Dec 012008
 

Zaira and I attended opening weekend of the second annual Holiday In The Park celebration at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom on Saturday.  This event is really starting to come together and we had a wonderful time.  Arriving early we were able to get our photos taken with numerous Looney Tunes characters and holiday mascots before the park even officially opened.  The theme for this year’s event was Land, Sea and Snow (playing off the park’s three themed areas of Land, Sea and Sky), but even though the park definitely felt wintry and the holiday spirit was evident everywhere there was really not very much in the way of snow.

There was a small “pen” of snow behind the stage in the food court area which hosts the Frosty The Snowman show during Holiday In The Park.  And they did have the advertised snow sledding available, though it’s not really much of a hill.  To their credit, however, this was real snow (or at least ice)and not some kind of plastic, foam or other artificial snow-like substance.  And Zaira (who’s never had a chance to sled down a real snow hill) enjoyed all four of her sledding trips.

Z was excited about the snow, but I was most excited about the fact that their wooden roller coaster, Roar, would be open for the holidays this year, unlike the inaugural Holiday In The Park in 2007. If your favorite ride is near the animals, though then you’re out of luck. Everything past (and including) Boomerang and the Tasmanian Devil is closed for the winter. We wouldn’t want to disturb the critters in the cold, now would we?

That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to sit and watch, however. Shouka (the killer whale), Merlin (the dolphin) and the sea lions all have special holiday shows for the animal lovers. There is also A Toy Box Christmas every hour on the Oasis Stage, Looney Tunes Xmas Karaoke in place of the “Talent Show”, a Scrooge puppet who heckles and interacts with the audience, Driver Daniel reading Thomas’ Christmas Delivery in Thomas Town, a holiday parade, and a five minute Frosty The Snowman show in the main food area.  We skipped the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony this year, having seen it with the world’s largest Christmas Tree last year, but sat in on Scrooge, Frosty and Xmas Karaoke.


Frosty The Snowman at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Looney Tunes Christmas Show at Discovery Kingdom

Zaira Sings ‘Deck The Halls’ with the Looney Tunes

We rode Medusa, Roar and Cobra (the latter just for the great holiday ride photo frame they had available), skipped Kong (Z hates it and there’s no ride photo), wandered the Christmas Tree Forest, Candy Cane Lane and Lollipop Lane, and “met” the new baby stingray at Sting Ray Bay.

Nov 262008
 

Alright, here we go…
Zaira and I are both going to be live blogging the preparation of our first Thanksgiving together. I will be updating this post throughout the next 24 hours or so as we take various steps along the path to the first Thanksgiving Feast at The Caverns. So keep checking back to this post throughout the day and be sure to scroll to the bottom of it as each update will be appended directly to this post. It could be fascinating, thrilling, boring, funny, or pretty much anything else. Just like the dinner prep itself this is an experiment and I have no idea how things with progress or end.

Zaira’s live blogging Thanksgiving post is called Thanksgiving For Two.

2050 hrsOff to pick up Zaira and groceries


Okay, I just got the call and am on my way out the door to get this madness started. I need to get down to Gilroy, pick up Zaira, and hit Safeway on Thanksgiving eve to buy everything we need for our mini-feast. And I do mean everything as even pots, pans and thermometers are on the list. Speaking of the list, here’s my portion of it-

  • Smallest bone-in turkey breast available.
  • unsalted butter
  • rubbed sage
  • sea salt
  • ground peppper
  • One gallon apple cider
  •  4 sprigs fresh sage or rubbed sage
  •  2 sm. onions
  •  5 peppercorns
  • Pepperidge Farm Country White Bread
  • raisins
  • turkey broth
  • corn starch
  • dried thyme
  • 1 link Italian sausage (4 oz)
  • celery
  • 1 small apple
  • 1 head garlic
  • meat thermometer
  • turkey pan
  • 1 quart baking dish

Plus, of course, whatever Z needs for the dish she’s making.  I’ll report back when we’re return and start prepping the broth.

2054 hoursStarting the brine

Got back from the grocery store about 2015 hours with way too much food and a wallet that was $87.09 lighter.  Admittedly some of that was non-turkey day related, but I still swear we could have driven to LA and bought Thanksgiving dinner for less.

Quote of the day: “Eeew!  It looks like an onion!” – Zaira (while peeling the onion for the brine).


