Karma, dude, karma

I had a pretty good time at the Father’s Day family gathering, though sometimes I feel a little awkward around everyone since my separation.  Two notable things happened, though:

  • We had a few slip’n’slides hooked up all in a row (we were attempting to break every rule on the box) and once when i was going down I crashed into a little cousin of mine.  I felt really bad but I think everything is okay; she had a pretty bad welt but was going down again about 15 minutes later.
  • I lent my car to my cousin and her boyfriend; they’re driving to Cedar Point for a few days and didn’t have very nice wheels to do it in; I felt like a hybrid would help them out.  So, I am carless for 2 days.  This is a good thing, because I want to see what it’s like to take the bus to work, and this will force me to do it.

So, where does karma play into all of this?  I don’t know.  I feel like lending the car out should give me some karma; hurting my cousin, even though it was accident should give me bad karma.  Maybe it will all balance out.

Happy Father’s Day

My Dad is really great!  He’s always there for you: to give advice, to help you out, or just to chat.  He’s one of the few people I know who’ll just sit down with me and have a conversation about whatever.  I get a lot of the traits I like about myself from him:  my particular brand of intelligence, my sanity and emotional balance, and my agreeable nature.

I think the last time I told him how great he is was at his 50th birthday party, or maybe it was 45th.  On his 50th I would have been 16 and I feel like I was younger.  Anyway, I gave a little speech about it and it’s one of the few times I’ve felt like I was successful at public speaking.  So, that was a good day and I still remember it.  In any case, I probably don’t say it enough.

He’s watching golf now, which is one of his favorite things to do.  I wish him a great day and a great year!  Dad, we should go golfing sometime, but I’ll have to borrow some clubs!

Learning to make Sushi for Mom

Happy Mother’s Day!

Absorbing all the information we can from the DVD.

This year my brother and I decided to get my mother a gift slightly different from what we normally get: the gift of sushi! About two months ago I got my brother a sushi-making kit for his birthday. The specific kit that I got for him was called Simply Sushi and featured a book and DVD by Australian sushi chef Steven Pallett. We, being something of a lazy duo, have been putting off actually trying out some of the techniques described in the kit, but mother’s day marked a perfect opportunity.

Making the grocery list.

We spent about an hour perusing the book and watching the DVD. The chef has a pretty awesome Australian accent; I definitely enjoyed when he kept talking about the fillets (pronounced fill-ETS). There was also somewhat amusing elevator music playing the whole time. These things did not distract us from our real task of learning how to make sushi rice, sushi cuts, and sushi rolls.

In the Asian Market, perusing seaweed options.

The next step was to make a grocery list. We went through the recipes in the book and I grabbed a pencil. Among the things on the list were:

  • Nori Seaweed
  • Wasabi
  • Japanese Mayonnaise
  • Daikon Radish
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Pickled Ginger
  • Avocado
  • Crab Meat
  • Tuna Fillet
  • Yellowtail Fillet

Once we had agreed on the final list, it was time to head to the Asian Market to look for some of these things. We took a short pitstop at a Salvadoran place for lunch, then entered the war zone. The Lotte Asian Market in Aspen Hill was filled to the brim with people and carts and children and some sort of animated energy that coursed through it all.  We left our cart unattended for about 30 seconds at one point, and it had disappeared!  The place was pretty amazing.

Approaching the fishmonger at the market, we were confused; it appeared they didn’t carry tuna or yellowtail at all. They had about 50 types of fish, but neither of the ones we were looking for. Disappointed, we decided to try the regular old grocery for fish. Still, we needed quite a few items that could only be obtained in this place, and we pushed on.

We had a hard time with the labels, most of them were unreadable to us, or had English in tiny print at the bottom. Eventually, though, we found everything on the list except for Japanese Mayonnaise and Kampyo, some sort of spiced gourd. We figured these things were overrated anyway and headed to the regular store for fish and avocados.

I have obtained fish.

At the supermarket, the only fish fillets they had were salmon and tilapia, and the fishmonger was a little rude about it. Undaunted, we bought the last fillet of salmon and since tuna is absolutely necessary in our opinion, for sushi, we picked up two tuna steaks. Not exactly ideal, but we figured they would work out.

After carting all the stuff home, we took a little break to play some Smash Bros. Dinner wasn’t supposed to be ready for three more hours and we didn’t want to start too early!

While Dad was helping chop the cucumber, radish, and avocado, we started on the sushi rice. making sushi rice is a pretty intensive process consisting of about 10 minutes cleaning the rice, 30 minutes cooking it, 5 minutes kneading it and applying rice vinegar solution, and another 5-10 minutes fanning it until it is room temperature. We rewatched the video for this section specifically because it is the single point of failure. Without successful rice, sushi cannot be achieved. Cleaning the rice is actually quite a bit of fun; you have to massage it.

Ingredients all ready to go.

As the rice was cooking, we took stock of our other ingredients. It was at this point that we realized that instead of crab meat, we had accidentally purchased clam meat. This changed our plans not at all, but it was a little funny. It was especially funny when poober bit into a piece of clam meat, made a face, and spit it out. Apparently, clam meat is pretty salty. We still used it in our “California” roll, though.

Poober with a knife!

While I fretted about the rice, poober cut up some of the fish. While we are both capable in the kitchen, he is the one who demonstrates the most raw natural talent. We couldn’t quite get the correct cuts down, especially on the tuna steak, because it was a steak and not a fillet. It was also possibly because our knives were not quite sharp enough. Still, we got some adequate strips off of each type of fish. We made a little bit of Nigiri, where you just press the rice against cuts of fish, and poober sliced up some squid combined with roe for a bit of Sashimi. Our favorite type of sushi, though, is maki; roll sushi. That’s what we needed the strips of fish for.

