Sunday, September 30, 2007

I have GOT to try these!

German Apple Puff Pancake
(serves 2)

Recipe courtesy of Michelle Greenwald

1 large or 2 medium, firm apples such as Fuji, Braeburn, or Delicious

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup milk, at room temperature

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.

3. Peel the apples and cut into 1/4-inch slices.

4. Melt the butter in a skillet that's 8 or 9 inches at the base. Add the apple slices so they cover the bottom of the skillet completely. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over the apples. Saute the apples about 4 or 5 minutes, until they soften and become light golden brown on both sides.

5. Pour the batter over the apples and place the pan in the hot oven.

6. Bake approximately 18 minutes. Don't open the oven door while it's baking. Turn on your oven light to see if it's done. The pancake should no longer appear wet on top.

7. To serve, invert the pan over a large round plate. If using the pie plate or regular pan, run a spatula under the pancake before flipping to make sure the apples don't stick to the pan.

This song tears me up...

...every time I hear it!

Touch A Name On The Wall
~ Joel Mabus

Well, I guess you could call it our summer of freedom,
the year that we both turned eighteen -
We hitch-hiked to Denver, straight out of high school
man, we were sights to be seen.
And that was the year that you dated my cousin, 'til
they took us away in the fall.
Now I dearly wish you were standing here with me as
I touch your name on the wall.

Touch a name on the wall,
Touch a name on the wall.
God help us all
Touch a name on the wall.

Every time I come here I wear my fatigues, to honor
the men that I knew.
I touch every name that came from my outfit, and I
read them out loud when I do.
Now some people say that they all died for nothing,
but I don't completely agree -
'Cause this brother here didn't die for no country - He
died for me.

Touch a name on the wall,
Touch a name on the wall.
God help us all
Touch a name on the wall.

Now, usually walls are made for division
- to separate me from you.
But God bless the wall that brings us together,
and reminds us of what we've been through.
And God damn the liars and the tin-plated heroes who
trade on the blood of such men.
God give us the strength to stand up and tell them -
Never again!

Touch a name on the wall,
Touch a name on the wall.
God help us all
Touch a name on the wall.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Strange Saturday

Slept lousy, finally gave up on getting any real rest and got up at 7:00 AM. It's chilly outside (47 degrees F. or 8 C.) but I knew it would be, because the furnace kicked on during the night. None the less, I put on a pot of coffee, threw on my clothes and went outside. There are an awful lot of birds milling around the feeder, but no seed.

After doing my duty to the birds and squirrels, I came inside. Coffee was done, so I had a cup and contemplated breakfast. I'm not sure I'm really hungry as I had a snack around 2:30 AM. An interesting snack, too, BTW. I may have invented something (or maybe people have been eating this for years).

Remember, all the leftovers were gone, so I made roast beef. I didn't want to eat any of that because I'm planning on using those leftovers for either roast beef hash or French dip sandwiches. So, there's not much to work with. Hmmm... how about a cheese sandwich? Nah, too bland. Hey wait a minute, there's still a few of those Vlasic dill pickle Stackers left! That might kick it up a notch! For those of you not familiar with them, Stackers are dill pickles cut lengthwise (so they are long and flat) rather than crosswise (which gives you the more traditional hamburger dill chip pickle).

So, I put yellow mustard on two slices of Italian bread, then took some American cheese slices and some Stacker pickles and made a sandwich. But I'm looking at it and it looks b-o-r-i-n-g! So, I buttered the outside and grilled it in a frying pan. Voila!!! It looked great and tasted pretty good (crispy, crunchy, warm and cheesy). I think the CaptainK Midnight Stacker Snack Sandwich was just born (unless of course, as I said before, people been making these for years and I'm just late to the party!)

Anyway, gave up on breakfast, got another cup of coffee and sat on the front porch drinking it, after wiping off the rocker (Lu had mentioned it was covered with dust, and so it was. Hey, I live on a dirt road, what can I say?). I rocked and watched the leaves and the nuts falling out of the black walnut tree. The nuts make a loud thump and bounce as much as a foot when they hit the ground.

Amusing sidebar: Normally, the squirrels either ignore me or run up the nearest tree when I first come out. But, today, a feisty black squirrel sat on the ground under the walnut tree and chattered a long challenge to me. I ignored him and then a nut fell out of the tree and landed with a thud about 6 inches from him. He took off like a rocket up into the tree and I yelled after him, "Hey, mess with me some more and I'll do that again!" (Good times, good times, lol!)

Finished my coffee and went in to perform my morning ablutions. Then, I'm off, running errands. Stopped at that meat market I told you about before and got another pound of hunter sausage. Big difference today, though. The last time it was 5:30 PM on a weekday and I was the only customer, served by one guy who also rang up my purchase. This time I had to wait over five minutes for just a parking spot! Inside was PACKED and you had to take a number. Since I had the time, I looked around and discovered this is an old-time neighborhood Polish meat market (they even had the Polish Times newspapers on the counter) There were 5 butchers and one woman at the checkout register. Everybody seemed to know everybody and the butchers joked with the customers, and the customers kidded back. And, whatever cut of meat a person asked for (not the hunter sausage, of course), the butcher would hold it up in his bare hands (no sissy plastic gloves here) and let the person inspect it and approve. God, I LOVE this place!

On the way back, I stopped at the fish store I'd found in the Yellow Pages. There was one guy behind the counter, reading the paper. When he started to stand, I said, "No, sit back down. I'm not here to buy anything; I pass by here a lot and just wanted to see what you carry." He said, "We've been here over 20 years, and we will also cook the fish for you if you like." Okay, now I know where I can go and get a whole trout or some smelt, but it was just one long display case, the shrimp looked a bit tired and they didn't even have any scallops. So, I am still in need of a fish monger! (Carla, HELP!)

Then, back to the gas station by my house (for gas for the lawn mower), the CVS Pharmacy for two prescriptions and the quarter car wash (I gotta look good at the party tomorrow, right?) When I got back home in my garage (driving slowly so as not to raise any dust on the wet car) I got out a towel and dried the car off.

I took that towel (and all the other used ones), along with my dirty clothes and started a load of laundry. Now I'm back on housecleaning duty. Started in the main bathroom (the only room left I had originally slated for a "deep cleaning" - every other room was done last week and just needs touching up). BTW, it's supposed to be a high of 74 degrees F. today, so I have the furnace turned off and all the windows open, airing the place out (which later proved to be a terrible mistake).

So, now I pulled the lawn mower out of its hiding space and started to cut the lawn. It's a more tedious process this time, as I am only cutting in a way that always blows the leaves, grass clippings and dust outward to the edges of my property. So, there is a lot of wasted time (and gas) driving around without the blade engaged, moving to the next spot. Okay, front lawn first, then the back.

Damn, but this thing throws the dust! I really need to find out what the mulching attachment costs (they don't sell it at Lowes, but Troy-Bilt does make one). Well, I finished up around 4:00 PM and I am covered with dirt, except for where my glasses were - I look like a damn raccoon or something! The lawn mower is filthy, the patio is filthy, the reflecting pool is filthy, even my clothes and Crocs are filthy!

So, I get out the blower and clean myself up, and then the mower. I put it away and do the front porch and drive. Next, I move back to the patio. It's REALLY bad back here, so after I blow away the big stuff, I get out the hose and hose everything (furniture, concrete slab, bird bath, etc.) down.

Then I come inside and see just what I didn't want to see. Because I'd left the windows all open, there is probably a 1/8 inch layer of black dust everywhere on the back room floor! Auuggghhhh! Well, first thing first. I took a shower (my second of the day if you're counting) and threw my clothes in the laundry basket.

Next, I cut up the remaining six or seven redskin potatoes into bite-size chunks and put them on to boil. I grabbed the vacuum while they were on the stove and cleaned the downstairs. Then I sliced and diced some sweet onions and some radishes and put them in a bowl. When the potatoes were fork-tender, I drained them and put them in the fridge to cool.

Next I washed the downstairs floor and left it to dry. So, clean, tired and with dinner more or less taken care of, I retired to my bed and book to read and then (hopefully) nap at 5:00 PM.

I woke up just before 7:00 PM. I cut four ribs off the half slab I'd frozen a while ago. The I took the potatoes, radishes, onions and two hard boiled eggs (sliced up) and mixed them all together. Next I made a simple dressing of mayo, milk, yellow mustard, more house seasoning and some dried parsley flakes. I tossed it all together with the cut up veggies, and they all went back in the fridge while I went back in my bedroom and watched a show on the "Military" channel about the US Army's 10th Mountain Division. Interesting!

It still amazes me how young the soldiers in WW II were (I mean like the lieutenants were say, 20 years old) and how naive. I mean, to know you were going to climb up a mountain ridge and be exposed to the German 88's (a gun originally developed for anti-aircraft, but then later used as deadly accurate, devastating field artillery) and just do it? What a bunch of guys! Hell, what a generation!

So, now its nearly 9:00 PM and the potato salad is cold. I put the ribs on a plate and microwave them. I top them with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce on my plate; add a good helping of potato salad and go off to watch more TV.

And. thus ends the night at Casa San Jose. Mi casa es su casa (but nobody gets a key, baby!)

The next response to my playing with poetry

This was the next post in that poetry group:


Re: Waiting in the Dark

Keep your eyes open for miracles
and the lighting of the way
It's true that God can hear you
but He don't always answer when we pray.

*smile* So I am glad that John was here
to send an answer to your prayer
And I hope that darkness no longer
holds you captive in its lair.

Keep the hope forever flowing
and the darkness will soon rise
And know that the sun is shining
to again dance inside your eyes.

Sending happy thoughts to all who need them!
HUGS!!! ~Jaymi

Finally Friday

Thursday night, I dug out a roast from the freezer and thawed it overnight. So, first thing Friday morning, I started peeling potatoes (this time I used Russets. They seem to stand up to long, slow cooking best.) I cut the peeled potatoes into as uniform chunks as I could. Then I peeled three carrots and cut them on the bias. Next I peeled three smaller onions and left them whole.

