Friday, November 30, 2007

photo

Chicken noodle soup with cheese-crusted baguette slices

Thursday's Tale

Cold with a wicked wind today. First time I wore my leather jacket this season, but I felt I needed it to cut the wind.

Picked up four red bows on the way home tonight and secured them to my porch railing garland (but it was too dark to take a picture).

Inside, I put the bathroom door barrel lock on. Not terribly attractive, but functional.

I wanted something different for dinner so, I made meatballs (hamburger, fine diced onion, bread crumbs and an egg) and a quick tomato sauce (I used whole tomatoes that I squished by hand, onion, garlic, oregano and basil). I ate it over spaghetti and topped it with my favorite cheese. I turned the rest of the baguette into garlic bread.

I started watching taped shows, but fell asleep around 10:00.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday

I got home and braved the cold for the Christmas outdoor decorations. I switched out the wreaths (as I do every year) and put the old, bicycle rim wreath up and on a timer.

I bought a 30 foot length of cedar roping and, measuring carefully I swaged it along the front porch rail. I had to cut off about 5 feet. I have never done this at this house before, but did so with dramatic effect at North River Road one year. I still need four big red ribbon bows to complete the effect and I will then take a picture for you.

I put up the Yule man and the little sled McKay made for us one year, back in the day. I replaced my mat at the front door that says, simply, "Go Away!" with the holiday one that says "Bah! Humbug!" (I obviously have got a theme going here, lol!)

Then, shaking off the cold (and its damn cold here) I put a small pot of my chicken soup on to warm and got to work on the bathroom door lock. I checked and the door and jam are not perfectly aligned. So, I used a flat file to take the door jam down a bit.

When I got it where I wanted it, I used a watercolor brush and some white paint to cover the fresh wood. Again, I must wait for the paint to thoroughly dry and so; the project is stalled until tomorrow. (sigh)

Hungry now, I turn to dinner. The chicken noodle soup is, of course, now just leftovers so I need to jazz it up some. I had picked up a baguette on the way home. I cut off some 2-inch slices on the bias and, after drizzling them with olive oil, toasted both sides of them under the oven broiler. Then I rubbed each side with a fresh clove of garlic and, using the micro-planner, topped them with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Then I put them back under the broiler until golden brown. And, that was dinner.

I read until bedtime.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday woodworking

Cold and windy today. First order of business was to get all the Christmas cards done and mailed (only two left to get and send). Then I started working on the bathroom lock.

I got to use the mini-saw attachment for the rotary tool, which was kinda neat. However, two problems: One, it only cuts 1/4 inch deep and the molding is 5/8 inch thick. But, a sharp chisel and hammer and the piece just popped off. And, two, the piece I cut was just a smidge bigger than the door casing. So, I applied some paintable caulk to the sliver of an opening and will resume work on this tomorrow (it needs to dry).

For dinner, I made the last turkey sandwich from the Thanksgiving leftovers. A few olives and potato chips and I was good to go! Hmmm... I just realized, I always like olives with turkey sandwiches and dill pickle spears with hamburgers. I'm quite the predictable guy, I guess.

I watched TV until 10:00 PM and then switched to reading.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday's soup

It snowed off and on most of the day. Calls at work from both my brother Jim and my brother Joe gave me the good news: My mom's being released from the hospital! She'll be going to a local nursing home for 21 days of physical therapy.

When I got home, I decided it was time to finish fooling with this stock.

So, I took it inside and skimmed the fat off the top. Then I ladled it into 1-quart freezer jars. I got six quarts labeled and put in the freezer. The remaining stock will be for today's dinner: Chicken soup.

I put the last two helpings of chili in freezer containers as well (I want to use the Dutch oven). I washed the pot and lid and dried it off. Then I cut up the original mirepoix again. But this time, rather than rough chopped, I went with a small dice of onions, carrots and celery (according to the Culinary institute of America, large dice means 3/4 inch square, medium dice 1/2 inch square and small 1/4 inch square). These went into the pan to saut� in hot canola oil and butter.

When they started to soften I added four minced garlic cloves and cooked them for a minute or two and then added a container of button mushroom I had sliced. When the mushrooms reduced, I added the remaining pieces of chicken I had gotten off the chicken carcass. Then I added the last of the stock and set it to boil. Once boiling, I added a whole package of wide egg noodles and cooked them for 6 minutes. I tasted it for seasoning and decided I needed just a touch more salt. Then the last ingredient went in: a handful of fine chopped parsley.

I ate dinner watching TV. After cleaning up, I went back to the TV to clean out some of the taped shows (nothing good on tonight) and quit to go to bed at 11:00 PM.

Pumpkin Cranberry Cake

Ingredients
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) walnuts (omitted because of Carla's allergies)
  • 6 ounces fresh cranberries (cut in half)
  • 6 ounces dried cranberries (available in grocery stores as Craisins)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 pound can (2 cups) solid packed pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9 inch layer pans, or 3-D turkey mold.

Wash and drain the fresh cranberries. Cut each one (unless really small) in half with a paring knife and set aside.

Sift together (several times to make sure its all incorporated) the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg and allspice and set aside.

With a stand or hand electric mixer, beat the pumpkin, sugar and oil until well mixed. Add eggs and incorporate. On low speed, slowly add the sifted, dry ingredients, beating only until smooth. Fold in nuts (if using) and cranberries. Pour into pans or turkey mold.

Bake for 1 hour and ten minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

When cool, either dust with powdered sugar or frost with cream cheese frosting.

Taking stock on Sunday

Today I got up at 7:00. Kitchen needs cleaning and I need buy some carrots for the stock. So, first I checked out the cotton towels I washed and dried yesterday. Geesh! I could hardly pull out the lint filter. It was like a 2-inch cotton pad! Maybe I should not have washed all 60 at the same time, lol!

I forgot to mention, but I decided to NOT cut the grass on Saturday. A few leaves are still falling. When they are all down, I will clean the gutters, blow off the driveway and the patios and mulch the leaves one last time (hopefully next weekend).

So, I shaved and showered and then headed out to Meijer's for carrots and a few other things, including a pack of men's cotton handkerchiefs, in lieu of cheesecloth, (which I could not find); CVS for Christmas cards and the Post office for Christmas stamps. I dropped everything off at the house, and then headed for Mt. Clemens to go see my Mom.

She was sleeping when I first got there and continued to sleep for almost the next hour! When she did finally wake up, I asked her why she had towels behind her neck (like a prizefighter). She said she woke up with a very sore, stiff, neck and she asked the girl who gave her a bath to leave it there.

At her request, I called the nurse, who got her a warm pad to replace the towels and some Tylenol. Later the nurse switched it to an ice pack, then back to warm.

She said she had another therapy session on Friday, and the lady had her standing up again. She is going down to the therapy room on Monday for her first real session.

I helped her eat her lunch. She told me she had Uncle Joe buy her a watch so she could know what time it was, but she can't see the hands. She said she'd ask Uncle Jim to bring in one of her clocks from home with a lighted dial. I said I'd check the gift shop, so I did, but they don't carry clocks.

Around 2:15, Uncle Jim showed up. She asked him about the clock and he said he'd brought her a book she asked for and the Blog, but left them in the car. So, he left and was gone a long time. When he returned he had the book, the blog and a new clock with big lighted numbers he bought at a nearby drugstore.

About that time I left, but I ran into Uncle Carl, Hannah and Cal on the way out, so we chatted a bit and I then I really did leave.

Got home, put the stock pot back on the stove and fired it up. Started the weekend wash with all my bedding and the pack of handkerchiefs. I rough chopped my aromats, (in this case, the classic mirepoix: onion, celery and carrots).

Returned Luanne's cell phone call to Virginia, but she's not home yet. So I call her down in Florida at her stepmother Gerry's. She's leaving Tuesday to avoid Holiday traffic. Caught her up on what's going on around here.

So, now the bedding is in the dryer, and my shirts and pants are in the washer. Stock's temp is now 180 degrees F. so in go the aromats for one hour only. This is a new technique for me. I used to put them in at the beginning with the bones and water. But, according to Michael Ruhlman, overcooking the mirepoix degrades the stock. So, I'm trying it his way this time.

Using the sieve and a clean handkerchief, I strain the stock through a sieve and a wet handkerchief using a soup ladle the first time (once I got the bones and mirepoix separated out, I just poured pot to pot through the strainer/cloth. I used three handkerchiefs for three separate straining. Strained stock went back in the big fridge (the garage floor) to cool so I can skim the fat off of it tomorrow.

Well, now it's too late to do two things I wanted: install the bathroom lock and fill out the Christmas cards. O well...

Dinner was the other roasted chicken breast (from last Sunday) and the leftover mashed potatoes. I heated them up in the microwave and then put the hot potatoes in a buttered 9 x 9 glass baking dish. Using the microplaner, I topped them with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and stuck them under the broiler for about three minutes while I heated a can of sweet corn. Once the cheese was golden brown, I pulled them out and plated everything. Excellent Sunday supper.

Watched my usual Sunday night shows and turned the TV off at 11:00 PM.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Amusing anecdote

Long time readers may remember when I bought the little plaque that hangs nears the front door (I posted a picture, back in the day). It says, simply, "Nobody gets in to see the wizard! Not nobody! Not no how!"

Anyway, on Friday, when Jake, Carla and Acenter stopped by after their hospital visit with my Mom so Acenter could iron her clothes, if you recall, we ordered pizzas.

The pizza delivery girl rang the doorbell, and when Jake answered it, she said, "I'm here to see the wizard!"

LMAO! If it was me who opened the door, I would have doubled her tip!

Saturday, at home and catching up...

So, today, I woke up at 5:30 AM. So much for my God's alarm clock theory. Breakfast was a rare delight: cold pizza! After taking my shower, I got out my stock pot, the latest chicken carcass and the frozen chicken bones. I filled the stock pot until the bones were covered and seasoned with salt, fresh ground peeper and two bay leaves. I had it on high until my digital thermometer alarm went off at 180 degrees F. Then, I spent several hours making minute adjustments to the flame and lid on lid off, trying to keep it at 180, lol! I also skimmed the top every time I though about it.

