Friday, November 9, 2007

CollegeGirl rocks out with Carbon Leaf!

Okay ... this concert took place weeks ago but I just heard about this.

Carbon Leaf played at William and Mary in the beautiful and recently revitalized Lake Motoaka Amphitheater. CollegeGirl and her friends had been dancing up front during the opening act and a photographer from the W&M News wanted a picture of a student on stage with Carbon Leaf. CollegeGirl happened to be wearing a W&M shirt so he asked her to come up.

So, as you can see from this picture, CollegeGirl got to get up on the stage (with a microphone?) and rock out with lead singer Barry Privett. Now you have to understand that CollegeGirl is a huge, huge Carbon Leaf fan and if you were to glance at her list of Top Ten Things That I would Like to Do Before I Die But Never Will Because They're Too Outrageous, "dancing on the stage with Carbon Leaf" would probably fall around #3 just below "Winning The Amazing Race" but just above "Swimming with Dolphins" ... but only if swimming with dolphins ended up being a task on The Amazing Race.

I remember college being fun but I don't think I had as much fun as she's having. I'm not sure anyone has.

Going to our first Springers football game ... NOT!

We spent four years going to JR Tucker HS football games when CollegeGirl was attending and those four years were pretty miserable. However, I have been enjoying watching the phenomenal progress of OlderSon's Highland Springs HS as they march towards an undefeated season. Unfortunately, we haven't made it to a single game all season.

So it was with great excitement that we got all our gear together and headed off for the regular season finale with arch-rival Varina which is the closest high school to HSHS. Whoever won the game would win the Capital District championship. We made the 25 mile drive across town and pulled up to the parking lot only to see it blocked by several police cars. The marquee by the road read "Game Sold Out."

Something else we never had to worry about at Tucker.

So we turned the car around, found the game on the radio, and listened to it on the way home. Final score: Highland Springs 40, Varina 24.

Oh ... and the coaches had a fight on the field after the game. Pretty classy. Didn't have that Tucker either. The Varina coach was apparently upset that the Springers went for a two-point conversion with 36 seconds left. I guess he didn't notice that Highland Springs has been going for two points all year long and never kicking field goals because we have no kicker.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Wow ... now that's a great looking fondue

Aged Cheddar & Guinness Fondue | Jaden's Steamy Kitchen

Less than 24 hours after I post about the joys of beer and cheddar fondue, which nobody has ever heard of when I tell them about it, this beautiful photo shows up in my Google Reader from Jaden's Steamy Kitchen. Jaden's blog is great for taking complex dishes and turning them into recipes that can be prepared more easily at home.

Her fondue photos put ours to shame but she is a professional food photographer as well as a cooking instructor and columnist and we're ... well ... not.

There's also some intriguing things in her recipe that may merit some experimentation on our part. I'm particularly interested in her addition of frozen apple juice concentrate which she says sweetens the cheddar ever so slightly. I also like her use of "baby pigs in a blanket" as dippers in addition to bread and veggies.

See? We're becoming trendsetters!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Say cheese ... fondue that is!

Cheese fondue is becoming standard fare on Sunday nights at our house. Not the sophisticated fondue with Gruyere, Emmenthaler, and wine but a more down-to-earth mix of beer and cheddar served with some good sourdough bread. But first things first, let's get to the ingredients, most of which are pictured above:

  • loaf of sourdough bread
  • 1 lb. extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 16oz. bottle of beer
  • 2 t dry mustard
  • dash cayenne pepper
Now we're pretty particular about our fondue ingredients. The cheddar cheese has to be from Cabot (Extra Sharp, Private Stock, Vintage, Hunters, or the yet-to-try Old School) which is grated and tossed with the cornstarch. The bread has to be sourdough (and preferably from a California starter), the mustard must be Coleman's, and the garlic must be fresh. In a perfect world, the beer would be Red Stripe (which lends a nice spice) or Guinness but Yuengling was on sale and worked fine. I'm not picky about the brand of cayenne.

Ideally you'd have a nice loaf of sourdough but all we could find Sunday night was a square. It worked out okay but you end up with a bunch of pieces without any crust on them. We like our bread lightly toasted which gives it a nice little crunch so we put it on a cookie sheet and throw it into a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes while the cheese melts.

Since the 70s are long over, maybe everyone doesn't have a fondue pot anymore. We actually have two and we couldn't use either one. The Oster model is one we've had forever but the nonstick coating on the bottom was destroyed by over-zealous french students. polMom found a replacement pot on eBay so we're waiting for that to show up. The other newer unit that we have is missing its power cord so we used the pot on the right whose inside surface has been rubbed thoroughly with a smashed clove of garlic.

