Thursday, April 30, 2009

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My new door mat (I hesitate calling it a "welcome mat")

Wednesday

So, I went to work Wednesday with a feeling of satisfaction (the whittled down ToDo list) and hope (it's not supposed to rain again until Thursday). I have it in my mind that I want a light, "Italian" spring pasta salad for dinner. Now, I have some ingredients on hand (the dried Rotini twists, three cucumbers, lemons, three young yellow summer squash and a pound of fresh asparagus.

Now, why did I specify a light, "Italian" spring pasta salad? Because, most times when I eat a pasta salad these days, it is either tasteless and mushy, or the flavors are so overwhelming (picture heavy Italian dressing) that my taste buds don't know how to react.

So, I stopped at Westborn on my lunch. I picked up some fresh, flat leaf parsley, a handful of fresh basil, a container of grape tomatoes, a can of sliced black olives (Lu's favorite addition and one I can still really get behind) and some scallions. The recipe I found called for fresh mozzarella, but I still have a lot of provolone cheese (remember the homemade deli beef?) so, I think I will skip that.

Back at home at 5:15 PM, I checked my voicemail (nothing) and email (nothing) and changed my clothes. Then I went out to cut the front lawn. I used my new pushmower and, while it took me about an hour, it was a much finer cut than using the riding lawn mover. It also worked great on the ditch (which is why I bought it).

Back inside, I took the asparagus and snapped one of them. That gave me the approximate place to discard the tough stems. I started a pot of boiling, salted water for the pasta. When I had a rolling boil, I threw in the one-inch sections of asparagus, and blanched them for three minutes. I pulled them out with my strainer and dropped them into to ice water to shock them, stop the cooking process and retain their green color.

I threw in a pound of Rotini twists and cooked them to al dente. Then I drained and rinsed the hell out of them, leaving them in the colander to cool.

While they were cooking, I started to prep the veggies. I cut all the grape tomatoes in half. I peeled two cucumbers, quartered them lengthwise and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. I cut off the top and bottom of one of the summer squash, quartered it lengthwise as well and cut them into the same 1/4-inch slices. I took a bunch of scallions and, after trimming them, cut both the white and the green into thin slices. I opened and drained the can of black olives.

Then I took my biggest mixing bowl and put it together, tossing it with my hands to make sure everything was evenly distributed. Next I made my dressing, using the zest of one lemon, the juice of the same lemon and three times the amount of extra virgin olive oil. I whisked that together, slowly adding the oil. I tasted it and seasoned it with salt and pepper.

I went out in the herb garden and picked some oregano. It's young yet, so I just stripped off the leaves and added them to the salad. I picked a good handful of the basil leaves (the ones I just bought) rolled them up tight and cut them into thin strips. Finally I took the slices of provolone cheese and cut them into thin strips, then cut the strips into small rectangles.

I added the dressing, pouring in as much as looked right, then adding a bit more (the pasta will soak it up overnight). I did eat a small bowl for my dinner, but really, pasta salad should spend the night in the fridge first, letting all the flavors get happy.

It was very, very good. I especially liked the blanched asparagus and the raw summer squash. And, the lemony dressing with the fresh herbs was just what I'd hoped for.

I went in to watch some TV, but that hour's walk around the front yard had tuckered me out, so I went to bed early.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

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The new, little green pushmower

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Homemade Beef Chop Suey

Back to the ToDo list

It rained off and on Tuesday until around 4:00 PM, so my short drive home at least was sunny.

I treated the cats, changed clothes, refilled the bird feeder and the suet cage and then perused the ToDo List. Now, the front grass is far to wet to cut today. But, I thought I would recheck my mower assembly operation so that I can cut it on Wednesday.

I was taking some kitchen towels out of the dryer when the phone rang. It was my daughter Melissa. We talked for a bit (her biggest news is the arrangements she has been making to get all her boys together down there for some Smoky Mountain camping this summer). Sounds great and that family always did love camping. She got another call, so we hurriedly hung up.

I went out in the garage to give the mower a final quality control check. All the bolt and attachments seem secure, so I filled it with oil and gas and then started it up. I let it run for about 5 minutes and then switched it off.

Back inside, I thought I'd give B___ a quick call to see how his weekend went. His whole family pitched in and the boat is ready to launch next week.

Then it was time to make dinner. Tonight it will be Beef Chop Suey. I took out the other beef tip steak (if you remember I got two when I make the beef and vegetable soup, but only used one). I diced that into 1/2-inch squares, seasoned it with salt and pepper and set it aside.

Then I started making some rice. I had an open box of long grain white rice, so I used the rest of that. Then I started slicing my veggies. I cut three celery stalks, thinly sliced on the bias, two medium yellow onions, sliced, one green pepper, diced and eight ounces of Cremini mushrooms, sliced. I set that aside.

Then I got my 12-inch non-stick saute pan and put in one tablespoon of canola oil and one teaspoon of sesame oil on high heat. When the oil started smoking I added the beef and quickly stir-fried it (about one minute).Then I added a tablespoon of good soy sauce. I removed the beef with a slotted spoon and covered it to keep warm.

I added the celery, onions, green peppers and mushroom, along with a cup of homemade chicken stock. I brought that to a boil, reduced the heat and cooked it for five minutes. Then I added two cups of rinsed bean sprouts, cooked it three minutes more and finally returned the meat and stirred it back in to reheat.

I plated the rice and then topped it with the Chop Suey (see photos). I added a few more splashes of soy sauces and wandered in to see what was on TV.

The Beef Chop Suey was excellent, although I think the next time I make it, I'll add a little cornstarch mixed in cold water. I would have liked the gravy to be a bit thicker than it was. I went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monday, Monday...

I took Monday off as a "mental health" day. It's not that I had anything planned (I didn't) I snipped some chives, added them to scrambled eggs and made a simple breakfast.

I went through my DVDs and popped the 300 (the movie about Spartans) into my player. I watched that and then heated up the rest of the smoked sausage for my dinner.

I read the two magazines that came in the mail from cover to cover, watched a little more TV and then went to bed early.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The weekend

I spent so much time in the night fooling around in the garage with Scruffy that, after I went back to bed, I didn't wake up until after 9:00 AM on Saturday. I put on a pot of coffee and posted the Blog.

I decided to focus today on cleaning the house rather than on the lawn, so that's what I did. I did take out the two pork loins I had thawed out and gave them a quick dry rub of seasoning. Now I doubled the recipe, but here's what I mixed up: One teaspoon garlic powder, one teaspoon of dried oregano, one teaspoon ground cumin, one teaspoon ground coriander, one teaspoon dried thyme, salt and minced garlic. I cut off four one-inch chunks for boneless pork chops (later) and rubbed down the rest. I put them into a plastic baggie to cure and smoke later.

Oddly enough, I never felt hungry, so I never made any food on Saturday. I also kept all the windows open (but with the security guards on and the furnace off). I was reveling in the fresh air! I took a short nap, but woke up with thunder and lightning. It was a quick storm and I didn't have to close any windows.

I quit working around 7:00 PM and watched the end of Cutthroat Island. Then I started in on the taped Saturday morning cooking shows. I filled in the little hungry spot in my belly with some pretzel sticks. I went to sleep about 10:00 PM.

I woke up on Sunday morning, starving! So, I had a cup of coffee and heated up a can of roast beef hash. I plated that and topped it with two over-easy eggs.

I went out and fired up the grill. I pulled off two grille grates and, when the charcoal chimney was red hot, I dumped the charcoal into the bottom grate.

Next I put some mesquite wood chips into a bucket of water. When they were thoroughly soaked, I threw some of them on top of the hot coals. Then I put the 1 1/2 lengths of the rubbed pork loins onto the grates at the other end of the grille to smoke over indirect heat.

I stuck my thermometer into the biggest chunk of pork loin and set the alarm for 145 degrees F. Back inside, I opened up two pounds of ground hamburger and mixed it with Emerild's essence and a chopped Vidalia onion.

When the alarm went off, I pulled the pork loins off. Then I grilled my hamburgers and one smoked sausage. I took them off and shut down the grille.

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

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Living in La Libido Loco

I woke up 20 minutes late on Friday. Not because I overslept, I just kept hitting the snooze button. So, I was cranky and out of sorts. I am one of those people who have to "ease" into the morning (I get that from my Mother) and the line between asleep and awake is not definitive, but fuzzy. I never look morning directly in the face; I just give it quick, furtive sideways glances. So, I usually get up 1 1/2 hours before I have to leave for work.

I remember my Brother Pete telling me once he woke up like 15 minutes before he had to leave. He said he took his shower at night, so in the morning all he had to do was shave, get dressed, fill up his thermos and go. I can't do that...

I can understand showering after work if you are, say, a construction or a factory worker (I did it for 15 years) to get that cutting oil or sweat smell off you at least for the night. It reminds me of something that makes me smile even now. When I worked in the factory, it was the only place I ever have been where you washed your hands BEFORE you peed. Anyway, I need a morning shower to sort of slap me in the face to ground me and bring me back to reality (again, I blame my Mother).

Note: Before you start thinking I am picking on my mom, let me explain. My father was mostly facts and figures (he was an accountant, after all), but my mother is all about feelings, intuition and dreams. In my life, I can work the hell out of a spreadsheet (thanks, Dad) but I really live the rest of my life in in what the Australian Aborigines call the dream time.

I had a 10:00 to 11:00 AM meeting at our Building 3, so afterward, I went to Lowe's (it's on that side of town) and bought an inexpensive push mower. My riding mower is fine, but with its big turn radius, it leaves large amounts of uncut grass in the corners of the yard and it takes a long time to cut them with the trimmer (and it's difficult to get it even, using that method). The Lowe's guy insisted on loading it in the car (it's mostly put together and in a big box), so I thanked him. When I got home for lunch and took it out, I was even more grateful! It really was bulky and heavy.

