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December 31, 2012

naughty or nice, it was a good Christmas

we've been fairly good this year...  the boys have tested my patience a few times, but stayed mostly to the good side.  I was good (some of the time)... the daughter was near "perfect".  nobody got rocks or coal... well, the daughter did get an obsidian pendant.

christmas stocking

happy christmas stocking boy

square waffles

on the way to "grandpa's house", #2 son announced "I only want to eat square waffles".  he got his wish Christmas morning when my dad got up and made him breakfast.

square waffle eating champion

of course kat was good.

christmas present red

christmas book reading

#1 son received a few books.  he was eager to hide away and read any chance he got. 

portal 2 plush turret toy

the portal 2 turret was a big surprise.  it's motion activated and speaks just like the ones in the game "I see you.... t-t-t-t-t (sound of machine gun fire)"

headphones and skybelt

his new belt is made from airplane seat belt.  the boys each got new headphones.  the car is MUCH quieter now. 

grandma schuster's shrimp salad

another holiday tradition, my grandmother's shrimp salad.  shrimp was a real treat many years back where they lived in nebraska.  she'd save up to buy a can of shrimp for Christmas salad.  how the times have changed, the shrimps are now plentiful and fresh!  we made your salad grandma! 

cajun fried whole trukey

dad fried up a really good turkey.  I've been paying extra for a never frozen free range organic turkey...  he buys the cheapest frozen clucker he can find.  it's obvious I can save my money as it's not necessary to buy that fancy (expensive) bird for frying. 

holiday christmas meal table setting

dad also made the strawberry rhubarb pie, it was good.  not too sugary. 

white christmas dallas 2012

#2 son has been quite the season dick-tator.  he won't hear us talk about winter without his interjection, "IT'S NOT WINTER!!!  THERE NEEDS TO BE SNOW ON THE GROUND TO BE WINTER!!!"  then he had to agree, when it was all snowy in dallas, "yes, it's winter now (smile)"

white christmas 2012 texas dallas

that was us at the guitar center on Dec-26, buying a 3/4 size acoustic guitar to take with us to new orleans.  we had a plan...

 eat-zi's dallas bakery

we stopped at eatZi's and picked up lunch and dinner for later in shreveport.  I discovered that when the bakery girl asks if I she should slice my loaf of bread, if I answer "yes, the people we are visiting can't have knives, by court order", ... well, it upsets my wife.  we don't share the same sense of humor.   

I20 snow from dallas to longview christmas 2012

and then we drove east (shreveport)....  then south....

December 21, 2012

Quite Company bus trip to the Austin Trail of Lights and Zilker tree concert

christmas caroling with quiet company

we took a bus ride with Quiet Company.  we sang Christmas carols.  the daughter received handmade jingle bells, she loved the music and sing along. 

austin trail of lights christmas in zilker park

a LOT of people were at the trail of lights. 

austin trail of lights zilker park christmas

quiet company austin trail of lights

mental preparation for entering the trail of lights.  guitar and pick, ready, set, GO!

taylor muse quiet company austin trail of lights zilker park

and it was magical.  if you've ever wanted to sing or play guitar while traveling through a tunnel of light, I highly recommend the Austin Trail of Lights. 

quiet company austin trail of lights

austin trail of lights with quiet company

taylor muse guitar quiet company austin trail of lights

taylor muse austin skyline quiet company trail of lights

we made it to the end!  it was COLD. 

austin skyline and trail of lights winter 2012

guitar ate the pic with taylor muse and quiet company

numb fingers easily loose picks in guitars.  the pick was recovered and we marched and sang our way to the Zilker tree.

zilker christmas tree austin

inside the zilker tree austin christmas 2012

if you get to the tree, it's required that you stand under it, look up and spin.  and spin some more till you make yourself dizzy.  that explains all the giggling in the background of the videos.  it's from dizzy kids that have spun themselves silly.

taylor muse quiet company acoustic zilker tree trail of lights bus trip 2012 christmas

quiet company played an acoustic set with a few Christmas songs from their holiday EP thrown in for good cheer. 

quiet company zilker tree show christmas holiday 2012

quiet company austin pop rock band zilker tree winter 2012

I'd warned #1 son that it was going to get much colder and that he might need warmer clothes...

sad boy with cold legs

but he survived.  thank you to Quiet Company for providing us with good cheer this holiday season.

