Friday, July 31, 2009

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Piles of Mulch #1

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Piles of Mulch #2

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Piles of Mulch #3

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Piles of Mulch #4

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The Lawn as of 6:00 PM

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The Raised-Bed garden on July 30

The Times, They are a Changing...

Thursday at lunchtime, I went and bought an electric shaver. I haven't used one in many years. I like the old fashioned way of shaving. In fact, years ago, I used the boar's hair bristle brush, a round cake of soap that went into a coffee mug and lathered up with hot water that way. I always wanted to try an old straight razor, but my barber told me they are no longer available (they now come with replaceable blades). Bummer, man.

But, somehow, the idea of running a razor blade around my throat with my left hand seems fraught with peril. I have been experimenting with just using my left hand to accomplish tasks, such as driving the car. I have found that, while turning the key and shifting the automatic (thank God) transmission are difficult, the real killer is to fasten your seatbelt.

Back at the house (still at lunch) I was surprised to see the back gate opened. I looked out the kitchen window and saw a guy with my neighbor's ATV and trailer moving the wood chips! I did kinda want him to use the landscape fabric I'd bought /before/ moving the chips, but I can always use it next year, I guess. And, I may still have time to repair the ruts in the lawn and reseed the grass before the fall.

I stopped at the bank to get some money to pay him tonight.

When I came home after work, I changed clothes and went out back. Hmmm... This looks a bit weird. When I saw my neighbor, I walked over to the fence to chat.

I found there had been some sort of miscommunication. I originally told him I'd pay the guy $100.00 to put down the landscape fabric and spread the mulch. But they thought I just wanted it off the lawn (which I also did), so they loaded it and put it in piles in the garden for me, so I could spread it. Now, that's a big improvement over where I started, but...

Anyway, I asked how much I should give the guy (he'd left at 2:00 PM for a dentist appointment) and my neighbor said $40.00. I said for four hours work, that's too little. So, he said then $50.00. I said I only got twenties, so let's make it $60.00. We shook hands and I went in and got him the money.

Honestly, that means another item on my "ToDo List Before Surgery" (only two weekends left) but its well worth it. Plus, they left me a little pile still in the lawn to try and fill in the ruts from that damn truck. I'll pick up some bagged topsoil this weekend and then put down some grass seed.

I hooked up the sprinkler and watered the grass seed I'd laid down where the old maple used to be. Then I walked out back to take some photos for you. I also grabbed the plant-tie Velcro and tied up the tomatoes to the last crossbar. I pulled all the radishes out, BTW. Not one of them developed the round radish shape we are all familiar with. The leaves were huge, but there were just thin stalks (like sickly carrots) of red radish. I'm not sure it was the weather, water or fertilizer, but I thought I'd make room for the summer cabbage.

Then I disconnected the oscillating sprinkler (for the grass) and hooked up the square sprinkler (for the raised bed garden) and watered that. When that had its 30 minutes of water-park fun, I filled up the Topsy-turvy planter (cherry tomatoes, if you remember) with the hose, gave it my nephew Rick's recommended 1/4 turn and went to go back inside.

I was walking back inside when my neighbor's wife called over to me. We are all concerned because, if you remember, the vacant lot to the south of me was rezoned for a two-story, ten apartment complex. Well, Tuesday, a survey crew marked off the boundaries of the lot and then on Wednesday, the Gas Company painted lines on my driveway and all the way to Plymouth Road to show where the gas lines were.

So, we talked about the challenges of living next door to a two-story edifice (arbor vitiate takes way too long to grow I've found) and what can we do? Basically, we are just screwed, except that, as her husband Rick pointed out, if they start right now, they will be putting in the driveways and parking lot and framing the apartments this winter.

Therefore, our collective thinking is they want to get the gas and sewer lines run before Redford blacktops the road. Then they can build at their leisure. I sure the hell hope so! Meanwhile I'm investigating growing bamboo.

Back inside, it was almost 8:30 PM and I'm hungry. I went with comfort food (a recent theme, if you've noticed). I made a can of Campbell's Tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. I put the soup in a big cup and the sandwich on a paper plate. I watched a little TV, but went to bed at 10:00 PM.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dancing in the Dark

I went back to work on Wednesday. At lunchtime, I went and got my sling fitted. This is a weird contraption, with tons of Velcro! The sling itself is quite substantial and then there's this whole other part. It's like a pillow that straps around your stomach to keep your arm stuck slightly out. It's altogether strange and doesn't feel normal or natural, but I guess I'll get used to it.

Back home, I cleaned up some in the kitchen. I just had a sandwich for dinner. When it was dark, I went out and sat on the back patio, watching the fire flies. It was quite peaceful, so I stayed out there for a while.

Back inside, I watched a taped show, waiting for Top Chef Masters. When that was done, so was I and I went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mini-vacation

I took both Monday and Tuesday off work as vacation days. Not that I went anywhere or did anything special. I just needed an extra long weekend.

I did get all the laundry caught up, all the container gardens watered and the new grass seed I put down last week watered as well.

I got the back lawn cut on Tuesday. Jake and Carla stopped by after work for a little that day (probably just to verify I was alive).

I didn't stay up late on Tuesday, knowing I had to act like a grown up and get my butt to work Wednesday morning.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sunday's Story

Sunday was basically a throw-a-way day. I started to cut the back lawn and before I made four passes, it began to rain. So, that was the end of that.

I did one thing that was brilliant, though. I took out my mandoline and set it for 1/8 inch. Then I ran the beets and radishes through it along with a nice big red onion. I covered all that with white vinegar, adding two tablespoons of sugar and one tablespoon of salt. I put it in the fridge to pickle and snacked on it all day. The radishes, especially, were delicious!

For dinner, I mixed a can of oil-packed tuna with a can of mushroom soup. I added in a handful of frozen peas and then cooked half a bag of wide egg noodles. I topped the noodles with the tuna and peas (one of my Mother's classic dishes) and watched my Sunday night shows.

Saturday

I woke up late on Saturday after spending a rather restless night. I made a pot of coffee, but before I could drink it, I realized I was 13 minutes late already for my haircut! So, without shaving or showering (I know! Yuck!!!) I drove like crazy through the rain. But, by the time I got there she had already taken another customer. So, I drank some of their mediocre coffee and waited for 1/2 hour and then got my hair cut.

On the way back home, I stopped at the Farmer's Market (on Middlebelt, about 1/2 mile south of Plymouth Road). I browsed, with nothing really on my agenda. I ended up buying a beautiful bunch of beets, a bunch of radishes, some great looking tomatoes and a pint of blueberries. I have no idea what I will do with these things.

Back home, I finally finished and posted Friday's Blog entry. The rain had stopped and the sun is out, BTW.I checked the gauge and we have had about 1/8 inch of rain since I last checked it on Friday.

I did take a two hour nap this afternoon. I woke up without ambition. Yeah, I could go grocery shopping, or cut the back lawn, or put together my new garden arbor. But, I didn't do any of that.

Instead, I popped in the DVD "Master and Commander Far Side of the World." Why? Well, first of all I like it and second, when they are doing a sounding, the seaman yells out "15 fathoms, sand and shell!"

Why is that important? Well, I have been reading both volume 1 and 2 of the "Narrative Of The Voyage Of H.M.S. Rattlesnake, Commanded By The Late Captain Owen Stanley, R.N., F.R.S. Etc. During The Years 1846-1850. Including Discoveries And Surveys In New Guinea, The Louisiade Archipelago, Etc. To Which Is Added The Account Of Mr. E.B. Kennedy's Expedition For The Exploration Of The Cape York Peninsula." By John Macgillivray, F.R.G.S. Naturalist To The Expedition.

And, what I didn't realize was that when they did a sounding by dropping a lead weight into the water to check the depth, they add tallow on the bottom to see what the bottom is like. So, each entry is like, we anchored in 10 fathoms of water, mud (or sand or sand and shell) so, "15 fathoms, sand and shell!" was just perfect!

I watched the movie and then went to bed.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday

Finally, a sunny day! They are still predicting occasional showers this afternoon, but I am hoping that my grass dries out enough to cut this evening, before they come.

I had to do some shopping in Westland at lunch, so I stopped at my old friends, the Newburgh Grille, for lunch. I had a bowl of clam chowder and a mini-Greek salad.

It was much cloudier at 5:00 PM when I headed home, but still not raining. With treating the cats, changing clothes, opening the mail, checking email, etc., it was almost 6:00 PM before I got outside. But, I filled up the push mower with gasoline and checked the oil. I fired it up and cut the front lawn.

Side note: I was walking next to the wild raspberries when I had an intense pain in my ankle. I assumed I'd come in contact with the raspberry thorns until I looked down. That's when I saw a little yellow and black banded wasp, energetically stinging me. I dispatched him (or her) at once, but the damage was done...

It was about 7:00 PM when I finished. I got the tractor key and opened up the back gate. But, I realized when I opened the gate that, without water, the grass has just not gown that much. So, I decided to let it go until Monday or Tuesday.

Back inside, I started on dinner: Scallop Piccata on Angel Hair. I took a pound of sea scallops and rinsed them, then dried them with paper towels and seasoned them on both sides.