To roll sushi, you use a bamboo mat that came with the sushi kit. You place some nori seaweed on the mat, put rice onto it, put on your ingredients, then roll the nori inside the bamboo until the rice sticks to either side. You really need to see the video to see it explained adequately. You can also make sushi where the rice is on the outside of the seaweed, which in my experience is more commonly what you get at a sushi bar. We were somewhat successful at making both kinds, as you can see:
(click to enlarge)

I’m sorry if some of these are a little blurry.  Everyone was in a hurry to get eating!  In the end, we made:

  • Miso Soup
  • Squid with Masago Sashimi
  • Nigiri Salmon
  • Nigiri Tuna
  • Avocado Roll x2 (Avocado)
  • Pickled Radish Roll x2 (one with Cucumber)
  • Tuna and Avocado Roll x2
  • Clamifornia Roll (Clam Meat, Cucumber, Avocado, Masago)
  • Philly Roll (Cream Cheese, Salmon, Cucumber)

Our presentation improved on each roll; the first one I made almost totally fell apart, though it tasted pretty good after all.  About 2/3 of the sushi got eaten, and the rest was disassembled to get at the goodies inside.  All in all it was successful and very good.  Not to focus on the negative, but we did end up with a few takeaways:  1) Use less wasabi.  The wasabi we bought at the store is much stronger than what they serve at sushi bars.  A few of the rolls were a little hotter than maybe they should have been.  2)  Buy a rice cooker.  We cooked the rice in a saucepan, and it turned out pretty good, but I think it was a little chewy for my taste.  Also, the seaweed we put into it gave it little green specks that didn’t affect taste but may have affected presentation a little bit.  3) Make and use less rice.  In some of the rolls, we went a little overboard on rice.  I think less really ends up being more in this department.  We could have probably done with about 1/3 less rolls and with each roll having about half the rice it ended up having.  This time we made 4 uncooked cups of rice, next time maybe 2 will be in order.

It was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone who is a sushi lover.  Making it at home is not very hard and the payoff is good and fairly cheap sushi.  We spent about $40 at the store to make all this sushi for four people, and that includes a lot of ingredients we will be able to use again.

Real Men Play Frisbee

Guest post by: poober

I’m not the most athletic guy out there, but I do enjoy certain sports. Many of the more common sports like football and baseball require large teams that I have trouble mustering.

That’s why I have taken to the lesser-played sports. Right now some of my favorites are frisbee-golf, bocce ball, and croquet. Not only can these games be played with at least two people, they can be played right in your backyard.

Now that it’s warm out again Ive dusted off the ol’ discus and started tossin’ it around again. I have a course in my yard that me and a friend randomly picked out one spring and it seems to have stuck, so now not only I know it by heart but all my friends do too:
frolf course
We also put a little twist on it.

I believe traditional frisbee golf is played with hoops on the ground you must land the discus inside. We play that there are trees designated as holes (as well as a sandbank, brick pile, bush, and lamp post). While you don’t break a huge sweat throwing a frisbee and trudging after it, you are up and moving around, so its better for you then just sitting around the house. After a warm up round of frisbee golf with my brother, my parents decided they wanted a go at it and it became a fun experience for everyone.

So grab a friend, grab and brother or sister, grab your parents or children, and get outside to toss a frisbee. Its not the same as going to the gym, but it beats sitting on your ass.

Extended Family Appreciation Day

My wonderful aunt and cousin came by to take away some of our old stuff that I don’t want anymore for a yard sale, and they treated me to a nice dinner and some wonderful conversation.  My extended family in the area are all so wonderful and supportive.  Every one of my aunts and uncles are unique and their own person, and some of them can be a little eccentric, but everyone appreciates and loves each other.

I worry because my kids aren’t going to have the same large family structure.  Both of my parents (and now that I think of it, Melissa’s parents, as well) have at least 7 brothers and sisters.  Each of them, however, only seems to have ended up with 2 or 3 kids.  My kids will only have one uncle on my side.

I don’t know what the cause of this is.  I know it’s a somewhat national trend that family size is going down, and that that generally occurs when a nation is fully industrialized and developed like the United States, but I don’t know what the cause is on an individual level, because it seems like the change occurs on that level.  Sometimes I wonder.

Anyway, like I said, I’m concerned that my kids won’t have the wonderful extended family network that I do.  If I stay in touch with my cousins, they could possibly become “aunts and uncles” for my kids.  Does anyone just a little older than me and who is in the same situation know if that is generally what occurs?  I am not very good at staying in touch, even though I would like to be better.

Lance Corporal Broseph

My brother is in the marine reserves and just started his two weeks of service in Honduras helping to repair a school.  (I sincerely hope I didn’t just violate operational security!)

Anyway, I miss him, but I’m sure he’s having a great time.  I can’t decide whether to start moving furniture now or wait for him to get back, since he is the brawniest of the family, and a good friend who’s ready to help whenever I need it.  I’ve already been in stasis for the past few weeks just waiting for Melissa to remove half of it, so two more weeks won’t hurt, right?  I just hope I’m not making excuses.

I really appreciate the work he is doing helping people, and when he gets back, maybe I’ll invite him to share a few stories with you.  He is an excellent writer and an interesting guy.

Alone.

Melissa left at 10:16 PM tonight.

She took my two beautiful beagles, Molly and Claire, with her.

I haven’t cried yet. I am OK right now.

I want to share one of the last conversations we had, I hope it’s not too personal for her to mind:

Me: If I had it to do all over again, knowing what I know now, I would do it all again, but I would have tried harder.
Her: Me too. You made me a better person.
Me: …and you made me happy.
*long pause*
Me: I guess it takes both.