Archive for June, 2008

We survived St. Croix State Park!

Posted by Nate in Travel, Weather.
Sunday, June 29th, 2008 at 6:01 pm


20080629164243_pict0025.jpgThe Solas family went camping this weekend up in the near north: St. Croix State Park, a delightful and huge state park following the St. Croix river as it traces the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.  I say "delightful" here in the slightly hypothetical, for while in retrospect and from the safety of our truly delightful deck the trip was a success, the park itself over this weekend can be summed up in three words: Full.  Of.  Bugs.

20080629164425_pict0002.jpgWe arrived about 8:30 Friday, ate and played some games, then hit the sack about 10:30, both tired from long weeks.  This was Bruno’s first time in a tent, and we were anxious to see how he would do.  No fool, our dog, he would wait for either of us to sit up to adjust the lantern or grab a book and then quickly lay on the most comfy part of our sleeping bags!  Having none of this we tried a few arrangements for his bed and finally settled between our feet, where he was content to alternate between leaning his full weight against one of us or just resting his head and chest on our feet.  The rain I expected never came, and it was 6:30 (doggie breakfast time) before we knew it.

20080629164412_pict0005.jpgAnticipating bad weather, we got up and ate and decided we should go hit the trails – there was a CCC-built camp a few miles away that looked interesting, and the trail followed the river.  Perfect.

20080629164400_pict0009.jpgAlmost as soon as we got out of our campsite, the mosquitoes began their attack.  We made it to the camp, and I kept telling myself it would get better soon.  We pressed on a bit, thinking we’d come to a lake we saw on the map — surely, it will get better soon.  There’s a breeze, the sun is out, they have to stop swarming sometime, right??

20080629164440_pict0001.jpgNo.  The answer is no.  I’ll spare you the details of my freakout, but as long as there is sweet human (and doggie) flesh anywhere in range, the mosquitoes of St. Croix will rally to the feast.  I don’t know if I’m more sensitive to their bite (I used to get quarter-sized welts that lasted for days, and it’s still pretty bad), or just taste sweeter, but it was Out.  Of.  Control.

20080629164339_pict0016.jpgPerhaps most troubling was the fact that everywhere around us there were happy campers wearing only shorts and T-shirts, sitting around their camp sites with no visible protection.  (This pic of K is in the one hour on Saturday where they calmed down enough we could take one more walk)  How could they survive the onslaught?  Were they hardy midwesterners used to the bugs?  Were they simply tougher, or less tasty?  Why could we not poke our heads our of our sanctuary without being swarmed by the bloodthirsty hordes?  I think the answer is deet, which we were slightly reluctant to slather on ourselves, but saw no such hesitance in our fellow campers.  Not complete fools, we did use some bug spray, but it seems that without a visible sheen it’s just not enough to ward them off.

20080629164350_pict0015.jpgThere were a few highlights: the screen tent 20080629164327_pict0018.jpgwe got from my grandparents (a.k.a. the Sanctuary), the "Pudgy Pie" maker we got from them, and the sweet marshmallow roasting sticks from Karen’s parents (up at the top of the post).  The pie maker produced the most amazing ham and cheese sandwich, tu20080629164304_pict0022.jpgna melt, and finally a bacon, tomato and cheese delight.  Yum.  20080629164230_pict0026.jpgKaren discovered her all-time favorite S’more combo: ginger snap cookie, marshmallow, and mint chocolate.  Whoa.

We also stopped by Taylor’s falls on the way home, a pretty amazing geological site along the river.  K had been out there before, but it was my first time – very cool.  And hey, no bugs!

Of summer colds, artisan bread, doggie mischief, and scrap metal

Posted by Karen in Bruno, Food, Home Improvements, Landscaping, Projects.
Sunday, June 22nd, 2008 at 7:15 pm


I woke up Friday morning feeling, as Juliana would put it, trundle-bundled.  I kept telling myself it was just allergies, but by the time I biked my sorry self in to work, I realized I was actually feeling pretty miserable.  So I grabbed my laptop and turned around and biked home.  And proceeded to rapidly deteriorate till Nate was left with a whining, sniffling, sneezing Jabba the Hutt-like blob on his hands.  He was a real champ, even bought me ice cream and cheezy poofs!  Aww. 

So my big plans to get everything in the world done on Friday didn’t happen, grr.  With all the weekend work events I have, my free weekends are like gold to me and I pack them full of yard and house projects, hiking, bike riding, and other ways of making the most out of being healthy and living in a kick-ass city.  A summer cold has no place in these plans.  Sigh.  At least I had the weekend off and didn’t have to be tromping around a prairie or something, but why does it seem like colds often wait for the weekend to rear their ugly head? 

