Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Troubles on Tuesday

Well, Tuesday seemed to be jinxed for me. The first thing I do every day when I get home (even before changing clothes) is to feed the fish. When I picked up the floating fish food (little hard round balls of fish food, about half the size of a BB) the top came off and the 4-inch high, almost full can crashed to the floor. There was fish food EVERYWHERE! I swept up the entire bedroom floor, but spent the rest of the night crunching little hard balls with my bare feet.

So, onto tonight's projects. My drain in the main bathroom sink is running slow. So, I thought I would take off the trap and clean it out. It came off easy enough but surprisingly, it was not clogged. Hmmm... When I went to put it back on, I could not get one of the ends to seal right, no matter how many times I took it apart and put it back together! Used up all my towels to mop up the mess, put a bowl under it and moved my stuff to the other bathroom until I can get a new trap.

Gave up and made dinner. Reheated the pulled pork and enjoyed two more sandwiches. Watched TV and, when on bathroom breaks, walked on fish food balls and hurt my feet until bedtime.

Sigh...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cars, continued...

Well, I still have not heard from Luanne regarding vehicles I owned. I assume she is too busy with her goat herd to respond. But, here's my list of cars I owned, as best as I can recall (I left off the vehicles that my wives drove):

1953 Ford
1957 Dodge
1953 Hudson Super Jet *
1964 Falcon Sprint *
1964 Triumph Spitfire *
1968 Plymouth Roadrunner *
1968 Chevy Camaro
1970 Chevy Vega
1974 VW Thing *
1964 Ford Fairlane
Two 1970's era Chevy Pickup Trucks (Homesteading years)
Late 1970's Ford F150 pickup (Homesteading years)
1988 Ford Ranger pickup truck (Homesteading years)
1990 Geo Metro
1992 Chevy Corsica
1996 Buick LaSaber
2000 Ford Focus
2000 Oldsmobile Alero
My current vehicle, a 2001 Volvo S40

* I regret selling these the most.

I invite anyone else to share their vehicles list in the Comment section.

Monday moanin'

Not sure why, but Monday was depressing. By the time I got home, all the little things I had planned to do seemed dumb. So, I didn't do them.

I had a head of cauliflower that I needed to use up, so I steamed that and ate most of it with just butter and salt. Later, I reheated the leftover butternut squash for a snack. So, for Monday night anyway, I was a vegetarian! (Gasp!)

I did get an email from my first wife, Fran, helping me out with some of the cars I owned WAY back in the day (Thanks, BTW!) She reminded me of her turquoise 1962 Chevy Nova convertible and how I had to replace the wiring harness after the cigarette lighter knob broke off and she tried to get it out with a screwdriver. Funny (now, anyway!)

Watched a more or less unsatisfying night of TV, then went to sleep (still grumpy).

Monday, February 26, 2007

Slow Sunday

Woke up at a more respectable time today (7:00 AM) and checked outside. We had a light dusting of snow overnight, but no I'm getting freezing rain. I'm glad I took the time to fill the bird feeder, the suet cages and the squirrel feeder yesterday. Those poor little guys are gonna need it!

I really am still full from yesterday's dinner, so just had a cup of coffee for breakfast. Remember the stuffed pork loin that I wasn't too crazy about last Sunday? Well, I ate about 1/3 of it and cut the other 2/3 in half and froze it. I took one of the bags out of the freezer yesterday and thawed it. This morning, I saut�ed a small onion, finely diced, two good sized Jalapeno peppers (de-seeded and finely chopped) and two diced garlic cloves in olive oil and butter. Then I cleaned out the stuffing (down the garbage disposal with you, offending stuffing!), took two forks and shredded the pork loin (this is not bad when something's warm, but it was a b*tch with a cold pork loin!) Finally, with aching arms, got it all done and added the meat to the pot, plus a whole bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce. Letting it simmer and will have pulled pork sandwiches on Kaiser rolls for lunch.

Even though I was very, very careful to wash my hands after handling the Jalapeno peppers, I still somehow touched the corner of my mouth and its burning!

Next came a shave and shower. Then, I got out a photo album of Luanne and my honeymoon, looking for the picture of my VW Thing. Sadly all the photos in that album have lost their color and are now sepia. However, Jake volunteered to play with the photo in Photoshop to try and make it look right. He returned it to me and I posted the results. My God I had a flat stomach in 1976! Not to mention a full head of hair...

Anyway, lunch was great! Just the right heat in the pulled pork. After eating, I took a break and watched "Tears of the Sun." I love that movie, BTW. Good examples of the maneuvers of a Special Forces Group.

After that, I cleaned out the fish/newt tank. That was this weekend's big project. Quite a mess, with the old fish food and algae. But, I scrubbed the walls, drained the water and replaced it, along with a new carbon filter. Both the Newt and the goldfish are acting funny, though. I'm not sure why, just concerned.

Now I'm watching the NASCAR race, though once again, I'm cheering for Mark Martin, although he has left Spacely Sprockets Racing. Fell asleep and got a nice � hour nap. BTW, now it's just after 5:00 PM, the freezing rain has stopped, it's 33 degrees F. and the snow on my roof is melting and dripping.

I started my Sunday dinner. The side dish is a winter butternut squash, this time with butter, fresh thyme and fresh tarragon in the hollow created after cleaning out the seeds. It's in the oven for an hour at 350 degrees F. The main entr�e is chicken legs that were marinated overnight in buttermilk, drained, then dredged in cornstarch and flour, dipped in a mixture of three eggs, more buttermilk and enough hot sauce to turn the mix orange. Then, dipped into flour and house seasoning (1 salt, � pepper and � garlic powder), and put into a pan with 365 degrees F Canola oil. 14 minutes later, I put them on a rack to drain, over paper towels on a cookie sheet.

Right in the middle of this, the door bell rang. It was two elders of the Church of Mormon. We chatted a bit. I basically told them based on my research (I had studied all the major religions back in the '70's) that I thought their religion was flawed. We agreed to disagreed until next weekend, when they will attempt to convert me and I will attempt to refute their beliefs. (Oh my God, I am becoming my Mother! She used to love these verbal religion jousts).

Dinner was good, though the squash was a bit under-done and I didn't like the tarragon taste as much as I did the Rosemary the time before.

Watch more TV, then went to sleep.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

photo

This is a picture of my Thing and me on my honeymoon. Check out that stomach!

Super Saturday!

I did finally fall back asleep Friday night/Saturday morning and woke up at 8:30 AM. I had a mushroom and cheese three-egg omelet for breakfast. Then I spruced up with a shower and shave and left to run my errands. They included:
- Getting the oil changed in the car
- Picking up prescriptions at the CVS pharmacy
- Grocery shopping at Farmer Jacks

BTW, Oil Change place I always go to advertises $16.95 oil change. Mine cost $26 because my car takes one more quart of oil than normal and a special filter.

I would normally hose off the salt from the car, but we are supposed to get snow and freezing rain overnight, so there is no point, really.

Carla had called earlier. She offered to make me dinner at my house (could it get any better? Can't remember the last time somebody cooked me something!) Oh, I know she was just finding a place to drive the new car to, but what the heck? (Just kidding, Carla!)

Got home and put everything away. I made some bacon and cheese deviled eggs for an appetizer. I didn't have any honey-mustard, so I substituted Dijon mustard. It gave it a bite I didn't particularly like, but Jake and Carla seemed okay with it, later.

I tried to take a nap, but couldn't fall asleep. Then I heard the doorbell ring. They brought over a HUGE box (supposed to feed ten people) of Snow Crab legs. We mowed those down with a big baked potato and clarified butter, infused with garlic. Carla made the crab legs and the baked potatoes and Jake made the butter, while I just sat there, fat, dumb and happy. I'm still full this morning.

Then we played an awful game: Trivial Pursuit! I admit it! I suck at this and, while they answered some of the questions, we finally gave up. Next we played Clue (I lost)then finally cards (Kings in the Corner and I won one!)