All these went into the slow cooker. They were topped by the roast, after I seasoned it with house seasoning. I arranged all the whole mushrooms (both Crimini and white) I could fit in around the roast. I topped the roast with fresh sliced onion rings and threw a handful of fresh-picked herbs (thyme, oregano and rosemary) on top of everything. I added a half cup of beef stock, put on the lid, turned the knob to LOW and then got dressed for work.

So, when I got home, I was welcomed by the wonderful smell of roast beef. I turned the slow cooker to warm and changed clothes. I have some routine chores to do before dinner (of course).

First, I watered all the container gardens. Remember me telling you how one squirrel dug up the sweet potato vine in the tree box and buried a black walnut there earlier this year? Well, either that squirrel or a bunch of squirrels must have decided that was a great idea, because when I went to water the box, it was LOADED with black walnuts! I took some pictures and posted them so you can see what I mean. I did remove them all and piled them in the lawn for the squirrels to bury elsewhere.

Then I ate dinner. Roast was perfect, tender and moist and the veggies and mushrooms had a great flavor. Only complaint I had was that I put in too much Rosemary, so I didn't really taste the other herbs. Oh well, something else to remember for next time. I finished up just after 8:00 PM.

I watched TV until 10:00 and then switched to reading and sleep. Woke up at 1:00 AM and, since I was up anyway, decided to post this. Going back to bed now.

Friday, September 28, 2007

photo

The squirrel's newly-designated safety deposit site for their Winter food storage

photo

Who are they kidding? These are NOT buried!!!

Do-Nothing Thursday

This post should be easy, lol! I went home, changed clothes and did nothing! I ate the last two leftover hamburgers for dinner, watched taped TV shows, read a little and went to bed early.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Playing in one of my Poetry Groups

This is a post I wrote yesterday in response to a poem one of the members of one of my poetry groups wrote. Her poem is first.

Re: Waiting in the Dark

Playing God, here, Joyce, lol!

WAITING IN THE DARK

The woe's of the world are on my shoulders
There are so many I can not see!

Take them away, Dear Lord I pray.
Keep them away for many a day.

I wait for an answer, I can not see,
How on Earth the Lord can help me.

I know he's out there, I know in my heart,
But, oh Dear Lord, it's mighty dark.

Help me I plead on bended knees,
I raise my hands in silent plea.

I know he will answer, I just have to wait


and that my friends is where I will leave this poem for now...
it isn't finished yet, I'm still waiting.

Joyce Gosdin
9/24/2007


WAITING IN THE DARK: THE ANSWER

I know you've been burdened
with this world's sorrows and woe...

But you need to bear them today,
since I cannot yet take them away.

How on earth can I help you, you have asked?
To withstand them all is only your task!

Fear not the darkness, holding you in its sway!
It's darkest before dawn, as the sages say.

Rise off your knees, my daughter dear,
Stand tall against all the troubles you fear!

So, this is your answer: this too shall pass...

� John C. Goerlich 9/27/07

Wet Wednesday

It rained off and on throughout the day, today. So, when I got home, I still had my Wednesday night chores of filling the bird feeder, the squirrel feeder and the suet cage, but I got to do them in the rain.

Lu showed up around 6:00 PM. She's staying one extra night because she couldn't get through to Sue and confirm her plans. So, she went to take a shower and I started a simple dinner.

I cut up maybe four or five cups total of bite-sized broccoli and cauliflower florets and set them aside. I grated about two cups of Parmigiano-Reggiano (remember, this recipe may call for just plain grated parmesan from a can, but I am out of it!) and put that in a shallow, wide bowl. I put about 1/4 inch of oil in a large, cast iron frying pan and set that on medium high heat. Next to the pan on the stove, I set up my usual draining station: a rack on paper towels in a cookie sheet.

Then I whisked two eggs together in a big pan. When the oil was ready, I dumped the florets into the egg and tossed them around to evenly coat. I took a floret, coated it with the grated cheese and put it in the oil. I let them fry about three minutes a side, until they formed a nice golden crust (you only turn them when they easily release from the bottom of the pan). I worked in small batches to give each piece plenty of room and when each batch were done, I set them on the draining rack and lightly salted them.

When I had them all done and cooling, I opened a bag of baby spinach and put it in a big bowl. Then I made a quick vinaigrette of lemon zest, the juice of one lemon, 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper, whisked together. I drizzled it over the spinach then tossed to coat. I filled two plates with the spinach salad, topped each with some broccoli and cauliflower and we dug in.

Not bad, not bad at all. I thought the vinaigrette was a bit tart (well, lemon? Duh!) but it was nicely offset by the fried veggies. Lu's verdict? Well, I had one big bowl and she had two, so I think she liked it.

After cleanup, we sat in the living room and talked until we both started to yawn (I think I was first, but I didn't sleep well Wednesday night). Nothing was on TV, so it was off to books and beds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesday Night's Snore

I got home from work on Tuesday, and was really tired. I was going to switch out some more door knobs, but it suddenly seemed like WAY too much work.

Melissa had called (she always calls about 15 minutes BEFORE I get home. Why? I dunno. You'd think she'd realize that an office worker with a typical 9 to 5 job wouldn't be home before 5:00 PM. Oh well...) so I called her back. Then she called me back and we talked for quite a while.

Anyway, big news! They may be closing on their house this week! Dustin and Linnea are already scouting possible rentals for them down in North Carolina, so things are moving right along.

After that conversation (and one other one) I made dinner. I cooked the last thawed four strips of bacon in the microwave (without burning it, Carl!) and then warmed up two hamburgers. Sesame seed buns, some mustard and mayo, the burgers and the bacon and dinner was done.

I watched taped TV shows until I fell asleep (probably no later than 9:30 PM). So, all in all, a pretty boring night, but I think I needed the rest.

I dug out an old poem or two

In one of my poetry groups on the net, they were asking for seasonal poems (old or new) so I dug out these two. And, yes, you could go to the "poetry" section and just read them, but I haven't even thought about them for a long, long time. I realized how much I still like them and just thought I would share them again with you, dear readers.

AUTUMN

The bite of the air and the crackle of leaves,
The smell of the woodsmoke as it curls 'round the eaves.
As the lead goose calls, the rest honk their consent
While the frost-wilted flowers nod a summer's lament.

And I, too, nod and lament the late summers passing.
And relish not the winter's soon trespassing
Into my yard, my life, my love and my rhyme...
For winter and death close the circle of time.

THE LAST LEAF

I watched the last leaf fall from the maple today.
It sailed on the brisk breeze, in a slow motion free-fall.
Finally touching down, then rolling, rolling,
till it landed on the water in the ditch.

It floated sanguine and serene on the water,
it's upturned stem like a Viking ship's prow.
The curled up sides looking like swan wings
as it made the journey to its final destiny.

Why does Fall make me so sad?
I love the smell of burning leaves,
the cool crisp air, the riotous, rampant colorings
and the interplay between wind and sky.

But, as Canada geese honk their farewells,
I feel my own mortality and the life that passed me by,
My story left unwritten, just blank pages in a dusty, unopened book.
The autumn of my years, it's too late to change my life now...

And I watch as the leaf surges, strains and then swirls into the storm drain...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Gourmet Monday

Well, sure enough, Lu was waiting in my driveway when I got home. I helped her carry some things in and, while she was parking her truck in the garage and rearranging it, I changed clothes.

We chatted a while, went outside so I could show her all my gardens (she missed them the last time - of course they all look pretty shabby now), she grabbed all the ripe Roma tomatoes and then it was back inside and I started dinner.

I slowly warmed up the shrimp bisque I made Sunday and started to make the entr�e. First I scrambled 10 large eggs and a pinch of salt with a whisk and set them aside. I used my mandoline to slice three small zucchini squash into 1/8 inch slices. I melted some butter over medium heat in my non-stick, oven-proof pan and when it foamed, I tossed in the squash and a little salt. I saut�ed it for about 30 seconds, then tossed in two tablespoons each of chopped fresh oregano and flat leaf parsley and saut�ed all that for another 30 seconds. Then I poured in the eggs, stirring everything to get the eggs mixed in with the squash. I let that cook over medium-low heat for about 3 - 4 minutes, using a spatula to pull the cooked eggs from the sides of the pan and let the runny egg get down the sides. When it had set up except for the top, I crumbled up 5 ounces of plain goat cheese on top (no stirring now!) and let it cook another minute or so, then stuck the pan in the oven under the broiler until the top was golden brown.

Lu had brought a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (she drinks a glass of wine a night for health reasons) so we each had a glass with dinner.

I took out the pan and let it rest, covered on the stove, while I served the soup. I garnished each bowl with a little orange zest and some snipped chives. Lu seemed to really like it, but I thought the shrimp were a little tougher than the first time I made this. Of course, the first time I made it, I ate it right away. This time I made it, let it set in the fridge overnight, and then reheated it. Thinking about it, next time if I'm not going to serve it immediately, I'll wait and not cook the shrimp until just before serving. Oh well, live and learn.

Next, the moment of truth. Can I get the zucchini and goat cheese frittata out of the pan, whole? It's all in the presentation, right? Yes!! I did it!!! Slid it onto the plate, garnished it with a little more flat leaf parsley and cut it into six wedges.

Hmmm... This one's a little tougher for us to critique. It's very mild (only seasoning was there herbs and a little salt, not even pepper), the zucchini is crunchy (a bit unusual, but not bad, actually), the goat cheese adds a definitely different flavor and, while the eggs crust was about perfect, there's not too much "egg" flavor in the zucchini. I think next time I make it; I would back off just a bit on the amount of zucchini and stir much more to incorporate the eggs throughout.

We cleaned up the dishes and then sat in the living room and talked until after 8:00 PM. Then we watched a Hallmark movie I'd taped. Luanne went off to bed and I read until about 11:00, when I noticed I was nodding off, so I, too, went to sleep.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sunday's tale

I got up Sunday morning, skipped breakfast and went right to work. I'll have a big brunch later, I've decided. Today's emphasis will be to clean the house from top to bottom as well as watering the front lawn!

