Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Offending the potato sensibilities of Idaho

After I made the last bland post about "what we did last weekend" I remembered a story that I was meaning to relate to you but had forgotten about. So you get the BONUS FEATURE of two posts in one day.

So, as I mentioned below, one of the activities on our radar this weekend was celebrating the birthday of a close friend of mine. I wanted to find her the perfect birthday present, and, of course, she's kind of a notoriously hard person to shop for. Eventually I came up with something that I was pleased with, but then wanted to top the gift off with a little humor. And, as we now live in Idaho, I decided that a potato-theme was absolutely in order. I'd wanted to buy her a beautiful russet, tie a red ribbon around it and include it in her package, but as Friday afternoon ticked on, I ran out of time to swing by the grocery store to pick one up.

All we had at home was a bag of little red potatoes.

Creativity kicked into high gear, and I found a length of ribbon, a big needle, and strung three of the red potatoes onto the ribbon for, voila! a quick, home-made potato necklace. I stuffed it into the bag with her other gift (glassware, so I'd stashed it in my carry-on for safe travels).

Charlie and I arrived at the airport in perfect time. I took off anything metal, and we went through the security line. I have to say, for such a small airport, they sure were surly on Friday. The TSA women snapped at both of us, chastised us for heading in the wrong direction after the metal detector, and snapped at us for handing them more papers than just our boarding passes. It just seemed an extension of this hospitality when they stopped the conveyor belt to take a closer look at my bag.

There was much nodding and consulting behind the x-ray machine, and then finally one of the uniformed women stepped out, asked, "Is this your bag?" and told me she needed to take a look inside. She scooped up my bin, and led me down to the examination table. Kindly enough, once we reached the table she allowed me to put my shoes on before she started going through things. GEE, THANKS.

Her first question, "Do you have anything sharp in your bag?"

I replied that it was my work bag, and that while I didn't think I did, it was possible that there might be something I'd forgotten? (The whole time I was thinking of my old boss who'd forgotten that she had a giant steak knife in her work bag and then tried to go through airport security--didn't go over so well, but we had a good laugh over it.)

She opened up my bag and went immediately for Celeste's present. I didn't make a peep. First thing she gets to, of course, is the potato necklace. Three red potatoes strung onto a white satiny ribbon. She stops. Looks at me. Looks at the potatoes. Looks at me again. And, with no smile, question, or even hint of amusement, shakes her head disgustedly (with one skeptical eyebrow arched), and asks again, "Do you have anything sharp in there?" This time, her tone was annoyed.

I shook my head.

"Just go ahead."

"Thank you!"

Anyhow, I guess you can just call me "the Potato Bomber" from here on out.

I considered telling her it was a low-fat version of a candy necklace. Something for me to snack on during the plane ride if I got hungry.

Probably wouldn't have thought that was funny, either, though.

Misc. thoughts on various things.

So far so good. We've been on an almost-weekly roll with this blog. All things considered, that's not too bad. Of course, I'd like to be even better than that about updating, but, I suppose there has to be time to do those things that we're telling you about, right?

Rest assured that things continue to plug along in Spudward land. Charlie's job is picking up steam as we approach his busiest time of year (start of school, homecoming, etc), and he's working his tookus off. Lots of early mornings, busy evenings, and hectic days. It really makes me appreciate not having a 40-minute commute to see one another--when his job in Forest Grove was in a similarly busy phase, the amount of time we were able to spend together plummeted.

I am an interviewing machine as of late: one interview last week, and three more this week. Things seem to finally be starting to stick (cross your fingers for that). To date, I've completed applications for 30 jobs, have had interviews scheduled for 6 of those jobs, and have been rejected for approximately 14 (that I've officially heard back from... a few others I think I can unofficially assume I've been rejected for based on the length of time elapsed since I've applied). Wow. Of course, a few of those applications were long shots--"Wouldn't it be awesome if..." sort of things. Sooner or later the right thing will come along. Keep thinking job-y thoughts for me!

Despite all this business, Charlie and I have been traveling machines, too. Last weekend we made it back to Oregon to celebrate and wedding and a birthday. It was such a ridiculously short trip... we both wished that we could spend another day (or ten) there with friends and family. The wedding was at beautiful Skamania Lodge, and it was great to be able to connect with the whole Johansson clan on family and friends.

Of course, for those of you who know Charlie and I (which I hope most of those reading do!), you know that the trip wouldn't be complete without something a little strange and quirky. And boy do we have it for you this time!

Our good friend Devon drove us out to the wedding on Saturday morning, and, trying to squeeze in a little more time together, we decided to find a park and hang out by the Columbia River for a while (we'd talked about day hiking, but then no one did any research, and we decided to just walk around instead). Passing the turn for Skamania, we came across Home Valley Park... a little local park with a windsurfing beach that happened to be hosting a festival that weekend: The Bigfoot Bash and Bounty.