Pour the bottle of beer into the pot and stir in the mustard and cayenne pepper. Heat the beer mixture over medium heat until it is just beginning to simmer. Then add the grated, cornstarch-dusted cheese to the pot and stir until the cheese melts and becomes thoroughly incorporated with the beer mixture.

Keep stirring the mixture gently until the cheese mixture is smooth. Eventually the cornstarch will cause the sauce to thicken. The cheese mixture is ready whenever you feel it is thick enough to hold to your bread after it is dunked in the cheese. We use fondue forks but regular forks would probably work just as well. We keep the meal pretty simple by accompanying the fondue with a vegetable tray, grapes, and sliced apples.

I yam what I yam!

Now that's a big yam!

OlderSon saw these jumbo yams from North Carolina in the grocery store and just had to get one. We explained that it was going to take a long, long time to cook so he probably couldn't have it tonight but he was content to wait until Thursday.

I can't even imagine how long this sucker will take to cook or what it will taste like but I'm curious now to find out. This picture kind of looks like those old pictures we used to get in the Waynesboro News-Virginian of slightly unusual vegetables.

Ahhh ... memories.

Monday, November 5, 2007


A visit to Goat Island |

Wilmington's Star-News posted this article about the goats on the little island near the Sunset Beach bridge. People always seemed surprised to see them there. According to the article a gentleman on the mainland put the goats out there in the early 1980s to eat mosquitoes.

Another thing that I didn't know is that the goats are able to survive because of a freshwater "lake" that collects rainwater in a low-lying area of the island. Apparently goats only need fresh water and plant life to survive so these little spit islands work out fine for them.

No Kegle this year but we keep the Stinky Shoe

Yesterday we held the 2nd Annual Kegel Challenge which is a bowling tournament that our troop puts on with Troop 799. The idea was to have a fun and friendly competition with another troop in our area to meet new Scouts and to broaden our Scouting horizons. It's actually a lot of fun and is helping to forge some links between the units. Last year, each PLC attended a troop meeting at the other troop and 799 joined us on our annual ski trip to Timberline (as they will this year as well).

The tournament works this way: each Scout and leader bowls a game. The six (this year seven) highest-scoring Scouts from each troop then bowl a second game. The highest combined score of those teams wins the coveted Kegel trophy which is a bowling pin. All other Scouts also get to bowl a second game for fun.

There is also a competition among the adult leaders for an equally-coveted prize: the Stinky Shoe award. This is a size 14 bowling shoe (that's not really stinky at all) that we've fashioned with brass plaques on the bottom. The premise is similar to the Kegel challenge except only the top three adult leaders from each team compete. Plus the boys are a lot better behaved than the adults. There's quite a bit of trash talking down there on that last lane.

The results this year were the same as last year but with bigger margins. The Scouts from Troop 799 retained the Kegel by 52 pins with a score of 632 to 580. Last year they won by four pins. And also like last year, the adult leaders from Troop 737 keep possession of the Stinky Shoe by a whopping 110 pins with a score of 449 to 339. Last year the margin was a mere two pins. But since the ultimate goal was to have fun I think we all won.

OlderSon, YoungerSon, and myself all competed and I think it's safe to say that none of us are destined for the PBA any time soon although after posting a 72 in the first round I hit my stride and got a 146 in the second round which I think is about the best game I've ever bowled.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Turkey Meatloaf

We bought ground turkey to make the dumplings but only needed 1/2 pound and we left the store with over two pounds (there was a sale) so we needed to come up another recipe. polMom found a great recipe for turkey meatloaf that we include below.

  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 1 c. chopped onions
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried sage
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 1/2 c. peeled, grated apples
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs from firm bread
  • 1 lg. egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

  • 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery and saute 3 minutes or until softened. Stir in thyme and sage and let cool slightly.

Combine onion mixture in large bowl with turkey, bread crumbs, apple, egg, parsley, salt, mustard and pepper. Mix well. Pack into a greased 8 x 4 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Pour off any fat.

While the mixture is cooking, make the glaze by combining the ingredients in small bowl and brush over top of loaf. Bake 30 minutes more or until golden and juices run clear when pierced. I like taking the loaf out of the pan for the last thirty minutes to allow it to develop a little bit of a crust.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Saccharide Engineering

So what does an engineering student do with his Halloween candy stash? Start munching down on it as soon as possible? No, you must sort and classify it first as OlderSon has done with his candy haul from Halloween night.

When I was a kid, I ate about half of everything I got Halloween night. I think OlderSon only had a single candy bar Wednesday night and didn't open his bag back up until tonight when he meticulously organized his collection before sealing it up in a more secure container.

For later research of course.

Boy, that cape sure looks familiar ...

