixer kneading some chapatis, which is a kind of flat bread.  That’s not a picture of them next to the recipe.

they were actually pretty easy to make

Second quarter: Things start moving, and both teams react quickly to each other.
The dough needed to rest for a while and the veggies were ready to go into the pan.  So much going on I didn’t have time to take any pictures.

Third quarter: The Steelers get two big plays from special teams.
I was glad that we had all these Indian spices at home already, because the house smelled great while I was cooking up the veggies.  At the same time I started cooking the chapatis.  We told the kids it was roti, and it was probably the same thing.  Both sides turned out great, and I did make some plain white rice for the boys.

Fourth quarter:  After the surprise play on special teams, the defense does the rest and puts the game away.
The yellow squash and fenugreek were really good and a very nice surprise, but the highlight of the meal really was the chicken.   Jonathan asked for seconds of everything, and even suggested that I “make this again sometime.”  I’d never heard that one before, not even from Karen.

Looks like a six pack of Lombari's for Pittsburgh

So there you have it.  Game over.  It was my first foray into the wonderful world of Indian cuisine, as well as my first attempt to cook cornish hens.  And it was a smashing success.  So, based on this meal, who wins the Super Bowl?  Who do ya think I’d say, even if I’d ruined it?

My pick: Steelers by 10.  It was that good.

If you’re interested in the recipe, click below.

Read the rest of this entry »





How do I cook a cardinal?

19 01 2009

Last year I used my cooking to predict the winner of the Super Bowl.  (Click here for the link)  It worked with amazing accuracy, but I had no idea just how much affect my cooking has on the outcome of football games.  Let me explain.

We had a friend over to watch the games this weekend and so we decided to cook as if there was a party.  I made a bunch of food that was heavy on the prep work and light on cooking effort, so we could watch the game relatively undisturbed.  Then the Eagles started to play badly and Arizona took a big lead early in the game.  It was then that I realized something.  Our menu consisted of chili, cornbread, and chips and salsa.  Southwest food!  

super chili

Then I realized something else.  Even though Ben was dutifully wearing a Steelers jersey, Karen had dressed Nate in red.

getting him Troy jersey tomorrow

See? Even Nate was shocked that the Cardinals won.  These two minor infractions cost Philadelphia the game, I’m sure of it.  So now I understand that my cooking has some mystical powers to it, giving me the power to change the fates of NFL teams.  I apologize to the city of Philadelphia, but I didn’t discover this power until after halftime.  Perhaps it was the wings I made a little  later that sealed the win for the Steelers, I don’t know.  I took Bobby Flay’s dry jerk rub recipe and made some jerk wings, and these were some birds that really bit you back (just like the Ravens) when you bit into them.

Have no fear, Steelers nation, I won’t be cooking again until I find a recipe for Primanti sandwiches.  And also, does anyone know, are cardinals game birds or something?  Maybe  close to pigeon, I could cook a squab.  

I’m even afraid to heat up the leftovers.





My superpower

13 01 2009

Hi.  My name is Mark and here’s my superpower.  I can watch the Steelers in the playoffs and still keep quiet enough that two babies can fall asleep on my lap.  Ben hasn’t been feeling well and required a lap to sit on all day on Sunday.  And Nate was, well, he was being Nate.  

he can still wave the terrible towel while sleeping

So I had two babies on my lap while Karen made dinner and helped Jonathan glue candy fish to a cutout of a snowman for kindergarten.  Ask her about that one, I have no clue.

Some good did come out of it.  Nathaniel got his first lesson in waving a Terrible Towel.





Resolutions revisited

29 12 2008

Part of the problem of having a blog is that you can’t ignore your new year resolutions.  There, they are, on Google’s cache for the rest of time, mocking me.  At the beginning of 2008 I made a list of things I would do this year.  Here’s the post.  I had four things on my list.  Let’s see how I did.

Replace the toilet paper holder?  Success!

That engineering degree is coming in really useful

Finish painting the stairway?  Success!

I used a really long stick to paint this

Do a better job with the dishes? Meh.

If you want them clean, come clean them.

Water the plants? FAIL!

Let's see... that used to be jalepeno plants

FAIL!

and that one used to be an African violet

FAIL!

started out as a tree; now more like a stick

Next year I’ll take better care of the yard.





The Cockroach Lives

4 12 2008

Back in ’01 I inherited a six-year-old car with 20,000 miles on it.  It still had the new car smell.  So Karen drove it to work – about a half mile away – for three years.  Then we moved to our current location, where Karen’s job is a bit farther away.  So now we have a thirteen (soon to be fourteen) year old car with not quite 90,000 miles.  Works for me.

Last year it needed over $700 in repairs.  It needed four new tires – oh yeah.  These were apparently the original tires to the car.  “These tires haven’t been manufactured since ’98” they told me.  I also needed to replace the exhaust system.  The muffler had rusted out and was dragging on the ground.  I hated spending all this money on a car that was ready to die anyway.  In frustration I told Karen “When this car fails inspection next year I’m getting rid of it!”  To be honest I was a little excited to replace the old girl.  I started looking at Jettas.

This year came and the car passed inspection.  No repairs needed.  Crestfallen, I collected my perfectly working Grandma car from the mechanic.  We’ll be driving her another year it seems.  I started calling this car “The Cockroach” because it refuses to die.

But then our OTHER car started giving us problems.  Our family car, you know, the minivan?  One headache after the other, and now that we have four little boys it is a very big deal when the van is in the shop.  So now we’re thinking that we might replace it before getting rid of the cockroach.  Then comes Thanksgiving weekend 2008 and she won’t start.

No!!  Take the van instead!!

But no worries, we had it towed to the mechanic and $200 later she’s back on her feet, er, wheels.  He told me “It looked like this car had never had a tune up – ever.”  He’s right.  But now that she’s entering her twilight years I think we’ll put a little more effort into preventative maintenance.