31 January 2010

I TURNED 30!!


Yup, strangest thing. Being born in 1980 makes one eligible to turn 30 this year! And was I excited. Still am. I'm really bad at planning stuff, though, particularly when it involves tooting my own horn. Farting in public, no biggie. Telling everybody I'm great and they should think so too, and therefore honor me by doing what I wanna do--hard work. So I decided we'd do a pub stroll in Bellingham on my birthday, and Devon said we could go hang out in Anacortes, see some people and have dinner the weekend before.

And he surprised me!! 18 of our friends came to Adrift, where I used to work. I swore loud enough to alert all restaurant patrons to my shock, and it was AWESOME. Even my brother and his girlfriend (who had driven from Idaho) were there. Neil, Daver and James were all in the kitchen, Angela waited on our 20-top, and Nicole was there to greet us when we walked in the back door. Quite honestly, I had some idea something was up, when we were on a walk in Washington Park before going downtown, and Devon must have gotten a dozen text messages. No idea it was going to be that good, though. I could go on and on about the food, as I love Adrift's fare--it is part of the reason I moved to town--but I'll say that I had polenta with lamb sausage and Mama Lil's hot peppers, followed by Lopez Island Creamery's coconut ice cream with Old Rasputin chocolate sauce. Holy crap. My butt grew two sizes (the rest of me stayed the same size) when I moved to Anacortes. I blame it on the alcohol and the coconut ice cream-chocolate sauce devil-beast.

I also received some great presents, the most notable of which is a black cat that poops jellybeans when you push down on its back. My friends know me well.

We have a vacation home in Anaco, some of you may not know that. It is 23 feet long and parked in David Sizemore's driveway. After spending a couple of hours getting my ass kicked at shuffleboard and closing down the Brown Lantern, I was ready to collapse into the icy-cold sheets. But I was whisked (after a couple of taxi rides to deliver others to the vacation home) across the street to the Majestic Inn. We snuck Elli in, and we all slept great. Devon says his goal was to be waaayyyy out of the dog house. Well, mission accomplished. I have never had a better birthday, and it wasn't even my birthday yet.

So on Wednesday, after I had finished the 4th Quarter B&O taxes, we sullied forth to drink beers all about the great metropolis of Bellingham. Lots of North Cascades Institute-ers came and went, as we strolled from the Chuckanut Brewery to Jalepeno's Restaurant (long stroll, that, approximately 200 yards...maybe) to The Copper Hog to The Green Frog to Wood's Coffee in Boulevard Park, and finally to the Archer Ale House in Fairhaven. I had Chuckanut's Marzen, Jalepeno's bitchin' lime margarita, Laguinitas' Cappucino Stout, Ommegang's Rouge Sour, a double short mocha breve with Jameson's whiskey, and Sierra Nevada's Glissade. So very nice.

I'm 30 now, and it's great. Unfortunately, my capacity for getting hangovers seems to have accelerated, but I pulled through. Thank you, all dear and beloved friends who joined in the revelry. I had a wonderful week!

16 January 2010

The Sky Is a Hazy Shade of Winter

I'm not a huge fan of winter. I like to cross country ski and snowboard, and I love driving in the snow. But back in 2006 I made the choice to forgo true winter on the east side and at pass level for the rain and mud of the tidal flats. At the treehouse and in Leavenworth, the bright light of snow, with the added benefit of activities to keep me occupied, generally kept me sane, though winter was never easy. The thought of spending that first winter at sea level--with nothing but rain, muddy grass and evergreens that just seem black and oppressing to keep me company--worried me a bit.

But two things happened. One, I had lots to drink and lots of friends to drink with, as I worked in downtown Anacortes. Two, it Snowed. Maybe 4 inches, but that, I was assured, was a lot. Plus, the weather immediately went to clear and sunny and freezing, so the snow stayed on for almost two weeks. It was awesome.

Matter of fact, it has snowed every year I've been down here. Last winter (08-09) I moved to Blaine, and we got 2 or 3 feet of snowfall, that stuck around as 10-14 inches for quite some time. I cross country skied right out of the back door. That also was awesome. I went back to work at the North Cascades Institute in February, which meant that as spring came on down here, I drove up and out of it, back into winter up there. Fun for awhile, until I was outside grilling steaks in the snow, or had to chain up my car (a first in the entirety of me living in snow and working at ski areas--about 13 years) in April. Then, I was pissed.

