Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yardwork

I woke up on Saturday at 8:30 AM (I stayed up a bit too late, watching a movie). I warmed up a cup of coffee and posted to the blog. I totally wasted yesterday and, yes, I do feel a little bad about it... on the other hand, maybe not!

But today's a new day. I shaved and showered and made some breakfast. Then I started to clean the house up a bit. My friend B___ called and we caught each other up on our respective Thanksgivings. One interesting tidbit he had was that it would be over 40 degrees and sunny today. He suggested if I still had any yard work left to do, I should do it now because it's supposed to snow Sunday afternoon.

So, since I do have leaves left, I started getting dressed to go out and mulch them. But, the phone rang and it was my daughter Melissa. We chatted for too long (we always do) and then I went outside. I used the blower to get all the leaves out of the gardens, off the porch, and off both rear patios. I was able to cut the front and side lawns thoroughly, but I had to turn on the headlights by the time I got out back.

I didn't cut all the grass out back; I just mowed the leaves around the house. I put the mower and blower away and coiled up the 100 foot extension cord. Then I closed everything up for the night.

I took out two deep dish pie crusts to thaw, while I cubed some redskin potatoes and carrots. I boiled those until they were tender, adding in some frozen green beans at the last minute. I drained them and then added my turkey leftovers and a jar of turkey gravy into one pie pan. I used the other dough to cover it and baked it until it was golden brown. Then I ate about half of it for dinner. I like turkey pot pie!

I watched some TV but eventually switched to reading. I went to sleep about 10:30 PM.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Slackard!

I got up several times during the night at Jake and Carla's. I think it was the noise their ice maker makes... But I got up for real when I heard people moving about.

Jake was making bacon in the oven and whipping up a pancake batter and Carla was in the shower. Soon, we all got together and had a nice pancake and bacon breakfast. The coffee was excellent, BTW.

I spent an embarrassingly long time in the bathroom and then started to get my stuff together for the trip home. Carla packed up a couple of containers of leftovers for me and then I hit the road just after 9:00 AM.

I stopped at Office Depot to check out their monitor on sale on this "Black Friday" (21 inch flat LCD for $129.00 US) but, the salesguy told me (like Jake had warned me) they were all gone hours ago.

When I got home, I treated the cats and looked around at my house. It really needs cleaning, and there's that whole tile project waiting...

So, I did the only other option left to me: I took the day off! I lounged around, took several naps, watched taped TV shows and read my book. I did make dinner (of sorts). I was gonna make a turkey pot pie, but that seemed like a LOT of work, so I heated my last bag of microwave popcorn, instead. I didn't even post the Blog in a timely fashion...

What can I say in my defense? Nothing!

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Thanksgiving dessert: Apple tart with aged cheddar cheese

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Thanksgiving Dinner. Left to right: potato medallions, glazed carrots, mushroom bundles, Carla's family dressing (top) and Jake's turkey (bottom)

Happy Thanksgiving!

I woke up on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, at 5:30 AM. I made a pot of coffee and some scrambled eggs for breakfast. I have to be at Jake and Carla's by noon, so I have to get going.

First I have to make the honey glazed carrots. I have a beautiful, fresh bunch of fresh carrots (with the leaves still on). So, I cut off the tops and peeled them. Then I cut them on the bias, about 1/2-inch thick. I cooked them in my homemade chicken stock until tender (about 5-6 minutes). I drained the carrots and put them back into the pot, along with two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of honey. I cooked them until a glaze started to coat the carrots (about five minutes) I seasoned them with salt and pepper and set them aside to cool.

Note: if you were making this all at once (from start to finish), you would now hit the carrots with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, garnish it with a handful of finely diced, flat leaf parsley and serve it. But, I'll do that after re-heating them at J&C's.

Next it was on to my signature dish for this Thanksgiving: Prosciutto-Wrapped Roasted Garlic Potato Medallions.

So, I cut the top off a head of garlic. I oiled that with extra virgin olive oil and salted it. I put that into a tin foil pouch and threw it in the toaster oven at 400 degrees F. for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, I peeled just over a pound of peeled russet potatoes, cubed them and, starting with cold water, boiled them until tender. I drained them then, and added them back to the original pot (carry-over heat takes care of the rest of the moisture, BTW). Then, I mashed them up.

I removed the garlic pouch and squeezed out six cloves of garlic into the potatoes. Note: I realized just then I was supposed to collect the six cloves of roasted garlic and mash them first, before adding to the mashed potatoes. So, I mashed it all a lot to make sure I incorporated the garlic. I also tasted one of the leftover roasted garlic cloves (just to see the difference). There is much less of a "garlic" taste; it's sweeter and more subtle.

So, to the potatoes and garlic mixture, I added two tablespoons of butter, one egg yolk, 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste) and 1/4 teaspoon of fresh grated whole nutmeg (smells fantastic!) This is the first time I used a whole nutmeg, so I followed Carla's recommendation and put the nutmeg into a baggie and the freezer. Otherwise, the now-bruised whole nutmeg goes rancid. I mashed everything all together and set it aside.

Meanwhile, I cut a big piece of parchment paper and laid it on my biggest cutting board.

Now, I must tell you, I am using Prosciutto which is an aged, air-dried Italian ham. You may know that and I do know that. But, what I didn't know is that there are two kinds of Prosciutto: Prosciutto crudo (which is un-cooked) and Prosciutto cotto (which is cooked). My recipe calls for Prosciutto cotto, but I have NO idea which kind I bought! I just asked for Prosciutto.

But, I must move on... I got it thin-sliced and each slice is maybe three inches high by 6 inches long. So, I put two slices down on the parchment, over-lapped slightly and side-by-side. Then I repeated that, overlapping the next two onto the first two, until it was all gone. I spread the mashed potatoes on top of that, about 1/2-inch thick. Then, using the parchment paper, I rolled it tight into something like a jelly roll, about two inches round and maybe 14-16 inches long. I left the parchment paper around it, then wrapped this log in cling wrap and stuck it in the fridge (it has to be refrigerated at least one hour to stiffen up).

I cleaned up some of the mess and went to take a shave and shower. I got dressed and checked off my list (Lol, you KNOW there had to be a list, right?) of things I needed to bring. So, I loaded the car up with the potato log, the carrots, 1/4 cup of fine-chopped fresh Italian parsley, a lemon, balsamic vinegar, basil-infused olive oil and the glazed carrots.

Since I planned on spending the night, I also packed my night and morning meds, my overnight kit (tooth brush, etc.) and a set of t-shirts and shorts (I don't own PJ's, but I don't want to gross anybody out, lol!) And, of course, my hostess gift...

Then, I checked the cat food, water, birdseed and Newt-water, the front door (locked) and the back door (locked) and hit the road.

I got to J&C's at about 12:15 PM. When I got there, Jake was in the midst of preparing the turkey for the oven. So, he had declared the entire kitchen counter as a "contaminated zone" and nobody could touch anything. (Man, I hate these raw poultry police methods. I grew up for some 50 years before anybody gave a crap about this shit, but I'm willing to play along.) This was a free-range turkey who was happy foraging among the sunflower stalks a week ago on a farm on Five-Mile Road between Levan and Farmington Road in Livonia. It's a beautiful bird, and he was rubbing it with vegetable oil when I got there. He had brined it for over 30 hours in sea salt, sugar and water.

So, he lined a half-sheet pan with tin foil and put the bird on a rack on top of it. He had stuffed the cavity with onion, celery and lemons. He popped it into a 500 degree F. oven for 30 minutes. As often happens in my house, he ultimately started setting off his smoke detectors, so he opened a few windows and turn on the ceiling fans.

At the end of the hour, he turned the heat in the oven down to 350 degrees F. and covered the actual turkey breast with a triangle of tin foil. While that was cooking for the next 2 hours, we played a spirited card game of Skip-Bo (Carla won, BTW). We also watched a taped show of Jeopardy. I think I won (but I always do).

I should mention that Carla's dishes, her Mom's recipe for corn bread dressing and the wild mushroom bundles (oyster, shitake and Cremini mushrooms in a collard green wrapper with a wine and butter sauce), both went into the oven at some point.

Finally the turkey came out and was resting for about 1/2 hour. So, I used that time to finish my Prosciutto-Wrapped Roasted Garlic Potato Medallions. I had brought along my electric knife, because I couldn't figure out how I could cut the medallions and not squish the roll.

So, while Carla was making gravy out of the turkey neck and some celery, onions and carrots, I used the electric knife to cut the roll into 3/4 inch slices. I then dipped them into some flour and put them in a skillet with olive oil and butter. I was using a spatula, but Carla jumped in to save me with some thongs to turn them. You are looking for a golden brown color, BTW.

So, finally it was time to eat. I hit the warmed up glazed carrots with the lemon juice and fresh parsley. Jake carved the turkey and we all assembled our dishes.

Warning: I have often been accused of being over-dramatic in this Blog and elsewhere about food, but I am now about to give you my honest assessment of the dinner.

In spite of him never once opening the oven and basting it, that was the juiciest turkey I think I ever ate. Carla's cornbread stuffing was great as always, but her gravy was just over the top!

My potato medallions were excellent (in spite of the fact that, in keeping with my Mother's holiday spirit, I did not do the finish: I was supposed to drizzle them with balsamic vinegar and basil-infused olive oil - both of which I brought - but totally forgot!)

My personal favorite (I think - it was damn hard to choose) was the wild mushroom bundles. I'm not sure why (this may be personal and somewhat obscene) but they tasted like sex to me - raw and earthy.

We ate and ate until we were stuffed. I would have taken a picture but neither one of these folks are into table-scapes, and I didn't bring my camera, LOL! So, I asked Jake to take one for me (see photos).

Jesus, did I mention Carla's gravy? OMG! Again, I am NOT kidding, you would have to taste it to believe it.