I started in the living room, dusted everything, vacuuming the rug and used the vacuum's attachment to clean the cat hair off the couch, the loveseat and the chairs. Then I used my dust mop (sprayed with End Dust) and mopped every nook and cranny. Now, you need to remember that throughout the morning, I am also running outside every time the timer goes off, shutting off the water, moving the sprinkler, turning the water back on and resetting the timer.

Next, I moved the chairs out of the kitchen and swept, then mopped the downstairs bath room, the downstairs itself and the kitchen. Now I'm trapped in the bedrooms until the floors dry. So, I cleaned them both (dusting, sweeping, mopping, etc.) The biggest challenge was picking up all the tools, screws, and miscellaneous hardware that seemed to be everywhere.

Now the floors are dry, it's almost noon and I am STARVING! So, I made my grandson Joe's favorite, white sausage gravy and biscuits and ate way too much of it. While I was thinking about it, I went outside and cut most of the rosemary and fennel, made two bundles of them and hung them in the kitchen to dry.

I started shelling 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp. I thought I'd make shrimp bisque for Lu's dinner tomorrow. That is about a two hour process that I believe I explained in the Blog when I made it the first time, so I won't go over it again. But, my favorite part is adding the 1/4 cup of brandy and lighting it on fire. That's cool!!!

My neighbor came over with three green tomatoes for me, so when the soup was done, I decided to make fried green tomatoes for dinner. I sliced them and put them in buttermilk, then mixed a cup of flour with a cup of cornmeal and some salt and pepper. I heated about 1/4 inch of oil in a cast iron pan and, after dredging them in the flour/cornmeal mix, fried them up. They were definitely tart, I'll tell you that!

So, it's now after 8:00 PM, I've accomplished all my missions and I'm tired, so I quit for the night. There was NOTHING on TV, so I read my book until I fell asleep.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sweet Memories of Maple Syrup

Long time readers may remember, but there was a time when the plan was for me and my family to live with my Mother on our old family farm. Upon Mom's death (is that a joke or what? She'll be 100 years old in seven days!) I'd buy the place from the estate and live there until I, too, died. Well, my sister Anne's suicide changed all of that, but this is a memory before that terrible time...

The farm was 40 acres, narrow and deep. To get to the back field and the woods you had to cross a crick (yes, we called it the crick, not the creek) on a cement bridge somebody (my Dad, the people before him?) had built. In midsummer, the crick was just a trickle of water (it drained all the fields) but in Spring, it could be a raging torrent and, when we were kids, my brother Joe, myself and Anne used to swim in it.

Back in the woods, I was always fascinated by a cement structure, rotting in the leaves. I pictured it a Roman or Greek ruin, but was told it was the foundation for the fire pit where they would render down maple syrup. Most of the woods, hell, even the massive trees in front of the house, were all sugar maples.

So, when Luanne, Jeremy and I moved back home, I rebuilt the chicken house to house chickens, goats (which I never bought) and pigs (which I did) and, come Spring, I was determined to make maple syrup.

I had no idea where to buy the thingies that you put in the hole to drain the sap and hold the buckets, so I bought 3/8 galvanized pipe sections and couplers. I drilled each tree out front in three spots (according to Mother Earth News, the homesteading bible at the time, that size tree could easily support that many holes) pounded in the pipes and hung buckets on them. Sure enough, each day the buckets were full!

Now, if you had NO experience with maple syrup production, (like me), you would expect the sap to be thick. Nay, nay! It was like milky water! I would empty the sap into milk jugs that I then placed in an unused chest freezer (to keep cool until I had enough).

Okay, so what to put the syrup in? I had a brilliant idea (even now I still think it was brilliant, lol!) I wasn't drinking in those days (a fact my wife at the time proudly announced to everybody who would listen) but I asked everybody I knew to save me any empty pint bottles of booze they might have. I put them in a big box in the garage.

Sidebar: Somewhere during that time, my sister Anne took me aside and said, "Hey what's going on? I thought you quit drinking!" I said (puzzled), "I did, why?" She said, "Then how do you explain all those whiskey bottles in the garage?" I laughed my ass off, although she didn't think it was all that funny. Women!

So, anyway, finally it was the big day. I had scrounged a big 3 inch deep stainless steel pan (maybe 3 foot by 4 foot) from somewhere. I set it on top of two rows of cement blocks, built a fire under it and filled it with the first of many, many jugs of sap. I stuck a candy thermometer in it (now days I'd use my digital thermometer, lol, but they didn't have them back then) and kept refilling the pan with fresh sap.

Two things to note: You can't do this inside, say, in your kitchen. The steam itself is sugary-sticky and would trash the whole place. And, the difference between maple syrup and maple sugar is like five or ten degrees! You really have to watch it!!!

But, I did. And, finally it was done. I filled the pint bottles with the wonderful syrup, banged in corks I'd bought at the hardware store, then dipped the cork and bottle end into melted paraffin. Damn, but it looked cool! I gave some out to my family and friends, but hoarded most of it.

And, that's the maple syrup story...

photo

The mower's spot when I need both sides of the garage.

Saturday's Strife

Woke up at 7:30 AM without the alarm. I got a lot of things I want to accomplish today, and, who knows, maybe I'll get them all done. I thought about breakfast, but decided coffee was enough.

After two cups, I put all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and then blended together the now-softened butter and basil with a fork. Next, I put down a piece of tin foil, covered by a piece of Saran Wrap. Using a spatula, I transferred the butter mixture to the middle of the Saran Wrap, trying to shape it as best as I could into a log. When I had it all on there, I rolled it up and put the package in the fridge. What ever I don't use for this recipe, I'll put in the freezer. Compound butters will last a l-o-n-g time if frozen.

Then I got shaved, showered and dressed. I reviewed and approved my list of both errands and grocery items, refilled Scruff's food and water dishes, opened all my windows, shut of the A/C (it's an absolutely perfect Fall-ish day with a nice West wind and only supposed to get to a high of 75 degrees F. So, time to air the place out before shutting it up for the long, Michigan winter) and then I headed out.

First I stopped at the bank to get some money out of the ATM, and then drove to the eye doctor's. I may or may not have mentioned that on Tuesday night, I fell asleep watching TV (as usual) and, when I woke up, I'd broken the little fishing line that held my right lense in. I've been wearing my older pair of glasses ever since. I got there just after 9:30 AM. But, it took her almost 30 minutes to fix them! I felt bad, thinking I'd really jacked them around. But, when I apologized, she said it was her bi-focals that hindered her putting the translucent line into the two small holes. Hey, I can thoroughly understand that!

Now I'm off to Meijers. I got everything I needed there, and then headed back home so the perishables wouldn't be sitting in the trunk while I finished my errands. I put everything away, and then headed back out. I tried to drop off the last check to my lawn-lady, but nobody was home.

Next came the library and my usual two-week exchange of books. Then, I drove down Five Mile to the feed store for bird seed and suet. It was there that my knee suddenly gave out, and, if it wasn't for my cane and the shelves I grabbed onto, I would have fallen. I had noticed both my knees were hurting before, but thought it was just odd, nothing to be concerned about. But now it dawned on me: I forgot to take my pills this morning!

Okay, stupid, let's get through this and get to those pills. So, last stop was Westborn for fresh veggies. As I think I mentioned, I have Lu here Monday and Tuesday for dinner, so the menu must include something a vegetarian would enjoy.

Made it home just before 1:00 PM, took my pills, put everything away, started a load of laundry and decided to lay down for a while to let the pills work (nap time!) I started reading to fall asleep, but after a while, I realized I was more hungry than sleepy. So, I got back up and made myself a tuna fish sandwich (just drained tuna, diced onion and celery, house seasoning and a bit of mayo). I put the empty (almost) can of tuna on the floor for Scruffy, but, ironically, I had to wake him up from his more successful nap on my bed to eat it!

I did eventually fall asleep, woke up at 3:30 and got back to work. I put the clothes in the dryer, and then went out to straighten up both workbenches. I used the blower to get the sawdust out the garage door. Then I hopped on the mower to cut the front lawn (trying to blow the leaves onto the driveway from each side).

When I was doing that, Tonya (the lawn cutting lady down the street), walked over. She asked if I liked cream of broccoli soup, because she'd made too much. I said, "Sure, and I have your check. I tried to drop it off this morning but nobody was home." She suggested a trade and left to go get the soup. I went inside and got her check and we did, in fact, meet in the road and traded. She said this was her first time making it, and she thought it was a bit too thin and asked me to let her know what I thought of it, so I told her I would. Apparently, there are no hard feelings about me stopping her service, which is good. I like having neighbors who like me (and watch over my place, etc.)

I put the baggie of soup in the deep freeze and went back to work, blowing the leaves and grass clippings out into the road. Sidebar: B___ told me if I did that in his neighborhood, I'd get a fine. But I've always done that (ignorant that it was somehow wrong) since I moved here. Maybe it's because I live on a dirt road, but the cars drive over it, the wind disperses it and in a couple of days, it's disappeared! Perfect!

So, that being done, I tried to fit the mower in between the two workbenches. Why is that important? Because I want to be able to put two vehicles (my car and Jake & Carla's, or Luanne's, or B___? Who knows? Who cares?) in the garage if needed. If it doesn't fit, I'll have to build a shed on the concrete pad where the trailers are. But, as luck would have it, it fit! (See photos)

Now, it's after 6:00 PM and I am thinking about dinner. So, I cut up a large sweet onion into 1/2 inch sections and put only the perfect rings into buttermilk. The rest I saved in a baggie for some other dish. Next I took 2 pounds of ground chuck and made it into six burger patties. I made a hollow in each patty and added a chunk of blue cheese and a slice of the basil compound butter. Then I worked the patty in my hands until the additions were firmly in the middle (I hope, lol). I seasoned them on both sides with the house seasoning and let them rest.

I fired up the charcoal in the grill and waited until it was the perfect temperature. I cooked the burgers three minutes a side. I usually cook them four minutes for medium rare, but these will be sitting in the oven on "Warm" for a while, until the onion rings are done. When they were done, I did indeed park them in the oven and then started the onion rings.

