Friday, October 31, 2008

Another favorite song...

And this one is definitely close to my heart. Ever since Dan and Heather's wedding, the lyrics have haunted me. Which begs the question, why are so many mid-twenty adults turning to 40's and 50's swing music?

But the music they picked for their bridal dance was "The Way You Look Tonight" sung by Frank Sinatra. It was originally written for the film Swing Time, and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936.

The version they danced to was more up tempo than the one that I was familiar with. I loved the one done by the Lettermen back in 1961, which was more a slowed-down, crooning version. Anyway, here it is:

The Way You Look Tonight

~ Music by Jerome Kern
~ Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

Some day, when I'm awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you...
And the way you look tonight.

Yes you're lovely, with your smile so warm
And your cheeks so soft,
There is nothing for me but to love you,
And the way you look tonight.

With each word your tenderness grows,
Tearing my fear apart...
And that laugh that wrinkles your nose,
It touches my foolish heart.

Lovely ... Never, ever change.
Keep that breathless charm.
Won't you please arrange it?
'Cause I love you ... Just the way you look tonight.

Mm, Mm, Mm, Mm,
Just the way you look to-night.

Salt and pepper

28 degrees F. and a heavy frost in Redford on Thursday morning. If I had pumpkins, the frost would be on them!

I left work at lunch for the day. Today is the day I refinance the house. So, I went home and had some lunch. I tried calling my daughter Amy for her birthday. I just got voicemail, so I left her a Happy Birthday greeting.

Then I headed to the bank. I got there just at 1:00 PM. But, nobody was waiting for me. The bank asked me to wait until they called my mortgage broker. It turns out my appointment was for 2:00 PM! I was confused, as she had told me 1:00 on the phone and I wrote that in my planner. But, I apologized and said I'd just go home (less than two miles away) and be back at 2:00.

Back at home, I checked my planner and it did say 1:00. So, I checked her confirmation email and it said 2:00!?! WTF? Am I losing it? I never make mistakes like that!

Back at the bank at 2:00, the lady doing the closing (not sure what you call them, but it's never the broker. In spite of all our conversations, I have never met the lady) happened to be the same one I had when I first bought the house. So, we reminisced a bit and then she said, "Sorry about the confusion. Deborah told me 1:00 PM, but then when I was leaving she said no it's at 2:00." So, I am not losing my mind, Deborah apparently just had a disconnect between what she said and what she wrote.

It went smoothly (it's a LOT quicker when it's just you and not you as the buyer and somebody else as the seller reading all the documents) and by 2:30, I was back home.

I did some final house cleaning because my friend Tracey (the one who got married a week ago last Friday) is coming over for dinner tonight so we can plan our Christmas cookie baking event this year.

Once that was done, I started prepping for dinner. A couple of years ago, we were at dinner at a restaurant and she ordered shrimp scampi. So, tonight, I am making Shrimp Scampi with Linguini. Now, this is a recipe that both Carla and I had played with, back in the day. So, it's a mess, with handwritten ideas and suggestions all over the place. But, the final result was outstanding, as I recall!

So, I filled my pasta pot with water and a liberal amount of kosher salt. I turned that on low. Next, I peeled and deveined a pound of shrimp. I put them on ice and back in the fridge. I finely diced two shallots and four cloves of garlic. I put them in a bowl with a pinch of red pepper flakes.

In another bowl, I finely chopped about 1/4 cup of fresh, Italian (flat leaf) parsley. In the last bowl I put the zest from a whole lemon (this was pure Carla, BTW). I juiced that lemon and got almost 1/4 cup of juice. To that I added white wine until I got 1/2 cup of liquid.

I put two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter on my big skillet and, at that point, my prep work was done. So, I fixed my first drink of the day and sat in the living room to wait.

It was just after 5:00 PM when I remembered the garlic bread. So, I cut the small loaf of Italian bread I bought on the bias and got four 1-inch slices. I put them on a sheet pan, turned on the broiler and moved the rack up. At that point, Tracey showed up.

It was a joyous reunion, between me, Tracey and Scruffy. Scruffy, no
doubt, was wondering where Samson was (Samson has retired and is living in West Branch, BTW). In the middle of all of the commotion, the lady in the bedroom (my smoke/carbon dioxide detector) started screaming, "Fire, Fire!" Sure enough, the bread was charcoal. Tracey got herself a beer while I dug them out of the oven.

So, I cut the last four slices out of the loaf (I did say it was a small loaf, didn't I?) and put them back in the oven. Before I could sit down, the smoke detector went off, again! I must have the rack WAY too close to the flame. Dismayed (and out of cool bread) I threw away the last of the Italian bread and got out the toaster and the Pepperidge Farm Sourdough bread and toasted four slices of bread. When they came out right (and, I must admit, I burned the first two!) I rubbed them with a clove of fresh, peeled garlic and drizzled them with olive oil.

While we were chatting, I heated up the simmering pasta water and added a pound of linguini. I cooked that about 8 minutes, until it was al dente.

Here's where it got really weird. Caley, who hides for hours while anyone else is here (even Jake and Carla) came out and sucked up to Tracey! I told her that was a first, but you would have never believed it, watching Caley!

I turned the skillet on to medium-high and when the butter melted, added the shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes. I let that all cook until the shallots were translucent (about 3-4 minutes). I added the shrimp to the pan (I should have seasoned them first with salt and pepper, BTW) and cooked them until they turned pink (about 2-3 minutes). I pulled the shrimp out and covered them (to keep them warm) while I added the wine/lemon juice/lemon zest and brought it to a boil.

I added two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil. When the butter melted, I added back the shrimp, the parsley and the cooked linguine. I was supposed to season it with salt and pepper again at this point, but I was distracted and it didn't happen. So, I plated it (here's a tip: Grab a bunch of the pasta with your tongs and then as you put it on the plate, twirl it as you release. It makes the pasta mound up and looks great!)

I topped it with Parmigiano-Reggiano grated through the micro-planner and we dug in. To be honest, I noticed the lack of salt and pepper, but Tracey thought it was great (and, as Paul Simon said, "Who am I got go against the wind?").

We retired to the living room and caught each other up on current events. Finally it was time for her to leave. She graciously accepted my offer of the leftovers and then sped off in her truck.

I looked at all the dishes, pots and pans and decided there was nothing so pressing it couldn't wait until tomorrow, So, I turned off the classic rock on the radio, went into the bedroom and turned on the TV.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

First snow of the season

It was cold, windy and drab again Wednesday morning. There were no predictions for precipitation around here, but at lunch, I was sitting at a stop light and it was snowing on my windshield!

I should add that, according to the weather, there was accumulating lake-effect snow where my daughter Melissa used to live (pat yourself on the back for moving, babe... or, at least until the next hurricane, lol!) and also some lake-effect snow in Port Huron (where my son Jeremy lives), but no word on accumulation there.

When I got home I found the ill-winds had deposited a big pile of leaves against the garage door. So, I drove through it and then wentinside. I treated the cats (no way to get out of that) and then did the two standard Wednesday night chores: filling the bird feeder and starting the mid-week wash.

But, before even taking off my shoes, I went back into the garage and got the blower. I blew the leaf pile back out into the driveway, where the north-west wind kept it moving away from the house. Back inside, I warmed up my hands (its only 41 degrees out there, BTW) and finally changed clothes.

Speaking of temperatures, I do have a setting in Yahoo that shows the temps at all of my kids houses, Luanne and Sadie and my friend Canada Cathy up in Alberta, Canada. I was surprised to see that the person with the highest temperature today was Cathy!

So, onto dinner. Let's talk about casseroles, for a minute. In this "gourmet" world, I think they get a bad rap. I have certain members of my immediate family (who shall not be named) who wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole. But, I still remember fondly the green bean casserole that my Mom made every Holiday (it seemed). Sure they were all canned ingredients, but they tasted good! And they had "comfort food" written all over them! What's not to love?

So, tonight, I need to use the last chicken breast. I came across a tuna casserole that I thought I could adapt, so I did. I made three cups of cooked pasta (I used Rotini, with the usual conversion - 1 cup dried equals two cups cooked). Instead of the one can of drained tuna fish, I cut up the chicken breast into 1/2 inch chunks. I did use the one can of condensed cream of chicken soup and one cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, but I also added some leftover sliced scallions (topping for Sunday's chili) and a handful of frozen green peas. I mixed it all together and put it in a buttered casserole dish.

I put that into a preheated 350 degree F. (175 degrees C.) oven for 25 minutes, or until it was bubbly. I topped that with about 1 1/2 cups of those old-time canned French fried onions and baked it five minutes more. I took it out to rest while I put the wash into the dryer.

I ate dinner watching TV. It was pretty tasty, BTW and a great way to use up the chicken. i went to sleep just after 10:00 PM.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday

It was cold, dark and windy when I took out the garbage on Tuesday morning. The sun did finally show its face and, while it looked better, it never got much warmer and the wind never stopped blowing. I've taken to wearing my leather jacket instead of my fall windbreaker.

I got home and changed. First thing I did was to dig out some papers the bank needs. I am refinancing the house on Thursday to save almost a full percentage point in interest. It will drop the monthly payment a tad and, if I am lucky to live long enough to pay it off, save me about $30,000 in interest.

Next I had to sew on a button on the shirt I am wearing tomorrow. It came off in the wash. For years I had a "traveler's sewing kit" that I think I bought in an auto parts store. It was about a two-inch by two-inch plastic box that had paper rolls wrapped in various colors of threads and one needle. Well, last year I finally lost the needle. So, I bought a "learn to sew" kit at Joanne Fabrics. This has lots of needles, a pair of scissors, a pin cushion (looks like a tomato with a strawberry attached for decoration), thimble and a variety of tools that I'm not sure how you use, but they look like medieval torture instruments.