Meanwhile, I filled my large pasta pot with water and set it to boil. I heated up a non-stick skillet with olive oil to medium-high temp. I turned it down to medium and the added the scallops. I turned them over after three minutes and seared the other side. I took them out of the pan and put them on a plate in the microwave to keep warm.

I boiled eight ounces of angel hair pasta, for four minutes (or until al dente) and then drained and rinsed it. I whisked together 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 cup clam juice and two teaspoons of cornstarch until smooth.

I added more olive oil to my skillet and tossed in 1/4 cup of chopped garlic. I saut�ed that until it softened (maybe one to two minutes). Then I added the wine mixture and brought it to a boil. I let it cook until it thickened (about two minutes) and then added three tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, one tablespoon of rinsed and chopped capers and two tablespoons of butter. I cooked that until the butter melted (another one or two minutes).

I returned the scallops to the pan, added the pasta and stirred it gently until everything was warmed through and coated with the sauce. I stirred in two tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley.
I plated it, topped it with some fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and went in to watch some TV.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I like this article, (but then again, I'm old...)

(I would have added that all the TV shows were in black and white, BTW)

100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About
By Nathan Barry
July 22, 2009 |

There are some things in this world that will never be forgotten, this week's 40th anniversary of the moon landing for one. But Moore's Law and our ever-increasing quest for simpler, smaller, faster and better widgets and thingamabobs will always ensure that some of the technology we grew up with will not be passed down the line to the next generation of geeks.

That is, of course, unless we tell them all about the good old days of modems and typewriters, slide rules and encyclopedias ...

Audio-Visual Entertainment
1. Inserting a VHS tape into a VCR to watch a movie or to record something.
2. Super-8 movies and cine film of all kinds.
3. Playing music on an audio tape using a personal stereo. See what happens when you give a Walkman to today's teenager.
4. The number of TV channels being a single digit. I remember it being a massive event when Britain got its fourth channel.
5. Standard-definition, CRT TVs filling up half your living room.
6. Rotary dial televisions with no remote control. You know, the ones where the kids were the remote control.
7. High-speed dubbing.
8. 8-track cartridges.
9. Vinyl records. Even today's DJs are going laptop or CD.
10. Betamax tapes.
11. MiniDisc.
12. Laserdisc: the LP of DVD.
13. Scanning the radio dial and hearing static between stations. (Digital tuners + HD radio bork this concept.)
14. Shortwave radio.
15. 3-D movies meaning red-and-green glasses.
16. Watching TV when the networks say you should. Tivo and Sky+ are slowing killing this one.
17. That there was a time before 'reality TV.'

Computers and Videogaming

18. Wires. OK, so they're not gone yet, but it won't be long
19. The scream of a modem connecting.
20. The buzz of a dot-matrix printer
21. 5- and 3-inch floppies, Zip Discs and countless other forms of data storage.
22. Using jumpers to set IRQs.
23. DOS.
24. Terminals accessing the mainframe.
25. Screens being just green (or orange) on black.
26. Tweaking the volume setting on your tape deck to get a computer game to load, and waiting ages for it to actually do it.
27. Daisy chaining your SCSI devices and making sure they've all got a different ID.
28. Counting in kilobytes.
29. Wondering if you can afford to buy a RAM upgrade.
30. Blowing the dust out of a NES cartridge in the hopes that it'll load this time.
31. Turning a PlayStation on its end to try and get a game to load.
32. Joysticks.
33. Having to delete something to make room on your hard drive.
34. Booting your computer off of a floppy disk.
35. Recording a song in a studio.

The Internet

36. NCSA Mosaic.
37. Finding out information from an encyclopedia.
38. Using a road atlas to get from A to B.
39. Doing bank business only when the bank is open.
40. Shopping only during the day, Monday to Saturday.
41. Phone books and Yellow Pages.
42. Newspapers and magazines made from dead trees.
43. Actually being able to get a domain name consisting of real words.
44. Filling out an order form by hand, putting it in an envelope and posting it.
45. Not knowing exactly what all of your friends are doing and thinking at every moment.
46. Carrying on a correspondence with real letters, especially the handwritten kind.
47. Archie searches.
48. Gopher searches.
49. Concatenating and UUDecoding binaries from Usenet.
50. Privacy.
51. The fact that words generally don't have num8er5 in them.
52. Correct spelling of phrases, rather than TLAs.
53. Waiting several minutes (or even hours!) to download something.
54. The time before botnets/security vulnerabilities due to always-on and always-connected PCs
55. The time before PC networks.
56. When Spam was just a meat product - or even a Monty Python sketch.
Gadgets
57. Typewriters.
58. Putting film in your camera: 35mm may have some life still, but what about APS or disk?
59. Sending that film away to be processed.
60. Having physical prints of photographs come back to you.
61. CB radios.
62. Getting lost. With GPS coming to more and more phones, your location is only a click away.
63. Rotary-dial telephones.
64. Answering machines.
65. Using a stick to point at information on a wallchart
66. Pay phones.
67. Phones with actual bells in them.
68. Fax machines.
69. Vacuum cleaners with bags in them.

Everything Else

70. Taking turns picking a radio station, or selecting a tape,
for everyone to listen to during a long drive.
71. Remembering someone's phone number.
72. Not knowing who was calling you on the phone.
73. Actually going down to a Blockbuster store to rent a movie.
74. Toys actually being suitable for the under-3s.
75. LEGO just being square blocks of various sizes, with the odd wheel, window or door.
76. Waiting for the television-network premiere to watch a movie after its run at the theater.
77. Relying on the 5-minute sport segment on the nightly news for baseball highlights.
78. Neat handwriting.
79. The days before the nanny state.
80. Starbuck being a man.
81. Han shoots first.
82. "Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father." But they've already seen episode III, so it's no big surprise.
83. Kentucky Fried Chicken, as opposed to KFC.
84. Trig tables and log tables.
85. "Don't know what a slide rule is for ..."
86. Finding books in a card catalog at the library.
87. Swimming pools with diving boards.
88. Hershey bars in silver wrappers.
89. Sliding the paper outer wrapper off a Kit-Kat, placing it on the palm of your hand and clapping to make it bang loudly. Then sliding your finger down the silver foil of break off the first finger
90. A Marathon bar (what a Snickers used to be called in Britain).
91. Having to manually unlock a car door.
92. Writing a check.
93. Looking out the window during a long drive.
94. Roller skates, as opposed to blades.
95. Cash.
96. Libraries as a place to get books rather than a place to use the internet.
97. Spending your entire allowance at the arcade in the mall.
98. Omni Magazine
99. A physical dictionary - either for spelling or definitions.100.
100. When a 'geek' and a 'nerd' were one and the same.
My thanks go out to all of my fellow GeekDads for their contributions to this list.

Thursday

I woke up Thursday morning to light rain and haze. I wouldn't call it fog, because I've never seen "fog" around here like we used to have in St. Clair.

I'm not sure what the rain was like during the morning, but when I went home at lunch time, it was back to a light rain. I spent most of my lunch hour driving around. I went to a store a co-worked said she used to get frozen pizza dough from. She said it was an Italian market nearby, but when I went there, it had apparently changed hands. It's now a Polish market and they were very amused (I wasn't) when I asked about pizza dough. Once they stopped laughing, they offered to sell me some fresh pierogies, instead.

So, I reluctantly made the long drive to another Italian market I knew of (I bought my pasta flour there, a while back) and found it was now out of business. Discouraged, I just went back home and had some Italian Wedding soup for lunch.

Around 2:00 PM, the rain had stopped and the sun came out. But, when I went home at 5:00 PM, it was cloudy and overcast.

I looked at the rain gauge and found I'd gotten another 1/4 inch of rain since I last checked.

I was just about to start a HUGE night of work when my daughter Melissa called. Naturally, we talked way too long, so instead of my ambitious plans (and that gourmet meal), I settled for a sandwich and then watched a little TV before bedtime.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday's Tale

According to the Weather Channel, we are in for occasional rain throughout the day today. It was cloudy, but still dry, when I went to work.

At lunch, I stopped at Westborn to get some things for tonight's dinner and Sunday's supper. It was still cloudy, but thankfully, no rain.

It had still not really rained when I went home at 5:00 PM, although it was then lightly sprinkling.

I have been upset that the creeping thyme I had hand carried from the St. Clair house did not grow this year. But, it wasn't until I got the latest monthly newsletter from my brother Carl, (thanks, Bro), from his friend Janet (a Michigan Master Gardener, who, along with sending it out also does speaking engagements, etc.), did I understand why. It seems the Vinca (a ground cover I planted when I made the reflecting pool) is very aggressive and can kill the more tender plants.

So, in the lightly falling rain, I dug out a good piece of the area in question. I put the debris into the wheelbarrow and dumped it on the summer's compost heap. Next I put down a thick plastic barrier between the vinca and my thyme area. I filled it in with the last of the Miracle-Gro potting soil and then planted two English Thyme plants. I watered them and then added more of the cedar mulch. I watered everything and then went inside. See photos.

I started the Wednesday night wash after changing clothes. At 6:30 PM, it began to rain in earnest (although no thunder or lightning). I also hooked up the air compressor and turned it on (I noticed the car pulling to the right again, today). I did go back outside and refilled the suet cage and the old bird feeder.

