Chef Wannabe

I’d be his sous chef any day!

I think it’s time I face facts: I’m starting to enjoy cooking.

I don’t know that I could honestly say I ever liked cooking before now. I like food. I like cooked food. I like eating. And since I do not have a private chef and cannot afford to eat out or order in every night (gluten allergy and chronic Crohn’s issues aside) cooking has always been a necessity. Jeffrey and I have shared cooking responsibilities throughout our relationship – he handling the bulk of breakfasts, me handling the bulk of dinners – but our meals were pretty basic: tacos, spaghetti, stir fry…simple, quick, good, gut safe. Sure, I’d try the occasional recipe for something more involved and different, but those instances were rare, and often were more stressful than they were worth.

But ever since the world of COVID began, we’ve had to give up dining out, so anything we wanted we had to cook. I was not prepared to go without so many of my favorite dishes for so long, so it was cook ’em myself or suffer.

And cook ’em I did. But before I could become a home grown chef, I had to prepare.

I purchased more spices, herbs, oils, sauces, and other basic ingredients to stockpile. I reorganized my kitchen to be more cooking-friendly. I researched gluten free and gut friendly versions of all my favorite recipes. I purchased a few new kitchen utensils and one big cooking aid: my Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 cooker. Then I got to work.

It’s been hit or miss, often more miss than hit, as I learned how to prep things, marinade things, cook things, and adjust as needed. I originally followed recipes to a “T”, but now I adjust cooking times, temps, seasoning, and amounts as I see fit, based on my experience in the kitchen over the last 17 months. I love cooking with, and prefer, my Ninja Foodi, but I still use my oven and stove top for baking, boiling, and sauteing as needed.

And I’ve gotten better, although the bar was so low when I started I’m not sure my better isn’t still everyone else’s worst. What I didn’t anticipate is that I am starting to actually like cooking. I think about meals every day now, and what else I can try to make. I am not totally crushed when things bomb, and I am more willing to try something two or three times to get it right. I am no longer afraid to try to cook something because it seems too difficult or too expensive to risk ruining. I’ve tackled several (Americanized) Chinese dishes, filet Mignon, breads, seafood dishes, and complex sauces and marinades. It helps that I have a non-picky husband willing to try anything I cook and is always appreciative of my efforts.

I’ve thought about writing more about my cooking trial and errors, but I don’t feel my skill and knowledge is worthy of becoming a semi-food blogger. Still, I may share more, especially about my successes.

Last night I tried my hand at spring rolls for the first time, using our air fryer instead of frying in oil to try to get them crispy. It was a horrible failure, although we still ate them, despite their mushiness, with forks and several dipping sauces (including a homemade peanut sauce that tasted yummy!) and they tasted OK. After watching several videos today, I’ve learned what I did wrong and I’m excited to try them again soon.

Tonight I will be making somerset apple and pork with apples from our backyard apple trees (this was the first year they bore fruit.) This is a favorite recipe I used to make “back in the day” and my only “fancy” recipe I ever attempted back then. Now it seems quite simple and I can’t help laughing that I ever thought of it as complex or impressive. Just some basic sauteed pork, apples and onions in a cream sauce. Regardless, it is delicious and we will enjoy it.

But I still miss going out to dinner.

Fall of the Fog

It is quite foggy this morning. The first fog of Fall. (I know the official start of Autumn is still a week away, but close enough, and this morning certainly feels like an Autumn morning.) Foggy mornings always remind me of the start of the school year. First day of school in September was often foggy, and I remember often walking through the fog to school. (I don’t have many fond memories of school, which was not a pleasant experience for me, but this is one of the few memories I enjoy.) I grabbed some shots from the front and back of the house:

In relation to the cooler weather (I suppose,) I have been thinking about the upcoming holiday season, which is weird for me because I’ve always been a staunch believer that we do not even discuss such things until the first of November. Perhaps it’s just the need for something to occupy my mind and time, as we continue through a second year of COVID and isolation, but I have X-mas on the brain. I’m about 75% done with my X-mas shopping (all done on-line, of course)and we’ve designed and ordered our holiday cards already, which should arrive Friday. I’ve begun to stockpile delivery boxes for use in packaging and wrapping gifts, and I’m starting to mentally plan our decorating strategy. Oy!

