It’s the little things

I had a productive and busy day today. I got up at 7:30 to take the dogs out and decided to stay up so I could turn my slow-roasted pork into chili.

Then, I set out to tackle the bushel and a quarter of tomatoes I picked up on Friday. I ran for six hours on Friday going to various farm stands, butchers and the grocery store and got nothing done on Friday. I had quite the list to tackle today.

First, the chili. I shredded the pork, syphoned off the extra liquid in my crock pot, then returned the pork to the crock along with chili beans and cranked up the heat.

Then, I set out to deal with the tomatoes. I started by putting the firmest of the tomatoes on cookie sheets, sprinkled them with extra virgin olive oil and salt and set them in the oven for a slow roast. Then, I tackled the rest of the tomatoes. I blanched them, peeled them and put them in stock pots to cook down.

Once the tomatoes were all chopped up and in pots, I made the meat for cabbage rolls and then set out to make them. I got the rolls made and in the roaster, covered them with cabbage and tomatoes and stuck them in the oven (after taking out the oven-roasted tomatoes). I put the tomatoes in a bowl and stuck them in the fridge to bring them to a temp I could work with. Meanwhile I did a ton of dishes that I needed to dirty all over again and I par cooked and cut down two dozen ears of corn to freeze.

So, it was a Godsend when my guy texted and offered to take me to one of the new Japanese steakhouses for dinner. See, after spending seven-ish hours with food, the last thing I wanted to deal with was feeding myself. We had a fabulous dinner, visited Harbor Freight & Tools and came back to my place. I was so grateful to not have to worry about feeding myself. Sometimes, it really is the small things.

Oh, and the dogs? Well just look how all my hard work tuckered them out.

Scoop curled up in the sun

Cody prefers to sleep on the couch

Speaking of that Japanese steakhouse: It’s owned by the same people who own my favorite local sushi place, Sakura. If you haven’t heard me talk of it, this is my favorite roll there, the Spice Girl

Yep, those are Pringles (TM)


Despite illness, weekend proves productive

I felt it coming on Wednesday night. The scratchy throat and sniffling. By the time I went to bed, it was constant sneezing. I called in sick Thursday, knowing I had to be at work Friday. I lasted at work until about 2.5 hours before my day typically ends. By Friday night that ick was moving into my chest and I was feeling dreadful. Not only was I looking at possibly being laid up, but I was going to miss Fort 4 Fitness, a four-mile walk I signed up for months ago. I even had to cancel breakfast plans for later Saturday morning because I had a fever.

Despite the sickness, life goes on and, being single that meant I had some chores that HAD to be done including grocery shopping and cooking. So, I made my list while I lazed around on the couch and vowed to get in and out of the grocery store ASAP on Saturday. I did, with most of the fixings for pulled pork and beef vegetable soup.

I was too ambitious for how I was feeling, but I was also frustrated that one of the ingredients I needed, chili sauce, has high fructose corn syrup in it. I don’t care what the corn lobby tells you, I don’t believe the body processes it the same as sugar. So, I set out to make my own chili sauce, which I think I did a pretty good job on. And, with that, I cooked a butterflied pork tenderloin from Gunthorp Farms in ginger ale with onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. When it was done, I shredded it, removed most of the fat and added the homemade chili sauce to return to the pan and then cook for a bit longer. It was good, I was shocked.

Pulled pork sandwich after the meat was done

If there’s any interest, I can try to post a recipe (or general direction) for the homemade chili sauce. I was particularly inspired to find an alternative to a product with HFCS by an interview I did early last week with Cleveland boy and celebrity chef Michael Symon.

(And, we won’t go into how ridiculously excited I was to interview him, but you can get a clue if you listen to me in the interview. Ridiculous!)

After getting my cooking for the week going, I set out to put up the living room curtains I bought. I have a 10 foot wide by 9 foot high patio door that faces the west. That means in the summer from mid-afternoon until nightfall, I have the blazing hot sun beating down on my apartment, making it a sweatbox. I decided on the curtains late this summer, and after shopping with my sister on vacation, I became motivated to buy them. Well, today, Monday, was the first sunny day since I put up the curtains (the energy-saving kind) and I’m happy to say they work. They kept my living room temperature at a tolerable level so I didn’t have to crank on the air when I came home. I’m glad, because I love having the windows open in weather like this (early fall).

A great vacation begins with a taste of home, ends with great craft deals

I returned Friday night from a few days back in northeast Ohio with my sister. We try to take at least one vacation a year at the same time to just hang out and do whatever we want.

We had a blast. One of the main requirements of a return to northeast Ohio, for me, is a Lake Erie perch dinner. I love fresh lake perch and there is NO substitute in my mind. Well, if you combine that great fish with the fries from Berardi’s (a family that played a big part in the early days of Cedar Point) it simply gets no better. That trip was made on Tuesday since I was returning to Indiana on Friday (the day when fish fries are most popular back home).

