Sunday, June 14, 2015

Photo Op

We had a visitor to the bird bath the other day; a young hawk.  Needless to say there weren't a lot of other birds hanging around!  He didn't stay long but did hang around for one portrait.
The birdbath is attracting attention these days.  It's getting warm outside and everyone needs a little water.  We even had a crow stop by one day.  (No photo, he was shy and quick.)  Plenty of the ordinary birds:  pigeons, doves, sparrows and finches are the most common.  Once in a while we spot a newbie but this isn't exactly on the way to anywhere!

I mentioned the fun with the septic tank.  Found a photo that gives one an idea of the job.
This big old tanker truck with a tractor on a trailer was just the thing.  The top of the tank is about four feet down (1.2M) so we were all glad the guy had a tractor.  No one knew exactly where the openings were so he used a tool to probe around in the ground then proceded to dig in exactly the right place.  You've gotta say it might be a stinky job but he sure knew what he was doing.  Yes, the black thing in the photo is the 'straw' they use to suck up the sewage.

I said it's getting warm.  Here's the latest from the Fox news in Las Vegas.
That's 39C-41C for our highs and around 27C for lows.  Needless to say we are running the a/c a lot.  It is basically 24/7 now for a while.  We like to walk around our neighborhood but when it is this warm we either go really early or not at all.  A new alternative is for us (wifey needs exercise too) go to the gym.  Yes, I said  gym.  It's not a word you've heard from my mouth (keyboard) before but there it is.  As part of my medical care under Medicare (health plan for oldies here in the states) I have a gym membership.  I haven't used it much but these days a treadmill in an airconditioned building is better than walking in the neighborhood at 05:30 or so.  I tried out a stationary cycle; found muscles I didn't know I had in 2 miles.  I tried out an eliptical stepper thing; yep, more muscles I didn't know I had.  Finally tried the treadmill; at least I can do that!  I strained my foot back when we were in Ireland and 15 minutes on the treadmill make it quite painful.  There is something about the surface that is harder on my foot than ordinary walking.  Still, gotta move it or lose it.  They also have strength-training machines.  These are weird machines I've never seen and can hardly figure out how to use even when I'm reading the directions!  I tried two of them:  one for your chest and one for your abs.  I guess they are ok but it's another episode of 'old dog, new tricks'.  As though the new pc wasn't enough.

That's it for today.  My spouse wants to go to the gym again.  Stock market hint:  buy Advil!  Have a good one.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

More Life in the Fast Lane

We are spending most of our time inside these days since the triple digit days are here.  Actually we are hovering in the high 90's most days but we have seen 101F (38C).  To bring some excitement to my life I have just purchased a new computer:  an HP Envy 17" laptop.  Wow is that some learning curve!  My old machine is from 2008 and had a pretty basic version of Windows Vista.  I know some people had a lot of trouble with Vista but actually I was fairly happy.  The new machine is Windows 8.1; it has lots more screen (!) and it's a touchscreen to boot.  So far it's acceptable but from time to time it decides to cancel what I've typed or delete an email without consulting me.  It's just learning curve I keep telling myself!

 One thing that has me going is the amount of software that I'm needing to download to make this thing work.  I forgot how many extra pieces of software are on the old machine.  Of course the stuff HP put on here is not my style at all.  It's a good thing we have a decent internet connection because I'm going to be using it!

Otherwise we did exciting stuff like having our septic tank pumped out.  That was a thrill!  We didn't know where the tank was; there is a pipe coming out of the ground but as it turns out the pipe is 2 feet west of the actual tank opening and 5 feet south.  Happily the guy who did it knows what he is doing and found the tank relatively quickly.  Then he had to dig down about three feet to the tank, remove both the caps and empty both chambers.  Two and a half hours and $500 later; we should be good for another 8-10 years. 

Anyway, that's it for today.  I'd post a photo or two but haven't resized them.  Maybe there is something on the machine that would do it but I don't recognize it if it is here.  Grrr!  Later

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Still here!

No I haven't dried up and blown away quite yet but it's getting close.  Actually my wife and I have been occupied with planning a couple more trips in the not too distant future.  These will be much closer to home but should be fun anyway.  I'll fill you in more later.  Can't post a photo of someplace I haven't been yet, can I?

We have had pretty good weather but it's getting warm enough to make firing up the bbq rather than warming the house using the stove or oven a valid consideration.  The lesser cleanup with the bbq has absolutely nothing to do with our choices I promise.  I was looking at a video about smokers (food smokers!) the other day and the presenters ended with 'You can never have too many smokers or bbq's'.  Well, I'm approaching the limit I think!  We have a full size Wever kettle; a Weber gas grill and now the smoker.  That's a lot of iron on the back patio!  Of course I didn't mention the little Coleman grill that we carry on the trailer   Hmmm.  Can I spell addiction?

