Thursday, November 19, 2020

Turning Dead Palm Trees into Christmas Decorations

The summer of 2020 in Phoenix was absolutely brutal. We broke almost all heat records, with new records in days over 100 degrees (144 days), days over 110 degrees (53), and days over 115 degrees (14). We also broke a record for the highest low-temperatures, with 28 nights not dropping below 90 degrees. Needless to say, this summer was intense.

So it's not surprising that all around the Valley of the (Intense) Sun, people had their palm trees crisping up and dying. When two of my queen palms started looking like something out of an Indiana Jones desert scene, I thought they were not getting enough water. Then I noticed that palm trees throughout my neighborhood looked the same, so I knew these were deader than a Monty Python Norwegian Blue. 

I hesitated to cut them down, since each Christmas I wrapped them in red and white lights and made them look like candy cane sticks. But I also didn't want to have dead palm trees throughout the holidays. 

What's a boy to do... 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Adding a Closet to an Upstairs Landing

When my wife and I first saw our house, we knew it was the perfect house for us. It had everything that we could ever want - enough bedrooms, a huge yard, a workshop, not too many square feet. It was lacking nothing! 

After we moved in, we realized that, while we still loved our house, it had one quirk. It had weird closet space. Every bedroom had a closet, the master bedroom had two (we converted
one into a desk space), but there were not common closets. No coat closet, no linen closet, no junk closet, no central closet. Nothing. Nada. Zip. 

After years of trying to figure out which wall to knock out to add a closet, we decided to add one at the top of our stairs where our 1980's cabinets and countertop were rocking out. We ended that dance party by tearing out the cabinets. This was about the same time I got my new Greenworks 24V driver and impact driver set. Demo and construction were a great way to break these tools in, and I was really impressed with the light weight and power. From start to finish, these two wonderful tools got the job done. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Four Ways to Find Free Firewood

This time of year, as the weather begins to cool off, there are few things that I like more than having a cozy fire in the fireplace on a chilly evening. Yes, I live in Arizona, and our chilly evenings are not the same as the frigid nights that we had when we lived in Chicago, but nonetheless, I like fires. Crackling logs, the fragrant smell of the wood burning, the flickering glow of the flames. It is the perfect background for reading a book, watching a movie, cooking, cleaning, or doing just about anything.

But I'm cheap. For years I would buy cords or half cords of perfectly cut and stacked firewood. This wood was usually more than what I wanted to spend on something that would just be burned up in my fireplace. Then I turned into Scrooge, putting as few logs on the fire as possible. Just enough to give me the glow and the smells and the feeling, without actually being a roaring fire. But this didn't satisfy my desire to have regular fires in the fireplace. So I started looking for cheaper ways to enjoy everything that comes with a fireplace fire.

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?

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