Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blog post number 101!

How is it possible that I am already up to 101 blog posts? It seems like just yesterday I was toying with the idea of starting a blog thinking in the back of my mind that I would probably run out of things to write after about ten posts. Here I am now breaking the 100 barrier in less than 10 months, which equals one blog post every three days or so. I hope you have been enjoying it as much as I have.

One of the reasons I started my blog was because I have always suspected that a lot of interesting things happen to us every day. Looking back we remember mostly the big stuff, but not all the little things that give our lives color. The blog is my way of documenting some of the color in my life. It has been a good year for me full of unique experiences, there are not too many blogs based out of Uruguay!

Volunteering with the Red Cross at the Ohio State University spring graduation.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Columbus 2009 Pride Festival

It was an exciting weekend. I volunteered with the Red Cross first aid team at the 2009 Columbus Pride Parade and Festival. The Festival occupied Goodale Park in downtown Columbus. Thousands of people attended, I was amazed at what an event it was. The parade went right through downtown Columbus part the State House and up to the Festival. There were floats, bands, and all kinds of interesting marchers in the parade.

The Festival is about showing pride in being gay, lesbian, or transsexual. While most of the participants were just like the participants in any festival, this festival has drag queens and nudity. It is unlike anything I have done with the Red Cross. There were a couple people who were not happy to see the Red Cross there as the Red Cross as a policy does not accept blood donations from gay men. This is perceived by some as anti-gay. We were able to engage the people who challenged us by explaining that we were volunteers who were there for the safety of the crowd.

We were pretty busy as it was a hot, sunny day. We handed out lots of band-aids to parade participants who had blisters. There were a couple more serious incidents such as a woman who had chest pains and a man who was stung by a bee who had a strong allergy to stings. No paramedic transports though and everyone ultimately left our first aid tent smiling.

CSA - week 3

The amount of vegetables we are getting in our CSA has jumped this week. It is about what I would expect at this time of the year. My biggest complaint is that the portions of each vegetable are rather small. This week in our basket we found:
- Italian herb bread
- Millet honey muffins
- Kale
- Arugula
- Radish
- Swiss Chard
- Two head of lettuce
- Bok Choy

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Monday with Eric

My volunteering with the Red Cross took me to the Eric Clapton concert on Monday night. I have not seen Clapton live before and I really was looking forward to it. The ticket cost was a bit higher than I am willing to pay (yes, I am very very cheap) so getting in free as a volunteer was a good way to go. Free of course meaning that I had to get there really early, leave late, and work through the concert. It is fun though, I like helping people who need help.

Clapton was performing with Steve Winwood. Unfortunately the two of them sounded like cats yowling. Out of tune, painful to listen to. Clapton did win me back with his performance of "Layla" which was awesome and made the whole thing worth while.

Elly checking out the concert, you can see the reflective stripes on her Red Cross vest

It was a pretty quiet night from an injury perspective. There was a heart attack which was taken care of by the paramedics. We handed out a few band-aids and a few cold packs. My main role was to expertly show people how to use the aspirin machine in the hall. I am surprised there were not more injuries as alcohol was flowing freely throughout the event.

So they say it's your Birthday

Yesterday was my Birthday. In some ways a Birthday is a non-event for me. I do not get worked up about getting older and really don’t care aboutanyone who might. I consider physical health the key factor in getting older, as I believe health is a more meaningful indicator than the number of years you have been hanging around.
I do like a little celebration simply because it is a good excuse and I have a hard time getting away from my to-do lists to relax unless I have a reason. Elly was nice enough to bake me a “cake”, which really was bread that spelled out Happy Birthday Mike. I prefer bread to cake, so I was certainly pleased. I got some nice gifts, the best being my fancy new Hines Ward Steelers jersey. Gow Stillers. And some friends made up a special picture for me that is incredible (see link).

As I am very goal-oriented, I inevitably use annual events like Birthdays to measure progress. Standing back, this has been a year of stretching my abilities and comfort zones. Spending months in Uruguay and Germany fundamentally changed my perspective and taught me a whole new set of skills in enjoying people who I have nothing in common with. A change in jobs is always somewhat traumatic, but so far my transition has been overwhelmingly positive in part because of the new challenges I face. Despite this year being characterized by a world rocked by problems, family and friends are all doing well. I found a non-profit to volunteer for (RedCross) that I am really enjoying, which helps to satisfy my need to giveback.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

CSA - Week 2

This week in the CSA our yield increased a bit. It is still far below what I would consider a good deal, but this is to be expected this early in the season. One really positive aspect of the vegetables we are receiving is that they are very fresh and taste much better than what you get in the market. I have been really impressed by the taste and the quality.