While I was at it, I took the chili out of the fridge and put the Dutch oven on low for later. I put the kitchen multi-purpose towels Jake and Carla picked up for me yesterday in the washer.

I ate a bowl of chili and then another one for lunch. With some difficulty, I got the chiminea into the back room for the winter and got my winter bird feeding station set up again.

The towels, long since forgotten, were remembered and put in the dryer. At 4:00 PM, I thought I was ready for my aromats to be added to the broth, but discovered I have NO carrots! So, when it cools, I will take Jake's advice and seal the top with tin foil and put the pot into the garage to keep cool until I can pick some up tomorrow.

At 8:00 PM, the stock pot went into the garage and I put the chili back in the fridge after getting one more bowl. Watched TV, but turned in early at 10:00 PM.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Recipe

Carla's mom, Acenter, asked me to give her the recipe for the pumpkin cranberry cake she ate. I explained I had used three recipes, but agreed to try an put them together coherently for her, so I did. I will ask my Webmaster to post it in case anyone else is interested (for some reason, I still can't post recipes here).

Friday

I woke up on Friday at 7:30 AM again. Gee, I wonder if this is the real time God wants me to wake up at and, if so, would they understand at work? I skipped breakfast and went with coffee only.

I went outside to fill the bird and squirrel feeders in my tee shirt and work-out shorts. Big mistake! The rain water on the metal cover of the bird seed can was frozen solid. Checked the thermometer and its only 27 degrees F. Shivered my way through the fill-ups and got my butt back in the house A.S.A.P.

Emptied the dishwasher and cleaned up the kitchen. I grabbed my second cup of coffee and my book and then headed for the recliner. I quit reading at 10:30 AM so I could get ready for my trip to visit Mom in the hospital.

I left at about 11:30 AM and took my usual route to my orthopedic doctor's office (which is right next to the same hospital): Inkster to 8-Mile, 8-Mile to Groesbeck and Groesbeck to Harrington. All surface streets, but you can time the lights and move right along.

When I got there, I ran into my brother Joe, who was just driving out. He came back and we chatted in the chilly parking lot for a bit. When I got to Mom's room, a nurse's aide was feeding her lunch. They are not taking chances as she had a choking spell this morning. So, they are cutting up her food and mixing her mashed up pills with applesauce.

I learned she had had her first physical therapy session this morning and the therapist actually had her standing up by the bed, twice! It did seem to tire her out, though. So, throughout my stay (approx 12:30 PM to 5:15 PM) whenever she looked tired, I would suggest a brief nap. I assured her I wasn't leaving; I had my book and would be there when she woke up. So, she catnapped a lot.

I excused myself when they came to get her for a Doppler test on her carotid arteries and sat in the lobby, where I ran into Uncle Jim and Coletta. We visited until she was back in her room. They stayed a little while and then left.

A doctor David Bradley from the hospital's rehab unit came in to examine her and, just as he started his exam, Jake, Carla and Carla's mom, Acenter came in. We excused ourselves so he could do his exam and waited in the library.

When we checked back in she was eating her dinner (not being fed this time) and griping about the food. She's tired of having the mashed potatoes and gravy with every meal, and tired of turkey hash (they cut up the turkey to make it easier for her to eat) and most of all, she's sick of applesauce! She said when she gets out; she's not going to eat applesauce for at least five years.

Dr. Bradley came back at that point and said, based on his exam, he is recommending any facility that has intensive (3-hour a day) physical therapy. He said, "If she can make it through, I guarantee she can go home."

Mom heard the last part of that, but asked me to repeat it. I told her and it was like a weight lifted off her shoulders! "I can go home?" she asked. I said "Yes, but don't forget the first part! You gotta get through therapy and trust me it isn't easy. You got tired out this morning and that was just a few minutes. This will get a whole lot worse before it gets better." She said, "I don't care! I just want to go home!"

I noticed how dark it was, it was after 5:00 PM, so I made my apologies and left. Jake, Carla and Acenter stayed a while longer and apparently Uncle Carl and Uncle Joe came to visit later as well.

When I got home, I dug out the ironing board and iron and locked the two cats downstairs. Jake, Carla and Acenter are coming by, because Acenter wants to iron some of her clothes for her trip home (Jake and Carla are currently making do without an ironing board and iron). Oh, and, Acenter is afraid of cats (don't ask).

They stopped in and Jake, Carla and I visited while Acenter ironed. It was late, and the last thing I'd eaten was that turkey sandwich Thursday night, so I suggested pizza and they agreed. We ate, and then they left (after freeing the cats once Acenter and I were on the porch). Carla had cleaned everything up, so there was nothing left for me to do but to get a drink and my book and head for bed.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

I got up at 7:30 AM Thanksgiving morning. I put on a pot of coffee and slid the now barely warm Dutch oven containing my weekend chili into the fridge. I figure there would be no lunch to spoil dinner, but we probably won't eat until afternoon sometime, so breakfast is in order. I fried up four strips of bacon and then two eggs in the bacon grease. Added two pieces of toast, and "ta-da," the perfect breakfast to be thankful for.

After eating, I threw a load of clothes in the washer and did a little bit of household maintenance (emptied the dishwasher, swept the kitchen floors, etc.) Then I took both halves of the cake, spread cream cheese frosting in the middle and glued them together. Then I spread some on the plate to help hold it upright on the road trip to its final destination. Then I got a sieve and some powdered sugar and dusted the top and sides (see photo). This part would later prove to be dumb. Then I wrapped it in Saran wrap to stay moist and put it in the car.

Melissa called to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. They are making half the dinner for today and taking it to Dustin and Linnea's house, who are making the other half. Sounds fun! And, probably nicer than me, who let Jake and Carla do it all, then I just show up, eat, visit, rest, and go home with leftovers, lol!

My, my where does the time go? It's almost 11:30 and I'm still in my bathrobe. So, I shave, shower, put on my clothes and head out. BTW its cold with snow flurries and some of the overnight snow is sticking to the grass in places!

I was greeted at the door by Jake, Carla and Carla's Mom, Acenter, who arrived on Tuesday after a 20-hour bus trip from Alabama. After the usual catching up, I unwrapped the cake. Almost all of the powdered sugar had clung to the Saran wrap, so my whole presentation effect was ruined! Jyl pointed out to me later that, after lessons learned, she tries to always frost and decorate her cakes "after" getting to the destination, so the lid or tin foil (or Saran wrap) doesn't trash it. Good advice.

Remember me feeling bad that Jake and Carla have to do all the work? Well, not really feeling "bad," just mentioning it, before? I spoke too soon as I learned it was a collaborative effort. Here is the menu and the chef responsible for it:

- Smoked turkey (Jake)
- Dressing (Acenter)
- Candied yams (Acenter)
- Chitlins (Acenter)
- Gravy (Acenter)
- Brussels sprouts (Carla)
- Mashed potatoes (Chef - Jake, prep chef - John)

They had made most of the dishes either the day before or at least before I got there, (smart idea, BTW. A lot less fuss and a lot less final cleanup). The only things I saw cooked were the Brussels sprouts and the potatoes.

So, the turkey was done around 2:00 PM. Jake pulled it off the smoker and while it rested the sprouts and spuds were cooked and the rest reheated. And, while Carla set the table and Jake began to carve the turkey, my mouth began to water.

Jake carved the turkey in a way that I've never seen used before, except on TV shows, and then starting this year. He cut off the whole breast and then cut it crosswise into about 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. That way each piece has some skin on it. We had some discussion about this and my feeling is that, back in the day, when turkeys were cooked low and slow, the breast tended to dry out. But, thin slices could be put on your plate, topped with gravy and still tasted great. These days, with brining for 12 hours and roasting (or smoking) at high temps for a shorter period of time, the meat is still very juicy, so these new thick slices are great.

Anyway, we served ourselves buffet-style, Acenter gave the blessing and we dug in! As I said, the turkey was moist and juicy and smoky; the potatoes just the right consistency (I attribute that to the way they were peeled, frankly); the dressing (cornbread) was great and pared well with the giblet gravy; the Brussels sprouts taste a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the candied yams and then there was the chitlins...

Definition: Chitterlings (pronounced and sometimes spelled chitlins in vernacular) are the intestines of a pig that have been prepared as food. They are a type of offal. They are carefully cleaned before they are cooked by boiling or stewing, and are often battered and fried after the stewing process. Chitterlings are also used for sausage casings.

Both Uncle Carl and Melissa had warned me about eating chitlins. However, since I learned that, after discussion, neither of them actually have eaten chitlins, I resolved to keep an open mind. They are a special favorite of Carla's, so Acenter (who does not eat pork or beef) made them for her. Jake said the cleaning of them yesterday went on forever (Carla's mom told me she cleans them all at least three time) and gave the house a peculiar odor. Carla likes hers boiled and served with hot sauce, so that how we ate them.

Result: I can see where it would be an acquired taste. Not bad, and the hot sauce seemed to cut the strange taste a tad. To be honest, though, I'd like to try the fried ones. I think it was the texture I had the most trouble with as boiled, they are a little rubbery.

After eating way too much and resting a bit, chatting at the table, cleanup started with each of us having assigned roles: Carla and Acenter cleaned up the kitchen, putting away leftovers, washing big items and loading the dishwasher with the small ones, Jake made a Thanksgiving call to his friend Jay and I laid down on the couch, being considerate and staying out of everyone's way, right?

After Jake got off the phone, he carved up the rest of the 20-pound fresh turkey and put the carcass, along with some frozen chicken bones in his stock pot. He dumped in a ton of water and some seasoning and brought it up to temp to make turkey stock.

After things settled down, we watched a rented movie "Diary of a mad black woman" an excellent comedy-romance movie that I laughed my head off at and I didn't even get half of the black-only jokes.

