Friday, October 28, 2016

Skinny Jack's Estate

My brother tipped Ed and I off to an estate sale that was chock full of tools, shop stuff, equipment, and more.  It was probably the best garage sale I'd ever been to in my life, even though most of the items were not the type I'm interested in.

The owner, Skinny Jack, had recently passed away.  He was in his late seventies.  We were told by friends of the family that what we were looking at was only about 10-15% of what was left.  They had started selling stuff in early May.  One of the coordinators told us that he'd inventoried and photographed thousands of items.  
They had drill presses, air compressors, grinders, jacks, creepers, hundreds of drill bits, rasps, nuts and bolts, hand sanders (there were at least 15 of those left that I saw, I even bought one), tool boxes, tool belts, tool bags, electrical tape, nails, stencils, wrenches, staplers, and more.  He also had some really great signs, the kind collectors look for.  My brother bought 65 of them!

Skinny Jack sounded like a guy worth knowing.  He must have had some great stories.  He certainly had a treasure trove of memories.  The people in his life must have cared for him a great deal to take on such a daunting task.  The money collected from the estate sale was being given to four different charities.  We would have bought stuff anyway, but it's cool to know the money is going to help others.

Much like I imagined Skinny Jack must have done.

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2015: Trucks Bring It, Give Them A Place To Park
2014: Good Morning Kansas
2013: What A Caricature!
2012: Shopping Among The Farmers
Tango Hotel Alpha November Kilo Sierra, Charlie Company!

2010: It Always Pays To Take The Full Coverage Insurance Option On Your Rental Vehicle
It’s Here! It’s Here!
U.S. Route 287
Room 328
This Could Be The Day You Have A Date With Destiny
Go See It

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A View Into DIY

The pass-thru from the dining area to the kitchen with the header that needed to come out.
From the moment my mother bought this place, she and I thought it would look so much better if the upper part of the wall between the dining room and kitchen were removed.

Every idea we had was going to cost time (mostly my brother's), and money (mostly my mother's), but since she was already painting and tiling and getting new cabinets - Ed and I ripped out the old ones, seen in the photos above and below - wouldn't this be the perfect time to take out a wall?
Old kitchen cabinets with teeny tiny window pass-thru into dining and living area.
I'm glad we agree.

I thought it would be a piece of cake, it was likely only two-by-fours and drywall.  How hard could it be to get that out?  I'd do it myself.  And Ed would help if I needed a brawny hand.

Like every HGTV show touting the ease of DIY, I had no problem taking the drywall off.  That was the fun part.  But then I was confronted not with a two-by-four frame as I had imagined, but a big beam made up of one-by-fours anchored by a two-by-four, in what looked like some sort of support beam.  "Load-bearing", a term I hear all the time on TV, is what came to mind.  Oh, shit.

That's when I stopped my demolition, took pictures, and called my brother.  I was in over my head.

Our idea just created more work for my brother.

Michael removing the large beam that stalled my progress.
The next day he showed up with his tool bag and Sawzall and was ready to tackle the rest of the job. Made a bit more difficult because the new cabinets were already in, Michael worked around everything to pull out the wall.  Ed helped.  My mother and I watched - although I did make a run to Home Depot for the last minute decision to install recessed lighting.
Ed and Michael working on the window opening.
Ultimately, the opening looks a million times better, creating more of an "open concept" (HGTV buzzword) feeling than what was there before.  It allows a lot more light into the kitchen and when standing in the kitchen you don't feel boxed in.  You can see all the way across the room.

All that needs to make it complete now are a few more pieces of drywall, which my brother's drywall contractor will take care of.  I think it was definitely worth the few hours it took to change.

Next on the list is taking out the tub to put in a shower stall.  That one is completely out of my hands. Even after watching a few YouTube videos, I fully acknowledge that task might be a little bit above my skill level.

