Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Holy Crapgrass

All my cutting of the lawn this summer has actually ended up having a negative effect: it's staying so well-trimmed that, with the dry conditions of late, it's allowed an invasion of crabgrass to take hold. This stuff is yucky and ridiculously rapid-spreading! Since I'm on the road so much, I fear I've already lost this battle.

I'm also a little surprised, because it's not been that long ago that I did a pretty thorough treatment with Weed-Be-Gone, and the cautions on the label warn against more than a couple of doses in a year. But I think I'd better get ahold of a crabgrass-specific means of abatement. My little bit of research this evening also tells me I've got to do a better job of fertilizing and watering my lawn...a thick healthy tall growth of my preferred grass is a sufficient incentive to keep away the crabgrass weed.

I'll put this on the list of things to do when I'm home tomorrow and through the weekend.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cut Palm Sunday

This is the gladware container of fruit that I was cutting up yesterday.

This is the palm of my hand after the knife ran out of resistance on one of the peaches and dug right on into me. I had a hard time looking at the crevasse in my flesh once the blade had done its darnedest. It took quite a while for it to stop bleeding, but it was the insistent soreness that has lasted hours upon end that has gotten me worse. I love spending time in the kitchen and I do a lot of hand-washing and hand-washing of dishes, and this put a real kink in my usual routines. By Sunday evening, it was feeling better, though.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Meal No. 138: Steak & Pommes Frites

This might be where I'm going a bit off the rails. Tonight's meal: extra thick cut pan-seared ribeye steaks as the main dish. On the side, hand-cut russet potato french fries and super-simmered carmelized onions (that are so long-simmered they look more like mashed sweet potatoes in the photograph). And a port wine demi-glace reduction that was hellaciously delectable. This meal knocked my socks off: the ribeye was perfectly cooked, the carmelized onions were like a dessert unto themselves, the pommes frites were blasts of fried potato flavor, and the sauce was simply inspired. I wish I had taken a picture of the ribeye after I cut into it, but I had already started the next episode of Dexter Season 4 and didn't want to interrupt to go back downstairs for my camera. And I didn't think about my Droid on my hip until I was actually typing this into the blog. Shucks.

Gracious. And now my belly is poking out rather ridiculously, and I don't care one bit.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Meal No. 137: Stir-Fry Ginger Cashew Chicken

Oh, it's so good to be at home and to have time to knock around the kitchen a bit. With an eye to greatly improving on my last attempt at this particular chicken recipe for the wok, I decided to take some creative license.

Fresh-grated gingerroot, fresh mushrooms, fresh red bell pepper, fresh-minced cilantro, fresh (not frozen!) chicken breasts, roasted cashew halves...the extra effort to coat the chicken pieces in egg white and cornstarch before actually deep-frying them briefly prior to adding them to the wok...

...and it was all to a good end. This was one fabulous meal.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Blue Light Special

The Roediger House is downtown, and that gives me more than my fair share of emergency vehicle action. Strangely, a North Carolina highway patrolman is virtually never to be seen on these mean city streets. But while I was working by the fireside this evening, the flash of blue strobe caught my eye and I found there was a small measure of excitement out on Fourth Street. This picture is from the upstairs back bedroom, looking across the gravel lot beside the house toward the action. And yes, that's one of those honking big Hummer limousines parked in the far lot across Fourth Street. This is a happening city.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Meal No. 136: Salmon with Thai Chili Sauce

A light meal to fill my belly before I hit the road this evening for a quick workday down in Richmond County, NC:

This is broiled salmon with a thai chili sauce. I went a little wild with the side dishes, though: rice with the extra chili sauce, cooked carrots, zucchini, and even feta-stuffed roasted red peppers.

And I was hungry again before I got halfway to Richmond County.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meal No. 135: Seafood Pasta

It's been over a week since I've been able to cook a meal, and I'm still recovering from making the drive straight home from Detroit last night. So I threw together a meal based on a recipe I got from my sister Allison some years ago: seafood pasta alfredo. It's a quick version with cream cheese built in for the cheating, along with fake crab meat and ready-cooked chicken and shrimp. I can't believe I actually made a meal with all these shortcuts, but I was on a deadline.

But boy-howdy, it's a lot more expensive to make a meal this way than the way I normally do, so I'll be sure to think it through next time I've got a hankering for this dish.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Grim Peeper

Death has flocked to the Roediger House in my absence.

When I returned home from my trip to Cleveland and Detroit, I found that a bit of a freak accident had occurred at the squirrel-proof bird feeder outside the kitchen bay windows. Some poor little house sparrow (I think?) was all-too-determined to get at the remnants of black oil sunflower seed in my nearly-empty feeder, and he got himself stuck.

