Sunday, July 29, 2007

Day from hell

This is a looooong post. Sorry.

Jeff came to visit this weekend and so we did some nice running around yesterday. We made a stop at Fortunoff to buy a knife sharpener that I had been wanting forever, and then to the wonderful Grand Lux Cafe at Roosevelt Field for a late lunch, where we all gorged ourselves the food and desserts. The food and the service is always great there. We came home and watched a Netflix rental. It was a pretty nice day overall.

Today, however, was another story.

We got up at around 9:00 a.m. and I made a breakfast of eggs scrambled with turkey bacon, Morningstar Farms sausage crumbles, cheese, sauteed green pepper and onion, and some seasonings. The eggs were pretty good.

Since I had used the last of the eggs and needed more for baking today, Jeff and I decided we would go get the eggs. But it was starting to rain fairly hard, so I chose to go the easy route and drive through a Dairy Barn store to avoid getting wet. These are little red barn-shaped convenience stores that you just drive up to; you tell them what you want, they get it for you, and you pay and drive away without ever having to leave your car. Great for a day like today. But did we ever pay for that convenience today. Two dozen eggs were $4.98! As we were driving, the weather turned terrible, with the rain coming down so hard it was reducing the visibility to zero. The lightning was also terrible, coming very near to us and loudly rocking the ground. At one point on our way to the store, the traffic signals were out and causing delays. I noted that streets were flooding as we made our way home, and a bad feeling washed over me regarding one of our basement windows, which I had long suspected as the cause of our water-in-the-basement-after-a-deluge problem. The problem was that we could never catch the problem in progress, only the aftermath.

As we pulled up in the driveway, we were waiting for the rain to let up a little, but it only got worse, and so did the lightning. Strikes were occurring within seconds of each other, and they were close by. Hail began to fall (we rarely get hail here) and I got very nervous (since that usually precedes tornadic activity where I am from). We decided to make a run for it, and I made it in, soaked to the skin, but Jeff, who had climbed into the driver's back seat to exit to avoid having to run around the back of the car and get wetter in the process, got halfway out the door and discovered that the molding around the base of the door had snapped off and he couldn't close the door. He was getting soaked so he had to jump back into the car and pull the molding in with him, and then wait until the rain let up some more before coming in.

Meanwhile, I had entered the house and the only thing on my mind was checking the basement window. To my horror, there was a stream of water running down the wall as if a faucet had been turned on. I quickly reached for a trash bag inside the laundry room closet and put it against the wall so that the water would run into it, instead of all over the floor, but I could see from the water level against the window that it wasn't going to be stopping anytime soon, and I began screaming like a a girl for Jess to come help me. It was coming in at a frightening rate. Jess came down and moved the dog pen and dog beds out of the way so that I could better access the wall and catch more of the water, but the water was running down the wall and some was dripping into an electrical outlet, which was scaring the hell out of me.

After about 10-12 minutes of this, the rain subsided and so did the water. We got out the wet/dry vac (thank God we had one) and began cleaning up, but I knew that this was only temporary. I remembered that the window had no "bubble" on it to displace the rain, so the water was just going down into the window well and filling it up so that once it became about halfway full, the water began pouring in. Now the window should have been waterproofed since it was a new window, but thanks to our contractor, this was yet another failing we found after the fact. At any rate, I knew that I had to go get new bubbles to replace the one that had been there at one time but had fallen apart.

Having cleaned up the mess, I got back in the car and went to Home Depot, about 3/4 of a mile from the house. They had no bubbles like what we had, only the flat kind that fit atop the galvanized corrugated steel half-rounds that you sometimes see on basement windows. And all of those were broken. So I drove to the next Home Depot in Westbury, about three miles from there, but it took forever. Roads were flooded and traffic was slow. Traffic lights were out, causing delays and snarls since roads were too flooded for cops to direct traffic.

At that Home Depot, there was one bubble left on the shelf and it was broken.

I left there and drove a circuitous route to Bellmore, where I knew there was an Ace hardware store. Normally, I could be able to make it to Bellmore in about 10-12 minutes, but it took 40. I was running out of patience. Oddly, Bellmore hadn't received so much as a drop of rain: all the streets were dry and the traffic signals were working as they should. But just as with the prior stops, no luck on the window bubbles. I was getting very discouraged. I had spent almost two hours and had nothing to show for it.