On Wednesday, a trip to Ohio Amish Country was on tap. My sister and I, along with a longtime friend of my sister, left my sister’s town at 7 a.m. and drove the couple hours to Amish Country. Our first stop was a farm stand and the second, an Amish farm that had a sign hanging out front advertising they sold baskets. I LOVE Amish made baskets and couldn’t pass up picking up two while there (been using ’em for organizing lately).

We did some other shopping, not the least of which was picking up some new fall decorations.

And, another favorite trip when I return to my hometown, is to Pat Catan’s, where deals abound on crafty items. This time around, I picked up about $200 (I originally thought it was $100) worth of scrapbooking rub-ons and stickers, for about $10. That’s some super clearancing on the store’s part.

It was a great time. Three-and-a-half of the most relaxing days I’ve had in a while. Oh, and, I had 7 1/2-inches of hair cut off while I was there.

The dogs were happy to see me when I got back and, out of guilt, I gave them steak bones left over from our dinner on Thursday.

So, it’s Patriot Day

The 10th anniversary reflection on Sept. 11 began for me over a month ago when my boss asked me to gather together the list of servicemembers northeast Indiana has lost in Iraq and Afghanistan since combat operations began in those countries post Sept. 11, 2001. I delayed it as much as I could and eventually, it became obvious I could do that no more. So, I put that list together and I searched our archives for those photos. And, I remembered each and every one of the 30+ servicemembers we’ve lost.

The reality of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 began for me on Friday, Sept. 9, this year. I worked. I went out to dinner with a friend/former co-worker. We laughed, we talked, we laughed (I think she laughed at me more than anything because I can be pretty animated). Then, I dropped her off at home and came home myself and I turned on the History Channel and, as it’s prone to doing, the History Channel was trying to put things in perspective. The channel’s special reviewed the events of Sept. 11, 2001 looking at the days that followed. The volunteers, the Muslims, the hatred of Americans toward Muslims, the searchers, the puppies searching, the flurry of folks looking for Americana decorations. It was good. It was what I probably needed.

I remember waking up to the planes flying into the towers. As a journalist, I knew that my day may have changed drastically, but it didn’t. I went about my schedule, which involved a Chinese restaurant for lunch with a source. He and I chatted and joked and laughed. But, out there, in reality, this “thing” was happening. This terrible, awful “thing.” This incomprehensible “thing.” It was an attack on America (most call it a terrorist attack, some will tell you one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter). Thousands were dead. No one really knew what happened. I was aware of the initial damage. Two planes, two towers, thousands dead. Two more planes, separate locations, hundreds more dead.

Now, 10 years later, the mass media has repeated those events over and over for hours, days on the anniversary date.

Friday night, I sat on my couch watching that History Channel special, not hysterical, but with steady tears streaming down my face. Watching the families of those who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald gather at a co-worker’s home to mourn and wonder. Watching the footage from the Islamic Center in Queens where threats were rolling in.

I sit now, at my computer, the TV on in the background, replaying the footage (b-roll) of that day. The talking heads chatting about it seem so ridiculous now. The supposition that it was an accident. That it was a small plane. How the hell could it be an accident? How could a small aircraft do that damage? How can no one know it was a jet, slated to travel cross country? Those towers went up like candles, and then crashed down in a cloud of smoke and debris.

Yeah, hindsight.

In the 10 years since this happened I’ve developed friendships here in northeast Indiana and one of the most important friendships is a family that has had two sons join the military. One has subsequently cycled out..the other soldier is facing deployment again (having already served one tour in Afghanistan). I know someone who has been married but whose husband has spent more time on foreign soil than at home. I think that’s made it more real to me, closer. I have listened to friends talk about how they were affected by the attacks.

As a journalist, the person in me chose to see it as just a huge ass news story. A history making event.

Now, 10 years later, I’m 10 years older, I have relationships I value in ways I never valued relationships before and, I’m devastated, probably all over again, maybe for the first time.

Don’t get me wrong, seeing those bodies drop from the towers affected me then. The loss of life affected me then. But, I’m a different person now and all that is affecting me differently now.

So, I’m probably gonna spend today on my couch. Knitting at hand. Laundry to do. TV tuned to regurgitations of the events from 10 years ago. And, I’ll probably cry. Not wracking sobs as if I lost someone I loved, but the slow, streaming tears of someone who recognizes that it sucked hard, too many lives were lost and we’ve been at war for 10 years. That we lost 3,000 on that day and thousands more since, and who knows how many hence.

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Saddam Hussein is dead. But we keep sending our boys and girls over there and we will for who knows how long. And, there’ll be more loss. And, I’ll probably cry (again, not wracking sobs, but streaming tears).

God bless our servicemen and women. God bless our public safety workers and God Bless America.

Regrets only make you feel worse

I had a heckuva morning today. It started out pretty great. We got up, the dogs went out and I prepared myself to arrive at the Pigeon River Festival in time to see Spencer Kane perform. And, of course, to catch the Boondock Queen competition.

So, I crate the dogs and head out, first to get gas. I go in, prepay for my gas and a Diet Coke and go out to pump gas. I open my driver’s side door, push the lever that opens the gas door, pick up the pump hose, turn aaaannnnndddd, the gas door is shut. So, I hit the lever again. This time, I notice 1) the lever has too much give and 2) my trunk has popped open. Panic.Set.In. Especially because my trunk now would not latch.

