Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Live from the beach

70 degrees. So there!

Arrived at 4:15. 1400 miles and the driver is worn out.

California, here we are!

Lunching at the park in Holtville. Come grab a sammich.

225 miles (maybe less) to go to San Clemente.

Monday, June 29, 2009

620 down. 290 to go.

The AtHomeFam Plus 1 have entered New Mexico. Snacks have been eaten and video games have been played.

Aren't you glad I have access to an iPhone?

Making progress

450 miles down. 450 to go until Tuscon.

Hitting good geocaches along the way.

We are OUTTA here!


Out there.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The best rented plans...

So it turns out our smoking deal on a rental car was only half a good deal.

The price was right, but it turns out that we could only get halfway to our destination. They forgot to tell us that they do not allow rentals outside of Texas and the four contiguous states. And on a road trip to California, making record time to the New Mexico/Arizona border just does not really count for much.

Thanks to my new best friend Barbara J. at the Avis counter, we are rolling westward in a Chrysler Pacifica. We lost the 3rd row seat in the transition from one @#*&^)#! rental company over to Avis, but Avis will not claim we have stolen the car if we pass into Arizona (or California), so we have that going for us.
Need a rental car in a pinch in Austin? Head over to the Avis counter and let Barbara J. hook you up.

Anyways, we are moving out early in the morning. Hoping to make it to Tuscon, Arizona for some sleep and to check out some of the awsesomest star gazing in the continental US.

Blogging for the road is a very real possibility, thanks to the laptop and The Babysitter's iPhone.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Road Trip!

Let's get a few things straight.

Yes, The AtHomeFam is heading west early Monday morning on a 10 day road trip.

Yes, there will be 2 children cooped up in a car traveling almost 3500 miles over 10 days.

No, this is NOT 1970.

Therefore, we will be traveling in an air-conditioned minivan.

With a fully functional multi-screen DVD player, at least one laptop computer and a Nintendo Wii along for the ride.

We also have packed one Nintendo DS, a Leapster game system, a couple of iPods, two or three digital cameras, an iPhone, a radar detector, at least one portable CD player, about a million AA rechargeable batteries and all of the chargers and power inverters to go along with those gadgets.

Somewhere in all of the gear there are also coloring books, magnetic dress-up dolls, Star Wars action figures and a bunch of extra pillows and blankets. Somewhere along the way we MIGHT even decide to unplug the children and let them entertain themselves by watching the scenery roll by.

We will be leaving the rolling hills of Austin for the desert landscapes of the American Southwest as we go cruising through southern New Mexico and Arizona on our way to Legoland and the rest of Southern California.

We are also hitting the San Diego Zoo, Joshua Tree National Park, and Disneyland. Right in the middle of our trip we are going to hang out at the beach for the 4th of July. All in all, that should make for a busy enough trip.

But wait. There is more.

On the way home we are squeezing in a detour to The Grand Canyon. We won't get to stay there very long, but I doubt we will be that close again, anytime soon. Hopefully we will be there long enough that the kids remember the Canyon and not the extra time in the car.

Besides, you can play a lot of MarioKart on a four hour detour!

Monday, June 22, 2009

This is getting old. And fast!

The neighbor's kid brought home a dog from college. That is the dog that did the deed yesterday. And AGAIN today!

This morning, I got a page from The Boss Lady that the dog had actually jumped OVER the fence and attacked the two remaining hens. At first it looked like Butterscotch had only suffered the loss of her tail feathers.

By the time I got home it was evident that the damage was much more serious. The Boss Lady and I realized that we had to make the humane decision for the bird and make sure she was not in any more pain. We covered the wounds and let the kids say their goodbyes to Butterscotch.

After that I did the deed. Next time I think we will go with a quicker method to dispatch an injured bird. The kids were sad. And I was sad that I had to finish the job.

Sometimes daddy duty sux!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fillet, the Wonder Chick

Fillet, the white and black hen, with most of the other pets

The score is now Dogs, 7 : Chickens, 2.

The neighbor's dog (actually, this time I am pretty sure it was her son's dog) got another bird tonight. Fillet was The Talker's pet and he is bummed, but serious when he says "at least we didn't lose them all". M&M and Butterscotch seem to be OK tonight.

I guess I'll spend the first part of The Boss Lady's vacation time reinforcing fences.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Break!

The Boss Lady is off of work for the next 25 days or so. So went WILD this morning.

