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The First in the Deck Series

Our most recent DIY experience through the process.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Gotta love a new beginning, right?

Peppermint Shortage

Just a funny afternoon.

Coffeyville, KS

I loved this experience so much that I had to write about it. Then, through e-mails it spread to Coffeyville itself.

Photo Restoration

I had a lot of fun with this "old school" photo. It turned out too cool to not blog about it.

Kitchen Remodel (part one)

This is the first of a nine-part series documenting the remodel of our 50-year-old kitchen in our 100-year-old home!

Frappa-who?


Weeks ago, I had a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino (Frappuccino meaning frozen cappuccino) with a friend while grocery shopping for the evening's meal. And, I'm not an avid fan of Starbucks since my very first experience with one of their franchises charged me two dollars for a cup of the worst coffee I had ever had up to that point. Sidenote: I've had worse since. But, despite my previous judgement on all things Starbucks, I stood patiently in a line of two, ordered, waited and paid for my Mocha Frappuccino. It was delicious! It was even better than the one that I had at Panera Bread the week prior. And that's saying a lot, because I really liked that one.

Anyway, like most things that I like, I try to find out if I can make them myself. After about 15 minutes of searching the internet, I found what I was looking for. Someone else, through trial and error, was sharing their recipe for what they thought was a close match to Starbuck's Mocha Frappuccino. Why reinvent the wheel, right? Let someone else do the work and then capitalize off their findings. We began making them every other day and they really helped us deal with the heat of summer. Also, it gave us a new way to enjoy our beloved coffee in the summer when normally I have to set aside my addiction until fall. Since then, we have tried it with different flavored coffees and have found that they are equally enjoyable as well as help guard against growing bored of them.

Below is the recipe that we have committed to memory. Try them out. You will not be disappointed.

3/4 cup of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (I prefer the new dark chocolate flavor)
3/4 cup of sugar
4 cups of milk
3 cups of espresso (making really strong coffee works just as well)
plenty o' ice

First, make your espresso (or painfully thick coffee). Pour it into a 2 qt. pitcher. While this is still hot mix in your sugar and chocolate syrup until both are thoroughly dissolved. Next, add your milk to the mix. Refrigerate until cold. This mix will last in your refrigerator for the same length of time as the milk that you added to it would normally, so you may want to make a note of the milk's expiration date. Although, in my house the mix does not stay around for more than 24 hours. We like our Frappuccinos. When the mix is sufficiently chilled, fill your blender with ice (pellet ice is the easiest to use here which you can pick up at a lot of places, we've nicknamed it Sonic ice because it's the breed of ice that Sonic uses, here's a hint: Sonic will sell you a huge bag of their ice for 99 cents, most people aren't aware of this) but, of course, allow room to be able to put the lid on. Then, pour the mix in so that the mix level is just below the top of the ice. Blend well and serve. If you so desire you can add some whipped cream on top and then drizzle some chocolate syrup on top of the whipped cream. It adds a nice presentation for your guests, although I find it to be an unneccesary extra.

Enjoy!

A Plate Is Not Always A Dish


Friday's the big day. It's the day that my local and state Uncle Sam's get to collect from old Levi. Yup, that's right. It's time to renew some license plate tags. Of course, it's always a little more complicated for me, because I have a tendency to let things slide when it comes to government regulations. It's not that I'm a procrastinator, it's just that I so utterly despise these ridiculous taxes that must be paid in order to enjoy my freedoms.

What I'm talking about is the freedom to drive my vehicle down streets that my taxes pay for. Pretty much one hundred percent of my earned income gets spent locally which means that my local government is collecting roughly $2,100 per year from me just on the amount of sales tax that is charged to me on the purchases that I make. Wouldn't you think that this is enough money to be sucked out of me? Well, the State doesn't think so. Not only do they want me to pay for the roads (and have no say in which ones get fixed) but they also want me to pay outrageous amounts for a license plate and a little sticker every year. I know that sticker doesn't cost $27.50 to make, so why am I being charged that? Why do I have to have plates anyway? Seriously, why? I mean, I know cops use them to identify a vehicle's owner, but other than that why do we have to pay the troll at the DMV a toll to drive on our own streets?

So, because of these requirements, I must do the following on friday:

Acquire a new insurance carrier (since mine has expired this last month)
Have my truck inspected at a shop (they can't take my word for it)
Pay my 2006 property taxes that I haven't paid yet (procrastination here)
And then stand in the DMV line that we're all so fond of to get outrageously priced license plate stickers

I'm gonna need a frappuccino for all this I am sure. Maybe two. Wish me luck.

I Vinyl-ly Got One!


Last week Jodi ran across an advertisement online from someone giving away an old console radio. I called about it, found out that it was still available, got directions, and picked it up. It turned out to be really nice as far as console radios go. It's cabinet is made of nice wood that we are suspecting is mahogany. Everything works on it including the record player. That is why I wanted it. I acquired these old records for an ex-neighbor years ago, and never got around to getting a record player for them. I know that sounds a little backwards, but I always thought that I'd have no trouble picking up a record player for cheap or free from all the people that don't want them anymore. Well, I found out that everyone who doesn't want them anymore got rid of them years ago. Now, it's a little difficult to get a hold of one without spending enough to be able to buy an mp3 player.

So, we got it home and plugged it up and broke out the records and spent an evening with Blondie, Men at Work, Pink Floyd. Eric Clapton, and the Eagles playing in the background. I even put on ABBA for a few seconds just for laughs. Hey. I just noticed something. You put a "in" a CD. You put "on" a record. Hmm.

