Saturday, May 31, 2008

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Wild garden

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Back garden, at a distance

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Iris in Back Garden

Friday, waiting on the rain...

I got home a bit late. I stopped at Kroger's to pick up a few things. I had also picked up some 12-12-12 fertilizer at lunch.

So, after the usual welcome home fuss, I changed clothes and went out back. They've been predicting thunderstorm and rain for today and tonight, but so far, it's only occasionally sprinkled here.

So, first I raked out the maple seeds in the raised bed garden. Then I worked up the soil between the rows and tried to carefully sprinkle on some fertilizer (I only have 1-foot between rows and don't want to burn the plants). Then I worked the fertilizer into the soil, and checked for clouds... Hmmm...

I'm not trusting this forecasted rain, so I set the square sprinkler in the middle of the garden and watered it. Meanwhile, I went out to the back garden and added fertilizer around the roses and the squash/cucumber mounds.

Back up at the house, I sprinkled a little fertilizer around the herbs, too. I turned off the water and went inside.

I returned a call from last night from Melissa. We chatted a bit and set a phone time for the weekend as she had to go.

I called my brother Carl, who said he's doing better, although still not back at work. He said he's send me photos of his English Country Garden when it's done.

I checked email and found one from Jeremy who said he'd just got back from dinner at Boston's Chart House restaurant, He had the Snapper Hemingway, a Parmesan and cracker encrusted snapper sauteed and topped with jumbo lump crab and shallot butter, served with rice pilaf. He said it was easily the best fish he ever had. Does sound good!

In contrast, I warmed up some hot dogs and the last of the cauliflower for my dinner (what am I doing wrong?) I watched TV until I fell asleep. I woke up at 1:00 AM and went to bed.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Thursday, taking shortcuts

So, it's Thursday and I'm headed home to cut the grass. I like to cut it on Thursday so I don't have to do it on the weekend and it looks nice. But, it's supposed to rain Friday and into Saturday, so this time the pressure is on.

I perform my usual homecoming rituals and change into shorts and a t-shirt. By 6:00 PM, I'm checking the oil and go to refill it with gas. Damn! Gas can's empty! Getting to the gas station is easy: turn right on the Plymouth Road and turn right again into gas station. But, at this time of the night, traffic's terrible and getting home will be a major pain!

When I first moved here, there was an alley that ran from San Jose behind the stores and the Coney Island into the car wash lot, then into the Farmer Jack/CVS/gas station lot. Handy shortcut! But (so the story goes) 3 or 4 years ago, somebody drove through it and almost hit the guy who owns the car wash. So, he put big concrete parking bumpers in, blocking it off.

However, the enterprising lads on San Jose who have 4-wheel drive pickups started making their own shortcut from the alley through the vacant lot next door to me to the car wash parking lot. So, after I got the gas, I drove back to the car wash and took the shortcut. I took photos so you can see what I mean. Looks worse than it is, but I wouldn't advise trying it after its rained.

I got the grass cut and was back in the house by 8:30 PM. I warmed up some leftovers and wandered in to watch the taped Top Chef show. I turned the TV off when it was done and went to bed.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

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The rest of the shortcut, which leads back to the original alley

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The entrance to the 4x4 shortcut (from the gas station /car wash side}

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The original alley, now blocked, between San Jose and the Farmer Jack/CVS/Gas station parking lot

Wednesday, wondering...

So, when I awoke at 5:30 AM, I checked the thermometer. It still showed 41 degrees F. But, by 5:45, the temperature had dropped to 37 degrees. So, fearing the worst, I threw on some long pants and went out to turn the sprinkler on. While that watered the raised bed garden, I decided, since I already had clothes on, to take the four bags of garbage (mostly planting trays and trays) out to the road.

Man, its cold out there! I can see my breath with every exhale. Anyway, I got back inside and shaved, then jumped into the shower. I went back outside and turned off the sprinkler. I can only pray that, if there was a frost, I forestalled it, here.

Once at work, I checked in with my peeps. Jake and Carla reported no frost (although they had their sprinkler set to go off at 6:00 AM). Clinton Township weighted in with B___, who said they had a heavy frost (measured by his car windows) but he had covered all his plants the night before. So, as predicted, it would appear that Wayne County escaped the front's problem.

When I got home, the first thing I saw was the four garbage bags I had braved the cold this morning to set out. Damn! I left them out as they have come later than this and still picked them up.

After checking the mail, giving the cats a treat, refilling the bird feeder, etc., I hooked up the rear hose. I gave the entire back garden a good watering, especially the two new hostas, the two new roses, the hills of squash & cuke seeds and the newly planted morning glory seeds.

After unhooking the hose setup, I was surprised to see it was almost 8:00 PM when I got back inside! I warmed up some of the grilled smoked sausage and two ears of corn for dinner. I watched TV until 10:30, but before going to bed I checked out the front window and the garbage bags were still there. I hope they don't get torn apart by bobcats or wild dingoes. I HATE picking up week-old garbage and rebagging it!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tuesday's Frost Fears

After so much work this weekend and last, planting veggies and flowers, I was horrified this morning when they announced a Severe Weather Alert for frost tonight! I got caught several times out on Palms Road with a frost-kill, and most recently in St. Clair, when, by planting early, I ended up having to replace like $200.00 of veggies and flowers.

Now, I can move all the container gardens into the garage, but the wind is so strong, I don't think I can successfully cover the raised bed garden with say, a drop cloth. I vaguely remember something about watering so I check it out on the net. Supposedly, watering raises the temperature 1-2 degrees F. and can prevent damage from a light frost.

However, around 3:00 PM, I noticed the National Weather Service had dropped the Frost advisory for Wayne County (where I live), so maybe all this worrying is for nothing.

When I got home, I watered all the containers with a water/fertilizer mix. I went in the back to inspect the vegetable garden and was pleasantly surprised to see the leaf lettuce is up. I thinned both the lettuce and the radishes.

Just in case we do get a light frost, I put the square sprinkler in the middle of the raised bed, so I can turn it on from up at the house. I keep hoping my brother Carl is still constructing his English Cottage Garden and hasn't planted it yet!

I had a head of cauliflower I needed to use, so I cored it and cooked the flowerets. That became the side dish for two of the grilled hot dogs on buns. Yes, I still have that big hunk of delicious smoked pork shoulder, but I have other plans for that! (oh, yes... I have plans...)

I watched some taped shows (trying to reduce their number). Man, the pressure! Owning a DVD-R can drive you nuts!

I went to bed at 10:00 PM, but slept lousy. Every time I would wake up, I'd run out and check the thermometer outside the kitchen window. Lowest it got (until I woke up with the alarm) was 41 degrees F.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

Alright, I admit it! I am old enough to remember when most people still referred to it as Decoration Day!

I would like to take a moment to remember all those who have paid and are still paying the ultimate price for America's freedom. Sadly, freedom isn't free, but bought by the blood of these men and women. Lest we forget!

I did remember to fill the coffee pot last night with water and grounds, so I woke up to the smell of fresh-brewed coffee. Pouring a cup, I turned on the TV for the news and weather and was struck at the scenes of devastation from tornadoes that touched down in various States yesterday. Amazing, and horrifying! They said this is the worst tornado season on record so far. This is one of the few times I wish I had a basement.

I took a moment to rewrite the ToDo list as so many items have come off. Today's focus is to clean the house and garage, first! Anything after that will be gravy. I threw on shorts and a t-shirt and went out back. By 9:00 AM, I had the morning glories planted and watered. I hope some of them grow! These are an heirloom variety that's deep purple with a red star inside called Grandpa Ott's.

Back inside, I turn off the news, turn on the classic rock station and get out the vacuum cleaner. In an effort to cut down the damn Caley cat hair, I am using the vacuum's attachment and Luanne's cat hair removal brush on all the cloth furniture. What a pain! It's really amazing! With all the cat hair I am getting, that stupid cat should be totally bald!

So, it's just before noon, and the living room is completely done, and the kitchen and downstairs swept and now mopped. I did take a quick break to take some photos of the veggie and St. Francis garden (see photos) and eat two hardboiled eggs with salt for breakfast. Now, while the floor is drying, I am taking a real break (as my back is hurting from the vacuuming and mopping).

The floor is mostly dry by 1:30 PM, so I take my shower and get cleaned up. I get dressed and make the run to Westborn for three items I need today. Once back home, I get started on cleaning the bedroom and office, after throwing the last laundry load of the weekend into the dryer (mostly kitchen towels, bath towels and throw rugs). With the heat and humidity, it's actually quite uncomfortable in the house (thermometer says 79 degrees F) so, for the first time this year, I turned on the A/C. I'll shut it off when it cools down as, for the next three days, the high temps are supposed to be just in the 60's.

So, its 3:30 PM and the house is finished!!! Now, before I lose my motivation, its time to go straighten up the garage (which is still a mess from all the planting). Once I got that squared away, I used my blower to get out all the dirt, and then did the garage apron and the front porch. Next, I lugged it out back and blew off my patio. Then, of course, I had to use the net to fish out all the maple-seed helicopters from the reflecting pool. I finished up just after 4:30.

