Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ride Across the Country

No, I didn't ride my bike across the country. But I did tag along with a self-supported ride across the country a few weeks ago. My dad's boss, Phil, contacted me about his brother-in-law, Royce, who was riding across the country and that his route would take him near me through Illinois. Royce, pictured on the left, is riding east to west across the country and Phil, pictured on the right was riding five days with him. I rode part of one day.

The leg I joined was from Danville to Decatur, so I rode down to meet them at the Casey's (ubiqitous gas stations in all the small towns in Illinois) in Sidney and then rode across part way to Monticello with them (basically riding along the same roads I always ride). It was a lot of fun to join them for a short jaunt on a beautiful day. Royce insisted on taking a picture of me for which he had already planned the caption. His ride journal, which he updates every few days whenever he has access, is a lot of fun to read. It's available here.
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Friday, June 20, 2008

Some Recent Deliciousness

Here are some pictures of some food that I've made recently that I felt like photographing and that are delicious.

Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Mustard BBQ Sauce This one was simply amazing. I got the recipe from Cooking Light and made the suggested tangy mustard coleslaw to go with it. My roommate, who also likes to take pictures of the food he cooks, helped man the grilling operation and we did grilled corn as well. We did it Mexican style with a chile on the grilled corn (no mayo on the corn as you might find it on "elote" in Mexico).

Here's another Cooking Light recipe, Tuna Steaks with Wasabi Ginger Glaze. The glaze was amazing and could be put on just about anything (and was super-simple).

I love to make Chiles Rellenos. I don't have a recipe to point to for these because I just kind of do them. First you have to roast the poblano pepper. Hold it in the flame of a gas burner or just throw it in the toaster oven and repeatedly hit toast rotating the pepper until the whole thing is blistered are the easiest ways that I've found. Then I throw it in a plastic bag and let it sweat before slipping off the skin. Then I cut a seam in the side to de-seed and de-vein the pepper. Stuff with whatever you want (I like to use a white cheese like mozarella and sauteed onions), dredge in egg and flour, then fry in a pan of hot oil.

Black Bean Quesadilla. Here's another one without a recipe for me to point to, but if you don't know how to make a quesadilla, I can't help you. I just thought it was colorful and fun. I sautee the peppers and onions first.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008


The iris that I planted last year bloomed at the beginning of this month and I managed to get a really nice picture of one of the blooms on a sunny morning. I got the iris as well as several daylilies from Newbury Daylilies. If you're in central Illinois, you should definitely check out their property. They have SO many daylilies. One of my daylilies has already sent up lots of stalks with buds on it.
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Race Updates

I've participated in a few races the last couple of months. The first was the Mattoon Beach Multisport sprint triathlon. I had only been in the water once and on my bike once this year after coming off of marathon training, but I went ahead and raced anyway. I finished the race in 9th place overall (results here), and as is fairly common, I had the fastest run split in the race. It was the first time that I had worn my new Fighting Illini Triathlon gear, which you can see in the picture at left with two other FIT members, Kevin and Jimmy. My PhD advisor, Martin Gruebele, beat me in the race after completely destroying me on the race and the swim. Notice his larger trophy in the second picture.

The second race was the Buffalo Trace trail race in Mahomet. I took second overall in a somewhat disappointing 29:12 for the 5-mile race (results here). It was a fun race, though, and it was pretty sloppy on the trails after a decent amount of rain. I wore my cross country spikes and my calves paid the price for the next week.

Recently, I raced the Wolf Creek sprint triathlon dualthon. The weather was really nasty as Martin and I drove down for the race and with the rain storms, the Army Corps of Engineers wouldn't let us swim in the lake. As a consequence, they changed the 400 m swim into a 1-mile run, which played heavily in my favor. Instead of falling way behind on the swim as I usually do since I'm a slow fish, I got to get in the bike with a decent lead. As expected, Martin blew by me on the bike (as did two other guys), but the 10-mile ride wasn't enough for anybody to put me out of striking distance. I was able to ease up after I retook the lead about halfway through the 3-mile run to take my second victory at Wolf Creek (results here).
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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jen and Ben's Wedding

Over Memorial Day weekend, my sister, Jen, got married at Mill Creek Inn in Salt Lake City. It was a beautiful day and the whole affair, wedding and reception, took place on the outdoor pavilion pictured here. I officiated the ceremony, which was a great honor and was a lot of fun. The second picture here shows my brother's girlfriend standing in for my sister during the dry run a couple of hours before the ceremony, since we were unable to rehearse at the site before. The third picture of Jen and Ben with me in the background was taken during the ceremony, which I stole from Darcie's website where there are lots of nice photos. My album, which has lots from the weekend, but little from the actual wedding events, is here. The last photo is of my brother and I with the bride after the ceremony.

There was a ton of family there and everything was so much fun and the reception was a blast as well.

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Backpacking in the San Rafael Swell

When I went out to Utah for my sister's wedding (more on that in another post), I got in a little backpacking trip. My brother, his girlfriend, my cousin, and my aunt went for a two-night expedition in the San Rafael Swell in Central Utah. We had a really great time hiking in the area near Mexican Mountain. It ended up raining on us off and on every day (in the desert!), but the advantage was that the entire desert was in bloom! There are a few pictures of some of the flowers in the post here, and a whole lot more here.

