03 November 2011

School Photo at Three Years Old

It's school photo time again for Anders! Technically, he's still not in school, but "Uncle" Jeff was able to fit him in.

The difference between the photos from this year and last year is pretty dramatic. I know that we shouldn't be surprised by that; after all, he is 50% older now than he was a year ago. But there's really no denying it now: he's growing up.

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket
3 November 2011

02 November 2011

Anders' "First" Halloween

Despite this being Anders' third Halloween, I would venture to say that this was his first true Halloween celebration. He picked the jack-o-lantern designs, chose his own costume, and trick-or-treated through The Gorge. He is no baby anymore!

Brachiosaurus Jack-o-Lantern
I think every little boy has a fascination with dinosaurs, and Anders is no exception. So straight out of the blue one day he stated that he wanted a Brachiosaurus jack-o-lantern. We weren't talking about pumpkins or dinosaurs at the time, so it really was out of nowhere. It makes me wonder what else he has going on in that head of his!

For some strange reason, it was difficult to find a ready made jack-o-lantern stencil to meet the request. But with a little creativity on Corinne's part, she created a great pattern! (And since she was already doing one dinosaur, why not two? She chose one of its late Jurassic contemporaries, the Stegasaurus, as a companion piece.)

Best Brachiosaurus and Stegosaurus jack-o-lanterns ever

We let Anders use a crayon to draw a face on a third pumpkin. It took some "interpretation" of his marks to cut out a face, but I like it.

Corinne and I are usually pretty last minute about Halloween costumes, but this year we were the lucky recipients of an astronaut hand-me-down costume from Zak. Perfect! Problem solved, right? Wrong.

About two weeks before Halloween, Anders stated that he wanted to be a firefighter. All of our attempts to convince him otherwise failed miserably. We even brought out the astronaut costume to show him. A few hours later (again, when we weren't even talking about costumes) I asked him an open-ended "what do you think, Anders?" question. His answer was clear: "I think that astronaut costume should be a firefighter costume."

Yellow raincoat + hat + (black boots X white reflective duct tape) + ping pong ball shooter = fire fighter!

We picked Anders up from daycare early on Monday afternoon and made a few office trick-or-treat stops before heading back to downtown White Salmon for some small town trick-or-treating with the Fluits.

Spy and Firefighter

Public servant, on the job

Is that a fire whistle that I hear?

We even stopped in to the local volunteer firehouse. Unfortunately, Anders was too shy to take advantage of the opportunity to sit in a fire truck. Too bad for us, since we missed a great photo opportunity!

We did capture a sample of "Anders, the Singing Firefighter."

It didn't take very long for Anders to get the hang of it: "Trick-or-treat" -> "Thank you" -> "Happy Halloween!" while waving arm violently.

Zak, Daniel, and Anders awaiting candy.
You can practically see the anticipation on their faces!

After an hour or so trick-or-treating downtown, we turned the tables and had the kids man the door at the Fluits while the adults ate dinner.

Happy Halloween!

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders
1 November 2011

14 October 2011

Wooden Space Needle

Anders has a set of those wooden tower blocks, as just about every child in America did. He can be pretty creative with them and often surprises us. One day he created this scene and then told us that it was the Space Needle.

Not bad!

- Mike, Corinne and Anders

13 October 2011

Let's Look It Up

This is definitely a sign of our times...

Anders had built something with his Tinkertoys. (Remember those?) When Corinne walked in, she asked him what it was that he had built.

Without missing a beat, Anders responded: "I don't know. Let's find out. Let's look it up. Where's my phone?"

He then proceeded to pull out his toy flip-phone, push some buttons, then say "Oh, it's a spinning wheel."

I can't imagine where he learned that.

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

11 October 2011

Fluffy Ears

Recently the three of us walked out to our garden to pick some flowers for a bouquet. Most of the flowers were still in full bloom, but Anders particularly liked how "fluffy" the zinnias were.

It didn't take too much encouragement to get him to pose for some "fluffy" photos with his flowers. (I use the term "pose" loosely.)

Fluffy Ears...

...Fluffy Eyes...

...Fluffy Nose!

A modern take on Three Wise Monkeys, perhaps?

