Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Little Baker Man

We got a Learning Tower for our little teeny guy. For the most part it is an enclosed step stool so our little guy doesn't fall off. But the Tower of Learning and Almighty Knowledge allows Nathan to be close to mommy/daddy while proving us with the opportunity to get some stuff done. It also allows Nathan to help us out. Like making holiday cookies.

Pineapple cookies???

Nathan really enjoys stirring/mixing. When he sees a wooden spoon now, he gets excited and says, "Stir? Stir?"


Nathan taking a moment to smile for the camera.

Full-body cheese

Patty cake, patty cake...

Um, Mom, I'm trying to concentrate here.

Happy baker.

Well placed cookies.

Looks like Nathan did a great job with the cookie placememnt. I'm sure none of the cookies baked together.

I wonder if The Food Network needs another cooking show.

Did you happen to notice how the kitchen got cleaner as we progressed?

Reinforcements - Mr. Turtle and the Lady Bugs

When we last left our beloved garden, we were being attacked by some self proclaimed "fun guys." But have no fear, the reinforcements have arrived. Take that, fungi!

Come out, come out whereever you are.

Laura found this turtle crossing the street. Apparently the chicken was laid off, paving the way for the slower, less efficient workers willing to accept a lower wage.


Actually, for a turtle, he is quite quick.

And for phase 2, we have the highly respectable Lady Bugs.

Lady Bugs, ATTACK!!!

"Jolly, oh, dear fungi, won't you kindly depart the premises?"

An elegant show of force.

"Ah, very good, Gov'nor. Looks like our job here is done. Cheerio."

And like that, they were gone. Similar to The Usual Suspects, just when you were about to figure out what was going on, they disappeared into the night. According the the Lady Bug instructions (yes, the Lady Bugs came with instructions), we were to release these little charmers into the garden at night or else they would fly away. Well, that's what we did, with the help of our little gardener, Nathan, who really enjoyed the little buggers, but when we awoke the next day, not a Lady Bug in sight. They absconded into the night.

At least they all seemed to do their jobs. The mushrooms are gone (Laura picked them all) and the bugs that were eating our leaves have either departed or moved onto the second course.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The New Balloon Boy

This is awesome. A father and son send an iphone into space and record the entire trip.

Sounds like something Nathan and I may have to try.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Soil Diggers - Episode 3: There Goes The Neighborhood

So within minutes of the garden going up, the low-lifes moved in. And by low, I mean close to the ground. Though, honestly where else would they be? I mean we just finished the garden, of course the new neighbors would pop up close to the ground, they're in the ground. Even though we put in this makeshift gate to keep them out.


Actually, the gate was to keep Sonoma out. Some of the seeds needed to be close to the top of the soil and didn't need Sonoma's big, 80 pound, fury paws smooshing them down, deep into the Earth where only the Hobbits live. Or digging them up like a puppy is apt to do. Not the Hobbits, though that would be interesting...

So who moved in? Well I'm glad you asked. First the good guys.

Green beans

Over in Ceres we have Green Bean lane - a multi-unit, apartment neighborhood right in the heart of Ceres. Easy access to water, soil, and gardeners. Spaces still available. You'll want to grab these spots soon as their value will surely rise with the bean stalks.


Over in Demeter we have the basil transplant. An exclusive community that is facing urban sprawl. Also close to the Nathan garden which is always buzzing with excitement.


The carrots are in a nice single family community near downtown Demeter. Good size plots with plenty of room for growth. Plenty of good schools and perfect for raising your family or any root-type of produce.

Sugar Snap Peas

If you're looking for a quiet get-away, look no further than Sugar Snap Peas. Known for their slow-paced atmosphere, this area takes you back to a simpler time. A great vacation destination to take your mind of the hustle and bustle.

Nathan's Garden Spot

There's always something going on in Nathan's Garden and you never know what's next. Lively entertainment, unpredictable watering schedules, and crazy nightlife, Nathan's Garden has plenty of young, single people.

So, that all sounds lovely right? Great places that rival San Francisco or New York, New York. I hear they are even working on a theme song. So what was that you mentioned about low-lifes? Well...

Uninvited guests

Dum, dum dum...

These little pinheads began popping up. Like gypsies or Peruvian flute bands. These self-described "fun guys" just come in, party it up, and leave the damage for someone else to clean up. Anyone know a mycophagist for hire?

Next time on Soil Diggers...Will they find a mycophagist? WTF is a mycophagist? Will the mushrooms take over the 'hood? What happened to the tragedy that was supposed to strike? Will the carrots get a little sugar from the snap peas? Tune in next week.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Soil Diggers - Episode 2: Demeter & Ceres

In Greek mythology, the goddess Demeter was the most generous of the great Olympian goddesses. Demeter was beloved for her service to mankind in giving them the gift of the harvest, the reward for cultivation of the soil. She was also known as Ceres (to the Romans), because she had a bit of a split personality... And a temper. Word on the street is that she opened a can of whoop-ass on Earth in the winter killing everything in sight.

