Monday, December 3, 2012

Lettuce be Done

I have to say that I've really learned allot about hydroponics and lettuce over the last couple of months, and it has been a lot of fun to have a small garden growing in my office in the "dead of winter" so to speak.  I think I'm ready to move on to something a little more involved, but I'm not sure I'll have enough time to do a complete grow cycle before I need to get my plants for my outside garden started this spring.... So I'll have to think about it, maybe I can try something that grows really fast like radishes ?? not sure yet. But I definitely want to use it for all my spring starts.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Carrot Pumpkin Cake

There was a Baby Shower for Danielle last night, and Randie talked me into making the cake (She said that she would help, and true to her word she did all the flower decorations... Great Job!! it looked great.) It was a Latin Theme... We decided to go with Carrot Cake, and I wanted to try adding pumpkin because it sounded like it would work really well, plus it would probably help it stay moist. I looked at some recipes, but couldn't find a Carrot Pumpkin Cake.. so I made up my own Recipe.  I have to say the Pumpkin was amazing, providing a subtle underlying pumpkin flavor that blended really well with the spices in the cake.  It was a huge success.

The Original Recipe is in Black and then my modifications are in Red... Some of the modifications were for High altitude, (The air is pretty thin here in Colorado Springs) so if your making this at lower elevations I would use 1 less Egg, All purpose Flour, and bake at 350 the entire time.

Rich's Carrot Pumpkin Cake

2 cups All Purpose Flour (Bread Flour works better at High Altitude)
2 tsp Baking Soda (1-1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground Ginger
1/8 tsp ground Cloves
1/4 tsp ground All Spice
3 Large Eggs (4 Large Eggs, helps with Altitude)
2 cups Sugar
2 Tbs Molasses
3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
3/4 cup Buttermilk (1/2 Cup)
1 Cup Pumpkin
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Grated Carrots (I personally like the larger grate than the small grate)
8 oz Crushed Pineapple
3.5 oz Flaked Coconut (I used 1.5- 2 oz)
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts
Next time I make it I will probably add 1/3 cup raisins as well :)

Combine Sugar, Molasses and the Eggs in mixer and cream together for a minute or two, then add the other wet ingredients Oil, Buttermilk, Pumpkin, Vanilla, and mix well.  Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl, whisk together and with mixer on low slowly add to the wet ingredients... once flour is incorporated, add the remaining ingredients just until they are incorporated.

Make two 9 inch cakes.  I always use wax paper in the bottom of my cake pans, saves a lot of grief... Bake at 350 for 25  to 30 minutes (Bake at 375 for 20 mins,, then reduce heat to 350 for 10 more minutes)

If anyone decides to try it I would love to hear how it turns out :)

Witch in the Springs

A few weeks ago I thought it would be fun to make a Witch for our front yard, so Sarah and I went down to  one of the local thrift stores to get some supplies, We were able to find pretty much everything that we needed for around $15.00 except for the mask... I stopped at Partyland and found a great mask on the clearance rack for $9.00.. So not to bad for a little Halloween fun.

I came home and built the frame, and then Randie helped me get her all dressed, Then it was just a matter of lashing her to the light pole in our front yard with some nylon zip ties...

She turned out really well, it was fun to watch people stop and do a double take, and then pull out there phones to take pictures.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lettuce Check

Quick update on my Hydroponic test... Lettuce is doing Really Well, It looks like I'm going to have to remove every other plant in order for them to have enough room for them to continue to grow.  Currently we are at week 6.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Going Hydro

Yes, it's true, my wife and kids accepted the fact a long time ago that "Dad" was always a little "out there" and it now comes as no surprise to them, when I say I'm starting a new project, my daughter likes to say "Dad, your so weird"....

I have no idea how I reached the point where I decided it would be fun to try hydroponics,  I think it has something to do with the challenge of creating and building something new.  I looked at a lot of different hydroponic options online and decided to design something myself based on the same basic principles.  I wanted to make it portable, easy to move, and easy to clean if needed.

This is what I came up with...

