Sunday, January 31, 2010

The End of January

Wow. It's actually January 31. Mind you, I'm happy to see that date come. I say: let's zip through February and get ourselves a lot closer to the approach of spring. In the meantime, it's been a pretty good weekend to be snowed in. I need to catch up on yesterday, actually: it began with whipping up a new cookie recipe. So below you'll see pictures of White Chip & Macadamia Chocolate Cookies. First, when they went into the oven:

And next, once they'd cooked up and were on the cooling racks:

After getting these cookies made (and sampled, as should be expected), it seemed a great weekend to return to the Vietnamese coffee that had been so tasty a couple of weeks ago.

With the bitter cold outside, and the feeling of being sequestered because of all the snow, the meal that seemed perfect was Hamburger Supreme. I think this is only the second time I've made this dish in the new kitchen, but it's too simple to screw up, even if it's not regularly practiced. It was darned good. And it was Meal No. 66 in the new kitchen.

"Hamburger Supreme," from the late Mrs. John T. (Glynn) Johnson of Buies Creek, North Carolina, via Janice Jones Bodenhamer.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Slammed by Saturday Snow

I went to bed really late Friday night--probably around 3:15 or 3:30 am. And although it would have been great to sleep in, I got a bit excited about this snow event and jumped out of bed at 8:15 am so I could see if we got anywhere near the 11 inches that was the outside possibility in the forecast. Part of what woke me, unfortunately, was the tinging-pinging of sleet hitting the bedroom windows. Darn it. So there was freezing rain and sleet mixed in with this snow, but not so terribly much that it completely ruined it. I mean, where the snow was able to pile up and not get blown away, it appeared to be quite an accumulation. The picture here, to the right, shows a foot of snow.

Which would be really cool if Winston-Salem had truly gotten a foot. But that's actually the tape measure shoved into a drift on the upstairs balcony, including snow that had slid down from the roof and gotten smoothed out by the additional snow of the day, together with further accumulation.

I'll confess: getting up this morning, heading out to the kitchen area to make coffee, and taking my place in the old man's chair I've got by the fireside allowed me to capture a very peaceful early morning view through the nice expanse of windows that surround the eating nook/bay in the kitchen area.

I also thought I'd grab a shot of the snow around the office condominiums that are my neighbors to the north.

After dinner tonight, it was of course time for snow cream for dessert. I'd placed a pan out on the upstairs balcony last night, but between the freezing rain and the wind that constantly blew today, not much snow got collected. Because it was such a big dumping of snow, and since it was frighteningly cold and very dry, the snow was a beautiful powder. There was a lot of it up there, and it wasn't hard to dig out some pristine-seeming snow for the snow cream to come. Here's a shot of what you'd see if you were with me in the upstairs hallway, looking out the balcony door:

I hope this picture does it justice: there's a lot of snow sitting around on the balcony right now.

The snow was so cold and "dry," I thought at first I was going to end up with dip-n-dots instead of a creamy snow cream. But it definitely worked out.

Friday, January 29, 2010

January 2010 Snowfall

Well, hasn't this already been quite a winter. And before January was through with us, we managed to eke out another Friday snowstorm, and this one was even better than the one back on December 18, 2009.

With snowfall beginning like a huge foggy wave crashing over the city, the initial burst was literally a pouring of very small snowflakes that seemed in a breathless rush as they fell. None of this gently floating flakes stuff: this storm got started with purpose and passion.

The picture above is usually pretty cool to me for capturing the look of the house from street level. But I also like going up on the parking deck across the street and looking across and a bit down at the house. It gives me a chance to capture the full impression of the structure as well as to try to get the whole property, although doing so tends to make the house appear to be sitting in the middle of something barren and almost industrial.

While it took a while before the accumulation really started to kick in, it certainly got the neighborhood looking wintry-wonderful in pretty short order. I enjoyed traipsing out into it around 2:30 am Saturday morning. I wanted to take some letters down to the mailbox in hopes they'd go out with the 10 am Saturday pick-up, and I took my camera with me. This first picture here is looking east on Fourth Street.

This next picture is looking across Fourth Street towards Foothills Brewery.

