Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday...

Saturday morning, I made bacon. Yes, partly for my breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon and toast), but also to use the bacon grease to saute chopped onions and garlic. It's rainy and cold today and I thought it might be a perfect "chili" day. So, after sauteing two chopped onions and two cloves of garlic in the bacon grease, I browned two pounds of hamburger. Then I added two tablespoons of chili powder, two teaspoons of ground cummin and two teaspoons of cayenne pepper. Then put in two big cans of drained kidney beans, about 1/2 cup of chopped seeded jalapeno peppers and a small can of diced tomatoes. Tasted, and added some salt and pepper, with a little water, and turned to low to simmer.

Started the laundry by stripping the bed. After sorting by colors, I found I have four loads to do! While they were washing, I swept the floors and vacuumed the rug.

So, around 2:00 PM and I'm trying the chili for lunch. It's a little hotter than I normally make (not only did my nose run, but my eyes watered!) but very good. Just finished eating lunch when Carla called. They decided that its been 7 days since I got sick, so, maybe, if they're careful, they won't catch it if they come over. So, they did.

They brought over snacks (two cheeses, mozzarella balls in brine, pepper-coated pepperoni, a baguette and donuts they made that morning with their new dual-basket fryer (I'm sooo jealous about the fryer!)

We played Uno and some other card game called Skil-Bo. I like the other card game better (I hate that stupid machine spitting cards out at me!) Much later, they had some of the chili for dinner. They said they liked it and didn't think it was too hot (but then, they are young...) They left about 8:00 PM.

Watched some TV, but turned in early.

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Basil, just before harvesting...

Friday, September 29, 2006

All day Friday...

Friday morning, woke up to Winter! It was 39 degrees F. here, with some outlying areas showing 31 degrees F. Watched the Weather and it seems that we are experiencing a blast of Canadian air. So, I checked, and the projected high today in Calgary is 79 degrees F., and here its 59 degrees F. Hey, thanks, Oh Canada! See if I wish you guys Happy Thanksgiving next week!

Work was work. Supposed to be sunny (but cold) today and then 3 or 4 days of rain. So, when I got home, I raced out to start taking in my outdoor stuff. Got everything in the back room (where it will hopefully dry out before I put it all in the attic for the winter). Left the chairs and chiminea in anticipation of a few more nights sitting around the fire.

Looked at the remaining Basil plants. I could dry them and use them later, but dried basil compared to fresh basil is like apples to oranges. So, checked out Food Network and got a recipe for pesto sauce. Toasted some pine nuts and crushed walnuts (NOTE: According to authorities, the main things even the most experienced chefs often burn are bacon and toasted pine nuts)! Then added to the food processor almost 6 cups (packed) of fresh basil leaves, nine cloves of garlic, the toasted nuts (Carla, don't eat this!) and 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil. Divided the resulting mixture into two containers and will freeze to use during the winter months.

Dinner was the last two leftover grilled chicken thighs and steamed cauliflower (I'd stopped on the way home at Farmer Jack for eggplant, but they didn't have any!!! Sadly settled for cauliflower).

Thursday

Thursday at work I had a problem staying awake in the afternoon, probably due to poor sleeping Wednesday night.

When I got home, first thing I did was dig out the humidifier from summer storage. Yuck! All dusty and dirty! Spent a good amount of time cleaning the outside, then ran a cup of vinegar through it to sterilize the inside. Since I had it out, ran some through the coffee maker as well. This used to be Jake's favorite thing to do (he hated the idea of coffee made in a less than pristine pot). Now, the whole house smells like vinegar! Ran three pots of clear water through the coffee pot and filled the humidifier's reservoir with fresh water and cranked it on.

My daughter Melissa called. Seems her mother, Fran, and step-dad, Jim, are coming up for a weekend visit. So, instead of cleaning the house like she was supposed to, she called me. This happens a LOT! She calls when she's supposed to be cutting the grass, vacuuming, etc. I have become some sort of excuse in her subconscious, I guess: "I should be cleaning the house, but its more important to call Dad" kinda thing! Love ya, Babe!

After hanging up with her (okay, lets be honest, we talked so long my phone died) it was after 8:00 PM and I still needed dinner. So, went for easy, comfort food: Two grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbells Tomato Soup in a mug. Watched TV until sleepy and then went to bed.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wednesday, and more of the same...

Wednesday, it rained at lunch, and then started again just before I went home from work. Only mentioning it because its really doing a number on my arthritis! Both knees are killing me.

First thing I did when I got home was replace the two furnace filters. I also screwed the molding tighter around the door coming from the garage (it had loosened, probably because this door you have to SLAM to get it to stay closed). Then, I caulked it, to try and keep the heat in and the cold out. I also got the hammock hung up in the attic for the Winter and put the cooler back up there (took it down to send all that food last weekend).

Supper was just leftovers. Feel too lousy to cook.

My cold/flu/bug has settled into my chest now, producing deep rasping coughs. I've been sucking on those Altoids which relives the tickle in my throat and opens my nose up a little. But, all night long, this damn cough woke me up. Worse night for sleep in a long while (and I don't sleep well to begin with.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tuesday night

I did go into work today. Fever and chills were all gone and other than a sore throat and some minor nose blowing, I feel okay (well, maybe just so-so).

When I made the chicken noodle soup on Sunday, I thawed out some chicken thighs in case the precooked chicken breasts I had were not enough or I wanted to make more. They were and I don't so I had to do something with them. It was a sunny, warm, nice day today, so when I got home from work, I put them in my citrus marinade and went out to get some things done (I have given up the last two weekends to either injury or illness).

So, I touched up all the spots on the porch ceiling and garage surround that I hadn't got to and then caulked the rest of the porch ceiling. NOW, its finally done (looks good, too!) Started up the charcoal in the grill and started a load of laundry of everything I might have touched when I was sick (hand towel, dish towels, etc.)