This week in the CSA, we received:
- radish
- beet greens
- kale
- tiny bok choy
- mullberries
- rhubarb stalks
- loaf of chibatta bread

Backyard Garden - Week 7

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Elly and I decided to subscribe to a CSA this year. For those of you not familiar with a CSA, the concept is pretty simple. You pay an upfront fee at the beginning of the summer to a farm. In return you receive a weekly basket of food that they produced for around 20 weeks over the growing season. There are various types of CSAs, such as veggie, fruit, bread, meat. Usually, the harvest is light in the beginning and at the end, and heavy in the middle. You share the risk with the farmer that if it is a bad year you get less, but if it is a good year you make out well. Our experience in past years has financially worked out really well, especially since we eat tons of vegetables.

We subscribed to a veggie and bread CSA with Frijolito Farm. This is an urban farm that is run by a small family. They are trying to minimize ecological impact by growing vegetables in the city near the consumers. It is their first year running a CSA, which makes this a little riskier. In return for $575, we will be receiving a weekly basket with vegetables and a fresh loaf of bread.

We were part of a CSA a few years ago when we lived in Pittsburgh. It is fun because you never really know when you are going to get each week. We were forced to try new vegetables and really expanded our horizons when trying to figure out how to use some uncommon items.

This past Friday we picked up our first basket. As expected, it was pretty light. It contained beet greens, radishes, mulberrys, and a loaf of Italian bread.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pumpkin Gnocchi With Sage Butter

Note: Be careful not to overwork or overknead the dough; you simply want to incorporate the flour into the pumpkin puree

1 (15 oz.) Can Pumpkin Puree (drain excess water)
Salt & Pepper
Dash Of Nutmeg
2 3/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Melted Butter
6-7 Finely Chopped Sage Leaves
1 Large Clove Garlic, Minced
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

1. Mix together the flour, pumpkin and seasonings to make a soft dough.
2. Add additional flour if the dough is sticky or does not hold together.
3. Divide the dough into 6 parts, and on a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a rope about 1 inch in diameter.
4. Cut the rope into 1 inch pieces and roll each lightly along the floured surface.
5. Continue using up all the dough in this fashion. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet. You can refrigerate the gnocchi until you are ready to cook them.

6. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a slow boil.
7. Place the butter in a small saucepan and heat.
8. Add the garlic and sage.

To Cook:
9. Cook the gnocchi in lightly salted boiling water for until the gnocchi rise to the surface and float.
10. Remove from the water, mix with the butter sage sauce, and serve topped with the freshly grated cheese.

A Well Earned Vacation

This week I am enjoying some time off of work. Traditionally, I am really bad a actually taking my vacation time, but this year I am trying really hard to at least take some of it. Having a project to work on has helped, though it feels like less of a vacation.

I am working on scraping and painting my back deck. The deck is this unnecessarily huge addition that the prior owners had put on. It is large enough for quite a party. Unfortunately, they had a single layer of the cheapest paint put on the deck, which is now peeling off. Thus my long term project of scraping off all the old paint and staining it with some higher quality stain that hopefully will not come off any time soon. It is hot, dirty work that is generally unpleasant.

I have reserved the most dangerous part for my vacation. There is a trellis over the deck that needs a thorough scraping and two coats of stain. I can get to some of it via a ladder, but there is a layer at the top which I can only get to from above. I built a wood bridge that enables me to walk around supported on the strongest parts. As I sit up there scraping away the whole thing lightly sways. Over the weekend I finished phase one (scraping) and yesterday I started painting. If I finish the trellis this week it will be a miracle and a large step forward in completing the whole project.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking that I work hard so that I can pay someone else to do this work. It has never really been my style to pay someone else to do work that I could do, so there I am up in the rafters.

Backyard Garden - Week 5

The hot weather is really starting to kick in and the garden is loving it. We have had a perfect combination of heavy rain and sunny days. The tomatoes are responding by doubling their size in just one week. The many flowers promise good yields. The onions look very healthy. The garlic has pushed up even higher, reaching about 3 feet.