Finally, it was time to hit the road. I declined the generous offers of leftovers (I've still got all that roasted chicken, the new pot of chili, the last hamburger, etc., etc. etc.) except for some turkey slices (love those after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches) and a small piece of cranberry pie Jake made the day before and wanted me to try.

When I went out on their front porch, it was covered with a light dusting of snow (and so was my car)! So, (a little early I still think) I shifted mental gears into winter-driving mode and, slipping and sliding, drove home. When I got there, I tried a bite of pie before calling to let them know I was safe. Then, I tried another and another until the pie was gone! It tasted sweet and tart at the same time, like a cherry pie, only better!

I called Jeremy's family to wish them Happy Thanksgiving and then made a turkey sandwich. With sandwich and some olives on a plate, I went to bed to read and then fall asleep.

The last thought I had before dozing off was: Why didn't I ask for a bigger piece of pie...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Speaking of my youthful idealism...

"My Back Pages"

~ by Bob Dylan

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin' high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
"We'll meet on edges, soon," said I
Proud 'neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

Half-cracked prejudice leaped forth
"Rip down all hate," I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull, I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

Girls' faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, thought, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I'd become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My existence led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

This year, for obvious reasons, I am most thankful for my Mother! I like to think I learned just what it took to be a man from my Father, but I also learned exactly what a true lady was from my mother. It's always difficult to verbalize your feeling for your parents, but the closest I came to getting it right was the poem I wrote for her one Mother's Day. So, if interested, read or re-read "My Mother" in the poetry section.

Meanwhile, Mom, get well. Get through rehab (I know its a bitch, but necessary - if anyone knows, its me!) and get back home. It isn't really even winter yet (although its snowing as I write this) and already I feel the need to be sitting on the porch at Late Orion with you and watch the sun set.

photo

My contribution to the Thanksgiving Feast: a pumpkin-cranberry cake, disguised as a turkey!

Thanksgiving Eve

Rained hard on the way into work and throughout most of the day. After lunch, I went to the Secretary of State's and got my new license plates (they changed the design in Michigan, so it's not just a tab this year, but a whole new plate). Well, I didn't exactly "get" my plate; they have to order the handicap ones, so it will come in the mail. Plus, I found out I could have still renewed by mail or on the website. I thought I had to go in.

Once home and changed, I started to work. I have to make my turkey-shaped pumpkin-cranberry cake for tomorrow's feast at Jake house. Lesson learned from the trial run: chopping fresh round cranberries with a chef's knife is like herding cats. So, this time I sat at the table with the small cutting board and, using a paring knife, cut each on in half, one at a time.

When I was about half done with that, I took a break to call Luanne at her step-mother's house in Florida. She had left me a voicemail saying she'd be there at 6:30 PM. We talked a long time and I caught her up on what was going on with Mom and the rest of the family. After hanging up, I finished halving the cranberries and got going on the rest of the recipe.

It was around 8:00 PM when that went into the oven. I was starving, so I warmed up a burger and ate it while making this weekend's go-to dish, beef and black bean chili. I sorta used a recipe (for the spices and amounts) but basically made it up. I used two pounds of the 2006 stewing beef, cut into small cubes. I put small batches of them into a baggie with flour and house seasoning and then into oil heated in my cast-iron Dutch oven. When I had them all browned and draining, I poured off most of the oil and saut�ed a chopped red onion and five Jalapeno peppers, diced.

I took the cake out of the oven to cool. While all this was going on, I also talked on the phone with my brother Joe and my brother Jim.

I removed the onions and peppers and deglazed the pan with a bottle of beer. I let that cook down to almost nothing, the put back the beef, the onions and peppers and added the spices: ancho chili powder, regular chili powder and ground cumin. Then came two cups of chicken stock (sadly, NOT homemade) three cups of water and a drained can of diced tomatoes. Once I got it boiling again, I turned it to simmer and set both the oven timer and my bedroom alarm clock for three hours (12:30 AM) and went to bed to read and sleep.

I got up to pee just before the alarms went off, so I opened two tall cans of black beans, put them in a colander and rinsed them off. I added them to the pot, brought it back to boiling, then down to simmer and went back to bed. Next time I got up for the bathroom, I cut a lime in half and juiced it into the chili and turned it off, trusting on the heat-retention of the heavy cast iron to carry it through the night. And, it did!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday

I picked up a two-foot high Rosemary plant grown in the shape of a Christmas tree at lunch on Tuesday. Getting tired of the same old tree decorated the same old way every year, so I thought I'd try something different. Plus, I can eat it later! I put it in the back seat and hooked it in with a seatbelt, like a little kid, so it wouldn't spill over when I turned.

It was unusually warm today (high 59 degrees F.) so, when I got home, I dragged out the grill and lit up some charcoal. I still have four hamburger buns left but after Monday night, no way am I gonna eat the rest of the Manwich. So, I had thawed out a pound of hamburger. Since this was not my usual ground chuck (perfect for burgers and I use it just as is) I added a chopped onion, some bread crumbs, an egg and some Worcestershire sauce. I mixed it altogether and formed four patties. While it got up to room temperature, I went out and cut down the two screws for the front closet door handle.

I grilled the burgers and while they were resting, I tried to install the screws, but couldn't get the acorn nuts on. I gave up when it got to frustrating and went to eat dinner.

After dinner, I talked to my family by phone because my Mom's in the hospital having tests done. After that, I went and read until 10:30 and then went to sleep.

I got up to go to the bathroom around 1:30 AM and noticed it looked weird outside. It was a heavy fog (unusual for this area). Thinking about living back in Columbus or St. Clair, where heavy fog is common, I put on my bathrobe and went out on the patio for a while to "breathe deep the gathering gloom."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Monday's Story

I decided to stop at Meijer's for a few items on the way home. That was a big mistake! The place was packed with people fighting over turkey's, yams, pineapple and the fixin's for green bean casserole. Then, I was in the aisle getting laundry soap when a guy approached me, saying he'd just moved here from Oak Park, lost his job and had no money to feed his kids. He asked if I could spare some cash. I looked at his basket and he had cans of beans, cereal and milk. I mentally added up his basket items and gave him $20. Then I went and stood in line for forever and got home just before 6:00 PM.

While I was there, I was thinking about an easy dinner for me, because I want to get the rest of the door knobs installed tonight. So, I grabbed a can of Manwich, some hamburger buns and some chips. When I got home, I took out a pound of hamburger to thaw, changed clothes, put on the Paul Simon's Graceland CD I found last week, cranked it up and got to work!

I got the bathroom closet done and cleaned up the sawdust from filing the two grooves in the door and then moved on to the front entry coat closet. Took off the old knob, used the round file to make the grooves, assembled the handles and the backing plates, put in the new screws and... PROBLEM! The screws are too long! I checked and all the other doors are 1 5/8 inches thick. This coat closet one is 1 1/4 inches. But, it's too late and too cold to cut down the screws tonight. So, I swept up the sawdust and left it for tomorrow.

Since I had the electric sweeper out anyway, I did my bedroom and the office and then emptied it before putting it away.

Browned the hamburger and added the Manwich sauce. When it was ready, I ate two of them and some chips. Tasted so good I had one more. I talked with my brother Jim and my brother Carl (Mom's having some problems) and then watched some TV. Got bored and went back to reading until I went to sleep around 10:00 PM.

I wok up around 3:00 AM with a terrible stomach ache and gas. I just can't handle tomato-based sauces like I used to. Finally took some baking soda and water so I could get back to sleep.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunday Dinner

I really didn't want to get up this morning. I stayed in bed, reading until 8:00 PM! I heated a cup of coffee in the microwave and drank it cleaning up the bowls and cutting boards from yesterday's snacks.

I hand-washed the frying pan, the mini-muffin tins and my chef's knife. I cleaned the countertop, emptied the trash and washed the cat dishes, then refilled them when dry. I am basically putzing around, waiting for noon, so I can go outside and mulch the leaves. Why noon? I want the leaves to dry out as much as possible and I am hoping the temperature gets up to the predicted high (43 degrees F) and right now (at 11:00) its still only 38 degrees.

For lunch I ate more of the cheese and a lot more of the salami. Jake and Carla had left me the rest, so I enjoyed it!

So, at noon, I set out with the rake to the front yard. I dragged all the leaves out of the garden and away from the front of the garage door. Then, I moved to the side of the garage, Jake's patio and finally the patio and back gardens. Without the benefit of the morning sun, the leaves in the back were sill wet. But, I gassed up the mower and started cutting.

Everything was finished by 2:30 PM. I knocked the dust off my hat and coat, threw my clothes in the washer and finally shaved and took my shower. After I got cleaned up and changed, I washed the last load of laundry. I also had to rinse the dust off my Crocs.

I did a little of this and that until 4:00 PM when I started Sunday dinner. I have a four pound roasting chicken and the recipe I am using calls for a garlic head, halved, a lemon, likewise halved and parley, thyme and basil all stuffed in the cavity.

But, there's a problem: No basil! But, then I remembered my compound basil butter in the freezer. So, I thawed it out and then, using two fingers, separated the skin from the neck to the legs and stuffed in the basil butter.

I seasoned the cavity, but this won't all fit. I settled for half the garlic head, half the lemon and a handful of thyme, rosemary, parsley and sage. Rest went into roasting pan, along with 1 cup of chicken stock. I popped it in the oven and basted every 15 minutes.

The chicken was a golden brown with an165 degrees F. internal temp just after 5:30 PM. I made mashed potatoes using half russet (peeled) and half redskins (unpeeled). Ran the cooked potatoes through a food mill (not worth the trouble, in my opinion, but I wanted to try it) and then folded in warm whipping cream and melted butter. I added snipped chives. I had also peeled and sliced three parsnips and boiled them. I plated everything and had a great Sunday dinner.

After cleanup (except for the roasting pan which is still soaking in hot soapy water), I watched my usual Sunday night programs and went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Snowy Saturday

Woke up Saturday morning at 7:00 AM. Posted the Friday Blog first, and then made some coffee. I tweaked my shopping list a bit and decided to make breakfast.