They left for home, I watched a little TV, but fell asleep early. And, that was Saturday.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

photo

And, the VW Thing (mine was bright yellow)

photo

Here's the Falcon Sprint (mine was powder blue)

photo

Posted the comment pictures. Here is a 1953 Hudson Superjet

Cars

Speaking of cars, It always tickles me when I mention cars I've owned to younger people.

For example, the first car I bought (for $50.00) was a 1953 Ford. Being a little new to auto purchasing (I was 15 at the time) I didn't realize the brake lines were bad and just covered with electricians tape. That resulted in me crashing into the garage at home one day (it was cement block and indestructible. The car was not) before I even had my license.

Then my dad found a 1953 Hudson Super Jet for me (I needed a car to drive myself and my sister Anne to school). That worked fine until the bad roads (we lived on dirt roads in the country) broke the rusted frame. My brother Peter (God rest his soul) fixed it temporarily, but it eventually stopped working.

Next was a 1957 Dodge, with a push button transmission. Cool!

Later on, after my first marriage, I bought a 1964 Falcon Sprint from my brother Joe when he went into the Army. It had a '45 record player in it!

But, what today's people don't get is that this was all around 1965. So, the vehicles I had would be like buying (now) a 1993 Ford or Toyoto or something. At the time, they weren't collector cars. They were nothing special, just old used cars. Now, I know, they would be worth a fortune!

What brought this up? At the VW dealer, they had an old picture of their dealership that had a 1974 Volkswagen "Thing" on the lot. I owned one of those! It was the coolest vehicle in the summer and the worst in the winter. Rear engine, air cooled, and the only heat/defrost was from a gasoline powered heater. I used to wrap myself in blankets in the winter to go to work. Eventually traded it in on something else. Last time I looked they were selling for about $20,000. US. I bought my for around $3,000.

Good times, man... good times...

Friday and payday!

(Does it get any better than this?)

I remembered the porridge this morning! I can't attest to the cholesterol benefits, but it damn sure has a definite effect on one's bowels!

Got back from work late. I had to pick up Carla and Jake after work then drop them off at a car dealer. Carla's old Ford Contour finally died (transmission - repair cost: $2,500. Value of vehicle 2,000.) so after two days of searching, they finally decided a new VW Jetta had everything they wanted. Good for them and congratulations on your first new car!

BTW, my first "new" car was a 1968 Roadrunner that I ordered 6 months before they started making them. Huge, powerful 389 cubic inch engine, lightweight body (looked like a taxi-cab inside) and went like a bat out of hell. I used to beat Corvettes! Only car that ever consistently beat me in a drag race was the 440 cubic inch Dodge Charger. Good times, man, good times...

It was a long day at work and I was beat, so settled for hot dogs (grilled on the two-burner grill pan)on buns with mustard and chopped onions for dinner.

Made my ToDo list for the weekend. Loaded and turned on the dishwasher, then turned in to bed and the Friday Night Fights.

Closed my eyes, hoping for a good night's sleep, but the damn insomnia is back, which is why I am posting this at 3:30 AM

Bumper Sticker

[I saw this on a car in front of me at a stoplight, on the way home, driving by a little old lady with white hair]

WARNING

I am out of estrogen
and I have a gun!

[Yikes!]

Friday, February 23, 2007

Quote

"The optimist proclaims we live in the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears this is true."

~James Branch Cabell, "The Silver Stallion", 1926

Windy Thursday

Well, another morning of forgetting the porridge. All those cholesterol-fighting oats are just going to waste!

Wild winds today! 25 to 40 MPH. It honestly felt like someone was shoving me walking across the parking lot. I hope my trees don't lose any branches (especially on top my house).

When I got home, I changed clothes, started a load of laundry, and then went back into magnetic catch installation mode. Oops! Wrongo! When I went to get the drill motor, I found I hadn't plugged it in to recharge, so this project will have to be put on hold.

I ate leftover Blue Cheese Spaghetti for dinner. I watched a little TV, then read in bed. Oh, almost forgot, no big branches down that I could see, but a lot of little ones.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Balding? No!

I have decided I'm not getting bald. I just have a very wide part in my hair!

Wednesday

We had a very bizarre weather phenomenon this morning. The National Weather Service issued a severe weather alert for freezing fog (one of the obscure bits of information I know is that the Indians in the Northwest used to call this a Pogonip). When I went to work at 7:00 AM, there was NO fog here, but by 8:15 you could barely see the parking lot from the building.

I dispensed with the porridge this morning, still feeling way too full from last night.

When I got home, I felt the need to "DO" something, so went back to installing more magnetic catches on my kitchen cupboards. This ain't easy, folks! But, I got four more done.

Wow! I found a neat trick! Last night's steak was a round steak, so I only ate half (preferring to gorge myself on Blue Cheese Spaghetti). I've tried reheating steak many, many times with no good results. Put it in the microwave and it's tough and stringy. Wrap it in tinfoil and heat in the oven, and you lose the medium rare I prefer. Food Network had no recommendations, so I gave up and searched the world-wide web!

Suggestion that worked was to cut it in strips, put it in a baggie, squeeze out all the air and put the baggie in a pan of hot tap water (NOT boiling water, that will also cook it more) and leave it for a while.

So, while the meat was warming, I made a baked potato in the microwave and then made a Sauce Bearnaise (I always wanted to try that!) This involves whisking a strained reduction of tarragon leaves, wine vinegar white wine and crushed peppercorns into two egg yolks over a double boiler (I don't have one, but an aluminum pan on top of a sauce pan works, too). Then, whisking like a mad man, you start slowly adding softened butter, pat by pat. Then, after all the butter is melted, you season with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice and pour over the meat and serve.

Outcome? I liked the sauce a lot, but think it would have been even better with less lemon juice. Note to Hannah: Yes, I know about the Goerlich curse, but I ain't afeared!

Read until bedtime.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tuesday's tummy

Well, I did remember my porridge today! I also remembered it was garbage day, so hauled out 4 bags to the road before I left for work.

Got back home and made dinner. I think I broke every dietary and common sense rule with this one. I made one of the old steaks on the two-burner grill pan (no problem yet) but then I made the side dish...

Definitely not diet-food, it was Blue Cheese Spaghetti. The sauce was made by cutting up four strips a bacon into 1 inch strips, cooking them until crisp, then removing them with a slotted spoon and reserving a tablespoon of bacon fat. In that went another tablespoon of olive oil and a pat of butter, then garlic and shallots. When soft I added chicken stock and cream, then 8 ounces of crumbled blue cheese, two tablespoons of fresh chopped sage and the bacon bits. After the blue cheese melted, a pound of al dente spaghetti was added to the pan to get happy.

If you like blue cheese, you'll love this but I'm pretty sure its NOT figure friendly...

Watched my usual Tuesday night shows and went to bed.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monday, Monday...

I got to work before I remembered my porridge! Since I usually never eat breakfast during the week, its easy to forget!

Work was work. When I got back home, I was at first surprised there was no mail until I remembered it was President's Day.

Supper was the last of the French Dip sandwiches. I took the night off and watched TV until I got sleepy, then turned in.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sunday

Woke up today at my normal workday time, 5:30 AM. Started back on yesterday's work, cleaning out my files. I normally do this at Christmas, but missed it this year. I always save last year's bills (in case I need something) so I have to shred one years worth of bills (2005), shuffle the files around and get ready for 2007. By the time I was finished, I had two bags of shredded paper for the trash. If there was less snow, I would have put them on the compost heap.

Made breakfast. I bought a can of those steel cut oats I told you about before, so I am trying to cook them for the first time. 30 minutes later, they were done. I topped them with buttermilk (it's traditional). Excellent (but FILLING!) so, I have a whole container to use during the week. I can feel my cholesterol going down as we speak!

Luanne called. Her goat herd is growing by leaps and bounds (there's a joke in there somewhere) but it sounds like doing the chores in the cold is not much fun.

Next it's a shave and shower. Then, I got to work on the stuffing for my Stuffed Pork Loin. I may post the recipe if anybody's interested. Then I realized I did need something I didn't have in the house. So, a quick trip to Farmer Jacks at 11:30 AM was in order. On the way back, I stopped at the quarter car wash and rinsed off all the salt from last week's freeway drives to the courthouse and back. I checked my wild rice upon my return. Still not soft enough... Then I changed my furnace filter.

