Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Welcome to Fall

It's official. The sun has disappeared, the wind is whipping, and the rain is pouring.

There are some decent consolations for the crummy weather. Among them are beautiful leaves, pumpkins, apples, and muffins. Muffins might be my own addition to the list, but I think I am on to something very important.

Personally, I am 99.99999% less likely to complain about the weather if there are treats involved. It is possible that I am a slave to my stomach, but it is also completely possible that I have achieved enlightenment.


According to my "impartial" reviewer (Matt), these are "amazing." Who knows, but here is the recipe just in case...

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (adapted from this recipe)
  • 1 cup sugar (I used half white and half brown)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1+ cups chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease and flour muffin pan or use paper liners.
  2. Mix sugar, oil, eggs. Add pumpkin and water. In separate bowl mix together the baking flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.. Add wet mixture and stir in chocolate chips. DO NOT OVERSTIR. Ever.
  3. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
On a different note, my family lost an important canine member last weekend.  Robert was a gentleman and a scholar. I will miss him.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cat Veterinarian

For several years of my childhood I wanted to be a veterinarian. My mother even arranged for me to "volunteer" at our veterinarian's office. I don't know if she paid them off or what, but for a couple hours a week they would give me some small task, and intermittently I got to hang out with cute animals. I mostly remember counting pills and watching animal surgeries. The pill counting was boring, but the animal surgeries were fantastic.

I'm not sure why I abandoned my veterinary dreams, but lately I've tried to play veterinarian to a mystery cat that has decided to live on our front porch. Since my previous explanation a neighbor filled in some background information-- the cat was abandoned in the neighborhood and another neighbor got the cat fixed and takes care of it (which is pretty nice).

For the last couple weeks the cat has had persistent and very raw hot spots near its tail. I attempted to clean them out one afternoon, and I think it worked pretty well. However, the cat sure didn't appreciate my efforts, and stayed away for a whole day afterwards. Since then someone shaved the problem area, but I think a cone might be necessary to stop it from gnawing on itself. However, the cat is a decidedly outdoor cat, and I am not sure how a cone would affect its lifestyle (e.g. I don't want it to become a raccoon meal).

I am going to try to talk to the cat's caretaker about the cone possibility. It isn't our cat, but I sure like it, and it seems to have self-selected us as its friends. Friends help each other out, you know?

Stay tuned. ;)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Summer Pictures

My summer comes to an end this week. It has been pretty fantastic, but I think my checking account will be (truly) grateful for the change in lifestyle. 

I have never been very good about taking pictures. Perhaps it is a lack of patience, but I think it has more to do with wanting to enjoy what I experience without being preoccupied by documentation. I am trying to take more photos, and blogging is sure helping with this goal. 

Anyways, here are a few of the pictures that I managed to take while enjoying my summer of leisure...

Daily Bread

I've been trying to figure out bread making for the last several months. Truthfully I've had pretty mixed results, and staying committed to whole wheat flour has really thickened the plot. However, seven months since I began dabbling, I think I'm starting to get the gist.

After our trip, I decided to commit homemade bread (the forethought takes a little work, but it's good for me, and less plastic/money!). I have recently settled on using this recipe most of the time. It's pretty damn good. Especially covered in butter. 

The recipe is clear that the ingredients should not be over kneaded, and this has been one of the more useful bread making tips I've come across in the last several months. Initially I'd assumed that bread dough must be kneaded for several minutes, but apparently this habit results in a rubbery brick. Enlightening. 

Lately I've been splitting the dough into one loaf and a batch of buns... 

I appreciate that bread making is incredibly fruitful for the time involved. The dough only takes about 10 make, and sure it has to have a couple rises and eventually bake, but the actual labor time involved can't be more than about 20 minutes. 

The bread starts to get crumbly after about 5 days (no preservatives and all). We usually just keep eating it, but I also sometimes cube it and fry the pieces in olive oil and toss with salt to make croutons. Bread recycling!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Beetle's Tale

Recently, on an afternoon walk Matt spotted two huge, black and white beetles hanging out on a tree stump. The bugs looked like nothing I have ever seen in the fair state of Washington, and I immediately suspected them of being an invasive species.