December 18, 2012

more adventures in sous vide

Rival 18 quart roaster oven as sous vide

I'd purchased a cheap crock-pot/slow cooker to use with my sous vide temp controller device at our home here in austin.  so I can leave the one in wimberley down there all the time.  the problem with the slow cooker was that it had an electronic brain.  and once my timer shut the power off at the desired temp, it would not turn itself back on when my controller went back to heat mode. 

this 18 quart roaster oven, with its variable heat control seemed ideal.  it gave me a much larger water bath and the wide range of on the dial gave more exact control.  I first tried maxing the dial up to 450 and letting my controller cycle it on/off.  the problem with that was, it would sail past the target temp even after power was cut off by my controller.  by setting the temp dial closer to my target temp, and insulating the lid so there was less heat loss, I saw very little fluctuation in temp. 

beef tenderloin sous vide diy

I filled with warm tap water and set the roaster temp dial to 150F, and my sous vide temp controller set for 54.5C (130F) I never saw the temp get above 55.5.  I left the steaks in for 5 hours.  I had seasoned them extremely lightly before putting them in their vac pouches.  no additional salt was required. 

sous vide beef tenderloin at home

I gave them a quick sear on a blazing hot iron skillet.  I deglazed the pan and reduced that, stirred in some cold butter and we had this really rich sauce to drizzle of the top.  the fillets turned out PERFECT!  if #1 son ever does order his steak from some tex-mex chain restaurant, he'll surely find that their $25 (with a side of rice and beans) steaks are nowhere near what he can get from home. 

I've also done chicken breast in the sous vide.  it sure came out moist!  did it at 142F for 2 hours.  next time I will brine it first and have a better plan for making a crust for it once it's out of the vac pouch.

cheers (sparkling grape juice)

kat had some parkling grape juice for the kids.  they used their polycarbonate goblets and #2 son was so excited to "CHEERS" with his own juice. 

quiet company holiday white elephant gift socks

the daughter wasted no time getting good use from her white elephant gift from the quiet company party.  the gifted snow flake socks matched well with her new shoes too. 

annual pequin pepper harvest

it’s time for the annual pequin pepper harvest.  that bag below is several years worth and was only a small portion of what we have growing just outside the back door.  she's not yet decided what she will do with them.

pequin pepper harvest austin texas

leftover quiet company beer stash

Quiet Company fans have really good taste in beer.  I found our coolers were well stocked with beers left behind.  I found Old fezwig, Hoegaarden, Fireman's #4 and Blue Moon....  not a sour grape in the batch!

sacher torte leftovers

and we have stacks of leftover dessert.  sacher torte is really good!

austin dodge a100 van hotrod

I took the white hotrod dodge a100 van on its first fun trip, to the store.  it's a grocery getter now!

dodge a100 van at highway speed austin texas

easily cruises the 65-70 mph but I don't really want to see 75 mph.  it's much better at the 1/4 mile zero-sixty real quick type of enjoyment.  no autobahn time for this one.  it's got the aerodynamics of a vending machine and the suspension of a postal truck.  but it gets up to 70 real fast and loud!

December 17, 2012

did I tell you about the time Quiet Company played our Living Room?

Quiet Company did a series of Holiday House shows.  We hosted the Austin party. 

taylor muse quiet company

each ticket holder received this really awesome gift tin including handmade ornaments made from band member images...  see how they are made HERE

quiet company holiday gift tin

around 50 people gathered to enjoy the evening.

quiet company holiday house tour austin

there was a white elephant gift exchange.  I've been to a few Christmas parties where the white elephant seemed like a chore.  not the case for this bunch.  the exchange was a lot of fun and people actually brought many nice/fun gifts. 

quiet company austin white elephant gift exchange


quiet company white elephant gift exchange austin gary pink shirt

Gary loved this pink quiet company shirt.  he licked it with hopes to discourage the chance it would get stolen. 

gary in pink quiet company t-shirt

his spit was not strong enough a deterrent.  it was soon stolen.  this became a bit of a theme...

quiet company white elephant gift exchange leah snuggie

the snuggie was a hot item that required skill and cunning to get into "locked" status. 

quiet company white elephant sad box of coal

the box of COAL just made him sad.  he later rallied, picked up his bass guitar and went on with the holiday cheer. 

quiet company white elephant gift prize

#1 son was going for what seemed to be candy.  he was excited to find it was a grand prize of tickets for the Quiet Company Bus event.  it was soon stolen from him.

sad but with candy at the quiet company white elephant gift exchange

at least he got to keep the candy.

shiner white elephant gift

shiner bock, applicable to so many occasions, also a popular white elephant gift. 