I called and talked with Sadie and Luanne. It was good to hear Sadie's voice, as I was beginning to suspect something untoward had happened to her and her body was buried in the crawl space or something. Luanne is coming along and has a smaller leg immobilizer now.

After that chat, I went out and, using the MiricleGro Liquafeeder attachment, watered and fertilized the front garden and the herb plantings, just in case tonight's forecasted rain doesn't show.

I got out the grill and fired up the charcoal. I grilled some of those Dearborn natural casing hot dogs and a smoked sausage link for later in the week. Next I added the six ears of sweet corn I'd soaked since buying them at Westborn. Unfortunately, the wet corn on the hot cast iron grate caused a chunk of the grate to break off, which annoyed me.

Now, all weekend, I had fully intended to cook a steak I'd thawed on the stove so I could make a brandy cream sauce in the pan. But, it's late, I'm bushed and the coals are ready right now, so I make a last minute change of plans. I seasoned the steak with just kosher salt, pressed cracked peppercorns into both sides and put it on the grille.

I misjudged the thickness of the steak and grilled it about one minute too long on each side, thus ending up with a "medium" instead of my favorite "medium-rare" steak, but it was delicious. And, the grilled sweet corn was, for me, the perfect summer side. So, I had an excellent Memorial Day dinner.

Still going with that theme, I checked the TV menu and found the World War II movie, the Longest Day. Not only was the day long, it was the longest movie! It ran from 8:00 PM until midnight. I dozed off and on through parts of it, in spite of the sounds of battle, but did watch the end of it. I turned off the TV and went to sleep.

Monday, May 26, 2008

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St. Francis garden, Memorial Day. I think I need to trim back the ferns!

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Raised Bed veggies, Memorial Day #1

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Raised Bed veggies, Memorial Day #2

Sunday, and finally taking a break

I woke up for good at 7:00 AM and jumped out of bed. I threw on my shorts and t-shirt while warming a cup of coffee. I've got work to do before the morning stillness changes to a breeze. Why?

Because, today I am applying herbicide to the driveway and I've had one bad experience in the past applying herbicide in a breeze. The grass in the gravel is the worst I've ever seen! So, I set the oscillating sprinkler in the backyard to catch another area I reseeded this year and mix up the Roundup. If you remember, I had to buy a new sprayer last year and this bad boy holds two gallons.

So, I pump it up, and go to spray, but there's a problem (isn't there always?) The foaming tip which worked so well last Fall is not shooting out foam (BTW, I liked the foam tip as you were not "spraying" and thus risking it drifting onto the "good" grass). I take it apart and clean it, but it's still not working. So, running out of time, I got out the "spray" tip and went back out to the driveway.

I had to stop once to change sprinkler heads. I put the square sprinkler in close to the house (by the reflecting pool and the young Shaolin monk) to water that spot. I still had about 1/2 gallon of herbicide left, so, I sprayed the vegetation in my sidewalk, Jake's patio and my patio.

I moved the square sprinkler to the raised bed garden, after I raked all the damn maple seed helicopters out. This has to be the worst year for these, EVER! Yesterday, I saw my neighbor up on his roof with a blower, blowing huge clouds of them down. I, on the other hand, still have to address the mounds of them on my roof. But, there are still TONS of them hanging up in the trees.

Speaking of the veggie garden, I noticed the radishes and leaf lettuce are starting to come up, as well as either the sunflowers or the pole beans (or both). No sign of the spinach or scallions yet, though.

I took the sprayer out to the rear garden and sprayed the occasional vegetation popping through the now thinning mulch (I need another truckload of wood chips back here!) I sprayed a whole corner (by the rose garden) that I can't mow with the riding mower. I plan on moving the tree trunk that marks the garden edge after the grass dies.

Walking back, I sprayed the foul lines on the horseshoe game area. I moved the sprinkler to cover the wild garden and went in to put away the sprayer just before 9:00 AM. I posted the Blog and thought about some breakfast, but then remembered the Moonflower Vine seeds I'd nicked and soaked last night. So, I went out and planted them in front of the porch railing.

Now, breakfast. I fried up three pork sausage patties, then two eggs over easy and made two pieces of toast. Breakfast was wonderful, until Caley jumped up on the table, spilling an entire glass of water everywhere! Damn cat!! I cleaned up the water mess, finished eating and washed the dishes (all the while muttering strange curses and odd threats at Caley). I noticed that some of yesterday's soup had dripped down behind the burner knob, so I got a short pry bar and took all four off (first time, BTW). I set them in a bowl of hot water and dish detergent to soak and scrubbed the front of the stove.

Now, it's almost 11:00 AM and time to trim the lawn. I got the front just about done when the string ran out. I reloaded it, finished the front, and switched to the back yard, This, BTW, is not helping the sore back I earned yesterday with all the bending and planting. But, it must be done! I finished up (back about 20 feet past the raised bed garden) just after noon.

The outside of the house is looking pretty damn good, BTW. But, the poor inside... Good God! I haven't had time to vacuum or even sweep since last weekend, and two days of outdoor work has had me tracking in dirt and various vegetation in the downstairs and even the kitchen. Well, there's a possibility of rain tomorrow, so hopefully I can right this wrong!

Time for a shave and shower. I have to be at Jake and Carla by 2:00 PM. Jake's been smoking a pork shoulder all morning and we're supposed to have pulled pork sandwiches. I wonder what the sides will be? I guess I'll soon find out!

Oddly enough, even though I made an impulse stop at the hardware store (I noticed the morning glory seeds I was planning to soak and plant tomorrow were dated 2004. Not having that much luck with morning glories in the past, I thought fresher seeds might be a plus, so I picked up a new pack), I got there EXACTLY at 2:00 PM. The last time it was EXACTLY at 3:00 PM. Jake came out and said, "Hey, I told you 2-ish! Its not 2-ish, its 2:00! I offered to wait on the deck until it got "ishy" but he said it was okay.

Carla had made a special cocktail for us. I forget the name (Continental?) but it was a variation of a Margarita that used Grand Marnier instead of Triple Sec. Very good! Drinks in hand, we toured their yard.

Honestly, they have done an amazing amount of work in the short time since I was last there. They spread over 20 bags of mulch around the pool area (under the large pool deck, it was the all Carla show as Jake was too tall to fit), got the pool opened partway (filled and shocked, but still need to vacuum and skim it) and the veggie garden fertilized and weeded (their radishes are already coming up!) And, best of all, Carla has about 5 big strawberries, just starting to ripen!

We ended the tour at the smoker where a 7-pound pork shoulder has been being smoked since 7:00 AM. The aroma alone was fantastic! But, it's still not done yet, so we went inside and played a new game they just got. I don't remember the name, but it involves a board, special dice, some card questions and a DVD with more visual questions on the TV. Interesting, but since its all about movies, the only advantage I had was when the movie was really old, lol!

We stopped when the internal temp of the pork was right. Jake took it off to rest a bit and then proceeded to pull it apart using two forks. I have done this myself many times (but with pork loins) and it is a laborious process, but it's really the only way to get "pulled pork."

Meanwhile, Carla split some Kaiser rolls and toasted them under the broiler. Then she warmed up her homemade barbecue sauce and got out the sides for dinner: a macaroni salad and homemade coleslaw (she sliced up a red cabbage very thin for the base. I think showing off your knife skills like that is a bit vain and personally would have just used my mandoline).

Now we are both begging Jake to stop pulling his pork and let's eat! But, he soldiers on! Finally, he decides he has enough and they mix in some of the BBQ sauce. We eat it southern-style, with the coleslaw on the bun, then the pulled pork, and add more sauce to your liking. Carla and I thought it was great, but Jake, ever the Smoke-Master, felt his smoke taste was a bit overpowered, either by the coleslaw of the BBQ sauce. Nay, nay, my friend! That was damn good stuff!

The macaroni salad was excellent, too, in spite of our personal differences. Carla likes to go easy on the mayonnaise while I tend to go heavier. But, her's was light and tasty (and probably better for you, lol!)

So, dinner finished, leftovers put away (plus a generous take-home bagful for me!) and dishes cleaned up, we got back to the game.

As I said, I was doomed from the start (I never heard of half these movies, lol!), but Jake won, with Carla second and me a very distant third. It being almost 6:00 PM, I decided to take my leave at that point. Thanks guys! I got home before 6:30. I gave the cats some treats (they thought it was a weekday, I suppose) and changed into my t-shirt and shorts. Even though it was still quite warm, I closed all the windows (I haven't had my furnace on in the last three days; I'm just regulating the temperature by opening and closing windows).

I watched my usual two Sunday night shows, and then a Food Network special at 10:00. I dozed off around 10:30 PM, but was awakened by a quick phone call just before 11:00. After that, I lay awake for a while, thinking about things, and then went to sleep for real.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mermorial Day Weekend, Day 2

I woke up just before 6:30, warmed up a cup of yesterday's coffee and posted the blog. I stripped the bed and the bedding went into the washer. I filled it up, but then shut it off when I remembered I wanted to water the front lawn. So, I dragged the hose out front (I sure wish I had a front faucet!) and got the sprinkler set up and running. I shut it off at 8:00 AM and hopped into the shower. I have a haircut scheduled for 9:00 AM.

