Sunday, November 28, 2010

another post

When I signed in this morning I noticed that I have written 1,221 posts. That's a lot of blah blah blah, I'd say. But I've had 18,483 hits on my main page which even accounting for me going back to read what I wrote myself and family who like to see their own pictures and friends who want to make sure I haven't moved to Poland, that is a lot of readers. Here's where the current readers come from:


91.80%New Mexico


51.00%New York





30.60%South Carolina

10.20%North Carolina



I don't think it means much. I'm just saying is all.

Regis is watching the squirrels and birds in the front yard. They've been really active lately, building up their reserves for winter, I suppose. We have quite the fat squirrel population and they're fun to watch. They sort of hog the feeders though and the birds won't come if there is a squirrel sitting there. We've had more variety this year in the birds: nuthatches, chickadees, two pair of cardinals, flickers, woodpeckers, blue jays, finches.

I made the menu for the week composed completely of left-overs. We have meatloaf, turkey, chili, and chicken in the freezer in those vacuum sealer bags. Not much cooking required this week so we won't even have to make a trip to the store tomorrow.

We wanted, in the worst way, to have a float in the fish house parade but it looks like it won't happen. The guy who had the trailer says that part won't work out. We don't know anybody else with a truck and a trailer. And, pitiful as this sounds, apparently they have only had one entry. What is the matter with people?

I have a busy day planned but it might include a nap. I want to get the Thanksgiving dishes put away. I'm going to make soup with the turkey stock I made yesterday. I might even drag out a few Christmas things. Today will go by quickly and then it's back to work. A five day week. It's true, if work was fun, rich people would keep more of it for themselves.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

aftermath of Thanksgiving and exercise

Regis and I got the most immediate aftermath cleaned up yesterday. I made some turkey stock with the wings, we froze the left-over turkey in small packages, and froze the bread. Too good to throw out, you know. There are dishes all over the table but those will be put away tomorrow. Today is a day for fun.

I went to the Pulse this morning after a two day hiatus. I was beating myself mentally for being a slug lately and worried that I was losing my motivation. I have meticulous records of my exercise going back to August 2008 when I started so when I got home, I dug them out and analyzed the data. Here's what I learned:

September 2009 = 19 times/month with an average 226 minutes/week
September 2010 =  15 times/month with an average 234 minutes/week

October 2009 = 22 times/month with an average 220 minutes/week
October 2010 = 14 times/month with an average 213 minutes/week

November 2009 = 21 times/month with an average 188 minutes/week
November 2010 = 15 times/month with an average 197 minutes/week

Looks like I exercised less times per month this fall but about the same number of minutes per month. So, nothing to worry about, I guess. It's a busy time of year, the start of school and the holidays. Things will pick up in January.

I'm making the transition from one season to another. I don't do a lot of decorating for Christmas but I love winter music, Christmas dishes and linens, and I love Christmas scents. I bought evergreen scented candles yesterday, one of those reed diffuser things, and a tiny light-up snowman.

Betty, Tiffany, Ella and I are going to see the Nutcracker in Mankato on the 12th. Tiffany loved the Nutcracker when she was little and we went several times. I was always fascinated that she was so little but loved a long story with few words. Maybe it's the dancing. Ella, here is the slideshow from last year's performance. Ella has been over to watch the McCauley Culkin version a  couple times and always wants me to read the names of the characters in the credits. The story is always a little different. We have front row seats so it will be fun!

On with the day. We're piddling around this afternoon and celebrating the end of the weekend with dinner at Pappageorge. Enjoy the day, my friends.

Oh, for anyone who is interested in the spoon-hanging picture below....there are spoon hanging tutorials on youtube. LOL Actually, there are tons of them. Here's one.

Friday, November 26, 2010

here's the menu

Jalapeno Cranberry Compote
Onion Tartlets
Alton Brown's Turkey
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Traditional Stuffing
Andouille and Cornbread Stuffing
Green Bean Casserole
Roasted Root Vegetables
Cranberry Chutney
Italian Country Bread
Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Pumpkin Truffles

we got out the best silver for you!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

getting ready for the day

We use Alton Brown's turkey recipe. The bird brines in a bath of salt water, aromatics, and citrus fruit. It smells wonderful!

One nice lookin' pie. The chocolate one is disappointing. I don't make it often enough and forget the minor details like you can't make ganache in the microwave.

Ella came over to help make the pumpkin pie with tofu since she is allergic to dairy. She's a good helper in the kitchen and she especially liked pushing the pulse button on the food processor.

