Friday, November 30, 2012

Project MCP: First Signs of Christmas

Frosty bow by Teckelcar
Frosty bow, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
The final Project MCP challenge for November was the first signs of Christmas.

Now the stores around here have had their Christmas stock out for well over a month. So technically the first sign was the inflatable lawn Santa I saw waaay back on September 28th in Walmart. The only reason I can peg the date so precisely is because I took a picture with my cellphone and posted it on Facebook. For the purposes of the challenge I have decided to ignore the early birds, instead I'll focus on my neighborhood.

The first true signs of Christmas has been the appearance of bows on the mailboxes along my morning dog walk. In my neighborhood, people wait for Thanksgiving before setting out their decorations. Yesterday It was cold and bright, the frost hadn't melted by the time I got out with the dogs. I was able to take this picture with my cellphone. I'm still working on the ideal distance for my phone's camera, but I think this shot came out fairly well. I like how the frost is more of an accent and makes the bow a bit more interesting.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fancifying

For the past two weeks I have been fitting band students for their winter concert uniforms, tuxedos for the boys and full length dresses for the girls. Or as Jacob put it, getting everybody all fancified.

It is a far from easy task as the outfits had only been separated by gender, the sizes were all higgledy-piggledy. Plus they were all tagged with the students' names from last year, returning students would get the same outfit, swapping out the pieces they had outgrown. From what was left over I had to sort out what was available and do my best to get them in the right size. Two boys had to wait a week until the right size jackets came to light and another... well he was the last one I did and we settled on the lesser of two evils. A good fit in the shoulder and arms trumped one that he could close that made him look like he was playing dress-up.

The girls were much easier, no measuring for shirts and only one article to try on. Though the sizing was a bit peculiar. I had one girl that had lifted weights over the summer and needed to go up a size to accommodate her more muscular build. I found the next size up and it was an even tighter fit, two sizes up and it was perfect.

By the end I got to be pretty good at just eyeballing what size would work. Nothing made me happier than pulling something off the rack and having it fit on the first try. All the kids were a delight to work with and all of them thanked me for helping out their teacher. It was a real pleasure.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Artist of the Week: Sous Chef

Rebecca by Teckelcar
Rebecca, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Rebecca is this week's artist for her fabulous contribution to Thanksgiving.

I think I have mentioned before that Rebecca has become my sous chef. She chopps vegetables, fetches ingredidents, measures, mixes, and is a general help in the kitchen. She is always ready to help, apron on with willing hands. Rebecca does far more in the kitchen with me than I ever did with my mother.

I taught myself how to bake while in high school because I wanted cakes and cookies. Actual meals didn't happen until I was in college studying abroad in England, the utterly appalling dining hall food motivated me to learn how to cook. Now when I go home I cook with my mother, decades later than my daughter.

cranberry relish by Teckelcar
cranberry relish, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Anyhoo this is about Rebecca and what she made for Thanksgiving.

Last year I found a ridiculously easy and very tasty recipe for a cranberry relish over on Manolo For the Big Girl. Rebecca wanted to help so I printed it out and gave the task to her. It was a hit and now it is Rebecca's contribution to the feast. All I have to do is pull the sheet out along with the food processor and make sure we have all the ingredients. I really enjoy having my own "little chef."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hobbled

I broke my camera Friday.

I had put it down on what I thought was a safe place whilst corralling dogs and children for the annual photo. As I but over to boost up John I brushed against the camera and snagged it by the strap. It teetered and then fell onto the deck.

It wasn't a particularly far fall, but... the lens was out.

Which is a very bad thing for a digital camera. They are notorious for the lens barrel jamming if knocked about in the extended position. If you are lucky you can jiggle it back into alignment and it should work. My camera's lens barrel, however, was well and truly stuck and thus rendered inoperable.

Therefore I need a new camera.

Luckily it was black Friday and I was able to find a sweet deal on a decent little Cannon point and shoot that fulfilled my odd requirements, namely a viewfinder in addition to the LCD screen and powered by AA batteries. It'll take a while to get here, but that is my penance for breaking the camera. Until I get it I will be limited to my smart phone. So for now my photography is hobbled.

Monday, November 26, 2012

SPIN

This is a short film that tries to find that perfect moment and all without a single word of dialogue. A clever movie that is fun to watch right to the end.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mmm, Turkey Pot Pie

pie by Teckelcar
pie, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. I used to be that I was stuck with a boatload of meat and after a couple of days we would all be sick of it.

