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The Power of Cake

Posted by: John  :  Category: Creative Brilliance, Culture

When I was kid my mom made my sister and I fabulous birthday cakes. Alligators, Holly Hobbies, guitars; the sky was the limit. Now I am happy to report that the tradition of killer cakes continues with my kids. So let us take a journey into the world of birthday cake and discover the true power this fabulous, frosted confection!

My daughter is 3. She likes to draw, run, sing, teach her dolls Spanish, and most importantly, she like likes Princesses. So my wife and I decided we should make her a Princess Castle cake for her birthday. I mean, why not? This is the first real cake I have ever attempted to make. Why not go big? And I had plenty of beer on hand to help me thru any potential rough spots!

Here is a short, but very sweet, list of the steps involved in out baking process. 

Step 1–Bake
I got  my pans, white & chocolate cake mix, and ice cream cones together. Then I talked my wife into separating the eggs for me. That ensured there would be no shells in the white cake. Then I baked the heck outta that cake. The reason for the ice cream cones will become apparent later.

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

 

 

The egg separator

The egg separator

White cake

White cake

 

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake

 

Step 2–Make frosting
After cleaning up the many stray batter drops it was time to do the real work, decorate that cake! If I were a princess (and many are the times where I’ve wished for a pink dress and glass shooz), I know I would want pink frosting and candy on my cake. And maybe some white frosting accents. So, for this you need over a pound of powered sugar, lots of softened butter, and some red food coloring. Luckily my wife made sure to take some butter out for me the night before so it could soften. Or we really would have been behind schedule.

One pound of powdered sugar

One pound of powdered sugar

 

Viola! Pink frosting!

Viola! Pink frosting!

 

Step 3–Frost that cake, decorate that cake
At first this was a lot harder than I realized. Crumbs were coming up everywhere and I was on the verge of tears. Okay, not tears really. But I was not happy with how things were going. Then my sister-in-law let me in on a little secret. Dip your frosting-spreading apparatus (knife, spatual, wooden plank, etc) into hot water and the frosting will cooperate a lot better. Well then, now I was off to the races, frosting like a champ!

I cut up my square cake, got out the toothpicks and built the tower. Frosting that tower had its challenges, but I managed. Next I cut out the pricess pictures I had printed out earlier and placed them on the cake. Frosting makes a great glue. Next I cut the bottom off the ice cream cone cupcakes and added the tops as turrets. Finally I added some candy/marshmallow decorations and some white frosting highlights. Bam!

Frosted cake with tower

Frosted cake with tower

 

Now with turrets and a licorice gate

Now with turrets and a licorice gate

Almost done

Almost done

 

 

Marshmallows make everything better

Marshmallows make everything better

 

Step 4–Eat cake
Well, now for the fun part, eating the cake. My daughter refered to the cake as ‘her birthday’, so I image that meant she was very happy with how it turned out. All tolled, about 4 hours went into creating the cake, no including concepting the idea and getting opinions on the idea from various ‘cake scholars’. So you could say that creating this cake went pretty quick. I just wonder what kind of zanyness we’ll be on the hook for next year!

Mmmmmmm, good!

Mmmmmmm, good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WARNING!
Adults who eat too much cake may exhibit weird behavior. Like dressing up in princess clothes with the birthday girl. 

Sorry, Darin.

Sorry, Darin.

Friday afternoon sports banter

Posted by: Melinda  :  Category: Culture

Major League Baseball has shown its true colors yet again with all the A-Rod mess this week and last. Honestly, I am getting tired of hearing his name in the news. His recent interview with the media has proven the value of PR crisis management (or refuted its worth, depending on your view of his performance).

Unlike MLB, the NBA seems to have cleaned up its reputation a bit after the memorable brawls, most notably the 10-player Nuggets Knicks brawl in 2006 . With the NBA Cares initiative, you’d think every pro player was out to save the world. Whoever masterminded this campaign did a commendable job.

I’m not an expert on the NFL, but it seems like this league tends to avoid the negative limelight a bit better than the others, with the exception of a few self-inflicted gunshot wounds here and there.

And that’s why I like college sports. Though the emphasis on making millions in the pros has altered the landscape of college sports, particularly basketball, it’s still darn fun to watch. With March Madness just around the corner, it’s hard not to appreciate bracketology, Cinderella upsets (unless it’s UNC doing the losing) and Final Four victory calls (especially when it’s UNC doing the winning).

So A-Rod, take a back seat to the raw entertainment of good ‘ole college ball. And to the media, let’s focus on what’s entertaining and enjoyable to watch, not who’s breaking the rules again.