20080622174055_brioche.jpgIn spite of feeling pretty crappy, today was a good day.  Wanna hear about it?  Ok.  Nate started us off right by making these crazy delicious fresh fruit brioche muffins

On a side note, we are watching C20080622172320_attack_dogs.jpgasey Jones the black lab this weekend.  Long-time readers may recall that the last time we watched him, the overall mood was something like this: 

Well, these boys are much older and wiser now… and lazi20080622173050_lazy_puppies.jpger!  I mean, they still have some of the rough and tumble in them, but last time there was no sleeping!  It was non-stop Wrestle-Mania!  It’s actually kind of nice.  We had hoped this would also mean that Casey had grown out of some of his naughtiness.  But the first night he ate the rest of the loaf of spinach parmesan bread Nate had made off the counter.  And last night he somehow opened the container of brioche dough Nate had just made and ate a big chunk of it!  You do not mess with a man and his brioche dough.  Seriously.  Luckily we caught him before he ate it all, or Nate might hav20080622165804_lunch.jpge taken inspiration from the movie we were watching, Sweeney Todd, and turned him into a meat pie! 

Ok, moving on.  For lunch I made us these delicious salads with spinach from our first CSA veggie delivery!  I also used chives, nasturtium flowers , and lime mint from our window box.  And we had cheese and crackers, with cheese Nate made from one of our batches of yogurt.  It’s been a good food day so far.

I did my best to not be a total slug and ended up getting quite a bit of yard and garden work done, but Nate worked20080622175203_no_more_shed.jpg his boo-tay off today and tore down our freaking shed!  Brother Dean recently gave us a sawzall, you know, because he had an extra one (?!?).  We had explored the idea of trying to give the thing away, but it was so old and all the bolts were so rusted that it wasn’t really take-apart-able.  In the20080622175340_shedless_possibilities.jpg end Nate decided there were enough people on Craigs List looking for scrap metal that he would just cut the thing apart, stick it in the alley, and post it.  And now behold, the shedless zone.  Oh, the possibilities…  It may not look like much right now, but just you wait! 

And one more thing – HAPPY BIRTHDAY STEVE!

Pony Express!

Posted by Karen in Beer, Bike Commuting.
Monday, June 16th, 2008 at 8:53 pm


It was just yesterday that I said, when describing my bike’s new carrying capacity, "the possibilities are endless".  How right I was.

Today  I tried out my rack and pannier for the first time and carried my laptop, a bunch of work stuff, food, a change of clothes and more on the 9.2 mile ride in on my pony with amazing ease.  I really didn’t even notice a difference – except when I was carrying my bike down the stairs at my building and it was crazy heavy.
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For the ride home I had anticipated a light load, but wait!  What’s that in the photo, nestled down in there, having just been safely transported by me and my pony the 9.2 miles home?  Why, I think it’s – it is!  A growler of beer from Fitger’s Brewhouse! 

My coworker dropped this delightful growler of Hefe Roggen off 20080616193315_growler.jpgat the office for me on her way back into town from Duluth, and while at first I thought I’d leave it in the office fridge till tomorrow, when I have to drive, then I thought, I’m gonna have to find out how lots of beer fares in the pannier sooner or later, may as well be today.  As it turns out, it works perfectly.  It wasn’t even all that snug I might add – in fact, I dare say I could probably fit 2 growlers!  Good to know, good to know. 

I’m participating in this Bike2Benefits program, where you commit to bike, ride the bus, or carpool at least once a week for 8 weeks, and then are entered to win sweet free stuff.  The coolest part is they have this calendar thingy where you enter when you ride your bike and how far your commute was, and it tracks how many miles you’ve ridden, how much money you’ve saved (based on a per mile cost for maintenance, tires, and gas at $3.50/gallon, which it is already more than), how much less CO2 you’ve emitted than if you’d driven, and how much less air quality pollution you’ve created than if you’d driven (carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, and organic compounds, three of the most common pollutants).  And after only 3 days of bike commuting, I’ve ridden 55 miles, saved $12.65, produced 54.22 lbs less CO2 and 2.19 lbs less air quality pollution!

Another Post About Biking

Posted by Karen in Bike Commuting.
Sunday, June 15th, 2008 at 3:38 pm


The financial goal of yesterday’s sale was to make enough dough to buy me a ra20080615142632_rackpannier.jpgck and  pannier for my bike, so that my bike commute would be a much more pleasant experience.  We ended up making about $200, which was more than enough to get me this sweet rack and pannier bag!  As you can see, it is big enough even to fit my laptop, though that also makes it heavy as all get-out.  I’m going to give it a 20080615142610_inside_pannier.jpgwhirl tomorrow, and I’m super excited!  I normally won’t have nearly as much stuff in it, but it’s nice to know that I can if I need to!  And now I’ll be able to bike to the store for groceries, to the park with a pair of cleats and a soccer ball in there, to a bbq with a couple of 6-packs… you see, the possibilities are endless.  And it has a sweet little side pocket that holds a rain cover.  I will now be unstoppable.  Except for that whole scared of cars + not the best balance thing.  Still working on that.