I am a little embarrassed because that stupid sunburn I got on my bald spot at Jake and Carl's last weekend is peeling, but Michelle never mentioned it She did, however, tell me, sotto voce, she is leaving this barber shop (after 25 years!) and moving to a new one that is opening up down the street. She slipped me a card for her new place and said she would be there by the time I need another haircut. Hmmm... I don't like changes!

I went from there to Kroger's to pick up cat food, some heavy cream and scallions. Just as I was pulling in to a handicapped space, an elderly man was backing into the one on the other side of the pole (with the sign). Now, we crips often park oddly (me included, lol!), but he backed in at an extreme angle and slowly hit the pole with the side of his car, just in front of the tail light, pushing in his rear fender and the rear fascia. He got out, but never even looked, just walked into the store! I felt bad, but didn't know what to do. Should I tell him? I just let it be... maybe when he gets home and his kids ask him what happened, and he doesn't know, they might suggest (tenderly) he gives up driving.

I was back home by 10:15. I started the washer up, changed into my shorts and started to plan my day.

Aaauugghh! I just saw this news flash: With Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings set for Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night, angst over one of the postseason's biggest controversies continues to linger in the Motor City: The NHL's decision to ban octopus twirling on the ice. Hey, we've been doing that since 1952! Geesh! I REALLY hate change!

Oh, @ my daughter, M________: BTW, you left a voice mail suggesting I was watching the Pistons instead of answering the phone. While I am interested in the Pistons winning, it's only the Red Wings and the Tigers playoffs I really watch.

I fixed a couple bologna and cheese sandwiches for breakfast/lunch and ate them with a pickle and a beer. I was just sitting on the couch, about to go outside, when (speak of the devil), Melissa called. Biggest news in North Carolina? They put a bid on a house and it was accepted. Not exactly what they wanted, but the location's good (20 minutes from Dave's new job, 20 minutes from their grandson and 20 minutes from the nearest college for Missy). They are crossing their fingers that it all goes through.

I really did go outside then. First I hooked up the rear garden hose system (I am still impressed with myself for think of that, BTW!) Then I planted the last two hostas in the rear garden. Next, in order to redeem myself in the "more flowers than veggies" debate, I sifted out two wheel barrow's full of compost and made mounds in sunny spots in the rear garden. I seeded them with cucumbers, zucchini, yellow summer squash, acorn squash and a butternut squash look-alike. Then I planted this year's two bare root rose bushes, next to the two I planted last year and the original one that was just growing in the lawn when I moved here and I transplanted. Looks like my dream of having a rose garden is starting to shape up! I hit all five with some Miracle-Grow Rose fertilizer when I was done.

Speaking of compost, I think I've exhausted the pile I've been working on since this spring. So, I started refilling that spot with last fall's leaves and shovels of dirt, watering as I went. I took the top off the other pile and added it as well. Now I have a whole new bunch of compost to sift (if I need it - I hope I don't, LOL!) See photos for all above, as I came inside and posted what I had in the camera.

It's almost 4:00 PM and I'm headed outside once more. It's time to put the rest of that flat of Impatiens in the dirt (groan). By 5:15 I was back in the house, washing the dirt off my knees (yes, this time I was forced to kneel). I hooked up the square sprinkler to catch the corner the big sprinkler doesn't get in the front yard. Next I'll water the side lawn where I re-seeded a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, I should be heading out to weedwack in the back (first time) - does this shit ever end???? Right about now, I am picturing me, living in a condo, where somebody else does all this crap and I just relax and use the pool and hot tub! But, I remembered the bedding so, instead, I get that out of the dryer and make the bed. The timer goes off, so I go and move the sprinkler and reset the timer. I decide that trimming in back can wait until tomorrow. So, I start making my supper, instead.

So, I am trying to make a winter squash soup. I got the recipe from Top Chef (which was my inspiration to begin with). However, it's too complicated. So, I am using parts of it, parts of an Alton Brown recipe and also a Michael Chiarello recipe. But, unlike all three, I am not roasting my squash first, but rather using two packages of the store-bought frozen winter squash (thawed, of course). So, if it turns out any good, it will become a CaptainK recipe!

First, I cut up half an onion, some celery, one peeled carrot and one parsnip, trying to cut everything into 1/4 inch chunks and trying for equal amounts (about 1/4 cup). I added one dried stick of cinnamon and saut�ed these in olive oil and one tablespoon of butter on medium heat, until everything was soft. I sliced 1/2 tray (four ounces) of Crimini mushrooms and sweated them until they gave up their moisture.

Then I removed the cinnamon stick and added two packages of thawed, frozen winter squash, four ounces of heavy cream and 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock. I put in 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper (black pepper would have worked fine, too, I just didn't want to see the black flecks in the finished soup). Next I added 1 tablespoon of honey, kosher salt (just a pinch now until I taste it), three chunks of crystallized ginger (I didn't have any fresh), the zest of one lemon and about a heaping tablespoon of snipped fresh chives. I let everything get happy while I moved the sprinkler.

I got out my soup magician: the immersion blender! I pureed the heck out of it, turned it on low and tasted it... Hmmm... not bad, but needs more salt. Added another pinch of salt and let it simmer for a while.

I finally gave in and ate of bowl of it. It's a bit too sweet for my taste (i"m not fond of sweet), but adding the lemon zest helped a lot. I think I'll take a bit to Jake and Carla's tomorrow and have more refined palates judge it (and possibly suggest ways to improve it, too!) If I can get it right, I'll write up the recipe, have the Webmaster post it and you can try it for yourself.

So, its 7:30 PM and I've got two more sprinkler moves to make. I'm really beat, BTW. I've got to check and see if tonight's Red Wing game is on TV. If not, I still have the Friday Night Fights taped. Oh, wait! Food Network has three of the first Iron Chef America's on tonight, back to back to back, where our guys challenged the Japanese Iron Chefs. So, I taped the Red Wings game (they won, BTW 4-0) and wallowed in nostalgia until I went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

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Next year's compost gold mine

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New archeology, er compost dig site

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Two new roses join the three planted in front of the honeysuckle

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Mounds of compost, seeded with zucchini, yellow summer squash, winter acorn squash and butternut squash look-alike

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Mound of compost, seeded with cucumbers

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New hosta in rear, #1

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New hosta in back #2

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Adding to rear hosta garden

Friday, planting

Today I am off on vacation! First item on the ToDo list is to purchase and plant my flowers. So, I got to Blocks just after 9:00 AM. I must say, the difference between this place on a weekday versus the weekends I am normally here is amazing. No parking problems, plenty of carts, etc. It took me a while, but I got everything I wanted and proceeded to the checkout. Here's where it was strange: I had to wait in a much longer line than when Carla and I came. I think they didn't have as many checkouts opened today.

And, another odd thing: I spent more on my flowers than Carla and I did on vegetables and herbs! I guess my priorities are messed up as it seems I should spend more on plants I can eat that on plants I just look at.

When I was finally back in my neck of the woods, I stopped at Home Depot for something I needed, but they didn't have. Then I went to Leo's Coney Island and ate breakfast. Finally, on the way home, I stopped at the quarter car wash and washed my car for the first time in a long time.

I got home about 11:30 and changed my clothes. I planted the three basil and one dill plants I bought first, and then sifted a wheel barrow full of compost to use in the planters. I set up a planting bench in the garage with the two sawhorses and a piece of plywood. I dragged the hose out front so I had water and got to work (see photos)

By 2:30, I had all the container gardens planted. I'll take photos when they grow a bit. I did take photos of the one-offs and posted them. So, the chairs this year have asparagus ferns and impatiens, the tree box has a spike and two ornamental sweet potato vines, the hanging baskets have asparagus ferns and wave petunias, and the big pot on the garage apron has a spike, two geraniums and two wave petunias.

I planted my now traditional two Gerbera daisies in front of the trellis (thanks again, CC!) I put two hostas in the shaded corner of the front garden, another hosta in the tree garden (where last years ornamental grass didn't come back) and two hostas in Jake's patio garden as a permanent solution to that garden (I have in years past either planted impatiens or coleus there)

My mail man stopped by and chatted. We had an interesting, if somewhat odd conversation as he is a conspiracy theorist. Today's discussion was "raspberry crazy ants." He says they are a new strain of ants (raspberry-colored), from South America, that are being brought in by Mexican truckers (who the US trucking union - would that be Jimmy Hoffa's boys? - was forced to make concessions, allowing them to come in at an unregulated minimum of 700 miles). Anyway, they are so kick-ass, that they kill fire ants (which would be good). Downside, without actually eating or even touching electronic gear, they can wipe out a computer or DVD, or render an HTD Television useless! He said he'd gone on a radio telephone talk-line, but nobody else seemed to know about this new threat. He asked me to search the internet and leave anything I found out about it in my mail box for him. I said, "Sure!" He asked, "Where is Homeland Security on this issue?" I said, "I don't know..."

By 3:30 PM, all I have left is the rest of the flat of Impatiens in the front garden, some hostas for the very back garden, two rose bushes and the English ivy to plant at the pig's feet. But, that will have to wait as its time to cut the lawn... Lunch and a nap, however, must take precedence. I finished the rest of the linguine with clam sauce and took a well earned rest

I woke up just after 5:00 PM and gassed up the mower. I cut the front, side and back, and then quit for the day just before dark. Dinner was the last two hot dogs. I watched a stupid TV show, but turned it off in disgust. Since I haven't made my run to the library yet, I had no new book, so I just went to sleep.

