Thursday, July 31, 2008

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Tomatoes and leaf lettuce, washed and ready for dinner...

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Heirloom tomato, ripeing

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The back yard, without the trees and branches

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The big maple tree branch that also blocked the sunlight from the backyard.

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The maple tree, which blocked the sunlight from the back yard.

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The elm (?) tree, which blocked the sunlight from the back yard

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Houseplants on the porch #1

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Houseplants on the porch #2

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The urn next to the front porch

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One of the hanging plants

Talking my fool head off!

Wednesday, I got home after work, planning on painting the two glass frames and one screen frame for the storm door. But first I must deal with Riese's plant. It's safer from the cat fights, but it's not getting enough light where it is. So, I moved it out on the porch, too. Now both her plants are taking a summer vacation outside. Riese, maybe next year you should give me a wood spoon or a cookbook. I don't seem to have much luck with houseplants!

Then, I watered all the container gardens. It never did rain here, although on TV, it looked like it rained everywhere else. Back inside, I covered the kitchen table with towels and started taping the frames off. I got two done when the phone rang. It was my daughter, M_______. So, we talked... and talked... and talked...

After 2+ hours, I just wasn't that motivated to get back to work. So, I warmed up two hot dogs and ate them, along with chips and olives, watching some TV. I went to bed at 10:00 PM, annoyed at myself for not getting more done, but I justified it by saying I deserved a night off for a change.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tuesday's Trials

I got home after another long day at work (this is why I hate vacations!) After the usual commotion, I changed clothes and went out back. First, I used my blower to clean off the debris on my patio, but the real goal here is to install the storm door I removed from my patio door to the door on Jake's patio.

So, I used my nail-set to sink in the holes and then used the drill motor and a bit, along with the 100-foot extension cord to drive home the screws. Okay, so it's not opening free and easy, but you have to remember, Jake's patio door is virtually unusable. Several years ago, when we were bothered by the normal Redford spring ants, Jake decided they were coming in under that door. So, he bought some spray foam and used it to seal off their entrance. Whether or not he was successful in stopping the little ants is still debatable, but what he was successful in is that the door can no longer be opened by any human force!

Actually, I am sure there is a quick fix (maybe not "quick") but nobody ever used that door, anyway, and the foam was cheaper than installing a deadbolt.

So, the storm door is installed and it's after 8:00 PM. I still need to paint the frames of the glass and screen "almond" but I am tired and hungry and decided it could wait a day or two. I posted pictures in case you are interested.

So, I heated up two burgers for my dinner. I topped them with American cheese and placed them on Kaiser Buns with mustard and mayonnaise. I ate them watching TV with two pickles and some chips. I gave it up at 10:00 PM and went to sleep.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This may be why I don't get a lot of second dates

One of my favorite John Mellencamp songs:

I need A Lover that won't drive me crazy
I Need A Lover that won't drive me mad
I Need A Lover that won't drive me crazy
I Need A Lover that won't drive me crazy
Someone to thrill me, and then go away
I Need A Lover that won't drive me crazy
Someone that knows the meaning of ah - Hey hit the highway

Well I've been walking the streets in the evening
Racing through this human jungle at night
I'm so confused, my mind is indifferent
Hey - I'm so weak, won't someone shut out that light
Electricity runs thru the video
And I watch from this hole I call home
And all the stonies that are dancin' to the radio
I got the world calling me tonight on the phone

I Need A Lover that won't drive me crazy
I Need A Lover that won't drive me mad
I Need A Lover that won't drive me crazy
Someone that knows the meaning of ah - Hey hit the highway

Well I'm not wiped out by this poolroom life I'm livin'
But I'm gonna quit my job, and go to school, and head back home
Now I'm not asking to be loved or be forgiven
Hey - I just can't face shakin' in this bedroom one more night alone

I Need A Lover that won't drive me crazy
I Need A Lover that won't drive me mad
I Need A Lover that won't drive me crazy
Someone that knows the meaning of ah - Hey hit the highway

I Need A Lover that won't drive me crazy
Someone to thrill me, and then go away
I Need A Lover that won't drive me crazy

I Need A Lover that won't drive me crazy
I Need A Lover that won't drive me mad
I Need A Lover that won't drive me crazy
Someone that knows the meaning of ah - Hey hit the highway

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Jake's patio door, before

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Storm door installed on Jake's patio

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Sicilian Zuchini Pizza #1

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Sicilian Zuchini Pizza #2

Monday's Pizza

So, it was off to work on Monday morning. There's only one word to describe how much I missed being at work: NOT! But, there I was...

I had a lot of trouble in the late afternoon staying awake. Everyone else seemed to be gone to meetings or somewhere. So, I was all alone in an overly warm office, trying to type dull words into an even duller manuscript. Needless to say, I kept nodding off. It was embarrassing!

But, I headed home at 5:00 PM, full of hope. After consulting with Jake (who is a baker - I am not), I now understood that the "bread flour" called for in my original recipe contains more gluten than the "all-purpose" flour I was using (and, as an aside, "cake" flour has even less). So, I found a recipe on the Internet for pizza dough that used "all-purpose" flour and I am ready to try again.

I got home and changed clothes. I mixed up a packet of yeast, 1 1/2 cups of warm (110 degrees F) water and 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar and let it get happy for 10 minutes. Then I added two tablespoons of olive oil, one teaspoon salt and 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and turned the (much more familiar-textured) dough onto my big, floured wood cutting board. I added more flour (probably another cup) as needed until the dough ball I was kneading seemed right. I put that in an oiled bowl, covered it with a towel and set the timer for one hour.

I went outside and gave the old storm door and frame another coat of the almond spray paint. I left that to dry and came back inside, taking three trips to the garage to put some tools back. There's still more left, but I did make a good dent in the pile, lol!

I needed to grille some vegetables for the pizza (in fact, this pizza is supposed to be made entirely on the grill, but I was not that brave). The tricky thing about grilling vegetables on a charcoal grille is to get the temperature right. A bed of nice coals that would cook a steak to perfection is too hot and leaves your veggie charred on the outside and raw on the inside. But, since God is merciful, usually when you are done cooking your protein, the coals have died down to the right temp for veggies!

So, I got the charcoal lit and turned two pounds of ground chuck into eight patties. I hit them with the house seasoning and, when the coals were ready, onto the grille they went. I pulled them off and put on a package of hot dogs. When those were done, I let everything cool and then bagged them up. Into the fridge they went for dinners this week.

Then, I prepped the veggies. I took half of a red onion and cut it into wedges. I trimmed the ends off four zucchini and, using the mandoline, cut them lengthwise into 1/8 thick strips. I tossed them with salt and olive oil and put them on the grille.

The zucchini strips were easy, but the onion kept separating and falling though the grate. After about 8-10 minutes, I decided they were perfect, so they came off as well. I left the grille to cool down overnight outside.

I used half the dough to make a square pizza. I topped that with one cup of tomato sauce, a little of the grated provolone cheese (I grated about two cups), the grilled zucchini and onions, about a cup of grape tomatoes, cut in half, and then the rest of the cheese. I slid the pizza from the cutting board to the pizza stone in the oven (preheated to 450 degrees F.) I baked it until the crust was browned (about 15-20 minutes). I got it out with some difficulty (I really need one of those pizza peels!) and let it cool five minutes. I sprinkled it with about 2 tablespoons of thinly sliced fresh basil, drizzled it with olive oil and dusted it with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Then, I ate it!!! Well, not all of it, about three big slices. It tasted good, probably good enough to make up for the floury mess I made of my kitchen, lol! But, next time (and there will be a next time) I'm gonna make the whole thing on the grille!

I did take a picture and will post it, although I wish now I'd taken it before I chowed down on it. It probably would have looked nicer.

I watched some TV, but was fast asleep by 10:00 PM.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Problems with Pizza Dough!

I woke up at 6:30 AM on Sunday. I straightened up a few things, stripped the bedding and popped it into the washer and then thought about breakfast. I fried the last two eggs and put mayonnaise on the last four slices of bread (I really need to get to the store!). When I flipped the eggs, I put a piece of American cheese on top each. I assembled everything and had my two fried egg sandwiches and coffee for breakfast.

I shaved and showered and then got dressed. I was off to Meijer's with a list of items I needed (time to restock, again). I was back home and unpacking groceries by 10:30 AM. I put some eggs on to hard boil and, while timing them, took the bedding out of the dryer and made up the bed.