My black market lefse made it from Fargo, thank God. I pay six dollars a package for Freddy's lefse from Fargo and they sell it for twelve at the coffee shop. My lefse agent said when he was in the store, someone was ordering two packages to be delivered overnight for 90 dollars. Holy crap. But it is lefse, after all, and it's only money.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Looks like the roads will be passable around here. I'm glad nobody has to travel too far.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

poem from Writer's Almanac today

Upon Discovering My Entire Solution to the Attainment of Immortality Erased from the Blackboard Except the Word Save

If you have seen the snow
somewhere slowly fall
on a bicycle,
then you understand
all beauty will be lost
and that even the loss
can be beautiful.
And if you have looked
at a winter garden
and seen not a winter garden
but a meditation on shape,
then you know why
this season is not
known for its words,
the cold too much
about the slowing of matter,
not enough about the making of it.
So you are blessed
to forget this way:
a jump rope in the ice melt,
a mitten that has lost its hand,
a sun that shines
as if it doesn't mean it.
And if in another season
you see a beautiful woman
use her bare hands
to smooth wrinkles
from her expensive dress
for the sake of dignity,
but in so doing trace
the outlines of her thighs,
then you will remember
surprise assumes a space
that has first been forgotten,
especially here, where we
rarely speak of it,
where we walk out onto the roofs
of frozen lakes
simply because we're stunned
we really can.

"Upon Discovering My Entire Solution to the Attainment of Immortality Erased from the Blackboard Except the Word 'Save'" by Donny Gibson, from Polar. © Alice James Books, 2005.

Thanksgiving preparation

A few random pictures with no explanation needed.

I took a personal day yesterday to prepare for Thanksgiving. Regis and I bought our groceries at 6 a.m. in Mankato. Our friends at the HyVee were preparing for the onslaught of customers. With Monday's icy road conditions, people were not out shopping and all we've heard since Monday night is the icy conditions anticipated for today. That leaves yesterday. Cars were streaming into the parking lot by the time we left at 7:30. It was gonna be ugly.

I went to the Pulse to exercise, then spent the rest of the day puttering in the house and cooking. The cooking part is what I love. These are the things we did yesterday:

  • Made a stop at the Co-op for nutmeg and ginger
  • Picked up flowers at the greenhouse
  • Made cornbread for the Andouille sausage stuffing
  • Baked my Italian country bread
  • Made spicy cranberry sauce with jalapenos and apples
  • Got the ingredients ready for the onion tartlets
  • Caramelized onions for the tartlets and the cranberry compote
  • Started thawing the turkey in a cold water bath
  • Set the table
  • Did dishes...probably ten times
Tonight, we make three pies, brine the turkey, cut up vegetables for the dressings (thank God for the food processor), make the cranberry and apple chutney. I might cut up the vegetables for roasting, too.

I dread the weather conditions. Dread. Dread. Dread. I'll just be traveling around town but all of our kids will be on the roads to school and work and it can drive a guy crazy with worry. No help, I know. But crazy just the same.

So, let's get safely through this day, then on with the show.

Monday, November 22, 2010

early monday

I'm awake at 3 a.m. worrying about icy roads and how I will get to the store for my Thanksgiving groceries. Finally decided to get up and check the weather. Like that will make a difference. And after all of that, I forgot to check.

Also worried about not having enough time to thaw my turkey if I buy it tomorrow. Is it the full moon that does this?

Ella came over Sunday afternoon to bake a pumpkin that we got at Living Land Farm this fall. She wants to make a pie so we baked the pumpkin and she'll come over on Wednesday to finish the pie.

Scooping out the pumpkin guts as she calls them.

Almost five years old!

The finished product. She liked the pumpkin with a little brown sugar on it.

We sat in the chair with the hula girl lights around our necks.


Looking stylish.

The forecast doesn't look too bad for tomorrow. Icy rain today. Ugh. I have to find my yak trax. Of all things, I found the ones Regis never even put on last year but now I can't find mine. I wore them all the time. What the hell. I hate losing things but it's the story of my life.

Rooting around for Yak Trax at 3:30 in the morning. This is insane.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

getting old with gusto

Regis and I were sitting at the bar of one of our favorite restaurants last night, drinking wine and sniffing my perfume. It's Obsession by Calvin Klein and we both love it. We get our perfume and cologne samples from magazines...cardboard perfume we call it.