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Thirty Minutes To The Ultimate Comfort Dessert
2014: Sweeping Views
2013: Some Mothers Find Time To REALLY Play With Their Kids
2012: Even At 9,000 Feet Above Sea Level, He's Still A Handsome Devil!
2011: Perfecting The Paillard

2010: This Beautiful Place
2009: If I Had A Horn, I’d Toot It. I Do Have A Blog Though.
2008: We Are THAT Good
2007: Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures
2006: Alabama’s Greatest Showplace
2005: Half Nekkid Thursday Virgin

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sizzling Hot Balls Of Meat

I was totally jonesin' for meatballs this week.  The only ones I really love are the ones my grandmother and Aunt Jennie used to make, so a trip to the store was on my to-do list.

There really is no recipe here.  When I asked my Aunt Rosemarie (my father's sister, grandma's daughter) how she made them, she told me "Beef and pork, although I just do beef now, lots of garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, bread soaked in milk (a panade), eggs, and TONS of grated cheese.  The more cheese, the better."  The best ones are also made with ground veal, but I had a hard enough time finding ground pork in my grocery store.  The next time I'll definitely have hit the butcher.

Putting it all together is where the skill and experience comes in.  The more you make them, the better you get. I usually eyeball the ingredients.  I never measure.  This is what I used:

3 pounds of ground beef (fatty, with 75-80% fat.  I got 80/20)
2 pounds of ground pork
3 eggs
Garlic (one entire head, minced)
Italian flat leaf parsley (minced)
Breadcrumbs (I just used seasoned Italian breadcrumbs soaked in some milk)
Parmesan Cheese
Olive Oil for frying

Now, soaking actual bread in milk and then squeezing out the liquid is much better, but I didn't have bread, so I used the breadcrumbs.  I did add milk though.  The reason the bread is better is because it keeps everything more moist, the breadcrumbs make for a harder meatball - which I love, but still, go the panade route if you can.Also, I usually used my favorite Locatelli cheese, which is a salty pecorino romano, but my grocery store only had parmesan, so I used that instead.

I can estimate measurements of the loose ingredients - four cups of grated cheese, a handful of parsley, a heaping teaspoon of salt and pepper, maybe a cup and a half of breadcrumbs.  I just mix until it looks and feels right.  See how helpful that was?

This time I used Ed's cast iron skillet for frying, a first for me.  I poured about an inch of olive oil - must use olive oil, not regular oil, to get the best flavor - in the bottom, arranged all the meatballs, and let 'em cook.  When they get really crispy on one side, turn them over.  They might lose a little of their round shape - I push them down a tad to make sure the entire half gets in the olive oil - but no one will ever say a thing about what they look like.  If they do, refuse to serve them!

When we were kids we couldn't wait to have a fried meatball straight out of the frying pan.  It's the same way today, those first few meatballs are the best.  So you can drain them on paper towels or just polp them in your gravy and let them get all tomato-y.  They'll get a little softer in the sauce, but they shouldn't fall apart.

I made a lot but shared - Kim, her son, my mother - so I'll be making more again soon. They're great in a sandwich, and when you need a little something, a few of them make a great late-night snack.

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How To Get On The Do Not Call List

2014: Gazing At The Stargazers
2013: Oh, How We Love Our La-Z-Boys
2012: The Road To Luminosity
Old School Meets New School

2010: There For The Climbing…If You’re So Inclined
2009: I Need A Thing That Ain’t No Big Thing
2008: Race To The Head
2007: Eddie Fresh From A Nap Friday
2006: Forever Yours
2005: Blur

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Human Catnip

Ed and my friend Kim's cat, lounging on the couch.  No matter where we go, Ed attracts felines. They follow him, sniff his feet, lick his calves, nudge his hand with their heads until he pets them.

They love Ed.

And you can see why...he's obviously delicious. 

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I'm Supposed To Call Who?

