Thursday, January 31, 2013

Meet Mr Shoesly

Mr Shoesly by Teckelcar
Mr Shoesly, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This is Mr. Shoesly (pronounced shoes-lee) and he is currently living in our freezer.

Max made him about a week ago from our last snow storm. Since it was well known that warmer weather was on it's way, we're talking mid 70s, Max asked if Mr. Shoesly could live in the freezer. Obviously the answer was yes and he has been there ever since.

He doesn't take up much room and doesn't leave any sort of mess now that he is rock hard from freezing solid. I'm not sure how long we will have him, but as long as we have room, he is welcome to stay.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Artist of the Week: Lumberjack Larry

Lumberjack Larry by Teckelcar
Lumberjack Larry, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
My husband is this week's artist for getting the job done.

Last month Larry decided to do something about the holly tree next to the house. It was too close to the house and was blocking the light in his office. He hauled out his chainsaw, cleaned it off , and got it ready for action. A short while later we had one less holly tree and a whole lot of light in the front room.

I do a fair amount of tinkering in the house, plumbing and what not, but the chainsaw is wholly his domain. Honestly I am a bit scared of the dang thing and I'm glad he is able to handle it so well. Larry neatly cut down the stump, you can just see it under his left foot, and hauled away the tree. The chainsaw was then tucked away until the next time something needs to be cut up.

It really is amazing how much brighter the room is without the tree blocking the window. My man of action is a lumberjack and he's more than okay.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Grateful

Today I am very grateful for my van.

 It had a breakdown today while I was out and about taking Max to one of the specialists he sees. And it wasn't a little "Ooo what's that odd sound, maybe I should take it in." No, it was a full on grinding clunk of a noise as I hit the accelerator to go through the green light. Shocked by the horrific din I pulled my foot off the gas and threw it into neutral. The engine sounded fine. I tried putting it into drive and the second I took my foot off the brake the din returned.

Nuts.

I coasted back down the incline I was on, snugged the car against the curb, and hit the flashers. The van was clearly dead in the water. It is nine years old with 186,000 miles, so I am not completely shocked that something has gone wrong. I called up Allstate for a tow and was able to garner Max a ride back to school with Meryl. The tow was promised to arrive at noon and I just had to sit and wait.

Now why am I grateful?

The van decided to break on the one nice day we have had so far, it wasn't raining, sleeting, nor snowing.
I did not make it out of the quiet side street and onto the extremely busy road that was, due to road work, narrowed from four lanes down to two.
It broke after Max's appointment while I was leaving to take Max to school.
The whole mess happened during normal business hours.
The tow guy was able to pick me up at 11:30 am.
And the best part, it wasn't the transmission. Just the the cv axle, a far cheaper part to replace.

I was back on the road in a few hours. Thank you trusty van for taking care of us.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ode to Avalanche

In honor of the actual winter weather we have had this past week I present an Ode to Avalanche.

There is a whole science to avalanche control, enabling ski resort areas to determine if conditions are right for an avalanche and trigger them in a controlled fashion preventing, hopefully, accidental deaths when a skier happens upon conditions ripe for an avalanche. An added bonus is that a controlled triggering also enables them to be captured on film. Mind you an avalanche is still an incredibly destructive and powerful force regardless to what caused it.



Originally I found this over on SnagFilms, but the embedding options are awful. With a bit of poking about I found the Ken Bailey's (the director) YouTube channel and was able to embed the film the way I want.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter Roses

Roses by Teckelcar
Roses, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
You know I just can't get over the fact that roses can, and do, bloom in the winter around here. I'm used to New England winters, after the first frost nothing blooms until spring.

I found these little beauties in the sheltered alley behind the Synagogue that holds our Sunday school. The picture is from last weekend when it was still mild. Since then the temperature has dropped and I seriously doubt the blooms are still around. It'll be interesting to see how they fair when I'm next up there. We car pool with another family so sometimes it can be quite a gap between my turn to drive. In all likelihood they will recover over the course of next week when the temperatures rebound to the sixties.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snow Again!

