Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out of order.. again

Unfortunately, the Captain's computer went *poof* in the night. We are investigating the issue and will notify the community once service has been restored. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas vacation - Day 10

It's Monday and time to get back to work on the shower. I checked on the heater throughout the night and was surprised that it was still running when I got up. The only thing I could figure was the 11 hours per tank meant at "High" temperature setting and I had the heater set to about "Medium-Low."

I started to seal the grout, using a foam brush and the watery sealant. Following the instructions, I applied it, waited no more than 10 minutes and wiped the excess off of the tiles. Once the grout had dried, I put on a second coat. After that dried for one hour, I washed the tiles with warm water and a sponge.

Lu called Jeremy and asked him the status on the power outage. He said that his company also had no power and the data center was running on generators. Lu and Sadie decided to go shopping so, they left for the Salvation Army store and Westborn market. I asked them to pick me up some leeks.

Once the shower was completely dry, I caulked the four corners, the tops of the tile, the ceiling and bottoms of the curved tiles in the shower pan. Silicon caulk does not handle as nicely as say, latex. So, I gave up on trying to be pretty and worked on being thorough. The most important thing is that the shower is waterproof and no moisture gets behind the tile! I will take a razor knife and trim off the excess caulk later. I finished at exactly at 3:00 PM. Since the caulk must cure for 24 hours, I'll have my first shower tomorrow afternoon.

The first tank of propane ran out just after 4:00 PM. I was just getting my coat on to get it refilled when the ladies got back from their shopping trip. So, they grabbed it and ran it across the street. When they got back, I unloaded it and they unpacked.

Dinner was another round of the bread, soup and salad (I have no idea how to light the oven with a match). Dinner was just as good today as it was on Saturday.

I am growing concerned about the stuff in the refrigerator and the little chest freezer, but I have heard that if you don't open a freezer, it will stay good for several days (none of us could remember exactly how many days, though). There's a whole lot of cow in the chest freezer I'd hate to have wasted!

Jake stopped over after work to see if there was anything we needed. When he came in, he was surprised that it was so warm, so I showed him the heater. He stayed long enough to make sure everybody was okay, and then left for home. I forgot to show him the neighbor's fallen Tiki Hut and forgot to return his containers from Christmas dinner.

After dinner, we played Scrabble by lantern light. We went to bed just after 9:00 PM. This time I didn't use the lantern, preferring to save the batteries, and just went to sleep.

Christmas vacation - Day 9

I awoke Sunday morning at 6:30 AM. At first, I thought I was dreaming about the 4th of July, because I could hear the occasional "pop" of the fireworks and see the flashes on my walls. Suddenly, it occurred to me I was really hearing and seeing it!

Mystified, I got out of bed and walked around the house. A very strong, stiff wind had developed overnight. When I looked out the living room window, I saw flashes and sparks and heard loud pops coming from two wires across the street. The wind was making them bounce and touch and when they did, BAM!

Just then a Redford fire truck pulled in. The crew got out with strong flashlights and investigated. I can only assume they called the Edison Company. Other than waving flashlights around and jumping when the sparks flew, that's all they did. Then they drove away.

When daylight came, I warmed a cup of coffee in the microwave and sat on the couch, watching the show. Every time the wind would gust, the two wires would touch, spark and make a loud crackling noise, and my house lights flickered.

One of my neighbors from down the street walked by, talking into a cell phone and watching the light show. He noticed me on the couch and waved.

Finally, around 8:00 AM, Lu and Sadie got up. Sadie said she, too, had seen the flashes through the blinds, but thought it was lightning.

They were eating breakfast and I was working on my Blog entry. I was about halfway through when the power went out. No power means I had no lights, no furnace, no phone and no Internet. I figured since it was just my street, (I could see lights everywhere else but on San Jose), help would arrive soon. What I didn't know was this was much more widespread than I thought and some 250,000 other people in Michigan were also without power.

My neighbor, the builder, had gotten out his big generator and it was hammering away. I wished I had one! Then, Lu was looking out the kitchen window and noticed his "Tiki Hut" had collapsed in the wind and the roof was on the ground

Around 11:00 AM, with that fierce wind, the temperature in the house was dropping rapidly. I figured that the most important thing was to protect my water lines from freezing, so I headed out to Home Depot to buy some sort of supplemental heater.

They didn't have any of the kerosene types I was familiar with, but they did have a 30,000 to 70,000 BTU per hour propane-powered one. I was concerned because there was a warning on the box that read, "Not for living spaces," so I hunted down the manager. He said it meant you shouldn't put it in one room and close the door. However, if you were putting it in, say a basement and letting it heat the whole house, it would be fine.


Then, after parting with $100 US, I headed for Murray's to get some propane. According to the carton said one tank would last 11 hours, so I bought two tanks. Since I didn't have exchange tanks, I had to pay $125 US for them!

Back home, I carefully read the instructions and got the heater fired up. Even on the medium setting the temperature rose quickly to 75 degrees F. So, I played with it a while until I was maintaining 70 degrees F. in the house. Just to be on the safe side, I opened the downstairs bathroom and my bedroom windows a crack.

Lu and Sadie left around 1:00 PM to go to Lu's mother's Christmas celebration. Since I had a really rotten night's sleep, I decided that reading in bed would be a good idea and finally fell into a fitful sleep.

Lu and Sadie got back around 6:00 PM. Since they had eaten at her Mom's (and I was sick as a dog) nobody was in the mood for dinner. Sadie had some fruit and nuts and Lu a bowl of popcorn with thyme in it (we were lighting the gas stove with a grille lighter).

Speaking of which, as both Sadie and Lu pointed out, when their electricity goes out, the consequences are much more severe then mine. I still could use the stove, I still had running water and, as I discovered somewhat belatedly, the gas hot water heater still worked. So, it was bad, but not as bad as it could have been.

Lu left for Target to buy some additional flashlights. She came back and said that the power outage was more widespread than I thought. Everyone was talking about it at the store and they had an entire section set up with batteries, lights, heaters, etc. So, she bought two big 9-volt flashlights and a Coleman battery-powered camping lantern (as well as a LOT of D-batteries).

We got the flashlights and lantern working and stayed up for a little while. They were beat though, and went to bed early. I read in my room with the lantern for a little while (I didn't want to run the batteries down) and then went to bed, the drone of the neighbor's generator lulling me to sleep.

Christmas vacation - Day 8

I awoke at 6:30 AM to the smell of coffee brewing (I set up the pot and the timer last night). I wrote some bills while having my first cup.

I started right in and deep cleaned both the kitchen and main bath. During that time, my lungs seemed to be filling up and I was coughing a lot. I thought I must have inhaled some of the Formula 409 that I was cleaning with. I finished just before 9:00 AM and then shaved and showered.

It's freakishly warm here today and raining off and on. The warm air on top of the packed snow is making a fog and the melting snow is creating flooding on the roads. But, I head out none the less!

I went to the bank. Then dropped off my cable bill and finally stopped at Westborn Market for fruits and veggies for my out-of-town guests (who should be here sometimes this afternoon).

I was back home by 10:30 AM and, after unpacking, I started to prep the salad fixing. I removed the cores and turned the cauliflower and broccoli heads into florets. I took the English cucumber and sliced it to 1/8 slices on the mandoline. All of this went into baggies for easy salad assembly.

Next I went out to organize the garage (so they can get their car in). Now, that might seem like a chore (and, I guess it was) but since the tile project started, the garage has been an absolute disaster! So, it's kinda nice to see it back in some semblance of order. I was done with that just before noon. Lu called from the road to say they just got into Ohio and should be here around 5:00 PM. She asked me why I sounded so congested and I told her my Formula 409 theory.

Next, I washed the downstairs, kitchen and main bath floors. While they were all drying, I vacuumed and dust mopped the wood floors. When I could walk on the floors again, I made myself some breakfast/lunch: I heated up a can of Dinty Moore beef stew and ate it with a hunk of that Italian rustic bread, watching a Survivorman rerun.

I did a little of this and that and then at 4:00 PM, I started supper: Garden Vegetable soup.

I heated up four tablespoons of olive oil in my cast iron Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Once it was hot, I added the two cups of chopped leeks, (white part only), two tablespoons finely minced garlic, and a pinch of salt. I sweated them until they begin to soften, approximately seven to eight minutes. I added two cups of sliced carrots, Two cups of cubed potatoes, and two cups of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut to 3/4 inch lengths. I continued to cook everything for four to five more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Then I added two quarts of homemade chicken stock, increased the heat to high, and then brought it back to a simmer. Once it was simmering, I added four cups of seeded and chopped tomatoes, about one cup of frozen corn kernels, and some fresh ground pepper. I reduced the heat to low, covered the pot, and cooked it until the vegetables were fork tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. At that point it was 5:00 PM and I still had not gotten the second call (when they cross the Michigan border) from Lu or Sadie, so I shut it off, letting the heavy cast iron Dutch oven keep it warm, but not cooking it to mush.

They pulled in about 6:00 PM. We unloaded a massive amount of stuff from their Explorer and, when things finally settled down a bit, I asked if they were hungry. They were, so Sadie started making a salad and I warmed the soup. So this, along with some more of the Italian bread, was dinner.

I ate too much, because they always make huge bowls of salad. This time it had Romaine and head lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, and roasted sunflower seeds. Sadie added raisins to hers and Lu added some dried cranberries to hers. I just tried to get through mine, LOL.

At dinner, both Lu and Sadie commented on how the glands in my neck were swollen. By that time I was coughing and blowing my nose like crazy. So, I decided the Formula 409 theory sucked and I had the beginnings of a very bad cold.

After dinner and cleaning up, we went into the living room and exchanged presents. My birthday present was still en route, but for Christmas, I got a Gnome door (it goes on one of your trees for a bit of whimsy) and an assortment of the goat milk soaps that Lu researched for the past year and is now making and selling under the name of Waqua Creek Kids Soap.

I got Rosemary & Oatmeal Scrub, Peppermint Infusion, Grandma Lu's White Lye, True Grit, Heather, Green Tea, Chamomile and Creamy Oatmeal. The milk was contributed at various points by her goats Chloe, Mya, Daisy, Bell and Bea, BTW.

