Monday, December 10, 2012

DailyMile, I'm moving on

I'm a big believer in collecting data to track performance and for making decisions. I've been doing the same thing with my fitness activities, which up until a few months ago, was primarily running.  I would track my routes, distances and times on DailyMile.
Recently, I started CrossFit and my ideas of fitness have changed from simply distance, rate and time (though its a great basis for motion).  Fitness for me now includes:
  1. Cardio-vascular and cardio respiratory endurance 
  2. Stamina
  3. Strength
  4. Flexibility
  5. Power 
  6. Speed 
  7. Coordination
  8. Agility 
  9. Balance
  10. Accuracy
DailyMile is a great site, but it can't track these.  I've started Olympic lifting and kettle bell work and my progress includes increasing the weight on these exercises.  In just a few months, I've gone from not being able to do a pull-up on my own to where I can do 5 pull-ups after a WOD!
It's not that Daily Mile is a bad site, but I want to track more than just distance, rate and time.  Its a great site if you are a runner, walker, rower, biker - any of those distance and time kind of sports.  DM is great, I found the community quite motivating to keep me running regularly.
As a CrossFitter, I need to track more than that.  I've started tracking my performance and improvement with Beyond The WhiteBoard.  I have a community of CrossFitters at my gym, Cascade CrossFit and the people who come to the 6am session.
On BTW, I can not only track my activities, but also my hydration, sleep and nutrition.  It doesn't have the same social component as DM, but I can still push my updates to Twitter. 
I'm not walking away entirely from DM, I still run 2 days a week, so I'll double post those (and hopefully not push them to Twitter) and when we do some distance based WOD, I'll probably post those too.
DailyMile has been great, but its time for me to move on.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Scotch Eggs - they can be breakfast food

Recently, we've been changing our diet to one with a more paleo-ish leaning.  While it's a change to dump the pasta, beans, rice, its not that big of a deal. Sure, I cheat and still eat oatmeal, but instead of filler carbs, I've got to eat filler vegetables.  We've discovered kale and I think its great and am a little bummed if we don't eat kale at least once a week.  But that's not the topic I want to write about today.

I've been surfing the web checking out paleo recipe sites and have seen mention of Scotch Eggs. Evidently, they're a common treat at UK convenience stores and picnic fare. I've never seen them in the US, but when you wrap things in meat, they can only get better.  As they're supposed to be breaded and deep-fried, I had to change a few things to make them paleo friendly.

Last night, I hard boiled the eggs and made my sausage mixture. It took a while to wrap the eggs in the sausage and don't forget, they need to be peeled first.  The scotch eggs need to refrigerate for at least an hour, but I let them chill overnight.
Scotch eggs waiting to chill - picture by Heather
This is the recipe I started from, but didn't want to use any grains.  As its a baked recipe, I could avoid some of the additional fats.  I'd seen fried cauliflower used as a substitute for bread crumbs, so I decided I'd give that a try as well as finely chopped almonds as the "breading."

I took a head of cauliflower and chopped it finely with the food processor. In a pan with butter and olive oil (yes, I was channeling Ree Drummond here), I fried up the cauliflower crumbs. They browned nicely and had a good crispness.

The three on the right side are with fried cauliflower, the two in the back with almond crumbs and the white ones on the left are with raw cauliflower. I decided to try that and see how they'd brown in the oven.

After 20+ minutes of baking (and they might have been a little red on the inside), I had a tray of Scotch Eggs.
They were pretty big and almost a meal in itself.  We ate them warm for breakfast and when the kids came home from swim practice, they polished the remaining 4 off!
There went my lunch plans for Monday. Scotch Eggs seem like a good paleo lunch and portable food.

I made my own sausage mixture of ground pork and turkey and spices (from the recipe) but I think that this could be made with chorizo or with some kind of chopped up bacon "sausage."  I'm going to have to check out what sausages might be available that I could use for a different flavoring outer shell.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Forging Elite Fitness - I am a Crossfitter

I have started CrossFit. At the beginning of July, my wife and I went through Cascade Crossfit's fundamentals course and though it smoked me and I was sore after every session, I wanted to come back for more.  So after a vacation in New York City, I signed up.  And in order to make sure I get to work on time, I attend the 6am session!

I really like CrossFit. The idea of functional fitness really attractive, but the old soldier in me finds it rather motivating.  First thing in the morning, pushing your self with a team of supportive people, that just cannot be beat.