2014: Morning Coffee
2013: When The Awkward Silence Comes BEFORE The Conversation
2012: Relax And Enjoy The Ride
Goats Make Good Pizza…And You Don’t Even Get Onion Breath From It

2010: When Medieval Equals Pretty
2009: A Great Celebration Of Abundance
2008: Dormers Of Sweetgrass
2007: Old Power
2006: At Your Service
2005: Clothing Identification 101

Monday, October 24, 2016

When Your Plane Lands, You're Home

Today my mother and I went to visit one of her friends who lives in La Cholla Air Park.  It's been around for over 40 years but I've never had a reason (or the opportunity) to visit.

It's a private airpark in Oro Valley, Arizona.  The people here live on lots that are a minimum of 7 acres each, most of them own a private plane, and many have taxiways that lead right to their house from the 4,500-foot air strip in the center of the community.  All that with a view of the open desert and the Tortolita Mountains.

My mother's friend is selling her house.  What's funny is that a while back I sent a listing from this area to Ed because he's interested in the whole glider/plane ownership thing, and it turned out to be the exact house my mother's friend lives in!  The hanger, if not used for a plane, is adequately sized for a big rig. Or two.

There are signs on all the roads in the communities warning that aircraft have the right of way.  I can't imagine coming home and being met by a plane coming in my direction.

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Lining Up For The Pony Ride

2014: Keep It Movin' People
2013: Salt For Miles
2012: I Attended Without An Entourage
It’s All Greek To Me

2010: Italy On A Shoestring
2009: What The Elle???
2008: Weird And Random
2007: California Burning With Need
2006: Walking Into Another World
2005: Fall Into Winter

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Behold The Beautiful Brisket

According to Ed, and much of the internet, Brisket is one of the most difficult pieces of meat to cook in a smoker.  If that's true, then I must have a master chef hiding behind a truck driver exterior living in my house.

Ed absolutely ROCKED his first brisket!  All that book learnin' really came in handy.

Above you'll see the six pound brisket just minutes after it came out of its resting place. After it had been smoked for almost six hours, Ed took it out of the smoker, wrapped it in foil, and put it back in the smoker for two more hours.  After that, he placed it in an insulated cooler for another two hours.

I had the honor of cutting the first slice. 

I've gotta tell smelled divine.  Ed seasoned it only with kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper.  I pulled off a crispy nub even before I started slicing, and it was super tasty.

When I initially trimmed the brisket the night before, Ed instructed me to leave a quarter to a half-inch of fat on it.  You can see that layer of fat in the two photos below.  Once it was on our plates, the thin strip of fat easily peeled away.  The few pieces that clung to the meat enhanced the taste.  If you're not aware of this little fact, let me fill you in.

In addition to the tasty fat, a smoked piece of meat will have what's called a "Smoke Ring".  You can see it in the photos above and below.  The smoke ring, usually pink or red in color, becomes easily visible on the edge of the piece of meat and is what happens as the meat absorbs smoke, usually until it reaches about 140 degrees internally.  The slower you cook the meat, the more smoke the piece of meat absorbs.  The smoke flavor comes from what kind of wood or pellets you use. It happens whether you slow or fast cook the meat.

It is said that the sign of great barbecue is the presence of the prized band of rosy red around the edges.  If that's there, you have arrived.

I'm going to come right out and say, having tried brisket at several barbecue joints across the country, that Ed has completely arrived with this piece of brisket.  On. His. First. Try. It was truly amazing.

Perfectly seasoned with a gorgeous crust, each thin slice fell effortlessly off the knife.  It was so incredibly tender and flavorful - and this was before putting on his homemade barbecue sauce!  The meat just fell apart.

I served it sliced, but it can easily have been shredded or chopped like some 'cue joints do it.  

This was an entirely successful and delightful smoked meat meal.  We served it to my mother and friend Kim the way they do it up in Texas - with a stack of Texas Toast, sliced white onions, BBQ sauce warmed up in a squeeze bottle, baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad.