So, it was around 8:00 PM and they were ready for bed. I proudly told them how I had kept the daybed covered with heavy duty plastic for over a year so there wouldn't be ANY cat hair on it. However, Lu discovered that the top sheet and comforter was being brushed by Caley's trips under and out of the daybed for that same year and were literally covered with her hair!

Consequently, bedtime was postponed until the bedding was washed and dried. Finally, everyone could go to bed. I stayed up and read because my face hurt and I kept coughing and blowing my nose. Finally I fell asleep around midnight.

I'm baaaaack!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

We apologize for the inconvenience...

but due to a power outage at the Captain Krusader compound the blog is temporarily out of order. We will return to our regularly scheduled programming as soon as possible.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas vacation - Day 7

Other than the occasional bathroom visit, I slept all through the night until 6:00 AM. I got some coffee and then posted the rather lengthy Blog (it was a rather lengthy day).

I checked the weather and got my first shock! Freezing rain! I got to get to Home Depot and two other stores this morning! So, I hurriedly took my shower and got dressed. Jake messaged me that it had started just as he left for work and it was pretty bad. But, I got stuff to do today and need supplies as well as a new house for Newt.

It was truly awful out there. There was solid ice on all the roads and no salt trucks, etc. I left at 9:00 AM and got back home just after 11:00 AM. I only went to the bank, Meijer's and Home Depot. The majority of the time was spent driving at 10 miles per hour and praying the ABS brakes would really stop me (they did, thank God!)

Back home, I unpacked and started washing the new gravel for Newt's new tank. I was a little upset about that tank, BTW. At Meijer's, they had five-gallon plain ones for $11.00. Naturally they didn't have any plain 10-gallon ones, so I had to buy a "complete aquarium set up" with the filter, etc. This ticked me off, because I just replaced his filter last month and this setup cost me $32.00! I was even more upset when Jake reminded me there is a pet store in that same shopping complex!

However, by 12:30 PM, Newt had a new, nice home and I was tired and hungry. So, I watched the news, eating slices of roast beef and some olives for my breakfast and lunch. I froze the big hunk of roast beef for French dip sandwiches at some other time.

I decided to try and take a nap at this point, having a TON of things to do today. So, after I washed all the stuff I'd dirtied to get Newt set up, I lay down with my book, set the alarm for 1:30 PM and waited to fall asleep.

When the alarm went off, I got up and changed into my tile clothes. I started the long process of applying the grout to the west and final wall. I mixed the grout with water for five minutes; let it rest for ten minutes and the re-mixed it. Then I started applying it with the rubber float. By 5:30 PM, the wall was grouted and the timer set for 20 minutes.

When the timer went off, I got the little bucket and the tile sponge and started to wash down the tiles, row by row and bucket of clean water by bucket. If you are doing this, BTW, do NOT use too much water! You only want a damp sponge! And, change the water OFTEN!

By 6:30 PM, I had all the tiles wiped. So, the only thing I need now is time. Anytime after two hours, I still need to wipe off the "haze" with some cheesecloth. Then, after three days (sometime Monday), I can caulk the corners, then seal the grout and tile. The sealer takes 2-3 hours to dry. Then I have to re-install the plumbing, turn on the water, test for leaks, attach the access door, and then replace the kitty litter tub to its original position. So, I should have my personal Christmas present on Tuesday morning!

I sat on the couch for a bit to rest my back, legs and knees. Then I started to deep clean the kitchen, by which I mean just clean EVERYTHING (as opposed to my weekly "sweep, mop, wash the counter top and stove top" kind of cleaning).

I worked until 8:45 PM when I had to quit (I was about half way done). Rather than the nice meal I'd planned (I'm too tired now), I just used the last chicken breast to make two more chicken sandwiches.

Nothing looks very interesting on TV, so I just went to bed after "dinner."

Friday, December 26, 2008

December 26

Happy Boxing Days to my friends in Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand!

Christmas

I got up Christmas morning at exactly 6:00 AM. I had made fresh coffee when Jake and Carla were here, so I reheated a cup and posted the Blog. Then I shaved (downstairs) and showered (upstairs).

I used the leftovers from my Birthday Breakfast for a satisfying Christmas breakfast. I am listening to a special Over Easy radio show, featuring old and new Christmas songs.

Then I started to prep for today's dinner. I preheated the oven to 400 degrees F. I arranged 12 ounces of bacon on a rack in a tinfoil-lined cookie tray, over-lapping each slice slightly with the next. Then I generously dusted them with fresh cracked black pepper. I put them into the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes.

Next, I trimmed the stems and pulled off the outer leaves of two pounds of Brussels sprouts (that took quite a while, BTW). I put the cleaned little heads in a pot, covered them with cold water and added some kosher salt. I put the lid on the pot and set it on a burner turned to High.

When the timer went off, I pulled out the bacon tray, checked for crispness (perfect) and set it on the cutting board to cool.

When the water in the Brussels sprouts pan began to boil, I set the timer for seven minutes (you want them cooked but not mushy). Then that timer went off, I quickly drained them and put them in a bowl of cold water and a tray of ice cubes (to shock them and stop the cooking process). I let them set in there a few minutes (until the ice cubes had melted), then drained them again and left them in the colander for later. So, my side dish is prepped.

I checked outside and noticed the sun is shining, but it is also snowing big while flakes. The rain did knock down the depth of the snow, but the snow is still here. So, we did get us a white Christmas. I straightened up the kitchen and swept the floor. I happened to check the voice mail and found I'd miss a joint call from my daughter's Amy and Melissa. So, I edited yesterday's log and also added in as a comment so at least they would know I did eventually hear their happy birthday message. Thanks, guys!


Now it was onto cleaning out poor Newt's tank (long neglected because of the tile). I got the fake plants, the climbing stick/tree branch thingie and the filter all cleaned and the filter cartridge replaced. I rinsed out the rocks and then started washing the aquarium 10-gallon tank itself on the kitchen counter (I normally do this in the main tub, but my back couldn't stand bending over like that for as long as it would take). I got it cleaned out and took it into the bathroom to rinse in the tub.

That's when tragedy struck! While maneuvering it into the bathroom I rapped the one end on the corner of the sink. The resulting "crack" was audible! I took it back out and downstairs to throw away (its right at the bottom of the one end). Filled with Christmas hope, I went up into the attic to see if there was an old goldfish bowl or "anything" I could use. But, I froze my tush off for nothing.

So I came back downstairs and got my biggest glass bowl (which is not all that big, but I didn't want him to be in the dark) and put a few rocks in it, a fake plant so he can hide, some water and finally poor Newt. I covered the top of it with the aquarium screen (it folds in half) so he couldn't get out and the cats couldn't get in. I think this will work as a temporary solution until I can pick up a new aquarium first thing tomorrow morning.

Dammit!

So, now I was discouraged. I took a break and had two glasses of the homemade eggnog Jake gave me yesterday while resting on the bed. It was just after 12:30 PM when the doorbell rang. It was Jake and Carla! Carla had made the appetizer (jumbo lump crab meat with cheese) and it needed some oven time. They had also had a Charcuterie for supper the night before, so they brought the remnants of that, too: thick salami, liver pate, three cheeses (Brie, Irish cheese and a beautiful Blue cheese), black olives, stuffed green olives and some green grapes and assorted crackers.

So, we popped the crap dip into the oven and, while it baked, exchanged our Christmas presents. I got a great book called "No Shortcuts to the Top" (climbing the world's 14 highest peaks) by Ed Viesturs. As long-time friends and relatives will tell you, I have been fascinated by mountain climbing and mountain climbers ever since Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay climbed Mount Everest in 1953. I did climb an indoor rock wall once, but that's as close as I ever got to mountain climbing.

The crab dip was done, so we moved back to the kitchen. They decided (much to my dismay) that the liver pate was too far gone to eat so they threw it away, but we sat and munched on the rest for a while. The crab dip was excellent, and so different from the usual canned crab meat and seafood sauce dip you usually see at Holiday parties. I think Carla said she made it with Monterey Jack and gruyere cheese.

Well, now we're pleasantly stuffed, so we moved back to the living room to chat. The timeline is slightly blown, so we decided to put the roast in at 2:30 PM. When it was time, I asked Carla to cut three pounds of baby redskins in half (down the long way, not around the middle, to get more surface area for roasting). Meanwhile I made the coating for the beef by combining one cup of Dijon mustard with two three-ounce bottles of the green peppercorns in vinegar. I used one bottle (and the brine juice) just as is, but the second bottle I drained the juice into the bowl and then tried to chop up the peppercorns (try that, sometimes! The peppercorns are about the size of a large BB and tend to roll everywhere as you chop). I added the juice of a lemon and whisked it all together. Distracted by the peppercorn chops, I completely forgot to add the little bit of oilive oil the the mixture.

Then I took out the roast from the fridge (a big mistake, it turned out) and set it in the rack over a sheet tray. I just started applying the coating when I remembered I was supposed to season the roast heavily with kosher salt on all sides, which I then did. Meanwhile Carla chopped up some fresh sage and thyme and, after seasoning the potatoes, tossed them with the herbs and some olive oil in the roasting pan.

I slathered the roast with the mustard/peppercorn mixture and, after Carla made sure the potatoes were all in one level, I placed the roast on the rack over top of them. I had preheated the oven to 500 degrees F. and moved the oven rack to the middle of the oven. So, I put it in. We checked the crust after ten minutes (there are some discrepancies in the recipe I have) and Carla decided it needed to go for another ten minutes. So, after 20 minutes total at 500 degrees, we turned the oven down to 350 degrees and set the timer for 80 minutes (figure 10 minutes per pound total).

When the timer went off, Jake checked in the internal temperature of the roast with my meat thermometer. Instead of 130 degrees we needed, it was only 90! After some discussion, we decided it was because I did not take it out and let it come to room temperature first (like I should have) before putting it in the oven. My bad.

So, we decided to let it cook some more! Why is that a big deal? Well, even though it's Christmas, both Jake and Carla have to go to work in the morning and don't usually stay too late. But, if they were game, so was I.

