Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tiki birthday party and pig roast

The General turned 40 this year. Since he is one of Mr. W's best friends he of course had to go all out for him. Unfortunately the planning was a long time coming because his wife, Ms. D did not share the guys' enthusiasm. Her idea was to tack his 40th birthday on to their neighborhood block party. This just would not do for the guys. Plus, who wants to release their husband's drunkass college buddies on your unsuspecting neighbors?
In any even negotiations went round and round. Since The General is blessed with a summer birthday I initially suggested a booze cruise. After prom my senior year we chartered a boat from Yachts of Fun. to go up and down the Willamette. Unfortunately they are no longer in business and when Mr. K looked into other options like the Portland Spirit or a Sternwheeler it was cost prohibitive considering the small guest list the guys anticipated.
Then I suggested a bonfire on the beach at Sauvie's Island. It was still close to the city, the boys could make fire, and people could leave when they wanted to get home to their babysitters, what have you. I figured the guys could causally take him out for drinks in St. Johns, which would allow Ms. D time to have a sitter come over and head for the bonfire site. Then the guys could kidnap him from the bar, surely that sort of thing would go unnoticed in St. Johns, and then rendezvous with us all at the beach. As we looked into it though we learned that open fires are actually prohibited on the beaches. We had the same issue when we checked with Rooster Rock State Park. I wasn't sure how often they patrol for that sort of thing, but the guys didn't want to risk getting thrown out mid party.
At this point though the guys had the idea of a pig roast, which would be especially funny given that Mr. Z is a vegan . Their party idea was beginning to evolve. The more Mr. K looked into it, the only beach where open fires were not prohibited was on Government Island in the middle of the Columbia River. The island is only accessible by boat though. This is where I would have stopped and moved on to something else. But not the guys! Oh, no! Armed with a connection to boat rentals and a friend willing to pilot the boat, Mr. K began to envision transporting the entire party to Government Island. The Hawaiian Luau theme took off from here too since The General grew up in Hawai'i. Mr. W pushed a Magnum PI theme. He and Mr. K dreamed up renting a Ferrari to kidnap the General then drive him to a helicopter pad where they would fly him out to the island, meanwhile everyone else would arrive via boat. I began to think they were loosing their minds. Mr. K was on sabbatical though so he had time on his hands.
While the logistics of getting the transportation settled was up to the guys I focused on making the island look like a luau party. I began to think that we needed a full on tiki bar out there complete with bar stools. Because why wouldn't you? This was The General's birthday; go hard or go home! This is the man who is so generous with all his friends, and goes over the top with everything. Remember those bento boxes from the camping trip? He was partially responsible for the giant Price is Right wheel on a previous camping trip.
I began trolling craigslist for bars I could fashion into a tiki bar. I found some full on tike bars that others had made, really good ones too. I had to consider cost though as well as could it be transported out to the island on a boat? I also began gathering tiki decorations. Several years ago my mom and I hosted a bridal shower for my cousin who was going to Tahiti on her honeymoon so we did a luau theme. I knew my mom still had all of those decorations. It included a grass skirt cover for the patio umbrella too so I knew I also wanted to bring out some picnic tables and chairs for people to sit in on the island. Mr. W thought people could just stand around or sit on blankets, but when I pointed out that he was looking into helicopter rentals he conceded that my idea wasn't the craziest. I began shopping the Dollar Store, Cost Plus, and Lippman's for luau and tiki supplies. Lippman's also rents out tiki bars and accessories so Mr. K and I weighed the pros and cons of those costs. I really had my heart set on the big pre- assembled tiki bar from craigslist and he was supposed to call the seller back and try to make arrangements and make a deal with her. We'd all decided by now that we'd be calling our bar on the island The King Kamehameha Club a'la Magnum PI.
As I searched the internet for tiki things I discovered how collectible tiki mugs were and how devoted collectors and aficionados are. I began to catch tiki fever. People tour the country going to vintage tiki bars. New tiki mugs are being made and are extremely collectible. I had already been to the Kon Tiki in Tucson with Mr. & Ms H-G, and I loved it, but I didn't appreciate at the time how special it was.
It turns out Portland has it's fair share of tiki bars. There is The Alibi of course, and a newer place called Thatch which I pass all the time on my way to church. I've always wanted to go in, but never had an opportunity. They also sell collectible tiki mugs so I decided I needed to go and get one to use on the bar for The King Kamehameha Club. When I went in I stuck up a conversation with the bartender who happily gave me tips for roasting a pig. He suggested having a cast iron an for some of the smaller pieces of the pig which may cook faster than the rest.