We remembered how there was a time we scorned smelly stuff and ripped them out and threw them away without a second glance. A couple weeks ago, we splurged and bought a bottle of Obsession, thinking it would be complicated to collect enough samples to get us through the winter. Yesterday I ordered a bottle of Yves Saint Laurent called La Nuit De L'Homme

So, what's the difference? I think as we've gotten older and our kids have fled the nest, we've made a conscious effort to enjoy ourselves and do things we didn't do in the past. Getting old is in the head, for the most part. Mom commented on the post below. She wondered if the old people we were teaching were a little over 60. Ha! Hard to tell. Some of the really old people don't act so old and some people my age act like old farts. You know what I mean.

My mom and her friends have a great sense of fun and I admire that. Not one to sit around feeling sad and blue, Mom invites people over for cards or potluck dinners or movies. She has election night parties, choosing carefully the friends to invite so they don't crow over a victory she bemoans. It's a good practice.

I'm not saying we're going to take up trapeze art or drive to Texas or anything like that. Don't worry. We might move to Poland if Sarah Palin gets elected to a national office but that's as daring as we'll get.

We went to Pappageorge last night for dinner. We love it there for many reasons. The staff is so friendly and they seem to remember us from visit to visit. We enjoy sitting at the bar for a glass of wine before moving to a table. Regis paid $3.60 for a bottle of Stella Artois which is a very good deal. The same bottle of beer is more than $7.00 at Grizzly's, a sports bar with many televisions (ugh) on the hill in Mankato. The food is incredible. I've had the seared ahi tuna three times now and it's been excellent every time. Regis had a rib steak last night that was not only enormous but cooked to perfection. Even the salads are delicious. I like the small spinach salad and it has feta cheese and bacon crumbles with a nice light dressing. You can't find food that good very many places in this area. Two thumbs up for Pappageorge.

I went for a long walk yesterday and noticed that this time of year, it's a black and white world. Only little splashes of color...a cardinal at the feeder, a blue jay in the tree, a flag. It's why we appreciate the color and the lights so much in November and December. Be a splash of color today.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

planning saturday

  1. Get up and drink coffee in front of the faux fireplace. Wear warm slippers.
  2. Finalize grocery list for Thanksgiving dinner. 
  3. Read over recipes and think about cooking.
  4. Go to Whiskey River for breakfast. Have a Mexican omelet with bacon and lots of spicy salsa. Drink lots of coffee. Watch the wild turkeys and the deer.
  5. Think about our float in the fish house parade. 
  6. Go for a long walk in the sunshine.
  7. Buy stuff to make pumpkin truffles.
  8. Take a nap.
  9. Take a long bath with bubbles, a candle, and a cup of coffee.
  10. Meet friends for dinner at Suzette's in Jordan.
Notice there is a lot of thinking and not much doing on this list. My favorite kind of day. I have a long list of  things to do for Thanksgiving Day but I'm ahead of schedule and none of them needs to be done today. That's good. I can revert back to my hedonistic ways and pursue pleasure/avoid pain.

We stopped at the bar last night to help our friend, Vickie, celebrate the first anniversary of her divorce. I had a bag of goofy stuff I shopped for in my office, and I wrote a set of five limericks for her, which of course, I read aloud several times. We had an interesting group of people: Regis and Amber, Gus, Mario, a couple of MVED folks, Nikki and Scott, and us. Lots of laughing and story telling so it was a good way to end a week of work. Work, the curse of the drinking class. Ha!

I'm kind of joking about our hedonistic ways, but I think most people spend way too much time thinking about their obligations and making sure that everyone else is happy but themselves. A guy has to have a well-developed instinct for self-preservation because nobody else is going to make sure that your needs are taken care of and you'll end up at the end of your life like an airless balloon, wishing you had spent more time seeking pleasure. That is a heck of a run-on sentence.

We have some friends who went off on a big adventure yesterday, a two-week cruise to the Panama Canal. I won't mention their names in case a deviant who reads my blog would be enticed to rob their house in their absence. I hope they have fun because it's a once in a lifetime deal, a cruise like that. 

I guess they are expensive, cruises. I had Regis read to me about them one night as I made dinner. There is a big charge to just get on board, then they start adding on the extras. I said we could go, intending to be frugal, and then three days into it we'd get bored and say screw it and revert to our hedonistic ways, eating and drinking with wild abandon.