Friday, May 23, 2008

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Permanent fix for the garden on Jake's patio (two "Francis Williams" hostas)

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Owed to Canada Cathy

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Permanent fix for an awkward spot in the front garden. Hosta on the left is "Gold Standard", hosta on the right is "Frances William"

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Front garden Iris, showing off

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Temporary Mailbox pansies, in all their glory!

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`Transplant station #1

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Transplant station #2

Thursday, and I'm in a bad way...

You remember when the doctor gave me all those free samples of drugs I need to take? Well, the blister packs for two of the prescriptions both contained 7 days worth of medicine. But, the Celebrex (which is a bit scary, according to the press; but a world of pain relief for me) was an equal amount of packs, but only had three in each blister pack.

So, I ran out after taking my morning meds on Tuesday. I called into CVS and asked that the prescription be filled and I'd pick it up on Wednesday after work. I figured it would be about 12-14 hours late, but no problem. But, as you may recall, I was focused on finding sweet alyssum (and went to four different hardware stores before I found some) so I completely forgot to stop at CVS.

This morning, when I took my meds, I discovered my mistake. It's too early for CVS to open, and all I can do is wait. I'll have to pick up the prescription after work. Meanwhile, I watched as areas of my body slowly went downhill. By the time it was time to leave for home, my back, both knees, hips, my hands and both of my shoulders were hurting.

So, I did stop on the way home and took one immediately, but of course it will take some time for it to work. I felt better psychologically, though.

It's still another cool day here (supposed to warm up nicely for the weekend). I changed my clothes and went out to plant my herbs. I planted two Rosemary, four Italian flat leaf parsley, two sage and two catnip (for the cats). What I didn't plant (and couldn't find) was basil. I could have sworn I bought some when Carla got hers but there is none here! Not to worry, as I am picking up my flowers on Friday, so I'll get some then (if they're not sold out).

I was supposed to also cut the grass, but its chilly, I ache and it's getting late, so I figured one more day wouldn't hurt. I came in and heated up two hot dogs and ate them for supper. Then I got into bed and was finally warm, so I left the TV off and just went to sleep.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I think I'm evolving...

I'm guessing there are two ex-wives and several old girl friends who are thinking, "It's about time!" But I'm referring to how I am designing my front flower garden. Ever since I've moved here, I've planted it more or less the same (although I have varied the types of flowers planted). But, this year will be different.

So, in keeping with my new plan I stopped and bought three seed packets of Sweet Alyssium (mixed colors of white, lavender and pink). Again, they are so fine a seed, I mixed them with a bit of potting soil to ease sowing them. I planted them around the rocks and in front of the hostas in swatches next to the areas I put the moss roses in.

So, after I get the Impatiens bought and planted, I will not only have added a hardscape feature (the rocks) but will have patches of flowers in three different heights. Sounded good to me, but we'll have to wait until everything blooms to judge!

After that, I went out back and planted the last four eggplants (I had to crowd them a bit to adjust for Carla's four hot pepper plants I inherited). Then, I planted the one tray of leeks (I took the other two trays into a lady at work who plants a large vegetable garden).

I went with Jake's theory that planting three of them in each spot would be okay. It was the only way to get done before dark, as there are a LOT of leeks in one little tray! I again turned on the sprinkler for 20 minutes to water the new plantings.

Once inside, I made a couple of sandwiches for a quick dinner and went in to take a nap. Why a nap at 8:30? So, I could see Top Chef at 10:00 PM. It almost worked! I woke up at 10:30, but since it was being recorded, I just turned one the DVD-R and watched it. When it was done, I went to bed for real.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

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Raised bed garden, planted, #1

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Raised bed garden, planted #2

Quote

"Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm."

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

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Half-size sheet pan and fish spatula

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Knife edge on fish spatula (scratches on sheet pan are from spatula tests)

Tuesday, planting again!

After eating lunch today, B___ and I took a trip to Gordon's Food Service (or GFS), a store that caters to the restaurant business, or people who are throwing a LARGE party! It was his first time and he marveled at the sizes of stuff (it's the place to go if you need a huge can of green beans, olives or barbecue sauce). But, he was less enthusiastic about the prices (He didn't think you saved that much).

However, his mission was to find a half-size sheet pan (Jake and Carla's favorite) and he did. I must confess, I bought one too, later wishing I'd bought maybe four or six for those damn Christmas cookies!

I also picked up an item I'd been coveting (no, not a spider - still searching for that!) a fish spatula! I also grabbed two big wooden spoons (mine are more or less trashed). See photos.

After work, when I got home, I unwrapped my treasures. One thing I wasn't aware of: the fish spatula has virtually a knife edge on it. That would lead me to believe it can only be used in my cast iron skillets, not the Calphalon non-stick ones.

I changed clothes and checked voice and email. I had to return one call, but it wouldn't go through. Message said the "network was too busy." First time I ever got that one. So, I gave up and prepared to go outside to plant.

But, before I did, I tried Luanne and Sadie's phone number one more time. I'd tried on Sunday (which is Sadie's birthday) but never got through, just left a voice mail). Tonight, after several "busy" calls to the main line, I tried calling Luanne on the other line and, she answered! We chatted for a long while, and then hung up (hopefully, she will convey my birthday wishes - I still never got to talk to Sadie).

Once outside, I planted my six tomato plants, four eggplants, four green peppers, plus an extra four hot peppers (left over from Jake and Carla's). But, the extra peppers took up the row I was going to plant my leeks in! I'll have to figure it out another day as its getting dark (so dark, in fact, that the two pictures I took you could barely see (so I didn't bother posting them). I set the sprinkler on the middle of the garden (on the board) and turned it on for 30 minutes.

It was almost 8:30 when I turned the sprinkler off. Kroger's doesn't carry the hot dogs I like, so I had bought some "Dearborn" natural casing ones. I grilled them on the indoor grill pan and ate three of them on whole wheat buns with chopped onions and yellow mustard. They were pretty good!

I checked my email and found one from my brother Carl, who had surgery on his "good" knee today. He said he is home and walking with a walker, but he can put full weight on his leg, so it's not too bad. Get better soon!

I also had one from my brother Joe, discussing modifications he is planning on making to the cottage for wheelchair accessibility before Mom goes out for the summer.

I started watching TV but fell asleep during the first show. When I woke back up, I turned everything off and went to bed for real.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

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Front garden, before

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Front garden, before

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Front garden, before

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Front Garden Rocks!

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Front Garden Rocks!

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Front Garden Rocks!

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Front Garden Rocks

Monday, and back outside...

Monday morning was sunny, but cool. The TV weather guy said there was even frost in outlying areas.

At lunch, B___ needed to go to Lowe's for a light bulb, so I checked out the seeds for Moss Roses and couldn't find any! This is bad, as I wanted them in the front garden!

After lunch, I had a call at work from my doctor who said I passed the stress test with flying colors! Everything seems to be normal (she said it was amazing for my age. Bah! I told her before the test, my heart is strong like bull!) and there were NO signs of any artery occlusion (I KNEW IT!).

I forgot to mention, on our Saturday jaunt, a warning light came on that I'd never seen. But Carla, who actually has an Owner's Guide, said it meant I had a light burned out (they are universal symbols, after all). When I got home that day, I tried various things and determined my right stop lamp (or brake light) didn't work.

So, on the way home tonight I stopped at Home Depot, where I found only three seed packets left of moss roses, and then at Murray's Auto Supply, where I bought two new stop lamps.

I got home about 5:45 PM and changed clothes (but into long pants, this time - it's chilly out there!)

First I replaced the brake light (not too difficult, BTW.) Then I got out the blower and blew off all the stupid maple helicopter seeds (especially out of the front garden).

I thought I still had some play-sand, but when I checked, the bag contained pea gravel! So, I used a handful of potting soil in a bucket, along with the three packets of moss rose seeds, to thin them out and make sure all the seeds got used.

Before planting, I moved some big rocks Jake gave me into the garden, just for something different (see photos). I used some rose fertilizer (which is pink) to mark the irregular edges of three seed bed areas and sowed the moss rose seeds in them.

Cut more of the lilac blooms and replaced small glass of the lily of the valley in my bedroom with them. Next I dragged out the extension cord and the string trimmer and trimmed the front ditch and then around all the trees and the front gardens.

I dragged out the hose and watered the seeds in the front garden. Since I had it out anyway, when I pulled the hose back to the rear, I dragged it out to the raised bed and watered all the seeds I'd planted back there, too.

It's too late for transplanting the veggies and herbs tonight, so I went in the house at 8:20 PM. I had a bowl of warmed-up linguine with clams and watched TV until 10:00 PM, then shut everything off and went to bed.

Monday, May 19, 2008

George Thorogood & the Destroyers lyrics

Here's two songs I am particularity fond of. I must admit, its been a long time since I made an old woman blush, or a young girl squeal, but I do have a lot of experience in drinking alone!

