Monthly Archives: September 2008

Trials of hosting our own site

FAIL!Once again, the blog was down.  Each time it has gone down since I started (3 times total so far) has been for a different reason, but each time has sucked about the same.  My registrar is which has been pretty good for the most part.  Today, their dns servers died so when you typed in my blog address, your internet company didn’t know how to connect to my machine.  I was able to finally login to namecheap so I could repoint the dns (basically, I am using a different system to map my blog address to the machine in my office).  So, now we are back up, though things are still slow it seems.  I think that must be a different issue…we’ll see.  When you hit the blog, does it seem terribly slow?  Anyhow, I’d like to say something like this won’t happen again, but I am certain it will.  Until then, thanks for reading and for your patience!

Apple Jelly

Ready to peel apples for apple jelly

There are about 5 apple trees between our place and our neighbors’ place.  They pick a few of the apples but leave most for us.  A friend pointed us to a recipe for making apple jelly from the peels and cores so we decided to dehydrate a bunch of apples and make apple jelly from what’s left.  Apparently back when everyone canned, this was a well known process.  The apple itself was used for apple butter or apple sauce while the peels and cores were made into jelly.

Apple on the peeler

It turns out that the pectin (the stuff that makes jelly gel) is more concentrated in the peel and core. Anyhow, here is the recipe we use:

Apple peel and core jelly
peelings and core from 15-20 medium tart apples
6 cups water (for cooking cores and peels)
1 (1 3/4 ounce) box dry pectin
9 cups sugar

1. Cook peelings and cores in 6 cups water for 20-30 minutes.
2. Strain through prepared cheesecloth or jelly bag.
3. Add water as needed, to strained juice, to obtain 7 cups liquid.
4. Add pectin (whisk works well) and bring to a rapid boil.
5. Add sugar, boil hard for 1 minute.
6. Pour into sterile jars, leaving 1/8″ headspace; wipe jar rims, adjust lids and rings; water bath 5 minutes.

Abigail peeling apples

Besides the jelly, this peeler is a “must-have” if you plan to process a lot of apples. Some folks have trouble with them but if you properly adjust the cutting blade, you’ll peel and core apples all day long with no problem. Abigail, my 5 year old, helped peel a bunch of the apples were used for this run.
Peeled and cored apple

Homemade apple jely

Apple jelly is the only type of jelly that Emily will eat.  We made enough from 30-40 apples to last her all year!

Cushaw Pie

Cushaw squash...about to meet its destiny

I wrote a post awhile back about our huge cushaw squash we grew this year.  I had no idea what to do with cushaw squash but they seemed cool and odd and interesting so I decided to grow a bunch of it.  I searched around a few places and read at least 7 minutes online and discovered that cushaw squash can be used in place of pumpkin, butternut squash, hubbard squash or sweet potatoes.  Cool!  I love pumpkin pie so we decided to make some cushaw pumpkin pie.

Cushaw squash...seeds

Of course, I have never made a pumpkin pie from scratch either so we had some figgerin’ to do.  After another 7 minutes of reading, we discovered how to proceed.  We cut the squash in half and deseeded it (the seeds are awesome baked too btw! We baked 30 minutes at 350 in a cooking sprayed pan).  I lined two baking dishes with foil and sprayed the foil and the exposed squash halves with cooking spray.  I baked the squash face down on the foil at 350 for 1 hr 15 minutes (of course, the size of the squash will determine the time.  I did a small one first).  Once baked, we scooped out the flesh with an ice cream scooper and used in it place of canned pumpkin in our recipe.
Cushaw squash...deseeded
By the way, here is our recipe:

Pumpkin/Cushaw Pie

4 eggs
4 cups pumpkin/cushaw  (or 1 large can)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
2 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or mix your own…see online)
2 large cans evaporated milk

Combine all ingredients and pour into prepared pie crusts. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Makes 2 pies.

Cushaw squash...being scooped out

We followed the recipe pretty much. Our squash was pretty liquid so we only added 1 can of the evaporated milk. If you want a super orange pie like pumpkin, you’ll need to add coloring. Ours was naturally a greenish, yellowish, orangey color which suited us fine.

Cushaw pie ready to bake

The pie was awesome and simple to make. Its flavor was delicious and the lighter color made it really pleasant to look at.

Cushaw pie out of the oven

Of course, we did a taste test and our two judges gave two thumbs up…clearly a winner!

The taste test

The taste test

We’ll probably bake the rest of our squash and freeze the pureed flesh for future pies. I saved some seeds too so I excpet we’ll plant more cushaw next year!