When the thermometer alarm went off, we gave a little cheer and got back to work. We took the roast and potatoes out and covered the pan with tin foil to let it rest. Carla put her gratin in the oven (it consisted of cauliflower, gruyere cheese, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, b�chamel (Mom, b�chamel is a French all-purpose white sauce made by thickening milk with a roux and cooking it gently with aromatics), and bread crumbs.

While that baked, Carla and I finished the creamed Brussels sprouts. I took each Brussels sprout and cut it in half. Carla thinly sliced two shallots and two large garlic cloves (use three regular sized cloves) and then saut�ed them over medium-high heat in a tablespoon of bacon fat until lightly browned (2 minutes). Then she added three cups of heavy cream and simmered that until it reduced by half (five-seven minutes). She seasoned it with salt and fresh ground black pepper. She then stirred in my Brussels sprouts and gently coated them in the sauce until they were warmed back up.

The timer went off for the cauliflower gratin, so we started to assemble dinner. I set the table, Jake sliced the roast and Carla put the Creamed Brussels Sprouts into a serving bowl, topping them with crumbled bacon. I put the roasted potatoes in a serving bowl as well. The gratin just went on the table as is, with a serving spoon. I cut up a few slices of the Italian rustic bread I'd bought. Jake said grace and then we dug in!

Oh, my!

I loved the cauliflower gratin (it has a great flavor and was a lovely, light dish)! The creamed Brussels sprouts were good (I'd made them before, if you remember). The potatoes were perfect (I was concerned about them as the roast didn't have a lot of fat on it and part of their cooking process was to have the drippings from the roast self-baste them), crunchy outside and soft and tender inside. And all the side dishes seemed to complement each other, none too similar and yet none too very different and possibly clashing.

And the roast? Well, it was perfectly cooked and the green peppercorn crust was fantastic (I loved the tang). Jake had sliced the meat very thin, so the texture was great. My only complaint was that it didn't "melt in your mouth" (like prime rib does). But, since the per pound price for a Top Round roast was 1/3 the cost of prime rib, I guess that was understandable.

After we finished and the food settled a bit, I brought out the maple-pumpkin cheese cake. Carla discovered that the $5.00 worth or raspberries had gone bad and they both thought adding the warm maple syrup on top would make it too sweet. So, without any toppings, we cut little wedges and tried it. Not bad! Not bad at all! I would like to find some maple sugar and remake this dish, though (I had just substituted dark brown sugar, you see).

Then, we started cleaning up. I put most of the leftovers in baggies to send home with them. I cut the roast about 1/3 to 2/3's and gave them the 2/3's chunk (Why? I have vegetarians coming to two days and would have no hope of eating that much meat by then - it was a seven pound roast, BTW).

Jake was busy rinsing dishes and cleaning pots and pans (I quickly tried to put a stop to that, reminding him he had to get home). He stopped washing pots and pans, but did insist on rinsing all the plates.

I think they left about 7:00 PM. I loaded up the dishwasher and turned that on. I was beat, so I grabbed my new book and headed into the bedroom. I stayed awake, reading, until about 9:00 PM and then shut off the light and went to bed. Christmas 2008 was officially over.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Birthday!

I woke up at 6:30 AM on Christmas Eve, my birthday. I warmed up yesterday's coffee and had a cup, sitting on the couch and reflecting on this past year. It's been quite the ride. Hell, it's been quite the ride for the past 60 years! Yes, that's right; today I am sixty years old.

I read somewhere a while ago that each of us subconsciously picks an age and, in our mind, we never grow beyond that. I think with me it was 25 years old. I still feel the same as I did then in my mind, with the same hope and dreams and fears. It's just my body that continually tries to remind me that I am 60 years old, not 25.

I blame this on my old philosophy of "Live fast, love hard, die young." Living with wild abandon when you are young works if you do, in fact, die young. But, if you are lucky (or unlucky - hence the reflecting) to live until you are old, your body pays a heavy price for that theory, lol!

Well, enough reflecting, its time for more action! I cleaned up the kitchen from last night late supper. I also threw the tile clothes into the dryer. I noticed how much I'd tracked the tile project onto the kitchen floor, so I swept it and then mopped it.

While it dried, I watched the Today show, a nice treat as I am usually at work when it comes on. Luanne and Sadie called me up to wish me a happy birthday (nice harmony on the Happy Birthday song, BTW). Unbeknownst to me, my daughter's Amy and Melissa called at that very same time to wish me a Happy Birthday. Since I was on the phone, it sent them directly to voicemail and did not record their call on the caller ID. I checked on Christmas morning and found their message (which is why I am updating this on Christmas morning) Thanks, you two. I love you both!

About 10:00 AM, Jake and Carla showed up to make me my traditional Birthday Breakfast. This time it was biscuits and gravy (I'd requested it) and it was delicious! He made his biscuits using heavy cream, rather than butter. They are quick and easy, much easier than the way I do with the little bits of cold butter (mix until the butter is the size of peas, etc.). I asked him where he got the recipe and he said it was in the cookbook from America's Test Kitchen (on PBS) that they gave me a while ago. After tasting them, I swore to myself that the next time I make biscuits, they would be these! They left for home about 11:00 AM, after cleaning up.

So, even though it is sloppy and still raining, it is apparently possible to still get around. So, I seriously thought about heading over to Home Depot. But, I am falling further and further behind in the rest of the Holiday ToDo list. Since I have already missed my deadline, I decide to get the grout Friday morning, when I have to go grocery shopping anyway.

My brother Jim called to wish me a Happy Birthday just after they left.

I decided to lay down and give my back a break. I didn't fall asleep, but I did feel a bit better when I got back up at 12:30. I started making tomorrow's dessert: Maple-pumpkin cheese cake. I used the food processor to grind up the graham crackers for the crust, mixed them with melted butter and brown sugar and pressed that into the springform pan. I baked it on a sheet pan for eight minutes in a 325 degree oven.

While the cream cheese was softening, I started to clean up the downstairs bath. I have houseguests coming, so I want to let them have the main bath (I may still have to shower there for a day or two). So, I need to move my stuff. So, I swept it up and then used the vacuum cleaner attachments to suck up the grout dust. Next I washed both the shower floor and the bathroom floor.

Around 3:00 PM, my son Jeremy called to wish me a happy birthday. He mentioned that on Friday (the day of the big snowfall) it took him three hours to get home. Yikes! Been there, done that. I surely am glad I now live so close to work!

I checked my email and found my friend Canada Cathy sent me a lovely e-card. Thanks!

So, while the downstairs bathroom floor was drying, I mixed together the maple-pumpkin cheese cake filling. Now, I ran into a big problem with this dessert. It calls for maple sugar (for both the crust and the filling) and I just could not find any. Jake suggested I search the Internet using the phrase "maple sugar substitutes" so I did. I found one useful suggestion that said: "If we were faced with your dilemma, we would use a cup of granulated or light brown sugar (or a combination of the two) and half a cup of maple syrup, remembering to reduce some other liquid in the recipe by about 1/4 cup."

Well, that makes some sense, but since there is NO liquid in this recipe, it didn't help. So, I decided to use dark brown sugar and, instead of the caramel topping the recipe calls for, I'll use pure maple syrup. I already had to change the fresh currants (not available right now anywhere) to using red raspberries (Michigan hot-hot grown).

So, I used my hand mixer to beat together three (8-ounce) packages of softened cream cheese, one (15-ounce) can of pureed pumpkin, three eggs plus one egg yolk, 1/4 cup of sour cream, 1 1/2 cups of dark brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves, two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and one teaspoon of vanilla extract.

I kept scrapping the sides of the mixing bowl as I mixed it and then spread the finished filling into the pre-baked crust. I put that into a 350 degrees F. oven and set the timer for one hour (or until the center appears nearly set when gently shaken).

Back to work! I took all my stuff downstairs and put it back in the bathroom. My Mom called at a little after 5:00 PM to wish me a happy birthday. She said she got my Blog today as well as a mystery package with no return label. I asked her what was in it and she said it looks like sausage. I laughed and told her the story: My brother Carl told me that Mom really wanted some summer sausage.

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with this, it is the general term for any sausage that can be kept without the need of refrigeration. Summer sausage is usually a mixture of pork and other meat such as beef and venison. Summer sausage can be either dried or smoked, and curing ingredients can vary significantly, although some sort of curing salt is almost always used. Seasonings may include mustard seeds, black pepper, garlic salt, or sugar.

In spite of its name, summer sausage actually tends to be made in the autumn, during traditional hunting seasons in North America and Europe. Summer sausage, like all sausages, makes use of leftover scrap meat and organ meat that would otherwise be wasted. Since we are talking about my Mom, we would need some that is low or no-sodium.

So, in every high-end market I have been in recently, I asked if they knew of any summer sausage that was low or no-sodium. In the Holiday market (where I got my knives sharpened), I asked the master butcher. He laughed and said, "There is no way you can make sausage without nitrates [a component of which is salt] so there is no such thing as low sodium sausage!"

Jake, however, suggested I check out the World Wide Web. So, I did and found a farm in Wisconsin, Beltie Beef (http://beltiebeef.com/) that claimed to be the home of the world's best Certified Organic Grass-Fed Beef Summer Sausage and, it is advertised as low sodium! The stats were as follows: Their sausage's sodium (mg) is 94 versus regular summer sausage of 667 or turkey summer sausage of 730. So, since the shipping charges (two nights over air) were the same, I ordered her two pounds of it.

I told her I hoped it tasted good and to enjoy it. I asked about the soup I'd brought and she said they have been having it every night since I dropped it off. I explained I tried to compensate for not using salt by using herbs, spices and garlic and she said it was great. So, that made me feel great!

I checked outside and my mail had come, so I switched my slippers for my Crocs and drove out to get it. No Christmas cards, but I did have a birthday card from my friend, Leon. Long time readers may remember that he is a rancher and cowboy whose spread is in Coldwater, Michigan. The card was a caricature of a cowboy, riding through a forbidding landscape with bones, vultures and bad guys hiding here and there. The card read: "With this birthday, you're crossing into dangerous territory!" Since he turned 60 last February, he should know!

