Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Watch A Lot of Movies, I Guess

SUPPOSEDLY if you've seen over 85 films, you have no life. I've marked the ones I've seen. There are 239 films on this list. Copy this list, go to your own blog/Facebook account, paste this as a note. Then, put x's next to the films you've seen, add them up, changing the header adding your number. I've seen 153 of the films listed (plus many more that aren't--remember Blademaster, Kev?). Do you have more of a life than I?

(x) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
(x) Fight Club (I read the book)
(x) Starsky and Hutch
(x) Neverending Story
(x) Blazing Saddles
(x) Airplane

(x) The Princess Bride
( ) Anchorman
(x) Napoleon Dynamite
(x) Labyrinth
( ) Saw
( ) Saw II
( ) White Noise
( ) White Oleander
( ) Anger Management
(x) 50 First Dates
(x) The Princess Diaries
( ) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Total so far: 14

( ) Scream
( ) Scream 2
( ) Scream 3
(x) Scary Movie
( ) Scary Movie 3
( ) Scary Movie 4
(x) American Pie
( ) American Pie 2
( ) American Wedding
( ) American Pie Band Camp
Total so far: 16

(x) Harry Potter 1
(x) Harry Potter 2
(x) Harry Potter 3
(x) Harry Potter 4
( ) Resident Evil 1
( ) Resident Evil 2
(x) The Wedding Singer
( ) Little Black Book
(x) The Village
(x) Lilo & Stitch
Total so far: 23

(x) Finding Nemo
( ) Finding Neverland
(x) Signs
(x) The Grinch
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
(x) White Chicks
( ) Butterfly Effect
(x) 13 Going on 30
(x) I, Robot
(x) Robots
Total so far: 30

(x) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
( ) Universal Soldier
(x) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
(x) Deep Impact
(x) KingPin
(x) Never Been Kissed
(x) Meet The Parents
( ) Meet the Fockers
() Eight Crazy Nights
(x) Joe Dirt
Total so far: 37

(x) A Cinderella Story
(x) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(x) Dumb & Dumber
(x) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
(x) Halloween
(x) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving x-MAS
(x) Flubber
Total so far: 44

(x) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
(x) Practical Magic
(x) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
(x) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
(x) I Am Sam
( ) The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards
Total so far: 49

(x) The Day After Tomorrow
(x) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
(x) Ten Things I Hate About You
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
(x) Nightmare on Elm Street
(x) Sixteen Candles
(x) Remember the Titans
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
(x) The Mask
( ) Son Of The Mask
Total so far: 56

( ) Bad Boys
( ) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Slevin
(x) Ocean's Eleven
(x) Ocean's Twelve
(x) Bourne Identity
(x) Bourne Supremacy
( ) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled
(x) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
(x) Ice Age
(x) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( ) Curious George
Total so far: 63

(x) Independence Day
(x) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
(x) Christine
(x) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Boss's Daughter
(x) Maid in Manhattan
( ) War of the Worlds
(x) Rush Hour
(x) Rush Hour 2
Total so far: 70

( ) Best Bet
(x) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
(x) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
( ) Sideways
(x) Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
(x) Ever After
(x) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump
(x) Big Trouble in Little China
(x) The Terminator
(x) The Terminator 2
(x) The Terminator 3
Total so far: 80

(x) x-Men
(x) x-2
(x) x-3
(x) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
(x) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
(x) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid
(x) Freaky Friday
( ) Reign of Fire
(x) The Skulls
(x) Cruel Intentions
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
(x) Shrek 2
Total so far: 93

( ) Swimfan
(x) Miracle on 34th street
( ) Old School
(x) The Notebook
(x) K-Pax
(x) Krippendorf's Tribe
(x) A Walk to Remember
( ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
( ) The 40-year-old Virgin
Total so far: 98

(x) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring
(x) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
(x) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(x) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 104

( ) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devil's Rejects
(x) Elf
(x) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History x
( ) Three
Total so Far: 106

( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(x) Monsters Inc.
(x) Titanic
(x) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
(x) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total so far: 110

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
(x) Hulk
(x) Dawn Of the Dead
(x) Hook
(x) Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
( ) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
(x) Waterworld
Total so far: 115

( ) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) Re-Animator
(x) Army of Darkness
Total so far: 116

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total so far: 122

(x) The Matrix
(x) The Matrix Reloaded
( ) The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
( ) Team America: World Police
( ) Red Dragon
(x) Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal

Total 135

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

16 "interesting" things about me

I was tagged by an...I was going to say "old High School friend," which would only be 3/4 correct since we're not a friend I met back in High School to post 16 "interesting" things about myself. The only problem is, I'm not so sure I'm a great judge of what's interesting. So with that in mind, here are 16 things that you may or may not find interesting about me:

1. I played Gonzorgo, the pirate with the parrot, in the musical Babes in Toyland at a children's theater in PA shortly after High School. I loved it, and I still have the parrot. (You can see it on my Facebook profile pic.)

2. I love to camp. I love, love love to camp. But between chronically cold toes and an inability to sleep through loud noises (e.g. crickets chirping, trucks barreling down the adjacent highway, Scouts making flatulent noises and giggling about it) I almost never actually get to sleep when camping. Even when I bring ear plugs, I just can't sleep for more than a half-hour or so at a time.

3. I really enjoy working with Cub Scouts, moreso than I ever thought. I'm the leader for a group of Tiger Cubs (1st graders) and I always have a lot of fun.

4. When sufficiently motivated, I can be highly organized. There was a winter backpacking trip two years ago that I spent months organizing. I had map routes, GPS waypoints, 3 potential campsites depending on how far we got the first name it, I had a plan for it.

5. I coordinated an auction/fundraiser for two of my dear friends who were very much in love, so that they could meet one another face to face. We raised over $1000 dollars (enough to get him to Europe and both of them back) among a small group of friends--in large part due to the selfless monetary and material donations of a bunch of Internet friends who had mostly never met each other. We've lost a few from our circle, and gained one or two, but I think there'll always be that special bond between all of us who worked together on that common goal.

(There was also a highly charged "feline" bailout that just about did a few of us in!)

And now I'm waxing all nostalgic. *Ahem* On with the boring stuff. I mean, interesting stuff.

6. Since the last time I got meme tagged, I taught myself the harmonica.

7. (Geez! Not even halfway there yet?) I'm rather ADD. There was this one time in school, where my teacher...what was his name? Oh! That reminds me! I need to get a new name tag at work soon. Wait. What was I saying?

8. An unfortunate skateboarding accident shortly before I turned 16 put a rather dramatic end to my pole vaulting career. That really had me down for a while. Heh.

9. I never reached Eagle Scout. Some of you who know me might be shocked to hear that, but that was the time when my father was very sick and I think my parents had bigger things on their mind than motivating me to advance in Scouts.

10. Nobody I know can tie a greater variety of knots than I can AND name their uses. Bowline, two half hitches, square knot, sheepshank, name it. Rob Wilson may come close.

11. (Am I still really working on this list?) I can wiggle my ears, flare my nostrils, and wiggle my eyebrows all at the same time.

12. Dessert is my favorite food group. Breakfast is my second favorite. Dessert is also my third.

13. If I were independently wealthy, I'd probably devote a lot more time to volunteering in Scouting, and I'd also probably build wooden things (like Adirondack chairs and such). Anyone care to make donations to the "Brig Needs To Get Rich" fund? Maybe I'll hold a telethon.

14. My wife is an exact, prefect complement of me. She doesn't mind taking care of many of the things I despise doing (finances!), while I take of the things where he confidence is lacking (fixing things, like cars and computers!). I provide many of the project ideas, and the enthusiasm to get them started, while she provides the endurance to finish them up.

BC <3>15. With my recent purchase of a convertible--and what a joy it is to drive!--I think I've ticked off every major thing on my list of "things I want to do before I die."

