Hellraising Hot Sauce Update

I must say, Hellraising Hot Sauce has come a long way since we last spoke about it. DT and I are over the moon! It’s been a crazy six months or so.

Our imposed period of unemployment turned out to be a blessing on the hot sauce front. It gave us solid blocks of uninterrupted time to get our ducks in a row – food safety instruction, acquiring insurance, filing with the MDA/FDA, approving labels, renting commercial kitchen space, inspector signoff, applying for the endless licenses and certificates needed to produce, bottle, and sell our product. It is certainly a tricky system to navigate, there is absolutely no straight line to get from point A to point B. But once you get there….the fun (and work) can begin!

Twin Cities Produce

Pallet of produce.

full vehicle

This buggy is f-u-l-l-!

red jalapeño

Our first official day of production in the commercial kitchen was May 8. It’s so funny to think back on that day and how clueless we were. With all of our supplies and groceries in tow….picking up produce from the wholesaler, setting ourselves up and fumbling around the kitchen for the first time….let’s just say it was a VERY long day. But it was so EXCITING!

GIA

GIA kitchen

GIA kitchen 2

Now when we are scheduled at the kitchen, DT and I are like a machine. It’s all business, no small talk, no dilly-dallying….we found a groove in three short months. DT does this, I do that. He starts this, I finish that. And vice versa. It’s good.

First batch of Triple Inferno!

First batch of Triple Inferno!

IMG_6701

DT the Hot Saucer.

DT the Hot Saucer.

As you know, Hellraising started with two sauces, Sweet Suffering and Triple Inferno. This summer we released a third sauce, Green Fever – it’s become my new favorite! This recipe is a tad milder than the others, using serrano peppers with lime. The lime flavor is so bright and pairs brilliantly with the pepper heat. I eat it by the spoonful!

Cases of sauce.

Cases of sauce.

cases of sauce 2

We are thrilled to be in a few restaurants around the Twin Cities, including Sea Salt, Señor Wong, Pizza Luce – Richfield, Driftwood Char Bar, and George and the Dragon. Twisted Oak Wood Fired Pizza developed a special pizza recipe using Green Fever which is so cool. We are constantly scouting out other spots and have made some wonderful connections as we stop into places and talk to folks about our sauce.

finished product!

Finished product!

We’ve sold direct to customers that sought us out, hearing about Hellraising one way or another – it’s so crazy and delightfully random. And yet at the same time so purposeful and intentional. The interest and enthusiasm has been so, SO unbelievably inspiring and invigorating. DT and I just relish every minute of it. We LOVE meeting fans!

Our sauces are on the shelves at Guse Green Grocer and we are chatting with a few other grocery stores as well.

Hellraising even has a couple of reviews! You can see them here (Sweet Suffering) and here (Triple Inferno).

It’s been a really exciting time and we are working hard, but enjoying the hard work so, so much. What’s that saying about doing something you love? You’ll never work a day in your life? I think DT and I are now getting to see what that really means and it’s awesome.

So anyway, just wanted to share all of our news….it’s Hellraising all day, every day – yippee! :-)


Tour de Fat 2014

We were in Des Moines when Tour de Fat came through the Twin Cities last year, so we were excited to return for the 2014 visit! Remember 2012?

painting Loring Park

Tour de Fat afar

It was a perfect-summer-weather Saturday for beers and games in Loring Park. We weren’t the only ones with these afternoon plans – so many people, kids, and dogs came out to join this nutty party.

Tour de Fat ahead

polar bear thing 1

polar bear thing 2

Tour de Fat schedule

DT and the kiddos quickly made a beeline for that addictive bicycle tire totem pole….this wasn’t the only time we stopped!

tire game 1

Two Ranger IPAs, please.

New Belgium marquis

Tour de Fat crowd 1

Tour de Fat crowd 2

The giant Connect 4 game:

giant Connect 4 - 1

giant Connect 4 - 2

The crazy fun house mirrors!

crazy mirror 1

crazy mirror 2

crazy mirror 3

tire game 2

DT and me 1

DT and me 2

The fan bike:

Henry - fan bike

Some hula-ing….

hula 1

hula 2

hula 3

Sam and Henry waited in line for a turn to ride the funky bikes and test drove several over a bunch of laps around the ‘track.’

bike track 1

bike track 3

bike track 4

bike track 5

We caught a little show on the big stage….

stage 1

the guys

On our way out, Sam and Henry explored the strange, furry, polar bear-like monstrosity by the entrance gates:

riding the polar bear thing 1

riding the polar bear thing 2

And of course our ritual photo by the Loring Park fountain….

