Wednesday, April 30, 2008

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The old thumb screw bolts (I got two, not four) and their replacements

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The original two (not four) bolts for the seat (right click the photo and then use your Browser button to get back)

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New bolts, lock washers and flat washers (right click the photo and then use your Browser button to get back).

Two short passages I liked...

...from books I just read:

"He felt a pain in his chest, which quickly spread to his left arm. He knew that pain; he had felt it before, recently. There was a phone at his elbow; help was available - if he wanted it. The pain increased; the brandy glass fell from his fingertips.

He only had to wait. The pain would take him, or it would leave him. He genuinely had no preference."

from the last two paragraphs of "Chiefs" by Stuart Woods

"You forget the things you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget."

from "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy

Aching From the Raking

It was chilly all day Wednesday, so when I got home I didn't bother to change clothes before I went outside. I hooked up the sprinkler and took it out to the front lawn. Then I got busy in the back yard.

I raked the rest of the lawn under the trees (where the grass is sparse) with the leaf rake to get up all the sticks and junk. Then I opened my third bag of grass seed and sowed the area (its about 30 feet by 30 feet, BTW). Then I took the garden rake and raked the area again to cover the seed.

I went and got the sprinkler from the front and set it up in back. It won't be as effective back here, because the huge trunks of the maples will block the spray. I watered that area for about 30 minutes. While the sprinkler was running, I gave Lu a quick call to see if the Virginia tornadoes affected them. She said they did have high winds, but no damage. Back outside, I finally finished and went into the house just before 8:00 PM.

Dinner was a bit strange, I guess. First I had a small bowl of tuna salad, but later in the night, I had two hunter sausages and the last of the soft pretzels.

I went to bed just after 10:00 PM but had trouble falling asleep because my arms and shoulders ached.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday for the Travelin' Man

Today is supposed to be the best chance of rain all week. I sincerely hope it's true! It looked like rain several times, but nothing throughout the day. I did check the weather maps and it seems to be raining in Detroit and the northern suburbs, but not here.

I had to leave work at 2:30 PM and head to Richmond. I have a doctor's appointment. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I got onto I-696, it started raining, hard! Curious, I called back to work but, still no rain!

Anyway, I got to Richmond early enough to stop by the Smoke House and get a supply of hunter's sausage. Then, I kept my appointment with the doctor.

Turns out everything is fine and, in some cases, even better than last time. She was very pleased with her decision to go with Lipitor as opposed to the generic drug, as my glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test results went from 7.4% down to 6.9%. BTW, this blood test indicates your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. Generally, a target A1C result for a Type 2 Diabetic is 7 percent or less.

We had a discussion regarding me coming once a year, like I used to with Dr. McClellan, versus the current every three months. We compromised on every six month. She also wanted me to take a stress test, since the last one I had was back in 2000. So, I agreed and they set one up for late next week.

It was about 5:15 PM when I got out of there. I thought I'd drop by my Mother's before they eat (she told me they eat at 6:00 PM) and hand deliver the Blog and the box of tea I'd bought (I rarely drink tea, you see). But, when I got there about 5:30, they were already eating and I had interrupted their supper. My Mom seems fine and the big news of the day is that several of her neighbors, and her, are going in on paying for having the seaweed removed from in front of the cottages. I left so she could get back to dinner and headed home.

I got home about 6:45 PM and didn't even need to check the rain gauge as the dust on my dirt road was still visible after my car passed. I was beat from the drive, so I changed clothes, got the trash ready to go tomorrow morning, fixed a plate of tuna salad and went in to watch TV. I shut it off and went to sleep at 10:00 PM.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Satisfactory Sunday

I got up at 6:45 AM, warmed up a cup of coffee and went outside in my shorts and T-shirt to water the front lawn. It's just over 40 degrees F, so that T-shirt and shorts decision was a bit chilly!

This is the first time I have used my new sprinkler and its amazing! I figured out the exact center of the main front yard and set it there. Each sweep goes from the road all the way to the front garden! So, there is only one small area that, when the drought comes, I will have to water separately. In contrast, my old little sprinkler had to be moved four times to cover the same amount of grass!

Meanwhile, I worked in the house on miscellaneous things (emptying the dishwasher, washing the upstairs bath and deep-cleaning the downstairs bath). I also made some breakfast around 9:00 AM. I scrambled eggs with chives from my garden (they are up now) and the last of the bacon, crumbled, along with two pieces of toast. Very tasty! I boiled a box of rotini to al dente and then, after shocking it, put it in the fridge so I can make tuna salad next week.

I worked on the downstairs shower the longest, I believe. But, finally, it was time for me to take a shower, not clean one. I have to be at Jake & Carla's at 1:00 PM. They have a bubbling fountain they don't want and, in exchange for that, I am going to try and help identify either weeds or plants in their many gardens. Damn! When I went to put my "work around the house" pants on, I found the button had come off. Luckily, I found it in the dryer, so I got out some black thread and a needle and sewed it back on.

I got there exactly (and I mean exactly) at 1:00 PM. We had talked about trying to make those oversized, warm pretzels and Jake ad the dough already made and resting. I went outside with them and they showed me what they had accomplished yesterday (a LOT) digging out evergreen bushes and plants from the garden they want to grow herbs in (there were some nasty, big roots on those bushes, BTW). The soil in that garden is perfect loam, so I don't think growing anything in there would be a problem.

We went back inside and took turns trying to roll the dough balls out to 24 inches and then forming them into giant pretzels (with some predictable hilarious results). We got eight pretzels. I made an egg wash while Jake boiled them. Then Carla brushed on the egg wash and salted them with Kosher salt. Jake put the two sheet pans in the preheated oven (400 degrees F, I think) for 15 minutes, rotating the pans once. Meanwhile Carla made a cheese sauce for the pretzels with fortini and sharp cheddar cheese. Finally they were out and rested, and we dug in. Delicious! Jake's lessons learned was NOT to put them on parchment paper (like the recipe called for and we did) so they would brown on both sides and to find and use real pretzel salt (the Kosher salt wasn't big enough chunks).

We loaded up the fountain and as many rocks as I thought the car's springs could take, along with the pump and a set of low-voltage lights that were used as accents in the garden they tore out (they would be unnecessary in the herb garden).

Carla gave me a care package of pretzels and I left. I got home just after 4:30 PM. I used the wheel barrow and got the rocks and fountain back to Jake's patio and the lights and pumps into the garage. Then I started back on the mulching plug for the riding mower.

I got the last three holes drilled in the plug and the deck and then bolted the whole thing on. I did have to use the rubber mallet again to get things to fit and this broke off chips of paint. So, I taped it of with masking tape and repainted it on the mower, outside the garage. Note: Only part of this paint thing is because I like things to be "finished" correctly. The main reason is I don't want it to rust. I did more three coats of paint and, during the drying times, I got out the weedwacker for the first time in 2008 and edged the front yard on both sides of the driveway.

When I finished, I figure there was no time like the present to see if all my efforts on the blades and the mulching plug were worth it. So, I checked the gas and oil and got the key out of the house. I fired that puppy up and cut the front grass. Eureka!!! No dust! It's actually mulching the grass clippings!!! I swear I can't stop smiling!

When I reluctantly finished, I pulled in the garage, turned off the mower and, taking the key with me, went into the house. For the first time I can remember, I don't need to take a shower after using the mower. But, all the laying on the garage floor, tightening bolts, did trash my clothes. So, I gathered up all the used kitchen towels, bathroom hand towels, my clothes, etc, and started a medium load. Since I was wearing just my birthday suit anyway, I did get into the shower, but more to clean off the dirt from the garage floor and the sweat than any dust the mower generated.

When I was over at Jake and Carla's, Carla was telling me about her latest rendition of tuna salad for tonight's dinner. I wish I could remember all her changes, but I don't. The biggest substitution was, of course, "something" instead of steamed and shocked peas (she HATES peas). Last time it was broccoli, but this time she's using fresh asparagus. Anyway, it sounded delicious, and, as a result, I moved my making tuna salad up from "later this week" to tonight.

I used my recipe, but did have to get a bit creative about the "one bunch of scallions, both green and white." My "bunch of scallions" had gone a bit past its prime. Now, as any good cook knows, you can peel back the outer layers of a tired green onion and get to the fresh parts. But, by the time I got to the fresh parts on this bunch, I had very little "green" left and the whites were only equal to about half a normal bunch to be honest. So, since they are coming in so nice right now, I picked a bunch of chives and snipped them into the salad mix to compensate for the lack of scallions. I got the tuna salad into the fridge to cool, the bowls and knives I'd used for prep washed and in the drying rack and the clothes into the dryer, by 7:00 PM. I am feeling pretty damned pleased with myself, I might add. This has been one hell of a productive weekend!

