It's My Birthday!!

Hi loyal readers! Mommy and Daddy let me get on the computer to tell you all that it's my birthday! I am finally one year old. It was a pretty fun day, and I got to see my parents a lot since mom had the day off and dad worked from home in the afternoon. Also, my birthday present was a ton of time to play with Izzy (she's my girlfriend and lives across the street). We got to play all over the house this afternoon and later in the evening, too! That was awesome. Here are some picture of us rough-housing. Feel free to send birthday gifts...I really like nylabones!



As the End of Summer Draws Near...

The end of summer sadly includes the slow decline in garage sales. We enjoy Saturday morning garage sales so much, and although there will still be at least a few weeks worth remaining, we will be out of town (Michigan trip and Purdue football games!), so for our sake, the garage doors are closed. I thought it would be fun to cap the season by highlighting some of our most exciting purchases this year, all of which combined cost less than 35% of what we made having our own garage sale a couple weeks ago. To put it all into perspective, I'll compare the purchase prices to things we like in Indy :)

Our largest purchase was this wicker/resin outdoor patio set! We were thrilled to find them for an incredible bargain, and technically they weren't even part of the sale. We had to go into a couple's house to check them out after Lynne inquired about outdoor furniture. Not pictured, a second chair, which lives on our front porch (under our newly hung Purdue flag!). All four pieces cost less than a night at the Symphony on the Prairie at Conner Prairie (two tickets and sandwiches)

The next three items were an even bigger steal. After bartering the price down, we didn't get it as low as we wanted, so we waited, came back at 4pm, and ended up getting three pieces of furniture for what we were originally willing to pay for only two. I fell in love with the trapezoid tables, which doesn't happen very often with furniture. We put them back to back to make a great table in our sunroom, and the hutch matches perfectly and makes a great place for us to place our keys and things while making the sunroom much more complete. Normally, if you see something you love at a sale, you better get it, because it won't be there when you return, but waiting, in this case, really paid off! All three pieces cost less than two tickets to a comedy show at Crackers in Broad Ripple (not including the costly 2 drink minimum!)

Lynne really enjoys this candle holder, which she put in our fireplace for the summer. It really is a nice thing to have instead of an empty fireplace, and lighting the candles in the evening gives a cool effect, and it cost much less than a cupcake at The Flying Cupcake down the street.

Lynne also was really excited to find this set of antique rubber stamps at a sale. Some are words, some are pictures, and they work really well in these giant glasses in our family room. They came with a stamp pad, so maybe one day we'll even use them. Overall, they're cheaper than dinner for two at Boogie Burger in Broad Ripple.

Our first super-bargain of the summer was this amazing mirror from Restoration Hardware. The original store price makes me laugh, it's so ridiculous, but it was in perfect shape and cheaper than dinner for two at Yats at 54th and College.

Not pictured, I also got a nice used bike (Lynne got a brand spanking new one for her birthday, too). My bike cost less than the a full tank of gas, and can always be used to ride around Indy and experience all these great things mentioned above (including garage sales)!

Fantasy Football - Fear the Beard

After 6 years cold-turkey, I have delved back into the world of fantasy sports thanks to the guys in my small group at church. We had our draft on Sunday, and it was actually pretty fun, since I'd never participated in a live draft before (OK, the best part was the ice cream cake for Nick's b-day, hands down). Feel free to pass on any fantasy football advice, and take pot shots at my awesome team (below). In order to not be too tied to the teams I love (Bears and the Brees-led Saints), I made sure I picked talented players who I can't stand personally, gotta hedge my emotions, right. Also, I think it's important to note my team's name: Kyle Orton's Neckbeard. It shall guide the mighty Bears to victory this season once he grows it back (ok, not really, but I hope Orton does well even though I drafted him as my last pick as a joke and already dropped him to add another player).

Kyle Orton's Neckbeard depth chart (bench)

QB: Derek Anderson (Kitna, and Orton, in spirit)

RB: Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew (Ricky Williams, DeAngelo Williams)

WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Plaxico Burress (Devin Hester, Vincent Jackson)

TE: Jeremy Shockey (Dustin Keller, go Purdue!)