Now, I've made scrambled eggs with chives all my life and I always make them the same way: scramble some eggs and some snipped chives (I use a pair of scissors) together and then cook them in butter. But, today I'm experimenting and so I add the chives directly to the melting butter. I let that cook a bit while I scramble the eggs and then add them to the pan. I buttered two pieces of toast and did my taste test.

Was there a difference? It was slight, but yes! In my original method, you ate what tasted like ordinary scrambled eggs, with the occasional "burst" of chive flavor whenever you bit into a piece. In this method, there's less of that chive "burst" but every bite of eggs has the chive flavor infused in it.

Enough fooling around! I shaved and showered, and then got dressed. It's damn cold and supposed to snow or rain later this morning but I trudge on and go to all the places on my list:

- the library (the book I had on hold came in)
- GFS (to pick up a stock pot)
- the Feed Store (birdseed and suet cakes)
- Westland (produce and small bottles of wine I use for cooking)
- Linen's & Things (a set of pans I need that are � off!)
- Meijer's (normal grocery shopping)
- Petco (for kitty litter - it's cheaper here than at Meijers)

About half way through my trip, a rain/snow mix started. I got home just before 1:00 PM. I unloaded the car and put everything away (well, I did run the pot, pans and lids through the dishwasher first). Jake and Carla are coming over to play cards around 4:00 PM, so I need to do some tidying up and make some snacks.

I got the living room, kitchen and both bathrooms cleaned up. Just after 3:00 PM, I started making my "mini-quiches" when I saw a phrase I'd missed before: "mini muffin pans" (Well, duh, sure, of course, but I don't have any!) So, I hopped in the car and went back to Linens & Things, bought two of them and raced back home.

I fried up six slices of bacon, chopped and a diced onion. When they were about half done, I added some chopped button mushrooms to the pan. When the bacon was just starting to crisp, I pulled the pan off the heat and let it cool. Meanwhile, I scrambled three eggs, stirred in � cup of baking mix and then folded in two cups of shredded mild cheddar cheese. I had just added the cooled bacon, onion, mushroom mix when the doorbell rang.

It was Jake and Carla and they, too, brought snacks, an assortment of cheeses and some hard salami Jake had left to marinade in wine.

While we talked, I spooned the quiche mixture into the greased mini muffin pans and got them baking (350 degrees F. for 10-15 minutes or until the topps are lightly browned). Next I made the mini ham and cheese rolls (I got a theme going on here, lol!) I took two 12-packs of dinner rolls and cut them in half with my electric knife to turn them into, like, mini hamburger buns. BTW, I should have pulled each apart then cut it. I cut each of the whole twelve at once, so some were perfect, some had too much on the bottom and some too much on the top.

I spread Dijon mustard on the bottom, added a slice of deli ham I folded in half, then in half again. I topped that with a slice of Lorraine Swiss cheese, cut to size. If you have never had Lorraine Swiss cheese, I must tell you it's an acquired taste. It looks like baby Swiss, but has a sharp, almost unpleasant flavor. These went on cookie sheets, awaiting the topping.

I mixed two tablespoons each of poppy seeds and dried minced onions with � cup of melted butter and brushed it on top each roll. When the mini quiches came out of the oven, the ham and cheese went in. While the quiche cooled, I took a break and tried the salami and the cheeses.

You wouldn't think something as dense and fatty as salami (this was the small variety, maybe 2 inch circles) would allow wine to penetrate, but it did. It was a subtle taste, but definitely there. Of the cheeses, I loved the Roquefort the best, but I am a blue cheese kind of guy.

The ham and cheese rolls came out and were left to cool and we started playing cards.

Between too many mini quiches and the cheeses and cracker, I was too full to sample the ham and cheese rolls at that point. Carla did, though, and said the topping wasn't that great, but if you scrapped it off they weren't bad. I suspect the topping was supposed to imitate, say, a Kaiser roll, but it didn't work!

I didn't notice the time they left (I think it was around 8:00 PM). I debated (but not long, LOL) about cleaning up the mess I'd made or leaving it until the morning. Laziness won out!

I grabbed my book and two mini ham and cheese rolls and headed for my recliner. I took a bit of the little sandwich. Yuck! Carla was right, the topping sucked. And, I barely tasted the ham, as the Lorraine cheese overpowered it. If there's a next time, I'll add at least one, maybe two more pieces of ham, use regular Swiss cheese and skip the topping altogether.

Also, I noticed (belatedly) I had Tostitos, some salsa and salsa in cheese for an additional snack but never put them out!

I finally switched from the recliner to the bed, still reading, until I fell asleep. Woke up around 2:00 AM, put my book away, found my glasses and put them on the nightstand, turned off the light and went to bed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

LOL! And, if you thought yesterday was boring...

...you're gonna HATE today!

At least yesterday I went shopping after work. Today was another cold, windy, miserable day (a good "chili" day, but I still haven't found or made any good chili, yet).

Quite the opposite, actually. Today was a rather lengthy search for a restaurant that still served fried clams. I first got hooked on fried clams back in the 1970's, when the Howard Johnson's in Port Huron offered an "all you can eat" fried clams dinner on Fridays. OMG, they were good!

Today, however, fried clams have been removed from restaurant menus everywhere, and I'm not sure just why. Perhaps in our health-conscious society, a mound of deep-fried, battered morsels of clam-goodness, served with either tartar or seafood sauce, no longer works with the diet-de-jour.

Anyway, with the help of the Piece Offerings Administrator, I eventually found a restaurant that still served them (Beaver Creek in Westland, the place that serves the wild game and buffalo). So, that's what I had for lunch.

But, all afternoon, I was sleepy. I don't know if it was the heavy fried food or the cold, or the long afternoon, waiting for the weekend, but I could barely stay awake.

So, when I got home, I decided it would be a great idea to take a nap, so I wouldn't fall asleep too early tonight (that's twisted logic if I ever heard it!) and so, "could get a lot done tonight."

Now having a plan, I got home and after dealing with the mail, etc., I went to bed with my book and a drink. It wasn't until 6:30 when I actually fell asleep, though. I woke up just after 8:00, but I really didn't feel like beginning any projects or cleaning the house (which was why I took a nap in the first place!)so, I didn't. I heated up the last two pieces of my homemade turkey pot pie and ate that watching TV.

I did stay up until 12:30, but with no net gain on my house at all!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lazy days and Thursdays

Short post! It was very windy today with occasional snow. I stopped after work at Home Depot and decided on two possible barrel bolts for the bathroom lock, so I bought them both. Took a while deciding, so I didn't get home until after 6:00 PM.

Got the drill motor out but realized the drill bits are at Jake's house. So, I decided to do nothing tonight. Ate a burger for dinner. Talked to Jeremy on his way home for a short while. Read my book until 9:30, then went to sleep.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wednesday

So, I loaded up my pumpkin-cranberry turkey and went to work. I put it in the cafeteria with a knife and urged everyone to try it and give me their critique. By noon, it was three-quarters gone and at 4:30, when I went to clean up, it was just crumbs and a few larger chunks left. About 10 people actually reported back to me (one via email, which I thought was cute). All reviews were positive (not too tart, not too sweet, etc., just what I was looking for) except one. Don C. never tasted a cranberry before (?) and thought it was weird I put them in "that good cake."

I got home and changed clothes, then got to work. I replaced two more door handles, one in the hallway linen closet and one on the bathroom door. One problem, though. How do people lock the bathroom door now? Hmmm... gonna have to come up with an old-time fix for this. Maybe an ornate barrel lock?

Checked my computer and found the email regarding Jimmy Hay's death. Well, that kinda took the air out of my sail, so to speak.

I need some comfort food! So, I made linguine with white clam sauce, topped it with Parmigiano-Reggiano and ate too much of it watching TV. Cleaned up the kitchen and switched to reading until bedtime.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jimmy Hay, a retrospective...

I met Jimmy Hay through my friend B___. They were both lifeguards at the Richmond pool. Jimmy was the first person I ever knew who had his long hair "styled" (he had a girlfriend who was a beautician, you see). The three of us had a lot in common, guitar playing, song writing, motorcycle riding and raising hell in general.

I remember one night in Emil the Buffalo's (a bar, back in the day, out in the sticks, where the owner really was named Emil and he really did have live buffalo out back). We were doing tequila shots with salt and lime and stacking the shot glasses up in front of us. I don't know about anyone else, but I had like 16 in front of me in a pyramid. Anyway, the discussion got around to if you could really stand up on the seat of your motorcycle and let go of the handlebars. Eventually, we left to go to B___'s brother house in New Baltimore.

Today, County Line Road is a continuous strip of subdivisions, but back then, it was a long, long road of empty farmland. And, on the trip there, everyone (but me - I was chicken) stood on the seat of their motorcycles and tried to let go of the handlebars. Nobody did (thank God) and about half way to New Baltimore, my bike's rear tire blew out. So, I pulled it off into a wheat field, covered it up as best I could, and got on the back of B___'s bike (it was maybe 10 or 11:00 PM and no way to fix it or get it fixed at that point. I'd come back for it tomorrow).

We got to B___'s brother's house and decided to do some serious drinking (there's a joke in there, somewhere) and guitar playing. We all decided to spend the night, except for Jimmy, who said he had a late date.

The next day, we learned that on the trip back to Richmond, Jimmy stood up on the seat and really did let go of the handlebars. I can just imagine how cool he felt, for a moment! But, the moment passed, the bike went down and he skidded like a quarter mile on his face. Later he told us he went to three or four farmhouses until someone would let him in (hey, a bloody face is a little scary). Finally, someone called 911 and he was rescued. But, we called him "Scab" for a long time after that!

Flash forward: Jimmy helps save my life.