Then I discovered the joys of the homemade pot pie.

With my scratch crust I have a meal the whole family likes. I had to wait until today to make it, because not everybody has been home for dinner the past couple of days. So there was much happiness among the kids when they saw me making pie crust and chopping up leftover turkey meat.

All that is left of our dear departed turkey are the bones, I think I'll be making soup in the near future.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ginger

ginger by Teckelcar
ginger, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Part of the traditional big Thanksgiving  run up for those cooking  is the buying of the ingredients. I try to minimize last minute store runs, but alas there always seems to be that one ingredient. This year it was the acorn squash, I completely forgot about it until the Wednesday before.

Then there is the one thing you can't find. One year it was sage flavored sausage, I had it improvise with plain and load up the stuffing with sage. Another year there was the great pumpkin shortage, fortunately I had a can hidden in my pantry and I was able to make my pumpkin pie. This year it was crystallized ginger, an important ingredient for our cranberry relish.

I went to three different grocery stores, two didn't even carry it and the third was sold out. I could have gone farther afield, but I decided my time was better spent making my own dang ginger. I settled on Alton Brown's recipe and used a pound of fresh ginger. It was pretty straight forward, however it took me twice as long to cook down the ginger syrup mixture than the 20 minutes sited in the recipe. I used my food processor to slice the ginger using my ultra fine blade so as to get consistently thin slices. The end result was well worth the effort, I have a boatload of very flavorful candied ginger that is full of zing. I love the stuff and I can eat it like candy. It's a very nice that I can now make my own.

Oh and I picked up the neatest trick for peeling ginger, use a spoon!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

feast by Teckelcar
feast, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
It was a splendid Thanksgiving this year. I got all formal with the table and pulled out the fancy tablecloth and napkins to go with our wedding china and the family silver, but kept it real with an informal dress code.

The menu was traditional with a hard core execution, it was all scratch with the exception of the bread crumbs from the stuffing. Heck I even made the candied ginger for the cranberry relish. Mind you the ginger was a more of desperation thing when I couldn't find any in three different supermarkets, Ground and fresh ginger were not a problem, but crystallized/candied was either sold out or nonexistent.

flat biscuits by Teckelcar
flat biscuits, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
As for the food, well it was all good, even the flat buttermilk biscuits. I *think* the scalded buttermilk was still too hot when I added the yeast and thusly killed the little buggers. Oops. The dough never really rose, but I gamely plowed on and baked them anyway. Turned out it was a good call, because the flat biscuits of doom actually tasted pretty good. I was afraid they would be like hard tack, but instead they were chewy and delicious. The kids even want them for breakfast tomorrow.

So I hope y'all had a tasty and fun Thanksgiving, I know we did flat biscuits and all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Artist of the Week: Map

Max by Teckelcar
Max, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This week's artist is Max. He is pictured here holding one of his many (and I do mean many) Lego creations. However, as I'm sure you have guessed, I'm not featuring his Lego build. Instead it is a map.

A map that was greatly admired by his older brothers.

Originally Max was going to draw all over his map. He likes to make battle scenes and then do a sort of live action narration as he draws the battles. Kind of like animation that is all done on the same page. From what I gathered Max showed the map to his brothers right before he was to draw the battle.

Max's map by Teckelcar
Max's map, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
And I'm glad he did.

Jacob and Nate told Max not to do another thing to his map, it was too cool to draw over. They convinced Max to bring the map to me so that I could scan it and print out a copy, which was a very nice thing for them to do.

And so here is Max's map, deemed to be cool by a 14 year old and a 16 year old.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Baking With Julia- Best-Ever Brownies

Hooray! I'm actually baking/posting on the official day!

Sort of, kind of. The picture will have to wait until tomorrow because I can't take a decent picture of a brownie indoors when it's dark out.

But! We have brownies! And that is always a good thing.

As always this is being done under the auspices of Baking with Julia via Tuesdays with Dorie and the host this time around is A Beautiful Mess.

These are very good brownies, nice and gooey with a fudge like texture, just what I like in a brownie. But best-ever, I don't know. They are wee a bit fussier to make than my regular brownies that have garnered me a first place ribbon at the county fair. A recipe,  mind you, I got off of the Baker's chocolate box. I'm not sure if I'll make these again, I'll have to see what my in house panel of judges thinks about them.