Snow Again! by Teckelcar
Snow Again!, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
So more snow today with the added bonus of a surprise two hour early dismissal from school. The school system was so concerned that parents needed to be contacted that they called every contact number listed in the students' files. As a result my mother in law in Connecticut and Meryl got called along with our home phone and my cell.

Wow.

Turns out it was a good call because the roads were vile right around when the elementary kids would be going home on a normal day.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Soup Weather

matzoh ball soup by Teckelcar
matzoh ball soup, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Winter has finally arrived with a vengeance. The 60+ degree weather is over for now. It has been dipping well below freezing and we have had the snow flurries to prove it.

I made this soup Wednesday, Rebecca has pestered me for some time to make matzoh ball soup and I had a couple of picked over roasted chicken carcasses in the freezer. I knew that Wednesday was going to be crazy and dinner would be easy with soup. People could serve themselves at their convenience.

It turned out to be a very good call.

Rebeca's soccer practice was canceled but Jacob had a basketball game to attend with pep band. Meanwhile home network was giving me fits. We switched our phone over to voip and it turned out our router was not up to the job. I spent a long time on my cell phone with a technical specialist to find out why the phone did not work. The oddest part was when I did get the right person on the phone he started our conversation in French.

Huh!?

Somewhere along the line he was told I spoke French. Which I found to be extremely funny. I bagged French after my freshman year in high school and never looked back. I can read very basic French, but that's it. The spoken language is beyond me. Fortunately he spoke perfect English and was able to suss out the likely culprit.

One quick trip to Walmart later I had a brand new router that is able to play nicely with our new phone system.

As for the soup, it came out mighty tasty. I used leeks instead of onions and that turned out to be an excellent idea.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

French Apple Tart

French Apple Tart by Teckelcar
French Apple Tart, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This week's Baking with Julia challenge was a French Apple Tart, For the full recipe head on over to Laws of the Kitchen or, better yet, get the book (oh look, it's on sale now).

Now I already make a mean tarte tatin, so the whole apple tart thing was not that far off the beaten path for me. The big challenge was that this is a far more elegant dessert in presentation. I was a bit daunted by all the slicing I needed to do, but it turned out to fairly easy.

I really liked the whole thing, the crust was very delicate and the apples were nice and tart. The soft creamy filling contrasted nicely with the slices on top. I think the only thing I'll do differently next time, and there will be a next time, is to cook it a bit longer.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tilt Shift Madness

tilt-shift John by Teckelcar
tilt-shift John, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
I am very enamored of the miniaturization setting on my camera. It is such a fun setting and I really like the results. I know at some point I will tire of it, but for now it's the best thing ever.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Of Snowmen and Castles

snowman by Teckelcar
snowman, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Two and a half inches was all we got, but that was enough to make a snowman. It was very wet and heavy snow, perfect for making snowballs and snowmen.

Rebecca was up and out early to enjoy the snow. She has learned that the snow never lasts and this no snow was no different. By the end of the day most of the snow was gone and her snowman collapsed. Mind you having to male dogs did not help the snowman one whit.

Max made much smaller snowmen that he had hidden under the bushes. He figured they might last longer if he kept them out of the sun, he even went as far as to a make a wall around them. I'll have to take a look tomorrow to see how well that idea works.

miniature castle by Teckelcar
miniature castle, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Meanwhile I discovered the neatest feature on my camera. My beloved Finepix bit the dust when I dropped it with the lens out. I ended up finding a cheap replacement on Amazon with the pre-Christmas sales.It's a A1300HD. The camera isn't nearly as sophisticated as my old one and I have been a little bit disappointed as I learn its limitations, but it is a good point and shoot plus it does a miniature effect ie tilt shift.

I have been enamored of the tilt shift technique and I am so very happy that I can do it. I think it is one of the most fun photographic manipulations out there. I think the castle truly looks like a miniature scale model. I'll try not to overload on this gimmick, but don't hold me to this. It is just plain fun and it makes me smile.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

First Snow

first snow by Teckelcar
first snow, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
For once all of the breathless anticipation on the weather forecast panned out. The original forecast called for a transition at around 6 pm to snow and lo and behold we had snow before 6:30.

