Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Meal No. 2367: Roasted Salmon

Before catching an evening showing of John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum on Monday night, it was a hurried supper of roasted salmon, roasted broccoli, and simple power greens salad with homemade blue cheese dressing. The salmon portions were generous and eagerly devoured!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Meal No. 2366: Biscuits 'N Gravy

Not a meal that I ever ate growing up but boy howdy I sure do enjoy indulging in this great southern breakfast treat: biscuits with sausage gravy. (Neese's hot sausage, every time, of course!) That was the mid-day meal on Saturday.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Landscaping the Backyard Slope: Phase Two

L: Back Yard (blue dot) // R: Front Yard facing N Spring Street

The Roediger House sits on a roughly quarter-acre downtown lot, 120 feet wide and 100 feet deep. With the size of the house itself, and the generous paved parking area, there's only so much yard. In the back, having built out the kitchen addition in 2008-2009 all the way up to the 20-foot setback limit in the zoning codes, it left me at present with a long strip of strangely sloped yard, rising up to meet the ghost of a demolished retaining wall and also graded to create a reasonable drain field. Let's detour through a quick trip down memory lane to show the yard's transformations over the years...

Before demolishing the old kitchen and mud porch, the backyard had a very different look and feel. Above is looking north from the parking area in 2003; below is the view from the adjoining lot to the north of the house that same year.

Once the kitchen addition was completed in the spring of 2009, this is how things looked back there:

View of the north west corner of the Roediger House, 2010

As seen from the parking area after tree removal, 2012

I guess the first "thing" I did to that barren backyard was to build a very amateur patio pad for the firewood rack and my grill:

I also planted a couple of hibiscus shrubs and a butterfly bush...and that was about it until the fall of 2016, when I removed those and planted three autumn blaze maple trees. Then, last summer, I started with the northwest corner of the backyard and initiated a somewhat more intentional landscaping plan for the steep slope that runs up to the silt fence along the rear property line. As the summer came to a close last year, I began the next phase of landscaping that sloped area but only got as far as tilling and removing a lot of buried bricks (as noted in this blog post from last August).

Over the last three weeks, I picked up where I left off, retilling the top area, and I planted shrubs on that top level (above photo).

I also dug out a great portion of the clay from the slope and replaced it with topsoil.

I still tilled or spaded up a number of buried bricks, but also ran into this interesting buried stumbling block (that I decided to just cover over and plant around):

I've planted a nice variety of shrubs and flowering plants and finished up with petunias for the summer season.

A daylily has already begun blooming beautifully...

...and I am loving the color and vibrancy of the larkspur:

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Meal No. 2365: One-Pan Pork Tenderloin

Although we had gully-washer downpours over the weekend, this week has had some perfect weather, and I've been intensely focused on yard work and landscaping. Future blog entries will say more about it, but I've opened up a multi-front war on several rather sizable projects, most of which entail no previous knowledge or experience on my part. It's helping me give my body a good daily workout but it is also kicking up my appetite! That's why it was nice to sit down to a full plate of goodness when Mookie and Kristen came for dinner on Wednesday night, and I brought back out the easy and always-satisfying one-pan pork tenderloin (with a hoisin glaze), with roasted green beans and roasted new potatoes topped with a garlic-chive butter. All that, and my next morning weigh-in showed a small loss instead of a gain, and I'll take it.

"One-Pan Pork Tenderloin with Green Beans and Potatoes," by Christie Morrison. In Cook's Country, October/November 2015, p. 27.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Meal No. 2364: Skillet Beef Strognoff

I worked in the yard up until dark on Tuesday night and found myself reverting back to quite the late suppertime: about 9:15 pm. Fortunately, I'd gone with a skillet meal that fit nicely into a bowl so that there could be unwinding up on the 3rd floor from the day's labors while enjoying a comforting dish of Emeril's beef stroganoff with a tall glass of cold water.

Based on "Beef Stroganoff Hamburger Dinner in a Skillet," by Emeril Lagasse. Found online at The Food Network.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Meal No. 2363: Grilled Pork Chops

Last Sunday night seemed like the perfect weather evening for grilling, and I had a couple of nice pork chops ready to take their place on the grate. A side salad with more of the homemade blue cheese dressing, plus a rice-and-vermicelli mix, rounded out the meal.