However I must admit to using all this stuff.  The Weber kettle gets the least use just because I'm too lazy to get charcoal going before we are actually starving.  I do love the charcoal taste.  The gas grill gets used at least once a week and often three times.  The smoker is taking it's place somewhere between the kettle and the gas.  You kind of need all day to smoke something so it's not a spur of the moment thing.  That's not even considering marinades which are used quite a bit.  I did learn something new last week though:  reverse sear.

"Reverse sear" as I understand it works like this.  It is a technique for a small piece of meat like a steak.  you smoke it to add flavor then sear it to finish the cooking.  In this case we had a couple of t-bones that were a bit more than a pound each.  So you do whatever you want to with them first.  We marinate in soy sauce and worchestershire for 20-30 minutes; they get to come up to room temp during that time as well.  So now we put them in the smoker for an hour or so.  This is how they looked when they came out.  I cannot tell you how soft they felt; almost like completely raw meat.

So after an hour in the smoker I fire up the gas grill.  These Weber gas grills go from 0-60 pretty much like a Corvette - fast!  So now I grill the steaks for 1.5 minutes on a side.   For us it was a little too much.  Next time I'd probably use a minute on each side.  (Without the smoking, I do my wife's steak for 2 minutes on a side and mine for 3 minutes on a side and it's pretty perfect medium-rare.  My wife's steak lets out a little 'moo'!)  After resting for a few while my wife made some potatoes to go with the steaks it makes a nice plate doesn't it.  There is still some pink to the steak but not a lot.

Sorry but getting cross-checking grill marks in 3 minutes is beyond me.  Guess I'll lose Master Chef!  Have a good one and I'll be back later!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The end of Ireland as we saw it

Finally!  I know.  All these photos of someone else's vacation are boring.  Sorry.  It seems to be a totally human characteristic though.  Certainly I've seen qute a few vacation photos in my life.  Anyway.

We basically ran out of time to see all we wanted to see in Ireland.  We wanted three or four days in Dublin and we just had to skip Northern Ireland.  We'll just have to include it in another trip.  We both have family from that area so there is some motivation.  However this trip we got on the motorway in Galway and headed east for Dublin.  We thought we'd stop at the Tullamore distillary but when we finally found it there was no parking so we decided to keep going.  Finally we found the Kilbeggen distillary and toured that!  Actually I don't think they do much here but it was a great old time distillary water powered with gears all over the place.  I took a TON of photos because real old time machinery is a facination but I won't bore you with them.  Here's just the one.
So then we finally made it to Dublin.  Went to the airport and turned in the car; who needs a car in a city?  And it turned out that about 80% of the traffic in downtown Dublin was buses!  While at the airport we stopped at the tourist counter and had them find us a downtown hotel - for only 115 euro a night!  We were amazed!  It was the Cassidy Hotel; rather old and some of the work that was done on it over the years wasn't the best but it was actually pretty good.  We'd certainly stay there again!  The big thing was that it was downtown.  We could and did walk almost everywhere.  The hotel is on Upper O'Connell street which is a great location.  Just down the street was this weird thing.
It has no name or anything to identify it; it's just this tall tapering thing.  Dublin was great.  Lots of older building with lots of character that are being re-used for modern stores.  Of course we went to see the Book of Kells (photography not permitted) and Trinity College but mostly we just enjoyed the city.  We did find the worst bar in town:  the Bruxelles in the Temple Bar district.  It was only the second place in Ireland where we had bad service but certainly the worst by a mile.  The bartender couldn't even be bothered to pour the Guinness properly!  What a tourist trap. 

So then we wandered back across the Atlantic and home.  We were more than happy to be back.  Three weeks in hotels is trying even if they are nice places. 

Next time I'll talk about our future travel plans.  Yep, there's more on tap.  Have a good one!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Jeez, what's with my blogging?

I just am not doing very well with this blogging thing.  I don't have a good excuse; hell, I don't have ANY excuse.  This is a great time of year around here.  Temps are in the 70-80 range (21-27C) and it's not too cool at night.  This means the air conditioner and the heat both get some time off.  It helps offset the mid-summer time when it runs 24/7 and our monthly electric bill can reach $300. 

I'm not sure what happened while we were gone, the neighbor says nothing, but the weeds just took over our yard!  Being on the wrong side of 65 years old and overweight, an hour or so of weed picking is all I'm up for so we've got several weeks of work here.  Then toss in a few days when I'm recovering from the previous day's weed picking and you can see it could take a very long time.  Makes me want to think of more pleasant things, like Ireland!

After following around the Ring of Kerry we wanted to go North along the coast.  The owner of our B&B very kindly suggested that there is a ferry that would cut off several hours driving.  He didn't have to suggest it twice!  We raced off to get the 11:30 ferry.  This being Ireland and the roads being as fine as they are; we made the 12:30 ferry by the skin of our teeth!  We were the last car on.  There wasn't a lot to do because it's a very short trip across the wide Shannon river but it was cold!