I am also thinking about (and greatly looking forward to) our upcoming vacation in October, if for no other reason than I want (and need) the break from work. We were supposed to be going to Fort Lauderdale with the BFJ and his hubby, but that plan got postponed for obvious reasons. And given the current explosion of transmissions and recommended precautions, this will be exclusively a staycation for us. Short of a few leisure drives to get us out of the house, and perhaps a stroll or two through some deserted nature areas, there isn’t much else we feel safe doing. We’ve discussed possibly going to dinner somewhere, if we can find outdoor seating, but even that seems too risky at this point, so it is unlikely we will do it. We will have to settle for entertaining ourselves at home. I certainly have plenty of hobbies and pastimes to fill my time, and the hubby is pretty content just relaxing at home and not being on a schedule, but it would be nice to be able to do something outside of our daily home life and routine. So I’ll continue to ponder it. It’s times like this I wish we had a vacation home (and the funds to afford one.)

Ah well, que sera sera.

Stay safe, all.

Cleaner pastures

This weekend we cleaned house. It needed it badly. Top on my list was cleaning out the refrigerator, which had started to develop a faint odor that I could not pinpoint or eradicate. So out everything came onto the counters, and to work I went.

While I organize our food regularly, put away groceries methodically, and wipe up any noticeable spots of yuk, I am still always surprised at how dirty the refrigerator gets. When did we spill something there? What is that dried on crap? How did that get there and how do I get it out?

I clean the fridge about 4 times a year (maybe more often…I’ve never actually kept track.) I pull out every removable shelf and drawer to clean in the sink, then clean every nook and cranny of the fridge itself, enlisting the aid of various cleaning aids: sponges, cleaning fluids, paper towels, and toothpicks (to get at those tine little crevices.) When all is said and done, I return everything in a slightly more organized manner, and I am relatively pleased with the cleanliness and order of it.

We cleaned the rest of the house and all is looking shiny and dustless one again, which will change in about a day. But it was finished in time to host a friend for a belated birthday dinner Sunday night (cheese fondue with veggies, chicken, and sausage to dip) so we at least have one witness that our house was clean at one point in time.

Sometimes, cleaning seems pointless and endless. We spend all this time washing, sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, and mopping the house, only to have it all look unkempt in less than a week’s time, and then the process starts all over again. We joke that “at least this is a new layer of dust and dirt” but it is frustrating.

Do you care about having a clean house? How often do you clean house? Do you have levels of cleaning like we do? (Room or object specific cleaning, like windows, patio, or showers; Regular light cleaning – surface dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming; Monthly Deep cleaning every inch of the house, corner to corner.) Do you use a cleaning service or would you ever? If you have isolated during COVID, has the lack of visitors changed how much/often/thorough you clean?

How often do you clean your refrigerator? Are you able to keep it spotless, or do you discover mystery spills and stains you are baffled by? Any tips or tricks to food organization or keeping things cleaner I should be aware of?

Can you think of a more boring blog post than this?

Roll Call, Retail Therapy, Repairs, and Relatives

I updated my Blog Roll to the right with the blogs I currently follow. (Should I be following you too? Let me know in the comments.) I also added a count down to my retirement in 2026.

We had breakfast on our porch yesterday morning, at our little bistro table bought for just such an occasion. I made Canadian Bacon, Egg, and Cheese English Muffin sandwiches, served with a side of bacon, orange juice, and coffee. Yum!

Seating limited – reservations required!

We installed the second rolling shelf in our bottom cabinet opposite the one we installed last week. I’m very pleased.

Wok and grill tools to the left; dog food and treats to the right.

I purchased and assembled a new adjustable stool to use while playing trombone. Woohoo!

Best seat in the house for my one man brass concerts!