So, since we want a bountiful harvest, what better way to pay tribute to Demeter/Ceres than to name our gardens after her/them. That's right, gardens. With an s. Because look at how much soil we have:

That's one big pile of soil

By the way, it's amazing how dirty you can get from soil. I guess what they say is true: You can take the soil out of the dirt, but you can't take the dirt out of the soil. or something.

And while we were at it, we decided to get that third compost bin we've had our eyes on.
Newest addition to the family

The stork (aka the nice folks at the City of Chandler) dropped it off on our door step. For Free! Yep, we went all out on our garden. Only the best. Now we'll have plenty of compost to feed our young garden.

And just so our new garden would look all naked once we finished the build, we had a few transplants to kick start the process. Meet the Sproutlings:


Apparently some produce does better when started inside and transplanted into the garden, though I suspect they just wanted to wait until baseball season was over. Additionally, we had some basil that was contemplating some tough career choices, but in the end decided to take our offer and move into the spacious plot near Nathan's garden. We also picked up two tomato plants since we were a bit late to the tomato game.

Demeter, our first

Adopted twins

Then, after assessing the first garden and allocating space to Nathan, we felt that we wouldn't have enough room for all the bounty Demeter was about to bestow upon us that we needed a second garden to hold it all. We were also kind of afraid of the whole split personality thing and didn't want to get on her/her bad side. And so, Ceres was born.

Ceres, the baby

If you are wondering what happened to the step by step photos I was planning, I apparently didn't stop to take more pictures during the final build. Thus the stand-ins above, just imagine less greenery and soil. Plus a few more I hate gravel comments.

Next week, on Soil Diggers:
Tragedy strikes the garden! How will our garden cope? Plus some uninvited guests pop up - Is there evil lurking about?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Soil Diggers - Episode 1: The Canvas

Let's build a garden! What a better way to spend a few hours in the dirt. Sorry soil. It didn't spend four years in gardening school to be call dirt. And we spent good money on it so we better not soil its good name with the D word. Especially if we're going to be putting it's bounty on our plates and eating it. Imagine, eating something that came from dirt, ugh, how pedestrian.

So why a garden? Well, it'll save a trip to the farmer's market. Plus, organic veggies are expensive. And we have some extra space just lying around the house. Also, it's fun, or so say those other gardeners, though I don't recall them saying the building part of it was all that and a bag of chips.

So let's see what we have to work with...

The Canvas

So we decided on a nice little 3.5 ft by 15 ft. garden. You know, nothing too fancy and showy. We had two spots to choose from, each on the sides of the house, but opted for the side our compost is on since we'll be adding it to the garden frequently. The only issue may be the sun exposure but after talking with a few others, it sounds like we'll have enough.

Notice anything different...Shovel?

So we first had to clear away the gravel. I hate gravel.

Little workers

I really hate gravel. I mean really. It sucks. No offense, well, unless you are gravel.

This is how you do it

And to make it even better, I had some help along the way. Nice spot Sonoma, way to lay right where I'm working.

My little buddies helping out

And we're clear. Temporarily anyway. We decided to expand later which required more moving of the gravel.


Nathan actually turned around and said "cheese" when he heard the camera going.

So here we are at the end of part one. Will the garden be finished in time to plant for the winter? What will be planted? Will there be enough food to feed the family? Will the gravel regroup and attack at night? Who will survive? Did Professor Plum kill the carrots with the rake in the garden?

All that and more, next on...Soil Diggers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Winemaking 101

Have you ever had a really good wine? No, I mean really good? Like great? Probably not, because we just made our first batch and it's not ready yet. But don't worry. In about 9 months, it'll be here. (Was that a bit much?)


The key to a good wine (you know from the wine making experts that we are) is a nice little lounging before the wine making process. This helps get you into the zone. As does a little wine tasting...

Wine tasting

So before we got into our wine making adventure, we begin with a sampling of the options, 11 in all (as best as I can remember, it was a lot of wine). Our host even set up a wonderful spread of wine pairings and each of the wine samples had its own little food buddy.

The spread

I have to say it is amazing how the proper pairing can bring out the flavors. Take this pairing for example:


Or this one:

Right back at 'cha

So, after enjoying the wine flight, we landed on Tempranillo as the varietal of choice - a full-bodied red wine native to Spain. (Here legally with a work visa and everything.)

So how does one make wine without their own vineyard (or bushel of grapes for that matter)? Well, you begin with grape juice concentrate and pour that on into a bucket (sexy, right?)

One part Tempranillo concentrate...

So, the whole wine making thing on your own, isn't really a pretty sight - more like science lab, but it was actually pretty fun.

And so it begins

So once you've got your grape concentrate set up and you've added you filtered water of choice, out come the power tools...

Work it baby

Mix on high power until you have a decent size vortex created. Similar to Stargate, but without the time/space travel. Though that would be cool to jump into the bucket and be transported to a simpler time when people stomped the grapes barefoot. But then again you might run into Keanu Reeves. (No more movie references, I promise.)