So, after an hour, I checked on the cheesecake. It still seemed "undone" so I set the timer for another 15 minutes. When it went off, I pulled it out and set it on a rack to cool.

I was starting to get hungry, so I dug out the poached chicken breasts. I know I mentioned chicken salad, but I settled instead for chicken sandwiches (just chicken, mayo, salt and white bread.). I ate that, watching TV and waiting the two hours for the cheesecake to cool. My friend B___ call with his birthday wishes during that time.

After the two hours had passed, I set the springform on some cling wrap. I ran a thin bladed knife between the crust and the metal and then released the sides. I wrapped the cheesecake in the first and then another sheet of cling wrap and put it in the refrigerator until tomorrow.

I decided my birthday was complete and I went to bed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Today's birthdays...

LOL! I just noticed the birthday's listed on my home page. I think Santa's elf or my Web Master worked a little Christmas magic. But, think about it: Me, Howard Hughes, Kit Carson and St. Ignatius of Loyola? Sweet!

Christmas Vacation - Day 4

I set the alarm for Tuesday morning (garbage day and all) but woke up before it went off. I put on a pot of coffee and got dressed. I finished the Blog and posted it then took four bags of trash and the mortar bucket (filled with tile bits and pieces) out to the road. Man it was cold out there! I checked the thermometer and it said 7 degrees.

I decided to forego eating breakfast (since I ate so late last night and will do brunch later when I get hungry. For now, the coffee is enough.

So, I am back still scrapping mortar off the tiles and cleaning in between them so I can grout. I glanced outside and see that it's snowing. It's gonna be a rough one today, tonight and tomorrow. We're supposed to have snow off and on today, switching to freezing rain during the night and then switch in just rain tomorrow afternoon. We've got a Severe Weather Alert from 4:00 PM today until 7:00 PM tomorrow!

I took a break at 10:30 to go get some more salt, (before the cable guy shows up). Ed, my new BF snow-plower, suggested that, since he got it down to the gravel, I "salt the hell" out of the driveway. Now I had a little bag of the "ice-melter" stuff, but nothing that would do that much area. So, I ran over to Home Depot and got two 40-pound bags of salt, a big orange bucket and four of those marking sticks (so, next time he will know where the driveway begins and ends). It was already treacherous to drive. It was a steady snow with small, slippery flakes. I got back home and shoveled the porch and garage apron again. Then I started throwing salt everywhere. I used up about 50 pounds of the stuff and put the rest into the bucket for later use. I stuck the markers at the corners of the driveway and came inside.

Well, not really. I went out back and filled up the birdfeeder, first. At noon, I got a call from the cable company. They said there had been some sort of local area "problem" but that it was fixed now and please try my TV again. I did and it worked! So, I don't have to have the tech come over. I turned it onto Channel 4 to catch the news and weather and I was shocked at the list of traffic accidents from this snow.

I decided I was getting hungry. So, I warmed up a bowl of the chicken soup. I ate that with the wheat crackers, watching the news. For dessert, I sliced up my last Gala apple and three slices of that white cheddar cheese and munched on that. I was warm and drowsy, so I decided to take Jake's advice and take a nap. So, I did.

I woke up at 2:30 PM and reluctantly got back to work. By 4:00 PM, all the tile and excess mortar had been cleaned. I took a break to get the mail and then started mixing the grout.

I started with the South wall and then did the North wall. By 6:30 PM, both walls were finished being grouted and cleaned. But, there is a problem! I am running dangerously low on grout. And, it's too damn bad outside weather-wise to go get more. If the freezing rain quits early enough, perhaps I can get out tomorrow. Damn! There goes taking a shower on Christmas morning in this shower! I decided to do the doorway next and then the doorway wall, until the grout runs out.

AT 7:00 AM, the doorway and the doorway wall were done, but I was out of grout. What kills me is that I was at Home Depot this very morning! I waited the 20 minutes needed for the grout to dry and then wiped the tiles with a damp sponge.

I threw my tile clothes into the washer (these are rapidly becoming the most washed clothes in the world) and finally took my daily shower. I stayed in the shower until the water went lukewarm, letting it beat on my poor back and my right knee (both of which are buggered up by now).

I took the rest of the white button mushrooms and sliced them. I saut�ed them with a medium-sized yellow onion. I then fried up about a half-pound patty of ground chuck. I topped the "steak" with the onions and mushrooms and ate it watching TV. But I was beat so I went to bed at 9:30 PM.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Vacation - Day 3

Monday morning I woke up at 7:15 AM. I warmed up another cup of coffee and checked the TV. It's still screwed up, so I called Brighthouse (my cable company) after posting the Blog. All I got was a recorded message saying, "Due to the high number of calls, we are unable to answer your call at this time. Please try again later!"

I did check the thermometer and it warmed up overnight: It's now 3 degrees F.! I divided the remaining porridge into thirds and warmed up a third for my breakfast. I ate it with butter and salt, again.

I took a shower and then went to run some errands. I left at 10:00 AM and it was 10 degrees F. (Coincidence? I think not!) The good news was they finally plowed my street. The bad news was the mound of snow now blocking my way out. I tried to just plow through it, but that didn't work. So, I got out the snow shovel and dug out the mound. Then I could get out.

So, I dropped the Blog for my Mother into the post office box and then swung by the Credit union for some money. Next I went to Kroger's, then Westborn Market and finally Home Depot. I had surmised that by going early on a Monday, the amount of shoppers would be less, but this was NOT the case. Kroger's, especially, was jam-packed. I finally got home at about 12:30 PM and started putting the stuff away.

I decided that with more snow predicted, leaving the driveway like that was dumb. And, since my back was still hurting from shoveling off the porch and the garage apron, I knew I couldn't really shovel the whole drive without crippling myself up (not exactly the way I want to spend the Holidays). So, I started calling local snow removal places I found on the Internet. Most of them asked me to leave a message, but I didn't. I wanted to talk to a person. So, I finally got one that answered and asked if he could plow me out. He said he'd be here in an hour.

I changed from my shopping clothes to my tile clothes and then made another ham and cheese sandwich for lunch. Before I get started on the tile, though, I need to get my stock on the stove. So, I rinsed off a four pound chicken I had thawed overnight and put it in the medium stockpot. I covered it with 1 1/2 quarts of cold water. Then I added a little salt, a half teaspoon of whole black peppercorns and a bouquet garni of parley and thyme that I tied with cooking string and tied the other end to the stockpot handle (so I can fish it out later). I threw in two bay leaves as well (I can never get them tied into the bouquet garni right). I brought it up to a boil and then turned it down to a simmer, skimming the foam (but not the fat) off several times. When I had all the foam off, I turned the timer on for one hour.

The snow plow guy's "hour" turned out to be almost three, but he finally called me at 3:30 PM to say he was on his way. He got here right at 4:00 and immediately started plowing. I was not so sure I liked that as we hadn't settled on a price yet (and I only had $55.00 in my wallet). But, he was done in 20 minutes. He came to the door and I thanked him and asked him what I owed him. He said, "15.00." I told him that wasn't enough and gave him $20.00. I did tell him about the mail man not delivering if he can't drive right next to the mailbox and he said he'd do that on his way out. He also told me to call him anytime, so it looks like I got this heavy snowfall stuff taken care of for this winter!

The one hour timer went off, so, using my tongs, I picked up the whole chicken and let it drain over the stock pot a bit. Then I put it on the plastic cutting board (I only use this for chicken - I guess Jake and poultry police have finally rubbed off on me) and cut off the two perfectly poached chicken breasts. I peeled off the skin and put it back in the stock pot. Damn that Shun knife is sharp, again!!! I set the timer for three more hours and put the rest of the chicken back in the pot. The two chicken breasts I left on a plate to cool (I'm thinking chicken salad, maybe...)

So, since tomorrow is garbage day, I was switching out the kitty litter, bagging up all the tile boxes and sweeping all the tile bits and partial tile up off the garage floor. I got that all done and am set for tomorrow morning! I tried the cable company for the third time and finally got through. She did reset the cable box, but it did not help. So, I've got a tech coming tomorrow between 1-3:00 PM.

At 6:00 PM, the timer went off again. So, I added my mirepoix (traditionally, two parts onion, one part carrot and one part celery), all just rough chopped and not peeled. I also added 1/2 head of garlic that I smashed with my hands, again not cut or peeled. I set the timer for the last hour and took a break to fill in the Blog.

So, let's recap: For making chicken stock, I usually let it go for 5 hours with a four pound chicken. I deliberately use very little salt in the beginning as it tends to concentrate as you reduce the water. There is a LOT of discussion on the temperature of the water. Ruhlman (who I admire greatly) says to never let it get above 180 degrees F. He even recommends putting the stock pot in a 180 degree oven instead of on the stove top. But, I have tried that method and the stock didn't reduce enough for my taste.

So, I use the Alice Waters (another favorite chef) method and get it to just under a boil (where you see an occasional bubble rise up and burst). This takes time and patience, however, playing with your stove. But, I think the result is worth it.

Another area of discussion is when you add the mirepoix. Most restaurant chefs add it in the beginning (as does my brother Carl and so does Alice Walters). But, here I side with Ruhlman and add it in only during the last hour only. He claims that the bones require a long cooking time, but the vegetables cooked that long will begin to break down and compromise the flavor and yield of the stock).

So, my timing is as follows: Chicken, seasoning and herbs, brought to a boil and then left at a high simmer. Collect all the foam but avoid pulling out the fat. After one hour, take out the chicken and removed the poached breasts. Put the rest of the chicken back in the pot. After four hours, add your mirepoix. And, at five hours, turn off the heat and let it cool. Remove and de-bone the chicken (if making chicken soup, for example, as I am tonight). Strain the stock through a sieve (or a colander) and discard the herb bundle, the bay leaves and all the mirepoix veggies. Put the stock you want to save into freezer containers (or ice-cube trays for small amount usage). Return the rest to the stock pot to make your chicken noodle (or chicken rice) soup.

