Sunday, January 31, 2016

gear review: pocket chainsaw

of course when i was staring down the barrel of two weeks on camp four where there was a truckload of firewood to be cut from blowdown, i thought that maybe my cute little svensaw might not be the best choice for some of the more difficult to reach branches.

so i bought this pocket chainsaw.

it is very cute, which you know is important to me. the blades are sharp, but because it's a chain it has a wider cut than a bowsaw, so is slower to cut. the good part is that you can sling it around just about anything and start cutting.

it's not expensive and it doesn't take up a lot of room in your stuff, even though it's not terribly lightweight. it's a nice addition to my kit.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

guest post: lip balm review

well, these days i've been having trouble getting my act together to write blog posts. i was going to post a review this morning about my pocket chainsaw, but i got distracted and wandered away before i wrote that post and then MB was essentially sending me a review of some different flavors of a brand of lip balm we both like, so i said "hey. you want to do a guest post on my blog?"

so here it is:

Guest review of Burt's Bees 4 flavor lip balm pack

So I recently went into a store hoping to buy 3 or 4 of the vanilla bean Burt’s Bees lip balms. (One can never have too many lip balms.) But they were all out of them, plus they were like $4.50 each, so when I spotted a 4 pack of flavors for $10, I got those instead.,default,pd.html?cgid=lipbalm&start=21&q=#start=21

1. Coconut & Pear-- nice feel on the lips, good balance of pear and coconut, a little too sweet smelling. B-

2. Pink Grapefruit-- nice feel on the lips, terrifying real grapefruit smell/flavor, like someone just smeared a grapefruit on your face. A-

3. Mango-- very soft and smooth on lips, long lasting. Subtle flavor and scent. A

4. Pomegranate-- okay on lips but doesn't last long. Beautiful color but smells weirdly like petrol. C-

The Vanilla Bean is still the best flavor. It’s long lasting, with a subtle but real vanilla scent and flavor and it feels lovely and silky on the lips. A+,default,pd.html?cgid=lipbalm&start=4&q=#start=4

so there you have it.

"terrifying grapefruit flavor".

and after she wrote this, MB said "I can buy more in a while and post about more flavors... FOR SCIENCE"

so stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

last week's enchiladas

here's more from the "how to cook like flask" book.

some months ago when i didn't know what to do with some cheese and stuff and didn't have the energy to make freezer burritos, my little friend flurgh was happy to offer some enchilada making advice.

and flurgh's cooking advice goes kind of like mine: do you have any (thing)? some (other thing)? ok, good put in in a pan sorta like this and then (action).

so this, more or less, is how to make last week's delicious enchiladas.

stuff you need:

for the filling:

a can of black beans
some frozen corn, thawed
that little leftover can of creamed corn that for some reason is in your pantry and you ought to use up
some green onions, chopped
a lot of grated cheese
some sour cream
maybe some chili pepper or ground sage or whatever you like

for the dish:

a whole bunch of corn tortillas
a little bit of oil for your pan
a can of enchilada sauce. probably a big can. you can make your own, but i'm not that advanced.
a crapton more of grated cheese


you should probably preheat your over to 350. mix all the filling things together in a big enough bowl to hold that stuff. then heat up your frying pan. while your pan is heating (little bit of oil, right?) put about half the can of enchilada sauce in the bottom of your baking dish. then begin the sequence: fry up a tortilla for a few seconds on each side, and then fill it with as much filling as it will hold, roll it, and place the cute little tube seam side down in the baking pan. i use a 9 x 13 pan. that's kind of normal.

while you're filling one tortilla, you can be frying the next, if you're quick about it.

when you have your pan filled with little tubes, cover them with more cheese and port the rest of the sauce over it. them bake it for about forty minutes, or until it's all baky melty cooked looking. take it out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes before you scoop some out and stuff them in your mouth.

really. this last step is important not only to let the dish settle a little and give it best taste, but also so you don't burn your mouth.

the leftovers freeze quite well, so make a lot.

Monday, January 25, 2016

open letter to the sanders campaign

dear sanders 2016 campaign,

your emails asking for more money are making me sad.

i'll tell you why: i already gave you all the money i can afford to give you, which was precious little.

i know that because you are refusing to take the money of the huge corporations and PACs that you oppose, you need a constant infusion of small donations from regular people.

when i went to make my small donation some months ago, i gave you more than i meant to, because i figured if i might give you that one small amount a few times, i might as well step up and give a little more up front so you can use it sooner rather than later.

as it is, i'm going to have to answer for it later. i'm going to have to explain that one small donation and justify it against the rest of my spending and i'm going to say it was important.

it's still important, and i'm still tapped out.

give me a call if you want someone to drive the carpool or stuff envelopes.

love, flask.

PS- your new ad is lovely.

