Thursday, July 31, 2014

Aunt Ann, Multitasking, and the Kitchen

The thing about this cooking stuff is that if  you do it right, you have a feeling of accomplishment that you can eat.  If you do it wrong, it's a meal and not a life time commitment.

The problem with it is that I had a mental visit with someone who I grew up in my mind.  I kept hearing her "I've only got two hands, will you calm down?"

Over And Over And Over.

A couple days before this incident, I was out at the local non warehouse warehouse store.  Since I am very flexible with my own diet, I was pricing main dish food.  I was looking at the coupons I had on hand, two dollars off this, three off that, that sort of thing.  I had a great coupon for a rather large container of hot dogs.  They are the kind of thing that I have always had as an occasional thing since they're not exactly the best thing for  you.   Looking at the nutrition sticker I passed.  Each hot dog was 140 calories out of 170 of fat.  Not good at all.

I was torn between some "Premium Burgers" and some Pork Loin.  I had to ask myself just exactly what made Premium Burgers, Premium, anyway?  Did they come into your house, cook and serve themselves?   Were they made of some futuristic ethically superior cow that wanted to jump out of the pasture and into the box?  Were they standing by the road saying "Moooo!  Please Eat ME! Moooo!"?

I doubt it.  Claims of Premium status are almost always just that, Claims in word only.

I settled on the Pork Loin.  The price of a lean piece of pork was a dollar a pound cheaper and it gave me an excuse to make some Barbecue since I would be the only one eating Ethical Cow or Unethical Pork.

We got my Unethical Future Barbecue Pork Loin home and into the refrigerator where it will wait for the time to be made.

In the meantime, the next day, we hit the big supermarket downtown.

There is a rule in this house.  If I can make something better and cheaper, we go with homemade.   If I can at least come close to the quality, homemade.

When I say rule, I really am saying, don't let me catch you put that jar of Cherry Jelly into the basket or else.
It went back onto the shelf and became a tease back and forth for the rest of the night.  Besides, I really do like to make that stuff.   It's a lot easier than you might think.

Or so I thought.

Finally that day hit.  I had a large block of time to get the restocking of the refrigerator done.  I needed to make some main courses for the week, and now would be the time.

I cut that pork loin in half, froze part for later, and put the rest into the crock pot with a half cup of barbecue sauce.

Note to Self: Use a cup.  It was good but not quite as good as it could be.

Pressing go, I reminded myself to watch the crock pot.  I only wanted the Pork to get internally to 145F, and that crock pot would cook to 180.

Pork doesn't need to be cooked the way it was Back In The Day.  That is to say, "well done".  Well done is typically 165F and pork loin cooked that hot tends to be rather over done.  A Pork Chop cooked that hot could be used to resole your shoes.

All this was going through my absent mind when I realized that after grabbing that jar of cherry jelly with a lecture out of the cart, I needed to replace it.   I had to make Cherry Jelly.

Another Note to Self: The canning pot takes between 45 and 60 minutes to come to a boil plus 15 minutes to sterilize jars, lids, rings, and all the crap it takes to can things.

That kind of got in the way.

Aunt Ann was in my head telling me to "Calm Down, you only have two hands!".

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But, my dear childhood Aunt Ann was right.

I turned away from the Cherry Jelly to get the gear out of the pantry slash laundry room.  That was being cooked by the bread machine anyway so it wasn't going to be babysat.

The pot got on late.

When the bread machine beeped, I found half of a jar worth of bright red cherry flavored goo sitting in the bottom of my one month old bread machine.  My heart sank as I was getting a mental lecture from my inner Kevin as I said that we'd have to make another trip back to the thrift store to find another bread machine with a Jam setting.

There was enough Cherry Jam in the pot to warrant trying to can.  Two full jars and a half.  That should calm someone down before he dares to reach for cherry jelly in my presence!


I still haven't checked that machine.  I had to turn the hose on the inside bucket to wash out the bright red goo that would have looked like it was in place on a candied apple.

The goo, by the way, tasted excellent.  Always taste your goo.

I was happily multitasking away, waiting for the water to come to boil any second now, when I thought to check that pork.   170F!  DAMN!   I quickly unplugged the crock pot, growling at myself, the International Crock Pot Manufacturers Cabal, and everyone from Thomas Edison to the writer of Charlotte's Web.

The pork was overcooked to me.  Might have been good for someone else, but ... well we went through that before, Aunt Ann, I'll do better next time.

I'd bloody better.  I have an electronic thermometer that will bleep at me when a preset temperature gets hit.

The water was now at 205F, almost there.

I set the timer once the temperature hit boiling.  It was going to be a late lunch at this point.  At least I could snack on some Well Done Pork Barbecue.  Not bad, if a bit "pedestrian".  Will go with some vegetables I have here....

Pot's ready, set the timer for 15 minute, Aunt Ann!

I'd better do that myself.  The ghost of my dear Aunt won't be of any help here other than to remind me that I'm multitasking too much in the kitchen.

The jars managed to get filled, sealed, and replaced in the boiling water for another 15 minutes.

You know how they tell you not to put glass directly on a source of heat?  I had that happen to me in my own head again.  I think this was my father coming to me through time, I'm not quite sure.

Other than having visits from ghosts of my own childhood, what happened next had me shouting at the pot loudly enough to scare the dog.

Sorry, Rack!

I reached into the pot to grab the first jar.  The smallest jar, it lifted up and promptly lost its bottom.  Losing your bottom in a pot full of boiling water means now that I have cherry and glass soup in a giant Lobster Pot sized apparatus.  I was hoping that the other two jars would be safe, and they were.

So the rule for the day?  Multitask anywhere, but the kitchen.   Your Cherry Jelly, no matter how good, will thank you for it, and your Pork Loins should always be cooked to 145F!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Half Moon of Dog Food

It's there.
I never know when it will disappear.
But it's there.

Starting at some insane hour of Stupid O'Clock, our day begins.

Shortly after I haul my bulk out of bed, and shortly before we go out to greet the pre-dawn day, I pour out half of my dog Rack's food.

He promptly ignores it.

He may get a drink of water before he leaves.  Because, Dog.  That's why.

I've never met a dog so indifferent to eating.  I was originally a bit hesitant to put a metal bowl of food on the ground.  Lettie would eat so fast that I'd half be expecting to see sparks fly from the bowl.

Rack has been known to ignore breakfast until sometime after 9:00.  That's in the evening.  He'll just skip a meal. 

Food?  Meh.  Never has been one of those things he was concerned with.

Why?  I guess he's trying to maintain that Swimmer's Build he's got.  Lean, rippling muscles under black fur, glistening in the sun when he bounds through the jungles of South Florida.

But food was never a driving thing in this dog's life.

He'd taunt me some days.

I'd be in the kitchen before dawn, making a little something for my own breakfast.  Bowl full of dog food's best, nutrition for canines, sits there ignored.   My own food might be something more interesting.

I'm being peered at by twin nut brown eyes, laser beam intensity pointed directly at my soul, melting me into a pool of...


He cocks his head a good 60 degrees to the right.

I go back to making coffee turning my back to him.

I hear him nuzzle the bowl.  A bite is taken.

My own start to the day is done.   I look into the bowl, it's holding brown pebble like bits of kibbles, no longer even, dented in one side.

The dog has disappeared to where ever it is that dogs disappear to.

I settle in and go about my own business.  I've got things to do and I will tease the dog later.  Maybe drop a few dog cookies in and mix it up.  I can sometimes get him eating with that trick.

I temporarily forget the stealthy dog hiding in a corner under some furniture creating a den analogue off in another room.  The music I've got on the headphones creating my own den to forget about the world.

Hunger wakes me from my chores.  I pad into the nearby kitchen.  Glancing at the still ignored bowl, I shrug and go about my business.

Fixing the first course, I'm leaning against the counters.  Leaving a stripe of wet on my jeans, I vow to do a better job at tidying up the place.  Not that I've ever been all that good at tidying up anything.

More nut brown eyes laser beaming at me, I let Rack outside.  I'm chopping onions and it's not something for dogs to nibble on.  He goes out to do a perimeter search of the yard slowly replacing his own scent marks that he had placed there yesterday.  Pesky irrigation system washed them away an hour before.

I'm forgetting about the world again creating more breakfast.  Turning to the sink to pre-soak the skillet, I see him sitting outside the back door.  I apparently haven't paid quite enough attention to the dog.  After all, that is why we're here, right?

