Sandy’s Blog

Well, after following my blog for years, my dear wife has finally given into the addiction called blogging.  She followed my ill-advised advice, and used WordPress.  After a brief training session, she finally has a new post.  It is the talk she offered at her grand father’s funeral.

So, please take a minute to check it out.

Oh, and don’t expect much politics over there.  She doesn’t find it as interesting as I do.  But you will probably learn more about us through her blog, then you will through mine.

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SODO: Cheesy Chicken and Rice

Well, as thouse who follow my twitter account already know, I have put the dutcho ovens away for the year.  However, shortly after I put them away, I pulled them out again.  Last Wednesday my daughter’s school held Parent Teacher Conference.  And to show our teacher appreciation for the extra long hours, our School Parent’s Organization provide dinner for the teachers on that day.

Last year my wife made a delicious Chicken Corn Chowder.  And this year, I thought that it would be a good excuse to use the Dutch Ovens one last time.  So, I pulled them out of storage.

For this recipe, I decided that we would try one of our families favorite oven recipes in the oven.  It’s pretty simple.

4 chicken breast halves
4 Tbsp of butter
1 Tbsp of basil
1 Package of Chicken Flavor Rice and Past Mix
2 Cups water
1 Medium Tomato (sliced)
1 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown the chicken with in the butter.  Coat the chicken with Basil.

Saute the rice pasta mix in the the remaining fat until the pasta is brown.  Then add chicken and water.

Cook in 350 degree dutch oven until rice is tender (approx. 1 hour).  I recommend that more heat is on the bottom for this recipe.  Then add sliced tomatoes and shredded cheese to the top of mix until cheese is melted (approx. 5 minutes).

For this time cooking it we used Zatarans Chick Flavored rice for this recipe, and it tasted different than usual.  I think it was because the rice is different than the brand that we usually use (store brand).

Also, the chicken started out partly frozen, so it ended up being very dry.  However, it was delicious, and I can’t wait to try it in a dutch oven again, when I have a little more time.

100 Push Ups: Week 2 Exhaustion Test

After the Conferences on Saturday, I put my kids to bed, then did some last minute Internet time wasting, before I remembered that I needed to do my exhausion test.

After the 2nd week of the One Hundred Push Ups program, you are supposed to test yourself.  While it is priimarily to see where you belong during week three, I used it to psyche myself up and help me to see that I am improving.

I didn’t want to psyche myself out by counting them.  So, I had my wife count for me.  I was afraid that by knowing that I was past my 15 mark, that I would just give up too early.

25.

I did 25 pushups.  That is 10 more than I idid two weeks ago.  While it isn’t the improvement that I would like to see so that I can complete this program in six weeks.  It is an improvement.  I am excited to see more improvement as I go through the program.

I think that part of my problem was that I didn’t (couldn’t) complete the final set of all but one of the days’ workouts.  Usually, I would fall on my knees with one to three more pushups to do.  I would rest for a few seconds, then complete the set.

Perhaps, I should repeat week 2, but twenty-five push ups are enough for me to go to week 3 if I move to the second column.  So, that’s what I am going to do.  I have been thinking through these past two weeks that it would probably be a better fit for me.

So, tonight, I will be doing 83 or more pushups.  Wow, that sounds crazy.  But I know that I can do it.

Things to Consider Before You Start a Blog

I was recently asked by a friend “what are the top 20 issues, technical or otherwise that someone might face who is learning to blog?”  While he wasn’t looking for a lot a details, I decided that I would give him the details, and now I figured that I would share it here.

Twenty issues huh?  Well, that’s and interesting question, and would be a long list, but let me try.

First of all, not many of my answers will address technical issues.  I think that this is primarily because most blogs are pretty easy to use.  Not much different than and email program.  But it could be that I am more technically savvy than most people, and I just don’t get too bothered by technical problems.

1 – Getting people to read it
If you are going to blog, you obviously want people to read it.  The best way to get people to read your blog is to comment on other’s blogs.  Be sure to leave your blog address when you do, and I am sure you will get a few readers.

2 – Finding time to post regularly
This is more closely related to the first one than many may realize.  But if you aren’t writing regularly then readers aren’t going to come.

