Another Woodworking Project Begins

The beginnings of another woodworking project.

Posted in Durable Goods | Tagged | Leave a comment

Stuffed Peppers with Campbell’s Soup

Yesterday after school the kids and I saw a video of “how to make stuffed peppers” on the Facebook and we decided to try making them in our test kitchen. stuffed peppersThey turned out pretty good – but not perfect. But…we’ll get to that.

.stuffed peppersWe started out by prepping the peppers – we cut the tops off and then shaved a very thin slice off the bottom so that they would sit flat in the pan and then I put them into the oven for about 15 minutes to soften them up a bit.

stuffed peppers

Then we started cooking the grass fed lean ground beef I picked up from Josh at Farm Town Meats in Burnaby.

And then I made my mistake – the same mistake I make over and over again! I added the spice. Too much. What is wrong with me?!

The recipe says a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and I added a half … by mistake … but still. The pepper overpowered everything else. Ugh. And, the kids didn’t like them – and I can’t blame them. Tonight I will re-work the leftovers into a more creamy-tomato chilli that we can have with a bowl of rice.

stuffed peppers

We added the diced onions and the diced up bits of pepper (that we got from the tops and the thin slice off the bottom) and let that cook until the onions were soft – just a few minutes over a medium-high heat.

stuffed peppers

Then I added in a can of Campbell’s roasted red pepper and tomato condensed soup – I bought the soup from our local grocery store – Campbell’s is not sponsoring this post.

stuffed peppers

Stir, mix, let it cook and thicken up.

stuffed peppers

Add in the fresh diced tomatoes and the cup of macaroni I had previously cooked, and let it cook some more to combine the flavours.

stuffed peppers

Then I very carefully scooped the chilli into each of the peppers that I had standing in the Dutch oven before I adding some shredded cheese.

stuffed peppers

Then cover with tin foil and into the pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

stuffed peppers

And then we served them.

stuffed peppers

Like I said, they looked good, they cooked perfectly, but … the cayenne pepper overpowered everything else. Double ugh. I will have to have a do-over. And leave the spices out of it!

Posted in In the Kitchen | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Let’s Break Bread

What a couple of weeks of chaos!

I’ve had no time to write a single thing. Ugh. So here’s a random pic of a loaf of French bread I baked while I was away at the cabin.

It was a good loaf of bread.

Posted in In the Kitchen | Tagged | Leave a comment

Butter Chicken with House of Knives

Last weekend I had a few quiet moments at home so I took the opportunity to test out the chef’s knife and vegetable peeler that the folks from House of Knives gave me – yes, this is a sponsored post because the knives were given to me by HOK.

I decided to try making Butter Chicken. As it turned out, it was FAR too spicy so I went back after the video and doubled the ingredients (other than spice!) to “dilute” the flavours. That worked perfectly.

The “recipe” is so simple. Diced up chicken, a can of condensed tomato soup, a can of milk, curry (butter chicken) spice, diced onion and carrot. Add in garlic and ginger as you like. This is a very simple way to make Butter Chicken.

Posted in In the Kitchen | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The #5DadsGoWild Ford Explorer Experience

I’m a guy who grew up with trucks. My dad had a truck, both my grandfathers had trucks, and the first vehicle I ever owned was a truck. I love trucks.

However, now my lifestyle is not conducive to owning a truck. In fact, I currently drive one of the smallest and least technologically advanced cars on the road. A car with hand crank windows and doors I need to lock manually – and I don’t mean by pressing a beeper on my keychain. My car is one of the most basic cars on the road and somewhat sadly, it is almost time to replace it – so I am exploring my options. And the most recent option I test drove was the Ford Explorer. Ford ExplorerSo when I was offered the chance to drive the 2018 Ford Explorer from my home in the burbs up to Manning Park on the #5DadsGoWild trip, I jumped at the opportunity to try driving an ultra-modern, technologically advanced vehicle.