Letting Rack in, he immediately comes in and magically starts eating.  I relax and join him in my omelet. 

He wanders off and I'm presented with a half moon of dog food.  Weird dog, he's making shapes again.  My
own Charlotte's Web of Dog Food strangeness.  I am reminded of my own childhood games with breakfast cereal - eat all the oat shapes first so you have a bowl of marshmallow bits to scarf down in a soon to be created sugar rush frenzy.

Going back to my own responsibilities, I manage to get through all the morning tasks.  It's now lunch.  The half moon is still sitting there staring me in the eye.  I pick up the bowl, give it a shake and a sigh.  It's time to park it under his nose again, maybe the dog will finish it, maybe not.

You never know with kids, do you?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Oil Free Pizza Dough and Pan Pizza Recipe

I have a "go to" pizza dough recipe.  Pat's Pizza Dough is a recipe that I have found in countless "other" places.  I've got the same recipe on files dating way back in my recipe box and on my directory on my computer.   I'm guessing that other people liked it too.

It's a standard Yeast Raised bread dough recipe.  I've made donuts, breads, bagels, and many other things from it.   It's incredibly flexible.

But there are times where you want to try something else. 

It also has 2 tablespoons of oil in it.  Since I usually cook to a calorie count, those two tablespoons translate to 200 added calories.

This recipe is a little lighter since there is no oil in it.  That allowed me to toss in some sausage for the pizza which means that I could indulge myself a bit.

You can make this recipe by hand, in a stand mixer, or on the dough cycle in the bread machine.  I have done each of these and found it to work well no matter what.


  • 2C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dry active yeast
  • 3/4 C warm water - around 105F or 40C


  • Add all ingredients except the flour to the mixing bowl and allow the Yeast to wake up by letting it sit for between 5 and 15 minutes.
  • Add your flour to the mixing bowl and mix well until smooth.
  • Kneed dough as you would any other and allow to rise until doubled.
  • For pizza, roll dough out before the rest period to allow for the crust to rise for a thicker crust.

To prepare a pan pizza:

  • Grease the pan thoroughly.
  • Roll dough out to fit the pan and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil that has been coated with a liberal layer of corn meal.
  • Prepare pizza to taste with sauce, cheese, and toppings.
  • Allow dough to rise in place until you are happy with the thickness of the crust.
  • Place empty Pan in oven and preheat to 450F.
  • When Oven is at temperature, Slide prepared pizza into pan.  The way I did this was to remove the Now Hot! skillet from the oven and carefully drop that prepared pizza into the pan, then replace the lot in the hot oven.  Yep, takes a lot of care and skill.   Good luck!
  • Caution, you will probably burn your hand so be careful!  
  • If you're worried, skip the pan and just go with a cookie sheet.  See Plan B!
  • Bake pizza for about 12 minutes before first check.  
  • Enjoy Pizza!  
  • Did I really have to tell you THAT?

Plan B - For when you dropped the pizza on the floor when you burned your hand trying to get it in the hot pan:

  • Starting over - grease the pan thoroughly, or skip the pan and just use a cookie sheet lined with parchment and dusted liberally with corn meal.
  • Dust the pan with corn meal.
  • Roll the dough in the pan until you get it to cover the bottom of the pan.
  • Prepare the pizza to taste with sauce, cheese, and toppings.
  • Allow dough to rise in place until you are happy with the thickness of the crust.
  • Preheat the oven to 450F.
  • Place pan and pizza in the oven.
  • Bake Pizza for about 12 minutes before first check.
  • Enjoy Pizza!
  • I didn't have to say that again, did I?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Prey Drive, Play, and the Gate in Dogs

When I got Rack home from the rescue, I had a very different dog than my Lettie was.  Rack was terrified of his own shadow.

The key would be finding something he liked in order to draw him out of his shell.  I thought he'd be safe with toys, and sometimes he will play with them.  Mostly he is indifferent towards his toys.  He'll take them to another room and herd them to a spot, then he's done.

Rewind back to Lettie.

She was afraid of storms, most dogs are.  She also had a very strong play/prey drive.  I was able to break her of hiding in a corner and barking at the sky when Thunderstorms would approach by "Making Storm Time Play Time".

We learned how fun a tennis ball in an enclosed space could be with an overeager McNab Border Collie cross.

I'd bounce that ball around the room whenever the thunder would clap and she would be completely distracted.  Sure, she never completely got over the storms, but many dogs just don't.  They either have no problem with it because they're deaf, well really, disinterested, or they're cowering in a corner in fear.

Get that tennis ball and you may take the edge off.

But we were fortunate.  We had a big house with lots of interesting things to look at.

The third floor of that house would let her look out onto a busy feeder street to the shopping district a block away.  She'd be able to see people come and go while simply standing there in the top floor of the house on the top of the hill over the tree line.

But the Kitchen was her entertainment center.

Actually we all enjoyed that room.  It was a massive area that was originally an outdoor space, then enclosed.  It had a giant hearth that had been enclosed into a fireplace to enjoy in the cold months.  It also was huge, 22 feet by 16 or so.  With plenty of windows to look out on our green and leafy yard, there was an air about it that made you want to be there.

I spent plenty of time sitting there, watching movies on the laptop while waiting for bread to rise, while watching the goings on in the backyard.

Where you had trees, you had visitors.  Where you had visitors, you had a herding dog who wanted to herd.

Lettie would sit by that door when I was there, absolutely riveted.  Tail wagging when she saw something off in the distance, she'd guard us from all comers.

When a visitor got too close, she'd lose her mind.

The back door led out to the deck that was fenced.  It was a double glass door so it gave you a panoramic view of the yard.  Step out onto the deck, make a 90 degree turn to the right.  Take two steps and you would be off the deck.  You then were at a T Intersection.  Left to the yard, right to the driveway and the gate.

One year after the driveway was in place, I figured out that I could use a piece of the fence that we had taken away as a gate to stop Lettie from going out into the great forest of Philadelphia.  Which is to say Chestnut Hill.  It was about waist high, made of wrought iron, and had been made of vertical wires held together by horizontal bars.  Each piece was about the thickness of your smallest finger.   If we needed access, we would simply pick it up and move it out of its way.  It wasn't held up strongly by posts because it did not need to be.

I sat in the kitchen waiting for something to happen, maybe it was bread rising, it could have been marinading dinner, or I could just have been listening to the radio then.  But we got a visitor.


Or rather SQUIRREL!

Lettie didn't like them.  They were unruly and brought disorder to the yard.  They needed to be moved on.

There needed to be a lot of chaos to re-institute order to my yard.

Lettie would attack the door and the squirrel would vanish.

After a while the squirrels became more complacent and realized that she was inside and they could get away.  That's where I got involved.  I had the bright idea to let my Lettie out the back door and see what she'd do.

If you have ever watched a herding dog, you know that they're an intense beast.

Lettie would vibrate at the back door, whining.

I had opened the ... OH HOLY CRAP!  She blasted out the door.

Navigating the first turn, she scrabbled to make the grip on the wood.  Gaining a purchase, she had lept onto the side yard turning to the left.  Bursting into the main part of the yard she was off like a shot.

The squirrel wasn't completely stupid, it began to run off, zigging away from its approaching threat.  By the time it made it to the far corner of the yard, the squirrel was airborne climbing up the big tree that was there and to safety.

True to form, Lettie was standing paws up on the tree.   She realized that she couldn't get to it, so she did what any dog would do.  She marked the territory, scratched the grass, and marched back to the house with an air of "That'll Do!".

One day we were out near that same tree.  The Jeep was parked far back on the driveway that day so there was clearance between the house and the gate.  I could see back to the street around the car, but more importantly so could Lettie.

In came a visitor.   This particular squirrel was a more bold one.  Perhaps it had been chased up that tree before and thought that it could outrun my dog.

It was right but with a difference.

Lettie spotted the squirrel and was having nothing to do with it.   She leapt into action.  Charging the squirrel, it ran down the driveway, through the wires of the fence and down to the Jeep.   I couldn't see it any longer.

However in the same instant that my mind realized that the squirrel was gone, I also realized that Lettie had done something colossally strange.

Running down the driveway she forgot the gate was there.  She ran headlong into the gate.