So, that is where I was at 8:00 PM. The freezer containers are filled and sitting on my counter to cool. To the soup, I added another round of mirepoix and the chicken meat. Once they got happy I added some kluski noodles (this is on the advice of my barber, who is Polish). You can get them in the pasta aisle, BTW. They are smaller, but thicker and made of whole wheat and, she says, can stand up to freezing. We'll see. Finally I added 1/2 pound of white button cleaned and quartered. I love the earthy flavor mushrooms add to chicken soup.

Now, I get back to the tile project. I need to try and get the excess mortar off the tiles before I can grout them. This was no big deal on the counter top, but is a major undertaking in the shower. I bought two plastic putty knives for this today at Home Depot. I have tried using my metal putty knife (which works great) but it leaves marks on the tile. Damn! So does the plastic putty knives! I have one more trick up my sleeve. So I get my painter's knife and bingo! No marks. I finished cleaning the south wall and then quit for the day.

I get myself a bowl of the hot soup and my book and have an excellent dinner. In fact, I ate another bowl! I put the soup in a large Tupperware bowl and in the fridge and I labeled the three four-cup containers and put them in the freezer. I semi-cleaned up the kitchen (I'll wash the stock pots tomorrow morning) and took my book and myself to bed.

Monday, December 22, 2008

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Soap dish, drying

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Tile shelves, braced to stay in place

Christmas Vacation - Day 2

I woke up at 6:30 AM on Sunday morning and turned on the morning news for the weather. We're supposed to get 1-3 more inches of snow and strong winds today. There is a Severe Weather Alert for wind chills of -5 to -10 degrees F. today (groan). I warmed up some of yesterday's coffee and posted the Blog.

I made scrambled eggs topped with shredded cheddar cheese for breakfast. After eating, I unloaded the dishwasher so I could put the breakfast dishes in it. I went and revised my ToDo calendar to reflect reality.

I threw the tile clothes in the washer, along with my Crocs. Then I started vacuuming. This time, besides the usual, I am paying particular attention to the cold air returns as they are attracting cat hairs. I also pulled out the couch and love seat and meticulously got all the cat hairs off them (front and back). I have been so preoccupied with the tile that, other than straightening up, the house hasn't really had a good cleaning in a long time.

After that, I swept and dust-mopped the bedroom, the office, the main bath and the kitchen.

Just about noon, I started to install the soap dish and two corner shelves in the shower. Now, oddly enough, according to my tile guys at Lowe's, these are not put in with mortar when you do the tile. You get all the tile installed and then attach these directly to the tile using 100% silicon adhesive. I asked how they stay in place and he said to just use masking tape to hold them and they would be glued solid within one hour.

Well, this worked great with the soap dish. I put long strips of masking tape in place, glued it on (BTW, 100% silicon smells like hell!) and then taped it in place. But, this did not work so great with the shelves. I'm guessing it was the weight of them but, in spite of all the tape, they immediately start to sag.

So, I hurriedly took some measurements and cut two pieces of a 2 x 2: one from the floor to the bottom of the lower shelf and then one from that shelf to the bottom of the upper shelf. I braced them up and it seemed to be working fine (see photos).

I went and checked out the calls on my phone. I deliberately didn't answer them when I was working, because anything that's going to be permanently bonded in one hour demands your attention, first!

One of the calls was from my daughter Melissa, and I decided it was time to take a break and call her back. So, I did. She was worried after reading in the Blog how the mailman tossed her package onto the porch as there was, indeed, something breakable in it. I told her I put the birthday and Christmas presents under my little tree and would let her know when I opened them if something was broken. She asked me to open them now, cleverly stating we were "special" and that rules on when we open presents didn't apply to people like us (I am such a sucker for sh*t like that, LOL!)

So, I did. My birthday present was a copy of the Goerlich (German) family history. I had mentioned to her a while back that I had misplaced my copy and could not find it. Now, unlike American genealogy (which is usually charts, showing who married who and who begat who) this is a narrative, describing each person, their faults and follies and so on. So, this will be an interesting read!

My Christmas present did not fare so well. It was supposed to be the cup and saucer my great-grandfather John Bussey, father of my beloved Mama Rene, used. My Mom had given it to Melissa a while back, and Melissa thought I would enjoy having it (and I do!) Well, the cup made the journey but, in spite of the bubble-wrap, the saucer did not. But, I still have my great-grandpa's cup!!!

We talked way too long (we always do). I had grabbed a throw when I sat down on the couch to call her back, so now I was comfy, cozy and WARM. When we hung up, I decided that it was the perfect time and place to take a nap, so I did.

When I woke up, I was hungry (having skipped lunch), so I dug out my old (and I do mean old) George Forman grille. I bought this back in the mid '90s in St. Clair, after hearing my brother Carl rave about it. Unlike the newer models that can cook a whole pizza, this could make one burger or a chicken breast and was cleverly designed to drain off all the grease. I don't use it for that anymore, but it does make a great panini press.

So, I buttered two pieces of split-top white bread, put yellow mustard inside and added some deli ham and American cheese. I dropped the lid on it and in five minutes or so, had a wonderful grilled sandwich. I ate it with some green olives.


I went in to watch my Sunday night shows, but there was something wrong with the cable. The pictures were breaking up into little boxes. Damn it! Oddly enough, the cable modem for the computer was still working fine.

I had an email at 9:00 PM from Jake with the subject: This sucks! The attachment was a picture from the Weather Channel, showing 1 degree in Westland, with a wind chill factor of -22 degrees F. (or -30 degrees C. for my Canadian friends). Astonished, I checked my outdoor thermometer and it was, in fact, 1 degree here, too! No wonder I felt chilly!!!

So, I grabbed a book and got under the covers in bed. I read until almost midnight and then went to sleep, content with my day.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Vacation - Day 1

I woke up at 6:30 AM on Saturday and put a pot of coffee on. I went and finished the Blog for yesterday and then posted it. I made a pot of Irish porridge for breakfast. I didn't have any buttermilk in the house, so I ate some of it with butter and salt (another traditional Irish way).

So, I ate a hearty breakfast and have enough leftovers for two or three more! I took my morning meds and got dressed. I'll shower after I'm done working. When I was cleaning up the kitchen, I notice the dishwasher was full enough to run, so I started that up

Now, I did have a list for today (of course) but, as in most projects, it is always subject to change. So, instead of starting right in on the tile, I will deal with the drifted-over porch and garage apron as well as dig out the mailbox (I have my tracks from last night, so am confident I can get out if needed). I get a hat, gloves and boots and get outdoors at 9:30 AM.

So, by 10:15, I have the porch and garage apron cleared off. Where my tires rolled over the snow on the apron, the snow is compressed and icy, so I salted that. I dug out the mailbox as best as I could. This was more difficult because my neighbors down the road drove their snowmobiles next to it last night, compressing the snow. Hopefully the mailman will see I did make the effort and still deliver the mail.

Sidebar: I don't remember mail carriers out in the country being that picky about snow like they are here in the city. **shrug**

Since I was already dressed for the out-of-doors, I refilled the suet cage and the bird feeder. I stomped a big circle in the snow around the feeder and put down some seeds for the mourning doves. I also took some pictures for you.

Before getting to the tile work, I took care of some usual Saturday morning chores (stripping the bed and washing the bedding) and a more unusual task: ordering my Mom's Christmas present. A little birdie told me what she wanted (well, actually it was a bald-headed, crippled brother, but you get the idea). It took some Web searching, frequent consultation with Carl and some online help from Jake, but I finally got 'er done! Watch for the mail, Mom!!!

Then, I went up into the attic. I have decided with the time crunch the tile project has imposed, there will be no big Christmas tree this year. But, I still do need some Christmas decorations. So, I got down my usual stuff, plus the little two-foot tree. I set everything up and then warmed up some leftovers for my lunch. By 3:00 PM, I was on the tile project!

I took a short break at 5:00 PM to fix myself a drink. Both my back (probably the snow shoveling) and my mind need it. The entry into the shower is now done. I thought of various ways to secure the top of the doorway tiles, but finally settled on masking tape (see photos). I just didn't trust they would stay where I put them (gravity and all).

I checked outside and my mailbox flag is up! As I may have mentioned before, my mailman puts the flag up when he has mail he delivered. So, I guess my snow shoveling efforts were worth it. I put on my boots and trudged out to get the mail.

I have got three cloth band-aids on various fingers and my left thumb. Damn, but cut tiles are SHARP! And the cloth band-aids aren't working well with the wet tile saw. Somehow this reminds me of the Chinese (or is it Japanese?) "death of a thousand cuts!" Now it's back to work...

So, it's almost seven o'clock and I am getting worried! If you remember, I took back a TON of tile from the kitchen sink project. Well, now I am running out of mortar and am down to 10 tiles left. So, for the thin tiles needed, I am cutting up the more expensive radius tiles. But at 7:30 PM, I am officially finished! I have a dollop of mortar and just four complete tiles left. But, by God, the damn thing's done!!!

I shed my tile clothes and hit the shower. I got most of the mortar off. I changed into clean clothes and warmed up some potato leek soup I had made and frozen back in November, then thawed out yesterday. I ate it with the last of the Black Russian Bread, watching TV. I turned in at 10:00 PM.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

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Not trusting gravity, I hold up the top of the doorway tiles with masking tape.

Quote of the Day...

[Its still a quote if you only say it to yourself, right?]

Hmmm... maybe it's just a fluke...

"Hey, whales have flukes, not tilemen!"

~ CaptainK

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Front porch and garage apron, from my front door

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Garage apron and front porch, from the South

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The driveway

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Air conditioner unit, covered with snow

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Bird feeder and suet cage, filled

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Icicles on the back roof

Friday, dashing through the snow!

Well, they said it was gonna snow, and they were right! I hope the wind shifts, because the first thing I noticed was a big drift was building in front of my garage door.

Didn't even try to get onto the expressway (there's always some fool who thinks he can still safely drive 70 mph). I just took Plymouth Road. I don't think I ever got over 20 mph, since NONE of the roads were plowed. It did take exactly four times as long to get to work, though.

They said on the Channel Four weather it's coming down at a rate of one inch per hour and it's supposed to snow until at least noon, then start tapering off. So, we could see 6-10 inches today. I think we'll definitely have a white Christmas this year.