Before I left to go back to work, I shut off the furnace. Then I flipped up the window security stops (they only allow each window to be opened four inches) and opened the kitchen window (too high to reach without a ladder) and my bedroom window (right out in front of God and everyone). I figured the house was still secure and would air in my absence.

I had to go to Building 73 in the afternoon and noticed it was uncomfortably warm out there. I actually turned on the car's air conditioner. My dashboard information center said it was 84 degrees! When I got back to Building 50, I checked the Weather Channel and they said it was "only" 80 degrees.

After work, I stopped at CVS for a couple of prescriptions and then went to the corner gas station and filled my gas can up. I sloshed some gas over the side of the can, so I will have to leave the trunk open all night to air out (its okay - Volvos don't have trunk lights). Then I went home and treated the cats, changed clothes, etc.

I checked the indoor temperature and it was 72 degrees F. (I programmed the "winter" thermostat to stay at 70 when I am home, and 66 when I am not or I'm sleeping). So, I opened up a few more windows and let more of the fresh air in.

Then I composed my Weekend ToDo list. It's pretty damn long and I hope to get as much done as I can (a lot has to do with how fast these strong southerly winds dry out my yard). I printed it off and posted it on the fridge (like I always do). Then at 6:00 PM, I went outside to assemble the push mower.

First, I set out the saw horses and set a board on top (it's easier for me to work standing up rather than bent over, working on the floor). Then I set the mower on the board. I put on the rest of the handle and ran all the control cables. Then I started installing the wheels. I got the first one on when the phone rang.

It was my friend, B___, and, since we hadn't talked in a while, I switched to the living room phone and settled in for a nice chat. When we finally finished, I was more hungry than ambitious. So, I gave up on the mower assembly and made dinner.

Now, I had nothing planned and all my leftovers are gone. So, I perused my pantry and the freezers. I ended up making pierogies with saut�ed onions and sour cream. I had bought a different brand (Dudek, supposedly handmade, and on sale) but to tell you the truth, I like my regular "Mrs. T" brand better.

I ate dinner watching a taped pirate movie (Cutthroat Island, starring Geena Davis) but I fell asleep about 3/4 of the way through it (hey, who cares? It's taped, I've seen it a hundred times and I can watch the end some other time).

I woke up at 4:00 AM for a bathroom break. The first thing I noticed was that I still had all the windows opened a crack. So, I checked the thermostat and it was 71 degrees in the house (way warmer than the aforementioned usual nighttime 66 degrees). Then I checked the outside thermometer and it was still 69 degrees F., so I let them be. Come on, fresh air!

Then I noticed I could hear music. I realized I'd left the radio on in the garage. So, I put my bathrobe and Crocs on and went out to shut it off. I flipped on the light, went out and turned the boom box off. I went back, turned off the light and opened the door. As I was stepping inside, I felt the brush of a hairy animal rush past my leg. Damn Caley!

But, when I turned around and turned on the lights, it was Scruffy! What the hell? He never does this! Must be the fresh air. In spring, all of us mammals are living in "La Libido Loco," (hey, the sap rising isn't the only thing, I suppose).

So, following my instinct, I turned the lights back on and spent a good ten minutes trying to corner and capture him. No way! Too many places to hide under. Finally my intelligence kicked in (I've dealt with house cats for a long, long time) and I told him, "Hey, you want to spend some time in the garage? I'll check back with you in the morning!" I shut off the light and went back to the office to fill in the Blog.

About 20 minutes later, I heard these piteous meows from the garage. So, I relented and opened the inside garage man door. In walked Scruffy, looking abashed.

I finally went back to bed to finish Friday.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Day after Earth Day

It was sunny, without a cloud in the sky when I left for work on Thursday morning. Not that warm, just yet. The high is supposed to be only 60 degrees F., today. But the next few days are supposed to be in the 80's!

We take what we can get in Michigan.

At lunch, I swung by Westborn Market to get more apples and veggies, cheese and herbs for the weekend.

I also stopped at Gordon Foods to pick up some more natural hardwood charcoal. As I was doing that, I was accosted by a small, elderly gentleman with a heavy Italian accent. He asked my why I was buying this type of charcoal. I explained it's more natural than charcoal briquettes, with less "yuck" in it. He explained that he had recently bought a smoker to make homemade Italian sausage and had used Kingsford charcoal briquettes (as he thought they were the best), but was not happy with the end product. He said it had a bit of an oily taste he didn't like.

Recognizing a kindred soul, I explained about natural charcoal and also how to purchase and use a charcoal lighter chimney, rather than using charcoal lighter fluid. It took a while with the little language barrier, but he seemed very grateful when we finished. For my part, I was happy to have helped a fellow pilgrim.

Back home at 5:15 PM, I noticed all the electronic clocks were flashing. Hmmm... I must have lost power during the day (that explains why I couldn't remote to my home computer this afternoon). So I reset them all and rebooted the computer.

Then I started working on tonight's mini-ToDo list. I took out the last pork loin and the remaining beef tip steak from the freezer to thaw for the weekend (oh, I got plans). I pulled out the leftovers for tonight's dinner to let them come to room temperature.

Then I checked to make sure the shutoff for the hot water under the sink was opened all the way (it was). I am having a problem with low water pressure at the kitchen faucet with the hot water only. And, yet, when I check the upstairs main bathroom sink and tub (all of which are further away from the hot water heater), the pressure is fine. WTF? Unfortunately, they are all copper pipes, so I can't "open" them to check it out).

I started a load of whites (my bathrobe, the downstairs bath mat, the bath towel and the kitchen towels). Then I went in to fill in the Blog. Back in the kitchen, I washed up the big pots and pans from last night and put the rest in the dishwasher. I swapped the clothes from the washer into the dyer.

Then I took off the shower curtain, which was starting to show signs of mold (a common problem, in this bathroom). I put that in the washer with some detergent and a healthy slug of beach. I turned it on "hot" water and washed it on a small load.

Back upstairs, I put the remaining garlic mashed potatoes in a Pyrex bowl and heated them in the microwave. Next, I put the remaining store-bought chicken gravy in another glass bowl and then reheated that. Finally, I wrapped the last two chicken thighs in wax paper and zapped them. I played with it all a bit, but it was after 7:30 PM when I finally plated dinner.

I ate it watching "Jeopardy" and then cleaned up my mess. The wash machine buzzer went off, so I took the dripping shower curtain and hung it back up (you don't want to dry a shower curtain in the dryer, in my world).

Then I went and watched TV until bedtime.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

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I think I scared them!

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Visitors to my lake

Wednesday

Wednesday is supposed to be the transition day (from cold and rainy to warm and sunny). It was still sprinkling when I went into work, BTW.

On the way home for lunch, it was sunny. But on the way home after work, it was gray and overcast, and my new windshield showed signs of an earlier rain.

Once home, I changed clothes and started the Wednesday night wash. Then I went outside to refill the bird feeder and check the rain gauge. The total rainfall since the storm began on Monday was just less than two inches in Redford. I dumped it out and went back inside.

By 6:00 PM. the sun had come out again in all its glory and then retreated. Transition, indeed!

Now, about tonight's dinner, I'm really torn... On the one hand, I still have two grilled chicken thighs left, along with the leftover garlic mashed potatoes and jarred gravy. And, when last I reheated them, they were great! I still have three lamb chops left as well, but they didn't live up to expectations when reheated. And, I ate all the asparagus last night (my bad, but it was good).

However, for some reason, I am craving pasta. But, I have nothing thawed out to go with it (like shrimp, bacon or my remaining frozen meatballs and tomato sauce). So, I decided to adapt my shrimp scampi and pasta dish (not the first time I've made up a recipe and probably not the last).

Just as I was about to start, I glanced out the kitchen window. Now, you know how I kid about having a lake out back. Well, swimming in my "lake" was a pair of mallard ducks! So, I grabbed my camera and snuck out back. I got as close as I could without scaring them and took a bunch of pictures. I posted the best two for you.

Now, Italians say your pasta water should taste like the sea, so I put a lot of kosher salt in the water (otherwise, the pasta ends up tasting bland). I brought that up to a boil while I started on my sauce.

I put a good amount of olive oil into my big saut� pan and heated it up. Then I added six cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes. While that was turning golden, I chopped up about 1/2 cup of fresh, flat leaf parsley.

I added one pound of linguine to the boiling water. Al dente is supposed to be in 10-11 minutes. So, at eight minutes, I added two cups of frozen peas (if you are like Carla, who hates peas, try frozen broccoli).

I removed the saut� pan from the heat and added in 3/4 of the parsley. I drained the pasta/peas mixture and added it to the sauce. I used my tongs to toss it about. When I plated it, I topped it with some of the remaining parsley and fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. I wandered off to the bedroom and TV, waiting for the clothes to dry and ate my dinner. It tasted pretty good, BTW.

I eventually hung up the clothes; put the leftovers in the fridge and soaked the pots and pan in the sink. Then I watched more TV until bedtime.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rainy Days and Tuesdays...

It was windy and chilly Tuesday morning, but not yet raining when I took the car in to get the windshield replaced. This was good, since I had about a quarter mile walk from the Belle Tire Store to our Building 3.

I got to Belle Tire and went inside when they opened at 8:00 AM. They said they were all set and to come back around 10:00 AM. I took one of their cards, so I could check around 9:00 and see how it was coming (since I would not be at my usual desk and phone to get calls). I walked to Building 3 and settled into the cube that Jake had prepared with a computer for me to work at for the next couple of hours.