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

02 October 2011

The End of Summer Tomatoes

Thanks to a long summer, our garden was still producing prolifically into October. When it looked like the first frost was coming, we harvested whatever was left: tomatoes, tomatillos, boxes of squash, and piles of herbs. We spent most of a weekend cooking and canning: Zucchini Dill Pickles, Chile Verde Sauce, and a wonderful Tomato and Sage Sauce. All made from garden ingredients! (Thanks to Debbie for some of her garden plum tomatoes.)

The blender technique to this particular recipe was a bit unusual for a tomato sauce. But with so many different varieties and colors, the process was beautiful.

Onions, garlic, sage, and chili pepper

Ready for jars

One last bit of summer tucked away, just enough to remember it by.

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders
2 October 2011

20 September 2011

Anders is 3!

It's hard to believe, but Anders turned three years old today! Apparently three is when cheesy smiles and "mugging" for the camera begin.

Happy Birthday!

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders

10 March 2011


Anders: "Where's Mom?"
Dad: "She disappeared."

Anders looks intently at Dad.

Anders: "She doesn't have a beard. You have a beard. Mom doesn't have a beard."

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders

02 March 2011

Snow! Finally! (and motion-activated cameras)

Despite predictions to the contrary, it's been a pretty light winter in terms of snow accumulation. Here's a "time lapse" video of some driveway clearing work that we did after one of the late winter snowfalls.

The video was created by stitching together a series of still photos taken with a motion-activated trail camera that we recently bought. The trail camera is designed to be mounted to a tree or other fixed object and automatically takes one or more photos or video when it detects motion. To start, we mounted it in the driveway as a trial run before we move it to another more interesting place on our property. The camera just happened to be mounted there when I had to clear the driveway. You'll undoubtedly see more interesting shots taken with it at a later time.

- Mike, Corinne and Anders
Date: March 1, 2011

20 February 2011

Dinner Party: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan

One of the downsides of living outside of a city - and one of the things that we miss about Boston - is the lack of ethnic diversity. While there is great Mexican food in this area, you have to go to Portland for most other types. (For example: there aren't any Middle Eastern, Indian or South Asian restaurants anywhere in The Gorge. Period.)

That has never deterred us, though; we'll just do it ourselves, at home. But rather than go it alone in the wilderness, we have cultivated a cadre of similar-minded foodies and participate in ethnic food parties. Previous ethnic-themed dinners have covered Thai, Spanish, and German. For this one, we were inspired by our favorite restaurant: The Helmand, an Afghani restaurant in Cambridge, MA. (If you are ever in the Boston area, we highly recommend it.)

For our dinner party, we expanded the scope to include a few of the surrounding countries: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. We made two of our cookbooks available as inspiration: Afghan Food and Cookery and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States: A Dinner Party Approach to International Relations. We invited a few dozen friends, made a few recipes ourselves, and just let the dishes roll in.

  • Chalau Sof / Afghan style baked rice (Afghanistan)
  • Koufta Chalau / Meatballs (Afghanistan)
  • Nani Afghani / Flatbread (Afghanistan)
  • Borrani banjan / Eggplant (Afghanistan)
  • Sfiha / Arab pizza (Syria/Lebanon)
  • Helawat al Jazr / Sweet Cardamon Carrots (Iran)
  • Chelo Kebab Barg / Roasted goat (Iran)
  • Lawang e Samaruq / Mushrooms in Yogurt (Afghanistan)
  • Channa / Chickpea curry (Indian)
  • Hummus / Hummus (everywhere)
  • Chicken Jalfarezi / Chicken curry (Pakistan)
  • Achaar Chicken / Tangy curry chicken (Pakistan)
  • Naan Berenji / Persian Rice Cookies (Iran)
Interestingly, only a few of the dishes used meat, which made the vegetarians in the group very happy. There were probably a few more dishes as well that didn't get included in this list. (Most of the recipes that aren't linked are from one of the two cookbooks above.) Here was the resulting spread, in all its splendor:

We encouraged people to bring beverages as well, with the stipulation that "all drinks must comply with the local customs in these countries" (aka "think twice before bringing beer or wine"). The resulting beverage list included two kinds of chai; Ouzo that was homemade by a friend of one of the participants (technically it isn't from one of the countries indicated, but how do you turn away a homemade liquor?); and Johnny Walker with water. That last one is apparently what all the Indian men drink in the backrooms. Yes, technically outside of the indicated countries, but it's a great visual, isn't it?

