Monday, June 30, 2008

grand canyon: slip 'n' slide

It's hot in Missoula.  

I mean really hot.  

It's over 85 degrees at nine-thirty in the evening, and that's just almost unbearable.  Then again, if that's the case, I'll be moving before July's over, so I'll back it up a bit.  It's not unbearable, I just think it's unbearable.  Maybe I just need to get acclimated.  Maybe if I close my eyes and remember Alabama in August with just the attic fan and no air conditioner....  Nope.  Still hot.

All this hot-ness got me thinking of the canyon trip and all those pictures I never posted.  So tonight, if only because it's really hot, I'm going to share one of my favorite moments.  It doesn't have anything to do with a beautiful canyon or a big horned sheep poop or shooting stars at Deer Creek campground.  The title spoils the punch line.  It's the slip 'n' slide.

Yes, folks.  Day 20 rolled around, and we were tired and there were no more big rapids to run and we had way too much tequila than any self-respecting canyoners should have on hand at day 20.  And it was hot.  Really, really, scorch-your-feet-walking-from-shade-to-water's-edge hot.  Lick-your-lips-and-feel-them-crack hot.  Four-hundred-and-thirty-two-flies-buzzing-round-the-groover kind of hot.  (You probably could have done without that last image, huh.... Oh, what's a groover?  It's the poop can.  Sorry.  Well, I didn't want to leave anyone out.)

So what did we do on this really hot day?  Oh, that's right, you already know: the slip 'n' slide.  

What you may not know is that Emily Post has a chapter all on the proper way to huck one's self down a Grand Canyon slip 'n' slide.  I'll save you the trouble of referencing her great works and summarize here:

First you take a shot of tequila.  Shot glasses are for civilized folks not travelin' by boat, so you have to take 'er outta the bottle. (By the way, nothin' says handsome like five-inch black neoprene socks... I think I've mentioned that Handyman knows how to dress to impress!)

Then, you trust your buddies will splash the obligatory sliding component down on the slip 'n' slide else yer in fer a bit of a pinkbelly.  Assuming said buddies do said duty, you're on your way.

And then there's relief at the bottom.  It's really more fun than it looks.  And no, the handyman did not suddenly turn into a lady upon shock of hitting the surface of that delightfully cold water.  I missed a shot, and Wendy politely said she'd fill in as stunt double.

After you blow that water out yer nose and adjust your shorts so everything's comfortable, you come out grinnin', get another shot, and do it all over again!  

Just don't forget your black socks - I'm sure Emily would agree that they are THE accessory for slippin' and slidin'.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

egress windows: window wells

The wells went in, and now the windows are officially done. Dirt will officially stay on the outside of the well, and sunlight will officially shine inside the well and into the new basement bedroom. I just haven't walked outside to take official final pictures, but how can I take final pictures if I'm sitting here at the computer? Soon. I will go outside and not get distracted and not pick flowers or water the vegetables or pick up puppy poop or go for a walk or take Emma to the river. Soon I will get those final pictures. (I'm embarrassed to say how long the project's been done. I'll just let it remain a mystery...)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

cake prep, a cup, and candlight celebration

So I perused the pics from dinner the other night and found a few...

Getting ready for the cake.

Correct usage of the MagiCup.  (Though that pie crust tasted so much better than my other attempts that I may just turn the cup upside down when it comes to shortening in the crust-making.)

And a cake.  I do believe it was a happy birthday for the Handyman.  His actual birthday dinner was in a restaurant with a restaurant dessert and candle, but I couldn't resist the chance to plunge candles in this cake - candles make every icing job look festive and perfect (and it was close enough to his birthday to count)!

Friday, June 27, 2008

a dinner

Last night, my dining room table finally got broken in.  I think I'm going to toot my own horn here because I was SO pleased with how dinner turned out - and even though I felt like I was so busy my head would explode, it wasn't that hard to make a lot of it from scratch.  Most of these sites have pictures (and I admit, there were some high-priority guests that I didn't want to flutter around taking picutres in front of), so I'm just including the links.  

Well... be well and eat well!  It's Friday!!

Crash Hot Potatoes - I think that the Pioneer Woman deserves an award for propagating these potatoes.  These were my favorite part of dinner.