white elephant gift exchange

#1 son went back for the candy approach. he refused to steal, he was happy with some holiday PEZ items.

ugly christmas sweater with santa in hammock and margaritas

the ugly Christmas sweater, santa in a hammock drinking a margarita, was a short lived victory.  it was soon stolen and her sadness remains. 

harry potter fan art white elephant gift

the Harry Potter fan art, that had recently been acquired at a Goodwill auction, was envied by many.  including the daughter, who held it briefly before it became "locked" after the second steal.  the daughter is still talking about how great it would have been in her room.  she ended up with socks and other practical/useful items.

montana with white elephant gift inflatable beard

many gifts had a beard or mustache theme...

gary and the world's smallest snow globe white elephant gift

it had become sport to take whatever Gary had.  he made a great victim.  he ended up with the world's smallest snow globe. 

gary and the world's smallest snow globe at the quiet company house show white elephant gift exchange

and QUIET COMPANY did perform well (as always).  it was an evening that was enjoyed by everybody.

quiet company austin house show 2012

quiet company austin house show

quiet company music pop rock austin

quiet company austin holiday house show

quiet company music austin

cava holiday punch

and being a holiday party, there was plenty of food and beverage.  including this very popular cava-orange/pomegranate punch.

spiking the holiday punch austin

and when the cava punch was gone, we remade it with dripping springs goodness.

holiday punch


December 11, 2012

it's starting to feel a bit like Christmas....

Christmas lights are up and it's cold outside.

christmas lights austin modhouse amh west lake hills tx


westlake austin christmas lights blue


austin modhouse at night wlh amh blue christmas lights


December 10, 2012

santa in wimberley and truck rips front porch off and a hillbilly yard surfs it.

santa wimberley winter's eve

santa visited the square (downtown) wimberley.  sure, it was 75F at night, but he put that fur suit on and worked the crowd of kids and parents.

santa wimberley winter's eve

pics are not the best, there was a mad mob around santa so we had to act fast (before I got flash set up).  #2 son asked #1 to relay his request.  he wanted nothing to do with santa and broke down in tears if I implied he should even speak to the big guy.

santa claus in wimberley texas

#1 son stepped in and had a nice chat with santa for the two of them.  the daughter said she'd be using the internet to send her wish list in.

all the shops around the square were decorated and many were offering free treats and beverages.  we stopped in at the wimberley fine arts center (art gallery) and enjoyed cookies, s'mores, mulled wine, a nice fire. they also had christmas karaoke while surrounded by their art/sculptures.  we had fun there and appreciated the diversion.

leaning pear $8 corkage turnbull petite syrah

then we had an amzing meal at leaning pear.  we took along a nice 2008 turnbull petite sirah.

chicken fried bandera quail at leaning pear wimberley

everything was locally sourced.  chicken-fried bandera quail above, and braised beef ribs over parsnip puree and mushroom demi-glace.  it was all delicious. 

braised beef short ribs over parsnip puree and mushroom demi-glace leaning pear wimberley

big beef

not their best behavior

the boys were not using their best behavior.  tested our patience, they did. 

appricot basil sorbet leaning pear wimberley

the daughter howerver, was polite and well behaved as usual.  she really enjoyed the apricot and basil sorbet, kat and #2 son especially liked the sesame and honey gelato.  yes, we ate outside, in december, and enjoyed gelato and sorbet. 

wimberley tear down

we finally moved the junk appliances off the front porch of the teardown house down in wimberley.  the porch roof was looking like it could fall down at any moment.  figured we'd get it down ourselves, before somebody got hurt. 

powerstroke diesel pulls the porch off

the 7.3 litre turbocharged powerstroke pulled the columns down at idle.

7.3 litre turbocharged diesel

TV antenna was still holding the porch up.  we had to join forces.

wimberley couple combines power to remove tv antenna and porch roof


wimberley blanco river rapids teardown

once we pulled the roof to the ground, and it was still tied to the truck....

hillbilly crackhead lookin yard surfs roof section in wimberley fischer texas

this hillbilly, in sandals and a ripped up neiman marcus shirt and wild hair that can't be explained....he went surfing across the yard on the roof section (a good 8 ft at least)

then we went to a yelp party:

yelp austin event hula hoop and sparkling wine girls

women drinking sparkling wine and hula hooping...

hoppy hour yelp austin event kat and bunny


yelp austin event

sunset as seen from the east side.

armani rooster and cock jacket super mario 2 litre mug yelp austin

they asked us to be "green" and bring our own cups.  we figured we'd also save time waiting in the free drink line if we bought 1 litre mario 2 mugs.  the girl from republic tequila was happy to oblige. 

