Sunday, May 31, 2009

Let the Planting Begin!

The Wife is working night shifts of late, so I get to play with the Kiddos during the day. It has been really fun! Sweet Pea has accelerated her personality development it seems, and every day brings new mannerisms to enjoy! The Boyo has been a wonderful, if slightly confused helper in the garden.

Today we started putting plants into the ground while the Sweets napped. I've got a walkway marked out down the middle of the garden, and for whatever reason, he completely disregards it. But after tripping over the twine a few times, he does walk very carefully while he's in the garden. That means sneaking like a cartoon character, and it is hilarious to watch! But he kept sneaking through the planting areas and avoiding the walkways! It will be easier once all the plants are in.
I was going to alternate each plot with red and black, but I've run dry on the red, so I'll just use the black for the rest of the garden. I wish they made the groundcloth in red.

The Boyo was having a ball helping dig and 'bury' the plants, but soon tired out and went to chalk the driveway. I finished about twenty more plants and called it a day as the rains started coming down. I've got a bunch of days off in the next couple weeks, so I should be able to get everything in. Thirty six plants down, seventy four to go! And the beans... and the Basil... and the Sage...Very exciting times.

Right now we are having a 'picnic' supper and watching Night at the Museum. The Boyo is on the floor eating, and Sweet Pea is sitting in her high chair, finishing off a can of green beans and playing peekaboo with whomever will watch her. And that would be me!

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

What a Week!

Uff Da!

I did get some welding done, though I still have about a dozen cages to go. Then we headed for my parents for a few days followed by a two night stint at the hospital. I'm exhausted tonight, so this will be short.

Tomorrow, after church, the Boyo and I are heading to the garden to plant! It won't matter how tired I am, as this is one of the most exciting parts of gardening to me. After the first sprouts, getting the starts into their final homes is so exciting! I've nurtured them and coddled them and watered them and raised them and hardened them off, and now it's time to put them in the ground!

So. Sleep tonight, and FUN tomorrow!


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Plans for Tomorrow

Tomorrow shall be my welding day!

I finished a few more tomato cages tonight. I've realized that if I want to grow two dozen tomato plants, I'm going to need two dozen tomato cages! Of course, I can short myself a couple thanks to the handy dandy upside down tomato growers. But I still need to build about twenty more cages.

So, tomorrow I WELD!

Wish me luck... or better yet, wish for no burns from splattering molten steel.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Boyo is FIVE!

The birthday of my first born started out a little wet. Just past midnight I was taking my shower, getting ready for bed. As I stepped from the shower, I noticed that the shower mat was soaked. In my tired state I guessed that I had probably left the shower door open a little and hadn't noticed it. Except when I cleaned up the puddle, water started seeping from behind the wall.

'Well.' I thought. 'That can't be good.'

I called up to the wife and went around to the office on the other side of the wall. Sure enough, the carpeting was wet. So wet in fact, that my feet were standing in puddles on the carpet. We went into red alert mode and before long had moved everything to the other side of the room and pulled the shelves away that conceal the inner plumbing in the wall. I found wet insulation, wet wood and wet pipes. I bagged the insulation and dried off the pipes, searching for the leak. Mysteriously, there was no leak to be found.

Knowing that the amount of water on the floor could not have been from condensation, I pondered the whole scene again. Finally I had the Wife go and turn the shower on. Bingo. A stream of water came gushing from the connection between the copper pipe and the pipe going through the wall into the shower.

Long story short, I played plumber this afternoon and found a nifty connector that requires no sweating of the pipes! Just plug them in and go. $10 dollars spent, 30 minutes of plumber work, and we were back in business!

When the Birthday Boyo awoke this morning, the plan was to take him on an adventure! We were going to go canoeing on a local lake and do some exploring! Well, after driving for just a short while in the gale force winds we had today, we re-thought that plan. The Boyo agreed to go canoeing sometime when the winds were less agressive, and we went to breakfast instead. We all had trouble opening the doors in the wind. Definately no canoeing today.

He was easily mollified with the promise of presents and cake making upon our return home, and the only one really put out was me, as I had to load and unload that big blue canoe in the heavy winds! We also got over to Fleet Farm and geared up for the imminent canoe adventure. New paddles for the Wife and Boyo PFD's for all. We're ready when the time comes!

While out shopping for plumbing supplies, the Boyo and I found a cache of Topsy Turvey tomato growers and bought one. He was very excited about the prospect of growing tomatoes upside down, so when we returned home from that excursion, we planted our first tomato of the season.

The tomato is a Czech Bush variety, good for containers and tasty tomatoes! We'll see how it does. I'm thinking if it works out well, this might be the tomato I try and over winter and try to coax fruit from when the snow flies. It it works out really well, then I might modify those bean towers you see in the garden there, just right of the fence line, to hold four of these planters on arms coming out of the top like big shepherds crooks.

I am a dreamer. Good thing the Wife knows!

