Happiness. Short-term, stupid, self-interest.

Home Theater PC – Mouse & Keyboard

While the actual building of my Home Theater PC has been put off for the near term, the fact that my Dell XPS monstrosity is still sitting next to my home theater cabinet is proof of its usefulness to the entire family.

For instance, my parents are in town for a visit and last night we watched a Power Point presentation made for my uncle’s 70th birthday party. It had photos of my great-great-grandparents and of my father when he was a kid. These are photos I’ve never seen before and we were all able to sit around the big screen and listen to the story of when my father and his brother helped paint their dad’s ’57 Plymoth… with some gray paint that was laying around and some sticks (because “dad” wasn’t stupid enough to leave brushes laying around). We even swapped out to Google some of the things we saw in the photos, and also took screen shots of it all to make the photos back into JPG’s and burn them to a CD so my parents could look at them on their Mac.

Quite useful. (oh, and TrackMania United rocks on the big screen)

But, the biggest pain is the mouse and keyboard being tethered to the thing. I have a great mouse and OK keyboard, but I’ve just got to go wireless, and I want to do it now even before I build the new home theater PC. I found a few I’m considering, and here they are: Continue reading


June 6, 2008 Posted by | Family, Gaming, Home Theater | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Cake Season 2008 – NY Giants

My son wanted a sports themed cake for his birthday, but he had rules. No baseball, no soccer and no golf. The only things that were ok were football, basketball or bowling. I learned that the reason he wanted bowling was from a previous cake I did for a bowling party which had gumballs on it. He also just finished basketball for the season and was very into it.

However, I couldn’t come up with a good idea for the two or three themes together. He ok’d my suggestion for a football-only cake and after the fantastic Super Bowl this year, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Again, my assistant was very helpful in preparing the cake.

Seeing his face was well worth the 6 hours it probably took me to put it together. I even had him for a second when I told him that I had Eli come over to sign it himself.

My assistant’s birthday is next which needs to be a tropical themed cake; that should be fun. And I had to postpone my wife’s cake, which my assistant and I have a secret plan for.

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Family | , , , | 11 Comments

This is a Triumph

I’m making a note here:

Sometime late November 2006 I disappeared from my blog. The reasons are all good as I had finally made a decision on my HDTV. The TV I chose was the Sony Bravia 46” LCD KDL-W3000. More on that later…

Here are some of the steps of how it went up.








Once it was all installed and my cable service was upgraded I was glued to the TV. The Time Warner DVR is great. Originally, I was very anxious to put in a media center PC to record high definition, but not only are there technical problems with that due to restrictions by Cable Labs on Cable Cards (they can only be used in a certified system; i.e. a manufacturer like Dell would need to have the model certified which eliminates the possibility for home built PCs), I didn’t need it; the DVR is very functional and easy to use.



Then, after Christmas, I had even more reason to never leave the Barley Room… the Wii. I have been playing Wii sports, Madden 08, and watching everyone else play Super Paper Mario, Smooth Moves, and snowboarding. We have had several, very successful, Wii parties.



I’ve also been watching movies in my NetFlix queue that I have been waiting on until I got the TV. (by the way, Spiderman 3 was not very good) On top of all that, the home theater itself had just so many things to play with… calibrating the sound and picture, learning the remotes, watching my favorite movie scenes in high-def and surround sound, and lots more.

One of the greatest SuperBowls ever…


It is hard to truly describe and show how well this room works. My wife keeps saying, “what would we do without this room?”

The home theater experience really showed itself when we watched Transformers. I had already seen the movie in the theater, and I don’t know if it was because it was the second time around, or if because I watched how they made the movie, but I concluded that this movie is now one of my favoroties, ever. The sound, the comfy seating, the picture… it was just off the hook. (Did I mention the sound???)


It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.




