02 October 2015

Pumpkin Month

September was a giant month full of ALL THE THINGS! Kyle's fall semester is now in full swing, and we are BUSY. Right now our lives are all about balance - Get a school project done...then work on a bus project. Work really hard...then bring some snacks to the beach.
That's why September's goals were pretty chill.  October's will be too.
  • Find some good, easy crockpot recipes to make mealtime easier.  I tried out a crockpot 12 bean soup recipe but wasn't too impressed. That's pretty much all I tried. It was really easy, at least.
  • Put that stupid window back in the bus. September 6 shall go down in history as the day we called in an expert and traded zucchini bread for manpower and finally got that last window to give.
  • We both signed up to volunteer at a surf event at Folly Beach. The event was called Wheel to Surf, and we were helping disabled people surf! It was one of the coolest events ever.
  • Clean up the garden.  Dead and dried things removed, now it almost looks like a happy garden again!
  • Figure out what we're doing Labor Day Weekend. We put the window back in the bus and that is all I remember about Labor Day Weekend.
Alright, let's see what I can muster up for October.
  • We're volunteered at another event this month - a Latin American Festival. We'll be slinging cervezas all day long.
  • I made a couple recipes in early September that I haven't gotten around to sharing, so expect to see some tasty treats this month.
  • We're looking at at least one camping trip this month. Maybe two? Maybe two. 
  • It would be pretty great to have refrigeration for our camping trip. We just need a house battery, a regulator, and some wooden stuff.
  • Ribs were on sale...so I bought a rack of ribs. I have no idea what to do with them! So that's happening.
Gratuitous shot of the world's most stubborn window:

Check out this buddy I found at work! Just chillin' on the sidewalk.
We hardly ever go out to eat, and when we do, it's usually a taco truck where $9 will sate us both. Well, we decided to splurge during Charleston Restaurant Week.  People! This is one of the best meals I've had in a long time. That's why I'm going to make you look at every single thing we ate.
Chicken and veggie empanadas, spicy tuna tostados (with a habanero sauce and avocado relish), wood fire grilled salmon and veggies, and a mountain of tenderloin stuffed poblano peppers (with ancho rice, roasted red peppers, black beans, caramelized onions, jack cheese, roasted corn, red chile sauce, and poblano cream).
And to top it all off, an ancho brownie with caramel sauce and tequila whipped cream. Tequila! Whipped! Cream!
I'm still drooling at the memory....um. Anyway. Where was I? Right, more photos. We started mocking up the bus interior with some scrap wood, because practice makes perfect.
This was probably the most exciting part - the couch (bench? settee? sofa?) and fold-out bed.
And finally, we spent last weekend at Folly Beach. Kyle was volunteered for two shifts but I only volunteered for the afternoon, so in the morning I wandered around taking photos. With my eight year old point-and-shoot. Which apparently has smears all over the lens.
In the afternoon, we were both in the water aiding surfing experts who were guiding wheel-chair bound people through the waves. It was awesome.
And that wraps up our mega-month. I don't think things will be slowing down at all this Fall, so we just need to focus on balance, and only burn the candle at both ends when we really have to.

18 September 2015

Wild Rice Salad

I don't know how to tell you this, but I've been making this recipe for years. And I haven't shared it until now.
Please forgive me. Part of me felt like all cooks had to have one good trick up their sleeve for those special occasions.  I've seen the light now - there's no holding back.
Wild rice and brown rice - the base of this dish is already beautiful, before it gets brightened up with color.
I always cut green onions on the diagonal, and then wonder if anyone notices it while they're eating.
Since the rice needs to be fully cooled before assembly, I prep all the veggies while the rice is cooking and then when I'm ready to serve, everything just needs to be tossed together.
A quick dressing tops it all off, and gives everything a light sheen of oil.
Just before throwing everything together, toast some pine nuts.
The toasted nutty flavor ties in well with the sesame oil and brown rice.
So many flavors and textures - it starts as a side dish but I'll freely admit I've eaten this salad for dinner.
Wild Rice Salad (based on this recipe)
  • 1/2 c. wild rice
  • 1/2 c. brown rice
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 4 stalks celery, roughly chopped*
  • 8 green onions, diagonally sliced
  • 1 c. frozen peas*
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs dark sesame oil**
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts
  • 3/4 c. dried cranberries
  • salt and pepper
1.  Heat the chicken broth and rice in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let simmer for 40-45 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes then fluff.  Cool rice completely before assembling salad.
2.  I usually prep the veggies while the rice is cooking - thaw the peas, chop the celery and green onions.
3.  Combine the evoo, sesame oil, vinegar and sugar.  Whisk together then pour over the rice.
4.  Toast the pine nuts: place the nuts in a pan over medium heat. Keep an eye on them! Gently toss every 20 seconds or so until they are slightly browned.  Let them cool.
5.  Combine all ingredients. Stir well.  Dish can be served immediately, or let stand overnight to let flavors meld and cranberries slightly re-hydrate.

*Either of these can be substituted for the more-palatable green bell pepper.
**If you can't find sesame oil, there's an easy work-around - definitely don't skip it!  Get some sesame seeds, toast them just like you do the pine nuts, then let them cool and pop them in a blender.  Marinate the blended sesame seeds in olive oil for that same amazing flavor.  1 tsp of sesame seeds is sufficient for 2 tbs evoo, but I would recommend making more because sesame oil is really fantastic.
I bring this dish to just about every potluck, and it gets compliments without fail. So many unique flavors blended so well together.