The last picture in this post shows a snake eating a lizard (click on it to see more clearly). Brian saw something fall out of a tree near our campsite and it turned out it was a snake that had just caught a lizard. We got to watch the whole eating process up close, which was incredible. There's a series in the photo album that documents most of the eating and I've got a video of part of it if you really want to see it.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

How to Sew Your Own Bowties

UPDATES (11/19/08): Note that I realized I wrote down the wrong seam allowance (although it doesn't matter much what you use) and it's now corrected in the text. Also, see the comments section for a printable pattern you can download!

I've been wearing bowties for years now and the majority of my collection are homemade ties. I started making my own bowties for multiple reasons:

  • Bowties are hard to find in stores
  • Bowties in stores are expensive
  • I don't have enough hobbies (yeah, right...)
Here is my brief tutorial on how to sew your own.

Sure, you can probably buy a pattern somewhere probably. But if you've got one bow-tie handy, you can just make a pattern. You'll just have to do this for your first project anyway. Set your presumably adjustable bowtie to the length designed for your neck size and trace one half of the length of the bowtie onto a piece of paper. At the middle of the tie, cut the paper at a 45 degree angle (not perpendicular to the bowtie) since you're going to want to cut your material on the bias. Then add whatever seam allowance you want as a border; I use a 1/8" 1/4" seam allowance.

Material Bowties should ideally be made of silk, but you can make them out of whatever material strikes your fancy. I've made some ties that I like quite nicely out of cotton as well. Truly anything works. The key to a tie that will tie up well is good stiff interfacing. The worst bowtie I have is a storebought one that has terribly thin interfacing (or maybe none at all?) and it won't hold a good shape at all. I usually buy half a yard of material, which gives me plenty of room to cut on the bias and I have lots of leftover if I want to make more ties or a pocket square to go along with the tie.

If you have no idea about sewing (like I did when I started this a few years ago), when you cut out the material, the material should be folded in half (so you'll get two things for every one you cut out). When you cut on the bias, that means to lay your pattern on the material at a 45 degree angle from the grain of the material.

Cut out 2 (you get four pieces) of your material from the pattern and 1 (you get two pieces) of your pattern from the interfacing.

Cut your material:
Cut your interfacing:

Ready your sewing machine You'll need a sweet sewing machine like mine. This was my grandmother's machine and it is fabulous. It doesn't really matter what color thread you use because your seams will be hidden if you follow my directions below. I like to be in the ballpark in case some of the thread peaks out.

Connect the Pieces
You'll now have 6 pieces, each of which are half of the bowtie. You'll want to sew them into 3 pieces, each of which is the shape of a bowtie. Two will be your material and one will be your interfacing. To do this, pin your pieces together as shown below and sew a seam 1/8" 1/4" in.

When you unfold the pieces, they should look like this, with the "right" sides facing the same direction and the seam on the "wrong sides".
Next, flatten out the seam by ironing it down. You can trim off the corners that stick out of the edges at this point as well.

Sew in the Interfacing Pin the "wrong" side of one of your pieces of material together with the interfacing. Sew the material and the interfacing together. I like to stay further to the outside than my seam allowance because it prevents this seam from showing when I do the final seam that will be the actual border when the tie gets inverted.

Sew on the Final Piece of Material Pin the "right sides" of the tie material together and sew the whole thing together. You'll have the "wrong" side out on one side and the interfacing on the other side, with your other piece of material sandwiched in between. Halfway through the neck portion, leave a gap of a few inches because you'll need to invert your tie through that space. Here, you'll want to make sure your entire seam is inside the previous seam that you sewed or you'll end up with that seam showing on your finished tie.

Trim Trim away excess material, particularly around the corners. This will prevent you from having lumps in your tie when you invert it.

Invert Pull your tie inside-out through the gap where you didn't sew on the neck so that the interfacing goes inside and the right sides of your tie are now out. This part can be tediously difficult because you have to pull the "bow" parts out through that narrow little neck opening and it can be hard to do. Have patience, though, because you're almost done! I use a chopstick to help me push the tie through.

Hand-stitch the opening Now you need to sew up the opening that you just pulled everything through. It's okay if you're terrible at this part (I am!) because this is going to hide inside the collar of your shirt anyway. This is the last step. You'll just need to iron it to flatten the whole thing out.

Tie! The last step is to tie your tie. Hopefully if you're up to sewing a bowtie, you already know how to tie one. I'm sure you can find a video tutorial somewhere (perhaps I can make my own?). I found that it's easier to practice on your leg than on your neck while you're first learning. I also like to throw in a pocket square. You don't actually have to sew this; just fold up a scrap of your material!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Finally some updates

It has been pointed out to me by several people that I haven't posted in a long time. I guess I got into a posting slump since my next post was to be the results of the Boston Marathon. Boston was a huge bust, so I didn't really want to write about it. I finished, but I was really incredibly disappointed. In short, I had a stomach pain that hit me like a ton of bricks at about mile 14. Eek, what a horrible race.I have lots of goodies to post, so I'll try to put a few up here and there and I'll just go through some of the folders of my pictures and put up a few things. I think there's a scientific post or two coming in the future (tons of people use google to hit my blog on my UHV posts looking for information...I guess I should include more technical details--note to the many people who find my blog looking for "UHV bakeout temperature" : read your manuals to find out what temperature each part of your system can be baked!).

On the 3rd of May, we had "Derby de Mayo, a Mustachio Bashio" at my house. Four of us grew two-week mustaches for the ocassion. You can see how pathetic our two week efforts were in the picture here. A much nicer picture is that of a mint julep. I put the nice julep cup that I got as a high school graduation gift years ago (thanks Bob and Judy!) to good use for the Derby.
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