I did call at 9:00 and they said the windshield was installed. The adhesive needs to cure for an hour, so they said come get it at 10:00 AM. It was much windier and colder on my walk back. I gave them $200.99 USD, got in the car and headed back to Building 50. It started raining about half way back, BTW.

They seem to have done a nice job, even transferring my Oil Change Sticker to the new window. He scared me a bit by telling me NOT to slam the car door (or to leave the window down a crack - not a good option today) for at least a day.

I went to Meijer's at lunch (in the rain) and grabbed a few things I needed (mostly supplies, like trash bags) and then went home for lunch. I made up one of those roast beef sandwiches I told you about before and, to tell you the truth, it was pretty damn good! The horseradish sauce gave it a nice kick and the melted provolone cheese smoothed out the sliced Pepperocini.

It was raining hard again when I went back into work but was just a light rain when I walked out of work at 5:00 PM. I am curious where we stand with rainfall amounts, but no so much I want to go out into the damn rain (again). But, about 6:00 PM, it had stopped, so I grabbed my boots and went out to take photos (see, well, Photos, LOL). Believe it or not, I forgot to check the rain gauge! That's okay, though, as it's supposed to rain and then snow again tonight (God, I love Michigan!) I posted the four photos and then finally changed clothes. I'll report on the final storm rainfall tally tomorrow after work (when it's supposed to end).

I must admit to being embarrassed at the photo of the forsythia next to the compost piles, as you can see all the winter trash. As long time readers may remember, I use a homemade four foot wooden handle and a sharpened finish nail to pick up this crap every year. But, it's still early and I haven't got to it yet. Once it dries out some, I'll do my yard and the damn empty lot next to me to clean it all up (Believe it or not, I usually get two or three full garbage bags full of this stuff).

So, it was almost 7:00 PM and raining hard again when I started on my dinner. Now what I didn't say is that Jake and Carla had brought over about a pound of fresh asparagus that they didn't use (if I remember, it was due to a lack of imported Prosciutto at Westborn). I offered to bring it back this morning, but Jake pooh-poohed the idea. So, before it dries out, I thought I'd use it.

Now, again, I must say, long term readers will know you grasp a stalk of asparagus at both ends and bend it until it snaps. That's exactly where you cut the rest of the bundle. But, here's something I didn't know until refreshing my memory on this recipe. For some reason, (and I am sure Steven Hawkins knows why but I don't) when roasting, items at the edges of the pan cook more quickly than things in the middle. Therfore, put them so the tips face inward and the bottoms face outward and you will get a more even roast (especially if you double the recipe).

I sprinkled them with extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt, rolled them around to coat them and heated the oven up to 400 degrees F. Then I roasted them for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I made a simple Hollandaise sauce by combining a large egg yolk, 1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice (thanks to Jake and Carla for replenishing my lemons) and a pinch of cayenne pepper in my food processor. I pulsed it a couple of times to combine. Then I put 1/2 of a stick of butter into the microwave to melt. With the food processor running, I slowly added the melted butter to make a smooth frothy sauce.

Note, if the sauce is really thick, add a teaspoon of lukewarm water to loosen it up. I didn't need to do that step, but I did put it into an aluminum bowl, sitting in a bigger bowl of hot water (the recommended method to keep it warm).

I put two of the lamb chops into the microwave, wrapped in wax paper and zapped them for a minute. I pulled out the roasted asparagus, spread it on a platter and hit it with a generous amount of fresh, ground black pepper. Then I drizzled it with my Hollandaise sauce.


The lamb chops were good (I must confess they did taste better fresh off the grille). The asparagus were excellent, either with or without the Hollandaise sauce (but I love roasted asparagus).

I left the mess (just food processor parts and the cookie tray) soaking in the sink and went to watch some TV.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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Lake San Jose from the rear of the property (check out how high the water was up to on the tree trunks!)

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Forsythia next to the compost pile (ignore the trash, I haven't had time to pick it up yest)

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Forsythia against the back wall

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Hyacinths by St. Francis in bloom

Rainy Days and Mondays...

Monday was a repeat of Sunday, with cold temps and heavy rain. I had to go to an off-site meeting at 1:30 PM and got soaked! When I got home at 5:10 PM, the lake in back was back. Who knows how much rain has fallen? Well, actually, I do! I just put the rain gauge out on Saturday; so, I went and took a quick check. I have just over 1 3/4 inches of rain so far since this started yesterday (and it's still raining).

Back inside, I took off my soggy shoes and started straightening up. I swept the kitchen and then vacuumed the two downstairs walk-off carpets. Then I got out the electric sweeper and picked up a TON of Caley and Scruffy hair. The contents of both the electric sweeper and the vacuum went into the trash (garbage day tomorrow). I checked Saturday's potato salad and it was starting to get runny, so that went in the garbage as well.

I finished up just before 7:00 PM and started making dinner. I was peeling the rest of the redskin potatoes for mashed potatoes. That and a couple of warmed up grilled chicken thighs should make a nice supper.

I put the cut up potatoes in the medium saucepan with some cold water, two smashed cloves of garlic and salt. Then I cranked on the heat. I opened a jar of Heinz Classic Chicken gravy and started warming that. I got out two grilled chicken thighs and an egg and let them all come up to room temperature.

When the potatoes were fork tender, I drained them, added the egg, a little dried parsley and some heavy cream (I would have just used milk, but I am out) and mashed them up. I put the chicken thighs in the microwave, wrapped in wax paper and heated them on high for 1 1/2 minutes. Finally, everything came together and I plated.

I ate at the kitchen table, with my nose NOT stuck in a book for once. The garlic mashed potatoes with gravy tasted excellent and the chicken was perfect (moist and juicy with that hint of lemon and herbs from grilling them). I cleaned up the kitchen and put the remaining potatoes and gravy in separate containers and into the fridge.

I wandered in to watch some TV until bedtime at 10:00 PM.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lazy Sunday

I started out Sunday with some scrambled eggs and coffee. Then I went outside for a while, picking up more branches. But, it was really chilly (unlike Saturday when it was in the mid 70's). So, I gave up and came inside.

I had some cold chicken for lunch, watching some cooking shows. It had started raining outside and I didn't have much to do inside, so I watched more TV and took a nice nap.

I warmed up two brats and some baked beans for dinner and watched my Sunday night shows. I went to bed at 11:00 PM.

Saturday's Story

I woke up at 5:30 AM on Saturday, but didn't want to get up. So, I didn't...
for a while. Then, I made myself get up. I started a pot of coffee and a load of laundry.

It's supposed to be a beautiful day in Michigan, today. Jake and Carla are coming over this afternoon to grill, so I've got to do some cleaning and grocery shopping this morning.

Now, I normally fill in parts of this Blog as I go (it's the only way I can recall everything) but a weird thing happened. My mouse died! So, my computer was dead in the water. I pulled out the box of spare computer "stuff" but there was no mouse in there. I called up Jake and asked him to pick me up one on his way over, as all the big box computer stores are on his side of town. Gee, first the monitor, then the mouse... I hope my CPU doesn't crap out!

I shut off the furnace and opened a bunch of windows. Then I grabbed my shovel and went out to dig up the horseshoe pits (in case we get ambitious this afternoon).

Back inside, I shaved and showered and then hit the road. I'm not doing my two-week grocery shopping today, just getting what I need for grilling. So, I just went to Westborn Market. It was funny as a guy with two kids and I kept getting in each other's way. We kept apologizing and finally I said, "I'm sorry. I'm just trying to find some fresh beer bratwurst." He laughed and said, "So am I!" But, all they had was cheese bratwurst. So, he passed but I bought a package.

I bought a rack of lamb chops and some fresh mozzarella balls. Then I picked up a variety of heirloom tomatoes and a loaf of that rustic Italian bread. I paid for my purchases and headed back home.

Once home, I cut the tomatoes up, the big ones into slices, the medium ones into uneven chunks and the grape ones just in half. I layered them into a colander and salted the hell out of each layer (The salt is not drawn into the tomatoes, BTW; instead it draws out the moisture, concentrating all the lovely flavors). I put the colander into my big aluminum bowl and went to take a nap.

I slept for about an hour and got up around 2:00 PM. I cut up about three pounds of redskin potatoes, drizzled them with olive oil and put them in the oven to roast. I am really crippled without having my computer to check out what I have done in the past for roasted potato salad, BTW. But, I made up a dressing with good mayonnaise, yellow mustard, a little buttermilk, salt and pepper, fresh parsley and snipped chives. I took the warm potatoes, added a good amount of sliced celery, six hard-boiled eggs, cut into big chunks and a red onion diced small and then put on the dressing. As Carla likes to reiterate, you need to dress potato salad while the potatoes are warm!

Then, I made a dressing for the tomatoes using one part vinegar (I left my red wine vinegar at my Mother's house, so I used tarragon infused vinegar) to three parts extra virgin olive oil and added in a grated clove of garlic and some red chili flakes. I drizzled the tomatoes with enough dressing to coat everything nicely.

It was almost 3:00 PM, so I went and started the charcoal lighter (I am now officially out of charcoal, BTW). I went back inside and was watching the rest of a Sherlock Holmes mystery when Jake and Carla showed up.

He immediately went in to work on my mouse problem while Carla started making a sauce for the lamb chops. I had bought mint jelly (my Mother's preferred way of eating lamb) but she made a chimmy churri sauce with basil, parsley, oregano, garlic, lemon juice, some kind of wine vinegar, red pepper flakes and olive oil in the food processor.