Zaira decided to make mashed potatoes, so in addition to the list above we picked up a few potatoes. We also looked for a potato masher since I don’t have one, but couldn’t find it and the cheapest meat thermometer was almost $7 and didn’t go as high as we needed so we passed on that as well.

Although crowded, the Safeway wasn’t totally packed. There were a lot of frustrated people there, though and more than one lost husband on his cellphone. What I found truly remarkable, however was the near complete lack of turkeys remaining.

Shopping completed and laptops set up for live blogging we’re ready to start the broth. In fact, Z just finished chopping the onion while I was updating this blog. Z’s going to blog now while I continue with the brine prep.

Details as they arise…

2330 hours – Preparing brine

Apparently, apple cider takes a lot longer to boil than water does.  It’s been on the stove for almost 20 minutes now and still not even tiny bubbles.

2347 hours – Woop! Woop!

The plan was to prep the brine in two batches since I don’t have a stock pot, then store it in our turkey pan overnight to cool, then soak the turkey in it tomorrow. BIG problems!

Problem one: the turkey pan we bought isn’t big enough to hold one gallon of brine, even without adding the turkey itself.

Problem two: (the bigger one!) The turkey pan has a hole in it!!  I guess that’s what I get for buying a $3.19 pan 🙁

0006 hours – Definitely getting grumpy at this point

So, I’ve been snapping at Zaira for the last half hour.  Not just the problems above (those were more my fault then hers) just the usual not thinking about stuff and not communicating her thoughts.  She really hasn’t got a grasp on collaborative projects yet.  She’s been trained to answer as simply as possible and not express her opinions.

We did solve our problems though!  You can check Z’s post for how, cause I’m signing off for the night.

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!  “See” you tomorrow.

0900 hrs – Beep! Beep! Beep!

The plan was to set the alarm for 10, run downstairs real quick to drop the turkey in the brine then come up for cuddle time and some Doctor Who.  Unfortunately, after last night’s disasters we had to head over to X’s house to get some more pots.  So the alarm was set for 9am and we’re running down to Gilroy.  We’ll see what happens from there…

1147 hrs – Back To Work

We managed to get a pot to soak the turkey in from Z’s mom’s house, but she couldn’t find the turkey pan 🙁

Still we dropped the turkey in the brine and cuddled up for a couple of episodes of Doctor Who Season One.  It’s  only available on Netflix until December 1st and Z’s become a big fan so we’re  trying to get through the rest of the season this weekend.  Now it’s time to head back to the kitchen, though.  We still need to prepare the stuffing and the mashed potatoes all from scratch!

1223 hrs – Family Break

Zaira was peeling and chopping potatoes while I peeled and chopped the apple for the stuffing when we realized the time.  She then took a break to call my mother (Gramalu) to wish her and all of the Sequim family a Happy Thanksgiving.

We also sought pan advice.  She had the same problem last year and essentially lined the pan with foil to solve it.  I think we’re still going to pick up another one, but if it leaks as well we’ll go with the foil.

1245 hrs – The Recipes

It just occurred to me that I haven’t shared the actual recipes I’m following with y’all. I may be doing this from scratch, but I’m not going completely without guidance!

Roast Turkey For Two and Apple Sausage Stuffing

1352 hours – Back from Safeway

Just got back from trip two to Safeway. Surprisingly, we actually hadn’t forgotten anything. We just needed to get a replacement pan (which is currently undergoing hole testing) and pick up the meat thermometer I decided against last night. Oh yeah, and lunch.

Zaira’s potatoes are all ready to go. I think I peeled the apple too soon as it’s quickly turning brown in the oxygen 🙁 I’ve mixed up everything for the stuffing now and pre-heated the oven while we went to Safeway. Next I need to bake the bread and cook up the sausage mixture.

1420 hrs – Stuffing’s prep’d

We just had a severe flurry of activity with Zaira chopping while I threw the stuffing bread in the oven, fried up the sausage and mixed in all of the ingredients.  We were both way too busy in our tiny kitchen to get any photos of this process, so no visuals right now.

The turkey’s got about two more hours to soak in brine, the stuffing just needs to be put ni the oven for 45 minutes, the mashed potatoes just need to be reheated.  We’re almost there!!  I think it’s time for a Doctor Who break 🙂

1620 hrs – Time To Cook The Turkey!