WR/TE: Calvin Johnson

WR/RB: Earnest Graham

K: Josh Brown

DEF: Cowboys (Jaguars)

D: Brian Urlacher, Demarcus Ware


Garage Sale - From the other perspective

On Saturday, the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood had it's annual garage sale. Lynne and I jumped at the opportunity to get rid of some stuff and make a little money. My mom, sister, and grandma also provided lots of stuff (some leftover from their sale earlier this summer in Lafayette). Our neighbors also got in on the act, bringing over some things that definitely beefed up our stash for eager shoppers, and Lynne's mom and Jerry supplied some books, a gas tank, and the single item that got the most attention all day: an electric scooter! We also had fun competing with our other neighbors who had a sale across the street, to see who could bring in more $$ (and more people!). Overall, it was a lot of fun, we sold a fair amount, made some money, and had a fun and beautiful not-too-warm day hanging out with our neighbors, and playing with Otis, and his girlfriend (Izzy). Also, I know have a car full (literally, no room left) of stuff to take to Goodwill!


Bam! Cajun Dinner with Friends

As has become our custom, every few weeks we have an amazing dinner with our friends Alex and Sonja (their blog) at which one of us makes a delicious meal. We've done fish with mango salsa, sushi galore, crab cakes and italian, and, last night, cajun. The meal started with fried popcorn shrimp with basil mayonnaise (fresh basil from our garden!), but unfortunately, it was supposed to be crawfish, but not a single grocery in our area sells crawfish (Kroger, Marsh, Fresh Market, Kincaid's Meats), but the shrimp were a yummy replacement. For the entree we had blackened chicken breasts with tons of spices, maque choux (an amazing corn dish over rice, see below), green breans with bacon and almonds, and, for dessert, bananas foster. Almost all of these dishes were ones we had never before prepared, and they turned out great. Coupled with some good white wine and wonderful conversation (and crazy fun in a smokin' kitchen), the night was a blast. Below are the recipes we used. Hopefully we will have pics soon courtesy of Alex (who took like 100 pics of the prep and meal :). Oh, and just to show off, since Lynne had to work today, I took care of all the clean up after church. It only took me about 2.5 hours :), we used a lot of dishes!

Popcorn shrimp with basil mayonnaise:
1. Whisk together 2 eggs, 1 cup dry white wine, and set aside.
2. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup fine cornmeal (we ended up using about 1 cup since the batter is way too thin without upping it), 1/2 cup flour, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives (from our garden!), 1 minced garlic clove, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (from our garden), 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (but you can add more if you like them hot). Gradually wisk in the egg/wine mixture from step #1, blanding well. Let stand at room temperature.
3. To make the mayonnaise, combine 1 egg yolk, 2 tsp dijon mustard, and 1 tblspoon white wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 cup vegetable oil, beating vigorously with a whisk. When it's thick and smooth, stir in 1/2 cup of fresh chopped basic (from our garden).
4. Coat the shrimp in the abatter and fry in small batches at 375 deg.F. We used our awesome deep fryer. The should turn golden brown and then remove and let them drain.

Blackened Chicken Breasts:
1. Take three large chicken breasts, and slice them in half horizontally to make thin cutlets (feel free to make them pretty thin, possibly three slices per breast, and while trimming the chicken use the little nuggets, too).
2. Melt 5 tablespoons of butter, but don't let it burn.
3. Combine the following in a bowl: 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 2 tsp. onion powder, 2 tsp. paprika, 1.5 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp black pepper, .25 tsp cumin, 1 tsp thyme.
4. Brush the chicken with the melted butter then sprinkle on the spice mixture. Do this to both sides of each piece.
5. Heat a large frying pan on high heat so that a drop of water sprinkled on the surface sizzles. Do not put any oil or fat in the frying pan!
6. Unplug your smoke detectors, because your kitchen is going to get smokey!! (and you may caugh some as these herbs and spices cook up).
7. Cook the chicken, about 2.5 minutes per side until they blacken. Serve them hot!