My friend B___ who was (and still is) an avid photographer, wanted some photos of bikes jumping in the air. So, the three of us, B___, Jimmy and me, went to a favorite dirt-bike spot back by the Belle River (maybe a quarter mile from the road). B___ was getting his shots and everything was going okay until I jumped my bike and got a bit twisted. Instead of on the path, I landed in tall weeds. I goosed the throttle a tad and swung wide to get back on track. I was probably going about 30-40 MPH when I hit a four-foot lightening-blasted stump hiding in the five-foot grass.

The bike took the brunt of the damage as I went over the handlebars. All, except for my left leg. That managed to find a jagged edge of the stump to hang onto and ripped my leg open (smashing the bones) from my knee to my ankle.

Now, if you are not a dirt bike rider, you would not know this, but you fall down a LOT. And, as a result, you are mentally trained to get back up quickly, get to the bike and turn it off (leaking gas and a running bike can be a problem). So, after rolling a bit, I jumped back up to shut the bike off. About a half second later, I fell back down. I looked down and damn near threw up at the mess that used to be my left leg.

B___ and Jimmy came up, and here's where I lucked out. B___ had been in the Navy, assigned to that helicopter that flew around an aircraft carrier to save pilots who had to ditch in the sea. So, he knew like every first aid thing in the world (they taught them right, in the service) and Jimmy was going to college to be a phys-ed teacher (not sure how that got so different, as I read his obituary and he lived and died working for Ford at the Romeo truck plant), but, as a result of his training, first aid was first and foremost.

Seeing the massive blood loss I had going on, Jimmy threw himself on me, found my main artery and pressed down so hard it hurt (even discounting the smashed leg). After making sure Jimmy had the right spot and had slowed the bleeding, B___ jumped on his bike, which was a road bike, NOT a dirt bike and went for help (later on I would learn he dropped it once, just getting to a phone).

Meanwhile, it was me and Jimmy. He paid no attention to my entreaties for something to drink (I was dying of thirst) nor to me saying that something was biting me (later, I learned I had been laying on an ant hill). He just kept pressure on my leg. So much so that a month later, I still had bruises on my inner thigh from the boy and his life saving techniques.

The rest of the story, (the ride to the road on a hood of a jeep, my missing being an amputee by just a doctor's chance passing by) can all wait for another day.

The fact is that I am reading the obituary of Jimmy Hay, who, back in the day, was my friend and who helped save my life.

Damn, this sucks...

So, this really sucks...

WALES TOWNSHIP

James Michael Hay, 58, of Wales Township died Thursday, November 8, 2007 in Port Huron Hospital after an extended illness. He was born May 5, 1949 to the late Ralph and Ellen (Volkening) Hay.

Jim graduated from Richmond High School in 1967 and attended Olivet College. He married Joianna Jones in Rochester, Michigan on April 6, 1974. Jim worked as an electrician for Ford Motor Company and enjoyed hunting, fishing, bowling, and playing baseball.

He is survived by his wife, Jody; brothers, Gary (Terri) Hay of Milan, Ohio, Michael (Cheryl) Hay of Memphis; and sisters, Nancy (Ronald) Rewalt of Casco, and Kristen Hay of Columbus. In addition to his parents, Jim was preceded in death by his brother, Steven Hay, in 1974.

Published on November 11, 2007.

Damn, Jimmy!

Tuesday's Trials

I took out the garbage in the morning at 6:00 AM as usual. I did call the Township offices on Monday to make sure Veteran's Day was NOT a holiday for the garbage trucks (and it wasn't).

Remember me saying I bought a new battery for my remote garage door opener yesterday? Well, what I didn't tell you was that while I was waiting for the sewer guys to finish, I took apart the opener, installed the new battery and tried it. It didn't work!!! Maybe it's upside down? I opened it and turned the battery over. Nothing. Maybe the contacts are worn and not touching? Bent them up to ensure contact. Nothing! Maybe the battery is no good? I checked with my multi-tester and the battery's putting out 3 volts, just like it was supposed to. Damn!

So, this morning (not wanting to try and run again), I pulled the car out, walked back in the garage, shut the door and exited the house through the front door. Once at work, I called B___ to ask if a trip to Sears after lunch would be okay. It was, so we went to pick up a replacement. I took in the defective one so I could match up the new one. I found the exact same model and gave them $40 US for it.

When I got home, I pulled in the driveway, pushed the button and...NOTHING!!! Got out of the car, went in the front door (fortunate side trip, as a book I'd ordered from Amazon was laying in one of the front porch chairs), got in the garage and pushed the button to raise the door. I had read on the new opener's package that if the button on the rear of the garage door opener was green, this was the right model remote. So, I grabbed a two step step-ladder and, balancing on the top step (stupid, I know), checked with a flashlight. Sure enough, the button was green. I pulled the car in and pushed the remote button again (standing behind the unit) and noticed something. The green button flashed when I pushed the button, although the door didn't move. Hmmm... tried the old one, no flashing. I think I'm onto something.

So, I went into my file box where I keep the owner's manuals and installation guides for anything I buy and started looking. When I finished, I had about a 2-inch stack of old owner's guides for things I no longer even owned (those went in the garbage), three guides for things that are actually Jake's (that went in the kitchen to give to him next time I see him) but NO manual for the garage door opener. Weird! I even still had the manual for the stereo I bought when we lived with my Mom on 24 Mile Road! But, no garage door opener manual.

Then I got to thinking. I got the garage door opener just after moving here. I had made an agreement with my landlady that she would buy the materials and I would provide the labor free for any improvements to the house I suggested and she approved. After Jake and I installed it, I think I gave her the bill for the opener and the owner's guide, too.

So, I got down the real step ladder and went to check out this "green" button thingie close up. And there, thank God, were little instructions on how you push the green button and the remote opener at the same time to sinc up the signal. I did and it did and the door opened! Hurray!

I celebrated by warming up two hamburgers, eating them on buns with two dill pickle spears and checking out my new book.

Next came baking Thanksgiving dessert. As I have mentioned before, having been burned once or twice making a recipe (that sounded great) for the first time and serving it, only to find it bland or boring or worse, I don't give people something now I haven't tried first. But this will be a challenge for me as I really don't like sweets. Hence, the early taste-test concept.

I am combining the best (hopefully) of three separate recipes for pumpkin-cranberry cake. For example, one recipe calls for dried cranberries (which are sweet) and another calls for fresh cranberries (which are tart), so in the Captain's cake, we are using half dried, half fresh cranberries. Another recipe called for brown sugar, while the first two used white. Since I already know you can substitute brown for white, cup for cup, if you pack the brown sugar, I'm using a half and half mixture here, too.

So, cake batter's done and in the greased, floured mold. Into the oven it goes for an hour and 10 minutes. I check and the toothpicks clean, so I pulled it out and let it rest in the mold for 15 minutes more. Now, the mold is two halves of a 3-D turkey, and the cake rose over top of the mold, so I got out my electric knife and cut both sides flush with the mold (so the two halves would fit together perfectly). Then, I put it on a rack to cool and went to watch TV.

About three hours later, it's cool to the touch. I opened up the store-bought cream cheese frosting (the "glue" that will hold them together) and frost each side, but staying about an inch away from the edge. I don't want the frosting to show. I used more frosting to "glue" it to stand up on a paper plate, dusted the top with confectioner's sugar and then covered it with Saran Wrap. Tomorrow, this will face the ultimate taste testers, the people from work!

Happy with the day, I went to sleep.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What a crock!

Ah, Monday morning, full of hope and promise for the new week! I was up early enough to actually make a pot of coffee and an egg sandwich for breakfast, then off to work I go. Oh, oh! The remote garage door opener in my car isn't working. So, I got out, closed the garage door and ran like hell to get out before it hits me (okay, okay, ran like hell as much as this old boy can run like hell...)

At lunch, I stopped in a Walgreens and picked up a new battery for the remote opener.

I didn't mention it yesterday, but I did do more laundry on Sunday and the floor drain did overflow again. So, after lunch, I called up the sewer cleaners my ex-landlady always had me use and they said they were booked for the next week, but could be there, today, at 2:00 PM. I made my apologies to my boss and raced home.

I beat them by five minutes. They remembered the house, although it's been 3 years or so since they were here. I got out an extension cord for them, they opened the outside access pipe and got to work.

Here's the problem. Somewhere in the history of the house, somebody added a 4-inch plastic pipe to provide outside access to the system. However, the line from the house to the road is 6-inch crock. So, they used to only be able to clean the line out with a 4-inch cutter, which doesn't really clean out the whole line.

However, the guy showed me a new style cutter they now have that expands from a 4-inch to a 6-inch. But, if any of the original clay crocks have moved out of line, hitting the edge of one would trash the entire system. So, before they use it, they run a camera down the line.

Old-style option with 4-inch cutter - $170.00
New Option with expanding 6-inch cutter and camera - $550.00

Since this was not a planned expense, I went with Option 1. I had to have all the water faucets turned on while they worked, so I just sat in the house and listened to my next water bill rise in price. They were done and gone and I was coiling up the extension cord at 3:45 PM. I decided going back to work would be a little silly.

I swept the downstairs floor and washed it (it only overflowed with dirty laundry water so it wasn't too bad).

I had saved the au jus from Saturday's roast, so I put olive oil and butter in a cast iron pan, then saut�ed a medium sized onion that I diced. Next I added sliced cremini mushrooms (later on, I determined it would have been better to chop the mushrooms) and when everything was ready, I added the au jus to warm up. I thickened it with cornstarch and cold water, tasted it and added some fresh ground pepper.

I put two pieces of bread on a plate, topped it with shredded roast beef and topped that with my gravy. So, I had an open faced hot beef sandwich for dinner. And, the mushrooms? Taste was excellent, but it just looked silly to have those big slices of mushroom in the gravy.

I watched some TV (the last Next Iron Chef America for the second time) and then read until bedtime.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rainy days and Sundays...

I woke up at 5:00 AM, decided that was way too early to get up, so I went back to sleep until 7:30. Got some coffee and putzed around a while until I remembered I never finished or posted the Blog. Yikes!

