Monday, December 31, 2012

Picture outline (I may qualify for the Redford Ghost tours)

Sunday Morning, Comin’ Down…

I woke up Sunday morning at 5:30 AM. Apparently, I am back on Michigan time (or that nap and my night’s sleep was all I needed).

I had some oatmeal for breakfast (I don’t have any eggs or milk in the house) and refilled my pill box.

I was easing into the day, drinking coffee, writing the Blog entry and so on. I eventually went downstairs and dealt with all the kitty litter, getting the old stuff into bags (the garbage man is gonna love me… NOT!) and washing the trays, etc. I decided to leave the large waterer up until I can wash and sanitize their aluminum water bowls in the dishwasher. Since I haven’t been here and did the dishes just before I left, this could be a while.

I took out a container of frozen chili I made 11 November to thaw, since I have no fresh food, either. I had the Sunday morning news shows on and, when something sounded interesting, I would go in and watch it.

Weather-wise, it was snowing slightly here. According to the local news, there’s no significant snow coming, but its supposed to get even colder later on this week, with highs only in the upper teens! I miss South Carolina already, LOL!

I have also been thinking about that clock Melissa and Dave sent. I think it would be cool to have it hanging on a pot rack, as if it was just a skillet, but was really a clock. So, I checked out some pot racks online, but they all stick out too much. So, I have been kicking around ideas to make a pot rack. Stay tuned for that one…

I took my suitcase and (finally) my old brace up into the attic, still wearing my bathrobe. I damn near froze my… knees off!

I checked the chili when I got back downstairs. It was still frozen rock-hard. So, I scrounged around the fridge and got an idea. I had three flour tortillas, some pepperoni (left over from that “Ultimate” grilled cheese sandwich experiment) and my usual mild pepper rings. I checked the pantry and found a small jar of pizza sauce, so I combined everything and made a mini pizza. I topped the first one with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese. I popped it in the microwave for a minute and shut it off when the cheese started to melt (about 40 seconds).

It tasted good, but was very messy to eat as everything kept sliding off. So, I made the next one but topped it with the last tortilla. That kept it somewhat together and I had a nice little lunch.

I finally shaved and took my shower about 1:00 PM.

I got dressed, put my boots on and headed to Home Depot for a four-foot 1x4 and some hand-cut cinder block nails. I got an idea!!!

Back home and with my boots still on, I went out back and refilled the squirrel feeder and bird feeder. I took in some peanuts in for a “people” snack later on.

Melissa called. They had been to Savannah and had quite similar stories to my Charleston visit (Spanish moss, haunted mansions, tour and so on). They actually were planning on stopping in Charleston on the way back, but it was raining. So, we swapped stories for a bit.

I told her the outline of my plan for her present and she said it sounded like way too much effort for the clock and I should think about re-gifting it. Apparently, it was a gag gift. But, hell no! I got me a project, here!

She was taking down her Christmas decorations and that reminded me: I still have to do that (although I don’t have that much to worry about).

After we hung up. I undid all the remaining long sleeve shirts and put them in the washer. Yes, I have decided to keep them (if only to confuse people at work who think I only wear short sleeve shirts, LOL).

I put the chili in a pot and turned the flame on low. I covered the pot and stirred it every now and then when I walked by.

I made a bucket of hot water and Pine Sol and washed the wall with my grout sponge, which has a very rough side.  While I got a lot of soot off it, it didn’t even touch the outline around the old picture (see photos). WTF? How did it get this bad without me noticing?

Note to self: When did I, Jake and Carla redo the kitchen? It seems like just yesterday, but I guess its been a while.

I completely gave up on my new Fall jacket and put it in the wash with some bath towels. When it dried, I hung it up in the front closet and got out my very old (heavy) leather jacket and hung that on my kitchen chair, along with the scarf I got as a Christmas present from Carla’s brother’s family. I am now prepared for winter. If it gets worse, I will pull out my down-filled jacket (but that makes me sweat like a mother-fncker).

Around 6:00 PM, I filled up a bowl with chili and topped it with leftover shredded cheddar cheese. I wished I had some green onions to top it with but, oh well. It was excellent, (if  I do say so, myself).

I spent the rest of the night watching DIY shows that had taped while I was gone. About 10:00 PM, I ate the rest of the chili and then slowly faded off to sleep.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Arriving in the "D"

Snow at the house

Home Again (finally)

True to his word, Jake woke me up at 3:30 AM. I hopped out of bed, brushed my teeth, took my pills, got dressed and was downstairs in less than five minutes. I put my kit into my suitcase (which Jake had lugged downstairs the night before) and grabbed the travel mug of coffee he had thoughtfully provided as we headed out the door and into the rain.

Traffic was light, of course, but it was a two-edged sword. He couldn’t speed as there weren’t a lot of other cars on the road, just cops looking for drunks. Never less, we got to the airport in plenty of time. We said our goodbyes and I trudged into the airport.

I think mine was the only flight leaving (we were supposed to take off at 5:24 AM) because there wasn’t anyone at any other gates. Naturally, everything was closed, so I had to hope and pray my book wouldn’t run out and I wouldn’t get thirsty until I got to Charlotte.

Then we were told the incoming flight was delayed due to weather until 6:00 AM. I quickly checked my connecting flight in Charlotte. It didn’t leave until 7:45 AM, so I figured I still would be okay.

The flight came in, the passengers deplaned and we walked out in the rain onto the tarmac and up the stairs into the little plane. I was being very careful as Crocs and water don’t play well together, especially when you add in metal stairs.

The pilot warned us about possible turbulence due to the storm, but the flight was unremarkable. My seat companion was a young man in his twenties, who family had recently moved to Columbia from northeast Indiana. He was on his way to celebrate New Year’s with his girlfriend’s family in Idaho. So, we swapped stories about Amish and Mennonites and Idaho.

When we landed, I rushed to the gate for my next flight and found it had been rescheduled to 8:30 AM. So, I went off to find some breakfast.

There were no Coney Islands or such where you could get a normal breakfast, though. I decided to use the same logic as driving on the expressway, where you eat where the truckers eat, figuring they know where the good food is. So, I walked around, looking for pilots and/or flight attendants eating. Most of them were at the Burger King !?!

So, I ordered an egg, cheese and ham croissant with hash browns and orange juice. The breakfast sandwich was good, but the hash browns were weird (like 1/4-inch thick tater tots). I finished that up and went back to my gate.

I sat next to a very friendly young lady who was passing the time by knitting a scarf for her boyfriend. I asked her if she lived in Detroit and she said, no, she was from Tallahassee. She was on her way to her boyfriend’s parent’s house in, of all places, Lake Orion. So, I told her about Waconda while we waited.

Then they changed the departure time to 9:15 AM. The plane was here and ready, but the flight crew were delayed as they were flying from somewhere west through a bad storm.

I finished my book and went off in search of another and a bottle of water. When I got back, everyone was gone! I found out they had changed the gate as well, so I wandered down to the new gate and found the departure time had changed as well. Now it was 10:00 AM. Sigh… So much for an early flight meaning I would get home early…

I looked outside at the plane and saw it was another small one (like the one I just took from Columbia). I pointed that out to my knitting friend and she said, “No, that can’t be right".