So, I've got my mise-en-place set up for the onion rings: the rings themselves, sitting in buttermilk (for a minimum of an hour), a bowl of flour and house seasoning, a bowl with one cup of flour and one can of warm beer whisked together and my cast iron dutch oven, filled with four cups of canola oil, heated to 350 degrees F. On the other side of the dutch oven is a cookie sheet, lined with paper towels and topped with a rack.

Oh, oh! Ran into a problem. I'm supposed to dust the onion rings when they come out of the oil with salt (no problem) and grated parmesan cheese (where the hell is that damn green cardboard can when you need it? The answer? No where!) So, I got out the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the box grater and, using the fine side, grated a half a cup of cheese. These have now officially turned into very expensive, gourmet onion rings!

So, it was grab an onion ring, shake off the buttermilk, dredge it in the flour mixture, shake off the flour, dip it in the batter, let it drain a bit, then drop it in the oil. I worked slowly, only doing three or four at a time because you don't want to crowd them or they will stick together (if you've ever ordered onion rings in a restaurant, you know what I'm talking about). When they were done, I took them out, put them on the rack to drain the grease, and sprinkled them with the salt and cheese.

Oh, but they were a thing of beauty! And, (I am so proud of myself) I only made three more than I ate! I am getting this "cooking for one" shit DOWN!

Seriously, the burgers were fantastic (with just yellow mustard and real mayo on sesame seed buns) and the onions rings (golden brown) were the best I ever had.

I decided the mess could be cleaned up in the morning and went out to hook up the back garden sprinkler. 30 minutes later (in the dark) I disconnected it, came back inside (fat and happy) and grabbed a new library book out of the bag. I read (with my glasses OFF) until I fell asleep. You may have observed that I never mentioned shutting any of the windows (because I didn't), so the 4:30 AM train whistle woke me up, bleary-eyed (as opposed to bright-eyed) but still bushy-tailed, ready to start my Sunday.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday Fun

Today was my department's company picnic, but instead of going for the food and companionship, I decided to run errands. So, I ate fish and chips at Murphy's Bar and Grille (double tartar sauce and malt vinegar for the fries, of course). Then I went next door to the hardware store and after some looking, found the 1 1/2 length screws I needed to replace the 1 inch screws that came with the new metal knobs. I still had some time left, so I drove up, then down the length of Hynes Park to get back to work. It's still freakishly warm here (85 degrees F. and, for the end of September in Michigan, that's weird!) and the joggers and bicyclists were out in droves.

I debated long and hard about going grocery shopping at Meijer's right after work. But, it's always crowded on Friday night and, for some reason, I'm tired today. So, I just went home.

After changing clothes, I started replacing the dresser knobs, sitting on a chair to give my leg a break.

Finished up just before 7:00 PM and went outside to hook up the back sprinkler. I decided I should take a moment and check and see if I was getting any reaction from the grass seed I'd spread. So, I walked out back and, sure enough, young grass has sprouted. While I was there, I picked all the ripe Roma tomatoes. I also notice one of the roses has re-blossomed! On my way into the house, I stopped and picked all the remaining, non-blemished basil leaves.

I took the basil leaves and stacked them up, rolled them tight, and then used my Shun knife to chiffinade them (Mom, that means cut them super thin, but since they are rolled up, they come out in long strips). I put them in a bowl along with a stick of unsalted butter, so the butter can soften and I can make a compound butter for something I want to try over the weekend.

So, when the timer went off, I went out back, first tearing apart all my leftover bread, hot dog and hamburger buns for the birds. I put in a suet cake and refilled the bird feeder. Note: when I got out the suet cake from the fridge, I found a plastic bag with three catfish filets I'd bought two weeks ago. Damn! I HATE to waste food (is it because I am a fallen-away Catholic and view it as a sin, or just because I know just how many people there are in the world, even in the United States, who don't have enough to eat, that this really bothers me?) I dunno. But I know it pissed me off to have to just throw them away!

While I was out there, I took a picture of the new grass and the new blooms on the mini-rose. I posted them, but you will probably have to click on them to enlarge and see the detail. Then use your Browser's "back" button to get back to my Blog (assuming, of course, that you want to come back, lol). On my way back in, I stuck the end of the hose in the reflecting pool and turned the water on half way. I set the timer for 20 minutes.

I went in and updated this edition of the Blog until the timer went off again. Then I went out and re-coiled the hose after turning it off. It's 8:01 PM and I've decided I am done for the day!!!

Dinner tonight is the last of the lamb pot pie and more Guinness. Then TV until I fell asleep. I woke up just after one o'clock in the morning, decided to finish this and now I'm going back to bed.

Friday, September 21, 2007

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This year's new rose, re-flowered (is that a word?)

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Bald spot in the grass from the wood chips, filling in...

Thursday at the cottage

It was an unusual day today. At lunch I picked up 16 new metal knobs for my dresser. The old wood ones were just held on by a coarse-thread wood screw and (after 10 years) have begun to pull off. Then, I had a 3:30 PM meeting with all my brothers out at the cottage in Lake Orion. It was a beautiful day to be out at the cottage, BTW. 82 degrees, sunny and the lake was as smooth as glass.

The social worker and nurse that have been taking care of my Mother out there know that she's moving back to New Baltimore on Tuesday. They really wanted to keep taking care of her, but the distance is too great (62 miles one way) so they came up with a plan on transferring her case to a nearby provider and wanted to share it with all of us and get our buy in. Naturally we had questions (well, Joe did) but in the end, anything that keeps Mom happy and at home is something we all are in agreement with.

In spite of my brother Carl's invitation (the smart-*ss suggested that maybe I could make some bacon) I did not stay for dinner. I left just before 5:00 PM and got home just before 6:30. Oddly enough, I talked with both my sons on the phone tonight (is it National Sons: Call Your Father Day and nobody told me?)

After changing clothes, I began moving all the paint and associated stuff out of the garage and into the downstairs closet (so it won't freeze over the winter and degrade). Last year I put it all in that same closet, but just on the floor and the top of that antique server Jake had in there. But, I had to move it all out when Jake and Carla stayed here for the month before they got their new house. I did take and post a picture so you will understand what I'm talking about.

Then I moved onto the dresser knobs. Got the drill motor and a bit out and was ready for the project, but the first knob stopped me cold. The screw that comes with the knob is too short! So, I had to put that all on hold until I get 16 longer screws!

I hooked up the back sprinkler and set the timer, then went looking for something to eat. I settled on the last two hot dogs and an ear of sweet corn.

When the timer went off and I went outside (in the dark) to unhook the sprinkler, I saw my next door neighbors in their garden with flashlights, picking something. I called out, "Boy, you must really want some tomatoes!" They laughed and explained someone at the wife's work had given her a recipe for fried green tomatoes and they wanted to try them. So, we chatted a bit about different batters and frying techniques.

I went back inside and watched a taped show, then went to bed, still thinking about fried green tomatoes.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

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The new plastic shelves, with all my leftover paint, stain and varnish supplies on them

Wednesday's Hunt for Hunter Sausage

Funny sidebar: Jake and I both have a big Jones for the hunter sausage that the Smoke House (a small butcher shop/party store located near our old, old house on Palms Road in Columbus) makes. So whenever either of us gets up that way, we make a side trip and pick up a couple of pounds of it. About two feet long and an inch thick, linked together by the casing, it is the perfect snack, especially with beer. Fresh, they are a little greasy, but hung up to dry for a week or so, they make a satisfying crunch when you bite them. And, the taste? Oh my! I always brought a ton of them back in the day when Leon, B___ and I (and, eventually, Jake) went bow hunting for whitetail deer.

Anyway, Jake's been fantasizing about them recently (probably because it's close to deer hunting season). He finally gave up and located a Kowalski store nearby that advertised them. He said the taste was about right, but they are only 8 inches long and maybe a half inch thick. He is experimenting to see if, left out to dry, they will get the right consistency. But, all his talk got my mouth watering, too.

But, I wanted something more like the ones from the Smoke House. So, I searched online for a nearby butcher and found one at Telegraph and Joy Road (about two miles from here). I read the reviews and they said they had "sausage to die for!" So, tonight, I went there after work, and, yes, it is an old time butcher market (now I know where to go to get specialty cuts of meat). But, when I asked the butcher if they had hunter sausage, he said, "Yes, right over there." I looked and they were about 8 inches long and maybe a half inch thick. I asked, "Do you make them yourself?" and he said, "No, they are the Kowalski brand." I bought a pound, but made a solemn vow: Dammit! The search is still on!

When I got home, I folded the clothes in the dryer and then put together a plastic shelving unit I picked up for the downstairs closet (its just wasted space right now).

Then I got out the blower and blew the dust and grass off the two back patios the concrete pad under the picnic table and the pad under the trailers. I noticed just how dusty everything was on the patio, so I took the hose and rinsed off the chair, tables and the pad itself. Then I hooked up the hose to feed the back sprinkler and, at 8:15 PM went inside.

I set the timer for the sprinkler and warmed up to big pieces of the Irish pot pie. This time I did enjoy it with a pint of Guinness (it sounded so good when I wrote that yesterday; I picked some up on the way home).

I turned off the sprinkler in the dark and disconnected it. Then I watched TV until bedtime.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Non-pirate Quote of the Day

"A true friend will stab you in the front!"

~ Oscar Wilde

In honor of the day - a pirate joke!

So a pirate walks into a bar, okay, and swaggers up to the barkeep and
demands a glass of rum. I believe his exact words were "Your rum or your life, dog, what'll it be?".

And so the bartender, being a reasonable fellow, makes no complaint but simply grabs a large glass, a bottle of fine dark rum, and begins to pour. And while he's waiting for the glass to fill (this being, as I said before, a large glass) he sizes up the pirate, having never seen a real honest-to-God pirate before.

This pirate is in full pirate gear. Gold earrings, patch over the eye, a big filthy white blouse covering his swarthy chest, tattoos everywhere, all of it. But protruding from his pirate trousers is the unmistakable form of a steering wheel.

Well, the bartender sees that the glass of rum is just about topped off, so he passes the glass across the bar to the pirate, who nods curtly and takes a huge swig of the rum. Slapping a doubloon on the bar top, he turns to walk away, when our bartender's curiosity gets the best of him.

