25 September 2006

Alton Brown Dinner Party

Anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes with us knows that we're huge fans of Alton Brown and Good Eats. So when we discovered that there were other fellow fans lurking around at work, Corinne had the idea of an Alton Brown Dinner Party. Each person was instructed to make an Alton recipe of their choosing, either from an episode of Good Eats or from one of his several cookbooks.

We decided to have everyone's dishes be a surprise, so we did NOT coordinate what people were bringing. Whatever mix we got, we got. When everyone arrived with their creations, it was like a cooking geek's Christmas: everyone opening their packages and sharing their food, and recalling the episode from which the recipe came.

Baba Ghannouj from Deep Purple [Ken & Rita]
Wheat Berry Tapenade from Ill Gotten Grains [Phil & Paul]

Main Courses:
Fried Chicken from Fry Hard 2: The Chicken [Jeff]
Braciole from Fit to be Tied with Tomato Sauce from Tomato Envy [Mike]
Potato/Portobello Gratin from This Spud's For You [Ken & Rita]
Swedish Meatballs from Great Balls Of Meat [Rat]
Mushroom Wheat Berry Pilaf from Ill Gotten Grains [Phil & Paul]

Berry Crisp from Cobbled Together [Anna]
Bananas Brule from Citizen Cane [Anna]
Cherry Couscous Pudding from Ill Gotten Grains [Phil & Paul]
Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies from The Cookie Clause [Corinne]
Coffee from True Brew [Jeff]

Considering that it wasn't coordinated, I think we got a pretty good mix. Not enough greens (actually, nothing was green...), but we half expected that.

Everything was great and we all had lots of fun! We even had some informal "judging" from Phil's 6 year-old son, Paul. As he ate each dish, he ranked it and gave some very astute reviews, particularly for a 6-year-old. See, watching Good Eats makes you smart!

We're hoping to not make this a once in a lifetime event!

- Mike (& Corinne)

20 September 2006

Garden Update: Frost Watch!

Alas, summer can't last forever. The nighttime temperatures are dropping pretty low, routinely into the low 40s and sometimes into the 30s as well. Earlier this week we actually had a mild frost which caught me a bit by surprise! Thankfully everything survived, but the tips on some of the leaves on the tomatoes and zucchini were affected by the frost.

Frost damage on zucchini leaves

I've been paying close attention to the weather forecast, but even that isn't enough. The Trout Lake Valley is prone to frost pockets, since the surrounding cold air sinks into the valley. As if 1700' elevation didn't make the growing season short enough! Hopefully we can get another few weeks out of the season; there are still an awful lot of green tomatoes on those plants...

Since the weather has turned colder, we actually lit our first fire of the season in our wood stove. We are going to hold out as long as we can before turning the furnace on, though. Summer can't be over yet!

- Mike (& Corinne)

19 September 2006

We Voted Republican. And It Rained.

Yes, it's true. We checked the "Republican" box on today's Washington Primary Ballots. But it's not our fault!

In 2004, the state of Washington adopted new rules for primary elections that REQUIRE a voter to only vote for either Republican or Democratic candidates in the primary election. And in this years election, there are several local positions that only have Republican candidates running, so in effect the primary election determines the winner of the general election. So the only way to make our voices heard for those offices is to vote Republican! The races with multiple Democratic candidates are relatively pre-determined, so it made more sense for us to cross the lines. Thankfully the party choice is not preserved, so there will be no permanent record of our transgressions. :) (Except here, I guess.)

Coincidentally (or is it?), today also marked the first real rain since June. It has rained on and off for the entire morning, and the sky is completely overcast. But we also noticed that the snow on the mountains is starting to return! Snowboarding is just around the corner...

- Mike (& Corinne)

16 September 2006

Forest Owners Field Day

We recently attended a "Forest Owners Field Day" north of Seattle. Sponsored by the Family Forest Foundation and a host of other organizations, this "out in the woods," all-day event offered 1-hour seminars on all sorts of topics; there were so many topics, in fact, that Corinne and I decided that we needed to split up so that we could attend as many as possible!