Friday, January 22, 2016


ok, so i think i've gotten to the end of most of the stuff i can show you in terms of projects, although if i get ambitious i might tell you about some enchiladas and maybe review the pocket chainsaw for you, but the projects i'm working on now are projects that MB doesn't know about yet,and because MB reads this blog, you're not hearing about it here yet.

i was going to maybe get going on a series of political pieces; you know, prison reform, economic indicators and such, or maybe even some of the more disturbing trends i am seeing on the teevee.

but if you have followed this story for any length of time, you know that although my illness is mostly under control, sometimes the soul-stealing, death-dealing depression surfaces and it's all i can do to dress myself.

so i lost three days completely this week, and called it a victory that i managed to sit up by myself and take nourishment. today i fell almost normal again and i may be fully on the mend but also it may be touch and go for a little while.

so i get to what i get to, and don't worry about the rest.

that's my plan.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

open letter to the wrigley company

dear the wrigley company (a subsidiary of  mars, incorporated),

it isn't a secret that on a global scale, people in general prefer the red and pink starbursts. it makes me happy to note that because of it you offer a package that contains only red and pink.

perhaps i am in the minority here, but while i prefer red and pink, i feel my overall starburst experience is more enjoyable if i also have the orange and yellow.

imagine my dismay to discover that a big bag of regular mixed flavors contains not a balance of the four flavors, but MOSTLY ORANGE AND YELLOW with some pink and red thrown in, as if by signaling a willingness to eat the orange and yellow starburst that i have somehow expressed a preference for those colors.


surely it can't be that hard to just produce more red and pink starburst to meet the demand, rather than giving ALL THE EXTRA ORANGE AND YELLOW to anyone who is willing to take them?

what genius over at the plant can't figure this one out?

get real, wrigley. don't make me come over there.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

desk set

every so often i like to direct your attention to my flickr album the view from my desk. the slideshow has been updated and there have been some pretty views recently, so i don't feel bad pointing you there again.

Monday, January 18, 2016


i told you that i was going to explain screamers.

they're fun to put in the surprise balls and fun to play with at table.

you take a quarter inch nut and you put it in an ballon. inflate the balloon, and you have a screamer.

you're welcome.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

animated shorts

when i touch down in burlington each year for first night, the first thing i like to do is go catch a showing of the VTIFF animated shorts. it's always a mixed bag, but there's always one or two films that i really like.

this year most of them were worth taking the trouble to tell you about.

so here is a collection of charming little short films. get your popcorn and settle in.

Sweet Dreams from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

sweet dreams on youtube

Home Sweet Home from Home sweet home the film on Vimeo.

home sweet home on youtube

Monkey symphony from ESMA MOVIES on Vimeo.

monkey symphony on youtube

Bottle from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

bottle on youtube

''Mouse for sale'' - animated short film from Wouter Bongaerts on Vimeo.

mouse for sale on youtube

Saturday, January 16, 2016

candy roses

while i was down some youtube rabbit home or other, i came across a cool DIY craft tutorial and of course since it was just before christmas and of course since i was up to my ears in crafts for my mom's table, of course i had to make them.

the gentleman in the video was working in a room much warmer than mine, because i found it a little tricky to keep the candy and the water at workable temperature, but otherwise it comes off just like he says.

roses on my worktable
done with this round
pretty on my mom's table

Friday, January 15, 2016

christmas at my mom's

wooo, because of course the things that get posted here are never current events, here are some pictures from christmas at my mom's.

the black gifts are from me
my mom tossing the paracord bag.
festive guests
prizes, projects, surprise balls
well, of course.

festive table

Thursday, January 14, 2016

mrs. hayes

i only sort of wish i had a picture of this casserole for you to look at. i like to show you the things i tell you about, but it's not a very interesting casserole to look at.

my mom got this recipe in the mid sixties from mrs. hayes, who lived across the street and therefore to us the proper name of this casserole is mrs. hayes' casserole. it is a classic old dump stuff in a pan with cream of mushroom soup casserole and i love it.

of course, i my house i do not usually have leftover turkey or chicken because i really don't enjoy working with raw poultry and never have any.

but my mom makes a turkey for christmas and by some deep and lovely miracle i get custody of nearly ALL the leftovers.

so i make this. sometimes i make two or three pans of it, and freeze it, because it freezes just fine.

here's how you do it:

preheat your oven to 350.

take about two cups of cooked rice, and put it in the bottom of your dish. my casserole dish is 9 x 13, so that works well for me.

then you take a whole bunch of cooked turkey (or chicken. it's good with chicken.) and either cut it into small pieces or rip it into small pieces and put a whole layer of that over the rice, however much covers your rice and maybe a little more besides depending on how much turkey you have and how densely meated you like your casserole.

