Friday, October 31, 2014

It's Me, Mario ... And My Kart!

Dawn's 3rd favorite holiday of the year is Halloween. It's her 3rd favorite because her and her mom are that special kind of Christmas nuts that go in the Christmas stores in April and stay in there for 2,000,000 hours (not even an exaggeration here). In a close running for the #1 spot, but falling short, is my birthday. Now, I know what you're thinking and YES, MY BIRTHDAY IS A HOLIDAY!!!!!

Since we started dating, we've always dressed up and and went out for Halloween. Whether is be Pimp and Hoe, Zombie Prom King and Queen, or 80s Kids (Yes, this is our 5th Halloween, we did the Pimp/Hoe the year of "The Fall" since we already had it and money was tight after bills). This year we were back and forth between a few options until it hit me ... Mario and Princess Peach with our own Mario Karts.

I looked at a couple of DIY sites that had their versions of karts, but I didn't like any of them. I basically used their instructions for guidelines, and then just made my own.

The fact that I didn't really do a whole lot of pre-designing made this take longer than it probably should have. In total, to build one, it'll take a good couple of hours. I broke it down into a few days.

First, you'll obviously need your material. I never measured the whole thing out, so I really don't know exactly how much to tell you to get. Again, I basically just winged it. You'll also need something to hold it together. I used a combination of duct tape and spray glue. Also, don't forget your box cutter and tape measure/ruler.

I cut one of the boxes in half and it just happened to work out that it was pretty close to the length that I was wanting to go with, so I just drew my design out on it. This looks all nice and pretty, but I really drew it about 10 more times before I found the exact angle and lines that I wanted to go with. Again, no measurements, just eye balled it to how I wanted it to look.

Once I had my angle, I cut it out and placed it on another piece and just traced it over. Note: I only cut out the edge of my design and used the top and bottom flaps for support.

I don't have pictures of this, but my boxes were 24 inches wide. You want to make sure the kart is thin enough to make it through a door frame (I measured around 31"). Since the box already had a nature edge at 24 inches, I just went with that for my width. 

I cut that off and cut off the top flap, and spray glued the bottom to the folded under bottom flaps of the side pieces. Then folded the side in to give it an angled front end, and spray glued it to the side. Here, you might want to make a "T" bracket to hold it better. Simply take a small piece of cardboard and fold it in half. Spray one side and stick it to the front end and spray the other side and stick it to the side wall. It'll just give it a little extra holding strength. If you make one similar to mine here, you'll cover it up later anyway, so if you do it on the outside that'd be just as fine.

Once the basics to the front is holding together, you'll start on the rear end. Again, took one of the side pieces of my boxes that was 24" and cut the top flap off. I wanted to make the rear end inset, so I marked off 5" from each end to be my taillight area. Went a little crazy for my tailpipes, but you get the idea. However many pipes you go with, measure it and cut them out. 

To make the inset, I glued the bottom flap of the back on top of the bottom flap from the side pieces 3" from the back. To give it more stability, I cut the top flap of the sides down and, where I could, glued it to the rear.

Once that was holding together, I cut pieces out to make the rear taillight box. If your measurements were correct, they should be 5"x3". If your measurements are exactly spot on (which is hard with cardboard), then you can always just cut down as needed. Remember, you can always cut more off, but you can't ever add to it (well, you can with tape). I held this together with duct tape since there wasn't much surface area to spray glue.

For the heck of it, I wanted to test out the pipes. This is the tubes I used in their full length, I later cut them down to look more like pipes.

The front is basically the same steps as the rear. I made the side 5" wide, and then had to get creative with the sides. Cardboard is pretty tough to do curves in multiple sides with, so I just cut pieces and taped it all together.

Once I had everything together, I cut some extra pieces to bring the top in the rear, front, and sides together and taped it all down. On the front side, I used an empty 12 pack can container to be my steering column. I cut a notch out of the top for it to fit in, put a T bracket under the top and on the front of the can box, spray glued the remaining bottom piece to hold to the front end (this also helps to make sure your angle is the same), and taped it at the top of the front in and on top of the support rail

I had pictures of the wing, but apparently deleted them off of my phone too quickly.

It was fairly simple, I cut the mounts 7" in the back and 6" on the front and 5" wide. I took one of the left over top flaps that were 24" and cut it 5" wide as well. I had created a side piece to go on the wing, but even with 2 T brackets on each side, they didn't last through paint.

Which takes us now to paint. I cut the pipes in half, and sprayed them with a metallic silver with flakes.