I hung up the clothes in time to watch my first Sunday show, Extreme makeover, Home Edition. My daughter Melissa called after 9:00 PM and we chatted a bit. I ate dinner later than usual, but that's okay, it gave it a chance to get nice and cold.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

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Final fabricated mulch plug plate, rear

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Final fabricated mulch plug plate, side

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Final fabricated mulch plug plate, front

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Double checking the mulch plug template

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Sunday morning, sprinkling!

Stuck inside on Saturday

I slept in until 7:00 AM. I had forgotten to set up the coffee Friday night, so I put on a pot while I jumped in the shower. Doesn't look like it rained at all overnight (dammit!), but it's still cloudy, so maybe this morning.

I started the first of many laundry loads (well, maybe three), posted the Blog and filled out my ToDo list. Then, I started cleaning the house. I have been concentrating so much on the yard, I've really let the inside slip a little too much.

Jake and Carla stopped by after Carla's dentist appointment to borrow a shovel and a hoe. I lent them my garden fork as well, as they are working up one of their flower gardens to plant herbs. They scared the crap out of me by coming in silently `when I was in the kitchen and then just sitting on the couch until I walked back in the living room! Wacky kids!

I hung up and/or folded the first load of clothes when the phone rang. I couldn't stop or my pants would be wrinkled, so I let the answering service get it. So, I checked when I was done and it was Lu. I called her back and found out she's sore, but coping well. She's got a massive leg brace from her hip to her ankle. She starts therapy in Blackstone on Monday and seems to be in good spirits (might just be the pain meds, though, lol!)

Hung up from her and got back to work. I started the third load of laundry after putting the second in the dryer (looks like now there will be four loads in all, BTW). I also filled and started the dishwasher (so it's hard to hear the radio). The living room is dusted and vacuumed and now I am using the dust mop on the hardwood floor, sprayed with EndDust. Next comes washing all the glass surfaces with Windex.

BTW, its not quite 60 degrees F. here (quite a change from the mid-70's we've had all week long) but I do have the furnace turned off and the kitchen window wide open as well as one in the living room, airing the house out, yet again. After the long winter, I just can't seem to get enough of the fresh, spring air!

Since I had the Windex out, I moved the one glass-topped table and washed the inside of the living room picture window. Now, nothing less will do than to go outside on the front porch and wash the outside of the window, so I did. I had to go back and forth a bit, finding and fixing spots I missed.

By 3:00 PM, the living room, office and my bedroom were done. The last load of laundry (the kitchen and main bathroom throw rugs and the dust mop head) was in the dryer. The downstairs and kitchen floors were mopped with PineSol and I was both hungry and pooped. So, I warmed up the last three burgers and ate them, lying on the bed, while the floors dried. I am hoping to take a nice nap.

I gave up at 4:00 PM. Just not that sleepy, I guess. So, I went out in the garage and worked on my mulch plug. I double-checked my template for fit on the mower deck (using masking tape to hold it on) and then transferred my template to the piece of sheet metal I'd bought. I cut out the pattern with my tin snips, test fit it, and made some minor adjustments. Then I drilled two holes in the top flap that corresponded with the holes for the discharge chute. I put in the two bolts to secure it and made my final adjustments with a rubber hammer, tapping the steel to get the bends I needed.

Then I dug out some black spray paint and took the plug outside. I painted it on a scrap piece of wood in back. I used several (four or five) light coats and waiting 15 minutes for it to dry in between coats. When I was finished with that, I decided I was also finished for the night, as it was close to 8:00 PM.

I got a little hungry around 9:30, but didn't feel like making anything big. So, I cooked up a box of macaroni and cheese (yeah, the original with the mysterious orange cheese) and ate that, watching the Friday night fights. I turned the TV off at midnight and went to sleep.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

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"Handle every stressful situation like a dog!
Piss on it and walk away!"

~ Author Unknown

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New rain gauge. I don't really need the thermometer, but it was a package deal!

T.G.I.F. yet again!

We had a few rain showers during the day on Friday. One was amazing! It blew threw around 10:00 AM with furious winds (the rain was actually coming down sideways) but then was gone in less than 10 minutes.

Jake and Carla stopped by after work (to my chagrin). Why was I embarrassed? Because, if you remember from yesterday's post, I left the dinner pots and pan and dishes to clean up in the morning. Well, when Friday morning came, I thought, hmmm, I'll just clean up when I get home...

I hadn't even changed clothes when they knocked on the door. So, the first part of our visit was me standing at the sink cleaning up while we talked. I also hadn't taken anything out for dinner. I reluctantly offered them leftovers, and to my surprise, they accepted! So we ate cheeseburgers and hotdogs (with sauerkraut for Carla and I, but not Jake) and chips for dinner.

Jake put together the new oscillating sprinkler I'd bought at lunch and we tested it out back. Nice!!! We also set out my new rain gauge (the little one I had cracked).

When they left, I wandered in to check TV. Boxing was supposed to run to midnight (and I didn't want to stay up that late), so I taped that (I'm showing my age, I guess. There's no "tape" anymore. I recorded it on my DVD-R). Instead I watched the "previously recorded" last edition of Top Chef". Then I went to sleep, hoping for yet more rain overnight...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thursday

At 7:05 AM, I was at the St. Mary Mercy outreach laboratory, getting my blood drawn. I may or may not have mentioned this but since I have been in and out of hospitals since I was 20, the veins in my arms SUCK! So, I was not surprised when the one in my left arm fizzled out and she had to draw more blood out of the right arm. Maybe someday I will tell you about my experiences in the Intensive Care unit when I was young. Then again, maybe not... Anyway, I got to work, with bandages and gauze pad on both arms. Nobody asked, but I decided, if asked, to tell them I cut myself shaving, lol!

Thursday was another picture-perfect day. I got a phone call from Sadie down in Virginia just after 10:00 AM at work. She said she had just finished talking to the surgeon and Luanne's operation went well. The donor ligament fit just fine. Lu will be in recovery for a couple hours and before she goes home tomorrow (she will stay in the hospital 23 hours so it's still considered "outpatient surgery!") they will already have her in therapy, at least once.

So, I emailed my kids, copied my brothers and then called my Mom. At lunch, I imposed on B___ to go to Lowe's and picked up some metal sheeting, nuts & bolts and lock washers to fabricate my mulching plug. I think I will work on this Friday night, when it's supposed to rain.

When I got home, I changed clothes, emptied the dishwasher and then went outside. I concentrated my leaf-gathering efforts to under, around and beyond the concrete pad where the sailboat and the trailer sit. I stopped there, as the leaves now extended over the top of the sand box. I watered the hell out of that pile of leaves, and then added the remaining 40 pound bag of cheap top soil (to aid in the composting).

To estimate the number of bags I need to get it to a "vegetable garden" I measured the sand box. Its 5 feet by 8 feet. According to my calculations, I will need approximately 15 more bags of top soil. <groan> It's not the price (its cheap) but the weight! That's over 600 pounds of store-bought dirt!

I came back inside after taking a photo (you'll see them all in a collage of "raised-bed gardening" when I'm done). It was 7:40 PM, so I started dinner. I'm already tired of leftovers, so I made a Pasta Pascal.

I saut�ed four minced cloves of garlic in olive oil and butter for two minutes. Then I added one chopped medium onion and cooked it for two more minutes. Then I added in three leftover tomatoes I diced (recipe calls for four Roma or "plum" tomatoes, BTW), 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil, and salt and pepper to taste. I reduced the heat to medium-low and let it simmer.

Meanwhile, I cooked some spaghetti (recipe calls for angel hair pasta, BTW - I just didn't have any on hand) until it was al dente. Then I drained it and tossed it with the tomato mixture and ate it.

Result? So-so. Tasted okay, just pretty bland for a main dish. It would have made a great side dish for, say fried eggplant.

I decided to clean up the kitchen in the morning and went in to watch TV. This time, I actually stayed awake until I shut it off and went to sleep.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wednesday

We did have a brief (all too brief, in my opinion) shower today around 10:00 AM. So, when I got home, I dragged the hose and sprinkler out and watered the front lawn (tree garden side) all the way back to the trailer/sailboat slab.

I came back inside after setting out the original sprinkler (the variable, but strong winds are not helping in the sprinkler placement, BTW) and changed clothes into my T-shirt and shorts. Just then, the door bell rang! I looked out and saw Shrek on my porch! Please note: I am NOT making fun of him, just trying for an accurate description. So, I went outside and chatted with him. He was an oversized, bald headed, metally-challenged teenager who immediately handed me a laminated card, describing the organization he was selling for. His presentation suffered a bit from his hair lip, but I gathered his group was trying to raise funds for a trip to Cedar Point by selling candy. With real regret, I told him I lived alone and was diabetic and couldn't use any candy, but did he have anything else I could buy? Fortunately, he had some flavored teas from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) so I bought a wooden box with 25 tea bags in it and embossed with the Ceylon seal of quality (the Sri Lanka lion) of lemon tea for $8.00 US. God bless, guys, and hope Cedar Point rocks for you!