We love these parties. They give people an opportunity/excuse to expand their cooking experiences, but more importantly, we all get to help eat the results.

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders

22 January 2011

Pancake Revival

Who doesn't have fond childhood memories of having pancakes? Anders, that's who. We have never made him pancakes. When we were first married, we tried several pancake recipes but were not impressed with any of the results. For us, waffles and french toast beat out pancakes any day. So pancakes were never on our breakfast menu.

But now that Anders is around, we have started to feel guilty. Have we been depriving him of a quintessential American adolescent experience? If it weren't for daycare, Anders wouldn't even know what a pancake was. So we came up with a plan. We were sure that some of our parent friends must make pancakes for their kids, and they can't all be as dull as ours, right? Time for another themed food party: Pancake Revival!

We invited some of our friends-with-young-children to brunch and asked them to bring a pancake recipe, either one of their favorites or a new one to try. We would cook up a batch of each different recipe and let everyone enjoy the variety, including the kids.

We had pancakes of all sorts: buckwheat, whole wheat; pumpkin, strawberry, blueberry, spiced; thick, thin. And lots of them. We had griddles going simultaneously for at least an hour. All of the kids, including Anders, got their fill of pancakes that day.

It certainly wasn't a contest, so I won't declare a "winner". But we did come away with a recipe for Buttermilk Pancakes that all three of us liked. It turned out to be a recipe from the cookbook of the Wildflower Cafe, a longtime favorite restaurant in the Gorge that closed several years ago.

Since this event was really all about the kids, here are some of the participants:

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders

Quotes from Anders

Kids are endlessly entertaining. Here is just a sampling of some of the things Anders has said.

Mike: You are an eating machine.
Anders: I'm eating a pea. I am not eating the washing machine. I'm just eating a pea.

Corinne: Are you excited that friends are visiting?
Anders: Yes
Mike: Are you excited to put on shoes?
Anders: Yes ... pause ... No! Exciting for friends! Not exciting for shoes!

Anders: I burped.
Corinne: Polite boys say, "Excuse Me".
Anders: I don't want to excuse me. Some boys say, "Excuse me." Some boys say, "I burped."

- Corinne, Mike and Anders

17 January 2011

Favorite Recipes of 2010

It's that time of year - time for the 2010 installment in the Favorite New Recipes series. In last year's installment, we had nothing to report. As a result, we vowed to do better in 2010, doing more menu planning and just generally enjoying our mealtimes again. We are happy to report that we were largely successful and have many new recipes to relate.

#1: Spaghetti Squash with Jalapeno Cream
Source: Sunset
This recipe was an easy choice for the top of our year-end list. We were inspired to find new squash recipes after buying spaghetti squash from our organic farmer neighbor, but once we found this recipe we got stuck on it and haven't tried too much else. Milk is infused with jalapeno then mashed with roasted squash and topped with pepper jack cheese. How could that possibly be anything but delicious?

#2: Greek Lamb with Spinach and Artichokes
Source: Better Homes and Gardens
Slow-cooked lamb and beans, with artichokes and spinach tossed in at the end, all topped with feta cheese. To paraphrase Jerry Maguire: "You had me at Greek Lamb." We usually make a double batch, and it barely fits in our 4.5qt slow-cooker.

#3: Skillet Gnocchi with Chard and White Beans
Source: Eating Well, January/February 2009
We discovered this one in our quest to introduce more healthy, weeknight-friendly bean dishes into our (and Anders's) diet. Pick up some chard, and everything else is a pantry staple.

#4: Fried Chickpeas with Chorizo
Source: The Minimalist (Mark Bittman)
To celebrate his birthday, our friend Rat held ethnic-themed dinner parties where everyone was instructed to bring a dish from a particular country's cuisine. We attended Spanish night, and this was our contribution. (More beans - are you sensing a theme?)

#5: Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Source: Cook's Illustrated, December 2009
There's a delicious coffee cake recipe in Corinne's family that is legendary; it makes an appearance at virtually all family events. This isn't it. So the fact that this one makes the list says something about what we thought of it. It takes a little extra effort, so this isn't an everyday item.

And for completeness... here is the family coffee cake recipe which originally hails from Molfred Amole, a lady in Great Falls, MT. When Corinne's Mom Donna was in high school, she cleaned house and babysat for Molfred and her family.