Enter this winter. 2009 has been a rough year in general, starting with that time-traveling spring. I've been unemployed since the end of August, and stressed about money and paying the bills since the end of October. I was so proud of myself for not freaking out before that. Then work still didn't come, and still hasn't, though I help with PetroClean books and such. Funny how the bills keep coming. Ah, well. Money stresses me out like few other things can, particularly when it starts raining and keeps raining and then it rains some more, and I can't even push the damn wheel barrow through the yard when I'm hauling firewood because the bastard gets stuck in the mud, and I don't feel like doing anything, except for having another screwdriver, not that I could afford to, anyway, so maybe I'll bitch at Devon some more, or incite him to bitch at me. Good times. It did snow this year, but it just didn't try hard enough, or last. Apparently sea level pulled the gloves off this go-round, figuring I could handle it on my own now.

Anyway, there are things that make me happy, too. Elli the Dog flompfing around, and earning a new nickname: Mary Floppins. Playing dominoes on Sunday evenings with the neighbors. Watching the Canucks, preferably, when they win. Tulips, hyacinths and narcissus in little brightly-wrapped pots at the grocery store. When the sun comes out, like it did today, illuminating everything inside the house and out, and inside my psyche and outside on my skin, creating some vitamin D. When I come inside to check on the fire, and notice the sunlight streaming onto my pretty narcissus and onto Hugalug, Devon's Cabbage Patch Kids Pet from when he was little. I might make it to March. We'll see.

09 January 2010

Sourdough Spent Grain Bread Recipe

The main reason I'm posting this is--despite my well-practiced and honed Google recipe searching skills--I was unable to find any recipes that combined spent beer brewing grains with sourdough. Lots of one or the other, but nothing bringing the two together. So here's my contribution to the world. Spent grain recipes called for yeast, and were generally pretty dense loaves. Most whole-grain recipes call for enough other additives, dry milk, potato flour, etc in the balance that the 'artisan' qualities of the bread are converted to sandwich loaf qualities. Also I didn't want too much whole wheat, as barley is pretty chewy/hearty and keeps you pooping regular for weeks as it is. The "closest" thing was Essene bread, which does in fact call for sprouted whole grain (which brewing grain is, that's the 'malting' step) and sourdough. However, that's all. Essene bread is raw food, meaning the grain and sourdough are combined with a little salt, allowed to ferment a little further, and then dried, traditionally in the sun, rather than being baked.

Anyway, with some moral support from my brother, I just went for it, with a sourdough recipe I've been working on for awhile. It turned out great. Unfortunately, I wasn't smart enough to take pictures when the loaf was whole. Here's what's left:
It's stayed moister than the bread usually does, when made without the grain.
I had the bonus of having been given some wort, too, so I used that for some of the liquid, providing sugars naturally. Here's the recipe. Maybe someday I'll learn how to make this a link, instead of all the text. Don't hold your breath.

Spent Grain Sourdough Boule
8.5 oz Sourdough Starter
6 oz Beer Wort
6 oz Water (or: 12 oz Water, 1 T Sugar)
3 oz Whole Wheat Flour
18 oz Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2T Vital Gluten (or use Bread Flour instead of AP)
6 oz Spent Grain (still damp)
2 1/2 tsp Salt

-Combine all but salt, mix til shaggy, not smooth. Let rest 30 minutes. This is called autolysing, allowing the gluten to unravel before the salt is added.
-Knead salt in by hand or machine for 4 minutes. If going by hand, then rest for another 30 minutes, and knead again for 4 minutes, til the dough is cohesive and the salt is equally distributed. The dough should be a little tacky, not dense and tight. Adjust with water or flour as needed during kneading.
-Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
-Pull out and allow to rise for 2-5 hours (You can just go straight to this, if you don't want to wait overnight). The dough should get to double.
-Fold the dough down, rather than punching it, to let air out. Knead it for a minute or two by hand. This will stretch the gluten strands out all nice and nice, instead of leaving them wadded up.
-Cover and rise another 30-90 minutes.
-Fold down again, and shape into a nice ball. At this point, you can either rise it on the counter, covered, and bake on a stone or sheet pan, or you can do what I do:
-Get a sheet of parchment paper and grease it lightly. Place your dough ball onto the parchment, and using the parchment, lift and place into a large bowl. The bowl 'guides' the dough as it rises, keeping it in more of a ball shape. On the counter, it will spread and flatten somewhat.
-Rise for 1 1/2 hours, should be nearly doubled.
-After 1 1/2 hours, get out your sweet-ass enamel cast iron dutch oven (or seasoned dutch oven, or roasting pan) and put it in the oven with the lid on. Turn the oven on to 400F. Let preheat for 30 minutes.
-Slash dough top 3-5 times, or in a cross, or a pentagram, or whatever.
-Remove dutch oven from baking oven. Lift dough with parchment sling and place the whole deal into the dutch oven. Put the lid back on, and put into oven.
-Bake for 30 minutes with lid on, then remove lid and continue baking for 15-30 minutes more, until the top is a beauty dark golden brown.
-Remove, and cool yer gorgeous loaf on a rack. heh.

