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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Austin's Shower / Reunion

Picking Mo up from Camp Encourage made us late for my newest nephew's baby shower. But things were still in full swing when we finally dragged in, over two hours late.

Everyone was there, including an aunt from Arizona I only see every couple years and an aunt from Texas I see barely that often.

And a cousin I'd never met. Said cuz was put up for adoption by my (at the time) unmarried aunt. They made contact, I think, about a year ago. I've had experience with this in other areas of the family. The 'real' parent is the one that does the parenting, the changing of diapers, the bandaging (and kissing) of wounds, the punishing of crimes and misdemeanors, the packing of lunches, etc. Which isn't to say the biological relative who makes a wise and loving decision to not try and do what they're not realistically in any place to attempt, gets no credit. In the moment, that decision is probably the harder one.

And the great thing is after the dust is settled and the kids have grown up, they can be great friends and form a significant bond with that person who signed papers giving someone else the most important job in the world, parenting a kid they were responsible for bringing into the world.

So anyway, my new cousin isn't the first adoption story in my family, though this is the first time I met a member of the outbound traffic.

After the shower, we went back to my Dad's and Em hit it off instantly with her first cousin once removed (and curiously, adoption has nothing to do with the 'removed.') My aunt, my Dad and my new cousin spent quite a bit of time on old, faded photographs (which I nosed in on some).

And me and I guess my once removed nephew (or something like that) spent some quality time with guitars. Including accompanying my once removed niece with her violin.

When we were leaving, it was commented that Em and Hannah had clicked immediately, and then it was, 'Sorry there wasn't a boy.' For my soon to be sophomore once removed nephew.

And I was like, wait a minute. I was the boy. We're over 20 years apart, but thanks to arrested development, we had a ton in common and a lot of fun with the guitars.

Picked Mo up from Tall Oaks today where she was finishing up Camp Encourage for the second year in a row.

This is so fantastically huge, if you don't have a kid with autism, you can't possibly imagine what a big deal this is. These are kids, my younger daughter included, who typically never even spend the night at a grandparent's house (she did when Grampa D was alive, but he was an exceptional grandparent).

These are the kids that in many if not most cases, never get taken to church because their parents assume (rightly) that most churches wouldn't know what to do with a kid like this in the Sunday school room or anywhere else.

Don't get me wrong: we love our kids on the spectrum. We'd do anything for them, same as with any other kid, but when you deal with issues like flight risk, insomnia, seizures, pica (eating stuff that ain't food), obsessive compulsive behaviors, impaired social skills (in some cases to the extent of nearly no verbal communication), you're talking about some high maintenance kiddos.

In other words, kids that in all likelihood will grow up without the experience of summer camp.

But thanks to the absolutely saintly efforts of dozens of volunteers (putting in literally thousands of hours) and a dedicated core non-profit organization, Camp Encourage makes summer camp a reality for these kids. And they're hoping to expand to two sessions next year because of all the kids on the waiting list who didn't get in this year.

Mo got to ride a horse (she's a hard kid to question, but after quizzing her, I think the horse's name was Sadie). I gather the horse was beautiful and Mo was 'very high up' riding her. Mo got to swim, fish, climb to a platform where she could chicken out on riding a zip line and climb back down (and that's got to be scary high because this kid has no fear of danger I've ever noticed).

She ate fried chicken, watched movies, tie-dyed a t-shirt, etc. She and a bunch of other kids like her were able to do this because the adults outnumber the kids in this operation (at a rough visual count anyway, if there are more kids than adults, it can't be by more than one or two). And not just any adults, the kind of adults who can tackle a daunting set of challenges indeed with smiles on their faces, who can make this a positive experience for all these kids.

The kind of adults who can make it such a positive experience that a kid who is totally addicted to YouTube will say she wants to go back to an environment where she had no internet access for four days and three nights.