I had six crimini mushrooms that were too big for Mom's stew, so I brushed them with olive oil to grill as well. Threw them all on the grill for about 15 minutes.

Made up a plate to eat (took a picture for you) and saw I had a call from Mom's house. So, covered them with tin foil and returned Luanne's call. Then, I turned on the trusty TV and ate a delicious dinner.

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Tuesday's grilled citrus marinade chicken thighs and grilled crimini mushrooms (click on photo to enlarge, then hit the back button on your browser to return)

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Monday night's beef enchiladas and homemade black refried beans.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Monday and still sick...

Sunday night, the nose blowing had abated, but I then was blessed with fever and chills. The spike in my temperature would wake me up, then when my fever would break, I was drenched with sweat. I didn't get much sleep (its hard to feel rested when you are constantly waking up, then trying to fall asleep in a damp bed). So, I decided to stay home from work.

By mid afternoon, the fever business seemed gone. It's a sunny day, so I did venture outside to accomplish one small mission: I took down the hammock, while it was dry. That is not to say I took it up into the attic where it spends the Winter months, but I did get it into the backroom. Baby steps, baby steps...

I have officially eaten enough chicken soup to float a battleship, and I'm sick of it! So, when dinner time rolled around started looking for something with a less bland taste to it. Found a box of Old Elpaso baked enchiladas mix. Put it together with some hamburger and extra sharp cheddar cheese. I wanted some refried beans as the side, but only had a can of black beans. So, I cooked those for about an hour in water, drained, added some onions sauteed in bacon grease and chopped jalepeno peppers (I'll burn out those damn cold germs!) and then mashed, adding water as needed until I got the right texture. Looked and tasted surprisingly good. I took a picture, but forgot to post it.

Shut off the TV and all the lights at 8:00 PM and went to sleep.

Monday, September 25, 2006

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B___'s other picture. I like them both!

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One of two pictures my briend B___ took of me.

Sunday

Sunday was just more of the same. I did feel good enough to shave and shower (something I am embarrassed to admit I did not do on Saturday!) Remember the chicken breasts I cooked up last week? I thawed them out and made chicken soup. Didn't have any egg noodles, so I made some with my pasta maker. They turned out a bit thick, but tastey, so I called the soup "rustic," sort of a peasant dish, you understand.

Watched TV, slept, read a book, slept, blew my nose (a LOT) and that's how I spent my Sunday.

What a waste!

(I hate being sick!)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Saturday, and I wish I was dead...

Woke up Saturday morning and couldn't breathe! I normally describe a cold as "I feel like I got hit in the face with a shovel" but this one feels like my face got run over by a truck! God D*mn I feel like sh*t!

I can stay inside and recover but I have two problems: 1. I have been working all week making food for my Mom and Luanne, some of which I froze, but some is just in the fridge. 2. On Friday, my friend B___ and I went to Sears to check out their sale. He needed a new lawnmower. He found the perfect one, at a great price, so he bought it and had it loaded into my car. His car doesn't have fold down rear seats like my Volvo, so I told him I would drop it off on my way to my Mom's.

So, when Jake called about something, I mentioned these problems to him. He volunteered to take the lawmmower to B___'s and drop off the food at Mom's. I went out and got the car's tank filled with gas and two boxes of Kleenex tissues.

So, I hurried up and finished the beef stew. Got it done and was just starting on the shrimp-stuffed eggs when Jake and Carla pulled in. Carla would not come in the house (don't blame her) so, they swapped cars and took the food: three containers of vegetable beef soup, two of cauliflower soup, a pan of mushroom Parmesan - I'd grilled the portobello mushrooms outside Friday night - Liguine with clam sauce (My all-time favorite and a hit with my Mom) and the still warm beef stew, with the dumpling mix in a separate container, just needing milk.

I was in the middle of making shrimp-stuffed eggs (a variant of deviled eggs) but they came too soon. So those didn't go along... Well, maybe some other time...

I went back to bed.

Watched the 1939 original "Stagecoach" with John Wayne on Turner Classics and a fascinating two-hour show on the Sahara on the History Channel. Slept on and off throughout the day and night, blowing my nose as needed.

I wanted to show off my cooking to my Mom, but it didn't happen. So much for being her hero!

Worse yet. I had nothing to eat all day. Finally ended up making a tuna fish sandwich around 9:00 PM. I should have saved some of the food!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Friday night...

Friday morning, I woke up with as scratchy throat. This not unusual, s with my sleep apenea, I snore A LOT and often wake up with a scratchy throat. However, my department head was off work two days with a cold (okay, I thought she was a whoosie) and only came in on Friday. I had a meeting with a co-worker, Ryan on Thursday and then he was off sick on Friday. So, this should be setting the stage for you...

Friday night, I cut up stewing beef and sauteed it in a pan. I am planning on going to my Mom's Saturday and showing off all the food I've prepared for her. Since Luanne (a vegetarian) is staying with her, I fired up the grill with charcoal and grilled up some portobello mushroom caps.

Since the coals were hot, I cooked a rib eye steak for me. I made some blue cheese compound butter for it. Delicious!

Watched TV and went to bed.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Thursday Night's Visitors

My friend Tracey and Samson stopped by after work. Its been a long time since we visited, so we caught up on work, friends and current events while I made some dinner.

Samson, her Pomeranian, now has his own cat, so he isn't as afraid of Scruffy as he used to be. But, Scruffy soon set him straight.

They left before 7:00 PM, which gave me time to put a couple more coats of paint on the bathroom bench (white this time). Then I watched TV until bedtime.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wednesday

Wednesday night, I was tired. Stopped at Westborn Market to get some things, then went home. I made perogies with sauteed onions and sour cream for dinner. Finished writing a poem, then the rest of the night was the usual TV.

Suggested Quote...