We moved from the table to the family room, the ever-efficient Jake, cleaning up behind us. We watched Jeopardy while Jake made dessert. He took Granny Smith apples (one of my favorites) and saut�ed them with butter and brown sugar. He put them in pastry dough and baked them into an apple tart.

I had a wedge, served with a thin slice of 10-year old aged white cheddar cheese. I would describe the taste, but you would think I was exaggerating!

We watched a murder/mystery movie (the Bone Collector) after every thing was cleared up. Once the movie was over (around 11:00 PM) we went to bed. I was truly thankful...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday's Woes

I made the mistake of going to Kroger's at lunch today. I realized I was out of eggs. I should have been tipped off by the number of cars in the lot, but it wasn't until I was inside I realized the magnitude of the "day before Thanksgiving" problem. There were people EVERYWHERE and everybody had a frozen turkey in their cart. I grabbed a dozen eggs and waiting far too long in the express lane.

It was a long day at work, too. People kept leaving early until, by 4:30 PM, I think there were only four of us left in the building. I myself left at five minutes to 5:00, not because I was in any hurry, I just didn't want to be the last one in the building. I couldn't remember how to set the burglar alarm, lol.

I had to take Jake to the Enterprise car rental place after work. His VW Jetta has some wiring problems and keeps turning the air bag off. Since the problem cannot be solved today, the dealership graciously said they would give him a rental car.

So, I dropped him off and, after a bit of a wait, went home. I got there about 6:00 PM, just missing my Mom's call, thanking me for the Thanksgiving bouquet I sent her. I deliberately didn't call her back, thinking they would be eating dinner.

I did the mid-week laundry and started getting stuff out for tomorrow's side dishes. I am bringing a traditional dish (honey glazed carrots) and a switch from the traditional mashed potatoes (Prosciutto-wrapped Roasted Garlic Potato medallions). Since I will have to finish these at Jake and Carla's, there is a bunch of stuff I need to bring besides the dishes themselves. Such as: a lemon, basil-infused olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a 1/4 cup of fine diced fresh, flat leaf parsley and so on...

It was already after 8:00 PM when I started to think about dinner. Now, I have a beautiful big eggplant sitting here, that last poached chicken breast and other things I could make a damn fine dinner with. But, I don't feel like it. For some reason, I am deeply depressed and have been all day.

I keep thinking about the Palms Road house (the one I sold to my neighbor so I could buy the house in St. Clair). That was my last real attempt to live as a "homesteader" (as they called it in the 60's). I raised chickens, rabbits and pigs and had about a half acre garden. I had a monster Minneapolis-Moline tractor and borrowed my neighbor's plow and disc to work up the land. I planted the rest of the two acres in clover and, in the fall, used a hand scythe to cut hay, and then piled it up into an old-fashioned hay stack to feed the animals. We had one shed that came with the property and dragged a brooder house on skids from my neighbors house to mine. We had a a pole barn built big enough for two cars and an office for Luanne to do her writing in.

I had driven by it a couple of times since we moved, but not since I saw they built a two-story modern home right next to it. And, once I heard the house had burned down, never again. I feel you only diminish the past when you try to re-create it.

Be that all as it may, I do need to eat. I took the easy way out and opened a can of beef stew that I ate with some bread.

I watched Top Chef and went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Shopping Day

I kept waking up all night long, so I didn't want to wake up when the alarm went off. But, its garbage day and the devil demands his due.

It was snowing and sleeting here, but the temperature was one degree above freezing. The pictures I saw on the News showed a lot of wet snow, north of here, though.

At lunch Monday, I went back to Lowe's to see if they restocked my radius cap tile yet (I got all they had at the Westland and Canton stores, but I still need another 30 pieces) I talked to the guy working there when I saw there were no new boxes and he said that tile is discontinued and won't be reordered. Yikes! So, he called around and found they still have 112 left in the Southfield store.

That's why today at lunch; I was driving up to 12 Mile and Telegraph to the Southfield Lowe's (about 22 miles from where I work) in all this crappy weather. They did have the tile, so I bought a box of 34. I'll take any extras back after the project is done.

On the way back to work, I stopped at the Mall and got my Franklin planner refill for next year.

Then, on the way home, I stopped at Westborn for the short list of extra ingredients I need to make my side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner at Jake and Carla's. I finally got home and unpacked, just before 6:00 PM.

I cleaned up the kitchen and then made an old favorite for dinner: a big onion, sliced, four or five baby redskin potatoes, thin sliced, and a coil of Hillshire smoked sausage, cut on the bias, all fried to perfection in my big skillet.

I ate that reading my book, then went to bed, still reading my book.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday Moanin'

I could feel every step I had taken up and down that step ladder, cleaning the gutters Sunday, on Monday morning!

When I got home from work, I immediately started making some egg noodles. If you remember my first attempt, the texture was good, but I didn't think the taste was "eggy" enough. But this new recipe calls for four egg yolks. Seems like that should do it!

So, I sifted two cups of four, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder. Then I mixed in the four yolks, "until the dry ingredients are moistened." Uh oh, first problem: not all the dry ingredients are moist. I can't form the ball they want me to. Luckily, I had saved the whites, so I added enough to get all my ingredients moist. I cut the ball of dough into quarters and rolled each quarter out on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Then I cut them about 1/2 inch wide and two inches long.

I set them on a dish towel in a sheet pan to dry (these have to dry for at least two hours before you boil them).

At that point (6:00 PM) I cleaned up the flour mess, got my book and, since I can't make the soup now until 8:00, headed for the couch.

At 7:30, I started chopping the veggies. This is a fairly simple, fool-proof recipe (unless you are a fool like me, lol!) So, I peeled and sliced two carrots, then two celery stalks, a medium-sized onion and three cloves of garlic. Oh, and I deviated from the recipe and added eight ounces of thick sliced Cremini mushrooms. That all went into my stock pot after I heated two tablespoons of olive oil to medium high heat. I cooked and stirred that about 5-6 minutes (you want the veggies softened, but not brown). I also added a bay leaf and four sprigs of fresh thyme.

Here's where I made a mistake. I was supposed to add two quarts of chicken stock to the veggies, bring that to a boil, add 8 ounces to dried wide egg noodles (or fresh-made ones, in this case) and let that simmer for five minutes until the noodles are done. Then you fold in 1 1/2 cups of cooked shredded chicken, simmer another couple of minutes until the chicken heats through, season to taste and top with fresh flat leaf parsley (finely chopped).

But...

I got to worrying about all the loose flour on those homemade noodles. Would it thicken my beautiful stock too much? Would I have gravy instead of soup? So, instead of bringing the stock to boil, etc, I got out more stock and boiled the noodles in a separate pan, drained them, added them to the stock pot and then added the fresh chicken stock and the chicken. I warmed that all up and dished a bowl up to eat about 8:30 PM.

But...

Without the boiling, then simmering process, the veggies were not quite done. So, I had a pot of chicken noodle soup, with beautiful broth, and much better egg noodles but with slightly crunchy carrots!

Oh well, I was hungry enough I didn't care. Tasted great. I left the mess (I'd already cleaned up the kitchen once tonight from the noodle making) and moved from reading on the couch to reading in bed until about 10:30 PM.

Monday, November 24, 2008

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My cheap (and ugly now that I look at it, lol) air conditioner cover

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Outdoor faucet protector

Tile Project - Day Three

I woke up at 6:00 AM, but didn't get out of bed until 7:00! I just laid there, warm and snug, dreaming and thinking. Finally, I got up, put on my robe and put on a fresh pot of coffee.

This is gonna be a tricky day, work wise. It supposed to get up to 40 degrees F. today and then snow 1-2 inches tomorrow night. So, this might be my last chance to clean out the gutters, blow off the patios and front porch, blow out the hose on the fence and, if I get really lucky maybe even cut the leaves one last time. On the other hand, this is Day Three of the Tile Project and I'd like to get the rest of the backer board up and at least some of the tile up.

I had a cup of coffee and it tasted so good that I had another one. Then I stripped the bed and started that wash load. Since I took a shower last night, I just washed up and got dressed.

Uh, oh! I checked on the thin-set and, even though I put the top back on, it's already set and dried! Instead of the mortar I was going to use, I have a five gallon bucket I can only use as a boat anchor!

That must be the difference between mastic and thin-set, because I was still using the mastic from the kitchen counter project, yesterday. Damn. I had an idea that maybe just the top was hard, so I tried to chisel though to the wet stuff. But, I buried a long screwdriver into it and never found any moist mortar. Oh well, another trip to Home Depot!

Since I have to go there anyway, I decided to make sure I do have enough backer board left to finish the doorway wall. One trip to Home Depot is a necessary pain, but two is unacceptable. So, I measured everything left and yes, I do have enough, with just a little waste left over. Finally something is working out right on this project!

Next, I put the chicken in the middle-sized stock pot, (it's only a three pound chicken), along with some bones and wing tips I found in the freezer. I covered it with cold water, added two bay leaves, some salt (just a little at this point, it concentrates) and some fresh ground pepper. I brought it to a boil, and then quickly turned it down to simmer. The boil causes all the blood and extra proteins to coagulate into a foam that rises and collects at the top where you can skim it off, ensuring a clear stock. But, if the stock is allowed to boil too long it will turn cloudy and the fat may emulsify, bonding with the water and making the stock murky and greasy. So, I carefully skim it for the first of many times. Use a soup ladle and be careful to just get the foam, not the fat. You want that fat!

Then, I cut down all the pieces to complete the doorway wall. The only thing I have left is the inside of the actual doorway.

I left to go to Home Depot about 11:30 AM. Since I was out anyway, I stopped at the bank and deposited a check first. At Home Depot I got a guy in the tile section to answer my questions. Yes, he said, the moment you mix the thin-set with water, it begins the process of hardening. What I should have done was mix only the amount I needed (show me anywhere on the damn bag it says that, or the ratios of water to thin-set if you're using less than a bag!) You can buy the pre-mixed thin-set (they sell it here although they didn't at Lowe's) and get a couple of days out of it before it hardens. So, I bought the much more expensive pre-mix (I didn't like what the mixing did to my drill motor, anyway).

