Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Did It In 24 Words

I stole, I mean borrowed, this an idea from my nephew Michael a few years ago. I thought I'd revisit it again this year.

So, here is my year in 25 words or less:

i was fired via fedex
crocheted a lot
cubs' season sucked
learned to cook
cathie visited
found acupuncture again
finally pain free
still unemployed

Ok, not a stellar year, but nothing catastrophic for me. Then again, that pain free part is worth the world to me. And, I'm hopeful that 2010 will be a winner! A new beginning and I am full of hope.

As a side note, today would have been my sister Barbara's birthday. Happy birthday, my sister. After all of these years, I still miss you terribly.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Please Explain: Red Lobster

We enjoyed some Christmas booty gift card goodness tonight!

One of our presents this year was a Darden gift certificate. In our area, this is good at Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze (one of our FAVORITE places, but it's way on the other side of Cleveland), Olive Garden and LongHorn Steak House.

Ron and I decided to go out to dinner tonight but we didn't want to drive too far. Hence, Red Lobster.

If you've never been to a Red Lobster, let me give you the run down. It's a national chain with decent food. Is it exceptional food? No. Is it good food? Yes. I think it's a little high priced as I've had better seafood for less money, but it's ok once in awhile. Or, when you're enjoying Christmas booty gift cards!!

But, back to the restaurant. What I can't understand is that this restaurant is packed; all of the time! No matter when you drive by Red Lobster, the parking lot is packed. If you do find a place to park, the restaurant always has a line of customers waiting for a table.

I don't get it. Overpriced, albeit decent food but a constant line to get in? The high point of going to a Red Lobster has to be their service. We've been there twice now in the last month and I'm telling you, they have some of the best servers in the business. Each server made sure that our dining experience was the best it could be. She educated us on the choices available, made a few suggestions to help our decision making process and even scored us some extra rolls.

Ok, Red Lobster cheddar biscuits, rolls or whatever they are, are absolutely some of the best things I've ever had! We had a couple left over after dinner and Alicia, our server, suggested a bag to take the biscuits home. When she brought the to go bag for us, she even threw in a couple of extra biscuits for us! C'mon now, that's a SCORE!

So there you go. It was a very nice dinner, a great evening out with my honey. So, location was a deciding factor for us going to Red Lobster, but what about the other 50 people waiting in line to get a table? On a Wednesday night? I don't get it. Tavern on the Green is closing tomorrow but Red Lobster in Elyria Ohio is raking it in hand over fist.

It has to be the servers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Sight Rarely Seen

Yes, it's true. Phil shoveling snow!

If you didn't see it, you might not believe it. But, yesterday we couldn't get the riding lawn mower/plow started. The battery finally died to the point that it couldn't even be charged with our battery charger.

Yes, I know it's December and we do live in Ohio. But, that first good snow fall still comes as a bit of a shock. I took the second picture when it wasn't even snowing at its worst yesterday! Just after this picture, it did get so bad outside that I couldn't see this fence across the street. Luckily it didn't last too long like that, but long enough to have to get the snow off of the driveway.

So, I grabbed a shovel and started the job by hand. If anyone has seen our driveway, it's a good long one, plus the parking pad behind the house.

You know my back is feeling better when my happy ass is out there shoveling! So, I did part and then Phil came home and took over the shoveling duties.

Phil even suggested the picture of him shoveling to commemorate the occasion! Great job, my brother!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winner Winner Turkey Dinner!

Anyone who is as addicted to the Food Network like I am can tell I watch Guy Fieri with that title! Is he the bomb or what?! But, I digress.

The turkey came out great! Here is the turkey still in the pan before carving. It was a beauty to behold.

The three of us macked on a dinner of roasted turkey, stuffing, home made gravy made from pan drippings (a FIRST for me!), mashed sweet potatoes and creamed spinach. It was a great meal.

I'll tell you one thing, the triptophan from this turkey really hit me between the eyes. I picked up the kitchen, and pretty much just put the carcase in the fridge. I usually clean off the carcase the night I make the turkey but I was just too tired.

Ron and I came upstairs and I tried to play Pogo and I tried to watch TV but I couldn't even keep my eyes open. I ended up laying down for a 15 minute power nap. Man, that helped like no one's business!

So now I look around my house and what do I see? It desperately needs cleaned, top to bottom! Is it going to get done today? Oh heck no. That's what Mondays are for. Today, I am going to relax, and crochet my heart out while watching trash TV. Now that's what holiday weekends are all about.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa Was Here!