mom's homemade runzas

my mom hosted a homemade runza feast.  they were the best!  she also made much appreciated borscht. 

borscht is good for winter


December 02, 2012

DIY Sous Vide

 ever wonder how the really expensive steak house places do it?  they use a really expensive scientific temperature controlled water bath (sous vide) to slowly bring the steaks up to temp, but not over.  then finish them on the grill.  a friend of ours has one of these machines, I saw it in action and decided I'd try to build one for cheap. 

stc-1000 sous vide diy

the STC-1000 temperature controller ($25).  uses a temp probe to act as an on/off power switch.  these are commonly used by aquarium or homebrew folks. 

diy sous vide controller

wired it into an electrical box and plug ($12)

stc-1000 microcoputer temperature controller sous vide

DONE! time for a test. 

homemade sous vide

room temp reads 21C (69.8F).  the power to the plug is on, heat cycle.  I used Christmas lights to indicate plug power. 

diy $40 sous vide from instructable

dropped the temp sensor into hot water (60C/140F) and the power to the plug cut off.  I have the temp set for 54.5C (130F).

everything appeared to work.  so I went to the store and bought some steaks.

grass fed prime rib boneless

just a bit of seasoning and herbs from the garden. 

beefsteak in vacuum bag for sous vide

vacuum applied; sous vide means, "in vacuum" 

then we took them down to wimberley.  we have a small crockpot down there that we found in the old house we bought.

diy homemade sous vide

plugged the crockpot into my  controller.  dropped its temp probe in with the steaks.  it took the crock pot a good two hours to get up to the correct temp.  I’ll preheat the water next time and put a towel over the top so it can keep the heat better.  we let the steaks cook at temp for over two hours (four hours total include time it took to get up to temp).  the controller held the temp between 129-132F the whole time.  this ensures the steaks are cooked to a perfect med rare all the way through.

lighting the grill

kat likes to start fires. 

steaks on the grill

we got some nice caramelization from the HOT-HOT grill. 

sous vide steak and onions

grilled some onions and mushrooms as well.

perfect steak, moist and tender

they were cooked perfectly.  so tender they could be cut with a fork.

LED dining room light 12 volt off grid

I made the new light fixture over the dining table.  it's made from reclaimed walnut and ipe, powered by 12V (solar) and uses 4 "warm white" LED spot lights. 

12v off grid led light fixture

eating area is plenty bright now.

rootbeer fail

vanilla cream soda and grapefruit juice pour fail pic above. 

hillbilly hipster and his shovel

we also hauled in a yard of sand/decomposed granite.  used an old vinyl pool liner for weedblocker.  I put a hole in it so it will drain water if it ever rains around here again. 

laying pavers

patio pavers

and when it was done, it was awesome!  will cut the blue liner back so it won't be seen. 

kids sand box project

#1 son saw I had an extra bag of playsand.  he made a sand box complete with lid and bottom.

sand box with lid

BScene (blanton) tailgate party and Clark's raw bar.

amuse bouche carillon chef josh watkins

we had a quick snack at Carillon before walking over to the Blanton BScene party.  amuse bouche shown above was fun, pretty and delicious. 

blanton bscene party

met up with friends at the BScene party.

black tie dude at blanton art museum bscene party

I even TIED my own bow tie.  I found the bow tie in the old house down in wimberley.  it was with a TUX that had spent AVN tickets in the pocket.  if that tie could talk.... 

so-tall and white ghost shivers guy at blanton bscene

so-tall was amused when he noticed the frontman for the white ghost shivers was taller than he, by a good bit too.  now that is SO-taller. 

dancers at blanton b-scene party austin art museum

there was dancing and dance lessons. 

blanton art museum party

paying dues to the wife

and there was sucking up as well. 

french parking lot wine blanton museum of art bscene tailgate party

some of our friends had reservations at Lenoir.  and they happened to have an extra bottle of French wine to share before they left for dinner.  it was a birthday celebration in the parking lot.

blanton museum of art tailgate wine party

so we had an impromptu tailgate party in the parking lot near the Blanton Museum of Art.




get ready, and....

starter flag girl

GO!  somehow they missed the reservation at lenoir. 

so we all went to Clark's oyster bar

happy birthday at clark's oyster bar

clark's raw oyster bar

we feasted on cold water oysters (from both east and west coasts), and celebrated with some champagne. 

clark's waitress laugh austin oyster bar

even the waitress was having a good time.