But, at 10:15, when we finally started to board, it was true. We walked down the normal tunnel but at the end, rather than a plane, there was a set of metal stairs. It was still raining, so I gingerly walked down them and over to the plane’s steps.

I was surprised that the very attractive blond I assumed was our flight attendant was, in fact, the pilot! So much for my antiquated gender preconceptions.

This time my seat companion was a friendly young wife who had been visiting her parents in Savannah and was heading home to rejoin her husband (he had to work) in Toledo. She said the flight from Savannah was rough with heavy turbulence and she hoped this flight wouldn’t be the same.

To give you an idea of how small the plane was, they asked for two volunteers from the first four rows (I was in the fourth row, BTW) to go sit in the rear of the plane to balance the load. I have never seen THAT before! Two guys did move and we took off.

We were in heavy clouds for most of the trip. We were both reading books, but she called my attention to the fact that snow was building up on the window! I would have taken a picture with my phone, but I was in the aisle seat and didn’t want to bother her.

When we broke through the clouds on our descent, everything in Michigan except the roads was covered with snow! Since I had been away, I didn’t know if that was from a big storm or several days of light snow building up.

We landed and taxied (for what seemed forever) to the gate. I wished both the wife and the knitting lady (who was sitting a few rows back from us) a Happy New Year and went off in search of the nearest bathroom. I sent Jake a text to let him know I made it safe and sound.

I got my luggage and went out to the car. Since it had been under cover in the parking deck, there was no snow to deal with, but I sat there until the heated seats kicked in. It was COLD!!!

I wanted to drive straight home, of course, but I stopped at CVS to pick up a prescription they kept calling the house about. Since I was there anyway and I’d cleaned out the fridge before I left, I went next door and ordered a quart of chicken fried rice first.

When I got home, I found a week’s worth of mail neatly bundled and tied in rubber bands in my mail box. My neighbor had thoughtfully plowed my driveway at some point, so I only had and inch or snow on it to deal with (it looks like I have about four inches of snow everywhere else). I parked the car in front of the garage and went in the front door (I always unplug the garage opener when I leave on a trip).

I noticed the footprints in the snow from the mailman. So I wasn’t surprised to see a package in the door. It was from Dave and Melissa.

I fussed over the cats and gave them a treat. Then I hooked the garage door opener back up and got the car inside. I took my suitcase into the bedroom and found one of the cats had apparently wanted to show their displeasure at my leaving by taking a dump on my bed! Gross!!

So, I stripped the bed, sprayed the spot and started a load of laundry. I checked my voicemail and email and found three messages from U.S. Airways on both, letting me know each time my flight was delayed. [Note to self: Next time, give them your cell phone number!]

I ate my lunch and then unpacked my suitcase. I opened Melissa and Dave’s package and found both a cookbook and a wall clock that was built into a frying pan!

I spent a while trying to figure out where the skillet clock could go (it looked silly just replacing my existing kitchen clock). I finally figured it out, but when I moved the picture it will replace (next to the stove) you could definitely see the outline around the old picture frame (Grease? Dirt?) so I didn’t take a picture for you, yet. I need to wash (or maybe even repaint) that piece of wall first.

I opened my mail and threw away most of it, just saving about 10 cards (either birthday or Christmas).

I cleaned out the three kitty litter trays and opened a window to air out the downstairs. That reminded me I had to reset my thermostat as I had turned it down to 60 degrees while I was gone. The bedding was finally done, so I remade the bed and took a long (3+ hour) but well-deserved nap.

When I woke up, I called Melissa to thank her, but just got her voicemail. Later, Jake called to ask if the house was still standing and I told him nobody had broken in.

I ate the rest of the fried rice for dinner and watched a little TV, but went to bed by 10:00 PM, surrounded by cats.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winding down and winding it up

I woke up in my Atlanta hotel room about 6:00 AM. I shaved,showered and dressed for the trip home. I got my room ready to leave and then wandered down to the lobby for some coffee. There was a little Mr. Coffee in the room cupboard with some coffee packs, but I didn't feel like dealing with it.

This time there was no Dutch door shop, but a real coffee bar (like you see in airports). The guy in front of me was giving a complicated order (half-caff latte with blah, blah, blah) but when it was my turn, I said, I just want a medium black coffee. She asked if I wanted anything else and I checked out their selection (fruit cups, croissants, muffins, my beloved Danish and bagels). I decided to err on the side of common sense and asked for a croissant (I just needed something to sop up my morning meds). Back in the room, I turned on the Today Show.

I was just finishing my breakfast when the door bell rang. Figuring it was Jake and Carla, I stopped to shut off the TV, scan the room for anything I might have forgotten, zip up my suitcase, etc. The doorbell rang again, so I yelled, "Just a damn minute!" and opened the door.

There was a very short, Hispanic woman standing there, looking askance and asking me in broken English if I was checking out today. I felt like a damn fool and said, "Yes." and she went away.

Later on, Jake and Carla rang the bell. I explained (rather sheepishly) what had happened and they told me it was because I didn't put my "Do Not Disturb" sign on my outside door handle. I still felt stupid and, even now, still wish I could apologize to the poor woman.

But, we got the car and headed home. Again, we were on a road trip (albeit back home) so we didn't stop to eat breakfast. We just hit a McDonald's when we all agreed we were hungry. I don't remember what anybody else got, but I ordered a sausage and egg McMuffin, a hash brown with salt and a bottle of water.

We had one interesting stop on the way home. I said I really, REALLY had to go to the bathroom, but Jake said it was only a few minutes more to the house. I said I didn't care, I need a restroom NOW! So, he pulled in a gas station to top off his tank and I ran into the building, looking for the rest room. There was a sign saying the restrooms were outside around the back, so I went out there (moving with a "sense of urgency" as they say in the Air Force). When I got there, it said the door was locked and I had to get the key inside from the counter! DAMN!!!

But it all worked out (without any embarrassing wet pants and/or car seats) and we finally arrived home about 1:00 PM. I unpacked the little suitcase and got my big-ass suitcase ready for the ride home.

Sidebar: I must interject that Jake has this "thing" about doing laundry BEFORE you leave for home. So, while I would normally just truck all my dirty clothes back home and wash them there, I respect his opinion and did my laundry at their house during the afternoon.

For dinner, Carla decided to get take-out Mexican food. Again, being somewhat self-absorbed I suppose, I paid no attention to what they got. I do know Carla ordered something akin to "Flatulence" which seemed apropos for Mexican food, but I wouldn't swear to it. I got my usual Mexican order: Beef enchilada's de queso with beans and rice, with a hard shell taco on the side. It was delicious.

Now, here's where I have to admit I screwed up. I thought my departure time from both Michigan and from Columbia, SC, was the same time, around 5:00 PM. I do remember telling Jake that flights would be hard to come by at the last minute (when I decided to spend Christmas with them). But, it wasn't until I got my reservations confirmed that I realized the flight back home was at 5:24 AM.

So, we had a brief, but intense disagreement. My solution was for me to get a hotel at the airport Friday night and go to my flight in the early morning.His position was that he had already driven for three hours in the morning and was tired. He would rather get up early and drive me in.