Everyone keeps being all shocked and horrified that I’m riding that far on big fatty mountain bike tires.  I think they’re a bunch of babies, but I might just check into some road tires, but it sure seems like a slippery slope to me.  This week a rack and a pannier, next week new tires, then handlebar streamers… where oh where do you draw the line?

Yard Sale

Posted by Karen in Day to Day.
Saturday, June 14th, 2008 at 10:47 am


The bad news: We’ve been out here for 2.5 hours and only ma20080614094405_lazy_eye.jpgde $23.75.  And from the looks of this picture I may have just developed a lazy eye. 

The good n20080614094525_yard_sale.jpgews:  Free entertainment in the front yard in the form of an amazing Native American drumming and dancing ceremony!

Other good news: It’s almost noon, which means we can respectably start drinking beer. 
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More biking

Posted by Nate in Bike Commuting.
Friday, June 13th, 2008 at 7:51 pm


Tired of the biking updates?  Sorry.  :)

I’ve been a bit of a slacker after indoor soccer season ended (although we’re getting a game together this Sunday!), and the beer was beginning to turn into a belly.  Time for more miles on the bike, and what better way than to extend the commute?

This new route to work clocks in at about 12.2 miles — although I actually think it’s 12.5 with all the curves and small hills I couldn’t map.  Bottom line, though, is it’s the most beautiful route ever.  (And I couldn’t even find pictures of the part that feels like you’re zipping through Endor on a speeder bike…)  It’s amazing that other than the beginning and a few blips between the lakes I can basically feel like I’m nestled in the woods somewhere on some fairly remote trails.  The trees are exploding with growth, the streams are full, the birds are singing…  Just amazing.

Note to everyone else:  my left hand up means I’m turning right.  I’m not waving at you.  Also, turn off your iPod:  I need you to move over when I yell "On your left!!"  Listen to the birds.  Listen to the river.  Listen to your wheels humming along.  Listen to your breath.  It’s safer to turn off your iPod.

Took this route three times this week, and I’m loving it.  Fast bike, good weather, hard ride, what can I say?  It’s a beautiful thing…

Bike rides and booby traps

Posted by Nate in Bike Commuting, Bruno.
Monday, June 9th, 2008 at 6:29 pm


20080609171021_pict0001.jpgI stayed home from work today to save time on commuting for an offsite meeting, so I got to see Karen off to work on her bike — and snap a few pics!

20080609171015_pict0002.jpgHer messenger-style bag seen here is actually pretty uncomfortable so I loaned her mine, but I think we’ll end up getting her a rack and pack to go on there.  It’s just a lot easier ride without a bulky pack on your back…

20080609171003_pict0003.jpgShe just got home after riding into the wind all the way and it sounds like it was a rough ride…  especially after working out yesterday.  But she made it, and going to go again later this week!

20080609170956_pict0004.jpgLast week we found these sweet Ikea chairs at a local garage sale and snapped them up.  Here’s a shot of one of them and Bruno sleeping next to it – where we want him to be.

20080609170948_pict0005.jpgUnfortunately, we’ve been finding dog hair on the chairs lately.  Seems Mr. Man has been climbing up there for a little nap while we’re gone…  So I built a booby trap, old-school style: a simple buzzer circuit with a gravity switch.  The circuit is completed when the nickel (attached to a thread from the top of the chair) drops between the two strips of foil, and the buzzer goes off.

20080609170933_pict0006.jpgToday I came home from my meeting to find two Bruno-sized paw indentations on the chair – but no dog hair!  Now I guess I just have to set up something for the other chair and hope eventually he stops trying…  Naughty dog!

Babyfest ‘08

Posted by Nate in Bruno, Friends.
Monday, June 2nd, 2008 at 8:50 pm


20080602194235_pict0005.jpgBruno was kept extremely busy tonight checking on all the babies and making sure their faces were never more than a few seconds away from a healthy doggy-lick.

Lilyana on the left, the youngest of the group, is luckily well-versed in doggy lick acceptance — they have a very friendly dog of their own.
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Frances and Ayla managed to avoid most of the licking with their superior bipedal skills and masterful piano duet.

20080602194256_pict0009.jpgNot satisfied with her reception from the piano solo, Frances decided to show off by donning 20080602194247_pict0006.jpga pair of adult shoes and going for a stroll.

Someday, kiddo, someday all too soon…  :)