Dinner Rolls - it's a recipe that came in the book with the bread machine.  Might have been the biggest hit of the night (though the marinades come close).  It's got a cup of water, 3 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of butter, an egg, 3 tbsp of dry milk, salt, and one and a half teaspoons of yeast.  You take it out of the basic dough cycle, separate, allow to rise, and bake till golden.  So many. So delicious.  So much for watching what I eat.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

the norwegian

Bjorn has arrived! 

Yes, "Bjorn" has a little bit of an international flair about it, doesn't it? Well, that's cause he's Norwegian.

Guess what? So is the Handyman. Half-Norwegian.  Half-Iowan.  Half-crazy most days, but I can explain all those half's later.

Every year since I've been smooching the Handyman, Bjorn comes over for several weeks - sometimes twice a year - for vacation. We're talking just about two years smooching that Handyman, and if I'm correct, this is the Norwegian's, aka Bjorn's, fourth visit.

Bjorn has several nicknames. First, as mentioned above, "the Norwegian."  That one's for obvious reasons.  Then there's "Dog, the Bounty Hunter." That's what the Handyman's friends know Bjorn as, since he made a smashing "Dog, the Bounty Hunter" at a Halloween party year before last. (I was Rainbow Brite which, despite one hockey player's attempt to call me that everytime he saw me, never caught on... thank goodness.) 

There's a nickname waiting to happen regarding Bjorn's spending habits on guitars, golf clubs, and fly-fishing equipment, but I've encouraged the handyman to resist because at least the Norwegian's not buying guns. No mocking of mentioned shopped items shall occur while he's not purchasing guns and tasers and handcuffs, etc.

Yes, the Norwegian is big into all of those things, too. It's called Personal Protection, and if you need it, the Norwegian is your man. (Are you seeing the depths of humor that particular Halloween costume conjurs?). Bjorn is qualified in all kinds of martial arts, and besides being a security guard, he has completed several personal protection workshops held by the Black Hats or Furry Cats or Nine Lives or something... I've forgotten. Those workshops were referred to, by the Handyman and myself, as his opportunity to go learn how to "shoot guns, crash cars, and beat people up."

It should be said that the Norwegian already knows how to shoot guns after being on the national shooting team. Pretty cool... I think there are laws against guns in Norway, but being on the national shooting team has afforded Bjorn a few opportunities to indulge his passion for fire arms.

Where is this all going, you might ask?

Well, as I said before, the Norwegian is here....

And he brought me a GIFT!

This is the exciting part...

The handyman got one on the last visit, and, boy, did I covet that tuke.

Now I have my own!

I'm a happy gal.  I'm not Norwegian... But I know a good, thick, comfy tuke when I see one.  And the Norwegian flag is pretty cool.  

Ha de bra.... Or something like that.

Monday, June 23, 2008

egress windows: actual windows

Progress is fast now...

There's my contractor, Matt. That really big saw didn't cut all the way through. The other guy that gave a bid said the saw would leave marks where it has to over-cut (there's a long explanation, and I'm too pooped to elaborate. Just trust me. I was prepared to deal with a little extra cutting on my bare-as-bones concrete wall.) Matt made it happen without the over-cutting, and it's pretty. I like pretty.

I'm not sure what's happening underneath that tarp. There's a lot of light. Emma will figure it out.

Look at Matt swing that hammer. He's totally a pro.  

Can you keep a secret? Yeah? Well, Matt fired the brawn this morning. Matt's the brains. Recently-Fired is the brawn. Was the brawn. Anyway, the sledgehammer-swinging is keeping Matt out of the gym today. Yep, that hammer is his very own Nordic-track. I don't think I get a discount for providing him a workout today. But if he wants to cancel his gym membership, I can make sure he has daily projects. There's enough around here for Matt and the Handyman.

Nice work, Matt!

Matt? ... Matt? You okay?

Whew. That's better.

Thought things were gonna get dicey there... And the concrete cutter left days ago (which would normally spell trouble for me.  Yep, S-H-A-R-P.  That's trouble.  I can't remember if I posted the pictures of the non-stitched wounds, but I've been having a heck of a time with sharp things lately.  All healed now.)  Anyway, Matt's safe. Which is good. Cause those windows aren't done. His workout can't be over yet.

