Monday, April 24, 2017

What the Ruck?

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Mr. Awesome and I are always ready for a new adventure and on this year's docket is backpacking! Mr. Awesome backpacked an unknown (or at least a number we won't look too closely at) years ago. I have never been backpacking, but I love camping, hiking, and reading about adventurous souls who tackle the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail (that's practically the same thing, right?).


So, we want to be ready for a summer backpacking adventure and in order to do that we need to train. Rather fortuitously, we came across a post about rucking. The concept of rucking comes from the military training with road marches carrying their gear in rucksacks i.e. rucking. There's a company started by a veteran that sells gear so the average Jane or Joe can ruck, but any appropriate pack, which means it has a waist strap so you aren't carrying all the weight on your shoulders, will do. Just add some weight and go for a walk. How much weight is up to you and I would base it off of your fitness level. For backpacking, the rule of thumb is carry no more than 1/3 of your body weight, so start around 10 to 20 lbs, depending on what you're up for, and work you're way up from there. Mrs. Awesome is now carrying 20% of her body weight when rucking. 


We've been walking around the neighborhood and a recent weekend we took a trip to Antelope Island and did a 4.8 out and back hike with an elevation gain of about 500 feet. I carried about 10% of my body weight, because we were going with a friend and I didn't want to find myself unable to make it or slowing the group down. It felt good and today I'm a bit sore, especially in the glutes, but it's a good sore.


In addition to the benefit of training for backpacking, another perk of rucking is that you burn more calories. There isn't a lot of definitive research I've been able to find about how many more calories you burn, but definitely more. One theory was trying to equate it to doing the exercise as a heavier individual, but that theory doesn't wash with me, because people who are heavier burn more calories, in part, because their body is doing more work maintaining a larger self. Men's Fitness has a good article about rucking and why it's gaining popularity, but the calculations they use for caloric burn doesn't specify how much weight you need to carry to "triple" your calories burned. This site has some estimates for caloric burn, as well, based on pace and a 50 lb pack (which would crush me), but most people won't get to a 50 pounder. Either way, carrying extra weight is going to burn more calories.  Additionally, you can surmise this weight bearing exercise would also be good for strengthening your bones as both walking and weight training are good for that. It will also make you stronger.


Word of caution though, DO NOT RUN with a ruck sack on! It is not at all good for your knees. 

Have you tried rucking? What did you think? Or do you know a good spot to calculate how many calories you burn rucking? If so, please share!

Update: A friend of ours participates in the official coordinate rucking events and they are far from a mellow time. The are long, arduous, involve things like carrying picnic tables or each other, calisthenics, long nights, and discomfort. She loves them. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Spitz SLC Restaurant Review

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I don't recall the first time I had a Doner Kebab, but I think it was in Germany or England, but maybe it was New York where the foot carts selling them seem as ubiquitous as the hot dog carts of yore. Either way, doner kebab is awesome and we were really excited about having doner in our area. We recently visited with a group of friends on a Friday night and Spitz SLC did not disappoint.

Walking through the door, you immediately sense it's a fun vibe. The walls are brightly decorated with street art style spray painted stencils, and the chalked "alt lake city" over the bar area says it all. This particular night they had a live DJ. We found a table in fairly short order, but be aware that they don't take reservations and we saw some poor souls cowering at the small table by the door. Friends who have visited during the day shared that it's a completely different place at lunch time, filled with business folks, lots of light, and much quieter. Either sounds good to me.

The menu has a nice selection of options and they have choices for vegetarians and vegans as well. You order at the counter, but even with it being as busy as it was, our orders arrived quickly and accurately. I ordered the Doner Salad with mixed meats, having a sampling of their beef, lamb and chicken doner. The salad was vibrant, fresh and included pepperoncinis, crispy garbanzo beans, feta cheese, kalamata olives, and tzatziki sauce. It was an incredible combination of flavors and textures. Across the table there were various renditions of the Street Doner, a falafel, a chicken, and a beef & lamb, and all praised how flavorful and delicious they were. The fries were well seasoned and served with garlic aioli. The star of the show (though I didn't get a picture) is their deep fried pita accompanied by garlic aioli as well. It is delicious beyond words. There's only a single dessert offering, cinnamon-sugar pita strips which reminded me of making much the same using flour tortillas, but the meal portions were so large, no one had room to try them. The prices are quite reasonable, with wraps at $9.25 and the Doner Salad or the Doner Basket topping the menu at $11.95.