Movie Mania

Posted by: Melinda  :  Category: Culture

Last year, at the Oscar party our family attended, I actually won the grand prize for the most correct predictions. This, of course, had nothing to do with the number of Oscar-nominated flicks I actually saw that season. In fact, I seem to fare better in the years when I view fewer movies (maybe this explains my acumen for multiple-choice tests).

Marriage and family have greatly tested my ability to enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures – really good movies. If my husband and I can actually agree upon a movie to see, children further complicate the predicament because of the small fortune a trip to the local theatre can cost. I’m not deterred, however, and will continue to seek the escapism, entertainment and enjoyment this art form offers.

So whether you watched the Golden Globes or North Carolina losing to Wake Forest, you may be tracking which flicks are getting the rave reviews. So here’s your chance to pick the Oscar winner of 2009. What’s your your favorite movie of the year?

·         Frost/Nixon

·         Gran Torino

·         Milk

·         Slumdog Millionaire

·         Revolutionary Road

·         The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

·         The Reader

·         Vicky Christina Barcelona

·         Other

Alternatively, you can share your favorite spousal movie debacle story. I’m sure there are many.

Don’t worry…be healthy

Posted by: Melinda  :  Category: Culture

I spoke with a grad school colleague/friend for the first time in fifteen years the other day. Thank goodness for Facebook – I am finding people that are dear to me, yet have lost track due to career and kids. Shirley is no exception. Having worked directly for Hugh McColl for years (former CEO of Bank of America), she dropped out of the workforce after baby #3. When I spoke with her, one of the first things out of her mouth was: “You would love my #2. She eats vegetables and is already exercising at age 4.”

Yes, I guess good health – at least from a nutrition and exercise standpoint – comes naturally to me. It is also something I feel passionate about, given my pursuit of launching Expedition Wellness. But I don’t think I am the only one around who has an interest in this topic. In one week alone, I have read or watched some interesting and provocative opinions/advice on wellness.

For example, as part of Oprah’s Best Health series (which has been very good, at least what I have seen), she is exploring a number of areas of health and wellness in our lives. On Tuesday, for example, Dr. Oz talked about the ultimate checklist. Wednesday was all about finding your spiritual path, and today it’s about sex. The aspects of living she is covering on her show this week are all topics we wish to research in our wellness project. Clearly, it’s more than exercise and diet that keep us healthy, especially these days.

As impetus for staying healthy, I received an interesting New York Times article yesterday from a friend and wellness expert, which discusses the implications of us baby boomers and our parents living longer than anyone has ever lived in the past. Not only is it beneificial to remain healthy from a quality of life perspective; but our healthiness also dramatically impacts the lives of those responsible for taking care of us.

Even Guy Kawasaki, whose twitter entries focus on health and wellness a lot of the time, posted an article about brain food. Heck, I will eat anything I can get to get “smarter” at age 45, an era which seems to encourage forgetfulness.

I do believe, in today’s rather depressing economic climate, it is more important than ever to stay healthy. Regardless of the magic formula - diet, exercise, spiritual, professional, social, environmental, intellectual - 2009 is a good time to get started down a path that works for you.

Space is cool.

Posted by: admin  :  Category: Culture

Space has always been inspiring. Whether it is cool photos of real things in space like the Pillars of Creation, shot from the hubble space telescope.

Killer space photography.

Or even not so real things in space, like the Death Star. Space is without a doubt great.

Watch out for Ewoks!

But one of my favorite commentaries on all things space-related has to be this clip from the show Space, The Infinite Frontier. I hope you find this video insightful and inspiring. Keep looking up!

 

http://www.videosift.com/video/Will-Ferrell-SNL-Harry-Carry

 

 

 

 

Grateful Reminders

Posted by: Meghann  :  Category: Culture

I remember when my mom was diagnosed with cancer like it was yesterday. I remember watching her go into brain surgery, through radiation and chemotherapy, her monthly treks across the country to the National Institute of Health in D.C. to undergo experimental treatments. I remember her fight and when she took her last breath. But most importantly, I remember what I learned from her - how to live life full of grace, and the impermanence of life. Life isn’t easy. It’s not always joyful and beautiful. Along with the joys are the suffering. That’s life. But there is absolute beauty in the suffering even though you don’t see it at the time.

Experiences, the good the bad and the ugly, are what shape us. That much we know, however it seems when we are enduring hardships a majority of us, myself included sometimes, play the blame game or continually use that particular experience as an excuse in future life experiences. As if no one else has ever dealt with something as painful, no one has ever had this happen to them before. I have never subscribed to the “Debbie Downer” perspective on life, but that’s not to say I’m not a realist. I call it like I see it. I just don’t see it as that bad. I believe most things, good or bad, are used for good in the end even if we don’t see it right away.