He won, of course, (I really can't remember any time I ever won an argument with any one of my kids) by pointing out there was NO hotel onsite at the airport (I told you it was little). There was one a mile or so away, but that would have involved hoping I could catch a cab (they did have a shuttle, but it didn't start until 6:00 AM).

So, burping from the food, I went upstairs about 9:00 PM and took a shower. Then I went to bed and prayed his alarm would wake him up so I didn't miss my flight

Friday, December 28, 2012

At a Gas Station on the way to Atlanta

Atlanta Skyline from Hotel Room

The Moon over the Woodfire Grille sign

Chef's Five Course Tasting Menu

Thursday and my Christmas Present

I woke up around 6:00 AM on Thursday. I read in bed for a while so as not to wake anyone up. Then I shaved and showered and went downstairs for a cup of coffee. Jake and Carla joined me and we chatted for a bit. Then we each went off to pack our suitcases (I was borrowing their smaller one again, so I didn't have to lug my monster one around.

We left about 9:30 AM, headed for Atlanta, Georgia. We were in a hurry, so breakfast consisted of stopping at Krystals and getting a sackful of burgers and fries.

We got to the outskirts of Atlanta around 1:00 PM. The difference between Atlanta and Charleston was immediately noticeable. Charles is old charm and comfortable. Atlanta is blatantly modern chic and edgy.

We got to the hotel, the JW Marriot Buckhead (I'm convinced without knowing it to be true that "Buckhead is just the name of the area, like Corktown in Detroit) in the north end of Atlanta.  We checked in and our rooms were on the 17th floor, giving a breathtaking view of the Atlanta skyline (see Photos).

After setting up my stuff and resting a bit from the car ride, I rejoined Jake and Carla. We went down to the main floor and into the Nox Creek Lounge, where we shared two appetizers for lunch: Sweetwater Poached Georgia Shrimp (served with organic tomato and horseradish sauce) and Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Flatbread.

While the hotel in Charleston had a mall built into it, this hotel was adjacent to a large mall (although you did not have to walk outside to get to it). We visited various shops, including a Croc Shop, where I bought two new pairs of Crocs (my old ones were wearing thin on the bottom). I was frankly surprised to learn there was an actual Croc Shop, as I have bought all my previous ones at Dick's Sporting Goods in Westland.

We retired to our rooms again and got appropriately dressed for dinner (I had to laugh as it took me a while to remember how to tie my tie correctly). We left the hotel for our 7:30 PM reservation at the Woodfire Grill, where we all had the Chef's Five Course Tasting Menu.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, you essentially put yourself in the hands of the Chef, (in this case a very famous chef in the food world, Kevin Gillespie). You are not told what you will be eating, the server describes each course to you when they bring it. In between courses, your plate and silverware are removed and replaced each time.

The items are not a secret, you are just supposed to taste them without preconceived notions and realize how each flavor builds on the last.

Since she is just telling you what you are getting (and we were all discussing the last thing we tasted), it would have been very difficult to record what we ate. So, I was gauche and asked her if she could possibly write them down for me for you. She said she would type them up and print them out for me, so she did (see Photos).

Dinner took about 2 1/2 hours and, even though each portion was small, each was outstanding and I was stuffed afterward! It was an unbelievable and unforgettable dining experience!!

We had earlier talked about playing cards or a game after we got back to the hotel room, but when we got there, I begged off. I'm not sure if it was the car ride or the fantastic dinner (seriously, none of us could pick a "favorite" course and we tried) but I was beat.

I thought I would rest and watch a movie or read, but I was asleep 10 minutes after getting ready for bed.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


I woke up on December 26 about 7:00 AM. It's going to be hard to get back into that whole "work" thingie...

Today I have nothing to do...

I rode with Jake to the store to pick up some things he needed for a project he's doing while Carla went off to run some errands.

Then I laid on the couch, drinking coffee, and read while Jake worked on his project. I did finally remember that walking after every couple of hours was not just a work-related requirement for my spine. So, I went out in their backyard and walked around with the dog, to avoid backaches later on.

Carla eventually returned from her errands, one of which was grocery shopping.

Everybody was just chilling for the rest of the afternoon.

Then it was close to dinner time, and I got to be sous chef for Carla's dish: Jambalaya.

So, I fine-diced an onion, while she diced a red pepper and some celery. Next, I peeled a bag of fresh shrimp (they had already been deveined,  so I skipped that step). Carla was frying chicken thighs while I split Andouille sausage in half and then sliced them into quarter-inch half moons.

She sauteed the celery, pepper and onions in with the chicken and when they were ready, added in chicken stock, clam juice and a small can of diced tomatoes. When that got happy, she added in rice. When the rice was done, she took out the chicken and added in the shrimp.

She shredded the chicken and put that back in the pot when the shrimp was pink, along with some fresh flat leaf parsley. As I am typing this now, I realize just how little I actually did, LOL.

Then we feasted!

It was fantastic and I have to admit I did something I rarely do: went back for second.

After resting a bit, we played a card game while listenting to songs we would each pick.

It was a nice relaxing day and we finally went to bed around 11:00 PM.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Day

Due to the late night/early morning Christmas shenanigans, I didn't wake up Christmas morning until about 9:00 AM (that was still about only six hours sleep). We spent what was left of the morning and early afternoon just yawning and putzing around. We were going to Carla's family for Christmas dinner.

Sidebar: I can't believe I was walking around outside on Christmas Day in a T-shirt!

Not wanting to ruin anybody's menu by bringing a dish, I made some Peppermint Bark again.  Having learned my lesson the last time, I had thought to bring an offset spatula I picked up in Michigan.

The recipe was the same, but this time I had Jake to help me. Just before we left, he cut it up. I guess his fridge is set lower than mine, because I easily cut the first batch, while this one just sort of snapped and broke apart.

Finally, it was time to go. It was a large gathering of extended family and friends and we ate (eventually, after a lot of visiting) buffet style. There was WAY too much food! Turkey, stuffing, ham, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, green beans, candied yams (two different kinds made by two different people), potato salad, pasta salad, macaroni and cheese and fresh baked dinner rolls. For dessert, there was either pecan pie or sweet potato pie.

Can you say "STUFFED?"

We finally said our goodbyes (Jake and Carla's little nephew kissed me goodbye when I picked him up to hug him) and we headed back home.

In spite of severe turkey coma, we stayed up another hour and then Carla said she was going to bed. I followed her lead, while Jake said he would be up after watching a movie. He lasted 20 minutes or so, he admitted the next moring.

I planned on reading for a while, but my eyes were heavy. So I shut off the light and went to sleep, my own self.

Merry Christmas to All!

Happy Boxing Day!

To all my Canadian friends!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

I woke up on my birthday in a huge bed in a luxurious hotel room. I shaved and showered and then walked downstairs to the lobby, where Jake had pointed out the night before there was a dutch door coffee shop. It was closed last night, but the morning found it opened on the top with a personable young lady who gave me a large cup of the house blend and (to treat myself) a cheese Danish.

