Friday, October 31, 2008

Welcome To My House

Well, that's another halloween come and gone. As usual, Jake did a fair bit of decorating. This year Jake constructed a graveyard, lights, spider webs, creepy guy in the upstairs windows, fog machine, and creepy music. Those trick or treaters who stopped by seemed to enjoy the theatrics pretty well.

The number of trick or treaters this year was a little disappointing though. Halloween this year fell on a Friday Night and all of the High Schools had football games. Last year Jake counted approximately 50 ghosties and ghoalies. This year Jake kept track of the haunters and the count was exactly 27. Check below for the distribution of the visitors.

As always, Jake bought entirely too much candy just in case there was a large turn out. This of course will put a bit of a crimp in his diet plans. He is already planning to take the extra candy to work with him. He figures that if he is going to get fat (fatter?) he might as well take the rest of his office mates down with him.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Maize

The Pohick gang headed out for a little adventure today. We visited The Maize in Brownsboro, Alabama. As we wondered thru the maze cut into the corn field, we happened to find a number of Disney characters including Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Tigger who had apparently become disoriented and hopelessly lost. We never realized that cartoon characters were so directionally challenged. In any event, we help the characters find their way to safety and it was a lovely day to take a stroll.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Armadillo Aerospace Wins Prize

Congratulations, Armadillo team! The Armadillo Aerospace team made space history as they won the first level of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge in Las Cruces, NM. The win not only puts the private company into the history books, but nets them the long-awaited $350,000 prize offered by the NASA Centennial Challenge fund.

The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (often called simply the Lunar Lander Challenge) is a $2 million prize program funded by NASA's Centennial Challenges program. The Challenge offers a series of prizes for the teams that launch a Vertical Take Off, Vertical Landing (VTVL) rocket that achieves the total delta-v that would be equivalent to those needed for a vehicle to move between lunar orbit and the lunar surface. The multi-level competition is conducted by the X PRIZE Foundation, with sponsorship from the Northrop Grumman Corporation, with the prize purses paid by NASA. The competition is held annually at the X PRIZE Cup, making its debut at the 2006 Wirefly X PRIZE Cup in October, 2006.

The Challenge is divided into two levels of Competition, an easier Level 1 and a harder Level 2. Both levels require teams to demonstrating control of their vehicle by flying to an altitude of more than 50m, flying laterally for 100m, and landing on a pad. For Level 1, this pad is a simple 10m diameter circle; for Level 2, it is a simulated lunar surface, complete with craters and boulders. After completing this first flight, the vehicle can then be refueled, and must then fly a second leg back to the original starting point. Each flight must meet a required minimum flight time of 90 seconds for Level 1 and 180 seconds for level 2. For each Level, the two flights along with any necessary preparation must be accomplished within a short 150 minute time period.

Each Level offers a first and a second-place prize. Level 1 features a first place prize purse of $350,000 and a $150,000 purse for second place. The more difficult Level 2 offers a first place prize of $1 million and a $500,000 second place prize. 2006 was the first year of the competition.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Eclairs Are Finished

The eclairs are finished, or as the French like to say, "Les ├ęclairs sont finis." This was one of those projects that none of us will soon forget. It seemed like a simple enough project. All Scribbles had to do, was make 30 eclairs to share with her French Class. This was the follow up to the video she made last week. But as often happens in the Pohick House, simple projects take on a life of their own. Scribble's friend Caramelina volunteered to help her with the project. Jake didn't pay much attention to what was going on at first. Actually, he hid out in his man cave since the girls certainly didn't need his help preparing a few pastries. His first hint that something was amiss occurred about an hour into the project. He detected a hint of smoke in the air. Hmmm.... he wondered. "I guess they left a batch in a little too long." A short while later, Scribbles knocked on the door of the man cave. "Yes?", Jake said. Scribbles then requested that Jake go to the grocery store to purchase more supplies for eclair making. This didn't seem right to Jake. He had purchased eclair making supplies just that morning, and he was pretty sure that he hadn't forgetten anything. His shopping list had included 3 dozen eggs, a sack of flour, 4 boxes of butter. What could he have forgotten? So he asked Scribbles, "What did I forget to buy?" Scribbles stated, "You didn't forget anything, we need more eggs, flour and butter." "What?", Jake said. "I bought enough stuff to make a hundred eclairs." Scribbles then stated, "We've had a few set backs." "What?", Jake said again. "How many eclairs have you made so far?" Scribbles said, "Well, we haven't actually had a batch turn out yet. The eclairs just won't rise."

Jake went into the kitchen and witnessed a scene reminiscent of Omaha Beach. Every pot, pan, cooking sheet, bowl, and spoon in the house was covered in a thick coating of eclair batter. The kitchen counter was overflowing with what could only generously be described as hockey pucks. A nice thick layer of smoke was eminating from the stove which was giving a very fair portrayal of an old fashioned franklin stove. Scribbles stated that maybe if she left the eclairs in long enough, they might rise a little. "No", Jake replied. "I'm pretty sure that once they get that nice charcoal briquette look, they aren't going to rise any more." Jake gave the girls instructions to clean up the kitchen and headed off to the grocery store for another round of supplies. Jake ended up with the same cashier he had earlier in the day as he paid for another 3 dozen eggs and various other supplies. "Did you run out of eggs already?", she asked him. Everybody is a comedian.

