Things I did instead of working around the house yesterday

Full moon through the clouds

I took this picture after our granddaughter Maely’s final 8th grade choir concert. At least I think it was then. It was an eventful concert.

***

I had an unproductive day yesterday. There are things I should have be doing, but put them off, because I’m basically lazy. For instance, rather than collect my dirty clothes and start a load of laundry, I decided to read a chapter in a mystery. It is a very good mystery.

Apologies to my vegan friends for the next two paragraphs. I hope that you don’t find them too distasteful. Perhaps you should just skip over them.

While reading I flashed upon a steak dinner that I used to order in my favorite restaurant in Auburn. I haven’t lived in Auburn in at least thirty-five years,  but I could picture the plate with the steak and baked potato. The dinner had just been served, with the potato still in its foil jacket, steam rising from the plate, and a smaller plate for my trip to the salad bar. I could feel the tenderness of the steak as I cut into it, and the delicious flavor of the meat. All this at 9:30 a.m.

I put on a Pat Metheny Group CD that I borrowed from the library. It was really relaxing. I had the windows open, the ceiling fan on, and my eyes closed. But then I experienced an olfactory hallucination, and could swear I smelled eggs frying in butter. It smelled so real that I could almost hear the sizzling in the pan. It wasn’t yet 11 a.m.

OK. You can start reading again.

The only explanation have have for these incidents is that due to a reaction to a newly prescribed med, I had lost my appetite for the best part of a week. That seems to assume that meal times are the best times of the week. (I should probably think about that.) But now my appetite is returning.

I finally started my laundry and decided that I should cut the grass. It needs it. Badly. But you know, the idea of just sitting in my easy chair and watching an old episode of The Rockford Files just seemed too appealing. Of course after I watched that episode it was time for my afternoon nap. Nobody would want me to miss that! And after my nap, well it was just getting too late to start a major project like cutting the grass. I’ll do that tomorrow. Unless it rains.

My confession: I’ve had to make some changes this post while writing it, because I started writing it yesterday but put off finishing it until today.

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Was yesterday better than today?

January 20, 2017
January 20, 2017

I took a few pictures this morning, trying to find something that matches my mood. This seemingly abandoned community center best fits the bill.

***

Cindy and I went out for dinner last night. We went to one of Cindy’s favorite places; and I also like it. Last night’s visit was unlike any other that we’ve had there. The restaurant is part of a chain and I shall not name it here because I’m sure that last night was an aberration. We shall return there.

I should state here that I am not a vegan or a vegetarian. If you find tales of eating meat offensive, please stop reading now. This is the space where, on a worse day, I would make a bad joke using the phrase “make no bones about it.” I’ll spare you.

Usually when we dine at this restaurant I order a chicken dish or a salad of some kind. Last night I was wanting something a bit more substantial so I ordered a steak. It was a ribeye to be exact. Ribeyes are known for their flavor and tenderness due to the marbling.

When our meals arrived, the lad who was serving us asked me to cut into the steak to see if it had been prepared properly. I skewered the meat with my fork and set about cutting the meat. I cut, and I cut, and I cut some more. I sawed on that steak and could not get the blade to penetrate beyond one eighth of a centimeter in depth. I tried to make a joke about it, but I was breathless from the exertion. I checked the knife blade to make sure it had some sort of edge. It did. I would have had more luck cutting that steak with a hammer and cold chisel, or perhaps a table saw.

Finally I move the knife to a different spot on the carcass and tried again. After some work I found success when I dislodged a small portion from the main bit. He asked if it was done enough (cooked medium in my case). “Fine,” said I the people pleaser, never looking at it but forking it into my mouth and started chewing. He smiled and left the table while I continued to chew. And I chewed and chewed and chewed some more, never reducing the size of the bite, just changing it’s somewhat malleable shape. Finally at Cindy’s urging I discretely spat the piece of steak into my napkin.

While I seldom send food back to the kitchen, I felt that I had to since the food was inedible. I cast my eyes about looking for our server. He was nowhere to be seen. But, ah, the shift manager was making the rounds of the tables, smiling and chatting with the customers. I caught her eye and beckoned her over.

“How is everything tonight?” she inquired. She probably knew that I had a complaint since I had requested her attendance at our table, but she continued to smile.

I explained my problem with the steak. She asked how I had wanted it prepared. I know that she expected me to say that I had ordered it well done. Phaw! I haven’t knowingly had a well done steak since leaving the confines of my mother’s kitchen and realizing the true worth of taste buds. For the uninitiated, a well done steak has no flavorful juices, and becomes harder to cut. No, I had ordered it medium.