I decided that going home or out for lunch would be stupid, so I figured that my apple and cheese would be all I'd eat today. However, the Purchasing Department in this building has a nice tradition. Every Friday, on a rotating basis, one of them brings in a treat for all the rest (I think there's maybe eight of them here); bagels, donuts, fruits, etc. Well, this time it was Karen's turn (she's the administrative assistant and quite a Foodie) and she brought in a ham and spinach quiche and cheesy potatoes. There were enough people that didn't make it in that she came and asked me to please eat some, "...so it won't go to waste." So, I got brunch! And, I still had my apple and cheese for the afternoon snack.

I did go out at 11:30 AM and clean off the car. While I was out there, I checked the snow depth in a spot that wasn't drifted and it was seven inches deep. The weather channel said that we (Livonia/Redford) had officially gotten five inches today, so that makes sense if you add in the two inches we got on Tuesday.

They were just plowing the parking lot at that time. Unfortunately, the plow left a big mound of snow right behind all the cars!

It did seem to be tapering off when I cleaned off the car, but it came back with a vengeance just after 1:00 PM. So, I got my pants, socks and shoes wet for nothing. It finally stopped at 2:30 PM.

The department manager came around at 3:00 PM, wishing everyone who was going to be on vacation a Merry Christmas. She was on her way to a meeting and wouldn't be coming back. She mentioned to me she had told my boss that, due to the weather, some people could leave a little early but somebody had to stay until 5:00 PM, just in case.

So, after she left, I went and told my boss that I would volunteer to stay. My reasoning was that, since most people live much farther than me, the extra time off would mean a lot more to them. I, on the other hand, am going to be off for almost the next two weeks anyway (I do have to be back at work on Friday, January 2nd) and, the longer I stayed, the better the chances that the roads would be cleared. Everyone was gone by 5:00 PM, so I locked the door and turned off all the lights in my suite. Thank God, there were still other departments working so I didn't have to try and set the alarm (I have had some ugly experiences involving police in the past with setting or turning off the alarms).

Remember that mound of snow behind all the cars? When I got out to my car, I noticed somebody (I am guessing a shop guy) had taken a snow shovel and dug my car out! I looked down the row and saw that mine was the only car that got that treatment. So, I don't know who my guardian angel was, but thanks and God bless you!

My theory about the cleared roads was pure crap. Nothing was plowed, nothing was salted. I took 5-Mile home and stopped counting after 10 the cars that were stuck, either turning onto 5 Mile or turning off. People were shoveling them out and pushing them. I just went slowly (never got over 20 mph) and trudged along. My traction light kept coming on, but I did make it to San Jose. My first real problem was turning onto my street. I bogged down, but managed to keep it moving.

I didn't even try to get the mail in the car, seeing all the snow. I just turned into the pristine driveway. Halfway up it (and I don't have a very long driveway) the bottom of the car was plowing through that (much bigger now) drift I mentioned at 7:00 AM. Finally, the car got stuck. I backed it up a ways and drove forward. I got about 3/4's of the way through before getting stuck again. I opened the garage door, backed up almost to the road and powered it through the drift and into the garage.

I walked out to the mail box and noticed something odd. There were people tracks from the mail box to the start of my porch. So, I followed them. The postman had walked up to the porch (where the drift was the worst) and just threw a package at my front door! I retrieved it and, once inside, I opened it up. It contained both a Christmas and birthday present from my daughter Melissa. I sincerely hope neither was breakable, LOL! I set them in the living room to open on the appropriate days.

I was filling in the Blog when Caley hopped up on the desk. Stupid me, I reached out and petted her. Stupid cat, she turned around and bit me. Unlike Scruffy (or any other cat I ever remember), she does NOT like to be petted! So, I was bleeding as I typed this!

I printed off my vacation calendar and put it on the fridge. Now I know what I must accomplish every day. According to my timeline, I will celebrate Christmas with a shower in the renovated downstairs bathroom! Let it be, dear Lord... let it be!

It was after 7:30 when I got done, so I checked out quick options for dinner. I ended up opening a can of Hormel chili with beans and heating it up. I ate it with some of the too salty wheat crackers I confiscated from my Mom's. Note, they are definitely salty (and probably way too much for my Mom). But they taste great to me!

I started watching Surviorman on the Discovery Channel. [Mom, it's a show where a guy takes some cameras, goes alone into hostile and forbidding places and, well, tries to survive]. Tonight he was in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Unfortunately I fell asleep before the end (Gee, I hope he survived!) When I woke back up, I turned everything off and went to bed.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Calm before the Storm...

Cold today, but calm. It's supposed to go all to sh*t tonight, though. Predictions range for 2-4 or 6-12 inches of snow (depends on who you listen to) and possibly freezing rain overnight and throughout the day on Friday. Yikes!!

At lunch, I went to Lowe's, Bed, Bath and Beyond and then to the Town Peddler (an antique and craft store in Livonia) and finished (finally!) my Christmas shopping!

On the way home, I stopped at Office Depot to get some printer cartridges, paper, 9x12-inch envelopes and some 60 pound "approved" postal mailing wrapping paper. It dawned on me today that I will be sending my Mom the Blog for two weeks from home, not work, while I am on vacation. So, I need to be prepared! So, I got home about 5:30 PM, which was the earliest I have gotten home in several days.

Once home and the cats treated, I unloaded the car, refilled the windshield washer reservoir and started a small load of laundry. I got this year's license plate sticker in the mail, so I cleaned the plate, let it dry and then stuck it on. I put the new registration in the car's glove box after I laminated it. Then I changed clothes and started to plot out my vacation.

LOL, you can take the Project Manager on vacation, but you can't stop him from project managing! I entered every day's activities from December 19 to December 27 in my Franklin Planner (this would be pre-PDA for you techies). According to my calculations (always subject to change, of course) I should be able to give myself a birthday present of a shower in my new, improved shower! Sweet!

Next, I started to wrap all the presents. Pain in the butt, as always. But, I used the lessons I learned in my first job after I got married. I took over my Brother Joe's (he had left for the service in the Army) job in a dry cleaners as the delivery guy. Now, most people wanted their shirts delivered on hangers. But, some wanted them wrapped up. I watched in awe as the father of the owner wrapped them perfectly in paper. I used his technique from that day on until now and it has served me well.

Sidebar: Fran, our baby Amy and I lived in one of the apartments over the cleaners at that time. My main remembrance of that time was the over-powering smell of pinto beans. We had a Mexican couple as neighbors and damn near every night, they cooked pinto beans. It took me years (really) to be able to try pinto beans without gagging.

I finally finished wrapping the presents 8:30 PM. I warmed up some bean soup I thawed overnight and ate that with some crackers for dinner. I read a book until 10:00 PM, then went to sleep.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday's Road Trips

Well, we did get snow overnight (I'd say 2 1/2-3 inches). Very little work was done on the roads when I left for work and the top speed on the expressway was 40 mph.

Even more interesting, I had to go to Farmington Hills to tour our newest building (B73) at 10:00 AM. It will be my project to get the IT and Telecom infrastructure in place before they move in this coming May.

But, that did give me a chance to stop in at a high-end market in Novi on the way back. This was the only place I could find that carried a key ingredient for my Christmas dinner: Green peppercorns packed in brine (and even then, they only carry them packed in vinegar).

So, this was called Hiller's Market and, if you are ever in Novi, it's worth a visit. A wide variety of stuff including a whole wild game section (you can get rabbit, elk, ostrich and even alligator meat).

After work, I began another trek to yet another high-end place called Holiday Market down in Canton. This time I wasn't looking for anything, just taking in both of my chef's knives to be sharpened. The Wustof just needed it because I've had it so long and the Shun I messed up trying to use one of those carbide, "sharpen it yourself" tools. I must have not pulled it evenly, because it made the edge ragged.

So, you take your knives to the meat counter and the butcher sharpens them on the spot (unless they are really busy, but they have like six guys behind the counter). He wraps them up in one of their towels, then butcher paper and slaps a label on them with the price: $1.00 per knife! He said, "What were you cutting with that one knife, nails?" I laughed and explained the knife sharpener incident.

While I was waiting, (for less than five minutes, BTW) I inspected their meat counter: Fabulous! And, the prices seemed pretty reasonable.

So, I trudged back out into the snow and headed for home. I took I-275 to I-96). I got there at 6:15 PM.

I took care of some minor chores and then heated the last of the Kielbasa and Sauerkraut for dinner. I watched the Top Chef show I'd taped the night before and then went to bed around 9:30 PM.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Perks of Getting Old

I assume it's because I am just days away from my 60th birthday that both my ex-wife and our daughter sent me this list, LOL! But, I did find it interesting and thought I would pass it along to you.

Perks of Getting Old

01. Kidnappers are not very interested in you.

02. In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.

03. No one expects you to run--anywhere.

04. People call at 9 PM and ask, did I wake you?

05. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.

06. There is nothing left to learn the hard way.

07. Things you buy now won't wear out.

08. You can eat supper at 4 PM .

09. You can live without sex but not your glasses.

10. You get into heated arguments about pension plans.

11. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.

12. You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room.

13. You sing along with elevator music.

14. Your eyes won't get much worse.

15. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.

16. Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.

17. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.

18. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size.

Tuesday's Snow

I was pleasantly surprised when I looked outside Tuesday morning and saw no snow. I was less pleased to learn I just had the day wrong. It's supposed to snow tonight (not last night) and they have changed it now to a predicted 2-4 inches of snow...

I took back the broken gift at lunch and got a replacement (this time I inspected it in the store before I left). Since I was down that way anyway, I stopped in at Lowe's and picked up a tool I need for the shower project.

The snow had just started when I headed home at 5:00 PM. It was light, but steady. By the time I got home (20 minutes or so) the hard surfaces where all white, but the grass was still sticking up amidst the snow.

I changed my clothes after treating the cats. I went through the mail and got two more Christmas cards. That makes six so far...

Sidebar: This is strictly IT (Information Technology, Mom) humor, but I checked out back to see the amount of snowfall so far (I am not lying, this actually happened). I noticed the suet cage was empty and the bird seed container almost gone and I said to my self: "Damn!" Then I remarked, again to myself, "Hey, this is only Tuesday, we are not scheduled for an upgrade until Wednesday night."

