Category Archives: Adventure

Fall garden and the impending spring garden insanity

As kind of a last-minute thing, I decided to put in a vegetable garden this past fall.  The garden was 12ftX12ft and had several different types of vegetables seeds that I bought from Lowes. Only a few things from the fall garden came up well.  It could be because I didn’t water, weed, or really take care of the plot very well in general.  The things that did well: radishes and swiss chard.  Things that came up and didn’t really grow to full potential: cabbage, green onions, and lettuce.  Things that didn’t really come up at all: broccoli, spinach, and carrots.  Unfortunately, we didn’t end up doing anything with the radishes.  If I plant them again next fall, I’ll have some recipes planned out.  The swiss chard I’ve used in a couple different recipes which turned my dinners reddish, still pretty good though.  The bit of cabbage that came up (and then stopped growing) was used in a casserole, which also turned reddish-purple.  The green onions and lettuce came up but never got more than about 6 inches tall.  The lettuce is gone and the green onions were pulled the other day to till up the garden area.  Oh, and the ONE broccoli plant that came up was delicious.

Carrots from the fall garden

Carrots from the fall garden

So, what does spring hold for the vegetable garden?  My friends may never see me again.  This garden is going to be 65ftX20ft and will have several different crops and a couple different planting dates for some of the crops.

My grand plans

My grand plans

I may have gotten a little carried away…

But this spring, we bought some automatic watering timers and I have started the cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, and bell peppers in a greenhouse.  I’ve also added what little compost was ready to the tilled area.

However, the weather is not quite cooperating, so it is lucky that I started the plants almost a week later than I had wanted.  Some big, burly friends of mine tilled the garden area and a little over a week later I spread the compost over the tilled soil.  Three days later, the skies opened and it rained about 7 inches in four days.  I am coaxing my little crops to grow big and strong in the greenhouse while I am waiting for the ground to dry out a little.  The lettuce and brassica crops are growing a little leggy, but I am hoping that they  will do ok once I plant the outside.  We are going through a bit of a cold snap, which should pass soon.  I should be able to place the plants outside to weather harden them in the next week or so.  Here’s hoping that at least some of it will produce.

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Plans for 2013! More Monthly Challenges!

2013 has arrived!  So, what is on the spreadsheet for this year?  Yeah, I actually do have a spreadsheet for this sort of thing.

Yeah, It has banded rows for easy reading and everything...

It even has banded rows for easy reading…

Here’s what I’m thinking:

January: Habitual Cleaning
February: Chainmail
March: No Sugar
April: Volunteer
May: Games
June: Exercise
July: Frugal
August: Try it! (Experience new things)
September: Pen Pals
October: Sleep
November: Photography
December: Reading

Some of these are repeats from last year: Chainmail, No Sugar, Exercise, Photography, and Reading.  For the Chainmail month, I am going to focus more on learning patterns rather than weaving a specific piece.  No Sugar is fairly the same as 2012, I just want to put it in again this year to keep my occasional sweet tooth in check.  I am not sure yet what form my Exercise goals will take, but I know that this year will include running and weight lifting!  Photography and Reading will be similar to last year, but I will try different things in both.

For the new goals, I will talk about those as the months come to pass.  I am pretty excited about some of the new goals this year.  Most of the goals this year will allow me to have more time, since last year had me traveling all over to go to festivals and for running and I also spent a lot of time in the kitchen and recipe researching.

As far as an overall, year-long fitness goal, I’m going to do something a little different.  I want to spend more time lifting weights, but I don’t want to lose the cardio fitness that I’ve worked hard to build-up.  There are running goal ideas all over the internet, last year I ran 530 miles and really only started putting up some serious mileage (more than 3-4 mi per run) in mid-July.  I think that this year I can double that!  I am going to try to make it to 1,000 miles in 2013!  That means that I need to average about 20 mi/week over the year, not taking into account races and the training thereof.  I am going to cut back on the races I enter, as that becomes expensive over time!  I spent a lot in 2012 on registration, gas, clothes/equipment, and, in the case of the marathon, food and hotel.  This year, I would still like to run at least one half-marathon and one marathon.  I have also already (back in Sept.) signed up to run the Spartan Sprint, which I am planning that to be my only obstacle course run for the year.