I decided some time earlier today that my shoulders and arm muscles hurt enough that I was not going to do any raking tonight. So, while continually moving the sprinkler and setting the stove timer, I went out into the garage.

One of the things that caught my attention with the lawn tractor is that it uses mulching blades, but still has a discharge chute. My walking mower had mulching blades, but the discharge chute was blocked off. So, why isn't this? So, I checked the Troy-Bilt website and found they originally offered a kit for my mower with mulching blades (which I had on originally and just re-purchased) and a discharge "plug" for the mower deck. But, when I looked into it, I found they no longer sold them! They did, however offer, though a third party, a "universal" plug for $65.00! When I was building the armored Lincoln Town cars, I had 20 fabricators who could have made this up in 15 minutes!

Brief interlude: The whole "discharge" thing reminds me of a comedian's (Jeff Foxworthy - you know, "You might be a redneck, if...") bit I have always laughed at. His premise was there are just a lot of things a man doesn't need or want to know. For example, ladies, please just use the words: Female problems. The only context we men want to hear about "discharge" is Military, and please make damn sure it's an honorable one!

So, I went up into the attic and cut up a box to get a good-sized piece of cardboard. I went out and removed the discharge chute (see photos) and carefully cut and fitted it to the mower deck. So, now, I have a template for a piece of metal I'll buy and rework. This is in spite of my friend's B___'s suggestion that I cut up a milk jug and duct tape the piece to the deck. My God, man, have you no shame?

At 8:20 PM the watering was done. I have to eat fast as I have blood getting drawn in the morning and can't eat or drink after 9:00 PM. So, I warmed up two chicken thighs and made wild rice as the side dish. Still tasted great. I started watching TV, waiting for 10:00 PM and Top Chef, but fell asleep waiting. I woke up at 2:00 AM, shut everything off and went to bed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

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My cardboard template for the mulching plug.

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The actual deck, after removing the discharge chute.

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The supplied discharge chute on my mower (more about "discharge" in my post tonight)

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The sand cherry

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My third forsythia, in back (Ignore the trash next door. I've yet to get to picking it up, lol!

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Flowering Plum, starting to bloom

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Tuesday Night, digging the leaves out away from the fence

Still raking it in...

Tuesday was another warm, sunny day. So, when I got home I changed clothes and got to work. I dragged the hose out front and started watering the main part of the front lawn. At a minimum, this means four changes of location and 25 minutes at each location.

So, while I worked through that, I put down the last of the mulch. Then I started raking the area between the reflecting pool to the St. Francis garden and from the north fence to the bird feeder. The refuse went into the sandbox.

I finished up just after 8:00 PM. I went in and cleaned up, then got to dinner. I saut�ed a large red onion in oil and butter while I chopped up the veggies and meat from Saturday's roast beef. When the onion was ready, I added the veggies/meat mixture and warmed up my now roast beef hash.

I ate dinner and rested a bit. I didn't feel like watching TV, so I started reading until I started dozing (which didn't take long, with all the fresh air and my outdoor activities). I had the light off and was asleep by 9:30 PM.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day 2008

Happy Earth Day to all my fellow earthlings!

The Captain

Monday and eating German!

I got home early since I had a meeting at our Building 50 ( 1/2 Mile from my house) at 4:00 PM that didn't last the whole hour. I changed clothes and went out to work in the back yard. I picked up the mess on Jake's patio from the gutter cleaning and deposited it into the sand box. My plan is to use all the leaves I can find to build up the dirt level (it's currently about eight inches below the top of the sandbox). Then, I'll top that off with all the compost I can dig out from my compost heap and finally add store-bought garden soil to plant the vegetables in.

I got the whole section of my south fence cleaned from the gates to the concrete pad where the trailer and sailboat sit. I spread around the leaves and stuff in the sandbox, then used the hose to wet it down good (to aid in composting).

Since I had the area raked, I spread grass seed around. Then I hooked up the sprinkler and watered it all. I mulched the small garden on Jake's patio, since I was out there anyway. I finished up around 7:30 PM.

I have a treat tonight for an appetizer. My friend B___ apparently has had a hankering for a dish his Mother used to make around the Christmas Holidays. So, last week, he made up the pickling brine and started the five-day process to make sauerbraten and red cabbage. I was intrigued, so he brought me in a Tupperware container with a few bites of the sauerbraten with the pickled red cabbage and spaetzle. Excellent! Wish I had more (as I understand it, this was all he managed to save while it was being devoured at his house). I guess if I want more, (and I do) I'll have to check out a recipe and make it myself.

So, I started watching mindless TV (I was tired and didn't care, really). Carla's Mom called and said she was worried, because she'd been trying to reach them and nobody was answering. I explained it was a beautiful day up here in Michigan and they were probably outside, working in the yard (turns out they were).

I was hungry now, so I warmed up two hot dogs and ate them on whole wheat buns with yellow mustard and sauerkraut. I fell asleep watching TV just before 10:00 PM, woke up at midnight, turned everything off and went to bed for real.

Monday, April 21, 2008

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Hyacinths, in St. Frances garden

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Violets, in the wild garden

Sunny Sunday

I got out of bed at 6:00 AM. It had been one of those "toss and turn and up every hour or so" kind of nights, so I really didn't feel all that rested. But, I had filled the coffee maker and set it on "Delay" Saturday night so there is a nice smell of coffee awaiting me.

When Jake and Carla were here yesterday, Jake left me a sausage patty in the fridge. Why? Because he made homemade Breakfast Sausage with Sage and Ginger on Thursday night and wanted me to try it. So, I scrambled three eggs and warmed up his sausage patty. Taste was excellent! I wondered a bit about the ginger, but it had a nice, pork sausage taste. I only wished he'd left me two!

I shaved, showered and got dressed. Then I headed out to Home Depot again for three more bags of mulch (I couldn't fit them in the car yesterday, lol!) Since I was out anyway, I stopped into Meijer's for an orange and a lime I will need for a marinade later today.

After I got back home, it dawned on me (a little too late) I should have stopped at the corner gas station for some Copenhagen. My next efforts outside will be to use the step ladder and clean out the gutters around Jake's patio. I was inspired by Jake, who is cleaning his gutters this weekend. I checked and, yes, mine are leaf-filled, in spite of me thinking I'd got them all cleaned out after the last leaf fell, last fall. So, knowing I'd be going up and down the stepladder, I thought a warm-up might help these old knees. So, rather than driving back over there, I walked the half a block to the gas station and then back.

Now, I got out the step ladder and took it in back. I also took back the wheel barrow with both styles of rakes, the snow shovel and the garden fork (for pick-up of leaves). I got up the ladder and dug out leaves and dirt (yes, dirt! The leaves had apparently started to compost!) Climbed back down, moved the ladder, climbed back up and repeated, repeatedly.

When the leaves were all gone, I got the hose and washed down the dirt. Here's where things went all wrong... There was a big blockage in the bend of the downspout. I tried everything and finally had some success with the snake (the one that DIDN'T work on the kitchen drain). But, the upshot was I got my clothes and myself drenched and worst of all, my only pair of work gloves were soaked. Why are wet gloves such a concern? Because yesterday I scraped a big patch of skin off my one finger when digging the concrete and pea gravel out of the mailbox tub. So, I have it covered with a cloth bandage and now it's wet, too.

I went back inside and threw everything in the washer. I cleaned out my finger with peroxide and applied Neosporin and another bandage. I put on my shorts and T-shirt, but, fearing infection, I must wait on my gloves before I can resume work outside.

I had taken out bacon for use over the weekend, but didn't need it for breakfast. So, I cooked all but six strips in the oven. While that was cooking, I made the marinade for the chicken thighs. This is excellent, BTW, and can marinade up to 2 1/2 pounds of chicken. Here's what it consists of: One orange, zested and juiced, one lemon, zested and juiced and one lime, zested and juiced. Then you add 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, salt, pepper, three dashes of cayenne pepper (Franks Red Hot, in my case) sauce and 10 sprigs of fresh thyme.

I had bought a "Family" pack of bone-in chicken thighs. So, five went into a freezer bag and the freezer and five went into the marinade bag and into the fridge.

When that was done, it was 2:30 PM and I made BLTs for lunch. Since I had to take a break anyway, waiting for the gloves, I suspected I wouldn't get much more outside work done today. So, I began watching the movie, "We were soldiers." The movie finished at 5:15 PM, just about time to start dinner.