The manager offered to substitute a different cut of meat or another ribeye. I chose another ribeye. What could go wrong?

They whisked away the offending steak, and in a few minutes the new steak arrived at our table. The manager, who had personally delivered the new steak asked me to cut into it. With some effort I cut into the meat and exclaimed, “Much better.” I was still a people pleaser.

As she left the table, still smiling, I forked a piece of steak into my mouth and commenced chewing. I chewed and I chewed and I chewed, and somewhat irritated I less discretely spat the meat onto the edge of the plate. I tried a second piece, and a third with no better result. I had wanted to make a joke about horse meat, but upon reflection believed it was really a horse’s saddle.

Cindy asked to try a piece of the steak in order to judge if my teeth were somehow blunted, but she had the same chewing experience. Rather than have me send another steak back to the kitchen, she asked me to get it in a to-go box and take it home. She promises me that she can get it tender enough to be edible. We’ll see.

We asked our server to bring us a to-go box. As we waited for him to return, the manager passed our table, smiled at me, and gave me a thumbs-up. I smiled back. Even in defeat I am a people pleaser.

As I said earlier, we will return to this restaurant, scene of many good meals. We have both vowed, however, to never order their ribeye steak again.

The world is slowing down

Bring the rural to the city
Bring the rural to the city

At first I didn’t know if this was once a door, or a window. I’ve decided that it is a doorway; but  it is very narrow.  There are hinges on the left side and a padlocked latch on the right side, but they are painted to blend in with the painting. Also, there is a curtain painted into the picture. I found it very confusing until I looked at it close up. It is just off main street in Lafayette.

***

I was watching a local news broadcast the other day and they showed a report about fast food restaurant drive-thrus getting slower. They are supposedly becoming more accurate, but that seems to slow their speed. Interesting.

It made me reflect upon my last trip through a drive-thru, which had been that very morning. You may know that I am not a fast food aficionado, but I do occasionally get a breakfast “meal” when I am out and about in the morning. Let me tell you about my experience.

I went to one of the many local McDonald’s to break my fast. I went their because I don’t like sandwiches made on a biscuit; they are too crumbly. It seems that all of the McDonald’s drive-thrus now start in one lane and then split into two, so you have to decide whether you want to go in the right lane or the left lane. I chose to go to the right.

There was method to my madness choice. Whenever I have a choice of choosing between a lane with a pickup truck in front and one that does not, I choose the lane without the pickup. Invariably when I get behind a pickup, the driver is there getting food for an entire construction crew. It isn’t fun getting behind one of those pickups. So I avoided the left lane where the pickup truck driver was waiting his turn.

The right lane was not a great choice either. Evidently the guy placing his order in the right lane was a talker. He was carrying on a conversation with whomever was the employee on the inside. He was smiling, laughing and gesturing as he talked. It had gone way beyond food ordering phase. This went on for a couple of minutes while the rest of us waited patiently. Even the guy in the pickup truck in the next lane finished before the fellow from Toastmasters International who was at the head of our lane. Finally he finished and I was able to creep forward another car length.

Meanwhile, a woman in a little blue Volkswagen reached the head of the other lane and then decided to decide on what she wanted. The fellow in front of me got his order in and pulled away from the speaker in record time. I liked that guy. The woman in the blue VW was still hemming and hawing.

My turn! When asked what I would like, I answered succinctly, “One breakfast burrito and a large black coffee.”

The woman on the other end said, “Do you want hot sauce for your burrito?” and I answered in the negative. She then said, “That will be,” and quoted a price.

I looked at the order screen and said, “You don’t have my coffee on the order.”

She said, “I’ll take care of it at the first window. Please pull around.”

“OK,” thought I, “we’ll see how that goes.”

As I started to pull forward, the woman in the blue VW, who must have been holding back, decided to squirt into line ahead of me. I hit my brakes, but not my horn.

While I waited to get to the first window, I observed as I have many times before, how busy the person in line ahead of me is. They bob, they weave, they reach into the adjoining seat, they reach into the back seat, when it is a woman they dig through their purse, everybody reaches down to the floorboard of the car. What are they searching for?

When I got to the first window the woman asked for an amount that would cover the burrito but not the coffee. I said, “You are forgetting my coffee.”

“Oh,” said she, “what kind of coffee did you want?” I told her, and she added that to my charge. I paid and crept ahead toward the second window where I hoped my food and drink would be waiting.

Success. It was there; and the order was correct.

I understand why the study showed that fast food is getting slower.

Unrelated items

Wall art #12
Wall art #12

Here is another photo of a mural that is tucked away in a narrow alley. Once again I was unable to get a head on shot of the painting; and I wasn’t able to digitally manipulate the perspective to make the picture appear to be head on without distorting and degrading the image. But the mural is worth seeing this way for now.

