Thursday, August 29, 2013

Two Hot Dog Sauces

Crif Dogs was inspiring.
Ever since I ate at Crif Dogs in New York, I've been thinking of doing some hot dog sauces. When ever I have eaten hot dogs in the past, I have usually added ketchup and mustard. That's fine and all, really, if you want your entire meal to taste like ketchup and mustard. But the relatively powerful taste of the pre-fabricated sauces tend to hide the taste of the dog itself, and the entire meal ends up tasting vinegar.

So why not make your own sauce?

At Crif Dogs, I had a fantastic dog with something that resembled salsa sauce and a sour cream sauce. That's where I began.

First up was a tomato based sauce. I added garlic, basil, onion and tomatoes, everything very finely chopped. I also included salt and cayenne pepper, a tiny drop of vinegar before I ran it a round or two with the handheld blender.

Next up was the sour cream sauce. A couple of table spoons sour cream. Again with garlic, salt and a serious amount of black pepper. This one also had thyme.

And that was it. Definitely my new favorite way of eating hot dogs! Use them one at the time, or simultaneously. Enjoy your dogs!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Toys Sure are Dangerous

A morbid rant today. I guess I have seen one too many episode of Breaking Bad.

In Europe, and more specifically Scandinavia, where I live, this sort of thing is almost exotic. The various warning labels on everything and anything are of course not there to warn us, but to prevent lawsuits.

And that's a bit exotic. Because here, if a kid swallows a toy, the blame falls to those who deserve it, not the ones who made the toy. Any parents with brains know that kids put stuff in their mouths, and that too small pieces will be swallowed.

The most apparent consequence of this - that parents don't want to take responsibility - is of course the various disclaimers on toys.

I usually don't give this a second thought, but the other day I was sent some minifigures from the United States. Immediately I noticed the difference. Where the disclaimers on my toys were printed on the back in a rather unassuming fashion, these US released minifigures had the warning right on the front. WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD

Choking hazard. Sounds serious, doesn't it? Someone would definitely have died if that warning wasn't written on the package, right? Parents who are stupid enough to give a Lego Minifigure to a toddler are probably not able to read the warning either. So the only reason for the disclaimer is to avoid lawsuits.

As you can see on my European released minifigures, they also come with a warning. A symbol that warns you not to give this toy to a kid younger than three years. In addition, I can read in twenty nine languages that minifigures contain small parts that shouldn't be eaten.
No warning on the front. I guess Europeans are less likely to eat their toys. 

That's a good thing. Because I've heard of kids older than three years that put stuff in their mouths.
I read somewhere that pen caps kill more people every year than sharks, lightning and snakes every year put together.

I will freely admit to being one of these people. Of course, I'm still alive to write this, but I also like to live on the edge. Whether it's toys, pens or other small items, I'm likely to put it in my mouth. I mean, what if it tastes good? Why should the other senses have all the fun?

Lego has taken this into consideration. They don't have to do this. After all, they have already warned us on the package. But because they actually care more about kids than some parents, Lego has started constructing the minifigure slightly different. Notice here that some of the heads have small holes on the top.

I haven't quite figured out why some of the newer figures lack this function, but after a quick check, it looks as though all the collectible minifigures have these small holes.
The function is of course that should someone swallow a Lego head, there's a higher chance that air will still reach your lungs.

I'm ok with this, but I don't really want to see this progress any further. I'm all for smart solutions, as long as it doesn't take anything away from the quality, aesthetics and play values of the toy.

I'd like to believe I have good enough control over my body to not choke on a Lego head.
But... I guess anything could happen, and if I had to go, wouldn't it be kind of fitting to choke on a toy? "Here lies Jon. He swallowed an action figure".

Apparently, to prevent me from becoming part of the statistics, pen maker Bic takes action as well. Should you swallow this pen cap, there's still a chance you will breathe.

Pens, toys, snakes and sharks sure are dangerous. It's important to keep our kids safe, but there comes a point where people has to start using good old fashioned common sense instead of shifting the blame over at someone else. What's next? Warnings on my kitchen knife telling me it's sharp?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Different, but Similar Perspective on Nostalgia

Every once in a while, I go on various quasi-philosophical rants. I guess it comes with the territory of finally growing up. You see, there is nothing that says adults can't enjoy playing with toys just as much as kids. It's just that we play differently. One of my students (the same who made this one for me) asked me today how long it was since I last played with toys. I had to admit, I played with toys almost every day. When ever I pose my action figures, sort my collection, or even just look at my toys - am I not playing? And in the broader sense, am I not playing with toys when I goof around with my smart phone, installing various apps, playing candy crush, and so on. Is this not play? When I get together with friends to play board games or cards, can't this too be considered playing with toys? 

We play different than the kids, but we absolutely play. 

The biggest difference seems to be that kids dare to admit that they are playing, but adults tend to camouflage it behind fancy words. "Us, playing? No, we're just having an 80's theme party, and the He-Man cartoon looping in the background is just to be authentic". "Me? I'm not playing, I just had to get the Back to the Future Lego for my bookshelf". "These are not toys, these are expensive cars/porcelain dolls/model trains/bicycles/fishing poles/etc..." 