Ford Explorer

The purpose of our trip was to go camping. Or as the other guys on the trip were fond of saying, we were going to “do the camping.” Seeing as I was the “rugged outdoorsman” with all the camping gear, I had Michael Kwan swing by my house and we loaded everything we might need, and more into the cargo space of the Ford Explorer.

Ford Explorer

Photo credit – Michael Kwan

Now speaking of technologically advanced, to fold and stow the third row of seats in the Explorer, after opening the rear tailgate (by pressing a button on the remote control) you simply press a button on a small panel inside the rear of the truck and the seats fold down and stow themselves. “Click” done. I can get used to convenience like that!

And then we could fill the cargo space with everything a group of dads might need for camping.

Ford Explorer

Yes, if you drive a new car or truck you will be familiar with some of the features I am discussing – things like side mirrors that automatically fold in or how the driver’s seat automatically slides back and the steering wheel lifts up when you shut the vehicle off. For me, these are technological leaps forward!

It is interesting for me to see how vehicles have progressed technologically over the years – especially the last few years.

I have been following with interest the conversation about self-driving vehicles, paying particular attention to the Google experimentation with autonomous vehicles. While the Google people have gone “all-in” for the self-driving car, I see manufacturers like Ford taking a more gradual approach to the autonomous vehicle business.

I guess that is Ford getting people used to all the little conveniences of technology – one handy little feature or two at a time.

Ford Explorer

 

See the image above – the image of the dash? Rest assured, I had Michael snap the picture while we were driving. The most important part of that image is the part right in the centre – the image of the car between two green lines. This is part of Ford’s “lane keeping system”.

There is a camera mounted on the windshield behind the rearview mirror and as long as it can see the lines on each side of the road, it is happy,

That is the first step in the direction of self-driving cars. That little image shows where your vehicle is on the road. And if you drift out of your lane, the steering wheel lets you know by giving a little shake (there is an adjustable intensity to the alert) – it is hard to describe the feeling other than to say it feels like the vehicle is saying, “Hey! are you aware of what you are doing? You’re drifting across the lines!”

Of course the green lines on the dash turn to yellow and then red and then disappear if you go too far over the lines, but it is the feedback through the steering wheel that lets you know you are headed for trouble.

Put your turn signal on and cross the lines to make a lane change – no problem. No feedback through the steering wheel. The lane-keeping system knows you meant to cross the line.

As someone who has spent many long hours at the wheel, often late at night and perhaps (admittedly) long after I should have pulled over to sleep, that is a safety feature I can appreciate it.

Ford Explorer

As well as safety features and loads of storage, the other feature I enjoyed about the Ford Explorer was the ability to control the temperature of each zone of the truck. I discovered that I like to keep the temperature in my part of the Ford at 18.5 degrees. Michael had his temperature at 21 degrees. We were both happy, and comfortable.

However, not only could we control the cabin temperature, we could also turn on the heated seats. After a long day of skiing (or standing on the side of a soccer field in a drizzly rain) and being chilled right through, heated seats would be a welcome addition.

And of course the seats were a very fine black leather. And we all know how hot black leather seats can be in the summer? Well, just turn on the seat COOLER to cool your jets! Yes, air conditioned seats! I love the idea.

And about the feeling of driving the Ford Explorer – this is a truck. I would hesitate to call it an SUV – it is a truck. When I was driving on the highway I felt SECURE. I felt SAFE. The Ford Explorer sits securely on the road like the trucks that I grew up riding in as a kid. I liked that feeling.

 

 

While there was lots I loved about the Ford Explorer, there were a few things that made me wonder what they were thinking.

Ford Explorer

First thing – as I said, this is a truck. The sort of vehicle that I would load my family into and happily head off to the ski hill or the cabin or up and along any snowy road. So why would Ford put a plastic “spoiler” across the front of the vehicle? I could imagine that good looking spoiler getting cracked and broken the first time I drove through a deep and crusty snow drift.

Ford Explorer And then the reality is that basically anyone and everyone has a mobile device. Ford seems to acknowledge this with the USB charging ports conveniently located in the front dash. But then where is there to stow your device? Another oversight.