Sidebar: When I first was in management, client meetings always had Danish. Later on, this changed to donuts. Then (I suppose as people became more health-conscious) that changed to bagels and/or muffins. So, the cheese Danish was a real treat!

I went back to my room and picked up the copy of USA Today the hotel had thoughtfully left outside my door. Inside, I had my coffee and Danish, reading the paper (the first time in a long time I've read a newspaper). Then I checked out the view from my window and realized that, unlike most big cities I have been to, there were only two building in sight that were as tall as the original church steeples.

After Jake and Carla had gotten their coffee, we got ready to depart and then checked out.

We drove to a little restaurant called the Hominy Grill. It's little, yes, and in an old building, but it has been mentioned on three different Food Network shows. Jake said when he and Carla had gone there in the height of the tourist season, they had to wait a long time for a table, but we got right in.

Carla got an fried egg on a huge biscuit with a side of sausage gravy, while Jake and I ordered the almost the same identical meal: scrambled eggs, house-ground sausage and grits. The only difference was he got white toast while I got rye. Note: they don't butter the toast, which I found odd, but Jake appreciates. We put hot sauce on the eggs, like they do down south

Then we drove across a beautiful modern bridge to Mt. Pleasant, a suburb of Charleston. Charleston is built on a peninsula as well as two or three huge Islands.

Then we drove home.

About 4:00 PM, we started getting hungry, so Jake and I went to pick up an order of wings from a place Carla likes. We ate those while chatting.

Since it's a tradition in Carla's family to open gifts after midnight on Christmas eve, I went to take a nap.

Jake woke me up in time to shave and shower and then we went to Carla's brother's house. Besides the fact that I know and like these people, what really made it "Christmas" was Jake and Carla's nephew who's almost three. It's been a long time since I watched the delight on a small child's face when he opened a present. Then we came home and proceeded to open presents here.

Carla liked her cookbooks and Jake liked the instant read thermometer I got him, so I did good!

I had been forewarned that none of my presents were things I could carry home, so I got another box of small pictures. For my birthday, the pictures were of Charleston. This time they were of Atlanta, so there's more adventure afoot! And, I will take home memories, instead of overloading my suitcase, LOL!

We finally dragged ourselves upstairs to bed. It had been a long day, but a great birthday/Christmas eve.

The fountain in front of the hotel
Fountain at the rear of the hotel

Staircase in lobby
Chandelier in lobby
Wood floor entryway to my room
My bed
Seating area in my room
The room's two-person desk
The armoire disguising the TV
Bathroom sink
The oversized tub
Halfway through the oysters
The wreck of the Tuna Tartare
Spanish moss
My new car

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday Road Trip

On Sunday, I woke up early in South Carolina. While Jake and Carla slept, I read my book in bed so as not to disturb them. Finally, everyone was a awake and had their coffee. Jake lent me a smaller suitcase to use for my birthday trip to Charleston.

We hit he road for what is officially called a "Jake and Carla Style" vacation. Let me explain: Most people would go somewhere and stay in an inexpensive hotel/motel. They would see the sights and probably have a big dinner (that they may or may not like) at a nice restaurant. But, Jake and Carla have worked out an alternative method. Since they rarely go on vacation, they do it up right and stay in a nice hotel. Then, and this only works in so-called "walking towns" (examples in Michigan might be Royal Oak or Plymouth, but not, say, Novi), they walk around, check out some of the sights, stop in a restaurants they choose every couple of hours and order two appetizers that they share.

The result is that you can eat (without getting full) at a variety of place and try a lot of different food and, while you might be disappointed in one or two items, you haven't spent everything on one single disappointing meal. Sounds complicated, but it works for them.

So, we got there in about two hours. I don't want to go into all the historical details, but it a very old, very beautiful town with an active historical board that keeps it that way (for example, "NOTHING old can be torn down except by the hand of God!")

We parked the car in a parking structure (parking is a real problem there with the narrow streets and all the tourists). Then we took a walk. We stopped at Tommy Condon's Irish Pub - our appetizers there were Dublin Rolls (Corned Beef, Swiss & Vegetable Egg Rolls, Fried Golden Brown & Served With Mustard & House Slaw) and Fried Green Tomatoes (with Ranch Dressing & Corn Relish). Both were excellent! Those were the best fried green tomatoes I ever ate (and I used to pride myself on my fried green tomatoes). Then we walked through the oldest market in the US. It was sort of a quaint version of Detroit's Eastern Market, but with narrow buildings that ran the length of several city blocks. In the summertime, all the inside stalls open up onto the sidewalk. We didn't explore it all then, because Jake said we had a 1:00 PM appointment.

So, we walked over past numerous stables (there are a plethora of carriage ride companies that service Charleston) until we got to one where Jake had reserved a four person private carriage ride. Interestingly enough, there are so many carriages (most of them that hold like 10-15 people) that there is a lottery system that gives each carriage one of four districts they can go to. We stopped at an old wooden booth and they gave us a green tag, which meant we could got down to the water, where most of the more elaborate homes are.

The architecture is quite unique the with homes mostly one room wide and long (sort of what we would call a shotgun house in Michigan, but two or three stories high and always with a south facing porch on each level to catch the breeze off the Atlantic in the hot summers.

The driver was very knowledgeable, and I learned about the fire insurance plaques built into the houses, the fire towers (there are two left) built because back when the houses were wooden, fires were catastrophic, the so-called "volunteer fencing" (wooden fences between thick masonry pillars that used to be wrought iron - people would donate their iron fences to the Confederacy to make cannonballs), why only one old church still has bells in the belfry (same reason, donated to the war effort) and so on.

Then we walked back and retrieved the car. We drove to our hotel, Charleston Place. I won't attempt to describe it, but will just post some of the pictures Jake took for me. After I got done oohing and ahhing, we took another walk, this time to Pearlz Oyster Bar, where our appetizers were Gulf Oysters (One dozen raw served with cocktail sauce, hot sauce and mignonette sauce) and Tuna Tartare (Roasted tomato-caper vinaigrette, marinated cucumber & red onion salad, grilled baguette). Both were excellent. I especially like the contrast of the usual cocktail sauce on the oysters versus the vinegary mignonette sauce. Then we really explored the market.

When we tired of that, we walked to Poogan's Porch and had Pimiento Cheese Fritters (Served with green tomato jam) and Scallop and Pork Belly (Served with pickled shallots, arugula puree and barbecue reduction). The Pimiento Cheese Fritters were totally forgettable (they are big on Pimiento Cheese down here) but the scallop was perfectly cooked and, if you have never eaten pork belly, DO IT!

In walking during the early evening, I noticed the Spanish moss on some of the trees. Now, I know how Southerns go on about it, but I have to admit, it was like something out of a ghost story for me!

We walked back to the hotel and took a much-needed break. We played a new game that they got called "Cards Against Humanity" which was hilarious. Finally, for our final meal of the day, we went to the Thoroughbred Club inside the hotel. This time we splurged and got three appetizers: Barbaricina Seared Scallops (Diver Scallops, Sweet and Sour Wild Mushrooms, Pancetta), Hollywood Park Asian Pot Stickers (Rock Shrimp, Pork, Shiitake Mushrooms, Sweet Chili Sauce) and the Chef’s Selection of Artisan Cheese. All three were winners!