Loring Park fountain

Taylors 1

Taylors 2

Such a fun afternoon, we love when the Tour comes to town!


Dad’s Big Birthday Weekend

I am so woefully behind on all things Life in Spicyland, so this post is coming to you at least three weeks late. Hrm. Better late than never has been my life philosophy lately.

Well, anyway.

My dad turned *60* SIXTY! June 29 AND he [semi] retired March 31, so our family wanted to get together and spend some time celebrating the patriarch. We landed on a July weekend that, remarkably, was open for everyone (you know how jam-packed summer weekends can be). Well, wouldn’t you know it….Sam’s baseball team advanced to the state championship and guess when it was scheduled….just guess. Yes, that July weekend. So unfortunately, DT and the kids couldn’t make it, but we’ve got an August redo on the calendar.

My dad was adamant about keeping it low key, no fuss, no big blowout party – just our immediate family. So that’s what we did.

I didn’t snap photos of every single thing over the weekend, but shown here are a few of the highlights.

My brother, his wife Allison, and I drove up to Alexandria Friday afternoon. We didn’t have any particular itinerary for the weekend – a few ideas of things to do, yes, but no real plans beyond hanging out together, good food on the menu, and some beverages along the way.

We kicked things off with dinner at Sixth Avenue Wine and Ale Friday night, which I must do a detailed post about someday – it is such a wonderful place for so many reasons. I was too busy eating, drinking, and soaking it all up so no real recap on this other than, as always, it was divine.

We woke up to a cool and gloomy Saturday morning. Dustin and Allison were on breakfast duty and whipped up a delightful spread to start our day.

Despite the clouds and drizzle, we headed over to Arrowwood Resort on Lake Darling for an antique boat show they were hosting. Fun to wander the docks!

boat show 1

Visit the Maritime Museum

boat show 2

boat show 3

boat show 4

boat show 5

Dustin, hotrod

Next was a visit to Carlos Creek Winery – a very popular destination in the Alexandria area. We started out with some wine sampling….

Carlos Creek Winery tasting room

wine sampling 1

wine tasting 2

My distinguished brother, deep in thought over his sample.

wine sample 3

….Then moved outside onto their pretty patio to await the live music. And the sun eventually appeared!

Carlos Creek patio

Dad and Dustin

Carlos Creek band stage

Family in a wine barrel!

Family in a wine barrel!

Family 2014

We stopped back to my parents’ and had a late lunch and a little break before figuring out the evening’s plans.

By the way – not only had the sun come out, but it was HOT outside by now! Such a change from how the day began.

Sooo….we should definitely go mini golfing! Casey’s Amusement Park was calling to us.

mini golf 1

mini golf 3

mini golf 3

mini golf 4

mini golf 5

mini golf 6

Certainly no PGA winners among us, but we had a marvelous time anyway!

We worked up quite an appetite after our golf outing and returned back to home base for an enormous, grilled feast. With full bellies after a full day, the whole family retired pretty early Saturday night (#partypoopers).

Sunday: my grandparents came over for brunch, complete with bacon and sausage, eggs (from our chickens!), toast, and fresh fruit. So nice to visit and catch up with them – it just doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. When it does, though, I’m very grateful.

G&G recently took down a couple of oak trees in their sprawling backyard and donated some of the split wood to DT’s and my Winter Firewood Stash (which, after three winters of burning our fallen oak tree, needed to be replenished!). So, we transported ourselves over to their house after brunch for some chopping and loading.

G&G's yard

splitting wood 1

splitting wood 2

loading wood

Grandpa and Dustin

Grandpa and Dustin

It was a fantastic weekend and I’m so glad we could [almost] all be together to celebrate such a special person. It wasn’t anything wild or crazy, but it was just our family’s speed and really, it wouldn’t have made an ounce of difference what we did. All that mattered was the time spent.

Cheers to you, Dad!


Update: Employed!

I have been so terribly absent on this blog most of 2014. Apologies for the neglect here, I do miss the writing and sharing.

Just to follow up on this post from way back in April….DT and I are officially employed again. Wooooeee!

DT found full-time work and started May 12 – I landed another contract where I was before. Same company/similar role/different department. I just started back on Monday.

So….WHEW! When I think about writing that post, and what a strange time it was for both of us, it’s a little hard to believe. It was darker and colder outside – it felt a lot that way inside too. A lot has happened since we each learned our contracts were ending.

And it’s been a tad surreal this week, driving the same commute, entering the same buildings, walking the same halls, seeing many familiar faces (which has been such a bright light!), where nearly five months ago I was spending my last day and in an absolute, panicked daze.