That done, I moved to dinner. I slowly warmed up the beef stew Jake had left. When it was ready, I got myself a bowl and some bread and dug in! I know how much meat he used, so I thought the meat to vegetable ratio would be out of whack, but it wasn't (he must have had gallons of the stuff). Taste was excellent. The corn was a surprise, but when I thought about it, I have put peas in mine before (when Carla wasn't around) and the corn added a nice texture. Just to make sure my taste test was thorough; I had another bowl, lol!

I watched a TV show, but then switched to a magazine that came in the mail today. I went to sleep just after 10:00 PM.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Diwali!

...to all my friends in India. Diwali (or Deepavali) is a major Indian holiday, and a significant festival in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Today it is celebrated across the globe as the "Festival of Lights," where the lights or lamps signify victory of good over the evil within every human being.

Monday Night and Cherrio!

It never did rain during the day on Sunday, but it did overnight. In fact, I drove into work in a light rain. It sprinkled on an off for most of the day.

I did check the rain gauge when I got home, but it held less than 1/4 of an inch of rain.

As you may remember, since Tuesday morning (7:00 AM - be there or be square) is garbage day, Monday night is clean the fridge time, here. In doing so, I found two remaining hot dogs from last weekend (along with other unmentionable things that just got pitched). So, instead of the beef stew I'd been thinking about all day, I made myself the two hot dogs for dinner (I dislike wasting food).

The buns weren't as lucky as they had mold on them. So, I ate the hot dogs with mustard and onions on two slices of bread.

Then came dessert. Ever since Jeremy had talked about making them and then trying to perfect them, I had wondered what scones tasted like. Well, Sunday, Jake brought me one of his to try. Which is why at 7:30 PM, I was brewing a cup of tea! It was Red Rose and not Earl Gray like it should have been, but yes, folks, tea!

Now there's a debate going on about these particular scones. Jake thinks they are too sweet and Carla thinks they are not sweet enough. So, I think I am being used as a guinea pig.

Hmmm... the texture is more like a dense biscuit than the donut I always pictured. It is slightly sweet, but not too bad (and believe me, I dislike sweet things and would know). I think it would be too much with honey on it (like Carla likes) but plain, it made an excellent dessert.

I went in and watched a taped show, then turned to my book until I fell asleep.

Sad News...

It is with regret that I must tell you that one of my favorite authors passed away Monday. Tony Hillerman died at 83 years old. Author of a number of books he was best known for his mysteries that featured Navajo detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.

Both my Mother and I were fond of his work.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chilly Sunday

I slept through the night for a change and woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:30 AM. I took a shower and then warmed up a cup of coffee. I went in and filled in the Blog post from yesterday which took a l-o-n-g time but, then again, I had a big day yesterday, lol!

It was another gloomy, windy day. Temps are supposed to be falling throughout the day with more rain this afternoon and a chance of snow showers overnight. I'm not ready for this!!!

The winds (20-30 MPH, with occasional gust up to 45 MPH) were having one positive effect. The leaves were coming down everywhere!

I had to go out in the morning. I went to CVS and picked up some sour cream (for one chili topping) and mineral oil (for my cutting boards. You want to make sure you get food grade mineral oil, BTW). The checkout guy remarked, "Sour cream and mineral oil? That's a combination I don't often see!" I said, "Yeah, it makes a great dip!" He laughed and said, "I think I'll just stick with the potato chips!"

Back home, I watched a few taped shows until noon. As it did yesterday, the sun came out about then. I went outside to take some leaf pictures. By the time I got back in to post them, the sun had disappeared.

I turned the oven on 185 degrees F., got the chili in the Dutch oven out of the fridge and put it in. I want to slowly warm it up so I don't burn the bottom. Since I had just vacuumed yesterday, all I had to do today was to dust and then clean all the glass surfaces and the housecleaning was done.

About 1:30 PM, I mixed together the drop biscuits. I took one cup of all-purpose flour in a bowl and then added one teaspoon of baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, two tablespoons plus one teaspoon of solid vegetable shortening, 1/4 cup plus one tablespoon of milk (I hate recipes like this), one cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and the bacon bits from yesterday. I mixed it up well (the dough is supposed to be slightly sticky, BTW).

I put the chili on the stovetop and then preheated the oven to 400 degrees F. I oiled a pie plate and divided the dough into four equal parts. I put them into the pie plate and waited for Jake and Carla to show up. I was just dicing up some scallions for another chili topping when they did. Then I put the biscuits in the oven.

We chatted a bit and when the biscuits were done, Carla took them out to cool. She also put a pot of coffee on. When we were ready to eat, I plated the chili as Carla filled the other two topping bowls with some more shredded sharp cheddar cheese and some sour cream.

Then, we ate. It tasted pretty damn good! Both Jake and Carla seemed to like it (and they do know their chili), so I felt pretty good. Jake, (who doesn't like toppings on his chili; he's a purist, I guess) even had another bowl!

After eating, Jake insisted on washing everything up (even though I told him to just let it soak). They had brought me some of the beef stew Jake made last week, so we exchanged foods. I gave them some chili, a frozen container of my beef, mushroom barley soup and the remaining half of the sourdough loaf.

Then we played Scrabble. I am sad to say that Carla kicked both our butts, soundly! I mean she slaughtered us! They left about 6:00 PM.

All day long I had flocks of birds at the feeder (I think they sensed the upcoming storm). When I looked outside, both the feeder and the suet cage were empty, so I went out and refilled them. I came inside and changed clothes to relax for the rest of the evening.

Uh, oh... I turned on the TV and got nothing. I checked the phone... nothing! I checked the Internet... ditto. So, I used my cell phone and called Brighthouse repair. She said there was a complete outage in Redford and they were working on it (probably these damn winds) but they had not yet established an estimated time when repairs will be complete.

So, it looks like my favorite Sunday night shows are in jeopardy. I got my book and a drink and lay down in bed to see what happens... I left the TV on so I would know if and when the cable came back up. It came back on around 10:30 PM, but only for a minute or two. It did that off and on for a while until it was more annoying than anything else. So, I turned it off for the night and went to sleep.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

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Backyard leaves, #1

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Backyard leaves, #2

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Backyard leaves #3

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Backyard leaves #4

Saturday Night Party Animal!

I think I went to bed too early, because I woke up in the night and had a lot of trouble falling back asleep. When I did, without the alarm being set, I slept until an amazing 8:30 AM!

It's a gloomy, cloudy, windy day here on San Jose. It looks raw outside. I was going to go to the Home Depot and price out what it would take to tile the downstairs bath, but decided that could wait. I put on a pot of coffee, stripped the bedding and started the day's wash.

I was in a better mood after shaving and showering. The sun came out at 11:30 AM, which also cheered me up. So, before it disappears again (supposed to be more rain this afternoon), I went out and filled the bird feeder. I also checked the rain gauge and found I got just over 1/4 inch of rain yesterday.

Back inside, I started the housecleaning. First, I dumped out the vacuum cleaner's dirt receptacle and took the filter out in the garage. I opened the garage door and, using the air compressor, blew out all the dust and cat hair. Since I was out there anyway, I belatedly hung up my fall decorations and took some pictures for you. I checked the container plants (still alive and growing, BTW) and they needed watering. So, I did.

Now, onto vacuuming (a pain in the butt for me and a terror for the cats). I finished with that and then decided to have some breakfast/lunch. So, I made another croissant and chicken salad sandwich. I watched Jamie Oliver's Saturday cooking show (a personal favorite) while I ate.

I invited Jake and Carla for Sunday dinner tomorrow, luring them with the promise of Five Bean Chili and Bacon Cheddar biscuits. Since I firmly believe that both chili and spaghetti with meat sauce taste better the following day, I wanted to make the chili today. So, I did. I was using an Emeril Lagasse recipe, BTW, but with a few changes.

I was supposed to use a pound of ground chuck (which has an 80/20 fat ratio). But, the meat I took out of the freezer was some extra lean (96/4) that I had bought on sale. Since fat is where the taste comes from, I decided to cook the four rashers of bacon I will need tomorrow for the biscuits. I sliced them about 1/2 inches wide and cooked them In the Dutch oven until they were crisp. I removed them from the pan with a slotted spoon and put them on a paper towel to drain. Meanwhile, I added the ground beef to the remaining bacon fat.

While that browned I diced up one cup of yellow onions, one cup of green pepper and (another of my changes) the last three little Jalape�os peppers I took from garden when the frost warming came out last week. I did seed them and diced them very fine, so I hope it doesn't make the chili too hot. I also minced three cloves of garlic.

When the meat was well browned, I added the onions, bell pepper, Jalape�os peppers, garlic, 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon. I didn't have any ground coriander, but I did have coriander seeds and my mortar and pestle, so I made my own ground coriander. I let all that cook until the vegetables were soft, (about 4 to 6 minutes).

I added one 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes (after I broke them up with my hands), three cups of beef stock, and three bay leaves. I brought the mixture up to a simmer, partially covered it, and then cooked it for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While that was simmering, I cleaned up the bowls and utensils I used and then went and wrote all this down.

Another change I made was to substitute a can of cooked navy beans (I just couldn't find any!) with a can of cannelloni beans (which are just white kidney beans, BTW). The other four kinds of beans were pinto, red kidney, black and great Northern (all cooked and one can each). After the 40 minutes had passed, I opened the cans of beans, drained and rinsed them and then added them to the pot. I stirred them in and continued to cook my chili for another 20 to 30 minutes (or until the flavors had come together and the chili had a nice, thick consistency).

I tasted it and was ready to adjust the seasoning if necessary. But, it was about perfect, I thought. Nice amount of heat without being overpowering. I turned off the burner to let it cool down before I put it in the fridge.

Now, I have a family wedding to go to tonight, so I hopped into the shower again. I got on my party clothes (again under-dressing as I was to discover later) made sure I had the card and headed out just after 5:00 PM.

Now, once you get past brother & sisters, aunts & uncles and nieces & nephews, I get totally lost. So, I'm not sure of the "proper" name of the relationship between Dan and me, but he is my Brother Jim's grandson. He is marrying his childhood sweetheart, Heather. Actually by that time, they already were married. I didn't go to the church service in New Baltimore as it would have added another 30 miles or so round trip to this journey and I already fear the effect the miles will have on my legs.