If you ever pushed your finger into a water balloon, you know they will bulge elsewhere to absorb the impact.  This was what it looked like from behind.

Lettie had slammed into that fence so hard that her head passed between the wires of the fence.   The impact of 45 pounds of dog running at nearly the speed of light had compressed her body into the fence and lifted her hind sections off the ground.

The fence didn't have a chance.

The next thing I knew was the fence toppled over onto her.  Black dog, white feet were flailing in the air
trying to get a purchase.   I was running into the yard to her to help free her from this fence.

Silly mutt.

I lifted the fence up off the ground, Lettie's head was crammed between the wires.   She looked up at me as if to say "Yeah, I know I screwed up, just get me outta here!".

Grabbing onto her collar, I pulled her back through with a Pop!

Now, Lettie was a highly intelligent dog.  But as a K9 Police Officer once said to me, sure they're smart, "But on their best day, they are still a dog".

That is to say in my own Lettie's case, she had to try that again the next time that she spotted a squirrel.   Same results.

Luckily that was the last time that she tried that particular stunt.   She finally learned that when the squirrel goes right, leave it be.

Silly mutt.

Now, if I could only get Rack interested in chasing something, I might have a chance at calming him down in a storm. 

Does anyone know of a good Radio Controlled Squirrel?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

One Day A Genie Was Found By An Old Woman

One day a genie was freed by an old woman.

Like every cliche genie out there, he decided to grant her three wishes as a reward.
The old woman first said, "I wish for 100 million dollars." POOF! 100 million dollars added to her bank account.

"Go on," said the genie impatiently. "I don't have all day... probably."

"I want to be young and beautiful, like a princess," the lady demanded. And POOF! The old woman turned into a pretty young lady.

"Last wish! Choose wisely or else," said the genie.
She looked at her pet cat she was walking. The woman then turned to the genie and asked, "Can you now turn my cat into a handsome man?"

Puzzled, the genie said, "Uhhh.. I thought you would wish for something better..., but turning a cat into a man... that works too." And finally, POOF!

The cat turned into a handsome man.

The man then turned to the woman and suggested, "Shouldn't you have wished you hadn't had me neutered?"

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ten Mommy, Mommy! jokes - part one of who knows how many

You will remember some of these jokes.

They are dreadful and I have a long list of them.  So instead of doing them all at once, I thought I'd stretch it out.

Here are 10 of them...

Mommy, Mommy! What happened to all that dog food Fido wouldn't eat?
Shut up and eat your meat loaf.

Mommy, Mommy! When are we going to have Aunt Edna for dinner?
Shut up, we haven't even finished your Grandmother yet.

*Mommy, Mommy! I hate my sisters guts. * Shut up and eat what's put in front of you.

Mommy, Mommy! What's an Oedipus complex?
Shut up and Keep kissing me!

Mommy, Mommy! What is a delinquent child?
Shut up, light your cigarette, drink your whiskey and deal those cards.

Mommy, Mommy! What is a delinquent child?
Shut up and pass me the crowbar.

Mommy, Mommy! Are you sure this is the way to make ginger bread men?
Shut up and get back in the oven.

Mommy, Mommy! Are you sure this is the right way to cook Peking Duck?"
Shut up and close the microwave oven door behind you!

Mommy, Mommy! What's for dinner?
Shut up and get back in the oven!

Mommy, Mommy! But I don't wanna eat pizza!
Shut up and get in the oven!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cool Your Laptop - Downshift Your Power

I use my laptop all day.  For me, most days that means from before 6AM to around 10:30PM. 

They get hot.  Every one I have ever used would get hot, no matter what processor the machine had inside of it.  I tried mats which worked for a while but they can block the vents.  I tried shifting it onto a table and that gave me a stiff neck trying to maintain a fixed position. 

Solution.  I slowed down the processor.   In my case, it was only 10 percent and that was enough to stop my leg from turning lobster pink.

Your mileage may vary, but just knocking 10 percent off of the maximum speed might solve your problem.  You probably won't notice this difference in speed, I didn't.

On Windows 7 or Windows 8, or Windows 8.1.

  1. Go into your Control Panel. Start, Control Panel.
  2. At this point, since Microsoft tends to move things around you will make it easier to find if you set the control panel to view by "Large Icons".
  3. Click Power Options.
  4. The "Choose or customize a power plan" screen will show.
  5. The "Plans shown on the battery meter" line that is highlighted and has a button selected is the one you want.  In my case it is "Balanced (recommended)" but yours could be currently Power Saver.
  6. Click on the blue link that says "Change plan settings" off to the right of the plan.
  7. The "Change settings for the plan:" screen will show.
  8. Click on the blue link that says "Change advanced power settings".
  9. The Power Options window will open.
  10. Under this window, locate the line that reads "Processor power management" and click the plus button to the left of it.
  11. Locate the "Maximum processor state" line and click the plus button to the left of it.
  12. You can set the "On battery" and "Plugged in" maximum processor speed at this time.  Click on the number to the right of the line and the amount will change to allow you to type in a new amount or click on the arrows to raise or lower the amount.  Mine is set to 90%.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

French Toast, Finally!

It was a meal I had to plan for.

What kind of bread to make?

I solved that with the Pumpkin Yogurt Bread. I didn't want to take the time to get out the loaf pans and grease them up and ... (cue the teenager in me) it just is SOOO PONDEROUS!!!

First I had to get the ingredients but found the pumpkin pie spice had been used up last November when it was actually "normal" to make a pie.

Find that recipe and make up the spice.  Oooh, it smells like November!

Then put the recipe to use by making the bread.

There's a problem with making bread in the bread machine.  They cook unevenly.  If you have an "Upright Loaf" in a tall bucket, instead of being wide, the bottoms of the loaves get "well done".  That is to say you end up with something that would rival some Roman Empire Era Produced Ceramic Tiles that vaguely looks like bread.  Toss in an explosion from Mount Vesuvius and while Pompeii would get buried, the bottoms of these loaves could possibly survive.


I wanted French Toast.  Those tough bread bottom pieces would actually serve me well.  Sure, you could kill a man with one tossed the right way, but soaked in Egg?

It would be wonderful.

My weekend culinary project.  Breakfast.  It only takes four hours to make.   Including all the standing around with baker's OCD staring at the bread machine like an old Liz Taylor joke?

What does Liz Taylor do while waiting for the microwave?   She screams at it "HURRY!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Blame Joan Rivers for that one.

After hovering over the machine, it decanted well.  I sliced off the inedible heel and set it aside.  Tomorrow was time.

And time came.

Two eggs, a splash of milk, a dusting of cinnamon to taste.
Whisk it until it begins to froth. 
Place the floor tile sized piece of bread in the yellow puddle of eggy goodness.

At that time I began to poke at it like a caged beast.

Grrr, soak up that egg!

Making up a mug of coffee would occupy my time.  Here's hoping that the caffeine hits after the cooking is done.

Poke at the floor tile obsessively a bit more.  Flip that beast over for the soft side down to sop up some more egg.

Consider what it would take to get this piece of bread into the upper atmosphere and whether atmospheric braking would slow it down enough that it would be cooked by the time it landed.  Mentally note that if you did that you had to be nearby to fight off everything from Ants to Killer Bees, Reticulated Pythons named Monty, and a host of introduced beasts that were rarely helpful to the environment.

Plan B.

Pick the egg shell off the floor and walk over to the now hot griddle.  Warmed electrically to 375F, a plank of cast aluminium casts off a significant amount of heat.  Spread some butter on the griddle that immediately infuses the room with the sound of sizzle and the scent of Elsie the Cow.

Stab with a fork that Roman Pumpkin Floor Tile rescued from an Aerospace fate worse than death.

Hey, it's soft! 

Allow the excess to drip off and plop it down on the butter.

As the heat hit this eggy slab of bread, it sang.  The room sizzled.  Poke at it with a pointy fork again to make sure it didn't stick.

Nope, we're good!

I let it cook to a golden crust and flip.  Time to repeat.

After that finished, pour the left over egg wash onto the skillet and soak up the rest of the butter while making the end to a great breakfast.

Sometimes good things really do come to those who wait.  Even if it takes three different recipes to make it all come together and the better part of an afternoon with an overnight sleepover party in the fridge with the mango jelly.

Yes, serve with Mango Jelly for a little tart bite, Vermont Maple Syrup warmed to top it off.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Goodbye Lisa

We met a few months after I moved into my current home, probably back in 2007 or so.

