30 June 2010

Blue Jay

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I wouldn't call myself a bird watcher, but after going into my mom and Marty's backyard, I find myself mesmerized by the birds.  They have a number of feeders of all different types available for out feathered friends, and the birds flock in to be treated to a gourmet meal.  Marty also scatters whole peanuts on the ground for the blue jays, which are my favorite birds to watch.

As soon as the peanuts hit the yard, blue jays fly in to collect their bounty.  They don't eat them in the yard, though.  The swoop in, grab a peanut, and fly to a more comfortable spot to break it open and eat.  My mom calls them 'thieves'.  I saw this happen one evening and made a note to bring my camera to capture the magic; and I knew I would probably get a pretty good picture of a blue jay.

This one is my favorite.

28 June 2010

Garden Update

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My frost fears in April are all a distant memory as my garden is thriving.  I'm still learning about how far to space the plants since what seemed like a lot of room at the time has quickly been erased by rapidly growing fruits and veggies.  I don't think anything is suffocating, though, and I am quite pleased with has things have turned out so far.

We have definitely been taking advantage of having fresh lettuce this year.  We have been picking mature leaves off the lettuce for about a month now, and they are still going strong.  We haven't had to buy lettuce for so long, and we have been eating salads with out dinner just about every night.  The lettuce us so crisp, fragrant, tender and flavorful.

We are also seeing an abundance of tomato blossoms on all of our tomato plants.  I enjoy seeing these beautiful yellow flowers dotting the sea of green because I know what will soon follow.

Tomatoes!  Along with the flowers, there are also quite a few tomatoes taking shape on the plants.  The plants seem to be a few weeks ahead of where they were last year.  If that means BLT season will start a little early this year, I will be a happy man.

One of the more ominous looking plants in our garden is the artichoke.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but it's sharp pointed leaves look more suited for Jurassic Park than a backyard garden.

I am so excited about the jalapeno plants, too!  I love these little peppers, and the bright little flowers were a welcome sight, especially since I thought they hadn't survived that frosty night.

Speaking of survival stories, our cantaloupe plant is also thriving.  So much so, in fact, I had to weave it's vines out of the garden and into the yard.  It has it's own pretty little yellow flowers to boast, and I am looking forward to the juicy sweet fruits it will soon produce.

Quite a change in month, if you ask me.  I can't wait to see what the end of July will bring!

24 June 2010

Beer Can Chicken

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My favorite way to cook chicken on the grill.  Just stick a whole chicken over a can of beer and let it cook for about three hours.  The result is a deliciously moist, tender, and flavorful chicken the whole family will enjoy.

I first tried this application about three years ago as kind of an afterthought.  We were having a big cookout at my mom's house and I was smoking a brisket as the main course.  I suggested we also serve chicken since some of the guests might not like beef.  I remembered seeing those beer can chicken holders at all the stores, so I decided to give that method a try.  I was unable to find any of those holders, so I just stood the chicken up over a can of beer and placed it directly on the grill.  I cooked two chickens that day, and they turned out to be the hit of the party.

Since then, we have upped the two chickens to four and they all fit nicely on the grill.  The application couldn't be easier, and it really does produce the best chicken I have ever eaten.  We upped the ante this year with some deluxe beer can chicken holders that worked like a charm and took the stress out of worrying about the chickens falling over (which has happened to me a time or two).  I also like to use a gas grill to cook the chickens because it is a lot easier to control the temperature for such a long cooking time. 

Once I get the grill up to temperature, I am able to go lounge in the pool while just asking someone to check the grill temp for me every once in a while (thanks mom!).  It is also nice because with the chicken standing up, the dark meat is closer to the heat source; and since it takes longer to cook than the white meat, everything comes to temperature at the same time.  Beautiful!

Needless to say, I highly recommend this cooking method.  Here's how I do it:

Preheat grill to 250 degrees.  Rub chicken with barbecue rub (I use AB's).  Open a 12 oz. can of beer and dispense 1/4 of can, so the can is 3/4 full. Hold chicken so that the cavity is at the bottom and place chicken over beer can so that the cavity covers the can.  Stand chicken upright in the center of grill and cook for 3 hours or until a thermometer tells you it's done.  Remove from grill, cover with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Cut, serve, and consume in mass quantities.

11 June 2010

Sun tea

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When I was a kid, I always knew it was summer when I saw a sun tea jar perched on the deck; slowly brewing in the morning sun. I didn't much care for the tea back then, it was just more of an icon of summer than anything else. Recently though, I have been craving a crisp cool summer beverage; something more than water, but not in the realm of the soft drink. So, I decided to give sun tea another chance.