February 25, 2008 Posted by | Family, Gaming, Home Improvement, Home Theater, Movies, Music, Tech, TV | 5 Comments

An Evening Out

Catch up over at Hop-Talk.com…

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Family, Food & Drink, Music | Leave a comment

Cake and eat it too

Spring means cake time at our household due to the plethora of birthdays we celebrate this time of year. A year ago I told you about something you may not know about me. Now, check out these cakes:
katies-first-butterfly-cake-001.jpg   katies-ladybug-cake-for-pop-pop-010.jpg
These cakes were extra special for me, because I didn’t make them. I have a new apprentice in the house, Katie, my 10 year old daughter, and this year she was teaching me.

As part of an “After School Fun” program, Katie took a cake decorating class and made the dragonfly cake above. Then, for her grandfather, she made a very special lady bug cake that she let me help her make. I was surprised at how many things she was able to teach me. (hey… I’m supposed to be the one who knows everything!) The little tricks she showed me were very helpful over the next few weeks where I was in charge of making the cakes, though I was happy to have the help of both my children in making them.

This cake was for my wife’s birthday; daisy’s are her favorite flower. It was a lemon cake with lemon icing.
kims-lemon-daisy-cake-006.jpg   kims-lemon-daisy-cake-012.jpg

I didn’t have a lemon icing recipe so I improvised based on the standard butter cream icing recipe. I loved it; others thought it was a little too lemony. Here it is:
2 lbs confectionary sugar (sifted)
1 cup white Crisco shortening
1 cup butter
2 tsp lemon extract
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp lemon juice

In a mixer, cream butter, shortening, extract and lemon zest. Slowly, mix in the sugar; it should chalky looking. On high, whip in the lemon juice until creamy and fluffy.

To tone it down a notch, I would probably not use the lemon juice at the end and use the standard milk to thin and fluff the icing. (The other option to tone it down would to go back to the vanilla extract instead of the lemon extract)

My son got a soccer ball made from a specialty baking pan. These cakes, frosted with just dotted stars are the easiest to make.

This cake was extra big for a party where we celebrated everyone’s birthday and it had vanilla pudding between layers. All of the flowers were leftovers from the previous cakes.

This last one I made on my own, inspired by a Wilton designed cake, and it was a huge hit at Katie’s sleepover birthday party where each girl had their own, custom made, matching face on a pillow they were able to eat. They were all very excited to “decapitate and eat their own head”. In honor of Mistoff, I put him sleeping on Katie where he spent the greater part of his day.
katies-10th-birthday-sleep-over-party-and-cake-015.jpg   katies-10th-birthday-sleep-over-party-and-cake-084.jpg

In April and May, I get to make cakes and eat them too. (and lots of it!)

June 7, 2007 Posted by | Family, Food & Drink, Life in general | 5 Comments

What This Guy is Playing – April ’07

As always, April, May & June are killer months for me and it has already started. I don’t have time to play anything except soccer on Monday nights. Here’s what going on around here…

  • Yard clean up
  • Lawn maintenance
  • Easter
  • Soccer coaching
  • Garage sale prep
  • Birthday parties
  • Making cakes
  • Exams for work (work is already busy enough)
  • Trying to continue on the porch project
  • Spring cleaning

That’s just April. However, I can say this:

April 4, 2007 Posted by | Family, Life in general, TV | Leave a comment

metamorphosis: Amazing Girls

metamorphosis: Amazing Girls, by Metamom

I second that! We’ve recently gone through a cut back across the board and everyone seems much more happy and relaxed. We didn’t get rid of everything, but we have created a nice balance. Since our new library has opened, the kids are eager to go there after school to do their homework and read books; we (er, Mom) use to not have time for that with the extra ballet classes. Plus, that leaves extra time to play on Grinch Mountain.