In case any one out there doesn't know it, Santa lives here in the off season! The heck with the cold of the North Pole. In truth, Santa loves Lorain! Here he is coming out of his room last night, on his way to Bay Village to spread the Christmas joy!

For Christmas Eve dinner last night, we went all out. With no family left, all of the old traditions are lost forever and some times I miss that. So, since I didn't have the traditional Slovak Christmas Eve dinner of babulki and sweet rice last night do you wanna know what we had? Pizza! Yes, pizza!

Unfortunately, we weren't thinking too clearly about a need for pizza on Christmas Eve. We started with one of our new favorite places in town, Selenti's Pizza. They closed at five o'clock. That sucked at 5:30 when I was trying to call for pizza! Plan "B" was to just go grab a couple of $5.00 pizzas from Little Caesar's Pizza. Wrong. They were closed already as well. What the heck! Luckily Ron was thinking and came up with Plan "C"! We headed over to Georgio's for the $3.99 pizzas! In a pinch, they were just fine.

After dinner, Santa headed out on his present delivering mission. When Santa got home last night from delivering all of the toys, we had our Christmas. If I do say so myself, I made out pretty darn good!

From the dutch oven that I wanted to fru fru girl stuff to my Wrigley Field sign and "bear hug" night shirt! Hey, a girl should ALWAYS know which direction to Wrigley Field. This could be our year! But, I digress.

So there you go. It's finally Christmas Day, the turkey is roasting in the oven and we're all still in jammies playing on our computers. I feel the love here, huh?

Brother Jim will come to town on Sunday for a few days of laughing, arguing and family time. I'm saving the turkey pot pie dinner for him! And for the record, I make a darn good pot pie!

So that's all the news worth printing here from Ohio. May we all find peace and happiness in this Blessed season, and throughout the New Year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Another Good Visit

My friend from when I was in diapers, Maura, and her husband John, come up almost every year from Florida at Christmas time.

It's usually a stop to see his family in Virginia, her family in Erie and a stop to see me in Ohio on their way home! What a trip, huh? Especially for Floridians in the winter time!

Well, this year, the huge storm that hit the east coast has put their trip in peril. They tried to make it to Virginia as planned, but Virginia was virtually closed. His family told them to turn around, there was no way they were making it in the weather. So a last minute change of plans turned out to be good for me. They headed westward, missed some of the horrible weather and they were able to make it to Ohio instead.

We had a few days of giggles (no matter how old we are, Maura and I ALWAYS giggle!), lots of catching up, cooking and bread making. I'm telling you, it was a good visit!

I even had Maura go with me to my acupuncture appointment. All I had to worry about was her charming Frank, my acupuncturist, into letting HER put in the needles! Yeah, I didn't think about that until I was on the table already! Fortunately for me, Frank kept control of the needles and all was good in my world.

So, after forty six years of friendship, we actually found a few things to do together that we've never done before, namely, the acupuncture. And they've said it couldn't be done!

So, that's been my week. I've been having fun with visitors and celebrating the Season. What else can a girl ask for?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Public Service Announcement

This is just a public service announcement. This is free of charge and meant only to educate my readers so that you don't have to find this out on your own.

If you bake potatoes in the oven, when you use a pot holder to take a potato OUT of the oven, please make sure you place said spud on the counter securely. That is my advice to you.

I happen to know from experience that if that potato is NOT on the counter securely and it happens to roll off of the counter and on to the floor, it will freakin' EXPLODE when it hits the floor.

Now, Ron was nice enough to point out that at least that meant that the potato was done, that didn't help with the clean up which by the way was a good six foot radius from the point of impact. Have you ever tried to clean up hot baked potato from your floor? Yeah. Not pretty.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Need A Salon

I have been talking about needing a haircut for a couple of months now. It's just not something that was important enough to be put into my budget.

However, it's been a year since my last hair cut, my ends were so dry and yucky, I just had to bite the bullet and go for a cut.

The last place I went to for a cut was a salon in the area. The girl that did my hair was wonderful, and listened to what I said and cut my hair exactly like I wanted it! I just love it.

She called me a few months later and told me that she had left the salon and gave me the number of her next salon. I actually gave her a call there about a month ago, and came to find out she's no longer at THAT salon either. Grrr.

Since I've moved to Ohio, I've just gone to a Best Cuts or something similar for a hair cut. But, you get what you pay for. These places mostly seem to employ people right out of school and not all that sure what to do with their scissors. I actually broke down on the last hair cut, paid a few extra dollars and loved the results.