in a separate bowl you should mix a can of cream of mushroom soup and a can of sour cream (the two cup size), and it would pay you not to go with cheap ingredients here. you might think one can of cream of mushroom soup is pretty much like another can of cream of mushroom soup, but you would be wrong. check the labels. i use campbell's soup and cabot sour cream. there are probably other sour creams out there that are perfectly fine, but cabot is from where i live and i like to buy local.

spread the soup / sour cream mix over the turkey layer, and then top it with a layer of grated cheese. what kind of cheese you use is up to you, but i like cabot cheddar.

put some breadcrumbs on top of that and toss it in the oven for about 40 minutes, which is about when everything gets all bubbly and the top turns golden brown. you can dot the top of it with butter if you like; i don't.

when it's done, let it sit for a little while to let it settle. casseroles taste better if they get to rest a little and also you won't burn your mouth as much.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

susprise balls, making of

i have written for you about surprise balls before. this year i made a little video of me making one, because people are always asking how i do it.

so now you will know.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

ball and cage

in december, partly when i was on camp four and partly when i was home, i made my very first carving project. you know, because i like to have a project.

and of course even though ball and cage is a pretty normal beginner carving project, apparently usually people go about it with a hunk of wood that's been chosen and cut and seasoned as CARVING STOCK and not a sawed-off hunk of appletree branch.

plus while a leatherman crater is a pretty good knife to just have as a single blade locking folding knife you keep in your pocket (a knife like that is required gear for the bitter pill), it isn't even remotely a good carving knife because the serrated part of the edge really gets in the way of you using it properly for carving.

but you know.  i didn't yet know any of that stuff.

so i went and did it with no measuring tools and no template and the knife i had and a hunk of an applewood branch.

apple is a hard wood, and its grain can be kind of complex.

but i did it. i made a video of my daily progress, so if you like slow moving videos, you may enjoy this.

Monday, January 11, 2016


i blame this all on you, department of forestry, parks, and recreation. uh, and also on MB. but nevermind.

while i was all learning some knots for the venture challenge and blah, blah, blah, i kind of got into know tying and then because it's handy for camp, paracord.

i made a mesh drawstring bag for my mom.

but then because when you give it to someone you want to retain the bag shape and also because you don't want to stuff it with something you need to keep, i needed to find something that was disposable and would fill up the bag.

MB (who is a genius) suggested balloons. works great.

and by the way, when you wrap that package, it is weirdly light for its size and fun to throw at people and watch their reactions.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

views from camp four

pretty pictures, mostly at sunrise.

east view 30 november
east view 30 november

west view 30 november
west view 30 november

camp from top of site
west view 5 december
west view, 5 december
east view 5 december
east view, 5 december
west view 7 december
west view, 7 december

Saturday, January 09, 2016

board, bell, tale

i wrote my mom another round for christmas.

it's really a present for my mom and her friend louise, who likes discovering brand new rounds to sing and it's a thing i can do.

this one started out as an evening paddling song, coming home to my site, but it bears little resemblance to the original, because it had to be trimmed and edited and in general woodshedded to make it a round.

Friday, January 08, 2016

clearing camp four

i spent a lot of time sawing wood while i was on camp four.

i meant to leave a bigger woodpile than i did, but i have to burn during most of my waking hours to keep warm.

here's s slideshow of the (nearly) daily progress at the top of the site. this is where most of the blowdown was, although i did also clear some trees and brush from the area behind the tent and behind my windbreak.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

trump comes to burlington

tonight donald trump will be having a rally in burlington, vermont.

burlington is a very liberal town in a very liberal state, and although we do have a few regressive racist counties where christian values include having women know their place and beating up fags, it would be a challenge to find a full 1400 people in this whole state who would vote for donald trump over bernard sanders.

that number, 1400, is important because that's how many seats there are in flynn theater, which is the venue for which trump has booked 20,000 tickets to his event.

our state republican party does not like trump. here is a quote from a statement by the senate minority leader joe benning (r - caledonia): “I am in no way a supporter of Donald Trump and have made it quite clear that I do not support either his candidacy or his rhetoric. He does not speak for me, a Vermont Republican,”

even in the extremely racist, homophobic, muslim-hating, gun-toting counties, they still love senator sanders. it's really wild if you look at election results here, because those counties still go for sanders because while they prefer a candidate who hates gays and women and muslims and brown people, they also like to eat.

what i'm saying here is that this is not great trump territory. there is nothing to be gained for him here other than the very trump-like gesture of pissing on senator sanders' home base.

later on, trump is going to tell lies about how many people wanted to see him, and how YUUUUGE a crowd he drew in sanders' base, right across the street from city hall where sanders was mayor. you're going to hear a lot from trump about the universal support he enjoyed here in burlington and how enthusiastically we rose to greet him.

he is already trivializing the concerns of the police over this event.

oh. police are concerned?

why yes, they are.

because maybe you should look at a map of burlington.

you should notice how small burlington is, and how few routes into, out of, and through the city there are. you should note the proximity of the flynn to city hall park, city hall itself, and the church street freaking pedestrian mall.

then imagine THREE angry protests in that small space, and a confirmed 6500 people who intend to try to get into those 1400 seats and TWENTY THOUSAND tickets and you can see why the police are concerned.