Hey! I know what that is!! They let me use one of those when I was on the fire crew. It's a drill. Once upon a time, I was handy, too. Stop laughing. Seriously. This gal has spackled and painted and crown molded (um...) and put up roofing and built signs and welded... Okay, I never welded. Those guys let me use tools occasionally, but they weren't stupid. I never even put the mask on to watch. But there was definitely welding going on...

Anyway, you done yet, Matt?

Final pictures coming tomorrow.  If Matt finds a New Brawn...  Cause there's a lot of dirt to move. 

Sunday, June 22, 2008

four thank you's

First to Leigh, who let me have full range of her cilantro and rhubarb gardens while she's out of town.  (Watering her chickens was a much too easy trade for gorgeous rhubarb.)

Second, to my fabulous family who sent me a Food Saver a few years ago.  It makes it SO easy to freeze produce without the burn.  Yesterday, I had to go into baking overdrive, and it was nice to dash to the freezer and grab a couple of pumpkin packs.  If I haven't given a glowing endorsement to using homemade pumpkin puree over what comes in a can, well, I will soon... cause it's true.  Nothing beats homemade.  And nothing beats that Food Saver.

And a thank you to the handyman who encouraged my going overboard with the pumpkins last year; there are plenty in my freezer now!  He helped keep an eye on my pumpkins when I was out on fires last summer and even let me raid his plot for more pumpkins during my processing frenzy.  I hope he feels the return on all my raiding now - I made pumpkin pie and pumpkin ice cream for a Grand Canyon photo-swap potluck last night.

(He's pictured with this year's tomatoes.  It's the next "overboard" thing.  Those are half of the health kick hybrid.  The other half are in another plot, and he and I both have hanging tomatoes, too.  Pasta sauce, here we come!)

Last, but not least, my sister, Leigh, has given me all kinds of fun gadgets for the kitchen - one of those is this super-handy Magic Cup measuring cup.  I was making berry-rhubarb pie yesterday, and have I mentioned I'm terrible at making crusts?  Well, the handyman said yesterday's was supposedly, "my best crust yet," so maybe I'll keep trying if progress is being made.  I quit buying shortening in sticks because there was just so much packaging.  Now I get it in the big tub, and it's pretty darn easy to measure with Leigh's Magic Cup which I had never heard about until she tossed it over and said I could keep it.  I have a totally awesome big sister.  

The Magic Cup is perfect for peanut butter, honey, shortening, butter, molasses, nutella - if it's gooey and you have to measure it, the magic cup works.

egress windows: concrete cutting

When I got home from the farmers' market on Saturday, I heard a rumbling outside with a high pitched squeal.  I scurried outside to find someone in the hole outside my basement window.

And someone was holding a very, very big saw.

It was loud and dusty, and I decided, despite running the oven for three hours straight baking pies and pie crusts for a party and sweatin' my behind off, it was much nicer in the kitchen.

Someone asked me what egress windows are so I'll explain.  Old houses tend not to have large windows in the basement.  If you want to call a room in your basement a bedroom, you have to have a window that is big enough for a firefighter to crawl through while wearing an SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus).  If you retro-fit a window,  it has to meet certain specs like a certain distance from the floor to the bottom of the window and certain total square-foot window area.   

Once this puppy goes in, I'll have a giant bedroom in the basement with it's own bathroom.  I have no air conditioning, but I have concrete walls down there that stay cool all summer.  I can't wait.  

Saturday, June 21, 2008

can't get enough baby time

From Thursday: babies and greenhouses and ice cream cones.

I just can't get enough baby time with this little guy.  There are times when he cries so hard that I'm sure he'll hate me forever.  Then, for no reason at all (except maybe that he exhausted himself) he snuggles in and gives me truckloads of warm fuzzies...

Alas, this baby can't get enough of daddy time...  He's only got eyes for his papa.

Mom's pretty cool, too...

But taking that ice cream away was just silly...

There we go.  Much better.  Happy baby time.