Well, anyway. We made it through and here we are. More to share with you, but in the meantime, that’s what we’re celebrating these days.

Happy weekend!


Now, About Those Chickens….

It is shameful that I wrote about our little chicken friends nearly a year ago after their arrival and have had zero follow-up since.  What a terrible chicken mamma I am!

So it’s high time I tell you a little more about the birdies.

chickens 1

First of all, they survived one of the most God-awful winters known to the entire state of Minnesota, poor babies.  Of course, our first cold season with them would turn out to be so immensely wretched.  They avoided snow like the plague, so didn’t come out of their coop and run for about five months.  I know they weren’t too happy, but they did just fine.

My dad helped to engineer a heat lamp using a 150-watt lightbulb covered with a clay pot to serve as a source of warmth inside their coop.  Here they are, basking in the glow:

chickens - lamp in coop

How round and plump they look!

I would often see them huddled up around the pot too, I’m sure that must have felt sooooo good to their little bodies.  They are THRILLED that summer [unofficially] is here and they have the run of the yard again.  And that it’s above 12 degrees.

chickens 2

Second, we’ve learned so much about chickens, and each of them has such a distinct personality.  It’s been fun getting to know them – as much as you can know a chicken, I guess!

DT and I consider Gertrude to be kind of like the older, protective sister.  She’s the first one out of the coop when we open the door each morning, and the first to check out any kind of food situation.  She’s also very observant and watchful when they are all out in the yard for any looming creatures, whether it’s a hawk soaring high above, a smaller bird swooping through, or a squirrel skittering about.

Gertie on the roof

It turns out Gertrude does not like when overly-curious dogs come to meet her! So….the garage roof was a better place to hang out that afternoon.

We think Deborah is certifiably nuts.  She’s just a little bit off her rocker, but that only adds to her character.  She had a couple of broody bouts last summer where she just sat and sat and sat and sat and sat in the nesting box, waiting to lay an egg (or sit on one[s] that had already been laid).  DT would don gloves, pull her out of the box (never without a few pecks), and bring her into the backyard to try and “reset” her little brain.  It took some time, but eventually the broodiness broke and she’d come running out with the other two.

Debbie

Gertie and Deb

Priscilla is a little squawker.  I love talking to her, she’s so chatty and responsive.  We’ve discovered she is the calmest and most docile of the three.  They all love to sunbathe, but Priscilla is usually the first to plop down, close her eyes, and soak up the rays – and isn’t in any hurry to move.  She looks like a little turkey.  We have been thankful for her mild nature as we treat a case of leg mites.  Yes, leg mites.  We are treating our chicken for leg mites.  Picture this scene:  DT chases after Priscilla, grabs and holds her (she’s noisy but mostly agreeable), while I apply a petroleum jelly-coated paper towel (cocoa butter-scented, just to further paint the picture) to her legs.

chickens sunbathing 1

Urban life with chickens, man.

Third, oh how they love FOOD.  They eat and eat and eat!  Bottomless pits, and they aren’t particularly picky.  Some of their absolute favorite foods:  saltines, seeds and ribs from bell peppers, watermelon, corn on the cob, strawberry tops, apples, scrambled eggs (Cannibalism?  Hmm), bread crusts with peanut butter, grilled cheese, bacon (Uh – is that wrong?  Piggy farm friends?), pizza crusts, waffles….the list goes on and on.  And yes, ice cream!  Girls after my own heart.

chickens - ice cream

chickens - saltines

Lastly, watching chickens run is pretty much the funniest thing I have ever seen in my entire life.  As I said to DT last weekend, chickens running will never not be funny.  If one of the girls takes off, the other two quickly notice and break into a lumbering, tipsy tear across the yard.  It’s hilarious.  They definitely travel in a pack.  They groom themselves obsessively, poop constantly (and without any shame or self awareness), and find enormous pleasure in rolling around in the dirt.

chickens - back step

Kitties and birdies living peacefully. Indifferently may be the more accurate description.

Regarding egg production….people always ask how many eggs we get each day.  Our answer varies, but we can safely say on average, two daily.  At least one, maybe even three.  They continued to lay throughout the miserable winter, but the eggs would often freeze and crack, so we had to throw many of them out.  There were a few dry spells where it was simply too cold and not enough daylight to produce.  Lately they’ve been going crazy – two or three without fail, so we’ve been handing out eggs to our family and neighbors so our basement fridge doesn’t burst.