Next, I finally got to the library (it's been months) and got five books. Then I stopped at a little local grocery store and got some more carrots, celery and onions along with some Cremini mushrooms. I had enough carrots, celery and onions to make the stock, but not enough to make chicken soup, later, if I decide to. On the way home, I stopped at CVS to pick up two auto-refill prescriptions.

I was back home and unpacked by 1:00 PM. Then I took out the chicken and cut off the two now perfectly poached chicken breasts (you can do this anytime after one hour). I let them cool and popped them in the fridge for later use.

Well, this thin-set issue has changed today's game plan. I was gonna put up the rest of the backer board today. But, if I do that, I only have today and tomorrow (a work day) to finish installing all the tile pieces. And, certainly no time to clean out the gutters. It just ain't gonna happen!

So, before I go out to the garage and cut the pieces for the inside of the door way, I rough chopped the carrots, celery and onions (you want them big pieces, because little ones can break up when cooked and cloud the stock). Also, remember that, since you will be straining this all later, peeling anything is not required. As a last minute thought, I smashed three garlic cloves and added them in. I also made a bouquet garni of sprigs of parsley and thyme. Some chefs also insert their dried bay leaves in this bundle, but I just can't seem to get it tied right. I cut off about 12 inches of kitchen string, tied the bouquet with one end and tied the other to the stock pot handle (for easy removal, later). This all went into the stock pot at 1:30 PM.

Speaking of stock, timing and water level also play into this: three hours of simmering will make a light delicate broth while four hours give a much heartier flavor. And water that barely covers the chicken produces a richer stock than one like I make that's at least one inch over the chicken. Since I want a lot of rich stock, I cover mine at least an inch of water and simmer it at least four hours. Note, more than five hours and you start to lose the delicate flavor, so beware!

The introduction of the cold veggies stopped the simmer, so I carefully brought it back to almost a boil, and then backed it off. You want a very gentle boil, with bubbles breaking the surface only occasionally. I taste tested it and decided I couldn't decide at that point whether or not to add more salt. So, I delayed that decision.

It was after 2:00 when I got back to cutting down the remaining backer board. I did notice that my outside thermometer said it was 36 degrees F.! First time it's been above freezing in a while.

Before I got back on the backer board, I took the two pieces of cove molding out in front and spray painted them with enamel paint. This is to finish the storm door install. When they dried for a bit, I took them into the back room to finish drying in warm air. Next, I got most of the backer board cut to size without having to use the saber saw and the diamond blade (it throws a LOT of cement dust) but by 3:30 PM, I had it all done and the mess cleaned up.

I had spent enough time in the garage with the door opened (so I could have enough air to breathe when using the saber saw) that I was chilled. So, I made another pot of coffee and had a cup. Now it was onto the gutters. This time I was wearing my leather jacket (zipped up), work gloves and my Canadian toque.

Now, the leaves had thawed enough so I could get them free of the gutter, but they still came out in long chunks. As far as the rest of the leaves still up on the roof, I used my not-patented method. Both my neighbor and Jake (and I at one time) get up on the roof and use a leaf blower to clean out the leaves and the gutters. I, on the other hand, now have a tremendous fear of falling and breaking my legs. So, I tied a rope on my leaf rake and repeated throw it up, then drag it down to get those pesky leaves off.

By 4:15 PM, I had the gutters in front of the garage cleaned out. I raked the mess over to the vacant lot next to me. I went back inside and (belatedly) remembered the bedding was in the dryer. So, I took it out, threw it on the bed and put my now-soggy cotton work gloves in the dryer to warm up. I warmed myself up with another cup of coffee. Then, I strained my stock from the middle size stock pot into the small stock pot. I left that to cool and put the other mess back into the middle size pot to also cool (I will need to get the meat out of there for my chicken soup). All too soon (but maybe not soon enough) I went back outside (the sun will set within the next half hour, you see).

I cleaned out the gutters on the north side of the front of the house. Then I went back and did the gutters over Jake's patio, but my rake didn't even dent the leaves still in the valley on the roof (it's shaded by pine trees, you see). They were still frozen in place. So, I didn't even bother trying to get the ones on the north-side valley. Instead, I put on one faucet protector (see photos). But the way I had plumbed the main faucet I use the most, I couldn't install the other one. I put a piece of plywood, secured by a garden stone, on top of the AC unit. I do this every year, and am not sure why. I know a lot of folks who put a cover on this, but since I don't have one, I use the board and rock principle to keep the heavy snow off the fan motor.

I was back inside by 5:00 PM. I put my soggy gloves out to dry (I'll wash them in the next load). I am beat, (climbing up and down that step ladder always wipes me out) but still have a lot to finish up. First order of business was another cup of coffee and then to shave and shower. And, after wasting all the hot water again soothing aching muscles (I shudder to think of my gas bill this month), I was dried off and dressed in fresh clothes. While I was at it, I made up the bed with the clean sheets.

First, I have to deal with the broth. Now, I know I have been going on and on about stock making today. But, honestly, it is so cheap and easy to make stock. And a box of Kitchen Basic chicken stock (I wouldn't even bother with Swanson's chicken broth - water would be preferable over that crap) will cost you (unless it's on sale) about $3+ bucks for 32 ounces (or four cups). Out of my minimal efforts, I got three four-cup containers and two two-cup containers, plus probably another 8 cups of stock I'll use for chicken noodle soup tomorrow (or the next day). All from a chicken that cost me less than $3.00.

Anyway, I put the broth in the containers, but did not put the lids on, yet. Why? If you cover it and then refrigerate it, it may not cool down fast enough and will ferment and turn sour (you will know right away if the broth has spoiled, lol!) The broth will keep for one week in the fridge and up to three months in the freezer.

I took all the lids for the containers, added the freezer-proof tape and labeled the stock, along with the date. Then, I picked through the remains to get out the usable meat and put that into the big soup broth container. That went into the fridge. The remaining veggies and bones went into the trash. The now-covered stock containers went into the freezer.

Now its time for making my dinner. I warmed up one of the poached chicken breasts and ate it with two side dishes: Buttered egg noodles topped with fresh parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and steamed peas.

I ate that watching some TV, but there was really nothing interesting on. So when I was finished eating, I got out one of the library books and started reading. I had to quit when I was too sleepy to see the words (about 10:30 PM). I shut the light off and went to bed.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Native American poems...

Now, we all know that, in spite of years of Native American classes, making my own leather vest (which I still have) and attending many parades and festivals, I am still just a German and can't really understand Native American culture (although I have incorporated a great deal of it into my private religion).

But, I love this poem...

Untitled...

~ Chief Dan George

Nights bring me hindsight,

days bring me doing,

tomorrows bring me wishes,

yesterdays bring me wisdom,

the moon vanity,

the sky longing,

the sun fear,

and the earth?

It waits for me.

Tile Project - Day Two

I woke up at 7:00 AM on Saturday and immediately warmed up a cup of yesterday's coffee in the microwave. I have aches and pains everywhere; yesterday took its toll on me. I have a nasty cut on one finger, both knees are shot and my left shoulder hurts a lot. And, I'm really hungry!

I can't do much about the aches and pains, but I can make a hearty breakfast. So, I warmed up a can of roast beef hash and topped that with two eggs over easy. Since I am just putting on my dirty work clothes from yesterday, I decided taking a shower this morning was a bit premature. So, by 9:00 AM I was back working.

I got the one wall done and then taped and mudded the seams. It's about 11:00 AM and my legs are shaking from getting up and down on the work step, so I decide to take a short break. But, first I filled the birdfeeder and took out yesterday's trash. Then I took a photo and posted it for you. This will be a difficult project to document photo-wise. There's just not enough room to be in the shower and take a picture.

I laid down on the bed watched a half hour taped show, "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" and then I got back up to go back to work. My legs felt much better. I got a call from my son Jeremy, who wanted to know where they moved the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to. Seems he was taking the family there on a mystery trip and couldn't find it. I told him I was pretty sure it's just within walking distance of Cobo Hall. Since he was in the car with everybody, he couldn't tell me what was there, but hopefully, I'll find out.

Back on the job! Here's the first abnormality (dimension-wise) I found: the north wall (the other, outside wall that will need the long screws) is 28 inches wide at the bottom and 27 inches wide at five feet up! Gonna be a lot of tricky tile cuts to pull this one off!

By 1:30 PM, the north wall was up and mudded. I decided to take a break for lunch and another leg rest. I took an hour off, watching two taped shows and eating the other half of the Italian sub, along with some green olives. Before I went back to work, I straightened out the freezer in the fridge and crammed it as full as I could with stuff from the small chest freezer in the garage. Jake and Carla are making the long trip to St. Clair to pick up 1/2 of a cow and half of that is mine.

Then it was onto the south wall of the shower. This is the tricky one, because I have to cut out for the faucet and shower head pipe. Here was where I ran out of the mastic, so I mixed up the new bag of dried mortar. I bought a big paddle to mix it but it really overheated my drill motor (you had to mix it for five minutes; let is set for ten minutes and then remix it). I did it downstairs, and, in raising the paddle a bit too high, splattered the washer and dryer with mortar! Sorta like when you use a hand mixer and pull it up too high. Yikes! I took the mortar off the washer and dryer with paper towels and then washed it off. I'll get it off the floor later...

I had that wall finished and mudded by 5:30 PM. I have no full sheets of backer board left, just the scraps from the other walls. So the wall into the bathroom (with its doorway) will be all scraps (a kind of a puzzle, if you will).

I was really tired, but I could smell victory, so I pressed on... But, it was just after 6:30 PM when I had put up a 5 foot section on the south side of the doorway wall when I realized just how beat I really was. So, in spite of my earlier optimism, I started to clean up.

