Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bill Gates and Me

Today was quite a departure from my usual Wednesday work day. At the request of my boss, I registered for and attended a seminar on eDiscovery at the Southfield office of Microsoft.

It was from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. According to Yahoo Maps, it was supposed to be a 14 minute trip, so I doubled the time (based on rush hour traffic) and added another 15 minutes to allow for parking, being confused, finding the right Suite, etc. So, I left at 8:15 AM.

I was right! There were a few traffic slowdowns, I did get confused where to go (the parking lot itself was just huge) and I had problems once in the building. I got on an elevator and the doors closed, but the buttons only went to the 11th floor. Microsoft is on the 19th floor, BTW. So, I asked a fellow traveler how I would get to the 19th floor and he said it was another bank of elevators. So, I went back down, found the other elevators (which only went from the 12th floor to the 19th) and finally got upstairs.

Once inside and registered (with my temporary badge hanging on my neck) I checked it out. It was a very nice conference room, with three large projector screens next to the podium. They had a breakfast spread laid out (croissants, bagels and cream cheese, a fruit salad, with juices, coffee and water). However, I feared eating or drinking, not wanting to spend my time in the restroom instead of the conference room. Later, at "lunch," I regretted this decision!

I guess I should explain eDiscovery. It is the newest, hottest topic in lawsuits, where any and all electronic data is subpoenaed. So, it involves electronic data storage methodology, data recovery, backup tapes, disaster recovery tapes, etc. This has come up at my work, so I was sent to gather intel!

First up was a lawyer, who had a compelling discussion for an hour. In fact, lawyers were in the clear majority in the audience. There were maybe 30 people there and only maybe 5 of us were IT guys. You could tell, though, lol! The male lawyers all had expensive suits, while the few IT guys were dressed, well, let's just say a little more casual, LOL!

His presentation was riveting, and I'm not kidding! Interesting, dare I say fascinating, case studies. Then, we took a 10 minute break, eating and drinking (not me) and mingling (I chatted up a nice looking female lawyer around my age).

Next came the IT guy. BUT, he did not deal in details (which I wanted) as he was from a company that you (my company) would hire to improve your data retention ability. So, there was very little "meat" I could use, just generalities and why we should hire his company to fix our company. Not good.

Speaking of "not good" (although I suppose it depends on your perspective), then lunch was served. It was a buffet, catered by a well-known chain Mexican restaurant and consisted of the following: There was a tray of raw flour tortillas, then metal trays, kept warm with Sterno cans. The pans contained steak bits, chicken bits, white rice and black beans. There were dishes of salsa, avocado spread, sour cream, green chili sauce, sour cream and lastly, a pan of shredded cheese. My new lady lawyer friend commented that usually there were sandwiches, or maybe tuna rollups, but this would be messy.

I fixed two tortillas, one beef and one chicken, and a little bit of everything else. I grabbed a water and went back to eat. My new friend was right! It was messy as hell and not that tasty. Then, I left.

I got back to work and spent the rest of the afternoon, burping up black beans.

Once home, I put the rest of the pulled pork on simmer to warm up for dinner (might as well stick with Mexican). Then I came in to write down my day. At this point, I stopped to go listen to the Mayor of Detroit give his speech to explain the scandal that has erupted over sex, lies and text messages. Not that I think it will make any difference. Detroiters elected him (twice) and Detroiters will stand by him, no matter what.

I changed the bandage on my hand. Then I made up two more pulled pork sandwiches and added chips and dill pickles to my plate. I went in and watched TV until 10:30 PM, then switched to reading until I fell asleep.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One Night Only - The Bloody Captain goes Vegan!

I took the garbage out at 6:00. It had rained during the night (it was 44 degrees F at that time of the morning). The snow had all melted, but my driveway was a sheet of ice! I quickly got onto the grass so I didn't fall on my butt.

Then it was off to work and then back. We've got a Winter Weather Advisory out. It's supposed to be rain tonight, turning to snow (1-3 inches) and all the thawed water from today's high of 44 degrees F turning to ice as the temps plummet to 15 degrees F. overnight. All that, combined with high winds (25 mph sustained, with gusts up to 45 mph)!!

So, I get home and fill the bird feeder (figuring tomorrow will be too bad to get out there). Then I start a load of laundry (a day early).

I decide to clean the drip pans and the grates from my stove (its way past time) so, I get the portable drill and put on the wire brush attachment. I remove the right side and, at the laundry tub, use "soft scrub" as the cleaning agent and the drill as the power and get all the gunk off. I take it into the kitchen and use a Brillo pad on it, and then the normal pad with dish detergent to finish it off. A good rinse in hot water and I reassemble, and then move onto the left side.

Problem! The battery operated drill dies before I finish. So, I used a Brillo pad on the drip tray and give up entirely on the grates. I reassemble and start my dinner.

I have a whole tray of button mushrooms that I need to use up and a head of cauliflower that needs attention, too. So, first, I core the head of cauliflower, using my chef knife. Somewhere during that operation, I slip and the knife slashes a two-inch gash in the base of my left thumb.

I tried a regular bandage (well, okay, I used three) before I realized they were too small to help. So, I got out the big guns and slapped one on my wound. Then I went back to work. It did dawn on me the last time I cut myself was coring a cauliflower head with my paring knife. Coincidence? I think not! I must be doing something wrong!

So, the cauliflower went into a pot with salted water. Then I fine-diced two shallots and put them in a frying pan with olive oil and butter. I took the whole tray of button mushrooms and cut them up, all about 1/4 inch thick. Those went into the frying pan on medium heat to saut�.

I stopped and went into the office to update this at 8:00 PM. Then I fixed a plate and went to watch some TV. I did check the results of the Florida primary and neither my Democrat nor Republican favorite won.

I went to bed at 11:00 PM. I woke up once to go to the bathroom and heard a weird sound (like the furnace blower was on steroids). I finally figured out it was the wind! I took the opportunity to visit each window on the West side of the house and feel for drafts, but couldn't find any. Pleased, I went back to bed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

You Really Can't Judge... an Introspective

I am embarrassed to write this, but for some reason, it's important to me to get this out. I apologize in advance to my family if this brings up any unhappy memories, or if this is a family secret I shouldn't be repeating.

When I was young, my father drank too much. Okay, those of you who know me know I drink too much, too. Genetics? I dunno. Maybe so. But, in my case at least, it's self-medication and helps to keep what I call the spitting cobras in their baskets. I will say, at this point in my life, I am sure I don't have nearly the overwhelming obstacles he faced back then.

I can't speak for my brothers (we never talked about it), but I will tell you that this never concerned me that much. I just figured that's how Dad copes and let it go. I do know that my sister, Anne, was bothered by it as she often talked about it (we were always close).

Anyway, one day, in my early teens, after he had been drinking, he said something to me that ticked me off. So, being a smart-aleck teenager, I replied, "Maybe we can talk about this after you sober up!" He stared at me for a long, long moment.

Now, my dad had beautiful blue eyes. Normally, they reminded me of a bright summer sky or a sunlit lake. But, at that moment, they looked as cold as ice.

He calmly said to me, "You think you're a big shot, don't you? Well, you're not. You're just a big shit!" And, he turned and walked away.

I have never been so mortified before or since. I sincerely wished the ground would open and swallow me up. And, to this day, I try never, ever to judge another's actions.

P.S. My father eventually quit drinking and his last years were spent with his eyes clear and always looking like a summer's sky.

Monday's Miscellaneous

So, Monday night was catching up on miscellaneous To Do items that were missed over the weekend. I replaced the three AA batteries in the office smoke detector (it started beeping Sunday night). I filled up the windshield washer fluid in the car. And, finally, the big one: I dusted, vacuumed and cleaned the living room and washed all the glass table tops with Windex.

Then, with fear and trembling, I got out my tax information and did a preliminary tax filing on my tax software. But, its un-freakin'-believable! This is the first time in over 12 years that the piddley amount I owe the Feds is offset by the matching amount I will get back from the State! I kiss my W2's and get on to making dinner.

As long term readers know, since Tuesday is garbage pickup day, the fridge gets cleaned out Monday night. So tonight's dinner will be the leftover lemon-garlic filets, the last of the turnip mashed potatoes and the last of the wild rice. While that heated up in the microwave, I continued the "night before garbage day" routine. Any other leftovers (other than this weekend's pulled pork and chili) got pitched and that kitchen bag joined its brothers in the staging area (the garage, lol). Then I switched the old kitty litter for a new bag, and the old stuff went out in the garage as well.

I ate watching TV, but started nodding off around 10:00 PM, so I gave it up and went to sleep.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Last Night's Dream

In my dream, I woke up, disoriented, on the porch of an old farmhouse. The paint was worn off the siding in many places and the bare wood had turned to a soft gray. I sat up (I'd been laying on my back) and at the other end of the porch was an old wood rocker and a chubby baby sitting on a small quilt, playing with some blocks. I glanced down at where I'd been sleeping and next to where my head had been were two dead young raccoons. A mangy, gray farm cat was gnawing on one of them.

It dawned on me that fleas from the raccoons or the cat or both had jumped onto my head and were in my hair! I jumped up in disgust and ran into the house to find a shower, but when the screen door slammed behind me, I woke up for real...

I blame this all on my chili!

Sunday Supper

I got at the normal weekday time (5:45 AM) which kinda ticked me off. I should sleep in on weekends!

Stripped the bedding and started that in the wash machine. Then I started on today's dinner: chili. This one will be completely made up by me as I have yet to find a chili recipe I really like. But, I did borrow one idea. I have made chili with ground beef and made it with stewing beef. But I saw one recipe that called for using both and I thought, "Perfect!"

So, I brown one pound of hamburger in the Dutch oven while I cut up the stewing beef into bite-sized pieces. I threw the stewing beef in with the hamburger, seasoned it and let everything brown while I cut up the vegetables.

I small-diced a large red onion, one green pepper and four good sized jalapeno peppers (seeded, of course). Then I removed the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and poured off all the grease except for maybe one tablespoon. I saut�ed the veggies in that for about 10 minutes and then threw in 5 garlic cloves I'd minced.

I deglazed the pan with about 1/4 cup of chicken stock. I thought about beer or bourbon, or beef stock, but I had to use up the chicken stock soon, so...