Since I couldn't find my stylist again, I decided to give that salon another try.

I found their phone number on the Internet and called them last Friday hoping to get in sometime in the week before Christmas for a hair cut only. I couldn't believe the rigmarole I had to go through to get a freakin' haircut! The way she was talking, I am assuming that I was talking to the owner.

Owner: Can I help you?
Me: Yes, I'd like to make an appointment for next week to come in for a hair cut.
Owner: Um, well, which stylist do you normally go to?
Me: I don't have a particular stylist in mind. Are you accepting new clients?
Owner: Well, yes, but you'd have to call the individual stylist on their cell phones to make an appointment.

* * * * * * * * silence * * * * * * * *

Me: Is there someone you recommend?
Owner: Well, I guess you could call (unintelligible). Hang on while I find her number.
Me: Could you spell her name for me?
Owner: (with disgust) It's C - L - Y
Me: Thank you. (duh, why couldn't I figure that out?)

So, I wait and wait, not understanding why I can't make an appointment just calling the main line to the salon.

Owner: The number is xxx-xxxx.


Damn! Maybe I've just been watching too many episodes of Tabatha's Salon Takeover (don't you just LOVE that show?????) but this is piss poor customer service.

I hung up with what I am assuming was the owner and decided to just go back to Best Cuts. Ugh, my second mistake.

I finally went for my cut on Thursday.

The girl that did my hair was very perky and personable and a pleasure to chat with for the 10 minutes I was in her chair. She told me that she's been working in this Best Cuts for six years now and was very happy there. I thought that was a darn good sign that she wasn't just out of school and has at least six years experience! I wanted a basic cut. I wanted about five inches chopped off, a few layers put in and long bangs. I hate having to trim bangs every two weeks to keep them out of they eyes or to prevent them from flipping. Not for me.

So, my glasses are in my hands so I can't see a thing, she's cutting away and chatting and I have no idea what she's doing. At the end, she asks me what I think so I put my glasses on and give it a quick once over. The length is right where I wanted it, a few layers in there, eh, it looked ok to me.

Friday night we go to dinner with our friends, so I thought I'd get a little dolled up. I had a little product in my hair and thought I'd go all out and even run the curling brush through it. That's like a curling iron, but it's a brush instead of just an iron. It saves me on having any burnt ear lobes!

The first section of hair I grabbed at the crown of my head, I couldn't believe how uneven this was! It was a good inch higher on one side than the other. What the hell! I know little to nothing about hair cuts, but even I could tell that something was wrong! It's funny because when I came home on Thursday, even Ron mentioned that the haircut didn't look straight. I kinda brushed that comment off thinking it's cold out, some of my hair is probably inside of my jacket, he's just not looking at it right. Man, he sure ended up knowing what he was talking about.

Each section of my hair seemed to be off. I had a heck of a time rolling any of the sections around that damn brush! Oh well.

Now that I have a little curl, a little hair spray, it doesn't look horrible, but I know it's a crap haircut. I know I should go back and make her fix it, but I'm kinda afraid to go back there again and let her at my hair! She may be nice, but she sucked at cutting my hair!

So . . . where do you go to get a decent hair cut? I don't do color, or extensions or foils or any of that other magic. I just want a decent hair cut. Am I asking too much?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Laws Of Physics Did Not Apply

Yesterday, I had a hankering for supper to have some comfort food.

There are a handful of things I make for comfort food (remember my orange spaghetti stories!) and one of the things on my list is our potato pancakes.

Now this is a relatively simple dish, but it is time consuming. First of all, you need the perfect grater, which is shown to the left. This grater has to have the exactly right sized holes and not all graters do.

Some have said that I should move up to the food processor age and do my pancakes that way. But, i say nay to that. I don't think the food processors grate the potatoes to the correct consistency. You have to have THIS grater.

Along with the correct grater, you need the perfect potatoes. You can't just decide right now that you want to have potato pancakes. You have to decide you're going to have them about three to four weeks from now. You really need old Idaho potatoes - the more eyes on them the better! New potatoes just don't work right, just ask my sister Cathie. She had an entire batch she had to throw out because new potatoes suck in pancakes.

It's a simple recipe. Grate as many potatoes as you're going to eat, then do a few more because these are great to munch on each time you walk through the kitchen after dinner.