With the forecast leading up to this weekend's winter storm so certain, I went ahead and planned out the weekend's menus and did the grocery shopping when I came in from Virginia on Thursday night. That led to this evening's very delicious and mercifully simple meal (No. 65 in the new kitchen): Kickin' Chicken Tikka Ray-sala. The first picture is of the initial preparation with the chicken cooking in a great mix and marinade of spices and such:

The finished product was pretty darned good:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Powder Room Hardwood Flooring

I'm not sure how much this photo picks it up for you to see clearly, but I've been watching over the last month or so the gradual spreading of the hardwood flooring planks in the powder room downstairs. Gaps have appeared between the boards, especially in the northwest corner of that bathroom, although I'm noticing what seems to be the initial stages of gaps occurring towards the middle of that room as well. This is yet another fit and finish problem that I look forward to having rectified, although it seems likely to be quite involved.

And as might be expected, I'm left wondering if this will be a problem that begins to show up in other areas of the downstairs, given that the same hardwood flooring was put in throughout as part of the addition built by Peter LaRoque of LaRoque Construction (Mocksville, NC). For now, it seems localized to the powder room. I'll be keeping my eye on it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Getting Closeted

With the able and generous assistance of Dave Matthews (the less famous one), the master closet finally began to look at bit more closet-y. There are clothes rods now for the abundance of clothes in this house that need to be hung up. Dave put some pretty nice drywall bolts to use and, while I do not think this will be the permanent set-up in there, it's certainly more useful to me.

After spending time in kitchen and bath design stores, I certainly had a chance to see that there are some really nice options for equipping a closet and making it look a lot better than, well, just a closet. I had drawn up a plan for some built in shelves and such, but my General Contractor Pete LaRoque ended up being uninterested in taking on that additional work. I'll have to ruminate on my options, and I think this is one of those things that I'll put off for quite a while. There's still plenty to keep me occupied in getting this great old house up to speed, even though major strides have surely been taken.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rather Draining, Really

Every day that I take a shower in the master bathroom, beautiful though it is, I get to be reminded that someone didn't take a great deal of care in the installation of the shower drain. It's crooked. My contractor, Peter "Pete" LaRoque of LaRoque Construction in Mocksville, NC, places the blame on the plumbing subcontractor. I'm also surprised it passed the City's plumbing inspection, but there it is.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Leaking Chimney...Again

As faithful blog readers know, I contracted with Pete LaRoque of LaRoque Construction in Mocksville, NC, to build an addition to my house and to undertake significant renovation work on the existing house. The bulk of the project took place from November 2008 through June 2009, but some issues do remain. Case in point: a leaking roof.

I suppose I could understand a construction team having trouble getting the flashing around some old chimney to work out properly. But brand new construction, with a fresh-built chimney and brand-new roof? It doesn't seem it ought to have been that hard to get right.

So, the roof around the chimney for the fireplace in my new kitchen continues to leak when there's a heavy amount of rain or a snow build-up: March 1, 2009; June 5, 2009; November 11, 2009; December 25, 2009; and now January 24-25, 2010. With the first leak, the story was that the counterflashing had not been installed. With the second, it was that it had not been properly sealed. I never heard anything else about repairs after I reported the leak on November 11, and now that it's leaked twice more, it's pretty clear I'm due a convincing repair, and a clear accounting for why this is happening at all.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Rain and Steak

All of us in this general region are pretty clear that we're being inundated by rain. Not all of us in the general area have also found themselves looking up repeatedly at their brand new fireplace to see when or if that rain will start coming down the face of the chimney. It's getting pretty late in the evening but the rain is still coming down. I'm afraid it's going to be "when" it starts leaking, not "if."

The little warm front that moved through in the midst of all this rain coming down made stepping out on the front porch to do a bit more grilling a much more pleasant task. The wind was pretty constant but at least there was a little reprieve from the cold. So I thought I'd grill some more filets but also whip up the sauce that normally would be served with steak au poivre. Add some whipped potatoes and fordham lima beans, and some quick-bake yeast rolls, and a glass of chilled white wine, and it's a fine Sunday evening meal.

That's No. 64 in the new kitchen.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Meal No. 63: Kung Pao Chicken in the Wok

With this fine new kitchen and everything all new and gleaming, I've been pretty hesitant to break out my wok and get back to stir-frying. It's a pretty messy proposition, with spatter and grease. In all the good planning for this space, I didn't consider the need to have a wok station where I wouldn't fret or worry about how much of a mess it might make.

I've missed my Asian meals, though. So in honor of returning to my watching of LOST on DVD (I got about half-way through Season Five watching episodes on line last year, but then got too busy to continue), it seemed a great time to whip up a good batch of something in my trusty electric wok.

