crack eggs like julia child

Happy Wednesday.  Week’s half-gone already.

After dinner tonight Keaton was asking for dessert.  Not that we do dessert as a regular thing, but she pretty much asks about it after each dinner.  Most times we just remind her that not every dinner is followed by something sweet.  Tonight I suggested we make cookies.  Keaton helped me dump in and mix the ingredients and then run the beater to blend it all together into a mushy dough.  She busied herself licking the beaters while I dolloped out the dough.  Afterward she used a fork to score them for baking (peanut butter chocolate this time around).  They came out OK… sort of overly salty and not very sweet.  Next time I’d adjust the recipe in both regards.  At least we had a good time.

I love doing with her.  Not just being or being-around but actually cooperating, teaming up, collaborating.  It’s surprising how much she knows and how decent she is at things like following instructions.  It’s in these instances when I tend to appreciate how much she’s grown up in her just-about-four years.  I can remember her helping me in the garden a while back and that she was too worried about getting dirt in her shoes to really enjoy it.  Now she cracks eggs Julia Child.

I’ve had this plan or idea or maybe notion… I’ve told Sharaun about it.  Keaton’s going to be four in a month and I think she’s old enough to go on a solo back-country hiking overnighter with her dad.  Well, not truly “solo” in that case I suppose, but meaning that she and I could have a daddy/daughter trip into the wilderness together.  I’ve been doing some trail scouting (online, since there’s currently snow in most of the places I’m checking), looking for a short hike in and out with relatively small change in elevation.  Despite wanting it to be short enough for her to hack, I’d also want it to afford us a chance to really get away into the open wilderness.

Last summer she aced the Happy Isles to Vernal Falls footbridge climb with Sharaun – so I know she’s got some stamina.  I’m thinking something along the same lines, around a mile or less in country and then an overnight campout in the backpacking tent.  A campfire with some good camp-food and marshmallows.  Maybe some books to read or a lesson on constellations or just listening to the wildlife before bed.  We could bum around the following day checking out nature, trying to identify the plants and trees by name or inventing our own names for land features (oh man I’m a nerd when it comes to this stuff).  Then break camp and head back down.

As adventures go, I think she’d rate this highly – and taking her out to show her God’s beauty in natural form is ultimately appealing to me.  Gonna do it for sure; already been hyping her on it for when the weather gets nice.


eighteen apples

Keaton Appleseed.There was a storm here last week while we were in Mexico.  Apparently it was fairly violent, or so say our friends.

When we got home, I did a quick inspection to look for damage.  The newer trees were the most notable casualties.  I don’t think any of them are broken beyond repair, but several were bent nearly 90°.  Most alarming was seeing the apple tree I planted only this year, broken free from it’s stabilizing stake and doubled over under the weight of its own fruit.

Over the years I’ve had mixed luck with fruit trees, although lots of that is likely just my impatience during the early years when they just don’t produce much.  But this apple tree has surprised me; producing so much fruit I was amazed that the little sapling could even support it all (both weight-wise and nutrient-wise).  It’ll be interesting to see what it does next year, as I have a theory that I got so much fruit this year because it was cross-pollinated at the nursery amongst all the other trees before I even planted it.  Likely next year, unless I plant a sufficient cross-pollinator (don’t think my pears will do it), I won’t get as much.  The internet also says I did wrong by allowing so much fruit to grow this year, and that by not thinning it I may have ruined the tree’s crop for years to come… so we’ll see.

But anyway… this was about my poor tree all bent and broken after the stormwinds.  Since it was 1am when we got home, I only propped the thing back up against its stake, not re-tying it or anything.  Then, a day or so ago, Sharaun picked one of the largest apples, insisting it was ripe and looked “like the Fujis I buy in the store.”  Sure enough, it was ripe, and was totally delicious.  Today then, after work, I went ahead and picked the rest of the fruit.  Keep in mind, this tree is only about four feet tall and just over an inch around at the thickest part of trunk.  Even leaving a clump of four for a little more growing time, I pulled the bounty pictured above-right from the little tree, not bad!

Eighteen apples.  Word.

Goodnight blog.

going up the country

Removed forever.Sunday evening in Oregon.

