Monday, September 29, 2008

Birthday Presents

We celebrated Mrs. BigKat's birthday yesterday. Want to guess what I got her? I'll give you some hints...

1) Part of it came from Home Depot
2) Part of it came from PetSmart

So far, sounds like a present any wife would love, right? Did you guess what it is?

Ok, here are some more hints...

3) The thing from Home Depot is a power tool
4) The thing from PetSmart is for a dog
5) We do not have a dog and are not planning on getting a dog

Did you figure it out? Need more hints? Ok fine, I'll just tell you what I got...

6) The thing from Home Depot is a heat gun
7) The thing from PetSmart is a stainless steel dog bowl

It all makes sense now, doesn't it? Ok, so Mrs. BigKat was less than thrilled when she opened her gifts. She was actually a little bit confused. But the next part of the present cleared things up for her a bit.

9 pounds of green coffee beans!

Mrs. BigKat loves coffee. A while ago, I had planned on getting her some sort of a coffee roaster so that she could have fresh roasted coffee any time she wanted. I did a bunch of research and came across what is known as the heat gun/dog bowl (HGDB) method of roasting coffee beans. It seemed pretty easy, so I thought it would make a great birthday present. If I can roast coffee beans for her at home, she can buy green beans from places like Sweet Maria's. Green beans not only cost less, but they store longer. And she can buy all sorts of interesting beans from all over the world. And I can roast them in small batches so that she can always enjoy them freshly roasted, never stale.

I tried my first roast yesterday. It was pretty easy. I put about a cup of beans into the stainless steel bowl. I heated the beans up using the 'Low' setting on the heat gun for 5 minutes. Then I switched to the 'High' setting for the rest of the roast (the total roast time was about 11 minutes or so). The whole time I did this, I was constantly stirring the beans with a wooden spoon. I stopped the roast a little bit into what is apparently called the '2nd crack' stage. To cool the beans off, I tossed them into a cooling contraption I made using a cardboard box, a colindar, and my shop vac (the beans went into the colander which was sitting in a hole in the box. The shop vacwas plugged into the bottom of the box and sucked the air through the beans as I stirred them with my wooden spoon). In the end, I had with something that definitely looked like roasted coffee beans. We don't know how they taste though. Mrs. BigKat is going to give them a try later today (from what I've read, letting the beans rest after roasting for a little while is a good idea). Hopefully, they'll turn out good! The whole process was very easy and fun too. Next time I try a roast, I'll remember to take some pictures and put them up here.

My Sandwich

Have you ever had an idea that you thought might be a pretty good idea, but when you did it, it actually turned out to be even better than you had planned? That happened to me a couple of days ago. We had got Subway sandwiches for dinner. LilKat2 doesn't eat much, so he only got half of his 6" sandwich (a ham sandwich with cheese and mustard only), so the rest went into the refrigerator. That night, I got hungry and wanted a snack. I saw the sandwich, but I wanted something better. So here's what I did.

I heated up a pan with some butter in it. Then I put the sandwich on the pan. I took a stainless steel bowl and used it to smash the top of the sandwich down.
I let it cook for about 45 seconds and the flipped it to the other side. I smashed some more and let it cook for another 45 seconds. Here's what I ended up with:

You know what? My MacGyver-ed panini actually turned out pretty good! I tried it again the next day, but using bigger sandwich rolls. I also sauteed some diced onions, black bell peppers (from our garden), and tomatoes (also from our garden) into a kind of paste (almost like when I make the sofrito for my paella). I smeared this in the middle of the sandwich and it made a very nice addition. But for long sandwiches, I think I need a bigger bowl.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Our Garden

This year, I built a raised bed in our backyard, so that we could plant a garden. The whole thing was roughly 10'x10' (minus a little bit because of the shape). We transfered our Asian Pear tree to one of the corners. The rest was for our garden.
Well, I'm not sure what happened, but somehow, 4 plants took up the whole box. Sure we had some carrots, and a couple of pepper plants hidden in there, but for the most part, the whole thing was 2 tomato plants in the back, and a zucchini plant and a yellow squash plant in the front. Here's the back of the garden. See all that green stuff in the box? That's 2 tomato plants...
Here's the front of the garden. The big huge leaves on the left are the yellow squash plant, and the big huge leaves on the right are the zucchini plant.

Now I didn't realize this, but apparently zucchinis grow super fast. If you see a zucchini on the plant, you need to be ready to pick it, even if it's little. We'd start out with these little baby zucchinis, and then all of a sudden...BLAMMO! They'd become BIG! You really had to go pick them within the next day or two. Which was weird to me. I don't understand how they can grow so quickly. I sat out there and just watched them, I think I might actually be able to see the get bigger.
Anyhow, here' s a picture of a couple of zucchinis that we neglected to pick. They got a little big on us...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Less than, Same, Greater Than

I got to help out in LilKat1's 1st grade class for the first time. He's got a bunch of really nice kids in his class! I had a very good time helping out. I even got a big ole' hug as I was leaving from a little girl that I had just met. I also had this conversation with another little girl.

Girl: What's your name?
Me: Well, my name is Mr. BigKat, but some kids can't remember so they just call me LilKat1's Dad.
Girl: You have a funny last name.
Me: Really? Well, it is kind of long.
Girl: No. It's funny.
Me: What's your last name?
Girl: Flibbidy-Floo
Me: Your last name is funny too. I guess we're the funny last name twins!

(high fives)

When I got to class, they had started working on math. They were working on Less Than, Same As, and More Than. Here's how it worked. Each kid had a bunch of blocks. They got a number card and some cards that said 'Less Than', 'Same', and 'More Than'. They were supposed to gather a number of blocks that was the same as the number card, then put those blocks on their 'Same' card. Then they were to gather a number of blocks that was less than their number card, then put those blocks on their 'Less Than' card. Then do the same type of thing for their 'More Than' card.
Most of the kids weren't sure what to do. So I had many conversations that went like this:

Me: What's the number on your card?
Kid: Five
Me: So put 5 blocks on your 'Same' card

(kid does this)

Me: Ok, so now, what's a number that's less than 5?
Kid: Two
Me: So put 2 on your 'Less Than' card.

(kid does this)

Me: Now, what's a number that's more than 5?
Kid: Nine
Me: Ok, then put 9 on your 'More Than' card

I had something resembling this conversation for almost every kid there. Sometimes more than once (and sometimes the Same as once).

But LilKat1 figured this lesson out right away. And by figured out, I mean he found the lazy way to quickly do this activity, and was very proud of himself for doing so. What he would do is put the correct number of blocks on the 'Same' card, then just put the rest of his blocks on the 'More Than' card without counting them. He knew that the number would be always be bigger than the 'Same' card and that having zero blocks on the 'Less Than' card would also always be correct.

When I went to check his work, he just sat there grinning at me. After I told him it was good, I got a new number card for him and told him to do it again. And he quickly repeated his same trick again. Sneaky kid that LilKat1...

But you know, it's probably the same thing I would've done.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Stinging Fire Pirate-saurs!

LilKat2 has his first soccer game tomorrow. Our team is the Stinging Fire Pirate-saurs. We got our team name because one kid wanted to be the Bees, one kid wanted to be the Fire Dragons, one kid wanted to be the Pirates and one kid (LilKat2) wanted to be the T-Rex's. So what do you get when you combine a Bee, a Fire Dragon, a Pirate, and a T-Rex? Well, you get a Stinging Fire Pirate-saur! And what exactly does a Stinging Fire Pirate-saur look like?

It looks something like this...