P.S. Mom is super-conscientious and makes all of baby's food at home.  The ice cream cone was, in fact, a silly moment, and baby did not actually eat any of it.  I have no idea if ice cream is terrible for babies, but I'm assuming it is (hence, the caveat).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

egress windows: ground breaking

Today was a full day. There were babies and ice cream cones and greenhouses and bike rides and running by the river - and tons of picture taking. But, I took a benedryl to keep from tearing into my eyeballs with my short nails (I think I'm a pollen magnet), so before I fall fast asleep I'll just mention that the most exciting part of my day included meeting Mike, the hole digger. He's the guy on the tractor. And he's the guy digging out my yard so I can get egress windows installed in my basement. I like Mike. And I think I'm going to like my egress windows.

pumpkinpalooza and a pie revelation

Yesterday I was happy to nestle myself in the kitchen and get cozy with some pumpkin puree. Lots of pumpkin puree. I was headed to Jamie's for the evening, and since she and I used to live together, I know just how much she likes pumpkin. I missed her birthday while I was on the Grand Canyon, so a little ice cream and pie surprise sounded like a good belated birthday present.

I have found the MOST FANTASTIC recipe for pumpkin ice cream. Simply Recipe's Easy Pumpkin Pie recipe lives up to it's name - I have not found an easier ice cream recipe, nor have I found one that beats the texture and flavor of this. I love it! (Though I should add that I made my own pumpkin puree, and after doing that, I will never go back to canned... unless I move to a major metropolitan area and am forced to live without a garden for pumpkins and a chest freezer for storage. I'll post on making your own puree in the fall, but check out the pumpkin pie recipe later in this post if you happen to be in a part of the world where you can get pumpkins now and are eager to process them).

After making the ice cream batter, I put it in the fridge to chill and started on a pumpkin pie. Another Simply Recipes recipe that I adore. First though, the crust.

The thing about buying crusts at the store is that they have lard in them. Yep, lard. That's a bummer for someone trying not to eat animals. I'll save my animal-eating morals for later, but for now, it suffices to say that grocery crusts are out. Making my own crusts require psychological preparation that I didn't have time for yesterday, so.... my solution was to try a graham cracker crust.

Again, SO EASY. I googled a recipe that was something like 2 cups of crushed graham crackers, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup butter. I'll admit my mistake was not baking the crust before putting pie batter in. It came out just fine, but I'm baking that crust next time to see if it will get a little crunchier.

My revelation came from trying to press the graham crust into the pie plate. I took a spoon and pressed and pressed and pressed and pressed and didn't feel I was making progress. That's when I nested my pie plates. That flattened the crust in a jiffy. I'm probably the last person in the world to figure that out, but just in case there's another pie-crust newbie out there, I'm sharing. (and, I didn't have anything else to take pictures of.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

raised bed: got dirt? or exposure?

Due to resourceful dirt-gathering round his house and the neighborhood as well as some questionable estimations of what a cubic yard is (by the friendly dozer drivers at ekocompost), the handyman is almost done with his prized raised bed. You can't tell in the photo, but the side of the bed closest to his neighbor's garage needs a little more dirt. No matter though. There are tomatoes and squashes and cabbage and peppers that don't seem to care that the bed they're in is slightly unmade.

I know I should include some better pictures at different angles... It's a little embarassing since I've owned my camera for... um... a while. I'll admit, today was my first day to shoot in manual mode and actually have any clue about what I was doing. Not that a clue helped me get a good picture, but I was concentrating so hard on those pesky settings that I forgot to take more pics... Okay, okay, you got me. I got frustrated and said to heck with it. It's going to get worse before it gets better, but I've got a good coach (sometimes it's annoying just how handy that handyman is... I adore him anyway).

Just in case you're curious, that raised bed holds somewhere around 5 cubic yards of golden brown stuff.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

side garden

There's a jungle by my house.

The fact that they sit in shade most of the day has not deterred those hundreds of weeds from lacing their leaves and stalks together to form a jungle in the side garden. And the lengths that those suckers have put down roots! I don't know why... it's so moist over there that I would think everything could have the most shallow root system ever. They must have known I was coming and dug down deep.