It's not like we don't do anything for the common good. There are a lot of safer drivers in the elderly population because of us and Regis is signed up to help old people with their taxes. And I think spending my life educating Minnesota's criminal element ought to count for something.

We're heading into the darkest days of the year, folks. Time for a mental health action plan. Ours includes, but is not limited to:
  • Party lights on every day at 4:00. Turkeys and hula girls.
  • Candles lit every evening. Pumpkin scented..
  • Music and lots of it. Mendelssohn, Delbert McClinton, Bob Dylan, Karen Savoca.
  • Spicy food. Sirloin quesadillas with stuffed hot peppers.
  • Trapiche malbec.
  • Summit winter ale.
  • Poetry. John Engman, David Lee, David Bengtson, Leo Dangel, Bill Holm.
  • Parties. Lots of parties.
  • Fish House Parade.
  • Exercise. Jingle Bell Jam.
  • Friends. See paragraph about last night.
  • Little kids. Elliot here Tuesday night. Ella and Alex here Monday night.
There you go. Make it a good weekend, friends. Life is short.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Elliot comes to visit

Elliot and Tiffany came to dinner last night. Elliot reminds me of Peter when he was little. He's strong, fast, and very active and hard to keep up with, believe me, it was a three-man job last night. I know little kids are always into more stuff when it isn't their home turf, so I know he wasn't being naughty. He's very affectionate and sweet. But he's very active. And very fast. Did I mention fast?

I thought this series of pictures would make a good slide show. Tiffany asked me to put Elliot's coat on while she took his things to the car. He was a little frantic because he thought "Mama go bye-bye" without him but Regis and I managed to finally get his coat on. The minute I let him go, he made a bee-line for the door and we had to watch Mama come back from the car. Regis said several times during the evening, "This is why young people have babies, and not old people." And one of the reasons they make wine.

Elliot calls us Nana and Popop like the other little ones do. He points at pictures of Regis and says, "Popop!" So cute.

During one of the calmer moments. we started talking about children's misbehavior and what we did about it and what they remember when they get older. I have a friend whose grown children are convinced she beat them with a hair brush when they were in the back seat of the car on a long trip. I can't believe that happened and Mary laughs when they tell it.

Tiffany remembers being locked in her room for hours when she was little. It might have been three minutes but do I seem like a person who could lock a little girl in her room for hours? It makes me sad to think she thinks so. I told her to remember this when Elliot is grown and telling stories about the things she did to him that never happened.

Peter was over, too, but he was not very communicative. Not like the old Monosyllabic Peter, but not very talkative either. He downloaded a Kindle app to his computer so he can read his books for class there...and on his phone.

I have a Kindle that I have not been overly fond of in spite of all the features. Last week, I downloaded the Kindle app to my phone and was amazed to see there were all the books I have on my Kindle, available for download to my phone. I chose one, wondering about the time it would take. Less than five minutes, I think. Amazing. I won't even articulate all the (probably really dumb) questions running through my mind. I've just accepted that there are lots of things flying through the air, like books, of which I am blissfully unaware.

If you remember, one of my major complaints about the Kindle was that there were no visuals. No book cover to imprint on my mind, the title and author. The Kindle app on my phone has a nice, colored photo of the book cover. Ta da! I love it!

I heard on the radio this weekend (and not sure if this was a joke or not) that there is an app for your phone that rings once in a while to remind you that the device actually is a phone, too, and will make calls. Funny even if it isn't true. Yesterday, I had a couple of revelations about google calendar. Amazing. When I think of all the things I do with my phone, making calls is the least of it. Maybe the future is Radiohead but it's also android phones.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's all part of the story

I talked to my brother Pat last night and he told me a story that had me waking up at 2 a.m., composing a re-tell for the blog.

Pat has a friend whose dad is getting older and a little goofy. He went to the driver's license bureau one day to turn in his license because, and these are his exact words, I'm blind in one eye and can't see out of the other. The kind lady behind the desk said, "Oh, don't be too quick to do that. Let's test your vision." Lo and behold, he passed and walked out with his license. I would say if a guy's own assessment is that he can't see they ought to take him at his word.

The same old guy called his son one day and said he wanted to buy a gun. Son goes to see dad and together they go to the gun shop. Same old guy who is blind in one eye and can't see out of the other. He needs the gun dealer's help to fill out the four page form because....he can't see the lines. But he walks out with a snub nosed 38. I have no idea what that is but Pat says it's a gun meant for deadly business. What the hell, I say.