It's built out of  3 inch pvc pipe, each "grow tube" is it's own unit, and can be easily disconnected from the inlet and drain tubes..and the ends can be screwed off for easy cleaning

I liked the tiered look as it seemed to provided the most growing space and still allowed for an overall smaller footprint. (It takes up about 3' x 2.5' of floor space)

I decided to start with something simple to grow, to begin with and purchased 5 different varieties of heirloom lettuce.  (I just moved them from the sprouting tray to the Hydro system 2 days ago).

I used a hole saw to cut the five holes in each pipe, and then purchased some 2.75 inch net pots to go in the holes.  The lettuce was started in 2" Rockwool starter cubes (Rockwool is an inert fiber material similar in appearance to compressed insulation) When I transferred them to the Hydro unit I put some clay beads in the bottom of each netpot and on top...this helps with moisture retention.

for lighting, (which doesn't show in any of the pictures), I purchased two LED Grow lights, and have them on a timer, (18hrs on and 6hrs off.)

 The overall concept is pretty simple... there is a Reservoir under the unit (Tote from Wallmart) that holds 10 gallons of water, there is a submersible pump, that pumps the water up into the grow tubes every 8hrs... the grow tubes remain filled for about 15 minutes, and then drain back into the Reservoir. There is also an aerator in the reservoir that keeps the water oxygenated, and about once a week I check the water level and add any nutrients as needed.

So far it seems to be working Really well... I'm pretty happy with how it all turned out.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Second Attempt

In the cake world I think the Wedding Cake is probably the most daunting, I'm sure there are other cakes out there that would cause similar amounts of panic and stress, but I think this is as much as I would ever want to take on.

My first son got married and that was the first wedding cake that I did, with LOTS of help from my mom (OK... she did most of it) I Don't know if I would have ever made the leap from birthday and everyday cakes to doing a wedding cake without her help.

My second son got married... and now I was flying solo as mom had just had surgery on her neck.

A few things I learned...

  1. If you every wanted to open a bakery you should move to someplace closer to sea level, baking cakes and High Altitude don't mix well (especially Big cakes)  It took me 3 tries to get the 16" base baked before I got it right.
  2. Two or Three stand mixers would have been a huge blessing... Mixing 60 cups of cake batter, and all the frosting with one mixer took f o r e v e r.
  3. Patience is a long time.
  4. Four tiers of wedding cake is VERY Heavy
To be honest it was something I enjoyed and I will always find a lot of pride in saying that I made my Son's Wedding cakes...

And you know what they say, "Third times a Charm"  Two down and One to Go :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012


The weather was cold and wet over the weekend... So since I couldn't do any work in my Garden or Yard it seemed like the perfect time to make a cake.  I have been thinking about a cake for a while now and wanted to see how it would come together, plus I wanted to try out some things I haven't done before.

Here are some pictures... It's a 4 layer, nine inch cake.. I'm calling it "Compromise"...  I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cinnamon Pull Aparts

I've wanted to try these for a while (saw them on Pinterest), so I picked up a roll of Pillsbury French Bread at the store on Saturday. (the kind that comes in the pressurized cardboard tube, and when you bang it on the counter It "POPS" and scares the heck out of you)   I will definitely be trying them again, but will probably make the dough myself (a nice sweet bread dough like you would normally use for cinnamon rolls) and I'll probably add some raisins, nuts, and drizzle a little frosting on top.  (Note: 1 tube of French Bread makes 6 Pull aparts)

I have to say they worked up really fast, and they tasted great.

To make them open the Tube of French bread and lay it on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, make a small cut as an indicator at the halfway mark, then make marks half way on each half, and continue splitting each mark until you have 32 pieces marked... Each mark will be about 1/4 inch thick.  Using a piece of Dental floss cut off each section that you marked, and place them on a piece of wax paper, you will end up with 32 slices of dough.

Melt some butter, about 1/2 a stick.

In a small bowl mix 1 cup of Sugar, 2 Tsp Cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp Nutmeg.

Flatten out each slice of Dough with the palm of your hand, and brush both sides with butter, then coat with Sugar/Cinnamon mixture.  Do the same for each slice and make stacks of slices, 5 slices per stack (1 stack will have 6)

Spray a Muffin Tin with vegetable spray

Take a knife and cut a stack in half (right down the middle), then take one of the half stacks and put the cut side down into a muffin tin, it should take up half the space then take the other half and squeeze it into the other side.  Do the same with the other stacks and your done.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 mins.