So far so good! I got a minor burn on one of my knuckles while I was mixing up the stuffing/bread in the oven. Wejust watched two more episodes of Dr. Who and now it’s time to remove the turkey from its bath and put it in the oven. The skin is feeling rather loose and there’s a weird “crack” on one part so I hope everything’s not going to fall apart.

When I was buying ingredients and such I didn’t realize the turkey breast had a cavity for dressing 🙁 So, we’ll have no in-turkey stuffing, but it should still be good. Zaira’s cutting up carrots, celery, apple and garlic for turkey bed. Then we put the turkey in for 45 minutes. The stuffing cooks for 30, they both cool for 15 thenwe can eat!!!

1708 hrs –Almost There!

The turkey’s been in for 30 minutes and is turning brown. The skin on the top is starting to burn (too much better on top) 🙁 I just put the stuffing in as well. The bird should be done in about 15 minutes and then the stuffing in about another 15 minutes. About 20 minutes after that we should be eating 🙂

Meanwhile Z’s talking to my sister and her cousins back in Vermont. Apparently my aunt and uncle are visiting back there as well.

1724 hrs –Not done yet 🙁

The turkey was supposed to be done at 45 minutes, but the highest rating I could get on the thermometer was 145 (suposed to be 160) and neither of us have any idea what the pop-out thingie is supposed to look like when it’s popped out. So we put it back in for another 5 minutes.

1801 hrs – Dinner Is Served

And only 60 seconds late! Woohoo!! Zaira and I decided to eat upstairs because I knew Roommate #2 would arrive during our meal and want to watch TV. Before eating we discussed what we were thankful for this year – I’m thankful the universe has continued to allow me to grow and provided someone in my life to inspire me to do so.

The food was surprisingly good! Zaira’s mashed potatoes (reheated in the microwave with a touch more milk mixed in) were excellent, the turkey tasted a little tough at first but was fork-cuttable and quite tasty with just a hint of apple, and the stuffing was absolutely superb! On our second Safeway trek Z thought to get some Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider which was the perfect beverage to accompany this meal. We both had large portions and savored every bite while watching more Doctor Who 😉

After a quick walk to the Country Store we cleaned up the kitchen which took us less than half an hour to leave it looking cleaner than it was when we started. I can’t imagine a more successful Thanksgiving and I’m so glad I got the chance to provide such a wonderful day for my wonderful daughter. I hope you got 1/20th the pleasure out of reading this as Zaira and I did out of living it, because if you did than I know you’re ending with a smile on your face.

The results of our labors-

Happy Holidays!

Nov 212008
 

Blog Pictures | acobox.com Earlier this year I started making a concerted effort to include more photos here at Philaahzophy.  I did so not only because I started taking more photos in my personal life, but also because I had read that blog posts with images are more widely appreciated by blog readers at large.  Well, I’m certainly not ready to say that it was putting in the photos that made the difference, but I can attest to the fact that my traffic has increased dramatically in the last six months and that the few people I’ve asked about it have assured me that the blog’s more attractive in general.

Of course, this focus on pictures does present a whole new set of problems: where do I find appropriate pictures?  How much is that additional bandwidth going to cost me?  How much extra work is it going to be to post those photos?  These questions are no longer an issue for those who have discovered acobox.com.  They’re a site dedicated exclusively to providing blog pictures to bloggers. Although the selection isn’t tremendous at the moment, the service is free and easy to use.  You just browse through their galleries, click a few buttons and paste the code into your blog post.  It took me less than than five minutes to register an account, find an image, and paste it in this post (that’s it up above 😉 ).

Nov 192008
 
Part of the Wonderful WordPress Wednesdays Series - Previous in series         Next in series

Welcome to the seventh installment of my Wonderful WordPress Wednesday series.

As you may have noticed I haven’t exactly been keeping to a weekly schedule with this series and, unfortunately, I probably won’t be returning to one until 2009. But this little discovery was too great to not share with y’all while it was fresh in my mind.

Last October I ran a review contest to get some quality feedback on Philaahzophy.  The best piece of advice I received  was to add a CSSClass to my in post images so that they looked more uniform.  I did a quick bit of research and learned that I could style all of my pictures by adding

class="pic"

with the IMG tag of my pictures and the following to my style.css file (through Presentation > Theme Editor in my wp-admin)-

.pic {
padding:5px;
background-color:#e1ccac;
border: 1px solid #660000;
margin: 6px;
}

That’s what I’ve done ever since to put that nice little border around all of my images here at Philaahzophy and on my other blogs as well.  However, since I don’t host my own images (which is both a bandwidth saving and revenue generating decision) I don’t insert pictures into my post by way of the image button in the post editor, but rather I copy and paste my image host’s code directly into my post.  I then have to go back into that code and type class=”pic” in the appropriate place.  If (read: when) I forget to include the code my blog images look like crap.  A better way was needed.