Since I had the checkbook out to enter the amount I spent at Meijer's, I wrote out some bills to mail on Monday. By noon, I was busy cleaning the house (putting away the tools will just have to wait as I cannot abide the sawdust anymore!!!) I vacuumed both walk-off rugs and the entire downstairs and then the area rug in the living room. I emptied the collection receptacle and then took the filter (this is a bag-less vacuum cleaner, BTW) outside with the blower and blew it out repeatedly. By God, this house will be a sawdust-free home by tonight!!!

I put the vacuum cleaner away and got out my Hoover Flair (an electric sweeper) and went to work on the wood and kitchen floors. When I was finished, I repeated the "dump the big stuff, blow out the filter" trick.

I was watching a particularly beautiful blue jay out at my feeder when I noticed (again) that, while I never get any hummingbirds, wasps feed on the sugar water incessantly. So, maybe I should rename it the wasp feeder and all would be right in my world!

At 1:00 PM, I began to mop the kitchen floor. While it was drying, I mopped the wood floors with Endust. By 2:00 PM I was finished and the kitchen floor was dry. So, basically, the house is done (other than cleaning all the glass surfaces and putting away all those tools).

So, I went out back to attend to the rear garden. I have an unidentified bush that has grown over the height of the wall, so I cut it back. Then I cut down the one forsythia. I was going to do the other bush (who's name I forget right now), but saw it had buds on all its extended branches. So, I let it go.

I hooked up the square sprinkler and began to water the raised bed garden. I went back outside and turned off the hose at 3:30 PM. I disconnected the hose and attached it to the rear garden hose. I then watered the entire rear garden. When I was done, I dusted the roses and the raised bed garden plants with Ortho's Bug-G-Gone.

Next, I dragged the hose out front and watered all those gardens. Before I put the hose away, I did all the gardens around my patio, too. I carted the old door and frame out to the front of the driveway. Friday, I had called the Township and let them know I needed a "large item pickup" so they will get it Tuesday.

Inside, I started working on tonight's dinner. First I made my CaptainK Clam Chowder. While that was simmering, I tried making my Sicilian pizza dough. I only need 1/2 the dough for one pizza. Lu had told me she bakes both crusts and then freezes the one, so that's what I plan on doing. That is, if I can get the dough right. I'm not sure what the problem is (the recipe calls for "bread flour" and I only have all-purpose, so maybe that's it?) While it rose okay, after waiting an hour, it was just a bowl of wet goop, not dough.

That attempt went into the trash and I tried again, but increased the flour. After waiting another hour for it to rise, it was just a bowl of thicker goop! Is pizza dough goop before you roll it out? I dunno, but it was almost 8:00 PM, and I was now very frustrated, not to mention hungry! So, I gave up on pizza and had two bowls of excellent clam chowder, instead.

I left the mess on the counter for the morning, put the rest of the soup in the fridge and went in to watch my Sunday night shows. I turned the TV off after the news and went to sleep.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Door Day, Part III

Saturday morning, I woke up at 5:30 AM (I had a long night's sleep, for a change) and decided to get up. I have to get back into that "work" groove or Monday's gonna suck. Of course, going back to work on Mondays always sucks, come to think of it!

I put a pot of coffee on and, after doing some work on the computer, I went out on the porch and drank my first cup. There was no sign of an overnight rain, but the weatherman on TV said there was still a chance this morning, until noon. So, the first order of business was to water the container gardens. Next was to get everything on the patio that shouldn't get wet back inside. That accomplished, I gratefully hauled the kitty litter box from the office back down to its spot next to the washer.

I noticed this morning that the door handles are upside-down, but according to the instruction pamphlet, this is an easy fix. But, it can wait as I wanted breakfast! So, I emptied the dishwasher and then got scrubbing on the drip pans from the stove that I had been soaking overnight.

Once I had the stove back together, I made myself three soft-boiled eggs, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Time to get er done, so back to work! I cut and installed the now-primed filler strips. Then I cut and installed the new molding. I finished up the work by 11:00 AM and then shaved and showered. I left on my weekend errand run just after 12:30. The places I went to were:

- CVS to pick up the prescriptions I forgot to get yesterday
- Brighthouse to exchange the cable remote (it quit working a couple of days ago, and yes, I did change the batteries, lol).
- The Feed Store for birdseed and suet
- Westborn Market for veggies and cheese
- The Wine Palace for some vermouth (for soup I want to make)

I gave up on going to Meijer's today (for the bulk of grocery shopping). Why? I was beat, it was too hot outside and I had expensive cheese from Westborn in the car.

Back home and after unpacking, I filled the suet cage and the bird feeder. Then I went into the garage and dug out some of those heavy-duty paper leaf bags. Now, you and I know I don't bag my leaves, but they are perfect for putting refuse (like from the back door project) into and then putting the paper bag into a garbage bag. That way the wood scraps, screws, nails, etc, don't punch holes in the plastic garbage bags and the garbage man takes them away without a fuss. So, I cleaned up all the sawdust and debris in the garage which filled a garbage bag full.

I have been troubled by the now-dead vegetation in the driveway. Back in the day on Palms Road, my neighbor, Mr. Dupee, showed me a trick to fix up the crushed limestone (that both he and I had) in the driveway every spring. It involved a six foot wide and about eight foot long piece of chain link fencing. I bolted one end to a 2 x 4 and at the other end I attached some cement blocks. Then I chained it to the old Minneapolis-Moline tractor and dragged it back and forth, up and down the driveway. The vibrating fencing would knock down any high spots and drag them along until the low spots, where they would drop off the gravel.

Now, I don't have a tractor, or a huge section of chain link fencing. But, I do have a garden tractor and about a four-foot wide, three-foot long piece of fencing. So, I got it all set up, with a rope through a metal piece and, instead of the cement blocks, a solid steel bar to give it some weight (see photos). I hooked it up and drove slowly up and down my driveway (until the rope broke). While it did level out the driveway, it had little effect on the now-dead vegetation. So, I was bummed, but, I think I have one trick left up my sleeve: FIRE!!!

Back in the day on the River Road in St. Clair, the upstairs porch (or deck), accessible from the master bedroom started leaking (don't bother to drive by and try and see it, the new owners changed it all around - damn fools). So, Jake and I decided to fix it. We got some thick, rubber-roofing stuff that you had to melt as you were applying it. In order to do that, you needed this torch (aka a flame-thrower) thingie that you attached to a propane tank. It was a pain, but did work to seal the roof.

Now, I still have that, but no propane tank. So, I'm thinking, I could buy a propane tank, hook it up and just toast the dead grass and weeds. Then, I'd blow away the ashes... We'll see...

I used another leaf bag to get everything in the back room and on the patio cleaned up. When I was in the garage, I checked in my root cellar. The heat had turned about 10 pounds of russet potatoes into a soft, sprouting mass. So, those got pitched. There was one lone butternut squash still surviving. So I cut it in half, took out the seeds, added a good-sized pat of butter, some salt and pepper and fresh parsley, oregano and rosemary sprigs into the cavity. I baked that in the toaster oven, set at 375 degrees F., set for an hour, to use another time.

Meanwhile, I sliced up the three yellow summer squash I had just bought and started to fry them in olive oil and butter. I dug out and checked the "use by" date of all the yeast packets I had and they were all "use by 2007." So, they went in the trash and tonight's Sicilian pizza is not going to happen. But the squash, topped with some salt, made a nice late lunch.

I went back out to the garage to clean off my work bench. I have got a ton of tools out and I might as well put them back where they belong. Then I started to put the tools back. I got the air compressor, hose and the nail guns out, along with the Dremel tool. Then I looked at the clock. It was after 6:30 PM and I am tired. I figured the rest of the tool relocation could probably wait until tomorrow, or even next week, so I quit.

I finally got the new remote to work (not easy) and watched a couple of taped cooking shows. Then I turned on the taped Friday Night Fights. About 9:00 PM, I started getting hungry, so I warmed up the last of the spaghetti and meatballs, topped it with Parmigiano-Reggiano and some salt and ate it with great gusto! It tasted even better the third day.

I'm not sure when the fights got over (10:30 or so) but I shut everything off and went to sleep. Well, for a little while, anyway. I was wide awake again at 1:00 AM, so I posted the pictures of the back door project, caught the blog entry up to date (I'll post it in the morning), opened up the bedroom and kitchen windows (its down to 63 degrees F.) and then eventually fell back asleep...

