What Will Your Verse Be?

mrbream:

I read several blogs by other folks, some are written by friends, some by internet acquaintances. Every once in a while I’ll come across a post that just jumps out at me…this is one of them. Wouldn’t it be great if today’s teachers could really teach their passion, to inspire their students and really get them interested in LEARNING rather than having to teach to pass a standardized test? Read on…

Originally posted on Teach with Class:

I have no idea how many times I have seen Dead Poet’s Societybut every time I do I get tears in my eyes when the students stand on their desks and say “O Captain! My Captain!” to honor Mr. Keating when he is being forced to leave his teaching job because he taught students how to think and not simply how to conform. Mr. Keating Ironically and sadly, this movie also deals with suicide.

Mr. Keating inspired in me the type of teacher I wanted to become. He taught me that teaching literature is opening a window to the soul rather than explaining words on a page. He taught me that literature is best learned by incorporating it into life rather than having your head buried in a textbook. He taught me that literature is relevant to every generation; a great teacher can unlock these timeless themes to…

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Cape San Blas 2014 – It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times…

OK, I don’t think any vacation or break from everyday life could be considered ‘the worst of times’ but sometimes vacations come with challenges…and this one sure did.

We decided to take a short trip to the beach this year. ConnieLou found us a place to stay on Cape San Blas, Florida. We discovered the Cape San Blas/Port St. Joe/Mexico Beach area a few years back. The area is much more laid back than Panama City Beach, Destin, Gulf Shores and other destination towns further west along the Gulf Coast. There are no high-rise condos, no outlet malls, no go cart tracks or even any mini-golf courses…just the beach and a good dose of ‘Old Florida’.

Our plan was to get the oil changed in the car Wednesday morning, run a few last minute errands Wednesday afternoon, leave Thursday morning, spend Friday and Saturday chillin’ on the beach, eat out in the evenings and then head home late Sunday morning. I was hoping to fish a little bit but mainly I wanted to spend a lot of time playing in the ocean with the kids or doing as little as possible.

Everything went exactly according to plan, in a general sense, but the devil is in the details. We got the oil changed…along with buying four new tires, front brakes, rotors, a brake light and a fuel system service. $875 and a bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth later the car was once again safe for the road. The trip down was as uneventful as a six-hour trip with four people and two dogs in a Honda Accord could be. We made a pit stop for the pups and a stop for lunch but all in all, it was smooth sailin’ on the new tires.

Car Pups

Friday and Saturday were spent playing in the surf or relaxing in a beach chair. I had hoped to flyfish a bit but the surf was rolling on the Gulf side of the peninsula and I was too lazy to find a spot over in the bay. As much as I love to fish, I was pretty content to chill on the beach and play in the water.

Girls and Pups

We try to make supper a bit of a treat while on vacation. This time around we decided on Indian Pass Raw Bar in Indian Pass, The Sand Bucket on Cape San Blas and Toucan’s in Mexico Beach. Click on the links to check out my Eat Out reviews. We did breakfast and lunch in the townhouse each day but changed that up on Saturday when I stumbled across Weber’s Little Donut Shop out on the cape and brought back some glazed croissants. Too bad we didn’t find Weber’s on Thursday!

Another little problem that would set the stage for our drive home cropped up Saturday morning as I was leaving Weber’s…the car air conditioning died. You do the math, late July, deep south, no AC, gonna be a lonnnng ride home…and it was. Too bad we didn’t have a wifi connection at the condo or at least a good 3G signal…the AC crisis might have been averted. Once home ConnieLou did a Google search which led to a couple of YouTube videos which led to a trip to a local auto parts store to pick a part which led to about 15 minutes spent elbow deep under the glove box cussing one of Honda’s designers that put the AC blower motor resistor up under there but also led to a revived car AC system.

Can we go back to the beach now?

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Dangit Robby!