When that had boiled off, I put the meat back in and added one regular (14.5 to 15.5 ounce) can each of northern white beans, black beans and dark red kidney bean, two cans of petite diced tomatoes and one can of tomato sauce. I had two Roma tomatoes that were about to overstay their welcome, so those got seeded, large diced and thrown it, too.

At 8:15, I glanced out the kitchen window and that hawk was back, feeding on the remains. God, I wish you could see him! He's fierce and noble looking, just magnificent!

Now, the chili looks fantastic (see photos). But, I have to season it just right or it will be all for naught. Having learned a bitter lesson with Mom's Chicken Noodle soup and too much fresh tarragon, I am determined to season it lightly, let it simmer for a hour or so, taste-test and adjust as needed.

So, my initial seasonings were one teaspoon of whole coriander seeds, one teaspoon oregano, one teaspoon ground cumin, one teaspoon paprika, one tablespoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. I stirred it in, set the pot on simmer and cleaned up the kitchen. BTW, it's 8:45 AM and my hawk is gone...

So, I shave and shower and get dressed to go and pick up my prescriptions. A short trip and $97.00 US later, I am back home! I tested the chili sauce. It's close, oh yes, it's very close. But I am not feeling the love yet.

Meanwhile, I start on the upstairs bathroom. In my normal routine, this must be cleaned first so it can be dry by the time I wash the kitchen, downstairs and downstairs bathroom floors (so, I have a place to go pee while they all dry, you see). This time I wash it from top to bottom, walls, cabinet, toilet, tub, everything!

While that dries, I try and call Lu to see how she's doing. I talked with Sadie, who said Lu had a bad night last night (dizziness and sick to her stomach) but she is mobile if using crutches. Lu told her to tell me she appreciates what I and my Mom went through with using a walker (apparently she is not so good at that yet and has fallen down trying). But, it sounds like nothing too serious has come up (just minor swelling, etc.), so, get well soon, babe! I am sure the goats are missing her!

Okay, so back to work. The chili seems intent on bubbling, no matter how low I turn the burners or which one I use, so I give up and stick it in the oven on warm (170 degree F) to hold it until I am ready for lunch and/or dinner.

Then, I pull everything out of the kitchen (except for the table) and stick it in the living room. Next, I sweep the kitchen, downstairs and downstairs bathroom.

I noticed that the squirrels were avoiding the squirrel feeder like the plague (just under it is where the hawk killed the pigeon and ate it, so I can't blame them) so I got some peanuts and threw them out under the regular bird feeder. I saw the icicles that had formed everywhere and were dripping (it's just above freezing here) so I took a couple of pictures and posted them (anything that keeps me from working, lol! I may just call Melissa!)

Gave up procrastinating and washed the floors. I finished up around 4:00 PM and went and laid down for a nap (finally!) I woke up at 5:15 and started moving stuff back into the kitchen. Then I put down the newly washed rugs in the bathrooms and in front of the sink. I used the electric sweeper on the office and bedroom floors, then hit them with the dust mop, sprayed with Endust. So, by 6:30 PM, everything except the living room is clean and sparkling! The living room isn't bad, however, so I decide to call it quits for the night.

I got out the chili and did the last taste test. I decided to hit it with some lime juice and about a tablespoon of hot sauce. I stirred it and put some in a bowl, topped with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream. I had two bowls (well, probably three, if you count all the spoonfuls I ate doing taste tests!)

I watched my usual shows and then went to sleep at 10:30 PM.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

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Icicle Day on San Jose, Part I

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Icicle Day on San Jose, Part II

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The Captain's three-bean chili, in all its glory!

Blood in the Snow

I woke up at 7:00 AM. Snow overnight had turned all the evergreens in the backyard into a winter wonderland.

I gathered up the last glasses from yesterday which finally made a full load so I turned on the dishwasher. I made coffee and started thinking about breakfast. I made up my grocery list (still thinking about breakfast, btw). I showered, dressed and left on my Saturday errands run.

I did some banking, dropped off some things at Jake's, went to Lowes, and then Meijers for groceries. I was still under budget, so I treated myself to a ham and cheese omelet (with hash browns and rye toast) at Leo's Coney Island (next to Home Depot). Then I went to the library, stopped and dropped off my new prescription at CVS, and, finally, hosed the salt off my car at the quarter carwash.

I unpacked everything and when I was finished, I glanced out the kitchen window and saw a huge hawk in the backyard eating a pigeon under my trees. I tried several times to get a photo, but it was just too far away. Took seven photos out of various windows, picked the best one, cropped it and posted it. I apologize as it's crappy. This is the first time I wish I had a better digital camera (or at least a longer zoom lense!)

While you can't see it that well in the camera, I could see it great with my binoculars. So, I checked out "birds of prey in North America" online. The one it most resembled was called a Cooper's Hawk, with a dark head, back and wings, but a beautiful barred chest of white and brown feathers. To give you an idea of size, he was about three or four times bigger than the pigeon. I went back to verify my findings and the hawk was gone at 2:00 PM, leaving just a pile of pigeon feathers and bloodstained snow.

I checked and the mail is here, but there's a problem: I just have my workout shorts, tee shirt and slipper socks on. I can't walk in the snow like this! Solution? I get in the car, back out, drive up to the mailbox, get the mail, drive back in and mission accomplished without having to change clothes!

Heated up a pork tenderloin I'd smoked, then froze in the Fall, in the microwave. It's easier to shred, heated. I used the two fork method (wanting to be authentic) but I gotta tell you, by the time I was 3/4 of the way through, my hands were cramping and my muscles were aching! I put some canola oil in the Dutch oven and sweated a medium yellow onion for about 5 minutes. Then I added three minced garlic cloves and cooked them a minute or two more. I deglazed the pan with a quarter cup of Jim Beam bourbon. Then I added the pulled pork and about 1/2 a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's original BBQ sauce. I let that simmer for about 1 hour, and then put the cast iron pot and lid into the microwave to keep it warm.

I decided to take a nap, now. Amy had mentioned some "after dark" boxing in an email, but, dammit! I can't find it to tape! Oh well, maybe it's only in Minnesota or something. But, a nap would be nice, anyway. It's almost 5:00 PM and we'll see if I can fall asleep.

I was reading, waiting to nod off when my daughter Melissa called. We talked a long while, so I decided it was now too late for a nap (I'm not sure of the rules, but I think at some point you are no longer taking a nap; you are just going to bed early, lol!) So, I fixed myself two pulled pork sandwiches on onion rolls, with chips and pickles and went to watch some TV.

By the way, the pulled pork was excellent! Probably the best pulled pork sandwich I ever had. I did doze off, then woke up around 11:00 PM and put the left over pulled pork in the fridge and straightened up the kitchen. I caught the news on TV and saw that Obama tromped Hillary's butt in South Carolina, which made me very happy! Smiling, I went back to my book and then slept through the night.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

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Large Hawk in my Backyard, Eating a Pigeon!

T.G.I.F., once again!

Damn cold this morning (11 degrees F. and -11 C.). Unfortunately there was also a stiff wind and the combination took your breath away!

Work was interesting, only because I was asked to help to reconcile some billing. Not sure why (I think it's my genes - Mom worked in a bank and Dad was an accountant) but I am like an idiot savant when puzzling over spreadsheets. I can ALWAYS figure out where the discrepancies are. When the boys were little, I could NEVER find "Waldo" but I can always find where that last twenty-five bucks went!

Rode home to the usual "Bang the Drum." First, I went through the mail, checked the voicemail and caller ID and then my two email accounts. Next, I checked my sugar and wrote that in my log (I was embarrassed to admit to my doctor just how lazy and sloppy I'd become keeping it up). Then I went in and finalized this weekend's To Do list.

I'm a little tired of leftovers, so I went with a simple baked tilapia with a side of wild rice dinner. Here's how I made it: I had thawed out four tilapia filets overnight in the fridge. So, I dug those out while I preheated the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). I lined a sheet cake pan with tinfoil and sprayed that with non-stick cooking spray.

Then I rinsed the tilapia fillets under cool water, and patted them dry with paper towels. I put the fillets in my baking pan. I poured 3 tablespoons of lemon juice over fillets, then drizzled 1 tablespoon of microwave-melted butter on top. I sprinkled them with 3 minced cloves of garlic (hey, I like garlic!), about a teaspoon of dried parsley flakes and then hit them with fresh ground black pepper. I popped the pan in the oven to bake for at least 30 minutes or until the fish is white and flakes when pulled apart with a fork.

Meanwhile I made up the Uncle Ben's Wild Rice mix (the original, not the newer, 5-minute kind. I think the original tastes better.) While all of that was cooking, I made up my fish sauce. I am no longer sure of the exact measurements, as I have made it so much. I just kinda throw it together, taste and adjust. But basically its maybe 2 tablespoons of real mayo, 1 tablespoon of sour cream, 1 heaping teaspoon of horseradish, a couple of tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon and a teaspoon of dried parsley (in the summer, I use my fresh chives, snipped small). Mix well, adjust to taste and put in the fridge until dinner is done.

I still had some lemon juice left (I cut and squeezed the two oldest lemons I had) so, since I was waiting for dinner, I did a little salt, tequila and the lemon juice to use it up!

I ate at the kitchen table and it was great! I put the other two fillets in a baggie and stashed the remaining rice in the fridge. I cleaned up the kitchen and went to bed to read. I'm not sure why, but I was very tired all day, so I turned off the light to sleep just after 9:00 PM.

I woke up at 2:00 to go to the bathroom and decided to post this, and then go back to sleep.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thursday and the snow was a no-show

Well, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, when I left for work there wasn't even an inch of snow (despite the forecaster's dire predictions). And, I listened to the traffic reports and, from the lack of interest regarding Port Huron, it must not amounted to much up there, either. Sorry if I scared you guys!

It was, however, still cold as hell (oh, wait a minute, hell is supposed to be hot, isn't it). Well, anyway, I spent my time going into work and going back home listening to the WCSX radio-a-thon for the Children's Leukemia foundation.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... I had a free mini-can of Fancy Feast cat food that came in the Purina bag, so I split it in half, put it on two paper plates and served Caley and Scruffy. Scruffy ate all of his , but Caley left half on the plate. I think Scruffy will finish her portion...