The skies turned ominous once I got the meat onto the heat and I rushed things along a bit as a result, but the chops still turned out juicy and delicious.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Broad Street Connector Public Input

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has put forward a proposal to make a significant change to Broad Street, which runs behind the house and is a major north-south thoroughfare on the west side of downtown. The two alternatives to tie Broad Street in with the heavily-traveled Peters Creek Parkway have been put forward for public comment. What I submitted as part of this public review is posted below.

I write in opposition to both of the alternatives that have been proposed for Project U-6063: The Broad Street Connector.

A downtown neighborhood understandably deals with the dual challenge of connecting with the vibrant life of a city’s center while also perhaps seeking reasonable insularity from it. Having lived in the Holly Avenue Neighborhood longer than most who are here now, I strongly advocate for maintenance of a traditional city grid system and for vehicular and pedestrian connectivity to all that surrounds us. One of the trade-offs residential dwellers must, of necessity, accept is that central living requires surrendering the option of a cocoon.

Creating dead-end streets to close off portions of my neighborhood is highly objectionable to me. I do not think my neighbors and I are better off if we are surrounded by a heavily-trafficked moat of thoroughfares because of the elimination of various routes for those needing to drive into OR through the Holly Avenue Neighborhood. Further, no-outlet streets that end in, say, park space can create a potentially desirable situation; those that are merely barricaded from a rushing thoroughfare (such as Broad Street) are likely to diminish property values, increase loitering, and lead to dumping and neglect. We see this clearly on the south end of the 100 block of South Poplar Street, or somewhat less so at the north end of the 300 block of South Spring Street.

I make no claims to understand traffic engineering or the modeling that planners use to predict and anticipate traffic volumes in a painfully unpredictable future. However, I would argue that the engineers have depended on models for daily traffic volumes for First and Second Streets east of Broad that defy logic and don’t pass the smell test. Once First and Second Streets undergo conversions from one-way to two-way traffic, the planners believe there will be a roughly 350% increase in traffic on First, and they suggest that the volume on Second Street will diminish by roughly 60%. The engineers and consultants behind the two proposed alternatives never questioned these figures as they developed the proposals that depended on them. How do I know? Because I asked them and it took weeks to get answers about the seriousness and credibility of the projections. The radical proposals to dead end or close-loop both Brookstown Avenue and Second Street would have seemed crazy without these depressed and unrealistic projections for the volumes on these streets. The engineers and consultants failed to be convincing to me, at least, but the implications of their dependence on that shaky ground will have a serious and long-lasting impact on both Holly Avenue Neighborhood and this portion of downtown.

All indications are that we have top-notch staff in the Division 9 office of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, led by Division Engineer Pat Ivey who is a terrific public face and by all appearances a commendable public servant. But my gut reaction when I viewed the two proposed Broad Street Connector alternatives was that I wasn’t sure where to place them on a scale between comically inept and criminally idiotic. Imagine, wildly, that these two alternatives were a low-level task unseriously assigned to the last-hired engineer (who also wasn’t a top-tier candidate for the job), who forgot about it until the morning it was due. Or that these proposals were those submitted for extra credit by two Forsyth Tech students in an introductory traffic planning class taught by a moonlighting NCDOT staff engineer. We would laugh those out of the room, of course. But I’m not sure I can see any distinguishing differences between those absurd and imagined sources and those that were actually proposed. The Broad Street Connector ought to be a compelling and convincing proposal that inspires us with confidence that its design is both smart and right. From reviewing the alternatives and multiple interactions with those behind them, no such compelling case is being made for them.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that the proposals to create this Connector are evidence that the implications of closing the Broad Street ramps to the US 421/Salem Parkway were not anticipated well or were glossed over. By dumping so much downtown and northside traffic onto the wildly curvy Peters Creek Parkway’s north end, we are now having to figure out what to do with 20,000 cars trying to turn left every day. This connector project would throw good money after bad and be a neighborhood-diminishing solution to a problem that, one might argue, has been created by a lack of sufficient foresight and good planning. I’m sorry that our transportation planners and traffic engineers either didn’t see this coming or failed to incorporate a whole-cloth solution to the ill-fated Broad Street ramp closure decision. I do not want my neighborhood to pay an even greater price for these earlier and unfortunate decisions.

