Monday, December 29, 2008

Crazy Co-worker

I came to work today expecting to not do much. We are only scheduled to work Monday and Tuesday this week before the New Year's break. Unfortunately I noticed someone had brought up some experiments that had to be dealt with that day. Apparently there was a miscommunication between some of the team members. This left me and another cow-worker in the position of having to do the experiments so we wouldn't lose the data point. Since we had worked 2 months on this, it wasn't an option to just drop it. So we rushed to label some tubes and started working on the collection points. NEedless to say, our very relaxed day became a very busy day because of this. We have decided in future to make sure everyone is aware of what dates we need to do these on as this was a very long day. Oh well. At least we managed to get the work done before 5:00.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Car Camping

I had a day hike planned for the Friday but only two people RSVP'ed that they could go. In generally I have found that if there are less then five people RSVP'ed for an event, that is just isn't worth running the event as no one will show up. IT is a shame because this was an event to go down to see the Christmas trees that the capital decorate each year. Plus there is a tree decorated for each state by each state that I thought would be really cool to see. Alas, I cancelled the trip and went car camping with a few friends instead. I had a really great time in spite of leaving at the last second and driving for several hours. The weather was actually quite nice for December and I was quite warm in my 15 F sleeping bag. In fact one night, I had to actually vent air. We had found a really nice camping area just off the Appalachian Trail and had a fire pit and dry wood. We day hiked the area and found a few other great sights to set up at which would make great star gazing trips. Or trips for beginners as the trail in wasn't too long or too hard. So many trips to plan and do, not enough time. Is there any way to do this full time?


Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Break

Work decided to be nice and gave up the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off. I decided to stay in town this year as I just didn't feel I had the money to go back. Plus my brother was out of town so I didn't think Christmas was going to be the same with just the three of us. So instead, I ignored the day and did a few day hikes with some other people. I also got some Christmas coffee with the guy from the backpacking trip from last weekend. It was nice of him to keep me company. All in all, a nice five days spent just hiking and relaxing. Best of all is that I get to do it all over again next week too.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Wildoak backpacking trip

I signed up for a trip that I thought sounded fun. Guess I should read the descriptions a little better in the future. I didn't realize this was a 13 mile hike over two days. But I didn't think it would be so bad so I went anyways. Little did I know that the trail was very hilly with steep climbs over a broken ridge line. Everyone made it to the top of Little Bald, which was our half way point ad few people went on from that point. The majority of the group ended up camping the night at the top of the mountain. Since there was a fire ring, water, and flat area to camp this was no problem. The problem was the cold and wet weather, but we ignored it, built up a nice big fire and dug in. Everyone seemed to have had a blast in spite of the weather. I met some really nice people that I would love to hike with again, especially if we can all sit around the fire and yak like we did on this trip.

I felt a little bad for a few people. Other then some of us just being tired and a little lazy we did have some people who were not dressed or physically ready for this trip. One guy was wearing all cotton, the other guy had just gotten over the flu. He seemed to be fine until we were just short of the summit and then he was white as a ghost. It was a good thing we decided to stop. Plus I think we had more fun this way then if we had pushed it.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter camping trip

Another meetup organizer and myself set up an event for introducing winter backpacking to people who already do 3 season backpacking. As we would have access to a small hut, it gave people a chance to test out their sleep systems knowing if they were too cold, they could go in the hut and sleep warmer. We ended up with 8 people total which was a nice sized group. The organizer and I took time to make sure everyone had the right gear over email and by the time the trip started, everyone seemed to be in good shape. It was a 10 mile hike total and there was some snow and ice present. We didn't expect it but it was nice to have as it made for some great views. We did spend a lot of time stopping and looking at views. We had to hurry up after lunch so we could reach the cabin before dark.

The cabin was a cute little thing with thick stone walls and a tiny little wood stove. We tried to get a fire going outside, but eventually moved the fire inside and got the stove going. It was really nice in the cabin and no one wanted to leave to go to bed. The next morning, everything was covered in frost. Since we had arrived a little late the day before, we never did find the privy. The next morning, someone who was up early with a few of us had gone off to explore a little and finally found it. Turns out it was on the other side of the main trail. It was way out of the way. Oh well.