I spend a few minutes jamming my key into the gas tank door hoping I can pop it but to no avail. A lovely gentleman who was on his way out of the station walked past me, then came back and offered up a suggestion. When I showed him how much give the lever had, he said “Oh, sorry.” Yeah, man, me too, me too.

I go back into the station, where the shift leader offers to try to help me (they credited me for my pre-pay) and when he and I can’t figure it out, I head over to Hires, which is a short drive that I could make through the Meijer parking lot in case my trunk, which is barely latched, pops open.

After telling them what the problem is, the guy at the counter tells me it’s going to be $25 to figure out what’s wrong and who knows on the fix. Panic.Getting.Worse. See, I don’t have a lot of disposable income. Sure, I could’ve swung a couple hundred bucks (which is what the kid at the gas station said a cable had cost an uncle), but who knows what woulda had to suffer because of it.

Henry the Honda during a Spring Break 2010 snow flurry. He's 10 and has 96,000+ miles

Now, for the point of my post…The panic was exacerbated by guilt at one of the initial feelings I had. See, I had done some “nice” things for people that cost me money on Friday. I won’t go into details because that’s not important. What’s important is that I began to feel “well, hell, had I not spent money on THAT Friday, I wouldn’t be in such bad shape now.”

Never fear, I berated myself but good for thinking that even for one second. Because, here’s the thing, doing things for people feels good not because of what you get in return, but just because. Altruism. How could I be having regrets for having done something nice for someone, especially since they didn’t ask it of me? How DARE I have those regrets!

Right about the time I got my mind right about the financial burden this could cause me, in walked a mechanic (having taken my car into the shop and promptly returned it to the parking lot). Panic was still in me and when he tossed my key and work order on the counter I thought “Oh, shit, they can’t even contemplate fixing it. Hell!”

But nope, problem wasn’t they couldn’t fix it. Problem was, there was nothing for them to fix! Ha! He noticed my trunk was unlatched, fixed that problem, took it into one of the bays and There.Was.Nothing.Wrong! I was thrilled. I was willing to pay the $25 for the good news, but it was no charge, they’d done nothing. I suppose they (all 8 or 10 guys standing around) did get a good laugh when I left though. I know I did. And, I was, of course, incredibly grateful it cost me nothing. Someone is looking out for me and for this I am thankful.

Oh, and, PRF was fantastic. And, I got to judge the fashion and interview part of the queen contest.
Watch three of the four contestants sing a Lady Gaga song to earn my respec… errrr, extra credit points.

I.Love.Mongo! Probably gonna do more on that in a separate post.

Has it really been 30 years? Well, you look nothing like you did when we first met

Someone I follow on Twitter took a break from tweeting about the debt ceiling to tweet a link to this YouTube channel dedicated to the Aug. 1, 1981 launch of MTV (Music Television).
I watched it with a smile on my face, remembering the original MTV commercial and jingle, remembering the VeeJays, remembering when MTV was about music and music videos told a story.
I haven’t watched MTV in a good, long while, mostly because the last time I did it seemed to be more about reality TV shows than music. Sure, there have been spinoffs to cater to those of us old enough to remember when MTV was about music, but it’s just.not.the.same!
So I got to wondering…what happened to those original VJs, Alan Hunter, Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn, J.J. Jackson, Nina Blackwood.
Enter, the Google machine.
I typed one of their names in, and up popped a website dedicated to those original VJs. They all have Facebook and/or Twitter pages, except J.J. Jackson, who has died.
Of course, waxing nostalgic also got me thinking about cable television when it first started…my how far we’ve come. Now you record a show in one room and watch it in another. When we first had cable installed in my home (my brother, and subsequently sister, worked for our local cable company), the boxes looked like this and it was attached to the TV with a cable. If you wanted to move it around the room with you, you had to getting a longer cable to set it, say, on the coffee table.
Gosh I’m old ;o)

What you can learn from a 10-year-old

I just wrapped up an eight-day staycation: this one with a twist. I offered to take a really good friend’s 10-year-old daughter for a few days (which ended up being an entire week). Boy, the fun we had, even though some other things going on had me despairing a bit. In fact, I’m pretty sure the reason I got through my week of vacation was having a kid around.

That got me thinking, we adults could learn plenty from kids if we’re open to it. Here, in no particular order, are some of the things I learned from Miss Maria’s and my six-and-a-half days together:

*It does not matter how bad you just wanna crawl in bed and stay under the covers, there are way better things to do outside the walls of your home;
*One-on-one time is a huge self-esteem booster, so find someone special and have some one-on-one time;
*As adults, most of us stop giggling, we should giggle more like we did when we were kids;
*Even the smallest of gestures can bring happiness to someone at any given moment.

I’m sure I learned more. I’d hoped to have a top 10 list, but those four are very important and are thoughts I’ll try to hold onto as I go through the coming days, weeks, months and years.

Thanks to my friends for loaning a kid to me for the week. We had a blast.

Maria gets cuddle time with Scoop