At 7:00 PM, it was now a definite light rain. I filled in the Blog entry to date and then went into the garage to air up all the tires. I hung up the dry clothes when I can back in, after washing my hands.

I changed my mind about making an elaborate dinner tonight and just made my favorite breakfast for dinner (roast beef hash topped with two over easy fried eggs). I watched one taped show (Hell's Kitchen) and then Top Chef Masters. Then I went to bed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

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Two English Thyme, Reestablished

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The Vinca, Killing the Thyme

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I See the Light!

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Garbage Day, indeed!

What a Freaking Frustrating Day!

Okay, so it's Tuesday and garbage day. As I'm sure you know by now, I race to get my two or three garbage bags out before 7:00 AM. Why don't I just put them out on Monday night (like so many of my neighbors do?) Because, in the past, the bags have been ripped open by critters (Dogs? Cats? Possums? Raccoons?) and there is nothing worse at 7:00 AM than picking up a week-old steak bone or vegetable peel! Gross!

But, today, when I went outside (at 6:45 AM) I was amazed! It looked like somebody had deliberately driven down the street, hitting all the garbage cans last night. What was worse is my neighbor, next to my next-door neighbor, had some sort of wedding celebration over the weekend. So, there are broken champagne bottles everywhere!

My next-door neighbor was out there bitching as I took a photo. I backed up thorough the crap and went to work.

At lunch, I went to Wright-Phillipas to pick up the sling I need for my upcoming surgery. What a pain! I gave them my prescription,
driver's license and my insurance card. But you have to fill out a three page document and then wait until they call you. (Give me CVS and a decent turn-around time, any day).

The problem was that the insurance company typically pays after the operation. I told them my doctor asked me to bring the sling along on the day I would be operated on. I can't really deal with this (It'd been over an hour so far). I told them I had to get back to work and to call me when they had it straightened up (they never called today, BTW).

On the way back to work it started to sprinkle, with rumbles of thunder. I just got inside when the rain started in earnest. It was rain like I drove through on Monday, actually blowing sideways at times and thunder you could hear even inside the office. It rained for about an hour and a half.

Later it got sunny again, but it was overcast when I drove home at 5:00 PM. I checked the gauge and we had just under 1 1/2 inches of rain!

I decided to take advantage of the moist soil, so I spread grass seed on all the bare spots around the tree that they just cut down and raked it into the dirt. It's amazing how much more light is now there (see photos) and I think the grass will grow if I keep it watered.

I called Lu to see how things were going. She told me about all the fun she's been having with our granddaughter, Riese, who has been spending several weeks visiting.

Then she told me of a terrible storm they recently had, with high winds and one inch hail. Unfortunately, the winds blew down all the tobacco and the hail punched holes in it, so this year's whole crop was ruined.

After we hung up, I warmed up the last catfish fillet and made some macaroni and cheese for my dinner. I watched TV until bedtime.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday's Road Trip

Monday dawned cool again, but with the promise (or threat, I suppose, depending on what you were planning) Frankly, I need some rain for my gardens and lawn.

I left work for good at lunch time. I have to go to Richmond to see Doctor Pop to obtain my Physician's Release for Surgery. Yes, I know I was just there on May 28th, but as she pointed out, to be a legal release, it must be performed no more than one month prior to my surgery.

It was overcast and cloudy (but still no rain) when I left. Not more than two or three miles down I-96 (heading for the "D") it started to sprinkle. By the time I turned off I-96 and got onto I-94, it was raining so hard the windshield wipers could barely keep up.

Now, I-94 is notorious for its drainage problems so cars were throwing sheets of spray and at times I was driving (slowly) through a foot of water. It was mostly stop-and-go traffic with a top speed of maybe (maybe) 30 MPH! I was sure I would be late, even though I'd left early.

By the time I had slowly worked my way to Mt. Clemens, the rain had stopped and by the time I got to Richmond, it was dusty and dry and like it had never rained. I got to the doctor's just in time (there was a little speeding involved once on dry pavement).

I went through the usual stuff (blood pressure was 105/70, no temperature, etc.) and then the doctor came in. As I said, she apologized for making me drive back. She went through her usual checks and then said I needed a new EKG. I pointed out I just had one last fall, but she insisted.

So, I got ready and they dry-shaved my chest (I hate that, because those spots will itch for the next couple of weeks). Once done, she read the results and said it was unchanged from last fall's test. Then she started talking about another stress test. That's when I really got annoyed. I pointed out I have no symptoms of having heart problems, my ceratoid arteries are clear, etc., so wtf! I am not undergoing major surgery; I'm just getting my stupid shoulder fixed!

She finally relented and said she would send in the release. Thank God! I got dressed and left.

I checked via cell phone and my friend B___ was home. So, I stopped by and we started visiting. His house (unlike mine that still has a slight acrid smoke smell) smelled wonderful, as he had a pot roast in his crock-pot, with the usual carrots, potatoes and onions.

I got a large glass of cold water while he chose a cup of coffee and we sat on his enclosed patio and caught each other up on recent events. He got a brief rain shower earlier, BTW and had 1/16 of an inch in his rain gauge.

About 4:30 PM, he asked if I wanted to stay for supper. I said that, frankly, I was hoping to get some things done tonight, but that roast smelled so good if there was enough, I would be pleased to stay. So, when his wife got home from work, we sat down to eat. She made some sour cream mix for the potatoes and he made delicious pan gravy to top the roast. There was also some incredibly hot horseradish (I know, because I had some). It was all excellent! Living alone, it is a real treat NOT to have to make yourself dinner...

I apologized for eating and running and then left around 6:15 PM. I figured rush hour traffic would be over, but, nay, nay. I took surface streets home (I-696 is still all messed up with construction) and got home around 7:15 PM.

The damn long drive had tuckered me out, so instead of the project I had in mind, I just watered all the container gardens (front and back). I checked my rain gauge and it wasn't even damp!!! Damn!

Back inside, I got out of my travel clothes and started watching some TV. Later in the evening, I wanted a snack, so I mixed up some kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. I used that to season some leftover grape tomatoes, popping each on in my mouth after sticking them in the seasoned salt. I went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunday's Soup

As I said in yesterday's post, I was up most of the night and so I slept in late. The house still has that acrid smell, so I left all the windows open. I took the grille grates out in the garage and wiped up all the white ashes in the stove. I ate half of the cantaloupe (sans ice cream) for my breakfast - sweet!

Then I got in the car and went to Jake and Carla's to see their new dog. She's an adult pit bull mix. Now, I know what you're thinking and five years ago, I would have thought the same thing. But, my neighbors have had a female pit bull ever since they moved in and she's just the sweetest dog. In fact, in studies, they say a normal pit bull (not one trained to fight) is less aggressive than both setters and beagles! Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.

Anyway, she's black and white and a really nice dog. She likes to play fetch (which is cool to watch as she usually overruns the toy and then spins around to get it).But what she really likes is to be petted. Nice, nice dog!

I ate some bagels with cream cheese and visited a while, then went back home (I was beat). My ToDo list was as long as usual, but I was definitely out of it. So, I lay down and took about an hour nap.

When I got up, I started the last load of weekend laundry. When that finished washing, I watered the raised bed garden. When I was done with that, I ran the dishwasher. Oh, and I did have a brainstorm and turned the thermostat to "fan" after I sprayed each room with some Oust. I figured that way the air movement might clean out the house.

About 5:30, I started my Italian Wedding Soup. I preheated the oven (albeit with some trepidation) to 350 degrees F.

For the meatballs, I put 3/4 pound of ground chicken, 1/2 pound of chicken Italian sausage (taken out of their casings), 2/3 cups of bread crumbs, three cloves of minced garlic, three tablespoons of fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1/4 cup of fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese, 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, three tablespoons of milk, one beaten large egg, one teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and tried to combine it gently with a fork (as directed by the recipe). It didn't work, so I just used my hands.

I rolled and dropped 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a half-sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should end up with about 40 meatballs and they don't have to be perfectly round.) I put them in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes, (you want them cooked through and lightly browned). When they were done, I pulled them out and let them rest.

In the meantime, for the soup, I heated two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in my Dutch oven (you can use any large heavy-bottomed soup pot). I added one cup of diced yellow onions, one cup of those beautiful baby carrots (cut to 1/4 inch rings), and one cup of 1/4 inch diced celery (about two stalks). I saut�ed them until they were softened, five to six minutes, stirring occasionally.

I added 10 cups of homemade chicken stock and 1/2 cup of white wine and brought it to a boil. I added one cup of small pasta (You can use tubetini or stars - I had orzo so that's what I went with) to the simmering broth and cooked it for eight minutes, until the pasta was tender. I added 1/4 cup of minced fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmered it for one minute.

I taste-tested the broth for salt and pepper (it needed a little more salt and a whole lot of pepper). Then I stirred in 10 ounces of fresh baby spinach and cooked it for one minute, until the spinach was just wilted. Note, this looks like way too much (it overflowed my Dutch oven) but it wilts like a mother in a few minutes.