Your dog, Babygirl had gotten loose.  Babygirl, a red nosed pitbull, getting loose was like saying a love sponge was sent waddling down a driveway to shower you with licks.  Dog's personalities always reflect their owners.  This was a friendly dog.

Your son Bill, had gone out after her, apologizing the entire way.

I remember seeing you at the door waving and saying hello, then ducking back into the apartment.

You weren't the kind of person that got out and about the town, so by the time we met you, it was our good luck that you moved in across the street. 

We grew to trade recipes.  Later meals would be shuttled across the street.  You made an amazing Lamb Dinner, one that I looked forward to having every year.  The roast beef was excellent, and served up the way I liked them, rare.  I'd return the favor with pulled pork, roast chicken, and the baked goods that I enjoyed making. 

I knew not to bring over the Mango jelly and the raw fruit, you couldn't have them in the house.

It became a warm friendship.  Whenever I'd leave the house, most times, I would just wave at the window where you sat behind.  We knew that nothing would happen without your notice so we were fortunate to have the best burglar alarm we could, a neighbor watching over us.

Your retirement meant that we'd be doing the occasional meals together, trading war stories, hearing about how it was in hurricanes past and how we could better integrate in this environment here in South Florida.  Despite what it appears to snowbirds, South Florida is not as straightforward a place to live as you may expect.

Some of the pictures of our life in the neighborhood together became treasured.  I managed to get your Babygirl to pose, and she wouldn't do that for just anyone.  That picture is still on your wall today, Babygirl smiling in the sun at me, as if to tell me that her own time was short.

Ellie came later and we all laughed as she would get out and run around the neighborhood.  That is to say, I'd laugh at the time, and you'd laugh later.

Your laughter was always there.  Somewhat reserved for good friends only, we got to see it often.

Ellie is a barky dog with a hair trigger, and she is why I got started waving at your window long before I left the property.  She'd bark at me when I was on my own front porch, but she accepted our presence over here and later nearer to the house.  I am one of the few "outsiders" that can calm her down.

Ellie was your protector and companion.  She knew what was happening long before we did, and became more protective as a result.

We all had to intervene on you more than once when you tried to walk her.  Ellie could tow my Jeep!  So for you, walking the dog wasn't in the cards.  You weren't quite up to that task.

As your cancer became apparent and finally diagnosed, we all did what we could to watch over you.

Ellie was there by your side, warning people to stay away.
Bill helped you get to and from your appointments and kept us filled in on events.

It gave me an excuse to bake more and put on another 5 pounds that I have to take off.  On the other hand, maybe all that food helped you stay a little longer, we'll never know.

Eventually you were housebound.  We have your key still in the hiding place.

I had to come over once to help you with a delivery when everyone was gone.  I learned at that point that Ellie completely trusted me.  She was barking at the nonsense coming in at the front door, me.  I told her "Ellie, it's OK" and she quieted down completely behind the closed bedroom door.

What I didn't tell you was I was completely out of my depth.  I was in your house setting things up for your medical apparatus.  It does go together like the pictures, but that didn't help, I was too flustered to remember my glasses.

Not a good time to go in blind, was it?

Eventually I got you settled in, and went home.  Half an hour later I was back when you got a delivery.  Signing for that and taking it in was a bit of a stretch but I became your Other Son (with a wink) and it got to where it was going.

That was the last time I saw you.  The reports coming from Bill became more dark, like an approaching thunderstorm in the wet season.

Finally the 24 hour nurses came.  That went on only for a week.

Yesterday, in the rain, you left.  It was right after 5PM.

Goodbye Lisa, we all will miss you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pumpkin Yogurt Bread Recipe

I had been chasing this can around the kitchen for far too long.

Having pulled it down from the counter, it was now or never.  I was going to do something with it.

I'm not really a fan of Pumpkin Pie.  Oh sure, I'll eat it and enjoy it if it is offered.  I will just never go out to buy the stuff if I have a different choice.

Key Lime Pie anyone?  How about Cherry Pie?

So the canned Pumpkin sat.   I was going to make some dog biscuits with it.  I was going to make a pie to take with us to a party. 

I had plans for it.  But mostly the can just got shuffled around.

I had enough of that. 

All of that nonsense was running through my mind when I was looking to be creative over the weekend.   I had a list of recipes that I wanted to make.  Since the new bread machine came with them I thought I would try it out. 

This one popped out at me.  I could get rid of the Pumpkin and make something I liked at one step.

It turned out well, but the bread machine didn't exactly like the recipe.  The fix was simple.  When you add all the ingredients, add the brown sugar first.

I was taught that when you cook with brown sugar, always pack it into the measuring cup to get an accurate measurement.  When I added the brown sugar last, the puck of the brown sugar sat on top like a surfer never getting mixed into the bread machine.  Break the puck up into pieces then add the rest of the ingredients to the bread machine bucket.

If you make this recipe in a stand mixer, you won't have this problem.

At any rate...


  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/4 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Canned Pumpkin  (I used the entire can of 12 ounces and it was fine)
  • 1/3 Cup Plain Yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter, Softened
  • 3 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour, however you can substitute up to 1 1/4 cup Whole Wheat flour for a different flavor.
  • 1 1/2 Tesapoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice - Recipe for spice is here!
  • 1 3/4 Teaspoons Yeast

Process for Bread Machine

  • Add ingredients in order listed.
  • Break up Brown Sugar before adding the rest of the ingredients.
  • Cook in bread machine on your Sweet Bread Cycle

Process for conventional oven

  • Mix all ingredients in your stand mixer with dough hook until smooth.
  • Pour batter into greased 9 inch bread pans
  • Bake at 325 F for at least 50 minutes, or until done.
  • "Done" happens when it passes the Toothpick test, so look at it around 50 and see where you're at.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Spice - For When You Only Need A Little

I bake.  A LOT.

I had all this stuff out in the kitchen on hand.  In fact my spice rack got so large that we had to put some hanging wire spice racks on the wall behind the door.  Six feet worth of spices.

You may have all four spices on hand.  If you make things like Gingerbread or Spiced Bread, you certainly have most of it. 

The Allspice is a bit more uncommon in American Cuisine, but I had it leftover from my move here back in 2006.  It is popular in Middle Eastern and Caribbean cuisine, so if you ever tried to make some of that, you'd have it around.  

Pumpkin Pie Spice on the other hand is a bit more of a single purpose thing.  It goes into pies.  It goes into some breads, usually with a can of pumpkin when you want "That Taste".  But other than that, I'm hard pressed to figure out why it is here.  A small can of the stuff lasted us for years.

Why keep it when the recipe is so simple?

Equal Parts of four spices.

I needed a teaspoon of the stuff.  So the recipe is for exactly one teaspoon.   If you need more, scale it up.  If you need less, scale it down or just make it and take what you need.  It's that simple.


  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger


  • Add to a jar equal parts of all four spices.
  • Mix the spices evenly until done.
  • Use as your recipe would require.

Remember, the recipe may be scaled to your needs.  If you need more, just double or triple it.  If you have leftover spice, store as normal or add to a candle or potpourri.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What starts with F and ends with K

What starts with an "F" and ends with a "K"

A first-grade teacher, Ms Brooks, was having trouble with one of her students. The teacher asked, "Harry, what's your problem?"
Harry answered, "I'm too smart for the 1st grade. My sister is in the 3rd grade and I'm smarter than she is! I think I should be in the 3rd grade too!"

Ms. Brooks had enough. She took Harry to the principal's office.

While Harry waited in the outer office, the teacher explained to the principal what the situation was. The principal told Ms. Brooks he would give the boy a test. If he failed to answer any of his questions he was to go back to the 1st grade and behave. She agreed.
Harry was brought in and the conditions were explained to him and he agreed to take the test.

Principal: "What is 3 x 3?"
Harry: "9."

Principal: "What is 6 x 6?"
Harry: "36."

And so it went with every question the principal thought a 3rd grader should know.
The principal looks at Ms. Brooks and tells her, "I think Harry can go to the 3rd grade."
Ms. Brooks says to the principal, "Let me ask him some questions."

The principal and Harry both agreed.
Ms. Brooks asks, "What does a cow have four of that I have only two of?"
Harry, after a moment: "Legs."