I threw my mortar and sweat-encrusted clothes in the washer, along with the hand towel and bath mat from the main bath and even my beloved Crocs (they won't go into the dryer, of course). Then I threw my mortar and sweat-encrusted body into the shower. I cleaned up quickly, and then let the hot water beat on my left shoulder and knees until it started to get cold. I got out of the shower and got dressed. It was the first time I felt clean all day!

I started my dinner for tonight. I was warming up the leftover stuffed chicken breast and serving that with some wild rice. I kicked the wild rice up a notch by using my homemade chicken stock instead of plain water.

I was letting the rice set and talking on the phone with B___ about the project when I heard the front door open. Looks like my yearly supply of beef has arrived. I apologized and hung up the phone. Then I went out to the garage and helped (well, watched, really) them sort out the meat. It fit into the freezer with room to spare (whew)! I thanked them and they left, anxious for home and hearth. Thanks again, guys!

I ate dinner watching TV (the chicken was still good the second time and the rice was excellent). I started to doze about 9:30 PM, but I didn't fight it. Instead, I turned off the TV and the light and went to bed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

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The rear shower wall with the cement backer board up and taped. The blue thing is my work step.

Tile Project - Day One

I woke up on Friday at 6:00 AM. I had set the coffee maker the night before, so I had fresh hot coffee waiting for me!

I finalized the two ToDo lists (the regular weekend one and the Tile Project one), printed them off and put them on the fridge.

I posted the Blog and a couple of pictures and then started thinking about breakfast. I made myself some soft boiled eggs (one of my favorites).

I am easing into this day, I noticed. I have to get to Home Depot, but I don't want to go out in the cold (it was 18 degrees F. when I woke up and the predicted high is only 30 degrees F.) with a 10-20 MPH north wind.

Note to my daughter, Melissa: According to the Weather Channel, where you used to live in Northern lower Michigan has 6-8 inches of snow on the ground and they are predicting another 8-12 inches today. So, revel in your redneck status.

I shaved and showered and then got dressed. Before leaving, I took out another frozen chicken to thaw. My 1/4 cow is coming this weekend and I need the room in the freezer! This chicken will be turned into stock and soup sometime over the next three days.

Man, I was right! It was brutally cold out there! But, I got everything thing I need (I think) plus the two pieces of trim I need to finish the storm door install. I stopped at the Subway and bought a foot long Italian sub. I'll eat half today and half tomorrow for my lunches. Back inside, I was warming up before unloading.

So, it's back to work. I cut down three wood blocks that I can set the bottom piece of the cement backer board on so it's a uniform distance from the existing shower pan. The plan is the radius tile will curve under and touch the existing pan tile, you see.

I measured and cut the first piece for the back (and biggest) wall. Then I got out the mastic adhesive I used on the counter top project. Uh oh, first problem. The bucket I remember as being almost full is less than half full. This means I may not have enough to glue on all the backer board. This then means I will have to use some or all of the bag of thin-set mortar and have to go buy more mortar tomorrow.

Second problem. I bought long (2 1/2 inch screws) to get through the foam insulation on the two outer walls. The biggest backer board screws are 1 5/8 inches and specially made to resist rust (which I assume would then leak through and discolor the tile or grout). So, I bought expensive, non-rusting screws for outdoor projects. They worked fine on the two middle studs. But angling then into the corner studs broke the backer board. Shit! But I managed to get enough into the corner to press the backer board onto the mortar. Please note: It's almost 5:00 PM and I have a total of one (1) backer boards installed. I am just guessing, but I think my timeline for this project is out the window!

I was just starting to mortar the wall for the second board when my son Jeremy called. I asked him if I could call him back and he said sure. So, I finished the second board, washed up a bit, made myself a drink and called him back. We chatted a bit and caught each other up on current and world events and then ended our call.

I decided to quit for the night. I never got my lunch and I'm hungry! So, I heated up a can of mushroom soup and ate that along with my half of a sub. Very tastey!

I started to watch TV, but I realized how stiff, sore and tired I really was, so I turned it off and went to bed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

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The steamer basket. The folding metal "petals" allows it to fit into various sized saucepans.

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Steamer sits on these little legs in a saucepan and you add water just up to the bottom of the steamer

Thursday is Friday?

Thursday was another cold, windy day with occasional snow.

I went out at lunch to the other Lowe's (in Canton) and bought all the radius tile they had (but I am still about 30 pieces shy of what I need).

I stopped in to a Chinese restaurant that was across the parking lot for my lunch. I was very disappointed. The wonton soup was not hot, the egg roll was mediocre and the chicken fried rice had a weird smell to it. I left most of that on my plate, BTW. I did take heart in the fortune cookie message (I never eat them but enjoy reading them) which said: "How can you have a beautiful ending without making beautiful mistakes." Lord knows I can make beautiful mistakes!!

Back at work, it was a long afternoon. I am at the stage in all my projects where everything depends on something else that I have no control over.

Since I have so much to do at home, I asked my boss if I could have tomorrow off as a vacation day. He said, sure, so I am good to go

So, when I got home I played the "Bang the Drum" song my webmaster had put on my desktop to signify my weekend had started.

In response to an offline question regarding what I meant by a steamer basket, I took some pictures. It's a very common thing and I think I got mine at Meijer's.

I made the rest of that diced ham into a sandwich spread by adding some pickle relish, mustard, fine diced onion and mayonnaise. I ate two during the course of the night. It kinda reminded me of the sandwich spread my Mom made when I was growing up. She ran ring bologna and whole dill pickles through a meat grinder and then added mayonnaise. But, hers was much better!

I made my lists for things I need to do and things I need to buy at Home Depot on Friday.

I watched some TV and then switched to reading until bedtime.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday

There was light snow on the way to work Wednesday morning. You couldn't even see it, but you could feel it on your face and catch it on your windshield.

I went to Lowe's at lunch and bought most of the tile I will need for the bathroom shower. They didn't have enough of the radius cap tile, so I'll have to go to the other Lowe's and pick that up tomorrow. Man, the stuff is heavy! But, at least I didn't get it all, along with the cement backer board, mortar, grout, etc., in one trip like I did for the countertop. That was brutal!

It was really, really cold at lunch, too, with a stiff wind. Nasty weather for November!

Once home, I gave the cats their treats. Then, I went out back and refilled the bird feeder and the suet cage. Back inside, I emptied the trunk of the 316 tiles, the 28 radius cap tiles, the two shelves and one soap dish (I was going to just put in one shelf, all I really need, but my friend B___ told me that, with having a wife and her "stuff," he installed two, so I thought if I ever have to sell the place, maybe two was a better idea). I put all this in the back room so it could slowly warm up.

I started the Wednesday night laundry after I changed my clothes. Then I started on tonight's dinner. If you are a regular reader of this Blog, you know I can stand only so many leftovers. I had a recipe I've wanted to try for a while now. So, tonight's the night. I did change it up a bit, so I'll try and indicate the differences so you can either make the original one or what I'm having.

So, I am making Chicken Breast stuffed with Spinach, Blue Cheese and Bacon. Until now, whenever I make stuffed chicken breast "anything" I follow the usual method (as this recipe calls for), where you take the boneless chicken breasts, put them between two layers of Saran wrap and pound them to about 1/2 inch thickness. You lay the stuffing in the middle and fold the breast over, securing it with toothpicks.

However, I recently saw a cooking show where, instead, you lay the chicken breast of the cutting board, with the pointy end away from you. Then you insert a long paring knife in the center nearest you (the rounded end). You move the knife around to enlarge the pocket; being careful not to cut through the outside of the breast (I screwed one of them up, BTW). Then you remove the knife and stuff as desired.

Now, to make the stuffing, I mixed one (10-ounce) package of frozen chopped spinach I had thawed and then squeezed dry with one cup of crumbled blue cheese.

I took eight strips of bacon and cut them into 3/8 inch slices (or lardon, as they say in French cuisine) and crisped them in my big cast iron pan. I took them out and put them on a paper towel on top of a paper plate to drain.

When they cooled, I crumbled them and combined them with the spinach and blue cheese. Then I stuffed the chicken breasts. Now there was a problem: the recipe calls for four chicken breasts, but I only had three. So, I regretfully had to pitch some of the stuffing.

Another change-up in the recipe: It called for dredging the breasts in seasoned flour and searing them in olive oil, browning them on the top and bottom and then transferring them to a lightly greased baking dish, covering them with foil and putting them in the oven.

But, I thought, what the hell? I already have a cast iron pan with bacon grease, so I skipped all that and just seared them. When they were browned, I stuck the pan (covered with tin foil) into the preheated (350 degrees) oven. I let them finish off for 30 minutes (just enough time to hang up the laundry) until the juices ran clear and the filling was hot.

I deliberately didn't season any thing, because with cheese, you just never know the salt level. I pulled them out to rest and then steamed a cup of frozen green peas as my side dish. When I plated my dinner, I took a photo for you.

Then I dug in... Excellent! I did have to add a little table salt (I'm guessing I would have got that from the seasoned flour mixture) but otherwise, it was a perfect dish! This one goes into my go-to recipe file!

I had spent so much time making, then eating dinner, I did manage to stay up and watch my beloved Top Chef (with my beloved Padma) and then I went to bed just after 11:00 PM (I watched a little of the news).

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Chicken Breast, stuffed with Spinach, Blue Cheese and Bacon, with steamed peas

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beer, Ice and Snow - a Remembrance

When the custom cabinet shop I worked at back in 1968 went under (due to the introduction of pre-made cabinets), I got another job making cabinets at a small construction company. These were much less quality of cabinets than I was making before, by the way (pressboard covered with Formica, not real wood). But, the builder put them into the homes he made, so people bought them along with the houses.

I worked with the owner's father, Frank, who was in his 70's, but easily the best damn finish carpenter I ever saw. And, when the shop work was light, I would go out and help the two-person construction crew. I once helped them roof a tri-level house in a snowstorm, but that's another tale...