For my weightlifting goals, I really want to get stronger.  That is a vague “goal” so I am going to put numbers to that.  I’ve previously discussed my adoration for fitocracy.  One of their features is the “Achievements” badges, which are awarded whenever you hit certain fitness milestones.  For strength exercises, their achievements are awarded:

Pull-ups (3/set, 8/set, 12/set)
Bench Press (Dumbbell [DB]: 26% bodyweight [BW], 34% BW, and 47% BW.  Barbell [BB]: 60% BW, 80% BW, and 110% BW)
Standing Shoulder Press (DB: 18% BW, 28% BW, and 36% BW.  BB: 40% BW, 55% BW, and 80%BW)
Deadlift (BB: 100% BW, 140% BW, and 200% BW)
Squat (BB: 80% BW, 120% BW, and 160% BW)

Back when I didn’t really know how to properly, and safely, perform an squat, I “achieved” the 80% badge.  I backed off on the weight, corrected my form, and am building back up.  So, this year, I want to get as many of these achievements as I can.  My specific goals are:

BB Squat – 100% BW
BB Deadlift – 150% BW
BB Bench Press – 75% BW

I also love doing shoulder presses, and will continue to do that exercise, but I am not going to make a specific goal for that exercise.  I’ve been training specifically with the barbell, but every now and then I’ll jump on the dumbbells for Bench Press and Shoulder Press to see where I am in those achievements.  I’ll up date a couple times a month with my progress and post any personal records I set and if I hit any achievements.

Running and strength goals, am I biting off more than I can chew?  We shall see!

Here’s to 2013!

Contemplative owl is contemplative

Contemplative owl is contemplative

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October Monthly Challenge: Photography

I have had a few types of real cameras in my 27 years.  As a child, I was given a Kodak Cameo Motor 110 film camera for Christmas.  I don’t recall taking many pictures with it or even being very interested in photography.  I did like that it was really small and had an interesting flash that popped way up from the camera.  That camera broke within a couple of years and when I was a young teen I was given another cheapish film camera.  This one left even less of an impression on me and it also either broke or was lost/donated a few years later.

Buying a camera didn’t even occur to me until I was in my graduate program and signed up for a class that required the students submit a plant collection notebook.  In years past, and is still this way for many classes, this would be a series. of plant parts pressed and dried into a notebook or attached.  Some years ago, this teacher started allowing students to take pictures of the plants and created a notebook with the pictures of the various plant parts.  More recently, with the continued advancements in technology, he now allows students to take digital images and upload them into a Powerpoint slide show and submit this “virtual plant collection” for their project.  Seeing as I was not interested in pulling up plants, pressing, drying, hand labeling, and hauling this collection all over campus, I decided to purchase a digital camera.  Side note: I did end up having to make a physical plant collection for another class after making a digital plant collection for the first.

However, I wasn’t going to just run out to a random store and buy the first camera I saw.  I did visit stores and find a few cameras I found interesting.  Later I went online and compared options and reviews for many, many brands and models. After a few weeks I settled on a Sony DSC H7 which has served me very well.  I have taken a lot of pictures with this camera.  Some people say that I’m pretty decent.  Do I know what I am doing yet? Not so much.

A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine noticed that I had submitted some pictures into a photography contest put on by a professional plant science society and offered me “an old camera” that he had acquired some years ago and was practically new.  It sounded interesting and so he brought it by my office a couple of weeks later.  I didn’t expect him to walk through the door with an almost-new Minolta Autocord from the 1960s.  It is a beautiful camera that I haven’t spent as much time as I would like to on learning how to use it.