I could have made it a little cleaner, but after building 2 of these things, I was running low on energy. I originally was going to do 2 different paint schemes, but again, they got done in time so I was happy.

With with a white on the tops and red/pink for the sides and front.

It was easier to paint the wing separately and then add afterwards.

No, this isn't how I left them, I cleaned it up and make sure there wasn't any over spray all over the place.

The goal for the flap surface on the front and rear was for some lights and reflectors. However, yours truly forgot to add them.

A few final detail touches, I used a gallon paint can to outline for the tires, free hand drew the numbers, and purchase some checkered flag duct tape that I laid down on the bottom to give it more of that Mario Kart look.

One detail that I couldn't find anywhere, so I'll be a helping hand and let you know. I used some nylon rope to hold them up. I cut 2 hole in the front and in the back, crossed the rope once (to help pull everything back to the middle instead of it falling off your shoulders), and just tied them in. I wasn't sure how they'd hold up over night, but they held all night.

The final detail, we used actual Mario Kart Wii steering wheels to give it that authenticity.

Everyone at the party loved our costumes and the karts, so it made the many hours worth it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: Red Bone Alley, Florence, SC

We were leaving our annual family beach trip and my parents told us to find something to eat on the way home. Thanks to this invention called Google, Dawn found Red Bone Alley in Florence.

Once we pulled up I realized why she wanted to go there ... they have a dog in their logo.

As you walk up, the building leaves some to be desired. It's a plan brick building with a neon sign and awning. What you can't see is that it does have a corner sign as well.

Once you walk in, it immediately turns into one of the coolest restaurants I've ever walked into. Instead of walking into a building, it's like you've walked out into main street of a classic southern downtown.

Complete with ice cream truck and the cutest ice cream server ever (my niece).

I had the "Jacked Up Mac N' Cheese". It comes with grilled chicken, sauteed button mushrooms (which i didn't get) and penne pasta mixed with their 5 cheese sauce and crumbled pancetta bacon. If you just read that and thought "dang, that sounds amazing." Well, it was. I couldn't finish it all, but I made sure I ate all the meat before we left. It made for a very uncomfortable drive home with that full of a belly.

The wifey went for the Roasted Chicken BLT and a side of cheese grits. The BLT has a "16 spice roasted chicken, griddled bacon, romaine lettuce and friend green tomatoes, slathered with jalapeno pimento cheese all in a toasted Brioche bun."

If you read that, and looked at the picture and thought "dang, that sounds amazing too and there's no way I could finish it." Well, it was and she didn't. She wanted to take half of it home with us, but we still had at least 3 hours in the car (then add in the 50 bathroom breaks ...), so it wouldn't have been a good idea.

If you want some great food that's really not that pricey and are in the area. Take the trip. It will be well worth it. You get a very scenic drive ... and some amazing food.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Low Country Shrimp and Bacon Bog with Bacon Cornbread

We were trying to find something new and different to eat for dinner, so I grabbed my Bacon Cookbook and started flipping.

I was calling out some of the dishes that I thought sounded good and would grade on the loudness of the wifey's "mmmmm" whether that meant we would be making it or not. Lets just say the "mmmm" I got when I read "Low Country Shrimp and Bacon Bog" was far bigger than any of the others.

It has a lot of ingredients, but is fairly simple to make.

You'll need bacon, onion, long-grain rice (we used brown rice), chicken broth, medium tomato, lemon, worcestershire sauce, salt, ground black pepper (we used smoked salt and pepper), cayenne pepper, nutmeg, shrimp, and parsley leaves.

Get your frying pan and cook 1/2lb of bacon. (pictured with black pepper bacon for cornbread below)

Once the bacon is finished, removed all but about 3 tablespoons of the fat from the pan (or more, or less) add 1 diced onion and stir for 3 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups of your rice and stir till it's mixed well.

Then add 2 1/4 cups of chicken broth, a medium tomato and it's juices, chopped, 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons of worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon of grated nutmeg and bring to a low simmer.

Cover that and let it cook for 20 minutes.

Uncover and add your precooked bacon and 2 lbs of shrimp, and let cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. If the rice appears to start drying out, you can add more chicken broth.

To go with it, I also found a recipe for Bacon Cornbread.

For this you'll need, bacon, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk, and vegetable oil (or EVOO).

As I mentioned above, I did the black pepper bacon first, because we needed it for this, but then I did the regular thick cut bacon in that grease, and cooked everything for the bog in the black pepper bacon fat (just to give it a little more flavor).