"Wait, one second. What's up with the steering wheel?"

And the pirate turns back and fixes him with a beady glare from his lone eye. "Arrr, I don't know, but it's drivin' me nuts!"

The dinner that almost never was.

I stopped at Meijer's on the way home to pick up some more mushrooms and two deep dish pie crusts. I had a plan, you see. I grabbed a box of cremini mushrooms and headed for the freezer aisle. But, when I got there, the shelves were bare and a repairman was working on the refrigeration unit! Aaauuuggghhh!

I asked him if he knew where they might have moved the pie crusts and he said, "I think they threw them all out!" The look on my crestfallen face moved him to say, "I don't work here, but let me check." So, he went away and about 10 minutes later, he returned with a store employee who had a package of two deep dish pie crusts. I thanked them both profusely for saving dinner tonight for me.

I also stopped and got more gas for the mower (I forgot how much of a pain in the *ss that is. Stinks up the whole car!). I got home, changed clothes and went outside to water the front garden (the weather's been great, but now my flowers are drooping!)

I finished up around 6:30 PM and, when I went inside, I found I had missed another call from Melissa. This time I called her back. Got her voicemail, but she immediately called me back. We talked for a while and I got the lowdown on her losing her civil suit (Lawyers and judges - I hate 'em!)

Then, on to dinner! Remember that Carla gave me the three remaining leftover lamb shanks (braised for hours with herbs and wine?) I thought it might be good to turn them into a sort of Irish pot pie. So, I put some olive oil and butter in a pot, threw in three crushed garlic cloves (to infuse the oil), took them out after a bit and put in sliced onions. I added some white mushrooms and some of the cremini mushrooms that I sliced after a bit. While they were saut�ing, I cut four redskin potatoes into inch-size chunks (skins and all). I threw then in the pot, covered them with beef broth and added a handful of frozen peas.

While that cooked, I de-boned the lamb shanks and cut the meat into one-inch cubes. When the potatoes were done, I put in the lamb and let it warm, then I stirred in some cornstarch mixed in cold water to thicken the broth. I put the mixture in the one pie shell and covered it with the other (I made a mess of that, BTW, or I would have taken a picture).

I baked it until it was golden brown, and then ate two big pieces watching TV. Probably not authentic, but it tasted Irish enough to me. The only thing missing was a pint of Guinness!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

REMINDER!!!

Tomorrow, September 19th, is our national "Talk Like a Pirate Day" so don't let me hear no scuttlebutt, me hearties!

If necessary, please watch Pirates of the Carribeen tonight to get inspired.

Busy Monday

I stopped at the party store and picked up some hot dog buns (I'm a little tired of hamburgers, lol!) Got home and changed clothes. I gassed up the mower and went in the back to finish the lawn. I was cutting it on the fourth highest setting, but next time I'll use #5, as I still scalped the lawn where the ground was uneven.

After I put the mower away (and took a picture of it, BTW), I hooked the back sprinkler and let it run for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I started a load of laundry (left from my weekend). While all that was going on, I watered the remaining container gardens by hand.

Now onto dinner! I diced a sweet onion and put some in a pan to saut� them. When they were transparent, I dumped in a can of Bush's baked beans and left them to warm up. Meanwhile, I lit the charcoal in the grill. Back inside, I put the clothes in the dryer and then back outside to disconnect the back sprinkler. Then I grilled the hot dogs.

I had bought a DVD of the movie "The 300" at lunch, so I popped that in and ate dinner watching it. When it was done, so was I and I went to sleep.

Monday, September 17, 2007

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It's all covered with dust, but here's my new pride and joy!

And then it was Sunday...

Sunday morning, I woke up first, so I went and took a shower, then sat in the family room reading a book until Jake and Carla got up. Carla started making her brunch, which was Baked French Toast, German Potato Pancakes with sour cream and fresh fruit topped with a vanilla & honey yogurt sauce. Good eats! And, when I left, Carla gave me three leftover lamb shanks!!!

I left there about noon and went home. I grabbed my operator's manual for the mower and went and lay down to read it. Somewhere between the first page and the last, I fell asleep! I woke up around 4:00 PM.

I filled the gas tank, went over all the controls and then went out to cut the lawn. That mower is sweet! I got the front lawn cut, and then decided to take a break and make dinner.

I had thawed out the remaining six sea scallops, so I wrapped them with bacon, put them on wood skewers and grilled them over charcoal. I made a quick sauce for them out of sour cream, mayonnaise and horseradish.

I started cutting the back lawn, but it was getting dark, so I stopped for the night (yes, the mower does have headlights, but I can cut it Monday after work). I cleaned up and watched my Sunday night shows, then went to bed.

Saturday

I'm not sure why, but I set the damn alarm last night. So, I woke up at 5:45 AM, on a Saturday! Weird!!

Also, weird: it felt like I was inside a montage of Bob Dylan songs (don't ask, 'cause I can't explain). Speaking of which, my favorite Dylan lyrics? From "Tangled up in Blue":

"I got a job in the Great North Woods,
working as a cook for a spell.
But, I never did like it all that much,
and one day the axe just fell..."

I had bacon (microwaved), scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast. I shaved and showered, then hooked up the trailer and I'm off to pick up my riding mower.

I used the "tilt" to get it on the trailer and to get it off, but two things I discovered they didn't tell you in the manual:

1. In the "tilt" mode, you are resting on the license plate, Needless to say, it got all bent up!
2. Raising it in the front in "tilt" ripped the electrical wires in half! I discovered that when I got home.

But, I got it home! Unloaded it and unhooked the trailer, then left for my hair cut. On the way home, I stopped and bought a gasoline can and filled it with two gallons of gas. When I got home, I put the rib back on the trailer, pulled it in back, padlocked it to the boat trailer and covered it back up with the tarp. I'll fix the wiring some other time.

Now I'm off to Jake and Carla's for dinner. I took my swimsuit and a towel just in case, but don't think its warm enough for that (its 60 degrees F. at 2:00 PM).When I got to their house, Carla just took out a homemade baked spinach and artichoke dip that we snacked on with corn tortilla chips. Carla warmed up my appetizer, which I was disappointed in, by the way. It was Jamacan Jerked Chicken wings and it tasted okay, but in spite of using my broiler (NOT the grill) so I wouldn't burn them, most of them were, in fact, burned!

We chatted a bit while Carla worked on dinner: Braised lamb shanks. It seemed like a LOT of work, BTW. Jake made us a pitcher of his signature margaritas. We played some cards as the lamb slowing cooked.

Jake had cut his grass and I was struck by the difference in our "style" of grass. I like mine shaggy, like a thick carpet. He likes his short with a crisp edge next to the sidewalk, etc., like a military haircut!

Finally, it was time to eat. The lamb had a very hearty flavor to it and the side was a fried potato/onion/bacon dish that was also excellent. I ate way too much.

We discussed shutting down the pool for the winter and also his sprinkler system (at his request, I brought over my air compressor so he can blow out the sprinkler lines) and furnace filters. I was debating whether or not to head home when Carla mentioned that, if I was staying the night, she wanted to make a nice Sunday morning brunch. Need I say more?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A poem for the Fall

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, "snow."

Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, "frost."

All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spices,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

~ Rachel Field

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Friday's Follies

It didn't rain this afternoon, although it was forecasted. So, with no rain in sight for the next 5 or 6 days, I stopped at the quarter car wash and cleaned the dust and dirt off the car on the way home (the car wash is right by my house). Then I drove home (v-e-r-y slowly on my dusty, dirt road), pulled in the garage, shut the door and grabbed a bath towel and wiped it dry.

Checked the phone and had a message from my daughter, Melissa (or M______, as she prefers to be called here). She LOST her court case (how did that happen? I rehearsed it with her and awarded her full punitive damages!) but was thrilled that her grandson, Gavin, had called her Nana on the phone (?!? women!). Hopefully she'll call back sometime when I'm home.

Next I filled the bird feeder, the bird bath and the squirrel feeder. Then, on to the hard stuff (no, not the Jim Beam bourbon, lol!) I have to get the trailer from out in back to up in front so I can pick up my new lawn mower tomorrow morning. So, I pulled off the tarp, cleared the path (while I was at it, I took down the hammock - sigh, Summer's over, man!), unlocked it from the boat trailer and (fortified with said Jim Beam) pulled that sucker all the way out to the front of the garage. Note to self: Next time just drive the car back there; hitch it up and save your back! I hooked up the hose to water the bare spot in the grass again.

Next, came unloading the trailer (I had put all the excess wood from the kitchen remodel in it under the tarp). I removed the rear gate and swept it out and I think I'm good to go. I came inside and started my weekend load of laundry. The timer went off, so I went back outside and disconnected the sprinkler set-up.

I turned the broiler on and put the appetizer in, setting the timer for 8 minutes. I put the last of the leftover pasta with grilled Italian sausage in the microwave for tonight's dinner and turned it on for two minutes on high.

Regarding the appetizer, I can't tell you what it is yet, as I've been invited to dinner tomorrow at Jake and Carla's (Lamb shank and a potato/bacon/onion side) and I want to surprise them (and, like you, they are occasional readers of this Blog). So, if it tastes as good as I hope, and I take it over there, I'll let you know later what it was. If not, FORGET IT!

I turned over the appetizer and broiled it for ten more minutes. Meanwhile I added salt and fresh ground pepper and some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to the pasta. I let it sit for a bit until the appetizer was done, then went to watch TV and eat dinner. Then I went to sleep. Boring? I suppose. But, hey, that's me!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thursday's Child

Thursday morning, it was so chilly here in Redford you could see your breath! Fall is definitely on the way!!

I had to stop at Meijer's on the way home, so I didn't get in until 5:30 or so. I hooked up the sprinkler and let it run again as soon as the shadows from the back wall covered the bare spot.

Jake and Carla stopped by to drop off two huge bags of peanuts they picked up from Costco for my squirrels.

After they left, I reluctantly took down the hanging plants. The last two chilly nights seemed to have finally done them in.

I made my BLT's. I did make the bacon in the oven and it turned out great and my neighbor's tomatoes were nice and juicy so the dinner was good. I got a call from Lu whose coming back up for a week for her Mother's 78 year birthday and my Mom's 100 year birthday.