In fact, he did such a bang-up job of it that where you see his head is actually one slot over from where his neck is. I think he died a traumatic death. But I don't consider the feeder a death-trap...I really do think this was a freak accident. And I'll just need to make sure I'm keeping it full of food so that no other hungry bellies compel his cousins to stick their necks out. Or in.

Don't want it to be Bye Bye Birdie all over again.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dinner in Windsor, Ontario, O Canada

You know that if I had my druthers, I'd be at home at the Roediger House every night, and I'd be cooking up a storm in my kitchen. But that's not the nature of my work as an educational consultant, and on this particular week, it means I'm quite a ways from home. Today and tomorrow, I'm working at the Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse of Detroit, a charter school that I first did training for back in 2005. They very kindly invited me back...there's a large number of new faculty and it was time to get reacquainted with key ideas about teaching and learning and comprehension-based instruction.

Tonight, with brand-new passport in hand, I had the chance to slip across the Ambassador Bridge into Windsor, Ontario, for a walk and drive around and dinner at a reasonably authentic Chinese restaurant. This shot is looking across the Detroit River at downtown Detroit, which looks much better from across the river than it does in person.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Coffee in Cleveland: Knowing the Drill

Before leaving my good hosts Jon and Karissa Piper in Cleveland this morning, I was treated to some freshly-ground and excellent coffee. Jon's put up an old-fashioned wall-mounted ceramic coffee grinder, but he's discovered that it's tedious to crank it by hand.

So he affixed a bolt to it and keeps his cordless drill nearby, and he lets the tool do all the work for him. Jon's a funny guy.

While I recognize that the Roediger House might seem like a large abode to some, you've not seen anything until you roam around the Pipers' Cleveland Heights household. I've got a great old downtown house; they've got themselves a veritable mansion. It's an impressive place.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lolita's in Cleveland

I would not be in the Roediger House if it were not for the foresight and encouragement of my good friends Karissa and Jon Piper, who at one time were my neighbors down the street. Karissa was in my first group of education students when I joined the faculty at Wake Forest in 2001, and she returned to complete her masters with me a couple of years later.

Today's post is not about the Roediger House but about the joyful fact that I get to be with them this evening. They live in Cleveland now, and this was a great excuse to stop in for an overnighter with them on my way to work at a charter school in Detroit the first of the coming week.

Today's photo: Jon grabbing up the center bone from his delicious lamb chop at Michael Symon's restaurant, Lolita's, where the demand is so great the earliest reservations we could get were for 9:15 pm.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Holes, But Not By Louis Sachar

When Pete LaRoque was here trying to figure out that darned leak that's dripping above the wetbar in the kitchen, he needed to get a better look at the most likely direction the water was coming from. So he had to do some cutting into the wall at the end of the tub in the Van Gogh bathroom upstairs. It let him know that the problem does not seem to be associated with the water supply lines for that bathroom, and specifically for that tub/shower (which had not been used for a while prior to the leak appearing).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cookies for Nelson County, Virginia

Before leaving home last night, I managed to get a batch of milk chocolate oatmeal cookies prepared. It seems I do not find enough time to do this in connection with all my travels, but I like sharing some goodies from the kitchen with the people in the school divisions I work with.

Nelson County is south of Charlottesville and is better known as the "home" of the Waltons. It's a lovely county and I've always been warmly welcomed there by the educators with whom I work. And the cookies were an early hit, so I'm expecting to have none that I'll need to bring back home with me when I wrap things up on Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meal No. 134: Center-Cut Pork Chops

After having that great ginger shiitake mushroom sauce with last night's tuna steaks, and having no small amount left over, what better menu this evening than some center-cut pork chops, with a flavorful coating and cooked in a healthy dose of melted butter?

Fordhook lima beans and mashed potatoes were alongside. That's some amazing Xingu black beer from Brazil to help wash this good stuff down.

Unfortunately, only one beer was allowed, because I have to hit the road for a couple of days of work up in Nelson County this week.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meal No. 133: Tuna Steaks

This was just a good relaxing day to tackle prep for a fine dinner, with great fresh ingredients and full of amazing flavors.

This night's fare: seared tuna steaks with ginger shiitake mushroom cream sauce, along with a side of rice and sugar snap peas.

"Pan-Seared Tuna with Ginger-Shiitake Cream Sauce," from The Bon App├ętit Cookbook by Barbara Fairchild, 2006, p. 398-399.

