Thursday, April 30, 2009

Breaking news, we have pea pods!

It's only been 9 days, but I already have some tiny pea plants sprouting! I guess they could feel my green thumb love, even from California. (Confused? Click here to follow the pea garden saga from the beginning.)

Check it out:

And holy crap! Look at not-so-little mystery plant!

Stay tuned for more exciting gardening news. (Did I really just describe gardening as exciting? Damn, I am old.)

A few more photo tips

We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Monday. Aquariums are typically kinda hard to shoot for the everyday photographer (read: non-pro). The lighting is less than ideal, but using flash will give you a ton of glass glare. So here's what I do:

  • Switch to the manual setting on your camera.
  • Turn off flash.
  • Add a notch or two of exposure time.
  • Aquarium exhibits often are back lit, making it very hard for your camera to get the right amount of light. I meter my light to the floor or area to the side of the exhibit, and then move the camera to the correct place for the actual shot (without changing any settings). On a point and shoot camera (which I was using), you do this by holding your shutter button in about halfway. On an SLR, you will want to consult your manual as it's a little different for each brand and model.
Here's some unedited jellyfish photos I shot (Canon SD1100) using the methods above.

California vacation wrap-up

Rob and I just wrapped up our first real vacation as a married couple. We had a great time! We stayed with my sister-in-law Rachel and her boyfriend Jason in Palo Alto.

A few highlights:

  • We saved more than $90 by not parking out car at the airport. Instead we walked a half mile to the bus stop, took the bus to downtown, took the light-rail to the airport. Cost = $2.25 each.
  • By packing light, we were able to take only carry on bags. This saved us tons of time and no stress worrying about our luggage getting lost.
  • California is fun to visit, but it requires a lot of driving. I am glad to be home.
Since I took so many pictures, I can't post them all here. However there are links below, divided by day, along with a break-down of what we did.

Day 1 - Wednesday
  • Bus to downtown. Lightrail to airport. Fly to Chicago.
  • Two hour layover in Chicago.
  • Fly to San Francisco.
  • Meet Rachel at the airport. Drive to Palo Alto.
  • Drop off bags. Head to grocery and beer stores.
  • Drink a few and get caught up with Rachel and Jason.
Day 2 - Thursday 
Day 3 - Friday
Day 4 - Saturday 
Day 5 - Sunday 
  • Recover.
  • Head to the beach at Santa Cruz.
  • Explore downtown Santa Cruz.
  • Order pizza, watch movie, play board games.
Day 6 - Monday 
Day 7 - Tuesday 
  • Repeat Day 1 in reverse order

There you have it. Whew.

And if you don't feel like clicking through every one of the Picasa albums linked above, here's a few of my personal favorites:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dog boot camp

I was looking for some dog training advice and stumbled on this Dog boot camp site. Looks like some pretty good advice, mostly from the Cesar Milan (Dog Jesus) school of training.

That is the first picture that comes up on a Google image search of "Cesar Milan Dog Jesus". Even scarier is that there were over 60,000 results.

Labels: cesar, dog, evil elf, jesus, murphy

Banana slug


Photo taken with Canon SD1100.

The daily Murph

This photo was taken by Murphy's dog sitter, Richard, while we were on vacation. I like this picture because it showcases Murphy's enormous tongue, as well as his giant size next to a normal lab. :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Photo update: Napa Valley wine tour

Here's the hilarious tour guide drinking with us:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Greetings from San Francisco!

We're having a great time in San Francisco and taking tons of photos (which we will post when we get home). Here's a few teaser photos, before we head out to our next adventure.

Here we are about to leave for the bus station. We decided to only bring carry-ons.

Landing in California:

San Francisco:

Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz:


The market at Chinatown:

Downtown SF from the car, heading to the Rogue Brew Pub:

The Bay Bridge:

More to come!

The best pea garden tutorial on the Internet!

I love peas. Oh man, I love peas so much. Sugar snap peas and snow peas, fresh from the garden, are hands down my favorite food. Plus it's a bit of a family tradition. When I was younger, my grandparents used to plant a giant row of peas every year on my birthday. By June, I'd be eating peas, a bag at a time, like a horribly addicted pea junkie. As you can probably guess, I am very excited to have my own yard where I can now finally plant my own pea empire.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say there aren't any decent pea garden planting tutorials online. Maybe the rest of the world doesn't love peas as much as I do? But just in case someone out there is wondering how it's done, I have taken the liberty of documenting my step-by-step process.

Prepare the seeds

Step one: buy pea seeds. Check.

And here's a tip from my grandma. Before planting, soak your pea seeds in a bowl of shallow water. This will encourage germination.

When do you plant peas?

If you're in the midwest like we are, early or mid April is a good time, or even late March if the snow is gone. Peas actually thrive when the weather is cool, so don't worry if it's still getting chilly at night.

Where should you plant peas?

Windows or planter boxes are just fine, as the pea plants don't need very deep soil to grow. The disadvantage of a planter box is that you can only plant a few peas. If you are a pea junkie like me, you require much more. Luckily peas don't need much - just an area with a lot of direct sunlight.

I'm using an existing garden in our yard.

Preparing the soil

First things first, I needed to get rid of the leaves and yard debris that had gathered in my future pea sanctuary. That means partaking in my least favorite activity - raking. Let's face it; when it comes to yard work, I have a laissez faire attitude. In other words, I'm lazy. But I love peas so much that I'm willing to do the work. Check out those guns.

The soil was a bit too hard for planting, and it needed to be tilled. If you have access to a garden tiller, this would be a good time to use it. If you don't have fancy garden tools (like me), you can use a shovel to uncover the top layer of soil and expose the fresh soil below. You can rake the area smooth once you've done this. The pic below shows the area I've tilled in comparison to the original hard soil.

During the tilling process, I discovered yet another mystery plant!

Let's take a closer look...

Look, I'm not a botanist or a scientist. I don't have any idea what this is. It could be a tulip. It could be... corn. I don't know. But something in my heart told me I should let it stay. So I did. (If this winds up being some kinda crazy Venus Pea-Killing Plant, I'm going to be very unhappy.)

After tilling, I brought in 200 pounds (5 bags) of top soil, just for good measure. Now look at how nice the soil looks. If I was a pea seed, I would totally put down roots in this garden.

Rob was kind enough to quickly construct a short fence that will hopefully keep MurphyDog away from my beloved pods. Luckily our dog is fairly respectful of boundaries.

Planting the peas

Use a shovel to make some shallow rows in the soil. It really does not have to be very deep at all. Use a garden hose to get each row slightly wet. You want the soil to be moist, but not soaking wet.

Then drop your pea seeds along the row. Don't worry too much about getting them evenly dispersed - you can fix this before you cover them. Also don't worry too much about spacing. I've actually had good luck growing peas close together; plus you can always thin them out later if needed.

Now you can gently push each seed into the moist soil (and spread them out a little more evenly). Gently cover with the soil on each side. Pat lightly.

And you're done!

Water your peas and mystery plant daily (or twice daily if you live in a very hot climate), and you should begin to see plants sprouting in about two weeks. You will have fresh peas for the eating in roughly two months! (This is going to be the longest two months of my life.)

That's all for now! Happy pea growing.

someone else's words

"Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others." - Buddha

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