Monday, January 30, 2012

A different rut

A while ago I was writing every day about food.  Don't know why, maybe I was just hungry.  Anyway, now I'm on birds.  Here's a new visitor for today.
We think this guy is a burrowing owl.  I apologize for the photo, he was quite a ways away and my camera, while amazing, is only a $200 point & shoot!  We've seen these owls in the neighborhood before but one has never visited us.  It's tough to tell from the photo but he is standing on the edge of our driveway about 3 feet from the road.  I came home from the store and he just stood there watching me drive in.  Wow, either brave or stupid or both! 

Tomorrow we have guys coming to do the framing for a new seating area out where we can see more mountains.  It should be fun.  I'm expecting them to pour the concrete on Wednesday.  We had the electric company out here this a.m. to identify where the electric line runs.  Pain in the you-know-what but hitting that line would be a bad thing!  There is going to be a fair amount of manual digging involved here.  Thank goodness I'm not doing it.  I'll try to remember to take photos but I'm not all that good at it. 

Have a good one.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Exciting Stuff!

Had a visitor to the bird feeder this a.m.  He/she wasn't interested in birdseed though.

You may note that there are no other birds in this photo.  Once a flock of sparrows flew through the yard and our new visitor was off like a shot to look for breakfast.  That time everyone got away.  I'm not so sure everyone was so lucky later because our visitor disappeared.  I'm not much on ornithology so I'm not sure of this guy's name.  Our bird book made the sharp shinned hawk a favorite but this guy's chest doesn't look quite right.  Who knows.

Have a good one!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Early Start...

Got up and took the dog out this a.m.  While she was doing her little doggie thing, I was looking around.  I love seeing the mountains surrounding our valley.  There is something about nature that comforts me.  Does it you?  A grove of trees or a quiet lake or the endless prairie are all, in their way, comforting.  Then I noticed the evil influence of man.

Well, it's not exactly an 'evil influence'; it's just a bunch of contrails from planes taking folks from California back east.  It's 07:00 so those folks have been up and about for at least two hours.  I'm not so certain I envy them getting up at 04:00 to catch the early flight east.  I'm liking getting in my rv by 09:00 if we are ambitious and driving a hundred or two hundred miles.  My in-laws were full time rv'ers for many years.  They always liked to leave early and stop early.  I think my wife and I have improved on that plan; we leave late and stop early.  It just makes more sense.

Why make life into a race?  What's the old saying 'All you have to do is pay taxes and die and the paying taxes may not apply'.  I'm for enjoying the process not chasing all over at top speed.  I wasn't always this way.  I used to be on the road by 07:00 to get to work; it would be at least 18:30 before I got home.  I knew where all the light switches were at work just like at home.  It was my home-away-from-home.  The seven day work week, the 02:00 call out, the missed holiday - all part of my life.  No more.  Now I'm all about looking out the window at these beautiful, rocky mountains and enjoying.

Have a good one.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

More cooking??

Yep, got all crazy the other day and bought some meat for jerky.  I only do one kind - beef.  I know people can make jerky from all kinds of other meat but beef is what my wife likes so that's what I make.  If I was a hunter I guess I'd try venison but since I'm not a hunter, well, duh! 

I get a cheap cut of beef, something with as little internal fat as possible.  I cut it up one day, marinate it overnight then dry it the second day.  You need a good sharp knife but it only takes me about an hour to cut up 3 or 4lb (just shy of 2 kg) of meat into thin strips.  Marinating brings a lot of flavor and, because you are doing it yourself, you can have it any way you like it.  Most jerky marinades I've seen start with soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce then add spices.  I use about a third soy and two-thirds Worcestershire; ending with about three-fourths of a cup (.2L)of marinade.   Then I add some liquid smoke, onion powder, garlic powder and a good handful of red pepper flakes.  I put the meat and the marinade into a large Ziplock bag, mush it around a bit to distribute the marinade and toss it in the fridge for the evening. 

If I remember I'll give the bag a turn a few times before I go to bed; it really does help to distribute the marinade.  In the morning, we are ready to dry.  It takes 15 or 20 minutes to load the meat onto the trays.  The 3 or 4 lb of meat will fill all five trays.  Because we like it spicy I add a generous grind of black pepper over each piece.  I plug the dehydrator in and we are off and running.  I've heard of people making jerky in the oven and leaving the door open all day to keep the heat down but this is just so easy.