Coincidentally Trader Vic's was re-opening in Portland this summer. I tried to buy one of their mugs too, but they didn't have them in yet. I did make a reservation though for the after the island after party.
The cost of rental fees for a Ferrari and a helicopter were prohibitive. So instead Mr. Z decided he could make a decal of a Ferrari to put on our micro van. He was busy comparing the dimensions of the sports car to the Mazda 5 to try to align it as best as possible. He and Mrs. Z also said they could make a sign similar to the one for the King Kamehameha Club to hang on the bar in case we ended up with something not very tiki like that I would just have to cover in grass skirts.
Mr. K was unable to locate tiki torches so I had to drive around to a couple Home Depots to get enough of them and the torch fuel. I was also responsible for getting costumes so I dug out some of my dad's old 80s Hawaiian shirts and purchased the requested fake mustaches and aviator sunglasses. The guys decided that they would all be characters from Magnum PI, The General would be Magnum of course, Mr. Z would be Higgins, Mr. K would be Rick, and Mr. W considered being TC, but since he wasn't driving the boat, he settled on Keoki the bartender of the King Kamehameha Club.
Mr. W was really excited to roast a pig so I called around to get whole pig prices and Mr. K was responsible for getting the grill and bricks for the roasting pit. I found this link very helpful. There is a way to roast it in a shorter amount of time in a box, but we didn't want to invest that much and the guys planned to rent a boat first thing in the morning and get out on the island early enough to have the pig roasting all day. Let me just say, a whole pig is expensive, but all the places I called were more or less comparable in price. I didn't call with 2 weeks notice, but Phil's Uptown Meats was able to get me one ready for pick up Saturday morning.
The day of the party arrived and Mr. K and Mr. N arrived to pick up all the party stuff we had accumulated as well as our picnic table and chairs. Mr. W went off with them to get the boat.
I took off with the children to go meet a craigslister in a parking lot on the eighty deuce to but a coconut tiki mug (because I am crazy!) He didn't turn up though so I left disappointed to drive to the west side to get the pig. My mom met me in the parking lot where I swapped the children into her car because she had kindly offered to baby sit the whole day for us. I had nursed while waiting for the tiki mug guy so so far the nursing schedule was working.
In all our shopping expeditions none of us had been able to locate orgeat syrup, which was the missing ingredient for the Mai Tai recipe Mr. W found. On a whim I decided to check the liquor store at the Uptown Shopping center since I was there and it turns out they had it! What a good sign! It is an almond syrup and non alcoholic, but still the shop keeper carded me for it. Very odd.
The original plan was for me to catch the second boat to the island with the pig. But when I checked in with Mr. W he said they were just getting to the boat dock and beginning to load up so they would wait for me and the pig. I drove out to the James Gleason boat launch to meet them.
Once I arrived and we set off on the boat I felt a huge sense of relief! We had spent so much time planning this party and we were pulling it off! Mr. W and Mr. K on board the 'Island Hopper'.You can't even see the deck of the boat behind Mr. N it is so filled with gear.The boat did not move very quickly so it seemed to take forever to get through the channel and to the island. We were lucky that Mr. K had been able to talk his friend into being our pilot for the day. It was incredibly helpful having an experienced boater at the helm, especially considering the turn of events later in the day. For the time being though, the plan was to have the boat return to the dock every hour on the hour to pick up party goers. Mr. W and I would return on the final 4 o'clock ferry with The General. Once we made it to Government Island we continued about half way down the shore to find an unoccupied spot that wasn't too steep to set up our party. Once we decided upon a spot we unloaded the boat and began to set up the shade tents.