Bad to the Bone

~ lyrics courtesy of George Thorogood & the Destroyers

On the day I was born, the nurses all gathered 'round
And they gazed in wide wonder, at the joy they had found
The head nurse spoke up, and she said leave this one alone
She could tell right away, that I was bad to the bone
Bad to the bone
Bad to the bone
B-B-B-B-Bad to the bone
B-B-B-B-Bad
B-B-B-B-Bad
Bad to the bone

I broke a thousand hearts, before I met you
I'll break a thousand more baby, before I am through
I wanna be yours pretty baby, yours and yours alone
I'm here to tell ya honey, that I'm bad to the bone
Bad to the bone
B-B-B-Bad
B-B-B-Bad
B-B-B-Bad
Bad to the bone

I make a rich woman beg, I'll make a good woman steal
I'll make an old woman blush, and make a young woman squeal
I wanna be yours pretty baby, yours and yours alone
I'm here to tell ya honey, that I'm bad to the bone
B-B-B-B-Bad
B-B-B-B-Bad
B-B-B-B-Bad
Bad to the bone

I DRINK ALONE

~ lyrics courtesy of George Thorogood & the Destroyers

I drink alone, yeah, with nobody else
I drink alone, yeah, with nobody else
Well you know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself

Now every morning just before breakfast, I don't want no coffee or tea
Just me and good Buddy Wiser, that's all I ever need
'Cause I drink alone, yeah, with nobody else
Yeah, you know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself

Yeah the other day I laid sleeping and I woke from a terrible dream
So I called up my friend Jack Daniel's and his partner Jimmy Beam
And we drank alone, yeah, with nobody else
Yes, you know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself

Yeah the other night I got invited to a party, but I stayed home instead
Just me and my pal Johnny Walker, and his brothers Black and Red
And we drank alone, yeah, with nobody else

You know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself

Now I have got me a pet up in my penthouse but he never does bothers me
He ain't no poodle, no pony, he's just a little old wild turkey
And we drink alone, yeah, with nobody else
That's the way I like it

Yeah, you know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself
Yes, you know when I drink alone, I don't want nobody else
I drink alone

Slow-moving Sunday

I woke up at 8:00 AM, but with yawning, stretching and making manly morning noises, I didn't get out of bed until 8:30. I took a physical inventory and I am a little achy (okay, lot achy) but nothing really "hurts". What aches? Primarily, both knees, my shoulders, the small of my back and all the joints in both hands. None of that bothers me as much as my newest find: the top of my head is burning! Yes, I managed to spend enough time outside in the partial sunshine yesterday to sunburn my bald spot.

So, onto breakfast. I have been ignoring my one hobby, cooking, for my other, gardening and yard work. So, today I took the time to make a classic French tri-fold omelet with Swiss cheese and saut�ed Crimini mushrooms. I had an onion bagel with it, but just buttered, no cream cheese, and coffee. Very tasty!

Next came a shave and shower, trying to keep the hot water off my sunburn (it seems the back of my neck got toasted, too!) Once dressed, I headed to the grocery store to pick up staples only (I haven't had time to figure out what else I might want or need.

I went back home and unloaded the groceries, then got out my trusty spade. I have two hostas that are getting too big, and Jake mentioned he might have a spot for them. So, I divided the one in front under my bedroom window into three. I left one of the "thirds" and the other two will be moving to Jake and Carla's. It's amazing to me, but this is the very same plant I divided up and made four of five of the big hostas now in the very back garden. I dug out the other, smaller one and added that to the box in my trunk.

I also cut my chives in two. I told Carla she could have that for her herb garden and explained how I'd lugged that same plant from house to house, ever since taking it from my family home on 24 Mile Road during the Goerlich Diaspora.

I have to go to Lowe's for some things and, since it's only about 4 miles from their house, I dropped off the plants and then came home. I was planning on planting my veggies and herbs, but it keeps raining off and on. Also, I'd really like to give my back a rest for a day or two. So, I made sure the plants were still damp and called it good for today.

After some lunch (the last of the tuna salad (thank God! I am sick of tuna salad!) I decided to watch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

I watched this until it ended at 6:00 PM. Then I started dinner: my old favorite, linguine with clams. I got the pasta into the sauce, and then put the pan into the microwave to keep warm until I was hungry. By then it was time for Extreme makeover, Home Edition (this week in New Orleans). It's the usual tear jerker, but, damn I love this show!

I finally got hungry and got a big plate of the pasta and topped it with some salt (no anchovies, again!) and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Excellent as always!

I started dozing about half way through Iron Chef America. It was a rerun anyway, so I turned it off and went to bed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Morning, Over Easy, again

Hello In There
�John Prine

We had an apartment in the city,
Me and Loretta liked living there.
Well, it'd been years since the kids had grown,
A life of their own left us alone.
John and Linda live in Omaha,
And Joe is somewhere on the road.
We lost Davy in the Korean war,
And I still don't know what for, don't matter anymore.

Ya' know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder ev'ry day.
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, "Hello in there, hello."

Me and Loretta, we don't talk much more,
She sits and stares through the back door screen.
And all the news just repeats itself
Like some forgotten dream that we've both seen.
Someday I'll go and call up Rudy,
We worked together at the factory.
But what could I say if he asks "What's new?"
"Nothing, what's with you? Nothing much to do."

Ya' know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder ev'ry day.
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, "Hello in there, hello."

So if you're walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don't just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn't care, say, "Hello in there, hello."

A long day, Saturday...

I woke up at 6:25 AM and put a pot of coffee on. Then I stripped the bed and put the bedding in the washer. I turned on "Saturday Morning, Over Easy" and got on with my day.

For breakfast, I had an onion bagel with cream cheese and, with my normal morning meds, I added a pain pill. Why? It's an old trick I leaned in physical therapy. I am taking one now to pre-medicate myself as I will be doing a lot of work today.

I left just after 9:00 AM, stopped and filled up the car with gas (groan) and headed to Jake and Carla's. Of course, like most driver's these days, it was less than five miles when I came upon a gas station that was selling it for 3 cents a gallon cheaper than I just paid! Aauugghh!

I picked up Carla (Jake couldn't come because he has to wait for the sprinkler guy) and we headed to Block's Nursery. I thought by getting there at 10:00 instead of when they open at 9:00 it would be less crowded. NOT! Took about 15 minutes to get in and find a parking space (well, I never did find a real parking space, I ended up just pulling up on the grass outside one of the entrances - hey, other people were doing it, too!)

We each grabbed a shopping cart (all the cool rolling wagons were gone, of course) and started to fill our lists. Carla's was a bit more involved than mine; she wanted several varieties of heirloom tomatoes and a wide assortment of hot peppers, for example. I went with four Roma tomatoes, two regular tomatoes (for BLT's) and just plain old green peppers, myself.

Only my brother Carl (who comes here) could understand what this place is like. Hundreds of gardeners, all stopping to look at something and holding up all the people behind them! But, at least, everyone is friendly and helpful (Did you see any thyme? Yeah it's back over here! Anybody know where the eggplant is? Yeah, it's in Greenhouse #3).

Carla actually found some sort of greenhouse directory, while I, on the other hand, just searched for workers in their distinctive green shirts and asked where things were.

At one point, I stopped in the main aisle to grab two trays of leeks for Carla and myself. I realized I'd held up the guy behind me and I said, "Oh, I'm sorry! I'm just taking a leek here!" He didn't laugh, but I did!

We finally filled our order of vegetables and herbs and made our way (albeit slowly) to the check out lines. At the last minute (reminded by a guy who walked by with an armful of them) I remembered Jake said he wanted tomato cages. So, I left my cart with Carla and went to get him some. Did you ever try and count a stack of tomato cages? The first three or four are easy, but then you don't know if you're counting the top rings of the next cage, or the second ring of ones you already counted. I actually took them apart and got twelve (I thought). But, when I got back to the checkout, the lady there counted them (several times, too) and said I had 15! I said I'd take them any way (I'll use the extra at my house).

We carefully loaded the car, keeping our orders separate and eventually succeeded in fitting in the tomato cages without scrunching something. It took another 10 minutes or so to find a break in the steady stream of cars and trucks coming in and going so I could back up the 15 feet I needed to pull out of the place. Then we were finally headed for home!

When we got there, Jake was done cutting the grass, and the sprinkler guy was just finishing up. Turns out there was a sprinkler head in the area Jake had had rototilled up for the garden, but, amazingly, it wasn't damaged, so the sprinkler guy moved it to the edge of the garden. Now there are two sprinklers that will water the main garden and two sprinklers that water the herb garden (I am sooo jealous!)

So, I changed into my shorts and t-shirt and put on my garden boots and we went outside. The guy Jake paid to rototill had left big clumps of grass everywhere (well, it was a lawn, of course) so we started by raking up the 18 foot by 22 foot garden, pulling out the grass clumps and throwing them onto the compost heap. Meanwhile, Carla's job was to take all the strawberries and herbs and, leaving them in their pots, lay out a pleasing design in that garden.

