Saturday, February 28, 2009

PANCAKE WEEK

February,22 - March,02!

According to folk calendar pancakes week - the most famous pagan old Slavonic holiday marking the commencement of agricultural works - began on February, 22 2009.

Pancake week or Maslenitsa (in Russian) also known as Butter Week, Pancake week, or Cheesefare Week, is a Slavonic religious and folk holiday. It is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent-that is, the seventh week before Easter. Pancake Week corresponds to the Western Christian Carnival, except that Orthodox Lent begins on a Monday instead of a Wednesday. The Orthodox date of Easter can differ greatly from the Western Christian date. In 2008, for example, Pancake week was celebrated from March 2 to March 8.

Pancake week has a dual ancestry: pagan and Christian. In Slavic mythology, Pancake week is a sun festival, celebrating the imminent end of the winter.

The most characteristic food of Pancake week are surely pancakes, popularly taken to symbolize the sun. Round and golden, they are made from the rich foods still allowed by the Orthodox tradition: butter, eggs, and milk.

Pancake week also includes masquerades, snowball fights, sledding, riding on swings and plenty of sleigh rides. In some regions, each day of Pancake week had its traditional activity: one day for sleigh-riding, another for the sons-in-law to visit their parents-in-law, another day for visiting the godparents, etc. The mascot of the celebration is usually a brightly dressed straw effigy of Lady Maslenitsa, formerly known as Kostroma.

As the culmination of the celebration, on Sunday evening, Lady Maslenitsa is stripped of her finery and put to the flames of a bonfire. Any remaining pancakes are also thrown on the fire, and Lady Maslenitsa's ashes are buried in the snow to "fertilize the crops" for next season.

Pancake week is completed on the first day of the Lent, which has been considered a purification day.

The Snowbow

Bernie was a field mouse
who lived in a wheat straw hut
on the edge of an old wheat field
where the tractor left a rut

He lived amongst family and friends
in a little field mouse town.
And since the tractor never came now
the village was never knocked down

The wheat grew back each year
so there was always lots of food
and life was sweet and easy
for each little field mouse brood

His mother shooed him outside
one sunny, winter's day
"I've got to clean the house," she said,
"So you go out and play."

While sunny, it was snowing
and a thought came in his mind,
"Why there should be a snowbow!"
which he set about to find.

He asked about the snowbow
as he went from house to house.
But people smiled and shook their heads
saying, "What a silly mouse!"

"Yes, when rain and sun combine
you often get a rainbow.
But never in the winter
do you ever see a snowbow!"

Poor Bernie stood, then tried to jump
to see above the wheat
but Bernie was a little mouse
with little, mousey feet.

So, laughter followed him
from every straw-made house
and he walked with head held low
an embarrassed little mouse.

He came to the old wood gate
and knew where he had to go.
Why, he'd climb up to the top
and maybe see the snowbow!

But the gate was old and rotten
and, though Bernie didn't weigh much
when he reached the top, it fell over
tumbled by just his touch!

All the villager rushed out
to see what was the matter.
Was the dreaded tractor back again?
What made that awful clatter?

The gate had squashed
a patch of wheat straw down
and Bernie was soon surrounded
by all the mice in town

Mothers and fathers, grampas too
with all their kids in tow
climbed on the gate and, looking up,
saw a beautiful snowbow!

2/28/09

TGIF (and I really mean it!)

It was 50 degrees outside this morning when I was putting the grille away at 6:00 AM, but I was not fooled. Temperature will be dropping all day and we are going back to winter for the weekend. So, I still wore my heavy jacket.

I noticed I forgot to mention I made rice last night. I want to make chicken fried rice sometime this weekend and the rice has to be refrigerated 24 hours at least (I don't know why). Oh, and before you make the rice, you have to rinse it first (I don't know why that is, either). I also took out that deboned rotisserie chicken meat I froze after NOT making the Gumbo Ya-Ya.

My friend Michelle (she works in Facilities) stopped by to drop off the hard-copies of the quotes from the IT vendors for the new building. What I may have not written is that we had talked at length about soups when we were at the Polish restaurant (she had cabbage and I had dill pickle, if you remember). Anyway, she said that I had inspired her with my description of my leek and potato soup. So she brought me a container of her "Farmer's Leek soup" that she had added few small potatoes, diced. She also had another container of "Zuppa Toscana" (an Olive Garden recipe that's apparently available online) with potato, Italian sausage, bacon and kale that her husband, Ken made. So, lunches for the coming weekend are secured!

At lunch I stopped at Westborn (I needed some oyster sauce for the fried rice). Since I was there anyway, I got next week's apples, some meat for more meatballs, some cheese and some veggies. As I was checking out, the store manager asked if I would like a bouquet of daffodils (there were buckets of them at each checkout). I said, "Sure, why not! It's got to be spring sometime!" She said, "That's just it! We are going to force it to be spring!"

I got home and put the flowers in a vase (well, an old glass milk bottle I use as a vase). I put everything else away and I noticed I never picked up the oyster sauce! So, I gave up making some lunch and went back to get it. From there I drove straight to work. My afternoon snack of apple and cheese will have to do double-duty as lunch, too!

Don, one of my coworkers, had dropped his car off to get electrical problems checked out and walked to work this morning (From Beech Daly and Plymouth road - about a mile and a half). I reminded him in the afternoon that it might have been 50 degrees this morning, but it was less than freezing now and suggested I drop him off at five. He reluctantly agreed (he didn't want to "bother" me) and I drove him to the auto repair shop and then went home.

I stopped at the mailbox and found two new magazines and NO bills! Cool!! I went through the nightly ritual, posted an entry about Catholic Lenten Fish Frys and then sat on the couch, with a glass of wine, checking out the magazines.

The next thing I knew, it was 7:00 PM! I took a picture of my daffodils and when I downloaded it to the computer found other pictures I had taken. So, I posted them all. I moved the daffodils onto my nightstand, so I would dream of spring.

I decided the last of the meatball and pasta leftovers would be dinner tonight. I warmed it up in the microwave and wandered in to see what's on TV. I ended up watched some taped shows waiting for the Friday Night Fights. I fell asleep in the middle of the main event, BTW. When I woke up to use the bathroom, I turned everything off and turned in.

Friday, February 27, 2009

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My gift of spring from Westborn

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The salmon and the too-crispy skin

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The marinated pork chops, fresh off the grille

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Eggplant frying and drying stations

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Eggplant breading station

Now that it's Lent, just an FYI:

Many Catholic churches sponsor a Friday Fish and Chips dinner during Lent. I remember with fondness (and a little drooling) going to the one in St. Clair with our neighbors, John and Sue.

I haven't checked out any of the local Catholic churches (hey, I already KNOW where I'm going when I die and, at least I'll be with my friends, okay?) But if you want some good chow and a real sense of neighborhood community, check it out!

Grillin' and chillin'

Thursday dawned, misty (just short of foggy), here in Redford. But it was still warm!

I had errands to run at lunch, south and west of here in Westland, so I didn't make it home. I ate a small Greek salad at the Newburgh Grille (and, "small" is not a description, BTW. It took everything I could do to eat it all!) I did my errands, including getting a full tank of gas (first time in I forget how long).

It's supposed to rain tonight, but stay warm until the front moves through. Then we are back to winter. So, I have two objectives. I need to grille the marinated pork chops and cook the wild Alaskan salmon.

Now, obviously, I can't eat both tonight, so my plan is to sear the chops, let them cool and finish them in the oven another day. The salmon however is, I think, an "eat tonight" thing or throw it away.

So, with rain showers threatening, the first thing I did when I got home was to pull out the pork chops and drain the marinade. The solids went through a sieve and into the garbage and the liquid down the drain. I let them sit on a platter to come to room temperature.

Meanwhile, I dragged out the grille and put it on the garage apron. I lit some paper under the charcoal starter and while that was doing its thing, I cleaned off the grates.

I noticed I was getting a few strange looks from neighbors on their way home, BTW.

Back inside, I sliced through the salmon flesh about 1/4 inch deep, diagonally about every inch. Then I rubbed it with the salmon rub from Seattle.

I got the charcoal spread and the grates oiled and then started with the pork chops. Oh, it was sprinkling and getting dark by then. I grilled them for three minutes and then turned them 90 degrees for another three minutes. Then I turned them over and repeated the process and, when the time was up, I pulled them off.

I cleaned and re-oiled the grates and then put on the salmon, skin side down. Now, here's the problem. You are supposed to see it cook from the bottom up and when it's all the same color, its done. But, its dark now and even with the garage lights on, I can't see the color of the fish. So, I guessed at it and picked it up from the skin after about two minutes. It separated nicely, but the skin was burned, so I couldn't use it.

I took it inside to rest and went out to take care of the grille. I spread the charcoal out so it would cool faster, shut all the vents and wheeled it up on the porch (I had put the rocker in the garage before starting). I can't put it in the garage with the charcoal still hot or the carbon dioxide (or is it monoxide?) sensors in the house will go off. Also, it is raining a bit harder and I don't want my grille to get too wet overnight.

Back in the house, I put the chops in a baggie and into the fridge. I plated the salmon with the wild rice I had made on the stove. Delicious!!!

I ate it watching TV (the taped Top Chef from Wednesday night) and when the show was done, I went to bed.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another day in Paradise

Wednesday morning was the first time this week I remembered to eat my porridge for breakfast. I ate it the traditional Irish way, topped with a splash of buttermilk. So, now we will see if eating breakfast can nudge me off this plateau and get me losing weight again.

I went home at lunch, but before I did, I stopped at Meijer's for some eggs and more of the steel-cut oatmeal. Somehow they both fell off the grocery list last week.

It was raining when I left work at 5:00 PM, just long enough to screw up my commute. It took me five minutes to get home, instead of the usual three, lol!

After greeting and treating the cats and then changing clothes, I started the Wednesday night laundry. Walking back and forth from the bedroom to downstairs, I decided it was time to do some sweeping. It's less a dirt problem than a Caley cat-hair thing. I swear that cat sheds so much, it's a wonder she ain't bald!

