Saturday, July 31, 2010


I first became aware of this card game from a discussion with my friend, Wallace.  He was looking for a game that would be an easy family game that is also good for taking camping.  He asked if I had ever heard of Fluxx, and I had not.

After searching YouTube for videos of the game, I clicked over to the inventors website.

A week later we had our copy in the mail and were at the table trying it out.

There is a lot of randomness to this game.  It can be hard to form a real strategy, so if you are looking for a serious game to keep your mind focused, this will not be for you.  In fact that is one of the main reasons Randy said he didn't care for it.  He would be one turn from winning and someone would change the winning goal, causing him to lose.

The game starts with everyone getting three cards.  The cards may be a keeper, a new rule, a goal, or an action.  On the first turn the rule is to draw a card and play a card.  Things get crazy from there.  As each person takes their turn the rules change, the winning conditions change, and some of the actions throw everything into chaos.

Chaos is what makes Fluxx fun.  You never know what is about to happen.  You build the best hand possible, holding the right cards for the right moment and then someone changes the rules and you're only allowed to hold one card.

The game plays pretty quickly once everyone understands how to play.  Somewhere between ten and twenty minutes with most games on the lower end of that scale.  It's also very easy to teach.

If you're searching for a quick, fun game that is good for everyone (except Randy), I'd say you should look into this game.

Here's the video that convinced me to purchase it:

He shows Family Fluxx but we decided to purchase the original.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bag Worms!

This is quite a nasty topic today.  Worms.  Worse yet, Bag Worms forming the largest colony in one of my Leland Cypress trees.  

Bag worms defoliate a branch and use bits of the foliage as they go to create a bag.  This bag becomes their home.  It reminds me of a snail's shell because you rarely see the worm without the bag.   Enough bag worms will strip a tree clean, making for a very ugly cypress tree.  Note that they seem to only eat Cypress trees.  

I have found a few now and then on my trees and normally just pluck them off and throw them away.  Well, last week I rounded the corner and saw my tree from my neighbors lot and this is what I found:
The entire side of the tree was stripped bare and countless bags were hanging on the branches.  My first thought was, "Ewwww!  Gross!"

Here's a closer look:
I called Cari, my hero, out to evaluate the situation with me.  We decided the best action was to pluck as many as we could off of the tree and cut the stripped branches.   We grabbed some gloves, scrunched our faces with the best "eww gross" faces, and started dropping the worms into a bucket.

What do you do when you have a bucket full of bag worms?  Burn them!

By the way, I just checked and the worms are still making a move on my tree.  We're having a worm plucking party on Sunday.  No RSVP needed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Foul Language!

You can never predict what a toddler will say at dinner, but you can have a video camera handy.  Here's the result.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Glass Less

In my recent self portrait photo shoot you may have noticed I was wearing glasses.  The thing about it is I don't wear glasses.  Those frames had no glass.  That's the kind of thing that happens when I take photos at 2:30am.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Overhaul Time

I don't think I have updated the look of my blog since I've started it back in 2004.  It's always had the plain black background.

Overtime I noticed that the blogs I read have been looking better and better, yet mine remained. . . plain black.
I liked the look, it was simple and not too busy.

Thanks to a nudge from a Blogger email today, I decided to take a look at their new design tools.  I played with the tools for a while and previewed several looks.  Then I went back and looked at the blog.


The new one looked so much better.  I searched for that orange save button and clicked it.  POOF!

Instant transformation!  I've added a link to my Twitter messages on the left, my YouTube videos on the right, and changed the look of my Flickr photos now on the left.

I hope you like the changes as much as I do.  Based on previous performance it'll probably look this way for the next five years.

I also had a chance to look at some stats on blog traffic tonight.  I have always avoided adding a traffic counter to the blog because I don't want to get hung up on the number of viewers.  I am afraid it will discourage me with low numbers.