04 September 2015

Goals and Michigan

August was a weird month.  Kyle was gone for the first three weeks, leaving me to fend for myself (mostly).  Then the last week we were both in MI on vacation.  Now that we're back at home, I'm trying to figure out my new routine and we're both trying desperately to catch up.
I'll touch on goals for a second then get to the good part - all the photos.
  • Digitize two comic panels.  I started one and it was much more work than I anticipated.  Back to the drawing board on that project...
  • Pick up Kyle's shift at the taphouse.  Tell me your problems, I'm a bartender.
  • Do some fun shopping.  Wedding gifts, check. Baby gifts, check.
  • Take a vacation.  A whirlwind trip to Michigan, photographs below.
  • Elderberries.  I still want this to happen, but it's just not going to work out this year.
And then it's September.  My goals are going to be really lax because we're both really busy with work/school.
  • Find some good, easy crockpot recipes to make mealtime easier.
  • Put that stupid window back in the bus.
  • We're both signed up to volunteer at a surf event at Folly Beach later this month. Woot!
  • Clean up the garden.  Most things are dead and need to be removed.
  • Figure out what we're doing Labor Day Weekend...uh yeah, that starts today.  No plans yet!?
I apparently got volunteered at a beer festival in August.  I had sent an email inquiring about volunteers a couple months before the event, and never got a response until three days before the festival when they told me what time to show up for my shift...
I prepped some freezer pizza pockets so that I'd have some easy lunches when we got back from vacation.  They're the best!
I got all the wine labeled for my little brother's wedding reception.  Such cute labels!
Finally it was time for me to drive north.  14 hours later I was drinking Moscow Mules with my mother-in-law!
From there, the whirlwind of visits kicked off.  Including my favorite puppy!  Look how dignified he's trying to be, despite his crazy hair.
A 30th birthday party meant we got to see a ton more people than we planned on!
We made time for a quick hike - we'd hiked this trail in snowshoes but never had a chance to check it out in the summer.
We quickly racked up hours on the road, zig-zagging across the state in an effort to see as many people as possible, including this two-week-old.
Then across the state again to catch up with some friends and try a new brewery.
A stop in Grand Rapids for a bachelorette party...
...and then downstate for the actual wedding.
And to top things off, we overnighted in Kentucky with family!  I forgot to take any pictures there, so instead enjoy these succulents.
It was a wonderful vacation, and I got to see nearly all my favorite people.   
Contented sigh.  Now, back to work...

28 August 2015


Kyle and I were separated by a thousand miles for three weeks.  In a desperate attempt to keep him a little closer, I asked him to send me a selfie every day.  I really should have seen this coming, but he agreed only on the condition that I do the same.
As much as I hate to say it, it did make the whole thing a little easier.  And I think we both got better at taking selfies.
We even managed to figure out selfies with multiple people.
I'm glad I don't have to take any more selfies though.

14 August 2015

Paint and Windows

It's been a while since there's been a bus post so here's what we did in June and July.
The seals on the windows were so old and brittle that when we washed the bus, the seals bled all over, leaving black streaks down the freshly cleaned sides.  It was great (not). The seals had to go.

Kyle cut the seals and we pulled out the windows without breaking a single pane.  There was minor rust at the bottoms of the windows, nothing to worry about, until we got to the rear vent wing window.  
That entire window was extra rusty, but the vent wing window itself was pretty bad.
With the windows out, Kyle neutralized the rust and prepped the interior for paint.
The really fun thing about buswork is that hours of labored gets condensed into single sentences that don't tell you what it's like to crouch down for half an hour in 100° heat.  So next, we masked off the bus then primed and painted it.  I figured white would be easy to get along with and would keep the interior bright - most of these surfaces won't be visible when we're done anyway.
Then, disaster.  We removed the masking and there was a thin cloud of white all over the top of the bus, especially above the back hatch.
My first instinct was to wash it, but with the windows out we'd need to wait until everything was dry.  24 hours and seven google searches later, it turns out you can take care of it with auto wax pretty easily before it dries.  Since it was dry, wax only worked with an incredible amount of labor.  What worked much better?  Acetone.  It didn't damage the paint underneath either.
Here's a pro tip: if you're going to decide you hate the paint color, do it before you remove the masking.  Otherwise you've got to redo several hours of work.
The good news is that I LOVE the color now.  It is a lighter version of the exterior teal, but still very vibrant.

Kyle installed some interior insulation - $14 for a package of floor foam tiles.  More masking and some spray adhesive and we're in business!  We're both impressed with how well it cuts down on the heat.
Finally, time to reinstall the windows.  Kyle's post about reinstalling the windshield details how we accomplished this project.  The short version of the story is that we soaked some paracord in Simple Green (enough to circle the window once), applied it to the seal of the window, put the window in place, and then Kyle applied pressure from the outside as I pulled out the paracord.
I have no photos of this part because we both had our hands full.  Suffice it to say the windows went in easily, and it was great because I had visions of shattered window in my mind.
Of course, no project is without a hitch.  We deemed the vent wing window a loss, and after exploring several options it was apparent that the cheapest option was to go with a solid window.  Some awesome friends had a spare window for us to use, so after our new solid seal arrived, we attempted installation.  Three times.  It would not fit.  Kyle tried grinding down the window a bit to fit it better, but several attempts later got us nowhere.  The new window was about a 1/4" taller than the original windows, and the tempered glass will not be ground down.

That's where it sits right now.  Missing one window.  Waiting for us to figure out what we're going to do now.