Day 594 – Happy Feet

Hours of Daylight – 9:37

REI was having a sale, and this time, rather then be one of the very last people to pick over the clearance racks, Annette and i went early. The timing was propitious as i had finally been paid for four of the six weeks i’d worked at my sparkling new job for BSU.

I bought these shoes. They’re made by Keen Footware the same folks who make a popular sandal-like thing designed to compete with Teva. I’ve not bought shoes for a very long time. My last pair of lightweight hikers were also purchased at REI, but in Minnesota, over three years ago. They’ve lasted heroically, but the sole is now as bald as a tire that’s gone 300,000 miles. Oh, in case you’re interested they’re Vasque mid-highs with a gore-tex XCR bootie. Yeah, yeah, gore-tex is overpriced overhyped stuff, but i swear these Vasques are still going kinda strong and remain 100% waterproof. I can’t vouch for the breathability (my feet turn Tevas into swamps), but considering i burn through boots at about one pair per year i can’t say enough nice things about these Vasques. But it’s been past time to get new shoes for quite a while so imagine my surprise when i found these Keen "bronx" on sale and available in my size.

Ok, i know what you’re going to say, "they look like clown shoes." Well, you’re right, that’s exactly what they look like. They are actually built in a shape resembling a human foot. I put these on in the store and my whole demeanor changed. Suddenly i had happy feet. I became William Hurt from The Big Chill when he first puts on the running shoes: "These feel great. I’m never taking these off. I"m going to sleep in them."

Not only do my new shoes feel great but they also make my size 12 feet seem in better proportion to my body. I’m used to looking down and seeing these giant protruding appendages pointing the direction i’m walking, but now i’ve got my little green clown shoes that appear like little nubs from beneath my trousers.

I have no idea how long these will last. They’re very lightweight, and there are many glued seams, so i wouldn’t be surprised if they’re falling apart inside of 4 months. But hopefully Keen will stay in business and in a year when i’m due for a new pair i’ll be able to walk into REI (in Seattle? Portland?) and pick up a new pair without the usual disappointment.

Everybody Loves Sprouts!

Sprout_catAround this season many of the local farm stands and even our corner Fred Meyer start selling brussels sprouts on the stalk. Not only is it fun to buy food that looks like something out of a sci-fi story it’s also a really good deal. You get a ton of food-on-a-stalk and because the central stalk is so woody and heavy they normally charge one price per stalk as opposed to charging by the pound. The stalk in my hand (which has already fed us once) cost a whopping $2.99. The only downside to sprouts is there is a finite number of ways to prepare them. The standard means of preparation usually involves steaming, but baking and sauteeing are also popular. But, given we had a full two thirds of a stalk just asking to be consumed i figured i would do some research and come up with something special for these sprouts.

And here is the result: carmelized sprouts with red onion. All you do is lightly steam the sprouts, then in the obligatory cast iron pan, cook one red onion in some butter and a splash of red wine vinegar until nearly browned, then sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar over the mix, add some more vinegar, dump in the sprouts, and saute until the outer leaves of the sprouts begin to darken. As a special treat i added a handful of pine nuts near the end of the cooking. You can taste the "sauce" while cooking to see if it needs more vinegar, sugar, or even salt. For the rest of the meal i baked a nice orange spaghetti squash and defrosted two boneless/skinless chicken breasts, pounded them flat, and cooked them outside on a very hot grill. The bright orange spaghetti squash made a really great contrast to the bright green and red of the sprouts/onions. I should have made some kind of sauce for the chicken, but all worked out fine. The featured wine was a Ravenswood Shiraz that had a good earthy taste that went well with the squash and the sprouts.

Speaking of sugar (specifically highly refined white sugar), we use only "baker’s sugar." It’s sold in a cardboard milk container and it costs a lot compared to normal sugar. However it’s ground finer than normal crystal sugar and thus dissolves much faster and, i believe, packs more sugar flavor and thus can be used in smaller quantities. At the local Fred Meyer a woman once asked me why i was buying a container of sugar that cost four times what a larger sack of regular white sugar cost.

"Well, white sugar is essentially the same as cocaine. Both come from plants and are refined to about the same extent. I never skimp when buying cocaine, so why skimp when buying sugar? It’s all about seeking quality, don’t you agree?"

She had no reply.