The same is true with thankfulness. When things are going great in our lives we are sure to be grateful and appreciative. If you win that big account at work, or your daughter gets that scholarship to Brown. But what about being thankful during tough times, disasters and times of trial? I know no one is thankful for getting rear-ended on their way home from work, or losing money in the failing stock market, or losing a loved-one. However, there are lessons in those experiences to be thankful for and new perspectives gained.

The issue is especially relevant in these economic times. Instead of dwelling on the negative and bogging yourself down maybe reflect on what we have to be grateful for. For some of us it’s health or able bodies, I thank God everyday that I can run. For others it’s friends and family, a car or house. Whatever it may be that you are grateful for I encourage you to use your time living with a thankful heart. This Thanksgiving try and find satisfaction and genuine contentment in the life’s little and seemingly mundane things.

Bark at the Moon

Posted by: admin  :  Category: Culture

Let’s get this week started right people!

I can’t think of a better way to start a cold Monday morning than with a little Ozzy to kick-start your brain cells. This little ditty follows the ecstatic highs of the Randy Rhoads-era albums ‘Blizzard of Oz’ and ‘Diary of a Madman’. Jake E. Lee takes over the shred duties after the untimely passing of the fantabulous Randy Rhoads. The rhythm section is anchored by Tommy Aldridge on drums and Bob Daisley on bass. 

Have a great Thanksgiving, eat lots of turkey, and remember to run outside and bark at the moon once or twice this week. That will counter act the sleepy feeling after Thanksgiving dinner.

BARK AT THE MOON

 

 


 

 

Tar Heel Basketball Has Begun!

Posted by: Melinda  :  Category: Culture

North Carolina's Deon Thompson (21) shoots over Kentucky's Perry Stevenson (21) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008. North Carolina won 77-58. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

For those of you who have been anxiously awaiting tip-off, the 2008-2009 Tar Heel basketball season has begun!!  YEE HAW! YIPPEE! #1 Baby! AWWHH YEAH!

And I even watched my first game of the season alongside fellow Duke fans/alumns while bowling. Which wouldn’t be a big deal if I lived in Charlotte, NC. But I live in Boise, ID, so it’s rather ironic that my five year old’s best friend is a “Dukie,” as she pronounced last week to him during a play date (I won’t divulge his response via blog).  So last night, watching the UNC / KY game, while taking Luke and Marlee on a bowling birthday outing, my Duke friends were very happy to the boys in blue on the big screen over our lane. Well, actually, they weren’t happy until the saw Tyler Hansborough sitting on the sideline hurt. Even more excited that Marcus Ginyard was sitting next to him. And now…thanks to some needless hack with two minutes left in the game, Tyler Zeller will join them on the row of injured players.

Now some might blame my poor bowling performance on my inability to concentrate on anything other than their amazing 25-6 lead midway through the half.

But despite my lame abilities at the lanes or all the hurt players, UNC is off to a 2-0 start and are loaded with talent. And if you want a full recap, click here.

And don’t forget about our football team either. That’s what I’m talking about, ‘ya big Dukies!

 

Actress Ashley Judd, left, a Kentucky basketball fan, reacts as she sits with North Carolina supporters during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between North Carolina and Kentucky in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

P.S. Even Ashley Judd cheered ‘em on!

When in Idaho, Eat Potatoes!

Posted by: Meghann  :  Category: Culture, Food for Thought

With Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, we thought we’d share some of our favoritepotato-laden recipes. We do live in Idaho after all, so not show off the versatility of this hearty native vegetable? Now instead of cringing and rolling our eyes every time someone says, “You eat a lot of potatoes over there in Idaho,” we can tout all the wonderful dishes this vegetable can create.

Meghann’s Sweet Potato Pie

  • Cook 5 medium sweet potatoes covered in boiling water
  • Cover until nearly tender
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Pare and cut the potatoes lengthwise 1/2-inch slices
  • Place in shallow greased baking dish

Season with:

  • Salt and paprika
  • 3/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice or 1/8 Teaspoon ginger
  • 1 Cup small marshmallows

Dot with:

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Bake uncovered about 20 minutes, until glazed.

And Wallah deliciousness!

John’s Parmesan Potato Rounds

  • 4 Medium red potatoes; thinly sliced
  • 1 Small onion; thinly sliced, separate into rings
  • 3 Tablespoons butter; melted
  • 1/3 Cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 Teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 Teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

Preheat over to 540 degrees

Place half of the potatoes in a greased, 2-qt. baking dish. Top with onions and remaining potatoes. Drizzle with butter. Sprinkle with parmesan, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Bake uncovered 25-30 minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown and tender.