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Rig to straighten out driveway

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Old wood door

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Old storm door

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Trim, before

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Reminder to myself not to let the cats out

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Tools EVERYWHERE!!

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Cracks foamed

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Mess on the patio

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New door in

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Spacers installed

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Trim installed

Saturday, July 26, 2008

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Driveway, before herbicide

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Driveway, After

Workin' Man Blues... Door Day, Part II

I was really bushed I guess, because I didn't wake up on Friday until after 7:30 AM. It took a while to get out of bed, so I took a quick inventory: Both knees were shot this morning, my back ached like hell and I had numerous cuts and a real nice bruise. But, on the bright side, the damn door is in!

I just need to finish shimming and attaching the sides, caulk the bottom of the sill, attach the aluminum siding to it outside, buy and install new molding inside (after filling the cavity around the frame with foam for insulation) and install the door handle and deadbolt. Then I can order a new storm door; install it and this project is done!

Sigh...

First, though, I had a cup of coffee, finished yesterday's blog entry and posted it. The wind was still calm, so I went out and applied the herbicide to the rest of the driveway. I needed supplies before I could finish the door installation. So, after shaving and showering, I headed over to Lowe's. I picked up some screws, some paint, silicone sealant, wood, pre-finished trim (to replace the trim I destroyed yesterday) and ordered a new storm doom. I got home just before 1:00 PM.

First, I cut down the 1 x 2 inch boards I need as spacers under the trim (door is inset from the drywall) .I took those and the sawhorses out back and painted the spacers with primer. Next, I finished shimming and attaching the frame to the house. This was a bit of a bugger but I finally got it right. Then I took the spray foam and filled all the cracks (to better insulate it).

Finally, before I went any farther, I wanted to install the deadbolt and locking door handle (to ease the security concerns). It seemed to be going well, until I tried to use the deadbolt and the door handle. It was then I found out the holes on the frame were about 1/2 inch higher that the door. Damn! I thought that was the whole point of buying a pre-hung door?

So, I did some exact measuring and then got out my Dremel tool. I took Carla's advice from yesterday and found my safety glasses (don't want to end the night in the Emergency room, with metal chips in my eyes). First I used a metal cutting tool, but that was way too slow. So, I switched to a grinding stone. I had to keep pouring water in the holes as the metal heated up and the wood started smoldering. The door knob jam finally worked okay, but the dead bolt was so low that I ended up hitting (then destroying) the bottom screw. So, I had to relocate that into a corner position. In the end, they looked ugly as hell, but they both worked and all security concerns have been abated.

I wanted to apply silicone caulk to the inside and outside of the new sill (it's supposed to rain tonight) but, with all the water I was using, I think its way too wet. So, I took the old screen door and the frame and, after determining the wind direction and possible overspray problems, I gave them all a first coat to turn them from white to almond.

It was after 5:30 PM when I finished spraying the door. So, I came inside to install the now-dried trim spacers. But, I realized, my legs are killing me, I have not eaten anything all day, and I am really tired. I can lock the back door now to keep the bad guys out; I still have two more days left, so why am I knocking myself out over this?

So, I quit. I put the leftover spaghetti and meatballs in the microwave and heated it up. I fixed a plate and went in to watch some TV. I did go out and apply the caulk to the sill around 7:30, still worried about rain. I took a couple of phone calls and then decided to record the fights tonight and just go to bed. So, I did.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Door Day, Part I

I woke up on Thursday at 6:00 AM but got up at 7:00 (that book was just too darn handy!) I had two cups of coffee for breakfast and putzed around a bit, straightening up. Finally I decided I had run out of excuses and it was time to replace the old wood back door. The new steel door has sat in the garage for at least 6 months. Why? Because I was always afraid I will get the project halfway done and then get stuck on something, so I'd have to go to work with the house unlocked. But, I have four days to accomplish this mission, and if that isn't enough time, I should be ashamed of myself!

But, wait! I found another excuse!! The breeze is light so it would be a perfect time to apply the herbicide to the driveway. So, I mixed up the stuff in the sprayer and head out to tackle that job, first. Alas, the wind picked up before I was halfway done, so I reluctantly stop (don't want to trash the real lawn) and go back to the accursed back door project at about 9:30 AM.

So, by 11:30 AM, I had the storm door and frame removed, the siding loose from the old door jam, the inside molding removed from around the door and me, I was covered with dirt, sweat and wood chips. I decided now would be a great time to shave and shower and go to the drug store to order refills on two prescriptions. So, I did.

Back home and back at it, I took off the molding on the outside of the door frame and cut it down to match the frame. (Pre-hung exterior doors are supposed to go into place from the outside, so they have a real nice molding on them. But this door has to go in from the inside, so the nice molding is only in the way. I used the table saw to cut it down, then glued it and used the nail gun to put it back on.

I was pretty sure at that point that it's gonna take two people to put this bad boy in place, so I called up Jake and asked about his availability over the weekend. He said they'd be over tonight! So, now I had a deadline!!

I decided I couldn't ask them to come over after work and not feed them. So, I made some meatballs and stuck a piece of provolone cheese in the middle of each one. I browned them on all sides, added them to a pot with store-bought pasta sauce, then turned the pot to simmer.

I got out the Sawzall and, after removing the pins from the hinges and the door from the frame, I cut out the frame. I was accumulating quite a bit of debris on the patio at that point!

It was about 3:30 PM, the door opening was ready, the door was ready and the meatballs and sauce were getting happy, so I decided I would cut the grass and stop when they got here. So, I did, but luckily, I got done before they got here.

Then, they got here. Jake double checked and verified my assumption that I needed to take the top board in the opening off (this door has a metal sill and the old one did not). So, I did and then we tried to put the door in. No way! So, I got my trusty Sawzall and cut away more of the header. This, of course, COVERED me in sawdust. But, we got the door in, leveled and at attached at the top.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Carla had boiled some spaghetti, drained it and added the sauce. So, we ate. The meatballs tasted great, BTW, but it was funny. The cheese had melted (probably since I had left them simmering for 3-4 hours) so each meatball had a little empty hole in the middle.

After eating, they headed home (thanks again, guys!) and I headed for the shower. Once the sawdust was washed off and I was clean, I was reluctant to do any more work. So, I didn't. Instead I watched the latest Rambo movie (I thought it might be a joke, but it was a pretty good action film).

When it was done, I turned off everything and gratefully went to sleep...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wednesday at the Lake

I woke up at 6:15 AM, but didn't get out of bed until after 7:00. Why? Because I have the next three days off work for a mini-vacation! Unfortunately, it will be what they now call on the news a "staycation" where, because of fuel costs, you take off work but don't actually go anywhere, just stay home. But, think of all the projects I might get done!!!

But, as you might have guessed, today I am going somewhere: Lake Orion! My oldest daughter, Amy, her husband, Carl IV and my grandson, Carl V are supposed to be stopping there on their long ride back to Minnesota (they attended a wedding in Canada, you see). They are stopping in to see Grandma, so I took the day off to see them.

So, I made a pot of coffee and this time, it's cool enough to sit on the front porch and drink it. Nice. Next, its cinnamon toast and another cup of coffee for breakfast. Then, I shaved, showered and got dressed for the trip. But, before I can leave, I had to water the container gardens (the ones in the chairs are especially droopy).

I packed two jugs of gazpacho and some extra virgin oil in the cooler. I threw a bag of store-bought croutons in the car and headed out at 10:30 AM. First stop was the gas station for some ice. Then I stopped at Westborn Market and bought a nice seedless watermelon and some green grapes. These, too went into the cooler and I pointed the car North towards Lake Orion...

My plan was to get there early, so Mom can have the gazpacho for lunch. Probably nobody else will be there yet, but at least I can get her reaction to the soup firsthand.

Imagine my surprise when I pulled up around 11:30 and there was no place to park! I lugged the considerably heavier cooler (that watermelon must weight a ton!) up the back stairs and put it (as directed) in the back bedroom along with a bunch of other coolers.