Today I found that better way!  Leaving my old code behind I inserted the following line into my style sheet-

#main a img {padding:5px;background-color:#e1ccac;border: 1px
solid #660000;margin: 6px;}

Now the same attributes I was getting with the “class” tag are automatically applied to all images included in my posts!  Woohoo!  Ain’t automation grand?

Now, I know very, very little about CSS, so realizing both that I could do this and exactly where to write the code took me quite some time to realize.  In fact, when I went to my other blogs I couldn’t find anything similar in their theme files.  Again I poked around a bit and eventually discovered that to get the same results on those blogs I needed to use the following code-

.post a img {
	padding:5px;
        background-color:#D7E1FF;
        border: 1px solid #9DB7FF;
        margin: 6px;
}

So you might need to try a couple of different formats to get the results you want. Obviously, you’ll also want to set your own colors, etc. But if you’ve just got plain old regular images sitting on your blog at the moment, this will make everything that much prettier and who can really complain about that? Using CSS also gives the benefit without the need to add yet another pliugin which will slow your blog’s performance.

Part of the Wonderful WordPress Wednesdays Series - Previous in series        Next in series
Aug 032008
 

Two Tuesdays back Z and I headed to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for what we intended to be a short trip.  The plan was to drive over the hill, spend about an hour in the ocean, teaching Z to dive under waves and maybe body surf a bit, then get our annual Old Tyme photo.  I suppose I should backtrack a bit here to fill y’all in on one of our most cherished traditions…

When Z and I were reunited on June 8, 2005 after a seven year separation one of our first outings comprised of me taking her, her half-brother and their mother to the Boardwalk for the day.  As part of that experience we took an Old Tyme photo with the two of us dressed in gangster outfits from the days of Prohibition.  You can see the picture above.  The following summer we returned to the same studio at the Boardwalk and had them attempt to recreate the photo in order to show how much Z had grown.  The plan was to take one each year.  Unfortunately, due to lack of both finances and time together we skipped last summer.  But we were determined not to miss out on the photo this summer.

Okay, back to the recent trip…

We arrived in Santa Cruz, changed into bathing suits, locked all of our valuables into Rover and headed for the surf.  We were about half way there when I realized that I had forgotten to leave my glasses in the car as well.  Having worn glasses 24/7 for the last 30 years or so, it’s easy to forget that I’m wearing them.  Well, I was excited to get Z into the water, so I decided that instead of returning to Rover I would just stay in the shallows so as not to lose my glasses.  To no one’s surprise it took less than 15 minutes for me to get blind-sided by a wave and lose my glasses, leaving me legally blind.

A trip back to the car and a few phone calls found us a friend that could come drive Rover home (it’s hard to drive when you can’t see the dashboard, much less the road or other cars), but he couldn’t get there for about 10 hours due to other commitments.  So, back to the surf for a while we went followed by some time playing games and riding rides – all without my glasses.  I’ve got to say that the Boardwalk (especially at night) with 20/250 vision is an absolutely surreal experience.  The lights and noise and crowd all seem completely forum and the inability to see anyone’s facial expressions leaves one feeling completely disconnected from the near-chaos of the environment.  On the other hand, I did manage to top my previous score on Desperadoes (they’re new shooting ride/game) despite being unable to actually see the “bad guys” I was aiming at 😀

We still went by the Old Tyme Photos Studio in the main arcade and had the picture on the left taken. The crew there this year (Sarah, Carney, Alejandra, and Jose) jumped all over the idea of recreating the original photo. They all thought it was an amazing idea and quickly became far more obsessive about matching the original picture than we ever were. It was absolutely wonderful! And the results are clear when comparing the three photos. If you’ve ever admired the Old Tyme Photos I couldn’t recommend any studio more highly then the one at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The next morning we rose early and Z acted as my “seeing-eye Kitten” on a long bus journey up to Lenscrafters at Oakridge Mall.  Unable to drive or work I had little choice in where or when I purchased new glasses – I needed them now.  Z managed to find some great new frames for me while I had my eyes examined yet again and $300 later could finally see again.