I called the house to see how things were since the weather had been so bad before I got to Bellmore. I had made a few calls before but didn't get an answer, and I wondered if it was because they were fighting the flood again. Jeff answered, and sure enough, the rain had them scrambling to clean things up. But it was worse than when I had been there. Much worse. I had soaked up maybe 8-10 gallons while I was there; Jess and Jeff had more than 30 gallons pour in while I was gone.

I remembered that the bubble on the front basement window of the house, though somewhat broken, might be usable, especially since the front of the house now had an overhang that would keep the rain out of that window. Jeff went and grabbed that and went around the back and over to the side to make a discovery: the stones that had been set into the ground to create the window well there had collapsed into the well and so there was virtually no protection from the rain that was washing through that area of the yard on a slope that was taking it directly to the window well. So he and Jess grabbed some rocks and built up the stone wall a bit and then fitted the cover over that. But it wasn't really waterproof.

Leaving Bellmore, I decided that I would make one last-ditch effort to find the bubbles, so I drove about 4 miles west to Freeport. Amazingly, the Home Depot in Freeport had them, and lots of them. And they weren't broken! Thank God. I hurriedly snatched up three of them and headed to the self-checkout lines to check out.

You know what sucks about self-checkout? You can't enter a quantity of something. So that means that you have to take each item, scan it individually, and put in on the bagging platform. Since the bubbles were plastic, they stuck together and I had a very difficult time separating them from one another. All the while, people were glaring at me like some kind of asshole for wasting their time. I had no idea that I wouldn't be able to get the stupid things apart, for one thing. But the icing on the cake was that they were so big and bulky and awkward to maneuver that they wouldn't really fit on the bagging platform, which caused the machine to say, "please return item to bagging area" and it wouldn't ring the next one until I did. The second one had the bar code in a hard-to-scan place, so it wouldn't scan. I picked up the third one and scanned it, but put the second one on the bagging platform with the first, so that I could at least easily scan the third one a second time. But when I put the second one on the bagging platform, it wouldn't stack on the first and became entangled in the harnesses used to hold the little plastic bags; so the scale under the platform apparently wasn't reading the weight and accused me of removing the item from the platform, but then changed its mind and said, "unexpected item in bagging area, please remove and re-scan." By this time, I was getting pretty irked with it, and asked the person supervising self-check to help. She just looked at me. "You have to put the the item back through" she said, and I showed her that, no, I didn't, because it had already rung two of them and that I needed to ring the third. "I don't know what it's done," she said, and she left to go get someone. Meantime, my machine had a brief moment of lucidity and allowed me to ring the last one. I ran my debit card through and made my purchase and left.

I got to the car and the stupid bubbles wouldn't fit in the trunk. It was raining pretty hard.

I opened the passenger-side rear door and carefully slipped the bubbles into the back seat, but was none too happy about getting the leather seats all wet. I started for home. On the parkway, people were driving like morons, about 40 mph, and for no apparent reason. The rain was steady, but visibility was reasonable, people were just acting stupid.

I finally made it home, having been out the better part of three hours, and we got the window covers in place. I pulled a plastic tarp from the garage and Jeff and I went back out and somewhat waterproofed things by moving the stones off, then putting down the plastic, then stacking the stones on the plastic and wrapping them. The bubble topped off that. Hopefully, this will hold it for now, but I can see more work in my future to channel the water away from the window, because there is a definite slope to the yard that permits the water to run to the window.

We broiled some hot dogs for lunch, and I took Jeff to the train station.

I was exhausted, so when I got home, I took a nap. When I got up, I wrote this post.

Here it is almost 7:30, and I still haven't gotten to my baking. I have to make cinnamon rolls for 24 on Wednesday morning since there is a secretary at work whom I like who is leaving and Wednesday is her last day. I was going to do prep work today. I was also going to do prep work today for a barbeque that we are hosting on Saturday for Jess' office, and for Friday evening, when we plan to have some friends over for dinner. And I was hoping to get some more housecleaning done since we won't have that much time this week after work to get it done before company on Friday and Saturday.

It's 7:30, and I have accomplished none of this today. $#!+!