So, obviously my Mom and Cora were there. I will try and name everybody else who was there at that point (If I have forgotten anybody, I apologize, but it was a bit overwhelming): my brother Joe and Kathy and their grandkids (Devon, Tahlia and Cloe); my niece Laura and her son Austin; Amy, Carl IV, Carl V and Gizmo, their dog; and Amy's mother Fran and her granddaughter (whose name I was told, but now cannot remember).

Then, during the time I was there, we were also joined by Laura's husband Dave, my nephews Russell and his two kids and John and Brenda and their three kids. Last to arrive (after 3:00 PM) was Uncle Carl, who came from work.

After saying hello to everyone, and chatting with my Mom a bit, I sat with Carl V and he took the time to show me the pictures of the wedding they had just come from. It was a small, simple, but elegant backyard wedding (the best kind, I sometimes think).

Regarding the gazpacho, my Mom, Cora, Laura and my brother Joe all tried it and said they liked it. My brother Carl, however, felt there was too much garlic in it (Geesh! He's so picky, but since he was once a renowned restaurant chef, I did have to take his opinion under consideration!)

It was cool earlier and windy. But it did warm up and most, if not all of the kids eventually went swimming. Once again I was amazed at Carl V's prowess with a fishing line. He caught a bunch of them and not small ones, either!

Conversations in the cottage (and outside on the picnic table, for that matter) covered damn near everything you could think of. Here's some of the highlights:
- Chrysler no longer pays for life insurance for its retirees
- GM is eliminating paying for healthcare for its retirees once they are 65
- A_____ J_____ spent the first 14 hours of her life farting
- Mom's phone may or may not be working
- Mom's hot water heater definitely wasn't working, so Carl came and fixed it yesterday, but he forgot to hit a reset switch; Joe found and tripped the reset switch, but something later caused the safety valve to blow and it sprayed hot water all over the basement. So, we all agreed it may (or may not) be finally working now (at least I had hot water when I did the dishes)
- Fran and Jim's house is only 14 years old but already needs a new roof.
- I was technically correct that, biologically speaking, Carl is the first brother to attain the great-grandfather title, but in the more liberal, extended-family theory, I would be because my daughter Melissa's step-son Dustin had Gavin, first.
- On the other hand, I'll check and see if Gavin did anything like that, but I am guessing A_____'s got him beat with the record for sustained farting!
- Cloe (who's name, BTW, didn't even come up in conjunction with farting) is one of the few babies I can recall who absolutely did NOT want her great Uncle John to hold her. Kid screamed her head off, two times!

So, you get the idea... I packed up and left at about 4:15 PM or so (a little while after Amy and her Carl's left); which, when I got to Lapeer Road, I immediately regretted. The road was a parking lot in both directions!

I should have done one of two things. Either gone back to the cottage and stayed there another two hours or tried taking the back roads I used to know when I worked out here to get to I-75. I did neither... For some reason, I decided to try and take Orion Road to 26 Mile in Rochester, then 26 Mile to the Van Dyke Expressway and Van Dyke to I-696 and homeward bound.

That sorta worked... The southbound traffic on the Van Dyke expressway was heavier than I thought it would be and, it doesn't stay an expressway all the way to I-696. Uh, oh... Then it hit me! I was only four or five miles from my friend B___'s house. And, you know what they say, "Use your friends wisely!"

So, I got off onto M-59 and headed east in unbelievable traffic (I'm not exaggerating here)! And, ever since since I had gotten onto 26 Mile Road, NOTHING looked anything like I remember (restaurants, strip malls, and huge subdivisions everywhere that I only recall farms being). Weird!

But I got there just as he was finishing grilling dinner. "Would I like to stay?" "I don't want to impose (oh, wait a minute, I just did!)" So, I sat down with his family and had a salad (a wedge of iceberg lettuce, and a side of chickpeas, parsley, onions and grape tomatoes - he called it a Mediterranean medley - topped with Blue cheese dressing), a pulled pork sandwich, some barbequed ribs and potato salad! I ate until my shirt buttons almost busted!

Oh, Mom: I did ask him about that saying for bare root roses and here it is: "First year they sleep, second year they creep and third year they leap!"

It was just after 7:00 PM, so I made my goodbyes and headed out (Hey, I did rinse off my plate. I'm not a barbarian!) Going west on I-696, I saw fire trucks and police cars on the east-bound side and then about a five-mile backup of parked cars. Geesh, I was sooo glad I am heading west!

I got home just after 8:00 PM, changed clothes, made a drink and started writing all this down before I forgot it. I also answered a few emails and was surprised to see it was almost 11:00 PM! I went into the bedroom to watch TV, but decided I was too tuckered out to even do that and went straightaway to sleep.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday, in the soup again!

I got up with the alarm clock but, since its garbage day, I completely forgot about making the cinnamon toast! Damn!

On the way home, I stopped at Westborn to get the fresh veggies I need to make the second batch of gazpacho. BTW, I completely forgot when I was eating it, (and writing about it) but normally, you are supposed to drizzled extra virgin olive oil on top each bowl and top it with croutons. They also sometimes top it with fresh chopped tomatoes, diced cucumbers, and/or red peppers, chopped black olives and/or chopped hard boiled eggs. NONE of which I am bringing out to Lake Orion tomorrow; just some croutons and olive oil. And, I would normally make my own croutons, with a baguette, some olive oil and some garlic cloves, but there's a problem. If you recall, the oven at Lake Orion has never functioned. So, I got some store-bought (sigh).

I had every intention of applying the herbicide to the driveway tonight, but the wind is blowing WAY too strong. So, instead, I folded some clothes I had left in the dryer and emptied the dish washer. Then I got to making the next batch of gazpacho. Mostly it's standing up and chopping veggies. I made it more interesting by trying to see just how uniform I can come to cutting everything to an exact 1/4 inch cube. Knife skills, baby, knife skills!

So, at just a tad after 8:00 PM, the next batch is chilling in the fridge and I am done. I warm up some chicken noodle soup for my dinner and eat it at the table perusing the circulars for stores in the area I got in the mail today. Then I wander in to watch TV and chill, myself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Monday, damp from overspray

So, it's back to work on Monday. I do have a unique treat this morning, though. Since the cinnamon raisin bread was fresh-baked with no preservatives, it will not last for long. So, I cut off two thick slices and made some buttered toast for breakfast.

After work, I got home, did the usual and, after changing clothes, had a drink and tried to decide what to do. It thundered, with lightning and rain here around 3:30 PM, and its still overcast, so I do not trust the herbicide will have enough time to kill the vegetation in my driveway before a stray shower might return, should I choose to spray it now.

I finally decide to go with using the next two bottles of the Windex cleaner and washing down the rest of the house (if it stays dry that long). And, so, at 6:15 PM, I go out to do just that!

I go with my idea of rinse first, then wash, then rinse again. It's difficult around the hanging plants, etc. Since I am getting the indoor/outdoor carpeting on the front porch wet anyway, I also hose off the wicker furniture and the rocker. I finish at 8:15 PM and, again, have two empty bottles. Well, at least I know now it takes four bottles to do the whole house.

It does look WAY better, though. There are only two spots I should do by hand, one in the back by the patio and one in the front, behind a bush.

Inside, I switch my damp shorts and t-shirt for some dry ones, and then warm up two ears of corn and two hot dogs for my dinner. I eat watching TV and keep watching until about 10:30 PM, when I turn everything off and go to bed.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Shout Out to RPG!

Did the email go through?

Update on Aurora

Aurora Jubilee Smith was born at 8:45 AM on Saturday, July 19. She weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces and was 20 3/4 inches long.

Welcome to the family!

Sunday, nice and easy...

I got up at 8:30 after a long, frequently interrupted night. It's raining outside and gloomy. I warm up a cup of coffee while I strip the bed. The bedding goes into the washer and I go into the bathroom to shave and shower.

Next, something a little different: breakfast! I was a little dismayed to learn that the cinnamon raisin bread I bought yesterday was probably NOT the same one that Jake and Carla got. But, be that as it may, I am trying the French toast they raved about. So, I mix up some eggs and milk and cut three thick slices from the loaf. I let each slice soak up some of the egg mixture on both sides and then slide it onto the electric griddle.

I topped each piece of bread with a pat of butter and some real maple syrup I warmed in the microwave. Yum-o! It might not have been the correct bread, but it's damn good! Thanks for the idea, guys!