So, I got that done before 9:00 AM and then started breakfast. Well, that was the plan anyway. I was picturing bacon, over easy eggs and grits with butter, salt and pepper. But, the usual check of weather predicted spotty showers this morning, followed by an all day rain. I checked the patio, and it hasn't rained here, yet. So, forget breakfast, time to work!

Grabbed the leaf rake and got to raking! I pulled all the leaves out of the front gardens and off the driveway. Then, out came the mower! I cut the front grass and then the side lawn. My efforts to blow the cut up leaves in a certain direction were stymied by a steady blowing wind from the south. The wind also had another effect: by the time I was finished, my face and hands were frozen!

Once back inside, I took off my coat and clothes and stuffed them in the washer. Then I shaved and showered. I returned Luanne's call from yesterday. She had a question about damaged bark on fruit trees (apparently her goats got a little rambunctious).

I have a green and red pepper bought last weekend that are beginning to wrinkle. I think I need to use them or lose them. So, I saut�ed them with a sliced onion, then added John Morrel Hot smoked sausage. I served them over brown rice.

To celebrate Veteran's Day, I watched the movie "We were soldiers once" even though parts of it tear me up. Midway through the movie, I felt the need for a snack, so I warmed up little smokies in bacon grease, then put them into the little dipper crock pot with hot BBQ sauce.

I paused the movie long enough to replace all four bulbs in the bedroom and office overhead fixtures with the new fluorescent ones.

For dinner, I needed to use up the leftover smoked turkey so I made a Luanne-style turkey pot pie. This was a simple dish she invented years ago to use up leftover Thanksgiving turkey, by using pre-made pie crusts, a can of Veg-all (mixed vegetables), a jar of turkey gravy and your own leftover turkey, cut into chunks. I baked that for 40 minutes at 400 degrees F. and then ate two pieces.

I watched my usual Sunday night shows until 11:30, and then went into the office to write this. Now, I'm going to bed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

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Red and green peppers, getting tired waiting to be eaten.

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Peppers, onions and smoked hot sausage, over brown rice

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Floor drain in front of the washer that is overflowing (lowest point of drains in the house)

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Laundry area (for Jyl)

Happy Veteran's Day

To my friend B___, US Navy, Vietnam era,
my brother Joe, US Army, Vietnam era,
my brother George, US Army, Korean War era
my brother Peter, Michigan National Guard, Korean War era and
Carla's brother Curtis, US Army, Iraq wars era.

And, I would like to mention:
my son Jake, US Air Force,
his best friend Jay. US Army and
my daughter, Melissa, US Navy.

Various medical conditions prevented them from finishing their tour of duties, but they all volunteered and that should also be honored.

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Front yard, after raking but before mowing

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Front yard, after!

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St. Francis garden, after weedwacking, but "before" adding more mulch

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St. Francis garden, after

Forgot to mention...

Last night's full load of laundry overflowed the floor drain again and I had to mop up a big mess. Definitely time to call those sewer cleaning guys again!

Saturday

Woke up just before 7:00 AM and made a pot of coffee in my fresh, clean coffee maker. Took my meds and decided I really needed something to calm down my poor tummy. So, I made soft-boiled eggs (how much more bland can you get?) So, fortified against the day, I took a shower.

Then, I got dinner ready in the slow cooker. Another roast (still the 2006 meat) but English this time. It had a big ridge of hard fat on one side so I scored it every inch or so (that keeps it from tightening up when cooking). I assembled the ingredients in the slow cooker the usual way, except for the following deviations: I used less carrots and russet potatoes and added a medium size rutabagas, cut into chunks and I skipped the Montreal steak seasoning on the roast, opting instead for house seasoning first, then pressing a lot of rough ground black peppercorns into both sides. It's 9:00 AM and the slow cooker just got set to Low (Low and slow baby, that's what makes it good!)

This is the only day in the next five that is promised to be free from rain. So, it's outside work and all I can do until I can't move or it's dark. But, after dressing, first its errands aplenty (that's okay, because its only 42 degrees F, presently. It's supposed to warm up to an amazing 48 degrees this afternoon.)

So, first I hit the library. I returned my current books and got three more, plus put a hold on a book, "The Elements of Taste," by Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky. I am the third person in line to read it. I was going to buy it after hearing about it, but the cheapest one I could find was a used book on Amazon for $52.00 US, and that's just ridiculous! It's not a cook book, per se, but more a theory book on what goes with what to get the result you want. For example, every recipe that says "add a can of crushed tomatoes" also says to add some sugar. Why? It's because the sugar offsets the acid in the tomatoes (but you knew that). Since I rarely follow a recipe word for word or ingredient for ingredient anymore, I'd like to know the theory behind the recipe. But, I'll have to wait a bit for it...

Next it was Home Depot and picking up 4 of the energy-saving fluorescent bulbs that fit in a regular incandescent light fixture. I want to replace the bedroom and office overhead bulbs with them (Go Green! Go, saving money!)

Then it was Meijers and picking up a few items I need for this weekend. Bill came to $31.00 US, so you can guess, it wasn't much stuff.

Then I stopped by the bank and deposited another check, stopped and got gas for the lawn mower and, finally, washed my car in the quarter car wash and then vacuumed it out (I know, I know, its only gonna rain or snow again, but I got more caked-on mud than I can mentally deal with!) I got back home around 1:30 PM.

On to work! I get out the weed wacker and cut down all the dead ferns and lily of the valley in the St. Francis garden. I raked the debris into the grass. Then I got out my last two bags of mulch from this spring and top off the garden. Took a "before" picture, but forgot to take an "after" shot.

Then I got the blower and blew the leaves off both patios. Next, I got the leaf rake and pulled the leaves away from the house and into the path of the mower. Since I had the rake out, I went back in the back and installed the Styrofoam cones to protect my roses over the winter. I've never used them before, but I don't want my new roses to die. I did remember to take a picture of them.

I gas up the mower, check the oil and head out back. Again it takes two trips (one slow, one fast) but I get done just before dark (ran out of daylight to do the front, dammit!) I did take an "after" picture here, too and posted it, but you'll have to click on it to see it, it's that dark.

Came in, stuck my dusty clothes in the washer and my dusty self in the shower. Put on my indoor uniform and made a plate of food for my lunch/dinner. Odd to be eating lunch/dinner at 7:30 PM, but work gets in the way of lots of things, I fear.

Well, my roast confirms my theory I had developed with the beef stew: Rutabagas flavor is subtle, much like parsnips and like parsnips doesn't stand up to the stronger flavors in stews or a roast beef pot. There was a "hint" of rutabagas, but mostly they all tasted like beef and not easily distinguished from the potatoes. I haven't gotten back to the pasties (but I will! Oh, yes, I will!) but I think in general, to really enjoy rutabagas, you have to cook it by itself.

Anyway, the roast was just good, not outstanding in any way. However, it did fill and warm the empty spot that had developed in my tummy over the course of the day. Cleaned up the mess, except for the slow cooker (I'll do that in the morning) and decided to read in the living room again. Did that until I started nodding off, and then went to bed.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

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Back lawn, before

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Back lawn, after (sorry about how dark this is, but it was getting late)

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The roses, ready for winter

RIP

This is the 32nd anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Those of us who live around the Great Lakes will never forget that day (especially someone like me who loved to watch the big freighters go by the house in St. Clair).

As for the rest of you, Gordon Lightfoot won't let you forget!

Tee Shirt Sayings

I get a TON of catalogs at the house now. 99% of them go from the mail box to the trash can, but every now and them one catches my eye and I look at it. Th one I checked out yesterday was all novelty items, but it did have four pages of tee shirts with sayings on them. Most were either just suggestive or silly, but I thought some were brilliant! Here are my favorites:

"Tact is for people who aren't witty enough to be sarcastic"

"If it weren't for the gutter, my mind would be homeless"

"I'm not cynical, everything just sucks"

"I don't believe in miracles, I RELY on them"

"I'm not good at empathy, would you settle for sarcasm?"

"You know that 'look' that women get when they want sex? Me neither..."

"Shut up voices or I'll poke you with a Q-tip again!"

and, finally, my favorite:

"I'm not a gynecologist, but I'll take a look"

Flatulent Friday

Friday was a little bit warmer, but now with a drizzle of rain. It was supposed to be only a 30% chance of rain, but the whole 30% must have sat over top of Livonia and Redford all day! After catching up at work in the morning from my whirlwind Thursday, the rest of the day went rather slowly.

Getting home, I first concentrated on making up my weekend To Do list. Then I went through my pantry and took out all duplicated can goods to go into the Boy Scout Can Do bag. The Scouts pass out plastic bags on Friday and you're supposed to put your donation on your porch by Saturday morning before 8:00 AM. They do this every year, but most years I put out my bag of cans and nobody ever picks them up. I figure they must come too early, so this time I put it on the porch railing, in plain sight, tonight.

You remember my longing for liver and onions? Well, I have had the same sort of jones for a good bowl of chili. In fact I had a bowl today, but it was an upscale restaurant and served "white beans and chicken" chili. Good, but not what I was dreaming about.

So I made a fatal mistake (well, not fatal or I wouldn't be typing this, right?) and for dinner I had a burger and warmed up a large can of Hormel chili with beans (not what I was dreaming of either, but a lot closer).

I watched TV until my daughter Melissa called and conferenced me into a conversation she was having with her aunt Carol. I haven't seen Carol in some 35 years, but we were good friends back in the day when I was married to her older sister, Fran. We talked for a long time until Carol had to go, then Melissa and I talked a while more.

I read until bed time, them went to sleep around 11:30 PM. Then my mistake for dinner came back to haunt me. I woke up after 1:00 AM with terrible heartburn, gas and an acid taste in my mouth. Not usually having these symptoms I was at a loss for a cure until I remembered an old-time remedy and added a teaspoon of baking soda to a half a glass of water. I drank it down and after a bit, was able to go to sleep again. Note to self: No chili after, say, 3:00 PM from now on!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Late Night Reading

Although its still fall by the calendar, it was another winter day here in Redford. It was snowing at lunch time, not hard and not sticking, but definitely snow.

