Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's Eve

City living rears its head again: a traffic stop as spotted from the back upstairs bedroom on the north side:

Wonder how much this sight will be repeated across the City this New Year's Eve? I hate to be away from the amazing and marvelous Roediger House on this evening of fun and celebration, but I'm glad to report I get home tomorrow.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chimney's Weak, Chimney Sweep!

Here's a shot of the house, taken from the top of the parking deck across the street. If you'll look at the two chimneys, you'll notice the one on the right is taller and more complete looking than the one on the left. Here's a closer-up shot of the taller one:

Well, the one on the left is a bit of a problem. It's not presenting a very sturdy front, and frankly it keeps me a bit worried.

I'm not sure how compromised its mortar is, but when I've looked at both chimneys up in the attic, just below the roofline, I'm not inspired with confidence. One of these days, that puppy's got a good chance of tumbling down, I fear. So on the to-do list with this great old hulk of a house is getting it dismantled to a certain extent, and rebuilt. In the meantime, I'll continue to sweep up the debris it sheds in good winds or harsh rains, after the fragments tumble off the roof above the side porch.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Squawk About the Hawk

So, you already know that I dig having birds around the house, what with all the feeders I've got hanging up and mounted. Which makes the yard look like a huge birdie buffet sometimes, to the sharp eyes of a common hawk. And I love that little touch of the great wild coming to put on its show right on my little downtown quarter acre in Winston-Salem.

Not so long ago, I was enjoying reading by the fireside in the kitchen area when I was jolted by the sound of something slamming into one of the eating nook/bay windows. This has happened a few times: the hawk spots a suitable bird to prey on but dives for it without realizing he's got a slab of glass and window screen coming up short on him.

But it let me know he was there, and I enjoyed watching him perch on the new ornamental fence after his crash, perhaps to collect his wits and thoughts. I grabbed the camera in hopes I could get a good shot.

When he flew up over the house, I went out to the parking area to see if I could spot more action, and looked up to see him sitting on the peak of the roof.

Then he took up temporary residence in one of the backyard trees where he had a good view of my littler friends' activity 'round the feeders, but he eventually flew off in another direction.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stinkbug Invasion Is Imminent

In the words of the classic 1960s tune: "People Get Ready."

In the next year or so, we in North Carolina had best brace ourselves for the invasion that is coming: the stinkbug. We have already seen a few here and there but those are the scouts and wanderers. I've seen a few clinging to the screens on the outside of the house, but that's not where these rascals really like to be. They insist upon coming on inside the house, whether you invite 'em or not. So far, I've found probably five dead ones (I've got pretty good pest control) and maybe one live one inside.

This here is one of the dead ones.

Last fall, when I spent a week working in Nelson County, Virginia, and staying in Lovingston at a bed and breakfast, they were under full invasion. The old manor house was completely covered with them and there was no way to keep them out. In the few days I was there, I trapped and disposed of 23 stinkbugs just in my room. I really dread their spread further south.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas To All!

Since I moved into educational consulting and travel a lot more, I have not been very good at carving out the time to get the house decorated for Christmas. So on this special day, let me offer up a few pictures from Christmas 2003 when I managed to get the house in the holiday mood.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Catch-All of Christmas Commotion

It's after 10 pm on Christmas Eve, and Winston-Salem's downtown is a quiet place. Because of the intended early start tomorrow, this is a bed-written blog post with high hopes that slumber will soon be here.

So, let's catch up on some of the things that seem to roll around when it's a holiday, with some time off and the freedom from schedules that was earned by the hard work of the fall travel season.

White Wine Coffee Cake. I was much overdue in getting around to whipping up this smashing little dessert. It is a much-improved version of rum cake, methinks, at least as I compare the recipes for the two. At the moment, the sweet little lady that was in my mother's church group in Buies Creek, from whom we got the recipe, probably never had alcohol in the house...except for making this gem. When I first started teaching at Wake Forest, I made it rather often and gave out the recipe to quite a few folks (some of whom tell me they have now been obligated for years to make several of them to meet the demands of insistent family members).

Pictured on the right is the one I made a couple of days ago. But while friends and family who've gotten the recipe are apparently having great success making this cake, I keep having glitches, like the top sticking to the bottom of the pan or it breaking apart. I had my biggest fiasco yet when I removed this cooling cake from the tube pan this time:

Perhaps the cussing I did obliged it to get itself in shape so that it did not look that much worse for wear and posed nicely in the picture at top.

Imitation Orange Julius. Another fun holiday diversion, on the heels of the orangeades I made earlier this week: I did decide after all to try my hand at making Orange Juliuses. Only to realize that there's a reason I wasn't a regular customer of the Orange Julius at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, when I was growing up. Just not my thing. But it's purty:

Late-Night After Party. Last night, after a coalition of us decided to do a bit of bar-hopping in downtown Winston to celebrate Christmas Eve Eve, the Roediger House was the scene of an impromptu after-party which went on until darned close to 5 am. Glad I still had some southwestern dip on hand, as well as the white wine coffee cake.

Unfortunately, there was a casualty of the evening, right at the start: an errant elbow caused this Christmas cookie in a frame to take a tumble, and it did not survive the trip. This was darned unfortunate, especially because this item had been a terrific house-warming gift from good friend Monie Lawrence, one of the 7th grade parents when I taught middle school in Raleigh.

Sausage Balls. Here's another essential tradition for the Christmas holidays: a handful of sausage balls in the morning to tide one over until it gets to be time to reheat the excellent leftovers from the Christmas turkey feast (see yesterday's blog post).