Now, I get my second cup of coffee and wander out to the front porch rocker. The rain has stopped and I rock and drink and watch the world go by for a while. Reluctantly, I go back inside and clean up the breakfast mess. Then I get out the watering can and give the hanging baskets and the urn a drink. I deadhead the wave petunias while I am at it and realize, now that they are bigger, this is starting to be quite the chore.

I reluctantly roll the wet grille into the garage (I really don't want it to rust!) If it gets sunny later today, I'll put it back outside to dry. I pop the bedding into the dryer.

I am deep-cleaning the main bathroom when, at 11:45 AM, I notice that the sun is out. So, I roll the grille back outside and get back to work. By 1:00 PM, the bathroom is done, all the floors are swept and the wood floors have been dust mopped, using Endust. Oh yeah, and the bed has been made in case I get a chance for a nap and the now dry grille is back in the garage. Now, its time to start dinner.

Dinner, you ask? Yes, this is a recipe test of gazpacho (a cold Spanish soup). If it tastes okay, I'll make it again and take it out to Lake Orion on Wednesday. The thing about gazpacho is it must be chilled for a minimum of 4 hours (or up to two days) before you eat it. So, I must make it now for dinner later.

So, the recipe called for three beefsteak tomatoes. But, when I went to Westborn Market, their beefsteaks were all "greenhouse" looking, so I bought seven vine-ripe smaller tomatoes. Those I cored and quartered then dug out the seeds with a teaspoon. Then I cut them into 1/4 inch strips and then cut those into 1/4 cubes.

I don't own a big (at least 4 quart) non-reactive bowl (glass or plastic) so when I was out Saturday, running errands, I stopped at the dollar store and bought a round plastic dish pan. Once I had about four cups of diced tomatoes, in they went! Next I added two medium-sized red bell peppers, also cut into 1/4 inch cubes. Here I learned a new trick: You cut about 1/2 inch off the top and bottom of the pepper and slice down one side. You pull out the seeds and flatten it out, then cut off the white ribs inside the pepper. You cut the flattened strip of pepper into 1/4 inch julienne slices, turn them and cut them into 1/4 inch cubes. They went into the bowl as well.

Next came two cucumbers, one peeled and one not. Once cut in half, I dug out the seeds with a spoon, as well. Those, too, were cut into 1/4 inch cubes and put in the pan. Somewhere in here, my daughter Melissa (or M______ as she likes to be called) called. I explained I was in the middle of making soup and would call her back in 30 minutes or so.

Next I diced up 1/2 of a Vidalia onion and minced two cloves of garlic and added them to the bowl. To the veggies I added two teaspoons of table salt and some fresh ground pepper. Then I added 1/3 cup of sherry vinegar, stirred it and let it all sit until the vegetables released their juices (about 5 minutes). I called Melissa back and while we were talking, I finished the soup by adding five cups of tomato juice, one teaspoon of hot pepper sauce and eight ice cubes. I stirred it all together, covered it tightly with Saran Wrap and stuck it in the fridge.

I talked with Melissa for about three hours (well, her phone kept cutting out and I kept calling her back). She and Dave have bought a house in North Carolina and she was supposed to be painting a room. Dave and his son Dustin were out of town, watching a baseball game and due to be home today around 5:00 PM. So, she was making barbequed ribs in her slow cooker. Everything seems to be going well with them and she is adjusting to the slower pace of life down south along with the bugs and geckos (she is not anxious to become acquainted with the local snakes, however).

About 7:30, I decided it was time to try the gazpacho. Very, very good! A definite "summer" taste. I will make this again on Tuesday to take out to Lake Orion!

My brother Carl called me to tell me his granddaughter, Amanda, just had her baby. So, he is a great-grandfather (the first in our family) which, come to think of it, makes my Mom a Great, great grandmother for the first time! He promised to send pictures of Aurora Jubilee when he gets them.

I watched my usual Sunday shows and then the news, so I didn't get to bed until 11:30 PM.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Saturday

I got up at 7:00 AM, put on a pot of coffee and, after verifying it was dripping into the pot (if you forget that once, you will never forget to check it again, trust me) and go take a shower.

I grab a cup of coffee and check the temperature before heading to the front porch. Whoa! It's not even 8:30 yet and it's already 75 degrees F. I think I'll drink my coffee inside, today.

So, I checked and found a voicemail from Lu last night. I refuse to have call waiting, so if I am on the phone (as I was when she called) when you call, you go directly to voicemail and it does not show up on my caller id. As a result, I check occasionally by picking up the phone and listening for the stutter-dial tone. I called her back (but it was like 8:00 AM) so I just got her voicemail. She called back though, and we got each other caught up on what's going on in both Michigan and Virginia.

Then I got dressed and headed out in the almost insufferable heat and humidity for my weekend errands. First stop was the bank for some cash. My branch is located in the area of the new Wonderland Mall and this weekend is the Mall's official grand opening (although some of the stores have been opened for months now). So, while waiting in line for the ATM, I was accosted by a rather young, rather cute girl, who handed me a flyer and began to explain how, if I stopped by the white tent and registered, I would get a card, then after I visited all the stores and restaurants (each punching the card) I could go back to the white tent and be entered in a drawing for a $500 gift card from either Walmart or Target!

I told her that, frankly, I didn't give a crap. She said (also quite frankly), "How do you think I feel? I'm a teller and, instead of working inside today in the air conditioning, I have to stay out here in this heat all day, passing out these stupid flyers!" I told her that, while I could commiserate, she probably should work on her customer responses...

Next, I went to that Farmer's Market that Jake and Carla told me about. There were only five or six stalls selling veggies (as I said, it's pretty early for Michigan vegetables) and another five or six selling the usual homemade trinkets and trash. I did get the homemade cinnamon and raisin bread Jake recommended (he says it makes outstanding French toast), some fresh picked sweet corn and some cucumbers. However, today, there was no green beans (purple or otherwise), and no red peppers or tomatoes (they all said it was too early for those).

So, I went to Kroger's for some hot dogs and buns and some mayonnaise. Then I went to Westborn Market for the red peppers and tomatoes, and a red onion. I stopped at the hardware store for some Krylon Fusion paint (brown) I want for the while plastic flagpole base, but they didn't have it (Lowe's didn't have it either when I checked earlier this week!) I stopped at a Hallmark store for a birthday card for my sister-in-law, Coletta. Then I headed home.

I got everything put away, changed clothes and went out back to weedwack around the patio. It started sprinkling, so I kicked it in gear and got done, then grabbed the blower and cleaned off the patio and the surrounding area. I got back inside and put everything away and at 1:15 PM, it is definitely raining. That kinda puts a hold on all the other outdoor projects my "Project Manager" persona expected to get done this weekend. Maybe it will let up, later. And, now I start to worry about my young, cute teller, working the crowd in the rain...

So, I decide I'll watch a movie. It takes a while as, if you remember, I recently had to switch out my cable's DVD-R box, and I have to try and reconnect cables that Jake originally hooked up for me. But, I eventually got it to work. I made two cucumber sandwiches from my fresh produce (my favorite sandwich as a kid - just sliced cucumbers, mayonnaise, a lot of salt and bread) and I start watching "Master and Commander."

About 3:30 PM, it had stopped raining and I decide to take a break. I stopped the DVD and went outside to take some photos for the Blog. I came back in and downloaded them, posted the good ones and went back to the movie. When it was finished, I went out to start dinner.

I decided earlier that tonight would be picnic food. So, I got the rest of the baby redskin potatoes and quartered them. It's too hot to run the oven today, so I didn't roast them this time, just boiled them. I cleaned the excess corn silk and stalks off the corn and put them in a stock pot, covered with water.

When the potatoes were done, I drained them, shocked them and put them in the fridge to cool. While I was waiting for that, I diced up some red onion and celery and rough chopped two hardboiled eggs. Then I made the dressing (hey, Project Manager, this is me, multitasking!)

Next, I got the charcoal lit in the grill. While I was waiting for that to get right, I mixed up the potato salad and put the bowl back in the fridge. I put the corn on to roast and sat in the porch rocker, in between turning the corn. When it was done, I pulled it off to the side and grilled the hot dogs. While they were cooking, I shucked the corn (too messy inside). Finally, it all came together and I had two hot dogs, two ears of corn and some potato salad for my picnic dinner. It was excellent, in case you were wondering!