I took my usual way to get to my orthopedic doctor's office, went another few miles on Groesbeck and turned on Cass to get to Romeo Plank and the banquet hall. Big mistake (and one my brother Carl might have warned me about!) Cass is under construction and traffic was just crawling along. But, I finally got there (or at least I thought I did). It was supposed to be at the Partridge Creek Banquet Center, but the sign said something about Italian Cultural center. I checked the address and it was the same so I went in. I was relieved to see my brother Jim parking his car, BTW.

I waited in line to find my card with my table designation. I was very confused because it didn't say, like, Table 6. It just said Paint Creek Trail. Jim happened by at the time and he explained there was a map, and each table was named after a particular place the bride and groom had enjoyed in the past. Once I found the table, there was a photo on a stand of the two of them hiking the Paint Creek Trail in 2007. Clever!

So, the setting was very elegant. Each table either had a beautiful bouquet of flowers or lit candles as the centerpiece. The guests continued to pour in (I thought I heard someone say there were 300 people invited). Our table was huge and could have probably sat eight or ten easily, but there were only six of us: Mom, Cora, Carl, Joe and Kathy and myself. The spread-out seating made it very comfortable, but conversation was a bit difficult.

Everyone was dressed to kill (except me and a few other guys). The bridal party was huge! It even had two maids of honor and two best men along with six more bridesmaids and six groomsmen. One of the bridesmaids had flown in from Australia where she now works, just for the wedding.

And the food? You are going to think my memory is amazing, but I must confess I stole the little menu that was on the table. So, here goes:
When I got there they were serving hors d'oeuvres which were a buffet table of assorted antipasto items, chicken siciliano, crab cakes and grilled asparagus wrapped with prosciutto.

Before we get to dinner, I must tell you that they cut the cake before dinner, which I had never seen before. Interesting and different.

Dinner was a dinner salad (a bed of mixed greens tossed with creamy parmesan dressing and served with warm dinner rolls). Next came a pasta serving (Penne pasta topped with creamy palmina sauce). Then they served the main course (Char-grilled filet of beef smothered in grilled mushrooms and Andiamo's zip sauce, coupled with a saut�ed boneless chicken breast, mushrooms and marsala wine sauce, all served with fresh green beans and Santa Anna potatoes). Dessert (which I passed on) was wedding cake (either white with strawberry filling or chocolate with butter cream frosting) accompanied by vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce. Our table got the chocolate cake, by the way.

The salad was delicious, the pasta a bit bland for my taste (but a little salt soon fixed that) and the fillet of beef was the star of the show for me. It was a perfect medium rare with an excellent sauce. The chicken breast was also perfectly sauced. The Santa Anna potatoes were thin slices of potatoes topped with parmesan cheese. I was too full by then to finish the potatoes or green beans, but they did taste good.

I must also point out that the wait staff was large and excellent. Nobody seemed to have to wait for their food and used plates were quickly whisked away (except for Carl's, lol). It was about 9:00 PM when they started the bridal dance. My mom was still going strong, but I was starting to fade a little. So, when they got done with that dance, I made my way to the bathroom one last time and then said my goodbyes. I left about 9:30 PM.

I took a different route back to Groesbeck. Traffic was light and moving fast, so I was home just before 10:30 PM. I had a voicemail from my daughter Melissa, who called at 10:00 PM, so I called her back. We talked for a while and when we hung up, I went straight to bed.

One more time: Congratulations to Dan and Heather!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

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Fall decorations #1 (as always, click on the photo to enlarge and then use your browser's back button to return)

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Fall decorations #2

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Fall decorations #3

Chicken soup and a show for the soul...

It started raining off and on around 1:00 PM on Friday. It was pretty steady by the time I drove home, though.

I had nothing planned for tonight, so I putzed around for a bit, and then warmed up the chicken soup for my dinner. Now I wish I had taken the time to make my own noodles. If you remember, I used store-bought wide egg noodles. On the first day, they and the soup were beautiful, nice noodles and a rich golden broth. But, by now they are all beat up (from stirring I suppose). It still tastes great, but the presentation is out the window.

When I made my home-made noodles, I went with a one egg recipe, instead of the one that called for three eggs. They stayed together through several warm-ups and then freezing and thawing, but tasted more like dough than egg noodles. So, note to self: Next chicken soup, try the recipe with more eggs!

I had a bowl with a big slice of sour dough bread and then wandered in to watch a taped show that Jake recommended: Parallel Universe, Parallel Lives.

It was a BBC show about an American alternative rock musician, Mark Oliver Everett, who goes in search of information about his father, Hugh Everett III. In 1957, this young and brilliant physicist published a paper which used some heavy duty mathematics to predict the existence of parallel universes.

Although the concept of parallel universes seeped into popular culture, it was considered too way-out for mainstream physicists; and for many years, it remained in the scientific wilderness.

This was a devastating blow to Hugh Everett who left academia at the time and was always upset by the fact that his scientific theory was not taken more seriously until shortly before his early death.

Hugh Everett III died of a heart attack in his home in 1982. It was Mark who found the body.

"My father never, ever said anything to me about his theories. I was in the same house with him for at least 18 years but he was a total stranger to me.

"He was in his own parallel universe. He was a physical presence, like the furniture, sitting there jotting down crazy notations at the dining room table night after night. I think he was deeply disappointed that he knew he was a genius but the rest of the world didn't know it."

It was, as Jake said, fascinating. I'm not sure if they are still showing it, but it was on PBS on the Nova program. If you get the chance to see, do so.

I have often mused on just how little my children really know about me, but recently I realized just how little I know about them. I suppose that is true of all parent/child relationships, but it seems sad...

Not seeing anything to top that, I switched to my book until bedtime.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Yard work

I woke up on Thursday, just before the alarm and, for a change, with an unstuffy nose. BTW, I hate waking up just before the alarm goes off! If I wake up at even 5:00 AM, I can go to the bathroom and then climb back in bed. Even if I don't fall back asleep, it's a warm, nice feeling. But, if I get up and am in the bathroom when the alarm goes off, I somehow feel cheated.

I stopped at the outpatient clinic on my way into work and had my blood drawn for my semi-annual checkup next month. I was lucky. It only took her two veins to find some blood (usually it's three and a lot of rooting around, which really hurts).

I went to Lowe's at lunch to get another bag of fertilizer for my late-fall lawn feeding.

So, I gave the cats their treats and changed my shoes when I got home. I checked the gas and oil in the mower and started cutting the lawn. It was approaching twilight when I finished up, but I hooked on the fertilizer spreader, turned on the lights on the mower and fertilized the lawn. I got done just before 8:30 PM. I secured the house and came inside to eat dinner.

I cut a croissant in half, put on some lettuce leaves and then a big helping of the chicken salad. It was very good except for three things: I should have made the chicken cubes a little smaller; it had a tad too much tarragon and not enough salt.

I watched a hour taped show, but then turned it off and went to sleep.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's all about the chicken, baby!

It was cold this morning! I don't think we went below freezing here, though, as it said 34 degrees F. on my thermometer at home at 5:30 AM.

Last night when I was making the soup, I discovered I didn't have the mushrooms I thought I did in the fridge. So, tonight, I stopped at Westborn and picked some up. I also got a loaf of sourdough bread (that great rustic Italian was also there, but that loaf was much bigger and I didn't want it to go stale on me). I also had to stop at CVS for two prescription refills.

Once home and changed, I started the Wednesday night laundry. I got out the soup and put it on the stove to slowly warm back up. By the way, I forgot to tell you that I filled up one ice cube tray with that stock as well. I put them in a baggie tonight. Since some recipes only call for like a 1/2 cup of stock, it will be easier just to dig out 3 or 4 cubes than thaw out a four cup container. I'll do an experiment with "water" ice cubes first and see how many cubes equals 1/4 cup.

I have been waking up with a stuffy nose ever since the heat's been on full time. So, tonight, I dug out my little humidifier, washed it all down and then ran about two cups of vinegar through it to get rid of any nasties inside. The house smelled like either pickled cabbage or a 1960's douche preparation, so I went with the douche... Ah, memories... I then rinsed out the water receptacle and filled it with fresh cold water. I'll have to start remembering to do that every night until spring, I guess, because the furnace doesn't have a humidifier on it (sigh...)

The soup was starting to warm, so I added eight ounces of sliced mushrooms and gently folded them in. Then, I went down and put the clothes in the dryer.

You remember the two poached chicken breasts? I did. So, when I went grocery shopping on Tuesday, I bought six big, beautiful croissants. Tonight, I took one chicken breast out and cubed it up (just over a cup, BTW). I diced up about an equal amount of celery and thinly sliced two scallions (green onions), both white and green. I went out on the patio and grabbed some fresh tarragon and parsley (I have tough herbs here) and added about 3/4 teaspoon of finely chopped tarragon and a tablespoon of parsley.

I mixed together 1/4 cup of real mayonnaise and 1/4 cup of sour cream, added about a teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon and 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. I folded that into the chicken, scallions and herb mixture, taste-tested and then seasoned it with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

I pressed a piece of Saran Wrap right on top of it and then covered the bowl itself with another piece. I put it in the fridge to chill for chicken salad sandwiches, later this week. A sliced, fresh croissant, a little lettuce and some chicken salad? Should be wonderful!

It was time to hang up the laundry, so I did. Then, I cut into the sourdough loaf (I took a picture of it first for you), filled a bowl with soup and went into the bedroom for some good eats and tonight's TV.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

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Westborn Market's Sour Dough Bread

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Tracy's Wedding Photo #1 (courtesy of Fawn)

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Tracy's Wedding Photo #2 (courtesy of Fawn)

Soup's on...

It was very cold here on Tuesday morning. It's a 20-30 mile an hour north wind straight from Canada that's causing all the fuss. It certainly did make taking the garbage out to the road a real "wake-up" experience.