Ms Brooks: "What is in your pants that you have but I do not have?"
The principal wondered why would she ask such a question!
Harry replied: "Pockets."

Ms. Brooks: "What does a dog do that a man steps into?"
Harry: "Pants."
The principal sat forward with his mouth hanging open.

Ms. Brooks: "What goes in hard and pink then comes out soft and sticky?"
The principal's eyes opened really wide and before he could stop the answer, Harry replied, "Bubble gum."
Ms. Brooks: "What does a man do standing up, a woman does sitting down and a dog does on three legs?"
Harry: "Shake hands."

The principal was trembling.

Ms. Brooks: "What word starts with an 'F' and ends in 'K' that means a lot of heat and excitement?"
Harry: "Firetruck."
The principal breathed a sigh of relief and told the teacher, "Put Harry in the fifth-grade, I got the last six questions wrong... "

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Joe's Tavern

Joe's Tavern

A man comes home from the bar, drunk, late one night. Upon entering, he immediately explains to his wife what happened.

"You're never going to believe this, but I was just at a bar where you sit in lounge chairs, beautiful women serve you, and there are brass toilets!"

His wife, thinking he's just drunk, doesn't believe him. "Really? What was the name of the bar?" she asks.

"Joe's Tavern," he replies.

She takes out the phone book and looks up the bar. She finds a "Joe's Tavern" in it, and calls the number. A man picks up.

"Excuse me," she asks, "but is this Joe's Tavern?"

"Yes it is," replies the man.

"My husband claims he was just at your bar. At your bar, do you sit in comfortable lounge chairs?"


"Do beautiful women serve you?"


"Are there brass toilets?"

No response. Suddenly, she hears the man shout. "Hey Louey! I just found the guy who peed in your tuba!"

Friday, July 18, 2014

I-95 North, Deerfield Beach, Florida

I purposely drive Jeep Wranglers because they are simple.

My own 2002 Jeep has only about 44,000 miles on it since I don't drive much.  That's not the Jeep's thought.  It only means that every time I take the car out, it is like driving a brand spanking new Jeep.

I truly enjoy the experience.

But they are a simple beast.  The newer ones have succumbed to the bigger is better motto.  That means that in order to have my own simple car, I will hang onto it as long as possible. 

A Data Center has its own place, just not in my car.  Since they don't make the VW Thing, or the Ford Model A, I'll hang onto this one.  At this point it qualifies for Classic Plates, so I guess it is a classic. 

It's my third one, having had a CJ 7 and an earlier TJ just like this. 

Simplicity has its place, but it doesn't have to be quite as simple as that. 

Being a technology nut, I do have my way of getting my fix while driving.  While the car has the old school needles and dials on the dashboard, I have a way of getting to the computer and getting more information.  Ironic that I go out of my way to get the world's simplest car and end up "tarting" it up with gadgets, isn't it?

Sure, more distracted drivers you may say.  Did you ask the guy in that white car that was texting when I passed?

Point taken.  I'll be careful.  No worse though than more "modern" cars with all that glowy crap on their dashes, right?

This was what is for me a Long Trip.  I had to plan for it.  Normally all I ever do is drive around town, and by town, I mean a little 3 by 1 mile island with an occasional swim across the river to the neighboring town where the Post Office is.  Maybe two miles when I do that, or perhaps three.

No, I was leaving the area and going up to the next county way up there in another area code.

Yes, I was going to Wellington. 

Now no complaints there, I was visiting Larry and Kathie, my Godmother and her husband.  Great people. 

But it did give me an excuse to break out the OBD II Module and use the software to talk to the phone.  I'm trundling down the highway in my big black and tan beast, making sure to stay well beyond 2 seconds behind the guy in front of me. 

An occasional glance at the display tells me that the EPA was confused when they tested the car.  15MPG is not realistic unless you're stuck in traffic.

At normal highway speeds, the speed limit in Broward County, FL on I-95 North on a clear day with few other drivers, is 65MPH.  A tick over 100KPH for my friends outside of the US.  That was basically what I was doing because I noticed a long time ago there is a built in speedometer error of around 5 percent.  If the Speedo is doing 65, I am really only doing 62.  Makes me wonder if someone at the Gov'mint got with the car dealers and said to dial it down so the dummies didn't speed quite so badly.

62 MPH is 100 KPH.

I'm humming along on giant 31 inch black donuts, in the not-quite-fast-lane glancing at the phone.  18MPG. 

Groan.  I can do better than that. 

I slowly pass that white Toyota with the texting man behind the wheel who doesn't realize that TXT=RIP.

He pulls off at the next exit and I'm able to slow down a little bit after I get into Palm Beach County with a THUMP at the border.  The canal is the county line. 

The aerodynamics of a Jeep Wrangler are as bad as you may expect.  Think of an adult's shoe box.  Then park a smaller child's shoebox on top that is one half the size.  Now try to push that beast forward through the air at Highway Speeds.

Clearly this isn't a vehicle for high speeds.

I eventually get off the road at Forest Hill Avenue.  West Palm Beach, FL, I believe. 

Turn West.  Here's where I realize if I relax I can see some silly numbers.  

No, really, the sun glare lets me see the phone as clearly as the dash.  21.8MPG.  Not bad for a 4 liter 6 cylinder motor pushing 2 tons of steel and plastic.

Eventually I get to Larry and Kathie's place for a long overdue visit.  Empty out the car because having a Jeep means that you can't leave anything in it.  Windows are made out of Cling Film and held together with Zippers.

Security?   We don't need no stinking security.

Slap a giant grey metal flying saucer over the steering wheel and slide a metal club in there to lock it all in place.

Hi Larry, Hi Kathie, Great to see you!  Let me set down all this crap...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I See You!

Security Cameras.

They're interesting beasts.  I have installed them professionally, and we installed one at home.

They're not all they're cracked up to be, but there are some things to be aware of.

Outdoor cameras don't always perform as well as you might expect.

I think this was what I was being told when I received this picture.  Partly at any rate, and partly because Kevin was gone and looking at my porch from the Auto Train.  He was sitting there most likely somewhere in Georgia on that night, maybe feeling lonely, missing me, or just being curious as to whether he could catch me coming and going.

I'm a TV game now.

We've had the DVR, that's like a VCR but no tapes used, for about 4 months now. 

We've seen some pretty odd things in it.  The scooters that ride past the house in the small hours amused me, but I am in Florida and a scooter can be viable as a "daily driver" here - if you don't mind being hunted down by snowbirds who have yet to learn to drive.

The ducks on the lawn are amusing to watch.  The hedges that are "in frame" are visited each morning by them when they're grubbing around in my indifferently maintained gardens.

No, really, there are hedges there, you just can't see them.  On the left of that pole.  See the shadow?  That's a hedge although you couldn't prove it by this picture.

And that's the rub.  They promise 30 feet of Night Vision, typically, although some promise more.   It is like the mileage claims for a car when they say "your mileage may vary".

My version of that is "Never Trust A Chinese Manufacturer".

You couldn't use that picture in court to prove that yours truly was at the front door with his faithful sidekick, Rack the McNab Dog, could you?

You could try.  I've heard some pretty sleazy tricks in what passes for a court room in this country, and I try to avoid court rooms as a general rule.

So a few basic rules?  I'll keep them as brief as possible.

TVL - TV lines.  We're all used to HD TV now.  This camera is Standard Def.  Old school square, just like all the DVRs that are being dumped.  Do you need HD?  You might, but HD Is expensive.  This camera is 420 TVL (Lines) and Standard Def.

Night Vision.  They slap that array of Infrared LEDs around the lens of the camera.  It puts out a glow.  It will have a "Feet of Vision" attached.  Divide that by two to get your real distance, seriously.  Just like the MPG scores on a car, your mileage may vary.  After all, I can get 40 MPG rolling down hill in my Jeep at 40 MPH.  I've seen it.

HD vs SD.  My own opinion is why not both.  Put SD cameras (not as sharp) on things that you will watch from "close up" like your front door, and then put the good HD cameras on things that you want to see crisply.   You may even be able to use fewer cameras by using more HD where you need it.   Instead of my having two cameras on the driveway and one that leaks onto the front yard, one HD camera may do it.  That will save a couple channels for use elsewhere.

Number of Channels.  My DVR will record up to 8 channels.  Some do 4.  The most I have ever seen is 16.  You probably don't need 16.  Really, you don't.  You will want to save recordings, so get a big hard drive for the machine of at least 1 TB and roll with it.  It doesn't have to be fast since you're not recording a lot all at once.