All of the seminars we attended were great:

  • Protecting Your Forest From Wildfire
  • Small Scale Forestry Equipment
  • Special Forest Products
  • Field and Pasture Afforestation
  • Wildlife Damage Control
  • Red Alder Management
  • Pruning Trees
  • Identifying and Managing Tree Root Rots
  • Site Preparation and Reforestation
  • Early Plantation Care and Pre-Commercial Thinning
  • Chainsaw Safety and Maintenance
  • Forestry Taxes - Current Use Property Taxation and Timber Excise Taxes
...and believe it or not, there were even more that we wanted to attend but just couldn't fit in!

The small scale forestry equipment one was particularly exciting. Presented by the owner of Future Forestry Products, this class included demonstrations of all sorts of cool equipment specially and intelligently designed for the small-scale forester. Such cool toys!

Events like this one really energize us about working on our forest. There were probably 200 other small forest owners in attendance. In the near future, we hope to: buy several products from FFP; buy a new chainsaw (with more safety features and a smaller bar) and safety equipment like chaps, etc.; and we're going to try our hand at doing some thinning of trees ourselves.

- Mike (& Corinne)

09 September 2006

Anniversary Weekend in Portland

Even though we live only ~80 miles from Portland, we rarely make the trek. And when we do, we typically have a long list of stop to make and errands to run. As a result, our typical Portland trip is busy, but we don't get to really enjoy the city.

For our 6th wedding anniversary, we decided (last minute) to spend a weekend in Portland with no agenda whatsoever. We got a hotel room downtown for Saturday night and just spent the weekend walking around, eating, and enjoying the city.

Some of the highlights:

All in all, a relaxing, enjoyable weekend!

- Mike (& Corinne)

04 September 2006

A Weekend of Entertaining

Over the Labor Day weekend, we entertained several different visitors.

Our realtor Denise and her family purchased some wood from the previous owners of our place and left it stored in our machine shop until they had a chance to pick it up, so she and the rest of her family came by to load it up onto their truck. They stayed for a lovely dinner of grilled butterflied chicken, and her 7 year old son entertained us with his fiddle after dinner.

The following day, Corinne's cousin Andrea and her boyfriend Shane visited from Seattle. We had a good time showing the "city folks" around our country estate: a walk along the river; a picnic under the trees; and after pointing out the bear droppings along the walk, we took them for an invigorating walk through the woods at dusk. Heh heh... ;)

Thank goodness for 3 day weekends!

- Mike (& Corinne)

03 September 2006

Life in the Country: Fences and Driveways

Life in the country is full of manual labor. To wit:

Mending Fences
Along the entire north side of our property, between the house and Mt Adams, stands a rail fence. The fence was built sometime in the 80s by the Clausens, and being the perfectionists that they are, each post and rail is perfectly straight and aligned, even after 20+ years.

Of course, the very month we purchased the property, an elk tried to jump the fence and didn't quite make it. Since the posts are buried 3+ feet into the ground, with a layer of concrete at the bottom AND the top of the hole, the only thing the post was able to do to release the pressure was... break.

This was in January. It is now September, and we've finally fixed the fence! Even after some help from the Clausens removing the broken post, replacing the post took way more effort than we had anticipated, primarily because the extra post that we found (in the "boneyard" hidden in the woods) only had holes on one side, and we never did find a source for pre-drilled posts. It took us several different attempts to figure out how to drill a series of 2" holes in solid, pre-treated cedar post. Who thought fixing a fence would be so hard?

Now that we've figured it out, it shouldn't take us 8 months to replace the next broken post. But hopefully we won't have one of those for another 20+ years. I'll have to see if I can dig up some "before" and "after" photos, though we may not have any good before photos...

Free Gravel!

Out in the boonies, most driveways are either dirt or, if they are a bit fancier, crushed gravel. The typical driveway is fairly long, and maintaining a paved driveway would be fairly costly. And hey, dirt is free and sometimes gravel is, too!

One of our co-workers, David, recently finished some landscaping in his house in town that required gravel. When the job was done, he still had a big pile of gravel that he needed to get rid of. We jumped at the offer of free gravel and proceeded to load, haul, and unload two pickup loads of gravel to cover some bare spots in our driveway.

- Mike (& Corinne)