Google has added a tab to see stats on the draft dashboard when I log in and I spent some time with it.  It not only shows how many visitors came to the blog, it shows how they got there.   Even this month, Google sends me lots of traffic for my blog about the Gypsy's in Murphy's Village.  There are a ton of people looking into this apparently.  A while back I had to disable comments on that post because it was getting out of hand. People are very emotional about that topic.

The statistics page has a lot of information and I found it really interesting.  I don't think staring at it will increase the traffic here, so I better get to writing. . . enjoy the new look!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Art Loeb and Ivestor

This hike started out as a boyscout hike, but one by one they all dropped out.  With plans changing, Randy and I changed our original hike plans and decided we would head up to the Art Loeb trail on the Blue Ridge Pkwy.  This is the hike that my family took a few weeks back on Black Balsm Knob.

Randy and I packed up our backpacks and headed our for his first backpacking adventure.  We stopped at the Pisgah ranger station for some maps and advice and the Park Ranger was glad to help.

Maps in hand, we hit the trail.  We would hike around three miles on the Art Loeb trail throughout the day on Saturday.  There was some elevation changes and some narrow areas to cross, but Randy was doing great.

We stopped briefly at Tennent mountain and took some photos.  Storm clouds were threatening our dry weather, but Randy promised me they would blow over.  With a 70% chance of rain, I was thrilled when Randy was right.
We hiked to the entrance of the Shining Rock Wilderness area and evaluated our options.  Most backpackers would set up camp at this spot from what the Ranger told us.  Going into the Wilderness area presented additional challenges.  There are no campfires allowed in the wilderness and the trails are not marked.  Without a map, we would be challenged to stay on course.

We chose to turn back and use a trail side camp site that we had passed earlier in the day.

Sitting in our camp after building our tent, it was time for a fire.  That's where things started falling apart.  Let's just say that it rained really hard the night before and everything was still wet.  Fifteen matches, two candles, and some burnt up toilet paper later, we still had no fire.

Instead we spent our evening eating wild blue berries and then going to bed in the dark.

The night time sounds of camping here are different than what I have been used to.  Most times I'm camped along the water somewhere and an army of insects sing through the night.  Up in the mountains and away from any streams I didn't hear any insects through the night.  Instead I heard only the sound of wind pushing its way through the nearby tree tops.  It was a great sound to listen to.

In this next picture, Randy is huddled up in the camo sleeping bag.  It was cold and the sun was just coming up.

We woke up at six to watch the sun rise above the mountains in front of our camp.  It was cold, maybe sixty degrees, and the wind chilled both of us.  After the sun was fully in the air we felt a noticeable warming.   By seven thirty we were packed up and hitting the trail back to the car.   We took an old road that is the Ivestor trail back to the car.  There wasn't much elevation change and it was a bit shorter.

In total, we hiked approximately five miles.  Randy did great and he's already talking about doing it again.  Next time we bring a lighter and some other fire making supplies with us.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Make Baseball Better

I think baseball could be more exciting.  People like exciting sports.  Nascar has massive car crashes, football has hard hitting tackles, and basketball has fast paced play with high scoring games.

I'm not suggesting that people don't like baseball.  It's just that I believe they could easily broaden their appeal with a few simple changes.  Three changes to be exact.

First, let's start using a flaming bat.  An audience would love to see a bit more fire in the sport.  If the batter stands up there too long, his bat will begin to turn to ash and the flames will start to close in on his hands.  When an umpire lights the end of your bat on fire, you're ready to hit the ball and get going.

Now that we have a flaming bat let's have a bucket next to the pitcher.  In each bucket are the balls he is going to use.   The balls are soaking in a Napalm solution.  It might cause that fast ball to be a little less fast, but imagine the crowds reaction when that Napalm soaked ball makes contact with the flaming bat!  I already know that ESPN would love my idea.  Imagine turning on Sports Center to watch some highlights.  Do you think a ball bursting into flames would make the highlight reels?  Heck yeah!

Since we've got the ball on fire as it flies through the air let's go ahead and ratchet the excitement up a bit more.  If you thought the batter was nervous holding the flaming bat for too long how do you think that fielder is feeling as he watches a flaming ball coming his way.  Especially when he knows that his glove has been rubbed with gasoline at the beginning of the inning.  "Hey left fielder, how bad do you want to make that out?"