We stuffed ourselves.

Here's the recipe for the barbecue sauce that Franklin Barbecue uses.  They bottle it, sell it, and put it on the tables in their restaurant.  But you don't have to go to Austin to get it, you can whip it up in your own kitchen.  Doesn't get easier than that.

Makes about 3 cups

1 3/4 cups ketchup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershite sauce
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and warm gently over medium heat, stirring occassionally.  There is no need to bring the mixture to a boil, as the idea is just to warm it enough to melt and integrate the ingredients.  Once you have done that, remove from the heat and let cool.  Transfer to a jar, bottle, squeeze bottle, or however you want to store it.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

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2015: He Really Is A Carpenter
2014: Constant Surveillance
2013: Not Even Good Enough To Make My Top 100 Pictures Of Fall List
2012: Exactly
2011: A Little Grease More Often Is Better
2010: Scenes From Florence
2009: Eddie Palm Sketch Friday
2008: Moabulous
2007: Ready To Draw The Future
2006: Red Fish, Blue Fish, One Fish, Two Fish.
2005: Beautiful Enough To Lick

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Roll With Me, Roll With Me

I discovered this song a year or so ago and every once in a while I come across it via my iTunes shuffle. I always sing it out loud, like I did today while tooling around town in the pickup, but it fits best when I'm out on the road in the big rig.

Holly Williams is the granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr., and the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr.  The talent was evidently passed down trough the generations.

Here are the lyrics if you want to sing along:

Holly Williams

I've been sitting here wondering if I'll ever get
Back to those wheels, will I ever be
Changing those strings out before nine
I am wishing for the life that I used to live
Giving everything that I had to give
In a brand new city 'bout every night

Missing those nights, missing that sky, I been missing home

Missing their smiles, missing those miles, I been missing home

Out there on the highway, out there on the open road

Ooh baby will you roll with me, roll with me
Head down to New Orleans
I should be wearing out the blacktop
Out there with the boys I love
Everybody will you roll with me, roll with me
Running down this dream
And get me out there on the highway

I've been sitting here asking him every night

For a brand new song and a piece of mind
The road is all I think about these days
All I need is out there, I will be just fine
With a 6 string guitar and a jug of wine
When the lights go down around that stage

Missing those nights, missing that sky, I been missing home

Yeah, I been missing home

Out there on the highway, out there on the open road

Ooh baby will you roll with me, roll with me
Head down to New Orleans
I should be wearing out the blacktop
Out there with the boys I love
Everybody will you roll with me, roll with me
Running down this dream

I miss the sound of rubber rolling out my window

And that crescendo the highway brings
Oh, these wheels are gonna keep me spinning all my days
Out here on the highway

Out there on the highway, out there on the open road

Ooh baby will you roll with me, roll with me
Head down to New Orleans
I should be wearing out the blacktop
Out there with the boys I love
Everybody will you roll with me, roll with me
Everybody come and roll with me, roll with me
And get me out there on the highway
Oh oh, ooh ooh yeah

Roll with me, roll with me

Yeah honey will you roll with me, roll with me
Out there on the highway

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Friday, October 21, 2016

A Manifesto For Meat

Ed reads manuals, websites, magazines, birthday cards.  But I don't think I've ever seen him read a book.

Until he got his hands on Franklin Barbecue - A Meat-Smoking Manifesto.

A gift from our friend, Gary Goulette, this book hasn't left Ed's hands since he opened the package the day it came in the mail.  He's like a kid with a new toy.  And Gary and Ed have become like teenage girls talking and texting on the phone lately.  About barbecue.  Gary's been smoking meat for a while now so he's been providing tips and tricks, telling Ed smoker stories, and making suggestions on cuts of meat that have worked out well for him.  He's the one who suggested Ed smoke a pork butt for his first attempt.