Incidentally, while the cabins are air conditioned now at Tall Oaks (they weren't when I slept their a few times in the early 1980s), I think they still have the same curtains. I didn't grow up going to summer camp (the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster did, though, and it is largely to her credit that Mo has enjoyed the experience). I went to a few 'retreats' at Tall Oaks with the church youth group at OPCC before I managed to wriggle out of going to church in high school.

I don't remember riding any horses there, but I do remember trying to fall asleep in sweltering heat on top of the covers in my tightie whities in a room full of other boys failing to fall asleep the same way. We'd get to talking — what can you do when you're lying awake in a puddle of sweat in your underwear? — and then the adult in the room who wasn't asleep either, for the same reason, would tell us to knock it off and go to sleep. It's 2:00 a.m. for crying out loud. I also remember another time when we went out there in the fall and it was nice, a crisp evening, a hayride I think, and a fire in a fireplace and a singalong with roasted marshmallows and whatnot.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, Mo came away with more memories and more of them positive than what I did, and I'm immensely grateful to all the people who made it possible.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Catch of the Day (Diablo Sauce)

Catch of the day included a Black Krim, a big Tom's Yellow Wonder, Kellogg's Breakfast, Mortgage Lifter, a Carbon, a couple Gigant Pelina and several Paul Robesons. Oh, and a Tigarella.

Not sure how concerned to be, but I had to do a lot of septoria pruning on the Yellow Pear and Mortgage Lifter. Beyond the lower branches: there's still lots of foliage there, but it's the first I've had these diseasey looking things show up at chest level, has me a little worried.

Add to that numerous Isis Candy and Beam's Yellow Pear, three Kung Pao peppers, and I was starting to wonder what to do with all the ripening fruit on the counter.

So I made a Diablo sauce, sort of improvised it. Got some onions browning in olive oil, chopped a couple of those Kung Paos and thrashed them in the mortar & pestle with a healthy dose of garlic. Then a bunch of Paul Robeson, some Gigant Pelina and a Black Krim when for a ride in the blender and then to reduce with the addition of some salt, pepper, sugar and dried fenugreek.

I added fresh basil, also from my garden, later, when it was starting to reduce.

It took longer than I anticipated to reduce to where I wanted it, or I'd have added the basil later to preserve the aromatics.

Huge flavor, plenty of heat, a very respectable Diablo sauce. Little in the way of leftovers, as I get more into the crop, I may have to try making some bigger batches and canning them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How My Garden Does Grow

I'm realizing I didn't give these zucchini enough space, there's three of them in the space that perhaps two of them belong in, and all far closer to the experimental tomato cuttings than seems right. Too late to transplant, if they really get to interfering with one another I'll have to kill a plant or two.

Something I hadn't anticipated about growing so many varieties: keeping them straight is a trick. And it matters because some (Paul Robeson for instance) I may want to plant in multiples next year, and others (Mortgage Lifter based on the one ripe one I've had so far) I might not care to grow again. I haven't totally written off Mortgage Lifter, I wonder if it wasn't as ripe as I thought, it was a pinkish color and I wonder if it would have reddened up a bit and changed flavor a bit.

I got another half dozen jalapenos or so, so I made salsa with some of the accumulating ripe Paul Robeson, Stupice, Gigant Pelina, Beam's Yellow Pear and Isis Candy.

And I had to try making some faces, though I didn't take the time I might have (I was in the process of cooking dinner for Em and myself). And in any case, I lack the pro photography equipment and the pro knowledge that makes Todd and Julie's tomato photos so amazing.


The dangerous looking lunatic in the mask with the aero-disc equipped BMX bike is my friend Roj, who is riding across Iowa this week with a few hundred other slightly less dangerous looking lunatics including my friend Jill.

Wish I was there.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brewery Ride

I rode the Brewery this evening. I took off 20 minutes early, hoped I could make it to College Blvd. before the first wave of animals caught me.

I almost did it, too. They were breathing down my neck coming to Town Center, and I made the light and they didn't. It's all downhill there, and I was hauling ass across Roe when I dropped my chain.

