Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Expedition Preparation...

I had forgotten how much goes in to properly preparing oneself to head into the inhospitable winter mountains ... check lists, maps, sorting gear, permits, weather watching... it's enough to make a guy want to stay home and drink beer.

OK, not really.

This afternoon I tried a new (to me) method of waterproofing my topos... Thompson's Water Seal. I always used expensive "map sealers" in the past, but when worthless GS Outfitters told me that they didn't carry "anything like that" I got online and found that lots of people were swearing by Thompson's to keep their valuable maps from melting in the rain. Not to mention, I got a gallon and a half of Thompson's for what I would have paid for several ounces of nixwax map goo or whatever.

So apparently I violated a federal law or two tonight:

It is a violation of Federal Law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with it's labeling.

...because I couldn't find "map waterproofing" instructions anywhere on the Thompson's container. A little googling later, and I had some instructions. Now my maps are hanging in the basement to dry:



... and the whole house smells like Thompson's. (I guess they meant that whole "well ventilated area" bit on the can, huh?)

I did notice this while hanging one of the topos out to dry, and I think it might be an area for me to avoid:



I've got enough of those in my life...

What's on the Grill? Chops -n- Taters

I must confess to having somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the TV series License to Grill and Chef Robby Rainford. The man can grill, that's for freakin' sure; it's his personality that gets to me a little. Did you ever have that over the top "look at me! look at me!" guy who comes around your circle of friends? Rainford is that guy in my TV world.

But the guy can grill...

So tonight I decided to jump on FoodTV's website for a couple of Rainford recipes that I remembered looking strikingly good as I was watching the show with the "mute" button depressed. The first was twice grilled potatoes, and the result was amazing. Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry to keep the Chi of the Grill flowing that I apparently forgot to snap any tater photos. Trust me on this one, though... click here and follow the directions, and you'll be in twice-grilled heaven.

I did run in to my first problem of the night during the tater-grilling. I went out to preheat the grill for tater-grilling round one, went inside, came back out ten minutes later to find the grill at a whopping 150 degrees. Out of LP. No problem, I'll grab my trusty backup LP tank... which apparently I already grabbed once this summer, because it was empty, too. Forty minutes later, I was back on track with two full LP tanks.

Oh what the hell, I'll steal a photo of Rainford's taters... mine weren't quite as pretty, but they were amazingly good...



(Oh, another confession... the taters were last night, the chops were tonight. We're going to combine two nights of grilling into one entry, okay?)

So, along with the twice-grilled taters, I decided to try a grilled and stuffed yellow squash recipe that Rainford did once. While visually stunning, the taste wasn't quite for me. I enjoy squash, but packing it full of cream cheese seems to be ruining the wonderful squashy flavor, not to mention ruining most (if not all) of the health benefits of eating a veggie.

The stuffing was interesting, and consisted of green onions, the aforementioned cream cheese, lemon juice and zest, and pinion nuts. Now, I'm a real pinion nut fan... love the expensive little boogers, but here's where my second problem of the night came in. I fumbled my fresh squeezed lemon juice as I was pouring it in and spilled the lemon seeds in with the pinion nuts (already in the mixing bowl.) For those who don't know what a pinion nut looks like... picture a lemon seed.

Now, I present the picture below, slightly out of focus but making the point no less, and ask you to pick the lemon seeds out from the pinion nuts:



(And no, the slightly more yellow bits in the middle are not the lemon seeds, it's simply freshly grated lemon zest on top of some pinion nuts.)

Soooo ... I spent a good ten minutes sorting nuts from seeds... much like managing people, as a matter of fact.

Finally, the chops. Nothing too special here... the wife was at work and the daughter was sick, so with only us guys eating, I grabbed three chops out of the freezer that I had stored for just such an occasion and tossed them on:



(Check it out... my chops are spooning!)

All in all ... quite yummy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Decline of Western Civilization

Some point to violent video games and XXX strip clubs as a sign of the impending implosion and collapse of western civilization, I however, point to the FishPen:



No surprise, it looks like it's made by the Coleman people... makers of crap camping gear for inbred families in Walmart pup tents all over the eastern U.S.