Some Things I Really Like

  1. Every day is different. This won't get boring, but I'll get stronger. The coaches will be able to find a set of muscles and pair it with some exercises that will make it stronger.
  2. I find CrossFit exercises incredibly motivating.  Some of them remind me of the "punishments" my Platoon Sergeant's would meet out on my soldiers when they messed up. Now, I pay someone to tell me to do them. What a great place!
  3. Just because I've lead a fairly sedentary life for the last 12 years, doesn't mean I can't do CrossFit. Every workout can be modified - I can't do hand stand push-ups, but by putting my feet up on a block and pushing vertically, I can work the same muscles with a lesser load.  Someday I'll do handstand pushups, someday.
  4. There is a core of 6 AM'ers who come every day there is a session. When there is a group of people expecting me to be there, it helps cement the commitment.  It's like being part of a team.
  5. With the paleo-ish changes we are making to our diet, I'm eating better with far more vegetables taking the place of empty carbs and with all this exercise, I'm drinking much more water than I usually would.  I've even gone as far as to carry a 1 liter bottle in my messenger bag with me all the time and have even been known to refill it from my water glass at a restaurant.
  6. After going for 5 sessions, I'm already more fit.
A Few Things I Don't Like
  1. I drink less coffee.  I really enjoy the taste of coffee and when I was working from home, I'd easily have 8 shots of espresso in a day.  Now, because I go straight to work from CrossFit, I don't get to enjoy my espresso machine as often.  And when I get to work, I don't drink coffee because I so need to rehydrate with water!
  2. It changes the way I do my morning chores.  I've got to make sure the dishwasher is emptied and Heather's coffee maker is preppedbefore I go to bed, with a lunch made (that I all too often forget) and some clothes selected for work the next day.
  3. I don't see my family as much in the morning.  Being a 6 AM'er, I'm out of the house by 5:35am, CrossFit and then straight to my van pool.
I really enjoy CrossFit and look forward to the next session.  With the kids' swimming starting up next month, I'm going to have to make some tweaks to get it all in, maybe some evening sessions, but none of it is insurmountable.

If you find this kind of stuff motivating, you should check out CrossFit, too.  You can find CrossFit all over or if you're close to Issaquah, check out Cascasde Crossfit. And if you're on DailyMile, you can follow my workouts there too!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cooking without Heather

If you read my wife's blog or follow her on Twitter, you've probably read that we're making some changes to our diet.  As she puts it we're eating Paleo-ish. Our house has no bread in it and our consumption of 2 gallons of milk every 3 days has been replaced with almond and/or coconut milk. Since we're not using grains as filler, we've been eating many more vegetables to take their place.

It was a big change in our diet and though I've not totally removed grains (I still eat my oatmeal for breakfast and have had a few slices of pizza and some beer), I do feel just as good if not better.  And my recent cholesterol test has shown significant improvement as well.

But a few weeks ago, my wife went on a trip to Harley-Davidson's corporate headquarters with other women bloggers.

As you know, I enjoy cooking, so I planned out our meals. That was important considering I still had to work and the kids had summer league swim meets each night.  But I tried to stay true to the paleo-ish diet we were taking on.

Day 1

Cumin Crusted Salmon Summer Salad (recipe on with Apricot Brulee from Health-Bent

I found the recipe for the salmon years ago in a newspaper insert and have made it several times. Its a nice combination of salmon and salad. The citrus dressing gives the meal a light, bright summery taste.  To make this all the more vegetable-y, I added a diced red pepper to it.  It was fast to make, in fact, I prepared it in two batches. The first was for Kid3 and me, who ate earlier, followed by Kids 1 and 2 who were at swim practice and got home later.

Cumin Crusted Salmon Salad

The brulee was fun to make because I got to use my kitchen torch (in fact, that's a theme that carried through from the original poster's blog as well).  What also made it neat was that I was able to use some of Heather's organic, alternative sweeteners, in this case, coconut sugar.

Coconut sugar is much like brown sugar, though not as moist and not quite as sweet.  I'm not sure of any other nutritional differences from regular (likely beet) sugar...

