Over 10 years of living with my stove and I finally discover…

…holy crap, the top lifts up for easy cleaning!

I’ve been trying to clean that drip pan area from the top through the burner holes the entire time. This is much better!

This all came about because both large elements gave up the ghost and I bought four new ones, plus new drip pans. In doing a thorough scrub, I happened to lift the stovetop up and to my surprise, it moved!

Here’s to new features on old appliances.

The Orange Door’s newest appliance

I’ve owned a stovetop pressure cooker before and found it to be an appliance that was okay to use. It didn’t live up to its promises (so fast!) but did prepare food slightly faster than the conventional stovetop method. I think my stovetop pressure cooker broke, or I wandered away from it and donated it.

However, I was intrigued by the Instant Pot because it has both the pressure cooking attributes and a slow cooker function. I hadn’t replaced my slow cooker when it broke and I did, from time to time, wish I had another one.

The price was prohibitive, and I’ve been biding my time, figuring eventually someone would have theirs up for sale for cheap because it didn’t quite fit into their cooking routine. However, this weekend Fred Meyer put their 6-quart jobber on sale for $79.99 plus a $10 FM gift card and I snapped it up. It actually rang up even cheaper than that ($59.99) which I reluctantly told the cashier. She shrugged, and let me have it for the lower price.

I’ve had this for two weeks now and can report that I think this will be a permanent and well-used part of my cooking tools. Here’s the reason why: it’s a countertop appliance. Most of my cooking is done in one or two long sessions on the weekend. This means that sometimes space on the burners is at a premium. Being a countertop appliance, I can set something up, program the timer, walk away, and continue doing four other things until the Instant Pot cooking cycle is over. With a stovetop pressure cooker, not only did I lose a burner, but also I had to do a good amount of futzing with the burner setting to maintain pressure.

I love also that I can sauté in the Instant Pot. With my slow cooker, I would have to sauté in a pan and transfer the food to the slow cooker. Otherwise everything came out with the same mushy long-cooked flavor that I didn’t enjoy.

I haven’t yet used the slow cooker function, so I have no report on that, but Steam, Rice, Soup and the pressure cooking functions have worked very well for me. In fact, on Saturday I used the Instant Pot six times, making brown rice, white rice, black beans, red beans, chicken and lentil soup, and Indian butter chicken.

First-time users of pressure cookers might find the time savings to be negligible. You have to let the unit come to pressure, which takes time, and then it cooks at pressure, and then while you can quick release, for some things you have to let the pressure cooker come down naturally from full pressure, and by that time, you could have just done it on the regular stove.

But I was aware I wouldn’t win much time. And unaware of how freeing the Instant Pot would be.

The Portland Streetcar Scavenger Hunt

The Portland Streetcar put on a scavenger hunt and we participated. There were clues (that rhymed!) and they led us to different spots along the Portland Streetcar line. When we found them, we took a picture, posted it on Instagram and received the next clue. Here are all the places we went. Of note: I learned that I have no selfie skills. None. I’m usually laughing in these photos due to my sub-par skills. I take self portraits all the time with my camera, but it’s much easier to do than using a phone.

We started at the Spirit of 77, where we checked in and got a brochure with all the clues. This was handy as our last few posts got lost in the shuffle and we didn’t get our clues via Instagram.

Also, it was the rare summer rainy day! Here we are just outside our first destination The clue “Working out this clue/Gave us quite a fit/Mostly because/Nothing rhymes with it.”  Matt knew it was “Orange something,” and a bit of googling showed us the location.

“For this basilisk vessel/Look above, not below/It’s hanging in a place where/You attend a conference or a show.”  This one was tough. We had to figure out with basilisk meant (lizard). I guessed the location was the Convention Center and downloaded a brochure of public art that alerted me to the dragon boat. Then it was a matter of walking there. Matt wishes to point out that a dragon isn’t a lizard and thus, this was a sub-par clue.

“Dame says get your fun on/and be witty!/Be the “i” in the sign of / “__ __ __  __ __ __ __”  We had to ask for a clue for this one. Luckily Instagram direct messenger made it easy. “Damian Lillard” was the clue and that meant that it was something over at the Rose Garden. I took a picture of Matt by this fountain because I’ve always liked this fountain. To solve the clue we took our picture in front of a clothing store that wasn’t open and it was pronounced good enough. Apparently there was a big “Rip City” sign out front and you could take a picture with yourself as the I. However, the sign wasn’t out on this particular day, much to the organizers annoyance.

“Be it dark, white, or milk/Design your own, smooth as silk.” Googling told us there were two options of chocolate stores, one on the west side of the river and one on the east side, where we were.  I DM’d to see if we should cross the river yet, and the answer was that it wasn’t quite time yet. So Creo Chocolate it was.

We both got chocolate drinks as the rain had gone away and it had become a sunny day. They were chocolate, milk and club soda, I found mine funny tasting (I don’t love bubbly water, so I’m not sure why I ordered it) but very refreshing.

As we had done nothing but walk thus far, we had planned to take the streetcar across the bridge and into the Pearl. But the next car was not coming for 18 minutes and so we walked some more. I groused about it, but we did see some fun things like a group of guys playing around on the electric scooters.

From the Broadway Bridge. West side of the river:

East side of the river.

Union Station always looks so pretty.

Some graffiti 

“Head to the Pearl for your/Next treat/”Eat it! Don’t Bake it”/This dessert is sweet!”  We discussed what kind of dessert place they might be talking about, but I remembered the Cookie Dough Cafe, where you can buy cookie dough to eat. “That’s right by my work!” I said, happy to have solved the clue. “We can stop by and use the bathrooms. And so we did.

