Wednesday, October 24, 2007

He Shoots....He Scores!!!!

No, I'm not talking about basketball. Those of you that know me are aware of my lack of interest in most team sports. I'm referring to acceptance into the Boise State University Nursing program, I'm finally IN. The thick envelope came in the mail today. After all the headaches, the wait is over. It's a pretty simple letter beginning with "Congratulations Mr. Dunn", blah blah blah, you can probably guess the rest. I did try to call several folks to share the news but it seems that everyone I know was pretty busy or call screening me today. :)

What a relief it was to get that letter. I wasn't left with much assurance after checking with admissions a few weeks ago about the list. They were working through it, but not nearly as fast as they thought they would. I'll admit I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to reapply next semester.

Big smiles... and big sighs.

I'd celebrate right now with a few beers but I've got class tonight so maybe when I get home!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Recipe and Life: In Review

When I was a kid I was vegetable-adverse, especially not a fan of the cruciferous vegetables and in particular cabbage and anything that resembles cabbage.

In 1980, I begged my parents to let me go to a Southern Baptist Vacation Bible School Sleep Away Camp for two weeks. Not because I loved Jesus, but because I loved horses. My parents waffled--my father is atheist, my mother was raised Lutheran, and we certainly weren't regulars at any religious institution. The Southern Baptist Church is pretty radical but I didn't know any of this at the age of eight. All I knew was that I was in love with the bay-colored colt in the four-foot tall poster above my bed.

Service every morning and bible study in the afternoons? Check. Wednesday night, Saturday night, and Sunday morning service? Okay. Memorizing the books of the Old and New Testament? No problem. Horseback riding? Sign me up! That's right, the Southern Baptist Church lured me to Jesus with horseback riding.

The rest of my daily camp experience outside of the 10 minutes leading up to horseback riding and the 30 minutes of horseback riding was drudgery, including the food (the horseback riding wasn't that magical, either, it was more like a 30 minute tug of war with a horse hell-bent on eating every sliver of grass in sight). In my house, I was given the freedom to make my own food choices. At Southern Baptist Vacation Bible School Sleep Away Camp, you had to a) take a little of everything, with "a little" defined by the hair-netted woman wielding the spoon and b) clean your plate before you were allowed to leave the table.

So it was that I found myself alone in the cafeteria of Southern Baptist Vacation Bible School Sleep Away Camp, staring down a pile of boiled cabbage through watery eyes. I think I was a pretty dutiful child, and I remember feeling infuriated that I was being forced to do something against my will. I had three options before me: eat the cabbage, no, no, two options, efforts at eating the cabbage had already resulted in violent gagging. So I had two options before me: sit there indefinitely or stuff the cabbage surreptitiously into my empty milk carton. Not wanting to compromise my moral fiber, I tried the first for what seemed like an eternity, thinking I could wait it out. Awed by my sense of conviction, the Southern Baptist cafeteria ladies would acquiesce to letting me leave the table and my cabbage.

Not so. Eventually, I chewed bites of cabbage and spit them into my empty milk carton during faked sips. I hated to do it, but I hated the act of eating boiled cabbage even more. When I finally got to tell this story of injustice to my family, naturally, they responded with side-splitting laughter and overwhelming support by offering to serve boiled cabbage at every meal. To this day, they
still think this is an excellent joke.

It appears that the experience had a narrow area of impact, limited only to boiled vegetables. These days, I will enjoy a quality cole slaw, broccoli or cauliflower in anything, and have even forayed into brussels sprouts which are essentially baby cabbages. I'm also a sucker for anything caramelized; onions, shallots, garlic, it doesn't matter. I think adding these ingredients to any dish lends an earthy sophistication.

I made the recipe below last night for dinner and it was, as Jon said, "definitely a keeper!" I modified the recipe slightly, cutting down on the added butter and oil (the original called for 6 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons oil). Photo and recipe courtesy of Con Poulos and Bon Apetit, respectively.

Brussels Sprout Hash with Carmelized Shallots

4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 pound shallots, thinly sliced
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 cup water

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add
shallots; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Sauté until
soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until
brown and glazed, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl or plate. Do not
clean skillet.