(Now I’ve just got to cut out this blogging habit)

April 3, 2007 Posted by | Family | Leave a comment

Winter Snow Park

valentines-day-blizzard-012_sm.jpgI don’t know who gets more excited about snow… me, or my kids. When it comes down to it, I’m just a big kid. The Valentine’s Day blizzard brought us all the snow we’ve been missing. (though that day in December when it hit 78 degrees was pretty cool)

I like to play with big machines, too. A snow blower is a ton of fun to use. (the only hard part is keeping them running year to year) I happily help out all of my neighbors with their driveways. I went through 4 tanks of gas. (which is fine, they pay me back in beer)

So what do I do when we are blessed with 2 feet of snow…? I make a winter snow park in my front yard. I snow blow all of the driveway snow in to a huge pile for sledding and snowboarding; known as “Grinch Mountain “. Then, I also snow blow paths around the yard which then get made into forts and thus becomes the perfect battlefield for a snowball fight. (So what if I destroy my lawn some more; it was pitiful to begin with… and what good is a lawn that you can’t play on?) I am probably the only person that actually blows snow back into the driveway after cleaning it all up.

valentines-day-blizzard-010_sm.jpgThis is the best… the kids get to walk outside and have an enormous snow park to play in and when they cold it is an easy cleanup and they can come right back in. We also get to watch them out the picture window from a comfy couch… that’s if I’m not outside sledding myself. It is awesome; and, I had a blast making it.

(more pics on Flickr)

February 15, 2007 Posted by | Family, Life in general | 3 Comments

Cat Stories

In loving memory of Mistoff, June 1991 – January 19, 2007 

It was the summer of 1991. Two kittens, stranded on the roadside next to their mother who lay dead after being hit by a car, are saved by a sweet bunch of college girls living in an apartment nearby. These two kittens were freakishly frightened of everything, and I don’t blame them. They hid under the bed or couch only to come out for food, and only when no one was in the room. It was near impossible to pick them up and hold them, but when you managed to do so; they were small enough to fit in one hand. A black one in one hand, a black/grey/white mix in the other; twin brother and sister.

katie-mistoff.jpgNo Pets Allowed. That is what it said in my friends’ lease agreement; but not in mine. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be a pet owner right out of college, but I have always loved cats. It didn’t take much urging from my girlfriend, whom I planned on marrying someday, to convince me to take them in. So I did.

In hindsight, it didn’t really take much time to get these two critters to come around and become the most loving and friendly cats you could ever know. I spent a lot of time playing and hanging out with them. My favorite way to relax was to lay on the couch to watch TV and setup a parking lot of cats on top of me. The devil and the cherub; Mr. Mistoffelees and Angel.

That is just the first “cat story” I have come to know first hand that I love to retell. I have dozens, if not a hundred, of cat stories. I recently came to realize that my 9 year daughter has known them for more than half of their lives. Mistoff, or Stoffy, as he became to be known, really took to my daughter, especially after I trained the cats to stop sleeping with my wife and I. (that’s a cat story right there) So, of course, Mistoff found a welcoming and warm bed with my daughter and they have become inseparable. Mistoff actually follows her to the bathroom in the morning, and back again to get dressed.

I started retelling my cat stories to my kids when they were very young, and it has become an absolute favorite of theirs. It is amazing that these cat stories hold their attention so well. The kids will actually stop what they are doing, sit and get comfy, look up at me with bright wide eyes and then say, “Ok, Dad, tell us a cat story!”angel-002.jpg

I love telling them and it shows. I get very excited and animated when I tell them. As for the material… well, they are cats… they make that easy for me.

If you have ever owned a cat, you must know of the phenomenon where you will hear a noise, often like a “crash”, in the other room, but upon inspection you find that absolutely nothing is out of place. Once in a while, you might see a cat walking out of the room as if taking a leisurely walk in a park and regarding you as if you don’t even exist.


Laying on the couch, watching TV… no, not this time; I’m not fooled. I know very well that if I get up off my comfy couch to see what happened in my apartment bedroom that I would find nothing except two cats sleeping on my bed. I am going to finish watching my show.

… I’m not going to get up…

FINE! I couldn’t take ignoring a loud strange noise anymore. But, I promise you, I won’t be surprised.