The one dozer driver was a big, burly man in his 30's. He could literally drink more beer than anyone I ever knew (before or since). And, he drank it in a very strange way. He had a huge mug (more like a small pitcher) that he would fill with ice and then dump in a quart bottle of beer. And, he never seemed to get "drunk," just morose.

I was told a story about him by the owner but I never had the balls to ask him personally if it was true. It was said the reason he drank so heavily is that he accidentally killed a child once...

He was in the Air Force and stationed up in Alaska. His duty was to keep the runways and taxiways clear of the heavy, six to eight foot snows, using a huge bulldozer with a giant snow blower attached to the front. Unbeknownst to him, some of the base kids had built tunnels in the snow that inadvertently crossed a taxiway. He never saw a thing, just the blown snow turning red...

Floppy shoes

As I was tying my shoelaces before going to work, the left one snapped. Undaunted, I went to the drawer I keep my spares in and found I only had brown ones left! So, I re-threaded the longer broken piece and went to work with that shoe only laced halfway up.

It was 26 degrees in Redford when I took the Tuesday trash out to the road, BTW.

Obviously I went out at lunch time and bought some shoelaces.

When I got home after work, I changed clothes and then tried calling Melissa. This time she was there, so we caught each other up. She says it's unseasonably cold there, too, but no snow. After we hung up, I realized I never asked what their Thanksgiving plans were...

I sanded the taped spots in the bathroom and then cleaned up the dust with the shop vac. It was kinda late to make dinner, so it was just more leftovers. I watched TV and then went to bed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The first day of the rest of my week

I had about an inch of snow on the ground when I woke up Monday morning. Like the first snowfall every year, it was beautiful, lying on each branch of my evergreens. I decided to take some pictures at lunch.

But, by lunchtime most of it had come off the branches. Not because it melted (oh, no. It's still too cold for that!) but because of the stiff winds.

Back home after work, I noticed that the night crew I hoped would clean up all the dinner mess apparently never came in. So, I changed clothes, turned on the radio and got to work. When the dishwasher was filled and running and all the pots and pans washed and in the drying rack, I went and checked on the shower project.

It looks like the mud is still damp in spots; which makes sense, as I put a lot of plaster in some of the deeper cracks. So, I left my faithful little fan running and gave myself the night off.

For dinner, I warmed up a bowl of the potato leek soup and then a bowl of the sausage and mushroom penne gratin. I watched TV until about 9:30 PM and then went to sleep. And, that was Monday...

Monday, November 17, 2008

On This Day (well, last Friday) in History...

I am not sure how I missed this one. My favorite book as a young lad,
Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick, was published on November 14, 1851.

BTW, I still have a dog-eared paperback copy that I re-read from time to time.

Sunday Snow

I got up in an unusual way on Sunday morning. I was sleeping on my stomach and for some reason, Caley thought it would be a good idea to hop up and walk on my back. Yikes!

It was 33 degrees F. here on San Jose with snow flurries. Nothing was sticking to the ground yet, though. I watched the Weather Channel and found the long range forecast calls for either snow flurries, snow showers or light snow (does anyone know the difference, because I don't) from today until NEXT SATURDAY!!!

So, I started assembling the tools I will need today. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to find my trowel (the one I bought for the counter top tile project), then I finally remembered it was rusting (it was cheap) so I had thrown it away. So, in spite of my determination to stay indoors all day, I got my coat and headed for the Home Depot at 10:00 AM.

Since I had to go out anyway, I treated myself to breakfast at Leo's Coney Island. I was back at home and back on the job by 11:00 AM. My plan for today was to put in the replacement drywall, tape all the seams and mud them. Then, while all that was drying, to go out and clean out the gutters.

I first cut off the excess foam with my electric knife (quickest way I could think off after the razor blade knife proved ineffective). Then I measured and cut the two drywall replacement pieces. Nailing them in proved to be a bit of a challenge, as there is just not that much room to maneuver in a three foot by four foot shower stall.

But I got them nailed in. Next came taping and mudding them. I was in the middle of that when I got a phone call from Jake. Which is why I finally glanced out the windows and saw the snow had really picked up. It was starting to cover the ground here (it was just after 1:00 PM). When I mentioned that to Jake, he said it had been snowing for hours in Westland and he couldn't see the top of his grass!

I decided that standing on a ladder and cleaning out gutters in a snowstorm was stupid. After we hung up, I walked out on the front porch and took a picture. Then I went back to work and finished up about 2:30 PM.

I assume it was all the weird bending over, but I noticed my back was really hurting. So, rather than taking a pain pill, I went and lay down on the bed for a while, watching TV. I got back up around 5:00 PM and decided to call my Mom. She's doing fine, BTW. She said Cora had just shown her that the snow there was starting to cover the back deck and railings. We decided that it must be moving from here to there, and her yard will probably be all covered in snow by tomorrow morning.

Then it was time to think about Sunday dinner. I wanted to make a sausage and mushroom penne gratin. I found a recipe that substituted the long baking time with just using the broiler to get that bubbly melted cheese, so I was going to try it. First came the prep work: I grated 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and thick-sliced 12 ounces of white button mushrooms. Then I minced two cloves of garlic.

I boiled a pound to penne pasta until it was al dente. I reserved 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drained the penne. Meanwhile, I browned a pound of bulk sweet Italian sausage in a tablespoon of olive oil, using a wooden spoon to break it up. I took it out of the skillet with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat. I added another tablespoon of olive oil and the sliced mushrooms along with the minced garlic. I cooked them until the mushrooms were golden (about 3 minutes).

I returned the sausage to the pan along with one cup of heavy cream, the reserved pasta water, a rounded 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the same amount of black pepper. I brought that to a boil, stirring once or twice until it thickened (about four minutes).

I put the penne pasta in my casserole dish, poured the mixture over it, stirred in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella. I spread it out evenly and topped it with the other 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella. Then I broiled it about 4 inches from the heat until it was golden brown in spots (about two to five minutes, depending on your broiler). I pulled it out and took another photo (I gotta have something to send my Mom!)

The taste was very good and the seasoning was perfect but I thought it was a bit dry, BTW. I left the cleanup for the night crew and went and watched my Sunday shows. Before going to bed, I checked outside. It looked like the snow had stopped, but I probably had an inch of snow on the ground.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

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Sunday supper: Sausage and Mushroom Penne Gratin

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Snow at 1:30 PM on Sunday, November 16!

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Potato and Leek soup with Italian bread (I should have wiped the bowl rim with a kitchen towel for presentation purposes, but I was too hungry!

Rain, rain, go away!

I got up at 6:30 AM on Saturday. I fired up the coffee pot, moved Scruffy from the bed to the couch (I'm more careful these days since I inadvertently dumped him on his a** a few weeks ago. I thought he was awake and just ignoring me when I started to strip the bedding, you see. Unfortunately for him, he was still asleep...) and stripped the bed.

That went into the washer and I went into the office to post the meager Friday news. Then I made breakfast, using some of the left over diced ham, three eggs, a little heavy cream and some shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Two pieces of toast later and I had a perfect omelet (I took a picture for you).

I cleaned up the minor mess in the kitchen and started to shave and shower. It's still raining out (harder than Friday) and thankfully, above freezing. Because, rain or shine, I have to get my hair cut (I'm a week overdue, but my barber was on vacation).

So, it was close, but I did make my 9:00 AM appointment. I got my hair cut (and both look and feel a whole lot better) and then headed to Kroger's.

Now, I gotta tell ya, there is nothing more disheartening than having to do two weeks worth of grocery shopping in the rain. It's not the going in, or the shopping itself that's bad. It's coming out and having to load the stuff into the car, in a hard rain with a strong wind. And this is a lot of stuff! And big stuff, like the kitty litter, a case of Labatt's beer (on sale) and cat food. I was quite soggy by the time I got into the car and headed for home...

Back home, I unloaded the car, put away all the groceries, switched laundry loads and decided since I was wet anyway, I might as well fill the bird feeder. So, I did. Back inside, I had another cup of coffee to warm up and changed out of my damp clothes. It was just after 11:00 AM, so I thought I'd catch my two morning, taped cooking shows. Well, one thing led to another and I watched several cooking shows, all with a Thanksgiving theme. It was almost 2:30 PM when I finally got myself out of bed and started working on the downstairs bath!

It's raining harder still. Temperature is supposed to drop tonight and the rain will switch to snow by Sunday morning, or so I'm told.

So, first, I dug out all the old drywall remaining from the pieces I cut out. I swept all that up and then moved on. Next, I used Liquid Nails to put back the one whole piece of foam I also inadvertently removed during demo.

Then I got out the can of Great Stuff insulation foam. This is made for wide cracks, BTW. So, I sprayed it all around the foam piece where several smaller pieces had busted out. I took a 1x3 pine board and smoothed it flat as I could get it. I'll still have to trim it with a razor knife after it dries, though.

Then, I used joint compound and tile backer tape (the mesh stuff) and filled in all the places the Sawzall cut into the green board during demo. Next I filled in the couple of spots where big chunks of the green board had pulled off, when removing the fake tile board.

All I have left for prep work before applying the cement backer board is to install the new drywall on the far wall and taping that. If you remember, I had pulled off the wet green board. But, I can't do that until the foam dries. So, I cleaned everything up, left the small fan running to facilitate drying and quit today at 4:45 PM.

After washing up, I switched to making dinner. I had found a rather simple recipe for Potato and Leek Soup. So, I cleaned and diced all the leeks and green onions I had pulled from the raised bed garden. It's really hard to tell which is an underdeveloped leek or an overgrown green onion, BTW. I quit when I got to a pound. Then I peeled and cubed one and a quarter pounds of potatoes (I don't have the recommended russets on hand, but I do have Yukon Gold, which is another starchy potato.

I cooked the leeks (?) in butter for about five minutes until they were soft. Then I added the cubed, peeled potatoes and 4 cups of my homemade chicken stock. I let that simmer for over 20 minutes, when the potatoes were cooked through and beginning to fall apart.