By now it's almost 7:00 PM and a little late for starting any new projects, so I cleaned up the kitchen and went back to watch some TV. I fell asleep around 10:00 but woke up at 2:30 AM. I shut everything off and tried to fall back asleep, but that didn't work right away. It was after 4:30 AM when I finally fell back asleep.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

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Tiger lilies, starting to bloom

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Tree garden, the other side of the bush

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Day Lily in tree garden

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Honeysuckle vine on North fence at rear of yard

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"Virginia creeper" or trumpet vine on back wall

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Italian (plum) tomatoes in raised bed garden

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Heirloom tomatoes in raised bed garden

T.G.I.F. (Really!)

This was the longest and most unpleasant day at work I can ever remember. I was never so happy as to be heading home and listening to "Bang on the Drum!" My only goal for this weekend is to put this week (hell, the past three weeks, actually) behind me and move on...

So, I got home and did the usual (give cats a treat, check mail, change clothes, check the phones for messages and check my two email accounts). It's hot and humid again today (and, I am frankly getting sick of it! I am too old and fat to appreciate this kind of weather!)

It's almost 6:00 PM and I have to decide on what I am doing tonight. My "Project Manager" persona is telling me I could weedwack around the patio, blow it all off, perhaps take down the fountain until I get the right-sized tub for it and/or use the Windex stuff to wash down the two sides of the house I have left undone, spray the herbicide in the driveway and go around the house with insecticide spray (I've been getting big black ants in the house, recently). My "back-in-the-day hippy" persona is telling me, "Man (he always calls me "Man," that's what we used to do, you see) you been doing some hard travelin' (he also quotes old Woody Guthrie tunes a lot, BTW). Why don't you take the night off, kick back and relax a little before the Friday Night Fights? Chill, baby!"

Sounds simple, right? I do have a lot of sh*t to do, so I should. On the other hand, I really, REALLY could use a break! So, I fix myself a second drink in Happy Hour (it's an Alberta, Canada, thing I learned from Cathy's newspaper mogul Dad that I thought was highly civilized and still practice religiously) and think about it...

I decide to take the night off! My "back-in-the-day hippy" persona first gives me a high-five and then an Obama knuckle-bump (hey, he's old, but he still keeps up his street moves). My "Project Manager" persona walks away, muttering about lost productivity, timelines being blown and management's reaction at the next board meeting...

I want to keep dinner simple so, since I already have some leaf lettuce, I go out and harvest the rest of the remaining spinach. I combine the two and some Vidalia onion thin slices. I make a quick vinaigrette of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a little lemon juice, and dress the salad. Then I heat up a Marie Callender's Beef Pot Pie in the microwave and that's the main course! I do make better pot pies (still following Lu's recipe) myself, but these are the absolute best, store-bought big pies you can find.

I ate dinner at the table, reading. I put the dishes in the sink (there's always tomorrow morning to clean up, right?) and wander into the living room, still reading.

Then, at 9:00 PM, I go and watch the Friday Night Fights. I do doze a little, but am awake for the main event. Unfortunately, it wasn't that good! When it was done, so was I, so I went to sleep.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Thursday

It was even hotter and more humid today than yesterday. It reminded me of when I was a kid back on the farm on 24 Mile Road. On hot days like this, the cows would only give evaporated milk and we used to have to feed the chickens crushed ice so they wouldn't lay hard boiled eggs!

At lunchtime, I picked up two more bottles of the Windex Outdoor Window and Surface cleaner. I also got a new halogen bulb for the desk lamp in the office. I doubt I will have the time to wash the house tonight as, it's Thursday, and that means only one thing: cutting the lawn!!!

Once inside, I went through my arriving home process and, after changing clothes, headed out to cut the grass (92 degrees F. and the humidity makes the sweat break out when you just step outside). But, I add the gas and check the oil and then begin.

I finished up without incident just before 8:00 PM. I want, no, I need something besides tuna salad for dinner. So, I sliced some Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage thin and on the bias. I fried that along with a sliced yellow onion in just a little vegetable oil. For the side I made a box of Mac and cheese.

I watched two taped shows, then gave it up and went to bed just after 10:00 PM.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wet Wednesday

I came home Wednesday at lunchtime and warmed up a bowl of chicken noodle soup. The rest I put in three containers, marked them and put them in the freezer. As I stated in my last post, the noodles were phenomenal and the taste was pretty good. I cleaned up my mess and headed back to work.

I got home at 5:15 PM, went through all the usual commotion and the mail, then changed clothes and prepared to go outside. It's hot (88 degrees F. as we speak, or rather, as I write at 5:30 PM) and humid today. But I noticed this morning that the flowers in the front garden (the only one not mulched) are drooping badly. So, I need to water them. There is only a 30% chance of rain tonight and then nothing until the weekend.

Since I have to drag the hose out anyway, I think it's time I used the two bottles of Windex Outdoor Window and Surface cleaner I bought a while ago. I used this with great effect back up in St. Clair. You screw the bottle onto the end of the house and wash down the outside of your house with it. It has setting for "Wash" (when you are using the concentrate) and "Rinse" (when you are not, just rinsing) and shoots a remarkable high-pressure stream of water. I needed it back then as there were windows I just could not reach from the ground with the ladder that I owned, and it did a great job; Not only on the windows, but on the siding as well. So, I thought I'd try it on my poor, dusty (from all the construction), and dirty abode.

So, I went outside and start washing down the siding and windows. Now, either I don't remember how many bottles it took to do the house in St. Clair (two stories and at least double the size of this place) or I am doing it wrong. I thought about this afterward. Maybe I should have rinsed first (got everything softened up), then washed, and rinsed again. Instead I washed, then rinsed. So, by the time I got the back and north side finished, so were my two bottles of stuff!

So, the front and the south side will have to wait, I guess. Next, I hook up the wand (the one that dumps a LOT of water) and head out front. I get all the container gardens and all the other gardens done, (drenched and pooling water) and make sure to also do the lilac and the forsythia. I dragged the hose back in the back and do all the patio gardens as well.

I chatted for a while over the fence with the neighbor lady and got caught up on all the local gossip. Then I checked on the raised bed garden. Hmmm... the heat has not been kind to it. The radishes are all leggy, but with no round bulbs you could eat. The peas are huge, but with no pods and the spinach are starting to bolt. So, I pull the radishes, peas and most of the spinach and deposit the refuse in the compost heap. I knew that, as cool-weather crops, they were all planted a bit late, BTW.

I did harvest a handful of leaf lettuce for tonight's dinner, though. Then I hooked up the square sprinkler and turned the water on for 30 minutes. (I went back in the house and set the oven timer). I washed off the lettuce and set it in the drying rack, wishing once more that I owned a salad spinner.

When the timer went off, I went back outside and coiled up the hose. Since they were all damp, anyway, I took the opportunity to treat all the veggies with insect dust (not having a big enough garden this year to go with the "I'll let the bugs have some of the harvest and pick the rest myself" organic gardening theory. I went back inside and it was almost 8:45 PM.

My plan for dinner was to wrap the tuna salad in individual lettuce leaves. But, this leaf lettuce is not wide enough (tastes great, though!) This would have worked with, say, Romaine lettuce. So, instead, I lined the bottom of a bowl with lettuce and put the tuna salad on top (I just wanted to give it a little change in texture and taste - tuna salad gets boring, quickly).

I checked the TV, but nothing caught my eye. So I started reading and was asleep by 10:00 PM. At 11:30, a loud noise woke me and I realized it was thunder. I looked outside and in the flashes of lightning; I saw that it was raining hard.

This morning, I checked the rain gauge and we got just over 1/2 inch of rain...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

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Egg noodles #1

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Egg noodles #2

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Egg noodles #3

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Egg noodles #4

Using my noodle

I woke up to the alarm, shut it off and stretched, luxuriously... Then it hit me! It's Tuesday (hence, garbage day) and I didn't clean out the cat litter box last night! So, I jumped out of bed, dumped the old litter into a paper bag (after putting it inside a garbage bag), added a little baking soda to the tub and refilled it with fresh kitty litter.

I threw on my shorts and t-shirt, grabbed the kitchen trash and the kitty litter bag and headed out to the road. So, I had three garbage bags and the two old mini-blinds and their new replacement boxes by the side of the road before 6:00 AM (long time readers may remember my past problems getting the trash out a bit too late! It's supposed to be before 7:00 AM, but these guys like to get an early start every now and then.)