Mr. K also began digging the fire pit.Then the moment they had all been waiting for, what did the pig look like?A very unappealing view of the pig. I'm not sure why the head isn't in this shot.The smallest pig they sold was 80 lbs. so it took two of them to move it over to the grill.Poor, dead piggy! The boat went back to pick up the Seattle crew who had driven down for the party.Meanwhile I set to work making pretty on the King Kamehameha Club. Although I packed a ton of different fastening supplies, none of the tapes would stick to the tops of the borrowed, plastic picnic tables. Eventually we were all able to get them partially attached and it turned out good enough.The sign that the Z's made turned out so great, it looks just like the sign from Magnum PI! You can also see how I nearly bought out Lippman's stock of faux cocoanut drinking cups complete with flowered straws.The garland of paper lanterns in the back is new, but the wooden tiki cup came from Mr. Z's search of tikiware. The ceramic mug is the new one I got at Thatch and the hula girl my grandpa brought back when he was stationed in Hawai'i during WWII. The conch shell my parents brought back from one of their 80s Hawaiian vacations when they actually saw them filming an episode of Magnum PI.This little flat tiki Mr. W received as a souvenir from one of his dad's business trips. I had so much fun gathering and learning about tikianalia that I think it will have to be one of my new points of interest whenever I travel. And if we every do get that Mt. Tabor Victorian, maybe I could turn the little room adjacent to the rumpus room into a tiki lounge. My mind is filling up with ideas of covering the walls in bamboo and the ceiling in grass matting!The fire was much hotter than anticipated and the pig was roasting faster than they expected. So they flipped him. He got a little singed on the bottom. I think they took some of the hot coals out.About this time Mr. W and I needed to leave to go back to the mainland to kidnap The General. I also needed to nurse. I had brought my pump out the island so I could pump there, but frankly, the idea of it was less than appealing. I hoped one day wouldn't negatively effect my supply. As we pulled away I thought our little party spot looked very inviting! We showered up and looked much more charming afterwards. I'm sporting an 80s ensemble my mom brought back from one of their Hawaiian vacations. She couldn't believe that I had kept it. I don't think I look as good in though as she did.Then we headed over to The Generals. We parked around the corner though so I could attach the Ferrari to the Madza 5. Mr. Z learned the cost of having a decal professionally made was cost prohibitive so instead he printed it out in sections on his plotter at home. Obviously it would not be aerodynamic so we couldn't drive over there with it already on. It didn't entirely fit well. The front of a Ferrari is apparently much longer than that of a micro van so I had to sort of wrap it around the front. Mr. Z had cut out the window though so that is with what I worked to align it.
Mr. W and The General went on vacation to Hawai'i years ago and one of them made a CD of music including the Magnum theme song. Mr. W was of course blasting this out the windows. When we pulled up The General was outside staining the gate. I guess in order to not create suspicion his wife let him begin this chore knowing we were soon to arrive? We were fortunate in that she allowed him to attend his birthday party. To say he was surprised to see us was an understatement.We whisked him inside and Mr. W transformed him into Thomas Magnum. He had ordered the official shirt and a Vietnam vet hat as well as some lovely, used, OP short shorts from ebay. Transformation complete!Mr. W slipped into his moustache as well.You can see how well the Ferrari/Mazda juxtaposition worked.Then we made him get in, which meant he had to crawl over from the passenger side since the decal blocked the door. From a closer angle though it almost looks like he's driving a Ferarri. Almost.This is my favorite photo of the whole day.Ms D followed behind so she'd be able to leave early to relieve their babysitter. The General made assumptions of where we were taking him. The Magnum theme song played over and over again in the car. At the dock we waited for the 'Island Hopper' with some other party goers.And then The General got his first view of his 40th birthday party.He was greeted with a drink.He was able to inspect his roasted pig.It smelled so good!! And by the time we had returned it was ready so they guys began to carve it. But not until Mr. W posed with it first. He was so pleased with himself! People were able to serve themselves at the bar.And I could enjoys the costuming. Mr. Z had ordered a tan jumpsuit online to create his Higgins costume, but it didn't arrive in time and he improvised with some khakis. The 'stache is impressive though.Mrs. Z and I in our 80s finery.Higgins, Magnum, Keoki, and Rick. (I love these guys)Since we were right across from the airport, the flights arriving became part of the evening's entertainment. We had a beautiful sunset too.There was some party drama too. The boat never really ran right. Mr. K and TC had even called in to their friend who owned the boat rental place, but weren't entirely believed and the only other pontoon boat was rented out too. It turned out that there was a split in one of the compartments and the boat was taking on water, that was part of the reason it was running so slowly. Also one of the gauges wasn't working properly, but again they didn't really believe TC. Well, the gauge was the fuel gauge and the boat carrying most of the ladies back to shore so they could go relieve their babysitters ran out of gas. They were stranded and again when TC called the rental place he was pretty much told, 'sorry about your bad luck.' The guys believe that the gauge was broken before they rented it to us so we never had a full fuel tank to begin with. Mrs. K is deathly afraid of boats and she was on the stranded boat. Mr. K felt horrible!
