Archive for February, 2008

How I Spent My Day

Posted by Karen in Weather, Work.
Wednesday, February 20th, 2008 at 10:05 pm

Mary Jo says:

As for you, what are you going to be doing that you’ll have to be outside all day? You didn’t say, and we know it’s not to pull garlic mustard plants or to do any planting anywhere.

Well I’m glad you asked!

Coordinating today’s tours is pretty much all I’ve worked on for the past couple of weeks.  The subzero temps threatened to ruin everything, but man are Minnesotans a hearty folk!  Not only did almost everyone show up for the overbooked tours, but they were all smiling and laughing and full of enthusiasm and appreciation!  I may have been shivering in my 5 layers of long underwear, but I was full of warm fuzzies.  And I got to spend the day with a bunch of amazing rangers from our local unit of the National Park Service and some great people from the Mill City Museum, and a bunch of my coworkers helped out and did an awesome job.  As if all that wasn’t enough, I’ve already received a bunch of great emails from people saying what a great experience it was and thanking us. 

Tell you more, you say?   Well ok!

A Few of My Favorite Things

Posted by Karen in Bruno, Day to Day, Garden, Home Improvements, Weather.
Tuesday, February 19th, 2008 at 9:56 am

But first, the big news.  Bruno graduated from Doggy Obedience Level II Sunday evening!  Awww.  He can now (sometimes) do all of the following:  sit or lay down and stay while we do whatever the heck we want and make as much of a ruckus as we want, or when someone comes to the door, walk right past huge distractions (dogs, food) while keeping his attention on us, come to us past a huge distraction, sit and look at us while we greet another person with a dog, and more.  The point of this class was mostly to teach him to do things he already knows how to do in a distracted environment, and to igno20080219071848_pict0002_22.jpgre distractions when we want him to, which is pretty freaking hard for our dog friend. 

For him to really get it down Nate and I now have to make it a point to take him into lots of distracting environments just to train him.  That has so not been my favorite thing to do – something about an 85 pound dog pulling your arm off and completely ignoring you…  But now that he’s already come so far and we have a new understanding of how to work with him in those situations I feel more inspired.  Plus, the better he’s able to behave in those situations, the more places we’ll get to take him!  It’s funny though, I think because of his size he has to be so much better behaved, because you can’t just yank him around like a little yappy dog. 

And now for my new favorite things.  Thing #1:  our new citrus juicer.  The last time we made homemade ginger ale, I hand squeezed lik20080219074136_nate_juicer.jpge 30 lemons and limes and then couldn’t open my hands for a week.  I vowed to get some sort of device for the next time.  So we recently picked up this hot little number at one of our favorite stores to browse in, Kitchen Window.  Nate drools over all the pots and pans, I stare at all the different kinds of cupcake sprinkles, and we both sample as many different kinds of gourmet chocolate as possible until they are ready to kick us out.  Anyway, I tend to prefer non-electric appliances when it’s reasonable, both for the reduced energy consumption and the gratification of using your own muscle power.  So amidst all the crazy expensive electric citrus juicers was this bright orange "Retro Hand Juicer", for something like $25!!  We snagged it and have used it almost every day since!  It’s so unbelievably easy and efficient.  We’ve been drinking fresh squeezed grapefruit juice in the morning, and putting fresh squeezed lemon juice in tabouli and hummus, and I can’t wait to make a new keg of ginger ale knowing how much easier it will be! 

Thi20080219075029_spice_rack.jpgng #2:  our new spice rack.  We cook a lot (and by we I mean Nate, let’s be real).  We have 1 spice rack above our stove but still had lots more that couldn’t fit in there.  So we got this one, also at Kitchen Window, and Nate hung it in the little window nook.  And then he got these wee little hooks for measuring spoons and bottle openers (of which we have many).  It makes my brain feel more organized just looking at it. 

Thing #3: this mint plant.  Lime mint to be exact.  We dug it out of our garden at the end of the season last year and 20080219075217_pict0001_28.jpgput it in a little pot in our kitchen.  And then kind of forgot about it.  I mean we watered it and stuff, but never really used it.  It got real leggy and kinda weird.  But then I all of a sudden like had a hankering for some fresh lime in a drink – mandarin vodka and soda water with fresh lime mint – very summer.  But sometimes you need that when it’s -10 degrees outside!  We’ve also been putting it in our salads lately and I’m convinced this little plant is singlehandedly fending off the February Minnesota winter blues!

Speaking of which, I have to be outside all day tomorrow for work.  Do you know what the weather forecast is for 9 a.m., the time I meet the first group?  -9 degrees, but feel like -26 with windchill.  I hate tomorrow so much already.  No amount of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice or fresh lime mint can help me. 

