Monthly Archives: October 2009


Not much to say…the pics speak for themselves.  We trick-or-treated last night and got way too much candy.  Isaac was a dementor (the soul-sucking beast from Harry Potter) and Abigail was an Indian Princess (feather, not a bindi).  Emily actually got her to stay still long enough to braid her hair!

Without further adieu…

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(not good for human/dementor relations…)

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(poor kid…the dementor moved his nose to where his eyes belong…at least they made up!)

Pumpkin fun

We finally managed to get to the farmers’ market yesterday to buy some pumpkins to carve for Halloween. It’s a tradition afterall, where brothers and sisters gather around the dining room table and fight with each other and their parents while wielding sharp knives. It’s a tradition that goes way back, before the crusades in fact!

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Anyhow, the kids design their own faces and prepare their pumpkins by scraping the insides. Our brave warriors could not handle the feel so donned rubber gloves for the task. Isaac is getting much better though. Last year he very nearly threw up. Although the gagging was a bit funny to watch, I don’t really miss that. Anyhow, they got the guts out and I separated the seeds from the fibers and meat.

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Emily helped the kids transfer the pumpkins’ facial patterns to the orange beasts. We gave the kids their safety knives for pumpkins and turned them loose.

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In the meantime, I set my pumpkin down beside some ingredients. I was planning on cooking a bit. When I walked back into the room, I was able to snap this shocking photo of my pumpkin:
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We test-lighted the pumpkins and had a mostly good time hanging around, watching Mo, our cat try to steal pumpkin seeds, and sing our favorite Halloween songs…ok…I made up that last part.

Over the years, I have carved some pretty fun pumpkins at the place I used to work. My co-worker (who shall remain nameless to preserve her privacy) was a genius on this and did most of the work I figure. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy these too:



Yoda…I put a motion detector inside of him and wrote a computer program so that any time there was motion in front of Yoda, he played a Yoda voice clip from one of the movies!



A Magic 8 Ball pumpkin to determine our estimates for when our projects would be complete!

And so I don’t forget, I also did a post over at Not Dabbling in Normal if you’d care to check that out too!

Water Rocket Fun

I am sitting here at Panera (yes…again…I know, I should go to work some) looking out at the dark rain clouds rolling in and wishing that we would get a bunch more days of nice weather.  I have always loved Summer.  I sort of dread the coming of Winter and Fall.

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I was thinking about some of  the things that I love about Summer and water rockets came to mind.  I think it sort of mixes water, heat, adventure, a little danger and an explosion of sorts.  How can I not love it?!

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When we lived in TN, we decided to make a water rocket to keep us all cool and give the kids something to chase.  You see, a water rocket shoots water all over the place and anyone nearby gets soaked.  It also launches pretty high up in the air and someone has to go and recover the fuselage.

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So, what is a water rocket you ask?  Simple…it’s a 2 liter bottle with 3 inches of water in it.  Add some compressed air and off she goes!  I glued some pvc pipes together in an “L” shape and added a bicycle valve and stem to the back (drill a hold in a pvc cap and insert the stem…seal with silicone).  All you do is put 2-4 inches of water into a 2 liter bottle and carefully hold it upside down on the open end of the pvc pipe.  Add compressed air via the tire valve at the other end and you’re in business.  As the air builds, the water starts to leak signalling that it’s time to let go!

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By not making too tight of a fit between the bottle and the pvc (some people suggest a tight fit but that’s more dangerous), you run very little risk of having anything explode.  I added some duct tape to the tip of the pipe to make is a snug (but by no means tight) fit between the pipe and the bottle.  Air will leak before pressure will build up too high.

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Of course, the bottle flying off the end of the pipe could be dangerous so make sure it points upward and not at anyone/thing.  Other than that, a water rocket is an absolute blast and something kids and adults will enjoy.  As Winter sets in, consider the design of your water rocket for next Summer.  It will be worth the wait!