Anyone else a fan of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips? The other day my buddy Robby shared a story on Facebook about Calvin’s last day and his passing of his beloved stuffed tiger Hobbes to his grandson. You can read the story HERE but be prepared with a box of KleenEx or at least an absorbent shirt sleeve, it’s a bit of a tear jerker. I read the story and, like some of the others that commented on Robby’s post, I found myself a bit choked up and…OK…teary eyed. As I finished reading I saw ConnieLou pull into the driveway. Once inside she greeted me, gave me a puzzled look and asks “What’s wrong?” After a couple of tries I finally managed to croak out “Calvin died.” The resulting conversation went something like this:

ConnieLou: “Calvin who?”

Me: “Calvin…Calvin and Hobbes Calvin.”

ConnieLou: “The comic strip, Calvin?”

Me: “Yeah.”

ConnieLou: “You mean they quit writing the comic strip?”

Me: “No, Calvin died.”

ConnieLou: Calvin died?

Me: “Yeah, Calvin died.”

ConnieLou: “But…”

Me: “Here, read this…”

Needless to say she thought I was a little more off my rocker than usual.

As I drove into work yesterday morning I had some time to think about the story and why it affected me like it did. I’ve had a similar experience a number of times before but with different triggers. The first time that I can recall happened when Ashley was 13 or so. I was headed to the playroom to use the computer and I noticed her standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom putting on makeup. Since that’s a relatively normal occurrence for girls that age I didn’t think much of it…until I got in the playroom and found myself staring at a bunch of her toys, many of which hadn’t been played with in a while. Although she still played with a few of her toys some, I knew her days of being ‘little’ were behind her.

There have been other occurrences, some centered around toys, some around music and most around some life event or milestone like a graduation or learning to drive a car…something that signaled passing of time and reminded me that they’re not only getting older but growing up.

I’ve told ConnieLou a number of times over the past few years that we’d better get used to the idea that they are growing up and will be out doing their own thing sooner than we think. I think I should probably be listening to that myself…but apparently I’m not.

Yeah, my daughters are growing up and I don’t like it. Not one bit. I want them to stay little and be full of imagination and adventure, like Calvin and his pal Hobbes…and I know, like Calvin in the story, they can’t stay little… and that just sucks.

Dangit Robby! Why did you have to post that link?

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The ‘Great American Backyard Campout’ Mega Giveaway

mrbream:

This is a reblog-worthy blog for Get Out! if I’ve ever seen one. Its almost time for the Great American Backyard Campout! Take the kids outside, pitch a tent, hang up your hammocks or ‘cowboy camp” under the stars…doesn’t matter how you do it, Get Out!!

BTW, follow the links on the 365 Atlanta Family post for chances to win some cool outdoor gear.

Originally posted on 365 Atlanta Family:

great American Backyard Campout

We are excited about the Great American Backyard Campout, and we want to share that excitement with you! In an effort to encourage families to get outside together more, we are giving away a Mega Prize Package of outdoor gear and activities for the whole family. Here is what you can win!!

Prizes from our HEADLINE SPONSORS

FRIENDS OF GEORGIA STATE PARKS AND HISTORIC SITES –  Georgia State Parks are our families go-to location for fun and excitement outdoors.  There is much to see and do – from camping or staying in a cottage, to fishing, canoeing or kayaking, Geocaching, and so much more.  Win a Friends on Georgia State Parks Annual Family Membership, which includes two annual park passes, discounts at Historic Sites, two nights free camping, discounts for various purchases, and Georgia’s Great Places magazine. With a few additional gifts from Friends of Ga…

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It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Anyone else remember the Peanuts cartoon strip with Snoopy sitting on top of his doghouse with a typewriter working on his novel? He begins with the phrase “It was a Dark and Stormy Night” and never gets much further. It seemed like a good opener for this blog entry. You’ve pretty much guessed where this entry is going but we’ll get to the dark and stormy night part shortly, there’s more to tell. That’s foreshadowing for you literary types.

So I got a new backpack for Christmas last year, a ULA Catalyst to be specific.