I stopped at Meijer's on the way home to pick up some more Glad screw top, four cup containers (so I can freeze the soup). When I got home, I went through the usual rituals and then started on my egg noodles. I had found hundreds of supposedly tried and true egg noodle recipes on the web, including one I almost used, but it called for four eggs yolks and that seemed a little excessive for just some chicken noodle soup!

So, I went with the simplest: 2 1/2 cups of flour, mixed with a pinch of salt. To that, I added two whole eggs, whisked, 1/2 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of butter (after mixing it together). I kneaded the dough for five minutes and left it sit in the bowl, covered with a towel for 10 minutes. Then, I put the bowl in the sink to soak, my big wood cutting board on the counter (over two kitchen towels for stability), floured it, got my rolling pin (flouring that) and rolled the dough out to somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.

I let that dry out for 20 minutes. Then I went and, using the Shun Chef's knife, cut it into three inch long strips, maybe 3/8 inches wide, but varied, ya know? I want rustic!!! I put the strips on four kitchen cotton towels to dry out (until no longer moist and sticky) See photos for this process. It's almost 7:00 PM, in case you are curious.

The cats seemed a little "too" interested in the noodles, so I went out back and brought in some catnip. I was disappointed, because Scruffy had always mowed down the catnip, but both of them seemed only mildly interested. Since that original catnip was wild, brought here via Palms Road, then St. Clair and then I went ahead and ripped all of it out to plant my raised bed garden, I bought some "store-bought" catnip plants. I wonder now if they are a milder version or what? I suppose catnip, like sex, is always better the wilder you get, (if I remember correctly).

While the noodles were drying, I grabbed the electric weedwacker and the 100-foot cord and went out front. It looks real nice and the tiger lilies are just about to bloom. When enough of them are out, I'll take a photo and post so my Mom can see them! I was done by 8:30 PM, (everything out front is now edged or trimmed) and decided the noodles had dried enough. So, I got the stock pot out from the fridge and began to heat it back up.

I checked the TV listings and found an old favorite of mine "Picnic" with William Holden and Kim Novak (1955) had started at 8:00 PM. So, I pushed record and went out to finish the soup. I heated up the mix from yesterday and when it was at a roiling boil, I added the egg noodles. I know that fresh pasta doesn't take that long to cook, so I check it after four minutes. The noodles seem "Al dente" to me, so I turn off the heat and let it cool down.

I got a bowl and tested it. The flavor's not my best effort to date (and I blame the stock) but I love the texture of the noodles!!! I decide I'm too tired to put it all up in the freezer containers tonight, so I stick the pot in the fridge. I decide I'm too tired to stay up and watch a movie, so I read for a bit and then go to sleep.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday

I stopped at Kroger's on the way home to pick up some carrots I had forgotten over the weekend. When I got home, I did my daily ritual, then changed clothes and headed out back. I weeded the areas around the patio: the herb gardens, the reflecting pool and the rest. When I had it all done, I had about 1/2 of the wheelbarrow full of weeds. They got trucked back to the compost heap and two shovels of dirt covered them up.

I forgot to mention this over the weekend, but at one point I did turn on the fountain (I love the splashing water sounds) but, after less than two hours, the splashing I love so much only resulted in an empty pool of water and a sucking sound from the pump. I must admit it, (and move on), the basin for the fountain is too small. I have got to come up with something else, I guess.

After weeding, I did take the blower and cleaned off the patio. It's looking really nice.

Now, back into the kitchen, I carefully measure the amount of chicken stock I have left (reserving the chicken I put in it last night to save in the fridge) and proceed accordingly. To the 16 cups of stock, I add 2 1/2 cups of diced yellow onions, 2 cups of sliced carrots, 2 cups of diced celery, a teaspoon of fresh chopped tarragon and three tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley. I bring this to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it cook for about 5 minutes. I re-introduce the boned chicken and let it all cool down at this point.

I could have, of course, thrown in some egg noodles and finished this soup up right now. But, I want a thicker, more rustic noodle this time, so I have to make my own. However, it's after 8:00 PM already and I'm tired!

I fix a plate of tuna salad and go watch some TV. At 9:30 PM I checked and the pot is cool enough to go in the fridge. I decide I'm done for the night, turn off the TV and light and go to sleep.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sunday, but no rest for the weary

I got up at 6:30 AM, shaved and took a shower. Then I reheated a cup of coffee and went out on the front porch. Much nicer today than yesterday, as the cold front that brought the rain also lowered both the humidity and the temperature. So, it's about 64 degree F with a nice breeze blowing.

Today, the plan is more cleaning and, hopefully more weeding. First I attempt to put the office back together. You may remember I spent nearly a week sleeping in there. So, I put the freshly washed sheets, pillow cases and comforter back on the bed. Next, I topped that all with one of the drop cloths I used in the bedroom painting. Why? Because there was WAY too much cat hair on this bed when I went to use it! I did put a blanket on top the drop cloth so the cats will have something soft to lie on, but, hopefully, an overnight guest will not have to wake up with cat hair in his or her mouth.

Next, I swept out the office and straightened up the desk. Then I move into the bedroom, and sweep that. But, before I start using the Goof Off (to remove the few drips of paint from the wood floors) I want to start my chicken stock.

I have a four pound whole free-range chicken I thawed out yesterday. That goes into my medium stock pot, along with what chicken bones I have saved in the freezer, 1 1/2 gallons of cold water and a bouquet garni of fresh parsley, fresh thyme sprigs and a dried bay leaf, tied with kitchen string for easy retrieval, later. Some salt and some whole black peppercorns also get into the pool. I light the burner to bring it to a boil.

Here's the different part. Like every other cook since the beginning of time, I have always made chicken stock with the aromatics rough-chopped and added at the beginning. But, Michael Ruhlman (whom I admire) believes the aromatics should only go in about 1 hour before you are finished. So, I am trying that, today. Also, instead of keeping it simmering on the stovetop for 4-5 hours, he puts it into a preheated 190 degrees F. oven. So, I am also trying that, too.

So, now its 10:30 AM. The stock pot has been brought to a boil and then stuffed in the oven, (uncovered, BTW). I have hardboiled the last five eggs and I am about to use the Goof Off on the bedroom floor. No way to do it other than to kneel and I know I will pay for this, later (sigh).

I am amazed that the Goof Off (which smells suspiciously like the old-style lighter fluid) is not only taking off the blue paint I dripped, but also the while paint droplets from whoever painted this room last. Not wanting to leave this stuff on my wood floor, I washed the bedroom, office and hall floors with my Swifter Wet-Jet and let it dry.

BTW, the Webmaster has informed me he posted those two recipes from the Fourth of July 9 (Roasted Potato salad and the Radish and Cucumber salad) in case you are interested.

Now I'm getting dressed and heading out to Meijer's. I need to pick up a few grocery items, but mostly, I need a new in-tank filter for Newt. Unfortunately, they were out of the small 10-gallon one I had before, so I was forced to buy the 20-gallon filter! Seems like overkill for a 10-gallon aquarium that I only have maybe 1/3 filled with water, but I can't let him stay in a swamp, can I?

Back home, I unpack the groceries, put the filter together and install it. He seems as bewildered as I am with this new, big "waterfall" at one end of his tank, but the water is clearing rapidly and I suppose it's all for the best.

Now, to restore the shine to my wood floors, I get out my Mop & Glo, a damp mop and a bucket of water (for rinsing out the mop). I have used this stuff with great results before and am hoping (against hope) it will cover up the scratch from me moving the book case. We'll see.

Once I am done, and the floors are drying, I mix up Miracle-Gro (what's with all these companies leaving the "W" off the end of a word, anyway? Inquiring minds want to know!!!) in my watering can and water all the container gardens. I come back inside and its 1:45 PM.

The stock still has another hour to go before adding the aromatics, but it is starting to smell fantastic! I start the last load of laundry for the weekend and check out the wood floors. They look nice, but that damn scratch is still visible (although a lot less noticeable, I must admit).

I start boiling water to make some rotini pasta for tonight's dinner (my tuna salad). After I dump in the pasta and stir it, it's time to add the aromatics to the stock. So, I rough chop two carrots, two stalks of celery, peel and quarter an onion and smash up about half a head of garlic. Into the stock pot they go and I reset the timer for another hour. I drained the pasta, shocked it in ice water and put it in the fridge. I move all the chairs, the butcher-block rolling cart and the trash container into the living room. Now, I sweep the kitchen floor and then mop it with Pine-Sol and hot water. Finally, the damn house is starting to look clean, again!