Which is apparently how I judge things, these days...

Bu 7:00 PM, the snow is really coming down. I had put the new jogging/exercise shorts and tops in the washer and then in the dryer.

I put the pot with the Sauerkraut, Kielbasa and potatoes back onto simmer. When I looked outside at 7:30 PM, the grass had disappeared and white was everywhere!

I ate dinner and then went to watch some TV. I turned it off at 10:00 PM and went to bed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

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Tiling the south-side shower opening

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North wall, completed

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Space in tile for shower head pipe

Sweating then Freezing on Monday

We had weird, weird weather on Monday morning: 58 degrees F. and rain! But, it's supposed to only be 28 degrees F. by noon, with winds of 25-30 mph!!

And, they were right! Now let's just hope they blew it about the prediction for 1-4 inches of snow overnight, LOL!

I made a trip to the mall in Westland at lunch to get some stuff and that wind went right through my big leather jacket. When I got back to work, I noticed the flag had been ripped loose at the bottom and was madly flapping in the wind. So, I told the receptionist and she sent somebody out to replace it.

Now, I am not sure if I mentioned this, but for the last two or three weeks, for my weight reduction program, I have been bringing in an apple a day to work and eating it at 3:00 PM. I do remember mentioning I found a Michigan-grown apple with a fantastic taste and, after much trial and error; I learned it was a "Gala." Well, the Michigan Galas are all gone now, but Washington State still has them so I bought another week's worth of apples on Saturday at Westborn.

I have been thinking I don't get nearly enough "dairy" in my normal consumption of food. In fact, in the past three days, I have thrown away (based on expirations dates) enough "dairy" to probably feed a starving South African family for a month! Case in point, I pitched a pint of buttermilk (unopened), a pint of whole milk (unopened) and a quart of whole milk (unopened) only because of the expiration dates. I just don't drink or use milk that much. So, to compensate, I cut off thick strips of my cheddar cheese and at 3:00 PM today, I had my Gala apple with some cheddar cheese (delicious snack!). I do believe this really keeps me from overeating at dinnertime.

I had to run an errand after work, so I didn't get home until about 5:45 PM. One of the things I picked up today was some new towels and wash cloths for the upstairs bathroom (the old ones were pretty sad looking) so I took off the tags and put them all in the washer.

One thing I noticed all day long was that my right shoulder hurt like hell. It's either that damn bursitis from the humidity or overdoing it (just a tad) on Sunday. Either way, I am giving my shoulder, and myself, the rest of the night off. Tile work will resume tomorrow night.

I did go back downstairs and inspected, (for probably the third or fourth time), yesterday's accomplishments and, I must say, I am well pleased. After all this time, this is really starting to come together! I spent a little time doing the mathematics on how the top of the shower opening should be played out

Back upstairs, I went to wrap one of the Christmas gifts I bought today. I opened it up and found that while it was not really "fragile," the whole damn thing was broken and was in pieces!!! Now, I am not so well pleased! This means a trip back to the Mall, the return line and then trying to find a replacement that doesn't look like it was run over by a Mack truck. Damn! Oddly enough, the box is not damaged at all!?!

So, disgusted, I give up on wrapping presents. It's after 7:00 PM and I am getting hungry. Now, what to eat for dinner? I could go with the great taste but "gastric distress" of the leftover Kielbasa and sauerkraut (oh, it's been quite the day) or a myriad of minor dishes. Instead, I decided I need some comfort food. I heated up two cups of my thawed out chicken stock (It only lasts 5 days in the fridge, BTW).

Then I dumped in the rest (maybe 1/2 a packet) of wide egg noodles. I boiled them for 9 minutes, drained them and then topped then with butter, salt and pepper and fresh, chopped parsley.

I ate some of that watching TV. I turned it off around 9:30 PM and then read until bedtime.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Successful Sunday

I got up at 7:00 AM on Sunday. I reheated yesterday's coffee and had a cup. I posted the Blog after finishing it and then took my shower. Then I stripped the bed and started the wash machine (I didn't have time yesterday to do that, you see).

I made soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. When I cleaned up the dishes, I found I had enough in the dishwasher for a full load, so I fired that bad boy up, too.

I gave Luanne a call to get her and Sadie's Christmas itinerary. She said they would be here on the 27th and stay until Riese's birthday celebration. She also said she told me this before! (Damn Mad Cow disease!)

I got the bedding out of the dryer and made my bed. I noticed that it has started raining, so putting up the trim on the storm door is out. I guess I've run out of excuses, LOL! So, at 10:30 AM, I began tiling.

At 11:45 AM, the South wall was done. At 1:15 PM, the North wall was done. At 2:40 PM, the South side of the door opening was done. This is necessarily first, as the rest of the tile sizes on the East wall depends on it.

At that point, I was done! I quit! I have mortar in my hair, all over my clothes and even in my mouth (a result of putting chewing tobacco in my mouth before washing my hands). So, I shed my tile clothes and stuck them, the assorted towels I been using and even my beloved (now mortar encrusted) Crocs into the washer. I tried to take some pictures, but as I said before, the space is too tight to get a full photo of what I have been doing.

Then, I put myself into the shower (again). I got quite a few little cuts from the sharp, cut tile edges and so the shower water was pink at first as it hit the drain.

When I got out of the shower and dried off, I made up a plate for my lunch of wheat crackers and some 4-year old cheddar I bought yesterday at Westborn. I went in to the bedroom, watched some taped cooking shows and then took a nap.

When I awoke, I started to get things ready for another work week. At 7:00 PM, I put dinner on. I took four medium redskin potatoes, cubed them and put them in the pot. Then I opened a bag of sauerkraut and put that in. Finally, I cut a ring of Polish Kielbasa into one inch slices. They went on top. A splash of chicken stock, the lid went on and I brought it to a boil, and then simmered it. When the potatoes were soft, I dished up a plate.

I was disappointed to see my first Sunday night show was preempted and my second one was a rerun. So, I searched the channels and decided to watch an old favorite movie, Jeremiah Johnson. When it got over at 10:30 PM, I went to bed, content with the day.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday's Road Trip

I woke up at 6:30 AM on Saturday and put a pot of coffee on. Then, I went and did the Blog. I ate another bagel with some coffee for breakfast, because it's gonna be a busy day.

So, first came the errands. I got my hair cut at 9:30 AM. Then, I dropped off the library books (no time today to pick out more). Next came Westborn for veggies and I ordered my roast for Christmas dinner. Then came Meijer's for groceries and a winter bath robe. My nice light summer one is a little chilly for the season. Finally, it was stopping at CVS to pick up two prescriptions.

I unpacked everything, checked the air in my tires, packed up three 4-cup frozen containers of my Beef, Mushroom Barley soup and three of the Split Pea with Ham, a box of no-salt white crackers and one of low-sodium Wheat Thins and, by 12:30 PM, I was heading for New Baltimore to see my Mom.

I took my usual route (I-96 to I-94 to the New Haven/Richmond exit, then into New Baltimore and Mom's) and got there is just over an hour (I was curious, so I checked: It's 51 miles door-to-door). I did stop at the St. Mary's Cemetery for a quick visit and a one-sided conversation with my brother Pete, my Dad, my sister Anne and my brother Carl's Betty, along with B___'s mother and father. Damn! I really wish I knew where exactly my brother George was buried! I remember it to this day, because I started a family tradition by waiting and then throwing a handful of dirt down on the coffin, wishing him Godspeed. But, I don't know where he is to visit him...

But, back to happier thoughts... My brother Carl was already there when I arrived. He had brought me a coffee from McDonalds and, thanks to the miracle of Styrofoam it was still warm (apparently he thought I would be there earlier. He doesn't understand my Saturday morning errand runs!)

Another problem: He apparently thought I was bringing fresh soup. So, he was a bit disappointed when I pulled out my frozen soups. If I had known he was going to be there (and be hungry) I would have brought the fixing for my Shrimp Bisque - not only is it fantastic, but it's impressive to watch being made; involving brandy and two-foot flames, lol! And, it's a decadent taste, LOL!

Since we were both there, we got to work. Carl set up his outdoor display on the back deck. Whoever took it down last year lost two of the poles of one Christmas tree. So, we coped by using a coat hanger and hanging it from a hook on the eave. He found and installed a timer to turn the two of them on and off, and tacked down the wires to the deck (so nobody trips on it). BTW, since I can't kneel and neither can he, I was very interested in how Carl got from standing to laying prone on the deck. He does have the moves, man!

Meanwhile, I was in charge of determining why one of the strands of light on her little Christmas tree didn't work. I checked the fuses, but they looked good. Finally (because I was destroying the hard work somebody went through to set it up) Carl suggested not trying to take off the old string, but just adding a new strand we found. So, that's what we did.

Next, because Mom has recently acquired a hospital bed, her old mattress and box springs were just leaning against the bedroom wall. Carl decided if they were to fall over, they might crush little Cora and Mom would be trapped in bed. So, with GREAT difficulty, the two crippled kids got them out to the garage. I also took out the old bed frame, but left the casters in her closet.

Now, why didn't we just put them out on the curb for the garbage man? Well, according to Mom, the hospital bed is easier for Cora to get her into and out of, but Mom is having a little difficulty getting used to sleeping in it. So, if she ultimately decides she doesn't like it, we can always put her old bed back. I understand that, completely. I bought a new pillow a month or so back and still haven't decided if I like it!

We both checked out her Christmas cards to date (I am jealous, because I have like, two. She has maybe 15, so far). She especially appreciated the one from my daughter Amy and her two Carl's, with Carl V, saying he would he would see her next summer at the cottage on a voice chip. That was sooo cool.

So, since we were done with the chores and Carl was apparently starving (no hot soup), he decided to leave. I stayed and visited with Mom to about 3:00 PM, when I decided I better hike back home (snow and freezing rain predicted for tonight).

So, I headed out. For some reason I can't explain, I turned off the FM Classic Rock and turned on the AM news, weather and traffic station. And, that's when I learned that I-94 was closed down at 9-Mile for a "police action" and the back-up extended to I-696 (about three miles).