The kids are besides themselves with excitement and keep asking if school has been cancelled. The county hasn't called it, but I predict at least a two hour delay. I kept checking the school board's website (along with every other parent in the area) and get greeted by a stripped down website apologizing for the lack of content due to the exceptionally high demand on the servers.

I just hope they make the call soon and thus avoid the 6 am phone blast to announce any delay or closing.

Ha! The school board just called it- no school tomorrow! I posted this and not 10 minutes later I got the phone call.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Artist of the Week: Gingerbread Houses

Rebecca by Teckelcar
Rebecca, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Last year I featured a  picture of Max making a gingerbread house at school for the tradition" challenge. I always meant to show the finished products, but then I got side tracked. To rectify that oversight Max and Rebecca are this week's artists for gingerbread houses.

Technically they did not make gingerbread houses, instead of gingerbread, graham crackers glued onto milk cartons were the base. You can see what the blank houses look like in the portraits I took of Max and Rebecca. I almost didn't take any pictures that day, I had left my camera at home and it took me a moment to remember that my cell phone could work in a pinch as a very basic point and shoot camera.

Max by Teckelcar
Max, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
As you can see each child was issued a house, an ice cream cone, and a snowman marshmallow Peep all on a small foam tray. A cup of icing with a plastic knife and a boatload of candy rounded out the decorating supplies. The kids were left to their own devices, the parents were there to keep them supplied with candy and hunt down any special requests like green sprinkles.

The kids took it pretty seriously. Oh there was plenty of snacking on the supplies and chatting, but they all worked hard on their houses.Houses that were as individualistic as the kids that made them.

Rebecca's house by Teckelcar
Rebecca's house, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Rebecca's house was very neatly done. She is experienced in working with frosting and was not afraid to pile it on. She kept her design very clean and simple. It's hard to see, but there is a very thick layer of frosting on the tray. She wanted a snowy yard for her ice cream cone tree and snowman. Necco wafers were used as roof tiles and to give the snowman a rounder top hat.

She was very happy with her house and as a result Rebecca has had a hard time  nibbling on any of the candy. Ultimately we'll have to toss the mess, but for now her house is relatively intact.

Max's house by Teckelcar
Max's house, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Max, on the other hand, had a far more splash-dash approach. He didn't care for the frosting and tried to use as little as possible.I think it is a combination of not liking the taste and not wanting his hands to get all sticky. The candy was fairly easy to knock off. The original plan by the organizers was to have the students carefully bag their houses in plastic for the bus ride home. I tried to slip it in the bag, but it was pretty obvious that the candy would get knocked off while squeezing in the house. So I told Max to skip the bag, I would just bring his house home in the car.

I think Max was only mildly interested in the project. However, he did enjoy picking off some of the candy once he was home and using the tree as an ice cream cone for his after school snack.

It was a fun project and a nice activity for the last day of school before winter break.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Wishful Thinking

snowfall by Teckelcar
snowfall, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
For the past few it has been nothing but rain, rain, rain.

I'm sick of the never ending gloomy weather and the complete lack of sunshine. It was fine when I was sick with the flu last week, I retreated to bed and didn't give a flying fig about the weather. But due to the miracle of modern medicine, aka Tamiflu (the best drug EVER), I'm fine now. I want sunshine to go with the warm weather of the past few days, not buckets of rain.

The sad thing is I just can't help thinking about how much snow we could have if the temperature dipped south of freezing, at least 7 inches of the white stuff. But noooo, it has been at least mid-forties  with forays into the 60s. Larry says the latest forecasts predict a few inches of snow later this week.I'm hoping it is not just wishful thinking.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Legend of the Scarecrow

Written and directed by Marco Besas and animated by Carlos Lascano, this Spanish language short film details the moving and rather sad legend of a scarecrow. It is an interesting mix of animation styles and well worth watching. Nate got drawn in as I was watching and agreed that it is an excellent little film.

I do have to warn that the subtitles are less than perfect.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Shoot Me: MCP Window Light

Early morning light by Teckelcar
Early morning light, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
New year, new photo group.