We walked out back to the rear fountain. High-end car dealers park their new vehicles around it to entice you. I decided I wanted the Porsche! Just putting that out there for birthday gift ideas for next year, BTW.

We then retired to our respective rooms for the night. I was surprised at how little my legs had been affected with all the walking. But, that oversized tub was calling me... So, I filled it up with warm water and used a little shampoo for bubble bath and soaked in it until it cooled. Then I got up and realized I was all covered with soap (duh) and took a rinse-off shower. [Question to self: How did we rinse off as kids when we always took baths? I don't know or remember. I guess we didn't.]

I dressed in the hotel-provided robe (I skipped the matching slippers) and read on the couch for a bit. But, the big bed was calling me, so I went there after a while. I read until I started dozing and then shut off the lights and went to sleep for real.


Saturday morning was cold, but the wind and snow had stopped. I went and got my hair cut at my barber's at 9:30 AM. I doubled the amount I usually give her and told her Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I went back home for a bit and then headed out for massage appointment at 10:30. Margaret (my massage therapist) and another therapist were sitting and chatting at the front desk when I came in Margaret asked how I felt after the first massage. I told her not as bad as she made it sound. She said, "Good!" I said, "Oh, I thought you just didn't do a very good job!" They both just looked at me for a moment, but when I started to laugh, they did too.

Then she paid me back... [Note to self: NEVER tease a massage therapist about not doing a good job!]

I felt like somebody had beat me up with a 2x4 afterwards. I went home and took a shower, then finished packing. I left the house at 1:00 PM for the airport. I had a 5:09 PM flight out of Detroit for Columbia (via Charlotte) to spend Christmas with Jake and Carla. I figured with all the holiday travelers, I better get there early to find a place to park, check in, go through security, etc.

So, I got a ticket and pulled into the Blue Lot long term parking. I have had bad experiences in the past finding a place to park, so I was a little concerned. But, I found one, so I pulled in, got out my suitcase and started the long walk to the elevators.

Much to my surprise, when I got to the elevators, I found three handicap spots open. Now, I don't mind the walk, but I have apparently taken a spot "anybody" could use and ignored the ones only handicapped people can use. I tried to just forget about that, but then I figured that was wrong, So, I walked all the way back, loaded my suitcase back in the car, pulled out and parked in the handicap spot.

Now, I did the "print your own boarding pass" thingie, so I asked somebody how I would get my suitcase tagged. He said I had to get in line... the very line to get your boarding passes! So, all I did was save the airline the cost of printing my boarding passes! Live and learn...

When I put my (admittedly) overloaded suitcase up, she said it was five pounds overweight and I would have to pay an additional $95.00! I said, "Wait a minute! If I brought two suitcases, I would have had to pay $35.00 for the second one. What's wrong with this picture?" She said, "Isn't there anything you could take out and put in your carry-on? My "carry-on" was my library bag with my book and two bags of Better Made potato chips - a treat for Carla as you can't get them down south. I said, "No, I'll just pay the damn money!" She said, "Don't you have something heavy like books in there?" I said, "Wait a minute, I have two cookbooks (Carla's present) but they can't weigh that much." She said, "Just try, sir." So, I took them out, and they weighed 5.5 pounds! Problem solved, except I was worried they would crush the chips during the rest of my journey.

I knew I would have to wait for some time, so I deliberately didn't eat lunch. I figured I would just eat at the nearest restaurant by my gate. That turned out to be a Ruby Tuesday. After some deliberation, I ordered the crab cake sandwich and fries. Big mistake! Eating a crab cake with a fork is messy enough, but picking it up on a bun and taking a bite immediately showers you with crab cake bits!

I tried to eat it as daintily as possible and cleaned up the considerable mess with my napkin, hoping nobody had been watching me.

They changed gates on me twice, but finally I boarded. My seat companion was a very friendly Asian high school senior. We chatted for a while while waiting to take off on where she was planning to go to college (she'd been accepted at two) and so on. Finally we were airborne and I went to reading a book. Then for some reason, they turned off the cabin lights (and kept them off for most of the flight). She tried to turn her light on for me, but it wouldn't work. I held the book up close to my face and soldiered on. Then she got out her lighted Kindle and started reading too. I said to her, "Now you're just showing off!" and she laughed.

I had twenty minutes to deplane and get to my next gate. I used most of it up, even with hurrying. Charlotte is not as big as, say, Detroit Metro, but its still pretty big.

At the gate, I sat across a young lady dressed in Air Force fatigues. I asked her if she was going to Fort Jackson for training, and she said, no, she lived in the area and was going home on leave for Christmas. I told her I assumed that because I knew other branches of the services also trained at Fort Jackson. She agreed and said she herself was training at the Naval base in Pensacola, Florida. I asked her in what and she said she was training to be a jet engine mechanic.

When it was time to board, we walked out on the tarmac and climbed up into a small prop plane (not the first time for me on the flight between Charlotte and Columbia). We had to wait for three wheelchair passengers to board and she remarked that she'd been working on the flight line and never seen a prop plane before. I told her just to wait until they fired that sucker up.

The short trip to Columbia went without a hitch (or any turning off of the interior lights). My seat partner was one of the wheel chair folks. When we landed, she started to get up and I told her to wait, that they would come get her when the wheelchairs came. As I was walking out, another wheelchair person was struggling to stand and I told him to sit back down, they would be coming for him. He said, "Are you sure?" I said, "Trust me,  I've been there." Sure enough, when I deplaned, the wheel chairs were just arriving.

I stopped in the restroom and then headed out. Just then the Airman I'd talked to early came out of the woman's restroom. She agreed the prop planes were completely different from what she was used to. As we walked, she said goodbye and said, "I've go to see my family NOW!" She went running down the hall to some folks waiting for her and they had a group hug.

Just behind them, I saw Jake and Carla, and Carla ran up to me and hugged me, too. Jake had to wait for his hug because of the airman's family.

We retrieved my bag and went out to the car. I told them of my adventures to date as we drove home.

Since it was almost 8:00 PM, they asked if I had eaten. I said yes, about 2:00 PM but I was hungry if they wanted to stop somewhere. So, we went to a new fast food place that had just opened up called Smashburger. The name come from the cooking process, as they grab a handful of ground meat, throw it on a flatop and smash it down with a brick (or something). They flip it once and then put the brick back on. This gives it a nice char.

Unfortunately, I decided to get the Smashburger with chili on top (as did Jake). This made for yet another messy eating experience although it tasted fantastic and the pretzel bun was excellent. And, regrettably, I didn't notice there were two options for the fries - regular (which Jake and I ordered) and "Smash-fries" which Carla did order. They had rosemary and garlic on them and, as soon as I tasted one of hers, I wish I had ordered them.

We got back to the house and talked for a while. But, I was tired and after setting up my suitcase items, I went to bed. I read a little, but it had been a long day and I finally gave up and went to sleep.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Finally Friday

I woke up on Friday morning after a very rough night’s rest. My sleep-befuddled eyes registered something was wrong but it took a minute or two to figure it out: The light over the kitchen sink (which is always on) was dark. Dammit! So, I went out into the garage in my bathrobe and got the step ladder.  I took off the cover and replaced the compact fluorescent bulb. I put the cover back on, turned the light back on and made a cup of coffee.