She brought some hummus and blue corn chips for an appetizer, so we all sampled that...

Jake's cell phone kept ringing as it is our monthly maintenance weekend at work and various WAN and LAN people kept calling for his help. So, I started my grilling. First, I juiced three lemons and dipped my chicken thighs in the juice. Then I sprinkled a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder, fresh ground pepper, seasoned salt and two teaspoons of dried parsley on them. I put them skin side down on the hot part of the grille, to get a nice sear, and then moved them to the low side to finish. (It's about 10-15 minutes per side, BTW.) Then I threw the cheese bratwurst on the hot side to cook. Note, when I thought they were done, Jake disagreed. So, I used my digital thermometer and, he was right. I needed 180 degrees F. and they were only 150 degrees. So, I let them cook a few minutes more until we hit the magic number.

I asked Carla to cut the rack of lamb into individual chops, which she did. Then we brushed them with olive oil and seasoned both sides with salt and pepper. Finally we pressed in herbes de Provence (thanks again to my Brother Joe and Kathy) so they would adhere. I put them on the grill for about 2-3 minutes a side until slightly charred and done to medium rare.

I took a platter and put the big slices of red and yellow tomato on the bottom, put the rough chunks of tomatoes next and then the little grape tomatoes on top. I added two fresh mozzarella balls to the platter.

And, then we dug in. Personally, I was all about the lamb chops. I don't think anybody ate the chicken or the brats, (I know I didn't). The lamb was excellent! The potato salad was a bit more "crispy" than I would have liked, but it tasted good. Carla's sauce was excellent for the lamb chops (now I will have to figure out what to do with a whole container of mint jelly).

We went out and sat on the patio after eating. I was going on about the squirrels eating the suet and dumping the seed out of the feeder when Jake slipped inside. He came back with a bowl of Crisco, mixed with cayenne pepper and smeared it over both poles with a paper towel.

Take that, squirrels!

Jake and Carla took their leave, but not any leftovers! Oh well, now I have dinners for the next week or so. I puttered around, straightening up for a while. Then I went and watched the Maltese Falcon. When it was finished, so was I and I went to bed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

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The little forsythia in front, showing off.

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A better shot...

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The white hyacinths finally came out!

Friday's Triumphs and Tragedies

I set the alarm 15 minutes earlier for Friday morning. I saw a recipe for making your own "healthy" deli lunch meat, so I thought I'd try it. I thawed out a beef blade roast (they called for a chuck roast, but I couldn't find one in the freezer) overnight.

So, I got out the bigger, oval crock pot. I put in a layer of large sliced onions. I seasoned the roast on both sides and then cut slits here and there into the meat. I sliced up three cloves of garlic and stuck them into the slits. Then I took a 16 ounce jar of Pepperocini and poured it, peppers, juice and all, on top. Just before I left for work, I turned it on low (its supposed to cook for 10 hours).

I must say, when I came home for lunch, it smelled fantastic. What you are supposed to do when it's finished is let it cool, then chop up the peppers. Next you make thin slices across the grain of the meat. When you make the sandwich, you use a hoagie roll, put horseradish sauce or mustard on the bottom, pile on some beef and add some of the pepper rings. Then you top it with a slice of provolone cheese. You zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt the cheese and eat it.

Sounds good, but I'll let you know how it turns out.

I had to go to the new building in the afternoon and, coming back on I-96, a stone hit my windshield. At first it was just a dimple (the ones you can get fixed) but by the time I got back to work it had turned into about a four inch crack! So, I called around and found it will cost me $200.99 to get it replaced! Dammit! Anyway, I have an appointment to get it done on Tuesday.

It was over 70 degrees F. when I went home at 5:00 PM (still banging that drum). So, I checked my email, voice-mail and the snail mail, and then I changed my shoes. I shut off the furnace and opened all the windows. Then I put on my gloves, went out in the back yard, grabbed the wheel barrow and slowly went down 1/3 of the back yard, picking up twigs, branches and trash. It took me almost an hour to get just that part of the yard cleaned up, BTW. But, the sun was warm, a nice breeze was blowing, the birds were singing and it felt good to be outside and getting things done!

Back inside, I changed clothes and then pulled out the roast and the peppers. I put them on a platter to further cool, dumped the onions into the garbage disposal and soaked the crock pot liner in hot water and dish detergent.

I dragged out my grill and got the charcoal lighter fired up. Back inside, I got out three pounds of russet potatoes. In searching for grilled potatoes, I came across a lot of recipes, one in particular that called for slitting them open and putting butter in the slit before wrapping them with tin foil. But, I want to use these for potato salad tomorrow, so I am not sure the butter would help. On the other hand, the taste of the butter would be nice, I was thinking.

So, here's where I made a fatal mistake. I smeared each potato with butter before wrapping it in double-folded tin foil and placed them all directly on the coals. Then I cleaned and oiled the grates and put on my hot dogs (tonight's dinner). Now, hot dogs don't take much time to grill, so it wasn't long before I pulled them off, closed the grill and the garage door and went in to eat supper.

I didn't have any buns, so I ate two of them on bread with yellow mustard and chopped sweet onions. The rest went into the fridge for next week's lunches or dinners.

When the timer went off, I went back out to retrieve the potatoes. I pulled them off onto a plate with tongs and let them sit on the cutting board to cool off. I went in and watched some TV. It was too late to start watching the "Maltese Falcon" but I had it taping, anyway.

About 10:00 PM, I went and took the grill back inside. I made sure the garage door was down, checked all the outer doors, closed all the windows and turned the furnace back on.

Then I checked the potatoes. Damn! They were all burned! At first, I thought it was just the skin (from the butter) but, no, they were charred all the way through. So, I'll have to oven-roast the potatoes tomorrow for my potato salad.

Disgusted, I threw them in the trash and went to bed.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Road Trip

The sun came up on Thursday and it looked glorious! Not a cloud in the sky! Glorious, that is, until I got in the car and started driving east on 8 Mile. Then I had to dig out my clip-on sunglasses!

Why was I driving east on 8 Mile at 8:00 AM? Because today is my annual checkup on my knee in Mt. Clemens. And, that time of the morning is not the time you want to be on any expressway!

I made good time on the surface streets and got there about 9:00 AM. My appointment wasn't until 10:30 (the earliest I could get), so that left time to go out to breakfast with my friend. After an enjoyable repast, I dropped him back at his house and went to the doctors.

I got there about 15 minutes early, but didn't get into the room until almost 11:00 AM! I got the usual x-rays and then saw the doctor. There is still one small area that hasn't completely filled in with the donor bone, but he was very pleased, given the condition that I started from.

Then I asked him about my right shoulder. He asked me to try and lift my arm straight out and up and, of course, I couldn't get it higher than my shoulder without pain. Then he had me push and pull against his resistance and then asked me to show him where the pain starts and where it travels to. Unfortunately, the pain path I indicated would tend to support me having a torn rotator cuff.

Next it was back to the x-ray lab, for three shoulder shots. He looked at them and said I have noticeable arthritis in my shoulder but explained you can't see a torn rotator cuff on an x-ray.

So, the diagnosis is either bursitis or a torn rotator cuff. Since I have to see my family doctor next month, here's what he decided to try. He had me take off my shirt and he gave me a rather large shot that was a combination of pain killer (for immediate relief) and cortisone (which takes 6-9 days to start working) directly into my shoulder.

His working theory is that if the pain stays gone by the time I see my family doctor, it's probably bursitis and she can treat me for that. However, if it returns before then, it's probably a torn rotator cuff and she can schedule an MRI. Once he sees the results, he can decide if I need surgery or not.

I asked him how in the heck I would get a torn rotator cuff, as I am not exactly known for playing tennis or golf. He said it was simple: I use a cane. He said its very common for people who walk with a can or a walker to eventually have a torn rotator cuff as humans are not designed to walk while putting some of their weight on their shoulders. That does make sense!

He asked me to try and lift my arm again and, for the first time in a month and a half, I picked it up over my head! He laughed at my amazement and said, "See, I told you it was immediate pain relief."

So, I left with some simple exercises and a Theraband (a large rubber tube I am very familiar with from my knee therapy). It seems I have lost some muscle strength by deliberately not using my right arm (hey, it hurt, okay?).

This time I took the Expressways back home. Well, I didn't go "home," I went to work. The sun was still shining and it was getting noticeably warmer. I opened up the sun roof before I went in, so the car wouldn't get too hot (it's been, what, six-eight months since I had to worry about this).

At 5:00 PM as I was heading home, it was still sunny with no clouds and a whopping 64 degrees F. I got home, treated the cats and changed shoes; then I went out to do a final "branches, sticks and bark" cleanup of the front yard. It's too nice to stay inside! But, before I went out, I opened all the windows and shut off the furnace.

I finally got the whole front yard picked up, including a chestnut a squirrel must have gotten from somewhere (no chestnut trees here), some sauce packets from a chicken place and a used condom (glad I was wearing my gloves).

Back inside I made a couple of phone calls. By now, it was after 8:00 PM and I really didn't feel like making dinner. So, I just reheated the remaining cauliflower and then ate that watching TV until an early bedtime.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday

It was still raining when I went to work Wednesday morning. But, it's supposed to clear up this afternoon. I hope so, as I am sick of this shit!

Instead of my usual "head for home and make a sandwich" lunch, I finally got to take my friend Tracey out to lunch for her 40th birthday. Her family emergency last week didn't involve her son, the Marine (thank God) but instead was caused by her father's esophageal cancer having now spread to his lungs. He is 79 and refusing any treatment (which I can understand) and the end is near.