And then that “lane keeping system”. I like it. I think it is a great safety feature. But why is it that the lane departure alert system is on the tiniest screen behind the steering wheel? Why not have it light up the much larger navigation/entertainment screen in the middle of the dash? Let the passenger know that the driver is drifting off or putting them at risk.

Overall, all things considered, I really enjoyed driving the Ford Explorer. It is a very comfortable vehicle, it feels safe, and it handles beautifully on the highway and in town (I did very little actual in town driving). The fuel consumption on our trip ended up being about 12 liters/100 km – pretty darn good for a vehicle of that size.

In spite of my quibbles about the plastic spoiler and there not being a spot to stash my phone, the Explorer is a really fun vehicle to drive. It was fun and it felt secure on the road. I would love to have all that space for when we go on a road trip! And with a fuel economy rating of 9.8 litres per 100 km for highway driving…that’s more than acceptable considering the size of the vehicle.

Disclosure: Ford Canada loaned the Ford Explorer to us for the #5DadsGoWild trip at no cost to us. We were responsible for fuel costs and other incidentals and I received no compensation for writing this blog post. As always, the opinions I express and editorial control of what goes on this blog remain mine. 

 

Posted in Vehicles | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

5 Dads Go Wild; the Food We Ate

Disclosure – this blog post is about the 5DadsGoWild camping trip to Manning Park that I took with four other dad bloggers. Our trip was supported with products from a group of brands including House of Knives and Casus Grills Canada. As always, editorial control of everything I share on my blog remains with me – all opinions expressed here are my own.

In my most recent blog post about the #5DadsGoWild camping trip to Manning Park I mentioned the discussions and rich conversations that we were taking part in. Well, just like being fashionably dressed, we also had to be well fed and well “coffeed” in order to fully participate in those discussions and conversations.

#5DadsGoWild

Of course Stephen Fung likes to get fancy with his French Press and Chemex style coffee making but I need a cup of quality coffee as soon as I get rolling. So I quickly use my old fashioned cone system to make myself, Michael, and Stephen a cup of Ethical Bean coffee provided by Wes and the team at the Blue Moose Coffee Shop in Hope BC. Simple and ready quickly.

#5DadsGoWild

My responsibility for keeping the group fed was to make biscuits. And seeing as I did not have an actual stove, never-mind an oven, I was pretty worried about how the biscuits would turn out.

#5DadsGoWild

As it turned out, my biscuits were pretty darn good! I prepped them ahead of time (at home) by mixing the dry ingredients in a Ziploc bag (including a 1/2 cup of powdered milk to replace the actual milk). The dry ingredients are simple:

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of powdered milk

Just before cooking the biscuits I added and mixed in about 9 tablespoons of butter and about a cup and half of water. Once the dough was mixed and sticking to itself I formed them into little circles (about 2 dozen biscuits) and cooked them in my cast iron frying pan on the camp grill.

Although the first couple burned on the bottom (too high of heat – I turned the camp stove burner way down for the second batch), I was able to salvage them by using the new House of Knives Fusion Classic 8″ Chef’s knife to slice off the thinnest layer from the bottom of the burned biscuit.

After slicing off the burnt bottom, I then put the biscuit back in the hot pan to sear the bottom of the biscuit.

#5DadsGoWild

Cutting up Daikon Radish – because nobody took a picture of me breaking down the chicken!

The House of Knives Fusion Classic Chef’s knife is an incredibly affordable option for the home chef – they retail for less than $100 at the House of Knives.

Later in the day I took part in a discussion about “how to save money on your grocery bill” and one of the easiest things to do to save money is to buy a whole chicken rather than buying chicken parts. However, what do you do with a whole chicken?

Well, I now know how to “break down” a chicken! I used my Fusion Classic Chef’s knife to cut the bird into parts: wings, drumsticks, thighs, and breasts (with the “tenders” separated out). And of course at the end you have the carcass left over to toss in a pot with some chopped up carrots and onions to make a stock.