It's basically the same group, but now it has migrated over to Facebook.  I like the weekly challenge format and hopefully it will be kept up.

The challenge this week was "Window Light," a commodity that is pretty hard to come by with all the gloomy weather we have had this week. Luckily I learned of the challenge early on the one sunny day we had this week. I looked up and saw my daughter in a strip of early morning sunshine and asked to take her picture. Half an hour later the sunlight was gone.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Artist of the Week: Crafty Greetings

Card by Teckelcar
Card, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
I love sending out and receiving holiday cards. I put a fair amount of effort in getting the right style of card and taking the annual picture. I think my favorite part is taking the big stack of cards and mailing them off at the post office. I get a big kick out of the handful of international addresses I send to each year. Two are friends I made while working at a lab in Wisconsin.

One family is from Australia and for years they told me not to bother. They do enjoy the card, but they think it is absurd to send a card halfway around the world. I, on the other hand, can think of no better reason.

The other family was originally from Switzerland and now they live in Wales. Pascale is getting the shout out this week because every year she sends out her own handmade cards. They are always lovely to look at and I feel very special when it arrives in the mail.

This year she really knocked herself out with an embroidered card. It took me a moment to realize she had sew the design on the card. Then I noticed that the design was composed of six pointed stars, the Star of David.

Normally her cards have a sort of Victorian Christmas theme. She knows we are Jewish and I'm very touched that she choose to recognize this in the card she sent this year. Her cards are always beautiful, but this one is very special.

Thank you Pascale, my your new year be merry and bright!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Baking With Julia- Pizza with Onion Confit

Pizza with Onion Confit by Teckelcar
Pizza with Onion Confit, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This week's assignment from Baking with Julia was a twofer, Pizza and Onion Confit. For a full rundown on the recipes, go check out The Boy Can Bake.

I'll start with the pizza dough first. The ingredients are pretty much the same as my normal dough, recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour. However there is a major difference, with King Arthur there is only one rise with BWJ there are two separate rises. The resulting crusts were different with BWJ having a smidgen more taste and a bit more chew. This falls in line with the extra rise, flavors have a longer time to develop and the enzymes get to work their magic on the structure of the dough. The new dough is worth repeating, but only if I have the time.

Now for the confit.

I was happily tossing onions into the pan, letting them soften, and rounding up ingredients when  I realized I was missing Thyme. I seriously thought I had some, but I was very wrong. I was then stuck with having to improvise. After rummaging around my spices for a good ten minutes I found a container of Greek Olive Spice Larry had brought home from Canada. Since I was planning on using Feta cheese I decided to toss it in. It smelt good, so how bad could it be? Turns out that was a very good idea.

The resulting confit was delicious, I kept sampling forkfuls as it cooled down. Just for the confit alone this recipe was a success. I heaped the onions on the pizza dough, added some thinly sliced tomato, and topped it all with crumbled Feta cheese. The finished pizza was amazing. The kids avoided the onions on their pizzas, though Jacob did try a bite of my pizza and was immediately won over. I loved the confit with the other toppings and didn't miss the red sauce one bit. I will absolutely be making this again.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Suburban Graffiti

fork by Teckelcar
fork, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Or when middle class kids go crazy.

Yesterday while heading out on some errand or other I noticed a large amount of plastic-ware jammed in the ground by the entrance to my subdivisions pool and tennis courts.Intriguing as it was, I didn't have time to stop and take a good look. That would have to wait until thge next day.

This morning on the dog walk I did have time to stop and try to suss it all out. After a few moments it hit me, only forks were used. Ah, it spells out FoRK. Admittedly the F looks a bit more like a P and the O is tiny with all of the forks placed  tine end into the ground. My guess is that it was done hurriedly in the night by more than one teen. The end result I find to be very funny. The only way to improve it would be to have the forks spell out spoon.

It'll be interesting to see how long it lasts.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Chocolate Cheesecake

Chocolate cheesecake by Teckelcar
Chocolate cheesecake, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
At this rate I'm seriously at risk turning my blog into a food blog, but... I had to share this picture.