***

I was watching the news this morning and realized that I was only half paying attention. I also realized that I was tuning out what they were showing and saying because I was tired of the negative stories. That doesn’t mean that I want sugar-coated drivel in the newscasts that I watch, but rather I just want to get away from it.

That’s when one of my favorite daydreams kicked in. I was living in a home built into a hillside in Wyoming or Montana or South Dakota, anywhere as long as it wasn’t in a town or city. Think of it as my hermitage (lower case h). Of course I’m not talking about a rough cabin with dirt floors. Oh no; my hermitage is spacious with central air and heating, a large pantry and walk-in freezer to stock for winter, cable or satellite TV, as well as all of my music and books. I never said that I wanted to rough it. I just want to get away.

The major drawback to this fantasy is that Cindy would never agree to live somewhere like that. She couldn’t abide living anyplace where there was a possibility of being snowed in for more than a couple of days. And there is also the fact that she doesn’t want to live anywhere that doesn’t have city water and sewage. Oh, and she needs more people around than just me.

I did say that it was just a daydream. My mood and daydream disappeared when the sun came up.

***

I am usually pretty careful when I am in the kitchen. If I have any doubts about what I’m doing, I pull out a cookbook and check my steps. That didn’t happen the other night.

I decided to fry chicken for dinner. Cindy loves my fried chicken, and I usually like it as well. It is a meal that I have cooked more than any other since we have been married.

I started pulling out the ingredients that I use when preparing the chicken. Generally I use flour, salt, pepper, some Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, and occasionally other spices. I mix the ingredients together, dredge the chicken, and put it in a frying pan with hot oil. Well the other night I went to get the flour and noticed that there were two containers of a finely ground white substance setting side by side. I had recently purchased a bag of flour and assumed that we had so much that the second container was overflow from the first. So I grabbed the container that had the smaller amount.

I was wrong in my assumption. The second container wasn’t flour. It turned out to be powdered sugar. By the time I realized what I had done, the breast that I was frying for Cindy was already coated and in the frying pan. I grew up in a household where you never threw anything usable away, so I went ahead and coated my dark chicken meat and fried it as well. What the heck. It might be good and I could claim another new recipe.

I didn’t tell Cindy what I had done until she took her first bite. When she did, I asked her how it tasted. “It’s sweet,” she said. That’s when I told her what I had done. After having a good laugh, she went ahead and tried to eat some more of the chicken. She scraped the coating off of the breast, ate some, and declared that the sugar had permeated the meat. She ate a bit more and then gave up.

I won’t be typing up this recipe for any friends.

My problem with fast food

I love the arch
I love the arch

The fourth graveyard that Mary and I visited last Friday was the Bethel Chapel Cemetery. When we pulled into the graveyard, the stone with the arch immediately caught my attention. I have never seen a tombstone like that before. There were a number of other stones that caught our attention as well. Mary wanted me to use a different picture,  but this is my favorite. She can start her own blog if she wants to use a picture of that stone, or I may use it at a later date.

Oh, and Mary noticed that there was a two-seater privy for the patrons on the side of the grounds. The privy was partitioned, with separate doors, so that women and men could have their privacy. We both decided that we could wait until we arrived at the Attica Hotel for lunch before we needed to use the facilities. More about Attica tomorrow.

***

I don’t often eat fast food. Yesterday was an exception, and it brought back all of the reasons why I dislike using a drive-thru window. And there are multiple reasons.

It usually starts when you pull up behind the car ahead of you where the driver is ordering. I was lucky yesterday because there was only one occupant in that car, so there weren’t multiple orders. Still, the woman ahead of me had obviously never eaten at a Burger King before, because it took her quite some time to order. It could have been worse, I usually get stuck behind a pickup truck where the driver is ordering for an entire construction crew that is back at the work site.

When I pulled up to the speaker to order I had to wait what seemed to be an ungodly amount of time before the girl inside deigned take my order. I knew what I wanted, so I spoke clearly and slowly so that she would get it right. I might as well have rattled it off in Urdu, because I had to repeat the order twice before she understood and entered it correctly into the computer.

Then I pulled forward to pay and to get my order, but that took time because the woman who had ordered ahead of me was still waiting at the window to get her food. I believe she had made it her mission to suck the last vestiges of “fast” out of fast food. I have no idea what she ordered, but it took at least ten minutes after I pulled up before her food was handed out the window to her. I thought that was what the “reserved for pickup” area of the parking lot was for, but I must have misunderstood the intent. She was handed a small bag, about the size to hold one hamburger with nothing on it, and a small drink.