The front page of The Flat Hat, William and Mary's school newspaper, features a big picture of the Thomas Jefferson statue that has been transformed into the Headless Horseman. The caption reads "The statue of Thomas Jefferson was dressed in full form for Halloween by unknown students."

Huh. I wonder who could have done that.

Turkey Dumplings with Cranberry-Soy Dip

Our first recipe blog article!

I came across this recipe while reading the CHOW Digest blog. The article was titled "Appetizers for Autumn" and included this recipe for Turkey Dumplings with Cranberry-Soy Dip that they described as "Thanksgiving in one bite!" We thought it looked intriguing so we made a batch last week and they were great! They were such a hit with both adults and boys that we've made them two more times since then.

Recipe is listed below with some pictures of our efforts. Unfortunately, I usually ignore the "low sodium" part of recipes but this is one time when it should be followed. The first batch of sauce we made was really salty but switching to a low-sodium soy sauce fixed that right up. Enjoy!

For the dumplings:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded savoy or napa cabbage
  • 1/2 cup green onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 32 round dumpling or square wonton wrappers
  • Cornstarch for dusting

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup cranberry sauce
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Crumble in turkey and brown well. Add carrot, cabbage, green onion, ginger, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes or until cabbage is wilted. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature. Moisten 2 edges of each wonton wrapper with a little water. Place a rounded spoonful of the filling in the center of each; fold to enclose, pressing to seal.

Place on a baking sheet dusted with cornstarch to keep wontons from sticking. Cover with a damp towel.

Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add a single layer of wontons. Cook, without turning, for 2 minutes or until just golden on the bottom.

Add 1/2 cup of water to the skillet. Cover and steam for 6 minutes or until all water is evaporated and dumplings are tender throughout. Repeat with remaining dumplings, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

Meanwhile, whisk cranberry sauce with soy sauce in a small saucepan; set over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the sauce comes to a boil and is smooth and glossy. Cool slightly; stir in the ginger and green onion.

Makes 32 wontons.

CollegeGirl 2.0

Apparently William and Mary does such a good job at filling up their students' brains that they forget basic skills like how to operate a telephone or to send email. Our poor daughter has only been able to make one phone call and send just a (small) handful of emails in the 2+ months she's been at school.

Fortunately, the part of her brain that knows how to update Facebook is still intact. For those that don't know what Facebook is, it's a part of what's known as social computing. You have your own page where you can post pictures, leave comments, and add applications that will do everything from show what books your reading to listing your course schedule to playing your favorite music. You can also post your "status" to let your friends and family know what you're doing. And it's pretty much our sole window into the life of CollegeGirl.

To share a taste of it with you, here's all of CollegeGirl's status messages since October 6th. Make note of the times some of these are written. All of them automatically begin with "CollegeGirl is":
  • is zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.......... 7:19pm, Oct 6
  • is awake and wondering what to do tonight... 10:08pm, Oct 6
  • is Tinker Bell! :). 6:28pm, Oct 7
  • is madly in love with PC, now and forever. 6:56pm, Oct 8
  • is suffering from a PC invasion... 7:47pm, Oct 8
  • is rockn' the capture the flag... 1:56am, Oct 10
  • is working....papers = bane of existance. 1:18am, Oct 11
  • is finally at home...all native americaned out... 2:26pm, Oct 14
  • is well rested from home, but glad to be heading back to W&M...not looking forwards to classes however... 12:42am, Oct 17
  • is glad to be back, but trying to figure out what on earth is going on in her life....stupid exams... 1:43pm, Oct 17
  • is madly in love with PC. I mean look at him... 7:11pm, Oct 17
  • is PC must die... 8:44pm, Oct 17
  • is yay! Rain! 1:37pm, Oct 18
  • is yay! Rain! Boo, work.. 1:44pm, Oct 18
  • is feeling sorry for her roomie... 2:59pm, Oct 18
  • is blistered, tired, achey and wonderously happy with the most amazing weekend EVER!! Thanks guys! ♥ to study my mind out for bio... 1:52pm, Oct 21
  • is excited for Capture the Flag tomorrow...still in a glow over the weekend... 12:33am, Oct 23
  • is excited for Capture the Flag today...I love windy fall days and dancing in the leaves... 2:28pm, Oct 23
  • is enjoying the rain...I love fall. 3:36pm, Oct 24
  • is enjoying the rain and baking muffins in D-wid! 4:50pm, Oct 24
  • is pondering whether she wants to go out and play in the rain... 10:22pm, Oct 24
  • is done pondering...going to head to WaWa and sing/skip/dance/slide through the rain swept campus! YaY! 10:35pm, Oct 24
  • is disappointed by the lack of rain, but puddles are fun too! 12:04am, Oct 25
  • is back from her second, much more successful rainy day encounter! 3:01am, Oct 25
  • is hating chemistry with a burning passion... working on Bio in the dorm until 4, then to Swem for Bio Lab... 2:10pm, Oct 25
  • is really wishing her Facebook photos would get their act together and keep their tags! 1:45am, Oct 26
  • is not really sure cookies are supposed to look like this... 5:39pm, Oct 26
  • is wondering what's going down tonight and how to make it to everything... 7:27pm, Oct 26
  • is super history weekend, huzzah!! 10:43pm, Oct 27
  • is at Rosewell for BBQ and bluegrass fun! Yay for History! ". 11:37am, Oct 28
  • is yay! My eggs hatched origami birds, thanks guys!! 4:58pm, Oct 28
  • is yay! My eggs hatched origami birds, thanks guys!! YEAH SOX! 2:55am, Oct 29
  • is loving the weather! 2:58pm, Oct 29
  • is messing around with her schedule... 11:46pm, Oct 29
  • is trying to figure out what's going on with Halloween... 8:17am, Oct 30
  • is sad Halloween is was fun guys! Much love to you all for great evening! 2:41am, Nov 1