Add an egg or two, some salt and pepper to taste and then flour. You add enough flour so that when you put a spoon full of the mixture into the hot Crisco, it doesn't spatter from too much water in the batter. That's it. Really easy. The hard part is frying all of the pancakes in the hot oil. There's nary a pancake dinner that goes by that I don't have at least one burn from the grease. But, it's so worth it.

Now with three of us here, I make a lot more pancakes than I used to. The best pan to fry these pancakes in is a cast iron skillet. I have one cast iron skillet that is 10" big and I fit four pancakes at a time. That's just too slow to feed three of us.

So, I grab my 10" stainless steel fry pan and put four more pancakes in there. They do fry up ok in the stainless steel, but it's a lot slower. I will get two batches made in the cast iron skillet in the time it takes to do one batch in the stainless steel skillet. Well, a little help using the stainless steel is better than nothing.

I can't tell you how many batches I've made this way in my years of cooking. Piece of cake, I could do it in my sleep.

Well, yesterday I was like in the twilight zone or something as something just wasn't right.

The potatoes are regular Idaho potatoes from Sam's Club. I thought they were at least three weeks old, but maybe they weren't. They felt ok as I was peeling them but when I went to grate them, they were softer than I expected. Usually your arm gets pretty damn sore grating through all of them spuds so I end up calling on Ron and Phil to come down and take turns grating. This time, I did the entire batch by myself. The potatoes almost felt like they wanted to melt right through the grater. It was strange.

Anyway, I got all of the ingredients in the bowl, it's all mixed up well, a good quarter inch of molten grease is hot in both of my pans and I'm ready to start. I place four spoons of mix into the stainless steel pan, and flatten them into thin cakes with the spoon. Check. I repeated this process in the cast iron pan. Check.

To keep the frying even, I will turn them about 180 degrees in the pan during the frying since with a gas stove they tend to cook faster towards the middle of the pan than on the outsides of the pan. I went to check the stainless steel pan and the bottoms of all of the cakes were very browned. Not burnt, but definitely ready to turn over in the pan! What? I don't even have one batch done yet in the cast iron skillet! From the hot oil, the pancakes go onto a plate with paper towels to get off some of the grease them I put them in a cake pan in a warm oven just so they don't get cold while I wait for all of them to be done and we can all eat together.

Both pans were frying these pancakes faster than I have ever fried them before. I figured it would be well over an hour of frying with the amount of batter I made and I was DONE in 35 minutes.

It has to be some freaky ass spuds that I was using. This pancakes should be nice and flat and crispy and golden brown on both sides. I had the brown part down flat but these damn cakes were not crispy.

It was just down right weird. I have never had my potato pancakes fry up like this. Now, don't think we wasted all of these sub par patties. They all got slathered in Log Cabin syrup and devoured and all of the extras seemed to disappear through the night as well. They were ok, but they weren't really good. I did not feel comforted.

I am disappointed. I just bought a new bag of spuds from Sam's Club on Tuesday. Maybe I should just get another new bag to use in our day to day cooking and leave the ones from Tuesday alone and make pancakes for my birthday dinner on January 16th (hint, hint!). Hmm, that's not a bad idea! They better come out a lot better than this batch did.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Face Is Worth A Thousand Words

While I have been known to be technologically challenged I gotta tell you I am a HUGE fan of video chatting. This technology just blows my mind.

I don't have very many friends or family near me any longer, so this is the best (and cheaper than a plane ticket!) way of staying in touch.

I'm old enough to remember that the way I used to have contact with my sister Cathie was via snail mail. Once a week, I'd write a letter to her. There was no spell check, and sometimes I couldn't remember what I told her in my last letter and would repeat it in the next one.

From there we went to email. A little faster and even better, I had a record of what I had written about.

Then, on to cell phones. At least I didn't have to worry about my long distance bill any longer! If the written word was good, the phone call was even better. But now . . . . we . . . . have . . . . VIDEO CHAT!!

I have video chatted, in real time, with my sister Cathie in Ojai California, with my best friend in Kissimmee Florida, with my niece and her family in Rochester New York, and thanks to a sleepless night for my brother, a great video chat from China! Talk about reaching out to touch some one. Way awesome.

Now let's talk about my good friends, David and Edna who have now moved to San Diego California. Again, numerous emails go back and forth as well as phone calls. I finally talked them into a trip to their local Best Buy for a video camera. Too bad we didn't tape ME trying to be THEIR technical support to get them hooked up. Yes, we had to call Ron in for an assist! With Ron's help, we got the two of them up and running and videoing.

It's been a blast to get rid of those 2500 miles, give or take, and be able to hold a real conversation with the four of us. So now who could we convert next?