3 – Which host site to use
While there are several free hosting sites.  The two biggest are blogger.com (or blogspot.com) and wordpress.com.  I personally recommend wordpress.com.  It seems that there is a lot more available to the user.  However, blogspot is amazingly simple.  And thus easier to use.  But you lose out on a lot of features.  I would take the harder to learn over the easier to learn just so that when you learn the ropes, you will have all the features you might like.

You can also have a blog at your own site (i.e,. http://www.readmythoughts.com).  This is far more complicated to opperate, but people with some Internet publishing skills can usually figure it out.  Again, I reccommend the blog freely available at www.wordpress.org (note that it ends in .org and not .com).

4 – Dealing with mean comments
I would often just stop posting when people were belligerent.  But now, I have a better understanding of what works for me.  No real advise here, I think this is different for everyone.

5 – Spelling and grammar errors
While most programs offer spell check of some sort, it will miss something.  And they all miss grammatical problems.  So, you are going to have to reread your post again and again.  I don’t do that.  Hence, all the errors.

6 – What to write about
Some of this is personal preference, but I struggled with how much politics, how much personal, and how much misc.  I have gotten over it mostly.  And I have a very eclectic blog.  But I like it that way.  Some blogs are very specific.  For example, they talk only Utah Politics, or the LDS Religion.  Some are strictly personal, almost like a journal (the original concept behind blogging).  And some are eclectic like mine.

7 – Whether to tell friends and family
This may be more of my issue.  But for me there are probably only 4 or 5 of my family members (actually they are all my wife’s family) who know about my blog.  But for me, I really don’t care to share it with them.  At first, my wife didn’t know about it, but eventually I told her, and now she reads every post.  I know, because she always corrects my grammar.

8 – How to follow stats
There are several stats counters out there.  I use statcounter.com, but there are others.  Which one is the best, I really don’t know.  I just want some data, and statcounter.com provides me with what I want, so I never really looked at anything else.  With WordPress you have stats provided to you, so you may not want a separate counter.

9 – Putting too much emphasis on stats
Some people worry too much that there stats are too low.  Then they use this as a reason to stop writing.  But it isn’t a popularity contest.

10 – Protecting family
With young children in the home, I try to keep my kids IDs somewhat hidden.  For example, they all have nicknames (PandaMae, Miss Jo, BO, Miss Kay, Capt. Z, and Flash).  Also, I try to avoid saying much more than I live in Riverton, UT.  But I slip up sometimes.

11 – Learning how to promote the site
You don’t have to pay anybody to promote your site.  Just link to a lot of stuff, and encourage people to link back to your.  This is the number 1 way to get your site listed higher in the search engines.

12 – Understanding trackbacks
This is a feature available in WordPress and some other blogging programs (not blogger/blogspot).  If more people understood this, they would use it.  It’s a way to comment on another’s blog while posting on your own blog.  This way people who are interested in that topic, will follow a link to get you take on the same topic.

13 – Learning the software
As with all software there can be a learning curve.  I will repeat that blogspot is pretty easy to learn, and wordpress harder.  But the features come to play.

14 – Understanding etiquette
If you have a private conversation with someone, keep it private.  The Web is the public.  Watch what you say about others.  There are other ettiquette rules, But you can search for them.

15 – Writing for writings sake and not fame
A lot of first time bloggers write hoping to make a lot of money and become famous.  It probably won’t happen.  So forget about it.  Enjoy the process of writing and you will have fun blogging.

Well, that’s 15.  I know that there was at least one more.  But I am drawing a blank on it.  Hope this helps.  If you are asking because you are considering blogging.  Let me know about your site, and I will link to it.

Since I sent that email to him I remember the other item.  That was read other’s blog.  Basically that give you ideas of what to write about.  Also it can be a great place to promote you blog.

Anyway, these are just what I came up with.  Are there any more that you could add to the list.

SODO: Orange Knot Rolls

I promised to post this two days ago, and yesterday, so I better get it posted, or you will all have me on a stake. Right now you might think I am just talking silly, but when you eat these, you will change your mind.

While on our Camp last week, we tried something that we haven’t ever had. We haven’t even had this done in a modern oven. But they sounded good.

Before I share the recipe, I should let you know that we got the recipe from Rhodes Bake-N-Serv. They offer great recipes for those who buy their product. But my wife and I are too cheap to pay their price, so we just use her Fridge Dough recipe that I shared with you earlier.