One less-than-awesome thing about my primary camera, the Sony, is that it is bulky.  It is hard to take on outdoor trips and is a real spacehog when flying.  For a couple of years I have been looking to buy a camera that is a bit smaller to take on adventures and have looked off and on for one.  While planning a monster trip for two conferences, with a vacation sandwiched in the middle, I wrote down to pack one of the work cameras.  They are a few cameras we use in demonstration events with decent zoom and picture quality.  Yeah, totally forgot to pack it.  I remembered the camera after driving for a couple of hours and decided that this may be the excuse I was looking for to finally buy a smaller camera for traveling.

I did something I never do.  I walked into a store and picked out a camera that looked good.  Well, I did have my smartphone and spent about a half an hour looking up reviews for it, but I didn’t research compact cameras for weeks before settling on one.

I am now the owner of an Olympus sz-12 that has a 24x zoom, two types of macro settings, built-in filters, programmable setting for certain factors (EV, ISO, and white balance) but not others (aperture and f-stop).  The only real criticisms were picture quality indoors and in low light, though I have never seen a camera that DID NOT have that criticism, and a potentially short battery life.

Some of the pictures that I will post for October will be taken with my Sony and some with the Olympus.  I’ll mention in the posts what I was trying to accomplish with each shot and what I had issues with.  I am not a great photographer, I don’t know much about the technical aspects of camera technology and I don’t use photoshop.  I use picasa and a Sony image program to do very minor edits images; adjusting darkness, removing dust from the image, nudging contrast, and cropping/straightening.  I take pictures for fun and to show others what I have seen.  I hope you enjoy the next few posts!

Self portrait

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September Race: Gladiator Rockin’ Run

Ack!  I’m getting behind again!  In working, training for a marathon, and attending various weekend obligations I have allowed my posts on the blog to fall by the wayside.  Here’s a quick update on my yearly racing goal, though if I were honest, I would just call it my running goal.  I just didn’t make cycling a priority this year.  Hopefully that will change next year.

This was the first year that the Gladiator Rockin’ Run was in Georgia and it took place in Moreland.  I entered it at the last-minute and was still able to join the wave that my sister and her friends were running in.  There were a few hundred people wandering around, so not too bad for their first time in Georgia.  The course was about 4.2 miles long with 17 obstacles and through streams, wooded areas, and up pretty decent hills (for Georgia).   Some of the obstacles included swimming in a lake, climbing in and out of two long, empty dumpsters, crawling through mud, climbing over walls, carrying sacks of sand/rice, and the obligatory jump over fire.

Even with doing my nebulizer an hour before running, I still had a lot of trouble breathing on this race.  Then again, it seemed that a fair number of people ended up walking a lot of it.  Did I mention the hills?  There were some hills on this course.  Now, people from more mountainous areas would laugh at me, but I live in a flat area at sea-level.  I don’t do hills well.

My time was 1:16:57 for the 4.2 miles.  Overall I finished in about the top 50% and in the top 30% for my gender/age group.  Considering how hard it was to breathe, I’m pretty happy with the results.  If I could figure out a way to do my breathing treatment within about 30 minutes of the wave time, I think I would have done much better.

Would I do this event again?  Hell yeah!

Pictures that others took of the event!

Post run, very muddy!  I just noticed, I had already taken my medal off.  This was next to the “shower” area.

 

Definitely time to hose off!

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Portland Restaurants: Habesha

Habesha is an Ethiopian/Eritrean Restaurant that is .4 mi (5 minute walk) from the Crowne Plaza Hotel and .6 mi (15 minute walk) from the Oregon Convention Center.  Most of my experiences with authentic foods of other cultures has been Asian and Latin, with a little European thrown in here and there.  I was rather excited to try something different, though I was apprehensive as this restaurant had few reviews from any of the websites I had visited.  It must have recently opened, as there was no decor to speak of.  The wait staff was friendly and attentive, though I did have to request extra napkins as the one they gave me just wasn’t up to the task.

At the recommendation of the waiter, I ordered the siga wat (beef stew) and it came with injera, a spongy, sourdough-like bread.  The amount of injera they gave me was enormous, I couldn’t even begin to finish it all.  Traditionally, a group of people would sit down and share several plates of food and so that amount of bread wouldn’t be too much.  However, it was just one of me vs injera-the-expansive.  The siga wat was pretty tasty and went well with the bread.  I did finish the siga wat long before the injera, and I just couldn’t get used to the taste/texture of the injera on its own.  The price was reasonable for lunch, under $10!