Going for Broke

Some friends had a birthday party for their kids at an “inflatables” place.  Basically, there is one big room full of inflatable Jupiter Jumps and slides and stuff like that.  The kids were having a great time for the most part…all except the smallest kids who couldn’t fit through “the Big Squeeze”, a tight spot in one of the inflatables.  Really, all they had to do was push their heads though and they would have been fine, but the little kids got stuck.

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(at the top of the Wall of Doom)              (Ready to jump!)

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(Isaac going over the Wall)

You see, there was a big wall they slid down to get to that part and the “Big Squeeze” was the other direction.  One or two kids could easily be sacrificed and left in the Gully of Fear, but there got to be a backlog so I went in to hold the “Big Squeeze” open so they could get through.

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Of course, I am a big stupid kid so I decided to continue playing on the inflatables.  Isaac and I raced through them, plowing down women and children as we went.  It was heap-big fun!  Of course, these things are really built for kid feet, not adult feet.  So, with my adult feet firmly attached, I plowed through one ride and met up with a kid-feet-size step to climb one of the walls.  My square-peg foot didn’t fit into the round-peg step and “the Legend of Warren (the goof-ball)” was born.

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(uh…girl…you have some cake on your face!)
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I hobbled my way through the rest of the maze, but I was pretty sure I had done damage.  Emily wasn’t around so I got 11 kids to carry me over to the party room where I could self-diagnose my torn up foot.  It might as well be broken…it’s blue and hurts like crazy.

Ok, enough about me…there was a party too and it was fun.  Happy birthday kiddos!

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(see…they even invited the crazy clown!)
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(the injuries)

Do you ever forget to act your age?  Ever pay for it?

I suppose the Big Squeeze should be used as a public service announcement also…folks, don’t forget your mammograms.

70 years of eeeewwwwwww!

Our house was built in 1939. I suppose someone has lived in it pretty much continuously since it was built. Said people probably used the kitchen sink about every day as well. Furthermore, occupants more than likely washed crumbs and chunks of food and marbles and all sorts of other stuff down the kitchen sink.

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(the original, offending pipes!)

Fast forward 70 years…a lovely, young, intelligent and beautiful couple moved in with their delightful children. Suffering from the sins of the folks who had mistreated the drains for 70 years prior, the brilliant couple discovered that their kitchen drain was stopped up (I wrote a limerick about it yesterday). A simple plunger and even a drain snake could not clear the clog.

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(hey, is that a pickle?  Yum!)

The handsome man of the house decided there was but one solution…buy a new tool and do exploratory surgery. Fortunately, the main drain from the sink was exposed in the basement.

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(part of the monstrosity/atrocity that I removed)

The original equipment was 2 inch galvanized steel. I originally cut the cleanout “Y” with my new reciprocating saw. It was clogged in both directions so I continued to cut back, piece at a time until I found clear pipe. All in all, I removed about 5 feet of pipe and 1000 pounds of corrosion and clog. Galvanized steel pipes (I recently learned from a co-worker) corrode on the inside and causes build-up. Sure enough, that’s exactly what I found. In the 2 inch pipe, there was approximately 1/2 inch of pipe still open. The remainder was a rock-solid corrosion that, of course, was a clog waiting to happen.

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(ahhhh…much better!)

So I finally found my clear pipe and hooked up new pvc drains and all is well. As I looked around more, I found that every single sink and tub drain in the house is made of galvanized steel. I think I see the next couple of years’ worth of projects…

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(we can do dishes again!)

So, if you live in an old house, what sort of quirks have you found? What about things that are unique to a new house?

Limerick Thursday

So, I am sitting in Panera this morning contemplating life and enjoying a Cinnamon Crunch (™) bagel. I have to go finish fixing up an unfortunate pickle/kitchen drain incident but I need some motivation.  I decided that a limerick might put me in the proper mood to do manual labor.  Most limericks are crude, and although I typically appreciate such humor, I will not share any of those here.  Instead, I will write an inspiring ditty to motivate and educate…

My house is so old that it creaks
Many of  its pipes have clogs or  leaks
so when disposing of food
check on his mood
for your husband’s blood pressure may peak!

