Thursday, October 29, 2009

The return of the garibaldi

Last weekend was First's wedding weekend. So Thatfamily packed up our gear and headed to Atlanta.

Thatboy and I went first. Last year I took Thatboy to NYC for his first time ever. Because we had a limited amount of time, we red-eyed it. Popped some sleeping pills and slept the way over which gave us a full day once we arrived. We decided to do the same thing on the way to Atlanta. The problem? The flight was only 3.5 hours. We landed bleary eyed and far too soon.

I had asked for breakfast suggestions on my cooking board and wifeplzak and josie both recommended "The Flying Biscuit."

Josie informed me that Emily Saliers of the Indigo girls was a cofounder of the restaurant, but now it's a chain found throughout Atlanta. They opened at 7, just 10 minutes after we arrived in their parking lot. Perfect.

Thatboy was a little disappointed with the menu. The bacon was turkey bacon and the sausage was chicken sausage. He gets enough of that stuff at home and likes the "real versions" when we go out. He had the special with white cheddar, chicken sausage, eggs, mushrooms, and carmelized onions.

As usual, he preferred my breakfast - black bean cakes with over medium eggs, goat cheese, and tomatillo salsa.

But the surefire winner was the namesake Flying biscuit. These things were SO good. I kept thinking of them all weekend and almost convinced Thatboy to swing by so we could take a bag home. SO GOOD. They're reason enough to visit.

One of the primary reasons Thatboy and I headed to Atlanta early was to visit the Georgia Aquarium. The largest aquarium in the world! We heard the ticket line can be a zoo so we ordered our tickets online for the first entrance time. And after breakfast we drove over and slept in the parking lot until that time came. Nothing like a good car nap!

The aquarium had two exhibits I couldn't photograph. The first was a 4-D show where we got to meet the mascot of the aquarium. In case you didn't pick up on it from the title of this post, it was a garabaldi fish!!!!!! What are the odds? This is truly the year of the garabaldi. And it made me smile to think of them swimming practically in my backyard.

The second exhibit was Planet Shark - an inside look at the facts and mythology of sharks. And I mean inside - they had more shark jaws and teeth than you would see in a lifetime. And full screen movies of sharks. It reinforced my belief that nothing will get me on a surf board. Poor Thatboy.

The Birch Aquarium had 2 lionfish.......this aquarium had a gazillion.

This guy was one of my favorites of the day. We bonded. So much so that I literally got him to pose in a bunch of different positions for me. When I put down my camera, he turned and swam away. We're friends.

The aquarium is divided into several different sections - the rainforest, the artic, the tropics. There are gorgeous colorful fish in each section.

I decided I was the fish whisperer after the turtle experience. I kept trying to get these pirranah to show me their teeth.

Did you have a fish tank as a kid? With a castle, or treasure chest, or a plastic scuba diver? I couldn't resist taking a picture of this because it reminded me of my childhood fish tank on a much longer scale.

Look! Buddys!!!! These Asian sea otters were all over each other. They were cuddling, grooming, and rubbing something all over themselves. Thatboy thought they were given some kind of drug and some of their actions definitely made it seem like they were on E....or so I've heard. But regardless they were SO cute!!! I love Buddys. They're my other animals of the year.

There were tons of these giant crabs. Each larger than my head. Which made me hungry. I'm not the only one - someone evidently ate my favorite part of this guy.

These cuttlefish were amazing! We watched them change color right before our eyes to match their surroundings. As they moved from one area of the tank to another, their color changed. Thatboy swore their texture changed too. I had a bonding moment here too, but not with this cuttlefish. With another one who kept sticking his tongue out at me. But based on the behavior of a couple of his tankmates, it might not have been his tongue.

Thatboy spent a good 20 minutes in front of the jellyfish tank. He kept taking what he called "abstract jellyfish" pictures. Me? I like actually being able to identify what I'm taking a picture of. But maybe that's why he's the artist in our relationship.

While Thatboy took his 20 minutes in front of his tank, I entertained myself by snapping pictures of these jellyfish as the light in their tank changed colors.

I get these fish confused with the lionfish. It's the spines. I'm fishist. All look same.

Can you see the fish in this picture? He's hiding, right out in the open. It's that pink thing in the middle!!!!

And then we found Nemo!

The aquarium has a giant shark exhibit. It takes up rooms and rooms and rooms. It goes over your head and there are vantage points from all angles. There are a ton of different sharks, some I've only seen in books.

This hammerhead swam right over me. And I wasn't even scared. Which is a big deal for me.

This is Spot. When he was just a little ray he found this little corner of the giant tank with big boulders and decided it would be his little corner. And even though he keeps growing, and he's too big for the space, he still wedges himself in there. The aquarium guy called this place "Spot's spot."

The star of the Georgia Aquarium is the whale shark. Or whale sharks. They have 4 of them! The largest fish in the world at the largest aquarium in the world! I loved these guys and took a million pictures of them.

For size comparison, here's the whale shark with a giant manta ray. Not helpful?

Is this better?

How bout this? Yes, the manta ray is the size of 3 adults. Now scroll back up and see how much smaller the manta ray is compared with the whale shark. SO cool.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Recipes for Disaster

After that first canning experience I knew I had been beaten. But since I don't give up easily I armed myself with better tools and determined to forge ahead.