"Politicians, like dirty diapers, should be changed often and for the same reason"

~ Unknown

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tuesday and "Brrrr"

Fall arrived with a vengeance on Tuesday. And, as I've done a million times before, I walked out into the garage, got in the car and completely forgot a jacket (Having an attached garage has its down-side). I sure missed it at lunchtime!

So, when I got home, having already checked the long-range forecast, I first checked the programming on my thermostat, opened all the windows and turned on the furnace. I doubt there will be too many more days where the air conditioner is needed.

Now, why, you might ask, would I open all the windows, then turn it on? Because I hate that "burned-dust" smell you always get the first few times the furnace kicks on!

Project for the night (yes, I am feeling good enough to resume projects - small ones, anyway) was to remodel the little footstool Jake made for Carla, if she uses the handicap toilet. It's too long to fit in the bathroom discreetly. I tried everything, but could not get the 2 x 4's loose. Not sure what kind of nails he used, but they were in there and NOT coming out! So, I ended up giving up (I was tearing it apart!) and making a new, shorter one. Sanded it and sprayed two coats of paint on it. I only had almond, and need white, so this will be the primer coat.

Came back in the house, closed the windows and then heated up leftovers for dinner. My daughter Melissa called and we talked for a while, then I watched TV until bedtime.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Talk Like a Pirate Day - Aaaarguh!

Today, September 19, is "International Talk Like a Pirate Day!" (believe it or not!)

Go to http://www.talklikeapirate.com/ and make sure you're up on all the correct lingo, matey!

Now where's that wench with the rum?

Monday Night ...

Well, things are looking up! I switched yesterday back to the Motrin and made it through the day. When I got home, first thing I did was get the enddust and the dust mop and mopped all the wood floors.

Made grilled hot dogs and baked beans for dinner (didn't feel like "cooking").

Jake and Carla were back around 6:30 PM. This time with a killer heat gun. Jake needs to get the purple tint off the back window of the car as he can't see out. He's tried a variety of things with very little success, but the heat gun and a razor knife did the trick.

They left and I went to bed.

Monday, September 18, 2006

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Some other signs of Fall in Redford

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The start of Fall around here

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Random thought

I could either make into a poem or post on the "one-liner" website *somebody* said he was gonna make:

"The fruits of my labors, like windfall apples, lie rotting in the orchard grass..."

Sunday, Sunday, can't trust that day...

Rough night again. Ended up sleeping on the daybed in the office (just trying different things - it didn't help, BTW). Got up and cleaned up, started the last load of laundry (bed spread, bathrobe and all towels). Cleaned up the kitchen, took a gazillion photos, trying to catch the Black Walnut leaves falling - Fall is definitely coming to Redford!

Next, slowly cleaning the rest of the house... Hey, big news! I changed the bag in the vacuum cleaner!!! (its the little things, isn't it?) I am thawing out a turkey breast for Sunday's dinner.

I found a checkered flag I got from Spacely Sprockets years ago. Now the wheels are turning: checkered flag? winner? Hmmm... I think I need to hang this up somewhere, just to remind me of how special I really am... [John laughs hysterically here, then points his finger into his mouth, indicating a gagging scenario...]

Jake and Carla came over around noon. Jake wants to work on the car some more (change oil, etc.) Even though it wasn't throughly thawed, I put the turkey breast in the oven. Made mashed potatoes, stuffing and frozen sweet corn. Carla made the gravy. Everything was good except for the turkey (at least I was not impressed). Jake and Carla left and I walked right by the dust mop that had been waiting for me and went to watch TV.

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Took over twenty of the same photo, trying to catch the black walnut leaves falling. Always a bit early or a bit late (story of my life, lol!) Anyway, if you enlarge, you'll see all the yellow leaves on the driveway and grass.

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Doesn't look like much, but this cost me plenty to prep the area...

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Not sure where they came from, but these are the scratches and holes I found when fixing the porch ceiling

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AFTER - three coats of spray enamel later, this is how it looked.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Saturday, and taking it slow...

I had planned for the last three weeks to go over to my friend B___'s today. Today is also the annual Redford Hazardous Items Drop Off Day, and I'd planned on taking in the two car batteries that have been in the garage for over two years. I am very ticked that I hurt too much to do either of these. I regretfully cancelled with B___ yesterday. I suppose the batteries can stay another year. I just need a chance to heal...

I got up, stripped the bed and started a load of laundry. One of the unfortunate things about living alone is that there are some things that HAVE to be done, I am the only one here to do them, and clean clothes for work is one of them.

Jake and Carla popped in to make me breakfast. They made biscuits, sausage links and eggs, while Carla told stories about her first week's internship. I still have NO appetite (I think its the pain meds) but did manage to eat a biscuit and three sausages. Carla cleaned up and then they left.

I masked off the area on the front porch that needed brown spray paint. But, that took a lot out of me and I had to lay down. Dug out the DVD "Master and Commander - the Far Side of the World" and watched it until I fell asleep. When I woke up, I did the first coat of spray paint, then went back to bed. Went back to the last scene I remember watching and resumed the movie. Drifted off once again. Woke up just before 6:00 PM, went out and did the second coat.

Then I started the second load of clothes and cleaned out the fridge, checking expiration dates on EVERYTHING. Another problem with living alone - you can't always use up things before they go bad... So, I was brutal (Hey, after that spinach thing, you gotta really think about it and get somewhat serious!).

Noticed the official first sign of Fall at San Jose: the black walnut trees are starting to lose their leaves. Both the grass and driveway are covered with them. I feel kinda bad for the squirrels, because there doesn't seem to be a lot of nuts this year (last year's crop had to set some kind of a record). Second sign of Fall? In my My Yahoo page, I have it report weather in five places: Alberta, Canada, Wolverine, MI, West Branch, MI, Redford, MI and Alberta, Virginia. In Alberta, Canada today, the low was 29 F and the high was 39 degrees F.