Tonight's selection: Kung Pao Chicken with fried rice. And it was darned good.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Meal No. 62: Brendan's Moroccan Bistro Chicken Returns

A couple of weeks ago, when I did a trial run with the recipe I got from my former student Brendan Shanley, it turned out to be amazingly simple to whip up and amazingly delicious. It's stayed on my mind since that night and so I decided I had to have another go at it. This time I made it with Basmati rice instead of the recommended couscous, and it was every bit as good. The rice was a bit better at sopping up the great thickened broth in which those 14 chicken thighs were cooked. By the time the four of us who gathered for dinner were through, there was enough for a single leftover portion, shown here in its Gladware container straight from the fridge.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Update on the Porch Rail Update

Back at the end of June, I found that the cap on the end of the new porch rail coming up from the parking area had a pretty terrific split in it. My General Contractor Pete LaRoque had his guys caulk it and restain it, which made it look better in the short-term.

But I'm not so sure about the long-term. It's back to looking pretty sketchy to me now, and it's not such a good thing that this is the first element of the renovation that my visitors get to come in contact with when they are approaching the house from the parking lot. I hope they don't think I didn't care enough for it to look good.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Movie Screen Resurrection

Having the third chimney leak event was not the only consequence of the heavy rains that occurred on November 11, 2009, as the remnants of Hurricane Ida traveled over North Carolina and Virginia. The outdoor movie screen, which I'd never quite gotten around to taking down for the winter, took a beating and ended up face-first on the parking area.

The problem was I'd never gotten replacement support poles after that freaky thunder- and hailstorm on September 28...the movie season wasn't over, because The Shining was still to come on that cold night in October. But the bending meant that the screen wasn't really firmly supported anymore, and any good wind was going to present a potential catastropic toppling.

And that's what happened with the dying breaths of Hurricane Ida while I was up in Virginia working: the movie screen went down. This is where I have to confess to being too much of a slacker on some things, because I needed to get new support poles before it made sense to set it up again. But I was traveling, and then it was the holidays, and I just got kind of used to the screen lying there.

Finally, though, I made the run to Lowe's that was necessary and new support poles were obtained and I could set the screen back up. This is really to give the screen enough washings from rainy days so that I can remove the tarp and stow it for the winter. What's left of the winter, that is.

New Roediger Theatre season begins in three or four months!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Meal No. 61: Filet Mignon on the Grill

It was such a beautiful day today that it seemed like it was time to fire up the grill again. I do burgers so much during the summer that I ruled that out. And I needed something that wasn't too taxing because, after dinner and clean-up, I needed to hit the road for Richmond County, where I'd be working the next two days.

And then too, I love a good steak. So this evening's meal (No. 61 since I moved into the new kitchen) was grilled filets, leftover company mashed potatoes, lima beans, salad, and key lime custard for dessert. I even heated up some tasty yeast rolls. All in all, it was a nice meal for a small gathering of good people.

Monday, January 18, 2010

2010 Chili Cook-Off

Chili Cook-Off Event Resumes

While I was teaching at Wake Forest University, I developed a calendar of regular events throughout each year that would give my students a chance to gather at my house, all as part of building community and family together. Sometimes these were just simple meals, which gave me an excuse to cook or a chance to try out recipes. Others took on the feel of recurring annual affairs that current students, alumni, and teachers we all worked with could come to. Although Wake Forest is now well behind me, some of those events are just too good to let die.

One of these is the annual chili cook-off which, in spite of its name, isn't so much about competitive chili-making as it is an excuse for people to throw together their favorite chili and to bring it over to a grand buffet of crockpots for all to sample and enjoy. This evening was the first chili cook-off I've held since 2007, and it was fantastic. Five different recipes of chili were spread out across my long kitchen countertop, and three had to be set up on either side of the cooktop on the island:

  1. Turkey Bean Chili
  2. Chorizo Chocolate Chip Chili
  3. Garden of Vegan Chili
  4. Three Little Piggy Chili
  5. Three-Meat Goulash Chili
  6. Three Artists' Vegetarian Chili
  7. Sonoma-Williams Six-Hour Chili
  8. Best Homemade Chili

There were also three kinds of cornbread: honey butter cornbread, cornbread souffle, and Granny Wilson's honey wheat cornbread.