Finally the stuffing was done. Letting it cool a bit. Finally, filled the pork loin, then tied it with cooking twine. Heated up my two burner grille pan to screaming hot, then seared the stuffed loin. In spite of the vent fan on high, I did manage to set off one smoke detector. Oh well, the carmelization will be worth it.

Put the rest of the leftover stuffing in a greased cake pan (oh, I WILL eat this sometime), and cut two acorn squash in half, deseeded them and put in a chuck of butter and a chunk of dark brown sugar in each. Here's a tip I figured out: If the squash doesn't sit flat (and most don't), I take my knife and cut a flat in the rind. This makes for much less spills inside the oven. So, stuffed pork loin is in the broiler pan, doused with the reserved cup of apple juice, along with the acorn squash and the remaining stuffing in a cake tin, all at 325 degrees F. I've got the digital thermometer set at 170 degrees F. and plugged into the roast. I set the timer on the stove for an hour. We'll see...

Washed the bathroom floor and threw the bathroom and kitchen rugs in the washer. I have the Daytona 500 on TV and, while I should be a loyal Spacely Sprockets Racing, er, I mean Spacely Sprockets-Fenway (Mr. Spacely sold half of Spacely Sprockets Racing this year) fan, I am routing for Mark this season (hey, us old guys have to stick together!) In 19 seasons with Spacely Sprockets, Mark's never won the Daytona 500, but maybe driving a Chevy instead of a Ford, he can do it!

Ate dinner in front of the TV. Not bad, but not as great as I'd hoped. The squash was excellent, and so was the pork loin, but the stuffing (pork sausage, mushrooms, Granny Smith apples, wild rice, onions, garlic and herbs) did not have that WOW factor I was looking for. On the other hand, it was interesting to do!

Two laps before the finish of the race, my daughter M_______ called. While we talked I watched Mark get beaten by another driver on the last corner (two tenths of a second difference). Damn! So, me and Melissa talked a long time. Then I went back to the TV and then to sleep.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Saturday in the snow

Woke up on Saturday at 8:30 AM. Started the laundry and put a pot of coffee on. I took a shower, drank some coffee, made eggs over easy and three rounds of pork sausage for breakfast, and was ready to face the day. First thing was to get a pork loin ready for tomorrow's Sunday dinner. I cut off some of the fat and scored the rest. Then I cut it in the middle to butterfly it (so I have a place for the stuffing). Next I used Emeril's Essence as my dry rub. Let that set for an hour or so and then put it in a plastic bag inside a roasting pan and dumped in a whole bottle of apple juice. This went into the fridge to marinate overnight.

It is warmer today (already 20 degrees F. -7 C. at 10:00 AM) but we are supposed to get hit with an Alberta Clipper this afternoon. I really should apologize to my friend Cathy now. I've always picked on her for Alberta Clippers, but after this month of having the wind blow directly down from the North Pole for days on end, I'll take the fast moving Alberta Clippers any day!

I spent a most enjoyable two hours, sitting on the couch with my feet up, drinking coffee and finishing a book, with the fireplace turned on and the snow softly falling.

But, alas, all good things come to an end. When I finished the book, I started on my taxes...

Absolutely no comment that is printable about THAT!!!

About 3:00 PM I made my lunch/dinner of French Dip sandwiches. There was nothing interesting on TV, so I popped in the DVD of "We Were Soldiers" and watched that, hoping to fall asleep for a nap. Never did nap, so when the movie was over, went out in the garage to clean up some of the mess left from making the new workbench.

Came back in about 8:00 PM. Made another sandwich, watched TV and went to bed.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Can you say TGIF if you only worked two days?

I woke up early this morning, before the alarm. Early, and hungry. So, I thought I'd make myself a little breakfast of soft boiled eggs. I like soft boiled eggs by the way. Its funny, but a lot of people I've talked to (younger people) have never eaten soft boiled eggs. I wonder when and why they fell out of favor. I like mine mixed with a little torn up bread, butter, salt and pepper, but I do remember my Dad using an egg cup (when did they stop being sold, BTW?), cutting the top off and spooning out the egg inside.

Cold again. 9 degrees F (-13 C.) with a biting wind. On the weather this morning, they said the wind chill was -6 degrees F. or -22 C.

Stopped at Meijers on the way home. I needed to pick up some stuff this weekend for Sunday's dinner and its supposed to snow tomorrow. So, tomorrow, I'll be snug and warm and NOT have to go out all weekend!

I did call my brother Jim and wish him a happy 70 birthday.

Dinner Friday night was the toaster oven, tortillas pizzas. BTW, I forgot to mention: I did talk to my Mother about her pizza effort and I apparently misled her. If you remember, I advised her that, since you are only melting the cheese and warming the toppings, the microwave could probably be used instead of the toaster oven (hers is smaller than mine, which is what brought this up). However, when I checked on her results, she said the crust was limp and soggy, not crusty like mine. So, she said she would try again, but this time she will use the toaster oven.

Watched TV and fell asleep around 10:00 PM.

No compelling reason

I love the phrase, "no compelling reason." As in, I fell asleep last night about 10:00 PM, woke back up at 2:30 AM, resumed reading my book, and since I do not have to go to work on Saturday, I have "no compelling reason" to try and fall back asleep.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Thursday and still cold...

...but no snow, thank God! Seemed odd to be at work after five days off. But, there I was, playing catch-up. Nice to be back, I suppose, but nice when 5:00 PM rolled around, too!

I called my brother Jim to wish him a happy birthday. I talked with his wife, Coletta, who told me I had the wrong day (it's Friday, February 16) and he was at the boat show. So, I'll call him back tomorrow.

Dinner was the rest of the bacon-wrapped meatloaf. For a side dish, I made some crisp potato galettes. All I did was lightly coat a large cookie sheet with spray olive oil. Then I peeled an 8 ounce russet baking potato and used the mandoline (yes, I was a bit nervous, after slicing the tip of my finger off two days earlier, but I figured it was like falling off a horse. They say you have to get right back on!) anyway, used the mandoline to cut the potato crosswise into paper-thin slices. You overlap 8-10 slices on the baking sheet to make a 4-inch round (you get 7 or 8 of these). Then you spray the rounds with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper (I added fresh parsley). You bake them in a preheated 400 degree F. oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown and crispy. See photos for outcome (you should click on it and enlarge to really see it, then use the browser back button to return).

Truthfully? The looked great, but tasted pretty bland. I wonder if addtional seasoning (maybe garlic or onion powder) would have helped. Or, maybe some shredded cheddar cheese? Nice thing about these is each serving has 88 calories and less than 1 gram fat (if you are into those kinds of things).

Anyway, was eating dinner in the bedroom, watching TV, when Scruffy decided to drink out of my water glass (long time readers may remember, he does that). Somehow, he managed to knock the glass off the nightstand, it shattered and drenched the area where I step out of bed each day with water and glass! I spent about an hour, and had to throw away a bathtowel, to make damn sure I got all the little slivers of glass up.

After that, I gave up on TV and read in bed until I fell asleep.

photo

Meatloaf and Crisp Potato Galettes

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Windy Wednesday

Woke up at 6:30 AM (didn't have to set the alarm today). Put on a pot of coffee. Since I don't have to worry about bathrooms in court this morning, I made myself some scrambled eggs and toast.

It's hard to tell the actual amount of snow that fell with all the blowing and drifting (on the TV, they said 6 inches) but I have a good foot of snow in the driveway. But, about 8:00 AM, the doorbell rang. Curious, I went over and opened the door, dressed in my bathrobe. There was a kid (maybe 10 years old) who offered to shovel my driveway for $15. Admiring his entrepreneurial attitude, I said, "Wait a minute." and went and got a $20 bill and told him he could keep the change if he did a good job.

I shaved and showered (using a rubber glove on my one hand to keep my bandage dry) and then left for court at 9:30 AM. Roads were BAD! Blowing and drifting snow, slushy, ice covered pavement all conspired to slow me down. But, I eventually got there about 10:20. (its a half hour drive, normally). So, went through the metal detectors (these must not be as sensitive as the ones at airports as my knee has not set them off yet) and upstairs to the overheated hall to read and wait.