They also have a full liquor license and offer a good selection of beers and wines. In addition, Spitz offers three different standard sangria's as well as a seasonal offering. We tried three of the four and they were all amazing, though my favorite was the seasonal with pomegranate and red wine living in harmony, but others swore by the red and rose.


Spitz SLC was a great find in the middle of downtown. The food was great, the drinks as well and the ambiance is fun and lighthearted. We'll be back for sure!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

There's probably another me out there or the travails of getting a Chinese Visa

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In this day and age of identity theft I am paranoid of everything. I do the online security thing, I meticulously shred junk mail, I have credit monitoring, and I read Reader's Digest horror stories and quake with fear. When facebook quizzes want all my facebook info, I refuse and resign myself to never knowing whether I was reincarnated based on my profile picture. I have Adblockers and tracking blockers and any other kind of blocker that seems like a good idea, including sun block, but that's a different story. 

From all this, I have a deep seating paranoia about providing too much information to any source. Which is why filling out the Chinese Visa application was really hard for me. They basically want to know everything it would take to create a fake alternative me. I really wanted to say no, but since I've already paid for the trip and the only way I can cross The Great Wall off my bucket list is to be able to get into the country, I didn't really have much of a choice. 

In case you were wondering, or are planning a trip to China and need to complete the Chinese Visa application, you must provide:
1) Where you work, including the address and phone number; 
2) Where you were born;
3) Your driver's license number;
4) All your close family member's names, their nationality, their occupation;
5) An emergency contact;
6) How much education you've received;
7) Where else you've been this year; and
8) Whether or not you have serious mental illness (who doesn't these days?).

Then, you must either be able to go to the Chinese Embassy yourself to complete this process or have a trusted agent complete the process for you, a privilege for which you will pay. 

Despite my paranoia I've sent these details out for my Visa. I just hope she's a nice doppelganger. 


Monday, April 17, 2017

Easy kitchen furniture update

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One of the great things about kitchen chairs with drop in seats, aside from the extra cushion for the fanny, is how easy it is to update your look with minimum fabric and effort. We last updated our upholstery eleven years ago, so it was more than time (as you can see by the grimy before photos) to reupholster these kitchen chairs. 



I am a huge fan of a bargain. So, when it came time to update our kitchen chairs this time around, I turned to my favorite online classifieds, which being here in Utah, is KSL. Other people might use Craig's List, Ebay, or even Etsy. I was in luck! I found all of these fabrics and two others, totaling eight yards of upholstery fabric for $10. That is a killer deal! I used some for reupholstering these seats and I have some in reserve for throw pillows and a foam cover when we install our new kitchen bench (coming soon to this blog near you!). 

If you've never done any upholstery work, then drop in seats is a good place to start. All you need is some fabric, a staple gun, some scissors, hammer, and upholstery fabric. If you need to add more padding, then you'll need some batting and you might want to remove the old fabric, in which case you will need a flat head screw driver and needle nose pliers, but removing the old fabric isn't always necessary. Basically, all you need to do is cut an appropriately sized square of fabric, wrap the fabric over the seat, and staple to the bottom maintaining some tension on the fabric. Hammer in any staples that don't fully seat. For detailed and more precise instructions on how to reupholster a drop in seat, check out this blog post.  

Home Improvement Scope Creep

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Mr. Awesome and I were late to the home buying game and thus we have much pent up, unexpended home improvement energy. I also love beautiful things...and Pinterest. Pinterest is a corrupting force in my life - a magnificent, creative-juices-flowing, how-hard-can-it-be?, corrupting force. Add in a creative streak and a dose of unwarranted optimism and you have a couple who completed 20 home improvement projects in the first year of home ownership.

Having you ever heard the term "scope creep"? Basically, it's when you start out with one idea for a project and the idea keeps growing and growing until it's morphed into something either much larger (read more expensive) or different from what was initially planned. 

This is what's happening with our bathroom renovation. 