Oh and I almost forgot to add, I extended the baking time a good 10 minutes. I use an eight inch brownie pan vs the nine inch called for in the recipe, which gives me thicker brownies that need a bit more time to cook.
brownies by Teckelcar
brownies, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.

And here is the promised picture. The brownies along the edge of the pan were a bit more cake like, but move a bit more to the center and it's fudgey goodness.

Nobody has remarked about the brownies being any different, apart from one snarky boy who hasn't had one, but was reading whilst I type (heathen). I thing they are a touch saltier than the norm, but quite good. I'll stick with my tried and true, however it is nice to try alternatives.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Big Catch Animation

A silly little movie that is worth watching. The seagulls are what did it for me.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Project MCP: Veteran's Day

VA War Memorial by Teckelcar
VA War Memorial, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Last week's photo challenge was Veteran's Day, with an idea of documenting those who served and I truly planned on doing that last Sunday and/or Monday. But life intervened and I didn't get out as I intended. I did however find a wonderful tribute for my movie Mondays, so I wasn't a complete slacker.

This weekend I had at least one trip up in the Richmond area and I thought a trip to the Virginia War Memorial was in order. It wouldn't be as nice as it would have been on last Sunday, but I had the time blocked out and it was a half way decent day. I like cloudy days and there was a good breeze blowing to get the flags moving.

I tromped around taking pictures for a good 20 minutes. A bit more sunlight would have been nice, however the somber sky was the right note. The wind, on the other hand, was perfect. The memorial overlooks the James river and a good stiff breeze had the flags snapping. It was not a problem to get a shot with all eight flags in the picture unfurled. For those wondering, the flags are Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Merchant Marines, Virginia War Memorial, and the POW MIA in the middle of the arc created by the other seven flags (the US flag and the Commonwealth of Virginia's are located far off the frame to the left). To the left of the flags is the shine engraved with the names of fallen Virginians that also houses the statue Memory and the Torch of Liberty.

It is a lovely sight and I'm seriously contemplating coming back on Pearl Harbor Remembrance day, aka my birthday.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fighter Jet, Err Car

fighter car by Teckelcar
fighter car, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Cars for the most part are boring. Sometimes you get to see an exotic such as a Lotus, or antique like an old Chevy. License plates are a bit more interesting, but again nothing terribly dramatic. But every now and then you see a car that screams photograph me, and last Sunday I saw such a car.

What initially drew my eye was the ridiculous amount of stickers covering the back end. It was an unbelievable collage slapped willy-nilly and completely covering every surface, rear window included. As I walked around the car it got even better.

The owner had painted a shark mouth on both sides of the front end.

Wow.

I thought it was great and I had to take a picture. This ranks right up there with the yellow volksie I found last year. I wonder what oddity in the parking lot I'll find next.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Birthday Cookies

cookies by Teckelcar
cookies, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Meryl requested that this year instead of a cake she would like cookies for her birthday, specifically sugar cookies made the way she remembers.

They had to be large, about 4 inches across, a 1/4 inch thick, and smothered in nonpareils.

Done, done, and done.

I warned her that the cookies would have scalloped edges. I wasn't going to buy yet another cookie cutter when I could use one of my four inch tartelette pans. Meryl was fine with variation and in fact decided it looked very nice on the finished product.

I dropped off the cookies today on her birthday and they were a huge success. They were soft and just the right size. She told me I could have loaded on more nonpareils, but that changed after Meryl ate a cookie. I had completely nailed the cookie she was hankering.

Happy birthday Meryl, I'm glad I could bake you the treat you wanted.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Artist of the Week: Charming

John by Teckelcar
John, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This week's artist is John and surprisingly it is not for digging holes or eating dirt, his two most favorite activities.

This past weekend we had Rebecca's birthday festivities. She had a rather grown-up affair (at least for 10 and 11 year old girls) of a movie followed by a treat. Four of her good friends came out and I did the driving since Larry was off chaperoning and working at a marching band event.