Preheat the over to 425 degrees and grease a 12x8x2 baking pan. Mix 4 cups of cornmeal, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add 4 large beaten eggs, 4 cups of milk, and 1/4 cup of vegetable oil or EVOO and stir with a wooden spoon until it's blended and smooth. Once that's ready, add the delicious bacon, and stir again to make sure it's evenly distributed. Scrap that into your pan and let bake for 25-30 minutes, or until you can put a knife in the center and it comes out clean.

Once everything is ready and you make your portions, sprinkle a little minced parsley leaves on top and serve.

I prefer sweet cornbread over "regular" cornbread, so it was a little on the dryer side for me. Dawn loved it, so if it sounds good to you, take her opinion over mine here. As for the bog part, honestly, we under cooked the rice a hair, and by a hair I mean a good bit. Apparently brown rice takes a good bit longer to cook than long-grain rice does ... or either we suck as cooks.

Either way, it was absolutely delicious, and we will be making this again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: Another Broken Egg Cafe, Charleston, SC

We had our trip all planned out. We would have 1 dinner at S.N.O.B., a lunch would be spent at Pizzeria Di Giovanni, and a breakfast would be dedicated to Barbara Jean's (each can be seen in The Best (and not so best) Of Charleston review). We left Thursday after work so we'd be able to get down there and save a day. Woke up Friday morning and started walking (something that wouldn't end until we left). We tried a couple of different places, but the lines were all longer than we wanted to wait, so Dawn said "Lets just go to Barbara Jean's." We turn back towards Market St and start walking. As we turn I notice a sign for Another Broken Egg Cafe, and say "Hey, isn't that the place that's opening up in Greenville? We'll have to give it a shot before we leave and I can review it for everyone." Dawn agrees and we keep walking. We get to the end of the block and realize we've passed where Barbara Jeans was (how in the world did we manage that?), so we turn back and start walking back up the street. Once we get back to Another Broken Egg, and still no sign of Barbara Jean's, we realized ... they've apparently closed. This type of luck would plague our entire trip and it's food decisions.

As I've mentioned time and time again, I'm not a real "fancy" eater. If it has big words in the title or ingredients, I don't want it. They have all kinds of healthy dishes, "scrambled skillets", and different play on words on their menu, so I was really getting irritated trying to find "eggs and sides". I'm pretty sure this was obvious as the wifey reached over and pointed to the "Traditional" section under "The Yolk" (again with the fancy names). The "Traditional" is 2 eggs any style, an English muffin and seasoned country potatoes. It also comes with the option of bacon, sausage, or some other things. Obviously, I took my 2 eggs scrambled, the English muffins, seasoned potatoes, and bacon AND sausage.

The eggs were as good as you'd expect eggs to be. The seasoned potatoes were delicious. I didn't really expect to eat much of them, but nearly cleaned the plate. The bacon is baked, so it's "healthier", but it was some of the best restaurant bacon I've ever had. As for the sausage, it might very well be the best sausage I've ever had. Dawn got sausage with hers, and the second we both took our first bite we looked at each other and said "holy crap that's good."

We usually try not to order the same thing, so I can have more to talk about, but we didn't, so shoot me. I can only grade this on the 1 dish we each tried, so if the rest of their menu is like this ... it'll be worth taking the time to read all those big fancy words once they open in Greenville.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cheeseburger Zucchini Boats

Since we have these huge, fresh zucchini in our garden now, we decided to make some boats out of them. What's a zucchini boat? If you wouldn't be so impatient and continue reading, then you'd find out.

We had this big boy hanging out in the garden, so we used it. Apparently the rabbit that likes to hang out in our yard from time to time wanted a little nibble.

I started browning the beef.

While Dawn scrapped out the inside of the zucchini forming a ... wait for it ... boat.

Threw in a little diced onion and salt and pepper.

In a separate pan, we added a tablespoon of butter over low-medium.

Then whisked in a tablespoon of flour for 1 minute before adding a cup of milk and tablespoon of mustard. Turn the heat down to low and mix in a cup of cheese.

Once that was nice and smooth, we added it to the ground beef and about a cup of diced tomatoes.

Took all the goodies and stuffed them inside the boats and added cheddar cheese on top.

They then went into a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.

I'm not a huge zucchini fan, but these are really good. The main thing for me is to make sure the zucchini is cooked enough and the outside isn't rubbery feeling. There's nothing worse than biting down and your teeth sliding on the skin and sending chills up your spin.

You can really do anything for your boat filling. We did the cheeseburger so I'd actually eat them.