At 3:15 PM, I feel I can legitimately take a break. So, I flop down on the bed and pick up Jake's book. I reluctantly give up when the stove alarm goes off at 4:30. I dug out the big chunks from the broth (careful to save the chicken meat) and then used my finest-screen strainer. Next came four different pours through four separate wet kitchen cotton handkerchiefs lining that same strainer. I put three 4-cup containers of the strained broth into the freezer and that still left me more than enough to make some chicken noodle soup (sometime this week).

But, right now, I need to separate the meat from the carcass of the chicken. I get that all done, the meat in the remaining stock, and the stock into the fridge. I clean all this up and then get onto making this week's tuna salad. I'll spare you all the details (but if you are interested, just go to the recipes section of this website), and by 6:30 PM, the salad was done and in the fridge, cooling. I put it in my one Tupperware bowl, with Saran Wrap pressed down right on top the salad (keeps it fresher) and then the regular lid pressed on.

BTW, probably everyone of you already knows this (but I didn't - I just recently learned it on the Internet) but I was showing my sister Jean out at Lake Orion how every box of Saran Wrap (she was helping me cover up some leftovers), aluminum foil and even wax paper has little tabs on each end you can press in to "lock" the roll in place! Damn, I spent near 60 years screwing with this stuff. Who woulda thunk it?

So, my dinner is cooling and I am looking out at a bird, splashing about, taking a bath in Jake and Carla's bird bath. I have two regrets for the weekend: one, I didn't get to apply the herbicide to the driveway (rain yesterday and too windy today) and, two, I didn't have the time to weed the herb gardens. Oh well, there is always tomorrow...

I grab that book again (Invisible Prey by John Sandford. BTW) and, by 7:30 PN, I have finished it. Good Read! Thanks for the loan!

At 8:00 PM, I start to watch my usual Sunday night shows and get a bowl of the tuna salad out of the fridge. I shut everything off at 11:00 and hit the sack.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Radish Salad

Ingredients
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 1 large English cucumber (about 1 pound)
  • 1/4 of a medium red onion, sliced fine
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Directions

Clean and cut each radish into 8 wedges. Peel the cucumber then halve lengthwise and then slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick. Add the radishes and cucumber to the sliced red onion.

Bring the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then stir in oil.

Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables and stir. Leave standing 10 minutes. Stir and salt to taste before serving.

Note: this can be made up to four hours ahead and chilled, covered. But, remember to bring it to room temperature before serving.

Roasted Potato Salad

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds baby redskin potatoes, skin-on and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
  • 4 large hard boiled eggs, peeled and hand-cut into chunks
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 stalks celery (with leaves), chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the potatoes in a big bowl, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the olive oil and sprinkle the parsley. Toss with your hands. If there is oil on the bottom of the bowl, you've used too much! Try empting them out onto paper towels, wiping the bowl with another paper towel and then tossing again. Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet. Roast in the oven, turning occasionally with a spatula, until golden and crispy on the outside, tender and cooked through on the inside, about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl soak the onions in cold water for 15 minutes. Drain.

Once the potatoes have cooled, take the quartered potatoes, inspected each one and cut the larger ones in half again (trying, as always to have a uniform size). Put the potatoes in a large bowl, and mix with the onions, celery and eggs. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, mayonnaise, parsley, relish, mustard, and lemon juice.

Carefully fold the potatoes, onions, celery and eggs with the mayonnaise mixture. Season with pepper, to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.

My bedroom's back!

I got up at 6:40 AM on Saturday. I cleaned the coffee pot and made a fresh pot. After having two cups on the porch (not as nice today, much warmer and very humid), without further ado, I got to work on the bedroom.

I emptied both the nightstands of their books and knickknacks, dusted them, applied a good furniture polish and nailed in the new nylon glides. Then I put them in place and, after cleaning them with Windex, I put on the glass tops. Next I transferred all the books to my bed and started the laborious process of dusting, sorting and then shelving them.

Sometime during this process, the doorbell rang. I had to laugh, as both cats were sleeping on the bed. But, when the doorbell chimed, they jumped up like a shot and ran into the living room, like two kids, wondering who was here!

It was Jake and Carla, with exciting news! They found a Farmer's Market, not two miles from my house! I don't claim to remember everything they bought, but I know it included purple green beans, raspberries and sweet corn, all locally grown and picked less than 30 minutes before. Hoping to become a "locavore" (someone who only eats food grown within 100 miles from their house) myself, someday, this is great information! They said there were only a few vendors (it's really early yet for Michigan produce) but I am sure there will be more to come. I will definitely hit it next Saturday!

We were sitting on the porch when the rain started, sprinkling at first, but a real downpour by the time they left. I got back to work and by 11:00 AM, I had all the books and knickknacks back in order. Next was a quick trip into the attic to put away the sleeping bag I used to keep the baby-back ribs warm on the Fourth of July and some bows I used outside (at Christmas!) that I had drying in the back room and more or less forgotten about.

The rain started to slacken, so I did a quick check of the rain gauge (no, I didn't go outside. I have the gauge turned so I can see the numbers from the bathroom window, using my bird watching binoculars) and, so far, I have over 1/2 inch of rain this morning.

I put the new curtains in the washer on "delicate." It was just after noon and I am hungry. So, I warmed up the last hot dog and ate it and a pickle for breakfast/lunch. Then I decided to take a break and check out the book Jake had brought me. So, I shooed the cats off the bed (they came back, of course) and laid down for a spell...

I was engrossed, but made myself put the book down at 2:00 PM. I removed the mini-blinds and replaced them with the new ones I had gotten at Lowe's, Next I took off the old curtains and put the curtain rods back up. I put the new curtains in the dryer on low heat (hoping I don't shrink them too much).

So, by 3:30 PM, I had the new drapes up and secured. I put the old burgundy ones in the washer (also on delicate) in case someone wants them. Then, since the rain is now over, I headed outside with my camera (Mom said she likes to see the pictures of new flowers, etc, emerging).

Oh, I did call my Mother to see how things were going. I had a family question that seemed to stump her, so I reluctantly (I wish I hadn't brought it up, frankly) hung up. But, she did say that everything was good out there.

While I was outside, I filled up the bird feeder. I also marked the two trees and one branch of another tree that my neighbor can cut down (he is attempting to heat his house with wood this winter). I have spent the last month or so, studying the sun and shade patterns in my back lawn. And, I determined that with those two trees taken out and that one branch, I could, in fact, have a good-sized vegetable garden next year, with adequate sunlight. Now all that remains is to determine if I should just rent a rototiller guy, (like Jake and Carla did) or buy another rototiller outright next spring. We'll see...

Back inside, I posted my photos. So, now it's almost 5:30 and I am thinking about dinner. I decided earlier that it was going to be fried ocean perch, and a side of rice pilaf. So, I set up my breading station, with flour, then two large eggs, whisked, and finally a cup of plain bread crumbs.

I got the rice pilaf going (nothing homemade, a box mix made by Near East) and then fried up the fish in four tablespoons of vegetable oil in a medium-high, non-stick pan. I made a spicy dipping sauce to go with it using 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper sauce (I use Red Hot, myself), half of a lemon, juiced, and some salt and pepper.

I ate that watching TV. At about 10:30, I turned the TV off and went back to Jake's book. I read that until about 12:30, when I started nodding off. But, before I went to sleep, I took some pictures of the bedroom and posted them (I thought if I waited until after dark, the lighter windows wouldn't mess up the shot. But, the flash bounced off the one picture and the mirror, anyway!)

Then I went to sleep.

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Bedroom, West accent wall

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Bedroom, north-east corner

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Bedroom, east wall

Saturday, July 12, 2008

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Tarragon, cut and hung to dry in the kitchen

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More squash, in the back

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Squash, way in the back

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Raised bed garden, beginning to provide veggies (mostly leaf lettuce, right now)

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The day lilies (St. Francis garden), beginning to bloom

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The day lilies (patio), beginning to bloom

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The tarragon, which I trimmed and brought it a bunch to dry

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The herb garden, not weeded yet. You are looking at chives, parsley, oregano, basil and some sage.

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My violin (I am, after all, the same age as Jack Benny!)