The goal was to get that whole area cleaned up yesterday, and I admit that I felt short and only weeded the left side - I suppose that's why the weekend has two days. I made the mistake of taking a break from weed pulling to go use the weed-eater around the fence and between my raised beds. My allergies are finicky and only rears its ugly head on certain occasions. This happened to be one of them. I managed to finish that first half before giving in to the drainage and scratchy throat and retreating to the television the rest of the afternoon (evil, evil television).

There's a long to-do list already filled for today, so I hope I get to that other side... I still have no idea what I'm going to put there. There's intense light late in the afternoon, but during the rest of the day that area is really shaded. The plan for now is to weed, turn the soil by shovel, and then put down black/gray landscaping cloth. I've got a couple of bags of bark to spread around later, but I'm still not entirely sure I'll use bark in this spot.

Any suggestions for a shady, jungle-prone garden?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

just for fun: a gaso-lean challenge

I’ve been pondering my dependence on petroleum lately – more specifically, gasoline. When I think of plastics and how many of them are essential to daily life, I get a little woozy. When I think of gasoline, I immediately think two thoughts: I am American; I use way too much gasoline. The two seem almost synonymous in the headlines these days. Everyone else seems to do a better job of resisting the lure of convenience that gasoline brings.

During my pondering, I realized that my dependence has reached two peaks in my life so far. First, as a college student, I’m certain the fuel I burned driving to and from rivers to go kayaking could have powered a third-world village for a year. Secondly, some years later, I wound up working as a wildland firefighter, and for five years I made regular commutes of up to an hour a day each way. When I quit my job, and my commute, I loved the fact that I went from filling up once a week to once a month. Once a month! Man, that felt great!

But, I realize I can do better. I can extract myself a little further from this love affair with petroleum that isn’t great for politics, the environment, my pocketbook…etc. It’s a no-brainer. EVERYBODY knows we need to use less gas. Even if all the conspiracy peak-oil theories are wrong, even if global warming is a sham, even if going green is just the next marketing buzz word meant to strip our wallets and fill our lives with even more junk because the old junk was eco-unfriendly, EVERYBODY knows that excessive driving is just… excessive.

And, as my granny (and probably yours, too) would say: Waste not, want not. So, since I just filled up my gas tank yesterday with a grand total of $58.89 worth of gasoline, I’ve decided to see just how long it will last me.

My very own gasoline challenge is to make it two months without filling my tank, cutting my current use rate in half. True, I’m picking the summer months because it’s easier than winter. And true, I live in a town that’s quite conducive to biking and walking. And, I don’t have kids who need to be driven from one summer activity to another. But that’s the point! I have all of these circumstances that would obviously yield less gas consumption, yet I need to do more. A lot more.

Since it’s my own challenge, I’m making up the rules.

1) I do not have to buy groceries on my bicycle. I will carpool when there are big groce-runs to make, and bike when I need something small.

2) I have one backpacking trip planned this summer, and I’m pretty sure the handyman will drive us to the trailhead (at least he’ll have to now.) I have no way to calculate that in and somehow siphon half the gas used on the trip from my tank, so I’m simply confessing that I’m not cutting out all indulgences completely.

3) I’m going to be totally cheesy and call it my gaso-lean challenge. I guess since I’ll have to walk and bike more, I might be able to expect some “leanness” happening. And I won’t lie, burning more calories so I can eat more ice cream is always very exciting.

4) I vow to encourage anyone who wants to do this with me. The reason I’m calling it “My Very Own Gaso-lean Challenge” is because everyone’s needs are different. The point, for me, is to do more than I’m currently doing, and this way, I feel like the world might be watching… So I’d better be good. For someone else, three weeks might be a really big stretch and a good commitment to make.

5) Whether I make it or not, when I get to the point where my little Subie says “50 miles till empty,” I stop. It will drive my parents batty when they realize I’m purposely trying not to fill my gas tank, and I’ve already given them my fair share of their gray hairs – quite a few more, I suspect, than my sister. I know they’ll feel a little funny about this challenge because ever since I moved out of the house (over ten years ago), conversations have always ended with, “Be safe!” quickly followed by, “Be sure to fill up with gas!” Every single conversation.

6) I’ll update my running count in the sidebar every couple of days. I haven’t figured out how to get one of those countdown or countup thingies, so the manual update will have to do.

So that’s that. Wish me luck and leanness!