I use a Nesco dehydrator that I bought from Amazon.  Nesco seems to have the home dehydrator market pretty well covered.  I like mine just fine but I do wish they were available with metal trays.  The plastic trays are fragile and difficult to clean.  I remember reading some recipe where the person was patting the meat dry before putting it in the dehydrator; I don't bother.  It takes about five hours to dry to the level we like; I swap the trays around about half way through the process.  Some people would probably want it dryer, some might like it less dry and more chewy.  The dehydrator has different heat settings - 95F/35C for herbs, 135F/57C for fruits and vegies, 165F/71C for meats. 

I'll end up with perhaps 8 oz. (.2kg) of jerky.  How long it lasts depends on how many people are here!  We keep it in the fridge though I doubt you really need to. 

Anyway, that's my report for the morning.  Have a good one!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Duck, duck, goose!

Ok, this is a lousy excuse for a food blog but every now and then I've just got to try.  My wife got to thinking about the tradition of having a goose for Christmas dinner.  Neither of us has ever had a goose but that didn't stop her thinking....  You KNOW you are in for it when your partner gets some weird idea.  I've done it to her plenty of times and this time I knew it was going to happen to me.  Anyway, before Christmas the frozen goose was $64 and my lovely little tightwad wife wouldn't pay it.  However, the last time we were at the store they had three or four that had been thawed; not a popular item so the marked it down to $15.  Needless to say, we bought the goose.

Yesterday was to be the big goose cook.  She'd saved up FOUR recipes for goose!  Yep, she's got it bad.  Anyway we discussed the four and finally decided to try this one that was very simple; Goose with Peppercorns and Thyme.  She slaves away in the kitchen for what seemed like hours and finally tosses the goose into the oven.  The recipe said cook it for 2.5 hours but after about an hour and a half the temperature was saying the goose was done.  OK, we left it in for a little while longer but in the end pulled it out.  We tented it for a while then sliced it up.  I had really good intentions to take some photos but forgot until the thing was half-carved.  Oh well.  Here's what the goose looked like on the un-carved side.

And here is the result of my carving efforts.

The goose was really pretty good.  I don't ordinarily go for the dark meat on a chicken or whatever but it was nice if a bit fatty.  Carving was kind of different because while the leg is simple enough to find, the thigh is quite a bit higher and farther back than on a chicken.  The wing was easy enough to remove and the breast, while much smaller than that on a chicken, carved very nicely.  The only problem for us was that the skin was not at all crispy.  We've seen cooking show after show where people are looking for crispy skin.  We definitely had limp skin.  I suppose more cooking would have cooked out more fat and it would have gotten crispy.  Who knows?  We were afraid to over cook and dry out the meat.  Anyway, now we've a pile of goose meat.  Sandwich anyone?

In other news, normally it's about 20F (-6C) when I wake, this morning it was 56F (13C) - and very windy in the bargain.  It blew down my windsock!  A storm front is blowing through; we even got a few sprinklings of moisture but not enough to measure.  It is the amount of rain that only screws up your clean car.  Glad ours is in the garage; not that it is all that clean anyway! 

Have a good one.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Quiet Day

Went out to get the paper this a.m. and got a weird photo.  It looks like a plane flew along and disturbed the cloud formation.  Like some kind of reverse contrail.  You tell me.

Had a pretty quiet day today.  Started off with breakfast at the casino.  It's ok, cheap but not amazing.  Tried our luck at gambling; after a while my wife got back to even so we quit, I was down $1.  So for the 15 minutes of wildness, she was even and I was down 20%.  Guess that should be ok with the gambling gods. 

Spent most of the rest of the morning talking about our intended changes.  As I expected the two middle guys are our favorites; each seems to bring something different to the table.  One drew a nice plan of what was wanted which comforted us that we were all on the same page.  The other talked about building a much more sturdy platform with more rebar and all.  We still haven't really made a decision but I told both that we'd do it tomorrow. 