When she had them set up where she wanted them, I gave her my rake, filled a bucket with water, grabbed a trowel and planted her herb garden. She had followed my suggestion to keep the perennial strawberries and herbs at one end, and the annual herbs at the other and was trying for whimsy (and, you know I LOVE whimsy!) So, in the end, Carla's herb garden contains June-bearing strawberries, and two or three plants of parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil, tarragon, cilantro, oregano, and dill (plus a last minute addition we'll talk about later).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, they had gotten about 1/3 of the garden cleaned. So I started putting in stakes and string to mark rows. While they kept busting their butts (and, I am not kidding, getting those grass clumps out was a major job. But, as Jake said, they'd either have to deal with it now or deal with it later, when the grass started to grow back) I started sowing seeds. And, that's how we proceeded. They would get enough cleaned out so I could mark and plant another row, and then we'd repeat.

At Carla's insistence, we would stop and take a water break (German's don't like to stop and take breaks) and, at 1:00 PM, I went inside and took another pain pill I sorely needed (Get it? Sorely? Well, you did get the taking a leek one, right?). When they finally got done with the grass clumps, I was still planting peppers, Jake was breaking up clumps of leeks and planting them and Carla was planting peas. Then they both installed the tomato cages.

Turns out Carla had over-bought her beloved hot peppers, so six of them had to go into the very end of the herb garden: Two ancho chilies and four chili red peppers. While Carla and I cleaned up the tools, string, stakes, plant trays, etc., Jake raked between each row to loosen up the soil we had packed down while planting.

In the end, their vegetable garden contains: sweet corn, sunflowers and pole beans, zucchini, yellow summer squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, salad cucumbers, pickle cucumbers, five different types of tomatoes (three varieties of heirloom, roma, and cherry tomatoes), radishes, green onions, six different types of peppers (regular red peppers and the rest the hot varieties), leeks and a row of snap peas, which will be replaced with leaf lettuce after harvesting). It looks damn good, BTW!

Best of all, even though scattered showers were predicted for this morning, the rain held off, and there was a welcomed breeze that help slow the sweat factor (although I had to resort to a kitchen towel I'd brought to keep the sweat out of my eyes and off my glasses).

I didn't bother to change, because I had dirt everywhere, but just loaded up the car and left, just before 3:00 PM. About half way home, it started to sprinkle! I got home, unloaded the car; put my clothes in the washer and me in the shower. It seemed to take forever to get the dirt off my knees and from under my fingernails! I warmed up a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup and ate that with regular saltine crackers.

I got the bedding out of the dryer, made the bed and tried to take a nap. I read in bed until I fell asleep just after 5:00 PM. I woke up just before 8:00, heard a low roar and looked out the kitchen window. It looked like I was in the Wizard of Oz or something! Trees were whipping back and forth and debris (sticks, maple helicopter seeds and branches) was flying everywhere. I couldn't see the patio chairs and figure it's gonna be quite the job to clean out the reflecting pool tomorrow morning.

But, by 8:15 PM, it looked like there was NO wind at all and I made the whole damn thing up! I wonder if it was a tornado passing overhead that didn't touch down or something.

I came into the office to write this post and finished it up to this point by 10:30 PM. I am heating up a Marie Callender's chicken pot pie in the microwave for a late supper and plan on watching the rest of the Friday Night fights, then go to bed. But, I belatedly remembered the vegetables and herbs, sitting in their trays in my garage, So, I left my food and TV, and went out and watered them at 11:00 PM.

I came back in and resumed my original plan. I ended up going to sleep at 12:30 AM.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

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Raised Bed with pine board walkway #1

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Raised Bed with pine board walkway #2

Friday and I'm Board...

I stopped at Home Depot after work to get a 2x12 pine board, some spikes and some vegetable seeds, all for my raised bed garden. I had quite a discussion with myself over purchasing this one or one that was treated. In the end, I decided that a 2x12 is a pretty good chunk of wood and odds are I'll be dead and gone before it rots.

I got home, changed clothes and went outside with the board.

I put it in the middle of the raised bed and spiked it down (through the top and into the 4x4). Now I can theoretically reach all the vegetable plants. I was pleased, so I took a couple of pictures and will post them.

Next, I planted my rows of leaf lettuce, peas, green onions, radishes and spinach. It's probably too late now for the peas and leaf lettuce, but we'll see. If so, I'll replant for fall.

Done in the back, I got out the "Garden Weasel" and worked up the front flower garden. I was going to get the plants for it Saturday when Carla and I go to Blocks for her (and my) vegetable and herb plants. But, now, looking at it, I think I need to add some compost from out back to raise the dirt level first (sigh).

I went inside and cleaned up. I did a load of laundry and putzed around doing this and that, until I realized it was after 9:00 PM, I was hungry and the Friday Night Fights were on. I grabbed a plate of tuna salad and moved to the bedroom. I fell asleep around 10:30 PM, but not to worry, the show is being taped and I'll catch the rest over the weekend.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ominous Signs

When I left for work on Thursday morning, there was a big truck parked on the side of the road with big black pipes. When I got home that night, the vacant lot next to me had suddenly sprouted a bunch of the orange constructions barrels in big stacks. And, as I changed clothes, I heard that particularly annoying beep-beep-beep of a truck backing up. I looked out the window and it was another big truck, this time carrying concrete thingies, backing all the way down San Jose (about 1/2 mile) and (according to the neighborhood grapevine) off loading them in another vacant lot. Looks like the water main project is about to start!

Anyway, I stopped on the way home and got two gallons of gas for the mower. So, I checked the oil and gassed it up and then started cutting the front. I finished up the back just after 8:00 PM.

I did talk over the fence with my neighbor and he volunteered to use his power auger to make me a permanent mailbox post-hole. Why do I want that instead of the cute one I made? Well, because when they pave the road (just after the water main is done, so says the grapevine), they will pave into each driveway for some undetermined amount of feet. Since my replacement mailbox is sitting on the driveway, that's not so good. It's always something, isn't it?

I ate the rest of the rice mixture for dinner and tried to get interested in TV, but gave up and went to bed at 9:30 PM.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wednesday's rain

It rained off an on all day today, ending about 3:30 PM. When I got home, I checked voicemail (still waiting for the doctor and the results of my stress test) and email. Nothing...

Then I opened my mail (no big whoop there) and changed clothes. I put on my rubber boots and went outside.

I refilled the suet cage and the bird feeder. Then I filled up the squirrel feeder with my salted peanuts. I keep being tempted to snack on these (they smell sooo good!) but I still haven't (yet!)

Then I went out to my new raised bed garden (I'm not calling it the sandbox anymore) and planted pole beans in the same row as the sunflowers. Why? Oh, this is an old-time remedy, my friend! The theory is, rather than build a teepee, a fence, or an anything else for them to grow on, if you plant pole beans next to sunflowers (or corn, BTW, but I'm not planting any corn here this year), the pole beans climb onto the sunflowers, and you get the best of both worlds: Green beans at their peak of flavor and sunflowers (to either eat the seeds yourself or, in my case, to dry out and feed to the birds in the winter). Plus, I have always been fascinated by the sunflowers turning their blossoms with the sun's path everyday.

I checked and emptied the rain gauge (note to Jake: Big HINT here) on the way in. The off and on rain today gave me about 1/8 of an inch of rain. That's cool.

Once inside, I looked around for dinner ideas. Oh wait, here's one, I have an egg plant getting old on me! So, instead of reheating my rice mix, I will make fried eggplant, I guess.

I peeled the eggplant and cut it into 1/2 inch slices I dipped each slice into whisked eggs then flour and fried it in a skillet with canola oil until golden brown. I drained it on a rack over paper towels and salted it immediately.

I watched some taped shows, waiting for tonight's Top Chef episode. When that was over at 11:00 PM, I went to sleep.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sowing my seeds...

It was a beautiful day Tuesday. Too bad it can't be like this on the weekends!

When I got home, I changed clothes and was about to go outside when my daughter Melissa called. We chatted a bit and then I did go outside.

One of the things I like about using the sandbox as a raised bed is that I don't have to use stakes to mark my rows. I just used nails in the top wood. One of the things that's not so good is that it's too big to reach into every spot to weed or pick veggies. So, I determined that I will need to add a 2 x 12 board in the middle so I can stand on it to get access.

So, once I had my rows marked, I planted my first seeds: a row of sunflowers in the rear. Smiling, I went back inside.

After I cleaned up, I ate some leftover tuna salad for dinner. I watched TV for a bit and then went to sleep.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Monday, and back to it...

Monday morning and back to the daily grind. Today was mostly meetings at work. One offsite, one onsite and one teleconference. I was about worn out from driving, thinking and talking!

No rain today, but cloudy all day. I did check the rain gauge before leaving for work and I had almost one inch of rain over the weekend! I stopped at Meijer's on the way home to pick up four items I ran out of over the weekend.

When I got home, I took a walk out back before changing clothes. All the gardens out back are looking good and the compost in the sandbox has settled down nicely, with no visible low spots. I filled the bird feeder and went inside to change.

I called my brother Carl to get the name of the nursery he goes to down by the airport and to see if it's open yet (it is). He told me he's building an English garden in his front lawn and has had truckloads of dirt and rocks delivered. No wonder I haven't heard from him.

Lazy evening, really. Too damp to do anything outside and the house is spick and span inside. So, since tomorrow is garbage day, I cleaned out the fridge. For dinner I had the last of the Texas beans (I pity the fool who calls a meeting with me tomorrow!)

