Monthly Archives: May 2009

Weekend Update

Even though it rained a bunch leading up to this weekend, it seems like we got a bunch done and had a lot of fun this weekend.  Soccer games were cancelled this weekend.  We practiced on Thursday evening and it was a muddy mess.  Mosquitoes swarmed around us as we mucked through the swamp-field.  I am sure I will lose half my team to malaria or yellow fever or something.  Honestly, we would have been better off to play bare-foot so we could at least enjoy the mud squishing through our toes…sort of like playing in the cow pasture.  

Anyhow, games were cancelled so I went to the East End yard sale.  The East End of Charleston is a strange area of the city.  Most of the East End is filled with huge old homes that were probably pretty upscale 75 years ago.  Several streets remain that way, populated mostly by professionals and artists and such.  A few streets back from those however, a rougher element lives.  Anyhow, the East End had a yard sale this weekend and I suppose there were thousands of people in attendance…including me.  More on what I found in another post, but it was great buying other peoples’ junk!  I was able to get part of Emily’s Mother’s Day present at the yard sale!

We planted cushaw squash last year and have stored 4 in our kitchen since we harvested them last August.  They seemed to have kept perfectly, but we verified it this weekend.  Emily made more cushaw squash pie and it was delicious!  It was just as moist and perfect this weekend as it was when we first harvested it.  If you want a good keeper, definitely plant cushaw squash!

Last year we bought a reel mower.  We wanted something that would be environmentally friendly, cheap to operate and sort of fail-proof.  Sure enough, most of it is metal with little to break…that’s little to break, not nothing to break.  The only plastic on the thing is a set of arms that hold the cutting height adjustment (i.e. a roller that holds everything at the right angle/height).  It broke and rendered the mower useless.  Being one to over-engineer/over-build, I bought some angle-iron and built new roller arms.  They are now guaranteed not to break!  I also added a new steel axle so we should be good to mow!  Of course, with all of our rain, the grass was too thick to mow with it so I weed-whacked the entire yard which was such a delight!

Finally, Abigail lost her second tooth on Sunday and had a visit from the tooth fairy.  She had been holding out on pulling the tooth but she bit into a peanut butter sandwich and it hurt enough that she finally let me pull it…and without a fuss!  The tooth fairy again visited and performed her duty as per union rules for tooth-fairy local 107 here in Charleston, WV!

So, all-in-all, it was a great weekend and we had a lot of fun!  What did you get into this weekend?

Mr. Hilton

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week.  We don’t celebrate this holiday with too many presents or special songs, but I think it is interesting to consider the role that some of my teachers played in my future.  I know that the teachers my kids have now (and ones they have had) are making a huge impact on their lives.  Both kids absolutely love their teachers this year and have learned so much under their watch.

I had a few wonderful teachers that shaped me, but probably my all time favorite teacher was Mr. Hilton.  We had some weird transitions and chaos as East Hickory Elementary merged with Tionesta Elementary, but I received a huge benefit as I had Mr. Hilton for both 4th and 5th grades.  He inspired my curiosity.  We did all sorts of interesting projects on physical and earth science.  I remember spending all sorts of time in the science room where there were closets and shelves and shelves full of formaldehyde-filled jars with creatures of every sort.  There were containers of chemicals and bottles of mysteries.  We didn’t recklessly play with stuff but were taught to investigate.  We learned about economics (he used a token system to reward behavior and hard work) and greed and power struggles and how hard work pays off.

Later on in high school, Mr. Hilton became Coach Hilton.  I played soccer in high school and he was my soccer coach.  We weren’t always the best team but he encouraged us to do our best and to have a lot of fun in the meantime.  

Finally, I worked closely with Mr. Hilton’s son and daughter at the bait/sporting goods/grocery/movie/ice cream/general store where we all worked.  His son and I, in particular, had a tremendous amount of fun and a little bit of trouble.  I deer hunted with he and his family and came to enjoy his company apart from school as well.  It’s not common to have a teacher who can also be a friend as well as a mentor, but Mr. Hilton accomplished much of that for me.

So, here’s to you Mr Hilton!  Thanks for being a great teacher!  I still appreciate your hard work!