It started out buying shower tile to redo the family bath upstairs, but along the way I realized that if I ever wanted a tub in the master bath, the only place to get the space for said tub was by making the over large family bath smaller, which would involve ripping out the beautiful tile we just bought. I love things that are efficient and there was no way I could justify spending the time and money updating that shower if I would be ripping it out in the next few years. I wish I had the $20K to just renovate those two bathrooms right this instant, but instead we are going to China. (And who can complain about that?)

So, now a pile of tile sat in the garage with no shower to tile...except...except that hideous 1980s bath in the basement. Renovating that bathroom was low on my list, but since I had the shower tile, I would hate to let it just sit around unused. 


But, if we are going to replace the hideous wall tile in that bathroom, then the rest of it has to go too. I'm talking the floor, the vanity, the mirror, the light fixture. Everything must go! (And I think looking at the pictures you would agree.) It only makes sense, right? But now my family bath retile project has morphed into a complete bathroom renovation, thus "scope creep". 

If the goal was to pick the world's slipperiest
tile when wet, then the previous owners
achieved it. And that stained grout makes
me shudder to look at. 
Nothing good is happening here. 
We still have the budget to consider though, so my goal is to complete the rest of the bathroom update for $500. Do you think we can do it? 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Green Chile Egg Enchiladas

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Mr. Awesome and I are in a CSA that gets us two dozen beautiful, local, free range eggs per week rain or shine. Sometimes we're barely eeking through to the next week and sometimes we are inundated with eggs to the point of ridiculousness. This means that I am often getting creative with things to do with eggs and this week that creative thing was this Egg Green Chile Enchilada recipe. This is a vegetarian recipe that's a great source of protein as well as being delicious. 

Ingredients: 

6 oz. of chopped green chili (canned, frozen, etc.)
Half a large onion rough chopped
Two cloves of garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
3 c. of water, plus 1/4 c.
1/2 t. cumin
1 t. Mexican oregano
4 t. chicken or vegetable bouillon
2 T. cornstarch 
One dozen eggs, scrambled
Corn tortillas (24)
8 oz cheddar, grated


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F
2. Chop half a large onion, two cloves of garlic 
3. Sauté in onion and garlic in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, once the onion is translucent add green chili, bouillon, spices, and water and bring to a simmer.
4. Mix cornstarch with 1/4 c water and add to the simmering sauce to thicken. 
5. Cool for fifteen minutes to blend flavors.
6. Scramble one dozen eggs with some salt, pepper, and garlic powder (if you're feeling sassy) and saute them in a large saute pan. Remove from heat and put aside. 
7. Grease an 8 x 8 pan
8. Layer as follows: 1) sauce; 2) tortillas (dip the tortillas in the sauce prior to placing); 3) eggs; 4) cheese. Repeat layers until your run out of ingredients or room in the pan, ending with a layer of cheese. 
9. Bake in the oven for about an hour or until a thermometer placed in the middle reads 160F. 

Serves six.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Super Easy Lemon Curd Tarts

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If you read our recipes regularly, a theme you might pick up on is that we are some "from scratch" cooks. But, like the rest of you, we're busy too and sometimes we want something quick and easy that will still wow. That's where we found ourselves when heading to a friend's house for game night with instructions to bring dessert. My friend is a big lemon lover, so I wanted to bring a lemon dessert, but I also had a laundry list of chores to do, so I took a look in the pantry and whipped up these Super Easy Lemon Curd Tarts. 




Ingredients:


1 c. graham cracker crust mix
2 T. sugar
3 T. butter
Two jars of lemon curd 
Zest from one lemon

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
2. Melt the butter
3. Mix the graham cracker crust mix and sugar together in a bowl, pour the melted butter over it and mix in.
4. Spray the tart molds with cooking spray. Pack the graham cracker crust into the tart molds. Use some sort of smooth sided implement to really pack it in there. 
5. Bake in the oven until the crusts are brown, about fifteen minutes. 
6. Melt the lemon curd in a nonreactive pan over low heat until warmed enough to pour. I wouldn't recommend simmering or bad things might happen or nothing might happen, I didn't do it, so I'm not sure, but I just get that sense. 
7. Pour the lemon curd in the prepped tart shells, grate the zest over them, and put into the fridge to cool. 

Once the lemon curd has set, enjoy! It doesn't get much easier than that! I didn't bother extricating them from the tart molds for serving. You could also do this as one large tart, but I just got these nifty individual sized tart pans from Sur La Table so I am excited to try many tart recipes. More tart recipes coming to this blog near you! If you have any tart flavors you'd like me to try, leave us a comment with your suggestion. 



Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Answer is China

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A bit ago, my travel torn heart pulled me toward South Africa for a budget busting birthday adventure. It sounded amazing and I still hope to do it one day, but logic (and an awesome alternative) was able to cool my ardor before I did unthinkable damage to our pocketbook. And the answer was China!

Seeing the Great Wall of China is on my bucket list along with the Forbidden City and the Terra-cotta Army. As I consoled my wanderlust perusing Groupon deals, I came across a 10-day China adventure that included all three of these amazing destinations, plus all air fare, tour guides, hotels, etc. How could I say no? 



Friday, April 7, 2017

The Jeep Wave- It's a Real Thing

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If you're one of the lucky few who own a Jeep, and even luckier still to own a Wrangler, then you should know about the "Jeep Wave," and more importantly you should participate in a tradition nearly as old as Jeeps themselves. Like Harley riders, who pass one another on the road and wave as they pass, Jeepers do so too. Since getting "Heathen" in January of this year, I've thrown a wave at more Wranglers who have ignored me than I can believe. Has the proliferation of these iconic vehicles been so diluted by the SUV set that the Jeep wave is in danger of extinction? I hope not, because it's one of the simple pleasures of belonging to a select community of individuals who choose to drive a vehicle which traces its lineage back to the Willys MB, the ubiquitous 1/4 ton, four wheel drive general purpose vehicle which helped win World War II. 

Now some folks will tell you the Jeep wave is only for Wranglers, and I'll be honest, if I'm cruising along in our 2010 Wrangler Rubicon I'm only going to wave at an XJ Cherokee if it's been lifted and generally has a hi-lift jack strapped to the side of a roof top safari cage. But if any Jeep throws a wave, I'm returning the salutation. If you're driving a Wrangler though- from a Willys MB to a JK, whether it's a bone stock mall crawler or a Moab ready rock crawling beast, you need to keep the tradition alive and wave. 

The wave should be shared between Jeeps of all makes and models, but some feel there is degree of etiquette you should be aware of. In a nutshell, the newer, less modified Jeep should initiate the wave. It's a respect for the other rig thing. You're acknowledging the rig, not the driver. As you get closer to the oncoming Jeep you should get a quick idea of whether it's more off road capable than yours. If it is, then you initiate the wave. That being said, I don't care who throws the wave first, as long as it's reciprocated. 

As a final note to my fellow Jeepers driving a Compass, Patriot, Renegade, Grand Cherokee, Liberty or any of the crossover all wheel drive, "not intended for off road use" Jeeps, you should always initiate the wave with a Wrangler, no matter how modded it is. Wrangler drivers- wave back, they're one of us- we're all a community of Jeepers.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Garlic Chipotle Lemon Shrimp

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A quick and delicious meal for a week night that’s fancy enough for dinner parties, the flavors in our Garlic Chipotle Lemon Shrimp recipe are bold and balanced and can be served straight up or over rice. If you want a little fusion, angel hair pasta would be a great accompaniment. We served it with green chile cheese dutch babies, which were awesome. Since we were serving ours straight on the plate, I made the sauce as described in the recipe. To increase it for pasta or rice, double everything from chipotle on down.


Garlic Chipotle Lemon Shrimp (serves 4)
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp red onion, minced
1 lb. uncooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 Tbsp chipotle pepper in adobo Sauce, minced
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus zest
1 Tbsp butter
1 medium tomato, cored, de-seeded and diced
Salt & Pepper

This recipe is prepared “a la minute” as we’d say in a restaurant, which means “make and serve immediately”. Have all of your ingredients ready to add to the pan because from start to finish, it’ll cook in 10 minutes or less.

In a skillet add the oil and heat over medium high heat until hot. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for a minute until the onion begins to turn translucent. Toss in the shrimp and allow them to sauté stirring until they begin to turn a little pink. Add the chipotle, water, lemon juice, and zest, stir and allow to come to a simmer. As the shrimp become firm and are a bright pink, add the tomato and the butter, swirling them into the pan and reduce the heat to low. The butter will thicken the sauce. Once thickened, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve immediately.


Bon Apetit or should I say, Buen provecho (according to google)!