I got nervous watching the news. They kept showing pictures of heavy snows in Michigan. Worried, I went into the living room and looked out the picture window. It was snowing, yes, but there was barely enough to hide the grass! Geesh!

For my breakfast, I did a taste-test of my coffee cake, still worrying about NOT folding in stiff egg whites and just added the egg whites and some yolk. But, I thought it tasted GREAT! So, I cut it into squares and put on the plastic top for the cake pan. I grabbed a metal spatula as well and headed to work a tad early.

I took Plymouth Road, worried about black ice on the freeway. But, we moved along at posted speeds or better and I got there way too early (I opened the building, shut off the alarm, etc.). I brewed a pot of coffee and drank a cup while waiting for others to show up.

My boss came in, remarking about how much snow she had where they live as compared to here (it was now covering the grass and my car). Then a very disappointed Vicky, who lives in Detroit and who’s Mother had listened to the news and woke her up early. She had hoped she would be snowed in the driveway and have to call into work that she couldn’t get in. But, like Redford, in Detroit there wasn’t much snow!

The rest trickled in, with Michelle talking about heavy snow where she lived. Anthony, who lives in Munroe (near the Michigan/Ohio border, where Carla used to work) had the best story about lots of snow and he actually spun out on I-75!

Michelle, not knowing I was bringing in coffee cake, had brought in doughnuts for a last-day-of-work treat, so my coffee cake had competition. She also brought me a birthday present: a salt bagel (the woman knows my weaknesses!) as well as a card signed by all my co-workers.

There were all the usual well-wishes on the card, but there was also an unsigned note that said, “Wow! 100 years old and still working!” Please note: I will find you!!!

As I said, my coffee cake had competition, but everyone who tried it said it was excellent.

I attempted my morning walk outside, but the wind was WAY too strong. So, I walked around the inside of the offices and shop areas for 15 minutes instead.

At lunch, I declined to join the group lunch outing and went to Office Depot for my toner. A helpful associate showed me where it was, but I asked him why it was $82.00 in the store, but only $64.00 online when I looked it up. He checked and, since I was right, they sold it to me for the online price. Nice.

I stopped at Arby’s and got their two for $5 deal on French dip sandwiches with au jus. I ate it at home. It was pretty good, but I have yet to have a French dip sandwich that tasted better than the simple Rachel Ray recipe I learned years ago. I noticed I only used half of the au jus in one of the two containers it came with. I put the rest in the fridge along with the other sandwich for my dinner and went back to work.

I called and got appointments on Saturday for a hair cut and another medical massage.

Finally, about 4:15 PM, our boss told everyone (including Vicky at the Help Desk, this time) Merry Christmas and to go home. I had about half of the coffee cake left, so Michelle took four pieces and Vicky took the rest of it and my cake pan home. I hugged Michelle and Vicky, wished them Merry Christmas and headed home.

The first thing I did was to run the dishwasher (mostly filled with bowls, measuring cups, etc., from the coffee cake). Then I did the first load of weekend wash. I went in to watch the news, stopping to put the clothes in the dryer and then stopping again to hang them up.

Knowing I was going to end up with leftover au jus, I caramelized a medium onion sliced into butter and canola oil. I ate the other French dip sandwich and then added the onion to the remaining au jus and had a small bowl of pretty tasty French onion soup!

I watched a little TV but, having slept so badly the night before, fell asleep early.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Quote of the Day

"I'm a big fan of forgiveness, as long as I'm given the opportunity to get even first..."

~ from the book "V is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton

Thanks, Jyl!

You may want to double-check that this is not a scam, but this was sent to me.

"The Sandy Hook School Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Connecticut will help support the college costs for any siblings of those killed in the assault, the dependents of the adults who also lost their lives, as well as students currently enrolled at the elementary school, who are accepted to attend the University. Available funds that have been collected by that time will be awarded to eligible recipients on the basis of financial need. If any funds remain once the needs of the groups above have been met, they will be used to benefit future students from Newtown who attend UConn. Applicants for the scholarship will be required to complete the FAFSA to qualify for need-based financial aid."

You can also text "uconn newtown" to 50555 and make a $10 donation.

Thursday’s Rain

It was raining Thursday morning on the way in to work. Unfortunately, I had waited too long to fill up my gas tank and had to do it then. Fortunately, the price of gas had dropped dramatically since the last time I put gas in, but it was cold, wet comfort at the time.

My cube-buddy Michelle had cards and a can of shortbread cookies for some of us co-workers. She had miscounted, was one can short and upset at herself. I told her to take mine back, as I shouldn’t eat them, anyway. She said, “Well, if Jake and Carla come up, they could eat them.” I checked the label and it said “may contain nut products,” so I assured her they couldn’t. Well, Carla couldn’t and I am SURE Jake wouldn’t eat them because of her.

The wind picked up throughout the morning and was so strong during my morning walk I almost blew away. I am lighter that I used to be, but at 200 pounds, I am not THAT light.

It was raining hard at lunchtime, but I had errand to run. I went to Bed Bath and Beyond for more water filters for the humidifier. I had also planned to brave the crowds at Best Buy, which is next door. Luckily I had checked before leaving and found that Best Buy did NOT have the toner I need for my Samsung.  But, Office Depot, near the house, does. So, I'll get that over the weekend.

I stopped and ate at Ten Yen (Jake and Carla’s favorite Chinese restaurant). I ordered my favorite, chicken subgum. There was NOBODY else in the restaurant and, with the rain pounding on the roof, the owner and I agreed it was the weather keeping his customers away. Lunch was excellent, BTW.

But, I later learned it was a complete waste of money and time, as the building IT is in was having their Christmas party and there were tons of leftovers (including a big sub) I could have eaten.

I did try some of the “Mediterranean” pastries in the afternoon, though. The new receptionist (a young girl) told me she had been looking at them and to let her know what they taste like.

So, after I ate one I went out and simply said, “Honey.” She said, “Yes, what?” I said, “No, I’m not flirting with you, they taste like honey.” She blushed a deep red and said, “Thanks.” I went back into my office area and laughed my ass off.

I drove through driving rain to get home after work. The evening news said that Traverse city had almost nine inches of snow already with more to come. I was thinking about Dave and Melissa.  Dave would probably be shoveling off his roof by now had they stayed.

The storm is moving up the west coast of Michigan and, while we won’t escape the snow, it should only be an inch or two here. But with the high winds, it will still be a challenge to get into work tomorrow morning, I fear.

Michelle’s present challenged me. I don’t have the time (or money) to run out and buy stuff, so I thought I’d take a page from Brie and make a coffee cake. But she never gave me the recipe. I’m not picking on her as her mother, Hannah, never gave me the recipe for Yogurt Chicken yet, either. Maybe they thought I was just being polite when I asked…

So, I checked the Internet and found a good recipe, but there’s a problem. Between the cake and the topping, I need three sticks of softened butter. And all my butter is in the fridge.