Monday, August 16, 2010

In Search of the Leak's Source

Once the leak above the wetbar in the kitchen manifested itself, it was left to my general contractor Pete LaRoque to see if he could figure out where it's coming from. He also needed to get the leak captured so that we would minimize the possibility of damage from it, at least so far as the wetbar area is concerned.

By cutting a hole in the ceiling where the leak was showing itself, and checking from above in the Van Gogh bathroom, Pete was pretty confident we do not have a leaking toilet or supply line to that commode. Best he can see, the water is coming from the direction of the outside of the house, across the subflooring, and down the plumbing cut in the OSB to the drywall of the ceiling below, where the wetbar is. A bucket is catching the drip for now.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Meal No. 132: Beef Tenderloin

I really loved having the guys who lived together in UNC's Avery House, back in 1986-1987, at the house this weekend. It was a blast, and I think all of us enjoyed ourselves and enjoyed each other. After yesterday's brunch meal and some time sitting around visiting, the crew took a stroll up Fourth Street and checked out some of downtown Winston-Salem, which is not the place most of them would have remembered from when we were younger.

Last night, as kind of a grand finale of the reunion weeked, the dinner was a roasted beef tenderloin with spicy horseradish sauce, stuffed baked potatoes, French-cut green beans, and homemade bread. By late afternoon, it was time to get going with prepping the meal, and Jimmy Randolph snagged some shots of me tackling the stuffed baked potatoes:

If it's not gauche for the cook to remark on it, I must say that it all turned out pretty darned good:

Dessert was some homemade frozen lemon custard ice cream, made using the recipe from Donna Whitley-Smith's mother. Here is a shot over Galen Black's shoulder:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Meal No. 131: Brunch for the Boys

A special Saturday morning at the Roediger House, and as part of the Avery House suite reunion, I wanted to whip up what I just call the "brunch meal." I didn't quite go all out, but it did include freshly-cooked bacon, a fancy pot of souped-up scrambled eggs, a Bundt coffee cake, fresh fruit (helpfully cut up by Ronnie Hall), and some creamy cheese grits.

Just as we sat down for the meal, Galen Black [R] arrived, and he is shown here along with Mike Sports [L].

The guys seemed to enjoy it. And I enjoyed the fact that, for the first time in a long time, the coffee cake actually dislodged cleanly from the pan and didn't come all to pieces. This might improve my reputation for my kitchen labors.

After the morning feast, there was time to just sit around and hang out, visiting and looking at photo albums and digesting the morning's repast.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Avery House Suite 208-211 Reunion

What an awesome, awesome start to the weekend.

In spite of a leak above the kitchen wetbar and the problem-plagued upstairs air conditioning, this evening was a coming together of a great group of guys that all lived together in an Avery House suite at the University of North Carolina. Michael Sports was first to arrive and came with many bottles of wine in tow. Ronnie Hall and Arnold Miller soon followed, and Jimmy Randolph was not far behind. Galen Black is due tomorrow morning.

To keep it simple, with all the different arrival times, I just whipped up a pot of Vierling Saloon's Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Meal No. 130 in the new kitchen, mind you) and we had ourselves a late but light evening meal.

Some of us had not seen one another in as many as 15 years (probably for whoever got married last). The evening was light-hearted, full of laughter and memories, and we all fell into an easy resumption of our friendships from long ago. For most of us, it was probably the most we'd laughed in quite a long time. I'm really glad we decided to do this.

Pete LaRoque was here again mid-afternoon to work on the leak above the wetbar, and I also managed to get a serviceman from Reedy's down the road on Brookstown to come work on the upstairs HVAC system. Turns out he had to add another 3 pounds of freon to the unit outside, which makes it pretty clear that there's a leak somewhere in the HVAC for the second floor. It's been almost exactly three months since they came out because the upstairs was not cooling and they had to add freon. That's an average of a pound of freon a month that I've lost.

That's the joy of having a system mis-installed by Barnette Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., of Mocksville, NC. Having another HVAC service provider come out for the emergency call (it's been hot, and I've got guests all weekend!) cost me $235, but my general contractor Pete LaRoque promises to reimburse me. Of course, that cost is really the responsibility of the very irresponsible Barnette crew. I still cannot believe they are in business.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Barnette's HVAC System Is Still Malfunctioning

Now that there's a leak above the wetbar to deal with, isn't it just dandy that the upstairs air conditioning has started to struggle and is not keeping the second story very cool? Sounds like the problem with the A/C that showed up back in May was not actually resolved, which is not a big surprise, because fixing things correctly does not seem to be a Barnette specialty.

Did I mention that tomorrow I'm expecting my college suitemates, because the Roediger House is the scene of a reunion of the guys this weekend?