Ok…I have to stop or he may get a big head if he reads this.  But I do sincerely hope that you had an awesome teacher somewhere in your growing up that inspired you.  If you can, let them know.  I am sure they will appreciate it!

 And now, our next candidate for teacher of the century…

Dandelion Wine

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was making homemade hooch but I didn’t say what type I was making.  It’s sort of a funny thing…Emily hates dandelions with a passion.  I don’t understand her issues with them but she goes around the yard picking the heads off of them all the time.  Occasionally she’ll dig the roots, but mostly she just wants the flowers out of sight.  Always one to see an opportunity, I asked her to save the dandelion heads she picked for a project I had in mind!

Wine can be made from all sorts of things including various flowers.  Most people have heard of dandelion wine, but wine can also be made from clover, roses, pansies, coltsfoot, and golden rod among others.  Anyhow, the real key to dandelion wine, is to use the flower petals and not anything green.  I picked a ton of dandelion heads and cut the petals off of them until I had 2 pints of dandelion petals.  That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you consider the sticky factor, you’ll understand the effort that went in to this project.  My fingers were very yellow and sticky and I left yellow fingerprints all over the place!

Anyhow, I kept remembering how tasty the last batch of dandelion wine was many years ago so I pressed on through the allergies and rainbow of colors on my fingers.  I wrapped the petals in cheesecloth so they would be manageable and started my brew!

In a big open pitcher, I added the petals, 6 pints of water, 3 Campden tablets, 3 lbs of white sugar (as an approximation…remember 2 cups a pound, the whole world round…2 cups of about anything weighs a pound),  1/3 oz of citric acid (taste some of that straight up sometime!), and yeast nutrients.  I let this mixture sit for 2 days in the container loosely covered to keep dust out.  After 2 days, I added champagne yeast and let it sit another day.  Finally, as it started to bubble, I moved everything but the pouch of petals to a fermentation vessel.  The bubbler on top allows the carbon dioxide to escape.  Of course, carbon dioxide is a by product of the yeast converting the sugar to alcohol.

Funny story time…I know someone who was creative and decided to forego the typical bubblers used for fermentation.  Really, the whole point is to allow a bit of CO2 to build up and then force its way out without allowing other contaminants back in.  Some folks take care of that issue by stretching a balloon across the mouth of the fermentation jar.  Well, being extra creative, this person stretched a balloon-like male birth control item over the jar lid.  Of course, this method would work just fine to allow the CO2 to escape.  I am not sure how I would feel about the CO2 building up and…uh…inflating the “balloon” though.  Anyhow, without thinking about it, this winemaker bought the variety with spermicide too.  Some folks say that too much drinking may lead to pregnancy, but I think this may be a solution!

Anyhow, now I have to wait a few months until all of the sugar is converted to alcohol or the alcohol content rises enough to kill the yeast.  Either way, the bubbling will stop and the wine will be ready to settle/age/bottle.  I’ll post more on that when the time comes.

(Here is a windows media version if the above doesn’t work)

In the meantime, I will certainly enjoy watching the bubbles rise through the murky yellow concoction.  It bubbles and fizzes like crazy, very similar to a bottle of pop when first opened!

My First Wife

We were looking back through some old pictures and I always laugh out loud when I see pictures of my first wife Emily when she was a kid. I know it was a long time ago, but old pictures always seem like a different world.

I think most of these pictures are pretty cute, but Emily’s Great-grandmother gave her opinion to the contrary. She told Emily that she “…always was an ugly child, but she’s growing out of it.” My wife has grown so good at holding her tongue…and I think she is a beauty now for sure!

Emily has always been a competitive girl and you can see evidence here…she was participating in an egg hunt and ran out of “arm space”. Her final egg she carried in her mouth!

It sort of cracks me up to look at pictures of people as they grow up. Emily was a pretty tough thing (notice the broken arm in a baby picture above). In fact, growing up she wanted to be a truck driver, a bar tender and Supergirl. I am glad she stuck with the super hero choice! I am so happy though, that her parents did not let her change her name as she had planned to do. “Emily” suits her much better than “Supergirl”!

Anyhow, I really cherish these pictures of her and hope you’ll indulge my need to share…

Stuff that makes me smile

You know, sometimes I just get home from work and I get a big smile on my face.  There are so many cool things going on during spring that I just can’t help myself.  Here are a few things that made me smile yesterday when I got home from work.