Apricot Brulee

Day 2

Smoked Tri-Tip with a Coffee-Spice rub and Chipotle Coleslaw from Sunset Magazine

The weather was great and we were going to have a picnic dinner at the swim meet that night, so I decided to smoke tri-tip.  I had the time, because I was working from home while Heather was travelling, but I didn't pay enough attention to the tri-tip. I followed the recipe and smoked them for 2 hours, but that was too much for the tri-tip steaks. I think the recipe was intending larger tri-tips (or a more attentive cook).

When they came out, they were well done, but luckily not overly dry.  At the last minute, I made some Chipotle Guacamole to help them slide down.  Nice and smokey and the coffee flavor was great to get in the evening as opposed to just the morning with my espresso.

Smoked tri-tip and spicy coleslaw

Day 3

Day 3 was a busy day. Not only was there work, the ferrying to activities and the swim meet, but Heather was returning home this afternoon.  It was Kid3's turn for a swim meet, but we just weren't going to be able to be home to make a healthy lunch.

I asked Kid1 what Mom would do and he suggested some healthy options (subtracting the mayo and sauces) for lunch at Burger King.  Surprisingly, BK had added some yummy (and bordering on not bad for you) menu choices of salads and sweet potato fries.  It kept me in the paleo-ish arena and I wish I was indulgent enough for the bacon sundae.  They also had wifi which was great for getting some work done while I was out.

Salads, sweet potato fries and bacon sundaes

After picking Heather up, I packaged dinner so we could eat at the swim meet. We got to the swim meet for his last event but didn't eat there. Keeping to the paleo-ish diet, we had

  1. More smoked tri-tip
  2. Left over Chipotle Coleslaw
  3. A Syrian roasted red pepper vegetable dip
  4. Watermelon Salad with Vidalia-Onion Vinaigrette 

Not as much a hit, but I got credit for lots of vegetables, especially as veggies served as the dip transport mechanism.  In my house, I'm the only one who really likes savory watermelon salads. Kid2 will eat them, because she loves anything that has to do with watermelon, but that salad wasn't well accepted. Nor was the dip.

Oh, well, you win some, you lose some.

A Recent Business Trip

I tried to keep up the good diet on a recent business trip. Instead of going to the Waffle House or one of several fried chicken restaurants, I shopped at Publix market.  I think I was able to get healthier options than at a restaurant at about the same or less than I would have paid eating out.  I wonder how often expense reports have grocery store receipts submitted with them!
Hotel dinner

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lesson's learned Backpacking

Many people will wander the Earth to find themselves, go through some rite of passage. A little over a month ago, my son and I went backpacking on the Taylor River, and I learned a few things.
  • Some things are better at re-energizing a kid than others. Grabbing a quick snack, stopping for lunch, going to the bathroom and even changing his socks, were far more motivating than sitting down and taking a break. Maybe its the dread of putting the pack back on when you're resting, but some stops put a bigger spring in his step than others. 
  • Don't doubt your kids' cababilities. They can probably go further than you give them credit for. My 10 year old son carried a 28 pound backpack for 6 miles on Day 1 and 11 miles on Day 2 of our trip. And I didn't cut him much slack - he carried his stuff as well as some of our common gear. While we did eat the food he was carrying first, he still carried the tent poles and the rain fly (both pretty important in the state of Washington). And on top of all that he brought a full set of clean clothes for day 2 which is an oddity when we're at home with his full closet. 
  • We all know already that kids love sticks, often to parents' chagrin. Along the way, Kid3 picked up a "sharp stick" that became one of the most important pieces of "gear" my kid carried. He used it when scrambling up steep slopes, it was a pointer for the map. You can even see it in his hand in the picture below. We even turned around a short distance to go get it when it was left behind. Once. The final time it was lost, we realized it after about 15 minutes of walking. But it wasn't that traumatic of a loss. 
  • I did try to make this a learning exercise for Kid3 and teach him how to live in the outdoors. As we were hiking, I shared with him how to not attract animals to our campsite and how hanging a bear bag is a great activity. Usually, hanging a bear bag takes many attempts, so it serves as after dinner entertainment and to warm you up before you go to bed. Not so with my football playing son. On the third throw, he had it over the branch. And when we needed to lower it to get our toothbrushes, he just decided to re-hang it with similar ease. Take football players backpacking with you. 
  • You don't need as much stuff as you think. On this trip I carried as much weight as I do on a day hike (I pack heavy) and I had more food, parts of a tent and a sleeping bag. I didn't carry as many backup pieces of clothing and relied on my water filter quite a bit. On a typical day hike, I'll carry 3 - 4 liters of water, but this trip, we each carried 1 liter and an empty water bottle. We did refill several times during the trip, but that's easy as water is so plentiful in the Pacific Northwest. 
  • This was the first trip I went on with my new backpack, the REI Mars. My daypack is pretty simple and is about 13 years old. There have been quite a lot of improvements in backpacks, in particular the now common stretchy mesh pockets on the side of the packs. They're perfect for holding water bottles and easy to get the water bottle while walking. I stayed so much more hydrated on this trip than other trips. 
  • I really love being outdoors, rain or shine. We were lucky that Day 1 was a great day - not too hot, but still sunny. On Day 2, the clouds never quite cleared and by 10AM it was starting to sprinkle on us. We were generating enough body heat hiking that we didn't stop to put any wet weather gear on for several hours The rain didn't matter, it was just so great to be in the outdoors. 
It's good to just get out and walk around.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Child Safety, mobile phones and T-Mobile