As you know, Charlie and I have a funny fascination with all things Bigfoot (we even chose a hike just because it featured a Sasquatch trap!), so we definitely had to check this one out. The Bigfoot Bounty and Bash turned out to be quite the serious affair. It featured lectures, a concert stage, a life-sized bigfoot cut-out, a person in a bigfoot costume, face painting, a beer garden, and a fun run! Yet, despite all of that, what it lacked was any sense of humor whatsoever.

We sat down to listen to a woman speak about her experience meeting bigfoot while hiking, and I still can't believe how solemn and sincere it was. Not an ounce of humor. She deeply, thoroughly believed that bigfoot was a kind, gentle creature--as evidenced by the restraint he exercised toward loggers destroying his forests! We were willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on that, but when she said that she "sincerely believed that bigfoot was an interdimensional species" we decided it was time to leave before our snorts and chortles offended anyone. Maybe he is. Maybe we're just not ready to believe.

Here are a few pictures from the event:

Devon and Charlie get up close and personal with the hairy man of the woods:

Meeting Bigfoot

It's real, folks, I promise!


Despite all the infrastructure for fun, not much going on here. And yes, that is a giant painted bigfoot next to the tree.

So much fun.

Anyhow, Charlie has Labor Day off, so we're toying with the idea of taking a camping road trip down to Salt Lake City and back for the weekend. We haven't really set up much in the way of "plans" yet, so any ideas or suggestions would be awesome. I'll let you know how it pans out.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Not even a potato product of Idaho.

So I just looked at a bag of red potatoes I bought at the grocery store.

Guess where they're from.

Yeah, I would have guessed Idaho, too. Seems like a "DUH" sort of question.

They're from Tualatin, OR.

I've been quite surprised to find how many of our products and how much of our produce comes to Boise via Oregon. It seems like every time I take a moment to look, we're "importing" something into our kitchen from the motherland. Even, it turns out, potatoes.

Actually, I was doing a little website/company specific job-hunting the other day, and, knowing that it has a big presence in Idaho, wandered onto the Albertsons page. Well, guess where their corporate headquarters are: Portland.


This brings me to think about the conversations we've had about how Charlie and I are going to try to localize our purchasing power as much as possible. We don't have current plans to try for a 100-mile diet, and we don't do anywhere near the shopping we should at the farmer's market (and can't afford to shop as much as we'd like at the Co-op), but we've had some conversations about what we are going to try to consider "local." Let me emphasize, we're not "locavore" purists, but we appreciate the importance and power of that movement. So, we've decided to try and support products that come from a one-state radius: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Montana, etc.

And probably from Mexico, too. Gotta have those avocados.

More importantly, we've decided to try to prioritize our spending when it comes to food--particularly meat. While neither of us is planning on becoming a vegetarian yet, we have decided to do our best to make ethical meat purchases. Rather than buy that cheap meat at the big box grocery store, we've decided to spend a little more on the small ranch raised, grass-fed products--or, if we can't justify the expense, we'll go without. Happy piggies taste better, and will make us feel better in the end. Not to mention we'll support small operations so as to avoid the ethical treatment issues, waste issues, and importing-across-large-distances issues.

So, anyhow. We're on the hunt for some good Idaho meat. Guess we'll have to visit the Co-op after all! Unless you know of a good meat producer in Tualatin?

Friday, August 15, 2008

On Idaho.

Well, believe it or not, despite having the Olympics to wrench ourselves away from (well, wrench myself away from, Charlie seems to have no trouble), we've still managed to get out and about a little over the past week. I apologize for the lack of updates, Charlie is due up to post a great entry about our two most recent camping trips, and I was saving the spotlight for him. Unfortunately, life and work got in the way, and he's off to McCall for a weekend leadership retreat. So, until he gets back, and puts together a great post about camping in Idaho, you'll just have to suffer with me instead.

That's not to say that things aren't a little busy in my life as well. I've had some leads on jobs lately that have led to a couple interviews. I'm sort of superstitious over talking about such things while they're still in the unconfirmed phases (job opportunities), so I'll give you more details later. They've both great jobs, and so far all the people have been extremely nice. I had one interview on Tuesday, and another lined up for next Thursday. So, even though I'm not showing many of my cards, keep your fingers crossed. As nice as taking a break from work has been, I think the cat is getting tired of sharing his couch.

I mentioned a little that we'd been doing some camping lately--we had an amazing trip up to the Sawtooth Mts. that I'll let Charlie fill the details in around later. But we traveled with Charlie's parents and friends, seven of us in total, and had the chance to see Stanley, ID, and the amazing area around it. Really, really spectacular.