It was almost 8:00 PM, so I ladled up a big bowl, sprinkled it with more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and went in to watch my Sunday shows. I think the soup was better than the TV tonight, but neither was great! My only regret was not buying a loaf of that rustic Italian bread to go with this soup.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Next Son

If I had another son, I think I would call him Job. It would continue the tradition of "J" names (John, the father of Jeremy and Jake, etc.), it's very Biblical and, its rarely used these days...

Yeah, my son Job...

I like it!

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The old tree (sadly it must go...)

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Tree cutting #2

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Tree cutting #3

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Tree cutting #4

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Tree cutting #5

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Tree cutting #6

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Tree cutting #7

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Tree cutting #8

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Tree cutting #9

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Tree cutting, #10

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Tree cutting #11

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Tree cutting #12

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Tree cutting #13

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His mulch-making machine

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Grinding up the leaves and small branches

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The main trunk, down

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The end

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The maple out front, with one limb too close to the wires

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That limb in front, down

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The front maple, after

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The carrots I fell in love with

Smokey Saturday

I slept lousy Friday night, so when I woke up at 5:30 AM on Saturday, I just turned over and went back to sleep for another hour. I think the problem was it got so cold (for July, anyway) last night. I got up and shut the windows around 2:00 AM, BTW.

I ground up some coffee beans and put a pot on after posting the Blog. I went out on the patio, intending to water the front grass and, to my surprise, I found 1/4 inch of rain in the gauge! So, I went back inside. It must have fallen early last night as the patio wasn't wet. The bummer is that it means my grille got wet, too. But, by the time I got out there to put it away, the sun had dried it out.

I had showered (no shave, today) and dressed and headed out for my errands around 10:15 AM. I would describe this as a perfect fall day, BTW (except its mid-July, LOL).

I only went to Westborn for some stuff I'll need. As I seemingly keep pointing out its unseasonably cool (poor Mom and Cora!) and I decided to make some Italian Wedding soup this weekend. So, I got some ground chicken, two chicken Italian sausages, some Pecorino Romano (a hard Italian cheese, mom), a little fresh dill, 10 ounces of baby spinach, celery (which I needed anyway) and fresh parsley (ditto). What I didn't need was carrots, but they had some beautiful, leaf-on baby ones, so I got those, too (see photos).

I was back at home just after 11:00 AM. I treated the cats and then got to work cleaning the house. I swept all the wood floors and then washed them with the Wet-Jet. I finally took the old monitor out of the office and put it in the garage. The two speakers and monitor stand went into the attic (it's only been, what, two months or so, lol).

I rearranged my linen closet (it was getting out of control) and put some of the things I never seem to need either in the trash or up in the attic, to get a little more room. I am on my third load of laundry, BTW, and have all the windows open with the kitchen ceiling fan on. It's a breezy 65 degrees, according to my thermometer.

I swept the kitchen floor and then vacuumed the two walk-off rugs downstairs. I was folding clothes as they came out of the drier. I checked and it was almost 1:00 PM, and there were people outside.

It was my neighbor and the tree guy. I went outside and chatted a bit. The tree guy asked, "You don't have a gun today, do you?" and laughed. I said "No, not this time. It's in the rack." I asked them if they minded my taking some photos (they said no) and then left them to their work.

I was hungry! So, I warmed up another catfish fillet and the rest of the wild rice for my breakfast/lunch. I ate it watching a taped TV show (it felt good to put my feet up). Afterwards I took about a 20 minute cat nap (the sounds of chainsaws coming through the open windows woke me up).

I took a LOT of pictures as I was interested in his technique. Basically, he had spiked shoes that he climbed up the tree with, tied himself in with a rope to the climbing harness he wore, tied another rope to the branches he wanted to cut and then cut them. After they fell a little, the rope would stop them and my neighbor would lower them to the ground.

Once he got to the trunk of the tree (BTW, he estimated from the rings this tree was over 90 years old), he started cutting off three foot sections and dropping them onto my lawn. The noise shook the house every time. And when he cut the last 20 foot section of the truck, it felt like an earthquake inside the house.

My neighbor kept loading up the wood on his trailer and taking it next door. The smaller branches and leaves were fed into a chipper and blown into his truck (see photos). I went outside about 4:30 PM to pay the guy. I chatted with my neighbor and his wife, Tammy.

He said he found two day-laborers to move those wood chips (with my wrecked shoulder, I no longer can do it this year). I asked him for a quote to remove the pavers in Jake's patio and put down a concrete patio with a six-foot fence surrounding it. He said he would get back to me. I gave the tree guy my $400.00 bucks.

I went back inside and it was almost 6:00 PM. The soup sounds too ambitious tonight, so I went with leftover sweet corn and some button mushrooms I needed to use up. I sliced the mushrooms thick and sauteed them in butter. The sweet corn I just wrapped in a paper towel (or kitchen towel, as they say in England - BTW, I love how they pronounce "marshmallows" in England). I wet the paper towels and then put them in the microwave for two minutes.

I ate this watching a couple of favorite movies. Then, before I went to bed, I carried out what I thought was a brilliant plan. I took the four cast iron grates off my grille and put them on the oven racks. Then I locked the oven down and turned on the oven cleaning feature.

I did open the kitchen window (it was like 57 degrees F. then) and turned on the vent fan (on low). I figured when I woke up in the morning, both the grates and the oven would be clean.

Imagine my surprise when, at about 2:00 AM, all three fire detectors went off, screaming "Fire, fire, fire!" The whole house was filled with an acrid smoke! I turned the vent fan on high, turned on the kitchen ceiling fan and the oscillating fan in the bedroom. I turned the oven off and then I opened every window in the house (security concerns be damned). Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a breeze.

The cats fled to the window sills. I made myself a drink and fled to the patio. I stayed outside, sitting in my bathrobe, until the smoke seemed to have dissipated (I watched through the kitchen window).

When I judged it safe, I went back inside. I tried to open the oven but found it would not release the door lock. I realized you must complete the oven cleaning cycle. So, I girded my loins (trust me, sitting outside in your bathrobe in 55 degrees will definitely loosen your loins) and turned the oven back on at 3:00 AM.

I waited a bit, but the overpowering smoke didn't come back. So, I went back to bed (with the windows still all open) at about 4:30 AM.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It took long enough...

...but it's finally Friday!

I went home at lunch, fully expecting to see them cutting down my big tree. But nobody was there and the guy next door's truck is gone. Hmmm...

I cut off the long stems and the corn silk of five Michigan-grown sweet corn ears (finally, a locavore!) and put them in my stock pot, and filled it up from the tap. I topped that with a heavy soup dish to hold them under the water.

Jake invited me over after work for pizza and beer, but I told him I couldn't come as they were cutting the tree down and I had to be here to pay them (Damn! That sounded good, too!) But two things were weird when I got home: one, I had no mail (that rarely happens - did he just not come yet?) and, two, nobody was here cutting my tree! Now, I'm a little ticked!

I changed clothes after treating the cats. I went out back to check on the soil conditions in the raised bed garden (there was a 30% chance of rain today, but I don't trust it - it ain't gonna rain!) However, the garden is still damp, so I won't worry about it now. The temperature is dropping rapidly, BTW. I opened the kitchen and my bedroom windows when it got below 70 degrees.

I did water the Topsy-turvy planter. I would point out that, while it may just be the tomato variety (it's the one "cherry tomato" I planted), but the Topsy-turvy plant has the only blossoms so far.

Back inside, I brushed the thawed out one-inch thick Porterhouse steak with olive oil on both sides. I also cut the thick fat down to the meat on one side every one inch (this keeps it from shrinking when cooked). Then I added salt, pepper and chopped Rosemary to each side. I let it come up to room temperature while I fired up the lump charcoal (at least 30 minutes, BTW).

When the coals were ready, I set up the grille. I cleaned the grates and then oiled them. First I cooked five bratwurst (for later dinners)

BTW, the temperature is dropping like a rock. At 6:30 PM, it's 64 degrees!

Next I put the sweet corn on and grilled (turning) for about 20 minutes. When all the sides were charred I moved them off to the cool side to finish. Finally I put on the steak.

I cooked it four minutes per side, with the cover closed. When it was done I let it rest for a bit while I shucked the corn.

I plated my food and went in to watch some taped TV, waiting for the Friday night fights and then bed time.

BTW, the steak was excellent and the sweet corn superb...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thursday

It was hot here Thursday, but with enough of a breeze to keep it comfortable. However, a cold front is supposed to come in on Friday and the temperature will be unseasonably cool (nice for my air conditioner bill but rough on my poor Mom, out at the cottage).

Once home after work and with the usual tasks done, I watered the container gardens (the few little rain showers we had on Wednesday didn't even show up in the rain gauge).

Then I checked the oil and filled up the gas tank on the push mower. I cut the front lawn and then prepared the riding mower.

Next I cut the back lawn. That took longer than usual as my neighbor called me over to talk about my trees. I hired his buddy to cut down the big maple in back that's closest to the house and they are going to do it this weekend. My neighbor is naturally excited as he is going to help and, in return, get all the wood.

So, it was just after 8:30 PM when I buttoned everything up and came back inside.

I made fried catfish with wild rice for dinner. I left the mess and ate it watching TV. Then I went to bed early because I was pooped!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wetless Wednesday

Wednesday dawned with the hope and promise of some much-needed rain. However, it still hadn't shown up when I went to lunch.

