Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 29, 2011 - Cooking With Fire

We hardly ever grill. We just don't eat that much meat anyway and most of that isn't the of the "throw is on the grill" variety. No steaks, no pork chops, no chicken slathered in juicy herbs and honey-based goo. We're more of the ground-turkey-for-taco-salad and deli-sliced chicken and turkey folks. Sure, I'll eat red meat or chicken off the bone if it's offered, but around the house, not so much. But hey, it's Memorial Day weekend and well, everybody else is doing it. So we warmed up some chicken franks and turkey sausage on the tiny grill and, for karmic balance, some Boca burgers too.

There was a piece on NPR just this past week about grilling burgers and they talked about cooking an egg inside a green bell pepper. I knew I had to try this when I heard about it. Quite good. The thing is to not be concerned with the blackening of the bottom of the pepper- it's only the outer-most part of the skin that gets burned. The egg was cooked all the way through and the smokey flavor of the grill works it's way into the mix. 

Here's the egg-pepper and some onions that we were pre-cooking for the pizza.

The pizza was Esther's idea. The first one was a little burnt-ish on the bottom but the second one was much less so. Instead of pepperoni she used slicked turkey sausage which really worked well with the smoke and the grillyness of the whole thing. 

Couple more pictures can be found here, including Esther in her pointy hat and Kuma playing dead.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 28, 2011 - Adventure Science Center

The day started off early (as I suppose most days do) and we were out of house at 6:30 and on our way to Nashville. Nothing too terribly eventful occurred on the way up, but we did get to see the hot-air balloons floating northward from Decatur as part of the Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Classic.

For geocachers that have wondered, this is part of the inspiration for the Alabama State Souvenir that you are awarded for finding a geocache anywhere in Alabama. 

After a couple of hours of interstate driving we arrived at the Adventure Science Center and congregated near the entrance with the crowd of other geocachers. There was a quick introductory speech from both a representative of the Center and Jeremy Irish, the founder and Chief Executive hamster wrangler at Groundspeak, the folks that keep up and running.

Also present were about a bagillion cicadas. For those of you that think the cicadas are thick in the Huntsville area, you need only visit Nashville to gain some perspective. About every fourth cacher waiting in line at the entrance had a cicada along for the ride. Here's one that was hanging out on Chan's finger.

Once inside we wandered over to the GPS Adventures Maze Exhibit. The maze is set up to teach you about the hobby of geocaching as well as the science behind the satellites that allow us to use our hand-held and car GPS units. At the entrance to the maze you are given a card with the four different themes of the maze on its corners. There are four corresponding rooms hidden in the maze that each contain a puzzle for you to solve in order to gain access to a stamping device that will allow you to stamp a number on the matching corner of the card. Confused? It was much better explained at the exhibit. Once you have solved the puzzles and collected your stamp you can find actual GPS coordinates that match your card based on the color of the card, a compass "code" (ours was SW) and the arrangement of the four numbers on your card. From these coordinates you find a city on a map. You can then check your work and see if you identified the correct city. For the record, ours was Karachi.

The maze itself was very well put together and has weathered being moved across the country very well. With the exception of one of the puzzles we were able to make sense of them and figure them out. Luckily for us there is an optional "spoiler" panel on the locked doors to the stamp room that will give you the code you need to progress. 

Here's Jake outside one of the locked stamp rooms. Throughout the maze there were facts and examples of GPS units, tidbits about the history of geocaching, and interactive displays about things like backpack selection.

One of the rooms had a display of several Trackables, including Travel Bugs and Geocoins. (All the ones in the display were unactivated and not trackable... I checked.)

After running the maze we took some time to re-visit the rest of the Center. When we lived in the Nashville area we had a membership and would come here all the time, but it's been about seven years since I've been and at least a year for most of the kids. Some of the installations were familiar but most of the updates were new to me. Among them, "Body Battle" that the kids wanted to head to first. It's a "point your laser gun at various targets" sort of thing. The participants are split into two teams- one fighting for the immune system and the other on the side of the pathogens.

We played around on a few things here and there. Most of it targeted towards kids much younger than mine, but we still had fun. They have a "moon walk" low-gravity simulation rig that the kids were pretty excited about. Chan and Ben were up first...

...followed by Jake and me. Chan took some pictures of us on the rig itself, but here is Jake being suited up by the cute attendant girl.

I'm actually a little glad that I don't have any pictures of me in the rig. It was snug in places that I generally don't like to be snug in. There was a small flock of snickering mommies that had been amused by one of the dads that went up in the air before me, so I made a conscious effort to turn away from them when I was jerked up by the crotch loops. Yeeouch.

