Wildlife! Plus: A New Variety of Apple?

November 11, 2011

Yesterday, I narrowly avoided being attacked by both a mountain lion and a bear.

OK, OK, I may be, um… stretching the truth a little bit, but lately, the Burbank hills are alive. And not just with the sound of music.

Yesterday’s post went into detail about my run through the foothills of Burbank, which was my old stomping ground before I moved to North Hollywood almost five years ago. It was a fantastic run. And, it turns out, I might not have been alone as I jogged those hillside streets. I heard on the radio a few hours after my run that 24 hours before I pounded the pavement, a mountain lion (!) was seen, in broad daylight, gallivanting across someone’s lawn mere blocks from where I ran. Mountain lions aren’t rare in southern California, but seeing one sauntering about in the middle of the afternoon is, since they’re nocturnal and tend to keep their distance from humans. Here’s an article about the lion’s midday stroll, which includes tips on how to avoid being a mountain lion’s lunch, like this one: “Do not hike, bike, or jog alone.” Gulp! Guilty as charged, Officer!

I’m not going to let one dumb mountain lion prevent me from training for my 10k on Sunday. If I stop running, than the mountain lion wins. Plus, I’ve already conquered mountain lions – check out this post that equates my weight loss to a mountain lion (and other random objects).

The mountain lion wasn’t the only massive mammal meandering for a meal yesterday. Roughly 12 hours after I completed my run, a 500-pound black bear was seen moseying through a neighborhood in neighboring Glendale. Read the article here, which includes a photo of the beast traipsing through someone’s garden!

What if I had run into both the black bear and the mountain lion, and they fought over which one got to kill and eat me? SyFy Channel, I think I just came up with your next original movie project! “Giant Bear Vs. Mega-Mountain Lion”! You’re welcome.

I’ve seen a few wild animals in my day. When I lived in Burbank, I saw, on two different occasions, coyotes in my neighborhood. The first time I saw one, I thought it was a stray dog, and spent 15 minutes following it, trying to coax it towards me, and got within 10 feet of it before realizing it probably wasn’t someone’s lost Fido. A year later, I saw a coyote on the other side of the street, and it knew pedestrian etiquette! It used the sidewalks, looked both ways at an intersection, and stayed in the crosswalk when it crossed. Smart coyote!

I’ve also come across a bear in the wild. Four years ago, my entire family took an Alaskan cruise, and at one of the ports, my siblings and I all went hiking around a glacier. While we were on the hike, we saw a baby bear up in a tree. It was probably 20-25 yards away, and our guide advised us to stay quiet, as the mama bear was probably nearby. I did snap this picture, although the bear’s head is obscured by some leaves:

 

Another quick memory: I remember being really nervous in the days leading up to the hike, worried that I wouldn’t be able to complete it. I was so much heavier back then, and not very active, and the brochure had described the hike as being “intermediate” in difficulty, and around 2 hours long. I had these thoughts that I’d be panting and wheezing, and holding up the group, but I made it, and it was really fun. Here’s what I looked like on that hike – I was in a head-shaving phase:

The paved sidewalk was only around the visitors’ center – the hike itself was on dirt trails that wound up the mountainside, with the occasional hop over a fallen tree.

MOVING ON…

Yesterday’s activities included a trip to the store, which resulted in me buying the following produce:

What do we have? From left to right: A pineapple, bananas, a red onion, apples, baby carrots, red peppers, grapes, cucumbers, pears, and celery.

I’m relatively knowledgeable about apples. I’m familiar with most of the varieties you see at stores, and know which ones I like most (honeycrisp and pink lady, I’m looking at you). But these apples are a variety I’ve never heard of before: they’re Pippin apples!

Before now, the only association I had with the word Pippin was that it’s the name of a fun musical from the ’70s that I saw in college. Apparently, it’s a type of apple, too! More Pippin info to come!

I also bought something else I’ve never seen before:

Pickled green tomatoes! I may have tried fried green tomatoes once at a restaurant, but I’ve never seen them, fresh or jarred, in a store before. Guess how many calories are in a serving of these pickled green tomatoes? Three. That’s got to be a typo, don’t you think? Maybe they meant 30? Oh, and if there’s any Southerners out there who have suggestions on how to eat these guys, speak up in the comments section! I haven’t cracked open the jar yet, and I’ll wait and see what ideas you guys send my way. Do I enjoy them straight out of the jar, like pickles? Put them in a sandwich? Cook with them?

Lastly, my orange-peeling challenge continues. To recap, I’m trying to remove the entire peel of an orange in one piece (a skill my father excels at), and keep that peel as narrow as possible, and leave as little pith on the orange as possible, too. Here’s my most recent attempt:

Woo-hoo, that peel is in 1 piece! My most successful peel-job so far! I’m still gonna work on making the peel narrower and longer – I think I may have to sharpen my knife so there’s less sawing on my end.

Keep it up, David!

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Orange Peels

November 7, 2011

We ate dinner as a family when I growing up. Every night we’d gather at the kitchen table. My mom is handy in the kitchen, and she would cook most nights. As I got older, I would help. When I really young, there’d be all six of us – me, my parents, and my three older siblings – but as I grew older, the number got smaller, and the amount of dinners we ate together decreased. My oldest sister, Laura, went to college when I was nine, and my brother followed four years later. Then, when I was in middle school, I was on a swim team that practiced from 5-7pm (and my other sister, Sarah, was too) but my parents saved plates for us most of the time, and when they didn’t, it usually meant that we could stop at Burger King or Leo’s Coney Island on the way home.

I’ve been reminiscing about my childhood family dinners this past weekend, particularly about my dad. I remember how he could be really engaging and fun during meals. He would bribe my sister to eat mushrooms, which she hated (for the record, she started eating them when she was older and now loves ’em). He always had riddles and jokes, and on special occasions, he would ask Buck Questions, a game he invented that involves increasingly difficult trivia, science, or math questions and $1 prizes which became a tradition in my family that we still play.

I don’t remember dessert being a big part of our family dinners. On occasion my mom would make a apple crisp, or we’d have some ice cream, but dessert wasn’t a daily occurrence. My dad always ended dinner, though, with fruit – he still does – and that’s what got me reminiscing about family dinners to begin with.

After he was finished with his meal, my dad would take his plate to the sink, then pick up some oranges from the fridge. He’d sit back down with a steak knife, and start turning the orange into the blade of the knife, and before long, he had removed the peel in one long piece. You could pick up the peel, and it would look like a slinky. He’d offer orange slices to anyone that wanted them, and when the first orange was gone, he’d pick up another one and do the whole thing again.

When I was older, he used to let me try to peel the orange, but I was nowhere as good as he was. His peels seemed perfect – a uniform thickness from end to end, and he would remove the white pith, too, without ever sacrificing any of the orange flesh. My dad is a master at peeling an orange. I watched him do it the last time I saw him, when I was in Michigan in September.

I wrote yesterday about how I picked up some oranges from the unlikeliest of places, the parking lot at Home Depot. I came home with seven oranges. I juiced one of them, and on Sunday, I looked at the remaining six and decided they’d all be practice oranges.

I want to peel an orange as well as my father can!

Attempt #1:

Pretty good pith removal, but the peel broke in two places, and it’s uneven in thickness. I can do better.

Attempt #2:

Check out this peel!

All in one piece! It’s a little thick, though, and the pith mostly stayed on the orange:

I have four more oranges. That’s four more attempts. I’ll probably try it again at least once today.

I love a good fruit challenge!

Keep it up, David!