Monthly Archives: January 2009

Jack Frost needs a blanket

Like a large portion of the country, we are suffering the deep freeze that burns skin, gets animals drunk, and causes men to go sterile (well, I made that part up, but you know what I mean!)  Our old house was built before cold was invented I guess as there is apparently no insulation in the place.  We have slowly been remedying that problem, but it is still freezing cold.  

Family room temps Kitchen temps
The new, high efficiency furnace has been running pretty much non-stop and has brought our family room temperature clear up to 54.6 deg F (46.2 on the floor).  Our kitchen is much warmer at a balmy 61.2 deg F.  I went down to the bottom floor basement and the pipes are frozen solid. We decided to just cut the water to the house so nothing floods if the pipes burst. Fortunately, nothing had popped yet and no other pipes are frozen. I dislike winter…I just want to hibernate!

Sarah the Penguin

Making a penguin Making a penguin

 Abigail is in kindergarten and her class is doing a study series on penguins.  She brought a form home telling of her assignment.  First off, the class adopted a penguin in the Falkland Islands.  I read a little about the World Wildlife Fund adoption program and it sounds pretty neat.  I also learned that Emperor penguins can grow to 4 feet tall and weight 80 pounds…that’s the size of Isaac!  Anyhow, her class decided to name their adopted penguin Crystal. 

Making a penguin Making a penguin

Each student was to research a type of penguin, write a report, and make a model of their penguin.  There are around 23 students in her class and each student was assigned a different type of penguin.  I had no idea that there are more than 20 different types of penguins!  Holy moley!  Anyhow, Abigail was assigned the Little Blue Penguin so we hit wikipedia and learned a lot about Little Blue Penguins.  I read each section to Abigail and she responded back with sentences that described what she thought was important.  I typed in her words and she completed her first school report!  You can read her report here if you’d like.

Making a penguin

Next, we had to work on a model of the little blue penguin.  We brainstormed a little to come up with a base around which to build her penguin.  We finally settled on a 2-liter bottle (it’s about the same size as a Little Blue Penguin).  Emily and I found a pear shaped ornament holder on sale at the local craft store which worked perfectly as a head.  I had to help some with cutting the bottle but Abigail sawed the wooden dowels for legs and used the hot glue gun to fasten it all together.  So, we attached all of the pieces and she covered it all with masking tape (to give her a base to paint and to hopefully give it a feather appearance).  Abigail finished painting it last night and glued the eyes on to complete Sarah, the Little Blue Penguin.

That’s a funny thing about Abigail…she names almost everything..and she always uses the names Sarah (with an ‘h’, of course), Elizabeth, or Kylie.

Another funny thing about Abigail, she was not named Grace for a reason.  The poor child painted the floor, the table, herself and me in the course of painting Sarah.  I can’t help but laugh most times- I am pretty hard on our dining room table as well.  I just hope our house makes it through!

Finished in the bathroom

Nasty old bathroom

When I first started this blog, I mentioned the bathroom on the top floor of our house.  During my vacation around Christmas-time 2007 (yes, 2007!), we decided to tear out everything in the bathroom and start over.  The house was built in 1939, but I am pretty certain that the bathroom had been there since 1743.  Anyhow, we pulled out what appeared to be 265 year old nasty and started over.  Of course, nothing in the room (or the house for that matter) is level or square.  Welcome Warren to the story.

Nasty old bathroom Nasty old bathroom

We had installed bamboo flooring in our place in TN and had a box of it left which we brought to WV when we moved.  Of course, I measured and determined that we needed one more box…rats.  So we ordered one more box and started about re-flooring the bathroom in bamboo.  If any of you have ever installed solid wood floor, you know it is pretty easy – if you have a level and square area in which to lay it.  No such luck in our place.  Actually, it is still not hard, even with a mobius strip-like room…it just takes a little longer.  That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

Bathroom nirvana!