So, I did the office, my bedroom, the hallway, the living room and finally the kitchen. I was careful how I moved because my back, while better, is still a little "twingey." Since I was in the groove, I vacuumed both the downstairs walk-off rugs (each "tagged" with Caley hair) and the tile floor, itself.

I checked the stove, and miracle of miracles, the two burners lit! So, I put away the grill lighter. I guess they just needed some time to dry out after I boiled them. I washed up the pasta pan and strainer from last night. Then I washed down the counter top. I threw the laundry into the dryer, set the timer and filled in the Blog post.

It was almost 7:00 PM and time for dinner. So, I got out my breading station (a present from Lu, if you remember) and set it up with flour, beaten eggs and last, more flour, seasoned with the house seasoning (1/4 cup ground black pepper, 1/4 cup garlic powder and 1/2 cup salt - hey, come on, I shouldn't have to keep reminding you!)

BTW, as much as I like the look and the functionality of my now tile-covered countertop, it sucks if you are using flour for anything. Whether making pasta dough, pizza, biscuits or even the breading station, I am envious of people with flat surfaces for a counter top. I have WAY too many cracks and crevices that let the flour stick and hide! Pain in the butt!

So, I got out my cast iron frying pan, put in about 1/3 inch of canola oil and heated it up. While that was warming, I peeled the eggplant and then cut it into one-inch slices. While the oil got hot, I made my draining station. I took a cookie sheet, covered it with paper towels and put a rack on top.

I fried the eggplant in batches, until the slices were golden brown. Then I drained them on the rack and transferred them to a half sheet tray in the warm oven. Then I ate them with relish!

I was going to try and stay up until 10:00 PM to watch the last episode of Top Chef, but I was beat and let it tape, instead.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fat Tuesday

I shouldn't have mentioned the cold on Monday, as it was even colder Tuesday morning! It was 4 degrees F. when I carried the trash bags out to the road.

However, it did warm up nicely to a high of just around 32 degrees F. during the day.

Monday night, while I was scouring the fridge and freezer for things to either eat or throw away, I came across the last frozen 4-cup container of meatballs and tomato sauce I had made on New Year's Eve. So, I took it out to thaw.

I was surprised when I got home that there was no mail in the box (I always get something, mostly trash). Back inside, I took out the meatballs and tomato sauce; put it in a sauce pan and on the stove on "low".

If you recall, I splashed grease on the stove Friday, making my fish and fries. Well, ever since, the front burner would not light. So, tonight, I took the components of that burner and boiled them in salted water. Jake also suggested rubbing the igniter with steel wool, so I did that, too. We'll see...

Meanwhile, I glanced outside and saw the post office vehicle, dropping off my mail. Since I had already donned my workout shorts and T-shirt (and, not willing to give my neighbors a chance to laugh) I hopped in the car, pulled it back out and got the mail.

Again, it was mostly trash, but it did have my winter tax bill. My estimated taxes are now more than 5% less than last year. So, good news, I pay less taxes. But bad news, my house is now appraised at less than I owe on it... Sigh...

All my efforts to fix the stove were for naught. I lit the big front burner with my grill lighter and started to boil some salted water for the pasta. I am using linguine, simply because I have two boxes of that.

When the linguine was done (about one minute before "al dente") I pulled it off and drained it. I put it back in the pasta pan and added the sauce and meatballs. Why before it was al dente? Because, it will suck up the sauce that way. Then I tossed it together. I hit it with the last of the basil and an equal amount of parsley, diced, to give it a fresh bit of flavor.

I let it all get happy while I responded to a phone call. I got a voicemail, so I left a message and moved on.

Excellent dinner! My only complaint is that I made the meatballs too big, so next time I will make them just a tad smaller. I think two or three small ones on a plate would look better than one big one, lol!

I watched some TV, then went to bed early again.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monday Moanin'

It was cold on Monday, but I went grocery shopping at lunchtime, anyway. I need to make up for my wasted Sunday. My back is still hurting, BTW, so I am moving very carefully. I can't afford to have it spasm!

I got all the shopping done and then headed home. I managed to unpack it, put it all away and still eat a sandwich before heading back to work. I replaced about half of the spices and herbs that I threw away (it was all I could afford, this time).

Once home after work, I stripped the bed and started the wash machine. I had picked up two types of protein this shopping trip. One was a nice salmon steak, with the skin on and the other were two beautiful, bone-in, center cut pork chops (each about I 1/2 inches thick).

So, while the laundry was in the dryer, I started to make a brine. This is a Chef Anne Burrell (one of my favorite chefs) recipe, by the way and nothing for a quick weeknight meal. The chops have to be in the brine for at least three days!

So, to 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) of cold water, I added 1/2 cup of salt, 1/3 cup of sugar, two tablespoons of fennel seeds, two tablespoons of coriander seeds, one teaspoon of red pepper flakes and three bay leaves. I whisked that all together until the salt and sugar had dissolved.

Then I got out my trusty Wusthof and fine-diced one medium onion, two ribs of celery and two peeled carrots. I smashed and peeled four cloves of garlic. Then I stirred it altogether one more time and set in the two pork chops. Note: this recipe is for four pork chops, BTW, but since my two big, bad boys weighed over four pounds, I made the whole thing.

I put this in my only remaining Tupperware dish (an ugly orange thing with a nice, tight sealing lid). I popped it in the fridge and made a mental note to shake it up any time I open the fridge. Then, I took the clothes out of the dryer and made up the bed.

Since tomorrow is garbage day, its typically leftover's for dinner. Use it or lose it, I always say. I didn't find anything on TV that sounded interesting, so I went back to reading until about 9:00, then I went to bed.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Backache

I woke up at 5:30 AM on Sunday (my usual weekday time). I tried to fall back asleep, but it didn't work. So, I read a magazine until about 7:00, when it seemed okay to get up on my day off. My back hurts, BTW.

I did the Blog entry and then warmed up a cup of yesterday's coffee. Then I put all the stuff from under the kitchen sink back. Before I did, I refilled all three of the pump hand soap dispensers.

I'm hungry, but first I need to make this coming's week's breakfast. This is the area in my "diet" where I am most lacking, as I usually don't eat breakfast. So, I heated up four cups of water and added the last of my Irish oatmeal that Jake and Carla got me. Once it started to thicken, I turned it down to simmer and stirred it occasionally. After 30 minutes, I pulled it off to cool.

Then I pulled out some of the ham I had frozen, but then thawed yesterday. I put that in a skillet and warmed it up. Looking out the kitchen window, I saw an enterprising squirrel, snacking first on the suet cake and then the seeds in the bird feeder. So, I took his picture through the bathroom window and posted it.

When the ham was warmed, I plated it and put it in the microwave. Then I added some butter and fried two eggs, over easy (another perfect flip, BTW). I ate that, listening to "Sunday Morning, Over Easy."

I cleaned up the dishes and put the porridge into a Glad container for next week.

I am not sure why but, as I mentioned, my back is killing me today. This is hampering working on my ToDo list. Actually, I blew the whole damn thing off and concentrated on not moving when it would hurt me.

By chance, I started watching the History Channel, which had an all day marathon of UFO stories: Fascinating!

I warmed up yesterday's soup and this time, when it was hot, I added half a bag of washed, baby spinach. I ate that for lunch with another slice of the Italian bread. When it cooled off, I froze the rest of it.

I kept watching the History channel, hoping my back would ease up. It didn't, but at 6:00 PM, I got up and made a simple pizza dough.

I let it rise for 30 minutes, and then rolled it out. I made two pizzas, neither one using a tomato sauce base.

The first one was brushed with olive oil and sesame oil, then topped with a cup of fresh spinach (sliced into 1/2 inch strips), mozzarella cheese and sliced mushrooms.

The second one was brushed with olive oil as well, and then topped with ham, slices of fresh tomato, fresh basil and diced red onions, and then mozzarella cheese.

I topped both of them with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano when they came out of the oven. Then I had a taste contest. The ham pizza clearly won. The spinach and mushroom one was b-o-r-i-n-g!

I cleaned up the considerable mess and went in to watch my Sunday night shows.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

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Enterprising squirrel, eating suet

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Same squirrel, eating out of the bird feeder

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Where do I find this oatmeal?

Big Snow Bust!

I woke up at 6:30 AM and put on some coffee. Then I jumped into the shower. The Water guy can come anytime between 8:00 AM and 2:00 PM. I am hoping he is here and gone before the snow gets heavy. I can grocery shop during the week but I need some fresh produce for this weekend.

I thought that today, with the forecasted snow, would be perfect for soup. So, I took out the last two 4-cup containers left of the beef vegetable soup I made this week. I put that in my Dutch oven. It had thickened, of course, so I added four cups of homemade chicken broth and brought it to a boil.

I really liked that idea of the refrigerator soup (Chef Jacques Pepin's wife makes soup once a week with whatever's leftover in the fridge and calls it "Refrigerator Soup"). So, I started checking and found some sliced red onions left from a salad and about 1/4 pound of mushrooms. After I sliced the mushrooms, into the pot they both went. I remembered I had half a box left of elbow macaroni in the cupboard, so in that went, too. I simmered it for a bit and then taste-tested it. Hmmm... needs a bit more pepper and a little heat. So, I added fresh ground pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Then I turned it on low and put the cover on it. Now, whenever I am hungry, I can just dig in.

I can't really get into any big project while waiting for the guy, so I did little things, like replacing that nose piece on my spare glasses, and starting the laundry.

He ran the bell at 10:45 AM (still no snow yet) and said, "Not this house again!" I explained that I told the lady that he had just replaced the meter last fall, so it has to be the outside wire but she said I had to be here anyway. He said, "I found the wire cut in half on the side of your house already. I should know in about five minutes if that's it and will let you know."