Brian’s Cheese Potatoes

Serves 6

  • 6 new potatoes, boiled and cubed
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 bunch green onions, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Paprika for garnish

Directions:

Mix together potatoes, sour cream, onions, cheese, salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Melinda’s Boursin Potato Gratin (thanks to Stirring Recipes from Memphis Heart and Soul)

  • 2 Cups heavy cream
  • 1 5-ounce package Boursin cheese with cracked black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 Pounds red new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced 1/4 inch thick salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons snipped chives
  • 2 Tablespoons snipped parsley

Directions:

Generously butter a 13×9x2-inch baking dish. In a heavy 1 1/2 quart saucepan, heat cream, Boursin cheese, shallots, and garlic over medium heat, stirring until cheese melts.

Preheat the over to 400 degrees. Arrange half of the sliced potatoes in the baking dish in slightly overlapping rows. Generously season with salt and pepper. Pour half of the cheese mixture over potatoes. Sprinkle with chives. Repeat layering with the remaining potato slices, more salt and pepper, and cheese mixture. Bake about 1 hour or until potatoes are tender and top is golden brown. Sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Melinda’s Sweet Smashies

If you’re serving four or five folks, here’s what I’d do.

Take:

  • 4-5 sweet potatoes or yams (sweet potatoes are more orange but they both taste good)
  • Bake ‘em about 45 minutes - 1 hour in a 350 degree (or so) oven.

Then:

  • Cut ‘em open and scrape the insides out.
  • In a bowl, mash up the potatoes and add some milk (cream would be even better, but of course more fattening).
  • I’d guess about ¼ to ½ cup.
  • Just stir ‘em up after you add the milk and make sure they’re still pretty thick. You might want to add a little milk at a time to test.
  • I like to add a couple of tablespoons of butter. Again, more butter = better. But, more butter = more fattening, so use your best judgment.
  • Then I add brown sugar to taste. Some folks like it sweet, others don’t. You can taste as you go till you get ‘em like you want ‘em.
  • I probably add about ¼ - ½ cup.
  • Then I pour the mixture into a pyrex dish.
  • What’s really makes ‘em good is to add brown sugar and pecans on the top. I like to mix up enough to cover the entire potato mixture.

At this point, you can stick it in the frig and re-heat before you eat (takes about 30 minutes or so). Or, stick it in the oven and let the sugar melt on top and eat ‘em now.

And wala! A delicious dish for not a lot of effort.

The Alternative Email Signature Revolution

Posted by: Brian  :  Category: Culture

Let’s be honest, everything we read about is downright depressing right now. The news is loaded with articles about the next Great Depression, sky rocketing unemployment rates, massive layoffs and famous American companies filing for bankruptcy protection. When Mark Cuban makes the front page of the Wall Street Journal for insider trading acts that may or may not have taken place over four years ago is when I pull the plug on the doom and gloom news writers who insist on reporting only the bad and nothing good. I’ve had enough. While there is only so much I can do, I figured I better try to do something rather than complain about the problem. The revolution starts here, it starts now and it starts with email signatures.

In a job where I send and receive more emails than I care to admit, I came to the realization that emails are way too boring. The standard email signature at the bottom just doesn’t cut it anymore in a world filled with copious amounts of emails. After researching alternative options I was reminded of the time my dear mother jumped on the Emoticons bandwagon a while back and actually did more harm than good. Her attempt at making emails fun unfortunately resulted in a lot of crashed email accounts as most corporate email accounts frowned upon the animated nature of dancing hamsters and alligators at the bottom of a @gmail.com address. While her intentions were good, her campaign, for the greater good of all those on her email list, was ill-received. Having learned from her mistakes, I promise that mine won’t crash email accounts. However, I cannot promise that they will make sense, be mind stimulating, be politically correct, contain accurate information or even garner a smile from the recipient. However, if they make just one person laugh or smile then my job is done and the effort that went into it was well worth it. If we can’t look forward to reading the newspaper, at least we can look forward to receiving emails from any @highdive.net email address.

If you like the idea, please join the revolution. The alternative email signature doesn’t have to make sense. It’s supposed to be random. The whole purpose is to have fun, smile and maybe even laugh during a time when we are surrounded by what seems to be nothing but bad news. If you join the revolution, please forward your alternative email signature my way. I’d love to see it. Shoot me an email at brian@highdive.net. If you’re lucky, I’ll respond and you can see the flavor of the week at the bottom of my email. We may even post your alternative email on our web site in a special section devoted to The Alternative Email Signature Revolution*. The wheels of change are in motion.

* Please note: This has not been approved by the higher ups at High Dive so please send me something so I don’t look like a complete moron. High Dive will always give our loyal followers what they want so the more people that respond and join the revolution, the better chance of me convincing the higher ups to approve the costs of designing and developing a section on our site devoted to arguably the most ridiculous idea I have ever had since the start of my tenure at The Dive.