Charlie and I had a conversation on the car trip home about Idaho in general. How are you feeling about it? What's your impression so far? We were both of the opinion that we're quite, quite fond of the place so far--especially everything north of the foothills. We've had some remarkable trips already. As for Boise, and the more arid parts of the state, I think they're growing on us, but there's still some growing left to do. We're toying with the idea of a Labor Day weekend camping trip south of here, and driving down toward Salt Lake City for the weekend. Maybe that will give us the chance to really appreciate this desert climate.

I've gotten out into the foothills for a little sagebrush appreciation lately, and I've found it quite interesting. So dry, and such a different climate from what I'm used to. But I certainly think there's beauty there, and I'm working on finding it for myself.

I'm trying to think of an especially interesting anecdote to share with you before I go, but it's still early here, so my brain is running on empty. I'm sure I'll come up with something as soon as I sign off. If so, I'll let you know.

UPDATE: While musing over something interesting to share with the blog-o-sphere, I remembered this post that I put up before our camping trip over on Portlandiaquill. It's about getting used to all the creepy crawly and extreme things that we've been encountering here. If things like spiders with boxing-glove-shaped genitalia sound curious and interesting to you, you should probably read it. And for the record, we've killed like five of them now. IN OUR HOUSE. I'm trying to talk Charlie into getting a vacuum cleaner despite the fact that we have hardwood floors. GUHHHHH.....!!!!!

Friday, August 1, 2008

A funny story about moving out (better late than never)

So, this story is a little belated timeline-wise. But I wanted to wait until things were all wrapped up with our property management company back in Portland before exposing this story to the world (internet). For those of you that haven't heard it yet, it's a doozy.

About a month ago (actually, exactly a month ago yesterday) Devon and I were working hard to complete the final scrub-down of our house in Portland. Everything was packed up and crammed into cars and moving vans, and the house was looking good. As we sweated and scrubbed in the 90 degree heat, we ticked off rooms: bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, living room--DONE! We had the kitchen left to scrub, and a final zoom through with the vacuum. Devon was scrubbing the kitchen, and I was touching up a little paint damage we'd managed to do to the baseboards around the house.

Let me advise you right now, NEVER do baseboard touch-up work in a house that you are about an hour away from being DONE with. NEVER AGAIN.

I was in one of the bedrooms, scootching my way around the floor of the room on my butt, filling the little dark spots where the paint had been chipped off. Let me add, the baseboards in our house were white, so I had a can of white paint I was carrying around with me. Paint can in hand, I stood up to take a look at how things were going, and promptly stubbed my toe on the carpet and tripped. The paint can flew out of my hands, and paint exploded across the BROWN carpet and onto the tan walls. There was paint EVERYWHERE.

Based on the speed at which Devon made it into the room, the tone of my voice when I howled "OH NO, DEVON!!!!" must have been a pretty good indicator of my emotion: panic. We grabbed as many towels as we could find and started frantically sopping up paint. What in the HELL were we going to do? Not only was our deposit as good as gone, we were probably going to have to pay to have the whole damn room re-carpeted--maybe even the whole HOUSE.

We had been probably TWO hours from being done with the house, and still hadn't had dinner. The frantic brainstorming started. I encouraged Devon to start helping with the carpet rather than the walls (we had matching paint for the walls, we could touch that up later). Thinking back to what had worked best as far as getting the paint brushes clean, I told Devon we HAD to keep the paint wet. If we let it dry, there was no hope left. I grabbed a water bottle and then a bucket and started pouring water directly on the carpet. Then came the dish soap. It had worked for getting the paint out of the brushes, why not the carpet? So, with a sponge mop, a bucket of water, rags and a bottle of dishsoap, we went to work. And believe it or not, it started to come up.

We managed to get about 1/2 of the paint out that way, I think (or maybe it was just more spread out?). Devon started thinking, and remembered that she'd seen carpet cleaners for rent at Fred Meyer. At this point, it couldn't hurt. She jumped in the car, and drove out to the store to see about renting one. Sure enough, they had them. Unfortunately, they required photo ID to rent one. And hers was locked in her office at work (oh, the coincidence). She blasted home, tossed me her car keys (mine was packed with plants--no room for a steam cleaner), and I went and grabbed the machine.

I cannot BELIEVE how well it worked. It was outstanding. Emily, David, and their friend Allen came by to pick up Flymo (our hovercraft lawnmower) as I was sucking up the last of it and drying out the carpet. By that point, aside from my frazzled appearance, they swore you couldn't tell there'd been a bucket of paint spilled all over the carpet. The other awesome thing about the cleaner, is that it sucked up all the water we'd dumped on the carpet trying to prevent the paint from drying.

Devon stopped by the next day to check on things, and she said there was no sign of the disaster. Sure enough, we got our deposit back from the management company today, and it was the entire thing.

Good grief.

The moral of this story is: don't play with paint in rental houses.