I stopped at Kroger's on the way home to do my belated weekend grocery shopping. It was still pretty cold (windy and I don't think we even broke 50 degrees F. as our high today). I was pleased with my purchases as I wanted to spend no more that $100 and the total bill came to $100.35.

Once home, I unloaded the car and put everything away. I called my daughter Melissa to wish her a happy birthday. They had no big plans as Dave is sick with a bad cold. So, she spent her birthday making two kinds of soup to nurse him back to health and (in her words) avoiding Dave as much as possible.

I changed my shoes and went outside to gather all the remaining tomatoes. It's supposed to be a hard freeze tonight. I noticed a lot of puddles from yesterday's rain on the way into work so I checked the rain gauge. I got just over 1/2 inch of rain yesterday!

Back inside and the tomatoes in two paper bags, I moved on to my soup. I got out the Dutch oven and heated up some olive oil and butter. I added one large yellow onion (diced), about a cup of diced celery and three peeled carrots that I sliced. I saut�ed everything until tender, added four cloves of minced garlic and cooked it about two minutes more.

I added all the remaining chicken stock (about two quarts) after I strained it yet again (but this time to get the chicken out). While that was heading to a boil, I rough chopped the chicken. Once it was boiling I added 1/2 pound of wide egg noodles (I was too lazy to make my own this time). When the noodles were done, I re-introduced the chicken, let it warm up and then taste-tested it. Perfect! I didn't need to add a thing!

I let that cool down while I heated the last of the beef stew in the microwave. I ate that for dinner with two slices of Pepperidge Farm sourdough bread (good enough, but a poor substitute for that Italian bread from last week).

I watched TV until I fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night, turned the lights and TV off and then went to bed for real.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

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Stock pots waiting to be washed

Stocking up on Monday

Monday morning came far too early for my liking. The cheerful weatherman predicted late afternoon showers, so I took my waterproof jacket. But I was hoping it comes after I'm safe and sound at home.

It just started sprinkling on the trip home, so I still got on the expressway (I avoid it in a heavy downpour; people get weird around here when it rains).

After treating the cats (of course) but before changing clothes, I got out the big stock pot. I took out that 6 pound chicken and opened it up. I rinsed it off and went to pull out the neck and giblets (I use the neck, gizzard and heart, but not the liver in my stocks). To my surprise, they weren't there! Oh well, moving on...

I covered that bad boy with about six inches of cold water (maybe two or three gallons of water in this big stock pot). I added a little salt, some whole black peppercorns and three bay leaves. Note: you definitely want to under-season the water at this point. Why? Because, in making stock, you concentrate the flavors, so a normal amount of salt at this time will be way too salty four hours from now!

I used my digital thermometer and when the alarm went off at 180 degrees, I turned it down to simmer. Of course, I had to adjust the heat back and forth to maintain that crucial 180 degrees F. I set one timer for an hour and one for three hours and walked away.

I revisited it about every 15 minutes just to skim off the froth. When the one-hour timer went off, I pulled out the chicken, sliced off the now-poached chicken breasts (I'll use them for something else, you see) and put the rest back in the pot.

Two hours later I added the Mirepoix and herbs. For my aromatic vegetables, I used celery, onions, carrots and some garlic cloves (none of which I peeled, only rough-chopped). For my herbs, I used a handful of dried parsley, the same amount of thyme and a little red pepper flakes (got to have that hit of heat for a kick).

When the alarm went off an hour later, the stock was done. Now, no way could I lift that filled stock pot so I used my 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup over and over again to get it all out. I poured each cupful through a strainer into my middle-sized stock pot. I put six quarts of stock into the freezer and still had plenty left for my chicken soup (which went in the fridge).

After I picked through the mess to get out all the chicken meat, the bones and veggies all went into the trash. I rinsed out the two stock pots, but decided they could wait until tomorrow to get washed. Everything else went into the dishwasher. I went into the bedroom, turned off the TV and went to bed. It was 11:10 PM.

Monday, October 20, 2008

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The neighbor's bush

Sunday, still taking it easy

I woke up on Sunday at 7:30 AM. I put a pot of coffee on and started inspecting the refrigerator. I threw away the last of the buttermilk and some suspicious leftovers. I found a roll of pork sausage I had thawed last weekend (I was gonna make biscuits and sausage gravy, but never did). I still don't feel like fussing with it this weekend, so I fried up the pork sausage into patties. Three of them and two eggs over easy made up my breakfast. The rest went back in the fridge in a baggie.

I emptied the dishwasher and then started to fill it back up. I have to redeem myself to myself after taking yesterday off, so I moved all the chairs, the rolling cart and the trash can into the living room. Then I swept the kitchen floor (again).

I replaced the sponge in my main mop (I wore the last one out!) I filled the bucket with hot water and Top Job and washed the kitchen floor. While I let it dry, I gave Luanne a call to see how she was doing. Her back had gone out and she was icing and heating it, along with taking muscle-relaxers and pain pills (been there, done that, so I could sympathize. I remember once when I couldn't get up off the floor, back on Palms Road). She got a new buck for her goat herd and all in all, other than her back, everything seems to be going well. By the time I hung up, the kitchen floor was dry.

Next, I refilled the bucket and washed the main bathroom floor. I took out some mild Italian sausage and a 6 pound whole chicken to thaw. The sausage will become lasagna today and the chicken will be turned into chicken stock and chicken soup. Judging from how frozen that chicken really is, the stock/soup will probably be later this week, though. While the bathroom floor dried, I went outside to check out the back yard.

None of the tomatoes were ripe enough to pick, so I let them be. I went out to the rear garden and pulled up all the squash and cucumber vines. I took a bunch of pictures, but nothing was that cool enough to post except for my neighbor's bush that is turning color.

Back inside, I decided to take another nap, so I did. I woke up at 4:00 PM and decided it was close enough to start the lasagna.

I heated some Canola oil in my Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When it shimmered, I added 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped and four cloves of minced garlic. I seasoned it well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cooked it until just softened. Then I added the mild Italian sausage (after removing it from the casing). I cooked that, stirring occasionally, until the meat browned. Then I added 1/3 cup of white wine and deglazed the pan. I put in two 28 ounce cans of whole tomatoes and squished them up. I added one teaspoon dried basil, one teaspoon dried oregano, some red pepper flakes, two medium dried bay leaves and seasoned it well with freshly ground black pepper. I stirred all that until it was well mixed and the tomatoes had started to simmer. I reduced the heat to low and simmered it, stirring occasionally, for about an hour.

I preheated the oven to 375 degrees F. after putting the rack in the middle.

I boiled my lasagna noodles for ten minutes and then did the usual layering (sauce, noodles, sauce, dollops of ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano) and then repeated until I used everything up. I covered the pan with tinfoil and baked it 40 minutes. Then I uncovered it and baked it for 20 minutes more (until the top was golden brown). I let is rest for about another 20 minutes and then cut myself a nice piece.

Not bad, but I should have used more spices (it was a bit bland).

I watched my usual Sunday night shows and went to bed at 10:00 PM.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Spending money on Saturday

As you may remember, I had an 8:00 AM appointment to get my rear brakes fixed. I got there five minutes early. My plan was to drop the car off and walk the six blocks back home if it was gonna take a long time or, stay and read the book I brought.

They said about two hours so I opted to go home. But, I didn't even get a block away when I realized just how bad both my knees felt. I am pretty sure this was from yesterday's long road trip, but whatever the cause, I turned around and went back to read and wait.

Two hours and $330 US later and I was back on the road. But, I wasn't happy. The mechanic found the cause of the mysterious clunk that's been haunting this car for about a year (and, I did have it looked at professionally before as well as me crawling under the car and tugging on things). It seems the coil spring on my strut rusted through near the bottom, allowing it to bounce around and beat up the strut. He said it was safe to drive, though. He tried but couldn't find any aftermarket parts for it, so he said he would call a Volvo dealer on Monday and let me know the price to fix it... I can't wait...

I stopped at the grocery store for the few items I needed to get through the weekend. No way was I gonna trash my legs further by doing the whole grocery shopping today. I was back home by 11:00 AM. Once inside I opened the new bag of cat treats and gave them each a handful (I had to get those damn treats so the cats wouldn't eat me while I was sleeping!)

I debated whether or not to take a pain pill so I could get some things done today, but decided against it. I might get things done, but then Sunday I'd be in worse shape. Instead I stripped the bed and started the weekend wash.

Jake and Carla stopped by briefly on their way to the dentist. So, I told them all about the big event on Friday. After they left, I made up the bed and put my pants and shirts in the dryer. I laid on the bed to rest my legs and watched some taped cooking shows. I hung up the last load of clothes and then decided to take a nap. So, I did.

When I got up it was about 4:00 PM. So, I lit the charcoal. I want to grill some hot dogs and brats for the coming week's dinners. I was almost finished when the phone rang. I told my friend I would call him right back, finished grilling and then did return his call. After catching each other up on personal stuff and world events, we hung up. It was too early to eat dinner (for me anyway) so I swept the kitchen and straightened up the house a bit.

I was reading a book on the couch (legs up) when my daughter Melissa called. As usual, we talked forever. To give you an idea of how long, one or the other of our phone's batteries both went dead during our conversation!

When I hung up for good, I ate two brats on the last two slices of bread (with mustard and chopped onions) and went to bed for the night.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

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Dutch Oven Handle, Before

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Dutch Oven Handle, After

Partying Down!

Friday dawned, clear and cool. I knew today would be a long one, so I got ready and went to work. I worked until 11:30 AM, and then wished everyone a good weekend and left. Why? Because today is my friend Tracey's wedding!

On the way home I made a couple of stops. One was to the bank to get out money so I can pay for my brake job Saturday morning. The other was to a hardware store to pick up some light bulbs and a metal cabinet knob.