Halve brussels sprouts lengthwise. Cut lengthwise into thin (1/8-inch)
slices. Add 1 tablespoon butter to shallot skillet and heat over
medium-high heat. Add sprouts; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté
until brown at edges, 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon
butter. Sauté until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender
but still bright green, 3 minutes. Add shallots; season with salt and

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Nature's Paintbrush

Fall weather has come a bit sooner than I thought it would here in Boise. This year seems to be a touch cooler and wetter compared to most of the historical weather data for Boise. Hopefully this wet fall will give way to a cold and snowy winter, my snowboard is so very hungry!

Most of the landscaping in our yard has begun it's annual transformation.

The lush green leaves are quickly changing to stunning red or yellow before the cool fall wind places them onto the ground. I've been out raking once already this fall and I anticipate a few more trips to the compost bin before the first snow flies.

Not all of our plants have accepted the signal to conserve energy for winter. Our roses are still blooming and putting out new growth like crazy. I wonder if they'll respond to the hard freeze we are supposed to get tonight.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth, Indeed

Last night, Jon and I went to the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise to watch Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth. Not seeing the irony at first, I wanted to drive to the theater. I had ridden my bike into downtown and back twice already for a total of eight miles. I was coming down with a cold. I had been to the gym and was tired, sore. It was supposed to rain that evening. This time of year, the temperature drops into the 40s and 50s after dark--our ride home would be cold and possibly wet. Can you hear the whine?

Jon convinced me to pull up my bootstraps and get on the bike. I conceded that driving to see this movie about global climate change due to carbon emissions would be like sticking a thumb in Al Gore's eye. And that would hurt.

Within the first few minutes of the film, I realized something very important. I didn't know what global warming was, or rather, I didn't know how it worked. Nor did I understand precisely how or why the glaciers and polar ice caps were melting. I knew that global warming was bad and that CO2 emissions are a major contributing factor. I could make a general correlation but didn't understand the science behind it. I won't go into it here, just see the movie. It does an excellent job of making this erudite science accessible to the lay person.

One of the boons of moving to Boise has been our ability to commute by bicycle to 90% of any place we might need to go. The only time I need to get in the car is to go to Target, Costco, or to do a major grocery shop. Even Office Depot is downtown; yesterday Jon made me stop and buy a ream of paper and cart it home on my bike. Oh the humanity!

Back in Raleigh, I often spent up to two hours in the car on my daily commute to and from work. Now I spend 25 minutes on my bike, roundtrip. People in Boise take their bicycling and bicycle commuting seriously and it is not uncommon to see entire families riding around town. Bicycles with kid trailers are exceedingly common, as are tandem and triple parent/kid bikes. I would consider bicycle commuting to be the single most effective change I have made in addressing global climate change, but it is just not possible for everyone, just like it wasn't an option for me until recently.

Our favorite activity tracking website has added a carbon dioxide offset calculator. Since moving to Boise on August 1st, I have saved .07 tons or 140 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions by commuting just 105 miles on the bike! That is only a savings of about $25 in gasoline, but the reality is that our overall gasoline consumption has gone down considerably (several hundred dollars per month) because everything is so much closer in Boise. Even when we do drive, nothing is very far.

For those of you that can't commute by bicycle, there are so many other options available to help offset carbon emissions and save energy. See the movie, check out the website, switch to fluorescent light bulbs, adjust your thermostat, reduce your waste, reuse things, recycle everything you can, compost, replace your bottled water consumption with filtered tap water, grow some food, eat food grown locally.

And because I know how much people like pictures, here is one for you. It has nothing to do with global warming but is just a darn cute picture of my brother and my nephew.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Keep Santa Cruz Weird

We hung out in Santa Cruz, California over the weekend to celebrate a birthday in the family. There are stickers and t-shirts everywhere you look in Santa Cruz proclaiming "Keep Santa Cruz Weird". No problem, I doubt there will ever be a problem keeping the weirdness intact. It is a great California city, and weirdness might just be centered here. I didn't happen to snap a picture of the strangest sight in Santa Cruz, but thank goodness for other bloggers.