Update: 11:30 p.m. and we are finally ready to go to bed. This evening I managed to make two batches of bread dough (one for the cinnamon rolls Wednesday, one for Friday/Saturday), two batches of pie crust dough for the cherry cobbler I'll be making for Saturday, and a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, which will all be refrigerated until ready for use. Just as I am sitting down to post here, Dodger lets out a warning bark that a dog is sick and Bernice promptly vomits all over the living room carpet. It was the second dog vomiting incident of the day, Mandy having yakked on the carpet earlier this evening. So now we'll be staying up to shampoo the carpet and then take a shower because that always leaves one sweaty and gross. F*ck this day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


It annoys me that Drew Carey is taking over "The Price is Right." He is too much of a boob for that show.

As you know, Tammy Faye Messner died last week. I kept reading and hearing in all her commentary that she was "still expecting a miracle." I felt sorry for her having to go through that, because that kind of death is truly horrible. My father died of colon cancer. I'm not sure how I would feel if I were given the same sentence, but it just seems that an evangelist would be happy that he or she was going to meet the divinity he or she had worked his/her entire life for. Isn't the heavenly reward what motivates a Christian to good works?

I am always amazed by how much the public gets into the lives of Hollywood figures. They are no different than other people (and quite often, come from much more troubled lives). Shows like "Access Hollywood", "Extra" and "Entertainment Tonight" that glorify every move of a celebrity really turn me off. Maybe it's just because I am getting older, but I don't really give a rat's ass about the Madonna vs. Angelina adoption wars, or how poor Lindsay Lohan just can't catch a break, or about Paris Hilton's latest nail wrap. And who the hell decided that Paris Hilton was a celebrity, anyway? Because she's an heir to the hotel magnate's millions? Money doesn't buy intelligence, and she's living proof. Her great-grandfather would be spinning in his grave at what she has done to the Hilton name...if he weren't already spinning over what has been done to it commercially.

I never cease to be amazed at the audacity of people who don't want to work but want to collect a paycheck. They do crappy work, and yet are the first to complain when things aren't going well at the job or they accuse people of trying to make them look bad.

It seems to me that there are many, many more crappy workers today than 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, people would be fired for less than what the average worker gets away with today.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Block party dud

Yesterday was our block's annual block party. (Special note to those who live it the midwest: Yes, they actually have block parties here, it's not just a figure of speech!)

Four months ago, we got a notice that the party was being planned. Then we got a visit from one of the organizers who reminded us about it and wanted to make sure we would be around for it. Then about a month ago, we got the official date and time notice, along with a bill for $70 per house for the necessary permits, a live DJ, rental of a gigantic inflatable climbing/sliding device for the kids, cotton candy machine rental, etc.

It seemed the event was pretty organized, yes? I'll get back to this in a minute.

At any rate, we had bought hamburgers and lots of hot dogs, not really knowing exactly how the party worked. We knew that some people were buying big pans of catered food and they had invited us to come eat with them. Would people from up or down the block drop by our place and want to eat our food? We wondered. We didn't know, because this was really our first block party while living on this block - we were out of town for the one the year before. I made a gallon of Sangria just in case neighbors dropped by.

So Friday night, yes, the very night before the block party, and fairly late in the evening, a note appeared taped to the door of the houses that told us when to have our cars off the street and that there would be a community "desert table" and that each household was asked to bring one "desert" to the table. Hmmm, would that be Mojavé or Sahara? The party would begin at noon. So where was the advance notice to make a "desert"? That didn't make me too happy.

I got up early Saturday morning and threw together a pan of Anita's favorite brownies, and defrosted a FoodSaver bag of chocolate chip cookies that I had made a few months ago for just such an occasion...when a dessert is needed quickly and nothing is on hand.

The brownies were fabulous in flavor, of course, but didn't seem to have baked quite long enough, because they fell apart too easily and were overly moist. Odd, because I had them in the oven for 40 minutes, longer than it should have taken them to bake.

Byrne had come out from Astoria for the weekend, knowing that we were having the block party, and that was of interest to him, so he visited. It's always nice to hang out with Byrne because he is so laid back and, like me, is into cooking, gardening, and other stuff we like, so it's always a nice visit. He and Jess arrived back from the train station and shopping at about 11:40.