I read this on Your Daily Poem today: "There are nearly thirteen million people in the world. None of those people is an extra. They are all leads of their own stories." Charlie Kaufmann wrote that in his play (film?) Synecdoche, New York. I also like the poem there today. You can find it here. On my paranoid days, I don't reprint poems because I worry about the copyright police. I wonder if they make you go to meetings in copyright jail.

Monday, November 15, 2010

This Goat's Life: Fairies in the Kitchen

This Goat's Life: Fairies in the Kitchen

fast morning blog post

It's 4:35 a.m. on a cold November morning. I was so tempted to stay in bed and pretend I had over-slept which of course, I hadn't because I was awake and plotting it. I got out of bed and put my exercise clothes on right away so it would be easier. I loathe Mondays.

Someone wrote on Facebook about the Twins. Are they still playing baseball in November? I'm embarrassed to ask and I couldn't find it in the paper. I thought the World Series was in October. I don't like this cross-over of sports seasons.

We watched a program last night called Marathon Challenge. Regis ordered it from Netflix. The PBS program NOVA took 12 people who were not athletes and trained them for the Boston Marathon. They didn't gloss over the injuries but they did make it look a lot easier than I think it would be. Either that or those people were very motivated. All but one made it to the finish and she only because of an injury. I learned some things, though, about glycogen stores in your body. Interesting. Can't watch NOVA without learning something.

I'd like to spend another hour pondering this blog post, writing a little more, drinking some more coffee, then get up to bake a loaf of bread. Not to be. Off to the Pulse.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

cooking on a gloomy november sunday

On Sundays, I like to have the radio on MPR so I can listen to A Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk, and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me while I cook. Today, I baked muffins that I like to take to work for a morning snack and cottage cheese pancakes. Both recipes are staples in my kitchen. Since my surgery, I don't eat much bread or white flour so I make both of these recipes with oatmeal, almond flour, and other healthy things. Very dense, no sweeteners, and lots of protein.

We made it to Patrick's last night and the crowd wasn't too unruly until about midnight. Then, what has been called the meet-up crowd, came stumbling in. Kids who have been at house parties and only come to the bar to hook up. They made dancing difficult, believe me. We enjoyed the band, the limerick contest, and the leprechaun look-alike contest. Such silliness.

I worked on the Thanksgiving plan this morning. All is done. The menu printed and put on the front of the binder, the to-do list, the grocery list. I got out the table linens yesterday, the silverware, and the extra wine glasses. Tomorrow, I'll mail the invitations to the friends and family who come. What a concept...mailing an invitation printed on paper. So much is done electronically now.

I'm making Alton Brown's Good Eats Meatloaf for dinner. Sounds like a good meal for a cold November night.  We have a movie to watch but it's been around for a month and we never seem to make time to watch it.

We're having our cable disconnected tomorrow. Regis had to run the gantlet at Mediacom to get that arranged because they just couldn't believe that we don't want to watch television.

Just checked my blog to see what I was doing two years ago in November. Here are the notes Regis wrote regarding the turkey. I think I'll write my annual "what I'm thankful for" blog post tonight. If we don't watch the movie, that is.

The Brined Bomber (2010 bought at 18.5 turkey. A little too big for the roaster.)
Turkey was thawed over a period of several days on the porch in a soft sided cooler. Air temperature on the porch was about 45 max during the daytime on the porch and near freezing at night. Turkey was moved to a cooler full of water and ice cubes where it remained for about 12 additional hours.
The Brining
Basic recipe for the 21 lb bird was 3 gallons of water, 1.5 C salt, and 1.5 C brown sugar. Also added to the plan were quartered oranges and onions. Spices were rosemary and thyme. The turkey was placed in a plastic bag into the cooler along with the solution. It sat on the porch for an additional 12 hours.
The Cookery
Turkey was removed from the brine, rinsed, and the cavity stuffed loosely with apples, oranges, onions, more spices, and garlic. It was salt and peppered and liberally coated with olive oil.
The bird was set breast side down on a V shaped rack and cooked in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. It was then flipped over, the breast covered with foil, basted with chicken stock, and the oven was reduced to 350 degrees for an additional 3 hours and 20 minutes. It was basted with broth every hour. The breast was 165 to 170 when it came out and the thigh was 175.

We put the turkey in at 11:45 and he was done in 2 and 3/4 hours. A little faster than we planned on but the meat was so moist and delicious.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

oh, the difference a week makes

Last week at this time:

62 degrees and sunny


32 degrees and snowing