First I gave a call to Luanne to she how she's doing. They are having thunderstorms in Virginia, so the connection was terrible. While she is not looking forward to her operation on this Thursday, she said she fell again, just today, so she is ready for it! She has to stay overnight in the hospital, so Sadie will be calling and letting me know how it went.

I fired up the charcoal in the grille. While they were burning down, I made up eight 1/4 pound ground chuck burgers, seasoned with house seasoning on both sides. I cleaned up a tray of Brussels sprouts and put them on to boil. BTW, I clean them by cutting about 1/4 inch off the bottom stem. This gives you a nice soft stem and usually the first three or four leaves come off as well, leaving fresh clean leaves.

The coals were ready, so I started with the chicken thighs, cooking them over indirect heat, after searing, for 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Since they were now on the outside of the grille, I cooked the hamburgers and eight Koegel's Viennas hot dogs (the only hot dogs worth making, in my opinion!) in the middle of the grille. Finally, I pulled everything off to rest. I wish I had some thing else to grill, as the coals are perfect, but I'm done now.

So, I ate two chicken thighs and Brussels sprouts for dinner (both excellent, BTW). When the rest of the grilled food had cooled, it all went into big baggies and the fridge for this week's dinners.

I watched a taped show at 8:00 PM (Jamie Oliver) as "Extreme Makeover, Home Edition" (one of my Sunday night favorites) wasn't on. I did get to watch Iron Chef and then I read for a while. I went to sleep around 11:30.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Quote

"The only way home is through the forest..."

~ Author Unknown

Saturday, waiting on the rain

I woke up at 7:00 AM and immediately went outside to drag the hose in front and put the sprinkler on the front lawn. There is a 60% chance of rain Saturday night, but I can't take the chance with the new grass seed. So, I spent the next few hours moving it from spot to spot and setting the stove timer for 25 minutes in each spot.

Meanwhile, when I was inside, I posted the Blog for Friday and a few pictures, filled out this weekend's ToDo list and the short grocery list. I also peeled two russet potatoes, two carrots, two parsnips and two onions. I got out my new, smaller slow cooker and put the chopped veggies and one whole small onion in. I checked and I don't have any beef stock (I usually add about 1/4 cup in the bottom) so I added 1/4 cup of water, a peeled garlic clove, a bay leaf and some dried thyme and parsley. I topped that with a roast I'd thawed, patted dry with paper towels and then dry-rubbed with Montreal steak seasoning. I put rings I'd cut out of the middle of the other, bigger onion on top the roast, put on the glass top and turned it on High. I put the rest of the second onion into a baggie in the fridge.

Finally, I was done with the watering. I jumped in the shower, got dressed and headed out on my errands at 10:30 AM.

First came the library and then I went to Kroger's. Knowing I had other stops, I had cleverly brought along the big cooler, so I put the meat, milk, eggs and frozen stuff in it. Then I went to Home Depot. I bought four 50-pound bags of top soil, three more bags of mulch and a six-pack of yellow and purple pansies. One of the Home Depot guys helped me load the car, which I was very grateful for, BTW!

After that, I stopped at the Coney Island next to Home Depot and treated myself to breakfast and my first cup of coffee of the day. I got back home around 12:30 PM and found I'd missed Jake and Carla. Damn! They were coming over to borrow my extension ladder and I wanted to see just how they were gonna get that back to their house in their car. But, it was gone and so were they, so they must have coped somehow!

I put away the groceries and then got to work. I put about 1/3 bag of top soil with an equal amount of good (Miracle-Gro) potting soil I had in the wheel barrow, mixing it with the hoe. Then I went out and filled up the tub around the new mail box. Into that went the six pansies (they are usually hardy enough to take a few frosts) I watered it all down and, even though the plants are still small, it looks pretty good!

Then I loaded the other three bags of top soil into the wheelbarrow and took them to the back patio (it was at that point I REALLY appreciated the guy loading them for me, lol!) Then I went back and got the three bags of mulch and took them to the patio, too. I got both rakes (leaf and garden) to the patio and then stopped. My back and knees are killing me, so I think I will lay down for a bit, maybe nap, and get back to this later.

I went in and it was just after 3:00 PM. I grabbed a book, shoved cats out of the way and lay down on the bed. Jake called and explained how he got the ladder home and itemized what they had gotten done so far this weekend: raking, fertilizing the lawn, cleaning out all the gutters, etc., (that made me even more tired!) I warned him about overdoing it, but hey, who listens to old geezers like me? Sensibly, I am going back to bed!

Well, maybe not. Before I went back, I checked the weather on the Internet. The barometer is falling and there is a big cell of rain and thunderstorms just below Toledo, Ohio, moving north, heading my way. I'd guess (and it's only a guess) I have about two more hours of dry weather. So, gritting my teeth, I head back outside, after turning the slow cooker to "Warm."

First, I got the mail and took some shots of the new flowers. Then I went out and pulled off all the slate around the reflecting pool (a washtub in its former life). When we first made this, I had filled in the raised bed with compost. Over the years, the compost has settled, but the wash tub has not, so most of the slate is tipped upwards and no longer seems "natural" So, my plan is to use top soil to level the area around the washtub, replace the slate, add more mulch and regain my "natural" look.

I pulled off all the slate (there was a lot more than I thought, lol! I pulled the wood chips back with a rake and then added the top soil. Unfortunately, some of the dirt fell into the pool, but I'll figure out how to deal with that later. I used the flat of my hoe to tamp the dirt down, angling down towards the pool. Then, like a puzzle, I fitted each piece back around the washtub. It doesn't look anything like the old one, but it does seem to work.

Then I filled in the top and sides with new wood chips. I washed down all the rocks with a hose and then used my net to get any wayward wood chips from out of the water. Finally, I filled the washtub back up with fresh water. I took a series of photos so you can better understand what I was doing. I do like it, but have to confess, it won't look "right" until the wood chips weather a bit.

I coiled up the hose, gathered all the tools and took them back in the garage. I left the last bag of top soil and mulch lying on the patio, figuring the rain can't hurt them. I went back in the house and washed up at 5:20 PM. Another box on the ToDo list I can check off!

I ate dinner just after 6:00 PM. Not the greatest roast I ever made (I think the fresh herbs and mushrooms I usually use add a lot to the dish) but good none the less. I put away the leftovers, strained and saved the au jus for possible gravy another day and soaked the crock.

It still hasn't rained, so I checked and found the storm I feared moved northwest and slid on by us. So, I am glad I took the time to water this morning. I liked being outside in the fresh air and the breeze so much, I got my book, sat on the front porch rocker and read until it got dark.

While waiting for the only TV I want to see tonight (A fight on HBO between Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe) I watched a Comedy Central show with Lewis Black. Funny guy! I switched over to HBO when the fight came on and watched it until 11:30 PM. Great fight! And, my guy (Calzaghe, a Welshman) won! So, I went to bed happy, but still a little sore, lol!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

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The reflecting pool "Before"

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See how the stones all tip backwards, exposing the rim of the washtub?

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Slate stacked

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Washtub with slate removed, ready for top soil

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Top soil down and tamped, refitting slate

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Finished reflecting pool #1

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Finished reflecting pool "After"

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Mailbox and tub, prior to planting

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Pansies in the mailbox tub #1

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Pansies in the mailbox tub #2

Fantastic Friday

Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day! When I got home (after a tough day, but now buoyed by "Band the Drum") I changed shoes, turned off the furnace and opened all the windows in the house. Its 78 degrees F (25 degrees C) and its time for some springtime house airing!

I did some minor housekeeping/bill paying chores and then headed out to the garage. I turned on the stereo while I started to sweep out the last of the kitty litter I put down for the oil spillage. Next, I cleaned up the mulch around the tree garden. The big chunks I pitched back on top, the small stuff I raked and picked up.

Then I applied the new grass seed to the area just beyond the two gates going into the back yard. I got out the hose and heavily watered the area I just seeded.

Next, I dug out the water lily from the front hall closet. As always, I am amazed that a plant, inside two kitchen garbage bags all winter in the dark, had leaves (albeit red, not green) growing profusely!

Before I put it in the reflecting pool, I dug out a bunch of the pea gravel from the new mail box. I want to add some potting soil and plants to the mail box tub, you see. I added the gravel to the reflecting pool and inserted the hose, turned on "low."

When I was out in front my next door neighbor drove by and stopped to chat. He said he had a power post-hole digger if I wanted to replace the mailbox iron pot. I thanked him and said maybe someday, but right now I'll just keep the temporary one I made.

