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.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Howdy!

Yep, we've been off having fun again.  This time it was visiting Ireland. 

My wife and I both have relatives who left Ireland for the  U.S.  We thought we might get to check up on them but it just didn't happen.  It's along story but basically we just ran out of time.  Here's the 5 cent version of what DID happen. 

We left Las Vegas on March 31 and landed in Dublin on April 1; yep, April Fool's Day.  Happily no one pulled much of a prank on us so we started our journey.  We were going clockwise around the island so headed south to Wicklow.  We had a couple ideas about the trip.  First, it's been 15 years since we visited Europe so we wanted an easy entry into the different cultures we might find.  Ireland is somewhat unique but at least the people mostly understand English as we American's speak it!  We also wanted to slow down our rate of travel.  We thought that limiting ourselves to an island 300 miles long would do the trick.  Well, things don't always work out the way you'd like!

The last 15 years have brought about a lot of changes; like now you have wifi on the bus whereas 15 years ago it was cutting edge technology.  Cell phones have become almost a part of us; not having one makes you one of the invisible people.  Almost every hotel asked for our cell phone number in case they needed to contact us.  Uhh, where did they think we were staying?  But, of course, we weren't always in the room!  Hmmm, guess I'm just out of touch.  Also I can't be contacted!  It was an odd feeling and I must admit rather uncomfortable a lot of the time.

Of course driving on the left has it's own set of problems.  The manual shift wasn't one of them though I have never had a six speed to shift before.  It worked just great.  The first car did have a minor problem:  use the passenger side window and you can never get it back up!  Well, at least the AA (Automobile Assn.) guy could help me get it up!  The rental place, Enterprise, traded in our small car for a much larger one but at least this one worked. 

My wife's screams were probably heard the length and breadth of the country; apparently I got kind of close to things on the left hand side of the car.  Didn't hit anything though and I have the rental receipt to prove it!  The roads varied from absolutely fantastic motorways (M4 and M6) to tiny little roads barely wide enough for our car.  We did have to back up a couple of times and other's backed up for us a couple of times.  There were also many one lane bridges where someone waited for the other.  Interesting stuff.  We left Ireland on the 21st; on a very long flight to JFK then to Vegas.  I'm tired just writing about it!

I'll post a few photos in a few days.  Right now I'm just trying to catch up on my sleep and not do it while driving around in town.  Take care!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Life goes on

We were actually quite prepared for losing the cat.  He was old, not a world's record, but old enough and was remarkably thin.  He was clearly slowing down too sleeping more and more.  So it was his time.  We can all only hope to go so gracefully.

I did manage to find a pork butt to smoke.  No, I'm still way too slow to remember to take photos so you'll have to take my word for it that it was quite good.  The butt is actually the front shoulder of the pig (as if that mattered).  The one I had was sold in a saline solution, 4% if I recall, so I didn't think brining would do much for it.  I simply made up a rub of salt, various peppers, onion and garlic powder and tossed it into the smoker.  Smoked it for about three hours then wrapped it up and gave it another four hours in the oven.  It turned out really good.  Next time I'll try a more sophisticated rub but otherwise leave well enough alone.

We are dreaming up another trip but I'll leave that until later.  Sorry about the short post but life intrudes even upon the internet.  Have a good one.