This color yellow…

This color purple…

And this color purple…

The smell of black locust blooms…the bees were enjoying as well of course.  Gosh, the smell is heavenly.  I wish I could share the scent in the air with you.  When I release my own perfume line, it will be called “Warren” of course, but will be the smell of black locust blooms!

We feed birds all sorts of seeds and suet cakes. This one female rose breasted grossbeak has learned to open the suet cage and help herself. She’s no dummy for sure. I smiled (out loud) when I saw her going to town with no impediment!

And finally, although this didn’t happen yesterday, Jim Carey almost always makes me smile!

Anyhow, what makes you smile?

Derby Day

We moved to Kentucky right after we got married.  Our first place was a 450 sq ft or so apartment into which we pack 900 sq ft of furniture.  We had no money (but I still had my motorcycle then!),  but were too young to know any better.   Anyhow, we made some really fantastic friends and had a really great time in KY.  One of our favorite things about KY was how everyone turned out for University of Kentucky basketball and for the Kentucky Derby.  It was, somehow, more important than Groundhog Day even.  Emily’s family here in WV also enjoyed watching the KY derby.  

Now that we are back, we get to enjoy the family time and share a few traditions with the gang!  Most importantly, we always eat KFC chicken in anticipation of the Derby.  Someone grabs a huge bucket of chicken and all the sides to boot.  We eat too much and sit around commenting on the different horses.  We place our “bets” and get all the back stories on the jockies or trainers.  Mostly we laugh at the women in their crazy hats in the stands.  I always laugh at their attempts to look elegant while holding one-too-many mint juleps.

Anyhow, to be a part of the party, we also wear hats.  Everyone makes their own hat, the more ridiculous the better.  We recycle lots of things, but we never recycle our hats…every year sees a new creation!  Anyhow, this year I went with the first bright idea I had for my hat!

(We picked Mine that Bird all along, by the way…I even took a picture to prove it!)

Last year we made mint juleps which were interesting.  I think it must help the flavor to get a few of them in you before you comment.  I was not terribly impressed.  Of course, we didn’t use glacial ice or anything special.  Our ice came from the Muddy Elk River and the mint came from my back yard.  Anyhow, this year Emily’s mom made derby pie which, oh my goodness, you have to try…

Derby Pie

1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, large
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick butter, melted
1 unbaked pie shell

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine flour and sugar.
Add eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and melted butter.
Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
Pour into pie shell and bake for 30-40 minutes.
Let cool to set.

We love Derby time and I always feel like it marks an important milestone in spring.  It’s great fun to So did you watch the derby?  Do you have any silly traditions that you hold for some event, Derby or otherwise?

There’s treasure in Jexico


I wonder if it is wrong for my 6-year old daughter to really like the “Pirates of the Carribean” movies?  I mean, they aren’t too bad, right?  Once Isaac sees anything, it isn’t long before Abigail does too.  Yeah, she’s seen them and she loves them!

Abigail’s class did a section on oceans recently in class so she has been fascinated by oceans and ocean life, islands and palm trees and coral reefs.  Actually, when I think of it, I could stay there in my imagination forever too.  Anyhow, she joined her interests in “Pirates” with islands and started working on a treasure map.  She name her mysterious island Jexico.  Emily and I had nothing to do with the naming but we surely got a laugh out of this toothless dinosaur shaped paradise.  Actually, it made us think of the James Taylor song ” Mexico” (below for your pleasure)

We saw James Taylor in concert in Nashville when we were first married.  Neither of us have ever been involved in drugs, but that night at the concert, we both surely must have gotten high.  There was weed aplenty at the concert but apparently a real shortage of rolling papers.  Ahhh…good times!

Anyhow, Abigail is releasing a series of maps to her friends.  One map in particular…her best work…is being reserved for Aunt Elizabeth (you know, Elizabeth Swann from the movie) so she can find the treasure and remain unbeholden to any man.  Abigail is watching out for her girls of course!  I am sort of proud of her for skipping the whole damsel in distress stuff and going straight for the treasure.  Maybe my girl is related to Elizabeth Swann somehow!