Another difference is of course that we tend to analyze our interests. I did that a month ago, in an article on nostalgia. I'm not sure I thoroughly got to express what I actually felt, but the essence of it is that the 80s were such special times for plastic toys that they more or less created the modern toy collector/pop culture nerd. 

One of my fellow enthusiasts, G.I. Jigsaw, wrote a comment that I felt was worth reposting in its entirety:

I often ask myself, why am I still collecting toys in my 40s. 

I was 6 when Star Wars and it’s Kenner lineup was released, 11 when GI Joe – ARAH was released. These were fantastic toys, and I spent many hours playing with them. A year or so later, I gave up on buying toys, though I still loved them, and eyed them at the store. 

I think you hit the nail on the head – it was a convergence of forces that make the 80s toys so beloved. Quality, story, sheer numbers, and technology. Though the 12 inch GI Joe is loved by many, the size of the Kenner Star Wars line really allowed kids to “buy them all!” As for GI Joe, I had read that the strategy of the first few waves was to allow families to get the entire series for under $100. It worked.
I do like the new as much as the vintage, mostly because they didn’t have those toys when the movies came out (Predator, Alien), but also like the creativity of new stories (Gears of War (left), Walking Dead).

I love the craftsmanship of toys. They are works of art in my opinion. The sculpting and detailing are phenomenal. I still enjoy the simplicity of the Star Wars Kenner line.

Like you, “I collect vintage toys because I have potent, and delightful memories of playing with these toys as a kid.” My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but my parents somehow managed to get me some of the toys I loved, because they saw my brother and I playing with them all the time.

I even specifically remembering when and how I received most of them. Those memories carry over to the new Gentle Giant Jumbo Kenner figures (example to the right). The ones I loved as a kid (Death Squad Commander, Jawa) were the first ones I purchased. Interestingly, I never like Death Star Droid or Walrusman and to this day, I still haven’t purchased those GG equivalents. I remember going to Child World on a Friday night when my dad bought me the Kenner TaunTaun and Hoth Han. It is the reason I preordered the GG Hoth Han so quickly.

Around the time I was moving away from toys, I already had an Atari 2600. It didn’t overwhelm me but I can see how today, video games and the internet capture the attention of kids faster these days. They are also a great babysitter by parents, unfortunately. There are two years olds that can navigate an iPad better than me. 

I still think the quality is here today, the same as back then. I do think some of today’s toys are very original – but the larger figures (6 inch Gears of War) and cost of plastic puts a price tag on toys where parents couldn’t buy them all.

I am also “glad I was invited to the main show - as a child in the 80s - to experience it first hand, and I'm glad to be around now, for the after party.”

Make sure to check out G.I. Jigsaw's blog. He writes about toys, comic books, and has made some really cool dioramas

Thanks for the comment, G.I. Jigsaw.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Difference Between Boys and Girls (How to make Cinnamon Rolls)

Cinnamon rolls aren't difficult to make...

..or so I thought.

Read on for a good recipe, pictures of some nice looking rolls, some awful looking ones, and how I needed to be rescued by my girlfriend.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Top 35 Collectible Lego Minifigures

It's been an absolute blast collecting this line, from Lego. The price point, the availability, necessary swapping, the chase - and of course the incredible designs and character choices - this has proven to easily be one of my favorite toy lines ever. And as expected, here's a new list!

Why 35 you ask? Well, first of all, this is an update of my previous list, the Top Ten Collectible Minifigures, but instead of just making a new Top Ten, I chose to do it slightly different. It made sense to make a new list now, as we have seen ten waves of figures, 160 in total (161 if you count the super rare Mr. Gold). 
In addition, 2013 marks the 35 year anniversary of the Minifigure.

Another, equally important reason why I chose such large number is that there are just so many awesome minifigures in this toy line. Even outside the 35, there are still dozens of figures that I absolutely adore.  

There are a couple of changes. Some figures from the Top 10 has fallen out, some have greatly switched positions, and you will see that the top three has radically changed since last year. This is simply because my opinion has changed, some of the figures have grown on me, and some I've grown tired of. In addition, we've seen three new waves of figures since the last list.

Are these the best, coolest, cutest and awesomest minifigures in the line? I obviously think so. Agree, disagree, would you like to share your own list? I would love to hear your comments. And be sure to check out pictures of all the 160 collectibleminifigures so far!

Well, enough chatter. Come on in for the full list!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How to make a Meatball Pizza

It's hard to argue against the awesomeness of a meatball pizza, and I will assume most readers will know how to make their own variant of the king among pies. I will try to keep this short and simple with no nonsense. No anecdotes about vacations, no pictures of cats or dogs, no rants about brand managers who just fail to see the reason why people are reluctant to order the subscriptions.

So click in for nothing else but meatball pizza.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

All the minifigures!

Ok, I finished the collectible minifigures, series 1-10. I know we've seen them all before, but it may be nice to have them all gathered in one place. I've tried to capture the different looks for all the figures (with/without helmets/armor and alternate faces). I'll retake and replace a few of them that didn't turn out as I wanted. I'll also add comments after a while. All the pictures are in 1200x1200p. 

Either click the link right below my banner, or click here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fruit fly trap update

Well, the trap is still standing, and a total of 14 fruit flies have been lured into the jar containing white wine. A moderate sucess, as I expected a genocide. Then again, there are no living fruit flies in my apartment.
Disgusting, maybe. But effective.