Oh, oh…here’s another one I just came up with…

Never put pickles down the drain and cause the dispose-all  to strain
better to feed to the dog
than to cause such a clog
and make you clean up a pickley rain!

By the way, this is a limerick that makes me laugh.  Its author is unknown but hilarious I think:
There was a young man from Japan
Whose limericks never would scan.
When asked why this was,
He replied “It’s because
I always try to fit as many syllables into the last line as ever possibly I can.”

So, do you have any G or PG-rated limericks you care to share? Haikus are welcome too. Got any good plumbing stories to make me feel better?  Want to buy my house?

Mushrooms aplenty

I was pretty excited in July when my shiitake mushrooms first started fruiting.  I inoculated several white oak logs (they hold their bark longer than other types) in August of 2008 with shiitake spores.  It took a full year of my ignoring the logs before they started fruiting so, after all that hard work, I was thrilled to see the logs sprouting some of my favorite fungi.  I was satisfied.

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Just last week, as I was…um…doing nothing, I happened to walk around behind the shed where I keep the shiitake logs.  I didn’t expect much…afterall, I had a great harvest in July…and I was satisfied.  To my amazement, my friends, the old white oak logs and the shiitake mycelia had joined to give me a wonderful Fall gift!

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I know it is not ideal to eat shiitake mushrooms when they are as big as my head, but I had so many huge mushrooms that I couldn’t even see my logs (which are 4 feet long and 6 inches in diameter)(ok…so maybe I am exaggerating…there weren’t that many mushrooms, but you get my point)!  I began to harvest the beauties and they felt excellent to the touch….like a soft, tender cut of meat I guess (ok…so I know that’s weird but it’s hard to describe).

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Anyhow, I did some talking to a friend and she said that mushrooms often delight  their collectors when the weather changes, particularly when there is a lot of rain to go with it.  That’s precisely what happened this Fall.  They are so easy to grow and so wonderful to eat!  My mushrooms…they always delight me!

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So, do you like mushrooms?  Do you grow mushrooms?  Do you ever feel like a mushroom?


We headed down to the Clay Center this weekend to check out the Lost Kingdoms of the Nile exhibit.  From their website…

“The Clay Center is one of only two venues in the entire nation afforded an opportunity to present this exhibition. From the largest Nubian collection outside of Khartoum, Sudan, the exhibition includes more than 200 objects from the royal tombs of el Kurru, Nuri, and Meroë which date from the Prehistoric Period to the Roman era (3100 BCE to 246 CE).”

It was really incredible and I am so excited that Charleston has such an opportunity to see priceless artifacts from “back when God was a kid”.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures in the exhibit so I got nuthin’ to show you.

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Outside, however, is another incredible object that I think Charleston is fortunate to possess.  The new sculpture called Hallelujah! by Albert Paley was installed just a few weeks ago at the Clay Center.  The McGee Foundation donated a bunch of money to add the 60 foot tall sculpture to the collection of the Center and I am so pleased that they did.

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The new piece has apparently met with mixed reviews.  In fact, when I first heard about it, I too thought, “Great, another pile of rusting metal in the city”, but I was wrong.  When we drove upon the Clay Center, it was striking.

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Sure, it’s rusty, but it is a beautiful piece and, when seen in person, is oddly moving to me.  Not moving in an “I’m about to cry” way, but in a “I’m huge and awesome” kind of way.  Come to think of it, it also feels like it is in motion… definitely moving!   Isaac critiqued it thus, “Dad, this is an awesome weapon…probably something the Transformers would use.”  Indeed.

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My pictures don’t really do the piece justice, especially with the gray background.  Even so, it’s a sight to behold.  So, what do you think of modern art in general?  Do you dislike it all or can you see awesomeness in some pieces?  Do you think it looks like a Transformer’s weapon or do you see something else?