I will say though after looking at that picture... it needs to have the camera moved.  That's just too fuzzy to be worthwhile.   Maybe closer to the front door.

I wonder if I can convince someone else to go up on the ladder.  I hate those ladders.  Nothing looks more ridiculous than a tall man well over 6 feet trying to balance on one of those things.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

So? Are They Friendly? If I have to ask...

Have you ever been out and saw someone dumbwalking?

I did at 5:40 in the morning on this particular day.

More importantly they were "on my planet", which is to say they were so involved in texting or playing some game that the guy didn't realize that he was about to have a Dog Incident.

Not to worry, I had read Rack's reaction to the two Schnauzers or Scotties and nothing happened.

Hey, Buddy, Pay Attention, you Bonehead!

Actually I defused the situation a lot more politely.   Having seen this person before, I knew his dogs were out of control.  While Mr X was standing there engrossed in what he was doing on the small screen instead of building a relationship with these two living and breathing creatures, those same creatures had spotted us.

His dogs had went into an aggressive stance.  They crossed to his rear and formed an X across his back with the leashes.  Rack at this time had walked to the far side of me and had stretched out my arm to get as far away as possible.

I used The Voice.  This is the Command Voice that I can use well.  Lots of booming sound, designed to wake someone up and draw attention.

"Are They Friendly?"

I knew better, having seen these dogs before, I had seen them lunging and growling both at me, my dog, and others in the same situation.  Clearly this is someone who should not have a dog, let alone two.

"Oh Sure, they're friendly!"  Then he noticed it was me and looked away as far as possible.  As he was gathering his dogs together, I passed.

Of course my thumb had just flicked the safety switch on my Taser Flashlight that was in my pocket, and I had it out at my opposite side.  I pretended to look at an object with the light thereby proving that everything was energized in case I needed protection.  It either is a Flashlight or a Taser but not both.  I generally need to watch, and that flashlight gets taken out of the pocket other than to light my path a startling amount of times, roughly every fourth or fifth walk.

Having gone through a dog bite incident, I simply wasn't going to walk blindly into that situation again.  There are just too many bad dog owners out there.  The dogs can be trained.  The people are questionable.

I see this far too often.   Living in a resort town, Wilton Manors, people come here literally from all over the world.  They take a lot of time and effort to get here.   So what do they do when they get here?  Pull out the smartphone, sit in front of a coffee shop, and ignore the world.

I could have saved you vacationers a lot of time, if you really wanted to use that phone, you could have done that on your own couch.

As for the locals who have the little yappers?  A dog is a dog is a dog.  They all can be trained, even the dinky little Frou Frou dogs that city dwellers have a preference for and some people feel it is appropriate to stuff into a purse.  That is to say that somewhere deep down there is that spirit of a Wolf.  If you don't take control of your dog, your dog will take control of you.

You have been "owned".  Or "Pwned" as Them Thar Kids say now a days.  And it is never appropriate to stuff a dog into a purse.  A dog is not an object, it is an intelligent and sentient being.

Your dog will take control of the situation.  Since dogs are territorial beasts, they will growl, show teeth, and go to protect what they think their territory is.  That is to say, you.

On the other hand, a well trained dog is welcomed just about anywhere.  Many restaurants and shops will allow a well trained dog in.  If your dog is lunging and growling and barking, it is not well trained and simply does not belong in public.

Some people don't need a dog, a plush toy would do, or even a picture of a plush toy may be more appropriate.

So every time you go out and see a dog in a shop or a restaurant, watch the interaction.  It really isn't that hard to tell if the person is over their head and needs training.   The dog has trained them to be in the back seat and is now in charge anyway.

As for the rest of our walk?  I got well away from that dumbwalker and dropped Rack's leash.  When there
are no dogs around, he's being trained to be a "Good Citizen".  For now, this is only at the early walk.  The other walks are a bit too intense.  I intend to get him to the point where he can walk off leash anywhere, whether there are other dogs there or not.  The minute I drop Rack's leash, he circles back and glues himself to my leg.  Then he looks up at me for suggestions.

Where're we gonna go, Dad?  Huh?  Walkies?  GREAT!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mango Jam Recipe, Fresh from the Bread Machine

I will admit it, Mangoes are something of an obsession with me.

My neighbor has a huge Mango tree that has just the right kind of fruit, Hagen Mangoes.  They're beyond sweet, tasty and grow as large as 2 pounds each.

Unfortunately he "trimmed" the tree, which is to say he "elevated" the tree.  This means that the lowest fruit is more than my own reach of 8 feet from the ground.  Since it is a mature tree, the top leaves of it are at least 30 feet from the ground.

This means that in order to get the fruit, I have to use a Fruit Picking Pole, another pole duct taped to it, and maybe even a ladder.  It also means that there will be fruit left on the highest branches to mature to an almost melon size and weight.  What grows up, must fall down, and a 2 pound fruit will do some major damage when it crashes to the ground.

If you have a fruit tree, trim it like an umbrella, broad and not tall.  It will make it easier for you to pick later.

At any rate, what is now falling is the last fruit of the year.  So I wanted to do it justice by making something out of it.  I went in search for a good fruit Jam recipe and found an excellent one.  This will work with anything with a "pudding" consistency so I suspect if you wanted to make a banana jelly it would work too.  Of course if you want to save calories, you can reduce sugar by substituting in some Stevia or other alternate non-liquid granulated sweetener.  I did in the first batch, and went all sugar in the second batch, and both were wonderful.  You just couldn't tell the difference.

The nice thing about it was that I was able to use this on my bread machine's Jam and Jelly setting.  No effort at all.

  • 4 Cups chunked ripe Mango pieces.
  • 1 Cup Sugar or other granulated sweetener such as Stevia as recommended on the package for substitution.
  • 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice.
  • 1 Package of unsweetened or sugar free Fruit Pectin.
  • Cut up your Mangoes into chunks until you have four cups of the fruit.
  • Mash slightly the Mangoes, and add to the bread machine's bucket with impeller blade in place.
  • Add 1 Cup of Sugar or sweeteners.
  • Add 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice.
  • Add 1 Packet of Unsweetened SureJell Fruit Pectin.
  • Select Jam and Jelly program on your bread machine and press start.
  • Alternately, this may be cooked on medium on the stove until the jam begins to set.

I did use this recipe to can some Mango Jam for later by boiling the jars and lids to sterilize, then boiling the jars to re-sterilize and set the lids.  With all Canning Recipes, you are on your own to decide how long to store the result.

In the specific case of the second go with this recipe, I did my first ever canning without any help, so it really is a "Science Experiment" for me!

The Jam was a success and tasted wonderful on French Toast or with Peanut Butter on some homemade gingery bread.

You do bake your own bread don't you?  If so, Pat's Pizza Dough is a great basic recipe, or just search this blog for things like Cinnamon Muffins or Cinnamon Raisin Bread.  I can guarantee that all of those will work out well for French Toast since I have used them all for that once they got a little past their peak.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rack's Breakfast In Bed

Yep, I'm creating a monster.

I realize that I've caved, given in, turned into a tower of jello, but it's been a very stressful month for a very fearful dog.

... and that would be a lot of jello.

It has been raining since June and it is now Mid July.

No not every minute, this is Florida in the Wet Season and we don't need an Ark.

I don't mind the rain, and neither does Rack.  The problem is the Thunder that comes along with it.  Many dogs are terrified of Thunder.  Thor using his hammer making the world quake occasionally is bad enough, but this is the Land Where Thunder is Born.

They shouldn't have named the place after flowers.  Thunder would be a better name at this time of year. Or at least Rain.

Rack being a fearful dog on a good day hides most of the day away now.  I'm only 2 miles from the ocean here.  There are usually storms Just Off Shore before the dawn, and sometimes they roll on land to water those flowers and make more pet mosquitoes so people can swat them and curse them by the pool and wonder if Mr Burns wasn't right in putting a Dome over Springfield.

No, really, can we build a dome?  Pump it full of DDT?  I'll even let people leave.

Well, Most people anyway.  Do take your pets.  The termites will be gone too.

Maybe in an alternate universe we can all slide in and have no mosquitoes to feed the birds.

None of that helps my Rack in the corner vibrating in fear as the windows vibrate from a lightning strike that hit my block.