Catalyst

One problem, until this weekend I haven’t had a chance to use it for its intended purpose. Instead, it’s been used for temporary storage for parts of my hammock camping gear and transport of said gear to ‘my ‘ trees at the edge of the woods behind our house. Life just hasn’t given up the time to go much further. I wanted to try to squeeze in a quick overnight trip somewhere close before it got to be too hot, both during the day and at night, to be comfortable.

I was looking over my calendar a few weekends ago and realized that I didn’t have anything going on this weekend and it would likely be my only free weekend into at least early July…and the wheels began to turn. I thought about taking a solo trip but most of the time it’s more fun to have someone along for the trip to have someone to talk to, someone to give you that extra bit of encouragement when you’re tired of walking or even someone to share the misery of walking through a stretch of woods that’s more infested with skeeters than the Everglades on a hot July evening (a little more foreshadowing there). I decided to ask Ashley’s boyfriend Jared if he’d like to go. Jared has spent the last year studying at Georgia Tech and is currently working an internship and hasn’t had a lot of time to get out and go play in the woods either so he was eager to go. Now it’s not exactly a secret that my ‘adventures’ often involve strange twists of fate, but I’m not too sure he knew exactly what he was getting himself into. Hey, things happen, right? We decided to head down to Chattahoochee Bend State Park and hike the River Trail up to the north platform campsites. Jenna and I hiked up there last year and camped for a night so I had a pretty good feel for what the hike would be like and where some good trees were to hang our hammocks from.

As is normal for me, the trip started with several stops. I needed to pick up a couple of last minute food items and a bottle of Heet for fuel for our alcohol stoves. Heet is a gas-line antifreeze for cars and is basically methyl alcohol. It’s a great fuel for small alcohol stoves because it burns clean and is widely available at many grocery stores, convenience stores and auto parts stores…except for the grocery store and three convenience stores that we stopped at. I finally picked up a bottle at an auto parts store and we were on our way.

Once at The Bend, we paid for the campsite and parking fees, drove to the trailhead, shouldered our packs and hit the dusty trail. Actually it was more of a muddy trail since it had rained the day before. The forests along the trail took on a very different appearance since our last trip to The Bend last fall. Since it’s early summer and we’ve had plenty of rain, the vegetation and foliage along the trail were lush and green rather than sporting fall colors.

Trail

Woods

The hike in was mostly uneventful for the first 4 or 5 miles. We saw deer, squirrels and couple of armadillos and were generally having a good time as we walked…but something changed. We’d seen and heard a few skeeters as we walked along and picked a few ticks off our socks and legs, But nothing major.  However, as we got into the last mile or so of our hike, we were mobbed by skeeters. If you stopped walking 20 or more of the little buggers would land on any exposed skin and they were constantly whining in our ears. At one point Jared, who was walking behind me was swatting ‘em off my shoulders and killing 4 or 5 with every slap. By the time we got to the restroom shed at the end of the trail we were seriously considering turning around and walking out because a night with all those skeeters would be miserable at best, even with bugnets surrounding our hammocks. Fortunately, as we got close to the campsites along the river, the skeeter population dissipated significantly and we decided to stay.

We set up our hammocks, bugnets and tarps…

Hammocks

Then we dug through our packs for our food bags and cook kits. We decided to keep things simple and simply boil water and use freezer bag cooking methods to rehydrate a couple of dehydrated meals I’d made a while back. It was Jared’s first time using an alcohol stove so I walked him through the process and gave him some pointers. One thing I failed to mention was not to get the freezer bag that the dehydrated food was in too close to the stove as the water is poured into it. Yep, we had a small snafu.

Bag

Fortunately, we had a couple more freezer bags handy so we transferred his chili-mac into a new bag, and boiled a little more water and in half an hour we were diggin’ into a fine evening meal. After supper we spent some time just chillin’ and talkin’…guy talk…and I lit up a pipe just to make sure the skeeters stayed away. We toyed with the idea of building a campfire but neither of us felt like hunting firewood or possibly inviting a hoard of skeeters in for supper.