Had all gone as planned, my brother and I would’ve hiked down from the heights of the gorge today after three days in the wilderness. As it happened, though, we managed to trek the entire thirty miles in two days, and made out exit yesterday evening instead. Finished a day early, and unwilling to pay the money necessary to change my flights home up a day, I managed to have a whole extra day in Portland. Turned out to be a good thing; time to rest my over-sore muscles.  Portland always seems to have something going on, so I hobbled out with my folks and brother to the local Polish festival for some Polish food, drink, song, and dance.  Not a bad way to spend an unplanned sabbath with family.

As for the hike itself, what a brilliant trip.  I’ve never hiked up Oregon way, and being broken in along one of the Gorge’s most popular trail was a grand entrance.  Out thirty miles took us up the Eagle Creek Trail to Wahtum Lake, where we flipped our steady ascent and headed back down to the Columbia via the Pacific Crest Trail.  A few miles into that and we veered off along Ruckle Creek for a massively steep descent.  We camped over night a few miles below Wahtum Lake at a beautiful spot alongside an unnamed creek just off the trail.  In Oregon, unlike most places in California, you’re allowed fires at night – so we built a nice warm one in a ring of rocks and sat around it drinking port from our hip flasks.  The first day was easy, the second day was insane, but partly because we pushed ourselves to finish early.  Altogether, it was a great weekend in-country with my brother… one of the coolest things I’ve done with him since our days playing Star Wars in the backyard.

Anyway, I gathered some of the better pictures I took along the trail and am presenting them here for you.  Check ’em out by moving your eyes an imperceptible bit south down this very page…

And now… with the hour getting late and me still having to pack before catching a 5am train to the airport, I must bid you adieu.


a bitter elixir for the aged

Some kinda fire.Monday again.  Well, not now… but tomorrow, when you read this, it will be.

Back from another weekend of camping.  Back-to-back tent-hotel with us plus the wee one.  Perhaps not for some, but for us a real spot of light to be among friends and nature with the family.  Yeah, set-up and tear-down never seem to have as many hours betwixt them as I’d desire, or, rephrased: I’m wasn’t ready to leave the woods and come back to work; but… we’re back and I tried to be productive with the couch time.

What did I do?  I published some four months of pictures to Keaton’s gallery.  No; really.  I did.  So, if you’re among my many recent detractors, those in the, “When are you going to publish new pictures,” or, “I can’t beleive you haven’t updated since February” camp – you can kindly stuff a sock in it now.  Click this sentence and let’s get it over with; we at sounds familiar will be waiting for you when you get back – and we better see a grin so wide on your face that it gives away your internalized joy at the new snapshots.

OK then, let’s do some writing.

In a disturbing trend in our tiny, oft debris-strewn household, the odds that either Sharaun or I will brew a pot of coffee around 8pm have gone from an almost never 100:1 to something nearer 3:1 in recent months.  I don’t know when this change happened, but an early-evening cup of coffee has become something of a delectation for me.  I call this trend “disturbing” because it’s just another indicator to me that the normal human process of aging is progressing just well and fine within me.  As a child, coffee seemed a bitter elixir for the aged, a lifeblood so essential that it could be sucked in hard candy form when not available as a fluid.

Old and me, we ain’t strangers.

Remember a year ago when I had all those problems with birds eating my backyard fruits and veggies?  Well, I’d almost put that frustration behind me, mended those fences between the fowl and I.  Almost, that is, until their voracious appetites dredged the whole emotional issue to the surface anew this year.  So far they’ve ruined ripe tomatoes, plums, and one of only two apricots my young tree managed to produce (I was so indignant on that last one, I proceeded to eat the remaining fruit around the peck marks).  Stupid hungry birds.


back to reality

We made it.Monday night and sore.

Back from Yosemite, and with Monday as vacation it’ll be another abbreviated workweek.  And, due to some scheduling oversight (or not, I forget) we’re off camping again this weekend.  It’s cool; although I do miss having a weekend at home to actually do some things (or no things, for that matter).

The trip was fantastic.  The Sunday Half Dome hike turned out better than I could’ve hoped.  The weather was amazing, the trail wasn’t overcrowded, and I felt great the whole way.  We got a late start, arriving at the trailhead about a quarter to seven in the morning.  The crew made good time for the first seven or so miles, bringing us all from the valley floor at about ~4,000ft to above the treeline at about ~7,800ft to the east of Half Dome on the famous trail.  At that point, some threatening clouds had begun to ring the valley, hanging above the granite walls that rim it, and there was an increasing amount of separation amongst the crew.