“If Phish was holding a free concert at the Flynn and gave away 20,000 free tickets, we would cancel the event out of public safety concerns,” Police Chief Brandon del Pozo told the Burlington Free Press .

vermont mostly hates trump, and trump supporters are kind of hateful.

i do not see how anything about this could possibly go wrong.

what i know for sure is that trump will be talking about it as a great personal victory for some time to come. you just watch.

the orange shirt and a mom conversation.

last week i met my mom in a parking lot to pass over some things. i had to go to a grocery and a hardware store, and my mom wanted to buy me some pants that were on sale. and we each had things to transfer from hand to hand, so we decided to meet in a parking lot near our respective errands.

i was wearing an orange turtleneck.

my mom and stepmother commented on what a nice color it is for me.

"oh, don't you remember why i have this shirt?"

neither of them did.

and i told them the story of that time my mom asked me if i needed any clothes or anything and i said that i needed an orange turtleneck to hang in my closet between the yellow shirts and the red shirts because why, yes, i DO hang my shirts in order of spectrum and instead of telling me she wasn't going to support or enable that nonsense, my mom bought me an orange shirt.

i wear it sometimes.

then we had a short conversation about pants.

and when i got the things i needed at the hardware store, the young man who had helped me out was at the register and there was a woman there talking to him about pants.

i said it sounds like a mom conversation. they laughed. i said i had just come from almost exactly that same conversation, only different pants.

"oh, with your son?" the woman asked.
"no, my mom."

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

two about ice

this second one is on a day that is sufficiently cold that a few hours later when i went to pour out the water, it had refrozen just as thick as the ice that had formed overnight.


Monday, January 04, 2016

tour the res

on the warm days, the summer days, you wake up near to sunrise and enjoy the quiet hours, maybe going for a paddle. you have time to sit and read, or just sit.

on the warm days, you do your paddling early and late so you don't get sunburned with the sun both beating down overhead and reflecting up off the water.

on the cold days, you maybe don't paddle at all; you're behind in the wood chopping, or you have to tend the fire, and the sky only starts getting light around seven and it starts to get dark by three-thirty.

on the short days it seems frivolous to go touring in your boat, but maybe one day you do it anyway.

i did, on 7 december. it was a beautiful misty morning that cleared to blue and it was so warm that later in the day i had to tie up my ear flaps.

but here are some pictures i took, touring little coves and inlets on the res i had never seen before.

  this is elephant rock, which only looks elephanty when you look at it from the side. if you look at it from the front, especially when leaves or debris are on it, it's more of an "x marks the spot" kind of thing.

you have to look carefully to see it, but near the center of the frame is a trail marker pointing down. the likely explanation is either it washed up from elsewhere, or it's a casualty of ban erosion. i am not familiar enough with the placement of the VAST trails near the res to know which.

it's funny to think about, though.

here's the view out one of the coves.

parts of the res have tall clay banks and this graffiti is only scratched into the sidewall. rain and erosion wash it away. one of the messages says "I LOVE MOM AND DAD."

Sunday, January 03, 2016

gear review: svensaw

so i bought a svensaw.

i did this because it became quickly obvious to me how much free firewood is available on the remote campsites if only one has a saw. one may not cut any live or standing trees, but deadfall is fair game. there's a lot of deadfall you can use if you have a saw. for some reason, the deadfall for which you don't need a saw is largely already collected by less prepared campers. the thing about a saw, though, is it can be hard to pack. or if you want ease of packing you can buy one of those little folding blade saws, which are really good for saplings but not far past that.

so i got me a svensaw. MB has one, and she likes it.

so i set to using this thing. it is light and easy to pack and not too hard on your hands and did i mention when you fold it, the blade is fully retracted for safe packing? yeah, and it's not very heavy and doesn't take up a lot of space and after spending easily a hundred hours sawing logs on three different campsites, i can tell you that this is a handy little saw and i like it very much.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Friday, January 01, 2016

survey my kingdom

i think it's jenny lawson who says that civilization breaks down when you leave the bathroom door open.

at camp this time, leaving the outhouse door open got your two things: the warmth of the sun, and a pretty nice view.

this is just silly.

i think this is meant to show that it's warm enough to tie up my ear flaps.

view from the throne


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