I'm confident that if these changes were implemented into baseball the ratings would go through the roof.

With flaming bats, Napalm balls, and gas soaked gloves, baseball will put Nascar, football, and basketball to shame.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Home Alive

I would normally have a post up and ready for you this morning, but I've been on the trail.

Randy and I took a trip to the Art Loeb trail along the Blue Ridge Pkwy and spent the night last night.  We had a great time and saw some amazing things.

More on our backpacking adventure later this week.  For now, you get a single photo.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Air Quality!

We had an O-zone air quality alert and wondered what we should do with such a sunny day.  After a few seconds of thinking about it, we loaded up the car and headed to the lake where some friends were already there "camping".
     Yeah - camping is in quotes because they are using air conditioned campers with full water and electrical hook up.  This is not camping.  Camping is strapping a pack to your back with everything that'll you need.  I could continue to define camping, but that would be a different blog.  Today we are talking about playing outside in the O-zone filled air.

We loaded up the boat and headed across Lake Keowee to a waterfall that flows into the lake.  I took some kids up the side of the waterfall with me and we followed the stream back to another waterfall and a bridge.
After exploring the trail system for a bit there became a debate about which way was home.  There was obviously too many females in our group.

We eventually found our way back to the waterfall that splashes into the lake.  There is a ledge about half way up the falls where the water splashes down.  This also turned out to be a spot that you could sit on the ledge and let the water pour over you.  Lean back while sitting on that ledge and let the water pass in front of you while you take a breath in a hidden spot behind the water.  
In this next photo you can see Randy leaning back behind the water.  He could have sat there all day.
Back on the boat we tried riding the tube getting towed by the boat.  Randy loved this.  Cari and I tried it and, while it was fun, our arms are still sore several days later.
Some people in our group wanted to try water skiing.  Several of the children and one of the adults gave it a shot before we were scared away by some nearby thunderstorms.  This was a common scene in their attempts.
After a full day of fun on the lake there didn't seem to be any ill effects of enjoying the outdoors during an air-quality warning. 
 Either O-zone isn't that bad after all, or the air quality up in the mountains wasn't nearly as bad as in the stale concrete city.  O-zone or not, we had a great time at the lake!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

84 ft

When I jumped off the side of the boat into the cool water for a quick swim, I knew the water was deep.  What I didn't realize was that the water was 84 ft deep.

Swimming with Cari, I told her that it felt weird to me treading water knowing that the floor was that far below me.  I haven't ever swam in such deep water.  It felt different to me.  It was a unique feeling.

She agreed that it was really cool thing to be swimming in the middle of this deep lake but then she pointed out it wouldn't really matter if it was 84 ft or 10 ft deep.  Once it's over your head, it's all the same.

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Portrait!

It was 2:30am and I decided it was time to shoot a new self portrait.  I set up the tripod and got right to work knowing that the sun would be coming up soon.  Not that the sun would disrupt my photo session, but that the sun would signal a full night of no sleep.
I snapped away roughly 80 shots using various lighting and poses before deciding I had enough.  After loading them into the computer and making some adjustments it was edging closer to 3:30am.  I had twenty shots that I liked well enough to stop and make a few adjustments to.  Here's a few of those to share with you today:
I decided to share one last goofy shot with you today.  In this last shot you can see two things used during the shoot.  The remote in my hand is a remote for the shutter.  The black piece of tape was a reference point.  When I aimed the camera at a plain blue wall it was hard to get the framing the way I wanted.  The tape helped me adjust the camera and reminded me where to sit.  In most of the shots I was sitting directly in front of the tape.  In this one I was standing on my chair and folding myself into a pretzel.
Overall, I am pleased with the results for a self portrait.  I'm not convinced that doing this at 2:30am is ideal.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Oreo Truffles


I have never posted a recipe on the blog, but I've also never eaten a Oreo Truffle.  After trying one and then making a batch myself, I had to share this amazing dessert with you.  Doing a quick Google search turns up dozens of recipes that are all almost identical.  Here's the one I used:

This is an easy dessert to make and the kids had a lot of fun helping.  You also don't need to heat up your stove to enjoy them, so it works great during the summer!


