July 13, 2011

Louie and Gavin sorted through all the stuff from the 'free stuff room'! It's also known as the exhibit hall. Lol!

Tonight’s Cheesy Ham and Potato Bake (Before I forget)

The fam (except for picky Miss Shealyn) loved this! Now’s the time to write down the recipe…

1 Onion (sized to taste)
1/2 Stick Butter
1-1.5 o z Flour (about 1/4 Cup)
12 oz Milk
3-finger Pinch of Kosher Salt
Pepper (to taste)
1 Tbsp Prepared Mustard
2lb Cooked Ham
~6 Small Baking Potatoes
Parsley to taste (I use plenty)
1 Pkg Shredded Cheddar Cheese

– Pierce the potatoes with a fork and throw them in the microwave to cook fully.
– Dice the onion and ham.
– Dice the potatoes once cooked and cool enough to handle. Note: I leave the skins on.

– Pre-heat oven to 350F.
– Put butter in large skillet on medium to medium-high heat. When melted and ready to cook, toss diced onion in the butter  and cook until translucent. (No caramelization. You’ll get that in the oven later.)
– Sprinkle flour over the surface of the skillet. Stir to form a roux.
– Add milk. Stir continuously until sauce thickens.
– Add 3/4 of the package of shredded cheddar. Continue stirring.
– Then cheese is melted into sauce, add salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir to incorporate.
– Fold in ham, potatoes, and parsley.
– Transfer to greased glass 9×13″ baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
– Bake in oven for ~30 minutes, or until cheese on top begins to brown a little.


New Living Room!


The cats obviously love it.

Entertainment and Games


Alright, so it’s the same old room with the same old stuff in it for the most part. Even the cats don’t appear to be overly excited in the picture. Still… it’s BETTER.

First of all we did our friend and professional furniture rearranger, Kelley, proud by rearranging all of our furniture for the first time in 5 years! Kaycee and I spent an hour pushing stuff around the living room to see how well it fit. I think we ended up with a really good arrangement that opens up more space and puts all of our storage in one spot.

As if that wasn’t enough, we also changed things functionally. Kaycee had the DirecTV rep crying in despondency yesterday as she heartlessly ripped away their $70+ per month allowance. See the rabbit ears on top of the TV to the right? That’s now our live TV feed along with a CM7000 DTV converter courtesy of our own tax dollars.

Right now, the rabbit ears give us a fairly decent digital signal. I’ll soon be boosting that BIG TIME by building one of these beauts for a couple of bucks.

The final thing we’ve done is integrate a Home Theater PC (HTPC) which is tucked in to the left of the entertainment center. Hardware-wise I built it from a throwaway machine and added a video card from our friend Nitin. It’s running Ubuntu as an OS, and uses XBMC and PlayOn to play media from a variety of sources including DVDs, downloaded content, music, and live content from places like Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube. It’s a great little system that can be remote controlled by anything with a web browser, and will soon be remote controlled by… a remote control. 

What’s left to do: Another shelf for the entertainment center would be useful for the Wii Fit (which you can see is kind of jammed in there). The speakers are in weird places at the moment and I’d like to correct that. I’ll be running some cable in the crawlspace for surround speakers, and also to wire up the HTPC which tolerates wireless but occasionally disconnects itself when it’s doing heavy lifting. All simple stuff, really.

Being out from under a monthly TV payment makes us happy. The kids are going crazy over old shows (Flipper, for example) and we’re not missing out on anything except for some live sports (*cough*Hurricanes*cough*). Overall I think we’ll be glad we kicked DirecTV to the curb.

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Book Review: Just After Sunset by Stephen King

Before I start, I’d like to reassure you that I won’t spoil a thing.

Ah, Stephen King. Everyone knows who he is, and I’ve heard from just as many folks who don’t like his work as those that do. Those that don’t like it have lots of good arguments:

    It rambles. It’s too wordy. It lacks good pacing. Who would be afraid of that anyway?!

Funny thing is, I think all of those are true! I also happen to love what Steve-o writes not simply in spite of those arguments, but because of them.

During a conversation with my brother last week, he shone a light on the fundamental quality I like about Steve’s work. Every story of his is a study of humanity! From the made-up language we came up with as children to the strange times when something ordinary seems downright creepy. All of the weird quirks people tend to keep to themselves are on those pages. It’s all about what makes us tick.

When he’s “on” (which is a lot of the time in his books) Steve shows what’s going on inside his characters’ heads like no other author I’ve read. It is so much more complex than giving a character a sense of motivation or sticking to a plot line. When he writes it’s as if he becomes those people in a way that is very real, and is doing everything he can to describe what it’s like to be them.

That’s as well as I can explain it. So… about the book…

Just After Sunset is a collection of thirteen short stories. Most are short enough to read in one sitting, which I thought was particularly nice. Several might even be considered vignettes. Unusual for Steve, isn’t it?

It has been forever since I’ve seen short stories by this guy, but he hasn’t gotten rusty at all! He has a knack for throwing me into the story with the first sentence, and I’m held in thrall until it is done. With just a couple of exceptions he succeeded in doing this with every story in the book. Even in the cases where he didn’t, I enjoyed myself. When the last story is done, you’re treated to a behind-the-scenes look at his motivation for writing each one of them.

If you’re a Stephen King fan you must get this. It gets a 9 out of 10 score from this fan.

If you’re not a Stephen King fan this book might still be worth a try if you’re into fiction. The stories are short, and extremely well done. I say get the paperback and give it a go. At the very least you probably know someone who would appreciate it if you gave it to them.

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Today I woke up in a world where we stood up as a people and proclaimed that the American dream and our ideals are still alive. Obama is symbolic of that, but it’s us as a nation that have made this promise to ourselves. It’s up to all of us to keep it.