So last weekend, I finally finished the last of the work in the bathroom.  That’s right, a mere 393 days later and the bathroom is finished!  Now the floor got installed in one day, but I had to wait a year to…uh…make sure it settled properly.  It is such an incredible improvement over what we had.  As I looked back over the pictures of the original, I am shocked…mainly shocked at how awesome I am for fixing it!  Well, actually, I am shocked at how awesome my wife is for living in the craziness until we got it done!  Bathroom nirvana!

I guess I am on a cute little program kick the last few days, but here is a program that will tell you the number of days between 2 dates or the date a certain number of days from today.  That’s how I knew how long it took me to get the bathroom finished!  Anyhow, as always, this program is free, but not to be used for anything but fun.

Brought to you by the letter T

I follow Evil Twin Wife’s blog, and she recently participated in a fun internet meme.

It’s actually called “Brought to you by the letter…” game.   Here’s how it works…

You leave a comment on this post, and I’ll assign you a letter. You write about ten things you love that begin with your assigned letter, and post it at your place. When people comment on your list, you give them a letter, and the chain continues on and on. (I copied that from her and she copied off someone else, so… feel free to rip it off again).

I got the letter “T” so here is my list:

Turtles – turtles are the strangest creatures…they are armored and primitive but always seem so fragile.  I always stop when I see them on the road and move them out of the way…I love to help turtles.

Toenails – actually, I hate toes, toenails and all things feet…except I love to tease the kids.  Abigail in particular always asks me what we are having for dinner.  I always answer “toe nail soup and an earwax sandwich”

Toadstools – well, the non-poisonous ones.  I am just starting to learn about edible mushrooms…I really dig hunting mushrooms

Tahitian Treat! – Enough said

Taffy – Saltwater taffy is so awesome, but I only really like it when I am at the beach.

Tybee Island – One of my two favorite beach locations is Tybee Island, GA.  We’re going there this summer assuming the economy doesn’t implode on itself

Truffles – I don’t think I have ever found a truffle I didn’t like.  These are some of my favorite.

Tinkering – My grandfather was a tinkerer before me and I think I have picked up his tinkering addiction.  I prefer to reinvent the wheel whenever possible.  Even better, I like to over-engineer wherever I can!

Thera-gesic – I go to the gym pretty regularly and lift weights which, of course, leads to sore muscles.  Thera-gesic absolutely saves lives!
Thank goodness for Theragesic

Temperature – I like it hot.  When I lived in PA, I thought I would die if I ever got hot.  Moving to Tennessee broke me of that.  I came to love the heat in Tennessee.  Hey, that reminds me, I also love Tennessee.  We moved to Nashville shortly after we were married to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt.  For some reason we stayed when we finished school.  So, Emily and I sort of grew up together there.  We were pretty young when we got married so we had no idea about life on our own…we discovered it and each other in Nashville.  Anyhow, back to temperature…I still love the heat.  I have mentioned before that my office has 8 server computers in it which generate a lot of heat.  It typically runs 80+ deg F during the day.  I love it that way though.  My co-workers call me a lizard…they say I need a rock and a heat lamp to finish out my habitat.

“T” is a pretty easy-going letter.  One would think that it would be simple to come up with a list of stuff starting with “T” that one likes…I mean genuinely likes.  It’s harder than you’d think.  I am surprised and how hard this was.

So, if you want to participate, leave a comment to that effect and I will give you a letter.  You can leave a comment and not participate too.  Also, if you want to spread the fun, I wrote a little program to generate random letters so you can be fair in passing out letters to your respondees.  Choose from the bigger-but-with-better-images version (6 mb) or the smaller-but-with-poorer-images version (300kb).  As always, these programs are just for fun and not to be used for any nasty purpose or to be sold…

Ham sandwich and a big screen tv

Geek Squad car

Almost a year ago, Emily had a training where they served box lunches from Heavenly Ham.  Inside her box was an entry card for an Oscar  party prize pack. It included a big screen tv and a party tray from HH.  We didn’t think anything of it at first, but decided to enter.