Then, he made me feel bad about myself! He said he and his wife had talked it over and they want to pay Tonya (my ex-lawn lady) to cut my lawn this year. Confused, I thanked him, but said, no thanks, I just bought that new mower. He said it would be worth it to them NOT to have to clean the piles of dust off their patio furniture, deck and pool surface every time I cut the grass! I apologized and explained I had found the problem was in the bent mower blades. He looked doubtful and said he hoped it would work, but let them know if it doesn't. Geesh! How embarrassing!

One thing he did mention I found interesting: I asked him why I now had little blue flags in front yard by the road and he said before they blacktop the road, they want to add more fire hydrants. He said we were close to the top of the list to pave next. I mentioned it would be nice, but feared what it would do to my taxes. He said it would NOT change my taxes as the paving of all the dirt roads in Redford was not a Township effort, but rather a deal cut with a local manufacturer who, instead of paying a huge fine for pollution, offered to pave all the roads over the course of several years. So, that's cool (not the pollution of course, but rather, no increase in my taxes).

I did get the hammock hung up, but the approaching darkness finally forced me back inside. I closed all the windows except for my bedroom, turned the furnace back on and fixed a plate of leftover nachos for my dinner. I read my book until the Friday Night Fights came on. I watched that until I fell asleep. I woke up at 1:00 AM, turned everything off and went to sleep for real.

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New (last year) forsythia in front yard

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Best smelling spot in the yard!

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One of the forsythias in back

Friday, April 18, 2008

It's a Small World, After All...

On the way home Thursday night, I stopped at Home Depot and picked up a larger bag of grass seed and the first four (of many) bags of mulch. While I was in line to check out, a very tall man came up to me and said, "Aren't you my neighbor on San Jose?" So, we chatted a bit and it turns out he (Mark) has the house across from my ex-lawn lady; the only one on the street that has a split rail fence (he proudly proclaimed!) He was there with yet another one of my neighbors also picking up supplies.

When I got home, I greeted and treated the cats and changed my shoes. The, back outside I went! First came shovel work, digging more of the culvert approach out and smoothing down where the old mailbox was. Then I raked it all to prep for the grass seed. I got my white two gallon bucket and filled it halfway with seed. Then I walked back and forth, hand sowing the seed across the entire front yard.

I took some flower pictures and a "Before" picture of the tree garden. Then I put down three bags of the mulch. It always looks WAY too light when I first put it down, BTW. Hope it weathers a bit, and soon!

Next, I disconnected the two 50 foot rubber hoses that kink and connected the new 100 foot non-kinking hose. I dragged it out front and spent the rest of the time until dark watering the new grass seed, standing up. I remembered to take the "After" picture, but apologize for waiting so long. If you check out the photos, you will see what I mean!

Both my knees are shot, but there is still one more thing to do. I pulled down the attic ladder and took the tarp up and got the hammock down. I was too pooped to even think about making dinner, so I just warmed up the last two hot dogs while I changed clothes.

I started to watch TV just after 9:00 PM, but fell asleep before the show ended at 10:00. I woke up at 3:30 AM, turned everything off and fell back asleep.

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That first daffodil is getting new friends (front of house)

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Garage Hyacinths

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South side of garage, starting to bloom

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Tree garden before mulching

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Tree garden after mulching

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Working Wednesday

Another nice sunny day! When I got home, I left the car in the driveway, so I could spread my big tarp out on the garage floor. Once I got it flat, (no mean feat) I used the push broom to sweep off the dust and dried leaves, etc., then flipped it over and swept the other side. Then I folded it up (again, a pain in the butt). Finally, I pulled the car in.

I gave the cats their treats, checked the mail and phone, started the Wednesday night wash load and then switched my shoes and was about to go back outside when the phone rang. It was my daughter Melissa. It was a short conversation this time.

So, I went out to the ditch with the garden rake and started digging out all the gravel. I just threw it into the road, BTW. It took a l-o-n-g time, but I got most of the big stuff up. I may have to hire the street urchins again this year to get the rest. But, the ditch is done and ready for grass seed where the old mailbox post was.

I went back inside, cleaned up and changed clothes. I put the clothes in the washer in the dryer and set the timer on the stove. I tried Luanne again and this time I got through. She really enjoyed Riese and Jeremy's visit and filled me in on all the details.

After hanging up, I hung up the clothes. I heated up a hot dog and ate that with some tuna salad. I watched taped TV until 10:00 PM, and then watched Top Chef (taping the Wednesday night boxing). I went to sleep exactly at 11:00.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Raking it in...

Tuesday was another warm, sunny day, although with a bit of a breeze. At lunch, I went to Lowes and picked up the batteries I need (for the smoke detector) and another hose.

Once I was home, I switched my shoes for my Crocs and went outside. I grabbed the leaf rake and resumed raking the front yard. Yes, my back started hurting, but I went slow and worked through it. I got it done to the ditch and then picked up all the refuse.

I'll have to do the ditch another day as, over the winter, a LOT of gravel has fallen from the road into the ditch. Probably the occasional snow plowing by the City didn't help any, either. I took some pictures and posted them, so you know what I'm talking about.

Since I had the camera out anyway, I took a photo of my first daffodil and the emerging hyacinths. I went back into the house around 7:00 PM and changed clothes. I tried calling Lu to see how she's doing, but only got the recorder. I put the batteries back in the smoke detector and hung it back up.

I put together a tuna salad (I made the rotini the other night and had it in the fridge) and ate some of that, along with two leftover hot dogs.

I watched TV until 10:00 PM and then went to sleep. I woke up at 2:00 AM and couldn't fall back asleep, so I read until I was tired again and then went back to bed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

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Winter's deposit of gravel in the ditch, Part I

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Winter's deposit of gravel in the ditch, Part II

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Winter's deposit of gravel in the ditch, Part III

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Hyacinthe's, just about to bloom

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First Daffodil of Spring

RSS Feed

Years ago, Piece Offerings offered an RSS feed. The feed was removed when the site was transitioned away from Blogger. If there's any interest out there, I'll ask my Webmaster to set one up.

Monday, Monday...

It was cool on Monday, but the sun was shining for a change. When I got home, I thought I'd make up a little for being so lazy on Sunday, so I went out back and attacked the rest of the items I had in that pile under the tarp on Jake's patio.

I hung up the hoses way in the back, put the wheel barrow in its summer place and moved the picnic table and the two benches back to their spot. I also put the bench by the wild garden back in place. Lastly, I dragged the huge tarp (wet in places) into the garage and spread it out to dry. It should be dry enough in a couple of days to fold and put in the attic, at which point I'll bring down and hang up the hammock.

It was almost 7:00 PM when I finished. I cleaned up and changed clothes. Then I heated up the last of the grilled hamburgers for dinner. I watched TV until 10:00 and then went to sleep.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights...

I was awakened during the night to a strange, far away, intermittent beeping. What the heck is that? Did a spaceship land in the backyard? Investigation showed it was the downstairs smoke/carbon monoxide detector, letting me know the batteries are weak. So, I took it down and took out the batteries so it would shut up. I checked and I only have one new one, so I went back to sleep.

I woke up for real at 5:00 AM. Too damn early to get up on a weekend, so I started reading my book. When I finished it, I went out and micro-waved a cup of coffee. I looked outside and saw the thing all Michiganders' hate this time of year: Snow! Yes, its 7:30 AM and it's snowing. Not big flakes, and not sticking, but still! We should be done with this crap by now!

I went in and posted the Blog and then thought a bit about the day. I sat on the couch reading my next book and listening to Sunday Morning, Over Easy. I heard a song that really made me think about the world as it is and the world as it will be in the future. So, I went in and added my thoughts to my file, "Stray Cats and Dogs" and, who knows? It may become a poem someday.

Snow stopped around noon, but not much warmer. Breakfast/lunch was hotdogs grilled on my newly re-seasoned grille pan (worked great, BTW). I put them on whole wheat buns with just yellow mustard.

I am embarrassingly just really feeling lazy, today. I did shower, but after that, I just laid on the couch and read a book. I finally emptied the dishwasher and went outside to refill the suet cage and the bird feeder (around 3:00 PM).

I switched to watching taped shows after checking and deciding it was too cold to work in the garage. I could finish dust mopping the floors, but, really, the house is clean, so why bother. I guess today is just a throw-away.

I had two food items that were getting a bit old, an eggplant and some Cremini mushrooms. So, tonight's dinner will be vegetarian, I guess. I saut�ed the sliced mushrooms with diced shallots in butter and olive oil. The eggplant I peeled and cut into 3/4 inch slices. I dipped them in egg, then flour and fried them in canola oil.

I watched more TV, but got tired of that, so moved to the couch and a book until I started dozing off around 10:00. So, I gave up and went to bed.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Quote

"There is so much that happens to you as a kid. You can either gather strength from it or use it as a crutch..."

~ Duff Goldman, the Ace of Cakes

As the Rolling Stones like to point out...