Scuba dive? Check.
Drive a motorcycle? Check.
Own a convertible? Check.
Skydive? Check.
Bungee jump? Check.
Snow ski? Check.
Sing in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City (home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)? Check. (And at a General Conference, no less!)
Sing at Disney World? Check.
Get married to the woman of my dreams? Check.
Get a Master's Degree? Check. (MSCIS from UoP Online)

I guess the last few I have to wait on: see my sons achieve Eagle Scout, and see them off on missions for the church.

16. I am a rather decent shot at rifle, shotgun, and archery, especially for someone who doesn't shoot regularly. (Mostly just at summer camp.)

Well there they are, my 16 things. Now I tag the following 16 people to go through the same laborious exercise I went through! (Isn't that like when a mother wishes that her son has kids just like him when he's a dad?)

Robb G.
Brooke W.
Grant P.
Lulu (who didn't complete my previous tagging!)
Katrina H.
Liz H.
Sheldon C.
Kim W.
Shauna E.
Sarey-Loo Who
Shani E.
Chris "Pete" P.
Julene C.
Marianne K.
Melanie M.
Linda W.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chicken Milano

I stumbled across this recipe somewhere, and my family is glad that I did. We all love it! This is a relatively quick recipe, but it requires some pretty complex multitasking because you've got to cook pretty much everything at the same time, because one part of the recipe relies on another. So try it, but you might want to have two of you the first time you try it.

Chicken Milano
If you are using frozen chicken breasts, thaw them thoroughly and butterfly them so they'll cook more quickly. I also like to have everything chopped, measured, and ready to go before I start cooking because it can get a bit hectic.

1 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chicken broth, divided
1 cup heavy cream
2 chicken breasts, butterflied
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
8 oz. dry fettuccine pasta

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter; add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and 3/4 cup of the chicken broth; increase to medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are tender. Add the cream and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer over medium heat until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

While the sauce is simmering, lightly coat the chicken with 2 Tbsp of olive oil, then sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large skillet (not non-stick!) over medium heat, saute the chicken. Cook chicken thoroughly, about 4 minutes per side or until meat is no longer pink inside. Transfer to a board; cover and keep warm. Discard the fat from the skillet.

In the same skillet, over medium heat, bring 1/4 cup chicken broth to a boil stirring the pan juices. Reduce slightly and add to the cream sauce; stir in basil and adjust seasonings to taste.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain, transfer to a bowl, and toss with 3 to 4 tablespoons of the sauce.

Cut each chicken breast into 2 to 3 diagonal slices. Reheat the sauce gently if needed. Transfer the pasta to serving plates; top with chicken and coat with the cream sauce; serve.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Spence's Scarf

For some silly reason, I mentioned to Spence a month or so ago that I'd make him a scarf. And any comment stated to a 6 year old, even a passing idea, is as good as a promise. That night, he rummaged through my yarn bag and came up with a skein of bright red yarn that he wanted for a scarf. And he wanted me to start on it right away.

I have made a few hats on my hoop loom, and a tube scarf too. This time, I figured I'd mix things up a bit and make a flat-panel scarf using knits and purls, but on my hoop loom. Isela Phelps has some great instructional videos on "needleless knitting" with a hoop loom at I followed her instructions and used the garter stitch for the first 8-ish rows, then switched to the stockinette stitch for the rest of the scarf, then closed with the garter stitch for the last 8-ish rows. What I didn't do was a border of three stitches of the garter stitch on each side of each row, which would have prevented the scarf edges from rolling. Oh well. You live and you learn, right?
So slowly but surely, I worked on the scarf over the holiday break, and hit the right length just as I ran out of yarn. I might consider making another scarf this way, but if I do I'll certainly take her advice about the garter stitch borders. One of these days though, I'd like to try my hand at making some woolen socks.

Crafting + Camping = DIY Gear

I've wanted a certain non-essential piece of camping gear for a while now: a sleeping bag liner. You can buy them for as little as $30, or for as much as you have cash to spend. They usually come in cotton, fleece, silk (or "silky" material), each one being good depending on what you want to do with it. I wanted something to keep the inside of my bag clean (liners are more washable than sleeping bags), to add a bit of warmth to my bag, and to have a lightweight bag for summer camping.