So here is what we learned from the experience:
1. Follow the recipe exactly. (Expecially when you are cooking fancy french food. If it says add the eggs one at a time, that is pretty much what you have to do.)
2. If what you are doing doesn't work, doing it over and over is not going to have a different result. (If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. Unless you actually need 100 eclair shaped charcoal briquettes.)
3. Never underestimate the time and materials for a project (ie., 30 eclairs = 6 dozen eggs, 2 bags of flour, 8 boxes of butter, and 7 hours of prep time)
4. French is harder than Spanish (All the kids in spanish class had to do was whip together a bowl of guacamole dip which took about 10 minutes)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Caramel Apples

Nothing says Fall like caramel apples. Scribbles and her friend Caramelina decided to whip up a batch of Caramel Apples. They were quite yummy.

Recipe from Kraft.com

Prep Time:
20 min
Total Time:
1 hr 30 min
Makes:
5 servings
What You Need
5 medium apples, washed, well dried
1 bag (14 oz.) KRAFT Caramels (about 50)
2 Tbsp. water
Make It

INSERT wooden pop sticks (from bag of caramels) into stem end of each apple. Cover large plate with waxed paper; grease paper with butter. Set aside.

PLACE caramels in large saucepan. Add water; cook on medium-low heat until caramels are completely melted, stirring constantly.

DIP apples into melted caramel until evenly coated, spooning caramel over apples if necessary. Allow excess caramel to drip off. Scrape bottoms of apples, then place on prepared plate. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until ready to serve. Remove from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 15 min. before serving. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Kraft Kitchens Tips
Shortcut
Try our recipe for Easy Caramel Apples with our easy-to-use KRAFT Caramel Bits.

Cooking Know-How
Wash and dry apples thoroughly so that caramel adheres to the apple peel.

Special Extra
Prepare as directed, rolling bottom of each freshly dipped apple into one of the following: 10 coarsely chopped OREO Cookies; 1-1/2 cups JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows mixed with 1/4 cup sprinkles; or 1/2 cup PLANTERS COCKTAIL Peanuts, chopped. Or, drizzle dipped apples with 2 melted squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate.

Morning Has Broken

The sunrise this morning was so awesome, it just begged to be photographed.

Jake is a morning person. This wasn't always the case. He can still how hard it was as a teenager to wake up before noon. Not any longer. Now the alarm clock is kind of superfluous. Jake just wakes up and heads outside for his early morning run through the countryside. Morning energizes him. Morning, which used to be a thing to be dreaded, has become like the return of a dear friend. Morning holds a promise of all of the great things that will happen throughout the day.

As the great Cat Stevens once said, "Morning has Broken".
Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

Boogie Shoes

Tonight was the Pohick High School Homecoming Dance. Scribbles and her posse went to dinner and then stopped by the house on the way to the big social event of the season.

Black Racer Snake

So, a few days ago, Molly came into the house at about 10:30 at night in a bit of a panic. She had been out picking tomatoes in the garden by flashlight. (WHO PICKS TOMATOES BY FLASHLIGHT) Anyway, she noticed that a snake had gotten twisted up and died in some garden netting. She made Jake promise to go get the dead snake out of the garden. And then she nagged him hourly for a couple of days until he finally went down to the garden to retrieve the dead snake. At first glance, Jake thought. Wow, that's a pretty big dead snake. I wonder how come he hasn't begun to decompose yet. After a minute or two of net cutting, the reason the snake hadn't begun to decompose became readily apparent. The Snake turned and looked Jake dead in the eye. As a general rule, Jake does not appreciate when dead things spring back to life. It gave him a bit of a start. Now, Jake was faced with a dilemma. How do you cut loose the big black snake without becoming a big black snake snack. (Try to say that ten times fast)

Jake enlisted Scribbles to help in the effort. She held down the snake's head while Jake carefully over the period of hour cut away the netting loop by loop from the snake. When the snake was finally freed, it rose about a foot up into the air, opened it's mouth about as wide as your hand, and attempted to eat Jake's face. So much for gratitude. The snake then quickly headed off into the brush pile behind the house.

Jake consulted a friend who is a snake expert. His friend believes that the snake is a Black Racer. Black Racer's eat lots of things and are good at keeping the rodent population down. I wish we had a few of these snakes around our house in Virginia during our war with the rodent population.

According to OutdoorAlabama.com, The Black Racer is Common statewide, but declining in many areas. A familiar diurnal species that occurs in virtually all terrestrial habitats. Most frequently encountered in open forest and forest edges, and along brushy margins of aquatic habitats.

According to the University of Georgia, Black Racers are only active during the daytime and are most active in warm weather. At night and during cool weather they take refuge in burrows or under cover such as boards or tin. Racers hunt by sight and are often observed actively foraging during the day. They are not active at night. They eat a wide variety of prey including insects, lizards, snakes, birds, rodents, and amphibians. In turn, they are preyed upon by a variety of predatory birds, mammals and snakes such as kingsnakes and larger Racers. When captured, prey are not constricted and are consumed alive. Racers are faster than most other snakes, very agile, and generally flee when approached, often climbing into small trees or shrubs. If cornered, however, they do not hesitate to bite. Although primarily terrestrial, they climb well and are occasionally observed sleeping in vegetation at night. Racers mate in the spring, and females lay up to 36 eggs in early summer. Eggs hatch in late summer or early fall.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

French Cooking

Scribbles was given a french class assignment of translating a recipe into French and then creating a video as she prepares the recipe. Escargot anyone? Actually, for her assignment she prepared eclairs. They didn't turn out exactly like the picture on the recipe, but they were quite tasty and hopefully she will get a good grade on her assignment. Scribbles sure has come a long way from the last time she tried to cook something. Bon appetit!