Pipe

We decided to turn in as the sun set to avoid the onslaught of evening mosquitoes. I didn’t think I would go to sleep that early, especially since it was still hot and uncomfortably humid, but apparently I did since I found out today that Jared had been texting Ashley and telling her that I was asleep and snoring. I’m gonna have to have a long talk with that boy.

We both dozed on and off until about 1:15 when we both found ourselves suddenly wide awake listening to what sounded like hurricane blowing through the trees over our heads. The weather forecast for the weekend and next few days was pretty typical of early summer. Each day was forecast to have about a 30 to 50 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms during the afternoons but nothing significant forecast overnight. Apparently someone didn’t get the memo about the overnight part. Jared checked in with his dad who checked the weather radar online and saw a strong storm that appeared to be heading our way and would likely be on top of us in 15 or 20 minutes. We made a quick decision to break camp quickly and shelter-up in the restroom shed. Needless to say, we didn’t spend too much time trying to neatly pack our gear. The general plan was to stuff it in our packs and sort it out later.

We made it to the restroom shed just as the rain started. A bit about the restroom shed. This isn’t your typical State Park bathhouse with sinks and flush toilets and showers and benches to sit on or put your clothes on. This is a small wood-frame building with a concrete floor and two 8 x 10 rooms with a composting ‘toilet’ in a corner, a toilet paper dispenser on the wall and a LED ceiling light connected to a 15-minute timer. No frills is a pretty good description…and it was home for the rest of the night.

Restroom

Since we were a little low on water we decided to catch some of the rainwater draining off the roof to have a little to hold us over until we could filter some water at our first stream crossing. I could hear Jared rattling around in his room then things got quiet for a little while until I heard him moving about again. He had pulled out his sleeping bag, laid it out on the floor and slept a little bit. Once I found out what he had done I was inspired to try to dig my top quilt and camp pillow out of my pack (no easy task) and do the same. To my surprise I actually managed to sleep for about an hour and a half on a concrete floor. Of course, when I got up I found myself hurting in places that I didn’t know that I had. Guess that’s a small price to pay to make sure I brought Jared home safely to his parents and to his girlfriend.

By daylight we were packed up and ready to walk out. We set a blistering pace through the skeeter infested stretch of woods and were still walking along at a pretty fast clip when we spooked up the first deer of the morning. The doe ran off into the woods and as we approached the spot where she had been standing we noticed something lying at the edge of the trail. It was her baby that looked to be only a day or two old. We stopped long enough to take a picture and wish it well before continuing on our way.

Fawn

At the first stream crossing we pulled out the gravity filter that I made last fall and replenished our water supply then slowed down a little for a fairly uneventful walk back to the truck.

I’ve got to give Jared some credit here. Lesser young men might have started complaining or even gotten a little whiny when things didn’t go quite as planned and some might have even panicked as that storm rolled over our heads but he took it all in stride and didn’t seem to miss a beat. He managed to earn his trail name this weekend. He shall now be known as Tick. Apparently the little buggers like him. By the time we made it back home he’d picked off fourteen and there’s a good chance there were a few more hidden that he hadn’t found yet.

On a side note, a few folks have asked me how I like the Catalyst. Short answer…I love it. It took a little fiddling around with the straps to get it situated but by the end of the weekend it was quite comfortable and neither my shoulders nor my hips seemed to be carrying the majority of the load.  You know it’s there but it rides well enough that you don’t wish that it wasn’t. I like the simplicity of the pack.  The roll top closure and compression straps on the sides allow one to adjust the pack’s capacity for smaller loads.  The mesh front panel allows easy access to smaller items that might be need needed while on the trail like rain gear, a tarp or a pair of camp shoes and is also a good place to put damp items that need to dry.  One small detail I especially like are the pockets on the hip belt – they’re much larger than those found on most other packs and have plenty of room for a camera, cell phone or snack bag.  If there was anything I could change I would add some length to the hip belt straps to allow me to have more strap to tug on to make adjustments. Fortunately I should be able to get that taken care of with a phone call to the folks at ULA.

Posted in Alcohol Stove, Backpack Stove, Backpacking, Camping, Chattahoochee Bend, Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Georgia State Parks, Gravity Filter, Hammock, Hammock Camping, Hiking | Leave a comment

Tunes from the Tombs?