Finally, the doubts I immediately had as a neighbor to this ill-advised traffic monster have certainly been exacerbated by how I’ve seen the public input process play out. The engineers and consultants struggled to provide answers and insights to questions that focused on key elements of the proposals’ designs. When a plan has been well-examined and studied while it is being developed and reviewed, its crafters can talk easily and convincingly about its key features and can seamlessly describe the promises and pitfalls of the alternatives. That was not how the designers handled themselves when subjected to a small bit of scrutiny. The proposed alternatives might look foolish because they are, in fact, foolish. I encourage a rejection of both of them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Meal No. 2362: Baked Chicken Wings

Of necessity, the dinner last Saturday night needed to be quite late, and it put me into a late-night appetizer mindset when it was time to put it all together. So I tried a recipe for chicken wings with an Asian-y vinaigrette to toss them in, and I made some fresh buttermilk blue cheese dressing for dipping. And as long as I was being naughty, I thought: why not add southwestern dip and tortilla chips to it?

"Spicy Baked Chicken Wings That'll Knock Your Socks Off," from Joanna Cismaru of JoCooks.com. [Published 01 July 2011]

Adapted from "Chart House Blue Cheese Dressing," by Carl of the 2 Keto Dudes blog. [Published 08 November 2016]

"Southwestern Dip," in Betty Crocker Monthly Recipes, December 2001.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Meal No. 2361: Braised Chicken over Brussels Sprouts

I'll assume that, when dear friend and colleague Donna Whitley-Smith passed on a collection of recipe magazines to me, she didn't expect me to get stuck on a single one among them and very nearly perseverate on it. But that's what happened with the always-delicious braised chicken over Brussels sprouts, which is both a regular dish and a favorite dish among the Roediger House meals. It's what I made for four of us last Friday night, and we ate the heck out of it before slipping up to the 3rd floor to watch the 2018 remake of Suspiria.

"Braised Chicken and Brussels Sprouts," in Everyday Food, Issue 97, November 2012, p. 22.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Meal No. 2360: Baked Chicken Thighs

I was ready for a meal of some substance last Wednesday night, given my continued yard labors, and onto our plates that night went delicious tender baked chicken thighs together with roasted baby Yukon potatoes and roasted garlic-and-parmesan asparagus. It was all terrifically delicious, swaddled in all that simplicity.

"Baked Tender Chicken Thighs," from Valentina's Corner.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Meal No. 2359: Roasted Salmon on Caesar

Last Tuesday was an especially fierce day of yard work and it included not a small amount of tiller labor. My busted body was grateful for the evening's respite and also a hearty healthy meal, which featured a return to perfectly roasted salmon atop power greens and gussied up with a creamy homemade Caesar dressing. Roasted sunflower seeds represented an extra decadence.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Meal No. 2358: Chicken Salad Melts

With inspiration from a favorite lunchtime menu item at the nearby Fourth Street Filling Station, and using leftover chicken from the previous evening's dinner, on Monday night, it was simple plates of chicken salad melts to be eaten while catching the next episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Based on "California-Style Chicken Salad," by Cecelia Jenkins. In Cook's Country, April/May 2019, p. 7.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Meal No. 2357: Rotisserie-Style Whole Chicken

It felt like we were due for a Sunday dinner of Sunday dinner proportions and styling, so I went with a rotisserie-style whole chicken in the Instant Pot. It's awesome to dip these succulent morsels of chicken in Alabama great white sauce, so I made a batch of that, too. And then there were the roasted favorites of baby Dutch potatoes and broccoli florets so that the plate looked well-balanced. Given the last few meals, this felt like a holiday feast in comparison.

"How to Cook Instant Pot Whole Chicken - Rotisserie Style," by Sheena from GlutenFreePressureCooker.com.

"Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning," by Judith Hanneman, The Midnight Baker.

"Alabama Great White Sauce" (p. 362), in Smoke & Spice, by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. Boston: The Harvard Common Press, 2003.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Back-Breaking Stump Removal

In the pen drawing made of the house some time before I bought it (and which I'm glad was passed on to me), you can see how the Roediger House looked, say, in the 1990s. From the front, it still looks much the same, although the shutters are gone...and so are those two trees. The one on the left had to be brought down almost exactly eight years ago, but the one on the right had been cut down before my time here.

Turns out, all this time, that right stump has been just beneath the surface, quietly rotting away while the topsoil covering it slowly dissipated. You can see the grassless patch in the upper right corner of the photo above (not that the whole grassy section doesn't look weak!). There was also a small opening to the hollow inside of that stump that had appeared:

So I figured it was time to dig it all out, which proved (of course!) to be a sufficiently involved endeavor.

It took about three days...

...and I had to bust up the very solid core of it, as well as chop away all the weaker rotting roots and shoots...

...but it all came up and out.