I started the Wednesday night laundry load (obviously a day late) and then made a call to Luanne. She had undergone orthoscopic surgery on her knee today and I wanted to see how she was doing.

She said she wasn't in a lot of pain, yet. Although, she admitted it could be the pain medication hadn't worn off. They had cleaned up her meniscus and reattached a torn ligament. She had new aluminum crutches and a walker and thought she was gonna be okay. I wished her well, hung up and got started on the bathroom closet.

It wasn't as bad as I'd thought. The waste paper basket was about half full with old and/or useless stuff when I finished. I cleaned each shelf with Formula 409 anti-bacterial cleaner and restocked it. Since I found I had the time, I moved on to the sink cabinet drawers and cleaned them out, too.

I hung up the clothes out of the dryer and went back to my book and the radio-thon. It got over at 9:00 PM and I went get to dinner then. I heated the last of the roast beef hash in the microwave and fried two eggs over easy. I put the eggs on top the hash (I love it when the yolk runs into the hash) and sat down to eat.

After I cleaned up the kitchen I thought about watching TV, but decided to stick to my book. I went to sleep at 10:30 or so.

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New office lamp

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Another Recollection - Flying High

I was about 21 and working at a bank, when one of our co-workers was telling a bunch of us at lunch how she was learning to fly. She said she kept the books for a small charter company at the Detroit City Airport in exchange for the lessons. She went on and on about how great it was and when some of us seemed curious, she said she'd talk to her boss about a free flying lesson if we liked.

My wife at the time was not interested at all, so Connie (a girl who worked for me) and I carpooled down to the airport. It's funny now (the airport is about halfway between my house and Mom's) but at the time, having only lived in Mt. Clemens, it seemed like a very long trip!

Now, the interesting thing about this "airline" was that it was started by an ex-Playboy Playmate. In her photo spread, she was posed (in various stages of undress, I suppose - I never saw it) in a little plane. That got her interested in planes and she used the money she made to buy one.

So, we arrived, parked and she came out of the hangar. She was a drop-dead gorgeous and certainly well-endowed blond about 6 feet tall. Picture the prettiest Swedish woman you ever saw and then picture her in boots, tight jeans, a brown leather bomber jacket and a long white scarf, wrapped once around her neck and then hung fashionably down and you'd get the idea.

Connie said I should go first (it was just a two-seater Piper Cub) so we climbed in and she took off. The rules then (and maybe still now) said the licensed pilot had to take off and land, but after that the passenger could fly the plane. So, that's what we did. At first I was nervous and when she told me to turn the plane, I did so, very cautiously. She laughed and said, "No, try it like this" and banked it so much that when I looked straight out the passenger window, I was looking at the rooftops of houses!

I eventually became a mite braver and by the time my half-hour was up, I was madly in love with both her and the idea of flying...

But, the cost for the lessons was prohibitive, I had just bought a house and really didn't have the time, and so, like a lot of things, that dream dwindled away...

I wonder what flying lessons cost these days?

Wednesday: Snow or No?

Drove home in light snow. Depends on who you listen to, but we have 1 to 3 inches of snow coming overnight (almost a repeat of Monday night/Tuesday morning). I did hear there's a snow advisory for Port Huron with lake-effect snow (4 to 6 inches of snow). So, to ex-neighbors and family up there, good luck!

Once home, I filled the bird feeder and squirrel feeder, a normal Wednesday night routine, but more important now with the storm coming. But, there are currently no birds or squirrels outside (nature knows best, I guess).

Despairing of having the cash anytime soon to buy a new one, (too close to my Christmas excesses, I guess), I go up in the attic and bring down an old table lamp to replace the glass one Caley broke in the office. The only one I have remaining (I gave the "ship's light" one back to Luanne) is the Kokopelli lamp. Kokopelli is a fertility deity, usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with a huge phallus and feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head), who has been venerated by some Native American cultures (mostly the Hopi Indians) in the Southwestern United States. So, he doesn't "exactly" work in the office, but at least when people spend the night, they can get into the day bed and turn off that lamp, rather than turning off the overhead light fixture and then stumbling to bed.

Then I check this weekend's new To Do list and pick out "Organize Main Bathroom Closet." To be honest, I'm not sure this can be accomplished in just one night. When I moved my bathroom downstairs, I took only the essentials and its set up pretty damn good (everything I need, nothing I don't). But the upstairs is a mish-mash of all kinds of stuff, some brought here and never revisited since living in St. Clair. But, I turn up the classic rock and get moving!

Well, actually, no I don't. The telephone rang and it was my oldest daughter, Amy, calling from Minnesota! She said it was 11 degrees F. and she was trying to make my potato soup recipe from the Blog (she thought that soup was a good idea, given the outside temp). However, she was confused about the term "sweat" the onions (she thought it might be a typo). I explained it meant saut� them until the onions were soft and kinda translucent. We talked a bit about Grandma and how she's doing, etc. I told her Jake came up with an alternate potato soup recipe that kicked my recipe's butt and said I'd send it to her. She mentioned she and young Carl would try and get out to Lake Orion this summer, and I assured her that Grandma would really, really, like that.

We hung up and I looked at the clock. It was after 7:00 PM and I decided the To Do list could wait for the weekend. Hopefully, Amy will leave a comment to let me know how she and the two Carl's liked (or didn't like) the potato soup.

So, on to dinner. I reheated one of the two remaining the Blissful Rosemary Chicken roll ups (topped with the sauce) and half of the leftover Turnip Mashed Potatoes in the microwave. I put butter, salt and pepper on the Turnip Mashed potatoes and went in to watch TV. While eating dinner it occurred to me: even reheated, this stuff is GOOD!

I watched TV until about 10:30 when I started nodding off. I gave up and went to sleep.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Night Terrors

I fear no modern, nightly noises:
A slamming door, a raised, rough voice,
a backyard thud or even a gunshot.
These do not frighten me.

But, on a primordial level,
I always await the sound of claws;
Ancient, dark with blood and worse,
scratching at the edge of my cave...

Tuesday's Trials...

I woke up to about an inch of light snow. It was still snowing when I walked the garbage out to the road. I put it on the opposite side of the driveway (the temporary mailbox now stands where I used to put it) and I'll have to remember NOT to back into it when I leave for work.

After listening to all the traffic problems, especially on the expressways, I think I'm being clever by NOT getting on I-96 and going up to 5 Mile Road and taking that across. Not so clever after all, as, yes, there are far fewer cars, but the road has not been plowed or salted. So, it's a s-l-o-w go to work.

The snow didn't stop until around 2:00 PM, but there still doesn't look like two inches of the stuff.

When I got home, I changed clothes and started dinner (for later). I got the 12-inch frying pan, added some canola oil and sliced up an onion. This time, I don't want the onion sweated until tender. With everything else already being cooked once, I want a little crunch from that onion. I took everything (except for the au jus - which I saved for gravy, some other time) left from Saturday's roast beef and sliced it up (beef, potatoes, carrots and mushrooms). I threw that in the pan and kept tossing it to mix it up. When everything was warmed, I hit it with the house seasoning, turned it down to simmer and covered the pan. Then I made a drink, got my book and settled in on the couch.

My reading was interrupted a noise outside, which turned into a poem, as it crossed my mind. I went and wrote it out, played with it until I got it right and then posted it (it's called Night Terrors, if you're interested). Now, back to my book... No, wait a minute, they are playing an old sad song from the past and I dunno, but I have to post it (probably me and three other guys are left would remember it).

Okay, NOW back to my book? It's almost 7:30 PM and I'm getting hungry, but, I read on... But, by 8:00, my tummy wins over my book. I plated the roast beef hash and took it to my bed and turned on the TV. The hash tasted great, BTW. I watched the tube until 10:30 and then went to sleep.

I got up late and night for a bathroom trip and notice the back yard seemed lit up. I crouched down, looked up and saw a beautiful full moon...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

This song got to me, too...

Rain On The Scarecrow
~ John Mellencamp

Scarecrow on a wooden cross, blackbird in the barn,
Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm.
I grew up like my daddy did, my grandpa cleared this land.
When I was five I walked the fence while grandpa held my hand.

Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow.
This land fed a nation, this land made me proud,
and son I'm just sorry there's no legacy for you now.
Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow.
Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow.

The crops we grew last summer weren't enough to pay the loans.
Couldn't buy the seed to plant this spring and the farmers bank foreclosed.
Called my old friend Schepman up to auction off the land.
He said, "John, its just my job and I hope you understand."
Hey calling it your job, ol hoss sure don't make it right.
But if you want me to, I'll say a prayer for your soul tonight.
And Grandma's on the front porch swing with a Bible in her hand.
Sometimes I hear her singing, "Take me to the promised land."
When you take away a man's dignity, he can't work his fields and cows.

There'll be blood on the scarecrow, blood on the plow;
Blood on the scarecrow, blood on the plow.

Well there's ninety-seven crosses planted in the courthouse yard.
Ninety-seven families who lost ninety-seven farms.
I think about my grandpa and my neighbors and my name
And some nights I feel like dying like that scarecrow in the rain.

Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow.
This land fed a nation, this land made me proud,
and son I'm just sorry there's no legacy for you now.
Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow.
Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow.

Monday's Road Trip

I woke up to my usual alarm, but today isn't all that usual. I've got a doctor's appointment in Richmond at 9:30 AM, and I want to stop and see my Mom before then. So, I hurried up and left the house just before 7:00 AM.

I got to Mom's just after 8:00 AM. Her room was empty, so I walked down and saw her still eating breakfast. I didn't want to bother her, so I went back to her room and read the Michigan Catholic paper until she came back.

When she got there, she told me Uncle Jim and Uncle Joe had interviewed a woman as a live-in companion this weekend at her house, and then they drove her over to meet Mom. Mom seemed to really like her and the lady doesn't mind spending the summer out at Lake Orion, so it looks like it's a go.

I asked if she had a new tentative date to go home, but she said no, the therapist told her she can go home when she can walk 1 step per year of her age or 100 steps. Mom laughed and said at the rate she's going, she'll have to stay another 10 years or so! She does walk in the hall twice a day, but they have to follow behind her with her wheelchair, because when she gets tired she has to sit down immediately.