 

TFTTs

What do a day-long music festival and a historic Atlanta cemetery have in common?  Nothing?  Are you sure about that?  Maybe you should check out the Tunes from the Tombs Music Festival at Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery.  Party down with the dead on Saturday June 14,  from  1 pm to 8 pm.  For more information and a chance to win tickets, click the link to 356 Atlanta Family’s giveaway page.

 

 

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Save the Biscuits!

Heads-up folks. This post isn’t about being outdoors and is a bit of a rant. Read or not, that’s your call.

So what am I ranting about? Biscuits. Yep, that’s right…biscuits. Well, maybe not ‘real’ biscuits but the greasy hockey pucks that restaurants and convenience stores try to pass off as biscuits these days.

Here’s the deal. I was heading out I-20 towards Lake Oconee for work last week and needed to stop for fuel so I pulled into the Quip Trap in Covington. As I pumped my gas I remembered that I hadn’t had any breakfast and was a bit hungry so I decided to step inside and see if I could find something appealing to eat and something to drink before getting back on the road. I looked over the selections on the warmer racks and decided it was a bit too early for taquitos, hot dogs or buffalo chicken sticks. Against my better judgment I decided on a couple of biscuits. Bad idea.

To put things into perspective, I know very well what a real biscuit is. My late Grandma Fowler made real biscuits and I ate many of them over the years. Rest assured that her biscuits didn’t come in a can but from a wooden bowl where she would mix flour, buttermilk, lard or shortening and whatever else might have gone into them. She’d mix the ingredients by hand, pinch off equal sized balls of dough, pat ‘em out a little, lay ‘em side by side in a pan and then bake ‘em. It was a method perfected from making biscuits for my granddaddy nearly every morning before he left for work during the 50+ years they were married. Once done, every biscuit in the pan would be light golden brown on the top, fluffy and light in the middle and nearly identical in size and shape…and never ever burned…we’re talking about biscuit perfection here. Unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to watch closely and learn to make them myself…I wish I had.

Back to Quick Trap. I completely missed the first warning sign. The biscuits were packaged in a paper wrapper that was sealed at both ends…like the plastic wrapper on a Moon Pie. That should have told me that they were pre-made, probably frozen and reheated…not made fresh in a kitchen somewhere back in the back. I should have caught that one but I was burnin’ daylight and needed to get moving.

Once back on the road I opened up the first biscuit and to take a bite. First I noticed that the top of the biscuit had a greasy feel. The tops had been painted with melted butter. Why is it that fast food restaurants and the suppliers of convenience store biscuits have such a great need to paint the tops of their biscuits with butter? Anyone that knows their way around a biscuit knows that butter goes on the inside, along with muscadine jelly (if the biscuit is worthy of muscadine, if not, plain old Welch’s grape is appropriate) and not on the outside. All that does is leave your hands and lips greasy until you can find a place with a sink, some hot water, soap and paper towels to clean that mess off.

The bottom of the biscuit wasn’t much better. It chewed about like cardboard but at least there wasn’t a greasy coating of butter. With the exception of biscuits at Chic-Fil-A, cardboard bottoms seem to be another constant with fast food and (pre-made) convenience store biscuits.

I had hopes that the insides might, by some miracle, be light and fluffy like a biscuit should be. I really don’t know why I had any thought that it could be possible…guess I’m an optimist. Needless to say the middle wasn’t exactly fluffy. More like the consistency of a good piece of pound cake…but I wanted biscuits, not pound cake. Of course, looking back, a nice slice of pound cake and a bottle of milk would have made a much better breakfast…homemade pound cake of course.

