Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Librarian's Corner: The Snarkout Boys and The Avocado of Death

The Snarkout Boys 

and the Avocado of Death

by: Daniel Pinkwater

First of all, I have to say that this is the strangest book that I've read in a very long time. But then again, its a Daniel Pinkwater book, what do you expect? Oh, you're not familiar with Daniel Pinkwater? Let me introduce you. Pinkwater writes absolutely ridiculous books (mostly for children) about such every day occurrences as talking lizards (Lizard Music), giant chickens (The Hoboken Chicken Emergency) and a moose who works as a waiter (the Blue Moose series). Sounds interesting, right? It is, and The Snarkout Boys are sort-of the culmination of all of this weirdness in one delicious book.


The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death is about well, exactly what you think its about. Walter Galt and Vincent Bongo have refined the fine art of "snarking out", or sneaking out of the house after your parents are asleep. While out one night at the all-night movie theater that the boys frequent, they run into a young lady named Rat, who brings them home to meet her crazy family. Thus begins the strangest adventure that young Walt and Vincent have ever endured, and certainly the strangest one; involving mad scientists, all-night restaurants, stump-speeches and of course, avocados. 

My love-affair with Mr. Pinkwater started while my husband and I were on our honeymoon last summer. He was appalled to discover that I had never heard of the masterpiece that is Lizard Music. He promptly downloaded it to his talking books player, and we spent a lovely weekend sitting out on the deck of the country house we were staying at, listening to Lizard Music and laughing our butts off. After that, it was on to The Hoboken Chicken Emergency and The Last Guru. I've been reading Pinkwater avidly for over a year now, and I've yet to come across a book that I didn't love.

The Snarkout Boys is just everything that I love about Daniel Pinkwater's books. It's ridiculous, and it's fun, it's silly and it makes you laugh. Yes, it's a kid's book, but it's also for adults! Don't let anyone out there tell you that as a so-called "grown-up" you are not allowed to read and enjoy literature aimed at kids. Although there is something beautiful about its childlike silliness. There's a sense of whimsy that you don't get very often in traditional "adult" books, and Pinkwater is the master of whimsy. Seriously, he wrote a book about a giant chicken, remember?

This is a short book, so I'm going to keep this short. I loved The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, and if you have a healthy appreciation of the weird, you will too. Where you can you get your paws on a copy? At your local library of course! But wait! There's more! You can actually listen to this amazing novel for free, narrated by the author himself! Head on over to www.pinkwater.com and check out all of his free audiobooks!

So that's it for this month. Are you going to run out and read/listen to The Snarkout Boys? Yes, yes you are! It's well worth the price. You know, free. Enjoy! And come back next month for another installment of Librarian's Corner. I'm hoping to do something a little special next month, so please check back for it! In the mean time, tell me what you're reading these days, I'm always looking for some new recommendations (as if my reading list isn't long enough...)! TL;DR? More next month, tell me what you're reading, and have fun!

 See you next month!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Adventures in Grape-Squishing

Hey, remember last time, when I mentioned that we'd been grape-squishing? Well, now I'm going to tell you guys all about it.

It all started a few Fridays ago, when my in-laws went to a pick-your-own-vineyard and came home with 165 lbs. of grapes. Yes, 1-6-5. That's... a lot of grapes. So what were we to do with all of those grapes? Make wine, of course.
My in-laws have been making wine longer than I've been a part of the family (which, admittedly isn't that long, but still, it's traditional at this point). Every fall they acquire grapes, squish the juice out, and let it ferment into something alcoholic and delicious.

For the last several years, this squishing has taken place in their basement. The set-up was... precarious at best. There was a car-jack involved, and a cross-beam named Roderick that butted up against the ceiling... and yeah, it wasn't good.
So last year, my husband and I built them a wine-press. A real wine-press. Based off of the design of a commercial wine-press that a friend of theirs had purchased for lots of $$.

okay... so we're still using a car-jack.
The basic design is simple. There's a wooden frame that supports a car-jack, that holds the actual press. Inside the big green bucket is another (Home Depot) bucket with lots of holes drilled into it. Grapes go in the inside bucket, pressure is applied and juice comes out the bottom. The big green bucket has a spigot installed in the side so that the juice can be moved to yet another bucket. You can't make wine without a lot of buckets, apparently.

Okay, so once you've got your press all set up, you add grapes. 165 lbs. of them if you've got!

All the classiest vintners use kitchen pots.

Then, like I said, it's time to squeeze. We made a set of inter-locking pegs that would fit between the car-jack and the grapes so that we could continue to add pressure even as the grapes got squished down. Once your pegs are in place, you squeeze.

Here you can see our peg system in action.

I wanted to cut dovetails on the pegs but... meh, you can't always get what you want. What comes next? Well, uh, more squeezing. And then? Even more squeezing. If you've got a lot of grapes (and we do), you're going to have to do a lot of squeezing. We did about 2 batches of white grapes, and another 2-3 batches of red grapes. If you've got a spigot installed into the side of your big green bucket (which I highly recommend), your grape-juice can pour right out into its permanent home. In our case, some fancy food-grade buckets which will house the grape-juice while it ferments.

Happy little grape-juice
All there is left to do is ferment your grape-juice and make it into delicious delicious wine. But that, boys and girls, is another show.

What do you do with the left-over grape mash? It composts really really well, so go ahead and dump it into your compost heap... if that is, you don't mind a massive fruit-fly infestation. If you're not a fan of fruit flies, then you're probably going to want to throw the mash out. Sorry.
And speaking of flying pests, if you're squishing grapes outside over the summer (or even in the early fall), be prepared to entertain some of these guys:

Yes, that's a yellow-jacket, and yes, there were a lot of them.

I think that about wraps things up for today. We had a lot of fun grape-squishing, and in about a year (give or take a few months) we'll have some wine! Hey, I never said this was a quick process. Alright, stay tuned next time for our October installment of Librarian's Corner. What am I going to be reading/reviewing this month? Who knows! I sure don't! So come back on the 21st and find out!

Happy Squishing!