She was very thrilled at getting a card from my daughter Amy and insisted I read it. And, then it was time for me to leave.

I stopped at the house afterwards to get a picture of my cousin Bobby she wanted and saw that my brother Joe and Kathy are making progress. The cabinet with the desk is now in Mom's room and a small dresser is in the library for the lady. The toilet has been replaced with a handicap one. The old sink is out of the bathroom and a new one is in a box, waiting to be installed.

I got to the doctor's just in time. Visit went well, I think. I lost almost 10 pounds since my last visit and my blood pressure is 110/77; Cholesterol at 144 (HDL at 47 and LDL at 59). She's not happy with the new medication for diabetes, though. She was aiming for a Hemoglobin of 7% and it came in at 7.3%. So, she changed that prescription. She drew some more blood and then mentioned the "C" word - colonoscopy screening! I said I'd think about it and we agreed to get back together in three months.

I got back in the car and headed back to Livonia. Traffic was light, due in large part to the Martin Luther King Holiday in the US and I made it back in time to go to lunch, lol! Then I finally went to work.

On the way home coming down I-96, I was almost to my exit when traffic ground to a halt. A cop car and a Fire Department Rescue truck went by on the shoulder and I knew we were in trouble. But eventually it cleared enough for me to go the last lousy 1/2 mile I needed to get off. I turned off on Inkster and, just as I got to the railroad track, the lights started flashing and the gates went down (sigh). Long train (they mostly are around here); so, all in all, I got home about 1/2 hour later than usual.

When I go home, I changed clothes and then scanned the picture of my cousin Bob for my Mother. My brother Carl told her Jake looked a lot like Bobby and she wanted to see for herself. So, I printed it off and will mail it to her tomorrow and return the actual picture to her house next time I'm out there. I posted it so you can judge for yourself.

I was going to eat leftovers from yesterday (both the Blissful Rosemary Chicken and the Turnip Mashed Potatoes were excellent, as I might has said), but I noticed the two medium sized eggplants I'd bought last week were starting to soften. So I got out two of the breading pans (thanks, again!) and filled one with flour and one with three eggs, scrambled. I peeled the two eggplants and cut them into 1/2 inch slices. I filled my 9-inch frying pan about halfway with canola oil.

Trying to keep the mess and resulting cleanup to a minimum, I didn't get my thermometer, but used a trick Carla showed me years ago. You heat the oil on medium high and keep testing it by sticking the handle of a wooden spoon in it. When it starts to bubble around the handle, you are good to go. From there, I usually adjust the heat, depending on the time it takes to get whatever I'm frying to golden brown outside.

I put the egg plant rounds on paper towels to drain and immediately seasoned them with salt (best to do right away on anything you fry, BTW). I fixed a plate and went off to watch some TV (but I confess I came back for seconds, lol!) I went to sleep about 10:00 PM.

Monday, January 21, 2008

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My cousin
Robert George Fuller, Jr.
(1924-1958)
Photo taken 12-24-42

My brother Carl thinks he looks a lot like Jake.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday's Tale

I woke up at 6:30 AM, got a cup of coffee and came in to finish and post yesterday's adventures. I was sitting at the computer when Caley (who has been doing all kinds of stupid things these past few days) jumped up on the little bookcase behind me and knocked over the lamp (she's done this once before, BTW). However this time it didn't fall on its shade, but rather the glass base. So, now I am sitting here, in my slipper socks, surrounded by broken glass!

So, I careful tiptoe through the minefield of glass, go and get the broom and dustpan and come back to sweep the floor. The lamp and shade (which broke off as well) go in the trash and I carefully sweep several times over the same area (I HATE stepping on glass!) I put everything away, come back and sit down in front of the computer when I remembered; I didn't move the small book case! I do, and yep, there are glass slivers there. So, I go back get the broom and dustpan, and do it all over again...

It dawns on me I never finished the vegetable stock story. When it was cool enough last night, I pulled out the pasta drainer and set that in the sink. I put the pot in the fridge for the night. So, this morning (if you are keeping track) I have the crock pot (just soaked it yesterday) several bowls, the stock pot and the pasta insert (now filled with damp vegetable remains) all to clean up.

So, I took out the stock pot and warmed it back up (not to boiling as I don't want to break it down). I got the large strainer and several of my special food-only handkerchiefs and start the slow process of straining it. I ran it through three handkerchiefs when I decided that was as clear as it was gonna get. I tasted it one more time to check seasonings: No, its perfect! It has a rich, earthy flavor without any one of the vegetables being too prominent. And, best of all, there's no "pronounced" tarragon (or any other herb) taste. So, my 12 cups of water and 13 hour simmer/reduction gave me just over 5 cups of stock. That got labeled and went into the freezer. Now its "kitchen clean up time" (so I can make another mess today, lol!)

By the way, its 9:00 AM and the temperature is 7 degrees F. (-14 C.) and we are still getting a light snow (hasn't covered all the grass yet, but its getting there). I called my brother C___ and asked if he was going to see Mom today. He was. So, I asked him to tell her that, rather than drive out today (like I had told her last week), since I have a doctor's appointment in Richmond tomorrow I would stop in to see her on the way and bring her the Blog and more soup. I also asked him to see what she thought of the chicken noodle soup (I am warming the last of that for lunch, BTW) as I still think I went overboard on the tarragon. He said he'd let me know.

I finally figured out where the two oil paintings from Mom would go. So, I put up some nails to hang them on, but before I do, I got the side-cutters and removed the ancient wires in the back and replaced them with new wire. Then I hung them up and took a photo of that office wall. They are safe and secure now, Mom!

I ate lunch (the soup and regular crackers) while reading my first book. After I was done eating, I continued to read in the living room until I finished the book. Now, its time to make some new soup for Mom. I've run through all the old standbys (except for vegetable soup, of course). So I thought I'd try something different: my version of Tomato Barley soup.

I put two tablespoons of canola oil in a small stock pot and added one cup of diced onions, one cup of diced carrots, one cup of diced celery and two teaspoons of minced garlic. I am already disappointed as my onions are diced smaller than the carrots or celery, but I soldier onwards. I saut�ed them on medium heat for ten minutes until all the veggies were almost tender.

Then I added 2 1/2 cups of water, two big Roma tomatoes (seeded and diced - large), one (14.5 ounce) can peeled and petite diced tomatoes with their juice, the equivalent of one (10.75 ounce) can chicken broth (I used chicken stock out of a box, measured), 1/4 cup uncooked barley, a teaspoon of dried basil, a tablespoon of dried parsley, a pinch of salt and 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper. I stirred it all, and then brought it to a boil. I reduced the heat and simmered it for 40 minutes (or until the barley was tender). Note to hard-core vegetarians: You can still make this; just use vegetable broth, instead. Taste test results: light, fresh tasting, pretty damn good, actually!

I filled one container for Mom and another for myself. Now to move to another item on the To Do list (although I'd really rather just keep reading, lol!) Got a bunch of my kitchen towels and wiped down the cupboards with Formula 409 for the first time since they were painted (I was worried the paint would come off if they weren't fully cured). I threw all the towels in the washer, along with a bath towel and my bathrobe and ran the last wash load of the weekend.

While I was thinking about it, I used the tweezers to get all the lint out of the washtub drain. Then I installed a metal lint sock on the discharge hose (as recommended by Jeremy and Jyl) and a plastic lint catcher on the drain (I had bought them both last week).

Washing up, I am moving to Sunday dinner (and I think its gonna be a good one!) I am making something called "Blissful Rosemary Chicken." Fist I took three boneless, skinless chicken breasts, put each between layers of Saran Wrap and, one at a time, pounded them with my rolling pin to flatten them to about 1/4 inch thick. Then I took three sprigs of fresh Rosemary and, using my paring knife, sharpened the end of them.

Next, I topped each chicken breast with two slices (I had the butcher cut them thin) of domestic proscuitto (Italian ham, Mom, cured but not smoked) and topped that with slices of imported Italian Fontina cheese (it was supposed to be smoked Fontina, but I couldn't find any). Then, I rolled up the chicken breast and skewed it with the Rosemary stem. Next I took a bowl, and whisked together 1/2 cup of white wine, 1/2 cup of chicken stock, 1/4 cup of olive oil and fresh ground pepper. I poured that into a glass medium baking dish. I put the rolled chicken breasts in the dish and put two garlic halves under each breast (see Photos).

I put the dish in the oven, which was preheated to 425 degrees F. and baked them for 25 minutes. Then I took them out to rest and put the sauce in a small sauce pan, brought it up to a boil and let it reduce a tad to pour over the chicken.

Meanwhile, I had taken a recipe that served 8 and cut it in half for my side dish, Turnip Mashed Potatoes. So, here's what I did. I took one large turnip and peeled it. Then I took 6 small redskin potatoes and, leaving the skin on, cut them into quarters. Then I cut up the turnip and tried to get the sizes the same as much as possible. I cooked them in boiling water about 15 minutes (while the chicken was baking).

Once done, I used the electric hand mixer to get them moderately smooth (I like a few lumps, myself). I had warmed up 1/4 cup of whole milk (recipes calls for cream, but I didn't have any) 1/2 stick of butter and 1/4 cup of sour cream. I added it a little bit at a time until I had the consistency I wanted, after seasoning with salt and pepper.

So, I plated a piece of the chicken and a big serving of the turnip mashed potatoes. I poured my reduction over the chicken, sprinkled it with a little sea salt and dug in...

Oh, my! That was GOOD!!!!

After folding the clothes in the dryer, I went back to reading while my dinner settled. Then I went out to clean the kitchen (for the third time today!) But, by 7:00 PM, with the kitchen cleaned, the dishwasher going, and all but two items on the To Do list crossed off, I am quitting for the evening.

I plan on watching my usual Sunday shows and getting to bed early. I am posting this now, so I can print it off and take it to my Mom's first thing in the morning.

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Blissful Rosemary Chicken, just before it went into the oven.

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New home for the old oil paintings

Errands, Chores and Projects on Saturday

I woke up at 6:30 AM. Taking it slow today. Library doesn't open until 10:00 AM, so no big rush. Posted yesterday's blog and made coffee. I started a load of clothes in the washer. I printed off the To Do list, the library wish list and a short grocery list (6 items).