I got some new super swag!

My new Green Lantern Apple watch band.

My new Action figures, purchased from a newly discovered local comic book store:

I repaired a Spider-Man ornament that fell and broke in 3 places when I had to move my superhero ornament tree in order to clean up the water in my basement. Gorilla Glue works great for such repairs.

Both feet and right arm successfully re-attached.

Jeffrey’s cousins in Mississippi (my only in-laws to ever reach out to me and welcome me into his family) sent us this adorable crocheted rainbow giraffe, with this really cute letter:

Little Rainbow Ralphie
Vicki is Jeffrey’s cousin; Monty is her husband.
Ralphie with the rest of the crochet clan.

And that’s our weekend so far.(We have two more days off.)

Stay safe, all.

Our first time

We grilled filet mignon tonight for dinner – our first time ever making filet mignon at home, and our first time making it on our Ninja Foodi grill. It came out fantastic!

Medium rare filets served with blue cheese butter and scallion sauce and a side of grilled parmesan asparagus and tater tots (the only potatoes we had in the house.)

We enjoyed dinner with martinis made with a blueberry gin we discovered today.

I had mine by with a bit of dry vermouth and lemon; Jeffrey had his straight up.

We enjoyed our dinner and cocktails with one of our favorite feel-good movies: Down With Love.

A lovely Saturday night date night, indeed!

Bear Necessities

The BFJ came for an overnight visit and delivered our Bear display for our bear-themed guest bathroom. We had purchased the display sized bear (we already had the smaller version) from a store in Provincetown a while back, but it was on back order. It came in while Jim was in Ptown, so he picked it up for us and hand delivered it this morning.

I absolutely love it. Of course, I had to move all the little bears into the bathroom so tey culd all be together:


There are many more where these came from. I wonder if we’ll get any more? *smirk*

Weekend Warrior Queens*

(* A nod, of course, to our much missed Warrior Queen, AM!)

This weekend, we got busy with many projects.

Project #1: We installed a new rolling tray in one of our our bottom kitchen cabinets, so items placed in it would be more accessible for two old, 50+ men who are no longer spry enough to drop to our knees and pop back up again (get your minds out of the gutter) without great effort, let alone crawl halfway into a kitchen cabinet to get a wok, bag of flour, or what have you.

I upped my butch factor by using the following tools:

Hand drill, for drilling those deep holes!
Torque screwdriver for burying the screws.

I may have lost a few points using my pink “Tools for Her Kit”

FYI: When I rented my first apartment (in 1990 something,) my Mom found a pink tool kit advertised as “Tools For Her” which she thought would be a funny gift since I was gay. Turns out, that tool kit came in quite handy, and I used it until the case fell apart and various pieces were lost during my many moves. (I still have a few of the tools from that kit.) I missed it so much that I found a similar kit a few years back (thankfully no longer marketed as “Tools For Her”) and bought it, so this is my second pink tool kit. It is such a handy, compact, portable kit, and we still use it regularly to this day. But, it will always be my “Tools For Her” kit in my mind.

This was the rolling drawer we successfully installed:

It was easy to install and works great, so we will be getting another one to install in the bottom cabinet on the other side of the fridge.

Project # 2: We planted 4 Catmint plants in the front yard and 1 Hydrangea in the back yard.

3 Little Catmints, all in a row.

Hopefully the Catmints will grow up to look like this….

…and absorb all that extra water that keeps finding it’s way into our basement.

Project #3: I assembled an additional, small, desk for my personal laptop that creates an “L” shaped workspace in the basement or me during the day.

Now I can be studious AND slack at the same time.

Project #4: We hung my Alex Ross Green Lantern poster on the inside of the basement door, which is the entrance to my office, comic book room, and additional TV lounge area.

In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my basement!

Project #5: We made some make shift shelves to add to my display space in the basement. I was looking at the back wall display shelves and couldn’t help noticing all the wasted dead space.

Arrows denote where I thought we could create extra display surfaces.