My own fault, I'd earlier been marveling that it hadn't happened for a couple of rides, meaning I'd ridden over a hundred miles without it happening. I was crediting my possibly over-lubricating the chain and gears (when they spit black shit on your spokes and rims, you have to think maybe that was too much), but I think what it was, I wasn't expecting things to work as they ought to.

So I was still yanking on the sucker, trying to get it out from between my smallest rear gear and the frame when the peloton flew right by.

I still finished with Matt and Sarah, so all was not lost.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Actively Recovering

Am I sore after yesterday's 72.5 miles? I dunno. Does Sarah Palin have a knack for pissing off hopey changey liberals? Is Mississippi populated mostly by hateful, narrow-minded rednecks? Does Rent-A-Center charge usurious interest rates? Does BP know how to fuck up an oyster bed?

I wasn't, however, as sore as I was after the 33.4 miles I did on July 15, less than half the distance but taking some of western Shawnee's bitch-assed-est hills.

I did a four mile warm-up session not so much to warm up as to take inventory. My knees and my thighs right above the knee, I expected those to be worse today than they were. My low back made up for it until I lay down in my cubicle and once again played the dicey game of Autochiropractor. On the one hand, once that spot popped, I felt a million times better. On the other, the last time I did that I sprained some ribs and thought I was having another heart attack.

My right hamstring was tender on the bike. Not walking around, standing and sitting, but pedaling, it sang a song to me, a song that went 'Be gentle with me, or else.'

So I was gentle. There was a new rider in the group, someone who's longest ride so far had been less than four miles. She passed me a couple of times, that's how easy I was taking it.

As I understand the theory of active recovery: you can't just hammer it every day, that's counterproductive. Training is stress and recovery, yin and yang, can't have one without the other. The theory is, a light workout where you don't push anything hard is better than a rest day because you boost the circulation to the area and whatnot.

And I have to say, I feel better after the ride than I did before it. I guess the real test is how I feel tomorrow, and whether that feeling includes feeling like getting back in the saddle.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Goin' Downtown...

I've been wanting to do this since riding down to the River Market from Olathe last fall.

But one thing and another (I think it's called having a life, though I'm rarely accused of that), I don't often have a whole day to spend in the saddle. And while I could have done it on November 14, 2009, mere minutes before the weather turned viciously un-ridable for almost four months straight, I lost some conditioning over the winter (neuritis that kept me off the trainer for almost two of those months).

This year, so far my longest ride was 33.4 miles. I've had two others that were at least 30, but nothing beyond that. That 33.4 was a biatch, though, that was my hill ride assault on west Shawnee, out 47th Street and so on. I was sore for four or five days after that.

This route is relatively flat. Relatively because there are some hilly sections in Olathe and there's the 12th Street Bridge downtown, and relatively because you're going generally downhill to the Missouri River and then generally uphill to get out of that valley again. Cycling gives you a certain appreciation for topography: water always obeys the law of gravity (witness my permanently damp basement garage), and if all the streams, creeks and brooks around you feed into the Missouri, the shore of the Missouri is guaranteed to be the low altitude mark.

I got a bit of a late start, so I guess it's good nobody took me up on riding with me for part of this. I meant to be on the road by 9:00, and it was actually more like 10:30. Of course, if I'd known someone would be waiting to hook up at Starbucks on 119th, I'd have felt differently towards my alarm clock. Since I knew this was a solo flight, I smacked my alarm clock and said, 'I'll get up and ride when I'm READY, so shut up, bitch!'

The weather was great. Much cooler than it's been lately, and while the forecast warned a 30% chance of rain after 3:00 (and at 3:00 I was at Southwest Boulevard and Rainbow, barely a down payment on the ride back), it was partly cloudy the whole way.

