Tuesday, November 30, 2004

And now for something completely different...

Okay, this is a different post than usual, but perhaps you'll like it anyway. I am a cook by nature, and sometimes I stumble upon a creation that surprises even me. Tonight, Jess bought a couple of pieces of salmon for me to cook, and so I, not being particularly crazy about salmon (it's okay, but it's not my favorite fish) embarked upon a cooking experiment to fix it in such a way that both of us would like.

I started by heating up a few tablespoons of olive oil on my cast-iron grill. I seasoned the fillet with a seasoning blend from Penzey's Spices called Fox Point, then I dropped it onto the grill, seasoned-side down.

Meanwhile, I sliced a couple of large leeks (white to very light green sections only), melted 3 tablespoons of salted butter in a large saucepan and saute├ęd the leeks on medium low heat for about 10 minutes (don't let them brown - just let them get clear and soft) while the salmon cooked. I turned the salmon after it formed a crispy crust on the seasoned side and just before it had turned opaque about halfway up.

To the leeks and butter, I added about a cup and a half of heavy cream and turned the heat up to medium. I let the cream come to a boil and cooked it down until it had thickened. Then I added about 3/4 teaspoon of Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard and stirred it in, adding just a miniscule amount of salt.

When the salmon was finished (not quite opaque in the center), I dressed it with the sauce. It was amazing. It was low-carb. And I had made it up out of my head. It would be really amazing with some peas and pearl onions, but I didn't fix that tonight. Nevertheless, Jess loved it, I loved it, and I have a new favorite way to cook salmon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"Please step aside, sir..."



This past weekend, I went to my aunt's funeral in Kansas. On my way home, I was in the airport waiting at the screening area behind an idiot whose mother was in a wheelchair; he was pushing her. Now before you think me cruel, I must tell you that sonny boy was acting very suspiciously. He was nervous and jittery, and he kept trying to push the woman toward the scanner even though the agents were telling him to stop, asking him to back up and wait, et cetera. After about six minutes of this crap, they finally asked her to stand up and walk through the scanner with a cane, which she did...and she walked quite well for a woman in a wheelchair. I was thinking to myself, "you should certainly detain this pair." I showed my boarding pass and ID to the TSA agent and headed for the scanner.

"Excuse me, sir," the TSA agent yelled after me as I walked toward the screening area, "I forgot to give you this." It was an orange card the size of a boarding pass. Non-descript. No print on it. She handed it to me and walked away suspiciously quickly in the opposite direction.

When I got to the screening gateway, I discovered why.

After mother and idiot finally managed to go through, it was my turn. The agent motioned me through the detector and it went off. I realized that I hadn't removed my watch as I walked through, and that was what had set it off. But the screener wasn't even paying any attention to the scanner, he was fixated on the orange card.

Rather than directing me to remove my shoes and watch as I had seen him do with two other people, he tersely directed me: "please step over there now," motioning me out of the way and to a chair. Another man took my carry-ons and gave them to a woman who promptly unzipped them and dumped the contents out on a table for everyone to see. Underwear, socks, personal items, were all throw on the table and she rifled through them. Thank God I hadn't packed any toys!

Meanwhile, the second man wanded me, asked me to remove my shoes, patted me down all over, made me take off my belt. Asked me a ton of questions about where I lived and where I was going. I felt very violated. Why hadn't they done this to those people in front of me?

At any rate, ten minutes later I left the screening area with my carry-ons in hand, feeling as though I had been molested. I got over it, until I got home and was unpacking my bags. There in the checked luggage was a present from TSA (pictured above) that they had ransacked my checked luggage! The nerve!

I'm sure that to Kansans, all New Yorkers look like terrorists, even those of us who are the very definition of WASPy. I couldn't wait to get out of the place. I'm glad I'm home.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Memories

My aunt Kathleen, or Katie as she was better known to many, was one of the best cooks I ever knew next to my mom. My mom's sister, she was several years older than my mom, but the two were often mistaken for each other in younger years because they looked so much alike. She was always my favorite aunt. She and my uncle owned a large recreational trailer and many weekends were spent at the lake skiing, eating barbeque, and enjoying pies...could my aunt ever make pies! She was the only person I know who could make pies that were as fabulous as my mother's.

After forty-five years of marriage with only a single day spent apart, my aunt lost her beloved husband, and was crushed. It seemed as though she would never recover from my uncle's death. But eventually, an old high school friend showed up in town and they began dating. They later married and my aunt was happy once again, but happiness would prove to be short-lived. Less than ten years together, both were diagnosed with Alzheimer's and were put into nursing homes. Unfortunately, they had to be put in separate homes because her husband was one of those nursing home escape artists you hear stories about. He required more oversight than the home my aunt was in could provide.