Christmas Eve Emergency Call. Finally, there was a bit of excitement this Christmas Eve, with two police squad cars barreling down Spring Street and a fire truck parking itself in front of the house with its lights a-going. Not sure what was happening the next block down but it didn't seem to require that the fire fighters do anything. So they sat and gave the house a bit of light decorating on this chilly holiday eve.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Meal No. 193: The Christmas Feast

While the rest of the country and perhaps the Western world is anticipating overstuffing itself on Saturday, when it is truly Christmas Day, that's not the way I'm playing it this year. Instead, on the eve of Christmas Eve, it seemed a good time to invite a few of the usual cast of regulars over and whip up the enormous holiday feast.

So, there was an herbed turkey breast, sweet potato casserole, corn pudding, green bean casserole, stuffing, and gravy.

And around here, with these great countertops, most meals are served up buffet style.

And once all the plates were piled high, the warmth of the cooking became the warmth of good fellowship among good friends.

I love this meal and can't understand why it is only made once or twice a year. (That's why the Roediger House social calendar expanded this past year to include "Thanksgiving on the Half-Year."

Oh: I also made (for the first time in several years) my mom's recipe for cranberry salad, which is a pretty sweet concoction but it never quite seems a proper holiday feast without it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Meal No. 192: Seared Scallops with Creamy Grits

This here was a meal very reminiscent of shrimp and grits, except in this case, it was cajun-seasoned sea scallops seared in the pan and served over creamy grits with a sherry creole cream sauce to boot. Actually a pretty simple meal to throw together and quite a treat.

Recipe came from and can be found at this link.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Meal No. 191: Moravian Chicken Pie

Here we are smack in the heart of Moravian country, just a 15-minute walk up from Old Salem. So why haven't I made Moravian Chicken Pie a staple of Roediger House meals? I love that dish but the only time I ever made it was a brief phase I went through in the winter of 2009, when all my cooking was being done in the temporary kitchen in the dining room. This was before I became such a manic nut about blogging every meal and interesting concoction in the kitchen.

So almost two years later, I reached for the "Cooking with Grace" cookbook from Grace Moravian Church in Mount Airy, NC, and I did my subtle modifications to the recipe, and I reheated what was leftover from last night's green bean casserole and company mashed potatoes, and there was a fine meal of Moravian Chicken Pie on the dinner table tonight at the Roediger House.

Holiday Orangeades!

Growing up in Buies Creek, NC, we had two great sources of orangeades: the Oasis student snack bar on campus at Campbell College (now University); and the snack bar in the pro shop at Keith Hills golf course (developed and owned by Campbell as well). We could also get them at some of the local druggists, like Bill Randall's Lafayette Drug over in Lillington. But the secret to those made in those Campbell snack bars was the generous amount of simple syrup (and probably the nugget or flaked ice, as opposed to cubes, that they were served over).

My sister Allison and her husband Tom got into making their own up in Indiana, and they got me re-hooked when I was up there a few years ago. They thoughtfully got me a soda fountain-style juicer one Christmas but, with the renovation and addition project, I'd put it out of sight (and, therefore, out of mind).

I dug it out this afternoon after buying a bag of oranges at Sam's Club. I like the holiday tradition of having a homemade orangeade or two.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Meal No. 190: Pork Chops & Christmas Specials

The Roediger House does not have TV. I mean, there is a TV, but there isn't TV service, as in: no cable, no satellite, not even rabbit ears. So all shows and such here are viewed from DVD, instant-watch from Netflix, or (egads!) on VHS.

That puts me out of the loop on the usual broadcast of Christmas specials on network or cable television, and I think it's safe to say it's been years and years since I've watched most of 'em. So tonight I talked a few kind folks into coming over, with the promise of dinner, if they'd watch a few of those specials with me. Here's one end of the table:

The meal: seasoned baked pork chops with company mashed potatoes and the traditional Campbell's Soup Company's recipe for greenbean casserole, which I'd not made in years.

Meal No. 189: Maple Glazed Meatballs

Continuing in the spirit of trying out new recipes...

Last night for Sunday supper, I tried out Maple-Glazed Meatballs, following a recipe found in the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook (1999, p. 247). Instead of straight ground chuck, though, I did use a meatloaf mix of beef, veal, and pork and tossed in some extra horseradish. Alongside there were green beans, cornbread stuffing, and stuffed cabbages (made by good friend Renee Dzuricsko).

Clearly, it was too good not to finish it all up. And just behind this wiped-clean plate you can see a very lovely gift from friends Cindy Coulson and Harley Knowles, shipped direct from L.L. Bean, which happens to be just down the way from their house in Freeport, ME.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Meal No. 188: United Colors of Been Eatin'

Saturday night's meal was another that leaned a little more to the fancy side, at least given what I usually make for the main dish. Inspired by a recipe I got from my good friend Cindy Coulson, this is cream cheese-stuffed chicken with a sweet dijon glaze. I did a little web searching to find out how to dress up its flavor a bit, and I incorporated some of the ideas that others had from trying out this same meal.

Alongside were baked potatoes with plenty of butter melting over them, sugar snap peas, and a Caesar salad.

I think these sugar snap peas got a bit of freezer burn, but they were still good.

To me, it's not a properly done Caesar salad unless it has too much dressing on it.

And here is the final plate (or, more properly, "platter"). I'd like to still play with this recipe a bit, but it's a keeper.