So, that’s the scoop on the girls!  It’s been a fun adventure for all of us, we’ve learned a ton in the near-year they’ve lived here.  I’ve said it a thousand times….they are strrrrrraaaaange little creatures!  But we love having them around.  Hanging out with them on the patio is our new favorite summer pastime.

beggars

Beggars at the back door.

Cluckety-cluck!


Dam to Dam 2014

DT and I decided to try a little something new with our run this year.  The past couple of years we’ve done the Minneapolis Marathon/Half, which was suitable for the most part.  The full marathon we did three years ago was pretty much a nightmare (the 26.2 miles turned out to be the easy part, if you can imagine – it was the enormous amount of rubbish along the way that completely broke our spirits).  Anyway – it was nice to do a race here in the Cities, sleep in our own bed the night before/after, come home and recover, and not have any travel.  But it just felt like it was time for a change.

So, we signed up for the Dam to Dam half marathon in Des Moines, DT’s beloved hometown.

Welcome runners

We rolled into town Friday afternoon and picked up our race stuff at the convention center.

Veterans Auditorium

DT and me, packet pickup

Free food and beer to fuel up for the run!

Coors - packet pickup

park - packet pickup

Downtown DSM

After the serious business, we met up with a couple of DT’s DSM friends at Confluence Brewing Company.

Confluence Brewing Co

brewing tanks

brewing tanks 2

Confluence’s taproom was very lively with the Friday-after-work-it’s-the-weekend crowd.

Confluence tap room

Their Des Moines IPA was tasty.

Confluence menu

Confluence bar

Next up came our pre-race dinner ritual:  PIZZA.  When in DSM, there is no other option than Tavern, DT’s most favorite pizza on the entire planet.

Tavern outside

Tavern bar

Tavern menu

Here is our steamy, ooey-gooey pepper cheese pie from heaven:

Tavern pepper cheese pizza

We devoured it.

As much as we wanted to flit about and party late into the night, we had to behave ourselves.  Behaving is so hard sometimes, especially in such a fun town!  We capped our evening at Charlie’s Filling Station with their famous freshly-squeezed OJ Screwdrivers.  Ahhh!  Like health in a glass (Wellll….kind of!  Healthy with vodka?  Okay sure).

Goooooooooooood MORNING, sunshines!

race morning

Gah!  This was taken at 4:30 am – so very early!  Big morning ahead.

I wish I would have had my camera to take photos of the starting line at the Saylorville Dam.  It was a really beautiful spot, and the before-dawn calm was incredible.

The race started at 7:00 am with 9,000 registered runners.  The route took us from the first dam, through the rural outskirts of Des Moines, into residential neighborhoods, along the Des Moines River, and we landed downtown to finish.  DT and I loved the change of scenery!

We crossed the finish line, gulped down some Powerade, and [very stiffly and slowly] made our way toward Court Avenue where the farmer’s market was in full swing.  Can I just tell you AGAIN how much I LOVE the Des Moines Farmer’s Market??

DSM farmer's market 1

It was absolutely, positively the BEST energy we could have found after our 13.1-mile trek.

DSM farmer's market 2

Run done, man!

DT and me, post-race

We grew roots at Mickey’s – more Screwdrivers tasted pretty darn good.  And, it was an amazing morning to be out on a patio (thankfully the sun didn’t come out during the run or we would have been on fire – it was already 70 degrees at the start, eep!  We had a little drizzly rain along the way which actually felt quite nice).

A few other friends of DT’s popped in to say hello and visit.

Mickey's

After our refreshments and lunch, we checked into our Saturday night hotel, The Savery.  We stayed here a few years ago and were glad to be back – great accommodations and a prime location downtown.

Savery outside

Savery lobby 1

Savery lobby 2

Savery room 1

Savery room 2

Savery room 3

Savery view 1

Savery view 2

Then we napped.  Ohhh, I love naps!  By the time we fell asleep around 3:00 we’d already been awake over 11 hours and had run a half marathon.  Whew!  The R&R felt amazing.

We met up with still more friends of DT’s (he’s quite popular, isn’t he?) at Court Avenue Brewing Company.  Then on to El Bait Shop.

El Bait Shop outside

El Bait Shop patio

120 beers on tap, yowza!

El Bait Shop taps

DT and me, El Bait Shop patio

Downtown DSM 2

El Bait Shop inside

Such a fun place!

DT and me, El Bait Shop

Our final stop of the night was over to Raccoon River Brewing Company for their delectable vanilla cream ale.

Raccoon River Brewing

This here is like a pint of crack, it’s so so good.

Vanilla cream ale

Stick a fork in me, I’m DONE!