This also works beauty, eh with leftover cooked brown rice, scottish or steel cut oats, millet, whatevskis.
If any of y'all have questions or problems, let me know (and to be specific, I mean in regards to the bread, okay?). I'll do my best to give you quality advice.

Also, many thanks to my neighbor, Josh, who is an awesome brewer, for giving me the wort and grain. And for blessing our neighborhood with many a tasty pint.


05 January 2010

Holy crap, PetroClean just merged onto the Information Superhighway

Now, PetroClean had a website, for a couple of years. This website was, uh....special. Then, for the last 6 or 9 months, it has been solely comprised of an "Under Construction, Please Call Us Directly At..." entry.

And, for the last couple of months, I actually got my ass in gear, along with some help from my pal, Josh, and we made us a website. To be specific, Josh did all the fancy, smarty-pants design, about which I had no clue, and now have a very small clue; and I did all of the content. I knew a lot about diesel and tanks before. Now I know some more, and what's most impressive, can even regurgitate these these brainknowledges from my facehole.

So anyways, now you can learn all sorts of crap in our FAQ section, like whether your boat or the boat of someone you love, or the boat of someone you are merely loosely acquainted with needs to have its tanks cleaned. Seriously. Be sure you/they call us.

So have at it, my friends, have at it:



04 January 2010

A visit to Weston, Oregon

I was born in Eastern Oregon, in Pendleton, to be exact. The home of the Pendleton Round-Up, Let 'Er Buck! My Grandma Delph (Grandpa passed away last winter) and the majority of her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids still live in or near Weston, which is a few miles north out of Pendleton.

Despite my love of all things mountainous and rugged, and oceany and rugged, the Blue Mountains' rolling roundness is staggeringly gorgeous to me. Eastern Oregon is a place mythological to me, just like the North Cascades. The mere name conjures up images and feelings based in memory and in instinct. Weston is an old town, nestled in a hollow. This photo is taken from up the hill behind Grandma's house, and looks more or less to the west.
As kids, we were closer to our mom's side of the family, but that was most likely a result of our move to Packwood, Washington, on the other side of the Cascades, which put us in range of most of the Hubka family. Going to Grandma Delph's was usually fun, though, because she actually enjoyed kids, and, I suspect, the madness that they can cause. For instance, one year she let us rollerblade in her kitchen, despite the fact it's small and she was cooking at the time.

Grandma has lived in Eastern Oregon all of her life. Her family emigrated from Virginia and settled in the area, and Grandpa's family came out from Kentucky. Grandma, half of my uncles and my one aunt, and even some of my cousins still talk with a twang. However, this may just be what is referred to, in literature and otherwise, as the Eastern Oregon drawl. She and Uncle Tom told a story from a few years ago (or maybe just last fall) when they were up hunting. Grandma: "Tom, I don't want to drive that truck of yours off the mountain." Tom: "What are you, a candy ass?" Grandma: "There's nothing wrong with my ass, aside from the fact there's not enough length between it and my foot to use that damn clutch of yours!" Tom is a little over 6 feet tall, and Grandma is less than 5 feet. Plus, even the mechanic had told Tom his C-30's clutch was shot.

Tom smoked a huge roast, Grandma cooked a turkey, and assorted other dishes were made up, including a few salads. Salads, of course, meaning fruit, jello and cool-whip. Probably another reason we liked visiting Grandma's as kids. One of our favorites is Pretzel Salad, which I finally scored the recipe for:

Pretzel Salad
1 1/2 c Crushed Pretzels
1/2 c Sugar
1/2 c Margarine
-Mix together, press into a 9x13" pan. Bake at 350 for 6 minutes, and cool for 20 minutes.
8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 c Sugar
8 oz Cool Whip
-Beat together cream cheese and sugar, then add cool whip. Spread over pretzels.
6 oz Strawberry Jello
2 c Boiling Water
16 oz Frozen Sliced Strawberries
-Melt jello in water. Add berries, and stir into jello until it thickens. Pour over pretzels and cream cheese.
-Refrigerate until set.

Delicious. Salty-crunchy-creamy-sweet-and-tangy. Though when I make my maiden batch, I believe I'll try substituting whipped cream for the cool whip.


At any rate, it was a great trip, including the drive down, which took me almost 12 hours from Blaine to Weston, including a stop in Pendleton for pizza at Big John's, where I've been eating pizza for about 29 years. The weather ran from snowing to freezing rain, though people scared of driving were far more heinous than the actual driving. Tim pooped his pants hitting a patch of ice under an overpass, which was the only time we skidded without planning to. Though it's a similar subject, I won't tell about him peeing in the wind when we went for a walk (in his defense, he wasn't peeing into, just in, the wind. Still troublesome, it would seem). A mere 9 hour drive back home and lots of stories to tell.
Grandpa's Gun Cabinet