Made a pot of vegetable soup. I promised my Mom I'd make her various foods while she recovers (she had a fall in the shower at Lake Orion and needs some help to get back to 100%). Luanne has graciously agreed to come up and stay with her for a while and a visititing nurse and physical therapist have been lined up. Yesterday I made a pot of cauliflower soup, and put it in those cheap tupperware-knockoffs and stashed it in the freezer. Today its vegetable soup.

Anyway, I cleared out the kitchen and swept the kitchen, bathrooms and downstairs floors. Took a 1/2 hour break to catch my breath, then washed the floors. Finished at 10:15 PM.

Still haven't addressed my dinner. I may designate a Vicodin and a glass of bourbon as a done deal and call it good.

Friday

Friday was only distinguished by me getting my annual review at work. All very positive. Its nice to be appreciated.

Friday night a repeat. Another night of doing absolutely nothing. I did call my Mom and talked with her a bit. Made BLT sandwiches for dinner. Laid around hurting for the rest of the night.

I feel I must apologize. I know my blog is normally pretty boring, but this week REALLY sucks.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Thursday's child is full of woe

Thursday night was the worst so far with back pain. Completely gave up on Motrin 600's and went back to Vicodin 750's. Still no relief. Tried sleeping on my stomach, my back, in the recliner, with the heating pad, without the heating pad and so forth. I doubt I slept more than 20 minutes at a time all night. I can't cough, blow my nose or take a decent deep breath. The slightest movement on my part sends a bolt of pain ripping across my back from my spine to my side.

Not good...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wednesday

Pouring rain again when I went home. Had to stop and pick up two prescriptions. Didn't do much of anything, just rested my back. Warmed up leftovers for dinner. Laid down with a pain pill in my tummy and the heating pad on my back.

Carla, before you say anything, yes, I know the doctor said a long time ago diabetics shouldn't use heating pads. But, my friend B___, upon hearing this, checked out the reason (I had mentioned the only time my back feels semi-normal is after I've let the warm water in the shower run over it for a while). And, the reason is because in later stages of diabetes, patients often lose some amount of feeling. Therefore, it is possible for them to burn themselves and not know it. But, since I just had a check up and OKAY stamped on my forehead, this doesn't apply to me (at least not yet).

Heating pad helped a lot. In fact this morning, I was feeling pretty good. Right up until I unexpectedly coughed...

Oh, checked the rain gauge this morning. Since Monday night, I have gotten just over two inches of rain. It's supposed to clear up later this morning.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tuesday

I did stay home from work and took two Vicodin every four hours Was just not hungry at all, but made myself eat one of the chicken breasts I cooked up earlier around 8:00 PM. Went to sleep (if you could call it that) at 10:00 PM and, other than sweating profusely and waking up every hour or so, did sleep until 5:00 AM.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

So, what do you do with thawed boneless, skinless chicken breasts...

...if you're too tired and sore to make dinner? I'd taken then out of the freezer Monday morning, so now I had to do SOMETHING with them.

I seasoned them with salt and pepper and seared them in a pan with olive oil on each side until they had a nice, light brown crust. I removed them from the pan and put two sliced onions, five cracked cloves of garlic and two bay leafs in the pan (later I thought about putting in sliced celery, but it was too late). Put the chicken breasts back in the pan, covered them with water, brought it to a boil, turned it back to simmer and put a lid on it. Simmered them until they were cooked through (about 20 minutes) and when they cool, I'll put them in the fridge. So, what do we have? I have nicely seasoned, cooked chicken breasts I can use for a multitude of dishes.

I can shred them up for chicken noodle soup or cube them and add them to a salad. When I'm feeling better, I can create elaborate sauces or something as simple as a can of mushroom soup to top them with.

The options are endless (and I didn't waste them...)

Its just a question of balance...

Monday night, I installed the shelf in the downstairs bathroom (see photos). Now that's hardly worth mentioning in a Blog of this import, but the ramifications were significant.

I got home from work, changed my clothes and went to work! By 6:00 PM, I had my level lines and studs marked, and the shelf brackets installed on the shelf. It had to go in an awkward location and I couldn't figure out how to stand, sit, or whatever, to install it. So, I ended up sitting backwards on the toilet, with my knees against the toilet tank and my butt hanging over the front of the seat.

This worked for two screws, but doing the third one, I slipped backwards. Now, realistically, all that was gonna happen was I would land on my butt about 2 feet down on the tile. However, survival instinct kicked in and I grabbed for the toilet tank to save me...

NOT! All that happened is the toilet tank top flew up into the air. I shoved myself up to grab it before it smashed on the tile floor, managed to grab it (and saved it, I might add) but fell back with all my weight onto the door knob, which punched into one of my ribs.

OUCH!!! Couldn't take a breath for a minute or two (was making weird grunting noises). I set the tank top back and walked around until I walked it off (I thought). It hurt (and hurt bad), but I finished installing the shelf, then caulked the edges that touched the wall. Then I warmed up some beef stew for my dinner. My brother Carl called with an update on my Mother, and I complained to him about it. I talked to my daughter, Melissa, and mentioned it to her, adding I was going to take a Vicodin pain pill. She said it would be better to take Tylenol or Motrin because they also reduced swelling. So, that's what I did, took two Tylenol and hoped it would stop throbbing.

About 9:00 PM, I started getting severe muscle spasms. I couldn't find a position that didn't hurt. A little while later, my son Jeremy called and, I fear, I was a bit short with him. I didn't explain my exact problem as we were talking about other important stuff and I was sick of talking about it anyway. (Sorry...)