Desserts included red velvet cake, chocolate layer cake, chocolate eclair cake, and homemade key lime custard (yes, with the old-fashioned ice cream canister freezer with rock salt and ice).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Meal No. 59: Creole Fried Chicken

I'm not all that skilled at or experienced with frying foods. It's just not something I've done much of. But the recipe and picture looked good enough that I knew I wanted to try making Creole Fried Chicken. That was the meal tonight...No. 59 in the new kitchen, actually. And while I had to finish it off in the oven so that it was fully cooked, it was delicious. I'll give it another go sometime when I feel better about my skills with grease.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cool Doors for a Hot Place

Lowe's called while I was on the road this week and let me know the firescreen/doors had come in. That means they're here almost two weeks earlier than promised, and I'm okay with that. So this afternoon I drove the Tundra down there and picked them up, and once I got home I jumped right on getting them properly installed. Actually, it's a pretty easy process. I'm just glad to have them now. I'll feel safer heading to bed after an evening's fire has burned down, and I'll be happy to avoid having my heat dash up the chimney when I've had to leave the flue open all night.

I think they're looking pretty sweet. And now that I've installed them, I'm actually okay with getting gunmetal instead of black, because the doors give off the color of black and it helps them tie into everything else in the kitchen area. I'm liking them. Plus, they really remind me of the fireplace at my good friends' house (Cindy Coulson and Harley Knowles) up in Winchester, where I'd spent many a night (before they up and moved to Maine).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Foray into the Foyer

Here's something I forgot to blog about back at the end of the summer: the wallpaper in the foyer was removed, about a month after the paper in the dining room came down. It's not that the paper itself looked all that bad, but it was dirty and had also developed some noticeable sun/light wash-out on it. I'll probably want to get another understated but classy paper to go back up on these walls, but since I started up travel season again, I've put this on the back burner.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Privacy Privations

Here's another fit-and-finish issue that's cropped up: the door to the master bathroom can join the list of the new doors where there's an alignment problem. This bathroom door is very nearly to the point that its latch will not catch at all when it is closed. It is easier when pushing it shut from the bedroom (it opens into the bedroom, rather than inward into the bathroom), and nearly impossible to catch the latch when pulling from the bathroom side of the door.

We'll add this to the list for Peter "Pete" LaRoque, whose outfit LaRoque Construction of Mocksville, NC, was responsible for building the addition to my house.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Basketball Steals

Before all the renovation stuff got started, the Roediger House became a happening spot for basketball, what with that great sweep of parking area that's relatively level and even. I bought a basketball goal in the summer of 2008, and it was a pretty fun distraction for several months, culminating in a big basketball tournament in early September of that year.

And then, downtown living being what it is, it got stolen. I guess the next one will have to be an in-ground pole.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Strangenesses on a Tuesday

With no mention of its possibility on the weather-related websites or, it appears that snow had its own mission today. Downtown Winston-Salem got some flurries around 8 am and then again a couple more times as the day progressed. Of course, it didn't amount to anything. I doubt you can even see much in the couple of pictures that I snapped of it. But it's been so cold that it was already sticking, even though it was just a dusting.

Later in the day, I looked out the front door and a hammer had appeared on the porch. That's part of the fun of living downtown, I guess.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Post-Dinner-Party Realities

Being home means I'm able to spend time in the kitchen, and when possible, that will lead to some kind of dinner gathering. This evening, there were six of us, feasting on another recipe I'd never made before (a ground beef and noodle casserole that was tasty as all get-out). Along with that main dish, there was squash casserole, green beans, and brioche bread. Dessert choices ranged from this afternoon's fresh-made Lemon Chess pie, apple pie, chocolate chunk cookies, Vietnamese coffee ice cream, or gingered pear sorbet.

And then there's the clean-up once the fun and frivolity are all done. You get this picture because I can't seem to always remember to snap a shot of the group or of one of the filled dinner plates. (And those plates were filled: some even went back for thirds).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vietnamese and North African Concoctions Invade the Kitchen

This chilly Sunday morning began with the new ritual of cleaning the fireplace and setting up the next arrangement of logs, but it was quickly followed by a new venture in coffee: I made Vietnamese coffee, which is basically strong-brewed java mixed with sweetened condensed milk. It was tasty but mighty sweet!

The evening's meal (No. 57) for four of us was based on a recipe from Brendan Shanley, a guy I taught about 15 years ago when he was in 7th grade (and whose blog is Shout A Round). It was a delicious Moroccan-inspired dish with chicken, tumeric, cayenne pepper, garlic, onions, and cinnamon, served over couscous. It was delicious, and then some. (Far side of the table in the white shirt is another blogger, Bradley Phillis.)

After we all went out to see Sherlock Holmes, we managed to find our way back home and had bowlfuls of Vietnamese coffee ice cream that I'd made earlier in the day. Mighty fine stuff, that.