We were told to go inside on this one and were rewarded with some cookie dough to go. Thanks Cookie Dough Cafe!

“This place is also/Swell, nifty, groovy, and cool/Find it and take a photo inside the ‘Better Takes Action’ tool.”  While Matt stood in line for our cookie dough prize, I googled “better takes action” and was told about the shoe company Keen’s campaign. We headed down the street to Keen for this photo.

Keen had benches outside, so we rested while we worked out the next clue. Across the street Filson (of the overpriced flannel fame) was doing something with chainsaws.

“This awning is great/for a night or a bite/Find the sculpture inside/Of birds taking flight”  We knew it had to be a hotel with a restaurant, but there are many, many hotels in that area. Matt googled “awning hotel portland” and it came back with Canopy which is a new hotel by Hilton. In fact, I have chronicled the block after the previous building was taken down, but before they had made much progress building it.

In other news, though I walk past this hotel regularly, I had never noticed this grand sculpture of the swifts!

“Public art in a park sure is neat/These make streetcar poles more/discrete.”  Matt knew exactly what the clue was talking about. I had never noticed them, even though the bank where I deposit work checks is right across the street from these totem poles/streetcar pole camouflage.

People who spend time downtown know the signs of something being filmed nearby. RV, Penske rental truck, No Parking signs. Somewhere in the vicinity filming is happening.  Strangely, they were spread out over three or four blocks.  It appeared to be some sort of athletic gear ad.

We found our final place, the Tea Bar, and headed for the last clue, “You’re done!/Come celebrate and say YAY/At the brick home of/The original IPA!” That was Bridgeport Brewing.  Matt got a burger and I got a hummus plate while we waited to hear the results of the raffle.

And Matt won!  A basketball signed by last year’s Blazers. Thanks, Portland Streetcar!

On the way to take the streetcar back to the starting point we had a very rare summer downpour.  That was fun!

Finally, we use our free streetcar fare!

This was a very fun way to spend the afternoon. Thanks, Portland Streetcar!

OPB via the TV

The addition of our too-large flat screen TV at the Orange Door has changed the way I listen to NPR. Now I listen via the TV, as station 10.4 plays OPB radio. 

To my surprise, while the radio is playing I’m treated to a slideshow of Oregon landscapes.  These landscapes change with the seasons so in winter, I’m treated to snowy vistas and in spring meadows of wildflowers.  It’s a fun bonus, and makes up for the fact that the feed shorts out every time a Max train or large truck goes by the house.

I need a better antenna.

Backyard: 3 tons of flagstone, placed

Here’s what three tons of flagstone looks like when it’s all stacked together.  I had a lot of anxiety around this part of the project. How much stone would it be? Would we successfully be able to keep all the cars from parking in front of the house during the delivery window? Would it completely exhaust me to do the moving of the stone?

And here’s what three tons of flagstone looks like when you place it in the backyard. And here I learned that irregular stone is just as annoying as regular stone. I thought this would be great because we didn’t have to spend so much time getting things straight and lined up properly. But instead, the slabs of stone don’t fit together nicely so there are a lot of gaps. I do like how it looks, though. and I think the color goes nicely with the house.

Thank goodness our friend Burt came and helped. It was a very big job.

Next one the list: we will fill in all those small holes with smaller rock and then fill in the spaces between with sand.

But immediately next we will go to the Kennedy School to soak in the soaking pool and then have dessert.  And then we will not do much for the rest of the day.

Backyard progress: the end of grading

When we finished the side yard, I had the happy thought that we wouldn’t have to do all the dreadful digging when we renovated the backyard. That wasn’t entirely true. The four inches of dirt we excavated from the side yard ended up in a pile in the backyard, and so we did dig for the back yard project. In this case, it was digging to move dirt around, which is slightly less taxing than excavating.

Here’s what things looked like early on. You can see the dirt mound at the apex of the yard. That had to be smoothed out. In grading the yard, we ended up adding dirt to the part of the yard nearest the house and taking it away from the part farthest from the house. The added dirt came from the mound. Plus, there was the excavating of asparagus roots. That was full-on hard digging.

But look!  We have finished. Matt stands where the mound used to be!

From the other end of the yard. You can see how we had to pile up the dirt near the point of our triangle in order to excavate it to the proper depth. You can also see the piece of plywood that served as our tamper. Plywood and body weight does the trick.

You can also see that the asparagus crowns have taken hold.

Here is our “mothership” stake. That was the stake most likely to not be disturbed, so we measured from it to find our proper grade.

I’m happy to have gotten through this phase of the project.

Postcards rotated

I think the last time I rotated the postcards was 2015. I remember doing it on the weekend before I started my job at Sabin, having just quit the Emerson School. Let’s look back at the blog and see if I’m right.  Indeed!  It has been more that 2.5 years!

So here is the new setup. Once I was done I realized I put them up in the wrong order, so the oldest are on the second row, right side, and then they work their way to the newest, which are the top row, left side.

Matt’s only question was “Where did the PCC come from?”  As chronicled here, they were from Sara, and they look great on the wall, just as she imagined.

New place for photos

It took a long time to figure out where these photos should go.  I didn’t want them above the TV anymore. We discussed having them on the wall under the heat pump, but I eventually discarded that idea because I thought it was too close to the kitchen and I would have to scrub grease off of them on a regular basis.

Instead, I put them above the bathroom door and above the picture that hides the fuse box.

Now they are still hanging around, but not quite so prominent.

It was good to get this project done.  I had to take a day off of work to do it, but it was worth it.