We did find a goose at the store today that was reduced in price after the holiday.  We were looking at them before Christmas but a 10 lb (4.5 kg) goose was $60.  No, that wasn't going to happen.  Now it is down to $15 so we couldn't say no.  Well, actually, it's my wife who is all crazed to try cooking a goose.  I understand it is all a dark meat; not my fav.  But I'm willing to give it a shot.  By tomorrow night I should know whether or not I can managed eating goose.  Should be interesting.  She had 4 recipes (!) but we decided on one with thyme and peppercorns.  Maybe for once I might get a photo of dinner!  We'll see.

I've spent the last couple days looking at our portfolio.  Some of our mutual funds have gone into the lower echelon of their type.  I'm going to be moving money into some that are a bit better.  Our stocks are doing better; some aren't 'star of the moment', like Southern Co (SO) but the company is strong & the dividends are secure so I'm ok with that.  It's odd but I seem to have better luck selecting individual stocks than mutual funds but I'm not as comfortable having $50K in a single stock as I am in a mutual fund.  WTF, it's all a mind game. 

Gotta go.  Have a good one.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Concrete Guys

We've been talking for months about buying a hot tub.  We've talked to almost every company in Las Vegas; we still don't know what we want but know we need to get a proper pad for it so it's time to talk to the concrete guys.  There are still several companies in the valley who will do concrete.  That's the good news.  Which one to choose is the tough part! 

We took some yellow string and outlined the area.  Then, since we are having concrete guys out, we outlined a new seating area.  We looked at it and looked at it.  The string is becoming hard to see it is so faded!  We changed it several times; finally, just yesterday, we started calling the concrete guys.  Business isn't to pressing these days so we've gotten 4 bids in two days.  The tough part is that even with them coming out and measuring things our estimates vary from $1800 to $3500.  Hmmmm.  One time I read that when selecting a bottle of wine from a wine list you shouldn't buy the cheapest but the third cheapest would be a 'best buy'.  Using that theory I imagine one of the two guys in the middle will get the job but we'll see.  Next we have to get the electrician out to run a 240V line to the hot tub pad.  We are discussing a 120V to the seating area on the simple theory that 'as long as he is here'.

It's been kind of cool here but not bad.  We have started walking in the afternoon; not too far but 35-40 minutes.  It's good for us and good for the dog.  Haven't had any rain in a very long time but it's not that way everywhere.  My wife's family all live up in Washington state.  They are getting a snowstorm of fantastic proportions - the reporters are calling in 'Snowmageddon'.  We lived in the area for a long time.  They don't get enough snow in most years for anyone to know how to drive in the stuff.  I can't imagine how locked up the place is going to be.  It's crazy too.  Here's an article on making snow chains for your bike!  Glad that's not in my future.

I got all wild and crazy today and downloaded a new version of Firefox, a new version of Adobe Reader AND a new version of RealPlayer.  I can't see much difference actually but I'm hopeful.  I was about 5 versions back on all three softwares. 

Gotta go.  Have a good one!

Monday, January 16, 2012

More on the Vegas Trip

I completely forgot to mention one really interesting thing about my trip to Vegas.  I'm still not familiar with the city so often use GPS to route me from A to B.  I'm never calm enough to set it up before getting on the road so I fumble with it a fair amount.  Well, last week I managed to change the language to Afrikaans!  Happily it is close enough to Dutch that I could mostly understand what it was telling me.  Amazing. 

Our daughter came over for dinner on Saturday.  She brought a movie with her, Moneyball, the new Brad Pitt movie.  I was actually impressed.  We all thought it was a very good movie though I must say I know next to nothing about baseball.  All the player trades and statistical analysis was actually made interesting.  I think the ladies were mostly watching Pitt but I thought Jonah Hill did a great job at the nerdy economist/statistical analyst. 

I took the truck out for a little exercise the other day.  It's a 4x4 so I like to find a bit of dirt and exercise the front axle stuff.  I went part way up the alluvial fan that forms the side of the Spring Mountains.  Here is a photo of the valley view from up there.
You can see a few scruffy Joshua trees in the distance but most of the vegetation is just scrub.  On the floor of the valley are homes spread out here and there with the Last Chance mountains on the other side of the valley. 

Gotta go.  Have a good one!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Trip to Vegas

As I said in a previous post, we have been staying close to home but it came time for a trip to the big city.  My wife was invited but decided that she would just as soon stay at home so I had a nice quiet drive to myself.  It gives you plenty of time to think random thoughts.  We have about 30 miles of this kind of road - note the nice wide shoulder.