I was staying hydrated: I drained my Camelbak by the time I got to the gas station in Lenexa's old downtown and refilled there. I also was leery of cramps, so I stopped for a snack at the burger stand across from my alma mater (South Park Elementary, which is now a church). I ordered fries and a shot of pickle juice, the later being the more important of the two. It sounds disgusting and unhealthy, but pickle juice works. I've had cramps on rides after eating four bananas, but pickle juice seems to be a cure-all and absolute prophylactic in my experience.

When I got to the foot of the 12th Street Bridge, I had a rude awakening. The road was closed. I rode over the the parking lot of a restaurant supply to inquire of other routes that might get me 'downtown.'

A woman started to tell me how to get to I-670 and her husband cut her off, "He's on a bicycle."

He then told me how to get back to Southwest Boulevard from whence I came. When I said that's where I came from and I was trying to get to the River Market, he pointed out that the sidewalk of 12th Street appeared open. And indeed, from that parking lot, I could see that it was on the downhill side that they were doing construction work. The side of the road I wanted was paved and innocent of vehicles.

So I went all outlaw biker and rode through the 'Road Closed' signs and up into Downtown.

And I got a great shot at the top of the hill, where I was presented with a barricade and a green light. I'll call this image 'Mixed Messages.'

In the River Market, I found some reasonable eats, $2 pastries at the Indian place, an orange-banana smoothie, and if I'd had any way to haul stuff, there were absolute steals to be had on things like bananas. Prices were crossed off at two stands in what appeared to be a price war.

Raven Wolf
was playing solo saxophone and adding ambience to the whole scene. He caught me taking pictures and gave me his card, 'When you attribute that shot, this is who I am.' It's a new world when a guy with a point-and-shoot camera in a Hawaiian shirt is recognized as possible press. There is no bad publicity, and C. Felton Jennings II isn't passing any of it up even if it's just me and my little blog.

On the way back, I stopped to take a picture of this sculpture at Southwest and Rainbow. I've driven past it dozens of times without ever noticing it.

Also on the way back, the toes in my left foot rebelled. They became a crampy, twisting, painful mess and would not let up no matter what I did. I almost dismounted to take my shoe off and see if I couldn't beat them into submission, but by the time they got really bad, it was only 12 miles to go...

Only 12 miles. Then it was only 10, then only 8, then they got really nasty but by the time that happened I could practically see my house.

I had some bottom round steaks I'd bought with the idea of making Orange Peel Beef that I'd defrosted and marinated in tomatoes. My theory was that the acid from the tomatoes, would, in 24 hours, tenderize the meat fully.

As far as theories go, it's great, but the result off the grill is it's still bottom round, better find something heavy to beat the shit out of it or it's going to be chewy and tough. My impression is the tomato made a dent in it, but inside a tender exterior lay a layer of sinew so tough it crunched.

But a great side to a poor steak is a bit over a pound of beefsteak tomato. In this case my 28 oz monster Kellogg's Breakfast.

And, too, nothing like a 72.5 mile bike ride to stimulate your appetite for tough steak and tender tomato...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kellogg's Breakfast BLT

Portrait of the Lobster circa 1991: I go to a bar (I'm barely old enough to be there) called Pretzl's that had BLTs based on the quarter pound being 'first base.' I routinely order the 'Home Run' made with a full pound of bacon, two small slices of toast and some mainly ornamental tomato and lettuce. The tomato is ice cold and straight out of the fridge. And possibly made of plastic. Probably I don't even eat the tomato on those sandwiches, just sit and eat bacon and drink beer.

Portrait of the Lobster circa 2010: No, Em, that's not a pumpkin. That's a tomato. This is the smaller of the two Kellogg's Breakfast variety I've picked so far; its big brother is still ripening on the counter. This little guy only weighed 17 oz.

The bigger KB, the one I kept checking on first thing when I'd go out to the garden every day, weighs a whopping 28 oz. If i start getting more than one of these guys ripening up in a day, I'm going to have to make some sauce or start giving away a few maters.

For now, though, my own eager consumption is more than keeping up with the supply.