Then we followed the recipe modified for the dutch oven:

12 Dinner Rolls, thawed by still cold (we divided 1 loaf worth of fridge dough)
1 Orange rind, grated
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

Citrus glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
3 tablespoons orange juice (we just used the juice from the orange that we rinded).
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix grated orange rind with sugar. Roll each roll into a 9-inch rope. Tie in a loose knot. Roll each knot in melted butter (was melted in the dutch oven) and then in rind/sugar mixture. Place in dutch oven with remaining melted butter. Cover and let rise until double in size. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes. Poor citrus glaze on rolls before serving.

They were good. The only reason we had any left over was because I was full already, and I could imagine stuffing myself any more. But there were gone early the next day.

I am still trying to figure out how to keep breads from getting over done on the bottom, and how to brown the tops. This time we tried flipping th rolls. This worked, but it was difficult and messy. I think that I am going to try putting more coals on top, and less on the bottom next time.

The Camp of Hikes

Last week our family took our new-to-us tent trailer camping at Spruces Campground. While it wasn’t my first choice for campsites, it really was a good trip.

We ended up leaving on Monday afternoon about 3:30pm. That was a lot later than I had originally planned, but I could get myself moving on Saturday to get the trailer packed and ready. So, we did most of the packing on Monday.

After we got to camp, we decided to do tinfoil dinners first, because the dutch oven meals were still frozen. It was nice. We then settle in earlier than usual for camping, because we had worked hard that morning.

In the morning, I woke up before everyone else (which is typical). So, I decided that I would start the day in searching for a geocache. The is called New Name New Cache and it is located up the Days Fork Trail. It is accessible only through the Spruces campground, but you can park just outside the campground if you don’t want to pay the fee.

It was a rough hike at first, but it levels off near the end and is very pleasant. I was tempted to place another cache to attract people up there, but I really didn’t have a good container. So, I will put one up next year. Spruces seems to be an annual tradition in our family.

When I got home we had a big breakfast of biscuits, sausages, and eggs. The biscuits were done in the dutch oven, and as you would expect from the dutch oven, there were better than from a regular oven.

After breakfast, I got the geocaching but again. So, I offered to take my kids on a hike to find a geocache. We headed out in search of Health Come to Dog Lake. When I got to the trail head and saw that the trail was 2.6 miles, I should have known it was too much for my 4- and 2-year-old to handle, but when I am caching such common sense departs.

After getting about 1.5 miles into the hike, I contemplated turning around. It was a beautiful enough of a spot to call our final destination. There were hundreds of butterflies, a few bees, and thousands of beautiful flowers by the stream. It made a great resting place.

However, after eating the snacks that we had brought, I was renewed. So, we pushed on. I told my children that we would decide about turning back once we got the the fork in the trail. At the fork, it was only a half a mile left to Dog Lake, so we decided to do it. It was a lot rougher, but no more difficult than the first half of the trail. It was at this point I started to carry Capt. Z.

We finally made it to Dog Lake. It wasn’t much to see, but it was a good hike. We thought about pushing on the the cache. But realized that it was 2:30pm and that Mom would be expecting us home soon. So, we gave up on that cache, and decided to find the two that I had already found before. We found the first, but not the last.

We ended up not getting home until 5:30pm. So late, that my wife had called my dad, and was ready to send out the search teams. But my dad assured her, that I was just following in his foot steps and turning a short hike into a forever hike.

Sandy had dinner all ready to go by the time we got home, so I helped her get dessert ready. We had the Great Chicken Dinner that I have told you about again. But we finished it off with some very delicious Orange Knot Rolls. I will share the recipe with you tomorrow. After a long hike, it was very delicious and satisfying. I don’t remember ever eating that well while camping.

We started a game of cards that evening, but the younger kids were acting up, and we decided that we should call it a night.

Wednesday morning, I decided to stick around for two reasons. The first was because we were having German Pancakes in the dutch oven. The second was that I was tired from the 8 miles of hiking that I did the day before.

After breakfast, the kids relaxed and played in the nearby stream, and I didn’t do much. I did take a short nap, and played a little catch with the kids, but for the most part, I watched the trees grow.

After lunch, which was hot dogs and mac’n’cheese, we play a game of ‘May I’ (that’s pronounced like the request “may eye?”). One of these days I hope to explain it to you, because I believe that it is a Gazelem Family phenomenon.