Getting our big screen tv

Usually we don’t enter those sort of contests because there are 200 million people entering and someone in some far off place usually wins.  Anyhow, this time we did enter.  A few weeks later, I got a mysterious email from a HH address.  At first, I thought it was spam and nearly deleted the message.

Picking up some Heavenly Ham

The text in it was typical spam-talk, but they listed a few pieces of information that caught my attention.  We were the grand prize winners and they didn’t need our bank account or social security information to award us the prize…it must be real!  I responded and emailed back and forth with the company representative.  A few days later, we received a generous gift card to Best Buy to choose a big screen tv on which to watch the Oscars with a few friends.

Heavenly Ham Party Tray

That’s sort of the funny part really…we don’t watch tv much.  We haven’t had cable in 14 years.  We do get antenna reception but find that there is little on worth watching.  To be fair, HH said we could spend the money on anything at BB.  Still, it was an Oscar party prize so we decided to go ahead and get a big screen tv and a surround sound system with an upconvert dvd player.  We took all sorts of goofy pictures of the buying process including posing with the Geek  Squad car, the BB sales guy, picking up the food, etc.

Heavenly Ham Party Tray

So, we invited family over and watched the Oscars and had a good time.  The HH party tray was awesome.  If you’ve never had Heavenly Ham, try some…it’s a little pricey but so good.  I’d eat there every week if I could!  I especially love their ham salad.

Our Big Screen TV

We still don’t watch much tv on it, but we love an occasional Netflix and it’s hard to beat the Dukes of Hazzard and Daisy Duke in big screen form!  Thanks Heavenly Ham and Best Buy!

The real use of a garden tub

Boots in the garden tub

When we bought our house, the main bathroom had an enormous garden tub with jets and big fancy knobs and drains and room for 2.  We were sure that it would get a lot of use and be a great thing to have in our new old house.  We quickly found, however, that our 50 gallon hot water tank would not fill our 80 gallon tub and, more importantly, our 80 year old floor joists would probably not support 50 gallons of luke warm water plus two hind-ends.  So, here we are, stuck with an enormous garden tub in our bathroom that never sees any use.  Yesterday, we found a perfect use for it – a place to let snow melt off of boots!

Dance-Dance Revolution

Now let me back up and tell you the events leading to this.  We got some snow so the kids were off of school.  I went in to work in the morning but was owed a half-day of time for working over the holidays.  I came home for lunch and knew I had to stay as Emily and the kids were driving each other crazy.  We decided to bake some cookies and invite the neighbor kids over to play.  We started with a lively game of Dance-Dance Revolution.  It’s a ton of fun and I can get a mean dance on when I need to out-do my kids!

sled riding

After an hour or so, we decided to make use of the snow that had fallen so we headed to a cool hill nearby where we wore every last bit of snow off.  By the end, we were sledding on pure mud and I ruined a pair of jeans!  Anyhow, we had a great time playing but were so dirty when were were done, we didn’t know what to do.  Normally we strip and make a mad dash through the house, but it was too cold for much of that.  We made it to the bathroom and got into the bathtub and got rid of the snow and mud.  It was a perfect use for the garden tub.

sled riding sled riding - the flash

As I think of it, we may just leave it in the bathroom now after all.  I had planned to make it a real garden tub and haul it out back and stock it with fish.  I don’t know what we would do with snowy boots if I did that, though!

4 from 4

Kris over at Quilted Simple tagged me for the 4th picture challenge.  I decided to change it a little and do the 4th picture from the 4th folder for 4 years…so I have 4 pictures for you.

Easter eggs in Nashville 2005

Charleston WV drive-by 2006

Isaac with his globe 2007

Me with Geek Squad car 2008

This last picture has a pretty funny story…which I will tell another time.  Hover over each picture with your mouse for a brief description.

And now, by the power vested in me by the electrons of the Internet, I now tag anyone who looks at these pictures and has a blog to complete the same challenge (or some variation of your choosing) and report when you have posted – Gesundheit and go likewise!