Nope. That wasn't it. He can't see any obvious other breaks. He went into the back yard and checked the wire there (now, it's snowing and pretty hard, too). Once he was back inside he said, since the wire was so old and patched in two places already, he would just replace the whole thing. But, he said, "Can I ask you a favor? I have a 40 mile drive home after I'm done today (he told me the last time he lived in Imlay City) and I still have one more stop to make. Can I just rerun the wire on the next maintenance Saturday? I said, "Sure! I wanted to get to the grocery store before it got too bad! When is it and do I need to call and make another appointment?" He said, "That would be March 14 and, no, I'll set it up for you. You just have to remember it!" I wished him a safe journey home and he was gone in a flash. I marked the date on my calendar and hit the road, myself.

It wasn't slippery yet, so I hustled up to Westborn. I picked up a beautiful eggplant, a head of cauliflower, the Granny Smith and Gala apples (for my afternoon snacks at work next week), four tomatoes on the stem, some red leaf lettuce, more mushrooms, a loaf of that Italian bread (to go with the soup today) and a beautiful bunch of fresh basil (roots and all).

When I came outside, I had to brush the snow off all my windows. And, driving was now treacherous. You would slip and slide whether taking off or stopping.

Back home, I treated the cats (they demanded it) and then put everything away. Here's a produce tip: Wherever it's located in the store, keep it in the same place in your house. So, for example, since the eggplant and tomatoes are not in the refrigerated section of the store, they don't go in the refrigerator in my house.

Now, with most herbs, I use the tried and true method of washing them once at home, letting them drain, wrapping them in a paper towel and sticking them in a zip-lock baggie and popping them in the fridge. However, that never seems to work on basil. So, I got out a vase and stick the basil bunch, roots and all, in there like fresh flowers (see photos).

I dished out a big bowl of soup for my breakfast/lunch and cut off two big slices of bread. Very satisfying!

I did a bit of computer work and then called a friend. We chatted for a while and, when we ended our call, I decided to take a nap. I woke up around 5:00 PM and went in to watch the taped cooking shows from this morning.

BTW, it had stopped snowing around 6:00 PM. I am not sure how the northern suburbs fared, but I don't think I even got two inches of snow here. I was glad I hadn't called the snowplow guy and asked him to stop over Sunday morning (which was the original plan).

Just before the 8:00 PM movie I wanted to watch (Clint Eastwood's, "The Outlaw Josey Wales") I got another bowl of soup and two more slices of bread. I ate it while watching the movie and then went to bed.

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Fresh Basil, for Sunday's dinner

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Calm before the Storm Redux

I slept lousy on Thursday night. I'm not sure why, but after years of not dreaming (or at least not remembering any dreams) I have started back up. And not like normal dreams, either. For example, Thursday's night's dreams included a huge black bull trying to crush me again the wooden pen it was in, a dragon with spiked horns coming out of his head and face wanting me to pet him and being back on Palms Road with Lu's sister Linda living with us while she tried to overcome serious psychological problems and screaming at me anytime I moved anything (that never happened, BTW).

And the weird part is when I am talking in the dream; I am also talking in reality, often waking myself up with my voice.

I dunno...

Anyway, it was cold on Friday, but also very sunny. So, it was hard to believe there is a big snow storm bearing down on Southeast Michigan.

At home after "Banging on the Drum" I changed clothes and treated cats. Then I got hot water and some Top Job and washed down the stove (I had splattered some grease making the fish and chips). It was hard to stop once I got started (hey, the water was hot and I was in the groove) and I ended up washing the whole counter and backsplash.

When it dried, I put everything back and got out my square tablecloth. Then I emptied everything from under the sink and put it on the table. The Water Department is sending over a guy on Saturday morning. There's something wrong with my water meter again and he needs to check it out.

About that time, my daughter Melissa called and we chatted a bit. She's also making fish, but in tinfoil pouches on the grille (lucky lady to live where it's warm enough to be grilling).

It was time for dinner, but I didn't feel like making anything, so I ate some leftovers (I cut the steak into thin strips that I salted, some cheddar cheese and crackers).

I watched a little TV, but went to bed just after 9:00 PM.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tempestuous Thursday (lol)

God, did the winds pick up today, which didn't help the low, low temperatures. There was a nasty wind chill all day. I had to go pick up some blueprints at B07 and I took the expressway to get there. I was amazed at the vans and taller SUVs being blown around in their lanes.

I went home at lunch and warmed up a big bowl of that vegetable soup. It was the first time I'd felt warm all morning.

When I got home after work, I was delighted to see that the downed AT&T phone line was gone. Thanks, guys!

I noticed the other day when I was looking for salmon that I had a bag of small ocean perch fillets. So, tonight (when I should be eating leftovers) I took some out to thaw. I am planning on fish and chips.

It took a while for them to thaw, so I started dinner kinda late. I decided to try a tempura batter and deep fry them (I have to do the French fries, anyway) instead of my usual corn meal, pan-fried fish.

I found a tempura batter recipe that sounded about right, so while the oil was heating, I sifted together the dry ingredients: 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup of cornstarch, one teaspoon of baking soda, one teaspoon of baking powder, one teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Then I whisked one egg with 2/3 cups of COLD water (I had put mine in the freezer for a bit), then quickly added the dry ingredients. I was careful not over mix it (its supposed to be like pancake mix, with a few lumps, etc.)

I did the French fries first, and then salted them while they drained on a rack over paper towels. I put them into a warm oven while I fried the fish. Those, too, went on the draining rack.

Finally, I plated everything. I topped the fries with malt vinegar and the fish with fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Hmmm... Nice light breading, not bad, but I like my way better.

I left the mess for the morning (it was late, remember?) and went in to watch a little TV.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Second Quote of the Day

on growing up in Manhattan with her two chef parents:

"We were never sure about the rent money, but there was always money for mushrooms."

~ Chef Alex Guarnaschelli

First Quote of the Day

On vegetarianism...

"I didn't climb to the top of the food chain to eat carrots!"

~ unknown comic

Wet Wednesday

Well, if we got snow last night, I never saw it. But, it did rain off and on all day Wednesday. But, I lucked out. When I went to work, it wasn't raining. When I left work for home at lunch, it wasn't raining. When I went back to work, it wasn't raining. And, finally, when I came home at 5:00 PM, it had just stopped raining!

Once home, I treated the cats. But, before I changed clothes, I went out back and refilled the suet cage. Then I did change clothes and started the Wednesday wash.

I took off the faucet strainer from the downstairs bathroom (its acting up, again) and found more sediment, clogging the hole. So, I took out the plastic diffuser (which had the sediment in it the last time and did this time, too) and reassembled it with just the screen. What troubles me is where this sediment is coming from!

I emptied the dishwasher and then went to get tonight's dinner out of the freezer. I had come across the salmon spice rub, "Rub with Love" by Tom Douglas, that Jake and Carla brought back for me from Seattle, during my spice sorting last weekend. So, I envisioned broiled salmon and wild rice. However, I went to the freezer and found I only had tilapia and ocean perch in the freezer. Damn!

I gotta get me some salmon!

But, meanwhile, I still need some dinner! So, knowing I have some open beef stock ticking away (less than a week to getting pitched) I put a pound of hamburger in some cold water to thaw.

The washer buzzer went off at 6:30 PM, so I threw the clothes in the dryer. I checked the hamburger and it was still semi-frozen. So, I started my beef soup without it. Now, Jyl would love this, because I am doing this on my own intuition.

BTW, I forgot to mention in our last exchange of comments that, while she is making food that her family likes, I also have the responsibility to translate what I do into this damn Blog. Now, I know, from many people who have told me personally, a lot people like to try to replicate my recipes. So, I can't just say "a bit of this," a "handful" of these herbs or a "dash of that." I have to be able to say a precise amount. And, I can't do that while "adjusting" for less than potent, aged herbs or spices.

So, I got out my small stock pot and, after adding some olive oil, saut�ed a large onion chopped. I added in four cloves of minced garlic during the last two minutes. Then I added the ground beef and cooked it until it wasn't pink.

While it was cooking, I peeled and diced four small russet potatoes and three carrots. When the meat was done, I add them and about 1/2 cup each of frozen corn, peas and green beans. I was gonna add some frozen spinach, but I could find any of that in my freezer, either!

Then I threw in the beef stock (about three cups). It didn't look like enough fluid, so I added another cup of water. For seasoning, I stuck with just salt, fresh ground pepper and a tablespoon of dried parsley flakes.

I let that simmer and get happy for an hour or so, while I hung up my clothes and then read a magazine that came today.

Finally, I filled a soup bowl and ate it watching TV. Simple, but damn tasty! I got another bowl (just to make sure it was good). I let the rest cool down and, later, transferred it to freezer containers. I got about three quarts of soup.

I went to bed about 9:30 PM, in case you are interested.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Calm before the Storm

Well, the amount depends on who you watch, but we are supposed to get snow, changing to rain tonight, and then changing back to snow on Wednesday morning. But, Tuesday morning dawned cold and clear.

Work was again a bit frantic. When I went home for lunch, I took some photos of the unused AT&T telephone line that come down. I didn't see it when I took the trash out and then left for work and was a bit shocked when I pulled in at lunch. I posted them, then.

Back at work, I called AT&T and reported the line down. I had to go through a lot of recorded messages, but I don't feel qualified to take it down, myself. Finally, I was told somebody would come out within the next four days and pull it off the house.

I was beat when I got home from work, but I went out and took some more photos of the tree branch that I believe caused the problem (I had an offline question asking what happened).

Like I said, I was beat, so I decided tonight was not a night to make another dinner, or to just eat leftovers. So, I made a simple salad with the rest of the leaf lettuce, a little chopped celery (for crunch), a bit of radicchio (for bitter) and some sliced red onions. I am convinced that raw red onions are the best in a salad, followed only by Vidalia's when they are in season. Anything else: yellow, sweet, white, etc. is too strong for my taste.

I tossed everything and let that sit and get happy for a bit while I watched the news. Then at about 7:00 PM, I took out a Marie Callender's chicken pot pie from the freezer and made up a simple balsamic vinaigrette dressing for the salad.

I ate the salad, waiting for the pot pie to get done. When it was finished, so was I, so I plated the pot pie. A little salt and I was happy!

I went to bed around 11:00.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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Another shot of the downed wire.

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I think this is the culprit for bringing my line down.