No wonder militant mohammadians want to kill us...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What's on the grill? My Anniversary

Well, I'm a day late, but yesterday was our thirteenth anniversary, and we celebrated in typical Totel fashion with a night of food and sitting around on our butts. I originally wanted to treat the missus to a real nice dinner, then I checked the ATM and decided perhaps a lovely meal of anniversary gruel would be better.

I ended up deciding that a "fancier than normal" grilling was in order for such a joyous occasion, and opted for grilled quail. For those not familiar, this would be a quail, pre-grilling:



Isn't he a purdy burdy?

So... the wife instantly said ... "I'll have steak." Which didn't surprise me too much, so I also grabbed some steaks that I had in the freezer from Omaha Steaks. This was my first go-round with the top-shelf Omaha Steaks, thanks to a gift card from my brother. Here's the visual:



Oops! Got a little quail in there. The Omaha Steaks were good -- perfectly marbled -- but not worth the premium price tag, IMHO.

The kids ate quail. Really, every quail I've ever had has left me with the same opinion: It's a low-fat, teeny-weeny, cutesy little chicken. These were no different. "Tastes like chicken" as the old mantra goes. Personally, my biggest problem with quail is the decidedly unladylike way that they insist on sitting on the grill:



I named that little whore with her legs spread, "Susie." (For no particular reason.)

It was a good dinner, enjoyed by all... and a good anniversary, too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My kinda house party...

Zach was well on his way to being a helluva climber until I fell and landed at his feet last August. That pretty much took any interest he had and shut it down for almost exactly a year. During this time I left him alone, never encouraged him to climb or prodded him to give it a try... I figured if he wanted to, he'd give it a shot eventually; if not, who could blame him? After all, one of his formative lessons of climbing was that if you screw up, you could end up spending two months groaning a lot and limping around the house with a cane, hopped up on percocet and looking like THIS:



He started asking climbing-related questions somewhere around the middle of July, while we were on vacation. The initial questions took the form of, "Would I die if I fell from there?" (Pointing to the nearest high spot in the terrain.) Never one to sugar-coat things (I know this is surprising to my readers...) the answer was almost always, "Oh, yes. You'd die or worse." There's nothing to be gained in minimizing the dangers of the activity... just about every year we loose one or two world-class climbers. I'll be thrilled if my kids decide to climb, but I'm not going to "trick" them in to it by making them think it's safer than it is.

When he started asking more specific questions, I knew his curiosity was back, and he would be back on track before long. About a month ago, he started asking me if I could find a way to teach him to climb and rappel without having to go "too high off the ground." He said he wanted to learn all the "safety stuff" and learn to "trust his ropes" first. Of course I answered with an emphatic "yes" and told him I'd find some way to do a "ground school" around the house.

See... for those who don't know, we live in Ohio. You climb what you can, and you usually can't be too picky. A few weeks ago Zach and I were outside and he looked at the side of the house near the garage and said, "Why not there, dad?" I said, "Sure!" without really thinking about it and told him we'd do it soon. He's pestered me for weeks now... "When are you going to help me set up the ropes?"

Finally tonight, a spectacle for all the neighbors to behold:



I wonder what the neighbors think of us?



Now we've set our sights on the chimney. Better wait and make that sometime when mom is at work...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

On Old Men and Making New Stories...

I've been kicking this post around in my head for quite a while, and it never really seemed complete or "ready" to sit down and write. This morning a blabbering old man kind of seemed to bring it all together for me. I might get a little sappier than normal, and I'm still not sure I have a complete or fluid series of thoughts here, but I'll try.