We were to resume at 11:00 AM. We finally got called in at 11:30, then promptly sent into the jury room. Some people chatted, four people went back to work on the 500 piece puzzle that was in the room and others, like me, just read. At 12:30 the bailiff opened the door and told us to please take our seats. The judge then told us to go to lunch!

Back from lunch (I had two hotdogs from a street vendor) and back waiting in the hall... then waiting in the jury room. Funny sidebar: They got the puzzle almost done, but there were maybe 100 pieces missing! Finally we got called back into court, where the judge apologized for all the delays. He said witness hadn't shown up (they were all either drug dealers or drug users) and the police couldn't find them, but finally the defendant plead guilty to a lesser charge (original was armed carjacking). And we were dismissed! So, around 3:00 PM, headed back for home, my civic duty done (but still felt frustrated - I wanted to be in the courtroom if I had to be on a jury)

Now that the case is closed, I can talk about it. Interesting, but the defendants defense was that he did not carjack anybody, it was a case of what is know as crack (or rock) car rental. Seems that well-to-do suburbanite drug users who are a little short on cash come down to drug neighborhoods in Detroit and "rent" their nice cars to people in the neighborhoods for two or three hours so they can get cash for drugs. How do they assure they get their cars back? The threat is that if you don't bring the car back, the guy calls the cops and says he was carjacked, gives them the license number and the persons name. I never heard of this one!!!

Anyway, going home was much better (only the outside lanes were not plowed and salted) and other than continually having to use the windshield washers, I had no problems.

Driveway was finished and looking good when I arrived. Got in the mail, changed clothes and relaxed. For dinner I made the linguine with clams and watched TV until bedtime. Seems weird to be going back to work tomorrow. No more snow forecast, but still bitter cold (5 degrees F. on my thermometer with a brisk North wind)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tuesday was a trial...

hahaha, get it?

Sorry! :o(

Anyway, second day of jury duty. This is very, very frustrating! We were told we would be starting the trial "promptly" at 9:00 AM, so most of us gt there at 8:00 and sat in the overheated hallway, waiting to be called in. We did get called in, but it was 9:30! Then, we sat through about an hour of jury instructions. Finally (finally!) after opening statements, the prosecutor called his first witness. About three questions were asked and answered when the prosecutor asked about the police report. The defense objected, saying he hadn't seen that document. We were immediately hustled into the jury room while they debated.

The jury room? A cramped, but high ceiling room. It has a lot of old magazines to read (newest on was 2003) some cards, a box with a 500 piece puzzle, two coffee makers (but no cups), bathrooms, (thank God!) and a drinking fountain.

Jurors? 5 men (including me)and nine women (one very attractive young woman, two very attractive older women and, best of all, one midget). Okay, I'm not sure what's politically correct (little person?) but she is very attractive and fascinating to me.

Anyway, we were in that room for over an hour (I read and/or flirted with a married midget, several people started working on the puzzle, many read old magazines and one lady played solitaire). We finally got called back in and were told there were some administrative problems with documents and witnesses, so court was adjourned for the day, and we would resume tomorrow. Because of the anticipated snow, Court will resume at 11:00 AM. (groan)

So, drove back home, sent an email to my boss, saying I wouldn't be in on Wednesday and started tidying up. The storm was supposed to hit at 2:00 PM, with heavy snow and blowing and drifting. So, my friend B___ said he was bringing a change of clothes in case he had to stay at my place for the night.

However, the forecast had changed and its not supposed to start snowing until 5:00 PM, so B___ went home (figuring, I presume, if you have to be snowed in, its better at home!) Me? I was exhausted and took an nap.

I was gonna make Linguine with clam sauce for me and B___, but decided it was a vegetarian night, instead. So, I ate leftover cauliflower and sauteed the 4 summer squash I bought last Saturday. I used my mandoline to cut the squash and, even though I threw away about an inch of the stem, I did manage to cut the tip of one of my fingers!

Watched the TV shows until 11:30 PM, then went to sleep.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Monday, a little late...

I got confused Monday morning and thought I had to report for jury duty on Tuesday. But, luckily I checked and at 7:00 AM I found I was supposed to be in Wayne County Circuit Court at 7:45!

Left a few, frantic voicemails and headed out. Once again, got totally lost. Why? They are having "Winterfest" in downtown Detroit and a ton of streets are closed. But I finally found the courthouse and after paying $8.00 US for parking (NOT reimbursed, BTW), went inside.

Finally found a vacant seat (all the seats are jammed into each other and you have your coats and books and purses all on your laps. Not comfortable!) and started reading. I was careful NOT to have any coffee (trying to prepare for extended time without bathroom breaks) and just sips of water. They kept calling twenty names at a time, but never mine. I got a little cocky, thinking I would get out of this.

This was not to be. At 11:00, they called my name and I went up to the courtroom on the 7th floor. There were about 30 other potential jurors there, so I still felt I had a chance... But, no... I was the fifth picked one, and lived throughout all the challenges...

They said they thought it would only take one more day (Tuesday) so around 3:00 PM, the court adjourned and I went home.

Dinner was left over meatloaf, with steamed cauliflower, mashed potatoes and canned gravy. I was exhausted from the day, so I went to bed early.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sunday

Again, troubled sleep. But, forging ahead anyway. After yesterday's breakfast excess, I went with scrambled eggs and a toasted English muffin. Interesting observation: I only buy unsalted butter as it's always recommended for cooking. The only time I can notice a difference is on toast or English muffins. They just don't taste "right"! Simple solution really (though its taken me some three years to figure it out) I lightly salt the English muffin with table salt and then butter. Now it tastes right!

Threw in a load of laundry, filled my weekly pillbox and kept checking out the window to see if the squirrels have found the peanuts I put out yesterday. I stopped filling that feeder when I noticed that the Blue Jays were actually eating all the peanuts. But, I am worried about the squirrels, so I filled the feeder, than laid a trail of peanuts from the tree to the bird feeder (like a cartoon trap by Elmer Fudd or something). They have eaten some of the peanuts on the trail, but not followed it to the tree, yet.

Repotted the houseplant my grandson, Joe, gave me for Christmas. It was starting to get root-bound and some leaves were wilting. So, I put it in a bigger pot, cut off the bad leaves, added a bit of slow-release plant food and hopefully, it will perk back up.

Okay, time to face reality. With the addition of the pipe carving workbench, interior sawdust levels have gone up dramatically, in spite of me using the Wet Vac. So, I got a painted board, ripped it down to two inches and secured it to the wall next to the dryer. Hung up the kitchen broom, dustpan and dust mop, which were formerly in the garage, so I can do a quicker cleanup. Posted a photo.

Also, a squirrel HAS found the peanuts! But, sadly, not the squirrel with half a tail. I am not sure how he/she came to losing half their tail, but it must have been traumatic and painful. I somehow really emphasize with that squirrel. (Note to former wives and lovers: Please, PLEASE, do NOT use this as a lead in to speculate exactly just what I might have lost half of. Yes, it would be funny, but I am being serious here and it would also be personally embarrassing, okay?) Anyway, I finally gave up and tossed him/her a handful of peanuts out the back door. Then, after he/she had its fill, I went out and reset the trail to the feeder (see Photos).

Now, it's almost 3:00 Pm, and I am going to read a bit and try and nap. I need to rest.

Whoa! Such a nap! Slept from about 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM. On the one hand, it's pretty late to be thinking about dinner. On the other, I KNEW I needed some sleep! And yes, we will do the designated dinner (I wish I'd picked something from "30 minute meals" but we are making a Wolfgang Puck dish: "Bacon wrapped meatloaf" and the side will be my Mom's acorn squash - cut in half, seeds scooped out, with a big chunk of butter and brown sugar inside). I am secretly cursing old Wolfgang while I am finely chopping a pound of Crimini mushrooms.

Meat loaf and squash were both excellent. Stayed up until 11:30 PM, then went to bed.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Okay, so last dig at Fran (I promise)...

Hey, don't knock it! Another of the many nice things about senility is, you can hide your own Easter eggs!