The good thing about the House of Knives Fusion Classic Chef’s knife is that the blade is made from German steel making it a little softer and therefore more durable than the traditional Japanese steel blade so if you do like me and hit the bone when breaking down a chicken, there is very little chance you will chip your knife blade.

I was thinking about baking the biscuits on the Casus Grill – another sponsor for our trip but Dale from Parenting 101 was busy cooking up burgers and peach cobbler on the Casus so I stayed out of the chef’s way.

#5DadsGoWIldBut the Casus Grill – what a crazy cool idea. The grill is made from CARDBOARD!! Yes, cardboard. And the charcoal briquettes – from bamboo! and the grill that you set your food on? Yes, bamboo!

As you probably know, bamboo grows like wild around the world. It doesn’t need fertilizers or irrigation. There is no need for pesticides. And while it is growing, bamboo absorbs more carbon dioxide than cotton or timber.

To light the grill you simply hold a flame to the briquette in the corner and within minutes the entire grill is “white” hot. Place the bamboo rack over the briquettes and get ready to cook! And what do you do with the Casus Grill after you are done grilling? Either drop it all in the fire pit or let it cool off and it will biodegrade within 6 months.

But the best part of the Casus Grill? It costs $10. That’s it. $10. No more buying those little propane bottles that get tossed into the landfill. For $10 you get a biodegradable grill.

I will talk more about our 5DadsGoWild trip in the coming days – including a chat about our attempt to make gravy from the McSweeney’s beef jerky and of course the wine pairing we did with the Sumac Ridge wines we brought along.

Be sure to follow the other dad bloggers who were on the trip with me:

And you can also follow the #5DadsGoWild hashtag on social media – Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for ongoing sharing of our pictures from our adventures. 

Posted in In the Kitchen | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

5 Dads Go Wild and We All Survived!

Disclosure – this blog post is about the #5DadsGoWild camping trip to Manning Park that I took with four other dad bloggers. Our trip was supported with products from a group of brands including Filson, Ben Sherman, and Ford Canada. As always, editorial control of everything I share on my blog remains with me – all opinions expressed here are my own. 

I am very happy to say that we all survived our #5DadsGoWild camping trip up to Manning Park. You might even say we “thrived” on the camping trip – mostly because because of the top quality gear and clothing that we brought along.

The first and most important thing for any trip where you are going to be outdoors – for the day or overnight – other than having a steady supply of Bluemoose Coffee, is being properly dressed for the occasion. This is particularly true when going camping in mid-September – especially when the forecast calls for temperatures to minus one and possible snow flurries.

#5DadsGoWild

Filson supported our #5DadsGoWild trip by offering each of us dad bloggers a shirt and a hat to wear while we were on our camping trip. I chose to go with a Filson Lightweight Alaskan Guide shirt.

An all-season version of our iconic shirt, the Filson Lightweight Alaskan Guide Shirt is made with a 5-oz. cotton that’s pre-washed for a broken-in feel and vintage appearance. A pleated back and relaxed fit provide a full range of motion through the shoulders. This versatile shirt is built to last through years of wearing.

We knew ahead of time that the weather was going to be “iffy” and as it turned out, it did not snow but it certainly was chilly at just over 4000 feet elevation. Knowing the potential weather conditions prompted me to go with the warm and yet comfortable shirt.

The hat I chose to wear was the Wool Logger Cap – made from 100% virgin Mackinaw Wool and it is water-repellant.

#5DadsGoWild

 

Knowing that there was a pretty good chance that it would be raining at some point during the weekend, my choice of a wool hat had more to do with strategy than style – wool will keep you warm even if it does get wet. And yes, although we did have some rain showers – I was warm, comfortable, and definitely stylish in my Filson gear.

#5DadsGoWild

However, during the #5DadsGoWild camping trip we were not just hanging around the campfire telling scary stories of dial-up internet connections and making s’mores all weekend. There was serious business to be taken care – including leading discussion groups and test driving the trucks that Ford Canada provided us with for our weekend away – more about those awesome trucks later this week. And if I am going to be leading a discussion – I want to look stylish!