We caught each other up on family, friends, pets (Samson, her dog and Scruffy's friend/arch enemy, has retired back up north and has been replaced with a miniature Mexican Chihuahua) and work and when we finished, I drove her back to Building 6.

When I left work at 5:00 PM, the clouds were gone and the sun was out. When I got home, the outside thermometer said it was 62 degrees F. So, I opened the kitchen and bedroom windows to try and air the house out. It still has that winter "closed-in" smell, like you could identify the last five meals I cooked. I hate that!

Then I went outside and refilled the suet cage and the bird feeder. I grabbed the camera and documented the latest emerging flowers and bushes to celebrate spring. See photos.

Back inside at near 7:00 PM, I changed clothes and started the Wednesday night laundry. Then I finalized and e-filed my State tax (I had some problems last night). So, now I am good to go.

Tonight's dinner will be vegetarian again. I am making a simple salad of Romaine hearts and sliced red onion with balsamic vinaigrette. The entr�e will be steamed cauliflower. So, those commenting yesterday about my beef stew served over egg noodles can relax.

I dinner watching TV and went to bed at 10:00.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

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Another bunch of hyacinth by the garage...

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More hyacinth starting to bloom next to the garage.

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One of the forsythia in the back garden, starting to bloom

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Some sort of wild flower (maybe a violet?) coming up in the wild garden

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Hyacinths coming up in St. Francis' garden

Rainy Days and Tuesdays

It continued to rain overnight and was raining when I woke up Tuesday morning. So, I went to work in a cold, miserable rain.

I had to go to another off-site meeting at 12:30 PM, so I got rained on again. And, it was still raining when I left work at 5:00.

I still had to do my Michigan State Income tax, so I started that when I got home. But, something weird happened. I usually do this by hand (it's a simple little form) but when I did, I owed $2.00. If I use Turbo Tax (and pay them $38.00) I am supposed to get back $168.00!

I went over it and over it, but can't come up with their reasoning. So, I used the Turbo Tax, figuring getting back $130.00 was better than paying $2.00.

It was late when I finished, I was hungry and wanted some comfort food on this chilly, soggy day. But, I had nothing thawed out and didn't really feel creative. I had watched a cooking show over the weekend where they made lamb stew. Now, I don't have any lamb and no time for a stew, but I did steal their presentation idea.

I put some wide egg noodles into salted, boiling water and cooked them. When they were done, I drained them and put them back into the pot. Then I added some butter and about a tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley.

While they were cooking, I had heated up a can of Dinty Moore Beef stew. When it was warm enough, I plated the food. I took a wide bowl and put in the buttered noodles. I made a well in the middle by pulling some of the noodles towards the edges. Then I added the stew in the center well.

The theory is that the noodles soak up the stew gravy and, it worked! Sure, it was only semi-homemade, but it was good!

I watched TV until bedtime.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Monday, Monday...

After a frustrating day at work, I gratefully headed home at 5:00 PM. I just got in the door when my daughter Melissa called.

We talked for a while, comparing Easter stories. When I described the brunch Jake and Carla (and I) made, she laughed and said, "I can't wait until those two have kids and their idea of a great meal is Chicken McNuggets!"

While we were talking, I noticed it had started raining.

We hung up around 6:00 PM and I got to work, going through the fridge and tossing stuff. At one point, while I was rinsing out some containers, I looked out the kitchen window and saw that, what I thought was rain, was really little ice pellets, bouncing off the roof and the patio furniture. Will old man Winter ever give up?

Then I got out my skillet and saut�ed some sliced onions (half of a Vidalia that was in the fridge) in olive oil and butter. When they were just about done, I added the rest of that roast beef hash I made. While that was warming up, I made a simple salad.

I plated my food and went off to watch a Sherlock Holmes movie that had taped over the weekend. When it was done, I went to bed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter!

I woke up at 5:30 AM on Easter Sunday. I put on a pot of coffee and went to post the Blog. It's chilly this morning (29 degrees F.) but it's supposed to be sunny and 56 degrees F. this afternoon.

I started a load of throw rugs in the washer. Then I called Lu to wish her and Sadie a Happy Easter. She caught me up to date on all the goats born, the soap business, getting her tax papers and Jeremy and his family's visit this past week (they pulled out for Michigan and home at 5:30 AM this morning). I told her about lunch at Mom's yesterday and that I was going to brunch at Jake and Carla's today. She said she would really prefer to stay home today and make homemade laundry detergent, but would probably end up going to Easter dinner at Sadie's brother Bob's house.

After we hung up, I got to work on my contribution to the Easter brunch: Cheese Danish. I got out the stand mixer and put in eight ounces of room temperature cream cheese and 1/3 cup of sugar. I creamed them together on low until smooth. With the mixer still on, I added three large egg yolks (also room temperature), two tablespoons of ricotta cheese, one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, a pinch of Kosher salt and about one tablespoon of lemon zest (around the zest of two lemons). I mixed it until just combined (do NOT whip!)

I had thawed a box of puff pastry out overnight in the fridge. So, I got out my biggest board, floured it and went to work.

I unfolded one sheet of puff pastry onto the lightly floured board and rolled it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it was a 10 by 10-inch square. I cut the sheet into quarters with a sharp knife. I placed a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the four squares. I brushed the border of each pastry with egg wash and folded two opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stuck together. Then, I brushed the top of the pastries with egg wash. I placed the pastries on a sheet pan, covered with parchment paper.

I repeated this process with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerated the filled Danish. Now, even if you are going to bake them right away, they still need to be refrigerated for 15 minutes. However, I'm taking them over to Jake and Carla's and baking them there. Oh, and since I'm not sure just how much these bad boys will "puff" I only put four per sheet pan. It's more of a pain, but eight on one tray looked WAY too crowded. Oh, and one last thing: You need to bake these at 400 degrees F. for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown.

So, that done, I got the throw rugs out of the dryer and put them back. Then I shaved, showered and got dressed. I loaded up the car with the two sheet pans, now covered (sorta) with cling wrap. I got out the champagne (a bottle of Korbel that's been in the fridge since New Year's) and some good orange juice for Mimosas. I also took them some of their mail that came to my house and some of the pecan smoked beef jerky that Rick had sent me to try.

I got to their house just before noon. Carla put the cheese Danish into the fridge to bake later. They were in full-out production mode, and I just sat watching them and marveling. They have their movements in the kitchen so tight it's like watching a ballet or something.

They made up the dough for the goat cheese and black pepper biscuits. Jake rolled it out, folding it three times and then cutting them out and putting them on another parchment paper lined sheet tray. He popped them into the oven as Carla moved onto the next dish.

So, they had made the polenta the night before (butter, minced green onions, coarse cornmeal (or Polenta, in Italy), Parmesan cheese and fresh thyme). Carla started frying bacon to where it was brown, but still pliable. Meanwhile, Jake grated up six ounces of extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese and six ounces of Gruyere cheese. Jake pulled the biscuits out of the oven and let them cool as Carla mixed together some butter and fresh dill. She also put some wild-caught, smoked Alaskan salmon (thin-sliced) on a plate.

Then Jake put two half-slices of bacon on the bottom of four ramekins. Next, he lined the sides with another slice and a half of bacon. Then Carla filled them with the polenta, leaving a well in the middle. Into the well went one fresh egg per ramekin. That got topped with the grated Cheddar and Gruyere cheese mixture, some minced green onions, fresh thyme leaves and black pepper. The ramekins went onto another sheet pan and into a 400 degree oven, along with one of my cheese Danish trays.

Meanwhile, Carla had moved on to making the Sherry Vinaigrette, using some bacon drippings (reserved from the Bacon-wrapped Baked Eggs with Polenta), Sherry wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, brown sugar and extra-virgin olive oil. She used some of that to dress some arugula mixed with baby greens. Jake mixed up the Mimosas (one part orange juice to three parts champagne and then carefully, but cleverly, got the bacon, polenta and baked eggs out of the ramekins and standing upright on each plate. My last tray of cheese Danish went into the oven and we sat down to Easter brunch.

Everything was excellent (I mean it!) The spring greens with Sherry vinaigrette were great and the cheese Danish had a nice lemony flavor to the filling.

Here's how you rolled with the Goat Cheese and Black Pepper biscuits: You sliced a biscuit in half, added the dill butter and then several layers of the smoked salmon. As Carla pointed out, you couldn't taste the goat cheese, only the dill and salmon. But, it was excellent.

But the star of the show for me, anyway, was the bacon-wrapped eggs with polenta. As you cut into it, the yolk broke (of course) flooding the polenta with flavor. The bacon was a perfect, smoky counterpoint. But, it was very, very filling and by the time I got done, I didn't have any room for the coffee Jake had brewed.

We chatted for a bit and then Carla started cleaning up. By the time she was done, the kitchen was as spotless as when I walked in. I wish I had that kind of drive, BTW. I'm more the "Oh, I'll just let that soak overnight, it will be easier to wash..." kinda guy.

We then sat out on the deck for a while, cooling off. We got talking about this and that and somebody mentioned Income Taxes. Then I remembered, I never finished mine and they are due in three days!!! So, I hurriedly made my goodbyes, grabbing up my sheet pans, the beef jerky and the rest of the smoked salmon (I traded it for my remaining cheese Danish - I shouldn't really be eating that kind of stuff).

I made one stop on the way home at a party store to buy some Better Made Wavy potato chips. I think I mentioned it before, but Jake has been working on a recipe for a low calorie, but good tasting chip dip. He had me so convinced that he had it that I actually bought some of the ingredients; including eight ounces of goat cheese and (gulp) low fat sour cream!

But, when I realized his recipe made over two cups of chip dip, I gave up on it, as I would only end up throwing it out. But, today, he let me try some of it, and I was really impressed! Now, I've always been a French Onion Chip Dip kind of guy, but this really did taste better. So, tonight, I plan on cutting the recipe in half and giving it a shot.

But, first, after starting the last load of laundry for the weekend, it's back to the taxes. By 4:00 PM, I had the Federal one done and e-filed. I decided to do my Michigan taxes (a much easier form that I always do by hand) tomorrow night. Then I hung up the laundry.

So, I went in and filled in the Blog to date (it took almost two hours, BTW) and then went out and made some chip dip. I had to pop out onto the patio and get some chives to snip for it, but I finally got it done and chilling for tonight's TV. (I think it would have been a whole lot easier if I had let the goat cheese come up to room temperature first, BTW, but this was spur-of-the-moment, you see).

I went outside again, reset and refilled the bird feeder (now it's chilly, BTW.) Back inside, I started thinking about a light supper. I'm still kinda stuffed from brunch. Last Monday (in my search for "things to put in the garbage Tuesday morning") I came across two butternut squashes that I bought back in the fall that had gone bad. But, there was still an acorn squash that seemed solid.

So, tonight, I cut it in half and hollowed out the seeds. Now, I am sure in the past I've mentioned my Mother's method of baking these (with a pat of butter and some brown sugar). But, since I like savory over sweet, I frequently use the same pat of butter, but with fresh herbs and salt and pepper. However, tonight, the only fresh herbs I have are parsley and the chives out back. I started looking at dried herbs when I came across some Herbes de Provence, which is a French mixture of thyme, marjoram, rosemary, basil, fennel, sage and lavender. So, that's what I topped the pat of butter with, then some salt and fresh ground pepper. I popped that in the toaster oven at 400 degrees and set the timer for 30 minutes. I'll check it then and adjust the baking time as needed.

I checked and it wasn't cooked through, so I turned it back on for another 30 minutes. Then I put one side in a bowl and wandered off to watch my Sunday night shows. My appetite whetted, I got out the other one and ate it, too. So, Sunday night was all vegetarian for me!

Around 9:00 PM, I dished out a small bowl of the chip dip and a correspondingly small bowl of chips and had them as a snack. Yummo! I went to bed at 11:30 after watching the news.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Why the Blog was late and other Saturday stories

I slept lousy Friday night. So, I got up at 7:00 and warmed up some coffee. I'm supposed to be at Mom's around 10:30 AM and Carl's going to meet me there for lunch. I have plenty of time, so I thought I'd lay down and get a little more rest. WRONG!!!

I woke up at 10:00 AM. Aaarguh! So, I jumped in the shower and then started assembling my dish. I mixed two pounds of whole-milk ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. I added another 1/4 cup of hand torn basil leaves and two eggs. Then I got out the eggplant and the tomato sauce.

I buttered a cake pan and began assembly. About that time, Carl called asking where the hell I was. I put a couple of ladles of the tomato sauce and then a layer of the eggplant. Then I added the ricotta mixture, more tomato sauce and one pound of grated mozzarella. I repeated the procedure (like making lasagna but with eggplant instead of noodles) until the pan was full. I topped it with more of the Parmesan cheese.

I put it in the car on the floor and got together the rest of the stuff I was taking: a bag of baby salad greens, red wine vinegar, Pillsbury bread sticks, Parmesan cheese with some garlic powder in it and a lemon. I put three quarts of frozen soups in the cooler and headed out. Then I got onto I-96 and took it to I-94 and New Baltimore.

Marla already had the oven preheated, so I took off the top and slid in the eggplant Parmesan. I remarked that I had forgotten the red onion for the salad, so Marla cut up some scallions for me while I made a simple vinaigrette with the lemon juice, red wine vinegar and some olive oil. I threw in some Parmesan cheese to make it slightly creamy.

Then I prepared the Pillsbury bread sticks. I popped open the can, separated the dough, twisted each piece and laid them on an un-greased cookie sheet. I sprinkled on the last of the Parmesan cheese mixed with a little garlic powder. Marla pointed out that the Eggplant was getting brown at the edges so we loosely covered it with some tinfoil. Finally, I pulled it out and let it rest while I baked the bread sticks.

Finally, it was time to plate. Marla did the honors. I ate at the table with Mom and Marla and Carl ate on the island. I thought the salad was good and the bread sticks were excellent. The eggplant Parmesan was good, but I thought it would have been better to use more of the spicy tomato sauce and less of the cheese.

At my mother and brother Carl's urging, I dug up some dog-tooth violets from her garden for my own wild garden. We visited for a while and then I started getting sleepy. So I made my goodbyes and headed back for home around 4:00 PM.

I did have one traffic jam to contend with on the way home on I-94 (just before I-96) but I finally got there. My daughter Melissa called to wish me a Happy Easter. We didn't talk long as I mentioned I was just about to take a nap.

But first, it was time to post the Blog, albeit 12 hours late. Sorry about that! Next I planted the dog-tooth violets and watered them. Then I took an hour long nap.

I woke up just after 7:00 PM and went out to wash up the mess from this morning's frantic food adventure. I think any recipe that calls for copious amounts of tomato sauce is just asking for trouble, especially when you are late and trying to hurry.

But, I got it mostly cleaned up. I wandered in to watch some taped TV shows and I went to bed for real after the 11:00 PM news.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

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More hyacinths on the garage wall.

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Hyacinths next to the garage wall

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The first daffodil now has a friend

Good Friday

I woke up at my usual time on Friday. I went and posted to the Blog and then went back to bed, lol. (Hey, it's my day off)

I made a pot of the "Eight o'clock Columbian coffee" instead of breakfast. It was judged the best coffee and it's cheap!

I whittled away at the ToDo list for the rest of the day until I decided it was time to make parts of the dish I want to take out to Mom's on Saturday.

So, first I made the tomato sauce. I put olive oil in my Dutch oven and added in three cloves of garlic I had minced. I cooked that for about one minute, and then I added one cup of rough chopped Kalamata olives (already pitted), a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and three tablespoon of capers (drained). I let that all cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Then I opened two 28-ounce cans of San Marzano tomatoes and crushed them with my hands. I added them to the pot and brought it to a low simmer. I took fresh basil and tore the leaves by hand until I had about 1/4 cup. I added them in along with a little salt and a lot of pepper. I let it all simmer for about 10 minutes and then took it off the heat.

I made up my breading station with one tray of flour, one with three beaten eggs and the last one with bread crumbs mixed with garlic powder and oregano. I took the four pounds of eggplant (three good-sized ones) and cut off the tops and bottoms and then sliced them lengthwise into half inch slices. I heated up olive oil in my big skillet, and then started frying up the eggplant. When they were golden brown, I took them out and put them on a rack to drain and cool. Then I repeated the process (over and over again).

I put the tomato sauce into the fridge and went to watch some TV. I came back later and put the eggplant in the fridge as well. Then I put myself to bed.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thursday and off for the weekend!

It was chilly Thursday morning, but I was not fooled. It's supposed to be in the upper 50's by this afternoon, so I wore my light jacket rather than my leather coat. When I went home at lunchtime, the car interior had already been heated by the sun to an uncomfortable temperature.

I stopped at Kroger's and then Westborn Market to get ingredients for this weekend's meals. Then I went home and had a sandwich for lunch.

I went out to the Building 73 site to check out the progress of my contractors and was well pleased. They have moved beyond the office area to wiring the shop area. There is a bit of confusion about the OpteMAN, in that we did not ask for an optical handoff (I put a shit load of fiber in this building) but since the demark and the MDF are less than 30 feet apart, it doesn't seem to matter. Anyway, AT&T can see us and we can ping the servers, so we are good to go. (I'll try and explain this all later, Mom...)

At 4:45 PM, our Director came out and told everybody "Happy Easter" and said we could leave now, so I did.

Since I was leaving early, I swung by the quarter car wash (right next to my street) and hosed off the Volvo. Then, I got the mail and pulled in the garage. I treated the cats and then went back into the garage with a towel and dried off the car.

Then I went back inside. I know I have often complained about Scruffy barfing up hair balls. Well, I never have seen Caley do that. Instead she just sheds hair EVERYWHERE! So, tonight, I am sick of it!!!

I vacuumed and swept the living room, my bedroom and the office. Then I swept the kitchen clean and out onto the walk-off rug downstairs. So, I dragged the vacuum cleaner downstairs and cleaned off both walk-off rugs and the downstairs with the vacuum cleaner. I emptied the receptacle (which had an unbelievable amount of cat hair) and then took the filter out into the garage. I opened the garage door, turned on the air compressor and blew the filter off, clean and clear.

Once I had the vacuum back together and back in the linen closet, the cats felt free to reappear. While only Caley fears the broom, both of them hate the vacuum cleaner.

Now it's time for dinner. I am using an Alton Brown recipe, in case you are interested. I took out the thick cod fillet and let it come up to room temperature as I made my preparations. I put three inches of peanut oil in my Dutch oven, along with the candy thermometer, and turned up the heat to get it to 350 degrees F.

Next I made my batter by whisking together two cups of flour, one teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and a dash of Old Bay Seasoning. Then I whisked in a bottle of beer (I used Labatt's Blue, but I think any beer will do) until it was completely smooth and free from lumps. I stuck the batter into the fridge for 15 minutes. Note: this batter can be made up to an hour before using.

I got out the last of my first bag of the Kroger shoestring potatoes (maybe a generous handful) and carefully put them into the oil. I let them cook for about two minutes and then pulled them out with the spider. I put them on a rack I'd prepared (sitting on top a cookie sheet, covered with paper towels) and hit them with salt. I set them on another cookie sheet and then into the oven preheated to "warm".