One of the sights you are supposed to see without fail are the Cliffs of Moher.  It is wild and beautiful but I've got to say that the best photos of the cliffs are going to be taken from either a boat that is offshore or a helicopter.  This was my best effort.

This coast of Ireland is mostly rock.  There is an area called the Burren where the rock is about all there is to see.  The famous description of the area dating from the 1640's describes it as "a savage land, yielding neither water enough to drown a man, nor tree to hang him, nor soil enough to bury."
I like that photo because it not only shows the Burren but it shows what was rather typical of the roads we found.  It is hard surfaced but narrow; sometimes there is a center line and sometimes it is too narrow for two lanes.  At that time either you or the other driver has to kind of dive for the side and let the other pass.  It's interesting enough when you meet another car but meeting a bus gives you a whole new appreciation for small cars!  Most of Ireland had either fences or hedgerows along side the road.  Only here in the Burren do you get sheets of rock.  There was more that one occasion when meeting someone that the side of our car was pelted by the weeds in the hedgerow.  Happily we never hit any of the rocks or fence posts.

Thanks for stopping by.  I'll try to figure out something interesting to do so I can blog about it!  Take care.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It's not ALL about our travels!

Though today seems like it might be!  I've spent quite a lot of time selecting photos to load to Flickr to share with the family and resizing them in the process.  It takes time but hopefully is worth it.  However, there are other things going on at the old homestead. 

For example, we had a special visitor last night at the bird feeder.
The doves are typically here late in the afternoon.  The bunny isn't usually here!  While we were in Ireland the weeds grew quite a bit in our yard and I'm hoping that Mr. Bunny is eating some of them.  Well, when he isn't filling up on birdseed. 

This morning I was all energetic; I've no excuse.  Sorry.  But I made breakfast of toasted cheese sandwiches with prosciutto and a bit of mustard.  Pretty good if I do say so!  The butter was just from the fridge so the browning was kind of spotty but it didn't bother me a bit.

Then I got started dealing with some pieces of pork sirloin that we bought a couple days ago.  We got this long plastic tube with about five pieces of pork sirloin in it.  Each was somewhere between one and two pounds (something under a KG).  I froze some but two were headed for the smoker.  I used a rub of salt, brown sugar, chili powder, onion powder and garlic powder. 

I smoked it for three hours using a combination of apple wood and hickory chips.  Then we brought them in and put them covered in a pan in a 225F oven for another four hours. 
We had to try a bit from the one on the right; it's pretty tasty.  Two forks pull the meat apart nicely so I'm thinking it is done.  Now the trick is not to dive in right away but let them rest.  That's the hard part!

That's all the news for today.  Have a good one!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Still recovering!

It's been a week since we returned from Ireland and we are still recovering.  It took us between three and four days on each end of the trip to get to feeling normal again.  That's longer than when we were younger but acceptable I guess. 

We got home to some nice cool weather; about the same as in Ireland as a matter of fact!  Then twice last week it actually rained.  Yep, we get rain here once in a while.  The rain was much harder than any we experienced in Ireland!  There we had light misty rain; this was a regular thunderstorm complete with lightning.  Happily it didn't cause any mud slides. 

I've been going through some of the approximately 600 photos we took during our three week trip.  That's not as bad as the number we took when visiting China last year but it's still daunting.  Our trip started and ended in Dublin.  We wanted to see as much coastline as we could so we traveled in a clockwise direction around to Galway where we drove across the country to return to Dublin.  Originally we wanted to continue up to Northern Ireland but we just ran out of time.  Here is a map roughly showing our route in blue with towns where we stayed underlined in yellow.  A couple of the towns were way too small to be on the map so I just left a yellow line there to indicate the approximate position of the town.

I'm going to add photos is pretty much a random order; there are just so many!  After landing at Dublin airport north of town we took the ring road around town and headed south for Wicklow.  Why there?  No reason; it was just the first largish town in the direction we wanted to go.  We needed to find a place for the night before falling asleep in the car.  Then next day was when we first saw the coastline we'd been looking for.  It was kind of cool and rainy but not bad.

There are a few photos that I'll toss in that typify Ireland for us.  Here is one showing the lovely green countryside and the nearness of the sea.

I don't often think of the ties that bind our two countries but they are certainly there.  We stopped at a hotel/pub/restaurant in the town of Kinsale ssouth of Cork on the seacoast.  As we were leaving I noticed this memorial they created for firefighters lost on 9-11.  There must be some local tie but I found it rather touching to find this in just an ordinary hotel.

I'll end with something traditional:  kissing the Blarney Stone.  We both had to do it.  It was way up in this old tower.  I didn't like those steps and they didn't like me but I got up them anyway.  So now I'm an official silver-tongued devil.
The guy is there to be sure no fat Americans get stuck in the hole!  As my wife says it sure would have been easier to do this when I was 45 rather than 65.  I'll be sharing more photos as I get them resized.  Take care.