I was wrong. There, sitting on the window sill in my bedroom was Mistoff. When I walked in, he turned with a jerk to stare at me with the biggest eyes I had ever seen. Then he jerked back and looked down, and out, the window. That’s when I noticed the window screen was missing. I stood frozen in the doorway. He looked back up at me, then back down out the window. Up at me… down out the window.

murphy-angel-bed-002.jpgIt finally struck me that Angel wasn’t there. I rushed over to grab him before he fell out. With my heart pounding, I looked out the window expecting the worst. But there she was, 3 stories below. Sitting there, not moving, but sitting. And sitting on the window screen. I had to go out the front of my apartment and run around the entire building, the whole way hoping that she was still there. She was, and she was scared, but otherwise she seemed fine. Not knowing feline first aid, I carefully picked her up, watching to see if she was in any pain. The only thing I could find wrong was a scrape on her chin.

So what happened? Is it true cats always land on their feet; and is it also true that they know how to form a parachute with their bodies? I imagine that what truly happened was an insect flew onto the screen that Angel just couldn’t resist. Whether she was just climbing up the screen to get it, or launching herself from the floor, I will never know. But I picture her surfing the screen the whole way down. She obviously had the right instincts, whatever they were.

We called ahead to the vet and off we went; there is no way she can just be fine after that. In the car, in the face of near panic concern, my fiance and I got to joking about what might have happened and what Mistoff was doing. Was he looking at me like that because he was in utter shock and was trying to tell me his sister fell out the window? Or, was he looking at me like, “I swear, I didn’t push her, she did this all by herself!”

At the vet, the doc walks into the very crowded waiting room and asks in a very loud voice, “Is this the cat that fell 3 stories out a window?” The whole room *gasps*. Ugh. “…yes…” I was somewhat embarrassed, like I could let this happen. People all came over to check her out and were amazed. The doc diagnosed her with… you guess it, a scrape on her chin.

We said Angel just lost the first of her nine lives and that she only had eight left… who would have known it turns out that she has, like, 20, and counting??? (But I tell ya, it makes for a string hilarious cat stories; much funnier, and less scary than this one)

Of course, the first thing the cats did when we got back was to go back to the window sill again. After rigging the screen in the best I could, I told Angel to leave the bugs alone and save the screen surfing for someone else*. But, as I looked over at Mistoff, I could almost see a miniature devil apparition floating above him, jeering him on… ‘come on, let’s go push her out again!’

mistoff-in-baby-stroller.jpgThere are so many more stories, the leash story, the refrigerator story, the fish tank story, Stoffy’s patio screen surfing story*, the Macy’s bag story… hundreds I tell you. I have told them over and over to the point that my daughter has written cat adventure stories based on my tales.

One time I came across Mistoff sitting in the hallway staring into the spare bedroom. He was probably around 2 years old at the time. I decided to stop and see what he might be looking at, but I wasn’t sure because the door was only open about 5 inches wide.

He then stood up and walked slowly towards the door and gently started to poke his head into the room. (what could possibly be in there?) But as soon as his whiskers touched the door and the jam, he backed right up to his sitting position.

OK, now I’m really curious, but you can’t get this kind of entertainment on the Internet. (at least not in 1993) Then he started that cat running start, about to pounce, balancing bob, thing. (if you’re not a cat owner, they slowly start to balance back and forth on their hind legs like a tennis player about to receive a serve) He must be going after something…! I’m fixed with excitement!

He then leaps forward, but not to pounce into the room; rather, he leaped forward, tucked his head and did a forward roll, flopping not so gently onto his back and then popped back up on all fours in the bedroom in a tense, ready to run position. He checked left… he checked right… then, he just relaxed and strolled into the room like nothing happened. 

pets-005.jpgIt was like something out of Monty Python. Congratulations, Mistoff! You have mastered “Getting Through an Open Door.”

I have been the most fortunate person in world to have these two cats, and I know it. Truly.

So many stories, together, make up wonderful, vivid memories. Ask me sometime, and I would be happy to tell you one.

January 20, 2007 Posted by | Family, Life in general | 4 Comments

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories – Making the World a Better Place, One Evil Mad Scientist at a Time

Science is cool… I especially like the science with food. This is one of my favorite blogs that doesn’t just spit out references to other news stories; rather, they talk and show some cool stuff…  stuff you might even want to try at home with the kids.

14. Flying MallowPepperoni basil garlic pizza

January 10, 2007 Posted by | Family, Food & Drink | 1 Comment