Next, I put together the beef roast in the crock pot. I did my normal (but always a bit different) construction. First went those beautiful carrots from Westborn (the ones with the tops still on - I took a photo, BTW. They look so fake!), peeled and cut on the bias. Next came four large russet potatoes (peeled and cut into bite size pieces). Then came two small yellow onions, peeled and put in whole along with two whole peeled cloves of garlic. I sprinkled a little Lowry's seasoned salt on the veggies and added a dried bay leaf.

Then I seasoned the sirloin tip roast (rolled and tied by the butcher) with Montreal Steak seasoning and put it in the middle. Around it went a whole tray of cleaned white button mushrooms. I added a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce on top of the roast, then about a cup of Pinot Noir wine (left over from Luanne) poured on the side of the roast. Finally, came the fresh herbs: a handful of parsley and thyme, a single stalk of Rosemary and two stalks of tarragon (after the chicken noodle soup, I fear the tarragon!). I cut up a large sweet onion and placed the rings on top of everything, took a photo and then turned it on low.

I was just about to pitch the content of my garbage bowl when I really looked at it. It looks so inviting, I took a photo of it, lol!

Sidebar: It's common today among us foodies to diss Rachel Ray (I do it myself) but I must confess. She taught me to use a garbage bowl (duh, now) and how to wash and store fresh herbs so they will keep a week or so. And, I have made many of her dishes over the years since we first started watching her, back in the day, and most were good to great. Sorry, Rach! I do owe ya!

Anyway, I was looking at the potato peelings, carrot peelings and tops, and so on and thought: Wait a minute! I know how to make chicken or beef stock, so why can't I turn these into vegetable stock? I do have to cater to vegetarians every now and then and vegetable stock is also called for in some of my recipes. So, I got out my small stock pot (the one with the pasta strainer) and threw the leavings into it. I figured I'd need more veggie taste to make it robust, so I added a can of sliced beets, a can of green beans, and from my freezer, some frozen sweet corn, broccoli and peas. I added half a head of garlic, smashed, one sliced parsnip and one half of that big onion I cut into for my roast. I put the two leftover baked potatoes and a LOT of big chunks of fresh celery. I threw in three bay leaves and about the same ratio of fresh herbs that went into the crock pot. Last, I added 12 cups of cold water, brought it to a boil, stirred it and put it on simmer for the day. I'll taste and season it later on if it's worth keeping. We'll see...

I went to wash up the dishes from my two morning projects and got a shock when I turned on the hot water! Why? It was HOT!!! Well, duh! Isn't it supposed to be? No, it's about 30 feet from the hot water heater and you usually have to let it run a while until it warms up. At first I went, "Wow, that's odd." Then I thought, "Hey, wait a minute!" So I went into the main bathroom and found a steady trickle of water coming from the hot water tap in the tub. Somebody hadn't turned it off tight. Now, I can only hope I used this when doing Newt's tank (and, I might have, although I cleaned everything down in the laundry tub) because otherwise it's been running since Lu left on Tuesday!

I eschewed shaving and took my shower at 11:00 AM (its 18 degrees F., BTW). I threw the bedding in the wash machine (after kicking both cats off the bed, lol!), got dressed and headed out to do my errands.

I was back home and in the warmth by 1:30 PM. Damn, that wind is wicked and the cold seems to take your breath away! My library trip was mostly successful. Years ago (back in the St, Clair house, I believe) my daughter Melissa turned me on to the John Sandford "Prey" novels. I got them from the library and bought paperback ones when I found them. I think I have six or seven. Well, if you have been paying attention, I haven't been to the library in while so, when Lu was here and I had insomnia, but didn't feel comfortable turning the TV on while she was sleeping, I grabbed one to read. But, my first one is like, eighth or ninth in the series. So, I thought it would be interesting to revisit them. The first one and the fourth ones weren't there, but I took four others in the series. So, now I have some reading material again!

I folded a load of laundry (towels and whatnot) I found in the dryer and put in the bedding. Next I moved to another item on the To Do list. As anyone who has come here and hung their coat in the front hall closet knows, I have always kept my potatoes in there (knowing its cool in there, but not freezing). However, they still tend to sprout before being used (although I remembered a trick from back in my Mother Earth News days and put some apples in there with them. The apples give off a gas that retards the sprouting urge). Anyway, I've been testing the temperature on the shelf in the garage (bordered on two sides by the concrete house wall, which gives off warmth). It seems to stay a consistent 40 degrees F. So, I cleaned up a plastic bin and moved my winter squash, rutabagas, turnips and a milk crate of russet potatoes (with a couple apples) out there. However, to store root veggies properly, they need to be in a cool, DARK place. So, I am going to sacrifice three of my old bath towels to give them just what they need.

First I need to add a board on the side to staple into. So, I cut that off, and then used the table saw to cut it down. Since the air compressor is right there (for inflating my car tires) I used the brad nailer, and some glue to attach the board, then used the staple gun to attach the towels. And, by 4:00 PM, my mini root cellar is complete!!! See photos.

So, I take a break and eat my breakfast/lunch/dinner. I topped the roast beef with just simple horseradish and put butter, salt and pepper on the potatoes and carrots. Very, very good! With a full belly, I decide to take a nap on the couch (my couch is very nice to nap on).

I woke up a little before 7:00 PM. I got the bedding out of the dryer and made up my bed. Then, I FINALLY watched the end of "No Reservations!" I shut off the stock pot and let it cool. Then I watched the horror movie White Noise 2. That, along with my nap, ensured that I would be staying up a while, lol! I made a good dent in my taped show backlog. Finally, I got tired of watching TV, so I grabbed a library book and read until I was sleepy, then turned out the light.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

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My garage mini-root cellar, before going "dark"

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Completed garage mini-root cellar

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The roast beef, ready to go...

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The Bugs Bunny carrots

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My garbage bowl and inspiration, lol!

"Over Easy" song lyrics that nailed me...

From "The Leader of the Band" by Dan Fogelberg

I thank you for the kindness
And the times when you got tough
And, papa, I don't think I
Said I love you near enough...

Friday

Cold today, and supposed to get colder all weekend with high's only in the teens and lows in the single digits, and with winds between 10-20 mph!!! I hate cold like that! Why? Several reasons: My knee aches constantly; things outside seem to always break or snap off unexpectedly; that's when you car won't start, your door locks freeze up, or, worst of all, that's usually when your car's battery decides it's too old and dies. Oh, well, it could be worse, I guess. I could be living in Yellowknife, up in the Northwest Territories of Canada! (I've heard stories and this would be a hot spell, there!)

Work was work, except there was a two hour IT presentation I had to attend. Normally I hate two-hour meetings, but this one was made a bit easier by two things: the three dozen homemade donuts Jake made and brought in (I had a plain one and thought it was great, but he said they were too chewy) and I got to watch Jake do a presentation. He did good, BTW. Kept it high level (which most of the other five presenters did NOT), interesting and, of course, funny. And, bribing the audience with donuts was a nice Goerlich touch, too!

Drove home to "Bang the Drum" (of course), got the mail (nice job, John!) and got inside! I changed clothes and was just reviewing my To Do list (thankfully, rather small this weekend) when the phone rang. It was my daughter, Melissa, who, as usual, was supposed to be cleaning the house for the first visit from her Mom and Jim, but instead decided it was much more important to call me, LOL!

So we talked for a long while about everything and nothing. When we finally hung up, I scrounged the last of the leftovers, warmed them up and went to try and stay awake through the Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" Berlin episode. One lousy hour show, BTW! Third time this week I have tried and third time I fell asleep before the end!! Dammit!!!

And that was the "wild and crazy" Friday Night at la casa en San Jose.

Friday, January 18, 2008

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Newt's almost clean tank

Finally, its Newt's turn!!!

Okay, its 7:00 AM and I've got troubles already! My "low gasoline" light came on last night on my way home, but I postponed getting gas until this morning. So, here I am: I pulled into the gas station, picked "pay inside", got the premium hose, the pump said, "Push the Start button and commence filling" so I did and the damn pump shut off after 9 cents worth of gas. Hey, I'm a little late for work and don't have time for this sh*t! But nothing I do at the pump makes any difference, so I go inside and tell the guy behind the counter and so he gets on his coat and gloves and comes outside with me, tries it and it works! I felt SO stupid!!! I told him it must have been his gloves...

No new missions at lunch, so we pick up the tale after work...

I raced home, as it was a very cloudy day (with some snow) and I wanted a picture of the finished mailbox. I leapt out of the car, grabbed my camera and ran out the front door. Meanwhile, across the street, my gang banger friend came out of his townhouse. He called out to me and came across the street, carrying what seemed to be a human head.

But it turned out to be a Styrofoam wig holder (and before you think "what?" my first wife had one of those, along with a wig), so we did the usual "shake hands and half-hug" thingie (I learned it from Jake and his old Paint Booth gang, and it has served me well in my 'hood). I told him, "Damn, dude, I thought you had a human head there, man!" He laughed and said, "No, it's just my momma's wig." He said, "I noticed you moved your mailbox last night." I said, "Well, some guy hit my old mailbox the other night with his truck." He said, "Them cracker's gotta learn to slow down and do right!"

Then he said he had just had his first child, a baby daughter, last week. He told me the length and weight and everything, but all I could remember was her name, Alayala (not sure how they are spelling it, but that's how he said it). He said it's too cold right now (Michigan's going in the deep freeze today, for at least the foreseeable future) but he would bring her over to see me, weather-permitting. Then his momma came out, waved to me, got into their car and so they left.

I took three shots in the dim light (see photos) and went back inside. I downloaded them, posted them and started the Wednesday laundry (a day late). Jeremy called on his way home and we talked a while. Mostly about his job and his new responsibilities, but I did bring up Jyl, who seems to have commandeered my blog as a platform to espouse her Democratic Party theories. It's like I told him. If I had the time, I could easily find Republican quotes and sound bites that would contradict everything she wrote, but I don't have the time and this ain't really a political blog.

Now, at 6:45 PM, it's finally time for poor Newt. He went into a small glass bowl with water and a saucer for a top. I put him in the kitchen on top of the fridge so he could look around. I siphoned out the water, then took a spoon and removed all the stones that had algae on them. Those got pitched, but the other stones went into a stock pot and I boiled them to try and kill any remaining algae.