I went to Westborn for my fruits and veggies then. I got two red onions, two Vidalia onions, two lemons, two Granny Smith apples and three Gala apples. I also got a nice head of cauliflower. What I forgot was some mushrooms and some shallots.

I trashed my right shoulder in the afternoon. I had gone to the restroom and, after finishing up; I put my cane on the sink to wash my hands. When I went to grab it, I knocked it off instead. I quickly reached for it with my right hand and immediately felt "something" rip in my shoulder.

The pain was immediate and shocking! I stood there with tears in my eyes and unable to catch my breath. When I was able to breathe again, I found my right arm was now virtually useless. The pain that had previously confined itself to my shoulder had spread down to my elbow.

So, I spent the rest of the afternoon, nursing my injury. I couldn't even pick up my water bottle to my mouth with my right hand.

It did rain during the afternoon, but it was only a brief shower (not even registering in the rain gauge).

Back home after work, I started the Wednesday night laundry. Then, I checked the raised bed garden and it was bone dry. So, I refilled the bird bath, watered the Topsy-turvy planter and then hooked up the square sprinkler, placed it in the raised bed garden and turned it on.

I gave up on my planned dinner: cornmeal breaded fried catfish and wild rice (my all time favorite). My right arm is completely useless, you see.

So, I used the left hand to cut out the core on the cauliflower, threw it in my middle-sized pan and steamed it until it was ready. The timer for the sprinkler went off and I went out to turn off the water.

The Topsy-turvy tomato plant (cherry tomatoes) and the early cabbage (in the raised bed garden) all showed some insect damage. So, I dusted them both with insect powder.

Back inside, I checked the cauliflower (not done yet) and put the Wednesday night wash in the dryer.

I ate the cauliflower with butter and salt and watched TV until bedtime.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tuesday's Tale

Tuesday was another beautiful day in Michigan. I went grocery shopping at lunch to Kroger's (I was busy Saturday, as you might recall). I was disappointed to see there were no baggers or packers like they have on the weekends. But between me and the checkout lady, we got 'er done.

When I got home after work, I changed clothes and treated the cats. Then I went out back and moved all the firewood for the chimmenia. After some major mental misgivings, I have decided to have the nearest (to the house) old maple tree cut down.

This will accomplish two things. The number one thing is that it completely overhangs the house, so every time they predict high winds, I worry about falling branches. And, number two, I can't pull my vehicle into the back yard (say to hook up my trailer) without driving across Jake's patio.

Since it's been stacked up there for four or five years (since I first trimmed the trees when I moved in) most of it was infested with some sort of bugs (termites?). I only light the fire in the chimmenia once or twice a year, you see.

I went back in the house and heard the phone ringing. I ran (as much as I can run) but it already went to voicemail. I checked the caller ID and saw it was my daughter, Melissa, so I called her back.

We talked for a long time (I didn't notice the time when we hung up). I was hungry, but not inspired, so I warmed up a can of Dinty Moore beef stew for dinner.

I watched TV until bedtime.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

86 Years Ago Today

Morning fog shrouds the Manchuria's hull and surrounding pier. A young teacher with dark hair and icy blue eyes crosses the gangplank to board the six hundred foot steamship. Planting his foot on the deck, he turns and nods a farewell to Hamburg and his homeland of Germany. Four thousand miles lie ahead.

Ten days from today he will reach Ellis Island. In ten years he will meet and marry his wife, Helen. Shortly thereafter the two will welcome their first child, a boy. In all, he and his wife will raise seven children, six boys and one girl. Eighty five years from now his wife will hold their great-great-granddaughter.

A blast from the ship's horn announces her intent to launch. He checks his pocket for the last time - twenty five dollars and that address of a friend in Detroit.

I cannot imagine the guts it must have taken to immigrate to a new country where I could not even speak the language, but one thing my Dad never lacked was guts!

Gute reise, vater!

Monday, Monday...

Monday morning was a comedy of errors. I got up on time, shaved and showered (okay, so I spent a little longer in the shower trying to ease my aches and pains) and then went into the bedroom to get dressed.

It was at that point where I discovered that, yes, I'd washed all my clothes, but no, I never put them in the drier! So, I threw them in and sat down, watching the news and got to work about 8:15 AM (and I swear my pants were still a bit moist).

When I got home after work, I changed my shoes and started watering the container gardens. That is until I got to the tree box. The split is much more pronounced and I doubt it will still be together a week from now. See photos.

I had thought about buying two cast iron hinges, grinding out the pin and then screwing it back together (decorative, yet functional). But it doesn't look like I have time for that.

So I got the remaining piece of cedar and ripped it down to 1 1/2 inch strips. Then I cut seven of them to 8 7/8 inches long. I used my bar clamps to pull it together and then my air-powered brad gun to stick them on. Then I pre-drilled the holes for the deck screws (remember this as it becomes important later).

So, I get the square bit and the two inch deck screws and start to screw in the cedar strips. Even though I pre-drilled them, they all split! See photos...

Pissed off, I finished both sides. The bottom doesn't work at all. If the damn thing can hold together until Fall, I will be amazed (and grateful). I'll make another box out of plywood, then.

I went out back and refilled the bird bath and watered the topsy-turvy planter. I refilled the bird feeder and the suet cage as well. Back inside, it was 8:07 PM.

I warmed up some bean soup for my supper and went to bed early (my legs still hurt!)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hmmm...

I got a "Thank you" note in the mail from my great-niece Chelsey, today. She thanked me for my card and the money and then said she was sorry I couldn't come to her graduation party.

What party?

I double-checked everything (I had her announcement and Alex's stuff stuck on the fridge) and there was nothing about a graduation party!

So, Chelsey, I swear I would have made it had I known when and where!

Anyway, congratulations and good luck in the future.

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The black walnut, blocking the early morning sun

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The black walnut, trimmed

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The crack is noticeably worse!

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I used bar clamps to get it together

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A dismal failure to correct the problem

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights (Redux)

Both my legs were totally shot when I woke up on Sunday. Oddly enough, my right thigh hurts the worst. I limped out to the kitchen, ground up some coffee beans and got a pot going. Then I went and laid on the couch with my legs on the pillows again while it brewed.

It was in the 50's, temperature-wise, so I opened the kitchen and bedroom windows. But, there wasn't even a hint of a breeze, so I turned on the kitchen ceiling fan and the fan on my dresser to move some air. I only left the bedroom fan on for a little bit as Caley is deathly afraid of it. Since the food and water are both in there, it's not really fair to keep it on and keep her out of the room.

I didn't do much of anything all day. I did water the raised bed garden with the square sprinkler and then watered the front lawn and (more importantly) the garden with the oscillating one.

Around 6:00 PM, I fired up the charcoal (or tried to - I'm out of regular newspaper and the slick ad paper doesn't burn as well). While that was heating up, I precooked two russet potatoes in the microwave. When they were done, I cut them into 1/4 slices and tossed them in olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh chopped flat leaf parsley.

When the coals were ready, I cleaned and oiled the grates and then put on the potatoes. When they were nicely done (you should have seen the grille marks!) I slid them over to the cool side and put on the rib eye steak I'd thawed out (after seasoning that with just the house seasoning). It was about one inch thick, so I grilled it for three minutes on each side (for medium-rare).

I plated everything up and went to eat and watch my Sunday night shows.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Long Day on Saturday

Oh, oh. We got problems! The rain that was supposed to come Friday overnight and end by 7:00 AM Saturday morning was delayed and just started at 8:30 AM Saturday here, with thunder and lightning. Since it's good for my grass, why am I worried? Because this morning, Jake, Carla and I are doing a walking tour of Royal Oak restaurants and this afternoon is the graduation party for my nephew Jason's step-son, Alex, in a park. Happy note: Finally, a graduation party that's close to me!

But when I checked the weather map online, it looked like they were pretty fast-moving and almost out of the area. So, maybe I'll be okay.

I ground up more coffee and got the pot going. I ate the rest of the raspberries with some half and half for a light breakfast (I just realized I didn't tell you I did have them for dessert on Friday, after the "pizza roll-ups"). I posted the Blog and then moved the kitchen stuff out of the living room and back to its place.

Speaking of the "pizza roll-ups," I decided that I will try them again, but this time use mozzarella cheese and then top them with kosher salt, chopped basil and chopped oregano. I will definitely let you know if this is a quick snack worth keeping or not.

I had shaved and showered, was in my robe and starting to get dressed when Jake and Carla came in. I said, "I thought you said you were picking me up at 10:45 AM?" They said, "No, we have to BE there at 10:45 to register!"

So, I threw on my clothes and we dashed out the door. We finally got to the Royal Oak Farmer's Market. There was no apparent parking spot, so they dropped me off to register while they searched for one.

Now this food tour is put on by Culinary Escapes (they also do a few other local cities, BTW). They have a pretty slick setup. Upon registering, you are given a radio receiver (about the size of a pager) you hook on your belt and an ear piece. They show you how to hook it up and turn it on. The tour guide has a microphone and talks throughout the walk. When you stop somewhere, he gives the owner/manager the mike, so they can tell you the story of the place, what they're famous for and so on.

You also get a small goodie bag as each place gives you either their menu, a coupon or (in the case of the Goldfish Tea place), actual samples.