I pulled up to the window, and had the exact amount of money in my hand. I sat there for a while, waiting for the girl to open her window and accept payment. When she opened the window and took my money, she dropped the change out of her hand and onto the floor. So she had to scramble around on the floor, making sure that I had handed her the correct amount, before she opened the cash drawer and printed my receipt. She handed me my food. I didn’t pull away until I had verified that I had the right order. I’ve been through that before.

Finally I was finished with the transaction and started to pull away from the window. That’s when I was almost sideswiped by a pickup truck that was towing a trailer. We both hit the brakes at the same time. He graciously allowed me to move first.

As I was about to pull out onto the four lane street, I paused because I saw two dump trucks coming at me. They appeared to be drag racing. I let them go past before I eased out onto the street. From there the drive home was safe and uneventful.

My French fries were cold.

Oatmeal

I'm feeling artsy today
I’m feeling artsy today

What says artsy more than a black and white photograph that started out as a digital photo that has been gray-scaled? Well, maybe one that has been grey-scaled and then had patches of color added. Perhaps I’ll try that later.

***

I’m sure I am not the only person to think of this, but it was a new idea to me. I usually buy plain instant oatmeal so that I can better control my sugar intake. Normally I will zap it in the microwave and then add a packet of sweetener and a dash of cinnamon. It’s good. It isn’t great, but it is good. This morning I decided to try something different, so before zapping the bowl’s contents, I added a couple drops of orange extract. After cooking, I added my packet of sweetener, stirred thoroughly and ate the gloop. I love it! It is better than what I have been doing, and certainly better than the flavored stuff that you find in the grocery store. I’ll be making more experiments, vanilla extract is next on my list, but I’ll also be trying dry ingredients such as powdered lemon peel. This could make breakfast fun again.

***

Cindy and I were in Manchester, England just over ten years ago. She went as a presenter at an International conference, discussing drug courts, cooperation with other law enforcement entities and such. I took vacation time and paid my own way. We took a side trip to Paris, France on the way home. Perhaps I’ll post about that trip at some point, but for now I just wanted to set the background.

I was looking at pictures from that trip a couple of weeks ago and noticed that in some of the pictures taken in Paris, I’m wearing a shirt that is still in my closet. It doesn’t just hang there, I wear it fairly often in the summer. The point is, I seldom discard anything for which I still have a use. I gave up trying to dress contemporarily a long time ago. Cindy still tries to get me to be more fashionable, but it seldom works. I’m an old fuddy-duddy who doesn’t plan to change unless forced to.

Catching up

Barn northeast of Brookston
Barn northeast of Brookston

I took this picture a few weeks ago, but just got around to posting it. I should spend more time on this blog, and take more pictures to use.

***

I tried a new recipe last night. Well, it was new for me. I think it turned out pretty good, and so did Cindy, so I decided to share it:

3 large, skinless chicken breasts

½ cup Poppy Seed salad dressing

1 tsp. lemon juice

12 to 15 Ritz Crackers (Roasted Vegetable)

Salt and Pepper

 Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Crush crackers, or use a food processor, to use crumbs as breading. Mix salad dressing and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Coat the chicken breasts in wet mixture, then in breading. Place the chicken breasts on a foil lined tray that has been oiled (I used Olive Oil Pam). Bake in oven for 55 minutes. The finished chicken was moist and cooked through.

 Smaller, thinner, chicken breasts might use less cooking time.

I hope it works as well for you as it did for me. I love trying new things, and I’m glad Cindy has a grateful palate.

***

I don’t think I’ve related this before, but if I have, please bear with me. I went to Menard’s a week or two ago to pick up some paint for Cindy. A very attractive girl/woman, college age I would surmise, asked if she could help me. I had the color and code number written down, so I handed her the slip of paper and asked for a quart of that paint. She fetched the paint and then asked, “Do you want me to shake it for you?”

Oh, the responses that went through my mind…but I settled for a non-salacious, “Yes, please.” I was raised to be polite.

***

 I’ve been listening to two CDs that I borrowed from the library. The first is Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben and Don Juan. I hadn’t heard Ein Heldenleben before, and found that I liked it very much.

I liked the second CD even better. It is Eiji Oue conducting the Minnesota Orchestra in Respighi’s Belkis, Queen Of ShebaDance Of The Gnomes, and The Pines Of Rome. Wow. I’ll be looking to buy this music soon. I’ve heard The Pines Of Rome before, and I was really impressed with Belkis, Queen Of Sheba. There is a lot of classical music that I haven’t listened to, so I’m glad our library has a good collection.