After the planting, we headed inside for presents, dinner and cake! He got his first two wheeler bike, complete with training wheels, which he rode around for awhile. And when I say rode around, I mean let daddy push him while he practiced getting the hang of the pedals and steering. He also got his very own dolly, as he had absconded with the ones that Sweet Pea had received for her birthday to play with. He loves being a big brother, but with the dolls he gets to do the things we don't let him do with his sister. Bath time, carrying around in pots and his new bike helmet. Swinging by the head and giggling. And of course, putting his "baby" to bed, complete with little pillow and blanket and a stuffed friend. His new doll came with for the bike ride too, and rode in a little pouch we got for the handlebars.

Dinner was Wendy's. His request was for a cheeseburger, and when we offered to make them at home he said "No. I think from Wendy's, with chocolate milk." Birthday request granted!

After that we frosted his cake. When asked what he wanted on it, he said "Dear Boyo, I'm sorry that you broke your leg last year. Glad you're feeling better now!" and then wanted it signed by three friends of ours!

What he got was a "Dear Boyo, Happy Birthday!" instead. Frosting was followed almost immediately by the birthday song, blowing out the candles, and having cake and ice cream! A good time was had by all.

After the nightly Unicorn story, I asked if he had a good birthday.

"Yeah," He said "I love my bike and my doll, and I loved having two parties, and I loved all the presents. Maybe we can do it again next year and I can turn SIX!"

I love that kid!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Garden Countdown

I'm so anxious to get the garden going. It is tilled and plotted and ready to go. The plants are almost done hardening off, I'm leaving them out tonight for their first night outside.

My brother already has his stuff in, but he lives many, many, many miles south of me, and has much warmer weather. I'm a little jealous of that. But I do have a bigger garden.

Let the season begin!
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Giggling Blasphemy

I come across this every once and awhile and it makes me giggle.

I like to think that The Big JC and his Dad have a pretty good sense of humor. After all, have you seen a duck billed platypus?

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Mr. Unicorn

The Boyo has come to love the adventure stories I tell him with Mr. Unicorn. We were out the other day "chalking the driveway" as he calls it, and he started branching out from the usual portraiture of one of us drawn as a circle with eyes, two legs, one arm and a long balloon. After tackling a giraffe, a lion, and a horse, he drew his first picture of Mr. Unicorn, presented here for your viewing pleasure...

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Date Night

Our third or fourth since the Boyo was born nearly five years ago. I think we keep forgetting just how much fun we have when it's just the two of us. Probably because we also have so much fun with the four of us!

We went to see the new Star Trek movie, quite entertaining, and shopped for a bike for the Boyo. Yup, that's right. He's getting wheels for his birthday! We found a nice 18" for him, along with a cool "Cars" helmet, and a pouch for the handlebars.

Last week when we were talking bikes, he mentioned that he'd like one with a basket on the front so he can carry around his stuffed animal friends. Our options were a big brown wicker one, way too big for the little dirt bike we got him, or a pretty pink Disney princess one. Also not congruent with a boy's dirt bike. Then we found the little black nylon pouch. That will work just fine!

Thanks to our friend 'AS' for watching the kiddos while we went out for some fun. We're going to have to do that more often!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shaffer South

Happy Anniversary to the Shaffer South crew! Nine years and still going strong.

Amazing things have happened to all of us since then, and before then. I'm so glad to be your brother and be able to share in them with you somewhat, the good and the bad.

Love you four and your little dog too!


Monday, May 11, 2009

The Party

Ahh. A fine joint birthday/mothers day was had by many. The house was full, the kiddos were happy, the food was great (if I do say so myself. And I tried to stay as positive as possible through it all.

The week had been trying to say the least. Late nights of cleaning and long days of yard work as we combined spring cleaning with getting ready for the party. Nearer the festivities and things really went a-poopy. My second night shift saw us working a young person suicide without success. Always hard on the crew. Fortunately the team I was on was excellent and I was, and remain, awed and proud of their professionalism and dedication when the crap hits the fan like that. When I returned home, I found that Sparkle had died. Then came the cakes.

Now granted, nothing that could have (and did) go wrong with the cakes would be as bad as the night before. But they were sort of the straw on the camel, as it were.

The Grand Plan called for me and the Wife making a Wall-E cake for the Boyo, and a baby block cake for Sweet Pea. Well. We stayed busy most of the day getting all the detaily stuff done for the arrival of her folks Saturday evening. Just as I was about to get started on the cakes, they arrived. So I didn't really get started on them until Sunday morning. With the party starting at two, it didn't leave me with quite enough time.

The fondant, while tasty, was just a little too soft. I was expecting something clay-like. What I got was something leaning towards lava consistency, without the heat. The cakes, while delicious, were very moist and crumbly. so cutting and shaping left a bit of a mess. And the buttercream frosting I was going to use as a crumb layer/glue for the fondant... well, that was all my fault. The recipe called for 1 pound of powdered sugar to go with the other ingredients. Somewhere in my head I took that as 1 cup. So when all was mixed, the resulting frosting seemed a bit liquidy to me. So I added more powdered sugar until it seemed right.