Then I took the cod and tried to cut it into roughly one ounce chunks. I had prepared a paper plate with cornstarch. So, I patted each piece dry with a paper towel (or "kitchen towel" as they say in England), dredged it in the cornstarch, and shook off the excess. I dipped it in the batter and then immersed it in the oil. Once the batter set, I turned them over and let them cook until golden brown (about two minutes, total). I was working in small batches (two or three pieces per batch).

Each batch came out and onto the rack and then I hit them with kosher salt. When I was finished, I plated three of them and the French fries. I topped the fries with malt vinegar and the fish with lemon juice. I was just too lazy to make tartar sauce, you see.

Speaking of lemon juice, here's a tip: With fresh lemons, all you have to do is roll them on the cutting board, pressing hard with your hand before you slice them. But, with older lemons, like I had, just stick them in the microwave for 30 seconds and that helps to release the juice.

I ate dinner watching TV (and, dinner was excellent, BTW). I turned the TV off at 10:00 PM and went to bed.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Working Wednesday

It was still cold when I went to work in the morning, so I wore my leather jacket. But, by lunch time, the sun had warmed the car up and I was now not happy with my coat selection.

I drove over to Building 6 and parked outside the shipping doors. I waited about 15 minutes past our agreed on time. Then I gave up and went inside and inquired where Tracey might be. Today was the day we had decided upon for me to take her out to lunch for her 40th birthday, you see.

They told me she was off for the rest of the weekend for a family emergency. Damn! I hope it's not something too serious (her son is a Marine, you see).

So, now it's late, and I am on the wrong side of town. So I went to the Newburgh Grille for lunch. I had the Number 6 Lunch Special: the French Dip sandwich with a cup of soup. Now, I have mentioned that I really like their bean with ham soup, I believe. Well, that's only on Tuesdays. Today's choices were tomato basil, chicken with dumpling (had it before and hated it) and lemon-rice chicken. I picked the lemon-rice chicken. This will not be added to My Favorites list: WAY too much lemon! But, the sandwich was good.

I got on I-275, took it to I-96 and back to work.

Finally, after a particularly frustrating afternoon, it was five o'clock. When I got home, I left the car in the driveway, popped inside just long enough to treat the cats and then went back in the garage to fold up the big tarp. I spread it all out and then swept it with a push broom. Then I folded it in half and swept it again (this seems to be the easiest way to get the air out and make it lie flat). Finally, I had it in a nice small bundle.

I went in the back room and gathered up the now-dry rose cones, stacked them and carried them into the garage. I pulled down the attic stairs and carried everything up, putting winter in storage again.

I opened the garage door and swept the floor. Then I pulled the car in for the night. I went into the back room and swapped my shoes for my boots. Then I went out and refilled the bird feeder and suet cage.

Back inside, I finally changed clothes and started the Wednesday night wash (it was already after 6:00 PM).

I decided to decorate for Easter (see photos). I would bet it will take Caley about one day to put all the eggs under the chairs, couches, etc.

Now it was time to think about dinner. I took out the leftover roast beef and veggies and sliced everything 1/4 inch thick. I saut�ed that in oil and butter until it was warm and the potatoes were starting to crisp. I tasted it and added more salt and pepper. I plated half of it and went in to watch TV.

The hash was good, but lacking something. I was just about finished eating it when it dawned on me I should have added sliced onions to it! I'll do that to the other half.

I watched some TV, switched the clothes from the washer to the dryer and watched more until it was finished and I could hang up the clothes. Then I switched from TV to reading until I got drowsy and then went to bed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

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Easter decorations on San Jose (it will take a day or so for Caley to bat all of the embroidered eggs under couches and chairs)

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My second daffodil, struggling against the April snow.

My debut as a matador - A recollection

When I was a young lad, I sort of adopted our neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Schalger as surrogate grandparents. They were very old and lived two doors down. Mr. Sclager raised a few cows on his farm and they still got their water from an outside hand pump.

I must have been maybe seven or eight years old when I watched a calf being born. So, I sort of adopted him, too, and would go down there and brush him and feed him.

Sometime that summer, he had grown up to be a rather big heifer with some wicked horns. It was a Sunday and my married brothers and their families had come over for dinner (which they normally did). So, I had the bright idea to show the heifer to some of my nieces and nephews. I don't remember who all exactly, but I know my sister Anne and my niece Donna were there.

Anyway, he was out in the field, so we all climbed over the fence and walked over to check him out. I'm still not sure why, or what spooked him, but he put his head down and charged us!

I yelled to everybody to run back to the fence and then I ran towards him, to distract him. He spun around and started chasing me. I zigged and zagged all over that damn field until I finally got back to the fence with just enough time to climb it. I was exhausted and scared shitless!

Needless to say, my affection for that particular cow was over...

Snow Day

It was cold (28 degrees F.) and softly snowing when I took the garbage out Tuesday morning.

But the winds had picked up and the snow (heavier) was blowing sideways when I went home for lunch. I stopped at Westborn and got this week's fruits and veggies.

The snow had almost stopped (I thought) when I left work at 5:00 PM. I stopped in at CVS to pick up a few, needed supplies.

Around 6:00 PM, I called a friend and we talked for quite some time. I was in the living room and when I happened to glance out the window, I was shocked at just how much snow was again coming down! None of this seems to be sticking (although only about half of yesterday's snow has melted).

For dinner, I just made a green salad with onion slices, topped with homemade dressing and heated up a Marie Callender's chicken pot Pie.

I watched some TV, but went to bed early.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

January in April???

I woke up on Monday morning with about three inches of heavy, wet snow. I was not surprised as my nightly bathroom visits had prepared me for this. All the arborvitaes were lying down and most of the low pine branches were bent and touching the ground. I was shocked, but not concerned. We (the arborvitae, the pine tree branches and me, as the Tree Herder) have lived through this before.

So, I headed off to work, through snow that had the consistency of a
Slushy from the Dairy Queen. I had a 10:30 AM meeting at the new building and the weather was much worse (windy, snowy and damn cold!)

It was about 11:30 when we were done and I was headed back to the "campus." I went by the Big Boy restaurant in Farmington and, on impulse, I pulled in for lunch. The wind is even worse and the snow is coming down sideways, BTW.

I ordered a cup of coffee, a large water and my favorite Big Boy dinner: Veal Parmesan with a side of spaghetti and a salad with Italian dressing. I topped the veal and spaghetti with grated Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes. It was very good!

I left a good tip, paid my bill and then headed out into the storm. I stopped in at Building Three to drop off some things to Michelle Pace. While I was there, Jake returned one of my soup containers. It wasn't empty, however. It was filled with leftovers from their Sunday night supper: Seared scallops on saut�ed spinach with hoisin butter sauce and rice.

So, I headed back to my building a happy man. I stopped briefly at home to stick my supper in the fridge. I got back to work just in time to chair the PM meeting (my boss is on vacation this week). Jake and I had several discussions throughout the afternoon on ways I could heat up the leftovers without overcooking the scallops.

I got home at 5:15 PM and the snow had stopped and was finally starting to melt.

I took out the scallops from the container and reserved them. I carefully put the spinach and rice in my smallest pot, put a lid on it and stuck it in the oven preheated to 170 degrees F. (or "Warm").

Then I got to work. The last time I made chicken stock, I didn't use the meat. I just stuck it all in a freezer container, covered it with stock, labeled the jar and stuck it in the freezer for some other day. I had taken it and another quart of stock out over the weekend for today's snowfall. Nothing says homemade soup like a blanket of snow!

So, I diced up two peeled carrots, two stalks of celery, three cloves of garlic and a medium sized onion. All that and a bay leaf went into olive oil already heated in my smallest stock pot. I stirred and saut�ed them all until the carrots had softened, but nothing had browned (about eight minutes). Then I added the chicken stock and the chicken in stock containers (along with some extra stock to try and get two full quarts of stock). While that was coming to a boil, I cooked eight ounces of Kluski noodles in salted water. When they were al dente, I drained them and added them to the soup. I turned it down and let is simmer for a while to get happy.

Now, why not cook the noodles in the soup mix? Simple. You don't normally add the pre-cooked chicken until the very end (so it doesn't fall apart). But, I had no choice since the chicken was already in the stock. So, rather than boil the soup and chicken mixture for seven or eight minutes, I chose to cook the noodles separately.

Meanwhile, I added the now room temperature scallops to the pot in the oven and kept it on warm for another 30 minutes. Then I plated my dinner. It worked!! The scallops were still beautifully cooked (you can easily taste an overcooked scallop as it has the consistency of rubber). And, the hoisin butter sauce gave it all a distinct Asian flavor. Excellent meal! I ate it all, but I figured it was all healthy stuff. Thanks, guys!

I went back to the kitchen and turned the soup off. Then I started on cleanup. With that accomplished, I started filling the freezer containers with soup. It was as I feared: it's too thick. So, I did the container for my Mom first, putting as much broth as I could in it. I labeled that and stuck it in the freezer. I filled the next three containers 3/4 full, put them in the fridge and took out another quart of chicken stock to thaw (that takes at least a day, BTW). Tomorrow, when I have liquid stock, I'll top off each container, label it and freeze it.

I went back in the bedroom and watched taped cooking shows from the weekend until bedtime.

Monday, April 6, 2009

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Next Fall's Compost

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This Spring's Compost

Sunday, before the snow...

I woke up late and still didn't feel like getting out of bed. But, of course, I finally did. It took a long time to write the Blog entry for Saturday but, two cups of coffee later, I finally "got 'er done."