The hike out was almost all downhill and we just flew down. I had a chance to talk with the other organizer and we had a great time. We are also organizing a big New Year's Eve party on Assateague. That should be lots of fun and I am really looking forward to that.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008


We have some rabbits at work that receive kale for dietary enrichment. I don't ever remember having kale as a kid. I have been reading some cooking blogs lately and they do tend to be seasonal with their recipes. This is nice as it is easy to find good apples when they are in season and they will have a sudden influx of apple recipes. So I wasn't too surprised to see a few kale recipes going by recently as kale was in season. It wasn't until a particular recipe went by with chorizo that I decided to give kale a try. I love chorizo, there is something about it that is delicious. It might be the smoked paprika but it could be something else. This was a recipe for chorizo and kale soup. Since I saw kale at the store and it was cheap I decided to take a chance on it.

So I guess I have one thing to say, "why haven't I discovered kale sooner!" I loved the kale in the soup. I had no idea what it tasted like before I made the soup but it has an almost buttery texture and the flavour is very mild but almost cabbage like. It takes a little longer to cook but it is great. And it worked really well with the chorizo, chickpeas and white beans. I noticed that celery was quite expensive so I bought a couple of leeks to replace the celery in the soup and that was a great replacement. I think I might swap out the white beans for black beans or another larger white bean, but other then that, this was a great soup. This was actually an amalgam of two different recipes and I think this turned out great, so much so, that I don't think I will try either of the base recipes. I didn't have a cheese rind, but maybe next time. I also used regular curly leafed kale rather then the cavolo nero called for.

Hearty Kale and Chorizo Soup
Serves 4-6

2 teaspoons olive oil
12 ounces chorizo sausage
1 large white onion, chopped and thinly sliced
4 stalks of celery, chopped (I used 3 leeks)
1 large sweet potato, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch (about 1 lb) kale, preferably cavolo nero, halved and chopped into thin ribbons
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 rind Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (optional, but so good!)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can white beans, like navy, cannellini, or Great Northern, drained and rinsed (I used black and a can of corn)

Chop or crumble the chorizo into bite-size pieces. Film a heavy pan lightly with olive oil and put over medium-high heat. Cook the chorizo for about five minutes or until it starts browning and and smoking. Lift out to a bowl for later.

Pour a little more olive oil into the pan and turn the heat to medium. Add the onions and celery (leek), and cook for about ten minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic, and cook for another couple minutes, or until golden and fragrant.

Add 1/4 cup of chicken broth and the kale to the pot. Stir to coat everything with chicken broth and then cover the pot with a lid. Stir the kale every three minutes until it is barely tender, adding more broth as needed if the pot becomes dry, about 12 minutes total. Add sweet potato after 6 minutes.

Add the chorizo back in, cook all together for a minute, stirring. Add the rest of the broth, white wine, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, cheese rind, and 2 teaspoons of salt. If the veggies aren't quite covered, add extra broth or water. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until the kale is completely tender and the potatoes are cooked through. Add the chickpeas and white beans. Remove bay leaf and cheese rind.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

St. Mary's Rock Hike

Off again today, this time for a day hike. I was expecting it to be about 6.5 miles, but since the park was closed, we started at an alternate location and hiked the route backwards making it closer to 7 miles. It was still a great hike. A couple of us had issues with the water freezing in our drinking hoses, and the winds were quite fierce on the summits, but the views were great. I think there was a constant wind of about 30 mph, with gusts of up to 50 mph. One gust was strong enough to push me back, good thing it was away from the edge, not that I was that close. This was a relatively small group but we had a good time. There was a small shelter around the halfway point so we stopped and enjoyed a sheltered lunch and privy break. Always a good thing. There was still some ice and snow on the trail that made for nice views. The road into the park was closed due to the ice. The don't seem to salt in the park so no entry when ice is present.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Busy Day

I had a bit of a busy day today. I had to get ready for a hiking trip tomorrow, do groceries, and put everything away. After that there was the TGIO party for the National Novel Writing month effort. I felt I should go considering how I missed the start party due stuff. Since I was going to the kayaking pool session, I had to gather all my stuff together and make sure I had a dry towel. Since there was going to be little time between the TGIO party and the pool session, I just wore my pool stuff under my jacket and pants. It was a little odd wearing a thin neoprene top but worth not having to worry about changing later. It was nice to see people again. I find that I didn't really have time last month to really make it to the write-in sessions. I think after December I should be able to start having time again.

It started to snow today. I haven't seen any snow yet in the DC area, so this was the first instance that I know of. It was mostly a light dusting that eventually stopped then melted but it was still quite nice. It was also quite nice to soak in the hot tub after pool session. A couple of us went to Gordon Biersch for food and beer afterwards which was fun. I ended up getting back to my place quite late and I wasn't sure I was going to find parking nearby. I lucked out and found a spot on the next street, so I didn't have to carry my wet gear too far. Tomorrow is going to be an early day and a long hike.

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