Today, I wrote an article for Not Dabbling in Normal about the benefits of growing stevia, a plant that naturally produces very sweet leaves.  One can chew on the leaves and get a pretty good rush of sweet, but it’s not terribly convenient or attractive to grind up leaves when cooking.

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I decided to make a stevia extract which is a liquid into which the sweetness of the stevia leaves has been concentrated.  I saw a variety of articles and recipes on how to make stevia extract, but two in particular caught my attention.  Each required a liquid to make the extract.  One used water, the other used vodka.  I decided to try both varieties and see which I liked better.

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I am not much of a drinker.  In fact, I am pretty much not a drinker at all except for the occasional medicinal shot of brandy when I have a sore throat.  Aside from that, I don’t know the difference between varieties of alcohol.  I walked into the local drug store and headed for the liquor aisle where a huge array of vodkas greeted me.  I didn’t know one brand from another so I decided the surest way to pick a good vodka must be by the aesthetics of the label.  I looked and looked and debated, but I finally settled on Gordon’s vodka.  See?  Doesn’t it just look pretty.  The simple light blue label just seemed pleasant to me…it must be good stuff.

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So I got the vodka and headed home.  To make both the vodka and the water-based extracts, I coarsely cut stevia leaves until I had 2 cups for each recipe.  I don’t really know what a coarse cutting is, so I decided to use coarse language as I sliced the leaves into chunks.  I can’t really see how it will help make things sweeter, but if the recipe calls for cussing, I figured I better oblige (actually, I called in Emily…she’s the pro).

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(Research…purely for research)

So, into a mason jar I added 2 cups of leaves and one cup of my liquid – vodka in one jar, water in another.  I covered each and will let it stand for 24 hours gently shaking the jars a few times during that period.  I started the brew last night and the liquid has turned green by this morning.  The vodka-based extract is greener so I suppose it has drawn more of the essence of the stevia out.  At the end of the soaking period, I will filter each through a coffee filter and then simmer the extract over medium-low heat for 30 minutes to concentrate the extract and remove the alcohol.  It’s best to store the liquid in a jar in the refrigerator for future use.

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Everywhere I have read says that I will need to dilute the extract with water before using in a recipe.  I suppose the sweetness of the mix is very powerful.  I’ll know more about that soon!  We’ll use these extracts in cooking and I’ll report back later.

So, what do you think?  Have you heard of or used stevia (or truvia, the store variety)?  Did I buy a descent variety of vodka?

A Garden Dialog

The time has come to stow the garden. It seems like just yesterday that we were fussing over getting the seeds ordered. Before we knew it, we needed to get them started…we were late getting them in afterall. Of course that’s typical. We watched patiently as the tiny spouts pushed through the ground. It was almost as if they doubled overnight. Of course…they did. They grew and grew and the most beautiful array of blossoms came.

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Honeybees and bumblebees and all manner of flying critter visited to taste the sweet nectar. Of course, they got creative and sometimes visited the habaneros right before the sweet bell peppers…not so sweet any more. Everything grew and grew and we watched eagerly, waiting for the chaos of canning and cooking to begin. It’s hard to beat the food we get directly from the garden. It’s hard to beat the fun of cutting and chopping up the harvest and stuffing it into canning jars. It’s hard to beat the sound of the pressure cooker clicking away it into the wee hours of the morning.

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“Gee whiz, are we still canning stuff?” “When will this stuff ever end?” “This garden is killing us.” “Oh, just freeze all of that. I can do no more canning!” “Next year, we are absolutely not planting as much!” “This is craziness!” “In fact, I don’t want any garden next year! We need to have a life too!” “NO GARDEN!”
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“Ahhhh…look at out pantry! It’s full! That work wasn’t so bad afterall, was it? It’s definitely worth it! I mean, look at all of that free food!” “Free? Do you remember last month when…” “Oh yes, I know, but did you see all of that free food?!” “Yeah, I know.”

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“So, it’s a little early, but don’t you think we should think about what we want to plant next year?” “Oh yeah…and all that free food…we should definitely plant more!”