Well, the tour guide got started at the market, while I and his assistant (a very pleasant woman and I somehow got the feeling she was the tour guide's wife) waited for Jake and Carla. They showed up a few minutes later, got hooked up and we went in. The Royal Oak Farmers market has been around a long time and some of the stalls are owned by second and third generation farmers. Very impressive and I wish it was closer to me!

We stopped at three stalls: first a nut butter place (some people had samples, but it didn't sound that interesting to me); a lady with locally produced honey (again, eh...) and a guy with two types of spice rubs (I tried a taste of that and Carla bought a jar).

Then we left and started walking. The guide kept it interesting by describing how Royal Oak came to be, how it got its name, etc. Our next stop was the Superior Fish Company, a major wholesale and retail fish dealer (Jake said the St. Clair Inn got their fish from Superior). We had a talk from the owner on just how fast he can get a lobster from Maine or an oyster from Oregon to your table. We were served a small piece of halibut with some kind of sauce (whatever it was, it was excellent).

Next was the Zumba Mexican Grille, a kind of hole in the wall place with no tables (inside, at least - they did have a patio seating area outside) just tall stools lining a ledge around the windows and one inside ledge (where Jake, Carla and I sat). Here the three of us opted for a fish taco (I never had one before) with a house-special sauce, lettuce, cilantro and onions. We were served water and some taco chips (homemade, of course) along with homemade salsa I cannot remember the name of. Excellent! So far, so good!

Then we walked over to Memphis Smoke (which even I have heard of - Jake and Carla had eaten there before). We were served two baby back ribs, and a small container of both red beans and rice and coleslaw. Here I was both disappointed and amazed. I thought the ribs were just so-so (mine are definitely better). They smoke them for 18 hours, but the stupid sauce (not caramelized at all and way too sweet) completely overpowered any smoky taste.

But, the red beans and rice (which I have heard of but never tasted) were fantastic! I have got to get a recipe and make these! I'll bet Emeril has a bunch of them!!!

Next stop was the Vintner's Cellar of Royal Oak. Here, they actually make wine onsite (sort of a brew pub, but with wine, instead). They had a glass poured and waiting for us ("Moonbeam" a Black Cherry Pinot Noir) but it was way too sweet for me, and Jake and Carla. Then we got to pick another from their menu. Jake got the "Hot-n-Spicy (a Shiraz) Carla the "Down Under" (an Australian Chardonnay) and I chose the "Woodward White" a Riesling. Mine was excellent.

BTW, they will make and custom label any wine for you, so if you've ever wanted to have your own personal wine, or want a special present, this is the place for you!

Pressing onward, we walked to the Royal Oak Brewery. Now, I have been to several brew pubs and am used to getting several small glasses of the local brews for tasting. I was surprised when we just got one small glass of their pilsner. However, since they are also a family restaurant, they made up for it by serving a good-sized bowl of an excellent Jambalaya (really outstanding)!

Next was a visit to Goldfish Tea. As the name suggests, it was a shop that catered to Chinese tea. The husband and wife proprietors were working for one of the big three auto companies and stationed in Beijing, China, when they happened along a huge wholesale tea market. This opened a whole world for them and they came back to the States, quit their jobs and opened this place up. There are couches, tasting tables and chairs where you can go and drink your tea.

We taste-tested two kinds, green and white tea (all loose leaf, BTW). An interesting thing I learned was you never pour boiling water on green tea (boiling water will make it bitter). You want the water to just start forming bubbles on the bottom of the pan, not rising to the top. This green tea reminded me of the catnip tea my Mother used to make in the springtime, back on the farm when I was growing up. It had that same grassy flavor.

The so-called white tea is just green tea picked before the leaves fully emerge.

We moved on to Caf� Muse, a breakfast and lunch only establishment. Their claim to fame (and they have won numerous award and were featured on Oprah, BTW) is putting a different spin on classical breakfast and comfort foods. However, we all agreed this was disappointing. The place was packed (we were served by the owner outside on the sidewalk) but the items we were got were blas� at best. There was a slice of "peanut butter and jelly" sandwich (peanut butter, mascarpone cheese and homemade jam) which was way too sweet. And a grilled cheese sandwich (three different cheeses and a tomato on a whole grain with nuts bread) which was bland. Since Carla is allergic to nuts, they made her a fingerling potato salad (which she appreciated), but said was boring. She threw most of it away.

Trudging along (it's now hot as hell and, since we are in the city, there is very little wind) we finally made it to Pizza Paesano. I'm still undecided about this place. They have like six kinds of "gourmet" pizza. It's just two women and maybe 24 seats in the place. The story is the owner opened it up with her son, but he soon tired of the place and moved on, so she is keeping it going.

I tried the potato pizza (boring) and the pesto with ricotta cheese and spinach (excellent). I would recommend this to people, BTW. Jake had the pepperoni but I did not get his review. They made Carla a special dish I didn't get the name of (it was a pizza dough, puffed up and then stuffed with veggies I think) that she didn't seem too thrilled with.

Leaving there, we walked next door (finally, the first time that didn't involve a hike) to Gayle's Chocolates. We finished our tour with a shot of hot chocolate (delicious) and a piece of candy (I had the espresso truffle which tasted fantastic, but was probably not good for a Type 2 diabetic.

The tour ended there and we had to march our sorry ass-selves back to the Royal Oak Market and the car. At this point, I am seriously regretting the whole concept! "Walking Tour" means, well, walking! What the hell was I thinking? According to them it was about 1 1/2 mile walk, but by this time it felt like a 40 mile hike!

But seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed this (and Jake and Carla seemed too, as well).

On the way home, we stopped at a nearby Whole Foods Market which was, according to Jake, quite small compared to the one they usually go to in Birmingham. But it still was impressive to me - when's the last time you saw ground bison meat in your local store?

They dropped me off around 4:00 PM. My legs were killing me and I wanted nothing more than to take a nap, but I have family obligations. So, I washed my face, grabbed my graduation card and the map and headed out on the road to the Northwest Park in Taylor.

Now, it should have been a straight shot for me: head south on Inkster for about five or six miles and turn left for a half mile. But, Inkster was completely closed at Michigan avenue (I later saw the signs for the Inkster Summerfest that was going on). So, I spent a lot of time on little side streets, but I finally got there.

Nice little park, BTW. They had reserved a covered structure (where they had the food and some picnic tables) and also rented a tent. And, it was open enough that the winds (gusting now) made the heat feel much less oppressive.

I congratulated the graduate, gave him my card, greeted everyone I knew and then sat with Terry's family under the tent. They had just all started eating so I fixed a small plate for myself (macaroni salad, a burger and some baked beans - I certainly wasn't hungry but wanted to show my appreciation for their efforts). Here's where a weird thing happened. I mentioned the gusting winds, right? Well, when I took the hard tinfoil top off the beans on the grille, the wind picked it up and blew it in my face. Undeterred, I took a small spoonful of beans and put them on my plate.

When I got back to the picnic table, I noticed there was blood on my hand! I found that the lid had sliced the end of my nose, which was bleeding profusely. I spent most of the afternoon holding numerous bloody napkins to my face, trying to stem the bleeding. (Way to make an impression, buddy!)

We talked about work (as painters, for them it's almost non-existent) the economy, kids, cars and things. But, the main topic was the death of five local kids. They were hit by a train in Canton on Thursday when the driver of the car drove around the crossing guard to try and beat the train. It turns out Alex went to school with most of them and the two brothers who died lived right across the street from them. What a shame...

I had a good time playing with my niece Laura's new baby, Anna. What a sweet disposition this kid has! I did explain to her that, yes she has two Uncle Johns (Laura's brother John was named after me) but that he is just a plain old Uncle John while I was her "GREAT" Uncle John.

My only fear is that, when Christmas comes around and she sees Santa Claus, she will think, hey, he's not real! He's not bleeding out of his nose!

I stayed until around 6:00 PM, then made my goodbyes and left. This time I went down Van Born to Middle Belt. took that to Ford Road and then went east to Inkster and north to home.

I changed clothes (I had to practically pry my socks off with a crowbar, as both my ankles were swollen so badly) and went on the couch to return a phone call. I piled both pillows up and elevated my feet, first though.

When I got done, I went in and went to bed. No TV tonight, just rest...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Finally hot, finally Friday

It was finally "July" hot today, but the humidity got worse as the day wore on. I was very glad I had the chance to cut the lawn last night, when it was cooler and drier.

My weekend's a mess of things ToDo on Saturday, so I did the bedding at lunch today as well as ran the dishwasher. Before I went back to work, I visited my old nemesis, the raspberry bush, and picked a mess of them for tonight's dessert. I only got stuck three times.

Once home for the weekend, I filled out two graduation cards, (I stuck one in the mailbox and will deliver the other in person tomorrow), emptied the dishwasher and made up the bed. Then I went out back, hooked up the square sprinkler and watered the raised bed garden for 30 minutes. There is a slight (30%) chance of rain tonight through tomorrow morning, but I can't count on that...

As I said, its hot and sticky outside, so I decided to clean the house tonight (in the air conditioning, lol) instead of working outdoors.