My immediate thought was to say a Buddhist-Jewish-Agnostic-Aethiest-Pagan prayer for the beetles and squish them. However, Matt suggested we leave the Beetles be, do some research, and come back if need be with more information.

Our research pointed us towards an invasive species: an Asian Longhorned Beetle. These beetles come from China and have begun appearing in parts of the US (presumably stowing away in containers full of useless plastic shit from China). The Longhorned Beetle kills hardwood trees, and the powers that be are collecting samples and information about their spread. So, with our supposed identification we set out to collect a bug sample. 

(an Asian Longhorned Beetle)

It took a couple of attempts, but eventually we found one of the beetles on the same tree stump where the pair had initially been spotted. We put it in the habitat we had prepared for it, and took it home for further inspection and identification. 

However, the bug did not look at all like an Asian Longhorned Beetle. Rather, research revealed it to actually be a native species: a Banded Alder Borer. Banded Alder Borers eat already dead hardwoods, are relatively uncommon, and according to the internet can sell for about $200-$500 in the bug collecting world.

(Tux, clearly, the beetle's name, a very large male Alder Borer.) 

Upon realizing our mistake Tux was immediately returned to his stump.  Hopefully the incident wasn't too traumatic for him. At least he didn't get squished by a (well meaning) Buddhist-Jewish-Agnostic-Aethiest-Pagan.

Blackberry Pie

My first pie! Blackberries are bountiful pretty much everywhere right now, and we have taken full advantage of the free, plentiful, delicious food. 

My first foray into the science of pie baking went pretty well (probably thanks to the all butter crust). I used this crust recipe, and based the filling loosely on this recipe. 

I learned a few things about pies in the process, like that the bottom crust of a pie needs a brush of egg to not get soggy (I backpedaled to this step after filling the pie-- not recommended), 

We ate some pie with vanilla ice cream about half an hour it came out of the oven. Though the pie later congealed nicely, breaking it open while still warm caused a lot of the liquids to release.  

Disappearing pie... 

A Long Journey

For several months now we've been planning an epic summer pedal. The original plan was to bike to Banff via the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, but then we realized a "muti-use path," in Canada includes numerous ATVs. No thanks. Our next plan was to bike to Spokane via the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, but there was a bit of red tape involved with the East side of things (figures!), and nowhere but a shoulderless bridge on 1-90 for crossing the Columbia. Again, no thanks. Finally, we figured out a sound plan that involved a 400 mile round trip ride. 

This trip, like the others we had begun to plan, started and ended at home. Additionally, our voyage featured approximately 120 miles of trail (each way), a 2.3 mile tunnel through Snoqualmie Pass, and a stay at a Forest Service cabin on the beautiful Teanaway River near Cle Elum, WA.

The Snoqualmie Valley Trail

A trellis on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail:

Our loaded bikes.

Entering the 2.3 mile portal from West to East.

Exiting on the East.

Near Cle Elum, WA.

The Teanaway River.

Forest Service Cabin.

The Teanaway. 

Homemade Ketchup

All summer I've been regularly checking the .79/lb "bargain produce," bin for a whole bunch of tomatoes on their last legs. I finally got lucky, and purchased about 5 lbs of very ripe organic tomatoes for about $4. Right on. 

The tomatoes, a whole white onion, some garlic, a healthy dose of vinegar, various spices, and a bit of sugar got the Vita-mix (serious blender) treatment, and reduced via boil to about 1/2 the original volume. 

The result was a quite a bit of delicious ketchup. It definitely does not taste like store bought ketchup (which I now realize has a fairly supernatural consistency to it), but that is why we call it gangster farm ketchup. I've read that homemade ketchup should keep for up to 6 months in the fridge (thanks to the natural preserving qualities of vinegar)!