Well, after frosting everything all heck broke happily loose. The baby blocks were ok. They were small-ish. But the Wall-E block ended up leaning in all directions, the "glue" frosting actually smushed its way between the cracks and pushed things farther apart. And by the time I had finally finished the baby block cake, I had about two hours to the party to finish Wall-E. It just wasn't going to happen. The Wife and everyone else had gone to church, so I had nobody to tell me to throw in the towel.

Finally, after mixing up the perfect Wall-E yellow in the fondant, and trying to cover the rapidly collapsing block of strawberry/chocolate/frosting goo, I called it. I was so far beyond cursing however, that I actually started to giggle a little. (Insanity? I think so!) The giggling continued as I wrapped up the yellow fondant and tossed it into the trash and scooped up the remaining mess and put it into a large bowl. Heck, it's still cake and frosting. I'll make little hamburger like patties out of it and top with ice cream after the party!

Anyway, When the Boyo got home with everyone else, we went to pick out a cake for him. He chose a nice chocolate cake with five flowers on it.

I don't have pics of that cake, but here - for your viewing pleasure- is the baby block cake. It might just be a suitable candidate for the Cake Wreck site. At least I don't do this for a living!


So why the stoned elephant and the cow that looks a little like a deer you might ask? Well. Family traditions. When my siblings and I turned a year old, our family made cakes shaped like a Hereford cow. Then they would place the cake in front of us and see which part we grabbed first. As the Wife grew up, they had a birthday elephant, who in the spirit of Mr. Claus would bring the birthday girl presents. They frequently had a cake shaped like an elephant.

When the Boyo was turning one, we debated for a long time on whether to have a cow cake or an elephant cake. We came up with many plans, none of which seemed very good. A cow body with an elephant head would really screw up our new one year olds head.

Somewhere along the line we came up with the idea of doing blocks, and with icing that first year, I painted a cow on one block and an elephant on another, thus carrying on traditions while starting a new one of our own!

This year, with extra fondant, I made the birthday elephant and the Hereford out of that. With a little success. And the Sweet Pea loved her cake! Her first grab? The block with the 'Y's on it.

Happy Birthday Kiddos, and Happy Moms day, to all you moms.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009


I regret to inform you that sometime last night, Sparkle the Fish passed away.

I found out when I returned from a particularly brutal night shift. The Boyo was very sad, and many tears were shed. But we had a really good talk about dying, and convinced him that Sparkle was now hanging out with Rascal and Shoba and maybe even Bobbi was taking care of him.
So it was decide to bury Sparkle out under the birch tree in the yard, and the Boyo picked out a suitable headstone and wrote Sparkles name on it.

Then we all said a few words. I liked the flashy colors that Sparkle always showe off. The Wife liked the way he sometimes jumped out of the water in his covered tank, and splashed back in. The Boyo didn't know what to say at first, but decided that what he liked best about Sparkle was that he was happy.

So, sad news from here. But after a joyous celebration of his life, a nice little fishy funeral, and the great idea of going for another Beta fish someday soon, we were all feeling a bit better.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Speedy the Computer

Speed! What a wonderful thing on a computer.

One of the drawbacks to loving my digital camera is that I've downloaded about a bajillion pictures over the year. They've been eating up so much memory that our computer slowed way, way down. So we finally bit the bullet and bought an external hard drive. 500 GB of pure storage power baby!

So I spent last night moving pictures off of the computer onto our handy new storage space. After all was said and done, I'd moved almost 15 GB of pictures and almost audibly heard the computer take a deep breath as if a huge weight was lifted from it.

And now... it's back to moving at actual computer like speeds!


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Fondant Fest!

The big birthday/mother's day bash is approaching rapidly, and the whole house is upended for the festivities. We've moved the living room furniture to the dining room and the dining room stuff to the living room. Now there will be enough room for everyone at the table!

We've got not only family coming this time, but friends too! We've been working to get our list's done, and I have a ton more to do on mine, along with a couple of night shifts Thursday and Friday nights. So sleep deprivation will be the name of the game this week!

This past evening saw us making three batches of something called fondant. This is an edible elastic frosting type substance, a little like silly putty or clay. This will be used on Saturday to cover the two cakes we'll be making.

The Boyo is a big fan of Wall-E, so we'll be trying to create him in 3-D form. Sweet Pea is getting a cake similar to the one we made for the Boyo on his first birthday, only utilizing the previously mentioned fondant instead of the powdered sugar and water frosting we used on the Boyo's cake. (He had a milk allergy at the time, so the cake and the frosting were dairy free!)

Anyway, the fondant was pretty simple to make, but messy, messy, messy! I'm anxious to try it out on the cakes! Saturday should be a fun cake building extravaganza!

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Happy Birthday to Ben

Happy Birthday Ben!

I was working yesterday, and didn't have a chance to blog. But we are sure glad you were born! Hope the birthday was spectacular! Seven is a very good age to be.

Love you!

All of the Shaffers North

Friday, May 1, 2009

Finally, a Little Light!

Yay Time!

Read this...,28804,1895184_1895183,00.html

I think we should name flu strains after colors. Like the Black Plague or Yellow Fever. This could be the Magenta Flu, or the Ecru Flu!

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