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The start of the Elmer Fudd peanut trail (I'll get that wraskaly wrabbit!)

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Hard to see, but this is the trail of peanuts

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Front Pine Tree Memorial Squirrel Feeder (do you remember?) filled with peanuts.

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New Cleanup Center

Today's Birthdays for M_________

In case you missed it on my front page, today is the birthday of
Thomas Edison (1847-1931): inventor of the light bulb. He is a personal hero of my daughter, Melissa.

I can picture her now, in her home up in the frozen North, singing, "You light up my life..."

Saturday Soul Food

I had trouble with insomnia Friday night, and I woke up late on Saturday (well, late for me, anyway). So, I had to hurry so I wouldn't be late to get my hair cut.

After my haircut, I went to the Library (I finally figured out where it went!) After paying a $4.80 fine from like a year and a half ago, I got three big books checked out.

Stopped and treated myself to the Breakfast Special at my favorite Coney Island restaurant: three eggs over easy, two strips of bacon, two pork sausage links, three potato pancakes with sour cream, rye toast and coffee for $4.95 US. I call it the diabetic delight. Then, off to Farmer Jacks.

Got this week's groceries (well, it is for two weeks, actually). Thank God I found a sale on paper towels. I was down to two rolls left and I use a lot of them, but I refuse to pay regular price on the damn things. They are WAY too expensive.

Got home and unpacked everything. I found I had several emails from my Webmaster. My nephew, Mark Goerlich, had Googled his own name looking for something on the Web and got my Blog, where I had posted something about a quote on his website last June. He used the "comments" to explain something. Luckily, the Blog emails me when people comment, as I would have never went back and found it. Anyway, the poor overworked Webmaster had not yet imported old comments, so Mark did not know (and probably never will) that other people had commented (both for and against) about his quote as well. So, the Webmaster worked overtime to get old comments back, in case this ever comes up again.

He also finished the links that let me post poems, so for the first time ever, I posted a poem myself! I wrote it Friday and its called "Winter," if you're interested.

I tried to take a nap, as I was really tired, but I never fell asleep. Then it was time to get ready. I am going to a birthday church supper tonight for Joy Hampton. Relationship? Complicated! Long time readers may recall that my son Jeremy's wife Jill, after the death of her father, learned just last Summer that she had an entire family she didn't know about. And, after her father's cremation, I made 6 boxes for his ashes. Well, Judy and Brenda (her new/old sisters) mother Joy (who had been once married to Jill's Father, Ace) was having a birthday celebration all this weekend. And, Brenda had specifically asked Jill to invite me. So I was off, headed to Detroit's inner city, a black church, maybe some gospel singing and hopefully, some great soul food.

I got lost!!! NOT MY FAULT! Damn Yahoo worked great until it told me to turn left on Elmwood to Hendricks. Crawled down Vernor (to the annoyance of people behind me and drove two miles (map said 0.7 miles) before I gave up, pulled over and regrouped. Decided that according to the directions, Hendricks had to be a half a block over from where I was, (but I was on a one-way street) so went to the next big road, and went back a mile, turned left, found Hendricks, then found the Church. Whew! Note to Yahoo: It was at the corner of Hendricks and ELLROY, not Elmwood!

Went in, found Judy and Brenda and was introduced to their Mother, Joy. I grabbed a table (not knowing how crowded it was going to be) for myself and Jer's family, who showed up about 20 minutes later.

Okay, highlights: Yes, one of the women from the church did sing some gospel songs (beautiful voice, BTW), both Joe and Riese came dressed to the nines (hmmm... do people still say that? Well, if not, they were styling!) and dinner was excellent. Warming trays heaped with food. I did try and get the secret recipe for the collard greens from the cook, even promising I wouldn't tell, but no dice! She did tell me something I found interesting. I asked her if she used smoked ham hocks or neck bones or smoked turkey. She said so many black people had given up eating pork that you can no longer make collard greens the traditional way when cooking for a large group. You must use smoked turkey.

Only bad part of the evening? They had a damn microphone! At first, no problem. The gospel singer used it, Brenda used it to read a poem and say the prayer before dinner. And, people were encouraged to come up and say something about Joy. All very nice. But, when that died down, they got the bright idea to ask people to come up and introduce themselves, explain who they were and then ask somebody else to come up. I'm still not worried, why would anybody pick me? But I was not paying attention, talking with Jeremy and Joe, when I heard Brenda say something about making six beautiful wood boxes for her Father's ashes and cooking them a great meal... Oh, oh... Next thing I know I'm standing in front of everybody with a microphone in my hand, trying to explain who I am. I have no idea what I said, but people clapped. So, figuring us introverts had to stick together (and at Brenda's urging), I picked Jeremy to come up next.

Party broke up about 7:45 PM. I used the Force to find my way back to the expressway and made it back home. Nothing much on TV, but I have new books! I read to about 1:00 AM, then went to bed.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Winter

No significant snow has fallen this season.
Oh, there is snow, but slowly built up,
layer by layer, bit by bit,
like memories in an old man's mind...

And, ice, ice too, there is.
Freezing and thawing overlaid
drop by drop and drip by drip,
like failed loves in an old man's heart...

And, cold?
My God, it's been cold!
Bitter winds, arctic air,
like the chill in an old man's bones...

But Spring will come
and dirty snow and fissured ice
will mush and melt then disappear,
like the silent passing of an old, old man...

Friday

What a weird day...

It is getting a bit warmer (but just a bit). Work was work. As a Program Manager, your day-to-day existence is long stretches of boredom (waiting for something - information, a quote, a status report from the field, etc.) interrupted by the occasion frantic something or another (a change in plans, a change in scope or abject horror in one form or another).

After leaving work, I had two stops to make before I got home. One was Westborn Market for some arugula, the next was CVS to pick up some prescriptions (I ran out of two of my meds yesterday, so I took them a bit later in the day than usual).

Now, at last, home for the weekend! As befitting a wild and crazy bachelor on a Friday night, first thing I did was change clothes and start my laundry. Next was to put the arugula in a large bowl of water (it's like fresh spinach and usually has a little sand or dirt on it. Swirling it around in a bowl of water lets the sand/dirt settle to the bottom of the bowl and not end up in your dish.) And, the third thing was to get a drink and then call my friend Leon and wish him a happy birthday.

He had just gotten in from working outside with the cows on his ranch all day and his teeth were still chattering. I told him I sympathized with him; the dash between my car (with the heated seats) and that 50 feet to my office door was killer, too. He muttered something under his breath I did not catch...

Biggest news on his home front was that he'd bought a pig from the Amish neighbors and he helped them butcher it (good times, good times) so now he has both pork and beef in his freezer! I really need to go visit him, especially now that he has more menu choices!

After hanging up from Leon, I made dinner. I cut croissants in half lengthwise, topped each side with grated smoked Gouda cheese (tip: Gouda is a semi-soft cheese, so put it in the freezer for 15 minutes before you try and grate it), sprinkled grated Parmesan cheese on top of that, then added the arugula and folded slices of salami. I put each sandwich into my version of a panini grill - my old George Foreman grill. Excellent!

I hung up my shirts, and then ate; watching TV, and then hung up the next load of dress pants, went back to the TV and ultimately, went to sleep...

Friday, February 9, 2007

Nicknames

I have been thinking now that I am SO old, I really need a cool nickname ("John" is just SO b-o-r-i-n-g!). After consulting various family and friends (okay, so I admit it, friend) I've decided, based on my life-long usage of Copenhagen, you all can start calling me "Snuffy".

Correction...

I really apologize, but in writing about Dave's mother's funeral, I misspelled Dustin's wife's name. It is NOT Lidea, but Linnea.

I apologize, Linnea, but as you know, I am just SO much older than most people, occasional lapses in memory are to be expected, I guess.

I'm gonna go sit in the corner and drool...

Okay, so I will beg...

You know, I really have been hoping somebody would say something regarding the "About me" section. That is the only thing I have posted I ever felt vulnerable about. Its spooky writing about yourself. Did I say too little or too much. I dunno...