At 12:45, about 45 minutes into the party, Byrne and I wandered up the block in search of the "desert" table. The street was empty, so there was no hurry. One of the organizing neighbors said they would be setting it up later, after the inflatable was taken down. Okay, back to the house. On the way back, we spotted some neighbors I knew and stopped to chat for a few minutes. They asked us how our remodeling had gone, since they knew that we had done a lot of work on the house before moving in, and I suggested that they come down and see it. They have lived on the block for 30 years and knew Jess' parents well, and were familiar with how the house looked when Jess' parents lived in it. I was hoping that they would stop by sometime that day, since Jess and I had worked very diligently on getting it all cleaned/tidied up in case neighbors who wanted to see the house came by. They didn't commit since they had company coming that afternoon, but sounded positive.

Jess rolled the grill out into the street and got the charcoal going and I made hamburger patties while Byrne cut up cauliflower and broccoli for a salad I was preparing. We brought chairs out and some TV tables to hold the condiments and plates and finished meal items.

During our setup, our neighbor to the east came by and said that she had other things going on that day and wasn't staying for the party. And both neighbors across the street from us weren't participating either, neither was our neighbor to the west of us. And since there's a large 7 ft. hedge that divides our yard from the neighbor to the east, you don't really see our yard if you are east of our house. All these things added up to the fact that it didn't really look like our end of the block was participating.

We grilled our burgers and ate them, along with our salad, and about 5 neighbors walked by. Three of the five were from the house next door to the east, who weren't really participating, they just wanted to see what was going on. Their 3 year-old daughter loves our dogs, so she wanted to stop and pet them. This was the extent of our visitors, and they didn't come into the house.

After lunch, we threw a blanket out on the lawn and laid down to enjoy the mild weather, and ruminate on what we would do for next year's party, since this one was such turning out to be such a dud.

At about 3:00, we walked the block again to search for the elusive "desert" table and it still wasn't there. We watched the kids playing musical chairs while the DJ cranked the music. We never saw the cotton candy machine, but saw its aftermath, the discarded paper cones lying in the street, sticky with the patterns of dirty shoe soles stamped into them.

Grrrrr. I didn't fix the brownies for nothing, did I?

At 4:30, we decided that nothing was happening, and we rolled everything back inside. The other end of the block was noisy, but we couldn't be bothered. We decided that next year, we would invite ten or fifteen people over so that our end of the block would be active...because if we left it to our neighbors, it would be just like this year...dudsville.

Unfortunately, I couldn't re-freeze the cookies I thawed, so those that I didn't eat will go to waste since Jess and Byrne were good boys and didn't eat any of them. The brownies will now be their replacement in the freezer. The neighbors from up the block never dropped by – they were too busy entertaining.

All in all, a letdown. But it was still a pretty day, and I got some relaxation in. And for reading all that, you get a couple of recipes!

Broccoli-Cauliflower Salad

Serves 8

1 lb. cauliflower
1 lb. broccoli
1 c. mayonnaise
4 Tbsp. cider vinegar (don't subs. wine vinegar)
1/2 c. sugar or 3 packets each of Splenda and Equal
1/2 tsp. ground celery seed powder
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 c. golden raisins
3 slices Louis Rich turkey bacon, browned and drained
Prepared ice/water bath in large bowl.

Rinse cauliflower and broccoli well; slice off any brown or gray spots from top of cauliflower and discard. Cut both into small florets. Place florets in a deep micro-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap (not touching food!) and make 4 vents with a fork or knife. Cook on high power for four minutes. Remove from microwave and toss into ice/water bath to stop cooking and allow to chill for 10 minutes. I routinely do this using a mesh colander to hold the vegetables and a dutch oven with the ice bath, so that when the ice bath has been completed, I can easily pull the vegetables up and drain them. Meanwhile, boil some water and then throw in the golden raisins. Let them plump for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Mix together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, celery seed powder, white pepper using a whisk to eliminate lumps.

Drain vegetables well. Transfer to prep bowl and pour dressing over vegetables and add raisins and bacon pieces. Toss well to coat, and transfer to serving bowl.

Fabulous Sangria

750ml Cabernet Sauvignon
4 1/2 c. fresh orange juice [not from conc.] or equal parts orange juice and pineapple juice
9 ozs. Christian Brothers Brandy or Courvoisier cognac
2 c. Monin Red Sangria Syrup (can be purchased at
pinch (and I do mean pinch) of cinnamon
Fresh fruit, cut up (lemons, limes, oranges, Fuji apples, pineapple, grapes)

Mix all together and chill. I make this the night before so the fruit has time to infuse flavor.