Earlier this week, I went to an event a the downtown Seattle T-Mobile store, hosted by Jenny, and learned about how T-Mobile uses their technology to help parents keep their children safe. It's especially pertinent because school is wrapping up for my kids. With no school, I'm not always guaranteed that on Monday at 9:30 AM they'll be at school. They now have the time to go other places and given that they're older (the oldest is learning to drive), they have more ability to go more places.

There was no tear gas at this party and still Carly was not there. Hey, I can hope right? But I did get to meet lots of other cool bloggers, some of them for the first time in real life and enjoy some nice snacks, including cupcakes!

After a long day at work, my phone died and there were no more photos for me.

T-Moble has several cool apps for keeping your kid, their phone and their account safe.  They demo'd a Google Latitude like FamilyWhere that works for non-smart (dumb ole) phones.

They also had a really slick web based tool  to limit account usage, using a slider bar to allocate minute, messages to the different phones on your families account. You can even use it to provide basic filtering (kid, teen, adult) to the phone's internet access.

And unlike my phone provider, these were services on the whole families account and most were free!

I rely heavily on similar third party tools, not those provided by my carrier.  This allows me to maintain the functionality provided by the tool and switch providers, which I've done in order to get the phone I want.

Like many good social media events, there were swag bags and prizes. My house now has more screaming, flying monkeys!  Kid3 won a raffle prize, a cupcake making kit, pizza gift card and ToysRUs gift card (a good prize for us) and did a happy dance. I'll be doing a happy dance when he makes us cupcakes!

All in all, Jenny threw a good party and I learned some about T-Mobile! A good night was had by all, and my carrier has some competition.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Taylor River Backpacking

Last weekend, Kid 3 and I went backpacking up the the Taylor River, near the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. It was a great weekend and we saw great sights and had a good time together. I'm glad that he's interested in it and I can foster a love for the outdoors.

Smiling backpacker

Plus, backpacking is a good fitness activity. He carried a 20 pound pack, mine was 38 pounds and we walked 17.3 miles!  It was an excellent activity because he's trying to make a weight cut off for tackle football (we don't want him squashed by middle schoolers).

Trip planning was kind of tough - I really wanted to go to an alpine lake and I was familiar with some places in Snoqualmie Pass, but all these were above 3000' and there was still snow there. I wanted this trip to be a good experience for Kid3, so I wanted to not camp in the snow. I called the Forest Service and they recommended the Middle Forks area.

Surprisingly, I did not have a map of this area, it was the one local map sheet I didn't have. The area is covered in lakes and the elevation was below the snow level and its less than 30 miles from my home!  Call your Forest Rangers, they really know the area and can give all kinds of suggestions.  Aside from actually going on this trip, calling the Ranger was the best thing I did.

Saturday morning, we left the house at 8:30 on the way to the trail head.  Though it was close, the last 12 miles were on one of the worst roads I'd been on in a long time. The pot holes were easily 4 to 6 inches deep and required threading your way through them. I spent a lot of time driving on the wrong side of the road, but that was where the road was the best! And to further complicate matters, I was driving my MINI, which isn't known for its ground clearance.  But, I never bottomed out once. Nor did I ever get out of first gear, either.