I get him out for the walk if the lightning is more than 15 seconds away.  While lightning can strike anywhere within 5 miles of the actual cell, I'm thinking that I don't make as appetizing a target as those power towers that run up and down Dixie Highway or the Shoppes do.  15 seconds are 3 miles, roughly, at 5 seconds per mile between flash and boom.

Dutifully I check radar on the computer or phone, set out plenty of water, some food, and hope beyond hope that Rack will "Grow a Pair" and eat breakfast.

Not Gonna Happen.

We get back in after a terrifying walk around the block because deep rumbling too low for me to hear means that there was a thunderstorm on my planet.   Rack was vibrating at the door to get in and he literally bolts for his crate, his corner under the table, or his bed.

And there he will stay until the rain stops.

Or until the next walk comes and I pick the little guy up and carry him to the door shivering to take him out again into that steamy noisy hell-hole that I call my street.


Scare the hell out of your dog week happened in the middle of all of this chaos.  You may call it The Fourth Of July instead.

Rack hated it.  He wanted to be anywhere else.

I sat in my house on the actual night of July Fourth in a smaller version of my own war video.  Surrounded on all sides by Rocket's Red Glare, whistling, and of course the report of a mortar being fired followed by an airborne explosion.

None of this was amusing to a fearful dog.  He skipped a meal that day and the next.  I was able to get him to eat the prior night's bowl of kibble mid afternoon on the next day.

Forget the second bowl, they were back at it firing off rockets to scare off the evil demons in the sky, or the British, or just to have a Bit Of Fun.

The next day when it was only rain, I found myself wandering through my neighborhood wondering what was wrong.  Some sort of post holiday post traumatic stress disorder expecting explosions and whistles and general chaos was going through my own mind.  I know Rack saw it the same way.  Slinking from tree to shrub, he worked his way around the block.  He didn't stand tall that night.

We did make it home in one piece, and it seemed to relax him that there were very few fireworks being shot off.  Vacationers perhaps, getting rid of a joyous armory before going back to a more sensible city where such things weren't allowed.

Luckily it has been getting quieter.  The storms were at a better time of day for us.  Rack even managed to get a meal in without running for cover.

But that schedule thing?  Nope.  Not really going to work out.

I started helping him out.  Rack would hide, I'd give him his space.  After a while, I'd bring him his bowl.  If he ignored it, I'd crumble a cookie or three into the bowl.

Spoiled brat that he is, he is now accepting it for normal-ish.

I'd put the bowl by his bed.  He would melt into the bed and prove that the McNab Dog is versatile, but can be lazy at times.

Yes, he would just roll his head over to the bowl and eat.  Why not, who wouldn't want breakfast in bed?


In this case Breakfast was being started at 10PM.  Yes, time for breakfast at night.  While a dog won't necessarily starve themselves, they certainly will make you tear your hair out while you worry about when they will get around to eat sometimes.

We've worked out an agreement.  I put out the food.  He ignores it and eats it in his own good time if there isn't anyone firing off fireworks or having celestial flash-booms in the area.  If there are, it may get eaten and I can obsess over timing regardless.

Silly lazy mutt.  Melting into the floor won't help, but I will put the bowl there when you need it.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Parrot and a Magician on a Ship

A Parrot and a Magician on a Ship

A Magician, who performs magic tricks on a ship had a parrot which helped him perform his tricks. One day, the parrot died so the magician replaced him with a new one.

On the night of his first show, the parrot would keep giving away his tricks "It's in the hat"..."it's up his sleeve"..."It's under the table"

..frustrated, the magician cut his show short. Shortly after, there was a hurricane and the ship sunk, the magician and the parrot managed to get them selves onto a raft.

The first day passed and not a word was spoken, the magician and his parrot were sat there looking at each other waiting for help.

As day 2 started, the parrot is looking around confused and frustrated.

Eventually, the parrot turns to the magician and says "Alright, i give up. What have you done with the ship".

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Day At The Races

A Day At The Races

Two female teachers took a group of pupils from years 1, 2 and 3 for a field trip to Epsom Racecourse. When it was time to take the children to the 'bathroom', it was decided that the girls would go with one teacher and the boys would go with the other.

The teacher assigned to the boys was waiting outside the men's toilet when one of the boys came out and told her that none of them could reach the urinal. Having no choice, she went inside, helped the little boys with their pants, and began hoisting them up one by one, holding on to their 'willies' to direct the flow away from their clothes and shake them dry.

As she lifted one boy up, she couldn't help but notice that he was unusually well endowed. Trying not to show that she was staring at his equipment the teacher said, 'You must be in year 3?

'No ma'am', he replied. 'I'm riding Atlantic Jewell in the next race, but I really appreciate your help.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Auto Train Platform, Sanford, Florida

I have always appreciated trains.

When I was growing up, I watched them build the PATCO High-Speed Line from Philadelphia through to Lindenwold, NJ.  The tracks ran along a disused track that went to Atlantic City, NJ in a more Mass Transit oriented day.  I remember seeing the last freight train on that line, then the work cars coming through and laying the Third Rail for electric power.  After that, the whirr of the High Speed Line was a companion through my youth.

I took that train, and the SEPTA Regional Rails most of my work years in Philadelphia.  Made a lot of sense to do so, you could use them, leave the car at home, and not have to pay for parking.  Since Philly has a compact central business district, I took on the stereotype of a Philadelphian - I walk everywhere.

I even got to take the Auto Train as a child, and enjoyed the experience.  When I returned to it as an adult, I found that my 6' 4" frame simply could not sleep in the so-called recliner seating that they had in Coach.  It was either upgrade or drive.  I've been told that the seats have been upgraded to make it more comfortable, but I haven't had a need to leave the state let alone South Florida since arriving here in 2006.

Looking at this picture of the platform, I had two thoughts.  One was the excitement of the vacation.  The anticipation of going somewhere far away, to meet friends and family, see new things, get caught up on old times, and generally have a blast.

The other was my time waiting for the R7 or the R8 to arrive to get me either home or to work.  They ran well when they ran.  At least they did.  Being away from the trains for all these years, I have heard that Septa got very expensive lately and also very crowded.

It's all a matter of finance.  It is difficult to get a transport system to generate a profit.  Too many other ways to go from point A to point B, and most of them are financed and subsidized better.  Cutting corners is always noticed, whether it be lower quality seating or more infrequent service, all of which are a symptom of shortsightedness in those decide where tax dollars go to support infrastructure.  If the train doesn't go to your area, then you will not be interested in supporting it and the Corridor services of the Northeast and California are both poster children of that sort of funding neglect.

But rails do have their target audience.  Bulk.  Any time you can send bulk cargo somewhere, it normally is cheaper by rail.  Whether that bulk is Oranges, Coal, or just our collective back-sides along with our cars going on vacation. The virtue of a dedicated road bed makes for more efficient traffic.

When railroads were originally built, the Federal government gave large tracts of land to the railroad companies in order to subsidize their construction.  While it opened up the country, it also made for profitable railroads since the land was basically free to the rails.  You could sell that land off at a premium and fund the construction of tracks.

That business model worked well through the 1940s.  When the suburbs were being built in the 1950s, the local street-car routes weren't able to keep up with the building pace, and it showed the need for more roads to be laid.  Since roads were local, and railroads were regional, the politicians shifted funding to the competing street network and the railroads began their decline.

It became dis-economic to run a rail network against a free interstate road system, and by the 1970s, the big railroads of the past were dying on the vine.  There are a few left, as evidenced by the FEC tracks that run near my house serenading my neighborhood with their whistles, and where appropriately funded, they thrive in concert with the road networks.  With the idiocy of adding toll lanes to the interstates that your tax dollars have already paid for, I suspect that mass transit may start to get better funding.  That is if the greed of the politicians can be stopped so that the right thing can be done with that funding source.  After all, those toll lanes on the free interstate system will slow down everyone else who isn't using them.  May as well take the regional train system since you have to pay to go anywhere.

After all, if you need to go somewhere that the trains go, it's much easier to let them drive you there instead of having to find parking, get gas, and so forth.  Eventually it will all swing back to a new balance.  For now, if you want to bypass 900 miles of driving, you have to get to a platform like this.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Cashew Tree Is Born

I'm not the only person in Wilton Manors that has a Cashew Tree growing in their yard.