Then I started scrubbing the glass tank with salt and baking soda. I scrubbed and I scrubbed and never did get all of it off. Next I washed the fake plants and the filter. I replaced the charcoal bag in the filter and reassembled everything (including adding more stones). I filled it with water, started the filter up and when it all looked clear, put Newt back in. He swam around, investigating and seemed pleased.

It's too late to even think about making dinner, so I went with leftovers and watched some TV. But, I quickly got bored and just went to bed.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

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New location - other side of the driveway in the offset - of the instant mail box (well, two hour mail box)

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Dusk, and the mailbox #1 (click on it and then use your browser's back button to return, so you can see it better)

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Dusk, and the mailbox #2 (click on it and then use your browser's back button to return, so you can see it better)

Wednesday woodworking...

I woke up about every hour or so Tuesday night. That's the trouble with letting people stay here. I can usually deal with the house feeling empty until after someone is here... then the loneliness is oppressive.

After some heavy-duty conferring with B___, lunch time was a quick meal and some serious missions. We went to Lowes and got two 50-pound bags of pea gravel (in the masonry section, if you are looking) and then to JoAnn Fabrics (or whatever it's called these days) for a Styrofoam imitation 1/2 whiskey barrel - smaller (important), cheaper and much more durable than the real thing.

On the way home, I had to stop at CVS to pick up some vitamins (I ran out yesterday). In case you are wondering, I take the Centrum Silver, which are recommended for people over 50. They have more of some things and less of others than the ones for everyone else.

When I got home, I raced out in front and took a picture of the bent post (as I said in a comment, it's a 4-inch galvanized pipe, buried in concrete). I tried this morning and no way can I bend it back. I keep wondering what the guy did to his truck! When I went out front, I went through the front door and found my mail, in between the storm door and the regular door (thanks, mail guy!) I checked my voicemail and had had a call from Lu at 4:45 PM, saying she was home and safe and thanks. One less thing to worry about!

Then I went out back and filled the bird feeder and suet cage, Next, I started a load of all the towels used by my visitors, the kitchen towels I'd used and my latest workout clothes. Finally I got to the garage.

I went up in the attic and got down two 2 x 4's. I marked a 1/4 inch piece of plywood with the outline of the bottom of the pretend barrel and cut it out with the saber saw. Then I got some pea gravel I already had (for the reflecting pool, remember?), made a pile in the place the temporary mail box will be and, in the fading light (with the aid of a flashlight to see the bubble) got it level front to back and side to side.

I had called the Post Office earlier and found a mail box needs to be 41 to 45 inches from the ground to the bottom of the mailbox, so I had a guide. So I cut two 2 x 4's to length, cut a 1 x 12 with the saber saw to fit in the curved bottom of the fake barrel and cut a board for the top to screw the mail box to. I assembled the boards, then added two pieces of 2 x 4's and some braces of 1 x 4's to the set up. See photos.

I screwed the mail box to the temporary post, then got out the remaining brown porch paint and painted it. I put the tub on the 1/4 inch plywood circle (after drilling numerous 1/4 inch holes for drainage in the tub, then using a magic marker to darken the Styrofoam), added the post/mail box assembly, took the top layer of heavy cement block edging stones from my old mailbox garden (its trashed, now), put them in the tub and then filled the tub with almost two bags of pea gravel. I don't think this sucker is gonna move at all!

I will take a picture and post it tomorrow when I get home, but it was after 8:00 PM when I finished tonight and so a picture in the dark would be useless.

I got cleaned up and it was already 8:30 PM. I put the towels, etc. in the dryer and went to warm up the catfish and wild rice for dinner. I watched TV until 10:00 PM, and then went to bed. Sorry Newt, but the mail must go through!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

photo

The old, bent mail box post (to the right are the tire tracks of his truck, chewing up my ditch).

photo

One side of the mail box post base, with 2 x 4's and braces

photo

The other side of the base of the temporary mail box post

photo

The finished temporary mail box, before painting

Michigan Primary and mailboxes

The alarm went off at 5:00 AM. I got up and knocked on the office door. Lu said she was awake, so I got my workout clothes on, got the last bag of trash put together and carried all of it out to the road through the snow. We have 1 1/2, maybe 2 inches of snow (light powder) overnight, so I went in and checked the weather forecast. It looked like it was snowing here and through Ohio and some in Pennsylvania, so I let Luanne know she had some difficulties to overcome in her drive back home. But, it didn't look too bad and she was determined, so after saying our goodbyes, she left around 5:45 AM for home.

I did my daily ablutions and got dressed for work. I left, but made a stop at my local precinct to vote in the Michigan Presidential primary. Michigan pulled its primary ahead, and now it's all snarled up in the courts, etc., so I'm not sure how much my vote will count, but I wanted to make my statement and make a difference. We have SUCH problems in Michigan (Democrat woman governor, and that says it all!) that the idea of a Democratic President scares me to death!!! I was the fourth voter in my precinct (at 7:05 AM).

After work, I had to take Jake home (Carla had an unexpected meeting that ran late) and I missed Luanne's call. She left me a voice mail at 5:20 PM that said she'd been driving in bad snow all day, avoiding numerous accidents. She was exhausted, and so was stopping for the night at a Day's Inn in West Virginia and would be continuing her journey tomorrow morning.

I realized I didn't have enough water to redo Newt's aquarium, so I filled my medium stock pot with tap water to let it sit for the night (Newt DOESN'T like fresh tap water. The chlorine makes him squirm). So, instead, I put together the plastic shelves I bought over the weekend.

Long time readers may remember when I bought the exact same shelving unit and put them in the downstairs closets to hold all my paint, stains, varnish, etc., so they wouldn't freeze over the winter.
This time I made them into two 2-shelf storage units. One went on the other side of the downstairs closet for overflow kitchen pans and pots, etc. and the other went under the wood shelf downstairs for the outdoor statues, etc. I posted a couple of photos.

Now I'm getting hungry so I made dinner. I got to use the three pan breading station that Sadie and Luanne gave me for Christmas, so I posted a photo of that, too. I made one of my favorites, fried catfish and a side dish of wild rice. I patted the filets dry, and then put them first in corn starch, then egg and finally yellow cornmeal. I fried them in about 1/2 inch of canola oil until golden brown. I plated it and the wild rice and then topped the fish with red hot sauce.

I went in and started watching some of the shows that taped over the weekend. Suddenly, the doorbell rang. I went and found a guy on the porch, holding my mailbox. He apologized and said he lost control of his four-wheeler on the icy road and slid into it. It's too dark to check and see what can be done tonight, so I put it in the front hallway and will try to fix it tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

photo

Mise en place breading pans (a Christmas gift from Luanne and Sadie) set up to make cornmeal breaded catfish

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Two shelves downstairs for outdoor items

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Two shelves in the downstairs closet for cooking utensils

Failed Frittata, etc...

I got home from work very tired. It was not that the day was so hard (it wasn't) but the poor night's sleep Sunday night.

During the day I thought I would finally clean poor Newt's aquarium, but at 5:30 PM, that seemed like a LOT of work. So, instead I changed clothes and visited a bit with Luanne, who has been here resting all day in preparation of her 12-hour trip back home on Tuesday. She offered repeatedly to take me to dinner, but again that seems like too much trouble.

So, I made a zucchini frittata. I cut the bottoms off of 6 small zucchinis and ran them through the mandoline, set at 1/8 inch. I put some olive oil and two cloves of minced garlic in my 12-inch non-stick pan and let the garlic infuse the olive oil on medium heat. I cut a handful of basil in a chiffonade and threw that and the zucchini into the pan. I tossed that around for about 3 minutes, (you want the zucchini crisp) then added 8 large eggs, a little milk, some salt and pepper I'd mixed in the blender (to get a lot of air in it - I could have used a whisk, but this was easier - tired, remember?) I let that sit for about 2 minutes.

I topped it with about 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and put the pan until the broiler to finish. When the cheese turned brown, I pulled it out and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Problem #1 - using the 12 inch skillet meant I didn't have a pan big enough to flip the frittata onto. I can't use a knife in a non-stick pan, so, I used a spatula to "cut" it into pie wedges.

Problem #2 - when I "cut" it, the inside was still runny! I put it back on the stove for another 2 minutes on medium low (so I wouldn't burn the bottom) then covered it with tinfoil and put it back under the broiler (so I wouldn't burn the cheese) for another couple of minutes. Then I let it rest again.

Meanwhile, I made the sourdough bread into garlic toast, by drizzling slices with olive oil, then toasting in the toaster oven, and when they were brown and crunch, I rubbed them with a raw clove of garlic.

We finally got to eat. Lu said she really liked it (of course) but for me, not so much. I think it would have been better to cut the zucchini slices thinner, and then let it set up better on the stove top. I also think I let the bread get a little too crunchy (but you know I don't like crunchy food!) I was very disappointed. I should have let her take me to dinner, I suppose!

Lu wants to get up at 5:00 AM and head out early, hoping to make it home in one day. So, she cleaned up the kitchen while I switched out the kitty litter (tomorrow's garbage day, remember?) and then we chatted in the living room until about 9:00 PM when we went to our respective books and beds.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sunday's Cats and Dogs

I woke up at 7:45 AM. I need to get to my Mom's, but tackled the remaining kitchen mess first. While I was at it, I threw the bedding in with the many kitchen hand towels used in last night's production.

I jumped in the shower after shaving, got dressed and was ready to leave before 10:00 AM. I put the jar of chicken noodle soup and a bag of cookies (both kinds) in the car, along with this week's Blog, and headed out.

Mom wasn't in her room when I got there (weird flashback to the night my father died). So, I left the cookies and my coat (so she'd know I was around), went down and got the soup put in the fridge and hit the bathroom. I came back and found her and the therapist down the hall (yes, I finally met the famous Maria and got to see Mom's altered walker).

We got back in the room and we chatted I told her about the soup and cookies. She commented on my eye looking better and today it really does, just some slight discoloration still shows. I had sent her a picture of it taken that morning, way too gross to post here.