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Old phone line, draped over the roof and down on the ground

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Old phone line, stuck in tree

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Celery root and parsnips

Monday, Monday...

It was cold here, but sunny on Monday. I'm used to the cold, but seeing the sun was great!!!

I had a long, hectic day at work and was glad to get home. I went through the usual routine; all except checking the mail (its President's Day and no mail).

I sat on the couch, checking out a magazine that came on Saturday (hand delivered by my neighbor, if you recall). About 6:30 PM, I went out to make dinner. Tonight's dinner is not about the protein, it's about the side dish!

So, I took a Porterhouse steak I had thawed and let it get up to room temperature.

Meanwhile, I pealed a celery root (ugly little thing, looks like a deformed rutabagas - see Photos) that weighed about a pound. I cut that into cubes and put it in a saucepan. Then I peeled a pound of parsnips, cut them up and into the pan they went, too. I added some water and salt, brought it to a boil and turned it down to simmer.

Meanwhile, I seasoned both sides of the steak with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and a little garlic powder. I got out the cast iron frying pan, put in a little canola oil and got it smoking hot! I turned on the vent fan and cracked the kitchen window. I seared the one-inch thick steak for five minutes on the first side and three on the second. I put it on a plate, topped it with a pat of butter, loosely covered it with tinfoil and let it rest.

I had two plum tomatoes that I bought for the gumbo that were starting to look tired, so I sliced them in half, drizzled them with olive oil, seasoned them and popped them in the toaster oven to roast.

When the parsnips and celery root were fork tender, I drained them. I put them in the blender with one cup of milk, 1/2 cup of sour cream, two tablespoons of butter and pureed it all.

I plated the steak, the roasted tomatoes and the celery root and parsnip puree (seasoned with some salt and pepper) and ate dinner. Excellent! The steak was a perfect medium rare and I loved the side dish. This one's a keeper! The tomatoes were a nice, refreshing palate cleanser, BTW.

I watched a little TV, but shut it off at 9:00 PM and went to bed. I was tired...

Monday, February 16, 2009

My first (but not last) brush with the law

A recollection...

Across the ball field, where my Dad had his flagpole, (he loved the American flag, which is why, to this day, I always have one flying) which was west of the old farmhouse, lived a neighbor. My first recollection was a trailer, up on blocks. The people who lived there then were from the South, with a heavy hillbilly (it was still PC correct to call them hillbillies, back then) accent. All I remember about them is how their four year-old son drove their car into the rather deep ditch out front.

How, you might ask? Back then the starter was a button on the floor of the car. You would turn on the key, press the button with your foot and the car would start. If you didn't have the key in the ignition, the starter would still turn over. And, if it was left in gear, the car would lurch forward. So, this little kid stepped on the starter, the car jumped a few feet and he apparently thought, "Hey, cool!"

So, he kept doing it until the car ended up in the five-foot deep ditch. A wrecker was needed to get it out!

They moved on and the trailer was bought by an older woman (my sister Anne and I called her the "crazy lady"). Anyway, one day, I was outside and noticed there was a police car in the crazy lady's driveway. Intrigued, (I had never seen a real police car before), I wandered over (I was maybe seven or eight years old, BTW).

One of the policemen (back then, before all these budget cuts, there was always two policemen in a squad car) saw me and called me over.

I crossed the ditch (where the dreaded poison ivy lived) and went to talk to him. "This is so cool!" I thought.

He said, "Son, this nice lady says that that 'somebody' is hiding in her field and making Bobwhite calls at her!"

He asked, "Boy, can you make a Bobwhite call?"

Now, three things came to mind:

1. There were Bobwhite Quail everywhere, why you picking on me?
2. Any kid in the country could make a Bobwhite call (Its simple. It's three notes. In fact, I used to have fun luring the horny quail to the house on Palms Road. Until I realized it would be the same as hearing a seductive feminine voice saying, "Hey, big guy, you come here often?" and turning around and finding a chicken or something fowl there). So, I stopped doing it.
3. I had listened to the propaganda every since I was small that the cops were my friends. So, why did he call me "Son?" I ain't his son! My parents are George and Helen, dammit! And, what happens if I imitate a Bobwhite Quail, perfectly?

So, at like seven or eight, I gave a really (really) bad imitation of a bobwhite call... They let me go after advising me not to hide in the fields and scaring the old lady.

I left, having a life-long aversion to law enforcement...

Sunday's Story

I woke up on Sunday at 5:30 AM. I debated whether or not to get up, but I decided I didn't have any sleep left in me. So, I got up and made a fresh pot of coffee. I finished the Blog and posted it.

I started looking in the fridge for breakfast inspiration and saw the rest of the mushrooms were starting to look a bit sad. So I sliced them up, along with some scallions and saut�ed them. Then I added three eggs with some milk whisked in, some fresh ground pepper and dried thyme (thyme and mushrooms are best friends, you see). After they set, I topped the omelet with some shredded Colby-Jack cheese. Two pieces of buttered toast and I was good to go.

I cleaned up the dishes and the kitchen. Then I started cleaning the rest of the house. I swept, vacuumed, dusted and dust-mopped the living room, the office and the bedroom. Then I swept the upstairs bath. I got a bucket of water and some Top Job and washed all the surfaces in the bathroom with a sponge, and then I mopped the floor.

I emptied the vacuum cleaner and took the filter out to the garage. With the door opened, I used the air compressor to blow the filter out. Since I had turned the compressor on, I checked and filled the car tires as needed. Then I filled up the car's windshield washer reservoir.

Back inside, it was almost 11:00 AM. I went downstairs to shave and shower. Cleaned up, I decided to deviate from the ToDo list and take care of something that's been bugging me (I sometimes like to be a deviate, lol!)

When I was looking for the dried thyme in my herbs and seasonings (which are EVERYWHERE) I came across two open Montreal Steak seasonings and two Caribbean Jerk seasonings. This annoyed me as well as reminding me that I have an undetermined amount of herbs and seasoning that are too old to keep. They lose potency after a year or so, you see. Now, some people (not naming names here) will argue you could just use just a bit more, but that's way too imprecise for me. How much more if they are one and a half years old, or two? I say pitch 'em!

I remember a while back seeing a McCormick ad that said something like "If you have McCormick spices or seasoning in a can in your cupboard, throw them away as we haven't used the cans in several years." I also noticed, as I started looking at them, that most spices and seasonings now have a "good through XXXX" date stamp on them. So, I got out every spice and seasoning I own (except for my birthday present from Joe and Kathy, because I know exactly when they will expire - my birthday, next year, lol). I took a picture of all of them on the kitchen table, BTW.

So, anything that didn't have a date stamp got pitched. And, anything that had a date stamp before June of 2009 got pitched as well. Things that came in two but were both good got combined.

Now, how to figure out what I need versus what I threw away, but had another jar? Hey, I admit I can't do squat with "Paint," but I am a whiz at Microsoft Excel (been using the spreadsheets, studying and sorting through financials, for like 15-20 years).

So, I entered everything on a spreadsheet in two columns - one: the spice or seasoning, and two: thrown away or kept. So, first, I sorted it under column A "Spice or Seasoning." Any entry that had duplicate entries (like garlic powder, "thrown away" and garlic powder "kept" was deleted. Next, I sorted it under column B (thrown away or kept) and deleted all the kept items. This now will be the start of next weekend's grocery list. I finished up this strange but needed task at 2:30 PM. In case you are wondering, I need to buy some 20 various spices, herbs or seasonings. The rejected stuff went into the trash (see Photos).

I was tired and my back really hurt (I think I really overdid the cleaning today), so I lay down and started watching taped shows. I fell asleep (finally) and woke up at 6:00 PM.

I immediately went to make my Sunday dinner (I got shows to watch, tonight!) I am making a "simple" dish of pasta with olives, garlic and herbs (it's a Cooks Illustrated recipe, BTW).

I combined three tablespoons of olive oil, one tablespoon of diced garlic, a tablespoon of tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, a tablespoon of minced anchovy (I used about six fillets), 1/4 cup of oil-packed, diced sun-dried tomatoes (rinsed and patted dry) and one cup of pitted kalamata olives (rinsed and coarsely chopped) in a mixing bowl and set it aside.

I put two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and browned 1/2 cup of bread crumbs. After about four minutes, I added a tablespoon of garlic and some salt and saut�ed that about a minute more. I set that aside and wiped out the skillet with paper towels.

Meanwhile, I made a pound of rigatoni pasta in salted boiling water. While the pasta was cooking, I returned the skilled to medium heat and added in the olive mixture. I cooked that until the olives were fragrant and the oil had turned a rusty red (about five minutes).

I removed 3/4 cup of pasta water and added it to the olive mixture I let that simmer for another two minutes. When the pasta was al dente, I reserved another 1/2 cup of pasta water, drained it and returned the pasta to the pot.

I added the olive mixture and tossed over medium heat until the pasta absorbed most of the liquid (about two more minutes).I added in 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and adjusted the consistency of the sauce with the reserved pasta sauce (Sauce should cling to the pasta but not be too loose or runny). I removed it from the heat and stirred in a generous amount of fresh, rough-chopped parsley and basil leaves.

I plated it and topped it with the bread crumbs and more cheese.

I ate supper watching my Sunday night shows. It was good, but I think I like my Pasta Puttanesca better (and it was a hell of a lot easier to make!)

I made it through two of the three shows, but fell asleep around 10:30. But, don't worry, I taped them, too.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

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All the seasonings, herbs and spices in my cupboard.

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Probably $60+ bucks worth of seasoning and spices i threw out

Snowy Saturday...

I woke up at 7:30 AM and wandered out to make coffee. I was shocked when I looked out the window! That light snow that started on my way home yesterday had never stopped. I've got about 3 inches on the ground and it's supposed to keep snowing until early afternoon.

I started the laundry and finished the Blog.

In keeping with the Polish theme from yesterday, I checked the freezer. Sadly, I don't have any kielbasa, but I took out some smoked sausage, and set it out to thaw. Then I went out to the "root cellar" in my garage and got a small head of cabbage. This will be made into tonight's dinner.