Thursday Night

I got home Thursday, anxious to try two things. First, I wanted to finish the fake pipe and second, I wanted to try a new dish for dinner.

So, after changing clothes, I used masking tape to mark the "stem" and painted it black. Letting that dry, I got to work on the baked potatoes from Wednesday night. Since I want the skins for something else, I cut each one in half, lengthwise, then cut that half in half. Then I took a knife and cut all but about 1/8 inch of the potato out. The potato inside went in a bowl for tonight's dinner, the skins+ went back in the fridge for a weekend snack.

Just then Melissa called. She is not taking the death of her mother-in-law well, she said. That's understandable, though, as the last person she was close to that died was my Father, when she was 4 years old. So, in that regard, she has really been blest. Anyway, we talked for over an hour.

After saying our goodbyes, it was back to dinner. Grated the potatoes to make hash browns, then added a little flour, a splash of milk, some thin-sliced scallions. Folded everything in and fried them in hot oil to make potato pancakes. After they drained, I put a dollop of sour cream on top, more scallions and then rolled up strips of smoked salmon and put it in the middle (I posted a picture of that, too.) Very, very good.

Finished the last coat of stain on the pipe, cleaned up (it's now after 9:30 PM) and went in and watched TV, completely forgetting the video on my computer I had started watching hours ago. Oh well, the weekend's coming...

Forgot to mention...

When Jake and Carla were over last weekend, Scruffy was enamored by the inside of Carla's one shoe! He stuck his head in it and didn't come back out for a long, long time. Long enough for Carla to get my camera and take two pictures, which I found then posted last night. You may have to click on them to enlarge, then use your browser's back button to return.

Unless Carla was walking barefoot through some catnip, I cannot explain this one!

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First attempt at pipe carving (practice with a 2 x 4)

Thursday, February 8, 2007

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Pine mock pipe

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Potato pancake, a dollop of sour cream and a rose made of smoked salmon

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Scruffy, in some sort of orgasmic moment with Carla's shoe...

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Scruffy, with his head inside Carla's shoe

Don't make me beg for Comments about the site!

Warm Wednesday? Not hardly! Still cold, but warming up a bit each day. However, today the wind was worse, so wind chill temperature was just about the same as yesterday.

Filled the birdfeeder and suet cages when I got home (brrr!) and then changed clothes. Started back working on the mock pipe. I don't have any really fine grit sandpaper (yet) so it is gonna be close but not perfect (hey, it's not a real pipe anyway!) Put some stain on it and letting it dry overnight.

My Mom called. She's going to try making the tortilla pizzas tomorrow. I told her if her toaster oven isn't big enough, I can't see why she couldn't use the microwave. I mean you're just trying to melt cheese. So, I have to call her this weekend and find out how it went.

I have had enough of leftovers for a while, so grilled a small steak and had a baked potato with it for dinner. I made extra baked potatoes as I want to try something Thursday night.

Watched TV until bedtime.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Quote

"The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues."

~ Elizabeth Taylor

The "Comments" are back! The "Comments" are back!

So give me your feedback on this new site!

Hey, I think its warming up! We got to 14 degrees F today! Tuesday night was boring! Ate leftover meatballs and spaghetti I'd thawed. Watched TV. Deliberately didn't work on pipe (need to take a break for some inspiration). And, I went to bed early...

Boring...

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Monday Moanin'

Still bitter cold here and the wind isn't making things any easier! Got home and changed into my pipe carving clothes (I'm using the same workout clothes and my #1 Dad cookout apron to keep the sawdust down). Worked for about an hour, but ran into a problem.

I want to rough up the top of the pipe and there are three ways to do that: a drum for polishing stones, but you put screws and staple and nails in it; sandblasting or a wire brush wheel on a drill motor. The first two I don't have, and the wire brush idea probably works well on hardwood, but not so good on the soft pine. It more or less just erased the wood, not roughed it up! I gotta think about this one...

Dinner was leftover bean soup I'd thawed the night before. Watched some TV and went to bed.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Sunday's tale

Woke up Sunday morning at 6:00 AM and slowly eased into the day. Jake and Carla had brought me some Irish porridge Jake has been making since buying steel-cut oats. (It looks just like horse-feed). They have tried several toppings (apparently buttermilk is the traditional topping) but, not having any buttermilk in the house, I just put a pat of butter on top. Very interesting texture and taste, but very, VERY filling!

Started a load of clothes. Yes, I had everything done yesterday, but Scruffy decided my fresh, clean bedspread would somehow benefit with the addition of a hairball last night!

While that was washing, I cleaned the stove top and the very badly caramelized grill pan (I had to use a drill and wire brush on that!) Then I got the two things I need to mail today all lined up. One is Jeremy's Christmas present that finally showed up on Saturday and the other is DVD's of shows that I taped for Luanne and Sadie.

At 1:00 PM, I shaved and showered, then left for the funeral home for Dave's Mother. Dropped the packages at the Post Office on the way (big line and a long wait!) It was nice to see Dave and Melissa again (its been too long) but I wish it was under better circumstances. I also saw Dave's sons Ian, Dustin, his wife Lidia and, the apple of Melissa's eye, their son Gavin. He borrowed my cane for a while. I can't blame Melissa, he really is a cutey!

Later on, Melissa's mother, Fran and her husband Jim arrived. We chatted a bit and then I left for home.

Got back home around 4:30 PM, changed clothes and started working on carving a mock pipe from a 2 x 4. I don't know how it will work on a hardwood burl (the traditional pipe wood) but the band saw went through the pine like butter. I'm very impressed with it.

The vacuum base hobby vise was another matter. The vise itself was great, but the base kept losing suction. I think next time I'll wet the bottom. Another thing I learned, you can't (or maybe just I can't) do this for a long time. I worked about 2 hours on it and then I noticed I was getting sloppy with the Dremel tool and starting to make mistakes. So, I quit. Apparently, pipe carving for me will have to be a 1 - 2 hours a day until its finished rather than from start to finish in one setting.

Warmed up the last three remaining baby back ribs and the beans for dinner (still tasted great!). Got everything lined up for work on Monday, watched TV until 10:00 PM (not the Superbowl) and then went to bed.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Satisfying Saturday

Saturday is supposed to be brutally cold here (for comparison: the low (18 F. or -7 C.) in Calgary, Canada - my personal idea of a "cold" place - is our high here in Detroit!!! Tonight's low here is supposed to be 1 F. (-17 C.) and our high on Sunday is only 8 F. or -13 C). So, I had an idea. What would be better than summer picnic food? Invited Jake and Carla to join me and they accepted.

So, after breakfast (scrambled eggs and English muffins) and coffee, I started cleaning the house. Swept, then vacuumed, and finally washed the downstairs' floor, trying to get rid of the sawdust. Than down, I went through the usual housecleaning routine throughout the upstairs.

Stopped at 10:30 to put a slab of baby back ribs in the oven. The ribs were cut in half, put in a deep baking pan and doused with a cup of bourbon, then a cup of apple juice. Next I rubbed with a mixture of red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, grill seasoning and minced garlic on the meat side. They went into a 250 degree F. oven for 3 � hours. I added diced sweet onions to a large can of Bush's original baked beans (the one seasoned with bacon and brown sugar) and that went on a back burner to simmer. I had some hardboiled eggs (well, I always have some hardboiled eggs, lol!) so I made them into shrimp-stuffed eggs (Carla loves them) and put them in the fridge to chill.

Back to cleaning! When I finally got it all done to my standards, I shaved and showered. Then I went downstairs and hung up the fluorescent light over the workbench. Took some photos and posted them this morning.

Jake and Carla showed up, after driving here in near-whiteout conditions. It's not snowing much (Thank God) but the wind is whipping it sideways. After they settled in, we snacked on the eggs and caught each other up.

When we decided it was time to eat, I pulled the ribs out and turned the oven to 450 degrees F. We cut up some large baking potatoes on the mandolin (Carla, who wanted to try it, first; then I finished them) into French fries. I am making oven-baked "fries" (supposed to be a healthier version) Toasted 6 minced gloves of garlic in two teaspoons of olive oil. Here's where I messed up. I added the oil and garlic, and some parsley flakes to the potatoes and put them in the oven on cookie sheets. I was supposed to "reserve" the garlic and just use the oil, adding the garlic after they were done baking so the garlic wouldn't burn. I didn't, and it did!