I didn't change clothes upon arriving home. First, there are things to do outside. When I go shopping, whatever's left of the old loaf of bread gets dried out and fed to the birds and squirrels. So, I gathered up the bread I've had spread out on top of the dryer to dry (ironic isn't it?), got a suet cake and went out to refill bird and squirrel feeders, the suet cage and break up and scatter the old bread.

Then, I dragged out the grille. I bought 2 pounds of ground chuck last Saturday and I either have to use it or freeze it. So, while the coals were burning down, I made the ground beef into 6 patties. Why not use the peanut butter jar lid and make 8 perfect quarter-pounders? That worked great during the kitchen remodel when I was just eating on the go, but you and I both know I don't really like to eat leftovers two days in a row. So, these days, I always seem to throw out the last two burgers, fearing they've gone bad before me getting to them. So, making 6 instead or 8 seemed a reasonable alternative.

As usual, I hit them on both sides with the house seasoning and then let them come up to room temperature. Then I grilled them for four minutes a side, pulled them off to rest and ended up with perfect, medium-rare burgers. Two buns, some mayo and yellow mustard, two kosher dill spears and dinner was done.

I didn't sleep well the night before, so I decided to take a nap. I set the alarm for 7:30 PM and went to sleep. Waking up, I decided that was enough lying down for a while. So, I got my book and went into the living room, turned on the radio and the floor lamp and read in my recliner. I finally quit at 11:30 PM and went to bed.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

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Liver and Onions, San Jose Style

Wednesday and organ meat...

Wednesday there was no snow or rain. But, it was cold and windy. And, it was a long, frustrating day at work (guy flying in from Austria to work on one of my projects is now coming on the 8th instead of the 12th, so I had a lot of shuffling around to do).

I'm not sure why, but today I developed a hankering for liver and onions. So, I stopped at Kroger's on the way home and asked the butcher if he had any calf's liver. He said all they had was beef liver. I took it anyway.

Once home, with clothes changed, I rinsed off the liver, cut it into three pieces and, after putting it in a glass dish, covered it with whole milk. Next I fried up four slices of thick bacon until it was crisp. I removed most of the bacon grease, and then I sauteed sliced onions in the pan.

Jeremy called on his way home from work, so we chatted as I sauteed, but them I had to hang up or burn things.

I shook off the milk and patted the liver pieces dry. I pulled the onions from out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Then I put the liver patties in a baggie with flour and some seasoning, shook it around and then fried them (two minutes a side).

I "baked" a sweet potato in the microwave oven and scooped out the insides in the middle of the plate, topped it with a piece of liver and topped that with onions then bacon (see photos - remember to click on photo to enlarge).

Outcome? Well, the liver was very moist and the onions, bacon and sweet potato all worked, but the liver still had that "earthy" taste to it that turns most people off. I thought the milk eliminated that. Maybe if it had really been calf's liver...

Watched TV and read until bedtime.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tuesday, and now its winter...

A cold front moved through our state Monday afternoon, bringing high winds, cold temps and rain. By this morning, when I was taking the garbage out to the road, it was a light snow! Snow in the first week of November is never a good sign in Michigan.

I got all the way to work before I realized that, in concentrating on the garbage, I completely forgot to go vote this morning as I'd planned. Damn!

At lunch, we went to the mall. Bombay (my favorite store) is going out of business and B___ wanted to see if they had a floor lamp. This is depressing to me as most of my pictures, my hall table and a variety of smaller items all came from this store. I will miss it. After he couldn't find one, we left and went to Williams-Sonoma and picked up the cake pan I need for making Thanksgiving dessert.

After work, I went down the expressway past my normal turn (Inkster) and got off on Beech Daly to go to the polling station. Now I always vote at 7:00 AM and there is usually four or five cars in the lot. This time of the day, there's like 20. But, with only one issue on the ballot, its going quicker than normal and I'm more mad at myself for forgetting this morning than as I am having to wait tonight.

My ex-lawn lady rang the bell around 6:30 PM. Her daughter's in Girl Scouts (the one who gave me the celery way back when) so I bought $7 worth of cashews (they aren't selling cookies yet). Oh well, I can use them over the holiday's, I'm sure.

More small, but important projects tonight. First I cleaned the coffee maker. I washed it all down and ran a mix of half water and half white vinegar through it twice. Then I put the pot and its top in the dishwasher. Next I switched the existing door handle on the office door with a new glass one (slowly but surely, these will all get done).

The phone rang. It was a girl from my cable provider, Brighthouse, offering me 10 movie channels for a low six-month price. I told her I tape more shows than I can watch now, why would I want more channels? She said if I change my mind, just call 1-800-Comcast. After a pause, I said, "Don't you mean 1-800-Brighthouse?" She said, "Oh, I'm sorry! I'm pregnant and my baby just kicked me in the right spot at the wrong time!" I hung up laughing...

For dinner I cut 5 thin slices off the smoked turkey breast and warmed them in the microwave. Then I cooked some wide egg noodles and warmed a jar of store-bought turkey gravy. I added fresh parsley and butter to the egg noodles after draining them. I arranged the turkey in a crescent moon pattern on the plate, piled the egg noodles in the middle and splashed the gravy in a line down the middle of the turkey slices. Most excellent leftovers and, surprising to me anyway, the smoked turkey flavor came through loud and clear even with the gravy.

I watched TV until 10:00 PM, then went to bed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Monday moanin'

My trip into work Monday morning was very frustrating. Just after leaving the house, I noticed that every time I went around a corner, there was a thump, thump, thump, and then crash in my trunk. I stopped at the ATM to deposit a check and it wasn't working. Grrr... So, at work, the first think I did was look in the trunk, The noise was an acorn squash that must have escaped from the Saturday shopping and, with it's dark skin, was able to hid in the back of the trunk unnoticed. The squash went into the back seat of the car for the ride home.

At lunch, I went to another ATM and deposited my check. I also stopped at Murray's Auto and got two bottles of windshield wash fluid that was on sale.

On the way home I stopped for some kitty litter. I forgot to get it Saturday. Tuesday's garbage day and I like the put the old, used kitty litter out to be picked up. So, when I got home, there were several small chores to do.

I topped off my windshield washer fluid in the car, brought the runaway squash into the house and then changed clothes. Next I tackled the kitty litter (twice as much work, these days).

I did turn on the self-cleaning oven Sunday night. For those of you who don't have or don't ever use that feature, the 4 1/2 hours of high heat leaves a white dust-like ash inside the oven. So, I got a damp sponge and cleaned all the surfaces off and now I'm good to go. Except for the door. For some reason, the door never gets cleaned by this method and I'm not quite sure what to clean it with by hand. I would welcome any suggestions!

I finally got my Mother on the phone. We talked for a while and everything seems to be fine with her.

I didn't really make "dinner" tonight, as I have too many interesting leftovers. So, I snacked on a variety of foods throughout the evening (a big slice of the smoked turkey, eaten cold with salt; several deviled eggs; the last of the Brussels sprouts, warmed up in the microwave and a couple of the hunter's sausages).

I watched TV until 11:00 and then went to sleep.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Another Good Sunday!

I woke up at 6:00 and decided it was too early to get up, so I read in bed until 7:30. I put a pot of coffee on and took a shower. Got dressed and for some odd reason, remembered a clock I forgot to change: The one in the programmable thermostat. So, I fixed that.

Then I fixed myself some scrambled eggs. I cleaned up the dishes, got another cup of coffee and contemplated my Sunday. As I think I mentioned yesterday, the house is pretty clean. And, I got all the outside work done yesterday. So, I think today will be several small projects, interspersed with goofing off.

I put my grass-cutting clothes (all covered with dust and leaves) in the wash machine along with the towel I used to mop up the water yesterday when the floor drain overflowed. I haven't had to do this in three years or so, but I think it may be time to get those guys back to snake out the line to the street. Note: Every time the washer was on rinse, I'd run back to see if it was overflowing. It never did, but this was only a "medium" load, so maybe that's why.

Next I started to deep-clean to stove. I used Soft-Scrub on the all the stuck-on grease and gunk under the burner trays, wash the burner trays with a Brillo pad and throw the grates (or whatever they are called) in the dishwasher. My back is starting to ache from all the rubbing and scrubbing, but I got it done. I'll turn on the self-cleaning oven tonight when I go to bed.

That done, I cleaned both cat's dishes. Sweeping up the spilled cat food, I noticed the wood floors in both the office and the bedroom were clean, but a bit dull. So, I got out the Swifter Wet Jet and washed the floors.

My daughter, Melissa called from their new home in North Carolina. Dave and Dustin have a football game they want to watch this afternoon, so the women are making a ton of appetizers (she made my mouth water just naming some of them) for an indoor tailgating party.

Oh, yes, I added a non-skid pad under the front hall rug (Jake remarked how it moved yesterday when he stepped on it). Since I rarely go in or out of the front door, I hadn't noticed, but don't want anybody (including me) falling.

One thing I forgot to write in yesterday's post was that I had thawed out a boneless turkey breast yesterday for smoking today. So, last night I made up a simple brine and the turkey's been sitting in the fridge ever since. As I said, this brine's pretty basic. For each quart of water needed, you mix:

4 cups of water
1/4 cup table salt or 1/3 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 medium bay leaf, crumbled.

Mix together until the salt and sugar dissolve. Put the turkey breast in a big baggie (I don't have them that big, myself) or a pot with a weight on the breast to keep it submerged (I used a soup bowl) and fill with brine. In my case, since I used a large pot, it took three quarts of brine to cover.