Worried at the weather, and with Mike and I still feeling relatively fresh and strong, we made the selfish decision to push hard for the summit and leave the other three behind.  I felt a little bad about it, but we tackled the exposed part of the hike to the saddle before the cable-climb with such vigor that the thought soon left my mind for the burning in my calves.  We had agreed that we’d make a gametime decision at the base of the cables, based on how the clouds looked – and, when the time came we opted to go.

The cables were crowded and the ascent took much, much longer than I’d have liked.  Without having to hold up for all the slowpokes and panickers, I really do think Mike and I could’ve pressed to the summit in fifteen or twenty minutes; but, as it was it took us more like forty to get to the top. Once there we ate the Lunchables I’d hiked up to refuel, took a couple pictures, and rested just a bit before heading back down.  After another twenty minutes waiting in the queue heading down we were on the granite steps again and, before too long, on our way out.

All told the ~17mi trip took ten hours, and I haven’t felt physically better on a long hike, ever.  My legs were fresh longer than ever before, and, even though I started to crash at one point on the descent I was able to pull out of it with a Cliff bar and some good conversation.  Mentally, I like to attribute this to my new weight loss and increased stamina – but that makes me feel somehow arrogant.  But, it sure did empower me along the way.

I love that hike.

And, as for the non-hike part of the trip – we had a great time with friends.  Our little tent cabin in the valley was cozy and the camp meals were delicious as always.  In fact, the post-hike pizza and beer were about as fine a meal as I can recall having in any recent time.  Keaton had a blast playing with Gracie and even got to do a hike of her own the day we did Half Dome: All the way to the Vernal Falls footbridge (which is, honestly, quite the accomplishment for four women, two three year-old girls, and an infant).

So yeah, Yosemite was great.  I’ll post some pictures soon (including a long-overdue update covering the last few months – I promise).  And now, back to work tomorrow and I don’t want to go.

I don’t want to go.  Goodnight.


Sweetener.Mmmm… what a Sunday.

After church I browned a couple chicken sausages for me (and one for Keaton) and had a manly kinda lunch at the table alongside her.  I had designs on an afternoon bike ride to take advantage of the good weather, and was planning on a solo job with the iPod.  Plans changed, though, when Sharaun called Melissa and she mentioned she was looking to get out on the bike too.  We ended up teaming up and plotting a course on exploring one of the local trails neither of us had been on.

In the end we did a fifteen mile loop alongside a creek and turning around at the lake, after stopping for a granola bar and some water.  Was a nice leisure ride, paced under 10mph and mostly flat.  After getting back I told Sharaun we have to get her a bike so we can do rides like that; was great.

And, with the weather as great as it is, I’m firing up the grill for dinner.  Making something tasty over an open flame to continue eating in a way that makes the alpha-male in me happy: fried sausage, fire-cooked meat – you get the idea.

The couple days I spent at Shasta were brilliant.  Even though it rained for the first half of Friday, and despite the fact that I didn’t manage to wholly escape the trappings of work while there – it really was a respite.  Played some poker, some pool, dominoes, enjoyed the mountains and took a couple quick hikes around to check the place out… tossed some horseshoes and ate a lot of good food.  Actually, as the weekend before our coming nine day furlough in Aruba it served as a nice vacation “appetizer.”  And man, am I ready to be on the island and away from the recent madness at work.  More than you could know.

We didn’t get to do the fishing and boating planned as the coldfront and rain changed plans on the fly – but it didn’t really matter to me at all.  Like I said in my short entry Friday – I needed to get away from work (and even though I escaped the venue, the problems tracked me down, bloodhound style, and will being re-plaguing me first thing Monday morning). But, enough negative…

Just five more days of work and we’re off.  That, my friends, is enough to sweeten even the sourest week.  So, I’ll be heads-down for those few short days and this time next week you should get a nice Monday entry from the sands and surf.


runt away

Definitely doesn’t look like my cube, huh?

It’s not. I ran.

Had this trip to Shasta planned, but it couldn’t have come after a better day. Plan to hang out with some friends from church – no not awaiting the passing of some comet or anything – but fishing and just getting away. No wives allowed so it’ll be a steady diet of meat and carbs.

I’m ready for the weekend, and that sun peeping over that hill says that, for me, it’s just about to start.

See ya.