I made a marinade for an appetizer I want to try and then poured it over chicken and put that in the fridge. I called and talked to my brother Carl and then went and watched TV for the rest of the night.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pretzel Sauce

I have been working on perfecting a dipping sauce for pretzel rods. Something light, that adds a little kick to the flavor of the pretzel, but doesn't overpower it. Now, maybe like you, I have used regular chip dip in the past, but was dissatisfied. You didn't get much "pretzel" taste, just the bold chip dip flavor. Plus, it's all those processed ingredients, etc. So, I've been experimenting (you wouldn't have wanted to be here for the three sliced scallions dip. People at work the next day moved back at least four feet when I talked to them, LOL!) I've been through about 6 different variations, but this is my best to date:

1 cup of sour cream
2 tablespoons of fresh chives, cut very fine with scissors (maybe 1/16 to 1/8 inch long)
3 shakes of the house seasoning (salt, pepper and garlic powder)

Mix together and let it sit in the fridge for a least an hour.

Try it and let me know what you think! Or, come up with something better and tell me about it!

Wednesday and the smell of burnt bacon

I had to stop and get my prescriptions at CVS on the way home. When I got home, I was struck by how chilly the house was. I checked and it was only 62 degrees inside! Of course, it was only a high of 68 degrees outside today. It might have been wimpy, but I turned the furnace on!

I went outside and ran the hose and sprinkler in the back out to the spot where I reseeded the grass (but still on the woodchips, in case they cut my lawn - big "if" there). Then I hooked the hose up and ran it for 30 minutes. I'll do that each night until the grass is re-established. I also filled the bird feeder and suet cage.

My neighbor brought over some of my mail that got delivered to her house and three big tomatoes from their garden. So, I thought BLT's might be in order. Carla had showed me a trick for making bacon in the microwave so I tried it with the last 8 pieces of bacon I had thawed. But, I misjudged the cooking time (I belatedly called her afterwards and got the correct time) and ended up with 8 black, burned strips of bacon instead. So, forget the BLT's!

Instead, I ate another burger and two ears of sweet corn. I did take another pack of bacon out of the freezer and will try BLTs another time. Watched TV but turned in early.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tuesday's Tale

I stopped on the way home at Westborn for some produce and a hunk of blue cheese. After changing clothes, I replaced both furnace filters (I've been meaning to do that for a while) since it is cool enough that the air conditioner wasn't running.

I put 10 ears of sweet corn in a pot of water. Next I made up some hamburger patties, this time using Jake's trick of putting a chunk of blue cheese in the middle of each patty. I seasoned them with the house seasoning and let them warm up to room temperature.

Apparently nobody but Newt noticed, but I had said I was going to clean out his aquarium over the weekend, but never reported doing so. Well, that's because I didn't. So, the big project for tonight was to get his house in order. It took almost an hour, but he finally got a clean, sparkling home, with a new charcoal filter and fresh water.

I fired up the charcoal, and when it was ready I first grilled the corn and then the burgers. I ate two burgers and an ear of corn watching taped shows, and then Tuesday was over.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Monday's Moanin'

Cloudy all day today, but not supposed to rain until tonight. So, first thing I did after changing clothes was move the last four wheel barrows of wood chips. I raked the spot where they killed my grass, then re-seeded it with fresh grass seed and raked it into the dirt (see Photos).

Then I went out in front, where my driveway is covered with fallen black walnut leaves. I grabbed my blower and blew them all out into the street, thinking it would be much easier to accomplish BEFORE they get all wet (again, see Photos).

So, now I'm hungry! I warmed up a piece of the tequila chicken in the microwave. I boiled the other half of the egg noodles (from Sunday's soup) and when they were done, I added butter, salt, pepper and a handful of chopped fresh parsley.

It was after 8:00 PM when I finished cleaning up from dinner, so I took that as a sign to quit! I went to bed around 10:30, but the wind and rain woke me up at 1:00 AM I checked the rain gauge Tuesday morning and I had almost 1/2 inch of rain overnight. Oh, and when I took out the garbage, I couldn't help but notice that the driveway was covered with a fresh batch of wet, downed leaves!

Monday, September 10, 2007

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Bare spot from wood chips, reseeded and waiting for the rain

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The black walnut leaves blown out of my driveway

Laid-back Sunday...

Sunday was my day of leisure. After sitting on the porch, watching the rain late last night, I cut four strips each of blue cheese, sharp Pinconning and Swiss cheese and put them on a paper plate with some saltine crackers. I snacked on them while reading a book until I fell asleep. I woke up after 6:00 AM and noticed there was one piece of Swiss cheese left. That gave me an idea for breakfast, so I saut�ed some mushrooms and made a mushroom and Swiss cheese omelet. Excellent!

I lazed around afterwards, the chicken stock on the stove, simmering (since 4:00 PM Saturday). I had coffee in bed, still reading. Finally I decided I really must get going. I used my big spoon with holes to dig out the main junk from the stock (see Photos), then I poured the stock through my metal colander. Next, I poured it through a metal sieve three times (I don't want any peppercorns in my stock, you see). Finally, I divvied it up, putting 8 cups in the freezer and saving the rest for tonight's chicken soup. Then (the fun part) I went through all the bones and junk and got out as much chicken pieces as I could. Those went into the pot for the soup.

I remembered (albeit a bit late) that I never put in any bay leaves (what was I thinking?) so I put two in the remaining stock. Then I put olive oil and butter in a pan and saut�ed a diced onion, a carrot (cut small), a stalk of celery (cut the same size as the carrot) and half a box of sliced mushrooms. When everything was done, I threw it in the pot with the stock to get happy.

I ate the last two hamburgers with BBQ sauce, chips and a big dill pickle spear for lunch, again reading my book (Damn that library, anyway!)

Next, I went outside and moved 5 more wheel barrows of mulch. This time it went to the North end of the back garden, where there is the honeysuckle vine from Virginia and the three rose bushes. (See photos). On the way back in, a squirrel tried to hide behind a tree, but, by being patient, I caught his butt in my camera (again, see photos).

So, now its 5:00 PM. BTW, I listened to and loved "Californian" by Melissa Etheridge. I threw in a half a bag of wide egg noodles into my soup and by 6:00 PM, I was eating dinner. Very good, but a little salty (and you never hear me say that!)

My Sunday shows started at 7:00 PM so the rest of the night was TV, then a 10:00 PM bedtime.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

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Catching a squirrel who was trying to be invisible.

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Filling in the north end of the back garden

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Digging the junk out of the stock pot

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Straining the broth

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The end results

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New paper towel holder

Back to School

I woke up late Saturday morning (6:30 AM) after another rough night. Normally this wouldn't matter, but I have a 9:00 AM class in Livonia. I signed up for a one-hour class in making your own pasta at the Williams-Sonoma (it's an upscale cookware and kitchen appliance store, Mom) in the Laurel Park Mall.

So, I ate some scrambled eggs for breakfast, shaved, showered, dressed, drove too fast and got there right at 9 o'clock. I thought it would be a hands-on kinda thing, but it was just 25 folding chairs at the back of the store with 24 people (and me) watching a lady make pasta. It felt good to raise my hand when she asked who had a hand-crank pasta maker at home. And I felt a bit smug when she easily and successfully made fresh pasta with the hand crank machine, but the pasta screwed up big time when she used the Kitchen-Aid (mixer) pasta maker attachment. BTW, the hand crank version and all the Kitchen-Aid attachments were made by the same company that made mine (but, I bought mine on the Web), Imperia.

They did do a cool thing by first making boxed, dried linguine, then adding virgin olive oil and herbs and passing around small paper plates and plastic fork for us to taste. Then when she finished cooking her fresh pasta (in an amazing 2 minutes - it takes far less time to cook fresh pasta, BTW) they put on the same oil and seasoning and passed that around for a comparison taste test. And, yes, the fresh was 100% better tasting!

The most interesting thing was the ravioli maker attachment for the Kitchen-Aid stand mixer (not that I would want one. I love my little hand ravioli cutters!) She fed pasta sheets in on either side of a hopper then put a pre-measured amount of filling in (she was using butternut squash and parmesan cheese). Note: I asked her the exact ingredients and she said they are all in the Williams-Sonoma pasta making cookbook. I checked after class - $20 US! I think I'll try and make it up!!). Even though it was attached to the mixer, you hand-turned a knob and then repeated the procedure. A sheet of ravioli emerged, three pieces wide, crimped and cut out in a zig-zag pattern (like postage stamps) that you just pulled apart and put in water. Sweet!

Interesting way to start the weekend! But, now I'm off to the library. I took 7 Mile Road to Beech Daly, then turned left on 6 Mile to the library. It dawned on me that I had just effectively by-passed all the grocery stores I know, so apparently I am not getting the five additional items I forgot, today. So, in, out, wham, bam, thank you ma'am, I have five new books to read.

So, now I am back home and changed into my usual weeknight, weekend clothes (dark blue T-shirt and shorts I originally bought for physical therapy. I have five sets and find them the most comfortable things to wear around the house). First of today's projects: Installing a paper towel holder in the downstairs bathroom cupboard.

This was a cheap cabinet that I cut the legs off, turned upside down and hung on the wall years ago for Jake to use. But now that I'm using this bathroom, I need the paper towels for both wiping my glasses off (I wash them with my excess shaving cream every morning) and spraying Windex on the sink to clean it after I use it.

So, being a cheap cabinet, I know the shelves are not 3/4 inch thick (in fact, they are less than 1/2 inch thick). So, I find some smaller screws and attach the paper towel holder. But, even the smaller screws punched through the Formica, so I got my Dremel tool, ground them down below the surface and filled in the hole with white caulk. I raised the shelf to accommodate my mouthwash and the Windex and, other than waiting a day or so for the caulk to harden, I'm done! See photos.