Overall, I would recommend checking it out.  Especially if you are going out with a group!

Napiergrass (Pennisetum purpureum)

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Portland Restaurants: Milo’s City Cafe

Milo’s City Cafe is a cute little restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It is located about .7 mi (15 minute walk) from the Crowne Plaza Hotel and 1 mi (20 minute walk) from the Oregon Convention Center.  The restaurant is more simply and cleanly decorated, rather than interesting and quirky.  The service staff was quick and friendly, I didn’t have to wait to be seated and my food arrived shortly after I ordered it.

I ordered the Nathan’s breakfast BLT; sourdough bread, fried egg, lettuce, tomato, and pepper bacon.  For my taste, it would have done well with some sort of sauce/condiment on it, as it was a bit dry.  The table provided some hot sauce, so that helped out a bit.  The egg was cooked just how I like my eggs, a little runny in the center but not enough to make a mess all over my hands.  The bread was nice and toasted and the veggies were fresh and crisp.  Even the tomato was good, not mealy as the sandwich tomatoes can be at times.  The prices were comparable to other independent cafes, the sandwich was about $8.

Overall, I would recommend a visit to Milo’s City Cafe.  From other reviews online, they can be very busy at typical meal times and on weekends, so be prepared for a wait if you go there for Saturday brunch.

I have one more restaurant to review and then this little mini-arc is over.  The next one is something different!

Oh look!  A random picture!

Juvenile Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum)

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Portland Restaurants: Voodoo Donuts

Voodoo Donuts is a regular on lists of doughnut shops to visit in the U. S.  The restaurant has a punk/alternative feel and offers doughnuts that would send you into a sugar coma.  There are two locations for Voodoo Donuts, the one which I visited is on NE Davis St. and is .8 mi (18 minute walk) from the Oregon Convention Center and is 1.2 mi (25 minute walk) from the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

The Voodoo Donuts website lists the different donuts that the shop offers.  A fair number of the doughnuts have candy or a sugary cereal for topping; Captain my captain is topped with captain crunch, the loop is topped with fruit loops, Marshall matters is topped with M&Ms, Double Bubble is topped with bubble gum dust and a piece of gum.  There are a few classics that Voodoo Donuts offers that most everyone would recognize; glazed, chocolate ring (chocolate frosted), powdered sugar, etc.  So there is something for the adventurous and something for the traditionalist.

For this particular trip I bought three doughnuts, I decided to try out a couple of the more popular doughnuts, the bacon maple bar and the voodoo doll, and one that I was sure that I would like, the Portland cream.  The bacon maple bar is a raised yeast bar with maple frosting and two strips of bacon on top.  Recently, the rest of the (internet) world has become bacon obsessed.  However, I have not developed an affection for it in the same way.  Bacon is ok, but I think we will just stay casual friends that just happen to run into one another now and then.  In my opinion, the maple frosting is much too sugary to be balanced out by the saltiness of the bacon.  It also happens that one of my favorite doughnuts is the chocolate eclair, so my mind and taste buds were confused because it had the right shape but was lacking a delicious filling!

The voodoo doll is a yeast raised doughnut topped with chocolate frosting, with raspberry jelly filling, and a pretzel “stake” through the chest.  It is certainly a charismatic doughnut, they are all decorated slightly different so no two are quite alike.  This doughnut was pretty good, though incredibly sweet!  It was also a challenge to eat, as it was a fairly substantial doughnut in terms of size and weight.

The Portland Cream is a typical chocolate frosted doughnut with Bavarian cream filling.  One of my favorite doughnuts and it was not unseated by the other two in my list of favorites.  I do love a filled doughnut.

The cost for the doughnuts was comparable to other doughnut shops, I think I paid around $4 for all three doughnuts.  I suppose I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to my doughnuts, as the cereal/candy/cookie topped ones did not particularly appeal to me.  Sometimes the best food is simple.

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

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