I purchased a one gallon sun teat dispenser and some tea bags and I was ready to go.  The instructions were simple enough, I just put nine tea bags in one gallon of water and let sit outside in the sun for up to four hours.  Watching that tea brew on the back porch brought back so many memories for me.  After four hours, the tea was ready to drink.  I dispensed the tea into a cup full of ice, added a little simple syrup I had made for the occasion, and I was in refreshment heaven.

My tasty beverage was light, just sweet enough, and satisfyingly refreshing.  Tea was the beverage of choice that Friday evening, and it barely lasted the evening.  My only mistake was giving Emilie my cup because she wouldn't give it back.  I look forward to seeing many more batches of tea brewing in my backyard in the coming months.  What a wonderful summer drink!

07 June 2010

Pumpkin flower

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When we planted our pumpkins, I had no idea they would produce such beautiful flowers.  It caught me off guard one morning as I was walking to the garage to get my bike for my morning commute.  I glanced over to the yard and saw a magnificent yellow flower.  I made a mental note to take a picture of it when I got home.  Alas, when I arrived home from work that day, the flower was no longer there; it had shriveled away.

I soon realized that the pumpkin flower has a very short lifespan, often not even lasting for a day.  The next time I saw a flower I made sure to take a picture of it while it was there.  There have been many more flowers since those first few started opening up, and I always look for them as I walk to the garage in the mornings.  Seeing those vibrant yellow flowers greeting me first thing in the morning a nice way to start the day.

05 June 2010

Fables 25th Anniversary

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Mark your calendars again!  R.E.M. will be releasing an expanded 25th Anniversary 2CD and digital edition of their 1985 album, Fables Of The Reconstruction on July 13th.  The package features the digitally remastered original album, plus 14 previously unreleased demo recordings, including a track I have never even heard of.  Hard to believe, I know!  I don't know how this track has eluded me for all these years.  The song is called "Throw Those Trolls Away" and I am really excited about hearing it for the first time.

The reissue of Fables Of The Reconstruction is a bit of a departure from the anniversary editions of Murmur and Reckoning because is does not include a live concert from time the album was origically released.  I am a bit bummed because the concerts from the Reconstruction tour are my favorite.  I'm sure the demos will be a lot of fun to listen to though, and I have enough unofficial recordings of the 1985 concerts to keep me happy.  I was just anticipating having a crisp clean sounding concert from that era.

Fables Of The Reconstruction is my favorite R.E.M. album from the I.R.S. years.  Peter Buck best decribes the songs on the album by calling them "character filled and vibey."  The album evokes many images and colloquialisms from the south, and most of the songs have a storytelling feel to them.  My favorite song from the album is "Good Advices" and it defines what an R.E.M. song is to me.  Take a listen...

When you greet a stranger look at his shoes
Keep your money in your shoes put your trouble behind
When you greet a stranger look at her hands
Keep your money in your hands put your travel behind
Who are you going to call for, what do you have to say
Keep your hat on your head home is a long way away
At the end of the day, I'll forget your name
I'd like it here if I could leave and see you from a long way away

When you greet a stranger, look at her shoes
Keep you memories in your shoes, put your travel behind
Who are you going to call for, what do you have to say
Keep your hat on your head
Home is a long way away
At the end of the day, when there are no friends
When there are no lovers, who are you going to call for
What do you have to change

A familiar face a foreign place I forget your name
I'd like it here if I could leave and see you from a long way away
Who are you going to call for, what do you have to say
Keep your hat on your head
Home is a long way away

02 June 2010

Calvin and Hobbes Stamp

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Mark your calendars!  This July, the United States Postal Service will be issuing a Calvin and Hobbes stamp as part of its 2010 Stamp Program.  The stamp will be part of a set honoring Sunday Funnies including Archie, Beetle Bailey, Dennis the Menace, and Garfield.  Though I would have preferred a solely Calvin and Hobbes stamp set featuring the above picture, Stupendous Man, Spaceman Spiff, Tracer Bullet, and a wagon scene, I am still elated to see this stamp.

01 June 2010

The Straggler

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As I was pulling weeds around the blueberry bush the other day, I noticed a curious little plant that looked very familiar to me.  Upon closer inspection, I found that it wasn't a weed at all.  It was, in fact, a tomato plant!  Last year, I discarded some rotten tomatoes where this little fellow has taken root.  It is right by the fence post behind the blueberry bush so I will be able to keep it safe from the lawnmower and weed eater.  It is quite a bit smaller than the tomato plants in the garden, and it looks a little beaten up; but I have faith it will grow to produce fruit.  Besides, its a Wisconsin 55, so anything is possible!


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