The highway department, in it's wisdom, ordains some of the shoulder as a bike lane.  However for some reason, out in the middle of nowhere, we have a sign "Bike Lane Ends".  Ok, maybe it's an inch too narrow or some crap but how the devil is a biker supposed to get home?  Who knows. 

Later on, close to Vegas, I came upon a biker riding ON the white line.  Now, that's just stupid!  I give bikes a lot of room; will move into the other lane if traffic permits, but to ride ON the line is just cruising for an accident.  Lots of people don't move over and will even crowd a bike.  Pushing it when you are on the bike is stupid.

The speed limit when we come into the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin is 50 mph (80kph) and I generally keep to it.  I was within a mile of the city limit and someone who has been following me for at least 5 minutes decides they just can't stand it any more and zooms around me.  Of course, I caught them at the first stop light.  What were they thinking?  If they pass when you've got 10 more minutes in your drive, ok.  They might get through that first light but when you've got a minute before you hit the city streets?  Who knows!

Finally I was ready to come home.  Remember I showed a photo of someone who is building a Catholic mission here in the valley?  Here's the other side of the coin. 
Prostitution is legal in rural Nevada.  It's NOT legal in Las Vegas or Reno, the major population centers, but here it is legal.  And the Cherry Patch Bar is much more than a bar.  They say 'Cat House Souvenirs' - I guess that's a new term for it.  But since I know absolutely nothing about it and Mr. Hof has at least four brothels and a tv show about them; I'm thinking he knows what he's doing.

Well, that was my trip.  Hope you enjoyed the random thoughts.  Have a good one.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Thank Goodness!

I've just realized that it is the second week of January 2012 and I haven't had to write the year yet!  Thank goodness, back in the mists of time it would take me at least a month to remember to write the new year.  Now the computer takes care of all that nasty stuff for me.  I knew computers were good for something.

We are having a quiet 2012 so far.  Have only gone into Pahrump three times much less going into Las Vegas.  One of our excuses for not going anywhere is the amount of leftover food we have!  Making a ham, even a small one, when there are only two of you is basically a silly thing to do.  Ham sandwiches, fried ham, ham and cheese omelets, ham stuffed peppers, ham & bean soup - there's a lot that can  be done with ham and I'm afraid we are doing all of them.  Of course making the ham when we had leftover enchiladas and frijoles from Christmas Eve wasn't a great idea but we were in the mood for ham.  I think we have crossed the pass though and can consider buying food again.  I'm almost looking forward to it!

We have been having some beautiful weather but that may be at an end.  Today it's not really cold but the wind is definitely blowing.  It's sunny, of course, we don't have a lot of cloud activity.  We have a driveway that goes into the back yard (so we can store the RV back there).  I thought the shadows were pretty cool so I took this photo on the last day of 2011.
We have a solid wall with a double gate for the RV and a smaller pedestrian gate in the foreground.  The ground is covered with three different types of rock; we are big into xeriscaping wanting to leave the house in our RV and not having to worry about irrigation.  When we lived in Florida it seemed every time we left the state our irrigation would spring a leak somewhere.  Happily our neighbors would come shut the darned thing off when they noticed it.

For those of you, like me, who enjoy traditional English mysteries, I've only just discovered a woman named Jill Paton Walsh who has taken notes left by Dorothy L. Sayers and written three new Wimsey books.  Don't ask why I only just discovered a book she wrote a book in 1998 but it's certainly got something to do with my head and sand.  Anyway, I think she did a very good job of writing in the style of Ms. Sayers. 

Gotta go do something even if it is wrong.  Have a good one!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

More cooking!

We had a small ham between Christmas and New Years and today was the day the bone got to become the centerpiece in ham & bean soup.  I'm the soup lover in the family so I get to make the soups.  Seems fair I guess!  Anyway, I slaved away over the soup this a.m.  Of course it's not exactly tough!  Beans and ham bone get to cook together in some water & broth; then when things are nearing done out comes the bone and in go some vegies & seasonings.  When they are done, use the immersion blender to beat things about a bit and add the ham that you have cut off the bone.  Voila!  Often I forget to remove the bay leaves before blending - nasty!  Or add the ham then remember to blend it - equally nasty.  This time, by some miracle, I did the whole thing in the proper order so all is good. 