First - I went out and got myself an actual canning kettle. One that was made for pint jars because honestly, I don't see myself canning quarts anymore.

And because my timing is always dead on, the day I bought the kettle, I got a call from Thatmom saying she found all of Thatdad's canning gear.

Second, I started all my prep the night before. With the right gear, and all the tomatoes pureed, onions and apples chopped, I figured this canning process would be a breeze.

I was so wrong.

Now, I know that it is completely a sign of a poor cook to blame the recipe. But honestly? There is something completely wrong with the recipes in AVM. I know I've said it before, but as I stood in tears in Thatmom's kitchen I knew there was nothing I was doing wrong. I am fairly positive that no one ever tested or made these recipes.

The first obstacle I ran into was the amount. Seriously - do people can in the bathtub? Who has pots big enough for this nonsense? And I really don't think the Kingsolvers really ever made this recipe whatsoever because really - the amount of tomatoes they call for does not match the number of quarts produced and the number of quarts the recipe calls for makes WAY more product than they claim it will.

The only pot I had big enough for all the ingredients was the new canning kettle I had purchased. And even that was a little on the full side.

The next problem was that NOTHING thickened. Ever. The barbeque sauce never got thick after HOURS of boiling. Now I'm a science girl. I understand the properties of heat, liquid and evaporation. There's no reason why the sauce shouldn't have thickened. But it didn't. And the peach sauce? Sugar, water, fruit. I've used this combo time and time again for filling and it always thickens. And yet, this recipe refused to thicken. Which gave me three different "products" that were all liquidy sauces.

My third problem proves to me that no editor went through and attempted these recipes, because the second part of the recipe has a list of ingredients that AVM fails to tell you what to do in, there are no directions telling you when to add the garlic and tabasco. Do you add them to the peaches? The peach "syrup" (or in my case peach water)? The sweet and sour sauce? This is pretty much when the tears started.

The final issue was the amount of product created. The recipe calls for 14 pint jars and 7 half pint jars. After filling these jars, I had SO much chutney left over. Into tupperwear it went and Thatboy and I have been having chutney for dinner every night. And probably will for weeks and weeks to come. Roast chicken with chutney, Roast pork with chutney - tomorrow night's dinner is chicken satay with chutney. I'm lucky Thatboy is so easy going with dinner. Although it helps that I've promised never to can again after this last debacle. And the amount of product I have will last me pretty much until we die. (and maybe a week after that)

Barbeque Relish, Sweet and Sour Sauce, and Chutney (recipe from

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gone Pickin'

Last year we started two traditions in Thathouse - apple picking and pumpkin patching. This year, because we were only in town for a single weekend in October, we decided to combine the two.

Last year I mentioned to H how much I was dying to head east, to Julian to check out some of the apple orchards. H was born and raised in San Diego and so generously offered to show me the ropes. And so the four of us headed east and she shared with us the tips and tricks, as well as directing us along the scenic route to see all the best sights. This year H and her husband just closed on their new home the week before our outing. We couldn't be happier for them, but figured they'd be a little on the busy side that weekend. So instead we ventured out on our own - adopting H's traditions into our own.

Our first stop was for pumpkins! We stopped at Julian Mining Company and picked up a couple good ones for carving. We also introduced Thatdog to a couple goats.

Next we headed to Calico Ranch - where we had gone last year with H.

We headed out to orchard to pick our apples, but were informed that there were no more apples on the trees. WHAT? The orchard had only opened the weekend before, but apparently this wasn't a great year for apples AND the orchard was the only one open this year. We didn't let that deter our good time. We wandered around the orchard anyway.

Thatdog loved his first trip to the orchard. I was surprised he actually wasn't interested in the ground apples at all. Or maybe not so surprised that my dog has discerning taste. He was more than happy to share in the bites of apples we gave him in the car.

Because the orchard was bare, the proprietors had brought over apples from their other orchards and we filled a bag with the goodies. Technically we picked them ourselves. Right out of the bins! Or as the running joke goes in Thatfamily - they were handpicked...handpicked elsewhere.

Next we headed into Julian itself. I'd heard Oktoberfest was going on that weekend and Thatboy was all amped up to try it.

It was the saddest Oktoberfest I've ever been to. The only beer they had was Bud Light. Now I'm not knocking Bud Light, but to ONLY have that at an Oktoberfest? See what I mean by sad?

So instead we wandered around town.

We ran into this beautiful horse and figured Thatdog would like to say "hello."

We live next to a horse ranch, so Thatdog is pretty familiar with horses. He saw them every day when we went on our runs. Sometimes we even ran beside them on the trail where they walked. Mostly he treats them like giant dogs, trying to get them to play with him. Wagging his tail, play bowing. Something about this horse though rubbed him the wrong way. Seconds after this picture was taken, Thatdog started growling and barking at this gentle horse.

On our way out of Julian, we stopped at Dudley's - one of the traditions we stole from H and her family. Dudley's has THE best bread and last year H got us addicted to their cheddar jalapeno bread. This year we picked up a loaf of that and the asiago olive bread. We've been torn between devouring them with every meal and saving them for as long as possible.

We had one more stop on our way home - Mountain Valley Ranch, another pumpkin patch. This one had all the bells and whistles.



Hills to climb

Corncob guns to shoot

We picked up a couple more decorative/cooking pumpkins here and headed home - arms full of our harvest bounty.