Kept taking Tylenol and trying to sleep. But every time I dozed off, I'd move, then spasm, then wake up. Gave up completely at 4:00 AM, took a shower, shaved and drove myself to St. Mary's hospital emergency room. They checked and I didn't have blood in my urine, the X-rays did not confirm a broken rib, although they all admired what they called "quite the goose-egg on my back." The doctor said it didn't really matter if I bruised my rib, cracked my rib or broke my rib, the treatment was the same: time. He gave me a pain shot and two prescriptions, one for killer Motrin, one for Vicodin. He told me to stay home today and take the Vicodin, then use the Motrin as needed when I went back to work. He also advised against taking short breaths (as I have been doing since I got hurt) as that leads to a buildup of fluid in the lungs.

Didn't get the prescriptions filled today as I have Vicodin left from my operation, although Jake did volunteer to come over at lunch time and get them filled for me. However, I did stay home. Boring, rainy day, and I can't DO anything. But, the pain has subsided and the "goose-egg" went down.

Monday, September 11, 2006

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New, free-standing shelf I just installed (bathroom is actually white, but looks yellow here - I dunno why)

Kentucky Fried Chicken and Beef Stew

One bit of information I forgot to pass along is that Sunday was the birthday of Colonel Harland Sanders (1890-1980) who began his Kentucky Fried Chicken operation in the early 1950s while living on monthly $105 Social Security checks. He is a hero to all us entrepreneurial geezers.

Now onto that beef stew. This was NOT the one I have posted on the site, as that uses a overnight marinade, etc. This is for days when you want a quicker beef stew, but one that still has a hearty flavor.

2 pounds of stewing beef
1 package whole baby Portobello (or Crimini) mushrooms
2 Idaho potatoes
2 parsnips
Handful of baby carrots
Pearl Onions (Used fresh, but should have gotten frozen, as about half in the bag were no good)
Frozen peas (optional when Carla's around)
5 cups of beef stock
1 cup red wine (I used Merlot)
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
3 Bay leaves

Cut the stewing beef into about 1 inch squares. Season with House seasoning (Salt, pepper and garlic powder) and let them set a bit while you assemble dredging station: Flour in a shallow dish or pan and a rack on a cookie tray. Coat the stew meat with the flour and place each piece on rack (this allows excess flour to fall off, and the wait lets the flour adhere better).

Use a cast iron frying pan and some oil (I used lard - it's a pork fat thing). Put some oil in a big pot with a cover and keep it on low on another burner. Start browning the meat a few pieces at a time. When all sides are browned, transfer to the big pot. Keep going until all the meat is done.

Then add the five cups of beef broth and the one cup of wine. Add in the bay leafs and the fresh herbs (I tie them with some string so they are easier to fish out later). Turn up the heat until it boils, then cook uncovered for about 15 minutes (until it thickens a bit). Then turn to simmer, cover the pot and cook for about two hours.

About 20 minutes before its ready, peel the potatoes and parsnips then cut them up (potatoes about the same size as the meat, and parsnips in 1/8 inch slices). Use a moist paper towel to rub off the dirt from the mushrooms and take off the stems if woody. If any are noticeably bigger, cut them in half. Add all these, along with the pearl onions, baby carrots (and peas, if you are using them) to the pot. Bring back up to a boil, then down to a simmer and cover again. Check in about 20 minutes to see if the potatoes are fork tender.

Meanwhile, make the dumpling mix:

3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pea-sized chunks
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk

Cut butter into dry ingredients until is resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in enough milk to make a stiff, slightly sticky dough.

When vegetable are done, take out the herbs and bay leafs, and taste. Add salt and pepper as needed. Then bring back to a boil, then turn back back to simmer and add the dumpling mixture. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto the simmering stew, making sure the dumplings are in contact with the liquid. Leave an inch or so between dumplings as they will expand. Cover and steam 10-15 minutes, or until dry to the touch and cooked through.

Then, enjoy!

Blog convictions and restrictions

I started this blog with the idea I would never, ever put anything in it that would embarrass my relatives or friends (its bad enough what I say about myself). For example, my best friend said, "You better not put my name in your stupid blog!" which is why I refer to him as B___ (even though those who know me know exactly who that is). But, as I mentioned before, people in Japan, Belgium, England and so on read this daily (why I don't know, but God love ya!) so being TOO explicit seems like it might be a bad thing.

So, I am not sure how to handle this weekend's events. My Mom (who will be 99 on October 1, 2006) came home early from Lake Orion, under less than ideal conditions. Based on the reactions from my kids, I am sure the rest of the family hopes you are feeling better soon...

Enough said...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

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Original downstairs bathroom, with brown fixtures and a built in shelf.

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New look for the downstairs bath. Next to go? The brown sink!

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Old upstairs toilet, in its new home.

Sunday, the day of rest...

...NOT!

It's almost 8:00 AM and I have already made and eaten breakfast (bacon eggs and toast), had a couple cups of coffee, sanded the spackling and applied the first coat of paint to the one wall (using Kilz). I have to wait an hour to put on the second coat, so I am typing up my grocery list and starting today's Blog entry.

So, went to Home Depot (again) and picked up the screws I forgot for the shelf brackets. Was going to get a 2 foot long, 6 inch wide board and white paint for the shelf, but found a 2 foot long, 12 inches wide white Formica pre-finished shelf and bought that instead.

Then off to Farmer jacks to grocery shop. I had left the windows open again last night and this time when I woke up (shivering) it was 59 degrees in the house. While I was frantically making coffee to warm up, I decided that today's dinner would be beef stew.

Got home and found Jake and Carla already there. Jake had the Isuzu wheels chocked, the car jacked up and jack stands in place. Carla put away the groceries while I changed clothes.

I put another coat of paint on the bathroom wall, then I went out to look at Jake's car.

Hmmm... We expected to see a worn steering rack. Instead it looks brand new (subsequent calls to Carla's brother confirmed this). Tried everything we could think of, but could not find the cause of the problem. Carla's brother said it was always like that, and was safe. So, we finally gave up. Jake worked on other items while I put in the downstairs toilet.