The separation was to be the undoing of my aunt. Her Alzheimer's progressed at an exponential rate once she was separated from her husband. Many days she refused to eat, and her weight went from a healthy 130 to a frail 92 pounds in a matter of months.

She had long had heart problems, as was so prevalent in my mother's family, and this morning at 3:00 a.m., the nursing home called my cousin to ask her to come in at once. My aunt's heart appeared to be failing. At 5:00 a.m. my cousin called her brother and sister and asked them to come in. And at 8:00 a.m., surrounded by her children, she left this earth to make the trip home.

I love you, Aunt Katie. I hope you're enjoying spending time with your brothers, sisters, and Grandma and Grandpa D. You and Uncle Dave can go back and revisit your childhood, when you nearly burned down the barn because you wanted to know what "roasted radishes" tasted like. You can once again enjoy your Pepsi-drinking contests with Aunt Maxine played around the card table on Saturday nights. And I'm sure you'll be beating Aunt Nadine at Spades. I'll miss you.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

By the way...

Does anybody know where I might find a great source for leaded glass inserts to go in a pair of french doors that we're having made? (My grandmother is now spinning in her grave...)

Smoke and bubbles

Is there no such thing as a washing machine that cleans well and doesn't cost a small fortune? We're shopping for a washer and dryer for the new house. One thing we know for sure: we won't be buying another Calypso machine. Among the worst machines ever made, we "traded up" when the prior "Catalyst" machine turned out to be a piece of junk and we had to complain to the Chairman of the Board of Sears to get action. We got the Calypso machine, but we had to pay a little more for it...but what a mistake. The machine has torn holes in shirts, shredded the loops on terrycloth towels rendering them so embarrassingly ugly that they can not be used for guests, and discolored whites with ugly, grease-splotch-looking stains that wouldn't come out.

So here we are, shopping for a new washer and dryer for the new house. We're considering front-loaders. They are damned expensive. And I have to wonder if they are really worth the price. I mean, a typical washer and dryer can be had for the same price as just a front-loading washer. And do they clean so well that they're that much better than the "normal" washer? I really don't know.

My grandmother would be 118 if she were alive today. She visited me in a dream a couple of weeks ago. She reprimanded me about the new house and told me that I should be ashamed of the way we're spending money on it. My grandmother raised seven kids on a farm during the Depression, and it was just her - her husband died before the first child completed college, and all the remaining kids, including my mom (the youngest) grew up learning how to make do on almost nothing. So it's somewhat embarrassing that I'm building a dream house that will make my mom's eyes pop out when she sees it this spring. But I'm learning to live with it. In any event, my grandmother would really throw a fit if we spent more than twice the amount on a washer and dryer than we had to. She'd tell me to go get a washboard and forget about the smoke and bubbles the stores are peddling.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Sorry 'bout that

Okay, so I haven't blogged for a couple of weeks. I've been swamped at work, so I've been getting home late and have little time for keeping up the writing. But fortunately, I've finished a big project that will allow me to have a few days of normalcy, and so I am back to blogging.

The new house is starting to take shape! The demolition phase is nearly completed and in many areas, framing and reconstruction has begun. I could show you pictures, but they really wouldn't be that interesting, since you don't know what it's supposed to look like when it's finished. Plumbing is starting to go in next week and electrical will start shortly after that. Appliances are starting to arrive -the microwave arrived today and I have to unwrap it to make sure it works properly. It was weird to buy it from Amazon.com, but you know what? Free shipping and a price that was $50 cheaper than the contractor could get it for was enough for me. Lighting fixtures have been purchased. Some are here, some are on order. I can't wait to see them installed.

In the process of tearing out the ceiling in the master bedroom, the contractor found that the old ceiling joists were far out of alignment, and he suspected as much before he started the demolition. So he had to take out the ceiling joists and was about to put in a new flat ceiling when he had an epiphany - the ceiling could be vaulted and make the bedroom look far bigger. And so he did it. It's going to look great.

Of course, there have been some forfeitures along the way, some disappointments. For instance, the central air conditioning air handler wouldn't fit in the attic as planned, so it has to go into the linen closet. In our bedroom. That's a bit annoying. 1) No linen closet means we have to find other spots to put the linens, and 2) we don't know how noisy this air handler is, but we're a little worried that being just behind a closet door that's about six feet from the bed could be a sleep interruptor.

At any rate, today, there was major work in the kitchen, where the contractor came up with a way to create the open pass-thru wall from the kitchen to the front room that I really wanted. It's going to be terrific. I can't wait. More to come. Maybe even some before and during pictures.