Dropped the kids off at Vacation Bible School. Went to breakfast at Rudy's Bar-B-Q. Then I watched my lovely wife push the mower around the backyard. Don't worry, I was running the string trimmer, not sitting on the patio watching the show.

Mowing together, True summer love!

FYI, "mowing together" = Mowing. The. Yard. Gasoline powered lawn machinery and all. Get your minds out of the gutter.

The 7 year old MIGHT live through the weekend

As I was declaring a general strike on my laundry service if the boy would not, at a minimum, put his worn clothing in a dirty clothes basket, The Talker tried to make a funny:

"Yeah, and Dad, if mom does not get all of the laundry folded this morning, then we will FORCE her to do it, right?"

"Uh, son, have you met your mother? I have and I don't think either one of us will be FORCING her to do anything, anytime soon."

Just FYI, there is also a strike called in the kitchen. If dishes don't make it all the way INTO the sink, they don't get washed. I am not a hunter/gatherer, so don't leave a trail of plates for me to collect or they won't get washed anymore.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Harvest time!

Looks like it is about time to make up a big ol' batch of huevos rancheros.

Guess we could use the solar oven, now that it is finished. Check that out, almost 150 degrees, after less than 10 minutes in the sun.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday fun in the sun!

This morning The Talker went for a bike ride. As he was riding out of the driveway and up to the cu-de-sac, I noticed that he was just about bent in half on his little 16 inch bike. After we raised the seat to it's highest possible position, it was obvious that the boy needs a bigger bike.

I figure he is bound to have a few crashes and near-misses on a larger bike, so The Boss Lady and I decided to look around for a good deal on a used 20" bike. There is a shopping center near us that is like the jackpot for used stuff. There is a Goodwill store right next door to a Salvation Army store. I cruised over there, without The Talker, to see if there was anything that might work.

The bikes were about what I expected Goodwill store bikes to be. Worn out and rusty from being locked up on the sidewalk in front of the stores. And they looked the same at the Salvation Army store, except for two bikes that were just leaning against the wall out front. New arrivals, I assumed.

One of those bikes looked about perfect. No rust to be found and only a few scratched up stickers. Nothing worse than The Talker would do to a new bike in a hard weekend.

I came home and got the boy and a tire pump. I guess letting the tires go flat keeps people from riding away too fast for the staff to catch up... He took one quick spin and was hooked. The bike is smaller than we were looking for, but it is still bigger than his "old" bike. And after seeing him cruise this one, I am not sure he is ready for anything bigger.

Anyways, we got a nice surprise when we went to pay. Half Price on Bikes Day! $20 for a (almost) new ride. Can't beat that deal.

And the scratches on the stickers? Already forgotten. The boy dang near killed himself trying to jump a curb already, so I bet it won't be too long before he adds a few scratches of his own to the new bike.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Birth of a solar oven

The kids and I have worked on our homemade solar oven a little bit. It is taking shape pretty nicely. I planned to photograph our step-by-step progress, but it is evidently a little tough to get decent photos of aluminum foil. Almost all of the shots were blurry, so you'll have to use your imagination to fill in the details.

Our beginnings: the boxes that we would paint black on the outside, and cover in foil on the inside. The smaller box sits inside the larger, with a little airspace all around.

The airspace between the boxes is packed with torn up brown paper grocery sacks. Then we used foil tape to seal up the gap. The outer box is covered with kitchen foil. The inner, with an aluminum car window shade that we bought at the Dollar Store.

We will use another car window shade as a sunlight director, to get as much heat to the oven, as possible.

We still need to paint the lid black, and add a piece of glass or some plastic to the top, to hold in the heat. First, we are going to try plexiglass or a couple of layers of clear plastic sheeting to make the entire rig a little easier to handle.

We are about an hour into this project, and we have spent less than $10.

$2 on 2 cans of black spray paint.
$2 on aluminum covered auto shades
$1 on aluminum foil
$5 on a roll of foil tape

The helper. Little sister helped, too but she is totally camera shy, don'tcha know?

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Summer of the Sun

It is officially summertime and the kids and I are lining up a couple of projects to keep us busy without blowing up The Boss Lady's budget.

Today we started working on a solar box oven. I decided on a simple project that the kids can almost build themselves. We are going to adapt the plans to suit our needs and to use materials we have on hand. But soon, we will be munching out on some nachos that the sun cooked for us!