Then for dinner we had barbecue country style pork ribs (if you need the recipe then you have never dutch oven cooked) and baked potatoes. The potatoes were done by wrapping them in tinfoil and then cooking them in the dutch oven. They were amazingly good.

I couldn’t let the day go by without some geocaching, so we decided to do some drive-by caches in the canyon. We started out with a no find, then we had a couple of easy finds by a restaurant and a trail head.

The cache by the trail head gave me an idea of where I wanted to go in the morning. So after an okay night’s rest, I started by going after perhaps the lamest virtual cache in Utah, and perhaps the reason GC.com doesn’t list virtual caches. Then, I headed back to the trail head, and head up the canyon to grab several different caches.

But the main goal to to get a possible First To Find. I knew from the description, and looking at my TOPO maps on my GPS that this wasn’t going to be a pretty hike. But I had to go for it. Because my database was a month old and it looked like a possible First Find experience. The hike up was rough. There was a couple of times that I thought about giving up. But I perservered, and I was the second to find the cache.

My only regret is that my camera batteries were dead and so there were no pictures taken of this beautiful site. I might just have to do this again for the great pictures. But I think that I saw an easier approach while I was up there, so I might try a different route next time.

Coming down was an adventure itself. I decided to follow in the steps of the person before me (not that I saw his tracks, just had the same mind set). And I headed straight down the hill. There were several times that I felt like I was going to fall and break something, but after slowing down just a hair, and keeping my eyes wide open, I managed to get to Willow Heights safely.

When I got home, we started packing up the trailer and started heading home. It was a fun week, and I am glad that despite my misgivings, that we went camping at Spruces. Next year, I will definitely place a couple of caches in the area. Because I know that I will be going often enough.

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SODO: First Time Baking Bread

For Father’s Day my wife more than took care of me. Actually, if you ask me, she went a little over board. But, I finally have some items that I have been wanting for a very long time. So, I forgive her.

I received two things that I really wanted. The first was a Camp Chef Dutch Oven Table to make it easier to cook. Now I don’t have to bend over and risk hurting my back.

The other thing that I wanted was Charcoal Lighting Basket (I didn’t get the one pictured, but you get the idea). This will hopefully help me to get my coals to cook more evenly, and thus have a better cooking experience.

Finally my wife got me something else that was on my list, but not as high as those two. She got me a second 12″ Round Dutch Oven. This will be especially nice when I want to cook two things at the same time.

My New Toys in action

So, that’s what we did. Yesterday, we cooked up a roasted chicken. Nothing special there. Just clean a whole chicken, season it (we use seasoning salt), and then cook it in your oven.

But we complemented the chicken with some fresh homemade rolls. My wife for years has been using the “refrigerator” bread dough recipe. It will keep in the fridge for up to about a week. So, you can have fresh bread almost all the time. Just let it rise, then bake it.

FRIDGE DOUGH

1 Pkg. Yeast (abt 2-3 tsp)
1 cup cool water
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
1 cup Hot water
About 6-7 cups flour

  1. Mix Yeast in 1 cup cold water
  2. Mix eggs, sugar, salt and shortening
  3. Combine ingredients of 1 and 2 and Hot Water.
  4. Mix in flour until dough is no longer sticky. (Dough will not be firm, but not sticky)

Store covered in a large greased container. Dough will raise some in the fridge so be sure to allow room for growth (Use within 10 days or it will get to tasting a little ripe.)
Makes about 3 recipes worth.

Sandy mixed all of the ingredients, and placed them in a tinfoil lined Dutch Oven. Then we let them rise in the heat of the sun for about a half-hour to 45 minutes.

Then we cooked them in the Dutch Oven. It should have taken around 30 minutes, but my coals were damp, and they didn’t get very hot. I think I have finally learned my lesson to bring my unused charcoals into the garage to stay dry.

I was really nervous that the rolls would be burned on the bottom. But they were, They were just shy of being perfect on the bottom. The top, however, wasn’t done as well as I would have liked. Yes, they were very edible and the flavor and texture was just fine. The only problem was that they didn’t brown on the top. They were as pale as when they were put in the oven.

So, I am going to have to research and figure out the best way to brown bread on the top in a Dutch Oven. Otherwise, the meal was fine (accept we ate late again today).