The cabinet knob was to solve a problem I have with my cheap cast-iron Dutch oven. You see, some recipes have you sear meat in it and then say to finish it in the oven. Now, a good, expensive Dutch oven has a oven-proof handle for the lid. Mine didn't. So, I would wrap my plastic handle in tinfoil and pray it wouldn't melt. But, I saw a tip in a magazine that said all you have to do is replace it with a metal cabinet knob and you are good to go. So, I bought a heavy metal knob and some various sized screws (a cabinet knob screw is far too long).

When I got home I discovered I only had 4 cat treats (and they are little squares) left! So, I opened one of the free sample cans of cat food and put it on two plates. Caley turned her nose up, as usual, so she got the last four cat treats. Scruffy, as usual, ate all the cat food.

I swapped out the handle on the Dutch oven after a bit of trial and error on screw length. I took two photos so you could see what I am talking about.

I got out my clothes for the wedding and decided to try and take a nap. And, I finally did fall asleep for about a half an hour. I set the alarm for 2:15 PM. I had to leave before 3:00, you see.

Earlier this week, Cheri, a lady at work, found out I was invited so she asked if she could ride with me. I reluctantly said yes (mainly because I didn't want to stay late and then drive home in the dark all that way (the wedding was in St. Clair Shores; about an hour and Northeast from here). She did offer to meet me and leave her car somewhere but I declined, knowing I personally wouldn't like to ride for an hour late at night, get out of a warm car and into a cold one and then drive the rest of the way home, myself.

Project Manager moment: Since the lady lives in Canton, she was about 30 minutes Southwest from me. The wedding is at 5:00 PM (which is rush hour traffic-time) so I figured it would take 1 1/2 hours to get there from her house. So, I needed to pick her up around 3:30 PM.

After waking up, I shaved and showered (yes, again), got dressed and left for her house. I found it without too much trouble and we headed back out on the road. I ran into several traffic jams but we arrived at the Barrister Gardens in St. Clair Shores at 4:45 PM.

Now, knowing Tracey as I do, I very much expected a VFW hall setting with big washtubs filled with long neck beers and ice. So, I had dressed according. I did have a sports jacket over a shirt and slacks, but no tie. I was not prepared for the absolute elegance of the hall! And, almost all of the male guests had suits and ties on!

The people invited from work made up about a table and a half, so we claimed two adjoining tables for the evening. In typical Tracey fashion, she and the bridesmaids (and there were six of them, plus the maid of honor!) were in the bar next door to the hall having one or two beers waiting for the ceremony.

Finally, it was time. They were married right in the hall by a very well-spoken Minister. The ceremony was beautiful, with several things I hadn't seen before. They lit a candle as a memorial for family and friends who had died. And, instead of the typical "unity candle" they did something called the "mingling of the sands." They each had a small crystal goblet of sand (symbolizing all that each of them had been, are now and would be) that they both poured together into a larger goblet. Since the sands were now blended, it would be impossible to ever separate them again. Nice touch!

So, the reception began! They all went off to pose for pictures (this was possibly the most photographed wedding I ever saw, BTW. I did not bring my camera, I asked Fawn to email me a few of her best shots, so maybe I will have something to post for you.) We first got a veggie tray of broccoli, celery and carrots sticks with a sort of ranch dressing (I know there was paprika in it). Later we got dinner rolls and butter. Finally (and none too soon for those of us who didn't eat lunch) dinner! Salad with a hint of Italian flavor came first.

I had to laugh at the first entree. It was linguine with clam sauce. Why is that funny? Well, Tracey and I would invite one another over for dinner back in the day. One of the first things I ever made her was linguine with clam sauce, which she had never tasted. I guess she liked it!

Sidebar: I can still recall her amazement at my spice and herb assortment. She told me that growing up in West Branch, Michigan, the only herbs and spices she ever saw anyone have or use was garlic powder and dried parsley flakes.

After that came perfectly done chicken thighs and drumsticks, roast beef (with a mystery sauce that had an odd flavor component nobody could identify) mashed potatoes and gravy (great gravy, BTW) and mixed veggies.

I passed on the cheesecake dessert and settled for some great coffee. I have had a lot of different coffees, but not being a coffee connoisseur, never really much cared. But this tasted fantastic.

Finally with the dishes cleared, we started the long process of special dances. With six bridesmaids, and her daughter, Katlyn, as maid of honor, and a corresponding number of the best man and groomsmen, this took a long, long time.

But they finally got through with that and the garter, bouquet toss and so on. Then the dancing began around 9:30 PM. Cheri, who had long ago abandoned her high heels for slipper socks, asked me if I was ready to go. I said yes, and so we made our goodbyes.

A long ride home and I dropped her off. Then I drove another 30 minutes back to the house and, thankfully pulled into my garage at about 10:45 PM. I checked the odometer and I put 169 miles on the car tonight.

I got in and apologized again to cats for the lack of treats (but they just didn't want to let it go)! I took off my party clothes and just barely got to bed before I was asleep.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cutting the leaves...

It was mostly sunny on Thursday, but very cool and windy. I don't think we ever even got to 60 degrees F. But, the sun and wind did seem to dry the grass out enough to try and cut it.

So, I raced home, treated the cats, changed my shoes and then headed out to the garage, grabbing my hat and a jacket. I checked the oil and topped off the gas tank and began to cut the lawn.

There were a lot more leaves this time (especially in front making it a bit more difficult to cut and impossible to get "clean") but by 7:30 PM, both the front and back were done.

I blew off the mower and the garage apron, then drove the mower inside and closed up everything for the night.

Dinner was the last of the cauliflower pie and, later on, two apples for a snack. I watched TV until 10:30, then went to sleep.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wet Wednesday

It was supposed to rain today, so this time I brought a rain jacket. Hmmm... must be so, as I watched the beautiful full moon get swallowed up by clouds in just the short drive to work.

I went back home at lunchtime. I had thawed out the final remaining package of last fall's meat (stewing beef) last night and want to get the crock pot going (I didn't have time this morning).

Before I got started on the stew, I put a container of my clam chowder soup I also thawed out last night in a saucepan on the back burner to warm up for my lunch. I am using my smaller round slow cooker, not the big oval one, BTW, so I am adjusting the ingredient amounts accordingly.

As some of you may remember, my personal beef stew is quite complex and takes a while. So, I just pulled a recipe off of the Internet that sounded good for this one. I did notice that most slow cooker beef stew recipes call for putting the meat into the slow cooker as is. I'm sorry, but I couldn't make myself do that! So, I put a tablespoon of Canola oil in my skillet on high. I put some flour, salt, fresh black pepper and garlic powder in a big baggie. I turned the pan down to medium and, working in three batches, I coated the meat with the flour mix and seared all sides of each piece.

Here are the ingredients and the order that everything went into the pot: I peeled and sliced two long carrots. Then I diced up (roughly the same size as the meat, which I had originally cut to more uniform pieces) four big Yukon Gold potatoes. I added the seared meat next. I put in one cup of beef broth, one clove of garlic I minced, a bay leaf, a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and a teaspoon of paprika. I didn't add the salt and pepper the recipe called for because there was salt and pepper in the flour and I will taste test it and adjust as needed when I get home, anyway.

I added two medium onions, peeled and quartered, one rib of sliced celery and, my own touch, some Cremini mushrooms, also quartered. I turned the slow cooker on high and should be able to eat after 6:00 PM!

I fixed a bowl of soup and tore off another hunk of the rustic Italian bread for my lunch (that bread was delicious, by the way, and is disappearing fast!). I watched some of the noon hour news and then headed back to work.

It rained off and on all afternoon, so cutting the grass tonight is off. When I got out of the car in the garage after work, I could smell the stew. I took off the lid and discovered I had almost no broth left. So, I added about 1/2 cup more of beef broth and stirred, then taste-tested.

Hmmm... Definitely needs more salt and pepper and something else is missing... I got it! Thyme! So I added about a teaspoon of dried thyme (too wet to go outside and fetch fresh), more salt and pepper, stirred it up and turned the slow cooker to warm (the newer ones have a "warm" setting). Moved on to cat treats, checking mail and changed clothing.

I started the Wednesday night laundry and then relaxed for a bit. Then a got a bowl of the stew and a hunk of bread. It looks so good I took a picture for you and posted it (and, it tasted better than it looked!)

I ate the bowl watching some taped TV. I must confess that, after hanging up the laundry, I got another bowlful and more bread! I put the leftovers in the fridge and watched TV until I went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

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Food Porn: Crock Pot Beef Stew and Rustic Italian Bread

Quote

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall."

~ Confucius

Lazy Tuesday

I had to go out during the day and inspect a job site. Wouldn't you know that was exactly the only time all day that it rained?

By the time I drove home the cold front had moved through, leaving it sunny but cooler (of course, lol!)

Back home, I realized I had absolutely no ambition. I'm not really sure why I didn't feel like doing anything, but I didn't. So, I didn't!

I warmed up the last hamburger for dinner and, after remembering the asparagus I left standing in some water on Saturday, made an delicious, but simple, side dish. I took one piece by each end, bent it until it snapped and trimmed all the rest to that length. I put them in a bowl, added three cloves of minced garlic (You could use less, of course, but I like garlic!) a pinch of kosher salt and a little fresh ground black pepper and drizzled them with olive oil.

I tossed them about a bit and put them on the tinfoil-lined little pan in my toaster oven that I had preheated to 400 degree F. I roasted them for about 10 minutes (or until yours are tender). I plated them and, using the micro-planer, dusted them with just a little Parmigiano-Reggiano. Note: use just a little or you will lose the effect! This is NOT a cheese dish!

An excellent dinner! I cleaned up and wandered off to watch TV for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Monarch Day!

On October 14 each year, millions of Monarch butterflies return to Santa Cruz, California.

Veggie Monday

Monday was so warm we came close to breaking the all time record high temperature of 82 degrees F. But, we will soon be returning to more seasonal temperatures in Michigan as a cold front moves through.

At home after work, I opened all the windows I could and then took a leisurely stroll around my back yard, checking things out.