(Part 1) Last spring I remember telling someone that I couldn't wait until I was an old man. I had been driving through the fire lane at Walmart when some crazy, mean, old sonofabitch started yelling at all the cars that drove by about handicapped parking. Waving his arms, cussing, jumping up and down... a regular geriatric temper tantrum. Then he stopped and just walked on into the store to buy his prunes and Metamucil. Everyone just kinda smiled and shook their heads back and forth, going about their business. It suddenly struck me that when I get old, all the things people see as my character flaws will be just another crazy old man going on a rant... What's considered disorderly conduct for a thirty year old, is just a normal day for a crazy old man. They won't even judge me for peeing my pants. Sounds like a fun life...

(Part 2) As most of you also know, just over a year ago I had a little brush with my own mortality. Suddenly, instead of making the logical conclusion that, "I'm too old and fat for this crap" I ended up with a burning desire to climb like I haven't climbed since I was nineteen or twenty. Mentally, I'm back to a place I haven't been in a long time: I'm either walking with a backpack on, or thinking and planning for the next time that I can. I'm trying to figure out how to convince my lovely and very understanding wife that modular holds bolted on the brick wall in our family room wouldn't really look all that bad. (She's not quite that understanding, I don't think.) My ice axe is sitting on top of my desk where I see it every day... a constant reminder of where I want to be and what I need to do to get there.

(Part 3) One of my best friends and I were out at the bar one night early last winter. I started telling her some story she had already heard from me countless times, and she just laughed and said, "You need new stories. You're out of stories." That reverberated in my head for months... and still is today, obviously. I don't wanna be out of stories.

(Part 4) Very closely related to part three above. Not long after the "stories" comment I was listening to some U2 when a line out of their song God, Part II struck me: "You glorify the past when the future dries up." I once had a boss who was the king of this... always bragging about what he had once done, never planning for what he was going to do next. I never want to be "that guy." During this same time frame, I read a book that had a section that talked about people with the "usta" syndrome. "I usta play golf." "I usta go fishing." "I usta be a climber." How many people do you know like that? I don't want to be one of them... doesn't look like much fun.

(Part 5) It's funny where one can sometimes draw inspiration from. I'll never forget hearing part of this David Lee Roth interview when I was in high school. For those too busy or who don't feel like watching to 1 minute and 30 seconds where he says it, Roth says, "I decided long, long ago that if I was gonna make a buck at this biz, that I was gonna spend it having experiences, not buying things."

(Part 6)Finally, this morning after my new morning workout routine, I stopped in to the coffee shop for a big iced mocha (Replacing all those calories I had just burnt, I'm sure.) I stop in there quite a bit, and the stereotypical "old men drinking coffee" are always sitting out front in the mornings. One, who I've been able to gather from snippets of conversation I hear as I walk in and out, is apparently a retired cop, and is always regaling the other old men with stories about his cop days. (Some of the stories are probably even true!)

Suddenly it all came together at once and hit me: I'd rather be the crazy old man yelling at cars and living life by the moment than the boring old man telling stories about his former job. I'd rather spend every spare cent making new stories and gaining new experiences than on "stuff." I'd rather my kids see me approaching middle life with zeal, on the attack... grabbing life by the collar and dragging it behind me rather than letting life lead me placidly along.

I thank God that I'm still healthy and strong enough to head to the mountains, but I know that someday my body won't be able to take it anymore. When that day comes, instead of telling you stories about what I usta do; I'll start telling you stories about the looks on people's faces as I yelled at them in the fire lane, pissed myself, then went inside to buy my prune juice.

It'll be a good story.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Let's just start typing and see where this goes...

The wife is engaged in a rather long phone conversation with her mom, so I'm sitting here at the 'puter with nothing much to do, and nothing really on my mind to write, so I think I'll just write without using my mind.

Hang on... gonna fire up Rhapsody. OK, back. Typing to the tune of Avril Lavigne. (I know, I know... I can't explain it, but I really like that chick. Maybe she reminds me of the skater/punker chicks I knew as a kid... who knows.)

Speaking of skaters, Son#2 turned 10 yesterday and got himself a pair of ramps...



That's gonna lead to a trip to the emergency room sometime before winter.

Oh... she's off the phone, gotta go.