I started straighten things up. I wish I had taken my shower first, before starting the laundry, because I have to keep wearing my robe. I refuse to put clean clothes on a dirty body! I hung up the first load (pants, shirts and socks) and then, when the second load (bedspread and blanket) finished washing, I put it in the dryer and hopped into the shower.

So, I'm trying another one of Lu's goat soaps. This time it's "Heather." It's very mild with a light, but refreshing aroma. I got dressed and made myself some brunch (my favorite go-to breakfast - roast beef hash topped with two over-easy eggs. I am an egg yolk slut!)

I put the third load into the washer (the sheets and pillow cases, my bathrobe and the downstairs bath towel).

I cleaned up the dishes and, while looking out the kitchen window, spotted a male and female cardinal at the feeder. Knowing from past experience that taking a photo through the kitchen window screen does not work, I snuck into the bathroom and shot it from the top window.

I don't have enough "zoom" in the camera to get it nice and tight, so I tried to crop it using "Paint." It didn't work, so frustrated, I emailed it to the Webmaster and asked him to fix it. He did and also adjusted the color (thanks, BTW). When he sent it back, I posted it, but you will probably have to click on it to enlarge it and see the happy couple (use your browser's "back" button to return).

Then I started working on replacing the switches and plugs in the downstairs bath. I wasn't brave this time and turned off the power, lol!

What a pain in the butt! I used a razor knife to cut the paint around each switch plate, but missed a little on the bottom of the shower light one. So, naturally, when I took it off, a chunk of paint came off as well. Dammit! I got out the paint and a foam brush and touched up the wall. Took way too long, but I finally switched out the old cream-colored ones for modern white ones. I took pictures for you and posted them.

Before I moved on from the downstairs bathroom, I took off the strainer from the faucet. I had noticed in the past few days I didn't seem to be getting the same water pressure as I had in the past. Sure enough, there was sediment in it. So, I used a toothpick to get it out and then reassembled. Bingo! That's better!!

Update on the weather: it's still snowing a little, but the temperature must have gotten above freezing because the depth of the snow has diminished and I'm getting a lot of drips from the roof.

I am a little concerned about Scruffy. First he threw up on my mattress (the bed clothes are in the dryer/washer, if you remember). Ticked a little, I cleaned that up and sprayed it with Fabreeze to kill any smell (it is treated with Scotch-gard, BTW). Then he barfed on the kitchen floor (note: these are not the usual hairballs, just barf). I cleaned that up as well (and, its okay, I have to wash the floor anyway).

But then he jumped up on the daybed (covered, if you remember, with plastic to keep Caley's hair off), where he never goes. He went to one end and worked the plastic up and then burrowed under it. Weird, I thought. So, I pulled the plastic back while I was gently talking to him. I went to pet him and he snapped at me (which he never does). So, I left him alone, but am keeping an eye on him and keeping Caley away.

So, I started the last load of laundry: the rugs from both bathrooms. Then I move the kitchen chairs, the butcher-block cart and the trash basket into the living room, swept the kitchen floor and then washed it and the downstairs bathroom floor. I finished at 4:30 PM. Since I have to wait for it to dry, I decided to take a nap.

I was relieved when Scruffy jumped up on the bed to join me. I petted him for a long time and scolded him, telling him to stop scaring me!

I read for a bit and then Lu called. We caught each other up on the local news. After we finished, I put the book down and tried to sleep. I was almost there when the doorbell rang. It was my neighbor. She brought over some letters and a magazine the mailman had mistakenly put in her mailbox. I thanked her and we chatted a bit. Once she left, I gave up on the nap idea and started dinner.

I took the first eight or nine outer leaves off the cabbage and then cut it into eight wedges (I left the core in so it wouldn't fall apart). I put my metal steamer rack into the small stock pot, added the cabbage wedges and then the smoked sausage, cut on the bias. I added two cups of beef stock, brought it to boil and then turned it down a bit and covered the pot. But, I think I may have over-thought the steam idea. After one hour, cabbage was still not fork tender... So, I was starving and the smell of the beef stock wasn't helping... I should have put the cabbage directly into the beef stock.

Finally, though, it was ready. I ate it with salt on the cabbage and coarse-grained mustard for the sausage. Maybe not too Polish, but delicious!

I did up the dishes and then went in to watch the taped cooking shows from this morning until HBO'S Boxing After Dark came on. I started to doze off around 10:30 PM, so I turned it off and went to sleep.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

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Downstairs Shower Light Switch (before)

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Downstairs Shower Light Switch (after)

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Main Downstairs Bathroom Light Switch (before)

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Main Downstairs Bathroom light switch (after)

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A pair of cardinals at the feeder (tip 'o the hat to the Web Master for helping fix this photo)

Friday, visiting Poland

The temperature was just at freezing when I left the house for work Friday morning. So, winter has returned.

I had an 11:00 AM meeting with Michelle in Facilities reviewing blueprints of our newest building. She is handing the construction and I am in charge of the network and phone infrastructure. Michelle used to work for me, BTW, back when I also was in Facilities.

So, our discussion covered the MDF, three IDF's, the fiber (it's one long-ass building) and copper, patch panels, punch-down blocks and racks. (Mom, I could explain it all to you, but it's really not that interesting, lol!)

So, we went out to lunch after our meeting, to that Polish-American family restaurant my barber had told me about. It turns out Michelle loves Polish food. Now, to me, Polish food is pierogies, golabki (stuffed cabbage), which I always thought was pronounced "glumpkeys" or kielbasa and sauerkraut. But, what do I know?

Since I was finally here, I knew I had to try the Dill Pickle soup my barber raves about. Michelle assured me that she has had it in other Polish restaurants and it was great. And, it was! She had the cabbage soup and said it was really good, too. The soup added 50 cents to the bill, but it was a real bowl, not a little cup. I was close to being full after just the soup!

She had fish and nalesniki (which I had also never heard of). It turns out, nalesniki is like a Polish version of a crepe, filled with various things, either sweet or savory (she got the cheese ones). I did try a bite, but it was too sweet for my taste. I had the fish and chips (with malt vinegar) that were also quite good. Both lunches also came with a big bowl of coleslaw. The total bill was just $16.80. So, it was good food and lots of it at a reasonable price. I will have to thank my barber!

Speaking of barbers, while we were eating, four older guys came in, dressed in white tuxedos. They stopped at a table out of our immediate sight and began singing (A cappella) "Let me call you sweetheart." They were a barbershop quartet and apparently it was someone's anniversary!

Do I know how to pick 'em or what?

She left for another meeting and I drove back, stopping at Westborn for next week's five apples (three Gala and two Granny Smiths) that I eat as my afternoon snack at work. On the way out the door, I glanced at the pile of round wood boxes that are always there (so much so that I never pay them any attention). But, today I noticed there is a sign that say, "Free, please take!"

I realized that, while Westborn does sell all kinds of artisanal cheeses, they also do sell some cheese under their own name and these must be the boxes the rounds come in. Once they cut them up and package them, what else would they do with the boxes? So, on a whim ("Hey, I could do something with these," I thought) I took a short one (6 inches high and 15 inches in diameter) and a bigger one (8 inches high and 16 inches in diameter). I have NO idea what I could use these for, but if any of you have a suggestion, please comment! I posted a picture so you know what I am talking about.

It was snowing lightly when I left work. See, here's the mix bag of blessings working so close to home. I save a lot of gas and can leave for work later and get home earlier (on the plus side) but my car doesn't get warm (not even the heated seats) and I never get to listen to the "Bang the Drum" song all the way through on Friday night!

Once home and the nightly rituals performed, I started to write this all up to post tomorrow. It's hard to remember everything if you don't. I realize I have become a slave to this, BTW. I may get a T-shirt made up that just says "Blog Bitch!"

I thought I should get at least one of the many items on the ToDo list done, so I went and got some tools and put the hand towel holder back on the wall in the downstairs bathroom. I took some photos and posted them.

I got a phone call from my friend about 7:30 PM and we talked a while. When I got off the phone, I realized it was a bit late for making a real dinner, so I made a tuna fish sandwich.

I ate it reading my book on the couch and realized (once again) I cannot make them taste like my Mom's did. But, this time, I finally realized why! (Uh, Duh!) Back in the day, my Mom used tuna fish packed in oil, while Luanne converted me to using tuna packed in water years ago. That's got to be the difference!

I read my book until I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up around midnight, found my glasses and went to bed.

Friday, February 13, 2009

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Hand towel rack, before

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Hand towel rack, after

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Free cheese boxes

Happy 1234567890 Day!

The things I learn, working in IT...

In Unix, time is counted in seconds since the epoch (January 1, 1970). This evening at 6:31:30 PM, the time will be equal to 1234567890

Have fun celebrating! I know I have my party hat and noisemaker ready!!

Windy Thursday...

Now, the alliteration would have been better if I could have said Windy Wednesday, but the wind didn't get bad until early Thursday morning.

Be that as it may, I spent most of the day worrying about tree branches crashing through my roof. But, when I got home at 5:00 (or should I say, blew in from work?) no BIG branches were down. But, all the little branches that came down will have to be dealt with before I can mow this spring.

Dinner was leftovers and I spent the evening reading, first on the couch and then in bed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, in the rain...

It was foggy, but not yet raining when I went into work on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it was raining when I left to go to another building for a meeting at 9:30 AM. It was also raining when I went home for lunch and then home at 5:00 PM.

Needless to say, with two days of warm temperatures and now the rain, there is no snow left in my yard!

Once home, I went through the daily rituals and then started the Wednesday night wash. I read my book on the couch, with the fireplace turned on and reluctantly got up to put the clothes in the dryer.

For dinner, I made another old favorite. I browned a pound of hamburger and then took it out of the pan with a slotted spoon (this part was unnecessary as there was very little grease left). To the pan I added two small diced yellow onions. When they had softened, I threw in some diced garlic and fresh ginger (just to be different). Then I sliced about 1/2 pound of button mushrooms. When that was ready, I added the hamburger back in, along with two cups of chicken stock (I needed to use it up) and one cup of brown rice.