I watched a little TV, read a little, but was sound asleep by 10:00 PM.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Simple Sunday, Stuck Inside

I woke up very early on Sunday (4:45 AM) and couldn't fall back asleep. I drank some coffee and waited for the sunrise. Well, no sun to speak of, but when it got lighter outside, I went out and used the linseed oil on the wheel barrow handles. Since I had it out anyway, I went ahead and oiled all the wood handles on my garden tools. I used to do this religiously every fall back on the farm, but I guess I've grown lazy in my old age.

I took a picture of the old sandbox, now a raised bed garden. I finished filling it with compost last night. It's supposed to rain hard today, so afterwards I should be able to see any low spots and adjust accordingly.

I made two fried egg sandwiches for breakfast and refilled my pill box. Now its time for my shower and then housecleaning.

Fast-forward! It's now almost noon and the house is cleaned, floors mopped, etc., etc., etc. Last load of clothes is in the dryer and all I have left is to clean the sinks and toilets in both bathrooms. But, first I am taking a break! Oh, it's raining, BTW. So, I grab my book and head for the couch. Later, I went back and folded the last load of clothes and then moved into the bedroom to try and take a nap.

I did doze a bit, but not the real nap I was looking for. I got up in disgust at 3:00 PM and started prepping dinner. I tried to check the rain gauge with my binoculars and its looks like I have over 1/2 inch of rain so far.

So, I sliced up three small yellow onions and saut�ed them in olive oil and butter. Then I added a tray of crimini mushrooms that I sliced thick. Next I added a cup of celery and the left-over browned ground beef from the fridge.

I added a cup of homemade beef broth (all I had left) and a cup of water and then two cups of brown rice. When that came to a boil, I covered it and turned the burner to simmer. When the timer went off for the rice, I opened it up and fluffed it up and dinner was ready!

I ate dinner watching TV, waiting for my Sunday night shows. Once they were finished, so was I, so I turned off the light at 10:30 PM and went to sleep.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

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My raised bed garden is ready!!!

On the Road Again...

Woke up at 6:00 AM and put a pot of coffee on. It still amazes me every Saturday morning that I never remember this on Friday night. Well, I got a busy morning ahead of me, so I better get to it!

I stripped the bed and threw the bedding in the washer. While that was washing, I emptied the dishwasher and put in a few dirty dishes from last night. The majority of what I used for the tuna salad is hand-washed only, so I washed the pots, the metal colander, the Wusthof Santoku and the can opener. I set them all in the dish drainer to dry and went to shave and shower.

I have two missions today. Number one (of course) is to see my Mom for Mother's Day. I chose today instead of the traditional tomorrow as it's supposed to rain on Sunday and I HATE driving in the rain. Since I am heading in that general direction, number two is to stop at the Volvo dealer in Troy and get the secret code so my radio will work, once again.

So, I packed two containers with tuna salad and added a Romaine heart (presentation, man! I figured a leaf of the lettuce, with the tuna salad mounded on top). I also cut her five bunches of my white lilac and wrapped them in wet paper towels and tinfoil.

I got my big cooler and put the cold tuna salad, lettuce and the flowers inside. First stop was the corner gas station and buying a bag of ice, which also went into the cooler. Now everything is safe, no matter how long the trip takes!

Next stop is the local Chaps feed store for my bird seed and suet (they are not open on Sunday, so it's now or never!) Chap himself carried the seed out for me and I told him if he ever wanted to sell the store, I'd buy it (and I meant it!). But, he just laughed and said he planned on keeping it a few years more...

So, the route to the dealership is I-96 to the Southfield, Southfield to 14 Mile, 14 Mile to Coolidge, Coolidge to Maple Road and Maple Road to the Troy Motor Mall (of which the Volvo dealer is just one of many dealerships). But, when the Southfield freeway turns into just plain old Southfield, there was a huge traffic jam. Construction is taking the three lanes of expressway traffic and squeezing them down to just one. Naturally, I was in the absolutely wrong lane at the time and had to wait to merge into the two successive lanes. That cost me a good 45 minutes, alone! Lunch at Mom's is looking doubtful!

Okay, as if St. Clair on Thursday wasn't enough, I am having more weird flashbacks! The trip to the Volvo dealer takes me right past the factory I worked at for 15 years! And, the cemetery next to it where I would often walk over and eat my lunch next to the pond; throwing my sandwich crusts to the ducks and geese. Man, what happened to the people I knew back then???

At the dealership, once it was my turn, I gave the guy my VIN number and he looked it up on the computer in about 2 seconds. He said as long as nobody replaced the original radio, this should work. I wrote down the 4-digit code (I could tell ya but I'd have to kill ya) and went out and punched it in. Bingo!!!! I got my jams again! I put the code in a safe place and started back on my journey.

I am four miles north of I-696, so backtracking just to be on an expressway seems silly. Therefore, I decide to drive one mile north up to 16 Mile road (called "Big Beaver" in this location. Please, if you are not from Michigan, DON'T ask! Long ago, we had a LOT of horny French-Canadian trappers moving through here and apparently, naming conventions for roads were, well, a bit odd! For example, 24 Mile Road, site of my ancestral home, used to be called Whiskey Road, I believe.

Anyway, I get up to Coolidge and Big Beaver and there is the Somerset Mall. Not from around here? I'll try and fill you in: High end stores, extremely rich customers, so big there is a skywalk over the 6 lanes of Big Beaver so you can get from the mall on the north side of the road, to the mall on the south side of the road. And, something tickles my memory... What is it? Somerset Mall? No, I've only been there once, years ago, when I bought Lu a teddy for her birthday or something. Cost me a fortune and she couldn't wear it because she's "long-waisted" - hey, who knew? Finally, I got it! That's where the last, nearby Williams-Sonoma store is.

So, I did a quick turn into the south-side mall and went in to find a store directory. But, there was none! However, there was a roving security guard, who told me where the store was (up the escalators, and to the right - I picked the right side mall, apparently!) Once inside (and it felt good to be back with my peeps!) I checked everything out while waiting for an attendant. When they had the time, I told them I wanted the Wusthof knife sharpener for the Asian-style blades. $20 US later and I was out of there!

More and more nostalgia! This is also the same area where the old Detroit Art Services was, so I passed several restaurants where, back in the day, I ate lunch as a Vice-President. Man, I am having emotions I never thought I still carried around, here!

Finally after a l-o-n-g run, Big Beaver (which turns into 16 mile road, which turns into Metropolitan Highway; all of which had signs along the entire way that say it's the Korean War Veteran's Highway. What the hell is the real name of this road, anyway???) finally connects with I-94. I jumped on that and head towards New Baltimore and Mom.

I got there around 1:30, knowing I was too damn late for lunch. My brother Jim and Coletta were there, as well as Cora's replacement for the day, Marlene. Cora had taken the day off to try and take her driver's license road test.

Jim and Colleta talked about Jim's detached retina and what the doctors did to restore it. I had already heard this story from Luanne. But, it did strike me as odd that I hear about family issues from my ex-wife before I do from my own brothers... I guess there is a price you pay for being the black sheep...

Anyway, I went over the now-dinner stuff with Marlene (Mom pronounces her name differently, which leads me to believe "Marlene" is the Anglicized version of her real name). Coincidence? I made tuna salad and Marlene had already made the filling for a tuna fish sandwich! Something's fishy, here!

Jim and Coletta left, and I visited with Mom and Marlene on the back deck (Mom was already outside when I got there, enjoying the day). The birds were out in force, the squirrels jumped and played and it was just a perfect day.

I was astonished to learn that before immigrating to the US, Marlene had lived seven years in Lebanon! We talked about the recent developments in the civil war in Beirut and she said the problems all revolve around "power and who owns the oil". It's between the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Christian Kurds. She told me, with a sad look on her face, what a beautiful country it was and how you could easily move between snow-covered mountains and warm sunny beaches. BTW, Marlene got the word that Cora had flunked her test, but could retake it in a week or so.

Anyway, it was about 3:15 PM and I decided I should get going if I was gonna get any outside work done today. So, I left, heading back to Redford with my cruise-control set at 75 mph. I got home just after 4:30 PM.

Both my knees were complaining (I assume about the long car ride, which I am not supposed to do) so I took today's first pain pill, fixed myself a drink and wrote this all down.

Now its 6:30 PM and I am going out to sift more compost. I got two wheel-barrows full and dumped them. My back is now also complaining, but not to the point where I have to quit. (Pain pills or just shear grit? I never know and that's why I don't like having pain pills around! You can really hurt yourself without knowing it at the time). Anyway, I went inside for good just before dark, leaving the can of boiled linseed oil on top the chiminea to remind me to oil the handles on the wheel barrow on Sunday (they are getting dried out).

I, too, had tuna salad for dinner (it was very good, BTW, once you added salt). I looked around for something interesting to watch on TV, but couldn't find anything. So, I got out my trusty book and started reading until I started nodding off. Then, I gave up and went to sleep.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Not Banging the Drum this Friday!

I made it through the day by downing a pain pill, every six hours.

After lunch, I convinced B__ to go to Dyck's Sporting Goods so I could buy some tent stakes. I think I need them to secure my pig in the garden.