While the "fries" were baking, I put the ribs on the stove top grill pan and slathered them with a mixture of barbecue sauce and � cup of bourbon. I let them get nice and caramelized for 15 minutes, saucing and turning them as needed. Vent fan was on high, but toward the end, the smoke alarms went off, so we opened the kitchen window and closed the bedroom door.

Pulled the ribs and cut them, dished up the baked beans and fries and we dug in. Ribs were meaty and tasted spectacular, beans were a good side dish and the "fries," while the garlic was burned, still tasted good. I think we all ate too much!

Carla insisted on cleaning up (I drew the line at the stove top which had splattered barbecue sauced baked on - I'll get that later) and then we dug out the Scrabble game. Close, good game! Jake and Carla tied, but I was only like 7 points behind them.

We switched to cards, playing Chicago first (I won!) then Kings in the Corner, which they took turns winning. Somewhere in there, I put Jalape�o Poppers (breaded Jalape�o peppers that have been stuffed with cream cheese) and breaded Mozzarella sticks in the oven for an evening snack.

They left around 8:30 PM. I putzed around a bit and then went to watch some TV. I fell asleep, but woke up around 1:00 AM, shut off the lights, etc. and went to sleep for real. It had been a very nice, satisfying day!

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Closeup of workspace

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Another view of workbench

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Completed Work bench and area

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Asparagus and Wild Mushroom Frittata

Ingredients
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
  • 12 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, a couple of handfuls, stems removed, chopped
  • 1 cup oyster mushrooms, a couple of handfuls, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Directions

In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, salt and pepper, thyme and lemon zest and add 1/4 cup cheese. Set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet, with oven safe handle over medium to medium-high heat. Note: Wrapping a rubber handle in foil will allow the pan to transfer to oven as well.

Add the shallots and mushrooms and saute for 4 minutes. Add the asparagus to the pan and continue to cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in the egg mixture. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the eggs are almost set, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.

Sprinkle the frittata with the remaining Parmesan. Place the frittata under the broiler and cook until the top is set and starts to brown, about 3 minutes.

Place a large serving plate over the pan, and carefully invert to turn out the frittata to serve. Note: Sometimes that doesn't work, so just serve it from the pan. Cut into 6 wedges and serve.

Balsamic BBQ Sauce

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brewed espresso (I just used cold coffee)
  • Pinch salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (I didn't have this, so didn't use it!)
Directions

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and saute until it is golden. Whisk in the ketchup, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and espresso (helpful tip - problems getting the honey out of the measuring cup? Add a splash of olive oil first, swirl it around, then add honey. It will come right out!)

Simmer gently for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste and stir in orange zest.

Beef Stew and Dumplings

Stew Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds boneless chuck roast (my preference) or beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1 cup dry red wine (burgundy - cheap is fine) reserved from making marinade
  • 3 cups beef stock (NOT beef broth!)
  • 2 large Idaho potatoes (or the equivalent amount of smaller redskin or white potatoes), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (or a handful of those pre-washed, pre-peeled "baby carrots" cut in half)
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (unless Carla's coming to dinner!)
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
Bouquet garnis Ingredients
  • 6 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 6 springs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
Marinade Ingredients
  • 1 cup chopped red onion (about half a good sized red onion)
  • 8 springs of fresh thyme
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 orange peel, cut in large strips (I have to throw away the orange, but somebody could eat it!)
  • a few whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bottle dry red wine (burgundy - cheap is fine) reserve one cup for stew
Dumpling Ingredients
  • 2 cup flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • About 1 scant cup milk
Directions

To make the marinade, place the beef in a large glass or plastic container. Add 8 sprigs of thyme, carrots, garlic, red onions, orange peel, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, and the wine. Mix well to coat, then cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. Shake occasionally.

Remove beef from the marinade and blot dry on paper towels. (a big mess!) Also retain the carrots. In a large skillet, over medium heat, add the vegetable oil. Toss the beef chunks about 5 at a time in a large baggie with the flour, some kosher salt and pepper until completely coated. When the oil is hot, add the meat and cook until the meat is browned, about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat, add another batch until everything is cooked and removed.

Add the onions, celery and 1 tablespoon of garlic and continue to cook about six minutes. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping the browned particles away from the pan.

Replace the meat. Add the beef stock, potatoes and carrots. Using a piece of kitchen twine, tie together the parsley, thyme and bay leaves and add the bundle to the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the meat is very tender, stirring occasionally.

Make dumplings by whisking together dry ingredients, and then adding just enough milk until mixture is thin enough to pick up with a wet teaspoon, but still stays in a rounded mound.

Remove the herb bundle. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of minced garlic, mushrooms, parsley and peas. Taste-test and re-season the stew at this point, if necessary.

Bring the stew back to a boil, stirring to avoid sticking. Drop spoonfuls of dumpling batter on top, but not touching each other (gravy should be low enough that the batter is touching the vegetables). Turn burner to simmer and cook uncovered 10 minutes, then cover and cook 10 minutes more.

Beer and Cheddar Soup

Ingredients
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 12 ounce can of beer (I used Labatt's, but I'm fond of things Canadian)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock (Note Do NOT use chicken broth! Otherwise to get the right flavor, you need to cook carrots and onions and puree them - too much work!)
  • 1 1/2 cups Half and Half or cream
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • Salt and black pepper
Directions

In a saucepan, saute onion in butter for 5 to 7 minutes. Blend in flour. Add beer, stock and half and half (or cream). Whisk and cook until thick. Add cheese and stir until melted. Add 1/4 cup green onions, salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with remaining green onions and croutons (I used onion and garlic, but, hey, that's me!) and serve.

Fried Chicken

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 - 2 pounds cut-up frying chicken (I like to use all drumsticks, myself)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup hot sauce (I use Franks Red Hot)
  • Oil (Peanut oil is the "preferred" type, but I just use vegetable oil)
Directions

In a medium size bowl, combine the buttermilk and hot sauce. In another bowl combine all the dry ingredients, either sifting or using a whisk. Mix thoroughly!

Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a deep pot. Do not fill the pot more than half full.

Dip the chicken into the buttermilk mixture, then coat well in the flour mixture. Fry the chicken in the oil until it's brown and crispy. Dark meat takes about 13 to 15 minutes, and white meat around 8 to 10 minutes.

I put the cooked chicken on a rack, with paper towels under it.

Potato Soup

Ingredients
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 2 cups red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 1/2 pound potatoes (I used red potatoes) peeled and quartered
  • 1 large can (49 ounces) chicken stock (or 6+ cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Directions

Cook bacon until it is browned and crispy. Remove the bacon strips and crumble when cool. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings. Add onions and sweat over medium heat until translucent (about 15 minutes) Add garlic and cook an additional 1 minute Add chicken stock and potatoes Cover and simmer gently, about 40 minutes

Remove from heat. Remove 1/3 of the cooked potatoes and set aside in a bowl Using an immersion blender (I don't have one), or in batches in a food processor (no, not one of those either) or a hand mixer (BINGO!) puree the soup until smooth. Add cheddar cheese and parsley. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Return reserved potatoes. Simmer until ready to serve. Serve with a crusty bread.

Roast Beef Hash

Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1 small loaf French bread, 10 to 12-inches in length, split in half lengthwise
  • 1 pound Idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 6 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onions
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell peppers
  • 3/4 pound cooked roast beef, shredded or chopped (about 3 cups) [Note: I cut my roast beef into 1/4 inch slices, then cut each slice into 1/4 inch strips]
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine [I used Cabernet Sauvignon, but just because I had it]
  • 1 cup beef stock
Directions

In a small bowl, mix together the butter and 1 teaspoon of the garlic paste [you could use minced garlic as well] until creamy. [Note: The original Italian recipe I found called for equal parts butter and garlic juice. Was going to try that but, searched everywhere and couldn't find any.]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread evenly over the French bread halves. Cut each in 1/2, for a total of 4 pieces. When 15 to 20 minutes away from serving the meal, place on a baking sheet, buttered side up, and bake until lightly toasted and bubbly, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven.