#5DadsGoWild

Thanks to another Ben Sherman Canada, another one of our sponsors, I did look great. Like Filson, Ben Sherman let us choose our outfits and I decided to go for a look that would set me apart from the crowd – on the trails around the Lightning Lakes as well as during our discussion sessions and back home in the office.

The printed floral trousers are described as “skinny leg” and although I am no longer a “skinny-legged hipster” I have to admit, I was concerned how the Ben Sherman trousers would fit my legs (never mind my butt!). And yet – they fit great! As I moved and hiked about, the trousers I chose, the printed floral trousers loosened up and became very comfortable. Stylish and comfortable? Yes please!

And of course the long sleeve Ben Sherman chambray tulip shirt I was wearing got all the attention of the other hikers on the trails. Perhaps not best suited for a hiking trail, but I was probably the most fashionable looking hiker on the trails of Manning Park over the weekend!

I will add a couple more blog posts in the next few days to talk about the Ford trucks, all the cool tools we learned how to use in the kitchen, as well as some of the new skills I picked up from the other dad bloggers who joined me on the trip.

And the names of those other dad bloggers:

I also encourage you to check out the hashtag #5DadsGoWild on all the social media channels – Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to get more images of the fun that we had at this very inspiring event. More to come in the next few days!

Posted in Durable Goods | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Choices of a Self-Driving Car

When we talk about self-driving cars (cars controlled by computers), people often go to the “what if situations”.

The situation people often go they often go to is “what if the car has to choose between running over a pedestrian or an animal or swerving and hitting a wall and thereby killing or badly injuring the driver.”

I often hear this “what if” posed to show just how dangerous self-driving cars will be. People say how will the computer make that decision? Who’s life will it place more value on?

Another interesting question is what would YOU do if you had to make the decision to run over a pedestrian or run your car into a wall? What would any human do in that situation?

What would you do if you had to choose between someone else’s life and your own well-being?

Interesting that we want to know what a computer would do but we rarely stop and consider how humans make decisions that impact life and death.

Posted in Life Musings | Tagged | Comments Off on The Choices of a Self-Driving Car

The New Kitchen Floor; Plywood Plank Floor

Finally, the kitchen floor update! To cut right to the chase I will say that I put plywood plank floors in our kitchen. Yes, a plywood plank floor.plywood plank floorAnd I have to say, they look and feel incredible. plywood plank flooringI started by stripping off all the existing flooring – the top layer of crappy looking laminate flooring and then the layer of parkay flooring that the laminate had been installed over top of. In case you don’t know, parkay flooring is made of those little wood squares that go together sort of like wooden tiles. It looks okay but I was going for a totally new look.

plywood plank flooringOnce the flooring was out, the big question – what to replace it with! I didn’t have enough of the laminate that was going in the living room and dining room, primarily because there was no plan to do the kitchen at this time. So what to do?

I was voicing my frustration about what to do for a new floor to a friend who knows loads about construction and home renovation when I said, “I am ALMOST ready to just paint the plywood floor and be done with this project.”

He replied, “Well, you know that is what the neighbour did.” And a light bulb lit up for me! So off to Pinterest and YouTube I went to learn more! And that is where I learned about plywood plank flooring.

Once I had a clear understanding of what I was going to do I headed to the local lumber yard and talked to the people there. First three places they looked at me like I was crazy and basically told me, “You can’t do that. It won’t work.”

To which I replied, “Actually I am going to do this and yes, I am going to make it work. And I will not be spending my money in your store.”

Plywood Plank FloorThen I met Brad at the Rona store near Coquitlam Centre who said, “What an interesting idea! I have never heard of that but it sure sounds interesting. How can I help you?” Please note, this is NOT a sponsored post for Rona – it is a quick shout-out to someone who knows what customer service looks like. Plywood Plank FloorWe dug through the pile of “good one side plywood” until we found two sheets of pine plywood with an interesting grain pattern. And then I had Brad “rip” the sheets of plywood into 6″ wide strips.

Plywood Plank FloorStrips of plywood that I could then take home very easily and begin to stain to the colour that I wanted for my kitchen floors.