Shortly before Christmas, I found fleece blankets on sale for about $3.50 each. I don't know how much a comparable amount of fleece fabric would cost, but that seemed a pretty fair deal to me. So I picked up two. And I also picked up a 36" double-zip zipper.

I had a design in mind similar to this one, which I referred to for inspiration. Instead of sewing straight across the feet, I sewed a circle onto the feet to make a nice, big foot box, because I have big feet and they don't like being too crowded when I sleep.

All in all, it was pretty simple sewing except for the zipper. We may have a zipper foot around here somewhere, which would have made things much easier, but I was too lazy to go hunting for it. Still, I have had zero experience with zippers, and they're not the easiest things to navigate, as I understand it. But the zipper zips, which is what I was going for. We'll see how it holds up to regular use.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Songs

I sing. I've been singing for a very long time, in many different choirs at many different times. I love to sing, but I haven't done much singing for the last few years--I've been pretty busy with other things.

Last year, I sang O Holy Night at my Christmas church service. It was very well received, so I figured I'd repeat my performance again this year. When I told my mother what I'd be singing, she said, "Oh, I'd love to hear that!" When I figured out that my camera has a voice-only recording feature, I thought that I'd try to capture the performance for her. It's not a great recording, but it's better than nothing.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cauliflower Update


In response to my request for assistance with my Cauliflower and Cheese dilemma, my dear old mother spilled the beans:

Apparently, my dad would make a simple white sauce (butter, flour, and milk) and then melt in chunks of cheddar. Next time I make this, I'll try draining the cauliflower well after steaming it, and using a cheesy white sauce. Stand by for the results!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cauliflower Experts Needed!

One of my holiday must-haves is cauliflower with cheese sauce. I remember my dad making it when I was young, but he passed away many years ago before I was instructed in the art of the cauliflower cheese sauce. I can steam a head of cauliflower--that's not the tough part. I can melt Velveeta and add a little milk to thin it--not too tough either. But whenever I make a Velveeta-based cheese sauce...alas, its charm is fleeting. For after a few minutes, the water trapped in the cauliflower from the steaming process thins the cheese sauce to a milk-like consistency. Eww.

So what am I doing wrong? Is there a special way to prepare the cauliflower? A special recipe for cheese sauce? A proven method for bringing the two together without the cheese getting thick and developing that nasty skin while still in the serving dish? If there are any cauliflower Jedis who read this blog, or if either of my readers (*grin*) know of such a person, please enlighten me.

Candy Canes

For years, I had taken the manufacture of candy canes for granted...until I met the girl who would be my wife. See, her family has a tradition of making candy during the holidays, which includes that most perplexing of sugary oddities: the candy cane. And the most perplexing of questions surrounding the candy cane--for me at least--was "how do they make the stripe?"

That first holiday that we were together--no, it must have been the second--I was let in on the family secret. Yes, I was ushered in by cousin Michael to the manufacture of candy canes. I think it's a fun recipe, and doesn't take a whole lot of special or expensive ingredients, so give it a shot! You might have a new family tradition of your own!

And here's the family secret, made not so secret:

Candy Canes
Warning: You do not want to even attempt this recipe without at least four non-child people. It involves handling hot things with quasi-bare hands, so it might be good for them to not be whiny either.

6 cups granulated sugar
3 cups cold water
2 Tbsp white Karo syrup or honey
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
flavoring as desired
food coloring

Mix ingredients (except cream of tartar, flavoring, and food coloring) in a 6 to 7 quart deep saucepan. After sugar is dissolved, do not stir. Bring to a rolling boil and wash down the crystals, (Brig's note: You can also clamp on the lid for at least 3 minutes, since evaporation and condensation will help wash the sugar crystals down the sides too,) then add the cream of tartar. Boil rapidly until it reaches the hard crack stage.