After you've successfully vortex-blended the wine, you must take some precise measurements...

Looks perfect

This is much harder to do after 11 glasses of wine. Okay, 2-3 glasses, they were samples after all. But still, precise measurements are required to identify the proper balance. And indicate the alcohol content on the label because apparently it's not simply a yes/no check box (Does this wine contain alcohol? Yes. Check. Done.).

Next, get high.

Inhale deeply and pass the kutchie pon the lef' hand side

Alas, the home wine-maker does not (likely) have French Oak barrels available for the aging process, so we must make do. Luckily, some frustrated wine-makers who did have access to the barrels but not so much luck in making wine, chopped up their entire inventory of barrels into tiny wood chips. Realizing that they still had bills to pay, they bagged up the tiny wood chips, hit the suburbs, and sold them door-to-door.

One more...

Again, precise measurements are necessary here too. The oak chips will mimic the barrel effect adding flavor and complexity to the wine. Too much oak and you could ruin your wine. Not enough and you waste your time and don't get any of the subtle flavors. So taking the advice of our hostess, we tossed it aside, because that's how we roll. We chose the American "Heavy Toast" chips and we went slightly above the traditional 3 oz since we were going to be aging longer and wanted a fuller, bolder wine.

Almost done.

After adding the wood chips and vortexing for even distribution, we added wine's favorite dance partner, yeast, to do all the dirty work. Now the wine can take it easy while the yeast does all the heavy lifting from here on out.

See you in 9 months

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I've Been Lost

I know I've been absent for a while, but I have a good excuse. Well, a good excuse if you were a fan of Lost. The first 5 of 6 seasons are available for immediate streaming through Netflix which is just a recipe for disaster. Okay, maybe not disaster, but definitely a time-sucking vortex of some sort. (Probably not a recipe either, but whateva.) To wit, we are averaging a season a week. And not because we have that much time on our hands, but simply because we have given up sleep. And Lost any kind of social life.

Not that Lost is the best show ever or anything, I mean c'mon, it's no West Wing. That show was AWESOME!!!!

But it is a good show and I think that having every episode available in HD at your finger tips adds a little synergy that elevates the goodness. Or something.

So we are on Season 4 (don't ruin the ending for us) and our momentum has slowed down a bit (I blame Nathan) and I'm sure if we had to wait a week between each episode we may have given up by now. However, since it is available on DVD and Netflix streaming, I would highly recommend checking it out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bonding With Nature

Camping July 2010

Just outside of Flagstaff, where the air is clean and the temperatures are cool. And downright cold at night. Even in July. Talk about brrrr.

But first we had to get there. So pack up the husband and wife and kiddos. Oh and the camping gear. Hopefully we don't forget anything. Anyone want to guess what we forgot?

And we're off...

All Aboard!!!

And 3 hours later, we're here! It had actually been raining a lot in the week before, and since the Matrix doesn't have 4 wheel drive (I know, right), we had to be cautious about where we stayed lest we get stuck in the mud. So now that we found the spot, time to set up camp.

I'm not doing anything

And Nathan helped a lot. He actually built the campfire ring. Okay, no he didn't, but he did enjoy playing with our mini pick-axe.

Hi Dad

Poor Sonoma, we finally get back out into nature and she's too tired to explore. So the next best thing, sleep!

A perfect spot for napping

Right by the fire to stay warm in the 80 degree temp. Since everything around was pretty moist it took a while for my Survivorman skills to kick in, but eventually we got the fire going. However, it did take constant managing to keep it going. Especially when it started raining. But luckily it was only a brief rain, but with more clouds moving in, we figured we should get dinner cooked while we could.


And dinner was EXCELLENT! A little lemon pepper chicken and a veggie dish - green beans, peppers, potatoes. Cooking over the campfire, caveman style. Cavemen used pots and pans right?

Real men cook with fire

It also was a great time for a little father/son bonding. Teach him how to make a fire. Teach him how to grill. You know the basics so he's prepared when he heads out into the real world.

Chillaxin' after dinner

Time for S'mores

You can't have a camping trip without S'mores. And apparently, Laura picked up a new "recipe" for making S'mores. A new "method" from someone from New Jersey of all places. I mean what do Jersey people know about camping? I've seen Jersey Shore. No, no, I haven't. I don't watch that show.

So after dinner and ghost stories, we did our traditional bedtime routine with Nathan, without all the normal routine parts.

Camping buddies

Let's see what we can find in the woods

Go take a hike! What could be better than waking up in the morning and heading out for a morning hike? Be at one with nature. Smell the fresh air. Enjoy all the greenness. Maybe see some wildlife or...


Seriously, we were almost EATEN last night. OMG. We could have been someone's dinner. A big someone based on the size of the bone pile. OR A PACK OF SOMEBODIES!! OMG I hadn't thought about that. We were surrounded!!! No Escape!

Good thing this is just a one night trip.

The Fam

Enjoying the car ride home

Until next time...