In a medium saucepan, place the potatoes and enough water to cover by 1-inch. Bring to a boil and cook until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high until brown and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. To the fat in the pan, add the onions and peppers, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the 2 teaspoons garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the potatoes and cook until starting to crisp and brown, stirring only occasionally, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the meat, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper, and stir well. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine, increase the heat, and cook for 1 minute until the wine is nearly all evaporated. Add the beef stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the cooked bacon and remove from the heat. Adjust the seasoning, to taste.

Arrange 1 piece toasted French bread in the middle of each of 4 plates. Spoon the roast beef mixture over the toast.

TGIF

Got home Friday night to some sad news. My daughter Melissa had left a voicemail, telling me that her husband, Dave's, Mother had died. This was not a shock, as she had been ill for a while. At Melissa's request, I called both Luanne and my Mom to let them know. While I will see them Sunday, I do want to express my sympathy to the family.

Changed clothes and got to work. Put the workbench back in its place and started to fill it up. I screwed on a power strip to the back so I can easily plug in power tools. Once that was completed, I turned my attention to assembling the belt sander and the band saw.

I hate trying to translate instructions to actions, but I finally got 'er done. Next thing to do is to hang the light, but it's 7:30 PM and time to quit. Warmed up the chicken noodle soup and had two bowls watching boxing. Decided I probably stretched the leftover length of time so put the rest of the soup into freezer containers (there was only two left!!!)

When boxing was done, I swept and washed the kitchen floor, then went to bed.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Groundhog Day

I just read that Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog, did NOT see his shadow this morning which, according to the German folktale, means we will have an early Spring!!!

I really do hope that Phil's right!

Forgot to acknowledge...

... the start of Black History Month in the United States!

Thursday Night

I had to stop at Farmer Jack's and pick something up for the weekend, so I did it Thursday on the way home from work. It's going to get WAY too cold this weekend, and I plan on hibernating!

Changed clothes and back routing the table. Finally got it done. Not the nice, tight fit I was trying for. If this was a piece of furniture, I'd be a little disappointed, but it's a workbench and its okay.

Next, I put down a plastic drop cloth and covered the bench several times with linseed oil. Looks great! Smells weird! I'll let that soak in overnight.

Now its 7:45 PM, so I abandon my plan to put the table and accessories on the band saw. I'm tired and HUNGRY! Popped the leftover bratwurst in the microwave, got more bread, mustard and onions, put everything together and went off to watch TV. I was going to do a load of laundry, but everything I took off the workbench is on top the washer and dryer, so I'm gonna just do it over the weekend, I guess.

Watched two taped shows (Boston Legal and House) and then went to bed. I'm not sure why, but I slept soundly through the night. I suspect it could have been the linseed oil fumes...

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Wednesday, and I'm baaaccckkk!

Captain K is officially back online. Website work continues, of course. Last I heard, I still need a front page, you can't post comments yet and I can't post recipes. But, be patient! It's coming!

Well, I figured out what to do about the suction device on the hobby vise. I bought a smooth 12 x 12 marble floor tile and a cheap router at lunch. So, I plan to inset the tile into the workbench top when I get home.

The vacuum cleaner store called and my filter is in, so I have to pick that up on the way home as well.

Arriving home, I change clothes and get the shop vacuum up and running (I will need it for all the sawdust. I do NOT plan on moving that table again (ever)! My back still hurts!!

So I put together the cheap router (Let me explain that. the cheapest router like it in a name brand or a regular store would cost you around $100. I got this on sale for $19.95. It was made in China (don't tell my Mom)and will fall apart, I'm sure, but if it lasts through this one application I will be happy). I nailed up some guides and went to work. Now, routing out a 12 inch x 12 inch spot about 1/4 deep with a 1/4 inch wide bit takes a while. So, I worked and I worked. A couple of the times things loosened and caused me grief. But, by doing two or three cuts at a time and vacuuming it out, I made good progress.

I quit around 8:00 PM with about three inches to go. I was tired, so I just made up a couple tortilla pizzas and watched TV until going to bed.

Tuesday...

Drive to work was bad. Snowing again (little tiny flakes, but a lot of them) and the roads were not plowed or salted in Livonia. Snow did taper off around noon and did not reappear, so going home wasn't bad.

Got out the stock pot and reheated it. Meanwhile, I'm chopping and dicing vegetables, then saut�ing them. I had poached some chicken breast way back when for something and had the two I didn't use in the freezer. I thawed them out and shredded them for more chicken. Put it all together, tasted it and re-seasoned it, added half a bag of wide egg noodles, then let it simmer.

Next, I lugged the workbench out to the garage. I got it all sanded, but blew out my back again doing it. Had to use the Dremel tool to enlarge the holes for the wood chisels (they were just a hair bigger than the �" dill hole I made), but its good practice for pipe carving, I figure.

Opened my new toys, and yes, they will all fit on the bench (whew!) But, I can't hard-mount the hobby vise and still have room to work. It did come with a suction base, but I'll need to mount a plastic or metal square to the table so it can suck.

I talked with my Mom. She was so intrigued with the tortilla pizza idea she's put the makings on her grocery list so she can try it. She said the doctors have removed all her bandages, so she's feeling a lot better.

Finally, it's dinner time. Very, very good! I especially like the herb mixture (this time, I used fresh thyme, finely chopped, fresh rosemary, a lot of fresh chopped parsley and a couple bay leaves).

After cleaning up, it was almost 9:00 PM and I figured if I started watching TV, I'd just fall asleep. So, I read a book instead (and fell asleep!)

Monday...

My back has been killing me all day. Overdid it over the weekend, I guess. Worse, I took all my pain meds home from work a while back...

Bitter cold, a wicked wind and snow started falling just as I left work (supposed to get 2 to 4 inches tonight and tomorrow). Stopped to get gas and checked all the tires (one was a bit low) but damn near froze to death doing that!

When I got home, I dug out the gallon-sized freezer bag that's filled with chicken bones (one fryer carcass and a lot of leg bones) and threw that in my stock pot. Added an onion, quartered (skin and all), two cloves of garlic I smashed (again with the skins on) any celery that had started to go limp and a half a bag of baby carrots that were turning white. Added a handful of fresh parsley (stalks and all), a lot of pepper and a little salt and covered it all with cold water.

Turned on the burner! Won't do me any good tonight, but once I let it simmer for several hours, strain it, let it cool and refrigerate it, I should be able to make some killer chicken noodle soup tomorrow.

I planned on sanding the workbench tonight, but I think common sense should prevail (not that I let it happen that often, lol!) and I chill out, take some Vicodin and let things calm down a bit.

For tonight's dinner, I grilled bratwurst on my indoor grill pan (vent on high). No buns, so I used sourdough bread. Being German, I never met a wurst I didn't like! (okay, I stole that line, but you get my drift.) And, as my beverage, I chose St. Pauli Girl Lager, imported from the St. Pauli Brauerei in Bremen, Germany. For two reason, actually: one, I seem to have a theme night going, and that's always fun; and, two, I am madly in love with the German barmaid pictured on the label. Oh mein Gott, what a Fr�ulein!

Watched TV, and checked on my chicken stock every so often. At 10:45 PM, I turned off the heat and poured the mixture into my metal colander, inside my biggest aluminum bowl. I then dumped all the "stuff" into a slightly smaller aluminum bowl to cool. Then I poured the liquid through a finer strainer, back into the stock pot.

At 11:15 PM, I donned two latex gloves (I keep a box of non-powdered latex gloves for gross things, ever since the chicken police showed up on the culinary scene) and began to pick out usable chicken bites from the mess. It always amazes me how much edible chicken is left! Those bits go back into the stock. The remaining "stuff" goes in the trash, the stock pot goes in the fridge and I wash up the oversized bowls and the colander.

I check outside weather conditions: only a dusting of snow so far. Maybe we dodged the bullet, again? After 58 Michigan winters, I can appreciate "dodging the bullet" every now and then! Ready for tomorrow's soup, I then retire for the night.