At that point my best soup-making friend, the immersion blender, came into play! I pureed the mixture until smooth, but with a few chunks remaining. (You could also use a blender, but remember to do it in batches, fill it no more than halfway full, take off the little cup and cover the hole with a kitchen towel. Pulse a couple of times and then process on high speed. Otherwise, you will have this stuff EVERYWHERE! There is some sort of heat explosion that occurs in a blender. I know I always repeat this warning, but if you did it once the wrong way (like I did) you would never forget it!).

I added in 3/4 cup of heavy cream and stirred it. Then, I went outside (in the rain) to harvest the rest of my chives. Damn! I waited too long! Instead of the big stand of chives I was gonna snip and freeze, most were bent over and brown... What a waste! But, there was still enough for tonight's needs.

Back inside, I added 1/2 inch snipped pieces of chive (about two tablespoons, but who's counting?) and two tablespoons of butter. I taste-tested and seasoned it with salt and fresh ground pepper until it was perfect.

At 6:00 PM. I cut off some of the Italian bread I had and plated the soup. Delicious! I took another picture for you (Hey, it's been raining most of the week and my Mom likes to see pictures, okay?)

It really was good. The leeks play a nice counterpoint to the potatoes. I will definitely make this one again. I ran out of soup on my bowl before the two slices of bread were gone, so I was forced to eat another bowl, lol!

I watched TV, waiting for the boxing tonight on HBO. I did doze a bit, but was awake when it came on. So, I made some microwave popcorn and watched some great late-night boxing. When it was done so was I, so I went to sleep for real.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

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Saturday breakfast: three egg omelet with ham and sharp cheddar cheese and toast

A Wet Day

It was sprinkling on the way to work Friday. It was sprinkling at lunchtime. It was sprinkling when I had to run over to Building 6 to drop something off at 2:30 PM. It was sprinkling on the way home. It was a wet day...

I did pick up a few supplies I need for working over the weekend at lunch. I dropped them off at home and had the last of the leftover bean soup (well, the last that didn't get frozen).

Back home after work, I was completely not motivated to start any work. I tried calling Melissa back, but just got her voicemail. I warmed up the last of the catfish and wild rice for dinner. The wild rice was just about gone, so I steamed a 1/2 cup of frozen peas to make the plate look full. Served with butter and a little salt, they were great.

I watched TV until I got bored, so I switched to reading. I finished my first new book on the couch. I switched to my bed and the second book until I started dozing off, then I switched off the light and went to sleep.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Getting closer!

It had rained during the night, but by the time I went to work Thursday morning it had stopped. This meant I could drop off my construction waste in the dumpster, so I did.

At lunch, I stopped at Home Depot and bought the cement backer board and some drywall for the bathroom. Remember how excited I was to discover "green board" under the fake tile? Well, I did some extensive searching on the Internet and found that, like I mentioned, this was the stuff used back in the 1960's when I was working construction. Basically, it was just regular drywall covered with wax to stop moisture. But, it is no longer recommended. Rather than tear it all out, I bought the 1/4 inch thick backer board and will just go over top of it.

I had an errand to run after work so I missed my daughter Melissa's phone call (she said she'd call back over the weekend). But I didn't miss Luanne's call. I got caught up on all the news in Virginia (she's expanding her offering from just the raw goat milk to now soaps and lotions made from goat milk, BTW).

I warmed up another catfish filet and more of the wild rice for dinner and watched Top Chef. Looks like it will be an interesting season again.

I went to bed at 9:30 PM.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cleaning Up

On Wednesday, they predicted a chance of rain all day, with chances increasing towards evening. But, nothing happened, even by the time I drove home. So, before I changed clothes (but after treating the cats) I went outside and refilled the suet cage and the bird feeder.

Back inside, I started the mid-week laundry. Then I bundled up the masonite faux tile and secured the bundles with duct tape. They went into my trunk and, if it's not raining, will go into the dumpster tomorrow morning.

I swept up all the debris and finally the back room is back to normal (well, sorta). It was almost 7:00 PM, so I decided to get dinner done.

I have a big, beautiful eggplant, awaiting my ministrations. So I peeled it, cut it into 3/4 inch rounds and set up another mise en place, of whisked eggs and flour. In my cast iron frying pan, I added about 1/4 inch of canola oil and brought it up to temp. It took two batches, but I ended up with perfect fried eggplant. Eaten with just a little salt, it was delicious!

I wanted to stay up and watch the premier of this year's Top Chef. But, I fell asleep waiting for it to start at 10:00 PM. Disappointing, but I taped it just in case, anyway.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday's Fish Fry

So, for the first time in a long time on a weekday, Tuesday morning I ate breakfast. I warmed up some of the Irish porridge and ate it watching the morning weather. Still very cold, but it's supposed to get sunny later, and then either rain or snow the next 6 days!

Trust me when I tell ya, it never did get sunny. When I got home after work, I immediately went out and put the Styrofoam cones on the roses (I had cut the roses back while on vacation). I took a picture for you in the fading light. But, once inside, the photo was too dark and somehow they looked like leftover Halloween ghosts or something. I posted it anyway, so you get the idea (but you have to click on it to enlarge it to even see them).

Before coming in, I pulled all the leeks (the only thing left in the raised bed garden). They needed a couple of frosts to sweeten up, or so I'm told. None of them look like the big, beautiful leeks I buy at Westborn Market. No, these look more like, well, maybe green onions on steroids. Be that as it may, I plan on turning all of them into Potato and Leak Soup.

But, not tonight. Tonight's menu is going to be my favorite fish dinner: Fried catfish and wild rice.

So, I changed clothes and emptied the dishwasher. I turned on the news to get the weather. I got the okay from the building manager where I work to throw the Masonite pieces I tore out into the dumpster, but I don't want to do it in the rain.

So, it was 7:00 PM and I turned my attention to dinner. I started the wild rice according to the instructions.

Then I made up my mise en place: A pan of flour, three eggs with a splash of buttermilk (just to be different) and yellow corn meal. Now, I hate to admit this, but I was totally out of cornmeal! So, I opened the bane of all Southerners, the last box of Jiffy corn meal mix (it's too sweet according to them).

I had four beautiful filets, so I patted them dry with paper towels; put them in the flour, then the egg mixture and finally the cornmeal mix. Then, when the Canola oil was bubbling around a wooden spoon handle inserted, I put in two filets.

When they were golden brown, I set them on a rack over paper towels and hit them with some salt. I fried up the next two and then waited for the wild rice to finish up.

When the wild rice was done, I plated everything up, splashed some hot sauce on the catfish and dug in, with extreme pleasure!

When they all cooled, I pout the remaining filets and leftover wild rice in the fridge. I went and watched some TV until 10:00 PM and then went to sleep.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Once again, it is time for our annual salute to our country's veterans. It is through your blood, sweat and tears (and your loved ones) that we remain a free country. Your sacrifices do not go unnoticed...

Lest we forget...

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Ghosts in my garden

Monday, Monday

I got up Sunday night around midnight for a bathroom trip. As I looked out the bathroom window, I saw huge, puffy snowflakes falling. So, it was no surprise on the Monday morning traffic report about numerous accidents due to black ice. At that time (6:00 AM) no salt trucks had been out yet. So, I drove to work carefully, but I didn't encounter any real problems.

At lunch I went to Lowe's to check out some stuff and get some stuff. It was snowing again, but not hard. Damn cold and windy, though!

Finally home and hearth beckoned. Well, to tell you the truth, it had beckoned all day, but it wasn't until 5:00 PM when I could respond.

I didn't feel that energetic, so I putzed. I sprayed the now dry area of the shower wall with white vinegar (it's supposed to be the best way to kill any lingering mold spores). I got the fridge inspected and the garbage ready for Tuesday morning... I emptied the kitty litter and refilled it with fresh... I warmed up the last of the tomato and olive pasta for dinner... you know, all the fun stuff.

However, I did get a magazine in the mail and two new books on the front porch! So, after making sure there wasn't anything GREAT on TV, I turned it off and turned to the magazine. I got about half way through it when I started to doze. I looked at the clock and it was only 9:30 PM. But, I turned off the light and went to sleep anyway.

Monday, November 10, 2008

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One of the more interesting things that came out in my last doctor's visit!

Sunday, Cutting and Cooking

I got up Sunday morning at 6:30 AM. I put on a pot of coffee, checked the soup and then posted the Blog.

So, for breakfast I made scrambled eggs and ate them with hot sauce. It was cold and windy and cloudy outside, BTW. I shaved and took my shower then left at 9:00 AM for Meijer's. It started snowing a little on the way there. I was surprised to see that you can not only get ham slices, but also ham julienned and ham diced. So, not know how much I would need, I got two packs of the diced ham.

I was back home by 9:45 AM. I took out the soup, added one pack of ham and stirred it. Then I made a test bowl: hmmm, not bad. I think that may be enough ham. I added just a little more fresh ground black pepper, some more chili flakes, and about two tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley. I think it's pretty near complete!

I noticed the sky had lightened considerably, so I went out to cut the leaves. First I had to pump up the low right side rear tire (which is why I needed the air compressor back). I did the front yard with just my fall coat and my fedora. But, by the time I was ready to cut the back yard, both my ears and my hands were cold! So, I got a pair of gloves and switched my fedora for my Canadian touque.

The clouds increased while I was cutting the back and it started to spit snow again. But, I finished up, filled the bird feeder, blew off the mower and put it away by 12:50 PM. I took a picture and mission accomplished!

Back inside, and two cups of coffee later, I was starting to feel warm again. I tried calling Luanne to see how she is doing, but only got their voicemail. Then Carla called and said they'd be stopping over, so I thought I'd make a new appetizer (if they stay for supper, I got the bean soup and some good bread).