Meanwhile back on the island, Mr. F flagged down a passing speed boat. They turned out to be good Samaritans. They took a boat load of our friends back to the dock and towed in the stranded boat. Then they came back again for those of us remaining on the island and half of our gear. That which we couldn't fit in their boat remained on the island overnight and Mr. K would go back the next day to get it. I was not sober at this point so the rest of these details as foggy. I do know we went to the new Trader Vic's for the after party.
It was a crazy, fun night. Well worth all the effort we put into it, although I wish we had been able to stay on the island longer. Now, we've set the bar pretty high for planning Mr. W's 40th birthday next year!

Chinese salmon

Just a short little post so I can remember this recipe. Yesterday I asked My Little helper what he wanted for dinner on our way to the store. His answer was Chinese food which kinda surprised me. I was actually craving some fish. He picked out salmon in the store and I baked it in this marinade and served it with rice and broccoli. Since I only had one large piece of salmon fillet I cut the marinade recipe in half.
Today, as I have been doing a hard core laundry attack in preparation for our trip to Ohio, he decided to "help" me by picking a bunch of tomatoes, many of which were not quite ripe enough. I have been trying to eat down the food in our cupboards and fridge before we leave so a bunch of tomatoes wasn't really in my dinner plans. I was able to scrounge up enough ingredients to make a batch of roasted red pepper tomato soup though. Our weather is hit or miss in Oregon so while I don't think we'll get a bumper crop of tomatoes in our garden this year, I am grateful we have enough to make a few batches of soup. Hopefully when we return I our crop will allow me to make some to freeze.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Huckleberry syrup

My Little Helper and I finally made huckleberry syrup today. I used this recipe as a guide. Against its recommendations I did it all as one batch, hopefully it will still turn out fine.
Since I knew our berry picking didn't yield enough for many batches I decided to use my freezer containers rather than borrowing all my mom's canning equipment. I ran them all through the dishwasher to get them nice and sterilized. Meanwhile we began squishing the huckleberries through the chinois. He always loves this part the most.
Our berries produced 2 1/3 cups of juice and I mixed that with 3 1/4 cups of sugar and the juice of one lemon. Then I brought it to a rolling boil.
Then we divided our syrup between the containers. After they cooled I covered, added labels and stuck in the freezer. I'm looking forward to having a relaxing weekend at home so we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. Hopefully next month!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Making a door from scratch.

My Uncle M is over again to work on our potting shed. Now that most of the trim is up we need to work on completely enclosing it by making a door. The problem is that the dimensions are so odd that I haven't been able to find anything that we could use at any of my trips to The Rebuilding Center or Hippo Hardware. Every door I was finding would need to be cut down so substantially that the existing panels and mouldings would look ridiculous.
It occurred to me that What I needed was a solid core, slab door. With this I could cut it down in height and width with out worrying about having a lopsided door, AND not have to worry about trying to re-bore for the lockset. I was inspired on a walk to create a Craftsman style door with a window. We could build up the ledge with dimensional lumber and mouldings. We could add a little window and I could get some salvage glass from Hippo. My Uncle was game to try this so I went on yet another search for a solid-core door.
I found this fun little pine door at Hippo, but the dimensions didn't quite work. It was a touch too narrow.I finally found one that wasn't too much bigger than I needed at The Rebuilding Center. I managed to get it for only $10 since the cashier felt I had waited too long for a salesperson to help me and she had to come out herself to give me pricing. That was an unexpected perk! While I was there I also rooted around in the hardware department looking for a lockset. I wanted something smaller scale since this is a mini door. I found this complete set with all the pieces parts, save a strike which I was able to get in the other bins. The salesperson said it would retail for over $100, but that they were asking $15. Oh, how I love The Rebuilding Center!
My uncle cut down the door and we discovered that my solid core door was actually particle board. The sides have about 3 inches of solid wood which is what I saw. It did not occur to me to tip the door over to look at the top or bottom, otherwise I would have seen this. The price is great, but this will make hanging it a bit more complicated because the hinges will have nothing to grab onto, When he trimmed the door on that side we lost all the solid wood. Bummer.
I used blue tape to test out the dimensions of the window before he cut that out. The first was too big.
Just right.
So now the door fits in the hole and we have a window. Next up, I need to find a piece of glass and we can add the ledge.