Monday, August 31, 2020

Use Up Leftover Paint with a Little Creativity

I recently converted a space in our house into a closet (full article on that next month). It was another If You Give a Mouse a Cookie project, which started with wanting to paint the upstairs landing and ended with gutting cabinets, framing, and drywalling. As with any house project, go big or stay home!

I was working on using up the grey paint that I used on most of our house, and after 1200 square feet of various shades of grey I started to feel like I was in a Tim Burton movie. Don't get me wrong, I like the colors that we used in our house. But after months of painting with it I was ready for a little splash of color.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Try These Little Firecrackers: Homemade Jalapeño Poppers

When my wife and I were first married, we decided to try gardening in our yard in the Chicago suburbs. It was an extremely fertile plot of land, so the two tomato plants and one jalapeño plant gave us an abundant crop. In fact, the jalapeño plant was too proficient, and I could not give the peppers away. So my father-in-law and I decided to try canning them.

We sat down at his kitchen table with two very large bags of peppers. We donned our rubber gloves (because, after all, with that much jalapeño chopping we didn't want to irritate our skin). About ten minutes into what ended up being a two hour ordeal, the acid from the peppers leached through the gloves and our hands started  burning. About 30 minutes in, pepper-infused sweat was pouring down our faces and our eyes were tearing up. So here we were--two grown men at a kitchen table, griping about jalapeños with tears streaming down our faces, and in walked my wife and my sister-in-law. Then, to make matters worse, when we canned the peppers, we ended up with two half-pint jars of mushy paste that we decided to throw away. I have never again attempted to can anything. So the question has plagued me for more than a decade: What does one do with an over abundance of hot peppers?

Here's the solution: Homemade, good for you (okay, how about 'not terrible for you?') jalapeño poppers. These are really simple to make, and even turned my (self-proclaimed) wimpy wife into a jalapeño junky.

Start with the peppers. I have used jalapeño, anaheim, serrano, and whatever hot pepper I can get my hands on (a big thanks to Ed and Shelly for being my constant supply of hot peppers that I don't grow in my yard). Cut the peppers in half and scrape the seeds into your compost pile.

In a small bowl, mix equal parts grated cheddar cheese and cream cheese (you can use neufchatel for a lower fat option). Scoop the mixture into the pepper halves, place on a baking sheet, and bake in the oven at 350ish (or on the grill) until the cheese is bubbly and slightly brown. Please note that the cheese will melt out of the pepper and will cause a moat of bubbly goodness surrounding the pepper. These can burn rather quickly, so keep an eye on them.

These are a festive appetizer, and frankly, one of my favorite things about them is that the kids don't like them. This means that on jalapeño popper days I will get at least one thing that I can eat without a kid at my elbow saying, "Daddy, can I have a bite?"

Isn't that worth at least a little bit of heartburn?

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Easy Ginger Peach Ice Cream Sandwiches

I don't know why ginger and peach make such an amazing couple. It's like Fred and Wilma, Bonnie and Clyde, yin and yang, or lemon and lime. Actually, it's not like any of those things, but it is pretty good.

So this brainchild came up as I was looking for a quick, tasty snack to have one evening. It is a simple, two ingredient treat - Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Cookies (two sizes available), and Tillamook Peaches & Cream ice cream.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Yardwork with My Tween

It is currently 350° in Phoenix (no hyperbole or exaggeration here), and today I had a lot of yardwork to do. With temperatures exceeding most oven broiler settings, the idea of being outside for more than a fraction of a second is not as alluring as it is in the fall with the perfect 75° weather. 

But I have a secret weapon. It's my tween. My tween has been working with me to learn to mow, and she is now on auto pilot. This means that instead of me having to mow and then move into the rest of the yardwork, my daughter does the mowing (and trimming) while I get to tackle the rest of the work. She earns money, I get to spend less time with my skin baking off my bones, and we both get to commiserate about the heat together. 

So today I had to tackle trimming my palm tree. This tree is massive, and it has these seed pods that serve two purposes: to clog up the pool vacuum and to sprout hundreds of baby palm trees all around the pool deck. Additionally, when the pods are cut off, they weigh between 25 and 50 pounds, so they are a real treat to haul to the rubbish pile (heavy sarcasm here). 

Normally I don't trim this tree until the seed pods start dropping (after telling myself for weeks to do it before that). And in the past, it has taken me about six hours with a hand saw to trim the fronds and pods. By then I’ve melted into a pool of lava and am too scorched to do anything with the carnage, so I leave all the debris on the ground for a few weeks until I can muster up the energy and willpower to go back out in the heat and deal with the trimmings.  

But today I used my Greenworks pole saw. The reach was perfect, and instead of taking six hours to trim, I had the tree trimmed in 35 minutes. Then I had another (heat)stroke of genius and hired my 8-year-old to pile up the fronds for me. I tossed them over the wall; he dragged them to the driveway and stacked them up. He earned two bucks, and I earned a free afternoon in the AC.

Two hours, beginning to end, and the lawn mowing and tree trimming were done. We were able to once again retreat into the blissful joy of our air conditioning. And while this may seem like an advertisement for Greenworks tools, it is nothing but glowing appreciation from somebody who is grateful for as little time in the baking Arizona summer heat as possible. I got nothing from Greenworks but a pole trimmer and the joy of spending time with two of my kiddos doing yardwork. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Greenworks 60V Gen2 String Trimmer: Clean Up That Messy Line

Here's a story that most of us are familiar with. You have spent a few hours doing yard work. All that's left is trimming the edges of the yard and then blowing off the hardscape, and you're ready for a shower and a cold beverage. You start your string trimmer, get a small percentage of the way done, and then your string line runs out. You're faced with the dilemma of spending the time fighting with the trimmer to refill the line. I know I'm not the only one who has filled up a dual spool trimmer line, gotten it tightly wound, and then went to put it on the trimer head, only to have the line jump bounce out, unwind itself, and get tangled.  At that point, I'm thinking that the edge of the yard doesn't look that bad and can be taken care of the next time I mow. My neighbor doesn't say anything, but I see him eyeing those sloppy edges.

That happens to me every. Single. Time. It never fails. When the trimmer string needs replacing, it's at the tail end of my yard work but never as I swipe that last blade of grass.
Gen 1 (top) and Gen 2 (bottom)

Enter the Greenworks 60V Gen 2 String Trimmer. Any loyal Renaissance Dad reader

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