One thing that we all wanted to do was climb to the top of the Pinnacle- the very top of the central structure in the Center. Here are the kids at the very tippy-top, towering above everybody in the building.

You can see the Batman building from here!

The view looking back down the tower.

Before leaving we had to do one more thing. MINDBALL. Father vs. son in a battle of BRAIN POWER. You strap on the headbands that are equipped with contact points and supposedly you can make a little ball move across the table by increasing your brain waves. After a couple of matches with Jake (that I refuse to acknowledge as valid) we spent about ten minutes trying to out Professor X each other. It doesn't look like much in this picture, but I assure you, there's a battle going on here. A battle of MINDS.

Chan and Ben duked it out as well. Here we see Chan nearing an unconscious zen-state. Or possibly just falling asleep.

We left the Science Center and walked through Fort Negley next door. For some reason we had never visited the fort while we lived here. Also there were two geocaches hidden on the grounds.

If the cicadas were turned up to "10" at the Science Center, they were on "11" at the fort. We found the two caches and left while our senses were still intact.

Next stop, KO's Pizza. This is a pizza place/greek deli that we used to eat at two or three times a week when we lived in Lebanon. Omar's pizza and gyros are two of the five things we miss most about living in this area. Seven years since we last met and Omar recognized when I came through the door. The four of us split a large pepperoni pizza and I grabbed a falafel to go for "Boss Lady".

One last sight from our Tennessee years as we drove down the 840 towards home. The Castell Gwynn in Triune.

A ton more pictures (Wildflowers! Names not known!) of our day can be found here. Have a look.

Friday, May 27, 2011

People Blog About Me- I'm Cool Like That

My wonderful, smart, sexy and downright sassy wife posted in her blog about the great chainsawing event of last weekend. I was sore for days. The day started off all "MWA HAHA I will cut you to pieces tree limb! Mine is an evil laugh!!!" and ended up all "I think I broke something important in my body place."

Also, my co-worker, the also-but-not-as-much-as-my-wife smart and sassy, Nat made a brief mention of me in her blog post during an exciting tour of her cubicle. I was on the edge of my chair. Then I fell off. It hurt. It's okay, I'm better now.

There should be some blogification happening this week after I return from a trip to the Adventure Science Center in Nashville. Why would I be going there? To visit the GPS Adventures exhibit of course! Not only is it a cool indoor maze (fun for the whole family!) but it is a Geocaching Event sponsored by Groundspeak, the people that make possible (with a little help from the gabillion people world-wide that hide and seek geocaches, of course.)

I'm taking all three kids with me... brief pause... without the supervision of my uber-hot, brilliant, loving wife of fourteen years! Yes, I know, a married man let loose in the wild with no wife to guide him and keep him from tripping over random objects on the ground or spending our life savings on Transformer toys, video games and new shoes, it's a bit much to take in. Will I remember to feed them and change their diapers? How will I tell if they require fresh bedding and kibble? Just how many holes should I punch into their crates to insure they receive enough oxygen? How will I know their leashes and collars are properly fitted so that I can maintain both control and comfort?

Worry, not dear readers. I'm quite certain that there is an app for that. Technology saves the day!

No pictures today. Check back later!

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 16, 2011 – Left to my Own Devices

I left the campgrounds and the rest of my family behind on Sunday night. I spent the next five days coming home to an empty house. The good news: my elf ranger is approaching level eight. The bad news: I've been sleeping all alone in The Big Bed and the house makes strange noises at night.

On Monday I took the long way home to grab a geocache and discovered, accidentally, a trail that was unknown to me. Everybody that I know from high school will remember Yellow Bluff (some of you for entirely different reasons that involve french fries...) that overlooked the school from the northeast. The “Southeastern Climbers Coalition” has purchased the land under the bluff and maintains a trail that runs along its base.

These are all the pictures that I took, but feel free to click and view them again here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Burchfield Branch Park – Sunday

After a night of warm-snuggles interrupted by coughing fits and clogged nose holes, we awoke reluctantly to do... nothing in particular. Planned activities included: something, random picture taking, something else, something maybe with flowers, probably sleeping in and eating while fighting the urge to nap.

Ben found the ski mask (something he had requested to protect him from air-soft pellets) and quickly put it to use. He reported back that it was perfect for keeping his face warm while scootering around. 


At some point Jake and That Other Amos Kid engaged each other in a duel to the death with found implements of destruction (sticks). Jake is unmatched in his encyclopedic knowledge of video game fighting moves that don't actually work in the real world. 