Back inside, I decided to make a dish I have been anxious to try (after Sunday's flops, I need a hit!) It takes a while, so I got started on my Cauliflower Cheese Pie.

I preheated my oven to 400 degrees F. and greased a 9 x 9 glass baking dish. To make the crust, I grated two cups of peeled potatoes and 1/4 cup of an onion. I used a kitchen towel to squeeze the extra liquid from the grated potatoes. In a medium size mixing bowl, I combined the grated potatoes, onions, one egg, some salt and a tablespoon of flour. I transferred the mixture to the prepared baking dish, and patted it down with a rubber spatula. I baked it for 30 minutes. Then I brushed the crust with olive oil, and baked it for another 10 minutes. I removed the crust from the oven and reduced the oven's temperature to 350 degrees F.

Here's how I made the filling: I heated Canola oil in my large skillet until hot. I reduced the temperature to medium and saut�ed a chopped medium onion, two cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme, the same amount of dried basil, more salt and pepper in the hot oil. I cooked it for about 8 to 10 minutes.

I cored a head of cauliflower and gave that a rough chop. I stirred the cauliflower into the pan and cooked it for another 15 minutes. I spread 3/4 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese onto the potato crust and then spooned the vegetables on top of the cheese. I sprinkled another 3/4 cup of shredded cheese over the saut�ed vegetables.

I beat 1/4 cup of milk and two eggs together in a small bowl, and then poured it over the vegetables and cheese. Finally, I sprinkled 1/4 teaspoon of paprika over the mixture. I baked the pie for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the custard was set and the top of the pie was slightly browned.

I let it cool for a while and then ate my vegetarian dinner. Very good! This would make a nice side dish for almost any meal.

I watched a very strange British movie called the Wicker Man that Jake and Carla recommended and then switched to reading until bedtime.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

to all my Canadian friends!

Sunday's story

I woke up during the night again (dammit) and so slept in until 7:00 AM. I warmed up some of yesterday's coffee and then got to work. Riese is supposed to stop in at 2:00 PM to drop off that book I bought in her fundraiser. So, I needed to clean the house and am thinking about making some brownies

So, clean the house I did! I also did the bedding that I neglected to wash yesterday and then the last load of regular laundry for this week. I was done cleaning the house about 11:00 AM, so I started making the brownies. I also thawed out some of the Beef, Mushroom and Barley soup in case they are hungry.

It is supposed to get close to 80 degrees F. today, so I turned off the furnace and opened almost all of the windows in the house. I love fresh air!

About that time, I saw my neighbor jump my fence and head for my back door. His friend with the power washer came over and they wanted to test the water pressure. I showed him how to hook up the hose to the one attached to the fence to get the water back there. The guy said the water pressure was fine, so they started working.

I put the brownie pan on a rack to cool. I ate a bowl of soup and an apple for my lunch, just in case they don't want to eat or don't have the time. I was just waiting for the power washing to stop so I could take a shower. I appreciate him being so thorough, but on the other hand, I don't want to greet guests stinking, either.

He did stop at 1:30, so I walked back and admired his work (no sh*t, the difference is night and day). I paid him his $50.00 and asked if he was finished. "No," he said, "I still need to do the platform and the 4x4's that hold up the swings." So I asked him to wait 10 minutes so I could take a shower and he said no problem.

So, I took a shower and changed clothes. Jeremy, Jyl, Joe and Riese showed up right around 2:00 PM. Riese gave me my book, a nice thank you letter and two school pictures of Joe. It turned out they hadn't eaten lunch so I dished out the soup and cut into the "rustic Italian" loaf of bread I bought at Westborn, yesterday. At that point, I felt pretty silly having already eaten my lunch, BTW.

They seemed to be enjoying the soup and bread, so I went to cut up the now-cooled brownies... Damn! They had risen to the top of the pan like last time, but this time it was just an air pocket and the rest of the stuff was still wet and at the bottom of the pan, not fully cooked. I wish I'd cut into them before they came, so I could have thrown them away! But, Jyl said she would try one. She pronounced it good, so Jeremy and Joe also had one (Riese was outside playing). So, I cut up the rest of them, put them on a paper plate covered with Saran Wrap and told them they could take them home if they liked.

We chatted about this and that: Joe's Homecoming dance (his date broke her arm and couldn't go, so he went stag and ended up dancing with 10 or 12 other young ladies) Jeremy's work and school (he's mentioned in yet another magazine article - seems like almost every week now!) and Jyl's neighborhood stray cat rescue operation (which didn't seem to have the whole-hearted support from the rest of the family you might expect). Jeremy and Jyl both said that my kitchen tile turned out good and that the pictures in my Blog did not do it justice.

They left around 3:30 PM to go grocery shopping (thankfully taking the cursed brownies with them). I changed my clothes and then wrote all this down.

I boiled some water in the kettle and added it to a one ounce package of dried Morel mushrooms to rehydrate them. I put the load of pants and shirts in the dryer (I shut off the washer hours ago when they started their power washing). Then I walked out back to take some pictures of the play structure.

Then I changed my hoses back and went out front to water the container gardens. The hanging planters were still moist, so I just did the mailbox garden, the tree box and the urn. Then I watered the new grass in the lawn. I was just washing down my garage door (dust and grass clippings) when Jake and Carla pulled in. They didn't come inside, as they were just out for a Sunday drive through Hines Park, looking at the trees. But, when I told them about the power washing, they did walk out back to check it out. Both agreed with me it looks amazing! They left for home and I coiled up the hose out in back.

Back inside, I hung up the laundry and then drained the Morel mushrooms. I used a sieve and a coffee filter and did it twice. I want to use the liquid later and there is a lot of sand in Morels. I rinsed off the Morels in cool water and patted them dry with paper towels.

Seeing Jake reminded me of something I'd been mulling over since he mentioned it this past Thursday. He said he had a concept; that, as a child he looked up at the sky on Palms Road and saw stars. Now when he looks up, he just sees airplanes. He thought I should make that a poem. So, I stopped working and I did (it's called "Airplanes and Dreams" in the poetry section, BTW). I posted it and the pictures of the play structure.

It was almost 6:00 PM, so I needed to give some serious attention to my Sunday Night dinner. I used the Morel mushroom to make a sauce. I saut�ed some diced shallots, added the mushrooms, some of the mushroom water, heavy cream and white wine. Then I pan seared some sea scallops in olive oil and butter. I topped the scallops with the sauce and added some lemon slices and fresh parsley for a garnish.

Very disappointing! I'm not sure why, but the sauce was very bland and nothing seemed to pop on this dish. Oh well, you can't hit a home run every time, I guess.

I watched my normal Sunday night shows and went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Airplanes and Dreams

At night and back on the farm when I was a lad,
I would sometimes lie in the summer clover and stare straight up
at the thousand twinkling stars

I must admit, I did wish upon many a star
each wish was a dream and it seemed
that those dreams would someday all come true

Now in the twilight of my years, I look up at the city night sky-scape
and see jet airplanes, headed for the major airport south of here
not thousands, of course, but still twinkling, twinkling

I think of my childhood days
and watch those twinkling lights, and my dreams,
slowly move away and disappear...

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Play Structure #1

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Play structure #2

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Play Structure #3

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Play structure #4

Did you know...

that when you are carrying a bowl full of something (like when I refill the cats water and carry one of them to the bedroom and one downstairs) if you constantly look at the bowl you will inevitably slosh it over the side?

I read that a while ago and found it to be true. You must focus your eyes on something farther away and then you don't spill it.

Fun facts to know and tell...

Saturday, this and that...

I woke up on Saturday morning at 7:30 AM, after spending several hours in the night awake. I put on a pot of coffee and, after shaving, hit the shower. I skipped breakfast and went with just coffee. I had a 9:30 AM haircut appointment, so I cleaned up everything in the kitchen and started the dishwasher.

On the road again... I got my haircut and then went to Westborn market. I had a short list of things I needed, but, on a whim, I bought some beautiful fresh asparagus, a bag of fresh-picked Michigan apples and a nice chunk of sharp cheddar cheese. I stopped and got my oil changed in the Volvo. Then I went to the Farmer's market and bought a big bag of home-grown tomatoes. By 11:00 AM, I was back at home. Yes, the cats wanted treats and yes, I gave in.

I took out a bag of frozen sea scallops to thaw and went outside to pick any of my tomatoes that were close to ripe. I got about 10 of them. Back inside, I cut my Roma tomatoes in half and the Farmer's Market's big tomatoes in quarters. I filled a half-sheet pan and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I let them sit for about an hour to draw out some of the water from the tomatoes.

While I was waiting, I watched one of my Saturday morning Food Network shows I tape each week and ate breakfast/lunch: two apples and a chunk of cheese. Delicious! Then it was time to fire up the broiler. I drizzled the tomatoes with olive oil and stuck them under the broiler for (at first) 20 minutes. I checked and (I am looking for a good char, here) they were not done yet. It took 15 minutes more, but I finally got it close. I pulled the pan out and took a picture for you.

Then, I took a short nap. I would really like to get back to staying up a little later and (hopefully) sleeping through the night. We'll see...

I woke up at 3:30 PM. The tomatoes have cooled, but I need to move onto the downstairs storm door. So, I took the top piece of molding and marked both sides. I think I need to cut the aluminum back to allow the door to fit correctly, you see.

I talked with B___ about these cut off wheels and he said they do work, but shatter easily. He was right! I got the top of the door and halfway down one side cut before the motor got so hot I couldn't hold the tool anymore. But I had already gone through maybe 15 cut off wheels, and only one actually wore down; the rest snapped.

Back inside, I ran the tomatoes through the blender while I saut�ed a diced onion and some garlic, I put the tomatoes in with the onions and garlic and added some chopped fresh basil oregano salt and pepper. I let that cook down on medium low for about 2 hours.