Kid3 and I shouldered our pack almost at the trail head as the signs were a little misleading.  The road is closed at the trail head, but the signs announcing it make is seem like its right where the signs are.  It was only an extra quarter mile, so it wasn't a big deal.

We started crossing the Taylor River bridge and the gentle uphill, so slight we barely noticed it, hike into the woods.  We took our time and I showed Kid3 how to read the map and terrain associate using the river. We missed the trail to Marten Lake, but we were headed to Lipsy Lake and Otter Falls, thinking we'd make camp there.

We ran into a few other day hikers and they were seemed excited that we were going to do a father-son overnight.  In fact, we ran into one of my co-workers, his wife and dogs and we hiked with them for a while.  Some other hikers took our picture at Marten Creek Bridge (which was good, because I'm terrible at taking self photos, but I did have my mini tripod).

Parker and me at Marten Creek

We hiked on to Lipsy Lake and did find the cut off at about 3.5 miles. There is a hard to find sign (did not see this), but we could hear the falls and someone had marked the area with some mylar balloons.  Its a short, uphill (about 400') cross country movement, but you can't get lost.  Just go uphill towards the sound of the water.   As I walked up, I started to see what I thought was the normal gray Washington sky. I could hear lots of rushing water, but I had no idea where it was and knew that I wasn't that much higher above the lake.  As the trees thinned and opened up above the lake, the gray I was seeing was a gigantic exposed granite slope with the water flowing down it. It was just beautiful.

Otter Falls II

Can you imagine otters sliding down this? Its like a giant slip and slide.  Look closely on the left, there is a group of 3 or 4 people, so you can get an idea of the scale.  It's easy to get to, so we decided that we'd have to return here with the rest of our family. Maybe they wouldn't stay overnight, but we had to share this with them.

We were thinking we'd make camp at Lipsy Lake, but decided to push on a little further, to check out Big Creek Falls.  The forest on the far side of Lipsy Lake is pretty dense and the terrain is pretty steep, so there weren't many good places for a tent. Plus, the lake was crowded! This weekend was a beautiful one and so there were lots of day hikers and dogs swimming in the lake. Sure I had a water filter, but I didn't want to test it on the stirred up silt of the lake.

We started on the 2 miles to Big Creek Falls and I was starting to scope out camping spots.  The Taylor River starts to pull away from the trail and the area between is a little flatter, so I was able to find a few spots that we could camp at.  I saw one and decided that it was the spot and unbeknownst to me, Kid3 made a mark in the trail so that we could find it again. It turned out to be useful and was a good landmark even on our return trip.

Big Creek Falls

Big Creek Falls is less of a water fall than Otter Falls, and more of fast water crashing over rocks under neath a cement bridge, wide enough for large trucks. It was a strange place to find this type of a bridge, 5   miles in.  Evidently its left overs from a previous day, when there were ambitious plans to develop the area.

We set up our tent with a nice view of the creek right out the door, refilled our water and enjoyed a nice snack of cheese and crackers.  After picking our way across the creek, we tried to get down to the Taylor River itself. It turns out, our exploration found ourselves in a network of streams and some rather dense foliage, so it wasn't as simple as "keep Big Creek on our right side" to get back and find camp. We explored and climbed over fallen trees and under thorny branches, but never made it to the river.  We were exploring a little light, so we turned back.

We played a few games of chess, both of which I lost and then got started on dinner.  Dinner was dehydrated chicken pasta alfredo and green beans, both of which were surprisingly good.  I think that food tastes better in the out doors.


Kid3 was getting excited about getting into the tent, so before we did that, we hung our food and other good smelling things in a bear bag.  Usually, hanging a bear bag is an activity that will 1) kill some time, 2) provide some entertainment and 3) if you're cold, warm you up.  Football is paying off, Kid3 threw the cord and carabiner over the branch in just 3 tries. It was quick and easy. And in fact, instead of lowering the bear bag to put our toothbrushes in it later than night, we just pulled it down and he threw it back up there.


We got settled in the tent, a little early, so we played some more chess and planned out our next day.  We had missed the trail to Marten Lake and we thought that we might try to find that on the way out, so I plotted its location in my GPS.  We also thought about going to Lake Snoqualmie and Kid3 came up with a plan that we'd get up at 2 AM and start on the trail. Early to bed, early to rise!