Now, I'm not sure I mentioned this before but I was having some problems with the electric floor sweeper. I took it apart and found a dryer sheet stuck half way up the tube. Well, I am now having the same sort of problems with the vacuum cleaner.

So I put the now-useless vacuum cleaner on top of the washer and drier and checked it out, by sticking a coat hanger down the tube. I bent a coat hanger into a hook and dragged out the blockage. No drier sheet this time, just a big clump of Caley cat hair.

I fired up the air compressor and blew out the filter and then put it all back together. I vacuumed off the two walk-off rugs and then stopped, as the stove timer went off.

I went back outside and turned the water back off. I took off the square-head sprinkler and stuck the open hose into the reflecting pool. I am hoping more fresh water will encourage it to bloom (you should see my brother Carl's water lilies!) I turned the faucet on to "low" and went back inside.

Back inside, I vacuumed the living room rug. I swept the kitchen and then vacuumed the two walk-off rugs and the downstairs tile. I went back outside and shut off the water. I coiled up the hose and put the spray nozzle back on.

I moved the kitchen chairs, the rolling cart and the trash basket into the living room. Then I made up a bucket of screaming hot water and lemon Top Job and washed the kitchen floor. I went and watched TV while that dried.

Once I could walk in the kitchen again, I started making my dinner. I got this idea from all the calzone-family pizzas being offered recently. I was thinking "quick snack," BTW.

So, I took a can of Pillsbury crescent rolls and opened them up. I spooned a thin layer of jarred pizza sauce on each one. Then I added two or three slices of pepperoni. I opened a can of mushrooms (this is supposed to be a quick snack idea, if you remember) and added two or three slices on top of the pepperoni. I got out my shredded mozzarella and here's where I hit a snag!

The mozzarella was moldy! I have two choices left: some shredded mild cheddar (not exactly pizza-like) and my beloved Parmigiano-Reggiano. So, I got out the micro pane and covered each slice with the Parm.

Then I rolled them up (not as easy as I had envisioned) and placed them on some parchment paper, covering a half sheet pan. I stuck them in a preheated 375 degrees F. oven and let them bake for 13 minutes.

After they cooled, I tried one (oh, let's be honest, it was late and I was hungry, so I ate four of them!) The result: the crescent dough was too sweet to be mistaken for pizza dough. I kicked myself in the butt for not thinking of that, because I could have sprinkled the top with kosher salt before baking them (next time I'll try that). The inside was all pizza (but mozzarella cheese would have been better). Oh well, as a foodie, you live and learn...

I watched TV (a History channel show about "Moon shiners, bootleggers and rum runners") until bedtime.

But, before I go to sleep, I must tell you my three favorite stories about the Prohibition era.

1. Legend has it that there is a tunnel underneath the St. Clair Inn that extends across the St. Clair River to Canada where booze was smuggled in. I should have asked Jake to investigate this when he worked there.

2. In winter, rum runners would go across Lake St. Clair in stripped down Model T's across the ice. Supposedly there are cars still in the lake here and there where the ice broke and they fell through. Now, I have trouble with this one, because I don't know of many places where Lake St. Clair is that deep!

3. My favorite Prohibition story was told to me by my father. It seemed that he and some of the friends he emigrated with decided to go get some booze in Canada. So, they crossed the border and bought a bunch of pints of whiskey. Being German, (we have problems in this area) they had to sample the wares first, of course.

To hide the booze they all slid them inside their pants. So, when they got to the border crossing you had three or four drunken Germans accosted by a border guard. He asked them if they had any alcohol and my father (being an honest fellow) laughed and patted his belly and said, "Yes, right here!"

The border guard, noticing their condition, also laughed, said, "I can see that!" and waved them through...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Just Desserts

I love the musky smell of cantaloupes. Whenever I see or smell one, I always think of my Dad. He loved to take a thick wedge of cantaloupe (or muskmelon as we called it) and top it with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream.

That was his favorite summertime dessert, I think.

Thursday's Tale

Thursday was another beautiful day (although still below our normal temperatures for this time of year). When I got home after work and changed, the first thing I did was to water all the container gardens.

Then I gassed up the push mower and checked the oil. I fired it up and cut the front lawn. When I finished, I went inside for a bathroom break and it was 6:20 PM.

Next, I gassed up the riding tractor and checked its oil. I pulled it out of the garage, shut the door and headed out back. When I finished up, I hooked up the watering wand (the front garden looks parched) and started watering.

I watered everything around the patio, the little garden on Jake's patio, the south side of the garage, the tree garden out front and, finally, the front garden.

I coiled up the hose, shut everything up and went inside for the evening. It was 8:25 PM.

I warmed up the last porch chop and two more ears of corn for my dinner. I watched a mixture of real-time and taped shows until bedtime.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wednesday, Weedwacking

As you may have noticed, Tuesday's post was especially frustrating. I had typed all but the last few paragraphs into my Word document and saved it before going to bed.

However, upon awakening, and after typing in the last information, I found I had no Internet, no cable and no phone. And, when I used my cell phone to call in to Brighthouse, all I got was a busy signal.

This doesn't bode well...

So, I printed off what I'd written so far and took it into work. I went in early and, after verifying I still had no connection, I retyped everything (two pages, at that point). I had to ask the Web Master for the URL as it's just bookmarked at home (Mom, it's not worth explaining). When I finished the document, I posted it and waited for the cable company.

I called, of course, but just got a busy signal until after 10:00 AM. They said there was a township-wide shut down in Redford, but it was fixed, now.

I stopped at Home Depot and bought another 100-foot extension cord at lunch. Upon arriving home, I checked and sure enough, I had the Internet, phone and cable all working again!

Once home at 5:15 PM, I changed my clothes and started the Wednesday night wash load. Then I went out back. I hooked up the two 100-foot extension cords and a 25-foot one and grabbed the line trimmer.

I started where I had left off on the north side of the back yard (at the raised bed garden). Going around each tree and the play structure, I worked my way back to the concrete wall. Then I started on tonight's real project, cutting down each and every weed in the back garden.

I noticed the dogwood was really overgrown (and almost as tall as the flowering plum), so I paused at that point and got the electric hedge trimmer. I trimmed up the dogwood nicely and then went back to line trimming.

When I finished the garden, I started back to the house on the south fence. I worked around the compost heap and then around every tree on that side.

When I got to the house I stopped and took the two trimmers back in the garage. Then I coiled up all the extension cords and put them away as well. When I locked the back door and went into the kitchen, I saw it was 8:10 PM.

I warmed up the rest of the ham steak, the rest of the eggplant and one ear of corn for supper. I watched some TV but that 2+ hour walk had tuckered me out, so I went to bed early.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sorry this was late - cable's out!

Well, opening the bedroom window Monday night was not the smartest thing I've done. I think I mentioned before I suspect I have developed late-in-life allergies which show up when I, say, cut the back lawn for several hours. Anyway, when I woke up Tuesday morning, my eyes felt itchy and my nose was all plugged up!

But, I must carry on... So, I got ready for work and then took out the garbage.

I left work for good at 11:00 AM. When I got home, I first watered the mailbox garden (the marigolds were looking bad) and then emptied the dishwasher while my Campbell's chicken noodle soup warmed up. Then I left for my 2:00 PM doctor's appointment (with my orthopedic surgeon).

Why so early? Because first I must go to the MRI place in Southfield and pick up a copy of my MRI. And, leaving early seemed pretty damn smart as there was a terrible two car accident that shut down three of the four lanes on Telegraph Road. I lost a good 20 minutes there.

Since I work in IT, you would think I'd know better, but I was expecting a package of films. But, what I got was a CD!

The MRI place is just past 12 Mile Road, so I headed back south and got on I-696, heading east. Traffic wasn't too bad, so I got to the doctor's at 1:15 PM (way too early unless I'd brought a book).

So, I thought I'd drop in on my brother Carl and check out his gardens (he lives about a mile or two from the doctor's office). However, he wasn't home. Since both his front and back yards are open, I did enjoy strolling around his gardens and the pond. I am so jealous of the English garden in front, BTW. Nice job, Bro!

Back at the doctor's, I gave the nurse my CD. After viewing it and reading the original doctor's report of the MRI, Doctor Hanlon came in to give me the bad news. I guess I understood Dr. Pop's Austrian accent better than I thought. What I have is about a one-inch circular hole in my rotator cuff, just on top of my shoulder blade (created by the rubbing of the shoulder bone).

His belief is that I could benefit from arthroscopic surgery (rather than the more serious "open" surgery). However, this would still involve outpatient surgery, being off work for the first week or two, wearing a sling for up to six weeks and going to therapy for a minimum of three months. Jesus!

I asked him the downside of waiting a bit until summer was over, as I have both gardens and lawn to keep up. He said I should picture a hole in some Saran Wrap. The more I use my arm, the bigger the hole will get and the more difficult it will be to repair it.

He also said that since the cortisone shot didn't work (and it didn't), I really have no other options left. We left it that I would sign all the paperwork for the surgery so I don't have to come back) and then let him know my decision later. So, that's what I did.

I headed back home. Traffic was noticeably worse, but I still got home just after 4:00 PM. I treated the cat's (who seemed a bit confused at the early hour) and then changed clothes.