Thursday, July 08, 2010

Best Hike EVER!

We took a hike to Black Balsam Knob on the Blue Ridge Pkwy near mile 420 and it was the best family hike ever.  
When choosing our hike location I had to find a hike that would be suitable for the two year old to walk on her own.  That meant it couldn't be more than two miles round trip and the elevation change couldn't be too drastic.  This hike was perfect for that.  

We even took the dog, Nisha, who it turns out loves to go hiking.
This trail is part of the Art Loeb trail that travels these mountains for about thirty miles.  Camping is allowed on the trail and I couldn't help thinking about how awesome it would be to wake up on top of this mountain.
I think I may have even gotten Cari to agree to camp out there with me.  This is amazing because as you can see. . . no bathroom!
We found a great rocky area to stop and eat our picnic lunch and I setup the tripod while everyone ate.
As we all sat down for our family portrait, some dense clouds rolled in and covered up the view of the mountains behind us.  If you could see the view that we were looking out toward during this shot, it was blue skies. Funny how the clouds seemed to get trapped between mountains. 
One of the motivations for the kids to look at the camera for these shots is the promise of acting silly for the last shot. . .
No kids complained about hiking during the trip.  In fact, I have it on video of Meredith declaring this the best hike EVER!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

July 4, 2010

We followed our tradition for the 4th of July by heading up to Pickens for the festival and fireworks.  The crowd didn't seem as large this year.  Maybe because the holiday fell on a Sunday.  The event itself also felt scaled back.  In past years, two stages were positioned on Main St.  This year only the main stage was up and running. We also sought the funnel cake vendor only to find no such vendor.  Is there such thing as a summer festival without funnel cake?

Even with this slightly smaller event there was still a lot of people visiting Pickens.  We had a good time walking around checking out the rides that I would never in a million years put myself onto.  Such as this one...
Look at that!  There are people strapped to that circle!  They are being spun around at a rapid speed and then as the speed picks up, they tilt one end into the air.  You'll never find me on one of those things.

We ended up on the side of a grassy hill to wait for the fireworks.  We were directly across the street from where they would launch, the closest we have viewed the show from.

I set up my camera and snapped shots throughout the show. Sitting back on the blanket we had spread on the ground I randomly hit the shutter.  While the earlier part of the festival may have felt scaled down, the fireworks didn't have that feel.  The show was awesome and ended with a fantastic finale.  Sitting so close to the launch area was great.  The sound of each explosion was intense.  We decided this hill will be our new viewing area for future years.

So how did Brenna do?  Every time she heard one she would announce to us, "Pop!"  She seemed to enjoy it at first and watched the colors in the air.  As the frequency of the explosions increased, she became nervous.  Sitting in Cari's lap, she started to close her eyes.  Amazingly, she was able to fall asleep during the show.
Next year on the 4th of July, we'll be heading back up to Pickens for a great festival and fireworks.  Also next year, I will again avoid the spinning, crazy carnival ride. 

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Testing the Beans

The baby has found a great way to enjoy jelly beans.  With a handful of the flavorful beans, she licks each one.
The ones she likes, she eats.  The others are returned to mom.

Friday, July 02, 2010

All Cleaned Up

We were driving along the Blue Ridge Pkwy yesterday and I had three kids and a dog in the back seat of the car.
One of the kids said, "Nisha just threw up!"
Then Brenna started saying, "Ewwww!"

Cari turned around to see what all the commotion was about and said, "It's okay.  She's cleaning it up now."
Meredith started hollering, "Ewww!  She's eating her vomit!"
Brenna changed her tune from "ewww" to "All clean.", and Randy said, "She must have really liked that biscuit to eat it a second time."