Persimmon Jelly – A lesson

Persimmons - pretty but astringent

There is an extraordinarily ugly persimmon tree beside our house.  I first noticed what it was last year and I was determined to make jelly from the persimmons.  I did a little research and found that persimmons must be picked at the right time as they are very astringent if picked too early.  Typically, persimmons gain sweetness after the first hard frost of the fall.  We picked the nice pretty orange ones in late November last year after a good, solid frost and made the nice pale orange jelly shown below.

Persimmons jelly - bad batch

Now when people say astringent, I thought they meant a little bitey.  Little did I know…so I decided to make some toast and try my new pretty orange persimmoon jelly.  It smelled so good so I took an extra big bite.  As soon as the jelly hit my mouth, it promptly caved my face in on itself.  Holy moley!  What does astringent mean again!?

from wikipedia:  “Astringency is also the dry, puckering mouth feeling caused by tannins found in many fruits such as blackthorn, bird cherry and persimmon fruits, and banana skins. The tannins denature the salivary proteins, causing a rough “sandpapery” sensation in the mouth”

Persimmons - ripe!

A sandpapery sensation in the mouth…uh, yeah!  That’s one way to put it…I’d say more like eating an entire beach!  Anyhow, I am pretty determined about things so I decided to try again this year…but I waited a little later to harvest the fruit.  It looked a little different this time.  Persimmons, when fully ripe (apparently around January 2 in WV), are dark, mushy, super stickey and a very mild sweet flavor (I tried one from the tree this year rather than making the whole batch into jelly, without tasting the fruit).  This year’s jelly is no where near as pretty, but it is very tasty, though very mild.  The darker fruit and jelly are from this year.  So, if you find an extraordanarily ugly persimmon tree nearby, wait until the persimmons are good and ripe or risk looking like this.

The recipe I used was pinched from

Persimmons jelly - yum!
3.5 to 4 lbs ripe persimmons
2 cups water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pkg powdered pectin
1 cup honey

Wash fruit, remove blossom ends. Put in 6 to 8 quart non reactive pot. Add water. Bring to boil. Mash persimmons. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Use food mill or strainer to remove pits. Measure 3 cups of pulp. Stir in lemon juice and pectin. Bring to boil and add honey all at once. Bring to full rolling boil and boil 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Jar, seal and water bath can for 5 minutes.

A Party in my Mouth

Tahitian Treat - a party in my mouth!

I was leaving a comment on a post over at the Inadvertent Farmer and mentioned how I love Tahitian Treat.  Poor Kim, the blog author, did not know of Tahitian Treat.  It’s only the most awesome drink in the universe!  I like to describe it as a party in my mouth!  I even like it more than my beloved Mt Dew!

So, this got me thinking of other things that are like a party in my mouth.

-Nerds Candy…really any Willy Wonka candy

-Caramel creams candy

-Cadbury creme eggs (available only at Easter…what a shame)

-Southern Comfort egg nog (available only at Christmas…what a shame)

-Homemade truffles

-Oreo cheesecake

My parents seem to think that they remember my loving deer liver.  That is example #1 of things that are not a party in my mouth.  Also on that list – lima beans, beets, and spaghetti (a bad incident in ’96 – don’t ask).

Tahitian Treat - a party in my mouth!

Isn’t it funny how food can mean different things to different people?  My parents still eat nasty old deer liver and they love it.  I cannot be in the same building with it.  I was thinking about how this blog started…mostly talking about food.  The garden was in full swing in the summer and I was so excited about our food, that I had to blog about it.  With winter, we aren’t making much of our own (though we harvested something this week and I’ll write more later) so I am almost without direction in my blogging.  I am satisfied with writing about goofy stuff that we get into but I miss writing about sunflowers or  corn or peppers or whatever.  Food, besides being necessary to keep my pleasant demeanor in tact, is just so fun!