The weekend was great, it's only an hour flight to San Francisco now instead of the day long trek it used to be. Our flight was a bit delayed, but uneventful other than that. Hope everyone else had a great weekend too.

Hi from Santa Cruz!

Friday, October 05, 2007

She Wondered..

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Workplace Entertainment

I am fortunate to work with some very colorful people. A colleague sent this email out to our team today--I thought it was funny enough to share.

"I seem to have caught an annoying cold. I'll be at home pissing and moaning about it. I'm also annoyed with the product "Kleenex" or whatever it is. I put it up to my nose, blow, and I get snot on my hand every damn time. Might as well cut out the middle man and just blow right in my hand. The product manager for that crap should be shot."

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Weekend Trip to Montana

Last weekend we were on the road again, this time headed east for Montana. The weekend plans included at least one day of hard work trimming century-old apple trees in the orchard of our family farm, as well as spending some quality time with family and friends.

We left Boise just after 3am Friday morning in order to make it to Billings for lunch with the grandparents. We were both surprised at how quickly nine hours of driving passes these days when compared to our cross-country drive in July. It is a pretty drive from Boise to Billings with many different types of scenery. Eastbound from Boise almost to the Montana border you see nothing but potato, sugar beet, wheat, and malt barley fields. Even during the flattest parts of the drive you are still surrounded by mountains on the horizon. The contrast of irrigated valleys against the dry grassland of the hillsides paints a beautiful landscape for the entire drive. The drive home was equally beautiful, but different; Sunday's storm rained snow on nearly every mountain range!

Saturday: The Ranch

We got an early morning start and headed out to the ranch, having done lots of research the week prior on pruning apple trees. It was a bigger job than anticipated; we were hoping to trim dead wood, prune rubbing branches and shape the treees. We quickly realized that we only had time to trim and stack the dead limbs. The family arrived just after lunch and helped stack wood and pick apples. It was an exciting foreshadow of what family adventures are to come once we have a place to stay on the ranch.

We also had to cut down one tree that we discovered was completely rotten inside. Benign neglect (no water or pruning) has killed many of the original trees, leaving nine healthy ones: Gano, Wolf River, and Yellow Transparent varieties. The Ganos were loaded with fruit, so Leslie and I took home about 20 gallons of apples. Once the irrigation ditches are reestablished, we will be planting new trees. I have been researching all sorts of fruit to add to the orchard; cherries, pears, peaches, mulberry, and more apples.

When I was in college, my friend Betsy came up with the concept of a "last first". We would get together in the courtyard of Cafe Gardens, drink pitchers of beer, and trade last firsts--what was the last thing you did for the first time?

This weekend I had several last firsts, one being my first time using a chainsaw. I had expressed interest in learning how to use one so Jon bought me a 14" Stihl.

Sunday: I Heart Plum Jam

We arrived in Billings at the tail end of plum season and Granny and Grandpa Dunn's tree was still loaded, even after the family had made over 50 jars of jam and jelly. Here I had my second last first: my first plum ever, plucked ripe from the tree to boot.

While picking plums, Granny told me the story of this tree. The tree that stands in the yard today is actually the second tree in that spot--the original tree is gone. Granny tells how, when Jon's father died unexpectedly in late September of 1980, she wandered into the backyard and stood under the original tree, contemplating. Eventually, she found herself standing under the tree, eating plums and "feeling sorry". Granny buried one of those pits that day, and the pit grew into a tree that eventually was big enough to replace the original ailing tree. Fast forward almost exactly 27 years--Jon's sister and I made roughly 40 jars of plum jam on Sunday.

Sunday evening: Red Lodge, Montana

Jon did chores for Granny and Grandpa on Sunday afternoon. That evening, after stopping first at the ranch, we took the scenic gravel road route through Dry Creek to the quaint town of Red Lodge for pizza (incidentally some of the best pizza I have had) with friends from the next ranch over from ours. A nasty storm rolled through, bringing much needed precipitation and some pretty spectacular views.

Here we are standing on Dry Creek Road looking to the west--about 3 miles from our place.

The picture below was taken about 15 miles from our place--almost to Red Lodge. This view is to the east-northeast. Our ranch would be in the top right corner.