I had complained to my friend B___, that his style of burgers didn't taste right (you remember the ones I added bread crumbs, a grated onion and an egg to the ground chuck?) He asked me how I ate them and I said, "Just with yellow mustard on a bun." He said, "Oh no, you need to put BBQ sauce on them!" So, I tried that for lunch, two burgers on buns with BBQ sauce, a few chips and a nice dill pickle. Result? Maybe I'm being too picky, but, while it was better, now it tastes like meatloaf with BBQ sauce on it! I guess I am just a purist, a 100% ground chuck only hamburger kinda guy.

Next on the agenda? A really nice two hour nap!!!

Awaking refreshed and energized, I thought it might be time to move those five more wheel barrows of mulch. So, I did. This time (since the pile is rapidly diminishing), I am concentrating on the North end of the garden, where the honeysuckle and the three roses are.

Then I brought the new 40# bag of bird seed out of the garage and put it into my metal canister, refilled my feeder and used the last of the peanuts Jake and Carla bought me in the squirrel feeder.

Its 4:00 PM and I don't know why but I am thinking of a thick chicken soup. So, I drag out my big (BIG) bag of saved chicken bones and a frozen package of chicken thighs and throw them in the smaller stock pot (the big one is already in use, filled with water Friday night to chill out the city-water chlorine so I can redo Newt's tank on Sunday). I add two onions, quartered, but not peeled, two carrots, rough chopped, all the garlic I had (smashed), three stalks of celery, again, rough chopped and a 1/2 cup of kosher salt and 1/4 cup of whole peppercorns. I turned it on "High" and when it started to boil, I turned it down to "Medium-low" and walked away.

I had more leftover pasta for dinner and then watched TV for a while. But, I decided an early bedtime would be good, so I added four cups of water to the stock pot and went to sleep around 10:00 PM.

I woke up just after 1:00 AM and sat on porch watching the rain. Nice night.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Another TGIF

Well, I got my annual review today (they love me, BTW) and then I had to leave work early to get my eyes examined. Results? Eyes have weakened a little but not so bad I can't wait until December 1 to get new glasses (insurance will pay for them, then). Good news? No signs of deterioration from my diabetes. My right eye has more "floaters" in it, but that's the eye that is too far gone to use corrective lenses to get me to 20/20 vision, anyway. Other good news? There are absolutely no signs of a re-occurrence of my glaucoma.

I called today to get an appointment for my yearly checkup and was told my doctor, who I have been going to for 30 some years (he delivered both Jeremy and Jake, BTW) is now semi-retired and only sees patients on Tuesday and Wednesday, and sees them with his other physician so he can hand them off. Sad. I will definitely miss him. He's been a good doctor and a good friend. But I can't get in until the end of October!

And, the kicker? His other physician is a woman!!! But, truth be told, beginning with heart problems in my early twenties, moving on to my motor cycle accident and almost losing my knee, then on to my knee replacement in my late 40's, a gall bladder removal, prostate cancer treatment with radiation, my second artificial knee replacement (and a bunch of smaller incidents that I, thankfully, no longer remember), I have been around enough strange (to me) doctors and nurses with me being half-dressed in hospital gowns or undressed completely that I no longer have any shame or embarrassment. A lady doctor? Hey, bring her on!

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following should be a separate post and labeled as one of those "touching" stories from "back in the day." However, the Captain bypassed the usual review process and inserted it directly into his daily Blog.

I do remember the last incident when I was embarrassed, though. I don't remember where or when (senior moment) but I was in the hospital for something, had already been given a couple of "happy" shots and was strapped in a gurney in pre-op. There was nobody there but a very young, very cute, nurse and me (I have always been able to deal with a 50 year-old grumpy nurse shaped like a fireplug, but the young, cute ones always threw me). It was then that I realized... Damn! I had to pee.

So, I said to her, "Can I get up and go to the rest room? I have to pee." She said, "No, just hold it. I can't let you up." I said, "I'm serious! I gotta go, NOW!" So, after a long moment, she looked around, found a plastic urinal jug, then grabbed my penis and stuck it in there, turned her head and said, "Go ahead!"

Needless to say, it took a while...

EDITOR'S NOTE: End of touching story from back in the day.

Okay, so back to this Friday. I got out of the eye doctor's office at 4:30, so I swung by the Kroger's at 5 mile and Middle Belt, sure in my belief I could remember my grocery list. I blew through that and was home by 5:05 PM. I put away the groceries and checked the list - Damn! I forgot four items! I changed my clothes and went outside to pick up small branches the high winds had littered my yard with.

Around 7:00 PM, I started a simple pasta sauce, using olive oil, two minced yellow onions and five garlic cloves. I went out to the herb garden and picked, then chopped and added, some fresh oregano and basil. I gave a rough chop to some roasted red peppers (I keep a jar in the fridge) and added those, too. Then I threw in two 28 ounce cans of whole tomatoes. Now, I know (and you probably know) most recipes for a quick pasta sauce call for a 28 ounce can of "crushed" tomatoes and a smaller can of "diced" tomatoes. However, I like the visceral sensation of grabbing the whole peeled tomatoes and squishing them! (It's like, oh, I don't know... hmmm... it may be I'm just weird...)

Anyway, back on track, I cut up the five Italian sausages I grilled earlier this week and added those and let the whole thing simmer an hour. Then I made some penne pasta and, when they were al dente, added the sauce (reserving one big jar that went into the freezer for some other time. Ate two bowls (after topping with grated Parm-Reggie) while watching Friday night TV, then went to bed around 10:00 PM.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Tequila Thursday

Main chore tonight is to water and baby the container gardens. The hanging plants (petunias) are looking pretty bad, turning brown and drooping. I think it just might be the end of the season for them. But, I gave them a good drink of water and cleaned out all the dead stuff and we'll see.

Now, I'm back in the kitchen, making the glaze for my chicken. I mixed 1/3 cup of orange juice, � cup of tequila, two tablespoons of brown sugar, two tablespoons of honey, two finely chopped jalapeno chiles (with seeds) and a minced shallot and put it in a pot. I brought it to a boil until the sugar dissolved, then simmered it for 10 minutes or so (until it thickened). I set it aside to cool and started the charcoal.

I grilled it on medium heat (see last post) turning it often and constantly brushing it with the glaze. I cooked it about 15 minutes, until my thermometer read 170 degrees F. I pulled it off to rest while I made up some wild rice. And that was dinner. How did it taste? Pretty good, but I wished it was a little spicier. So, next time I think I'll use habaneros (a hotter pepper).

I watched TV until bedtime.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I'm not sure I've ever shared this with you, but..

...it occurred to me you may not know this. I am about to grill my tequila and jalape�o pepper chicken and the recipe calls for medium heat. So, to determine the approximate temperature of a charcoal-fired grill, you just put your hand close to the cooking surface. If you can hold your hand about where the meat will be, you can use the following guidelines.

One Second (or less) - Very Hot Fire, about 600 degrees (or higher)

Two Seconds - Hot Fire, about 500 to 650 degrees

Three Seconds - Medium Hot Fire, about 450 to 550 degrees

Four Seconds - Medium Fire, about 400 to 500 degrees

Five Seconds - Low Medium Fire, about 300 to 400 degrees

Six Seconds (or more) - Very Low Fire, about 300 degrees (or less)

These are rough estimates and can vary depending upon where your hand is placed. For example, there may be more heat in one location than another. 'Nough said!

I forgot to mention this but...

...Sept. 5, 2007, marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road, the novel by Jack Kerouac that gave voice to his generation's postwar experiences. With its energetic portrayal of the thrills and confusions of being young in the early years of the Cold War, it also helped usher in the "Beatnik" movement and many of the radical changes in American culture that took place in the 1960s.

I must confess that I never read "On the Road" but I do know that my son Jeremy was profoundly moved by it.

Wednesday

It's too hot and humid to work outside, so no woodchips got moved today. I did go out and fill the bird feeder, the suet cage and the squirrel feeder, along with the bird bath.

I took a drive through Hines Park yesterday after lunch and noticed several maples have begun to turn color. Tonight at home, I see that the leaves on the black walnut have begun to yellow and fall and that, along with the frantic race of the squirrels to bury said walnuts, raises the specter of an early Fall. Speaking of the silly squirrels, one of them tore up my container garden that sits on the front porch railing to bury a nut! I guess he didn't know that they will be long gone in winter storage by the time he wants to eat it.

Since I'm not moving wood chips, I went back to the door knob project and got the one on the office closet door replaced. I cleaned up the sawdust mess and moved on.

I prepped the chicken for tomorrow night's dinner. I am making grilled chicken with a tequila and jalapeno sauce and tonight I had to crush 1 1/2 tablespoons of coriander seeds in my mortar and pestle. Then I mixed in 1 1/2 teaspoons of coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. This was sprinkled all over the chicken leg and thigh pieces (bone-in and with skin) and it was put skin-side down on a cookie sheet, covered with tinfoil and put in the fridge overnight.

Now, for tonight's dinner. I warmed up the five remaining baby back ribs and two ears of sweet corn. But, this time I covered the ribs with the last of my Sweet Baby Ray's Hot and Spicy Barbeque Sauce. Now that's the taste I was looking for!

I watched TV until 10:00 PM and then went to sleep. I woke up at 1:00 AM and rather than watching more TV or reading (both of which I think keep my up more than put me to sleep) I went out on the front porch and sat rocking in the dark for a spell, then went back to sleep.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Little Different Tuesday

I woke up at 5:30, ready to start the day. I have a job interview at 9:00 AM and I am understandably nervous (haven't had one in almost 20 years). So, eating breakfast is out, but I made a pot of coffee and had a couple of cups.

Then I swept the kitchen and downstairs floors and washed them both, along with the downstairs bathroom. I left the main bath alone, so I could use it before leaving.

Got to the interview. Not sure how I did (of course I felt like I blew it, but maybe not). Problem is that where I work now, things are more compartmentalized, but at this place, the Manufacturing Manager does them all. So, while I know what a process audit, or an 8-D is, I don't have any experience in actually doing them (here, they are handled by the Quality staff). Oh well, I o have a job and, if nothing else, it was good experience.

Now, I'm back home and cleaning the two bedrooms. I got the floors spotless just in time to leave and eat lunch with B___. When I got back, it was more cleaning and this and that (I took a short nap, too) until about 5:00 PM, when I decided an early dinner might be in order.