RSS Readers and a rainbow

I was talking to a friend the other day and he mentioned he looked at our blog and a few others from time to time but always forgot to check back or didn’t know when an update was posted.  He didn’t know about the magic of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds.  Basically, most blogs and some websites have special programming that enables them to publish the fact that changes to the site have been made.  RSS readers can use that information to consolidate the updates into a single simple reader.  To know that a site publishes an RSS feed, look for this button somewhere on the site or on the menu bar of your browser (it will be smaller of course):

Rss Logo

Any site that displays that logo publishes a feed.  So, now you need to find a reader to consolidate your feeds.  I use to read my feeds but Yahoo!, Google and many other places have readers as well.  Once you create an account, find your blogs that you want to read and click on the orange RSS logo.  You’ll be taken to a new page.  Copy the URL (web address) that you are taken to and enter it where your reader asks for new feeds to monitor.  In bloglines, I click the “feeds” tab, then I click “add”.  I simply enter the web addresses I want to watch and save.  The reader will periodically monitor your subscribed site for changes and alert you to those changes when you log in.

Now, since you have endured my technology post, I will leave you with a picture of a pretty rainbow…

Awesome rainbow

This picture was actually taken a few years ago but Abigail spotted another beautiful rainbow this morning.  I didn’t have my camera but it was awesome to see.  Isaac wanted to hop a jet to get to the end and pick up his pot of gold.  Unfortunately for him, he had to go to school.

Something fowl at Cookskin Park

Cookskin park's geese

This past Sunday, we decided to clear our house of some extra bread that was going stale.  Coonskin Park has a pond that we knew would have ducks and geese so we packed up the van for a ride.  We grabbed a quick lunch and took a short turn on the playground near the lake.  By the way, the Cookskin playground is pretty awesome.  It has little or no wood (translate:  little or no chance of splinters) and has tons of tunnels and bridges and things to climb and swing on.  Anyhow, I got itchy to feed the ducks.  Cookskin park's geese

I felt a little like a target carrying around a bag full of killer geese treats.  At first, the birds were pretty well spaced around the pond but the smell of bread brought them to us quickly.  They came from all sides.  A flight of ducks and geese came in from overhead, all the time dropping bombs (luckily, they missed!) before they landed.  We were overrun with fowl at the park but we all had a lot of fun feeding them.  One goose in particular kept sticking his tongue out at us.  I fed him every time he did it so we trained each other a little I suppose.

Abigail feeding geese

Anyhow, it was an absolute blast to watch them interact and swim and fly.

We used to live in Bowling Green, KY and Emily and I would go to a nearby park a lot during the summer to walk and talk.  There was a big pond there too and we used to feed the ducks frequently.  We were so poor that it was a stretch to throw even stale bread to the birds.

Kids feeding geese

Anyhow, this was before kids and I really enjoyed feeding the ducks.  I have to tell you, as fun as that was then, it is so much more fun seeing the kids getting into it.  They had favorites, but tried to be fair.  Abigail talked to them like they were unruly children.  It was an absolute blast!  We’ll definitely go again!

Green Power in WV

WV Wind turbines

Appalachian Power has started a new program where customers can purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset their carbon footprint.  Renewable energy credits are created whenever a renewable energy generator makes power from renewable resources.  Basically, when a wind generation station sells power to the grid, it generates these credits which are certified and sold to individuals or entities like AEP.  Credits are unique so when I purchase RECs, I know that the power we bought was generated at a renewable source.

We took a vacation trip to Canaan Valley 2 years ago and were able to see some wind turbines up close and personal.  They are incredible and massive and pretty neat landscape features actually…sort of like flowers springing from the mountain tops.

WV Wind turbines

Of course, I don’t live super near them but I certainly liked seeing them in action.  The Eastern mountains of WV are a great location for wind turbines and I am so excited to be able to buy power from them or similar sources.  WV is very much a coal state and that is fine (though I think mountain top removal is despicable), but I am particularly excited to be a part of helping to make WV an energy state.  We can make clean energy here.  So, we are planning to purchase RECs to offset our power consumption and make our stay on the 3rd rock from the sun a little cleaner.  We currently average 1447 kwh per month so we will purchase to offset that.  Our next goal, then, is to look around our house and find ways to reduce that number.  Our hot water and oven are electric and I am not compelled to replace those items.  We will likely have to address our normal patterns of usage and look at our other appliances as well.  It should be interesting but will pay off!

Does it get any better than this?

Isaac reading

Isaac has been a great reader since he learned how a few years ago. Even as a toddler, he loved for us to read to him. He memorized lots of books and knew when we left words out. His memory remains phenomenal and he is really great with words, spelling, reading, etc. This summer, he read almost constantly. We frequently have to fuss at him to stop reading so he will eat. Even then, he prefers to read while he is eating. He is currently reading Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Inkheart and The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling, and a StarWars Jedi novel he checked out of the school library.