I decided to resume the aluminum cutting tomorrow, so I put everything away until then. I put the cooled tomatoes in two 4-cup freezer containers for winter use. I hand washed the half sheet pan and the blender parts. I warmed up two hamburgers for dinner and started watching TV. I did have another apple as a late night snack, BTW. I gave up and went to bed at 10:30 PM.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

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Home grown and Farmer's Market tomatoes, charred

On This Day in History...

Oct 11, 1899: The Boer War began in South Africa.

Now, why, you might ask, would the Captain give a fig about a war that started 110 years ago in another country? Well, let me tell you...

In the farmhouse where I grew up, we actually had one room known as the library, where literally hundreds of books sat on floor-to-ceiling bookselves my Dad made. And, as a matter of fact, at one point, my brother Carl arranged them all according to the Dewey Decimal system! Naturally, I grew up to be a voracious reader.

One of the books that fascinated me was called "Scouting on Two Continents" by Major Fredrick Russell Burnham. The copyright is 1926, BTW. Its an autobiography of a man who grew up in Arizona in the 1800's and learned to track (both people and animals).

He, like many others in America, got caught up in the drama of the Boer war and went overseas to help. So, its a mix of his life in the old west and then his life in the war in South Africa. I loved it as a kid and really wanted to be him!

As you probably know, my mother eventually moved to a house in New Baltimore. They did build her bookshelves in her guest room, but all the books she had collected over the years couldn't possibly fit. So, she passed out a lot of them. I am happy to report that Scouting on Two Continents now sits in the barrister bookcase (that was my Grandmother's, "Mama Rene")in my living room. And, that I still re-read it every now and then. In fact, thinking about it, I pulled it out when I was writing this entry.

As soon as I am finished with the James Ellroy novel I am working on, it will be my next read.

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Hines Park #1

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Hines Park #2

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Hines park #3

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Hines park #4

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Hines Park #5

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Hines Park #6

Friday Night Fun

It was another beautiful day on Friday. So, I rode through a portion of Hines Park at lunch and took pictures of some of the trees that are now turning color. I stopped at Home Depot on the way home and bought some cutoff wheels for my Dremel tool.

The weirdest thing happened when I gave the cats their treats. Scruffy gets his in the kitchen and Caley gets hers in the bedroom (to avoid squabbling). I had just put Caley's down when the doorbell rang. So, I went out and talked to a kid trying to sell me the Detroit newspaper (thanks, but no thanks). I shut the front door and came back inside. I was amazed that both cats had abandoned their treats. They both ran out and jumped up on top of the display table in the living room, looking out the picture window to see who was here!

I changed clothes after I filled up the bird feeder and took some initial measurements of the back door. I hope to finally install that storm door on Saturday.

I warmed up the ham and potato casserole for dinner and ate some, watching TV. I started nodding off around 9:30 PM, so I gave up and went to bed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Grass Cuttin'

Thursday was a beautiful day! High almost 70 degrees F, sunny with a bit of the west wind.

So, after work I raced home and changed shoes after the cat greet and treat. I grabbed the mower key and a jacket and went out in the garage. I checked the oil and added some gas (this time adding some Stabil; you never know when your last time of cutting for the year will be in Michigan).

I did have to cut the front lawn at my usual throttle speed (blowing leaves again) but once I got in back I kicked it up two notches. Really helped! The sun had set, but it was still light enough when I finished up and put everything away.

I warmed up two hamburgers for dinner and watched TV until 10:00 PM.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wednesday, and its raining...

It was raining when I got up on Wednesday; not hard, but just enough to use the intermittent wipers on the way into work. But, it did rain off and on all day until about 4:00 PM when the sun finally came out. So, no grass cutting tonight, because when I checked the rain gauge, I had gotten about 1/4 inch of rain and there were standing puddles.

Back inside and cats treated, I changed clothes and started the Wednesday night wash. Then I started thinking about what to make for dinner. I still have 6 burgers, very little macaroni and cheese and that ham slice. I got it! A ham casserole!

So, I peeled about two pounds of my russet potatoes, got out the mandoline and sliced them thin. I buttered up my oval casserole dish and preheated the oven to 325 degrees F.

I melted butter in a large saucepan. I added about 1/2 cup of diced onion and the same amount of thinly sliced celery; I saut�ed that until tender. I added my little bell pepper (finely chopped) and saut�ed for one minute longer.

I stirred in three tablespoons of flour until smooth. Then I gradually added one cup of milk and one cup of heavy cream, stirring constantly Note: you can either use 2 cups of milk or the half and half. I went half and half because I had some heavy cream I needed to use up left over from the macaroni and cheese.

I added 1/4 teaspoon of dried mustard, about 1/8 teaspoon of ground black pepper and a palmful of fresh chopped parsley. I didn't salt it at all as the ham was pretty salty, itself. I continued cooking, stirring, until thickened. I added sliced potatoes and the now diced ham slice and stirred to combine.

I transferred the mixture to the prepared baking dish. I put the lid on (the recipe said to cover tightly with foil) and baked it for 45 minutes. I took the lid off and baked for about 10 minutes longer, or until potatoes were tender. Finally, I sprinkled shredded Cheddar cheese over the top of the casserole and baked it for a few minutes longer, or until the cheese was melted.

I let it cool down a bit and ate a great dinner! I watched TV until about 10:00 PM and then went to bed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

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I couldn't help it! The front garden looked so nice after the rain...

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We don't call these tough guys "pansies" around here!

De Bate?

Tuesday was cool, but sunny. Actually a perfect Fall day.

I have heard of two confirmed cases of flu here at Spacely Sprockets (not in my building, thank God!) so I went to Kroger's at lunch. I know what you're thinking: Kroger's? Well, yes, because this Kroger's has a drug store in it and they are giving flu shots for $24.99. So, I got my flu shot for this year.

After work, I did the usual, except for changing clothes. It's getting a little too cool to work outside in shorts. So, I went out and watered the neglected container gardens. The sweet potato vines in the tree box were the most stressed. But, everybody got a nice drink of water. I still can't believe I have four pansies still alive and growing in the mailbox planter! Last year all my pansies died off in early July!

I then turned my attention to the rear of the house. I went out and picked a bunch of stuff from my raised bed garden: an eggplant, four Jalapenos (one already starting to turn red), two small green peppers and twelve ripe tomatoes. None of my "fall garden" plantings made it. I think the late summer heat killed both the peas and spinach. I am still waiting for the leeks to look like leeks (instead of green onions) and, other than a bunch of green tomatoes, I think that's it for the year.

We do have a warm-up coming this weekend, so I will wait and see how many tomatoes ripen. Otherwise, when the next threat of frost comes, I will pick them, wrap them in newspaper and see if they ripen inside.

Back inside, I snacked on one of the green peppers and some tomatoes (that's why the picture I posted during "insomnia time" doesn't reflect the numbers listed above) and then warmed up two hamburger patties. Now, as you well know, I normally eat them with just yellow mustard and a bun but, inspired by all the veggies, I added cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and dill pickles to them. Messy to eat, but damn good!

I watched a couple of shows, waiting for the Presidential debate. Here's my take on that: McCain took the initiative early on with his rescue plan for home owners. Obama had nothing to counter with. But, as the "mock" town hall meeting wore on, Obama looked more and more suave and collected and McCain looked older, tired and, well, grumpy. And, (I hate to admit this) while Obama laid out more concrete plans, both of the candidates kept using the Palin trick of ignoring the questions and reciting a campaign speech. I don't like that! Tell me what you are gonna do, dammit!

So my analysis would be, if McCain wins, it will be in spite of these debates, definitely not because of them.

I went to bed after the debate, but woke up at 1:30 AM and couldn't fall back asleep until after 3:00.

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Fall harvest

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

In the early morning rain...

It was raining Monday morning when I left for work, but it had cleared up by the time I got home.

Once home, I did the usual and then returned my sister-in-law Jean's call, only to get her voicemail. She did call back just to tell me how much she liked the macaroni and cheese. Thanks! That was nice. I work on these stupid computers so much I forget there is another method of communication: the phone!

Since it was sunny, I got out the grill and fired up the charcoal. I grilled eight burgers (remembering to dimple the patties) and two ham steaks. I ate one ham steak with warmed up macaroni and cheese and some fresh parsnips I peeled, sliced and steamed. Very good!

I watched some TV, but turned it off and went to bed by 9:30 PM.

Monday, October 6, 2008

For my Brother, Carl

I have watched the little bit I still had left in my 401k evaporate today (first time the S&P's fallen below 10,000 in four years). To cheer me up, Jake sent me a link to yesterday's Family Guy show (that I missed) called: I Dream of Jesus.

In case you need cheering up, too, go to: http://www.hulu.com/watch/37768/family-guy-i-dream-of-jesus

But, for this post, I will fill you in. The Griffin family is at a 1950's diner. All the wait staff is dressed in 1950 outfits (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, James Dean, etc.) The waiter they get is on two crutches, with leg braces.

Chris (the teenage son) says, "What are you, a robot?"

The waiter says, "No, this is the fifties and I have polio."

Chris says, "I never heard of that!"

Peter explains, "Oh yes, polio in the '50s was like Aids today, only people with polio can still get into Heaven"

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Mom's Party #1

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Mom's Party #2

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Mom's Party #3

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Mom's Party #4

Slow on Sunday

I woke up at 6:30 AM on Sunday. It's exactly 40 degrees F. outside. I put on my slippers and my thin robe and went out to warm up a cup of coffee in the kitchen.

I posted the Blog and, as always, prayed to the patron saint of Blogs (whoever he/she is) that I didn't forget anything. It's really hard to remember EVERYTHING, you know!

I shaved and showered and then thought about breakfast. I decided to use up the rest of the shredded Pepper Jack cheese, so I made a three egg omelet. Mighty tasty!

I started a load of laundry and then got dressed. I have grocery shopping and errands to run. I headed out at 10:30 AM. I stopped at Office Depot for a ream of 24 pound inkjet printer paper, and then hit Meijer's. Meijer's was a mad house. I'll post my observations separately, but suffice it to say I didn't get out of there until almost noon. Perishable meat, dairy items, and a full bladder, all screamed at me to take them home first before continuing my quest. So, I did (whew! That was close!)