I know,
its only rock & roll,
but I like it...

Cinco de Saturday

When I woke up Saturday morning (just after 6:00 AM) I grabbed my glasses and got a shock. The left lens was missing! Fortunately, it was lying on the night stand. The little screw had come unscrewed, but (again, fortunately) it was still in the glasses' frame. So, my first chore today was to re-assembly it so I could see.

I had remembered (for a change) to fill the coffee pot with coffee grounds and water and set the timer Friday night, so I had a cup. Mmmm. Then I had another. Next I showered and got dressed for a 9:00 AM haircut. Before leaving, I got a call from Carla, saying she had an appointment on my side of town at 12:30 PM, so they'd probably be earlier than the original 2:00 PM arrival time. It was raining when I left, BTW.

After my haircut, I went to Kroger's and then to Westborn. As you might have guessed, Jake and Carla are coming over this afternoon and I said I'd make nachos. On the way home, I stopped at the Coney Island by Home Depot and treated myself to breakfast (eggs over easy, hash browns, link pork sausage and rye toast). I got back home at 10:45 AM, still driving in light rain, but I am happy to report my windshield wipers are working perfectly.

So, I get to work. The task "Deep Clean the Main Bathroom" has been on my ToDo list for two weekends, now. So, I start by getting into the tub and closing the shower doors. I sprayed them with some soap
scum-eating product then got out and sprayed the tile walls and the tub as well. I opened the window, in spite of the rain and the cooler temperature, to try and let out some of the chemical odor. I shut the door on my way out.

I went into the kitchen and diced five vine-ripened tomatoes after seeding them while the soap scum remover did its thing. Then I went back in the bathroom and rubbed down the walls, tub and shower enclosure with a wet sponge. Next, I mixed up a bucket of Pine-Sol and hot water and washed the other tile walls, the sink top and the toilet with it. Last of all, I mopped the floor, shut the door and walked away while it dried.

Back in the kitchen, I worked on the Pico de Gallo Salsa (you top your nachos with it, BTW). To the tomatoes, I added two de-seeded jalapeno peppers, diced fine, a small white onion, chopped, and about 1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves. I then added kosher salt to taste and covered the bowl with Saran Wrap, so the flavors could get happy together.

Back to cleaning! I used the electric sweeper to get all of Caley's cat hair up from the wood floors and then vacuumed the rug in the living room. I'll use my dust mop, sprayed with End-Dust,` on the wood floors later.

Back to cooking! I am making a double batch of nachos, BTW. For the nachos meat, I thought I'd mix it up a bit, so instead of, say, two pounds of ground round, I used one pound ground sirloin (very lean) and one pound ground pork (Not so lean, lol!). I put that into my 12-inch skillet after saut�ing four cloves of fresh chopped garlic, a medium white onion, chopped and two de-seeded jalapeno peppers, again diced fine, over medium-high heat.

I took the thawed remaining baby back ribs out, sliced them and put them in a cake pan with a little more bourbon and apple juice (so they won't dry out). I covered the pan with tin foil and put it in the oven on "warm".

I carefully poured the rendered fat out of the skillet. Today, I am being lazy, so instead of the spices called for, I used two taco mix packets instead. However, in case you are interested, for each pound of meat, I was supposed to add one teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons dark chili powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin and two teaspoons to one tablespoon cayenne pepper sauce (depending on heat level desired). I added two cups of water and let it boil and reduce down.

About that time (say, 12:30 PM) Jake and Carla arrived! Seems the place Carla needed to go to was closed today. Okay, so I'm not really ready for guests yet, but they lived here in the past, so it's not as awkward as it could have been. I added two cans of rinsed and drained black beans to the meat mixture and put the skillet in the warm oven as well.

While we visited, I went and cleaned the bathroom mirror and fixtures, then put back the rug, the stuff on the top of the sink and lit the vanilla candle. I lit the candle in the living room as well. Looks like the wood floors aren't going to be dust-mopped today!

Nobody was hungry at the time, so Carla set up the board and game pieces for Trivial Pursuit. Geesh, that's a tough game!!! I probably knew less than 1/4 of the answers (way less).

We played that for several hours (I'm not kidding) until we were getting hungry. So, back to cooking. Carla, who has made this very recipe several times before, volunteered to make the cheese sauce. So, while I hand-grated 1 1/2 pounds (double recipe, remember) of pepper jack cheese, she melted four tablespoons of butter in a large sauce pot. Then she added four tablespoons of flour to it. She cooked the flour and butter 1 to 2 minutes over moderate heat (making a roux), then whisked in four cups of milk. When the milk came to a bubble, she stirred in my grated cheese with a wooden spoon. When it had all melted, she removed the cheese sauce from the heat.

I had bought two kinds of corn tortilla chips: traditional (organic, BTW) blue corn chips and the more modern, Tostitos white corn "scoops" (like little bowls rather than the normal flat, so they "hold" stuff better).

So, we assembled our plates. First a couple handfuls of the two different corn chips, then we poured the cheese sauce evenly over the chips, topped that (again evenly) with the beef/pork and beans and, finally, the Pico de Gallo salsa. I had three additional toppings: a bunch of sliced scallions, sliced black olives and sour cream (BTW, I forgot to get the sour cream out, dammit).

Oh, my! Nice heat, but not too overpowering (unless you bit into a piece of jalapenos that I didn't dice fine enough - but they were few and far between). I ate WAY too much and had no room for the ribs (I think Carla was the only one who had them).

We decided not to clean up, but to get back to the game. So, we did. We played until 7:30 PM with no clear winner in sight (I know its wasn't me, though), so we finally quit. I bagged up the rest of the ribs and sent them home for Carla, and they left.

I put away the leftovers (Sunday's snack food is going to be no problem, lol!) loaded the dishwasher and went in to see what was on TV. I watched a couple of taped shows and then went to sleep at 10:00 PM.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rainy Days and Fridays...

Two weird things happened. Thursday night, I went to change the furnace filters and couldn't find any replacement ones. I could have sworn I had two left! Then, Friday morning, driving into work in light rain, the driver's side windshield wiper wasn't touching the glass!

So, arriving at work, I analyzed the wiper problem (I gave up wondering what I did with two 16 x 20 inch furnace filters, lol!) It looks like there is rust on a crucial pivot point and it's not allowing the spring in the wiper arm to pull the wiper blade tight against the glass.

After lunch, then, B___ and I stopped at Lowe's and I got some filters and a small spray can of WD-40. Before leaving the parking lot, I sprayed the offending wiper arm and worked the pivot point back and forth until it allowed the spring to force the arm down. It is supposed to start raining again this afternoon, so hopefully, my ride home won't be as unsettling as the ride into work was!

If it wasn't for the upcoming rain (and the Tornado Watch all southeastern Michigan is under until 9:00 PM tonight!) you could say it was a great day. It's about 73 degrees F and sunny.

Recently, I've been listening to a commercial for Subway where they are selling foot-long subs for just $5.00 for a limited time. For some reason, it reminded me of when Jake and I still lived back in St. Clair. Every now and then (usually on a payday) we'd stop in at the local Subway and get two foot-long subs as a special dinner treat. So, tonight, I swung by my new local Subway here and got a foot-long Italian sub for my dinner tonight (for some odd reason, they still call them "BMT's." I never could figure out why!)

Oh yeah, no rain as of yet! But, I'm safe and warm inside my castle now, so do your worst, oh ye storms!

When I got home, I turned off the furnace and opened the kitchen and bathroom windows. There is a strong wind, but it's not coming from the West. Then I replaced the furnace filters. I used the vacuum cleaner with the wand attachment to get all the winter dust out of the furnace closet, then I vacuumed the two walk-off mats downstairs (one for the back door, one for the garage door).

AT 6:30 PM, it started raining, but nothing severe so far. By 7:30, I had everything I wanted to accomplish tonight done. The temperature has started to drop as the cold front moves in, so I reluctantly started closing windows.

One bummer for this evening: The Friday Night Fights are pre-empted by the Master's Golf tournament. Now, I don't know if you've ever watched golf on TV, but I actually have. Not only is it incredibly boring (unless you are into golf, I suppose) but, the announcers "whisper" (Sotto voce - "He's lining up for the 24 foot putt"). I understand that's its so they don't upset the players, but you combine long, boring shots and whispering announcers and you can just about guarantee me falling asleep!

Sp, I switch to the DVD-R and find there was a Wednesday night fight! Hurray! I am saved! Before I quit, I put the main bathroom and kitchen throw rugs into the dryer (I'd thrown them into the wash when I got home) and close all the windows. I turned the furnace back on and settled in for the evening.

