Archive | August, 2011

Best Drill for Home Projects?

23 Aug

Drills, Drills, Drills - thanks to Mark Hunter for the photo

Okay, so Rob and I are furiously working on our existing house, so that on Friday we can move to a new one and rent this one out. Awesome. It involves a lot of building guardrails and handrails and adding smoke detectors – things that involve the use of our drill.

blistered thumb

A power tool should not be so difficult to use that you blister in the attempt.

Now, I like our drill well enough. It’s a Black and Decker 12v Battery Operated Drill, small and lightweight and efficient. HOWEVER. As demonstrated by the wicked blisters on my hands, it’s not made for people with less-than-masculine grip strength. To wit: To secure a bit in the drill, you must turn two tumblers in opposite directions until they sort of click into place, thus securing the bit. When the bit is not secure, you hit one knot in the wood, and suddenly your drill is turning but the bit is not. Often, the bit is then stuck in the wood, and you have to rescue it. I cannot, for the life of me, get the tumblers tight enough to secure certain small (9/64ths) bits; nor can I loosen the tumblers to change bits when a small bit is secure.

I have to go ask Rob to help me when ever I need to change a bit – he is able. It’s really inefficient when he’s manning the saw and I’m manning the drill. Plus, it’s frustrating and infuriating and makes me all “This is a sexist drill!” Which it probably isn’t. It was probably just not designed with a less-than-super-strong grip in mind. (I will not say “weak grip” because I don’t like thinking of myself as weak.)

Does anyone out there have a drill that’s easy to use? I would love recommendations. Or ideas/tips for how I can make our existing drill work for my (evidently) puny little hands?

Fried Peaches to End State Fair Week

19 Aug
The fried peach

A fried peach!

It’s our last day of State Fair Week (tear!). And what better way to end than with dessert?

Now, I was going to do fried Twinkies. But at the last minute, I changed my mind. Why? Because 1) That required me to buy Twinkies, 2) It also required me to freeze Twinkies overnight. And I was absolutely prepared to do that, until an Anon (Hi!) posted the fried peach idea and I realized that I HAD fresh peaches on hand and could successfully avoid another trip to the grocery store PLUS have a fried peach right away. Laziness and Impatience for the win!

And, oh, what a win.

Challenge: Fried Peaches

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Homemade Corn Dogs, On a Stick

18 Aug
Pronto Pups!

Pronto Pups! Imperfect, yes. But still beautiful.

You ever notice how, from one state to another, there can be drastic vocabulary differences?

I’m originally from the awesome state of Minnesota, where, for whatever reason, there are a few things that are just said differently. For example, growing up, I played Duck, Duck, Gray Duck (rather than Duck, Duck, Goose). It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned about the goose business. And it’s the same way with corn dogs: In Minnesota (and especially at the Minnesota State Fair), these babies are Pronto Pups. Not that you can’t find a corn dog in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but you’re more likely to encounter a pronto pup. It’s just the way it is.

But no matter what you call them, the hot-dog-wrapped-in-corn-batter-and-dipped-in-hot-oil is a quintessential fair food. It’s fried, it’s on a stick and it’s delicious. And so, of course, I had to make one for STATE FAIR WEEK. After the dual appetizers of fried pickles and mac and cheese on a stick, a pronto pup (a.k.a. corn dog) dinner is just about perfect. So, here we go!

Challenge: Homemade Corn Dogs 

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Fried Mac and Cheese on a Stick

17 Aug
fried mac and cheese

The finished product, fried and on a stick

Okay, friends. I’m posting my STATE FAIR WEEK celebration-makings in a meal-type order. You’ve probably already seen my DIY Fried Pickles, which of course were the appetizer. (Of course.)

So, after you try the pickles and walk around a lot and perhaps take a spin on the Ferris wheel and maybe brave the line to see the butter cow, which puts you in a dairy mood, you might find yourself kind of hungry again. So, what do you eat?

Macaroni and cheese on a stick. It’s the second course of our State Fair Extravaganza!

Challenge: DIY Mac and Cheese on a Stick

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DIY Fried Pickles

16 Aug
fried pickles

Huzzah for fried pickles!

It’s that time: IOWA STATE FAIR WEEK!

Whoot! And to celebrate (well, to celebrate in a way OTHER than actually going to the fair, which I sadly may not have a chance to do this year), I made a veritable litany of fried and on-a-stick foods, DIY versions of what’s sold at the fair. My waistline may never forgive me, but my taste buds  just sent me a dozen roses. Yay.

So really, to get the best feel for this, let’s pretend we’re at the state fair. You with me? You just got here, you’ve seen the super-huge bull and your favorite breed of horse (or chicken, if you’re Rob) and now you’re walking along, counting the number of fanny packs you see, and your nose detects the scent of something… tangy, yes, it’s tangy and also definitely fried. It smells delicious. You wander over to the vendor’s stand and find out that it’s fried pickles! Let the eating begin.

Challenge: DIY Fried Pickles

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State Fair Week is Nigh

9 Aug
crowd at the state fair

I'm evidently not the only one who loves the Iowa State Fair! (Photo courtesy of the Iowa State Fair)

Dear and Lovely Readers,

First, an apology. I have been somewhat remiss in my blogging duties of late, largely because my life has become consumed with real estate issues (buying a house and moving into it, and renting out our existing house). The bad news? I’m missing DIY or Buy analysis posts. (It’s hard to type when you’re covered in paint.) The good news? I have DOZENS of posts-in-the-making. So, please forgive me and bear with me.

And to reward your patience (and give myself a much-needed mental break), I’ve deemed next week STATE FAIR WEEK on this here blog! Yes, the Iowa State Fair begins on Thursday and runs through August 21st, and it is one of my favorite things about Iowa. There’s the world’s largest pig (which is a wonder, but also makes me a little sad, because they always look so hot and uncomfortable) and the horse stables, and the giant cow fashioned entirely out of butter, and the photography displays, and the cake-making competitions, and the concerts and the midway and, oh, the food.

corn dog stand

The Ultimate Fair Indulgence: Hot dogs, wrapped in corn batter and fried. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa State Fair)

THE FOOD. State Fair food. I love State Fair Food. So, we’re totally making it.

Grandma Vi gave Rob and I a mini-fryer not too long ago. This little gadget hasn’t been excessively used, but that’s about to change. Because State Fair Week is all about the frying, baby. I’m going to attempt to make, at home:

  • Fried Pickles (not on a stick)
  • Corn Dogs (on a stick)
  • Fried Twinkies (maybe on a stick)
  • Mac & Cheese On a Stick (on a stick)

It will be fried. It will be a grand homage to our beloved State Fair. And it will not have any of my traditional analysis. Because, let’s be realistic: This stuff is terrible for you no matter where/when you get it, it’s always more expensive at the fair, and I won’t be able to do a straight side-by-side taste comparison. (Unless I can figure out a way to smuggle my own mac ’n’ cheese on a stick into the fair, which isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility.)

Anyway, the regular stuff will pick back up with the Aug. 23rd post – I promise. But I’m going to take a week to indulge in epic amounts of food experimentation and goofiness. Please join me! And, if you have any special I-want-to-see-it-made requests, let me know in the comments. I’m easily swayed.

(Super thanks to the Iowa State Fair for the lovely photos.)