This evening, I made BLTs, the first ones I've made in years. Since whenever my last half-assed effort at growing tomatoes was, probably.

Maybe it's partly because it's been so long since I had a BLT or maybe it's that I've worked so hard and waited so long nurturing these plants along. And maybe it's the discovery that bacon isn't the whole show when it comes to BLTs. In any case, these were easily the best BLTs I've ever eaten. Ever.

I also found a jalapeño and a lilac pepper today. I had a bumper crop of jalapeños at first, a half dozen all at once, and then the plant's been kind of taking its time, I saw another baby on there.

I took Worley's advice about stuffing the jalapeño with cream cheese and decided that was a pretty good plan for the lilac pepper, too, since I didn't really have a salad or something like that to throw it in.

Friday, July 23, 2010

River Market Ride (This Sunday)

I'm riding from my house to the River Market and back on Sunday. Wanna come?

It's 74 miles, relatively easy because it's mostly flat, but still, that's some miles (and getting in and out of downtown does involve a bit of climbing). If you want to join me for part of it, email me with where on this map you see you'd like to start from and I'll try and figure out about what time I should be arriving there. If you feel like a 40-ish miler, you could meet me at the Starbucks at 119th & Renner, which I'll be passing on Kansas City Road. I rode the route starting there last fall and enjoyed it so much that I've been planning to figure out complete passage from my front door to the River Market ever since.

If you're game for more like 20 miles, we could meet at the Merriam Farmer's Market on Merriam Lane.

My best guess is if I get rolling by 9:00 a.m., I'd get to 119th between 10:00 and 10:15. Call it 11:15 to 11:30 for the Merriam Farmer's Market. Email me and we can exchange cell numbers to coordinate because obviously things go wrong, and I'll need to know if I'm looking for someone (or waiting for someone).

The forecast as I write this is for it to be sunny by 9:00am (with rain overnight Saturday); the chance of rain comes up from 10% to more like 30% in mid-afternoon so it's not impossible we'd get wet coming home. But not entirely likely either, and if it's in the 80s, sometimes a little rain shower can be refreshing: supplemental sweat.

Lots of great places to grab a bite down there between the River Market and Columbus Park, and if I can figure out a way to carry anything home, there's the produce at the Farmer's Market (though my own farm is producing quite a bit just now). How long I'd hang out down there probably depends on how the weather is shaping up. If it looks like there's a good chance of truly unpleasant riding weather coming in, I'll probably just grab a sandwich and head back. Or if it really looks like a good idea to cut it short, I'll turn around at an earlier point (such as the Merriam Farmer's Market).

I'll probably only average 12-14mph, so you don't need to be an animal or anything like that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Ripening...

More blushers, and I'm starting to realize the tsunami of tomatoes is really on its way. I finally decided the monster Kellog's Breakfast that's been taunting me for weeks now was turning color, and in the process of trying to pull it (and evenually resorting to snips), I liberated an even blushier one. That was followed by finding three nearly ripe Paul Robesons, an Isis Candy, some Beam's Yellow Pear and a Stupice.

I'm still getting used to the idea of picking them before they get fully ripe. On the one hand, it feels like cheating (I guess cheating the squirrels who've beaten me to so many vine-ripe tomatoes in my half-assed tomato growing past; I've had some insect and blossom end rot troubles, but so far few fruit have gone to the wildlife). I'm worried I'll jump the gun because I'm so eager for tomatoes at this point. Maybe in a week when I've got more than I can eat before they go bad if I don't give away or can/freeze some, I won't be so eager to get things in from the beds.

Got a little bacon in the fridge for when KB gets his orange on.

I didn't bother with the tripod and really staging the photos, I just got the idea to use my sunglasses to indicate scale. Because when I lifted the larger of the KBs out of the box, Em asked me if it was a pumpkin.

I don't have a scale, I may take it to work tomorrow just to find out, for curiosity's sake, what it weighs. It's heavy.