Anyway, it's now almost noon, too early to start the turkey. I need to use up the last six hardboiled eggs, so I made up some bacon and cheddar deviled eggs. Just as I was about half way done, Jake and Carla showed up with the meat. So, I popped it all back in the fridge and went out to help unload. We briefly discussed doing another inventory as we put it away (we did this last year and printed off what Carla was fond of calling "The Meat Log"). But, since we didn't keep up with it last time, why bother? With another year's supply of meat safely tucked away, we retired to the kitchen for a short chat.

They caught me up on what's happening with Jerry and Kathy and St. Clair while I finished the deviled eggs. They each tried an egg and said they were good (Dammit! I was hoping for GREAT!) Then, they grabbed some meat and headed home. I tried calling my Mother, but there was no answer, even after 20 rings. I imagine she's at somebody house today.

I started the grille, set up for indirect heat/smoking at 2:00 PM. Once the coals were ready, I took the turkey breast out of the brine, patted it dry and applied a liberal amount of canola oil on it. I did the trick of cutting halfway through a potato, but this time a sweet potato, slathering it with butter, wrapping it in tin foil and putting it directly on the coals. Then I added wet wood chips (apple, this time. I think it will go well with the brown sugar brine), stuck the digital thermometer probe in the meat (alarm set for 165 degrees F. internal temp), closed the lid and went in the house. I'll check it throughout the afternoon (you just look out the front door for the tell-tale of no smoke) and add more wet wood chips and/or coal as needed.

I set the timer on the stove for 20 minutes and go out and add more wood chips. Repeat... Repeat... When the internal temperature of the turkey breast hit 150 degrees F., I started on the other side dish. I put a pot of salted water on to boil and cleaned a tray of Brussels sprouts. When the digital timer in the turkey went off (just before 4:00 PM), I pulled it off the grille and tented it with tin foil to re-distribute the juices. I dug out the baked sweet potato and brought it in (but left it in the tinfoil. Then, I started the Brussels sprouts.

I cooked the Brussels sprouts in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 9 minutes. Then I drained them in the colander, put them back in the original pot and tossed them with 3 tablespoons of butter and added salt and pepper, to taste.

I cut the strings off the turkey breast and carved it, putting 4 nice slices on a plate. I unwrapped the sweet potato and was momentarily taken aback. It was totally black! I know better!! It takes less than an hour to bake a regular potato with this method. Why the heck did I leave this on the fire for almost two hours? Then I realized while the skin was burnt, the inside was perfect! So, I dug out the inner potato with a spoon and added it to my plate. Finally a slotted spoonful of the Brussels sprouts and I dug in...

The turkey skin was a dark golden brown. The inside had a nice, visible smoke ring and was so moist and juicy it was unbelievable. While I couldn't pick out the precise apple or brown sugar taste, it tasted definitely different and delicious. The sweet potato was excellent and the Brussels sprouts perfectly done. A great Sunday meal!!!

I cleaned up the dishes and decided that, at 5:00 PM, my workday is done. I took my book into the living room and let my supper settle in my stomach in my recliner. I tried calling my Mom again. Still no answer. Then Luanne called. She's back home, a day later than they'd planned because they missed a connecting flight in Texas and had to stay overnight. You could tell just from her voice it was an awesome experience for her and a great way to mark turning 50. I myself have no idea what, if anything, I did to celebrate being a half century old. Anyway, she said they'd bring up the photos when they come at Christmas time so I can see the whole expedition.

Now, its 6:30 and I just put away the leftovers from dinner. I've been cleaning up as I went, so it's just a quick wipe of the counter and I'm free to watch my Sunday shows. I tried Mom again, but still no answer.

I watched a taped show, then my 8:00 PM regular show (Extreme makeover, Home Edition - I'm such a sucker for that show, lol!). At nine, I tried Mom again, still no answer, so I called Carl, but got his voicemail. So, I called Jim. Bingo. He said Mom had been at their house all day and he took her home 20 minutes ago. I said I had just called and got no answer and he said she probably went to bed as she was very tired. So, I'll call her another day, I guess. When I hung up from Jim, Carl called me back and I told him I found the answer out already.

Forgot to mention, for days now, Caley has been jumping up on the computer table on the left side, getting bored after a bit and walking across the keyboard to get to the tight side. Since this types in way more letters than I want, I angrily pick her up and put her down on the floor. So, she has learned that's a no-no. Now what she does is jump on top the monitor, lay down and hang her head and one leg over the front and try and catch the cursor with her paw. Weird cat...

I figured I'd post this when I wake up during the night and I did.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Saturday's Soup

I woke up at 7:30 and got started. Shave, shower, take my meds, get dressed and I'm out the door, starting my errands. I got my haircut (it's a week early, but my barber's leaving next Saturday on vacation, so it's either a week early or a week late and I decided to err on the side of caution and/or good grooming).

Then I'm on to Westborn Market for fresh produce and finally Meijer's for the rest of my grocery shopping. Got home and got everything put away. I started a load of laundry and then surveyed my castle. Hmmm... Everything's still more or less clean from last weekend's efforts, except the kitchen floor. So, the kitchen mat goes in the next load of laundry and I sweep, then mop the floor, and go read until it dries.

Once I can walk in the kitchen again, I begin to make today's dinner. It's a Tyler Florence recipe for Hunter's Minestrone, described as a rustic Italian soup. This is NOT a 30-Minute meal, BTW. You end up using 3 different pots and your food processor, so clean-up's no snap either.

I had just added the cooked rigatoni to it when Jyl rang the doorbell. She was on her way to her sister's in Detroit and stopped by to drop off Joe and Riese's school pictures (in a frame, no less!) I asked her if she would like to eat some soup and she said no, but she's have a taste. So, I put a half ladle of soup in a bowl for her to try. I described how the soup was made while she tasted it and when the bowl was empty, she said, "Okay, okay! Give me a full bowl of it!" So, I know one person at least who likes it.

She left and I got busy blowing the leaves off the back patio and onto the grass. I'm gonna mulch them up with the mower, later today. I came back in the house when Jake and Carla stopped by. They are on the way up to St. Clair to pick up our half of a side of beef and I still needed to give them my half of the money. They also became my food tasters and both seemed to like the soup, although Carla burned her tongue trying it, which she didn't like at all. Then they left.

Now I took my trusty blower to the front. I got a carpet of leaves in the driveway and on the porch, so I blew them all into the grass. Blower went back in the garage and the lawn mower came out. I cut the front twice and then cut the back twice (it takes two times to really mulch the leaves up, but the second time you can do at a faster speed). I stopped for a moment to admire my work. But, as I was standing on the back patio, I watched at least a dozen leaves slowly drift down from the trees and land on the lawn Sigh...

I went back inside, covered with leaves and dust, and took a hot shower. The warm water soothed my aches and pains, but relaxed me enough so that it pretty much answered the question: dinner or a nap?

I woke up at 6:00 PM (or maybe 7:00 or maybe 5:00. I already changed the clocks in anticipation of Daylight Savings Time ending so I am all confused about what time it really is). Anyway, I gave up on making the Parmesan baguette slices for the soup and just went and ate two bowls of it. Not bad... not bad at all...

I watched TV until bedtime. I woke up in the middle of the night and decided since I was awake anyway, I'd post this.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Fish Fry Friday

Started the weekend as usual, driving home from work and pounding on the steering wheel to Todd Rundgren's "Bang the Drum All Day." Once home, I returned some voicemails, but got nowhere fast. No one was home, so all I could do was leave them voicemails back (What a world, what a world!)

Took my time and eased into the night. I thawed out three tilapia fillets for dinner. I'm making fish and chips, minus the chips (with all the stew I'm had this week, I'm becoming a little potato-logged!)

Around 6:30 PM, I made up the beer batter for the fish. I'm using an Alton Brown recipe for this and it's a little more complicated than the onion ring beer batter (more ingredients and it has to be refrigerated for at least 15 minutes or up to an hour). While I waited on that, I made up my shopping list for tomorrow morning.

I made up my favorite topping for fish with some real mayo, horseradish, lemon juice, salt, pepper and some parsley. That went into the fridge to get happy and I got to work. I cut each fillet in half, dredged them in cornstarch and then dipped them in the beer batter. Then they went into 350 degrees F. oil for three minutes each side, then onto the usual rack over paper towels on the cookie sheet.

So, in the end, I had six beautiful, golden pieces of perfectly fried fish. I ate three of them, topped with the sauce. I watched TV until I fell asleep.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Working in the yard, playing in the kitchen...

I stopped at Westborn Market on the way home for some green beans and mushrooms I've got an idea I want to try for the stew.

I got home and got out the air compressor. I took it outside and blew out the hose that's attached to the fence. This should prevent it from freezing and cracking in the winter. My Fall ToDo list is really shrinking. There are only four item left. One is move the chiminea in the house after the last Fall fire and the rest are all maintenance: Keep cutting the leaves up, get all the leaves off the roof when the last one has fallen and finally then clean out the gutters.

I went in the house and changed. I got out my Dutch oven and put in some olive oil and butter. While it melted, I cut the whole mushrooms into quarters and began to saut� them. Then I trimmed the ends of the green beans and cut them into 1 1/2 inch pieces. When the mushrooms were just about finished, I threw in the green beans and let them cook a few minutes. Then I added the leftover stew, turn the pot to simmer and stirred occasionally until it got warm. I put the dumplings back on top and covered the pot to steam them.

I had a bowl and my theory was sound. Now the softness of the meat, potatoes, parsnips and rutabagas are balanced by the crunch of the green beans. I guess I could have used celery as well.

Watched TV until 10:00 PM, then out went the lights and it was bedtime for the Captain.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Coincidence? I think not...

To this day I marvel that three out of four of my kids were all born within an 11 day spam. I used to attribute this to Michigan winter (its cold, you can't go outside, there's not a lot to do, etc.) but I am still not totally convinced. All I know is that women of child-bearing age should avoid me like the plague between January 21 and February 1!

The theory seems sound, but then how can I explain Jake? Was he just a "wild hair"? Or, was that the "Mother of all Septembers to remember"?

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Beef Stew with a dumpling (you may need to click on it to enlarge)