Pour most of it quickly onto a greased dripper or marble slab. Pour the rest into a small metal dish. DO NOT MOVE THE MIXTURE UNTIL PARTLY COOL. Turn the edges in (Brig's note: We use a clean metal putty knife dedicated to candy canes for this) and add the flavoring (2 teaspoons for the marble slab, 1 teaspoon in the small dish). Also, add food coloring to the small dish. Pull the candy in the large dripper until creamy, then form into a ball. (Brig's note: This is just like pulling taffy. You may want to grease up your hands lightly with butter to prevent the hot mixture from sticking to your hands)

Wrap the colored stripe from the small bowl around the middle of the ball. Stretch and roll, twisting to form the traditional stripe on the stick. If it tends to stick to the surface, use a very small amount of flour. Cut into several lengths as necessary. When the desired diameter is achieved, cut and form into canes. If it gets too cold to work, put on a wooden breadboard in a warm oven to soften.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's worse than that...he's dead, Jim!

I had a lot to do right before the Thanksgiving holiday, especially concerning planning for my family's trip to Syracuse. So much to do, in fact, that I forgot to do one important thing: refrigerate my AFB starter. So when I got back...and I'm so ashamed to say it...I found my starter had shuffled off this mortal coil. It's pushing up daisies. It's bereft of life. It freakin' snuffed it.*

Rest in peace, Amish Friendship Bread Starter. Maybe I'll start up another some day...but not today.

*Originally a reference to a dead parrot, courtesy of Monty Python.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lions and Tigers and Chairs! Oh my!

Okay, so there aren't any lions or tigers, but I have been working on chairs lately. Way back in 2000, Kara and I received a dining room set from a family member who was going to upgrade. The chairs were gucked up with that nasty black waxy stuff that gets on chairs after they rach a certain know that stuff? The finish was peeling off the table, too. It was a pretty decent set, it was just old.

Well Kara and I spent weeks stripping down all the chairs (chemical stripper, not sandpaper), and restaining and polyurethaning them--4 chairs, 2 arm chairs, a table, and 2 leaves. As it turned out, they were made from solid walnut and looked great after all our efforts. But time has passed and table's finish is chipped in places and the chairs have gotten rather rickety and squeaky. We got an estimate on repairing the chairs at just over $100 per chair; however, we're too cheap for that.

I took one of the armchairs where both arms had fallen off, and knocked the thing completely apart. It was held together with dowel pins, but they'd worked themselves so loose that it didn't take much work with a mallet to get them apart. Once they were apart, I drilled pocket screw holes with a new Kreg Pocket Hole Jig (this has nothing to do with dancing in my pants pockets!) that I purchased for this very purpose. I figured that replacing the dowels would be good, but pocket screws would make these chairs bombproof. On the arms, I ended up using epoxy to fill in the voids and redrilling holes for dowels.

I also bought new foam for the cushions. The fabric was washed thoroughly (in the washing machine) and restapled to the seat form, then screwed back onto the newly glued-and-screwed chair. Voila! Like-new chairs for a few bucks each!

So far, I've done 5 out of 6 chairs which is what we need right now with Mike deciding recently that he'd like to sit at the table in a "regular" chair too. The last soon as I get over this cold, I may tackle it.

The most intricate part of the chair rebuilds was rebuilding spindles. Over time, some of the spindles that go from the front legs to the back legs were broken, and I couldn't imagine a way to buy a replacement. So I made them. If I had a lathe, I would have turned exact duplicates of the originals. But I don't. I do have a spokeshave though, which I made with my brother in law Tom a few years back, and that'd do in a pinch. I bought a 3/4" poplar dowel from my local Lowe's, and shaved the dowel down just like I was whittling. And I'd say I did a pretty fine job, if'n I do say so m'self!

Unfortunately, I was only able to weasel one new tool out of this job; the Kreg Pocket Hole Jig. But that's better than nothing, right? Plus, I saved us a few hundred dollars over fixing or replacing these chairs.