This time I had to use toilet shims in the back to get it level (they actually make these, BTW) but it went in easy, and no leaks! Carla was busy ironing some of her blouses. I put duct tape in the shelf to protect the Formica and cut it down to 6 inches wide. Used a file to smooth the edges. I will install that later.

All while this was going on, I was making beef stew (as I said, its a perfect Fall day for it!) So, while the veggies were cooking, we played cards (Chicago) and, I WON!!! I NEVER WIN!!! But, I WON!!!

Carla and I then made up the dumpling mixture, added that to it and we had dinner. Carla asked for the recipe, but I just made it up, so I promised to recreate it for her later (it was tastey). Jake cleaned everything up and then they left. Full of stew, and with two non-leaking, functional toilet, I went and took a well-deserved nap.

After my nap, I put away all my tools (they were everywhere), straightened up the workbench in the garage and then called it a day at 8:45 PM.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

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Downstairs brown toilet and shelf that will be coming out (sink next time I have some more discretionary dollars)

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Before picture - Old, short toilet in main bathroom

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New, taller, ADA toilet (finally!)

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Putting second coat on the road-side of porch ceiling

Saturday, in the park...

...yeah, I wish! Saturday morning, I got cleaned up, then went to get my hair cut. From there, went to get my oil changed in the Volvo and then headed to Lowes.

At Lowes, I bought a Crain Tall Elite white toilet and some other miscellaneous item. Part of the San Jose Master plan is to replace the old, brown toilet and sink in the downstairs bath with white new ones (as well as replace the shower surround down there). I also wanted to replace the toilet in the main bath with the higher, ADA toilet, too.

But, It dawned on me that I don't use the downstairs toilet much, and if I put the taller toilets in both baths, Carla's feet would probably dangle. So, new plan is tall toilet in my bathroom and current toilet in main bath moved to the downstairs bath.

Bolt snapped off trying to get old toilet out. Now I'm having a heck of a time getting the broken bolts out. Taking a frustration break and typing this. BTW, its pouring here at about 1:30 PM, but I got home before the rain started.

Gave up and called my friend B___. He explained what I should be seeing. Not sure if it was the old wax ring or 50 years of corrosion, but ended up chiseling out the two slots for the bolts (had to keep sucking up gunk with the vacuum), then taking FOREVER to get off the plumber's putty that had dried to the tile - used a hammer and chisel first, then both drills with two different wire brush attachments, then a scrub brush and cleanser, etc., etc., etc. And, while I don't want to belabour the point, it does bear repeating that everything I am doing is too low to sit on the stool and do, I can't kneel, so I ended up doing all this lying on my belly, with my arms over my head. Not as comfortable as you might think!

FINALLY, around 4:00 PM, I am ready to install the new toilet. Completed, leak tested and working at 5:15 PM. I still have to cut down the attaching bolts and put on the caps, but since I had the toilet out, took the opportunity to re-caulk the tile back there. Don't want to make metal dust until the caulk is absolutely dry. Took a break to write this and get something to eat before tackling toilet #2. *sigh*

Okay, so second toilet should go in easier, as I'd changed the wax ring in it two or three years ago. So, no three hour prep time (I hope). I was right, nuts came off easy, toilet picked right up, no gunky buildup, but... (there's always a "but" isn't there?)

In taking off the shelf just above the toilet tank (it was built in - I will be replacing it with a stand alone shelf and shelf brackets) found it had been attached woth a LOT of HUGE nails and, removing it ripped the drywall paper in places. Outcome - big spackling job...

AND, when removing the toilet, found it had been installed before they first painted. So, area directly behind the tank is unpainted drywall...

Upshot? It's 9:00 PM and I can't sand the spackling compound until tomorrow, then paint, then install the toilet. So, I think I'm gonna take a shower and get all this filth off me and go to bed.

Tomorrow is another day...

"If" is the center of "life"...

And all those other cliches that are really just "loser" talk...

Good night...

Friday night

Friday night I put up the wood quarter-round molding that covers the road side ends of the porch ceiling bead board. I had already painted it brown, so just used a little glue and some screws. Then I got the brown caulk and caulked until tube ran empty. By and large, it looks pretty good. But, as always, there are some spots that got a little wider than others and will need to be retouched with the ceiling paint (will this cursed job never end?) I hope to finish this completely over the weekend, but we'll see...

Sanded the second coat of polyurethane on the top porch rail with 200 grit sandpaper and applied a third coat. At least that's done done.

Grilled a steak and a sweet potato for dinner.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Thursday Night

At 8:25 PM, I finished the second (and last!) coat of paint on the porch ceiling. Cleaned up and then talked with my Mom on the phone. Scrounged some leftovers, took two pain pills and went to bed.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Blogger Problems and trash update

Blog is giving me problems. I have been trying since yesterday to post my Tuesday blog, but it wouldn't go through until today.

Oh, and I forgot to tell you, they did take the car seats with the normal trash (at least I didn't have to drag them back inside for another week!)

Wednesday

Wednesday night, it was back to work.

Came home and changed, then cleared off the porch furniture. Started painting the second coat on the bead board. I can reach about half on my stool, so concentrated on the house-side first.

Taking my time, going slow and trying for perfection (I don't want to paint this a third time!)

When I got halfway, I took a break and lit the charcoal. When I finished the back half, I quit. Will do the road-side half tomorrow night. I put the citrus marinated chicken thighs on the grill and while they were cooking, I cleaned up. Heated up some of the leftover sweetcorn to complete my dinner and watched a little TV.

But, went to bed early, tired and sore...

Tuesday

After four days off, it was a bit hard to go to work. When I finally got home, I had thought about grilling the citrus chicken thighs, but you need at least an hour in the marinade. I didn't want to be cooking at 8:00 PM so I put it all together and in the fridge for Wednesday night.