In the tent

The sun was quickly setting, but it was still light outside and he asked me, "is the tent bright because its white or that there is still sunlight outside."  A few hours later, when one of our rolling around woke us up, it was totally dark in the tent, "I can't even see with my eyes open." It was a new moon that night, so there was no illumination other than the stars.

I took advantage of this trip to teach Kid3 LNT principles (he carried out his own bio-waste), some map reading and terrain association, how to cross streams safely, among other things.  We both went to the "bathroom" before we went to sleep and refilled our water bottles so we'd have fresh water in the morning.  We kept our flashlight and headlamp in the little pockets of the tent and made sure that our sleeping bags weren't brushing the wall of the tent, to avoid getting wet from condensation.

But with all my expertise, I was the one who had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom again (I guess I was keeping well hydrated).  Even with my headlamp, the fact that I wasn't wearing my contacts made it rather hard to see.  But I made it to our designated spot and back to the tent, with out tripping or getting too cold.  I did wake Kid3 up to let him know I was going out, but he didn't wake up when I came back in!

We woke up the next morning, at about 6:30 because of the sunlight.  We made our breakfast skillet and started to pack up. By 8:15, we were on the trail, loaded packs and a spring in our step. Because we got an early start, we decided that we'd try for Lake Snoqualmie.

The junction to Lake Snoqualmie

I knew that we'd have to add about 1800' in elevation in about 2 miles; a little steep (and much steeper than we'd done the previous day). I knew that we'd have to turn around by noon to ensure we got back home in time to make sure my wife didn't worrry about us.  As we went up and up, we came across a pretty large, fast moving stream. This stream wasn't on the map (the latest revision is 10 years old), nor were the switch backs that went up to avoid the stream.  Our movement started to slow, because of the elevation gain and the increased number of blowdowns across the trail.

We were still keeping a good pace, considering the trail conditions and our load, but it became apparent that we wouldn't make it to Lake Snoqualmie.  In a lightly sprinkling rain, we turned around and headed back down the trail, after going almost 2 miles up the trail.  We talked about how we could get to Lake Snoqualmie in a three day trip (or as I learned later, its a shorter approach from the Skykomish side).

Buffalo Chicken Wraps for lunch

We did stop for buffalo chicken wraps for lunch, to change into dry socks, but on the way out, we covered 11 miles! I was impressed by Kid3's endurance and we talked about what we could do for our next trip and that he needed some real boots, with better tread, support and water resistance than the shoes he was wearing.

He had fun and seemed to be interested in going again! I had a great time on the trip and look forward to backpacking with him again.  We'll get to Lake Snoqualmie one of these days.

You can see more of the photos from our trip on Flickr.

Trail Information: Otter and Big Creek Falls

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Red Eye Flights are great and stink at the same time

I've done some work related travel to the Mid-West recently. My trips start from Seattle and end in smaller towns, not the big hubs like Atlanta or Chicago, so I'm destined to have a layover and a connecting flight.  Red eye flights have some advantages, but they also come with some disadvantages.

The Good

  1. Security lines are shorter at the airport
  2. You can sleep your way across the country (you'd be asleep anyways at home)
  3. You miss less time with your family.
  4. It doesn't matter the quality of your hotel bed, you'll be so tired you'll sleep anywhere.
  5. If you're a frequent flyer (which I'm not), you're more likely to get upgraded.
  6. Sunrise viewed from a plane is beautiful.
  7. Because you spend one night on the plane, you need to bring fewer clothes and save on a hotel bill.
  8. Good reason to expense a non-stop flow of coffee drinks.
The Bad
  1. Its really hard to sleep on a plane. This can mitigate the benefit of #2 above
  2. By the end of the day at your destination, you're wiped out.
  3. When you show up at work in the morning, people expect you to be rested, which you are not.
  4. Makes for some long days.
  5. You miss out on the snacks and drinks because you're asleep.
  6. Once you get home, not only do you have to catch up on the home things you missed, but sleep too.

What do you think - red eye or not?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Easter (was a week ago)

Easter was a week ago and I'm finally blogging about it.

Most of the time, when planning a celebratory meal, my planning process is like this: "Oh, that sounds good, I'll make that." And I repeat that. Several times.  At the end of the meal, we're all stuffed and have tons of leftovers.  And then I start mentally calculating how many sticks of butter or dozens of eggs or cups of cream were in that meal.