Valentine’s Day

Posted by Nate in Friends, Holidays/Birthdays/Etc.
Saturday, February 16th, 2008 at 3:42 pm

20080216133432_pict0007.jpgFirst, the exciting news:  I’ve been working out this week, and after our Valentine’s Day potluck I seem to have packed on a few pounds of what can only be solid muscle!!


20080216133424_pict0003.jpgThe kegerator was full, we had some wines available, and everyone brought amazing dishes to share.  Karen made a few games to play: Ultimate Crush, and completing the classic poem "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue…"  (unfortunately this is a family blog so I’m not going to print the winning lines…  Hee hee.)

20080216133411_pict0002.jpgIt was a fantastic party, and since we we were trying to do it as a sit-down dinner we had to string two extra tables together – basically taking up our entire living / dining room!  Pretty tight quarters, but everyone fit.  Hopefully Cody has a picture of the seats with people in them, somehow I forgot to take pictures for a while there…

We’ve been cleaning in bursts the last two days after the party – doing dishes, taking tables down, putting chairs back in the garage.  Karen just walked by and sighed, "oh, it’s so nice to have the house back to normal…"  Amen.  Now we’re about to go treat ourselves to free beer at Town Hall – we’re members of the Pint Club, don’tcha know, so we drink free on Sat from 4-5.  Ahh.  :)

River Blogging

Posted by Karen in Soapbox, Work.
Thursday, February 14th, 2008 at 11:18 am

All 3 of my dedicated Freshwater Stew readers have probably been wondering what the heck happened to it and why I haven’t posted since June of last year.  Well you know what, I’m gonna tell you what happened.  That blog was born out of excitement over my new awesome job, but also out of a desire to show my new employers and coworkers how cool a Friends of the Mississippi River blog would be.  You just can’t be married to an internet genius without eventually spouting off about Internet 2.0 and online community-building and all that hoo-hah (even if you only half know what you’re talking about).  So the big awesome news is that it worked!  At least a little bit.  We don’t have a comprehensive FMR blog (yet), but we do now have a blog for an FMR program, one which I spend most of my time working on, the Gorge Stewards program. 

Though my employers and coworkers are supportive, it is pretty much my baby.  I created it, I am currently the only one posting on it, and I feel a wee bit of pressure to make it a raging success.  And so friends, family, strangers, I give you:

Read it, comment on it, link to it, spread the word far and wide!  I know, those of you who don’t live anywhere near the Mississippi River may be thinking, I don’t live anywhere near the Mississippi River, why should I care?  To this I say, why do you hate 18 million people?  Because that’s how many get their drinking water from this river.  This here is the 3rd largest river in the world (can anyone name the 2 largest?  Anyone?), and drains 41% of the continental U.S – 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Birder alert:  Yes twitchers, it’s true, there is already a bird post!

Dog Biscuits and Beer

Posted by Nate in Beer, Bruno.
Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 at 7:38 am

20080213052500_pict0005.jpg… no, not at the same time.  :)  Last Friday was Winterfest, the annual fundraiser for the MN Craft Brewers Guild, and the first one I’d been able to attend.  It was awesome!  (despite a very chilly half-hour wait in line outside – they only had one person checking IDs at first!)

20080213052516_pict0021.jpgNot sure I could pick a favorite from the evening, but Town Hall won a deserved victory with their Chocolate Raspberry Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout.  Pretty incredible.  Really, that’s half the fun for me at events like this – getting inspired!  (Sorry about that pic, Sierra – you look sober in the one before20080213052446_pict0004.jpg and after, but everyone else looks better here!)

I got to talk to the brewers at a number of the tables and got some good tips on their processes, especially regarding fermentation temperature – more on that in another post, I’ve got some small but vital additions to my brewing process.  Pic at left:  gee, it’s like they’re speaking from experience!!  (but the capitalization…?)

20080213052338_pict0001.jpgSo that was a great start to the weekend.  The next morning we happened to go into Kitchen Window where I lusted after their enamel-coated pans (no more teflon!) and we managed to find a perfect size dog biscuit cookie cutter.  Inspired, Karen researched a few recipes, and by Sunday evening was turning out trays of the cutest little dog treats I’ve ever seen!

20080213052428_pict0003.jpgNot only are we saving money (somehow those treats are expensive), but we know exactly what’s in them and that it’s all good for him.  No preservatives, no filler, no corners cut.  Hooray!

Dear Diary, (warning – that’s the kind of post this is)

Posted by Karen in Broomball, Day to Day, Family, Tonsillectomy, Weather.
Sunday, February 3rd, 2008 at 10:22 pm

So I realized I have been kind of hating winter.  Winter is so long here that even for fans like me, the thrill of the cold crisp air and the beauty of ice crystals and snow flakes fades after awhile, and then you need things like broomball and snowshoeing to see you through.  Well we haven’t gotten any good snow for like 2 months, and el tonsillectomy caused me to remove myself from the Grim Sweepers for the season.  Everybody wants to be a Sweeper (duh), and I didn’t want to take up a spot on the team just in the hopes of getting well enough in time to get a few games in. 

