Saturday, December 28, 2013

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo

The weather got up to an unseasonably warm 54 degrees here today, so we took advantage of it with a short trip to the zoo. It's going to drop to a high of 19 tomorrow, so we wanted to enjoy it while it lasted! The new penguin exhibit opened earlier this fall but this was the first we'd been out to see it. It was really great. We also saw the polar bear, otters, peacock, bobcat, and a few other random animals. It was also warm enough to enjoy a picnic outdoors before we went home!

We were so close we could've reached over the glass and picked up a Humboldt penguin!

Elizabeth holding her stuffed penguin and watching the Humboldts

Ben talking with the Humbolts

These penguins were really fast swimmers

Ben chatting with a white-tail deer

Elizabeth and Dave taking an after-lunch walk

Brilliant blue poison dart frog

Elizabeth looking through the window at the meerkats all looking out the other window

Climbing on the tree at the Discovery Barn

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fall highlights

Life has been busy lately and the next few weeks will continue to be so. Here are a few things we've been up to lately. I apologize for the disorganization, but I'm tossing up a bunch at once so my dad can show them to my grandma while he's visiting her!

Elizabeth knows how to behave at a fancy restaurant (celebrating Great-Grandma Anne's 90th birthday). She also brought her doll Annabelle, who was mine when I was little.

Dave won this canvas in a contest and we all cheered as Sporting KC won the MLS Cup in a double shootout after an overtime! Ben is excited to have it hung in his room.
Elizabeth hanging an ornament my friend Neilam made me in high school :)

Every day we open a drawer on the Advent calendar and there's a different family activity like listen to Christmas music or read a holiday book.

My godmother Jeanne sent us this gingerbread house kit along with a ton of other Trader Joe's deliciousness. I think it is safe to say this is the most structurally sound gingerbread house I've ever made, probably because I didn't bake the pieces!

We spent Thanksgiving over at Uncle Kenny & Aunt Lynn's house. The kids had fun spending time with their cousins and eating all the delicious food, especially Grandma's rolls. Elizabeth loved them so much that she actually cried when we had them for leftovers and she had finished her portion. She pointed at ours and wept, "Roll! Roll!" and seemed to think we should give her some of ours!

Ben had fun jumping on the trampoline at Uncle Kenny's

Ben & Tristan jumping

Boy cousins at Thanksgiving

Elizabeth kept trying to feed me the ornament.

Please just pretend that my children are smiling!

Nap-striking munchkin cuddling with Uncle Jeff

Playing dreidel while over at Opa & Grandma's for Hannukah. Did not react well to the "ante up" part of dreidel. Liked the part where she got to eat the gelt.
Elizabeth listening to one of the Christmas books from Great-Grandma Meyer, read by Grammie & Papa

Friday, November 29, 2013

Pre-Thanksgiving Smoking Party

For the more than a decade, Uncle Kenny has hosted four pre-holiday smoking parties per year (for St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas).  People -- friends, family, strangers off the street -- are free to drop off whatever they want smoked, and he takes care of the rest.  It's a social event for him, an opportunity to hang out with some friends and throw a big party at the end that involves a taste of just about everything.  We had taken meat to be smoked before, and had attended the sampling afterwards, but had never been there for the actual smoking.  This year, I decided to change that.

Uncle Kenny's smoker is an industrial bakery oven that he salvaged and converted.  It contains a giant rotisserie, and he has rigged a woodbox to it to provide the smoke. 

The woodbox, piped into the smoker.

It's an all-day event, with work starting around 5 a.m. and the last item leaving the smoker after 7 p.m. or later.  The record for the most meat smoked at one of his parties is a bit over four tons.  This year's pre-thanksgiving event didn't quite hit that level, but it was still impressive.  The tally for the day was:  18 briskets, 23 pork shoulders, 53 turkeys, 73 slabs of ribs, 21 hams, 6 chickens, 3 corned beef briskets, two pork loins, about 25 pounds of sausage, a half dozen salmon filets and a couple of trout.

Turkey's going into the smoker.

Spraying down the briskets with a bit of apple juice.

Briskets coming off the smoker.

Above: Rib prep and ribs going on the smoker.

Just about done.

The procedure for pulled pork is pretty neat.  When a pork shoulder comes off the smoker, it goes into a (clean, I promise) paint bucket.  Then, using a power drill and a custom-made shredding attachment, the pork shoulder is shredded.  It only takes four of five quick pulses, and saves a lot of time compared to doing it by hand.  The entire process is shown below.

What's most impressive is that, despite dealing with hundreds of items, everything finds its way back to its rightful owner.  Each item is tagged with a numbered metal washer (as seen on the ribs below), and that number is logged along with the name of the person who brought it.  When meat comes off the smoker, it is identified on the log, packaged and labeled with the appropriate name.

Fish and ham are the last items to go on the smoker, as they take the least amount of time (the fish will overcook fairly quickly, and the ham, being pre-cooked, only requires enough time to warm up, take on a little smoke, and let the glaze melt).

Wrapped, racked and ready for pick-up.