She corrected me about Dad eating tuna fish on New Years. She said it was pickled herring. She asked me to go and get the two pictures of Jesus and Mary that always hung over the fireplace in my ancestral home and now reside in her bedroom. Why give them to me? Well, first, I am sure she knows I will need all the help I can muster to get into Heaven at this point in time. Second, the pictures and I have a history, because as a small lad, I had used Jesus as a target for a ping pong ball-shooting gun I got for Christmas one year and cracked the canvas! (Hey, I was just a little kid, okay?)

Anyway, she asked me to remember the history of them, but I confessed I had no idea where they came from. So, she told me: When my grandmother's grandmother got married, they were not Catholics, but Lutherans (Oh, God, I forgot already! Was it Lutherans or Methodists??? Well, let's just use Protestants!) The minister who married them was a friend of the groom's father, and gave them the two oil paintings as a wedding gift. They passed them down to my great-grandmother, who converted to Catholicism, who in turn gave them to my grandmother (affectionately known as Mama Rene) who later gave them to my Mother, who gave them to the one kid she had who used them as a shooting gallery.

So, we visited until the aid came to take her to lunch. I made a quick trip to her house and got the two paintings, then headed home.

I got home just before 2:00 PM. I fixed a paper plate with cookies and the rest of the Christmas Hershey's candy kisses, covered it with Saran Wrap and took it down to Tanya and her family to thank them for shoveling my driveway. She thanked me and said it was really her boyfriend who did all the work. He was sitting in the front room and laughingly agreed. So, I told her that he gets all the cookies, then.

I got the sheets and pillow cases out of the dryer, put the bedspread in, started the last load of work clothes and made the bed (as far as I could). I filled in today's adventures so far, and then went off in search of others!

Well, adventures might be a bit of stretch. I cleaned the house. I finished up at 5:30 PM. Now I don't know what to do. I fell like I was left in the lurch! Is Luanne coming here for dinner? I give up and call Jeremy's house. No, she's eating there. And, if the promised snow comes and its bad, she'll just go back to her friend Sue's house. If not, she'll be here later. Which is still a little lurchy!!!

So, I hang up the last load of clothes and start thinking about dinner. I have some beautiful catfish filets, but that seems like a lot of work and I'm tired (no nap). So, I settle for the leftover shrimp scampi and linguine. I warmed it up in the microwave, topped it with cheese and take it and a drink into the bedroom.

I started watching a taped show, finished up my dinner and then dozed off. I woke up to the garage door being slammed. It was Luanne, bringing something in from her vehicle. She said she'd been there about 1/2 hour and didn't want to wake me.

So, I turned off the TV, cleaned up my dinner dishes and sat in the living room with her, catching up on her Mom, Lu's own activities and so on. About 10:00 PM I couldn't keep from yawning, so I excused myself and went to bed. As I turned off his light, I realized poor Newt got shafted again. Cleaning his tank was first on the list, but never got done!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

One Last Saturday Night Post

(thanks to Melissa and Dave and their Christmas present of the 20th anniversary of "Uncle John's Bathroom Reader")

We are all familiar with several of the 18th Century pirate terms such as:

AVAST: Dutch for "Hold Fast" It means, "Stop and pay attention."

or

SHIVER ME TIMBERS: A expression of shock or disbelief. When a wooden ship gets hit by a cannon ball or unexpectedly runs aground, the whole ship shakes or "shivers."

or even

DEAD MEN: Empty liquor bottles - their "spirits" have left them!

But one I never heard of was Dungbie, which means, literally, your butt.

Why? Because that's where "the dung be!"

Long day on this Saturday...

I woke up several times during the night, but was able to fall back asleep right away. I got up at 7:00 AM and sorta moseyed around. Then I checked my email and did the blog.

I thought about breakfast, and then decided to forget it. Still no coffee in the house until after today's grocery shopping. So, I skipped shaving and popped into the shower. I have a lot of running around to do today, before I even start the real work I want to accomplish today.

Here's the plan: I go to the Credit Union for some money (always important on a shopping day, lol) and then hit Lowes (for another set of plastic shelving - at $25.00 US it's the cheapest way to go), Meijer's (for the big grocery shopping), Westborn (for needed herbs and veggies), my scheduled hair cut at 12:30 PM (I forgot to call early enough in the week to get my usual 9 or 9:30 AM appointment), and then home.

This afternoon, I want to make some chicken noodle soup and bake two kinds of cookies (the chocolate chip ones but with the right chocolate and those molasses crinkles I didn't make the first time.) I want to drop off a plate of cookies to the lawn lady and her boyfriend for shoveling my driveway. I also have to clean Newt's bowl.

Well, that was the plan anyway. It took too long at Meijer's (not enough cashiers), so I went home instead and put away the groceries, then went and got my hair cut and hit Westborn afterwards. I got home and got everything put away by 2:00 PM. So, it's later than I'd like, but I must soldier on!

Before we move on, I must tell you it's an absolutely gorgeous day! Sunny skies, above freezing temps, etc. I hate it! Why? Because the 60 degree temps we had last week and this kind of day all just trick us gardeners into believing Spring is "right around the corner." But, any real Michigander knows, February and usually most of March is where it really, REALLY sucks for blizzards and cold. So it's all an illusion, man! And I HATE being tricked, even by God!

The last paragraph not withstanding, and since it was so nice, I took the opportunity to retrieve the four red bows and remove the cedar garland from the front porch. As I suspected, the bows were wet, so they went in the back room to dry before putting away for the season. The cedar rope garland went on the discard heap to turn into mulch.

Now, I changed into my everyday at home clothes (tee shirt, shorts and slipper socks) and got to work. Here's how I am making Mom's Chicken Noodle soup:

I took a thawed package of two split chicken breasts (bone in, of course) and put them in my Dutch oven pot. I added 8 cups (two boxes) of store-bought chicken stock (I'm all out of homemade, dammit), four sprigs of fresh thyme (Westborn), two dried bay leaves, and then 1 1/2 cups of medium-diced onion, 1 1/2 cups of medium-diced celery, two teaspoons of fresh, minced garlic and 3/4 cup of medium-diced carrots (Knife skills, baby! It's all about knife skills!) I brought that all up to a boil, and then turned it down to simmer for 30 minutes to poach the chicken. As it simmered, I skimmed off any froth that formed on the top.

Meanwhile, I had lunch. The last of the liverwurst on rye, made my Dad's way (with butter, not mustard). Sure I can feel my arteries clogging as I write this, but, damn, it tastes GOOD! But, never being satisfied, I can't help but think a layer of thin sliced onions would put this sandwich over the top!

When the timer went off (near 4:00 PM), I shut down the burner and removed the two chicken breasts to let them cool. Seeing this as the perfect opportunity, I went and took a nap.

When I woke up, I checked and the cast iron Dutch oven had held the heat (like I knew it would). I removed the thyme stems and the two bay leaves, then de-boned the chicken breasts (the bones went into the bag in the freezer so I can make more chicken stock someday). I cut the meat into small-sized cubes and added them back to the soup.

Meanwhile, I cooked four ounces of wide egg noodles in a separate pan of salted water until al dente (since this is a simmered soup, I don't want to bring it back up to a boil and beat up the aromatics). When the noodles were done, I drained and then added them to the soup. I let everything get happy for another 5 minutes or so, then I added two teaspoons of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley, one teaspoon of fresh chopped tarragon and (after taste testing) a few grinds of black pepper.

After trying a bowl, I decided if I had to do it all over again (and I probably will. This is good soup!) I'd use just a little less tarragon. Why? Because, I don't taste much parsley, mostly just the tarragon. I got three containers filled: one for the freezer, one for the fridge and one to take to Mom's. So, what next? It's almost 10:00 PM, but I did have a nice nap. I don't much feel like it, but I guess its cookie baking time!

Okay, so now its after midnight, the two dozen "My Big Fat Chocolate Chip" cookies are cooling (and, yes, I used the right kind of chocolate this time) and the first two sheet pans of the "Molasses Crinkles" are in the oven. Tonight has reinforced my belief that, while making cookies with two people can be fun, making cookies all alone is messy, time-consuming and no fun at all. In fact, if my buddy Tracey can't make it next year, I'm gonna drop the whole damn thing and just make Christmas Soups (anybody want to buy some folding cookie drying racks?). My legs are starting to feel all the standing up I've done, and I'm getting cranky (as you may have noticed).

So, now it's 1:00 AM. I was getting a bit overheated (hey, even with the vent fan on and the kitchen window cracked, a 375 degree F. oven throws a LOT of heat!) So, I fixed myself a drink and went out on the front porch to smoke a very old, stale Pall Mall cigarette. I got about 3/4 of the way through when the cold forced me back inside.

The cookies are all cooling, Most of the bowls, measuring instruments, spatulas, spoons, etc. are washed and what isn't, is soaking. So, I'm gonna post this and go to bed.

And thus, this Saturday slides into history...

Quote (and a tip o' the hat to you know who)

"The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly."

~ Nietzsche

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday Night Fights

Cold and raining on the way into work. I don't like it, but keep telling myself its better than snow.

10 hours later, I'm heading home to "Bang the Drum." Yep, the weekend, with all its hopes, is here!

I gave the rather insistent cats their treats. Before I changed clothes, I went out and filled the bird feeder with seed and the squirrel feeder with peanuts. I got into my workout clothes and my Christmas slipper socks. Man, I love these things! I'd wear 'em to work if I could get away with it.

Okay, so I'm home and awake, time to get some things done! I put Paul Simon's "Graceland" CD on (loud) and went to work. I redid the To Do List to allow for the weekend (added grocery shopping, haircut, clean house, baking more cookies, etc.). Next, checked my pantry and fridge, and then I put together tomorrow morning's shopping list.

It's only 6:30 PM now, so I have time for a To Do item. I got my drill and some screws and fixed the broken shelf in the kitchen. I removed the old screws in the one that broke, replaced them with longer ones and added two more for safety's sake. While I was at it I added two more screws to the other shelf as well. Since I had them empty anyway, I washed them both down with Formula 409 and hand-washed everything that went on them that can be washed. I put away the tools and then moved on to the downstairs bathroom.