Anyway, listening to digitally recorded music is great. The sound is clear and clean and perfect. On the other hand, when listening to Jim Croce melodically play his guitar while telling a story in song I find that it just seems right to have the background clicks and pops of a needle finding the imperfections of a pressed vinyl album. The sound matches the date in which the music was made, and that's what gives it the authenticity that leaves me feeling all nostalgic.

It was a great addition to the house and the best part about it was that it was free. The only thing better than a dumpster-dive find is a pre-dumpster-bound catch.

Entertainment Zone


We all have one. Some are in some form of a puzzle, some are full of bloody action, some are cartoon like, some are simulation oriented, and even some are like playing dress-up. No matter what kind it is, everyone has a favorite video game. I've heard people say that they hate video games, and then watched them get a big kick out of Galaga or something at another time. Video games have been around for about 30 years and have advanced from a bouncing ball on a 5 inch wide oscilliscope screen to a wide variety of games including ones that have such beautifully rendered graphics that one might actually have trouble picking out the video game screenshot amongst a group of real life photos. Today there are girls that have set aside their doll playing to create a "Sims" world in which they can accessorize their Sims' clothes as well as their houses. Boys don't know who G.I. Joe is, but they do know that the M1938 Mosin-Nagant Carbine has a smaller muzzle flash than the German MP-40.

There are people that think that video games are all bad and others that see nothing wrong with them. My personal opinion is that they are both wrong. I think that there are lots of pros about them, but of course there are also a lot of cons. I know when it comes to children, it's very important to limit the amount of time that they are allowed to play them as well as censor the games that they are playing. Most video games out on the market are designed for adults. It used to be for children, but now those children have grown up and they're the ones buying all the new merchandise. So, the games have been designed and published to meet their expectations. In turn, there are many games that I find inappropriate for myself much less my child. Also, video games can be a big time waster. They're fine to play once in a while, but when you're letting your life pile up with things that need to be done and you're sitting in front of a screen for hours something is wrong.

However, assuming that we are all smart enough to handle the challenge that video games bring into our lives, what are some of your favorites?

My all-time favorite has been Call of Duty. It's a World War 2 re-enactment that takes you through all the major battles throughout the war including landing on the beaches at Normandy, taking back Red Square from the Germans, amongst others. The best part of the game is the multi-player part. With an internet connection you can get into a multitude of different games with other online players. There is Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, etc. You can play on several huge maps and there are some people out there that have made up their own maps.

I really enjoy the game. However, I'm always behind the times when it comes to video games. I can't bring myself to pay more than 10 or 15 dollars for a video game and so I'm usually behind what most people are playing. For instance, Call of Duty 4 recently came out and I'm still playing the first one. One of these days, though, I'll be able to buy Call of Duty 4 on eBay or something for around 10 bucks. I can't wait either. It's called "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" Unlike it's beginnings it takes place in a modern day environment complete with plenty of urban warfare. Check out some of the screenshots below.

What is your favorite video game?

Favorites

I was thinking this morning about some of my favorite things and I thought that I'd share what they were with you. I definitely needed something to write about. I guess the heat has sucked the will to write right out of me, because it's almost been a month since I wrote anything at all.

Anyway, my favorite cereal just changed this morning. Until this morning I would've answered "Cracklin' Oat Bran" to the question of what my favorite cereal is. However, I bought a single serving package of Raisin Bran Crunch about an hour ago and it has changed me forever. It's sweet. It's crunchy. It's chewy. And, although, I added no milk to it I did receive the impression that it could go a week floating in milk before being suitable For the Soggy Bottom Boys.

My favorite music has teetered back and forth between two artists for quite some time. They are Ryan Adams and Elliott Smith. It does sort of bother me that my friend Shawn introduced me to both of them. I do so like finding great music on my own. One was an intentional introduction and the other an accidental one. He added a couple Ryan Adams songs to a compilation CD he sent me from Washington. After buying one of his CDs I was hooked. The accidental introduction took place when he left his Elliott Smith CD along with a pair of shoes and a shirt over at my house when he was in town for a week about 5 years ago. I listened to the CD for about a week before I mailed it all back to him. After another week I went searching for the CD and before long it had taken its place among the ranks of my "Must-Have-Albums."

Ryan Adams takes first place between the two out of default. Elliott Smith died and unlike Tupac Shakur no more music is being released by him posthumously. Ryan Adams, on the other hand, just came out with a new album. I like it, but it hasn't grown on me completely yet. I shouldn't say that he wins by default. I think he would've won anyway. Much of Ryan Adams' music just gives me a great feeling. You know the feeling when everything in your life is right, your feeling healthy, your bills are paid, you're driving to somewhere fun on a cool summer morning with the windows down. You're not hot; you're not cold. You're with the people that you enjoy being around the most. They're feeling great. Everyone's laughing and making jokes. His music reminds me and gives me the reminiscing feeling of times just like this.

Now, I can't wait until the next day that Jodi, the kids, and I get to eat breakfast (Raisin Bran Crunch), make coffee, drive to a flea market while listening to Ryan Adams on a cool summer morning with the windows down, and of course, leave the flea market only to go eat Chinese for lunch. That sounds fun.

Open for Business

Most of you know already that I've been doing photography this summer for various events and people, but what you might not know is that I have officially launched a website that will help me with answering all the questions that people have about what I do. It took me a while to put it all together and I'm still tweaking aspects of it as well as adding sections as I find out they're needed. However, for the most part Studio Living Room's website is up and out there. Click on this button to go check it out! Studio Living Room

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