If your muffin tin has a flat surface you might want to put a cookie tray under it in case there are any drippings from the melted sugar.

Mmmm, They are soooo easy, and sooo tasty.

Sarah Self Portrait 2

Sarah decided she didn't like the first self portrait, (that won first prize in her age group). So she did another one.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Self Portrait - Sarah

Sarah recently won First place in an Art Competition for a self portrait that she drew (She also was recognized at a banquet the following day and received a $150.00 Scholarship award for an art class at the Bemis School of Art.)...

Here is a picture of the Winning Composition.

I of course can't go to anything like that without coming away with idea's.  There was a Photo competition that they were promoting, about Sports and Action.  When I got home I started tinkering with some Photo's I'd taken of one of Sarah's track meets.

I ended up taking pieces from 6 different pictures of Sarah High jumping and came up with the Picture Below.

Imagine It...
I'm going to take it down to Walmart and have an 8x10 made so we can frame it and put it up in her Room...

I did go out and submit it for the competition, not expecting to win, but it was a lot of fun putting it together.

...Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chocolate Walnut Bread

Saw a post on Pinterest for Chocolate Walnut Bread, (Croation Sweet Walnut Bread) and of course I just had to try it... I have to say it turned out really well, and you know me, now I have all kinds of idea's for making a similar Cinnamon bread using the same technique...Pretty excited about it, will let you know how it turns out.

Here's a picture of the finished loaf...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Taco Time

The Young Women in our Ward held a Fund Raiser last night to help raise money for the girls to go to Camp this year.  The theme was a Mexican Fiesta, and they worked all day putting together the food, and organizing all the activity's etc. and I have to say they did a great job pulling it all together.

The food was actually really good... of course I don't think I've ever met a taco I didn't like.  (You can ask my wife, when we have Taco night at our house you can count on at least 5 or 6 taco's mysteriously disappearing from my plate.)

So to backtrack last week my beautiful daughter tell's me that for the upcoming Fund Raising project they need some king of baked good to sell for the deserts.  Of course I like projects almost as much as I like Taco's so my mind automatically starts thinking about what I could make.

Originally I was thinking of making some Maraca Cake pops, which would have been a lot of fun.  But.. My love of Taco's won out and I had the idea of making a Taco Cake, and I have to say it turned out really well.

To keep with the Mexican theme, I made a Mexican Chocolate Cake.  Basically I modified a Chocolate Sour Cream Cake recipe and added some Cinnamon and a little Cayenne Pepper for kick.  (I also added a little cinnamon to the Chocolate Icing)  I have to say the Cake tasted pretty good.

I cut the cake rounds in half and "Whalla" you have an instant taco shape..  then I wrapped them in a Fondant "Taco Shell", and made some fondant Lettuce, Cheese, and Sour Cream. ( I froze the "Cheese Fondant" and then grated it with the grater) and then with the Cake that I trimmed off the top of the rounds to make them flat I mixed some frosting to get the "Ground Beef"

...And what do you know, Two Very Large Taco's...They turned out Great !!.. Will have to make them again sometime.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Can't find your way?

It's so easy to get lost in the world today, not physically lost (ok, there was this one time when I did get a little "disoriented" and walked into the wrong restroom on our last trip back from Utah) what I'm talking about is spiritually lost.  Wouldn't it be nice to have your own spiritual compass, your own "Liahona".  So I decided to make one...

Now I know what your thinking, you can't really make a compass that operates on faith. I'm sure that if the Lord can part the Red Sea, turn water to wine, and raise the dead, that a little faith compass isn't that difficult..  I'm currently praying that one day when I'm able to understand that he will share the original plans with me.

Until then I'm pretty much left to my own limited ability's, and this is what I came up with.

I know your wondering if it really works..?

Of Course it works...Let me explain.

I don't know if you can tell from the picture but there are three main openings.  above each opening there is an inscription in Hebrew (I had to look it up) One says God, One says Jesus, and the other say's the Spirit.  That way no matter which way the spindle is pointing it is pointing in the right direction.)

...and you thought I couldn't do it

Around the Center it says "Exercising Faith will lead you to God"

So...If any of my friends get lost out there and you need a spiritual compass, I would be glad to lend you mine.

(I have to say that this was not my idea....I saw this on ) and decided to make my own version.