Maque Choux:
1. Cook up 6 ears of corn. Cut of all the corn from the cobs, and make sure to get as much as possible as it will make the dish more creamy.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat.
3. Add the corn, 1 cup chopped yellow onion, 1 chopped green bell pepper, 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno (no seeds), 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp oregano, and 1 tsp thyme. Cookd and stir until soft (12 minutes?).
4. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream and cooke for 2 more minutes.
5. At this point, we went off recipe to make it thicker and Lynne added milk and flour bit by bit to make the choux thicker while keeping it creamy. We prefer it to be more solid over rice, while the original recipe would have yielded more of a soup consistency.
6. Serve over long-grain white rice.

Bananas Foster:
1. Mix 3/4 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg in a bowl.
2. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and a frying pan and add the sugar/spice mixture.
3. Add 5 tblspoons of dark rum and 4 tablespoons of banana liqueur to the grying pan and stir over heat until the sauce is syrupy.
4. Add the 4 firm bananas, sliced lengthwise, and heat through, turning the suace over the bananas with a spoon to coat them.
5. Light the pan on fire! When the flames die down, put banana on each plate with french vanilla ice cream. Pour extra sauce over them, and serve IMMEDIATELY!


Garage Sales!

So, as previous posts have attested to, Lynne and I love garage sales on Saturday mornings. We eagerly get up early (8am, yes, I have changed soooo much) to hit the sales. We had a couple years of great finds in Lafayette, and this year we were excited to hit the Indy sales. Unfortunately, they haven't been what we expected, given the size of the city. Most weekends have had only a few good sales in our area (Broad Ripple/Butler Tarkington), so we haven't had the volume we assumed. Despite, it has been quite fun! We've been able to go with our friends Alex and Sonja a few weekends, which makes the experience even better (they are hardcore g-sale people, too), and there have been some really great sales. This weekend, Lynne found some jewelery, Kirk found some awesome nice beer mugs ($4 for 5!), a book he wanted, and then, after two visits and some tough bartering, we left one sale with three pieces of furniture for $20 (sellers were asking $50). I know, we don't need new furniture, but we've already found a space for them (two trapezoid end tables and an old hutch top). The other week, we found a set of outdoor wicker/resin furniture for our backyard and porch for $50 (one year old, and about $350 when new). Those deals alone have made it a successful summer of sales, and there are still many weeks to go! In two weeks, our neighborhood is having a sale, and we actually plan to sell some stuff, too. It will be interesting to be on the other end of the bartering!

Bond, James Bond

One of the best things to do in Indianapolis in the summer is to go to Conner Prairie for the Indianapolis Symphony on the Prairie. Each year the symphony performs weekly shows that feature amazing music and fun themes. Two years ago, Lynne and I went to see the "sci-fi" show which featured themes from Star Wars and Star Trek (among many others). Of course, I was geeked about that. This year we took Lynne's mom and Jerry to see the James Bond show, which featured a wonderful vocalist performing with the symphony, which did about 20 different James Bond themes. It was a great show and afterwards I had to go to the library to try to find a bunch of the films on DVD to watch them again. Another fun part of the night was that the conductor (flown in from the UK) did a great job telling stories about each film and the song behind it.

Trip to St. Louis

I had the opportunity to spend 4 days in St. Louis last week, which is a new region for DonorsChoose.org that I am spearheading our efforts (including Indiana, of course). While I was there, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency at Union Station. The old station downtown was converted to an amazing hotel, and thanks to bidding at Priceline, I got to stay at once of the city's nicest hotels on a nonprofit budget. During the week, along with many work-related meetings, I presented to some teachers at Washington University at St. Louis and spent a lot of time in the nice St. Louis downtown. Fortunately the Cardinals weren't in town so I didn't have to put up with that heinous baseball team. The most fun part of the trip was a visit to the Schlafly brewery, a local brewery and the first brewpub in St. Louis. Thanks to my cousin, I had tried one of their beers previously and enjoyed it, and during my trip I took the brewery tour and got to sample 4 different beers, which were all amazing. Needless to say, I came back with plenty to hold me over until my next St. Louis trip.

Union Station

The Schlafly Bottleworks

Washington University at St. Louis