#6: Raspberry Spoon Bread
Source: Eating Well, July/August 2009
We actually did discover a favorite recipe in 2009, but it wasn't until raspberries were back in season that we remembered. This one is a simple, cornmeal based dessert and a great way to use raspberries which are so plentiful in the summer months.

#7: Chorizo Bread Pudding
Source: The Spanish Table
This is the one recipe on this list that we didn't actually make ourselves. (I guess you could consider that a violation of the rules.) Our friend Mandy brought this dish to the aforementioned Spanish dinner party. It would be great as part of a weekend brunch.

And speaking of puddings... inspired by the McDuff children's stories, Corinne went on an exploration of puddings, including vanilla rice pudding, tapioca pudding, and a coconut milk pudding. Anders and I certainly appreciated the results!

Here's to more new recipes and continued meal enjoyment in 2011!

- Mike, Corinne and Anders

16 January 2011

Max's 2010 Critter Count

It looks like our reality show, Max: Extreme Hunter, is on hiatus.

Last year, Max was a super hunter. He caught more animals in a single year than the total of all previous years combined. But after his thyroid condition was discovered and successfully treated, his activities trailed off at the end of last year.

This year's results pale in comparison.


The most disappointing line is the gophers. None! And we have certainly seen no decrease in gopher activity; there's plenty out there to hunt, that's for sure.

We did have some excitement during one of the squirrel incidents. Whenever Max catches an animal, he consistently brings it inside and drops it on the dining room floor. Until this year, all of the animals that he has brought inside have been dead (except for the lizards - somehow ALL of the lizards have survived). But on this one particular day, when Max dropped a squirrel onto the floor something didn't quite seem normal. Its eyes were open and the fur was pretty matted down in sections, and just as Corinne was asking if it was dead, it blinked. At this point, Corinne hastily left the room while I came up with various schemes to get this squirrel back outside. It scurried under the furniture, climbed the log walls and generally did not acquiesce to my requests. Anyone who has listened to the classic This American Life episode knows how horribly this scenario could have ended, but thankfully I managed to wrangle him down the hallway and back outside. Crisis averted.

One of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism is an increased metabolism, so was the "extreme" hunting year just an anomaly spurred by his condition? We're hoping that Max will regain some of that hunting prowess in the coming years. He did spend less time outside this year (by his own choosing), and the vet has described him as "middle-aged", so perhaps his most extreme hunting days are behind him. But we just know that he's got more killing in him.

- Mike, Corinne, Anders, and Max

08 January 2011

Nordic Lessons

Two years ago we bought cross country skis, but haven't really used them yet. Corinne went once with Kris and Amy shortly after we bought our gear, but she didn't really know what she was doing. She survived unscathed but didn't leave with any more skills than she started. And I hadn't gone at all and had no idea what I was doing. So when we saw an announcement for a "beginner cross country ski clinic" organized by the Columbia Gorge Chapter of the Oregon Nordic Club (ONC), we figured that it would be a good place to start.

This particular clinic was being held while my parents were in town visiting, so they could watch Anders while we learned. To make things even more convenient for us, it turns out that the clinic was going to be held on Mt Adams (rather than Mt Hood)! A twenty minute drive north of our house and we were at the SnowKing Sno-Park on Mt Adams meeting the rest of the crew.

But the conditions on this particular day were less than ideal. Plenty of snow was still on the ground, but a recent rainy warm spell followed by cold weather again made for some very icy conditions. (In fact, while we were getting our gear together one of the members in our party fell while traversing the parking lot.) After a short survey of the conditions further down the trail, the leaders made a call to move down to a trail at the Trout Lake School. The terrain was relatively flat and the trail had been groomed that morning, so it wasn't particularly icy. (Thanks, Robert!)

We learned a ton from the ONC members before even putting on our skis. We then all spent about an hour and a half doing a loop on the trail with periodic instruction. We both came away with much improved skills (and some sore muscles.) The following day, we spent another 45 minutes or so skiing around our own property. There are no groomed trails, of course, so the conditions were pretty different than the previous day. But I think we had both learned enough of the basics on the previous day that we felt comfortable and had fun.

Here's to more winter snow!

- Mike, Corinne and Anders

01 January 2011

Happy New Year!

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders