Sunday, January 26, 2014

Saturday’s Story

I slept in Saturday morning until a wonderful 7:15 a.m. I quickly checked outside my kitchen window and it didn’t seem all that different from last night! It didn’t look like it was snowing, so I checked out the front window. Hmmm… The drift doesn’t look all that different from when I came home.

I checked the weather and they kept talking about wind and 1-3 inches of snow. Well, it was windy, but all I could figure was that it was snowing somewhere else. That was okay by me!

I got a cup of coffee and posted the Blog entry. Then I moseyed in to watch the news. I eventually started getting hungry, so I went and made some soft-scrambled eggs and two pieces of sourdough toast.

Then I spread a pound of dried split peas onto a half sheet tray. I sorted through them, looking for stones. I didn’t find any (I don’t think I ever have in split peas) but I have found them before in dried beans. So, I figured an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a dentist visit! I put them in a colander and rinsed them, then put them in eight cups of water to soak.

I started getting ready just after 9:30 a.m. and left at 10:15.  It was actually sunny and I took the Expressway to Telegraph and headed north. Just before Telegraph and 8-Mile, the clouds thickened with snow and I drove into a virtual white-out! I took it slow (like everyone else) and only slid through two lights. But, I finally arrived at the dealership intact.

Now, at the house I was wearing my old, smooth crocs inside until I got downstairs to put my boots on. It wasn’t until I stepped out at the dealer’s that I realized I forgot that simple last step and was still wearing the crocs! Uh oh…

So, I carefully mounted the snowy steps and went inside. It took a l-o-n-g time and I believe there were about as many things to sign as when I refinanced the house! Not just the loan papers, but forms to acknowledge they had explained this or that program that I declined. Geesh!

There was one BIG problem! You can now transfer license plates between cars and truck (you weren’t able to do that in the past) But, unlike American cars, my license plate was held on with nuts instead of screws. And that plate has been on there a long time. So, the first nut snapped off, jammed into the guy’s 10 mm socket (this was the salesman, there are no mechanics onsite on Saturday) and he couldn’t get it out. So, he went back out and tried another with vise-grips. That one just spun the stud. He was out there a long time, but with no success. So, he said we would have to apply for a new plate. I asked if they could get me another handicap one and he said he wasn’t sure (that’s not on the application form), but if worst comes to worst, I would get a normal plate and then I could take it to the Secretary of State and switch it.

Sounds simple, but that means about two hours in the Secretary of State’s office and paying for another plate! I explained that to him and he said he would “try.”

Then I had to go across the parking lot to pay for the running boards (there are two Tamaroff dealerships, Honda and Nissan, and a common repair shop on the premises. So, I followed him down a snowy ramp (that they drive the cars into the showroom and has no railing). I made it almost down when I slipped and fell hard. I didn’t break anything (thank God) and I’d like to say all I hurt was my pride. But, I pulled a muscle in my back and sprained my left wrist bad. Dammit!

Anyway, I paid and we walked back to the truck. He went over all the controls and so on. Since it was still snowing hard, he suggested I drive home in four-wheel drive, so I did.

It took a while to get used to driving it, but since everyone was going only 20 mph, I had time. My biggest problem was starting off at the lights. I kept giving it too much gas! This sucker has a lot more power off the line than the Volvo! That resulted in throwing snow high into the air at all four wheels.

I finally got home about 1:00 p.m. and pulled into the garage. Then came problem number two: The bottle I have hanging on a string to tell me when to stop hit the hood, not the windshield (truck’s a bit taller). And, when I thought I had it about where the Volvo stopped, I got out and checked and it was hanging out of the garage! Truck’s a bit longer. So, when I finally got it right in the back, I had to squeeze past the shelf to get into the house.

I figured out what I had to do to get it right, but needed the truck out of the garage to do it. So, I loaded up my packages and took them to the Post Office. When I returned, I found it was much more difficult to get the mail from the mailbox (I have to reach down and over, rather than just over like the Volvo).

I left the truck outside, got the small step ladder and moved the string and bottle indicator to the correct location and height. This took a bit of trial and error. Then I slid the shelf over towards the workbench. I pulled the truck inside and made some minor modifications with the bottle height and called it good.

I went inside to warm up. I decided to eat some lunch. I had bought a small bag of shredded cabbage so I mixed it with the last of the store-bought dressing and made more coleslaw. Then I made yet another turkey sandwich. I added some olives to the plate this time (instead of a pickle) and had a satisfying lunch.

Now, at that point, my wrist was just throbbing. It was a little swollen and a little red, but still functional. So, I sorted through the things I took out of the Volvo and put the ones I wanted to keep in the truck. Of course, some things that I kept in the trunk (jumper cables, a 25-foot tow strap, etc.) had nowhere to go inside the truck. But there are trade-offs with most everything in life, I suppose…

[Sidebar: I had fully intended on taking a ton of pictures for you. But the truck is totally covered with dirty snow and salt. So, that will have to wait.]

I buttoned everything up for the night and went inside to start dinner.

As I am sure you guessed (I have a most intelligent readership, you see) I am making split pea and ham soup. The easiest (and best, I think) way to do it is with a ham bone. But, I never make a whole ham, so I never have one.

Instead, I took a ham hock and scored the fat. I put it in a small pan, covered it with water and brought that to a boil. I reduced the heat and let it simmer for an hour. While that was cooking, I drained the peas, set them aside and made my mise en place.

I finely diced a medium-sized yellow onion (about one cup). Then I finely chopped a half cup of celery and grated another half cup of carrot (you can finely chop it as well, BTW). Then I minced two teaspoons of garlic.

When the timer went off for the ham hock, I drained it and let it sit while I got out the Dutch oven from downstairs. I couldn’t pick it up with my left hand! I ended up slipping my left forearm under the one side and got it on the stove that way.

I figured I better do something about my wrist, so I got out the bottle of muscle relaxers (I don’t have any pain pills left). But, I couldn’t hold the bottle with my left hand so I could push down and turn the child-proof cap! This was getting ridiculous! I was gonna just smash the bottle with a hammer (I have a lot of tools still in the kitchen) but ended up holding it with a pair of channel locks with my left hand and taking the top off with my right. I took a pill and got back to work.

So, I melted a half stick of butter in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. I added the onions and cooked them about two minutes. I added the celery and carrots and cooked them (stirring) until they softened (about three more minutes). Finally I put in the garlic and cooked that for less than a minute.

I added in the ham hock and one pound of small-diced ham (two 8-ounch packages I bought at Kroger’s). I kept stirring that until it started to brown. Then I put in the peas, some salt, not-fresh black pepper (I had to use some I had in a can – I couldn’t hold the pepper grinder and turn it at the same time) and a little crushed red pepper flakes. I stirred that for another two minutes or so.

Then I added eight cups of water, a bay leaf and a couple of teaspoons of fresh thyme. I brought that to a boil, reduced it to simmer and cooked it, stirring occasionally, for about an hour.

Now some people like potatoes in their split pea soup and some don’t. I can go either way. But, today I thought: potatoes! So, I peeled three small Yukon Gold potatoes, which wasn’t easy, either. I sorta pressed them down on the cutting board with my left hand while I peeled them instead of holding them.

I cut them into a medium dice and added them into the pot after about 30 minutes. I kept stirring every few minutes as you can’t walk away from this soup. You have to watch and, if it becomes too thick or dry, add a little water as needed.

When the potatoes were done and the peas were soft, I pulled out the ham hock and bay leaf. Then I dished up a bowl for a very late dinner. It was excellent!

I had started watching an old (1962) war movie, “Merrill’s Marauder’s”, about a World War II operation in Burma while the soup was cooking. So, I ate my soup (and a second bowl later) while the movie continued.

When it ended at 10:30 p.m., I put the soup into containers and into the fridge. I put the Dutch oven in the sink to soak. I took another muscle relaxer and then I went to bed.

Between my wrist and twinges of pain from my back when I moved, I didn’t fall asleep until after midnight.

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