I arranged for the girls to come to our house first since I wasn't sure which showing of "Wreck it Ralph" or for that matter which theater we would be attending. As the girls arrived in fairly rapid succession, they were delighted by our dogs. Normally I view Dell as the ambassador for the breed since he loves everyone, but he only lasted about 5 minutes. Apparently 5th grade girls overwhelm the poor dog, he ended up retreating to a few rooms away. John, meanwhile lapped it all up. He was happy to be the center of attention and didn't even mind being picked up.Heck he even tried to worm his way onto the van when we left for the movies.

When we got back he was very happy to be fussed over by the girls. At least two of them announced that they loved our dogs and wanted to get ones just like them. I think John as a very nice dog, but I never thought he could be a poster pup for dachshunds. In fact he is a real pain in the keister when around unfamiliar dogs, barking and leaping about. I guess he's just a people oriented kind of dog that loves the attentions of girls.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Baking With Julia- Buttermilk Crumb Muffins

buttermilk crumb muffins by Teckelcar
buttermilk crumb muffins, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Well a week late, but hey it is Tuesday and I baked something!

For the full recipe you can head on over to this week's host, easier than pie. If you want the whole Baking with Julie story you need to go over to Tuesdays With Dorie. Okay now that I have gotten that out of the way let's get down to brass tacks.

I really like the simplicity of this recipe, no mixers are used, just your fingers, a fork, and a spoon. They knocked together very quickly and I was eating them an hour after I started, a big plus in a household with two teenage boys. They are a bit sweet for my tastes (mind I am still happily eating them), but the overall flavor is wonderful. They are like a very simple coffee cake with a nice soft texture. My only problem was that if I hadn't fully greased a well in my muffin tin the muffin would stick, I used two forks to run around the edges and pull them out. I think this recipe is worth revisiting.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Zoom

zoom by Teckelcar
zoom, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Happy birthday to my kid in perpetual motion.

You are smart, funny, kind, a huge worry-wart, and the most active child of a very active brood. You really can not sit still, which makes this picture Rebecca took of you so very, very appropriate.

14 years ago you barreled into our lives, happy birthday Nate.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Project MCP: Low Light

low light by Teckelcar
low light, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
With the shorter days and the sun hanging lower on the horizon, this week's Project MCP challenge was low light.

I took this picture of John this morning. I saw him napping in a patch of sun and realized this was my picture. I was able to fetch my camera without to much disturbance and fire off a few shots from a discrete distance.

When I took this particular photo I knew this was the one. The focus is a bit off, but the composition more than makes up for the slight blur around John's head. Other than a bit of sharping, this is what I saw in the viewfinder. No cropping or fooling around with the contrast. I'm rather pleased how the picture came out.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Artist of the Week: Superior

At Attention by Teckelcar
At Attention, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This week's artist is Jake, or Jacob as he prefers to be called now, and his high school marching band. After a few years of a dry spell they earned the much desired "superior" rating at the state level assessment, which is a very big deal.

The band has been working very hard and this is the best show I have seen. During their first assessment this year they just missed the superior rating by half a point. Inspired, the band redoubled their efforts and were able to pull it off at their last competition of the year.

It's been a good year for the marching band and if they are able to garner another superior rating with orchestra this winter they will be a State of Virginia Honor Band. So keep of the good work, you have done something to brag about.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Go Vote

I voted by Teckelcar
I voted, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Well I've done my civic duty.There was an actual line thus year and I was voter 1,100 and something, a new record for me. Normally the voter total is much lower when I meander out mid morning.

So go and vote. I don't care who you vote for, just do it.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The God by Konstantin Bronzit

Wonderful animation of an all too familiar situation. I found this over on Films Short and in the brief film write up we learn it was created in 2004 by a Russian animator who later on created an Oscar nominated film in 2009.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Whose Bed?

Whose Bed by Teckelcar
Whose Bed, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Nate has been wanting the dogs to sleep with him for quite some time, a few months ago we relented.

I'm still not overly thrilled, at some point something will get chewed, but there has been an unexpected bonus. Max is more inclined to stay in bed when the dogs are in the room with him (he and Nate share a room).

As you can see the dogs are usually with Nate. I got this picture in the morning when Nate was sleeping in. The dogs had been fed and let out and had returned to their favored sleeping spot. Poor Nate has barely any room on the bed. That, however, is the price you pay when the dogs are on your bed.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Cold

Cold by Teckelcar
Cold, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
The temperature has taken quite a dip lately and it has been downright cold the past few mornings. It is supposed to be warming up, but I don't know. Either way the warm weather is clearly over.

And I like that.