And while we are waiting for the sun to fix dinner, we will be watching wet stuff get dry. We are adding another piece to the urban homestead. I am putting up a clothes line! If having chickens is cool, then I am about to blow the suburbs UP with some cool! I found something like this locally for about $40.

I was hoping to build a line on the cheap, but this way we can use some sunny space in our yard that is not in the middle of the play space.

We started hanging clothes out on a makeshift clothes line last weekend. And I don't think it was much more hassle that running the dryer all day. Plus, the house stayed a lot cooler. Big Bonus that the kids actually liked helping with the laundry. I know that will change - and probably soon. We used a clothes line when I was a kid and I am sure I bitched about it plenty.

One of our neighbors saw our clothes out on the line, except for the undies - The Boss Lady had already hidden them from view, and immediately declared our entire yard to be "pretty white trash looking. Chickens, garden, rain barrels and now a clothesline?"


That type of response makes me more determined to set up a drying operation in the yard. Mainly because I want to teach the kids that living a little more frugally and making less environmental impact is not a bad thing. But also I want a clothes line because I can have one. It isn't illegal to have a clothesline around here. Yet.

We made a decision years ago to buy a natural gas powered clothes dryer. And it has worked out well for us. It is much cheaper to operate than an electric dryer. So we won't really be saving much coin on this adventure. But I bet we end up with some nice smelling drawers.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

She may be wedged in there

The Princess has been playing dolls in her room for over an hour. I hear an occasional maniacal laugh or instructions given to the dolls, but no way am I looking in there.

I don't want to know what the aftermath of an hour long doll session looks like AND she seems to be perfectly content without my assistance. Eventually she will come out and beg for some lunch. That is when I spring into action.

Stuck at home

My keys are locked in my car because I am an idiot. So The Princess and I are stuck at home today. But at least I am an idiot without a headache. (For now.) Or 0nStar. (Forever).

Yesterday morning, and for several days in a row, I had a nasty migraine. We went out to dinner as a family once The Boss Lady got home from work. She drove and I set my keys in the console between the front seats. I can still see them sitting there now.

This would not be a hassle, except I don't have a spare key and I let my 0nStar subscription expire a while back. The hands free phone built into my car was nice for road trips and the monthly emailed diagnostic report about the mechanical status of my car was awesome. But I never used any other part of the service. And it was not worth a couple of hundred bucks a year to keep the service going in my car. Until this morning. One of those remote unlocks would have been sweeeeeeeeet!

I called 0nStar to see if they would pop my lock, since I am such a nice guy and I was a customer for several years. No dice. But that was what I expected. Companies like GM and 0nStar don't go bankrupt after getting billions in taxpayer funding by giving stuff away for free... I digress.

I asked about the cost of renewing my service so that they could then unlock my car as a paying customer. But no deal there, either. Turns out I would have to be IN the car, and connected to their service via the 0nStar button that is conveniently located about three inches from my keys. A button that I would not need to push anyways, if I was that close to my keys.

So, to get my keys out I would have to sign up for roadside assistance service (for another hundred bucks a year) and then they would have to dispatch a locksmith. THEN, after a two hour wait for the keymaster to appear, and once I got in the car, I would have to activate the 0nStar account again to reap the many benefits of this wonderful service.

Or, maybe not.

Instead of all of that, I'll just call the wife. She can bring me her keys in about 20 minutes for the cost of gas. Then I'll get my keys and get a spare copy made for about $2. Soon I'll be driving again AND a couple of hundred bucks ahead.

Monday, June 01, 2009

It's going to be a busy summer

Today is the first day of The Princess' summer break. The Talker finishes up school on Wednesday. And let me tell you, the girl and I have been making to most of our first 8 hours of summer.

This morning she ate breakfast while I mowed and edged the front yard. She came outside to "helped" with the flowerbeds. She was on the front yard swing and playing in the yard while I pruned and cleaned out the flowerbeds.

Later, we ran some errands and had to stop by the preschool for half an hour. The Princess was a trooper, so she picked Chick-fil-A for our lunch. Once done with lunch, she played Barbies and danced around to Hannah Montana while I mowed the backyard.

Now that we are hot and worn out from the dancing and mowing, we are combining our passions and vegging out with a Barbie movie.

It's already been a busy summer and the first day isn't even half way over, yet.