It's from New Year's Eve and is the dessert I made for us to enjoy. I have posted about this before, way back in 2007. It was just as good now as it was then. This time I was a bit more successful in drizzling the chocolate on top. There was only one other difference and that was in the crust.

Last time I made an Oreo cookie crumb crust. Alas I can no longer get Oreo cookie crumbs, curse you Nabisco for no longer selling them to the general public. So I used an almond flavored Italian waffle cookie, pizelles, instead. There is something magical about the combination of almonds and chocolate and these cookies did not disappoint.Nate and Max did not care for it, but the rest of us thought it was fantastic. It didn't last very long and there were sad faces after it was all eaten up.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Important Stuff

Today was a day spent writing letters.

Discussing said letters with my husband.

Hand delivering the same letters, and having a long chat with the recipient of the letters. 

A cake was baked to ease the whole process along, because, as my mother said, "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." I was told that the cake really wasn't necessary, but I could see it was very much appreciated.

Much  later I was told that the letters were personally delivered to the next person in the chain.

I won't know until next month what the outcome will be, but I got the ball rolling in the right direction and I know I have a whole office on my side. Plus, I write excellent letters and I can bake some seriously good cake.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Artist of the Week: Skeleton

waffle boy by Teckelcar
waffle boy, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This week it is Max's turn to be the featured artist.

I got this picture of Max last year as he was enjoying his very first waffle from his waffle maker. Since then he has had waffles more often than not, though usually it is just a half waffle. His siblings have been very much enjoying the bounty on the days Max decides to have waffles. This was clearly one of the best presents ever.

Anyway, let's move onto the reason Max is being featured.

Before winter break Max came home with a variety of school papers. Most of it was junk, various work sheets that were destined for the recycle bin. Amongst all the dross were a few bright bits that I set aside. One of which was a writing project that he did around Halloween.

Skeleton by Teckelcar
Skeleton, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
An articulated cut out of a skeleton is attached to the following story:

Click I woke up,I felt different. When I moved I heard clicks. So when I got up I noticed my hand was just bones. Soon I realised I was a skeleton! Aaahh I screamed. I remembered that I died fighting a monster in the forest. Well. I would of won if it wasn't for its tail it felt like being hit by a horse.

It would of been a terible life as a skeleton. A smart thing to do is to jump into a lava pit. Fortunately I found my sword and shield, also the monster lives near a lava pit. Conviently I died near where the monster lives. Also I could see the cave it sleeps in.

Raaaa I heard a roar, thth there was rustling, I prepared. 12 deer jump out. Bang the monster jumped out and hit my shield. Shing I cut its tail off. I hit with my shield. Chomp it bit my arm off that was holding my shield.! Owww I screamed, it felt like hot lava burning my arm! Hu I tackled the monster into the lava pit.

In the last few seconds I thought it was good I came back to life. Quickly I jumped to cling on a root, so I can think was that all I came back for? It's not worth finding out I thought. Snap I, well I might as well join my friends.

I copied it word for word, rocky spelling and punctuation intact. I think it is a good story for someone who regularly announces that they hate writing, it is fun and inventive. I'm particularly proud of the fact that he used its and it's correctly. No mean feat in this modern age.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Baking With Julia- Cranberry-Pecan Pumpkin Loaves

Friday I made Cranberry-Pecan Pumpkin bread to bring to services the next morning. I've been meaning to make this bread for months, it was the October 1st Baking with Julia challenge, but I had a hard time finding time to make it. It requires an overnight rise and I kept forgetting about how much time it would take when I found a good event to bring the bread.

Technically it should be walnut and not pecans in the bread, but pecans are what I had on hand. Oh and I blew off the raisins because I don't like them and refuse to use them if I'm going to eat the finished product, I just bumped up the cranberries to a full cup. For the full recipe head over to This Bountiful Backyard, she made a proper Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Loaves.

It was a fairly easy bread to make, it just is time consuming. I started early in the morning and I was just able to finish it before bed. The bread smelled lovely as it was baking and was quite tasty the next day. Next time I think I'll add a bit more spice to the dough, it was just a bit on the bland side. I think a little candied ginger would do wonders for this bread.