What an awesomely wonderful, albeit long, day.  DT and I had a blast, that’s all there is to it.

Before leaving town Sunday, we made a trip to Hy-Vee (where shopping for groceries is simply a delight) and visited DT’s Grandma Mo.  Then the long ride home.

We’re already making plans for next year’s Dam to Dam, but it’s going to be tough to top our inaugural run!


Unemployed

Hello, reader friends – it’s been a while.  Apologies for my absence.

So, the latest not-so-new news around here is that both DT and I are currently unemployed.  Ya.  Both.  Unemployed.

Both of our contracts ended last month, so we find ourselves in this rather unexpected, transitional, limbo-y place.  It’s the joy of being a contractor.  No matter how much you try to mentally reconcile that the job [probably] isn’t going to last forever, when you find out it’s ending, it’s like UGH.

We both really loved our jobs, our teams, our workplaces – I talked to a lot of people about this.  How there’s not only the panic and “Oh CRAP”-scramble element to losing a job, from a logistics and practicality (and $$) standpoint, but also a kind of grieving that takes place when you felt so invested in something that gets taken away.  Both of us would have stayed on for years if given the chance.

Well, anyway.  That is that and here we are.

Here’s what a typical day for us looks like [outside of something magical like an interview taking place]:

  • Get up, make a pot of coffee
  • Hole up in the basement with our laptops, DT on the chair/ottoman, me on the couch
  • Look/apply for jobs all morning
  • Go for a run
  • Shower/likely put pajamas back on
  • Or put real clothes on (“real clothes” lately means a fleece and yoga pants) and run errands
  • Revisit job sites in the afternoon
  • Catch up on the DVR (it’s still been crummy outside so we haven’t enjoyed the weather much)
  • Oh look, it’s 5:00.  Where oh where has the day gone….

It’s such a strange place to be….DT and I have never, ever been home together this much, for this long.  Sooooooooo much time together.  It’s become kind of a joke (and a song, if we’re being honest), but sometimes I’m shocked we haven’t strangled each other yet.

The cats (and chickens), however, are LOVING that we are around 24/7.  Exhibit 1A at this very moment:  35 pounds of wheezing, comatose felines, curled up at my feet on the couch.  We no longer have to wonder what their days are like.  They’re filled with a whole lotta NOTHING.

Friends have asked if we’re getting a bunch of long-awaited projects done, house-related or otherwise.  Welllllll, no.  Not really.  That’s the funny thing.  We have all the time in the world, but the job hunt is all we can think about, all we can currently plan for – it’s like time just stands still, and we can’t move until we have this figured out.

In other words, the blue tape all over the house where we need to touch up paint (for the past three years) has yet to be addressed.

I have this fancy new camera to learn how to use but I haven’t picked it up once.  I will, but I need to be inspired and I’m just not right now.

I have several blog posts on my mind, but honestly haven’t felt any motivation to do much here with this other big thing to resolve.

We don’t really want to go anywhere, or do anything, because either would most likely require spending money and without any coming in, well….we’re trying to be prudent these days.  With the exception of a few lottery tickets, but you know.  I don’t think I need to explain the rationale there.

However.  I finally got that way-overdue oil change AND our coffee maker received a thorough cleaning with several cycles of vinegar.  See?  We can dig deep!

We’ve also made great strides on the hot sauce front.  If there’s something to be thankful for with this imposed hiatus, it’s given us solid time to navigate the impossibly tangled web of certifications, licenses, applications, and approvals required to start up a business like this.  Gah!  We’re inching closer and closer, though, and it’s been such a wonderful distraction.  Our little silver lining right now.

I kept bugging DT to make a list of “Things We’ll Do to Celebrate New Jobs” with me.  When we went to write down a few things, we just sort of sat there and scratched our heads.  Yes, we could rattle off some restaurants where we’d like to make a toast, or our default something-to-look-forward-to of planning a trip, but really all we hope for is a reason to celebrate.  A return to our version of normal in the foreseeable future.

It’s just such a roller coaster!  One minute everything feels promising and light, the next feels like a heavy dead end.

DT has had some great prospects pop up and we’re waiting to hear back (crossing fingers and ears and eyes and toes).  I have resumes out all over the place, also waiting to hear back.  So we’ll see.

It’ll all be okay!  We are okay.  Totally not trying to be mopey or whiny here.  DT and I are so lucky to have an immense network and support from our family and friends.  This is just a temporary glitch and we’ll be back on our feet soon.

Now, after all this babble….I hope this finds you well and gainfully employed. :-)


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