Now, I doubled this, but here are the correct amounts for one batch): I thinly shredded some Napa (or Chinese) cabbage, until I had two packed cups of it. I put one inch of salted water in a two-quart sauce pan and when it was boiling, added the cabbage. I cooked it for just one minute, then drained and shocked it with ice water (to stop the cooking process). I squeezed the hell out of it (you want to remove as much water as possible), finely chopped it and then put it in a medium sized bowl.

To that bowl, I added 1/2 pound of ground pork, two tablespoons of soy sauce, one tablespoon dry sherry, two teaspoons of cornstarch, 1 1/2 teaspoons of minced, peeled, fresh ginger root and one green onion, finely diced. I mixed all that together with my hands, covered it with cling wrap and put it in the fridge.

Next, I made the simple dipping sauce: 1/4 cup of good soy sauce, 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar and two tablespoons of fresh, peeled ginger root, sliced about the same thickness as angel-hair pasta and one inch long. That, too, got covered and refrigerated.

I separated one egg white into a small dish and got my pastry brush. It was then I realized I bought egg roll wrappers (about 6x6 inches) instead of won ton wrappers (3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches). So, I just cut them all down to size and pitched the remainder.

So, here's what you do: lay out some waxed paper on your table or work surface. On that, lay some of your won ton wrappers and brush the egg white around the outside of each square. In the middle of each square, put a rounded teaspoon of the pork mixture. Then bring opposite corners together over the pork, pinch and pleat the edges together to seal in the filling. Do that until your filling is gone. I put the finished dumplings on a half sheet pan that I had floured, by the way, to prevent them from sticking and ripping.

I had just begun this process when Jake and Carla showed up. I just kept making them as we chatted. When I had them all done, I took my 12-inch skillet and added 1/2 inch of water. Once that was boiling, I added in one layer of the dumplings, pleated edges up. I stirred them gently with a heat-proof spatula, to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once they were boiling, I reduced the heat to low, covered the skillet and simmered them for five minutes.

After I had a couple of batches done, we tried them. Not bad... not bad at all! It would have been better if I had some wood chopsticks, but I'll pick some up for next time!

I showed them the bathroom shower project to date and the new storm door (which, I still need to get the molding and caulk on, BTW.).

We chatted a while longer and I asked if they would like to try the soup. They said, "Sure!" so I took the stock pot out of the oven, put it on top the stove and turned up the heat under the burner. I got out a little round loaf of sourdough bread and cut several 1-inch slices. Jake wanted his plain, but Carla wanted hers toasted, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with a raw garlic clove. So, I put the second rack back into the stove, and she toasted them under the broiler (not burning them like I did for Tracey). After the olive oil and garlic, she cut them into 1-inch wide strips and plated them.

They seemed to like the soup (even though I had to do a lot of fussing with this one, it was pretty good in the end). Jake cleaned up all the dishes and then they left about 5:00 PM. I sent home with them half the remaining dumplings (remember, I had made a double batch, you see) and the dipping sauce (I'll make more for my half), a four-cup container of the bean soup and the rest of Carla's garlic bread. BTW, I was just going to put the dumplings in a zip lock bag as is when Carla stopped me and suggested I put some olive oil in first and rub it around so the dumplings wouldn't stick and tear on the plastic (clever girl). So, I put away my leftovers the same way.

We said our goodbyes and they drove away. I made my way back to the kitchen to deal with the remaining bean soup! I got three 4-cup containers for the freezer and another four cups I put in the fridge for me next week.

I washed that stock pot, and the half sheet pan. I immediately refilled the stock pot with cold water and set it on the washer to air overnight (to get rid of the chlorine). I had used up all the water I had made up before to refill Newt's tank this morning.

So, it was 6:30 PM and black as midnight outside. I am sitting in the living room, enjoying a drink in front of the fireplace. All in all, I think this was a highly successful vacation. No, the shower's not tiled, but it's well on the way. I had a good doctor's visit, a storm door installed, a shower demoed, some good food, good company and some relaxing down time.

And, my Sunday night shows are coming on! What more could I ask for?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

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The Obama logo's last day

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The back yard on Sunday, after mowing

Saturday's Soup

I got up at 5:45 on Saturday. The first thing I did after posting the Blog was to clean up the kitchen. Then I stripped the bedding and started the weekend wash. I warmed up a cup (well, a couple of cups) of coffee and posted yesterday's pictures. I watched some of the morning news (none of it good) and then started my breakfast. I am making more of the steel cut Irish oatmeal Jake bought me a while ago. It's a traditional Irish porridge and I will eat it the traditional way, with buttermilk and a pat of butter. But, I also add a little salt to it.

Next I got out two pounds of dried Great Northern Beans. I found a trick to sort them (for the little stones - don't skip this step, or your teeth will suffer!) but I can't remember where. Anyway, I dumped them on a half sheet pan (or use your largest cookie sheet) and slowly moved them from one side to another. Sure enough, I found four little rocks! Just to make sure, I sorted them again, lol!

I put them in my big stock pot and covered them with 16 cups of cold water. These will sit for the next 10 hours or so. I am planning on making a double batch of the Senate Bean Soup. I love this recipe, BTW. It's supposed to be the soup they serve in the Senate dining room in Washington, D.C. Not sure if it's true, but it's a damn tasty bean soup!

So, I had breakfast, with a bunch left over. You just cannot eat a lot of this stuff, its way too filling. But, I got leftover breakfasts (ready for the microwave) for several days!

Back to the downstairs shower, I got the last wall's masonite removed and then started taking the old caulk off (a pain in the butt). I got out the shop vac and cleaned up all the dust and debris. I got the small fan from the garage and set it up to blow where the wall had been wet. I don't want to enclose mold in the shower, you see. My friend B___ suggested leaving a fan on for a week or so, but that seems a bit extreme. On the other hand, I do want it done, but I want it done right!

I was finished with that (well, as far as I can go today) by 11:00 AM. The sun came out, so I went out and took off the trailer sides and brought them into the garage for the winter. Last year I left them on and created an elaborate top to keep out the water that didn't work at all. So, this year, I'm gonna leave it flat and cover it (when it dries) with a tarp.

Back inside, I got out of my work clothes and took my morning shower. I watched some TV and rested for a bit. Then I warmed up two hot dogs for lunch.

The sun went away before 3:00 PM. It was only like 46 degrees F. outside and the winds didn't stop all day (15-25 MPH). One good thing, the wind was taking down a lot of leaves.

Meanwhile, inside, I turned my attention to housecleaning. By 5:00 PM, I had the bedroom, office, hallway and the living room all swept/vacuumed, dusted and glass surfaces all cleaned. Next should have been to wash the kitchen and main bath, but I wasn't sure it would be dry in time to start on the soup. So, that got reassigned to Sunday morning.

So, at 6:00 PM, I started on the soup. I drained and rinsed the beans that have been soaking for 10 hours now. I put them back in the big stock pot with four bay leaves, two smoked ham hocks and 24 cups of cold water. I added some fresh ground pepper, put the lid on it and set about making it boil.

Sidebar: many of the people who have tasted my food have said, "You should be a chef!" I have always responded (honestly) that, with my leg, there is no way I could do 16 hours on the line in a restaurant. But, this soup also reminds me of something else. 24 cups of water is about 1/3 the capacity of my stock pot. And, I can barely lift it! I don't know how in the hell my brother Carl, who used to be a chef, lifted a full stock pot off the burner, back in the day. But I guess it does explain his impressive arm muscles!

The stock pot began to boil about 6:30 PM. I turned it to medium low and started prepping the veggies I need. Now, remember, kids, if you try this at home this is a "double" recipe, so adjust accordingly. However, for my immediate needs, I diced two cups of celery, two cups of carrots four cups of onions and two potatoes. Well, I didn't have any regular potatoes, so I used six small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled.

The onion, celery and carrots, I held to a rigid 1/4-inch dice. Does it matter? Hell no, but it's like a game to me, (knife skills, baby!) lol! Then I minced up four big garlic cloves. All of these veggies are in a big bowl, waiting for the stock to reduce. BTW, the smell from the stock pot is both fantastic and overpowering!

I added the veggies about 8:00 PM and took out the ham hocks. Oh, there's a definite problem! Not nearly enough meat on those bones for two batches. I will have to buy a ham steak and dice it, I guess. Broth was excellent, though.

I went in to watch some TV and dozed off. This meant I missed Jake and Carla (or maybe just Jake) who popped in to drop off my air compressor. They never come this late at night!?! Pity, I would have liked to have shown them (or him) the work in the bathroom.

I checked the soup. The onions are a bit strong. So, I decided to simmer it all night. I poured it into the mid-size stock pot (which will fit in the oven), turned the oven on "warm", took out one rack and put the pot in the oven. Then I went to bed for real at about 11:00 PM.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Another song's snippets

from my favorite Bob Dylan song, "Tangled up in Blue

"I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the ax just fell."

"So now I'm goin' back again,
I got to get to her somehow.
All the people we used to know
They're an illusion to me now.
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter's wives.
Don't know how it all got started,
I don't know what they're doin' with their lives.
But me, I'm still on the road
Headin' for another joint
We always did feel the same,
We just saw it from a different point of view,
Tangled up in blue."

Damn Over Easy!

No More

~lyrics by Bob Seger

Are you sorry when the lights begin to fade
Are you sorry for the promises you made
for the burden of the ones who had to fall
When you didn't see the writing on the wall

It was forty years ago and I was young
and the jungle not the desert heard the guns
Someone said they had a secret plan
and the rest of us were told to understand

Well I don't want this, no I don't want this
I have had enough no more

Tomorrow is the price for yesterday
A billion waves won't wash the truth away
Someday you'll be ordered to explain
No one gets to walk between the rain

And I don't want this, no I don't want this
I have had enough, no more
No I don't want this no I don't want this
I have had enough, no more
No more

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Why they REALLY won! A secret coalition headed up by none other than my brother Carl's great-granddaughter, Aurora Jubilee!