I put in some dried parsley and dried thyme. The last thing I added was some large-diced celery (so it would keep its crunch).

I brought that to a boil, reduced the heat to simmer and covered it. I let it do its thing for 25 minutes and checked on it (it needed another 5 minutes). Then I dished out a big bowl and topped it with good soy sauce.

I ate that watching some taped TV, but soon went back to my book. I read until I got sleepy, then shut off the light and went to bed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday's Thaw

Tuesday was an incredibly warm day here in Redford. We were supposed to break our all-time record high of 56 degrees F. So, for the first time in a long time, I got to wear a light jacket.

At lunch, I went to the Library to drop off my books and pick up some more. Unfortunately the one book my Mother told me about (Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen) was out! But, I did get three other books and hopefully, it will be in the next time I try. My Mother said it was so good that when she finished it the first time, she immediately began re-reading it.

I posted a photo I saw of an almost unbelievable sight. The accompanying story read in part:

"It was a chance encounter in the charred landscape of Australia's deadly wildfires: A koala sips water from a bottle offered by a firefighter. David Tree noticed the koala moving gingerly on scorched paws as his fire patrol passed. Clearly in pain, the animal stopped when it saw Tree.

'It was amazing, he turned around, sat on his bum and sort of looked at me with (a look) like, put me out of my misery,' Tree told The Associated Press on Tuesday. 'I yelled out for a bottle of water. I unscrewed the bottle, tipped it up on his lips and he just took it naturally.

He kept reaching for the bottle, almost like a baby.'

The team called animal welfare officers to pick up the koala Sunday, the day after deadly firestorms swept southern Victoria State.

'I love nature, and I've handled koalas before. They're not the friendliest things, but I wanted to help him,' Tree said.

Often mistakenly called koala bears because they resemble a child's teddy bear, the marsupial is actually a rather grumpy creature with a loud growl. It rarely comes down from the trees and doesn't like walking.

Koalas are especially vulnerable to wildfires because they move slowly on the ground."

Other photos of the wildfires, the burned out cars, the burned up homes and the dead people are just horrible. But this one touched me...

When I got home after work I checked and it did hit 58 degrees today, breaking the all-time record. We also broke the all-time record for the low temperature last night (it never got below 37 degrees F.) Now this is what I call a January Thaw! It's supposed to stay above freezing but with a LOT of rain tomorrow and high, possibly damaging winds (with flood watches). Then we go back to normal temps up to and through the weekend.

So, before I did anything else, I changed into my boots and took out my hoe. I ditched the large puddles in front of my drive into the ditch (Department of Redundancy Department) to help dry things out. Then I took the hoe and knocked down any remaining ice dams (only on the north side roofs). So, now it can rain all it wants and I don't have to worry...

Inside, I treated the cats and changed clothes. I emptied the dishwasher and cleaned the stove top.

For dinner, I first made a salad, with leaf lettuce, Romaine hearts and thin-sliced red onions, topped with vinaigrette. Since I had the knife out anyway, I diced up the two red peppers and two green peppers I bought for the gumbo ya-ya (they were starting to wrinkle up) and popped them into the freezer.

Then I warmed up the last of the linguine with clams and topped that with a healthy portion of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. I ate dinner watching TV, but shut it off when I was done and dug out a library book. I read that until I started nodding off, then turned out the lights and went to bed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

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Local CFA firefighter David Tree shares his water with an injured Australian Koala at Mirboo North after wildfires swept through the region on Monday, Feb. 9, 2009.

Starting another week...

I got a call at work Monday afternoon from my daughter, Melissa (or M______ as she prefers to be know). The first this she said (or rather, said LOUDLY) was, "I didn't do it!" I reassured her that I knew it was just an amazing coincidence that while she was giving me instruction on how to program the cable on Saturday, it went out. Thanks for calling, Babe! You made my afternoon!

One of the things I didn't get to over the weekend (probably because I feared it) was to do my taxes. I have all but two pieces of information, so I can take a preliminary run at it and see how much trouble (if any) I am in.

So, when I got home on Monday, the first thing I did was to go out back and give the squirrels some stale graham crackers, the rest of the white-flour saltines and the remains of the baguette from the Super Bowl weekend. Then I treated the rather impatient cats. When I glanced out the kitchen window, I didn't see any squirrels, but the mourning doves were having a feast!

Then I changed clothes and got out my tax info. I started plugging it into Turbo Tax. I have used this for years, since I have no investments, rental property or a second home in the Florida Keys. I am a simple man with simple problems, I guess.

It was after 7:30 PM when I finished, but according to this (and I always triple check it for the next few weeks) I will get a small refund. Well, I won't "get" it, but it will go against the back taxes I still owe from the bad old days. So, I am happy!

To celebrate, I made pan-fried ocean perch with a side of wild rice. I ate that watching the boxing from last Friday and, when it was over, I went to bed.

Before I did, I checked my email and found a message from my brother Joe. Part of the email said:

"Our parish (St. Joan of Arc) hosted a regional Mass tonight for several parishes which was celebrated by our new Archbishop as well as a lot of priests. Afterward, I waited for quite a while in line to say hello and when I finally got to the front and introduced myself was surprised when he asked where John is these days. I told him Redford and he said to be sure to say hello to you for him." Nice that he remembers...

Song Snippet

Walking in Memphis
~ Marc Cohn

Now Muriel plays piano
every Friday at the Hollywood
and they brought me down to see her
and they asked me if I would --
do a little number
And I sang with all my might
and she said --
"Tell me are you a Christian, child?"
And I said "Ma'am, I am tonight!"

Monday, February 9, 2009

No Gumbo Sunday

I woke up late on Sunday (I had a really bad night's sleep). First task was coffee and then breakfast (a ham and Swiss cheese omelet). Then I deboned the rotisserie chicken and put the carcass and the now-thawed big bird in my big stock pot. I covered it with water and brought it to a boil. Then I turned it down to a high simmer (you want to see the occasional bubbles bursting in the water)

While I was doing all that, I was watching the squirrels outside. If you were paying attention, I filled up the peanut feeder yesterday afternoon (for the first time in about six months). It was very interesting. The big grey squirrels found the peanut trail from the bird feeder to the squirrel feeder. They grabbed the peanuts and then tried to bury them in the little bit of snow left in the yard (everything is melting here. BTW). But, the little black squirrels got it immediately and ran up the tree to pig out on the peanuts.

Finally, I got to the Blog. Next, I took out the whole chicken out after an hour of simmering and cut off the poached breasts. Back in the stock pot went the carcass.

Meanwhile, I got out my medium stock pot (12 quarts) and put four sticks of butter (one pound) of butter in it to melt. I also started the last load of laundry for the weekend.

It was after 3:00 PM when I added the diced celery, onion and carrots. I let the stock simmer for another hour, but realized no way would I have time to make the gumbo today. So, I poured the melted butter back into a container and put it in the fridge.

I strained the stock and got seven quarts of it that I put in the freezer. I took the rest of the meat off the chicken and filled a container with that. I filled that up with stock as well (for chicken soup another day).

I got a call from my friend B___ and we chatted for a while. Then, it was almost time for my Sunday night shows!

I made a sandwich (not exactly the dinner I had pictured for today, lol) and went in to watch my shows. I went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Saturday weirdness...

I woke up early (no surprise after how much sleep I got Friday night). I made some coffee, had a cup and posted the Blog.

Next, I went through the fridge, cupboards and the pantry and worked out my grocery list. I have a lot of errands to run this morning and, while it's supposed to be warmer, it's also supposed to rain...

After shaving and showering, I left to get my haircut. As I always do, when the garage door went up, I stepped outside to look around. It was so warm, I went back in the house to check the thermometer. It was 44 degrees F. at 8:45 AM!

So, I got my hair cut, stopped at the Feed Store for another 40 pound bag of bird seed, filled up my tank with gas, and then went to Gordon Food Supply (GFS). I keep seeing people on TV using a nice rack on their half-sheet pans (square holes, like hardware cloth) and, since I buy the half sheet pans there, I was hoping they might have them. They didn't...

But, I did refill my pistachio stash (they are supposed to be good for reducing cholesterol), bought a pack of 12 bar towels (the huge pack Jake and Carla got me last year are just about all gone) and did an impulse buy of five pounds of roasted, salted peanuts in the shell (just for my squirrels).

Then I hit Kroger's, where I got some GREAT deals. I have a Kroger's card, you see, and after they total everything up, the receipt shows you what you saved. I spent $95.02 for two weeks of groceries and I saved $16.50.

Why in the hell do I still not have a CVS card? I guess I'm just a rebel...

Then it was on to WestBorn for my veggies and apples. I spent a bit more than usual there because, tomorrow, I want to try and make Gumbo Ya-Ya. It's a recipe from Mr. B's Bistro in New Orleans and it is getting close to Mardi Gras season. What's both daunting and challenging is it takes four hours at the stove to do!

BTW, legend say that the term "gumbo ya-ya" was a French-based dialect spoken in New Orleans during the 1800's. Another school of thought says that "gumbo ya-ya" referred to the chattering of women while they cooked in 19-century New Orleans (having been married twice, I lean towards the "chattering of women" theory, LOL). Cindy Brennan, proprietor of Mister B's in the French Quarter, says the restaurant's gumbo ya-ya is the best selling dish on the menu.

So, in addition to my usual produce and fruit, I needed Andouille sausage and a rotisserie chicken (now I could have roasted the damn chicken myself, but at $6, it ain't hardly worth the effort anymore).

Besides, I realized I only have one quart of homemade chicken stock left. So, early this morning (lol, like at 4:00 AM) when I thought of it, I got a 6+ pound chicken out of the freezer and put in on a rack to thaw. So that and the rotisserie chicken carcass will make me more stock today (or tomorrow if that big ole bird doesn't thaw in time).

So, I wanted to make bean soup with ham today. I loosely adapted another bean soup recipe, as I normally use the Senate Bean Soup recipe (repeatedly mentioned in this Blog), but I am a bit tired of it.