Barnette Heating & A/C, Inc., of Mocksville, NC, was the subcontractor responsible for putting in the HVAC system when the renovation work was done in 2008-2009. They have been a very frustrating firm to deal with. And there has been such an extensive number of problems with the system that I marvel that they are still in business, if this is how they normally do things.

And the extra rub is this: Greg Barnette, the "manager" of Barnette Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., insists that he will not return to address any more issues with the system. Imagine that: an HVAC firm that puts in a system that has thus far been seriously plagued with problems, and he thinks he can just walk away from it.

We'll see about that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Strange Leak Above Wetbar

Here's another unfortunate turn of events:

Sometime today, a leak somewhere up in the ceiling managed to course its way down to a seam in the drywall and worked its way to a low point and started dripping down on the wetbar. It is not possible to know yet where the leak is coming from or how long it might have been going on before it manifested itself by busting through.

I suppose a lucky thing is that the seam it traveled along brought it out over the quartz countertop, rather than on top of the glass cabinets above or onto the hardwood floors below. This also helped make it noticeable more quickly, thank goodness. A call has been put in to Pete LaRoque, who is due tomorrow evening to check it out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Meal No. 129: Chicken-Asparagus Salad

It's good to have some grub on hand for a week of working like this. This particular recipe is for a chicken salad with asparagus spear cuts, and it's pretty refreshing.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Meal No. 128: Grilled Filets & Stuffed Potatoes

Yet another awesome meal of filet mignon on the grill, but this time I whipped up some stuffed baked potatoes that were pretty darned delicious, even though this was the first time I'd tried making them this way. By the time you add half-n-half, butter, sour cream, mayonnaise, horseradish, bacon, chopped chives, freshly-shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, and some salt and pepper, it's amazing it will all reasonably fit back into the skin.

No complaints on this end: it was a fine meal.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Meal No. 127: Bacon and Pancakes

Sunday morning back home in the good old Roediger House, and my hankering was for some bacon and pancakes. Doesn't matter that plans are in place to grill up some steaks tonight; I had to have me some breakfast on this beautiful summer weekend day.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Meal No. 126: Garlic Chicken Stir-Fry

After a week on the road, it was most excellent to come home and be back in my kitchen. I think I was a bit off, though, because this will not go down as one of my finer meals.

I mean, it was edible, but nothing about the recipe I was following seemed to match in results to what was happening as I prepared this dish. This was the first recipe I tried from a new Chinese and Thai cookbook I picked up cheap at Sam's Club. I snagged a few essential ingredients at the Asian Grocery just down Peters Creek Parkway from the house, and the prep was reasonably quick. If I hadn't been so hungry, I'm not sure I would have been able to eat it all.

It was rather on the healthy side, though, so at least I've got that going for me.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Holy Rub-down, Robin!

Maybe one of my bird-knowledgeable friends can tell me what I caught this robin doing not so long ago. The pictures do not do it justice, but he was all splayed out like he was practicing as an eagle understudy for a national seal, then he'd rub around a bit, and then perk up and strut. At first, he looked ill and I thought I might be doing some grave digging.

Was he cooling off in the hot, hot weather we've been having? Feeling the good vibrations of Marky Markworm below the surface? It was a rare sight for me, regardless, and in fact, I think it was a first.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

That's Easy: Not My City Sky Line

One of my evenings in New Orleans this week involved an excursion down to Bacchanal down in the Bywater, and that meant there was a chance to step up to the Port of New Orleans when no one was looking and step out for some views of the city looking across the Mississippi. It was only as we were all exiting that a Port Police officer came rolling up with a suspicious stare at us.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More Issues with Gutters

"Gutters to match existing."

This was the promise from Peter LaRoque of LaRoque Construction of Mocksville, NC, when he wrote up the bid that I accepted on the renovation and addition to my house. When he advised me after he'd begun the job that he was going to have to substitute cheap but similar gutters, my only stipulation was that they must function equally as well.

Alas, that is not exactly proving to be the case.

As I blogged about back in March, the debris shields are not functioning properly and serve as reservoirs and catchers of debris, and that leads to overflow and spillage. There was quite a washout from the corner juncture of the gutter directly above the heat pump units with last week's heavy rains, and the picture above shows you why this would be the case.

When changing floodlight bulbs not so very long ago, I also had a chance to see that the rain guard shields on the south side of the house were either not properly installed or they have not remained in place.

And the screen that was in that March blog is no longer sitting on top of the gutter; it fell through to the bottom of the gutter and now it's just a big ol' opening there.