Now, I am a big fan of hamburgers, but I usually make them with just ground chuck and seasoning. I saw a recipe I thought I'd try, so I added a cup of fine bread crumbs, a grated onion and an eggs, mixed it all together and made my patties. I grilled them along with some Italian mild sausage I'll use later in the week for something. I was right! While they taste good, they remind me more of meatloaf than a burger!! However, I did eat two of them, along with the last of the cauliflower I'd steamed a few days ago.

The lady came and cut my grass (and, yes, I did have to call her!). I took the rest of the night off, alternating between reading and watched TV. I went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Reminder

I probably don't really have to remind any of you, but September 19th is "Talk Like a Pirate" Day.

Har, har, me hearties!

Labor Day, laboring...

It may have been the swimming, but I slept quite soundly for a change. I got out of bed about 7:30 AM and went and sat in the living room. I noticed my shoulders were really aching and that WAS from the swimming! I don't think I have actually swan in a good 5 - 10 years. So, I might hurt this morning, but damn, it was fun!

Jake and Carla got up about 20 minutes later and we chatted a bit, then Jake moved his car so I could get out (he went and got the stock pot, remember?)

So, now I am home. The plan is to begin to replace the back door, but there are four things preventing me from doing that:
1. I have some yard work to do
2. The house upstairs is messy from neglect
3. The downstairs is messy from the move
4. I am afraid of taking out the old door and not being able to get the new door in before I have to go to work. I fear the door replacement!

So, I started by moving my five wheelbarrows of wood chips. But this time they came up near the St. Francis garden. Remember the day lily I planted where the arborvitae died? Well, without trimming by my lawn service, it's become an overgrown mess. I trimmed all around it yesterday, now today I am adding about 6 inches of wood chips to keep the weeds down (see photos).

I noticed the laundry tub was draining slow, so I used needle-nosed pliers to pull out all the cat hair and lint I could, then treated it with Liquid Draino (ah, the glamorous life of a home-owner, lol!) I had wanted to make something outstanding for dinner tonight (Holiday weekend and all) but decided to stay away from seafood for a while. I couldn't top yesterday's meal no matter how hard I tried. So, I put 8 inches of cold water in the laundry tub and threw in a frozen rack of baby back ribs.

Now, it's off to the back garden for watering/fertilizing. I gave everybody a good drink of water and Miracle-grow. I took pictures of the wood chip pile and the new wood chips around the day lily (those are darker than they will be as I just finished watering the day lily).

Now, back inside. I put the ribs in the oven to cook (I'll finish them on the grille) and was just about to start housecleaning when Melissa called. We ended up talking for a l-o-n-g time and solved most of the world's problems (I don't know why Governor Granholm or President Bush doesn't call us as, between us, we seem to know the answers for everything).

Shortly after we hung up, it was time to finish the ribs on the grille. I lit the charcoal and when it was ready, put on the ribs. I slathered them with a mixture of BBQ sauce and � cup of bourbon (I was out of Sweet Baby Rays, so used some Open Pit I had) and pulled them off when it was carmelized. While they rested, I fried up an eggplant for the side and then ate. Hmmm... the meat was nice and tender, but I'm not a pleased with taste of the sauce. I cut the rack in two and froze half. I ate maybe four ribs and the rest went into the fridge.

I did get the living room vacuumed and cleaned, but I stopped there so I could watch my Sunday night shows (I taped them) and go to sleep early.

Monday, September 3, 2007

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Wood chips and the day lily

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Wood chips clean up the day lily area

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The wood chip pile diminishes...

Sunday, and the livin's easy!

Sunday morning, I tried a tip I never heard before that I saw on an English cooking show. For most of my adult life, I have made soft-boiled eggs, but never understood them being referred to as "three-minute eggs" (they even sell three minute egg timers), because after just three minutes of cooking, they were grossly underdone. But, this cook said this refers to eggs kept at room temperature and that if you were cooking them straight from the fridge, you put them in cold water and start timing them when the water boils. I did and she was right!

So, I guess you know what I had for breakfast. But what you don't know is I ate my egg in my Dad's old egg cup that my Mom went out of her way to have found and gave to me a while back. Thanks, Mom!

I got cleaned up and did a few little chores, then loaded the car up with some small items of Jake and Carla's they didn't want to put in the big truck (like the wall clock they got from Melissa and Dave). I am headed over there for a day of rest and relaxation including some swimming and a promised seafood boil.

I was amazed when I got there to find the front room, where we had piled almost everything yesterday, was completely empty! After we parted ways yesterday around 5:00 PM, they went home and worked until 1:00 AM, deciding where things should go, and then putting them away. They had just two boxes of books and DVDs left.

When I got there, Jake had the stove disconnected and pulled out, he said to clean the sides better. He left and came back with a huge stock pot. I helped him take off the stickers and he cleaned it. I volunteered to clean the stove, but he wouldn't let me. So, we first played a few hands of cards, and next walked around and they showed me more features of the house. The sprinkler system is a high-tech thing of beauty and made me extremely jealous, BTW!

Around 2:30 PM, he got a phone call. He told Carla it was the delivery guy and the times got moved to between 2:00 - 6:00 PM. Noticing my befuddled look, they confessed they had bought a new stove and fridge and they were supposed to deliver it between 10:00 - 2:00 PM, which is why the stove was pulled out. But, the day wore on... We couldn't cook and we couldn't swim, expecting them at any minute. Jake and I took off the pool cover and he vacuumed it for later. I actually went and took a nap in the guest room (not having slept well the night before).

Finally after several irate phone calls from Carla, they showed up near 8:00 PM! Jake hooked up the gas line and I tested it for leaks and we were good to go.

So, Carla made her seafood boil. I didn't watch close enough to give you the recipe, but it was a big pot of boiling, salted water, seasoned with Old Bay seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper with onions and garlic in it. Next came cut-up red skin potatoes and ears of fresh sweet corn, shucked and cut into 3 inch pieces. Finally, a cut up smoked sausage, a ton of King Crab legs, shrimp in the shells and live mussels. While they cooked, she clarified some butter, and added fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to it, and then pouring it in three small ramekins.

Now, in the authentic seafood boil scenario, you are cooking this over a driftwood fire on a beach somewhere, having just caught your seafood. A spot in the sand is covered with newspapers, the content of the pot is dumped on that and everyone eats with their hands. They couldn't duplicate that, but they came close! The contents were put on two big platters and our only eating instruments were small forks for extracting the crab meat, some wooden mallets for breaking shells and a couple wicked-looking nutcracker thingies, again for breaking open the crab legs.

Now, I know I often rave about my cooking (and Carla and Jake's cooking, too) but I have to tell you this was absolutely fantastic! It could have been the freshness of the seafood (instead of going to a grocery store, Carla talked a local seafood restaurant into selling her the king crab, shrimp and mussels) but nobody hardly used the butter - you just didn't need it. Peeling the shrimp and eating them, or cracking open a crab leg, the meat was so sweet and juicy it made you groan. The sausage, the mussels, the corn and even the potatoes, everything was perfectly seasoned.

After cleaning up, we went swimming in the dark. With stars shining above us, we frolicked and swan until we were exhausted. After showering, we went to our respective beds, thus ending our Labor Day weekend Sunday.

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Buddha-in-the-back

John-in-the-Front

Back when we lived on Palms Road, our best friends in the neighborhood were John and Sue, who lived behind us in the woods, down a private road. While both their kids, Jessica and Johnny, called me Papa John, I would refer to myself as John-in-the-front to distinguish myself from John-in-the-back.

This is all a prelude to telling you I installed my new Buddha in the back garden. Since I already have a Buddha that was a present from Lu in the wild garden, I've decided this one is called Buddha-in-the-back!

You can check him out in the Photos, if you're interested.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Getting Old...

Friday night was bad. I went to sleep around 10:00 PM, but woke up just after midnight. Try as I might, I could not get to sleep until after 4:00 AM. As a result, I slept in until an astounding 9:30 AM!

So, somewhat abashed, I shaved and showered, and then I took off on today's main errand, going to the cable company and dropping off the cable box Jake and Carla had rented. I stopped at Larry's Coney Island on the way home for breakfast. I will need fuel for today's main project, helping Jake and Carla to clean out the storage unit they rented and taking all the stuff to their house.

So, about 1:00 PM, A huge (27 foot) U-Haul truck pulled into my yard driven by "Bubba" the crazed long-haul trucker (AKA Jake), followed by Carla in the car. Jake took apart their bed and we loaded it, along with a few items I had assembled for them. Now we are off to the storage unit.

My friend B___ is constantly bemoaning the fact that he has gotten old. I listen kindheartedly, but somehow cannot really relate as there is nothing I cannot do today that I could not do when I was younger, I just hurt more the day after. But, today was different!

I don't know if it was the heat, the concrete floor, the long walk down the hallway out to the truck or the angled metal ramp and step-up into the truck, but before half the stuff was loaded, both my knees and my left hip totally gave out! All I could do was sit there like a dork while they loaded up the rest. And, when we got to their house, it was more of the same. I did manage to help Jake get the couch inside (the one thing Carla couldn't lift) but I was basically useless baggage.

We took the truck back, and then they dropped me off at home and grabbed more stuff from the house before leaving around 4:30 PM. I was hot, embarrassed (hey, I never had my strength give out before, okay?), sweaty and beat, so I took a shower and then told Scruffy I was headed for bed and a nap. He decided to join me at the foot of the bed and was asleep in about two minutes. I, on the other hand, read my book, but didn't sleep.

I gave up and got up around 7:00 PM and limped into the kitchen. I put some cut-up redskin potatoes and two small peeled onions in a pot, then some sauerkraut from a bag and finally a biased-cut smoked sausage. I turned it on high, then down to simmer when it came up to a boil. I went downstairs and folded the load of laundry I'd washed in the morning.

I ate dinner, then watched TV and finally dozed off and on from about 9:00 PM. I got up at 12:30 AM to clean up the kitchen and write this post. Now I am headed back for bed and (hopefully) go to sleep.

This was NOT my finest hour or day. B___ is right! Getting old is a bitch!!