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween Wrap Up

Our Halloween setup
Originally uploaded by stepol

Our family always celebrates Halloween in a big way. We have four bins of decorations and two big bags full of pumpkins. We carve elaborate pumpkins and polMom puts together treat bags that combine candy and toys and have our name and address on them. It's usually a big event and this year was no exception.

Of course, this was yet another item on the ever-growing list of "first without CollegeGirl" entries. Our enthusiasm is tempered a little by her absence and we note little things like we don't have a pumpkin out carved by her. We miss her and would like to think she misses us a little too ... that is until we read her Facebook entries like "IT'S HALLLLLLOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YYYYYYYYAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!! :) PS: The statues are da bomb!" and we realize we'll be lucky if she remembers she even has parents or siblings.

Well, enough melancholy. On with the Halloween recap. First let's talk about the pumpkins. In a previous post I talked about how last year we purchased foam pumpkins so we could reuse them year after year instead of trying to carve six or seven fresh pumpkins in the two hours before trick or treaters arrive. This worked remarkably well this year as we reused the five pumpkins we carved last year and added two more that YoungerSon and I carved this year. First time in a dozen years I haven't had to carve the very intricate Cavalier. We got the normal oohs and aahs from the neighbors which is always nice. Lots more UVa fans out this year it seemed.

The picture at the top gives you a little idea of our setup. We put up a shelter that we string with lights, ghosts, and spider webs. We setup a table and chairs underneath along with a stereo playing the Halloween mix CD we made (I'll include that in another post). This is "Halloween Central" for us and is where we meet and greet all the kids and neighbors.

It's also where we have "Frankie" which is just about the oldest Halloween prop we have and polMom's favorite. It's a battery-operated Frankenstein that dips a blower into bubble stuff and really blows bubbles. We gave him a place of honor this year in front of the shelter and rigged a flashlight up as a spotlight. Definitely the biggest hit with the kids both young and old.

Whoever had the house long ago when they were putting in the curbs opted out so we have a shallow ditch between the road and the yard and we always worry about kids tripping in it in the dark so this year we strung pumpkin and slime lights along the street to direct everyone to the driveway. It worked (mostly) and looked really cool from the street. That's something we'll have to add to the tradition list.

YoungerSon and OlderSon were dressed up as a playing card and a superhero. polMom had made two cards, and Ace of spades and a Ten of diamonds, so they could go together as Blackjack but OlderSon would have no part of it. He went upstairs and made aletter for his chest, found a cape-like substance, and put on fuzzy socks and flip flops. I have to say, howver, that it was better than a lot of the costumes we saw on older kids that night. A lot weren't even wearing a costume ... just regular street clothes. Oh well.

Tally for the end of the night was just over 200 kids which is a new record for us. I even had to run out to Walmart after one wave of about 40 kids in a five minute span. polMom had made 180 bags which we thought would see us through but it was not to be.

Now we're putting away all of the Halloween gear into its bins and will soon drive back to the storage place for another year.

YoungerSon in Scouting Magazine!

That's right! Go to page 28 of the November/December 2007 issue of Scouting Magazine and you'll find the above picture at the top of the page with the caption: "Prospective den chiefs have fun during the training that ran concurrent to the University of Cub Scouting." And who is that at the left front of the photograph? It's YoungerSon who took the den chief trainnig course this past March at the event that was held at the University of Richmond. Very, very cool!

The issue isn't posted at the online site yet so I scanned the picture above and also made a PDF of the page it came from that you can download by clicking here.