So, when I got to I-696, sure enough people were starting to hit the brakes. I, on the other hand, got off onto I-696 and headed west to the Southfield exit, then to the Southfield Freeway and I-96 and then got off on the Inkster exit. It had started snowing about half way there, BTW. But, snow and alternate routes aside, I was home by 4:15 PM.

When I got inside, the cats demanded treats, so I provided them. I went through the mail and then took out some Polish Kielbasa to thaw. I bought some Sauer Kraut this morning and it will be the Sunday night dinner. I went outside and filled the bird feeder and then changed into my relaxing clothes (Note: I did NOT say "my tile clothes).

I started a small batch in the washer to clean my new bathrobe. Then, I spent an hour or so filling in the Blog. For any of you who think this is simple or easy, I invite you to try and document your entire day, day after day, some time. It's really quite a pain in the *ss!!! I was listening to the song, "Jungle Love" on the radio, BTW. RE that line: "Everything's better when wet" well, obviously, they have never used a wet tile saw!!!

So, at 6:30 PM, I quit for the night. I started the second load of clothes and hung up the first.

I warmed up the last of the Swedish meatballs and noodles for my dinner. I watched one cooking show then switched to a taped Heavyweight championship fight. But, what was cool was that after that fight, they showed the entire Manny Pacquiao vs Oscar De La Hoya fight! (It was like $50 pay-per-view last weekend). The Pac-man was awesome! I turned the TV off afterwards, knowing nothing would top that, tonight.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Embarrassing Admission

Today was our Department Christmas luncheon at work. Does anyone else remember our elaborate Company Christmas parties in the past? I do! The champagne fountains, the huge bowls of oversized shrimp, the gourmet meals, the well-stocked bar.. Well, this wasn't it! It was two 6-foot subs from Subway and the rest was "bring a dish to pass."

Now, normally, I am all about this event. It gives me a chance to make a special dish and receive the accolades. But, this year, I just was NOT into it. My all-consuming tile project (as God as my witness, I will never start a project this late in the year again!) has left me drained.

So, I copped out (as we used to say). The last time I was at Gordon Food Services (GFS), I bought five pounds of frozen, one ounce meatballs (hey, not the ordinary five buck kind, but the deluxe nine buck kind - I'm not about to short my IT brethren) and a big (I mean BIG) can of Swedish Meatball sauce. BTW, if you are interested, they also sell a BIG can of sweet and sour sauce for the meatballs if you wanted to go Asian.

So, when I awoke this morning, I immediately put the thawed meatballs in the oval (larger) slow cooker and then added the BIG can of Swedish meatball sauce. To that, I added a handful of fresh chopped parsley and about 1/2 cup of a diced sweet onion (it was just a little bland for my taste).

Sidebar: Did you know that a "sweet" onion has absolutely no more sugar than a regular, yellow cooking onion? They just have less sulfur compounds (or the onion taste) than a regular onion.

So, I added my stuff and turned the slow cooker on high. I went and shaved and showered at that point. Once I was ready to go, I turned it off and set it on the front seat floor (passenger side, of course) and went to work.

Once at work, I plugged it in at my office. I put it on "low" and let it warm up, stirring it occasionally. When the sauce started to bubble, I turned it down to "warm" (a nice feature on the new slow cookers, BTW). At 10:50 AM, we all left to go to Building 3 and the party.

They set up tables in the IT office suite, and people started putting out their food. Management had contributed the two 6-foot subs (one "Club" and one "Italian"). I found a plug and set my slow cooker back on "warm." I took out a baggie with some more fresh chopped parsley and sprinkled it on, then put my big spoon next to the cooker. BTW, why do so many people forget to bring a serving spoon with their dish? I dunno, but they do and I didn't want to be "that guy."

We had our annual department meeting first, but by 11:45 PM, we started eating. I waited until the line cleared a bit and then got a plate. I had a piece of the club sub, some homemade potato salad, an Asian-inspired lettuce salad and two pierogies with sour cream (that pierogies person forgot their spoon!). I deliberately didn't take any meatballs, knowing I would be eating all the leftovers. It was all excellent, BTW.

There also was a cheese, meat and shrimp tray, another salad and potato salad, Jello molds, a variety of chips, a huge apple pie and a big chocolate cake. I had to have dessert (which I wouldn't normally do) so I could try Jake's offering.

He made shortbread cookies, topped with sunflower butter (Carla's allergic to peanuts, if you recall) and homemade Blackberry jam. They were outstanding and you would swear the crumb topping was made from nuts. He got a lot of compliments for them.

I got many compliments for the meatballs as well, but I cringed inside when I heard them. I was afraid somebody would ask for the recipe and I would have to confess. Most of the people who tried them went back for seconds, though. When we all cleaned up, I had only about two helping left, which was great. I feared having to eat meatballs all week long!

I left the slow cooker in the car all afternoon (it was colder out there than in the fridge!) When I got home (after "Banging the Drum") I plugged it back in and turned it on "low." Since today was payday, I spent the early night time hours writing out bills or paying them online. I had to renew my license plates (online) and my driver's license (mail only) both this year.

When I was hungry, I made some wide egg noodles and topped some with the Swedish meatballs. Hmmm... they were right! These are good!

I dozed off during Survivor Man on the Discovery Channel, but don't worry, I was taping it as well. When I woke up, I shut everything off and went to bed.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

When I got home Thursday night, I fully intended on putting up more tile. I even got dressed in my tile clothes and I was working out the measurements of just where to cut the opening for the shower head pipe. But, when I finally figured it out, I noticed it was already almost 7:00 PM and I was hungry.

So, instead of tiling, I made a simple salad (iceberg lettuce and onions with balsamic vinaigrette) and had another bowl of the barley soup. Then I REALLY didn't feel like putting up tile, so I didn't.

I watched the rest of the Top Chef taped show, and then went to bed around 9:30 PM.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

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One of the more tricky cuts using the wet saw

Interesting Toy Fact

I was recently surprised to learn that Lincoln Logs (those notched and stackable logs I loved as a kid), were introduced after Tinkertoys and the Erector Set in 1916. They were invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Wednesday

I slept through the night (well, as much as I ever sleep through the night. I did get up twice to use the bathroom). I shut off the alarm and promptly fell back asleep, waking up at 6:30 AM. My alarm clock, BTW, is set to go off at 5:30 AM. So, I have a bit of scrambling to get to work on time, but I got 'er done!

There was no real problem with the fallen rain, freezing, until I got off I-96 at Newburgh Road. There, the service drive (West-bound Schoolcraft Road) was a solid sheet of ice! When I made the turn-around next to Laurel Manor (where we used to have our company Christmas parties and where Jake and Carla had their wedding reception) there were two cars with flashers on. The first car in line had its trunk smashed in with the lid popped up and the second car had considerable damage to the front end. Thank God it's a wide turn-around! I relied on the ABS brakes and slowly slid around them.

I got to work and found the first salt application of the day in our parking lot! Praise the Lord!

It was still below freezing on the trip back home. I got the mail and then got inside. I loaded the washer with the Wednesday night wash and then responded to emails and voicemails.

After I started the wash, I changed into my tile clothes. The doorbell rang, and I opened the front door to my neighbor, Tammy. She had a letter, erroneously delivered there, for me (it happens, both ways, all the time). I remarked on how we talk almost daily in the summer time, but rarely communicate in the winter. I said "Happy Holidays" to her and her husband, Rick. She wished me the same and then left.

Now, it's almost 7:00 PM, and, I am tired, but I put on the mortar for the south side of the shower. This is the tricky one, with the faucet opening and the shower pipe.

By 9:30 PM, I was dead beat, but the wall was 3/4 of the way done. I was right about the faucet opening. I had to take one whole 6-inch tile and try and cut a 4-inch round circle out (I eventually got it, BTW). I took a picture to show you, but forgot to post it.

I warmed up some of the Beef, Mushroom and Barley soup. Not bad, but much, much better (superb, even) once I added salt. I am positive you can add all the garlic, herbs and spices you want and it does NOT equal the taste of salt (Mrs. Dash be damned!) It reminded me of how Luanne used to say that ground turkey tasted "almost" like hamburger, once you seasoned it. Never did, to me...

I started to watch Top Chef, but fell asleep within 15 minutes of it coming on. I woke up later to go to the bathroom, shut everything off and went to bed for real.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.

So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit."

~ Author Unknown

Tuesday, goofing off

It was just starting to rain when I took the garbage out Tuesday morning. It made walking on the driveway (still snow covered) quite a challenge.

It continued to rain all day. At lunch, I took back the bright tiles. Took quite a while because the lady at the return counter insisted I didn't have the right sales slip, because it said 6 boxes of matte tiles and these were bright. I said, well, that's what I thought I bought but I didn't. Since each box holds 50 6-inch tiles and are quite heavy, the check out girl just scanned the same box six times. Finally she understood (or maybe just got tired of me arguing) and gave me my money back. Then I went back to the tile section and got a box of matte tiles. After I bought it, I reflected on how fleeting it was to have that money...

I didn't sleep well Monday night, so I spent Tuesday afternoon stifling yawns. When I got home, I thought about doing more tile work (in fact, I was thinking about it all day) and then decided I was too beat to do a good job. So, I gave myself the night off. I putzed around and read a bit until dinner time.

I needed to use up the other half pound of hamburger so I duplicated Monday night's dinner, but with a few twists. Before I sauteed the onions, I sliced three medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes (skin on) and fried them in olive oil and butter until they really were golden. Then I did the onions and removed them from the pan. I added a little more oil and four cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed. I heated the garlic until it started to turn brown, then I discarded it. So, this time I fried my hamburger steak in garlic-infused olive oil.

I watched TV while I ate dinner but when I was done and had everything cleaned up, I decided that even watching TV was a waste; so I turned off the lights and turned in, just after 9:00 PM. It was still raining, but it was supposed to turn to snow and freeze overnight.

Speaking of snow, I couldn't get any reports on snow amounts in Port Huron, but I did see where Melissa and Dave's old stomping grounds was forecast to get 10 inches today!