What I didn't know was this recipe called for the dried beans (in this case Great White Northern) to soak over night. Of course, there is a quick-fire method. So, at 1:00 PM, I spread the beans on my half sheet pan and sorted through them. I was amazed at finding NO stones!

So, I heated up some water and kosher salt, and threw the beans in the pot when it was boiling. I let them stand for an hour and then drained and rinsed them.

While that was happening, I went out and refilled the bird feeder and put the peanuts in the peanut feeder. I put a trail of peanuts from the bird feeder to the tree where the peanut feeder is, so the squirrels would get the concept.

Next, I took my medium-sized (12 quart) stock pot and added three quarts of cold water, 1/2 a big sweet onion (rough chopped), two stalks of celery (rough chopped as well) and 1 1/2 pounds of smoked ham hocks. I brought that to a boil and then turned it down to a simmer. I simmered that for over two hours (skimming occasionally).

I strained it and returned the broth to the now-cleaned stock pot. Note to self: Why in the hell didn't you taste it at this point?

So, I innocently added the beans to my stock and let them simmer for an hour. Then, I cut up all the ham I had in the fridge into nice cubes. I threw them in along with four skinny carrots (sliced), four peeled russet potatoes (cubed) and a teaspoon of Joe & Kathy's Bouquet Garni (which is a mixture of savory, rosemary thyme, oregano, basil, dill weed, marjoram, sage and tarragon).

I simmered that for another hour and then tasted tested... Oh shit! Way too salty and I never added any salt! I suspect it was the smoked ham hocks!

I peeled and put in a whole russet potato (the only way I know to pull salt out of a dish - but there are already four russet potatoes in there...)

After another hour, I dug out the whole potato and threw it away. I tasted it and it's still a bit salty. Shit! I can't give this to my Mom!

My daughter Melissa called somewhere in there, but I was too ticked to see who was calling or answer the phone. But, when I did check, I called her back. For some reason I don't remember, we got talking about our cable. We both have Brighthouse, BTW.

Warning: Amazing coincidence ahead!

She was telling me that she can see who is calling on her TV screen, so I said, "How does that work?" She instructed me to go to my TV and get "setting" on my remote. At that exact moment, the TV cable, the computer and the phone all stopped working!

I called her back on my "emergency" cell phone and yelled at her for telling me some secret trick or something that blew up my connection. She, of course, proclaimed her innocence. After we hung up, I called Brighthouse and found there was an overall loss of connection in Redford. What are the odds?

So, I had no TV, no phone and no internet for the rest of the night.

I put the bean soup in five quart containers and into the fridge (I am still deciding what I can do to save this soup before I freeze it). I grabbed an old favorite book and read until I fell asleep.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Song Snippet - Saturday Morning, Over Easy

~ from "TAXI" by Harry Chapin

Oh, I've got something inside me,
To drive a princess blind.
There's a wild man, wizard,
He's hiding in me, illuminating my mind.

Oh, I've got something inside me,
Not what my life's about,
Cause I've been letting my outside tide me,
Over 'till my time, runs out.

Finally Friday

Interesting fact. I got to work this morning (at the new building) before my heated seats heated up! I took in my drill and screwed on the triangle piece I took off my old desk yesterday to my new desk today. It's so I can put my keyboard in the corner.

I had all my boxes emptied and my cube set up by 10:00 AM. But, of course, that was not the end... I still had to unpack the four boxes of IT "supplies," paper clips, tape, CD's, file folders and so on.

In the afternoon, I had a lot of people come and congratulate me on how smooth this move went. At first, I was flattered. But, after a while, it became annoying. I mean, I've moved so many times in this company that I know how it should be done, dammit. I think I was just tired and out of sorts.

So, when I got home, I still treated the cats, but then I varied my normal routine. I turned off the light in Newt's tank, got out of my clothes, made sure the Friday Night Fights would be taped and then took a nap.

I slept until about 9:00 PM. My legs still hurt when I woke up. So, I skipped making dinner and made some popcorn instead. I ate that while reading a magazine that came in the mail today, still lying down. I deliberately did not turn on the TV, BTW. I finished the magazine about 11:00 PM, turned off the light and went back to sleep.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A reply from my Senator (I hope she means it!)

February 4, 2009

John Goerlich
Redford, MI 48239

Thank you . . .

. . for contacting me about the need for more legislation to help the economy. I agree that we need to do more to help our economy and help families in Michigan.

We are currently facing unprecedented challenges with health care, infrastructure, state budgets, housing, and the credit market. Timely federal assistance in these areas will shore up our economy and create the foundation that will help us weather the current recession. During these tough and uncertain times, I believe we must do everything we can to make sure families can keep food on the table, stay in their homes, and keep their jobs. As economic recovery legislation comes before me, I will keep your strong views in mind and share them with my colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee.

Thank you again for contacting me. Please continue to keep me informed about issues of concern to you and your family.

Sincerely,

Debbie Stabenow
United States Senator

Movin' On...

Well, I shouldn't have mentioned the cold yesterday, because it was -4 degrees F. (-20 degrees C.) this morning. Since I didn't do it last night, I treated the rest of the drains this morning before going to work.

Today was the big moving day for my IT group at work. Naturally, I am in charge of it. For some reason, my bosses think I am the only one who can get along with Facilities (probably because I worked there). So, there was a lot of organizing and a lot of walking around.

Now, last night, one of my nose-pieces on my glasses broke off. I checked and found one that would work on my spare pair of glasses, so I replaced it. But, of course, this leaves me with no spare pair. So, at lunch, I stopped in at my optometrist and asked if I could by a new pair of nose pieces. "No," she said, "give me your glasses." So I did. She took them and put two new nose pieces in my frames while I waited. She gave them back to me, along with the ones she took out (so I can fix my spare glasses) and another set of two pads, just in case I ever need them. I asked her what I owed her and she said, "Nothing!" I love these guys!!!

A mini-glimpse into my world as a Project Manager: The IT tech guys were supposed to come at 1:00 PM - they showed up just before 2:00. Transportation was supposed to be there at 2:00 to move all the boxes, a filing cabinet, the mini-fridge, etc. and I was panicking they would both be in each other's way. But, (luckily?) they didn't show up until after 3:00 PM. Oh, and there's still one guy who working and not packed at all...

So, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM when Transportation finish, I had NOTHING to do. No computer, nothing... So, I walked the suite checking every drawer and desk, making sure everything was gone. I filled up a whole trash bag with crap people just left behind! That always amazes me...

At 4:00 PM, I headed to the new building. By the time I got there, three people had changed desks already. Some people had left and locked their offices (where did they think Transportation would put their boxes?). My computer stuff was there and set up, but I couldn't get on the network (I had a static IP at the old place for the VPN I no longer use). I got most of that sorted out and then left to drop off the old building keys.

Needless to say, I was beat to death by the time I got home. Screw the ToDo list!

I had plenty of leftovers, but nothing sounded appealing. So, I went back to my culinary roots and made some Linguini with Clam Sauce. I was a bit taken aback when I went to the recipe section of this website and didn't find it! I guess I never posted it. But, here's how the Captain does it...

I put on a pot of salted water to boil for the linguini. Meanwhile, I added about a 1/4 cup of olive oil to my biggest skillet and turned it to medium heat. Next I minced eight small coves of garlic (I would have used four big ones, BTW, if I had them) and chopped six fillets of anchovies (note: if you don't have or don't like anchovies, be sure to add some salt to the sauce).

I added the anchovies and garlic, plus a teaspoon each of dried thyme and some red pepper flakes to the oil. I added the dried linguine to the water and cooked it just BEFORE it was al dente (it will continue to cook in the sauce, you see). I waited until the anchovies melted (and, they do) and then deglazed the pan with 1/2 cup of white wine (I used a mini-bottle of Sauvignon Blanc) or you can also use dry Vermouth.

Then I added one can of chopped clams with the juice and two cans of chopped clams, drained (I like to taste the clams!) I drained the linguini and added it to the skillet. I tossed and coated the pasta until the pasta absorbed the sauce (about 2-3 minutes). I removed it from the heat and tasted-tested it (needed a wee bit more salt) and then added a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley. I plated it and topped it with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

I ate it watching TV, but when I was finished eating, I was just finished. So, I turned off the lights and went to be just before 9:00 PM.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cold Wednesday

Well, the dusting of snow turned out to be just that. But we are back in the deep freeze for the next several days. Our high today was forecasted to be just 15 degrees F. (-9 degrees C.) with a wind... Saturday is the next day forecasted to be above freezing, BTW.

However, I am not complaining, as I saw on the News this morning that Port Huron got, like, 12 inches of lake-effect snow (my daughter Melissa's favorite phrase). They said that all the outlying area schools were closed, but not in Port Huron, proper. So, I guess poor Joe and Riese still had to go to school today.

Before I left for work, I treated the downstairs and upstairs bathroom sink drains with some Roebic bacterial drain and trap cleaner. Now, I used to use, like, Draino on them every six months but my friend B___ recommended this as being more environmentally sound. It's supposed to eat the crud out of the traps and eliminate slow drains. We'll see... As Kermit the Frog often says, "It's not easy being green!"

Back home after work, I treated the cats and then headed out to refill the bird feeder (burrrr!) Back inside, I ran hot water down both treated sinks. Tonight, before going to bed, I will treat the kitchen sink and the bathtub and shower drains (this stuff needs eight hours to work its magic, you see).

I changed clothes and started the Wednesday night wash. Then I posted a recollection from back in the day. I checked the clock to see what I could still get done tonight and found it was already 7:30 PM, so I gave it up.

Onto dinner...

Ham, again, lol. This time I took the insides of the redskin potatoes (from Saturday's burned potato skins) and warmed them up in the microwave. I had already peeled and sliced some parsnips, BTW and they were cooking on the stove. Then I warmed up some milk and butter and mashed the potatoes. I warmed up some jar gravy, too and plated the cold ham, drizzled with some gravy, the mashed potatoes also with gravy and the parsnips, topped with butter and salt.