Since I don't have a bathroom fan in either bathroom (on the list of this year's remodeling projects, BTW), I have an on-going problem with mold. So, I opened the bathroom window and sprayed the shower stall down with Tilelex. I set the timer for 15 minutes and came in here to type this. The timer went off and I went to rinse. Without scrubbing, (and that would involve kneeling, which is a big no-no), this is a two-or-more step process. But at least I got it started.

Now it's 7:30 and I'm hungry! I decided to try and improve my steak rollups (it didn't escape my observation that NONE of you offered to help on this!) So, I re-heated the thin-cut steak and basically repeated the same process, but this time I added a couple of romaine lettuce leaves to the tortilla after saucing it, then the steak and scallions and topped it with some shredded cheddar cheese.. I rolled it up, cut it in half and plated it. I took a couple of bites: better, but still not there yet!

I ate dinner watching some great classic boxing (1998 Arturo Gatti vs. Ivan Robinson) and the came the Friday Night Fights...

Ah, the good life...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Short Night on Thursday

Well, Tuesday night's sleep was good, but Wednesday nights' sucked! Damn insomnia kept me awake from about 12:30 AM to almost 4:00. So, I was dragging it all day long.

When I got home, I picked an item from the To Do list, which was find the User's Guide for my phones. Why? Because I want to program in a few of the numbers I use the most into the speed dial feature. But I went through my two file boxes and even the fire-proof file box and couldn't find it! Which is weird, because I always save them. So that was a wasted hour or so.

I made some phone calls (using my little phone book) and got some phone calls. Then, I warmed up a simple dinner (two hamburgers, some chips and two dill pickle spears).

At 8:00 PM, I started watching some TV, but fell asleep before the first hours show was finished.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wednesday Night

I slept MUCH better Tuesday night with the heat turned back to 68 degrees F., in case you were wondering.

I needed to give Jake a ride home last night, plus stop and pick up some scallions and four tortillas, so I didn't get home until 6:00 PM.

I changed clothes and started the mid-week wash. Then I took the smaller half of the steak I'd grilled on Sunday and sliced it as thin as I could. It's easier to do this when it's cold, by the way. In fact, if you are trying to do this to raw meat, it's recommended that you put it in the freezer for a tad so it stiffens up.

Next I sliced the scallions on a diagonal, again as thin as I could. Then I mixed up a dressing with mayonnaise, sour cream and horseradish while the steak was heating in the microwave.

I put the dressing on the tortilla (a lot, because I like it!), then piled some steak strips and scallion on one half. Then I rolled it up, cut it in half and had a great tasting, good looking, steak rollup for dinner (well, actually, I had two of them, lol!)

It did seem to be missing something, but I'm not sure what. Maybe a lettuce leaf? Maybe some shredded cheddar cheese? I've got leftovers, so I can play with this one more time.

I glanced at the To Do list, laughed, and then went and watched TV for the rest of the night.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

And, the survey says...

It was pouring rain when I took out the garbage and it rained most of the day.

My brother Joe called me at work with great news! My Mother has a tentative discharge date of January 24th! There are still a lot of details to work out (home staffing, a ramp in the back for a wheelchair, etc.) but, in just over three weeks time, she should be home again!

I didn't sleep well Monday night. I was WAY too hot! At first I blamed it on my flannel sheets and this crazy warm weather (we missed setting a record by one degree, yesterday, BTW). Then I remembered. When the ladies were here, Sadie was cold the first night, so I changed the settings on my thermostat so it was always 72 degrees F. in the house. So, the first thing I did when I got home was to redo the thermostat so it drops back to 68 degrees at 10:30 PM and when I am at work.

I had an email from Jyl letting me know her son Joe would be calling me at 5:30 PM. He had a school project where he needed to interview a person who is over 55 years old. The questions ranged from what did I think when the astronauts walked on the moon, where was I when Kennedy got shot, what did I wear to school, what sort of discipline was there in school (he didn't believe me when I said the nuns hit you on your knuckles with a wooden ruler) and so on... The last question was: what was the most technological advance since you were born? I hesitated a bit between medical advances (some are, after all, amazing) but decided it had to be computers and the Internet.

Dinner tonight needed to be something different, but easy. So, I went with a semi-homemade dish. I sauteed two shallots and 4 cloves of garlic in olive oil and butter. Then I peeled and de-veined 1/2 pound of tiger shrimp, chopped them and cooked them until they turned pink. I added a jar of Classico four cheese Alfredo sauce and let that warm up. I boiled a box of Linguine until it was cooked al dente. I combined everything, then topped my plate with Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated on a micro plane.

By 8:00 dinner was ready and I was ready to take a break. Outside, there will be more rain tonight and a high wind advisory.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Monday's moanings

Well, four people at work asked what happened to my eye. I'm not sure if the rest are just unobservant or too discreet to ask. I went with my friend B___'s suggestion and told them I was in a bar fight (he said the reality was too lame). While they were laughing, I said, "You should see the other guy!" which made them laugh all the more.

I picked up hamburger buns and some sea salt and vinegar chips on the way home for tonight's dinner. Once home, it was back to the To Do list left from the weekend. But first I used the electric sweeper to get up all of Caley's cat hair from all the floors.

Then, I shredded a year's worth of receipts from 2006 (I normally do that over the Christmas break, but this year there was too much commotion). I got 1 1/2 tall kitchen trash bags worth of paper for the garbage.

Next I cleaned out my refrigerator freezer. And redid it and the chest freezer to my new organizational plan: all chicken, stock and ice cube trays on the top shelf in fridge; pork and misc. (like frozen veggies, perogies, pie crusts, etc) on the bottom shelf. All seafood (fish and shrimp, etc.) are in baskets on the little chest freezer, along with all the beef.

Next came dinner. I toasted two of the hamburger buns and put mayonnaise on the bottom and yellow mustard on the top. Then I added two nice hot burger patties (just out of the microwave) in the middle. Some of the chips and two dill pickle spears completed my plate. I ate it watching a taped show from Sunday.

The doorbell rang. It was Tanya (my neighbor and old lawn service person) and her daughter on my porch selling (what else) Girl Scout cookies. I don't eat them of course, but I bought two boxes of the thin mint and two boxes of the Samoa's. Mystery solved: She mentioned that she and her boyfriend had hand-shoveled my driveway and sidewalk. He said they had to with my bad knee and all. So, now I knew who to thank.

She, of course, asked about my eye. I told her I was sticking with the bar fight story. She laughed too.

I went back in and watched more TV until 11:00, then shut the TV and lights off. The last thing I remember was me thinking, "why is me being in a bar fight so damn funny?"

Monday, January 7, 2008

Strange Sunday

I woke up in the middle of the night with my left eye hurting and I realized I couldn't see right. So, I stumbled to the bathroom to find my left eyelid (from my eyebrow to my eyelashes) was red and swollen about three times its normal size. I grabbed a bag of frozen veggies (peas, I think) and pressed it to my eye. Finally, and it took a long while, I could open my eye a little (like a slit). Then I went back to sleep.

What the hell???

If I'd fallen and hit my eye, you would think my glasses would have broke (they are not broken, BTW). Maybe in my sleep, I rubbed chewing tobacco into my eye and that irritated it? I dunno. All I know is this morning it's gone down a bit, but turned a nice purple. I don't think I'm driving out to see my Mom as I had planned, though. My depth perception is all screwed up, plus I look like a freak!!! Only if I pull down my cheek, can I see out of my left eye.

Moving on... I stripped my bed and put the bedding in the wash machine. I skipped breakfast, but took the Dutch oven out of the fridge and warmed up the beans and ham. That will be lunch. Luanne called from my Mom's house and caught me up on her mother's situation and how things are going at Mom's. I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I stretched out on the couch with my book.

The next thing I knew, Jake and Carla came in (I had dozed off, apparently). They said it was because they forgot to give me the peanuts (for the squirrels) they bought at Costco yesterday. But I think they just wanted to make sure I was okay. I had sent them a picture of my eye this morning, you see. They stayed a short while and then left. I ate my ham and beans with a slice of the sourdough bread. Not bad, but not as good as I hoped.

I got to work on the Christmas decorations. By 3:00 PM, I had them all taken down and put up in the attic. The only thing still left up is the garland and the bows on the porch railing. I'll get all that some other day. So, I am about halfway through my To Do list for the weekend but to tell you the truth, I feel like shit and really don't feel like doing anything! Really NOT looking forward to tomorrow and the first full work week of 2008!!!

I put the bedding back on the bed and put a load of kitchen towels, my white bath and hand towels and the bath mat from the downstairs bathroom in the washer. Since it's been over a week and neither cat seems to have used Caley's litter box, I cleaned them both out, but only refilled the bigger one. Caley's litter box went out to the garage. Maybe, just maybe, the cats that shit together get together! Let us pray...

I had my slipper socks on, so I didn't want to go outside. But I opened the peanuts up and threw three handfuls out on the patio. I was surprised at the response I got. I had the big grey squirrels, the medium sized black squirrels and even the small red squirrels (who live in the front of the house) out there and squabbling over the peanuts in like five minutes.

I took out the last "2006 meat order" steak I had thawed for today. I pressed in Montreal Steak Seasoning on both sides and let it come up to room temperature. Then, I took the two pounds of ground chuck I had likewise thawed and made eight 1/4 pound patties and hit them on both sides with the house seasoning. If I'm gonna fire up my grille in January, I am damn sure gonna get some use out of it! (I wish I'd thought to thaw out some baby back ribs!)

I heard on the TV that we tied the record temperature today (57 degrees F.) and we will set a new record on Monday (60 degrees F)!!!

So, at 4:00 PM, I dragged the grille out and filled it with cowboy charcoal. I fired it up and made sure everything was lit. I must have amused the neighbors (several of which drove by) in my workout shorts, tee shirt and my Christmas slipper socks. But, if you have one eye that looks like you put on dark eye shadow, you can just let these things go...

I grilled the burgers first. They went in a baggie after cooling for dinners this week. Next came the steak. Four minutes per side, and then left to rest a bit and I had a perfect medium-rare steak! I put two medallions of the compound butter on it and covered it with tin foil. While it was resting, I made two small russet potatoes into baked potatoes in the microwave and saut�ed some onions and the last 6 mushrooms for a topping.

I ate my dinner (which was delicious, BTW) and cleaned up the kitchen. I officially quit for the night and went in to watch my Sunday night shows.