This is where my decision making got a little complicated. I knew that the grain and the colour and the overall look of the plywood plank would be different from the look of the laminate that was going into the adjacent dining room, so I decided to try to match the colour and look of the plywood plank to the trim of the kitchen cabinets and have a strong contrast to the colour and look of the flooring in the dining room/living room.

And yes, I know that my realtor friends say that I will NEVER be able to sell the house if I have more than two types of flooring on one floor of the house but really, at this point, it is our HOME – not a house we are thinking of selling and if/when we do decide to sell, we’ll cross that bridge. 
Plywood Plank Floor
So I bought a litre can of Ipswich Pine stain and a litre of polyurethane (a finishing-sealer like product). Plywood Plank FloorYou can see in difference between the “raw” colour of the plywood plank and the colour of the plywood planks that have their first coat of stain.

I wasn’t happy with the lightness of the stain, even with two coats of it applied so I went back and bought another litre of stain (Colonial Maple or something like that).

A note here – my stain was probably not as dark as I would have liked because I did not stir the first can as thoroughly as I should have. The “colour stuff” in the stain settles to the bottom of the can and if you do not stir it with that in mind, you will have a VERY light stain.

Like I did. Stir thoroughly!
Plywood Plank Floor
To be honest, the picture above was taken inside in a very different light than the one previously and it is after three coats of stain AND a first coat of polyurethane.

Which reminds me – this is where I diverged from the path that most people. They installed the plywood planks without any stain or finish on them. I couldn’t see any reason why that would be the case so I took the time to apply stain and polyurethane to the plywood planks BEFORE even bringing them in the house. I figured that would significantly reduce the amount of chemical smell in the house (I was correct).

And then the install. I had Darryl, a good friend who knows about home renovations help me with the install and I will say, installing the plywood plank flooring was, not easy, but easy to work with. Dealing with the plywood planks felt more natural than any other flooring I have ever worked with. plywood plank floorsWe took the time to fit the pieces together with an eye on the pattern of the grain and what the overall look of the floor would be once it was finished. Some of the people who I read about doing plywood plank floors glued their planks to the floor. Others said that might be good to eliminate spring from the flooring but it also might create a mess when or if you want to remove the plywood.

We decided to just use the Brad Nailer with 1 1/4″ brad nails to hold the flooring in place. And, my friend Darryl saved me from myself (I am a framer – NOT a finisher!) and he forced advised me to use a straight edge to keep my rows of nails in a straight line.

And I will admit, that kind of attention to detail really paid off in the end!
plywood plank floor
This last photo is after I added another coat of polyurethane to the floor once it was installed. And my hunch about doing the staining and polyurethane outside to reduce chemical odours in the house was proved true. Yikes.

I did the final coat of polyurethane on the floors and what a smell! Fortunately the weather has been great so I left all the doors and windows open with fans running to move the air. Even so, the polyurethane smell stuck around for three days.

The end result – we have a pretty spectacular new plywood plank floor in our kitchen! Yes, there are three butt-joints that aren’t as pretty as I would have liked and yes, there is a little bit of spring to the boards when I walk on them. And yes, this plywood plank floor is probably not going to last as long as a vinyl plank or a real hardwood floor would last, but all things considered, my plywood plank floor is beautiful.

I would not hesitate to do this again. Now, to see how well this floor stands up to the traffic of a wild family.

Posted in DIY | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The New Flooring Renovation Project Part 2

I am up to my eyeballs involved in this ever-growing home renovation, home-improvement nightmare job that I’ve taken on and I have not taken the time to sit down at my desk to write anything about it. Yet.

Home renovations

I have been taking many photos and once I get this job done, or even get to take a breather, I’ll update with more info and lots of photos.

But just as a teaser, I will say that my “experimental” kitchen flooring technique has worked out incredibly well – no hints about what I chose to do just yet! It looks spectacular though! And no, the picture above is not of the kitchen.

Posted in DIY | Tagged | Comments Off on The New Flooring Renovation Project Part 2