Neither of us has been out of the house for more than about five minutes all day.  That's probably because we spent all afternoon outside yesterday.  This is the mildest winter we've spent here and yesterday it must have been close to 70F (21C).  We sat on the porch in the sun and solved all the worlds problems with the help of a bottle of wine.  Tough duty but someone has to do it.  And let me tell you, the world is going to get along much better now that we've got it all settled!  Whoever designed that porch on the south side of the house did a great job.  Now when the sun is relatively low, the porch is covered in sunshine.  In the summer when the sun is higher in the sky, the porch is shady.  It's just really nice, simple, effective design.

I recall saying we had our lucky meal, Hoppin John, on New Years Day.  We didn't get to the casino to try our luck until the 3rd but I'm happy to report that the meal did the trick.   Neither of us gamble much; we each take $5 and when it's gone we leave.  Well, this time my wife turned her $5 into $10 and I was up to $6.25 so we quit while we were ahead.  I don't know what kind of money 'real' gamblers wager but I'm thinking more than $5.  Joe from Vegas says the fireworks show the casinos put on was $500,000 worth; it would be tough to cover that on $5 gamblers!

Gotta go.  Have an exceptionally good one.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Hoppin John

Dan asked about Hoppin John so here's the story.  We've lived in Florida enough to feel some relationship to the South.  (Of course Florida is Florida not 'the South'.)  But there is a tradition that if you eat this concoction on New Years Day you have good luck all year.  There are a million recipes but the basic idea is a pound of dried blackeyed peas, a couple of smoked ham hocks or some ham, onion and a cup of rice.  You cook the peas for a while with the ham then add the rice and cook that.  Spices can range from red pepper flakes to jalapenos.  Some recipes have various vegies, like green pepper or celery added but we've never done that.  We've been having Hoppin John on New Years Day since the early 1980's!  Strange how these traditions get going.

This morning I'm on cooking duty with orders to produce an omelet.  This particular recipe was stolen from my wife's step-father; I've no idea where he got it since this is the only thing I've ever seen him cook.  You cook up a chorizo sausage with some canned green chilis and a couple mushrooms.  You also need a couple pieces of bacon.  You put your eggs in a blender with a little onion and some chili powder and get them blended smooth.  Put the egg mixture in a pan and cook until the bottom is firm and the top isn't moving about any more.  Now flip the omelet.  Put the sausage mixture inside and fold the omelet in half.  Sprinkle on some grated cheese.  Lay the bacon on top and smother with canned tomato sauce.  I usually use about half of an 8 oz. can for each omelet.  It's really pretty good though it is certainly looks a mess.

The only other thing on my dance card today is to get in a nice walk.  We were walking almost every day but my wife got a cold then the holidays were upon us and somehow we ceased walking.  That's bad so we are getting back into the swing.  We only walked a couple days in November and a couple in December; we are planning on doing much better this month.  It's good for us and good for the dog; what's not to like?

Gotta go get cooking.  Have a good one.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year!

Well, we made it to 2012.  2011 was pretty interesting so this year could be more of the same.  Hope that isn't too depressing an idea!  LOL  A stock market that bounces around like crazy can be a little aggravating, the Euro is far from anyone's favorite currency, and, of course, we are now in an election year.  That alone makes everyone a little concerned.  It should be wild.

Last night we had a Grilled Kurobuta Pork Loin Chop that we purchased at a real butcher shop in Las Vegas.  Kurobuta is pork from a Berkshire pig; the true Kurobuta is raised in Japan; what we found was simply a very high quality imitation raised here in the states.  I haven't been in a butcher shop in years.  Cool to find someone so knowledgeable about meat.  He did a great job of answering our questions about the meat, how to cook it, all that good stuff.

My wife and I are having a quiet day today.  She made Hoppin' John, the lucky dish, to bring luck for New Year.  I'll go to the casino tomorrow and let you know if it worked.  Yeah, sure!  Going to the casino might be in the cards but you can bet the odds on winning are the same as they were yesterday.

Here's hoping 2012 is good to us all.  Take care!