Edna's parents, Nick and Sally, live here in Ohio. While Nick does do some things on the computer, he's even less savvy with it than I am. I thought with David and Edna now so far away, her parents might appreciate being able to see their baby face to face as well.

Ron just set up Nick's brand new computer recently, so I knew they were set with hardware, other than the camera. When David provided the camera, we headed over to Nick and Sally's. Ron was installation of hardware and I was software support.

Now, I have to tell you something about these people. They are absolutely the bomb! I didn't think when we made plans to head over to set them up for video chatting that they were providing dinner. You all know how I feel about free food! I am ALL for it!

We sat down to dinner, and Nick said that Sally wanted to cook American food for us, but he thought we could have American food any time. So, Sally cooked their Arabic food for us. I gotta tell you, one dish was better than the next! I am glad Nick got to overrule Sally on that one!

I'm not going to pretend I knew the name of any of the dishes or every thing that was in each dish, but in layman's terms, we had some sort of stuffed squash, stuffed eggplant, a rice dish and a sauce with tomatoes that went over ALL of it! There was also a side dish of these spicy pickled veggies with carrots, celery, pepperoncini and I don't know what else. Just hearing that was spicy, I didn't taste that one, but Ron loved it!

So, we had a great dinner, complete with some good wine! I tried to be a good guest and got up to start doing to dishes. Nick would have none of it. Ok, fine. At least I can stack the dishes for him. NOT! According to Nick, if you stack the dirty dishes, then you have to wash BOTH sides of the dish instead of just the side you used. C'mon now, is this man GENIUS or what?!?!?

So after dinner, we got to work.

Well, Ron got to work, I watched. He got the hardware all set up and then I went in and wrote out step by step instructions for Nick on how to get into Gmail and then how to start a video chat. (By the way, sorry Nick. I seem to have stolen your pen after writing them directions! Not to worry, I'll take good care of it!)

Now all we had to do was wait for the California people to get home from work. Darn that time difference! Finally, a few phone calls to help everyone get on the same page and we were up and running!

As soon as both ends were set up and everyone could see everyone, there wasn't many a dry eye in the place.

Ron and I excused ourselves and let the family catch up face to face.

Video chatting - a face really is worth a thousand words.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Is It Christmas Already?

Can you believe it's that time of year again?

Yesterday we celebrated Ron's family Christmas gathering.

We went to the Sand Run Metro Park and had rented the Shady Hollow Pavilion which is a beautiful log cabin complete with kitchen facilities, inside bathrooms, wood burning heater, tables, chairs and what a view. The place was perfect for this gathering.

A park ranger even stopped in every few hours to add more wood to the fire for us. What service! With a fire roaring, plus 30 or so people in the cabin, it got pretty toasty in there.

As you can see, even Phil went in costume! Sammie and Caleb were thrilled to see Santa, but nothing like little McKenna who thought this was her best day ever with her new best friend Santa! She has her head laying over on Santa's hand and I wish I had a picture where Santa went for a walk with the kids and McKenna was holding on to him as if her life depended on it! Way too cute!

We all ate our fill (of course, Ron took his famous Ranch Beans!), had a great time with family. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that one of the brightest spots here is seeing Ron's cousin Tom and his wife Margie. I've mentioned before that Tom was made for picking on! And, boy did he fulfill his duty yesterday! Anyway, the kids all enjoyed opening their presents, as did the adults.

For this gathering, each couple has to make a home made gift for each other couple. I crocheted a little present for everyone, someone else made home made salsa (YUM!), someone else made home made note cards from photos and drawings. This packet even included pens and stamps! Way cool. There was a tortilla soup mixture to make your own cup of soup, complete with a Christmas cup! My personal favorite (sorry but it's true!) is Sarah Beth's home made buckeye candy! I tell her every year that if she quits making that candy, I'm not going to any more parties! They are absolutely the bomb!! So you get an idea of home made gifts.

It's a great idea on a gift exchange. It's something personal from everyone and it comes from the heart.

After the gift exchange, we had our second annual white elephant gift exchange. Every adult brings in something small and we pick numbers to see the order we pick presents. The best part is that if someone before you picked a great prize, you can steal their prize instead of picking a new present from the stack. This year everyone was way too nice. There was minimal stealing. Last year, presents were flying back and forth all over the room! Oh well. There is always next year.

So there you go. Like it or not, Christmas time is indeed here.

If anyone else making buckeyes, please invite me! I travel for candy.