It was loading the last largest heaviest chunk (on the far right, above) into the wheelbarrow that offered me a chance to make a significant mistake: trying to hoist it alone, letting it tip and slip, so that I managed to wrench my back pretty well...and that put me off of yard work for a couple of days. But I've recovered and am back at my yearly spring shenanigans.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Meal No. 2356: Not So Cajun Chicken

The very first meal made in the new kitchen addition back in 2009 was a long-time house favorite: not so cajun chicken. I hadn't made it in almost a year but brought it back this past Thursday evening, served on orzo pasta instead of rice in hopes it would be better for my weight management goals.

The Big L, directed by Joey Moore

Even though I'd put in a pretty full day in the yard that day, I grabbed my iPod after dinner and put on my tennis shoes to make the two-mile walk down to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts ACE Theatre Complex. Whenever possible, I like to catch the School of Filmmaking's showcase of student films, and on Thursday night, it was the Third Year Films. It was a terrific collection of student shorts and it was a glorious evening both for the stroll to the venue and also back home, with a slight detour to take in the very happening and people-filled Fourth Street.

"Not So Cajun Chicken," a dish I regularly enjoyed at Crowley's Old Time Favorites restaurant and bar on Medlin Drive in Raleigh, NC. Credit to Jimmy Randolph for helping track the recipe down. (Another version of the recipe can be found here.)

Monday, May 6, 2019

Meal No. 2355: Grilled Pork Chops

When the pork chops are this perfectly grilled, maybe all you really need to go with them is hoisin roasted green beans. That was the supper after a good day of yard work last Wednesday.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Meal No. 2354: Grilled Chicken on Caesared Power Greens

I went on a bit of a salad and/or greens run at the front end of this past week, and last Tuesday night that culminated in freshly grilled chicken breast, diced and tossed onto a power greens salad that was dressed with some fresh homemade creamy Caesar.

"Easy Lemon Caesar Salad Dressing," by Kim of lowcarbmaven.com.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Meal No. 2353: Sautéed Spinach and Chicken

Monday night's meal was a retread of Sunday's but with a variation that made it equally as appealing: the spinach was sauteed in garlic, shallots, and olive oil, and then I topped it with the other half of the previous night's chicken breast that I had seasoned and grilled. It was pretty straightforward as it went straight to my belly.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Meal No. 2352: Grilled Chicken on Spinach Salad

Sunday night's salad supper featured spinach dressed with a sweet and sour vinaigrette, bulked up with some freshly-grilled garlic-crusted chicken breast.

"Sweet and Sour Vinaigrette" from The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, compiled and edited by Julie Fisher Gunter. Birmingham, AL: Oxmoor House (1999), p. 373.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Meal No. 2351: Juicy Burgers on the Grill

It's that time of the year when the days can just be glorious and perfect. That's sort of what this past Saturday felt like and it forced my hand when it came time to make dinner for the four of us, before we went upstairs to watch Avengers: Infinity War (to prep for Endgame!). The well-received offering that night was our very regular summer feature, known here as juicy burgers on the grill, topped with cheddar cheese and served with bbq-flavored kettle chips. Why are they so good?!

"Grilled Juicy Burgers," from Pillsbury Classic Cookbooks recipe magazine.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

End-of-April Yard Update

This great old house sits on roughly a quarter acre at the northwest corner of the Holly Avenue Neighborhood. The plot is 120 feet wide and 100 feet deep. Even before I'd really started on landscaping it, I had my first load of topsoil delivered within the first couple of years I lived here, and many loads of it have followed. Unfortunately, because of busy schedules or weather or lack of initiative, some of those piles have been neglected and then were overtaken by vicious and nefarious reed roots and shoots so that I had to sift and sort each wheelbarrow load by hand. This spring, I decided to try just getting a half-yard or so at the time and bringing it home in the back of my pickup truck, in hopes I'd make better use of it and also save a little money.

Pope Sand & Gravel is my source for it and for mulch, and the latest delivery occurred last Friday.

Above, here at April's end, you can see that the gladiolus byzantinus have really gotten established on the north edge of the front yard. Also, the remaining azaleas are strutting their stuff...

...and the first of my two established rhododendrons is sporting glorious blooms, with the other one lagging just a bit behind.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Old Fashioned Banana Pudding

The requested dessert for our birthday gathering last Friday night: banana pudding. Yum.

"Murray's Old Fashioned Nana Puddin'," from the Murray Vanilla Wafers package. Also found online at http://melissaannbrook.blogspot.com/2011/04/banana-and-vanilla-wafer-with-pudding.html.