Dinner tonight was a new recipe for macaroni and cheese (twist was it had bacon and thin sliced onions, sauteed in the bacon grease; cheese was 8 ounces of mozzarella and 4 ounces of crumbled blue cheese). Not bad (hey, I ate about half of it during the course of the night) but lacking the "WOW" I had hoped for.

Put the old car seats and the boxes from the new ones out to the road for the trash man (I hope they take it and don't make me have to call for a special pickup). I always put the garbage bags out in the morning (so I don't tempt the wild things to rip them up during the night).

Watched TV and relaxed for the evening.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Labor Day itself

Got up, showered and shaved. Went to Westborn to pick up some sweet corn, Mexican dip and Frito's corn chips (Scoops). Little change, because I am sick to death of tortilla chips. Gonna have the last official cookout of Summer, 2006.

Jake and Carla came over to work on the car again. They brought potato salad, hot dog relish and sauerkraut. Jake worked steadily on the car, while Carla did laundry. I caulked all the open seams on the porch ceiling (messy job!). Then, I got a bucket and a brush and washed the siding on the porch. After that, I washed all the glass (picture window and storm door) with Windex.

Started the charcoal around 3:30 PM. I did the corn first, then Carla grilled a round steak, hot dogs and brauts. I sliced the steak thin to make those blue cheese wraps. Jake got cleaned up and we feasted!

After dinner, Jake went back to work. Finally, after two days of busting his butt, he got the seats in. He and I took a test drive and everything seems to work.

They left for home after folding the last load of laundry. I was relaxing when Melissa called. We talked a l-o-n-g time (as always). After that came TV and bedtime.

Nice Holiday!

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The ONLY Morning Glory that made it (out of two seed packets) just began to flower.

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Newest arborvitiae, next to his big brother

Monday, September 4, 2006

Labor Day Weekend Sunday...

Interesting day... I started out cleaning the house, because Jyl and her sister Brenda are coming over this afternoon to put their father's ashes into the six boxes. I didn't know about how long they were staying, but wanted to offer them dinner if they had time. So, off to Farmer Jack's where I picked up a beef roast. I also picked up a big stainless steel spoon to use in the ash distribution.

Got home and loaded up the crock pot with carrots and parsnips (cut on the bias) whole small red potatoes, an onion, the roast, after seasoning it with salt and fresh ground pepper (had to cut one end off to make it fit), some valadia onion rings on top the roast, and then as many button mushrooms as I could fit in. Added a half of a cup of beef stock, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, four sprigs of fresh thyme and two sprigs of rosemary and turned it on.

I made a platter of the shrimp-stuffed eggs as well, for the appetizer.

When I finished with house cleaning, Jake and Carla had come over. They are trying to fit the new seats in the car. It's not going well... Carla asked if the eggs were for guests, and I reminded her she was a guest. That might have been a mistake...

While Jake and Carla struggled with the seat installation, I started painting the porch railing. I was hoping to get it done before Jyl and Brenda show up. I did! Then, I used a level and some deep thoughts to figure out how to mount the brass house numbers. Turned out pretty good.

Jyl and Brenda finally showed up (there was some church thing that delayed them, Jyl had called). So, I covered the kitchen table with brown mailing paper. Brenda divided the ashes into the six boxes (I started to worry that they would be too small, but I figured it out just right). Then I used a quick set two part epoxy to completely seal each box (Jyl and Brenda held each box top down for the required 5 minutes). Brenda read a poem she had written about her father when we finished. We gathered everything up for me to bury later. I will put this under the flowering plum.

Asked about dinner. They decided to stay, and Jake and Carla said they would eat as well. Made some corn bread from Jiffy Mix (there's a funny story here that I won't go into). I used the meat juices in the crock pot to make gravy (not bad, but could have used more salt and pepper , at least to my taste). Table was too small with five people so had to serve it buffet style.

Not too many leftovers... Jake and Carla cleaned up as they finished first, then they went back to work. I visited with Jyl and Brenda a little bit, then they left.

Changed back into my work clothes and went out to see what's going on with the car. Still having problems mounting the seats (can't figure out how to use the existing seat adjusters, while getting them low enough so Jake's head doesn't hit the top of the car). I couldn't figure it out either, so I installed the muffler hanger Jake bought for the exhaust pipe.

It was after 8:00 PM when we convinced Jake to give it up for the day and come back tomorrow (he'd been doing this for 10 hours straight) After they left, I watched some TV, and went to sleep, content with the day...

Sad News

I just saw that Steve Irwin, made famous on cable as the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed by a stingray while filming a show on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. He was 44 years old and left his American wife Terri, from Eugene, Ore., and their daughter Bindi Sue, 8, and son Bob, who will turn 3 in December.

"Crikey!" I'm gonna miss that dude!

Sunday, September 3, 2006

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Painted front porch post and railing, with new brass house numbers installed.

Saturday Driving...

Had to set the alarm again since I had a 9:15 AM doctor's appointment in Richmond (back where I used to live). Left here just after 8:00 AM and just barely made it on time.

I made the appointment because I realized before my surgery was the last time I'd been to my family doctor. Dr. McClellan put me through the wringer (EKG, blood work, "take a deep breath" even listened to the arteries in my neck - that's a first for me). Diagnosis (and I quote): "You're boring!" He said everything looks great, but if there's any problems with the blood work, he'd call. Otherwise, CYa! Oh, yes, he gave me a vaccination to prevent pneumonia, as well.

Decided to take the backroads to my friend B____'s house. I've never seen the landscaping work they had done last year (well, I saw it at Christmas, covered with snow!) and have never seen their remodeling of the kitchen and family room this summer.