The microwave would only melt it, (or worse as I discovered last night) so I checked the Internet again and found a method I tried: You just put the stick of cold butter between two large pieces of wax paper. Using a rolling pin, you press down on the butter and roll it out the way you would roll out a pie crust. When the butter is about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick, lift off the wax paper and peel away the butter (before it gets too soft to peel). Excellent tip!

In the middle of that, the doorbell rang. WTF? I turned on the light and glanced out the window. It was a pizza delivery guy with a huge load. I opened the door and told him he had made a mistake as I hadn’t ordered anything. He said, is this blah, blah, blah? I said, no, its blah, blah, blah. I said if it was already paid for, I’d take it, though. He laughed and said sorry and ran back through the pouring rain to his car.

I soldiered on. I was on my third cup of coffee and was spending an equal amount of time between the kitchen and bathroom.

Now it’s time for a disclaimer: This is a recipe from the Pioneer Woman. Let me explain. Jyl turned me onto her a few years back, and I would occasionally follow her Blog. I pictured her as a lady living in a little log cabin, cooking on a wood stove. But, then I noticed some of her ingredients were things even I didn’t have on hand. Then she got a show on the Food Network and I learned she was living on like a thousand acres of farmland in a 4,000 square foot house, equipped with every damn modern convince known to man. So, I shunned her.

But, this recipe sounded good, so I went with it.

I took 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter  and two scant cups of sugar and creamed it using my hand mixer. I used a sieve to sift 3 cups of flour, four teaspoons of baking powder and one teaspoon of salt together. I got out 1 1/4 cups of whole milk and slowly added the milk and flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar.

Note: the recipe says not to over-mix, but I was not sure what exactly that meant. So, I used the hand mixer until it was smooth.

Now, here’s when things went wrong! You are supposed to use three egg whites and beat them until stiff. Well, I checked and I had EXACTLY three eggs left. So, I started separating the whites from the yolks. Easy, right? Until the second egg. The yolk broke when I cracked it and I couldn’t escape getting some in the bowl!

My choices were to either soldier on, or go next door and ask to borrow three eggs. But, I know Rick. He was in the service, has a 357 Magnum and does not exactly welcome late night visitors.

So, I tried to whip the egg whites (and yolk) until they were stiff. No way, Jose. So, I finally just added them in and mixed them up (rather than folding in the stiff egg whites like I was supposed to).

I spread that mixture into a well greased 9 x 13 cake pan. Then I went about making the topping.

For the topping, I had another 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter. To that, I added 3/4 cups of AP flour, 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar (it didn’t specify what kind, so I used Dark), two tablespoons of cinnamon and 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans. I could have used the food processor, I guess, but I just chopped the pecans up with the Wustof.

Then I used my pastry cutter to mix it all together until it was crumbly.  I sprinkled the crumbs evenly across the top and then put the pan in the pre-heated (350 degrees f.) oven. I set the timer for 45 minutes and took a break.

Now, the recipe calls for baking it until it’s no longer “jiggly” but what does that mean?  When the timer went off, I stuck a toothpick in it and it was still wet. So, I let I bake 10 minutes more.

When the timer went off, I pulled it out. It smelled fantastic! It was 9:53 PM, BTW.

I let it sit to cool and made a sandwich for my dinner. I started watching “The Grey” again. I’m not sure why, but that movie speaks to me. “Once more into the fray” and all…

I fell asleep long before it ended, but I knew I would. When I got up to go to the bathroom during the night, I shut off the TV and the bedside lamp and went to bed for real.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday Night Dinner

Just Another Weeknight Meal

Wednesday was another cold and windy day. But, from the sound of it, Mother Nature is going to make sure winter starts here with a bang! Already several states have issued blizzard warning (and Michigan has them up on the west side) as a big storm bears down on us. It’s supposed to start raining sometime on Thursday and switch to snow overnight, with blowing snow on Friday morning. So, we may have a white Christmas this year.

At noon, I went to Kroger’s again to pick up some stuff I forgot. This time I was in and out in a flash, though. Then I stopped at Westborn for some cheese and made a complete impulse buy.

Now, all through December, they have been advertising both king crab legs and lobster tails on sale. I do love crab legs, but they are messy to eat. Out of curiosity, I checked out the lobster tails and found they were cold water lobsters (yes, it does make a difference). They were $6.99 US each and came in packs of two, four or six. So, I bought a two pack of frozen lobster tails for tonight’s dinner!

I also got a container of chicken noodle soup so I went to the house to drop off the stuff, putting the lobster tails in the fridge to thaw, and then I ate my soup for lunch.

Off and on through the afternoon, I thought about what might be a suitable accompaniment for lobster. I decided to try something I wanted to make on the grille this summer, but never got around to. I figured I could use the broiler as my grille and I had all the ingredients in the house.

When I got home after work, I treated the cats, changed clothes and then started the Wednesday night wash. I took the lobster tails out to thaw (they were still frozen). I stuck them in a bowl of cold water.

Then I made my vinaigrette for my grilled Romaine lettuce salad. You are supposed to use some of the drippings from the bacon you fry to start. But, I already had the bacon done, so I used some of the drippings I had in the fridge (I save them, of course, just like my Mother) and melted them in the microwave. Then I added one tablespoon each of Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I whisked that together and set it aside.

I put the clothes in the dryer and started the second load (I found a cat had barfed on the bed). This was turning out to be a busy night…

Next, I put a large pot of salted water on the stove and turned the heat up. While I was waiting for that, I cut a whole head of Romaine lettuce in half, lengthwise. I put the two halves on a half sheet pan and stuck them under the broiler in the oven. I let them char a little on one side and then turned them over to get the other side. The end product was not nearly as charred as it would have been on the “barby” but it wasn’t burned.

Meanwhile I put the thawed lobster tails in the boiling water. You want to boil it about one minute per ounce.

I re-whisked and then drizzled my vinaigrette on top the lettuce and sprinkled it with crumbled bacon and blue cheese. I melted some butter in the microwave – a little too long, as it were – I heard it “pop” and found the entire inside of the microwave coated with splashed butter. But, there was still enough butter for my dinner. Then I cut quarters from half a lemon.

I pulled out the lobster tails and split them with the Wustoff. I fixed a platter (it was too big for a plate) and took a photo for you. Then I ate!

I must admit I ate both lobster tails and the two halves of the Romaine lettuce head. Both were fantastic. I would highly recommend you try the grilled salad; and lobster, well, lobster... What can you say after “lobster?”

I cleaned up the kitchen (the microwave was the worst) and went in to watch the TV until the bedding dried.

When the dryer stopped, I kicked the cats off the bed and remade it. Then I climbed into warm, sweet-smelling sheets and went to sleep.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I thought this one was pretty funny!

Quote of the Day

"Married men always glorify being single, because 'you can sleep with anybody you want.' The truth is you can only sleep with people who want to sleep with you. And that's a very different number!"

~ paraphrased from a comic who name I didn't get


It was windy and cold on Tuesday (how’s that for a change?). After I got ready for work, I finished the peppermint bark candy. I peeled off the tinfoil and laid the slab of chocolate on a half sheet pan. I trimmed the edges off using the Shun and then cut it into about 2-inch chunks. I put the pieces into a large baggie to take to work.