Not much in the way of real cooking, but not bad. I watched TV for an hour or so and then went to bed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Where the hell did everybody go? (A recollection)

Now, I don't know if I have mentioned this, but it was my Dad's practice to buy the oldest kid, still in school, a car, so he could drive the rest of us to Catholic school in New Baltimore.

However, I beat him to the punch, using my truck-farm earning to buy a 1953 Ford for $50, from my neighbor, Chuck, across the street. Unfortunately, when I pulled in the driveway (going a bit too fast) and then slammed on the brakes, I learned that the brake line had been "fixed" by wrapping the leaks with electrician's tape. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I hit the edge of the cement block garage. This did stop the car. But, it resulted in the engine breaking off its mounts and the fan chewing through the radiator. And, the resultant crack in the cement blocks did not please my father. So, this car went over to the side of the farm...

Now, before I go any further, please remember this was the mid-sixties. So, we are not talking about classic cars (although they would be, now). It would be like, now, if you bought a 1990 Honda Civic.

So, my Dad bought a 1953 Hudson Super-Jet for me. I think it was up on blocks and from his employer. I loved that car!

But one night, returning from a date with Fran, I was driving down Gratiot to 24 Mile Road. Back in those days, this was just a two lane road (I'm not sure what it is today) with a 65 MPH speed limit. I had stopped at the gas station just outside of New haven and added some oil (I was kinda barred from the gas station in town, based on an ugly incident involving a confrontation and a resulting firearm incident we won't go into now... Okay, I will admit I brought the 22 rifle into it, but I was a teenager and PISSED).

Anyway, so I had just pulled out into the passing lane with a car in front of me and some cars oncoming when the hood of the Hudson (that I had apparently not closed completely) opened, and smashed back, completely covering the windshield! I couldn't see shit! But, I knew there were cars to my right and on-coming cars in my passing lane!!!

What to do? I couldn't see shit!!!

I slid all the way left and onto the side of the road. I struggled to stop the car while I heard all these weird thumps. When I finally got it stopped, I got out and looked behind me. There was probably 30 mailboxes cut off at my bumper height (thank God for real bumpers, back then).

I pulled on the hood with all my might and then jumped on it to get to back to shape. I proceeded home and then next day, took the hood off in my friend Leon's driveway.

Tuesday's Tale

I washed the car today at lunchtime. I know it's supposed to snow again tonight (only a dusting) but I hate all that salt and crud on the car, especially on the windows and the outside mirrors.

Sure enough, it started snowing about 4:00 PM.

Once home (and cats treated), I took the galvanized wash tub I had put the soil in from last year's hanging pots and dumped the dirt over the front garden. Then I cleaned the tub out with a brush. Next, I took out the air compressor from the back room and set it back in its "garage" spot.

I took the 50-foot hose out, too, and laid in out on the garage floor (it kinks like a mother, given half the chance). I reattached the one end to the compressor and then carefully coiled it up (un-kinking it as I went) into the wash tub. I am hoping this will make it more manageable, lol!

Then, I packed up the three air guns and took them out to the garage as well. The downstairs room is really starting to look like the downstairs room again (as opposed to Tool-Central as it had since Thanksgiving!) Then, and only then, I changed my clothes.

You remember how I had found the meatballs and tomato sauce on Saturday? Well, I also found the rest of the Christmas roast. I had taken that out to thaw as well. So, tonight, I put it back in the freezer for a bit (it makes it easier to cut extra-thin) while I downloaded my favorite recipe for French Dip Sandwiches.

You could check the posts from a few years ago, but I will reproduce it for you tonight. Now, you may or may not remember, but it was Carla who started me on this whole foodie thing and the show she got me hooked on was Rachel Ray's 30-minute Meals. We watched it religiously when they first lived here. Today, foodie's everywhere pooh-pooh her as selling out (she's got her own prime-time daytime show and is making, like, millions) but, back then, she was this rather unsophisticated chick, living in upstate new York, who's gimmick was to make a good, healthy meal in under 30 minutes.

So, I went back to my roots and printed out her recipe. The only difference is that while she called for 1 1/2 pounds of deli-sliced roast beef, I will be using the Christmas leftovers. So, while I let it chill, I swept the kitchen floor. Since I had the broom and dustpan in hand, I swept the downstairs as well.

Once I had the floors swept, I took out the leftover roast from the freezer and, first, I cut off the outside (I figured the green peppercorn crust would definitely affect the flavor). Next, I sliced it as thin as I could.

Then I added two tablespoons of butter to a shallow skillet pan. To the heated butter, I added a shallot, thinly-sliced, and saut�ed it for two minutes. I added two tablespoons of flour and stirred it in for about a minute. I whisked in a jigger of dry cooking sherry and let the alcohol cook out.

Then, I whisked in two cups of beef stock in a slow, steady stream. Now, normally (in the original recipe), here you would put the deli-sliced roast beef on a cutting board and season it with Montreal steak seasoning. Then, using tongs, you would put the beef momentarily into the au jus and pile it into a 6-inch sub roll.

But, since I was dealing with leftover roast beef, here's what I did. I added about half a teaspoon of the Montreal Steak Seasoning to the pan. Then I threw in the thin-sliced roast beef. I walked away at that point, letting everybody get warm and happy.

Then I got out a sub bun and loaded it up with meat. I put some of the au jus into a small ramekin and went off to watch TV and eat. Not bad! Because I couldn't get the meat as thin as a meat-slicer would, the meat seemed a bit tougher than normal. But, the taste was great.

I went to sleep at 9:30 PM or so.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Monday, and chipping away at the ToDo list

I didn't change clothes just when I got home on Monday, though I did change from shoes to boots. It's above freezing again and I have outside things to attend to.

First I took a bunch of stuff from the garage to the road (I arranged for a "Large Item Pickup" from the Township on Tuesday). A little bit of sweeping and I now had room for that propane heater.

Next, I took all the tools out to the workbench (I'll hang them up or put them away later). Then, I turned on the air compressor (much to the dismay of the cats). I measured the correct lengths and cut the two pieces of storm door molding to size. Finally, I nailed it in place. Looks good! I'll caulk it when it's warmer.

When I was getting out the soup for my Mom, I found another frozen container of the meatballs in tomato sauce I made and froze in December. So, that's been thawing in the fridge.

I slowly warmed the meatball mixture in a sauce pan while I cooked 1/2 a pound of thick spaghetti until it was al dente. I put the two together and let it get happy while I cut some slices from that baguette that never got used on Saturday.

Finally, I plated it and went to watch some TV. Pretty good! I went to bed promptly at 10:00 PM.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sunday, Road Trip

I awoke at 5:30 AM Sunday morning. I reheated yesterday's coffee and drank two cups while I posted the rather lengthy Blog for Saturday. Then I took out that Christmas ham and dissected it. I put what I considered two meal's worth in quart Zip-lock freezer bags. I had one bag marked Ham Bits for any of the extra meat when I trimmed off the fat (that will go into the freezer for soups). The actual trimmed fat I saved in another bowl and when I was done, I threw it out for the birds.

When I got down to the bone, I wrapped that in aluminum foil and put it in a gallon-sized Zip-lock freezer bag for soup, another day. So, now I have five bags of trimmed ham. I plan on running three of these (along with more frozen soup) out to my Mom's this morning. Since I had the ham out anyway, I fried some of it and one of my last two eggs for my breakfast (I need the other for tonight's dinner). I finished cleaning up at 9:30 AM, so I shaved and then showered. I packed the frozen soup and the ham into my Christmas present (the Igloo ice chest) from Jeremy's family.

I was on the road by 10:30 AM. It's supposed to be a warm day here (maybe 38 degrees F.) and already, the snow alongside the expressway was melting. So, naturally, it kept getting sprayed on my windshield from the vehicles in front of me. I was using my wipers and the windshield washers almost constantly.

I got to Mom's around 11:15 AM. Cora put the frozen soups and two of the ham packages in the freezer while Mom and I visited. I got caught up on all the family news and a couple book recommendations. I left about 12:30 PM.

On the way home, I stopped by my friend B___'s, who I haven't seen since before Christmas. I turned down the offer of lunch (still full from my late breakfast) but did have an excellent cup of coffee. I left there about 2:00 PM and started the long trek home. I got home just before 3:30 PM.

I changed clothes and started the last load of laundry for this weekend. I went outside and adjusted the bird feeder that somebody (my guess was a squirrel) got all jacked around. Back inside, I had a couple of the leftover Turkey, Bacon, Radicchio and Blue Cheese sandwiches.

My legs were tired, so I decided to lay down for a bit and watch the taped cooking shows from this morning. Around 6:00 PM, I got up to hang up my shirts and pants and started to make the oven-roasted asparagus for Sunday dinner.

I snapped one to find out the perfect spot to cut the stems. Then I minced three cloves of garlic. I drizzled the asparagus with extra virgin olive oil, added some kosher salt and the garlic and tossed it about. Then I spread it out on a half-sheet tray. I took some of the ham and wrapped it in tinfoil and put it on the same half-sheet tray. I set the oven to 400 degrees F. and waited for it to preheat.

When the pre-heated buzzer went off, I put the tray into the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. When that went off, I reset it for five more minutes and started to fry my egg. I cooked it over-easy (with a perfect flip to turn it over, I might add).

When the timer went off the second time, I pulled out the tray and set it on the stovetop to cool. After a bit, I opened the tinfoil and plated the ham. Next came a generous helping of the roasted asparagus, topped by the fried egg.

When I was ready to eat, I took my fork and broke the yolk, thus creating a rich, warm sauce for the asparagus. Dinner was excellent, BTW!

My first Sunday show wasn't on this week, but I watched the next two (snacking on some of those Buffalo Chicken Cheese Balls) and then went to bed exactly at 11:00 PM.

Before I did, I checked my email and found I had one from my brother Carl, complaining how he, too, had taken some soup over to my Mother's, only to find I had beaten him to it! However, he "claims" his soup (and I quote) "homemade Pea soup loaded with ham, carrots, celery and onions" was better than mine... I don't know, Bro, I'd have to taste it to believe it...