However, once I started experiencing serious dread every day at dog-walking time just because I SOOOOO didn’t want to go outside, I realized I was in desperate need of some winter fun.  So I decided to go to broomball practice and see how it went.  I had been working on getting myself back in shape, riding our elliptical, jogging little bits with Bruno, so I felt ready.  I thought, I’ll just play goalie, take it easy, it’ll be fun.  It wasn’t fun.  It was terrible. 

I should have seen it coming when I was flooded with sheer terror just walking from the car to the ice.  But at that point I was already committed.  I let 3 goals in a row go past me, and I felt like I just stood there and wa20080203193325_nate_broomball.jpgtched them.  Tears welled up in my eyes and it was all I could do to not have a total meltdown.  Nate, having knocked in 2 of those goals, came up to me to see how I was doing, saw the tears, heard me say "Idon’tlikethisI’mnothavingfunIwannagohome!" and realized he needed to switch teams.  Smart boy.  I took a moment to breathe and reflect, and realized that if I let 3 goals go in, started crying, and went home, I would be THE BIGGEST LOSER EVER.  So I rallied.  Second half was better, and finally we got to go home.  And then I cried. 

I realized with shock that I was terrified of blood shooting out of my throat.  I logically know that I’m out of that window and no longer at risk of that happening again.  But the illogical part of me can’t stop seeing it and thinking it’s happening.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spit into a sink or on the sidewalk, just to check.  But it wasn’t until that practice that I realized it.  So Nate and I talked about it a bunch, and I did a good bit of thinking on it, because I was pretty freaked out about being that freaked out.

And then Tuesday’s Sweepers game came.  They were going to be short girls, so they had asked a girl from our buddy team, the Skraelings, to play, and Nate had asked a girl from his Walker team.  But that afternoon she told him stuff had come up and she’d rather not play.  Meanwhile, the temperature was dropping, the wind was increasing, and we were heading for a roughly -10 degree, windy night, with windchills at about -35. 

Sierra had been frantically chatting Nate and I throughout the day, saying things like, "They’re totally going to cancel it, right?  I mean this is insane!", and " I don’t understand why I am the only one freaking out about this!!!"  It was suddenly very clear to me.  Either Sierra was going to bail and the Sweepers would be really short on girls, o20080203153816_frozen_cody.jpgr she was going to go and face one of her greatest fears (being outside in subzero weather), and the Sweepers would still be a little short.  Either way, how could I not go? 

Sierra did not bail, and her courage gave me the inspiration I needed to face my own fears.  I had to get out there too.  So we went, we froze, we lost.  My heart felt like it was going to pound right out of my chest the whole time, but that probably just helped me stay warm!  In spite of letting in a few goals, I felt like I did ok overall, and was absolutely ecstatic at the end of it, because I DID IT.  I felt like myself again. 

I’ve had a few frighteningly realistic nightmares over the last few weeks involving lots of blood in my mouth, most recently Friday night.  So Saturday morning I went to broomball practice again, and made it a point to only spend about half my time in the goal, and the other half running around on the ice.  I needed to drill it into my brain that I am physically fine, not in quite as good of shape as I was pre-tonsillectomy, but fine.  Now I just need my mind to catch up with my body. 

(If you haven’t already, you HAVE to click on that picture of Cody.  It’s amazing!  Everyone looked some version of that by the end of the game, it was pretty crazy.)

Super Tuesday

Posted by Nate in Politics, Soapbox.
Friday, February 1st, 2008 at 11:02 am

I recently rediscovered an old favorite band, Enter the Haggis, and particularly their free-to-stream-online album Soapbox Heroes.  (I’ll wait for you to open that in another tab and start listening.)

Their fiddler, Brian Buchanan, says regarding the title, "Soapbox Heroes refers to all the millions of people who make the mistake of thinking that holding a strong opinion about something is as good as doing something about it.  …. Apparently it’s hard to reach a ballot box from a soapbox." (Referring to voter turnout in the US and Canada.)

Now, I know that the regular readers of this blog have very strong opinions – in fact, probably well to the left of the two Democratic candidates remaining…  What’s a progressive to do?  Luckily, Chris Hayes has written the progressive argument for Barack Obama.  If there are any undecided voters out there, please give it a read – I think it’s the best argument I’ve come across.  (Also check out his endorsement by XKCD for another view.)

I hope this is preaching to the choir, but don’t miss your chance to go from soapbox to ballot box.  Super Tuesday, baby!