I take out my sub from the fridge and put half on a paper plate in the microwave for 30 seconds (I like 'em warm, myself). I grab the 6 inches of sub and go into the bedroom for TV and food. I raise my glass in a toast for memories of Jake and I, back in our bachelor days. Oh, wait a minute; I still am one, LOL! Well, I saw the perfect quote to explain that: "I'd much rather be on my own... than wish I were!"

In spite of boxing's more exciting drama and the announcers talking in a normal voice, I still managed to fall asleep! So, I missed talking to my daughter, Melissa who, ironically, called me around 10:00 PM because her husband was watching the Masters Golf tournament and she was bored! Hmmm... I wonder where she got that from?

Any way, I woke up, turned off all the lights and went to sleep for real at about 1:00 AM.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Spring

Dust motes dance in the warm, spring sun,
chorus of peepers, their songs begun.
Fairy rings of toad stools sit and await
their honored guests by the garden gate.

Daffodils nod in the slightest breeze
while bursting buds adorn bushes and trees.
Snowmelt has left the grass brown, then green
as emerging leaves sport a springtime sheen.

The hyacinths' perfume fills the air,
warm earth smell rising from gardens bare.
Sparrows, though, have no time to rest,
retrieving soft supports for their nests.

The lilac flaunts its purple glory,
while forsythia tells its yellow story.
And me, I grin from ear to ear,
once again, thank God, spring is here.

Thursday

I drove home in light rain. It started about 3:00 PM. Looks like any outdoor work tonight is a washout (pun intended, lol!)

So, I figured I'd get a leg up on weekend chores and started the laundry. I got two loads done (including the bedding). While that was cycling though, I worked on a poem for spring and will post it after this.

I watched two of the Food Network's Chefography shows (one featuring Julia Childs and the other Wolfgang Puck) and found them both fascinating. For example, I never knew that Julia worked for the OSS (later changed to the CIA) in World War II, or that Wolfgang started the whole "fusion" movement in California!

I had cooked a head of cauliflower, but unfortunately it was done just after the clothes were done in the dryer. Not wanting wrinkled pants and shirts, I attended to them first. This resulted in the cauliflower being a little more "done" than I would prefer. But, along with two hamburgers, it made a satisfying dinner.

I watched a little of the Red Wings first playoff game, but was tired of TV. So I switched to reading until I fell asleep.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

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The end of the old mailbox!

Like butter, baby!

The prediction was for a possibility of rain this afternoon, so I didn't go get a new Sawzall blade at lunch. But, since it was still sunny going home, I stopped at Home Depot and bought one (actually, I bought a set of 12 various ones, after figuring out I'd be saving over $6 if I didn't buy them individually).

So, when I got home and was still fresh, I finished raking the side lawn and then re-seeded it (using up the small bag of grass seed I'd bought, thinking it was more than enough. NOT!)

Then I ran an extension cord out to the old mailbox site and got out the garden seat (you'll see it in the photo). However, I want to cut this as deep down as I can, so the seat didn't work. I ended up lying in the ditch and cutting it. The sawzall and new blade went through that 4-inch pipe like butter! I timed it and it took less than 3 minutes!!

I dug out the mud and gunk at each end of the driveway culvert (it fills in every year, it seems) and used that dirt to refill the hole I'd dug out around the pipe. I overfilled it, knowing that the dirt will settle. I'll wait until I rake the ditch and then re-seed it as well.

Dinner was the last of the cold chicken legs and the last of the potato salad. BTW, I was smart enough to know I'd made too much food this weekend, so after I ate my ribs on Sunday, the rest of the ribs went into the freezer.

My brother was kind enough to email me and remind me I was supposed to call my Mother, so I did (while feeling bad I'd forgotten!)I watched TV for a while, and then got bored. So I switched to reading until I dozed off. When I woke up 11:30 PM, I shut off the lights and went to sleep for real.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tuesday, working again...

I got home from work and started working (I've been taking it a little TOO easy, I fear). First I replaced the burned out bulb on the south side of the garage. It's my security light for that side of the house and is on 24/7. The screws that hold the glass in were a little rusty, so before replacing them, I put some grease on them. I put in another 60 watt fluorescent bulb. Now, I know on the pack, they all say they last five years, but this last one was only good for about three years! Where is the truth in advertising? We'll see how long the new one lasts...

Next I replaced the leaking back faucet. I added a few extra pieces of pipe to get it to a more user-friendly location. Then, I started raking the south side front lawn, from the road to the backyard fence. I got about 8 feet short of where I wanted to stop, when my back screamed, "Stop!" So, I did. I took some photos and went in to post them.

I made an fantastic dinner! I warmed up one of the pork steak and, as my sample had promised, it was excellent. My side dish was excellent, too. I had bought a bunch of beets with the tops on, so I cut off the greens and chopped them up. Then I boiled them in a little water and ate then with a little vinegar, just like my mother made when I was a lad.

I watched NCIS (a drama I like) from 8:00 to 9:00 PM, and then started reading my book. I went to sleep around 10:30 PM.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

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8 feet short of the goal! (#1)

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8 feet short of the goal! (#2)

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Replacement 24/7 light

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New Faucet and extensions

More Sore...

I walked around like a zombie all day at work from overdoing the yard work over the weekend. My only consolation was that everyone else seemed stiff and sore, too. We exchanged war stories and sympathy.

At lunchtime, I went to Lowes and picked up some grass seed and an outdoor faucet (my main outdoor faucet in back has developed a bit of a leak). When I got home, I made myself prepare and seed the one bad spot in the front lawn (where the old pine tree used to be). It's supposed to rain off and on all this week, so that will get the seed started (I hope). But, after that, I quit.

Yes, I quit! I changed clothes and, just after 6:00 PM, I lay down in bed with my book. I got up at 8:00 and warmed up two hamburgers. I ate them with a helping of the potato salad, and then went back to bed and watched some TV. I turned it off at 10:00 PM and went to sleep!

BTW, my Webmaster tells me he published the Tuna Salad recipe, in case anyone is interested.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tuna Salad

Ingredients
  • 2 cups raw pasta (elbow, rotini, etc.)
  • 2 cans tuna fish
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • 4 ribs of celery (diced medium)
  • 5 scallions, trimmed and sliced fine
  • 2 hardboiled eggs
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions

Bring water in a large pan to boil. Put pasta in, stirring until boiling resumes. Cook for seven minutes (al dente). Drain and run under cold water for a few minutes until cool, then refridgerate.

Open and drain cans of tuna. Put tuna into a large mixing bowl. Give empty tuna cans to your cats on the kitchen floor. Add mayonnaise, dried thyme, cooked pasta, diced celery, scallions and hardboiled eggs, run through an egg slicer. Stir together and put bowl back in the fridge to cool.

Steam frozen peas for just under two minutes. Drain and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. Add to salad and put bowl back in the fridge for an hour or so.

Labor day, no, Sunday...

I woke up at 7:15 AM on Sunday morning (late night Saturday, lol). No breakfast, just coffee today. I shaved and showered and then headed to Meijer's. In all the excitement yesterday, there were three things I didn't pick up that I absolutely need today!

I got back home and made a simple marinade for the two sirloin cut pork tenderloin steaks. I mixed 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce with 1/2 cup soy sauce and threw in two peeled, crushed garlic cloves as well. This went into a large baggie with the two pork steaks and I put them back in the fridge at 11:30 AM.

Now, it's out in the backyard. By noon, I'd filled an entire trash bag with junk out back (chip bags, an empty carton for a case of canned beer, Styrofoam coffee cups and numerous CVS bags, etc.) I pulled the winter covers off the three rose bushes. Then, I removed the winter lid and refilled the reflecting pool slowly. While that was filling up. I put out the young Shaolin monk, the Buddha in the front and Buddha in the back.

I got out the leaf rake and cleaned out the front flower beds and the beds along the south side of the garage. Next, I thought I'd get out the old bent mailbox post. I used a 25 foot tow strap and my cheap Chinese-made come-along. I dug out the one side, used my old pick to break the concrete, but could not get the damn thing to come out of the ground! I'm running out of time, so I will have to postpone this effort for a while.

I got the ribs ready. I know I've explained this before, but it bears repeating as these are truly the best damn ribs I've ever tasted. I cut the rack in half, removed the membrane from the bone side (get under it with a paring knife and you can easily pull it off, using a paper towel) and they went into my roasting pan on a rack. Once in the pan, I covered them with one cup of bourbon (I like Jim Beam) and one cup of apple juice. Next I massaged them with the dry rub (a mixture of salt and fresh ground pepper, one teaspoon red pepper flakes, two tablespoons of Montreal steak seasoning and four or five minced cloves of garlic). Then they go in the oven to slow cook (250 degrees F for 3-3 1/2 hours). I took a break for lunch: cold fried chicken and large curd cottage cheese mixed with snipped chives.