This year, I attempted to put some sanity in the Easter brunch.  A few days before Easter I sent my menu ideas to my family and asked if there was anything else that they wanted.  In my efforts to simplify, I replaced Eggs Benedict with just poached eggs.  That was my big simplification.

But the emails started to come in (actually, I don't think I've ever been on an email thread with my wife and kids that had as much discussion). Restoring Eggs Benedict was a common theme, which evidently even boiled over to IRL discussions between my wife and kids during carpools.  I did forget a few important things, strawberries and shrimp cocktail and my wife has to have her breakfast sausage.  So, I added those items and got confirmation from our oldest son that he'd make cinnamon rolls.  It was going to be a good one.

Even our 10 year old got into it.  Upon hearing that our oldest was going to make cinnamon rolls, he asked if he could make something. I tasked him with chocolate fondue.

If you follow my wife on Twitter or Instagram, you've probably already seen some of the pictures. For those that haven't, start drooling.
@unitedstatesofmotherhood on Instagram
I had attempted to smoke bacon the day before, after letting my pork belly cure for a week.  I was trying to cold smoke it, but my smoker does not make much smoke at less than 150 degrees. So I ended up neither cold smoking or hot smoking my pork belly and it really came out more like salt cured ham.  While it was a failure, I'll be trying that one again, but hot smoking it.  I really want to be able to say I've made my own bacon.

We barely made a dent in the fruit salad and didn't even cut a slice of the blueberry coffee cake. So, after letting lunch settle, we went for a hike to Poo Poo Point.
Sunset on flickr
The views was quite beautiful and we walked down after sunset, needing headlamps for the last 45 minutes or so. 

All in all, it was a very enjoyable Easter day.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

My own brand of awesome

My friend Whit is going to get to do something pretty awesome: interview the cast of the Avengers. But even more awesome, he's going to get to interview Scarlett Johansson, who plays the Black Widow in the movie. But she's Scarlett Johansson in real life. And he'll get to ask her questions and talk to her. I bet if it were me, I'd say something to the effect of "Buh, uhm, yeah, well."
Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow, image courtesy Popoholic
So, I'm making my own brand of awesome.

A few weeks ago my wife said that we shouldn't eat bacon and deli meat because of the nitrites (or nitrates, I don't know which - don't talk bad about bacon).  Respecting my wife, I took that to heart and considered it. And decided to make my own.

Two weekends ago, I brined nice big turkey breast and then mesquite smoked it.  I sliced it as thin as I could, to make my own deli meat. Its a little thicker than I'd like it to me, but it has a nice smoked flavor and isn't dried out.  It ended up even costing less than deli counter meat, working out to about $6 per pound after I cut it off the bones.

This weekend, I'm taking it one step further. I left work early on Friday so that I could make it to my local butcher, Fischer's Meats and buy an uncured pork belly.  Yes, I'm going to cure and smoke my own bacon. Try that on for size, Scarlett and Whit!

It will take several days, almost a week, for the pork belly to cure.  I'm salt curing it with a little brown sugar and rubbed sage (and no nitrates). Next weekend, I'll smoke it, slowly with hickory.

Don't you like to rub your belly?

Can you see the awesomeness?
I'll keep you posted on how it develops.

Whit, you should ask Scarlett if she likes bacon.

And I must send out thanks to my neighbor JH, who gave me a jump start when my battery was dead Friday when I left work early to get to the butcher before it closed.  He drove to the park and ride where my car was, jump started my battery and I made it to the butcher with less than 10 minutes to spare.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Conspiracy Theories (or My Kids Watch Too Much TV)

Early this morning, as we're driving along a dark rural road, a cop waved us to a stop. His car was blocking the road, lights flashing, flares spread in the road. We could see some lights and some activity on the hill, but nothing in particular.

I rolled down my window as he approached. "Do you know how to get around," he asked?

I asked how far was the road closed and confirmed I knew how to get by.

As we drove away my daughter said, "He didn't tell us why the road was closed."

"Maybe there was a plane crash," my son suggested. We had been watching The Event on Hulu last week.

"Maybe there was a pack of rabid deer," my daughter said.

We'll never know. By the time we returned from swim practice, the road was open and there were no debris, tree limbs or even evidence of flares. Their cleaners made it all disappear.

If I should disappear too, you'll know I was on to something.  Or its just another 4 month gap between posts.