On the road again (oh, yeah, it's always been me and Willy!) I went up to Gordon Foods to get some pistachios (it's a long story). Then I stopped at Chaps Feed store for birdseed and suet cakes (I ran out Friday night). Next, it was Kroger's for their sale items and the stuff I guess I can now no longer get at Meijer's. Finally, I hit Westborn Market for the next two week's worth of veggies, mushrooms and herbs. I got home before 2:00 PM.

I unloaded the car and put everything away. The cats immediately hit me up for more treats, although I explained that, when I came home to use the bathroom and put the Meijer's perishables away and gave them those treats, that was it for the day. No, they ain't buying it. If I go away, close the garage door and then come back, raise the garage door, somehow I owe them treats. I tried explaining the circumstances but finally gave up and just gave them some more damn cat treats!

I took the 40 pounds of birdseed and a suet cake outside, refilled both feeders and then watered the new grass seed out back. Back inside, I put the towels in the dryer and added the last load of clothes for the weekend.

With the car trip yesterday and all the walking around today, my legs were hurting me so I decided to take a nap. So, I lay down but my daughter Melissa called before I fell asleep. We talked and talked and talked...

When we finally hung up, it was too late to take a nap. I decided making dinner seemed like too much work so I settled for some hunter sausage, a hunk of cheese and a beer.

I watched the first of my Sunday shows, but let the other one tape and went to bed at 9:00 PM.

Sidebar: Thanks to Hannah, Amanda and my brother Carl for the pictures of Mom's party!

Clarification

In case anyone misunderstood me saying my family was represented by the appearance of my two sons and their family at my Mom's birthday party when I also have two daughters, let me explain.

Both my daughters live out of state (Amy in Minnesota and Melissa in North Carolina) and, while Amy was able to come and visit Mom out at Lake Orion this summer, neither of them was able to come for her party. My Mother understands this and my family knows this, so this is for anyone else who might be curious or confused about my statement.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Morning Song Snippet

from American Tune
words and music by Paul Simon
(and, yes, I know I posted this song in its entirety in June of 2006, but i think it bears repeating)

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered or driven to its knees
But it's alright, it's alright, for we lived so well, so long
Still, when I think of the road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong, I can't help it I wonder what's gone wrong

Party Time!

I woke up at 7:00 AM on Saturday. I checked the temperature and its 37 degrees outside! I made coffee and stripped the bed. The bedding went into the washer and the coffee went into my tummy.

I posted Friday's Blog entry and started making my grocery shopping list. Then I made some scrambled eggs for my breakfast. Planning out the morning and my Mom's birthday party, I determined that I need to start the macaroni and cheese no later than 11:00 AM.

I shaved and showered and did a bit of cleaning up. Finally, at about 10:30, I couldn't wait any longer and started prepping stuff for my dish. It was lucky that I did, because I didn't realize that tripling a recipe changes the cooking times dramatically.

I got the onions peeled and cut, the garlic cloves peeled and the parsley chopped fine. I grated the Pepper Jack cheese and mixed the other cheeses together.

I am not going to spell out the recipe here (I have altered the original one enough that I feel comfortable enough to call it my own, and have asked the ever-faithful Webmaster to post it when he gets time; which, by the time you are reading, this has already happened). But, here's what I did:

I cooked the macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until it was al dente, about 5 to 7 minutes. I drained and tossed it with butter; then set it aside.

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees F. I coated the food tray of the warming dish with butter and set it aside.

I put the milk and heavy cream into a saucepan and added the clove studded onions, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and dry mustard. I warmed that over medium low heat until the milk started to steam, (in a normal-sized batch, this takes about 10 minutes. This took almost 20!) I removed it from the heat and let the flavors infuse while I made the roux.

In a large pot over medium heat, I added equal amounts of butter and flour. I cooked it, whisking constantly, for about 2 to 3 minutes (don't let the roux color). I strained the infused milk and then added it into the roux, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. I let it cook, stirring often, until the sauce was thick (again, a normal-sized batch, maybe 5 minutes. This took almost 15 minutes until it started to thicken.)

I removed it from the heat and added 1/2 the grated Cheddar and 1/2 the Parmesan. I stirred it until it is melted and smooth (well, I stirred it at first, but then I used my emersion blender). Since this is the first time I am adding Pepper Jack cheese to this dish, I added it by small handfuls, blended it in and tasted the results (over and over) until I got the result I wanted: enough so you had a kick and thought, "What is that flavor I'm tasting?" but not enough so you would say, "Wow! That's a lot of Jalapeno in there!" Finally satisfied, I adjusted the seasoning with salt and pepper.

I poured this over the macaroni, added the chunks of Cheddar, and mixed until well blended; I put this into the prepared pan. I sprinkled the remaining Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses evenly over the top. I mixed the bread crumbs, parsley and melted butter and then sprinkled that over the cheese.

I baked it until the top was golden and crusty. Again, this should take you about 25 to 30 minutes, but with the triple batch it was almost an hour.

I used Jake's trick and every time I had a few minutes between steps, I washed things or rinsed them and put them in the dishwasher (he likes to have the kitchen cleaned "before" he eats when he cooks).

While the mac & cheese was baking, I loaded the car. I put in the warming tray rack, the bottom pan with some Sterno, the Sterno holders, a serving spoon, a long lighter, a plastic pitcher to fetch the water I would need and the warming tray lid. I went up in the attic and got down my sleeping bag to keep the dish as warm as possible on the trip (I wondered what caterers use. Some insulated box or something? Anybody knows, let me know please. I'm interested!)

Finally, it looked about right, so I covered the pan with tinfoil and used my oven mitts to get it out to the car and into the sleeping bag in the trunk. The last thing I did was to take my personal birthday present out of the freezer and put them in the car in a little cooler: 4 cups of my Clam Chowder and 4 cups of the Beef, Mushroom and Barley soup.

Traffic was light and the trip to new Baltimore was uneventful. I got there about 10 minutes before 2:00 PM (the official start of the party), so I swung by Mom's house and put the soups in her freezer. While I was there, I also checked out the ramp they (I think it was my brother Jim and his son, Jim Jr.) built on her back porch for the wheel chair (nice job, guys! Looks great!) Then, it was on to the downtown New Baltimore park and the party!

There weren't a lot of people when I got there, but I am an old hand at Goerlich parties and was not fooled. My brother Joe and Kal, Carl's son-in-law, help me carry in my stuff. Kal put two pitchers-full of water in the bottom pan, we took off the tinfoil, lighted the Sterno (I forgot to bring something to pry the tops off with, but Kal used his keys) and I was good to go! I also forgot to take my camera, but am hoping somebody will send me a picture or two so I can post them on the website.

There was one interesting guest when I got there: Susan Genso. Now, I knew a Jimmy Genso back in school and I think (Damn! I just can't remember) that his sister Sue was my sister Anne's friend. But anyway, she seemed to remember me and its always interesting (if somewhat bizarre) to see people you knew, or who knew you, 40+ years ago.

Sidebar: I did think of this, but only when driving home. If Susan really was a friend of Anne's I should have thought to introduce her to Terry and all Anne's kids and grandkids. Oh well, maybe next year...

Mom seemed to be in her glory, with everyone around. I did tell both Cora and my Mom about the soup in their freezer and reminded both of them you have to add a little water when reheating the barley soup.

The hall (or whatever you call it) filled up fast! It was weird. There were so many people inside it was too hot. But if you went outside to cool off, it got too chilly. I won't bother you with who was there or who was missing. Let's just say that percentage-wise, we gave a great showing! Personally, I had both Jeremy's family and Jake and Carla show up, so I felt we represented.

The kids kept running out to play in the park and Riese decided that when she got too cold, she could use my back as her personal hand-warmer. Hey, that's what Grampa's are for, so I was happy to oblige.

As far as food goes, we had my Mac & cheese, potato salad, German potato salad (I don't know who made that, but it was GREAT, BTW), regular fried chicken wings, fried chicken tenders (both store bought) homemade fried chicken, coleslaw, chili in a crock pot, a huge bunch of apple slices with various dips (I think that was my brother Car's dish), Jim Junior's deer meat balls with a spicy sauce (delicious!), a Waldorf salad (my niece Mary's, I think) that was to die for and boxes of pizza. Deserts included cookies, two types of brownies (Jake's was better, I heard) and the beautiful, big birthday cake and ice cream.

If I forgot anything, I apologize. And, if I missed anything it was the traditional Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie) and the Baklava.

And, thanks to all who commented on how good the macaroni and cheese was. I'm not necessarily on an ego trip here, but it's nice to know my efforts were well received. Except for my brother Carl, of course, who said it was good, but then suggested (darkly) I was trying to kill my Mother with an overdose of fat-ladened dairy products...

So, at about 4:30 PM, I started making my goodbyes (and by now, there were a LOT of people to say goodbye to!) I still had about 1/4 of my mac & cheese left, so Carla and Jake helped me get it together and out to the car. And then I left.

I made two stops on the way home. One was at Frank's Pharmacy in Mt. Clemens (at Crocker and Harper) to try and pick up some heavier exercise bands for Luanne. But they only sell them in packages and the only ones they carry were for "light resistance." Sorry, babe!

Then I stopped at a friend's house (near Mount Clemens) to try and unload some leftover macaroni and cheese. This, I eventually did. I headed home, staring straight into the setting sun (thank God for clip on sunglasses and flip down visors) and later saw the most beautiful sunset!

I got home about 7:30 PM. I washed everything but the tray I baked the macaroni and cheese in (that got filled with hot water and left to soak). It was then I realized I forgot the plastic pitcher! Oh well, it only cost me a buck in the first place. I filled a container with most of the remaining mac & cheese and ate the little bit left for dinner.

I wrote out this Blog entry, which took me to almost 10:30. Then I went in to read in bed until I started to nod and so, went to sleep.