It's only a seedling now, but it will go into the ground when I can figure out where I can actually plant the blasted thing.

When we were out walking a while back, I had a conversation with a neighbor about their Cashew tree.  The day before, NPR had a news item about how the fruits were being used in new and creative ways by the people of some rather impoverished areas in India.  The fruits were generally eaten locally, and now they could be used as a cash crop.  There will be drinks made from the fruits that are supposed to be rich in antioxidants.

My neighbor allowed Kevin to pick a fruit from the tree and take it with him.  I eventually ate the thing after looking it up and finding out how to eat it and what not to eat.  You don't eat the nut unless it is roasted. 

Since I roast coffee here, I probably could have found a way to do that but instead I dropped it into the pot in the back yard with my Mexican Milkweed.  The Monarch butterflies had turned the milkweed to sticks yet again, so it was easy enough to do. 

A month later, I was greeted by this sight.  Six leaves growing in the middle of the pot with little bud-lets of leaves on it.

That cashew really wanted to grow!

It's a True-Tropical tree, so since it doesn't freeze here, it should be fine.

South Florida Trivia - The Freeze Line according to the USDA runs East to West on Clint Moore Road in Boca Raton.  South of that you won't get freezing temperatures.

It's still a little cold here to grow Durian or some other exotics, but the Cashew will be fine.  It's going to be a nice addition to the yard.  The dog has already taken to it.  Yes, Rack has watered it, along with all the other pots on my irrigation lines, and it has survived.

Now, if I could only figure out where to pot my Condo Mango in the yard.  Every time the irrigation lines get clogged up, I realize it by noticing that the Mango is either turning yellow or it's Fall and I have a bunch of dead Mango leaves to clear up.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Redneck Redecoration and The Dog.

In 1979, Mom bought her dream house.

"It's a Buckstone!" she gushed.

A Buckstone is a two story, four bedroom house.  It was on a big corner lot in Barclay Farms, Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  Quite a nice neighborhood.  It was set back with a long driveway, lined with railroad ties, flowers, and shrubs.  She loved that house, and I enjoyed that it was in the family.

There were some things left behind by the prior owners, there always were.

Some random Princess Phones, the pieces to a shuffleboard court that was in the basement, and this rug.

We did play shuffleboard once or twice, but the charm wasn't really there.

The rug was in the dining room, and it was truly a beautiful one.  At the beginning of our ownership of the big house on the corner of the block, the rug sat under the dining room table.  Thick and rich pile felt great under bare feet, and it watched the changes in our lives as the years slid past.

The addition of my nephew to the family, the dog, my moving out, then back, then out again.  Normal family lives of a Wonder Year generation.

My childhood dog, Buck, finally passed away.  He sat by the door that lead into the house from the garage that day waiting for my return.  I was delayed a day, and he passed waiting.

Buck gone, eventually Mom felt that she wanted another dog in the house.

She got a yapper.  Bo.  Bo was a Maltese.  Pure white and completely untrained.  It got into everything, and was never fully housebroken.

Hence the reason why that rug was on my back porch.

While Bo was watering every piece of furniture in the house, Mom lived with it.  Bo wasn't a long lived dog, he had diabetes and went blind toward the end.

The rug got cleaned professionally but there was still a rust stain and it got rolled up and moved out when the house got sold and passed out of the family.

It ended up placed in my Cedar Chest that moved with us from Philadelphia to Florida when we came in 2006.

There it sat.  For the next 8 years.  Taking up space with my needing to do "Something" with it.

Finally, I got a wild hair.  I would "see what is going on with that rug"!  Maybe I could use it again?  I could keep it on the side of the bed in the bedroom that Rack doesn't get to!

The road to the back porch is paved with good intentions.

It didn't go well.

I pulled all the other things out of the old cedar chest that got crammed in there over the years.  Mostly things for visitors that I wanted to keep clean.  Spare pillow, sheets, a blanket were all rolled up and folded tightly to allow this rug the space it needed.

The rug finally came out.

I then remembered why it never got used.

Essence of Bo perhaps?

I put the rug on the floor and ran my toes through it thinking if I could put it out back in the sun, perhaps whatever leftovers were there might air out.


After a day of sitting out in the hot Florida sun on the rare 90 degree full sun day we got before two weeks of storms, it didn't air out.  It brewed.

I turned the hose on it, got out the scrub brush from the bathroom, used a mild soap on it.  Even some of that spray I used on the Jeep to make it not smell like the 12 year old car that it is.

It sat outside another day to dry off.

Dragging it into my Florida room, it sat behind the desk.

Two days later Kevin asked "What is that smell?  It smells like something is burning!".

We did a search and destroy mission.  It gave me an excuse to get rid of the desktop computer hardware that I had been collecting to repair computers, some old DVD burners, and some really weird electronics that I wanted to put together to build a crystal radio with.  You know, like they did in the boy scouts back in the day? I wasn't a boy scout but I could build one of those radios from memory and change the frequency from AM to Shortwave with a couple of turns on the coil, but that is a different story.

The culprit was this rug.  The one that I had lovingly kept safe since 1996 when it fell into my hands.  Years down the road, it was still here.  I moved it out to the back porch thinking it may just need to air out more.


The next day it was still dry but the lanai smelled of old rug.  Finally it was time for it to go.  Good bye old rug.  It's time for your last trip to become electricity at the Trash-to-Steam plant.

I tried.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Snail and Cactus

We see these everywhere, but this was the first time I saw one on the cactus.

Usually I see these either as two ways.

First late at night after a rainstorm.  I'll take our last walk of the night.  It will be usually, Rack, Kevin, and myself, and sometimes Bill and Ellie.  It never fails.


The last thing that snail saw was the bottom of my size 11 shoe and that was because I didn't see it.  They don't actually glow in the dark and since I don't practice Jainism, I don't walk down the street with a broom to sweep my path.

Although the non-violence tenet of that religion is quite appealing.

The other way is when the shells have been evacuated.   The snails will climb a vertical structure and simply remain there.  At that point the shell is there, stuck to a wall, window, or the rear passenger side tire of my Jeep, and quite empty.

I'm not kidding about the Jeep, these things end up everywhere.

This particular little chocolate candy shaped creature was spotted when I went outside to look at an approaching thunderhead.  Since they don't move very quickly, I went back inside the house, answered a phone call, and came back out with the camera.  It merely continued to crawl over the surface of my cactus.

I have plenty of them and have sent friends and family cuttings from the plant.  Cactus is a great plant for the lazy and that's why I have it, just stick it in a pot and ignore it.

Now why the chocolate companies choose to make a piece that looks like this creature is one thing, but they may have hit upon something.  Chocolate does help snails remember better, so if you need to justify your cravings, perhaps this may help.

Even if they aren't stuffed with Roasted Hazelnut Cream like the snail shaped Guylian Chocolates are.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Oscar, This Will End Badly...

I've learned in the 28 years of having a parrot that they do like to get in things.

I've put all sorts of things on top of his cage.  Sometimes to quiet him down, sometimes as toys.

No matter what, they tend to be both.  Start as an object of fear, then they proceed to be something to be chewed on. 

In this case, the box once held our Weatheralert radio.  In Florida, it's a requirement to have one of those.  Not by the various governments, mind you, but if you don't have one, you're going to be at a loss.

Since Oscar likes to chew anything cardboard or paper, I put it up there with his tennis ball, and his paper towel insert tube.

Originally he looked at it and growled.

Then he went over to it and pecked at it.  The box leaned back and wobbled.  So did Oscar.

Grabbing hold of the box, he realized I wasn't getting too excited about it, so he may as well do what parrots are known for.  He pooped.

Then he began to shred the box.  I think the wobbling got to be what he wanted because he crawled inside of it instead of playing "Let the Human Fetch" by knocking it on the floor.

A happy parrot can be a quiet thing.   He went inside his penthouse and began to redecorate it.  All the while, he was pushing backward on the box until it got perched precariously on the edge.

I said to him "Oscar, this will end badly, why don't you come out?".

Expecting a Simpsons result where Santa's Little Helper heard "Blah blah blah sit blah blah blah".  I was surprised.  He did come out of the box and get interested in other things.

At that point, the Looney Tunes result happened.  He went to nudge the tennis ball, and the box hit the floor.  Oscar was still safe, and I was still entertained.

I put that box back on top waiting to see what would happen next.  You just never know!