I took the leaf rake out back and got the area around the reflecting pool cleaned out. Next comes the long walks involved with picking up fallen branches in the back yard (as I have LOTS of trees, I have LOTS of fallen branches). I got maybe 1/3 of the back yard (closest to the house picked up when my legs started to quit on me.

So, I went inside and lay down. I turned on the NASCAR race, hoping it would lull me to sleep. But, it didn't. I finally gave up at 5:00 PM and started getting serious about tonight's dinner. First, I peeled, cubed and boiled three russet potatoes. Then I made up my hamburger patties, using the peanut butter jar lid and saran wrap trick. I seasoned them on both sides with house seasoning and let them sit to come up to room temperature.

I changed into my shorts. tee shirt and slippers and put my outside clothes and the last few towels, etc, from the weekend into the wash machine.

I diced some celery, the last bunch of scallions and snipped a handful of chives into a bowl for the potato salad. The potatoes, I drained, rinsed in cold water and they are cooling in the fridge. I lit the charcoal in the grille and, for the first time, understood Jake's reluctance to use his grill as a grill, rather than a smoker, as my grates are seasoned and so clean. It almost hurts to know what I am about to do to them!

I put the clothes in the dryer and checked on the coals. They are ready! So, first I grilled the eight burgers until they were just barely medium rare (they cook a bit when you warm them up in the microwave, you see). After pulling them off, I put on the pork steaks and the baby back ribs. I am coating the ribs with a mixture of one whole bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's Hot and Spicy Barbecue sauce and 1/4 cup of bourbon. Both the pork steaks and the ribs are off to the side for indirect heat. I pulled off the pork steaks and put them in the house, concentrating now on the ribs. The coating got thicker and thicker and finally started caramelizing. I finally pulled them off around 6:30 PM, and put them back in the oven on "warm."

BTW, at least five times while I was grilling, neighbors would drive by and honk and wave. Made me feel good!

I put the hamburgers and the pork steaks into baggies and them into the fridge. I did try little piece of the pork steaks and they tasted fantastic! I'll have to remember that marinade!

I added the cold potatoes to the veggies I'd cut up, added two hardboiled eggs and made a quick sauce, consisting of mayonnaise, yellow mustard, dried parsley, dried thyme, salt and pepper. I thinned it out with buttermilk and test-tasted it. Nice, tangy taste (but needed a touch more salt and pepper). I folded that in to the veggies and put it back in the fridge to chill some more. At 7:00 PM, I had dinner ready (though I'm not hungry yet).

I took the opportunity to clean up the many dishes and the kitchen itself. Then I reluctantly closed the kitchen window that has been opened all afternoon (with the furnace turned off). I went into the living room to read until 8:00 PM and my Sunday shows. I am listening to a fascinating radio show (Little Steven's Underground Garage) about the Ramones. While I did recognize a few songs, I must admit I never paid any attention to them back in the day. The only reason I am interested now is that Anthony Bourdain talks about them A LOT!

But, now my shows are on. After 9:00 PM, I fixed a paper plate (still thinking of summer barbecues) with four ribs, a little extra sauce and a helping of the potato salad. Excellent!!!

When my shows were over, I turned off the light and went to bed. I did notice that my arms, shoulders and back all ache. I may have overdone the raking today.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

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First, but unsuccessful, attempt to remove old mail box post using a 25' tow strap and a cheap Chinese come-along

Sunny Saturday

I woke up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7:00 AM Saturday morning. Oh, no, wait a minute, that last part turned out just to be more of Caley's cat hair!

I put on a pot of coffee, did the Blog and then had a cup. I refilled my pill container and then made a simple breakfast: scrambled eggs and rye toast. Then I grabbed my book and another cup of coffee and moved to the couch to let my breakfast digest.

I've got my usual errands plus a bigger one: maintenance on the car. So, I showered and dressed and left the house at 9:15 AM. I had a coupon, so I went to Auto Lab for an oil change and tire rotation that only cost $29.95. I told them about the noise I hear and asked them to check my struts and the trailer hitch installation. All of that was fine (he said on a Volvo, the struts don't go bad until after 150,000 miles. Great!) But, the bad news is the rear brakes are bad. The pads are worn and the rotors are too thin to resurface. I asked for a quote to fix them and he said it would be $390 after my 15% off coupon. I told him I'd be back when I had the money.

This place is about 1/2 mile from Jake and Carla's and I briefly considered dropping by. But, I've got a lot more to do today and dropping by unannounced is not my style. So, next, I went to the bank.

After that, I went to Walmart's for my staples. I saved a bunch on cleaners, laundry detergent, boxed stuff and canned stuff. For example, the Bertolli extra virgin olive oil (51 fluid ounces) I normally pay $18.95 for at Meijer's cost me only $14.95. And, the Mac & cheese boxes that are 98 cents at Meijer's are only 50 cents at Walmart's.

Next was a quick stop at the Feed Store for bird seed and suet cakes. Then I went to Kroger's for my meats, seafood, milk, eggs and butter. Finally I stopped at Westborn for my veggies and herbs.

I noticed there is a decided striking difference between patrons of each store (Walmart's, Kroger's and Westborn). Somebody should do a paper on this. Amazing!


Before going home I stopped at Finn's Auto Repair (who did my front brakes a couple years ago). His quote for the rear brakes was $325.00. When I got home, I checked, and, two years ago, the front brakes (new rotors and pads, as well) cost me less than $200!)

I had everything unpacked and put away by 1:30 PM. I put eight chicken legs in a baggie in the freezer and the other eight in a bowl, covered with buttermilk for deep frying, later.

I changed clothes and headed outside. First I refilled the bird feeder & suet cage and got the new 40 pound bag of seed into the can by the house. Next I picked up winter trash in the immediate patio area.

I dug out and hooked up two more hoses. I noticed the crocuses are blooming in what I used to call Jake's patio garden. I took a photo and checked out in front. Sadly, there are only a few, but they are up and blooming!

I have repeatedly mentioned over the last several days about the dust the mower was throwing last year. So, I pushed the oily, dusty lawn mower outside. I backed the car out, too. I washed the mower with a soft brush and PineSol (to cut the oil) and hot water. When I was done, I washed the car with the same brush, but with Armor-all car wash stuff Jake had bought, used and left when he sold his scooters.

All the time I was working outside, I was assailed by the food smells from the Coney Island across the vacant lot from me. So, while the car and mower were drying, I gave in and walked over. I had a cup of bean with ham soup (they do make good soup there!) then a bacon cheeseburger with crinkle-cut fries. I couldn't finish all the food, BTW.

When I came back, I got a towel and hand dried both the mower and the car. Then, with the garage door shut, I swept up the kitty litter and the dried mud (on the car side) and then pulled both the mower and the car back inside. I went in the house and checked and it was 5:30 PM. So, with achy knees (too many stores with concrete floors), I decided to take a nap.

I woke up at 7:00 PM and started doing a few things (emptying the dishwasher, fertilizing the houseplant, etc.). Jake called around 8:00 PM to "see if I was still alive." Seems he'd sent an email at 9:00 AM I hadn't looked at. My bad!

After talking with him, I took stock and decided I was still bushed and checked out the TV offerings. I saw that on AMC (this is becoming my favorite channel, I think) they were showing "The Magnificent Seven" an old western and one of my favorites. So, I watched that until just after 10:00 PM. I took the chicken legs out and put them on a rack to drain the buttermilk. I'm going to try a combination of my way of frying chicken and Carla's mother's method.

So, instead of dipping them in egg, hot sauce and buttermilk, then in flour seasoned with house seasoning, I dried them off as best I could with paper towels (or "kitchen towels" as they call them in England - Love that!) Then, I dredged them in flour mixed only with garlic powder and Lawry's seasoned salt. Carla's mom cooked her chicken in about 1/2 inch of oil, BTW. But, I'm not that talented, so I have about three inches of oil in the Dutch oven and am deep frying them.

Now, its midnight (amazing what a good nap will do for you) and the oil is finally at 375 degrees F. and the first four chicken legs go in. I usually let them go for 14 minutes, BTW, and did again tonight. Pulled the first batch and put in the second and final batch.

Now, one of my heroes, Alton Brown, suggests that you buy a paper paint bucket to hold the fried chicken in (think Colonel Sander's buckets) but, not having one, I put together two small paper bags to store the chicken legs in (you need paper to wick away the grease, you see). After the second batch, I cleaned up everything except the hot grease (I'll get that in the morning) and, munching on a crisp leg, go back to the TV. There was nothing too exciting on, so I grabbed another book and read until I was ready to fall asleep. So, I did...

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Crocus in Jake's patio garden

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Front crocus

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Front crocus, close-up