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Will these damn leaves never stop falling?

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Outdoor furniture, wheel barrow and hoses in their winter location

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Japanese maple, in its Fall glory

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Reflecting pool, drained and covered

Friday Fun

I woke up at 5:15 AM, again without the alarm, on Friday. I warmed up a cup of coffee and watched the morning news. I was surprised to learn about a blizzard in North Dakota (30 mph winds, 9 inches of snow and 3-5 foot drifts) that shut down 80 miles of I-94! What's even scarier is that they said Minneapolis, Minnesota (sorta south of where my daughter Amy and her family live) is also getting snow. I am not ready for this! Oh, wait a minute; I have my storm door on now, so maybe I am!

I filled out my bathroom tile spreadsheet with the numbers I got from Home Depot. All in all, Lowe's beat Home Depot by about $60. So, except for the backer board I'll buy from Home Depot, the rest of this project's materials will come from Lowe's.

I made up a short shopping list for things I still need today for food stuff I want to make this weekend; primarily for my Senate Bean Soup and bird seed and suet for my feathered friends. I also need three more Styrofoam cones for the new roses I planted this spring and some molding for the storm door install. Next I did the ToDo list for the rest of the long weekend. Thankfully, the two ToDo lists now fit on just one list.

So, I am easing into the day, but at 8:00 AM, still wearing my bathrobe, I washed the outside door windows and the inside storm door window downstairs.

Then I shaved and showered. I got dressed and headed out to Meijer's and Westborn for the stuff I needed/wanted. I was home and unpacked by 11:30 AM. I called the Redford Township offices to arrange for a "big item" pickup (all the crap I will tear out of the downstairs bathroom), but found the only thing they won't take is construction materials! They did give me the number for the landfill in Northville, but I think I have a better solution. We'll see.

So, then I finished emptying the downstairs bathroom. I used the shower curtain to cover both the toilet and sink (to keep crap out of my drains). I got a thick square of the plastic Jake gave me that his house's previous owner had used to make the pool for the bird bath fountain and covered the drain in the actual shower. Then I removed the shower head and the water supply knob in the shower (after turning off the water).

Before I got started, I thought some lunch/breakfast was in order. So, I warmed up a can of Hormel's chili with beans. While it was cooking in the sauce pan, I sliced up a scallion, (both the green and white parts). I topped the chili with a dollop of sour cream, the sliced scallion and some shredded sharp cheddar cheese. I ate that watching a taped TV show.

Now it's onto the downstairs bathroom project. Using the Sawzall (reciprocating saw), I sliced through the back wall of the shower. Next I used my pry bar and popped off the masonite, fake tile. Underneath, I hit gold! Instead of the drywall I had pictured, I found green board!

Now, green board is quite similar to the backer board I used for the tile in the kitchen. However, backer board is a cement product that resists moisture and must be screwed on, while green board is a drywall product that has a coating of some sort of green epoxy to also resist moisture. It's installed the same as regular drywall, using nails.

Since the coating is epoxy, the mortar the guy used is sticking to the masonite and leaving a pristine green board! So, I have saved myself hundreds of dollars and a lot of work if I can reuse it as the base for the tile.

However, the area where the fake tile had started to disintegrate was wet on the green board, up to about 18 inches from the bottom. So, I cut a straight line about 24 inches up and pulled it all off. If I can, I'll reuse the leftover backer board from the counter tile job to fill this spot in.

I gave a quick call to my friend, B___, to ask if he thought I could reuse the green board, or should I pull it down. He told me I had lucked out and didn't have to replace it, as long as it was dry. He also asked if I had a cold, so I explained I had been dealing with dust and sawdust for the last four hours and my nose was all plugged up. I thought I had some face masks, left from the kitchen remodel, but I couldn't find them, you see.

So, by 7:30 PM, I had three sides of the shower removed. I decided to quit at that point. I took a rinse-off shower and repeated blew my nose to try and get right for the night. I also set a small fan in the shower to keep the air moving.

Still trying to perfect that September pasta dish, I had bought five big Italian (or plum) tomatoes today at Westborn. I cut them in half; put them on one of the remaining cookie sheets I still have, drizzled them with olive oil, and then seasoned them heavily with salt and pepper. I turned the oven on to preheat it to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile I heated up some salted water to cook the Meijer's frozen cheese tortellini. When the tomatoes had been in the oven 15 minutes and were still not charred, I turned on the broiler. That charred 'em!

I minced up four big cloves of garlic and put them in about three tablespoons of olive oil I had heated in my big skillet. When the tomatoes had cooled a bit, I seeded them and added the tomato juices and seeds to the garlic and let that reduce.

When the tortellini was finished, I drained it and added it to the skillet. I put in the rest of the tomatoes (after rough chopping them) and 1/2 cup of rough chopped, pitted Kalamata olives. I let it all get happy for a bit, and then plated it.

Results? Well, taste was good, maybe even excellent. But the texture was still not as good as the original dish. I used raw, uncooked and seeded tomatoes in that first dish, you see. So, I give up trying to improve it and must accept the fact that the best dish was the one I just made up by accident!

I watched some TV, but turned in early as I was beat.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Storm Door, Road Trip and Yard Work

So, I woke up without the alarm at 6:00 AM on Thursday, the first day of vacation. I made myself breakfast and a pot of coffee (different from my usual weekday!) I made two eggs over easy and warmed up some of the bacon not used in making the creamed Brussels sprouts. Two pieces of toast and I was happy.

It was about 8:30 AM when Ron from Lowe's showed up. He was going to install the storm door, if you remember. He was about five years older than me, BTW. Two things made me feel really, really stupid. One, if you remember, I have gone through numerous cut-off wheels and a lot of time to cut through the aluminum on the one side. He said it would throw the door off that way, so he cut off the other side, in about two minutes, using a wide chisel and just his hand!!!

The other thing was I had to cut off the outside trim to fit it through the opening from the inside. He said it didn't leave enough material to screw in the door trim. So, he took it all off and then went back home (he lives about two miles from me) and got some more wood and installed it. I could have done that, had I thought of it, but no...

He finished up about 11:30 AM. I did slip him some extra money, because he went way over and above to get that storm door in and I appreciated it.

So, I showered and shaved and then started the long trek to Richmond, and the doctor. I got off the expressway at the New Haven/Richmond exit (I normally go all the way to 32 Mile Road, and then head west) and took Gratiot to Richmond, because there were signs everywhere about an upcoming six mile work zone where the expressway is only one lane (Jeremy must have to drive through this every day!)

I got to my appointment on time, borrowed their bathroom and waited for the doctor. So, after the usual (blood pressure, temperature, EKG, listening to my carotid arteries, etc.) and checking the results of my blood work, she pronounced me fit as a fiddle. She complimented me on the near 30 pounds I have lost since my last appointment six months ago and encouraged me to keep it up.

So, a long ride home was next and I got there around 4:30 PM. I immediately went outside (oh, sure, the cats got their treats) and worked on the last of the ToDo list. I drained the other hoses and put them in the wheel barrow. I got out the tarp and threaded some clothesline though the grommets. I put that over the chairs, tables and wheel barrow, tightened the rope up and secured it with a cement block.

Now, normally, I use a coffee can to empty the reflecting pool. But, I had an inspiration! So, first I pulled out the water lily. It had amazing leaves this year, but no flowers. Then, I got out the pump and hose from Jake's fountain, hooked it up and within 5 minutes, had less than one inch of water in the old galvanized tub. I added a cup of bleach to the yucky water and threw in a short log. This is a much older variation of the pillows people now put in swimming pools. It gives the water something to crush when it freezes besides the sides of the tub. Sounds dumb, I suppose, but the tub still doesn't leak after all these years.

Next, I put the piece of plywood that I use every year in a garbage bag, secured it with duct tape and set it on top the tub. A cement patio block went on top that. Unfortunately, it was too dark to take any pictures for you, but I will tomorrow morning.

Back inside, and having missed lunch completely, I plated the other pork chop, the last of the potatoes and gravy and the creamed Brussels sprouts. I popped that in the microwave and by 6:30 PM, I was eating a great dinner.

I watched a taped show until Kitchen Nightmares came on. There were two episodes on Thursday night and the second was a restaurant in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, where my brother Joe lives. I went to bed at 10:00 PM.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday, busting my butt

It was another perfect day on Wednesday. As the weatherman said on Channel 4, this was the classic example of "Indian Summer" in Michigan. All day at work, I kept thinking about the yard work I have left and the rain predicted for the weekend.

Finally back home, I swiftly changed clothes, treated the cats and went through the mail. Then I went outside and finished cutting off the aluminum siding on the one side of the door. Why? Well, I am embarrassed to admit it, but when I saw that Lowe's had a $99 special on all installations, I went there and showed them the bill for the storm door I bought back in July. That storm door is still laying in the back room. They agreed to take my money and put it up for me.

Now, I have installed many a cheap, thin, old fashioned storm door in my time. But this sucker is about 2-inches thick with a complete top to bottom double-paned glass and cost me more than $250 US. So, for the first time (ever, I think) I have been afraid to try and put it up. The instructions say it must be hung with the glass installed and what if I broke it?

So, on Thursday morning, "Ron" is supposed to come over from Lowe's and put it up. This works for two reasons: I have Thursday and Friday off and it's supposed to still be nice (rain to come Thursday night and stay throughout the weekend).

Why did I take two days off for vacation? Because I plan on getting as far as I can to demolish the existing walls in the downstairs shower and then tiling it. It will depend for the most part on what I find behind the walls as to how far I can get.

But, back to tonight. I finally got the one side cut off and now the inside measurement of the doorway is in line with the requirements for the door install. It was dark, of course, but I have a light outside for the patio.

Back inside, I found I had missed a call from my daughter Melissa. But she left a message saying she would call again this weekend. I made a box of macaroni and cheese and ate some of that with a warmed up hot dog for dinner.

I watched TV until about 9:30 and then went to sleep.