Isaac reading

Needless to say, I love to see him enjoy reading so much but occasionally he needs to get nourishment and a bath. Anyhow, he loves to read and I really enjoy these pictures of him.  I really think that his Mother would read like this if I didn’t make her do other things occasionally.  I really love to watch the two of them read together.  Emily make excellent voices for each character and Isaac hears nothing else but her voice.  Isaac reads to his sister some also.  We have a couple of wing backed chairs and they curl up together (somehow) on one of them and will read all sorts of books.  The imaginations in our house are sometimes crazy but always awesome to behold.  The kids have no problem visualizing other worlds and amazing creatures in their play.  They don’t mind running around outside together reenacting scenes from their books, fighting off villians or embarking on a galactic voyage to save the Universe.  It just doesn’t get any better than this!


Emily and I watch very little tv (esp since we don’t have cable) but one show we typically watch is Heroes on nbc.  I am typically even less likely to recommend a program than I am to watch one, but if you are prone to sci-fi, check out Heroes.  Anyhow, one of the characters on the show is named Mohinder.  He’s a scientist that holds the promise of saving humanity…you know, typical sci-fi fare.  Anyhow, we really liked the name and decided that the next critter we got would be named Mohinder.


So, the next part of the story…We have a huge problem with stray cats on our hill and they seem to breed faster than rabbits.  Another neighbor periodically gathers them all up and takes them to the humane society.  Most are pretty wild and unfriendly but one was quite the opposite.  We could always pick him out of the crowd as he is missing half of his tail.  He is super loving and has a great purr.  I am pretty sure the neighbor girls have tamed him and maybe even put him in a dress and makeup.  Anyhow, on Friday evening, Emily brought him into the house.  We spent vet-money on him over the weekend so he is our new inside-only cat.  In Nashville, we had another all black cat named Baptist.  He was missing his hind leg.  I think we have a thing with parts-missing black cats.


Mo and Madeline (our other cat) aren’t exactly friends yet.  In fact, if you look at the pic of our fat tabby, you can somewhat make out the silhouette of her middle finger, extended for me, as I took the picture.

I was able to record a short snippet of Mo’s purr.  He is a champion loving, purring cat!





Did you see the full moon a few nights back?  I really enjoy the simple things I guess, but the sky was clear and it was full and bright.  I took my telescope outside and focused it on the moon for a quick gaze.  Through a telescope, the full moon is almost blinding.  Well, maybe not that bright but it’s bright.  Stare at it for awhile and then look away into darkness and you’ll see spots.  Anyhow, if you have some sort of magnifying device, the full moon is well worth the look.  It is especially good if you have a tripod or some sort of stand, but even binoculars are cool.  It’s amazing to see the crators and meteor strikes that still look fresh.  Along the edges of the moon are incredibly detailed mountain ranges and all shades of gray.  Besides just looking at the moon, there are lots of other awesome things that can be found in the night sky, if you know where to look.  You can memorize star charts (which isn’t a bad idea, but…) or you can find a program to illustrate the night sky.  I like Starry Night which came free with my telescope.  There is an alternative that requires no purchase and is pretty great.  Stellarium is both popular and powerful.  Besides that, Stellarium is free and easy to use.  It’s also easy to use.  Did I mention, it’s free too?  In a nutshell, it shows the objects in the sky for your location and will plot future locations as well.  You can choose to see illustrations of the consellations or the orbits of the planets, nearby nebulae, etc.  It’s incredible and should make finding objects in the sky much easier.  That was always a huge frustration for me when I started star gazing…where to look.  The other thing is that I never felt like I had enough “fire power” when I pointed a scope at the sky.  I was surely wrong.  On a whim a few years ago, I pointed my spotting scope at the sky…you know, the kind you take to the shooting range or when you go groundhog hunting.  I was able to see the rings of Saturn.  Mind you, Saturn was tiny, but I could clearly see the rings.  It’s also very easy to find and quite amazing to see.  A triod is required but if you have any sort of scope, download Stallarium and find Saturn.  I think you’ll be hooked!


Abigail's new glasses

Abigail has been complaining about headaches a lot lately. We initially thought it was a game she was playing as she was never too upset about it during play time.  Still, something wasn’t right, so after school yesterday, Emily decided to take her to get her eyes checked. It turns out, she needed glasses. For now, they are for reading/classroom time though we’ll see what happens. Being a picky child (and that’s ok by me, really), they spent a good while finding the right glasses for her.  She settled on pink frames with tiny butterflies at the hinge. She also chose a blue and gold case (“Like WVU, Dad!”). She is the only one in our house that wears glasses so she gets to be the trail-blazer.  Apparently she was really excited and told Emily, “I finally get to wear glasses, it’s my dream come true!”  It looks like Emily gets to live out her childhood dream through Abigail as well.  Emily wanted to have glasses as a child but her durn eyes just wouldn’t fail!