There was the “Trip” maneuver from Dungeons & Dragons Online as well as several double-saber twirls from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. That Other Kid never had a chance.

Oh yeah, I mentioned the architecture of the camping area last update. At least I think I did. Anyway, I love the lighting on the bridges. If I was to be asked to build a death-match level RIGHT NOW I'd be using these lights on this stone, right here:

I realize that some of you have no idea what I'm talking about. Those that do, I want you to know that I love you deeply.

Here are some more shots of the layout and the bridges and whatnot. I really like the way they tend to sandwich the paved roads and trails on either side of the camper pads. In most cases you can take the trail and avoid the traffic on your way to the bath-house. Esther finds the bench on the one trail below funny. It's roughly a 60' trail, but there the bench just in case your old tired butt needs a rest.

Esther and I did take a nice walk while the kids did whatever it was they were doing (more on that later) and snapped off several pictures of the wildflowers that grow on the other side of the road from the swim beach. Do I know any of the names of these flowers? Hell no.

Okay, I lied. This is milkweed. Why is that cool? Because these are monarch caterpillars feasting the milkweed. There was only a single milkweed plant in the whole half-acre patch of wildflowers and it was feeding these two fat dudes. Esther noticed them because she is cool and made of awesome. Obligatory “OMNOMNOM” here. (That little sweat-bee on the flowers has nothing to do with the caterpillars. He's just riding the coat-tails of their coolness.)

On our way back to discovering what the kids were up to (almost there) we saw another first- broadleaf magnolia flowers. Why is that cool? Because BLMs were around when dinosaurs roamed the earth. They are ancient plants. Thunder-lizards sniffed these flowers, can you dig it? Sadly the blooms were too high up to sniff ourselves. Dinosaurs have all the fun.

Thanks for reading this post... what? What where the kids doing? Playing Texas Hold 'Em. 


Playing like crooked, lying, thieving, cheating, card sharks trying to win back their souls from the devil.

All the other pictures (MORE FLOWERS!) can be found here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Burchfield Branch Park – Saturday

The hiking and tent-camping last month was fun, but Esther organized a larger group camp for our and a handful of other families at Burchfield Branch, which is either on Holt Lake or Bankhead Lake depending what map you look at.

For the Group camp, our beloved “Poppy” was prepped days in advance and hauled behind the van. Esther is very fond of Poppy. It makes her happy in ways that only chocolate and fuzzy kittens can.

We were the first on the scene, a loop of sites at the end of a wooded paved road. Burchfield has done a fantastic job of keeping the camper sites well secluded in the canopy and tucked into the trees. The road winds slightly between to extremely steep hillsides (cliffs at the upper reaches) and is perpetually in shade and diffused lighting. The bridges are built the way that I'd build bridges and lit in a way that appeals to the video game level designer in me (more on that later).

While we waited for the second and third family to arrive Ben was given his bi-annual shearing.

The day was mostly spent lounging... Okay, I took an hour nap. Most of my day was spent lounging. (I didn't get much real sleep the night before, see previous post.) Esther will no doubt publish the picture she took of me tucked under a blanket in the camping chair with my hat pulled over my eyes. When I awoke, as if my magic, our other arrivals were setting up their tents and camper.

Hot dogs were roasted after dark with by the MAN fire. A fire. Built by MEN.

A few other pics from the day can be found here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday the 13th Gig at Hard Dock Cafe

I was called late April to play a gig with three other guys that I've played with before due to another drummer's political incompatibility issues. There would be a fourth guy, that I've never met and he would be unable to attend any practices. No problem, we'd just do all the practicing with the four of us we could and make it work at the gig.

Then the storms at the end of April and most of us were without power or were either working overtime (to get power back up) or not working at all. So there would be less time to go over the songs before the show.

No problem. Three night should do it. Most the songs I'd played before. Then the singer caught mono. Three night turned into two nights. The three of us still healthy and able to attend spent the first night running through the new stuff and re-hashing some of the old stuff while the bass player made frantic calls to ex-girl friends of singers and sent friend invitations on various social networking sites to try and land a replacement. A possible candidate called back, a female vocalist, but there was a scheduling conflict. We adjourned with no definitive solution.

Sometime before night #2 a singer had been contacted but he would not be able to play through any of the songs before the show. 


And that's how my Friday the 13th gig started. I met the other guitarist and singer about two hours before the first song. Some renditions were honestly brilliant other had rough spots but we made it through and mostly stopped and started at the same time. I know the mistakes that I made and I've forgotten the ones the other guys might have made, but overall, it was a good night of playing music to a very responsive crowd- which is all anybody can ever ask for.

A couple of other pics available here.