So, after getting home and changing (BTW, with no "Bang the Drum" on the radio going home, it just doesn't feel like the weekend is here - sigh) I took the pig out and introduced him to his summer home. Then I put in the stakes so that the little lip caught the metal in his feet (see photos).

I also took some photos and then some blossoms from my lilac bush. This is truly a smell from my childhood. My Mom had HUGE clumps of various lilacs (Persian purples, blues and whites) around the farm and, in the spring, with the bedroom window open, the smell was overpowering. Ever since, given the opportunity, I have planted lilacs outside my bedroom window in the various houses I have owned.

I got out the mower and did the front lawn, and then the back. I have a lot to do this weekend and it's supposed to rain Sunday, so getting this done is important! I finished up and was back in the house just after 8:00 PM.

Once inside, I cooked a box of rotini pasta until al dente. I drained it and cooled it down with cold water from the faucet. I let it sit for a bit while I filled this in... Is this for tonight's dinner? My God, NO! If you were paying attention, I still have a TON of leftovers left, well, over, LOL!

But, I thought I'd take tuna salad over to my Mom's when I go visit her tomorrow for Mother's Day. I have to go to the Volvo dealer to get my radio working again, and then plan on heading her way. If I get lucky and get there before lunch, I'll have some with her and Cora. If not, I'll leave it for their supper.

For my supper, I warmed up the last four ears of sweet corn and ate them. That was enough. Then it was TV, book and sleep, in that order.

Friday, May 9, 2008

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One of the tent stakes that will secure the pig (6-inch dollar bill is for dimensional reference)

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The pig gets planted, Part 1

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The pig gets planted, Part 2

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The lilac bush this year

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Lilacs, up close

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Lilacs, where I can smell them in my sleep!

Thursday, and another road trip!

Oh, before I forget, still speaking of the winds, remember me blowing off the patios out back on Monday? Well, after Wednesday's winds and storms, the patio is trashed again with leaves, tree seeds, small branches, etc., everywhere!

So, today is my stress test up at River District Hospital in St. Clair. So, no coffee (bad) and no morning medications (worse!) I cleverly (I thought, anyway) left two hours early, figuring on rush hour traffic. And, there was a lot on I-96, going into Detroit. But, on I-94 heading out of Detroit, there was hardly any traffic at all! So, I ended up being way too early with almost a 1/2 hour to kill. So, I drove by the old house on River Road, specifically to see how the front hedge I planted was doing.

Lu and I conceived of the front hedge idea primarily to cut down the road noise. I also thought it would be a little less dangerous if you had small kids (say, grandchildren) playing in the yard, since before they could have run right out onto North River Road (a very busy street). I was pleased to see the hedge is about four feet tall now and the gate (with the carved sea captain and his wife) still standing. One of the flowering trees I had planted near the gate was in full bloom as well. It was nice to see a plan come together!

I was amazed at the differences in St. Clair, itself, BTW. Building are gone, new buildings are up, the video store now sells lawn mowers, etc. Oh well, times change, I guess.

Back at the hospital, I signed in and got my IV inserted (this is a little one you walk around with all day - more like a chemo shunt than a regular IV). I got my radioactive shot and had to wait around for a half hour. Then you lie down and a machine slowly goes over your chest (and, I do mean slowly! Takes maybe 15-20 minutes) and takes, (what? An x-ray? A picture? Whatever!) of the blood circulating.

Then you wait some more (I think for the treadmill to be free) until its time for the actual test. She shaved spots on my chest to attach the EKG leads and got me all wired up. Then I got on the treadmill and started walking. At one point, the one technician asked me to not grip the bar as hard because it was interfering with the EKG. I told her I use a cane to walk normally and no way could I do this without holding on!

I get to my target heart rate (137) and then they gave me the next radioactive shot. You have to continue to walk (well, almost run at this point) for another minute to get the stuff pumped through you. The other technician said, "I think the next time you have a stress test done, you should ask for the shot." "The shot?" says I. She said, "Yes, they have a shot you can take that elevates your heart rate so you don't have to do all this walking." I said, "NOW you tell me?" She said, "Well, we can't go against what your doctor orders, but remember it for next time." I actually did know this because B___ told me. But, I thought I could do this and so I did.

Anyway, they take off all but three EKG leads and you go back and wait for the other machine to be free. When it's your turn, you go through the same long procedure of the machine slowly going over your chest, again.

I got out of there at 11:45 AM and could barely walk to the car. I called B___ to ask him to check my email to see if anything earth-shattering was going on. I mentioned how much pain I had and he suggested I call my doctor and have her call in a prescription. He figured by the time I got home, it would be ready and waiting. And, it was!

Back home, I decided going in to work was not an option. So, I took a pain pill, laid down in bed with my feet elevated and stayed there, most of the day. I did get up and grill some brats for dinner. When I was out doing that, a neighbor from the townhouses came over to sell me candy for her granddaughter to go to summer camp. I don't recall ever meeting her before, but she asked what became of my son and his girl friend that used to live with me. I said they'd gotten married and bought a house.

Later on Lu called to thank me for the Mother's Day card I'd sent. She said the latest problem she has encountered is she is allergic to the foam in her leg immobilizer! So, she has to put on that sock material (like before they fit you with a cast) and then the immobilizer so she doesn't get hives.

I either read, watched TV or dozed off and on during the afternoon and evening, but went to bed for real at 9:00 PM.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Speaking of the Wicked Wind...

A cold front slid through Michigan Wednesday morning and the winds were fierce! It wasn't raining yet at lunch time, but the wind was blowing leaves, trash, etc. everywhere. I even saw a couple of dust devils (like a mini-tornado). It said on the 'Net there were gusts up to 40 mph. However, I was grateful it didn't start raining until after I was inside and back at work.

And Lord, did it rain! Sometimes it was difficult to hear with the rain pounding the roof and windows. It slacked off a bit (to just a light rain) on the drive home.

Since it was Wednesday, I put on my boots (after treating the cats, of course) and went out to fill the bird feeder. I checked the rain gauge and I had about 1/4-inch of rain so far today, with more predicted tonight. Makes my watering the grass yesterday look stupid, I know, but I can't tell you how many times I DIDN'T water the grass, based on the weather forecast and then it never rained.

Once back inside, I changed clothes and started the mid-week laundry load. Then I started writing out all the medications I take, and searching for the quickest route to St. Clair River District Hospital. In case you forgot, I have a stress test scheduled for 8:45 AM tomorrow. So, I probably need to leave from my house by 6:30 AM (groan). Quickest route? According to Yahoo Maps, it's 67.1 miles and 1 hour, 11 minutes. But, because I know Michigan traffic and road construction, I'll leave 2 hours early.

Worst part about this test? Forget the fasting and no drinking water, I'm not supposed to take my medicines tomorrow morning until after the test. Do you have any idea how crippled up I will be for the next several days, not taking Celebrex and then running on a treadmill? (groan)

Okay, so it's almost 6:30 PM and time to make dinner. Tonight, it's one of my favorite sandwiches, Philly Cheese Steak. You remember I seared two round steaks last weekend, right? Well, tonight I am starting off with a large, sweet white onion, sliced thing and one green pepper, julienned. The recipe calls for a green and a red pepper, BTW. But I am using less steak so I adjusted accordingly.

Then I cut the round steak into 1/4 inch strips, against the grain. The onions and the green pepper went into a saut� pan with olive oil and butter on medium high heat. And, when they looked "done enough" I added the steak strips to warm up. Please note: The original recipe called for cooking the steak strips while you were saut�ing the onion and pepper. However, since I had the coals in the BBQ last weekend, I just went for it!

Next I buttered the insides of two of the 6-inch hoagie/submarine buns I bought from the Meijer's bakery. I added two slices of deli Swiss cheese and then filled them with the steak/green pepper/onion mixture. Finally, I added in some of the canned whole green chilies I drained and chopped (I used Old El Paso, a name brand I know and trust). I wrapped the sandwiches in tinfoil and put them in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.

Just as they were done, so was the laundry, so I opened the oven door while attending to my shirts and pants. That done, it was time to eat!

I fixed my plate with one sandwich, cut in half, and some wavy potato chips and went in to watch some TV at 7:20 PM. How did they compare with restaurant Philly Cheese Steaks? They tasted great, but seemed to be missing something. Salt helped, but that's not totally it. I'll have to research a few more recipes for this and try and find the magic missing ingredient.

I watched a taped Boston Legal and then deliberately went to bed at 9:00, after resetting my alarm 30 minutes early. I had trouble falling asleep, but eventually did.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Wicked Wind

Back when I was a young lad, and my Mama Rene (my Grandmother) was still alive and staying at the cottage all summer, (as my Mother does now) there was a picture on the wall. It showed a very proper 19th century lady walking down a city street in the wind. The wind was blowing her skirt/dress up about mid-calf (and, at that time, anything above the ankles was considered scandalous!) On the picture was a poem which read:

"The Devil sends the wicked wind,
to blow the skirts knee high!
But God is just, he sends the dust,
to blind the bad man's eye!"

(or something close to that). I'm not sure where it went, but if anyone knows, I would love to hang that in my 19th century-decorated house!