So, I took 32 Mile Road from Richmond to North Avenue (pretty much as I remembered it, with an occasional new house here and there); North Avenue to 26 Mile (few more new house, but still familiar); 26 Mile to Romeo Plank (now it's looking a bit odd - still sod farms, but then there's hug subdivisions). Romeo Plank to B___'s. Now, I could have been on the moon. What I remember as farmland, dotted with the occasional church is all strip malls, McDonald's, subdivisions, etc., with nary an empty lot! Truly unbelievable...

Anyway, I got to my friend's house around 11:30. He knew I was fasting for the blood work, so he had breakfast made for me (omelet, bacon and English muffin). The house is gorgeous, and I am not just saying that. He said all along that I wouldn't like it, because it was not my style. No, it's NOT my style, but it was beautiful! The new cabinet door and counter top, new wood floors, cove molding treatment at the ceiling, the furniture they picked out... Amazing. And, the back screen porch, with new wicker furniture and a glider is very inviting, as is the landscaping in the back yard. I actually think it was better to wait a year to see it, as it was all grown in and looked like it had always been there, if you know what I mean.

So, we visited all afternoon. Both his daughters and their boyfriends came over. We had delicious meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes, peas, gravy, a jello combination thingie and fresh baked bread for dinner. A little more visiting, then it was time to make the long trek home. The off and on sprinkles of the day had settled into a light rain, BTW.

I just got in the car, when my phone buzzed. I checked, and Jake had called several times, so I called him back (they were up in St. Claire at a gathering). Seems the seats he'd ordered just on Thursday that were supposed to arrive in 7-10 days were dropped off at his apartment (he had them alert his cell phone upon delivery). Since I was halfway home already (from where he was), could I swing by the apartment and get them so they weren't stolen or rained on? Sure, no problem.

It must have been a funny sight to see me trying to get these three big boxes in my car, but I eventually did. Getting them out was just about as much fun, but minus the rain.

I started in on a few of my "clean the house" chores and a couple of hours later, Jake and Carla stopped in to check out the seats (they liked them). Then they left, so I cleared out the kitchen, swept it and the downstairs floor and them mopped everything. It was 9:20 when I finished, so decided no TV, just read for a bit and got to bed. I had the windows all opened, so got cool air and a nice rain smell to sleep with.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

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Jyl and her sisters will be over on Sunday to get the boxes for their Father's ashes. I hope nobody is offended, but I know my Mom was interested in what they looked like, so took a picture for her. Unfortunately, since I suck as a photographer, the flash is making it look way lighter than it really is (black walnut) and the inscription is not very clear. It says: Haston "Ace" Hampton; July 31, 1926 - March 25, 2006.

I never knew you, but I've heard the stories, so rest in peace, Ace...

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Spackling the post where the house numbers and flag pole were (and other oddball places)

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Caulk on open seam at the base of the porch post

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Spackling, after first coat of paint

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Roma (or "Plum") tomato slices, brushed with olive oil, and sprinkled with rough-chopped basil and crumbled blue cheese. The perfect "guy" snack!

Friday, September 1, 2006

Freaky Friday...

Woke up again at 8:00 AM, but, as I mentioned in the last post, I have today off, so that's okay. Started the laundry while I made up my shopping list for more project supplies. Folded the first load of clothes, then went to Home Depot and got 3 tubes each of almond and brown paintable caulk, more masking tape and a 12 foot piece of quarter round molding (I need it for the front porch ceiling).

Got back home with my stuff and unloaded, then went off to meet my friend B___ for lunch. He had brought in his new camera, so after we ate, we went on a safari down Hines Park to look for photo opportunities. He took pictures of Canada geese, ducks, a heron, interesting water-running-over-rocks shots, drift wood and water lilies, just beginning to bloom. Fun, but a lot of exercise! I can't wait to see the actual pictures!

Back home and fun's over. Back to painting...

Since this is the second coat, I took the time to spackle any holes still visible, plus put some brown caulk at the bottom of the porch post. Letting it all dry for a while.

I'm pretty sure it was the damp, cold weather that made me think of it, but decided to make soup for dinner tonight. Made a "throw everything in the pot and see how it tastes" soup, with one pound browned and drained hamburger, fresh sauteed carrots, onions and celery, then added beef broth, a half of a bag of noodles left over from something, a can of kidney beans (to thicken it up) and then, made little meatballs of another pound of hamburger, bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese, and dropped them into the boiling soup. Interesting...

Put the second coat of paint on everything but the lower part of the railing (it was getting dark by then). Went and watched TV. BTW, I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning for a complete check up, so I can't have anything by mouth after 9:00 PM...

Catching up... Thursday night

Thursday night, I raced home and changed clothes to start painting. I was just putting up the masking tape, when Jake and Carla pulled in. They were there to work on the new car. So we all went to work (occasionally helping each other, but mostly focused on our respective projects).

I got the garage door surround, the porch post and the top board of the (what do you call that, anyway? the railing? I think so...) railing painted.

Jake got the car running, new wiper blade installed (this car has only one center wiper blade... Damnedest thing I ever saw) and so on. They left around 8:00 PM in both cars. I went in and reheated the rest of the roast chicken, veggies and gravy for my dinner. Then went to bed. Big mistake! I woke up at 2:00 AM wide awake and didn't fall back to sleep until almost 6:00 AM. But, that's okay, because I took Friday off as a vacation day to try and finish some of these projects up over the long weekend.

Catching up... Wednesday

Wednesday night I was supposed to be painting the brown trim on the porch and around the garage door. Instead, I got all enthused about roasting a chicken and some root vegetables. So, with stopping at two grocery stores (Farmer Jack doesn't carry parsnips) prep time, cook time, etc., it was after 8:00 PM when dinner was done. Too late for good paint work.

Report on dinner? The chicken was moist and well flavored, the roasted root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnips) were tasty, but a bit overdone, but the gravy? Oh, my! The gravy was the best chicken gravy I ever made (or even tasted)!

Watched TV and went to bed.