I started the weekend laundry, adding the work clothes I had worn last week to my jacket I washed yesterday. I skipped the shave and went straight to the shower.

It's sunny and 45 degrees F. but I am not fooled. It's supposed to start raining around 2:00 PM and, later on, switch to snow with an accumulation of two inches! Damn Michigan!!!

I did go out and take a few pictures (see photos) and put the front yard debris by the gate (did you really think I would put it out for pick up?) along with the garden fork and the transfer shovel.

I got the wheel barrow and put the two bags of stuff, the fork and shovel in it and took it back to my compost piles. I cleaned the oldest one down to the dirt, putting the un-composted stuff on the other pile. Then I added the leaves and sticks from the front yard to it. So, now I have one pile I can use immediately and the other for the Fall.

I put the tools away and harvested a few stems of the chives. I cut them into 1/4 inch pieces and put them in three large eggs. I scrambled them up and then cooked them. That and some toast was my late lunch.

I spent the rest of the afternoon doing chores. About 7:00 PM, I started getting hungry. So, I warmed up some the roast beef and veggies for my Sunday night dinner.

Both my Sunday night shows were reruns, so I watched the movie "Saving Private Ryan" instead.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

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Front of the tree box, screwed!

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Caley's new spot with the new monitor

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Crock pot, cooking Saturday's dinner

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Saturday's dinner

Saturday's Story

I woke up at 5:30 AM on Saturday and went out to start a pot of coffee. Then, despite the protests from the cats, I stripped the bedding and started the weekend wash.

I answered some emails and then wrote and posted the Blog and a picture. Next I started making tonight's dinner, pot roast.

I took out the round crock pot, sprayed the inside with non-stick spray (for easier clean-up, later) and started peeling, dicing and adding the veggies: carrots first, then one whole small yellow onion, the six remaining redskin potatoes (that were starting to sprout) one medium russet potato (to get enough potatoes to carrots) and two smashed garlic cloves.

I seasoned the English Blade roast with a lot of salt and pepper (it's a thick cut of meat) and then trimmed it to fit in the crock pot. I wedged it in over the veggies and then topped it with Vidalia onion rings. I added fresh sprigs of thyme and parsley and some dried rosemary leaves. I finished it all up with a layer of Cremini mushrooms with the stems removed (so they would fit). I added a half cup of water, turned it on Low and walked away.

I shaved and took a shower and then got dressed. I made up the bed and then left to run my errands. First, a 9:00 AM hair cut. After that, I stopped and got my oil changed. One of the "joys" of owning a Volvo is that it takes six quarts of oil instead of the usual five, and a special filter. So, the advertised $19.95 oil change always costs me $29.10.

Then I went to Kroger's for my main grocery shopping. I got my usual staples as well as some pretty good deals. I was back home and unloading the car just after 11:00 AM. When I got out of the car, I noticed the engine smelled "funny," so I actually got down on the floor to see if there was oil leaking (there wasn't). I thought maybe the guy had left either the filter or the drain plug loose and I had lost oil. I made a mental note to check it when the car had cooled down.

Back inside, with the groceries put away, I happened to go into the bedroom. I saw that in the brief time since I made up the bed this morning, somebody (Scruffy) had barfed up a hairball on the bedspread. Disgusted, I cleaned up the mess with a paper towel and threw it back in the washer (after spraying the stained area).

At 12:15, I was hard boiling the rest of last shopping trip's eggs and going out on the patio. I reset all the furniture and moved the "shepherd's crooks" that hold the bird feeder and the suet cage farther apart.

Why? Well, it was amusing to watch the squirrels use the two close poles to climb up and either eat some of the bird seed or the suet. But, recently, one or more of them has the great idea that it's cool to jump and hang on the bird feeder. This spills all the seed at once, emptying the feeder in a matter of moments. I can't afford that!

I took out all the old bread and buns I had and, after ripping them up, spread them around as well. Then I went back inside and warmed up the rest of the pork-fried rice for my lunch.

When that was heating up, the doorbell rang. It was Jake and Carla, on their way back home from Jake's annual dental check-up. He had listened to me bitch about this new monitor all week, so he went in to fix it while Carla and I visited.

I mentioned this whole pistachio and salmonella scare thing and that I had nearly a full jar of them that I'd recently bought from GFS (they are supposed to be a good snack for lowering cholesterol). They suggested that, rather than throw them away, I should put them out for the squirrels. That way, if there was nothing wrong with them, they wouldn't go to waste and, if my backyard was littered with dead squirrels, I would know I had done the right thing.

Jake got the resolution straightened up (so everything didn't "flicker" all the time) and the format changed from the "wide-screen" (so all my photos didn't look stretched and stupid). Thank you!!! And, then they left.

I re-heated the fried rice and ate it, topped with good soy sauce, watching some taped Food network shows. Then I took a short nap. I woke up, but wasn't inclined to get up, so I checked the TV guide and watched the last half of a movie (Rambo, First Blood II). Then I got up.

I went out to get the mail and remembered I wanted to secure the front of the tree box (the "planter," Brother Carl) better. I had used 2 1/2-inch finish nails, but I have been thinking the freezing and thawing next winter might pop them. So, I got out the drill and drilled pilot holes first, then added some screws. They will probably rust and look crappy, but the front won't come off!

Almost as an afterthought, I checked the oil in the car. Now I'm pissed!!! It was NOT low, but almost an inch over the Full mark on the dipstick!! I have long since let my cert lapse (I was an ASE certified mechanic in Engine Building) but I still know what kind of damage you can do to an engine with too much oil!

By my calculations, I had only driven about five miles after having the oil changed, so I am hoping I didn't trash the engine. But, I gotta get the oil out. I dragged out my floor jack which I haven't used in years. But, it wouldn't pick up the car (the hydraulic oil must be low) so, I got the jack out of the trunk for the first time ever.

I jacked the car up as high as it would go (after putting on the parking brake and chocking the wheels) and stuck one of Jake's jack stands under it. I washed out one of the extra kitty litter trays I keep (for leaving the house for extended periods), dried it thoroughly and slid it under the car.

It took a while to determine which metric socket fit (the drain plug points to the back of the car and I was in the front, so I was doing it all by feel) but I finally got it. I took it off and filled the tray about half full of motor oil (and my hand and the sleeve of my jacket). I made more of a mess trying to get the plug screwed back in, but I finally got it done.

I washed my hands, removed the jack stand and then let the car back down. I reluctantly volunteered one of my soup freezer containers for the next part (they are exactly one quart, you see). I took the container and the oil out to the field next door (in case of spillage) and filled up the container. I took it back, put it into the engine, and then I checked the dipstick. I did that three times until it registered on the dipstick.

I started the car up and let it run for a minute or two. Then I checked the dipstick again. It was right in the middle between "Low" and "Full." I filled up the container and put a lid on it and put it on the garage shelf. I dumped the rest of the oil (maybe another 1/2 quart) on the grass in my driveway. I'll check the oil level in the car again in a day or two and adjust as needed.

Back inside, I sprayed my jacket and washed it in hot water. I washed up and finally checked my mail (one bill and three junk mails). It was about 6:30 PM.

So, onto dinner. I put the mushrooms and the onion rings into a bowl and threw away the herb stems. I put the meat onto a platter and then took out the veggies with a slotted spoon. I strained the au jus into a sauce pan and heated it up. I chopped up the mushrooms and onion rings and added them to the pot. When it was boiling, I added a water and cornstarch slurry and whisked it until it thickened into a nice gravy.

I made up a plate and topped the roast beef and the potatoes with the gravy. I ate it at the kitchen table, reading a book. The dinner was very good, BTW.

I let the crock pot inside soak for the night, put the rest of the food into the fridge and wandered off to watch TV.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

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The patio, after a visit from Mr. Wind

Friday's Takeout

Well, Friday started out with what Jake calls a "nice rain," meaning a gentle rain on the warm side.

But, I had to go out to the new building to confer with my troops (I had some changes I needed them to make to ensure redundant connectivity between the OpteMAN in the demarc and the switch in the MDF). By the time I left around 10:00 AM, the winds had really picked up and the temps were falling. Not so nice, now.

At 4:30 PM, I called to Chin's and ordered take out. I am just about out of leftovers and had nothing thawed, so it's either cans or takeout. Chinese sounded good!

Now I haven't eaten lunch there in probably a good year or so. I was quite surprised at the brisk business they do at night. I got my bag and drove home.

I wasn't hungry yet, but I couldn't help myself, so I ate one of the two egg rolls I'd ordered. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted (much better than I remembered). I stuck everything else in the microwave to stay warm and went to change clothes.

I did a load of whites (downstairs bathroom towels and mat and my bathrobe). I had the news on while I puttered about. There was another hostage taking, shooting rampage and then suicide in New York. Man, this is getting weird! This used to happen maybe every year or two and now it seems like once a month. What the hell's the world coming to?

I noticed that the wind gusts had knock my patio furniture all around, so I took a photo for you.

Finally, it was dinner time. I warmed up the second egg roll and was very glad I ate that first one. Because, warmed back up, it was mushy. It still tasted good, but the texture was all wrong.

They must have gotten a new chef, because the won ton soup was completely different, filled with matchstick-sized veggies of all kinds. It tasted good, but on some dishes, I go for strictly traditional. I must have rutabagas and no carrots in a pastie and won ton soup should be the dumpling, clear broth and a sprinkling of scallions!!!

The pork fried rice more than made up for the soup, though. It was excellent. I ate about half of it (the rest will be Saturday's lunch). Then I wandered in to watch the Friday Night Fights.