Problem: about five or six of them separated the white chocolate from the dark. I am guessing I let the white cool down a little too much before putting it on the cold dark chocolate (or maybe this just happens). I taste-tested one of the bad ones and it was a pretty damn tasty test!

Anyway, I took them into work and arranged them on a plastic plate. Everyone who tried them said they were delicious (my boss even asked for the recipe because she said she loves peppermint bark candy). So, my efforts were not in vain.

My clothing store was having a great sale and I needed some new shirts. The ones I have are over a year old (although they did get a three month rest while I was laid up) and starting to show it. But, the store is in the Laurel Park Place Mall and Christmas is one week away. I figured going at noon was just stupid. So, I told my boss I was taking an early lunch at 11:30 AM, instead.

I still had to park about a half mile from the entrance, (okay, a slight exaggeration, here) but I got in and out in less than half an hour. But, by that time, the mall was starting to fill up with people and, in spite of how far away I parked, there were two cars waiting for my spot!

I drove across the street to the Big Boy and had their veal Parmesan with a Caesar salad for lunch and still got back to work before my hour was up.

There was only about 1/3 of the candy I had brought in left by 5:00 PM, so I just left it there.

When I got home, I was working on the computer and tried to print something. But, the warning light started to flash, indicating low toner. So, I took out the toner cartridge and shook it, like they do at work. It didn’t work at home, though. In fact, all I did was  to get toner dust on my hands and shirt!

I cleaned up the mess and threw my shirt, along with some kitchen towels and underwear, into the washer and did a medium load. I checked out my shirt thoroughly before I put it into the dryer (not wanting to set any ink stains), but the toner had come off.

And then the doorbell rang…

Now, Jake had told me to always answer the door or at least turn the porch light on. As I may have mentioned before I have a friend that, if you don’t call and let him know you are coming, he simply will NOT answer the doorbell. That can lead to tragic mistakes, because thieves know with caller id, calling your house and you not answering the phone is no indication on whether you are home or not.

So, they canvas the neighborhood, usually around 10:00 AM or 2:00 PM (when you’re probably at work and not home for lunch), and if you answer, they ask if you want you gutters cleaned or driveway sealed, etc. They may have fake business card or handbills with them as well. You say no and they go to the neighbor’s house.

But, if you don’t answer, they break in. So, if you don’t feel safe opening the door, at least let them know you are home by speaking through the door or turning on the outside lights, even in the daytime.

And, if you see somebody canvassing the neighborhood, you can always call 911 and ask them to check out the person. If they’re legit, no harm, no foul. Note: Don’t bother to call if you live in Detroit, they won’t come.

[Getting down from his soapbox, the Captain continues…]

It was a very cute little lady from AT&T wanting to tell me about all the upgrades they have made to the lines and infrastructure in Redford and would I like to switch from my cable company to U-Verse. I told her no, I was happy with what I have. She said I could save at least $20.00 a month for the first year. [Sidebar: Have you ever noticed they never tell you what happens after that first year is up?] I declined even filling out her informational form and bid her goodnight.

I made a BLT for dinner and it tasted so good, I made another. Obviously, it was before I let my stomach have enough time to tell my brain I was full, because I spent the rest of the night feeling stuffed and burping.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Disguised Cat Door

Monday in Candyland

It was cold and overcast on Monday morning and stayed that way all day.

I went to Kroger’s to get a few items I needed and was surprised at how crowded it was. I guess everyone is getting ready for Holiday meals.

When I got home, I treated the cats, of course, and changed clothes. I made a cup of coffee and then removed the clamps from the office door. With the aid of my level, I got the register situated and marked where the screws need to go. I pre-drilled the holes and put in two brass wood screws. Bingo! It looked pretty good! See photo.

Then I tried something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: making candy! Oh, nothing fancy or all that temperamental, just some Peppermint Bark.

Now, I don’t have a 15x10-inch jelly roll pan, so I bought an aluminum “cookie” sheet at Kroger’s that size. [Sidebar: I personally don’t think size is all that important, but I’ve been saying that all my life!] I lined it with tin foil (leaving the sides up) and sprayed that with canola oil.

I unwrapped a box of candy canes and then the canes (who knew each damn candy cane was also covered with plastic?), broke each one apart and put them in my food processor. I pulsed them until they were in small pieces and dust. You want about 3/4 cup. Oh, before I forget, you can use peppermint candy instead, but I was rocking it old-school.

Next, I jury-rigged a double boiler using a saucepan and a aluminum bowl. I put some water in the pan, but not enough to touch the bowl and then turned the heat on medium low.

I put in 12 ounces of high quality semi sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli, myself) and stirred them until they melted. Then I dumped them into the pan and spread them around. I quickly learned why they suggested an offset spatula (which I don’t have). When I had it as even as I could get it, I sprinkled 1/4 cup of the peppermint candy evenly on top.

I stuck the pan in the fridge to let it get cold.

I cleaned out the bowl while I was waiting. When it was cold and firm, I fired my “double boiler” back up to medium low. I put in one pound of white chocolate (make sure it has cocoa butter in it) and stirred it until it was almost all melted. Then I took the bowl off the heat,  added in 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract and stirred it until it was smooth.

I let that cool a little and got the tray out of the fridge. I put the white chocolate on top and spread it out. When I was happy with the way it looked (damn I need an offset spatula!) I sprinkled the remaining 1/2 cup of crushed peppermint on top and stuck it back in the fridge.

I warmed up the leftover’s I got from Hannah and a leftover baked potato for my supper (which was excellent, although I was mixing my starches, what with Hannah’s rice and my baked potato) and went in to watch an old movie on Turner Classic Movies. Called “Destination Tokyo,” it was set in World War II, starred Cary Grant and was about a submarine that snuck into Tokyo Bay to do reconnaissance and then snuck back out.

[Sidebar: This may sound pretty hard to believe a submarine could sneak into  a harbor area undetected, until you realize that Tokyo Bay is a large expanse of water that juts deep into the mainland, It’s over 500 square miles at an average depth of  some 130 feet.]

Beside the fact that I like old movies, the reason I watch this one (I’ve seen it before) is that my cousin, Bobby, served on a submarine in World War II that did the exact same thing! They got through the mine fields and submarine nets by following directly behind and under a Japanese destroyer. But, in the real life story, once they got in and the nets were raised back up, they were stuck in there for an extended period (days, weeks, I dunno. Hell, I was a little kid when I first heard this story.), having to surface at night to get air and recharge batteries, etc., until they finally managed to sneak back out.

Anyway, when it finished, I could have and maybe should have finished with my Peppermint Bark. All that’s left is to lift the foil out of the pan and shake off the excess candy. Then you peel the foil from the bottom of the peppermint bark, trim the edges and cut it into 2-inch squares.

But, I don’t see why I couldn’t do it in the morning when it would have less chance to melt before I can get it into work. My co-workers don’t know it yet, but they are going to be my test group. I sure as hell shouldn’t eat two pounds of candy!

So, I turned off the TV and went to bed.

Monday, December 17, 2012