In a moment of inspiration, we popped over to Homo Depot and grabbed two 6′ x 1′ planks and some black spray paint. After getting them home, we cut the planks down to 5.5′ and spray painted them black:

After they were fully dried, I placed one under the bottom, and one on the top of, the top shelf unit and – VOILA! – More display space!

Guess I’ll need more toys to fill up that extra space!

A pretty productive weekend, if I do say so myself.

Mexican, Margaritas, and Magic

We had a productive day (which I’ll blog about tomorrow) and decided to celebrate with one of our favorite movie nights:

Mexican food, Margaritas, and “Practical Magic” (inspired by a scene where the cast has midnight margaritas.)

Tonight’s movie meal: Taquitos.

Let date night begin!

This and That

It’s been a long week so far. I’ve had some gut issues…not severe enough to be alarmed, but enough to make me uncomfortable sitting up all day and tire me out by the end of my work day. At times like this, I am so extra grateful I get to just go upstairs (my office is in the basement) and collapse onto the sofa or bed and not have to drive for an hour to get home.

So, what’s new here? Notta lotta.

I got this complete collection of Super Friends figure sets in one fell swoop on eBay. Each box includes a Super Friend and one of their adversaries from the Legion of Doom. Very excited. I wish they hadn’t discontinued making them, as there are many characters missing from both sides (hero and villain) but at least I now have all the ones that were produced.

I can practically hear the theme song playing.

I also purchased this Ninja IQ personal mini blender. We love our Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Grill so much, I decided to stick with the same brand for this item. Blended smoothies and juices can be a good friend to IBD sufferers, and I’m tired of pulling out my full size blender to blend individual servings. I’ve done a few trial runs and it works great, just like the grill. I’m very happy with it.

Very sleek and shiny!
A blended Blueberry Tom Collins (with extra blueberries)

We had some more water seepage in our basement this week. This is the second time this summer. After a heavy rain, a small puddle collects on the floor, so far in the same spot both times. Our basement has been bone dry (no evidence of any water damage, leakage, or seepage) for 9 years, but now that we’ve had it refinished, it’s decided to start acting up. We suspect it’s a combination of the massive amount of rainfall we’ve gotten this summer, over-saturating the ground, and the removal of the two huge bushes from in front of the wall where the seepage is occurring, leaving a void where water absorbing plants used to be. We have already ordered smaller water sucking bushes to plant in the same spot, but will likely have to have the area of the wall where the seepage has occurred removed, examined, waterproofed, and replaced, to prevent mold. It’s a small amount (at least what we see on the inside) but it’s still a major pain in in the arse and quite disappointing.

We FINALLY located a lawn guy to mow our lawn. We’ve called multiple people/businesses over the last year or so and not a single person called us back. He’s someone who lives in our neighborhood and advertised on the local neighborhood page on Facebook. He seems very nice and happy to have the job so here’s hoping he works out.

Last but not least, I set up a “permanent rehearsal spot” in my basement comic book room to leave my Trombone and stand out, in the hopes it will encourage me to start playing more. While I have not felt up to playing it this week (thanks stupid guts,) I am excited to crack open my music books and start playing again soon. You just haven’t heard “Row Row Row Your Boat” until you’ve heard it played on a trombone!

I’ll have a captive audience of super-pets to cheer me on.

Question: Do any of my readers play a musical instrument (now or in the past?) Are there any that would like (or plan) to learn?

Membership has its privileges

As a member of the immunosuppressed community, I recently became eligible for a third “booster” shot of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine. So I called my local pharmacy this morning to confirm they were accepting walk-ins and off I went.

I am now also a member of the Booster Club.

I’m very grateful to have access to this third shot. While it won’t absolve me of all the other precautions (masks, sanitization, proper distancing, limited contact with others) it does give me some comfort that I’ve utilized every tool available to me to protect myself and others.

Speaking of tools, I used my dehydrator setting on my Ninja Foodi today for the first time. I dehydrated apples plucked from my own backyard apple tree. I think they came out great.

These tasted great!

Happy Sunday, all.