I filled in the Blog (I didn't want to forget) and started a load of laundry. I talked to my friend B___, (who also advised early surgery) and then went out back at 5:45 to check on garden conditions.

The raised bed garden was dry again, so I hooked up the sprinkler, turned it on and set my oven timer for 30 minutes. While I was waiting, I peeled a nice big eggplant I got last week.

I cut the eggplant into 3/4 inch slices and then set up my breading stations: flour, whisked eggs and then seasoned flour. Next I set up my drying station: a rack on top of paper towels set in a cookie sheet.

The timer went off, so I went out and shut off the water, unhooked the sprinkler and coiled up the hose. Back inside, I put about 1/4 inch of canola oil in my big saut� pan and began to fry the eggplant.

I ate dinner watching TV. I went to bed early (without opening the window) but couldn't fall asleep until late. Too much to think about, I guess!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood...

Monday was an absolutely gorgeous day, with a high of 82 degrees F. and a nice breeze.

When I got home after work, I threw the main bath mat in the washer with some kitchen towel and then swept the bathroom. Next, I washed the floor. While it was drying, I sat out on the front porch, enjoying the weather until the floor dried.

Oh, I did take some photos and posted them to the Blog

For dinner, I warmed up the two grilled brats and ate them with Dijon mustard. I watched a little TV, but went to bed early. Before I did, though, I opened the bedroom window to catch some fresh air.

Monday, July 6, 2009

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The old Bush, Before major Surgery

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The Old Bush, After

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The Front Bush, Before Trimming

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The Front Bush, After

Revenge on the Raspberries

I awoke at 6:30 AM on Sunday. I warmed up a cup of coffee and immediately took out some stuff for this afternoon's barbecue. I thawed out some uncooked bratwurst, a Smithfield hardwood smoked center slice of ham and a pack of thick, pork loin rib center chops (bone in, of course).

I also cut off the longer stems and corn silk from 10 ears of sweet corn; put them in my stock pot, covered them with water and put a plate on top (for weight to keep them submerged). I also have a pound of fresh asparagus sitting in water to grille.

I ate the last two bagels for breakfast while listening to Sunday Morning, Over Easy. I finally got motivated, stripped the bedding and started the last load of laundry for the weekend.

I went outside and trimmed the bushes in front. The old bush between the mail box and the tree garden has been steadily going down hill ever since I moved in. So, I decided that radical surgery was necessary. I got out the Sawzall and cut it down to the ground. We will see how it grows back (or not, lol).

Since I was out there anyway, I revisited the raspberry bush and picked the ripe ones. I got almost a whole bowl, so I took them inside, topped them with half & half and a little sprinkle of sugar and ate them for lunch. Yum-o!

I fired up the charcoal about three o'clock. When I had a nice bed of glowing coals, I started grilling the pork chops and bratwurst. I coated the chops with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce after they were done and let that caramelize. Then I moved the meat to the cool end of the grill and started roasting the sweet corn.

I went inside and minced some garlic up. I added that to the trimmed asparagus along with some olive oil and let it get happy. I went back outside and started realizing just how much food I was actually making when I saw Mary, a neighbor from the townhouses. So, I called her over and asked how many people she had living with her (one). So, I gave her a plate with two brats and two pork chops. She said she'd just gotten back from church and was wondering what to make for dinner. She saw the corn and said she loved sweet corn. But, I told her she'd have to come back because I just started it.

When the corn was done, I moved that to the cooler end of the grille and started the ham slice and the asparagus. I mixed 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup with two tablespoons of Dijon mustard and kept brushing the ham with it.

I shucked the corn outside and took everything back inside (Mary never came back) and ate dinner. I had about half of the ham (wonderful glaze, BTW) most of the asparagus and two ears of corn. Everything was delicious!

I started cleaning everything up, made the bed and got my stuff ready for work tomorrow. Then it was time for my Sunday night shows. I watched them all, for a change, and then I went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

One of the phrases that has fallen out of favor.

Greezin!

As, "I was greezin of some White Castle hamburgers." It meant to pig out. If your don't believe me, check out "Creek Alley" by the Mommas and the Papas. They mention "Greezin on American Express Cards."

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I love this picture! A stingray leaps out of the water as it is hunted by a killer whale, whose fin can be seen below the ray, just off St. Heliers beach in Auckland, New Zealand, Wednesday, June 24, 2009.

Lazy Saturday

I woke up a little later on Saturday. I ground up more coffee beans and made a fresh pot.

The second day of a three-day weekend is always a bit strange. Why? Because on a normal weekend, you have (or at least I have) a rather set number of chores to do on both days, plus the occasional extra project to accomplish. But on a three-day weekend, there is one day where you really don't "have" to do anything! So, for me, that day was Saturday.

Well, think about it: I have bagels for breakfast and macaroni salad for lunch and dinner, so I don't have to make any food. The house is relatively clean, the grass is cut. I do have wood chips to move, but that can wait until Sunday. You see?

So, I was reflecting on my good fortune, sitting on the couch with my second cup of coffee when the phone rang. It was my friend B___, who was driving out to work on his boat. So, we chatted as he drove (hands-free phone, of course) and caught each other up on what's going on.

After we hung up, I grabbed the rather large stack of unread magazines that has built up and started going through them. Whenever I was hungry, I would toast a bagel and snack on it. I read on the couch, and then moved to the porch rocker.

By then, it was already after noon, and I had all but one read. So, I quit and went in to watch some of my Saturday taped cooking shows. I took a late afternoon nap and when I got up again, has some more macaroni salad for dinner.

When it started to get dark, my neighbors started setting off their fireworks. So, I went out on the porch to watch. When all the fuss started to die out, I went back inside and was surprised to see it was 11:20 PM! So, I locked everything up and went to bed.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Finally Friday!

I was wide awake at 5:00 AM Friday morning. Since this is the first day of my three day weekend I should have slept in, but old habits die hard, I guess.

So, I got up, cleaned up and got dressed in my work clothes. I straightened up the kitchen and started to vacuum the living room. But, there's a problem! The vacuum cleaner must have a blockage, because it's sucking the stuff up but then just blowing it out the side. So, I got my big wet-vac out of the garage and got some of the damn cat hair off the couch and rug.

Oh, it's sunny and warm, for a change! So, I opened the kitchen and bedroom windows to let the fresh air in. I went out and watered all the container gardens.

Last weekend, when I was grocery shopping, I grabbed a bag of 8-O'Clock Columbian coffee. But, when I opened it up, I found I had bought whole beans rather than ground coffee. So, last Tuesday, I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond (with two 20% off coupons) and bought two coffee bean grinders (Krupp, $19.00 US, one black and one white). Why two? Well, I'll use the black one for just the coffee beans and the white one only for grinding spices.

So, around 9:00 AM, I was learning to use the coffee grinder. I made a pot of fresh ground coffee and waited for my son Jeremy to stop by. He had to drop Joe off somewhere nearby (Joe's doing an internship the summer) and asked if he could visit for a couple of hours. Of course I said yes, but when he also mentioned bringing bagels and cream cheese, hell, I was sold!

So, he came (with the bagels). We drank coffee and ate bagels and caught each other up on what's been going on. He left to get Joe around 11:00 PM and gave me the rest of the bagels. Thanks!

I started a load of laundry and then went back to cleaning the house (I was a little embarrassed it wasn't totally clean when he showed up, BTW).

I think I'll need something to snack on over the weekend so I decided to make a simple macaroni salad. So, I filled up my pasta pot and brought it to a boil (with four quarts of water, this takes a while).

Meanwhile, I fine-diced 1/4 of a large red onion and one rib of celery and put it in a bowl. To that, I added 1/4 cut of chopped fresh parsley, two tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice, one tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Back at the pasta pot, I put in some salt and one pound of elbow macaroni. I cooked it until nearly tender (about seven minutes) and then drained it. I rinsed it under cold water until cool and then put it in my big bowl. Don't let this get too dry, BTW!

I stirred in the red onion, celery, parsley, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. I let that get happy for a while (at least two minutes). Then I added 1 1/2 cups of good mayonnaise and let it sit until the salad texture was no longer watery (5-10 minutes). I taste-tested it and began adding salt and pepper until it was perfect. Then I put it in my only surviving Tupperware dish and stuck in the fridge for later consumption.

All things considered, I decided a nap would be nice. So, I watched some taped cooking shows until I was sleepy and then took about a two hour nap.

I was hungry when I got up, so I got a bowl of the macaroni salad. It's pretty damn good, but with just a hint of too much garlic (I just eye-balled everything, you see). By the way, if you make this ahead of time and it seems a bit dry, just stir in some warm water to loosen the texture. I watched three taped Iron Chef (Japanese) shows.

I cleaned up the kitchen and started the dishwasher. I heard some noise outside and so went out front. Somebody in the neighborhood is a little early and is shooting off fireworks. While I was standing there, I noticed my old friends, the fireflies, were back! Enchanted, I sat down on the rocker for a while. The night is like soft, black velvet, BTW. But, while I hear the fireworks, I can't see them. Then I realized they are west of me. So, I closed up the front door and headed out the back. Sure enough, there are spectacular fireworks in the western sky.

I walked back and sat in one of the swings and watched for about a half hour until they stopped and then went in to watch TV until bedtime.