Biscuit making is a dying art. Good biscuits, really good biscuits, are almost nonexistent in restaurants now days. I blame this in the fast food chains that got in on the breakfast business. Sure, there are a few ‘mom & pop’ diners around where a good biscuit can still be had but they’re few and far between. If you find one, don’t keep it a secret. These places need all the business they can get to stay open. Things aren’t much better in the home kitchen. Blame it on the convenience of ‘biscuits’ in a can. Whop ‘em on the counter to crack ‘em open, drop ‘em in a pan and toss ‘em in the oven for a few minutes…done. Very few sons and daughters spend time with parents or grandparents learning to make a proper biscuit these days. Like I said, it’s a dying art.

Maybe we should start a new campaign like ‘Save the Whales’ or ‘Save the TaTas’…call it ‘Save the Biscuits’!! Can I get an Amen?!

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Chicken Marinade No. 37

It was time for a new chicken marinade. We’d used the buttermilk marinade I previously described several times and it time to move it down in the rotation and try something new. I spent a little quality time on Google looking for possibilities. I found a good candidate on allrecipes.com, checked to make sure we had all the ingredients and then ran the ingredient list by ConnieLou and the girls. Everyone agreed that it was worthy of a try.

The recipe itself was called “Marinade for Chicken”. Not exactly a creative name but it sounded pretty tasty. According to the original recipe the marinade should be good for about 3 pounds of chicken. I only had about a pound of chicken cutlets to work with so I cut the recipe by half. Actually I could have cut it by half again and had plenty but instead I put some in a container and popped it in the fridge for next time. Since we’re not big salt users and since the Worchester and soy sauce both have a fair amount of salt in them I left out the additional salt that the recipe called for altogether. Also, based on a couple of comments I substituted apple cider vinegar for the red wine vinegar.

I put the chicken and marinade in a ZipLoc bag, sealed it up, squished it around to get the chicken good and coated and set it aside to let the marinade do its thing for a couple of hours. I cooked the chicken at about 350 degrees with a raised direct setup.

We tossed a few ears of corn on the Egg to go with the chix.

Corn

I let the corn cook a few minutes then tossed the chix on the grill.

Chix

ConnieLou made a pitcher of sweet tea and some broccoli while the chicks and corn cooked.

Done

It all made for some fine eatin’. Think we’ve found another keeper…

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An excellent idea.

mrbream:

Get Out! And get off the paved road now and then…

Originally posted on In the life of Theosus:

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Day 138 – Fernbank Forest Guided Tour

mrbream:

Another reblog from 365 Atlanta Family…
Had a very busy weekend here and didn’t have much of a chance to Get Out! beyond spending last night in my hammock between a couple of trees. I saw this post and it reminded me of trips to Fernbank Forest and field trips to Fernbank Science Center as a kid. Interested in taking a nature walk in an urban oasis? Check out Fernbank Forest.

Originally posted on 365 Atlanta Family:

Did you know that Fernbank Museum of Natural History was actually created in order to preserve Fernbank Forest,  the 65 acres of forest that sits in their backyard? Fernbank Science Center leased the forest for about five years, and in 2012 ownership and maintenance reverted back to the Natural History Museum.  Because of on-going conservation efforts, self-guided tours are not available, but Bird Walks and Guided Nature Walks are regularly on the calendar.  You will see breathtaking woodlands, wild critters, and historic ruins.  Today, you can select from the day time or night time (oooohhh, cool!) tour, suitable for kids 8 and older.

Can’t make a scheduled visit?  Did you know Deepdene Park and Dellwood Park on Ponce de Leon are owned by Fernbank, as well?  You can walk these parks at your leisure.

Fernbank Forest Guided Tour - ideas from 365 Atlanta FamilyFernbank Forest Guided Tour - ideas from 365 Atlanta FamilyFernbank Forest Guided Tour - ideas from 365 Atlanta FamilyFernbank Forest Guided Tour - ideas from 365 Atlanta FamilyFernbank Forest Guided Tour - ideas from 365 Atlanta FamilyFernbank Forest Guided Tour - ideas from 365 Atlanta Family


Looking for more ideas for family fun in Atlanta? Check out our 365 Atlanta Family Calendar

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Posted in Astronomy, Day Hike, Fernbank, Fernbank Forest, Fernbank Museum, Fernbank Science Center | Leave a comment