But let's get back to the book...apparently, this Aaron Franklin dude is a big deal.  If you visit his restaurant in Austin, prepare to wait in line for hours.  Earlier this year, The New York Times wrote about him.  His book covers everything from identifying parts on a smoker, to what kind of wood to use and the results to expect, to cuts of meat (with photos and histories of), to actually cooking, serving, and eating.  It's actually kinda right up Ed's alley, because it is like a manual.

We'd like to thank Gary for being so generous and being so interested in Ed's new endeavor.  Thanks, Gar!

This weekend Ed will be making a brisket, a Texas barbecue staple and something Ed grew up eating.  His excitement level for this cut of meat is off the charts - it doesn't get any more Texas than smoked brisket.

Come back to see the results!

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Morning Y'all
2014: Happy Fall Morning
2013: Own The Day
2012: Barrio Viejo 
2011: A Daunting Task
2010: Salivating Over The Salumeria
2009: The Cheapest Entertainment Around
2008: Proud To Be A Liberal American
2007: I Don’t Think This Is What The Gideons Had In Mind
2006: Ten Reasons Today
2005: The Big Five Oh!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Ten Outstanding Years

This week I received my 10 Year Safety Award - a paid 3-day cruise to the Bahamas which includes airfare, airport transfers, and the cruise itself.

I'm not going.

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the gift, but I went on a 32-day cruise in 2015, and three years ago we went on this very same 3-day cruise when Ed won his 10 Year Safety Award.  Honestly, the hassle of flying from Arizona to Florida to get on a boat to go to the Bahamas for one day isn't worth it.  I've opted to take the alternative gift.

The certificate came with a letter congratulating me on my "outstanding achievement". What's even more of an outstanding achievement - and means more to me than this certificate or cruise - is that Ed trusts me with his life when I'm behind the wheel of his truck.  I'd say he sleeps like a baby, but that's not really accurate since they get up for feedings and cry at the slightest provocation.  He sleeps more like a house cat.  Or a corpse.  That's definitely evidence of how much confidence he has in my ability.

I'm not sure how many miles I've driven at this point, but I'm probably up around 500,000 or so.  That's a lot of pavement, baby.

Done without incident, save for a few deer strikes and a very injured bear.

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Mangiare All'aperto, Trucker Style

2014: Released To The Press
2013: In A Time When Gentlemen And Ladies Actually Existed
2012: The Great Affair 
2011: The Gaping Void Says It All
2010: Under The Tuscan Sun Within 3,000 Year Old Walls
2009: Dragged Back, Kicking And Screaming
2008: Seniors Maintain Law And Order By Way Of A Fluke Discovery
2007: Lisa Lavie Is The Angel Here
2006: Fight The Moth
2005: Abandoned But Not Forgotten

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bathing Beauty

Every few weeks our steed gets a bath.  We run in the dusty Southwest and after a while the swirling tornadoes of dust dull everything on the truck.  I'm sure it's also stripping the paint as we drive, just like it carves away rock in the canyons, but there's really nothing we can do about that.

In the winter we wash more often, as the road salt does a number on everything.  But it needs to be done in the summer, too.  Dust, dirt, and bugs.  Oh. My. God.  The bugs.

It costs $77 to get the truck and trailer washed, which is about the national average.  Some places do a better job than others but when it's done, no matter where it gets washed, it always looks ten times better.

Here you see her leaving the wash bay with a smile.

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2015: Win In A Complex World
2014: Farm To Belly
2013: It's The Weekend. Kick Back And Relax.
2012: With Pleasure
2011: It’s Exhausting Imagining You In These Pants
2010: Florentine Youth
2009: What’s In A Name?
2008: Farming The Wind
2007: Eddie In The Big Little City Friday
2006: Photograph It If You Think You May Never See It Again
2005: Why???

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Driving Into The Sunset With Voices In My Head

I've written in the past about podcastsenjoy listening to while I drive.  The time passes quickly when I have something to entertain me.

Well, there are some new podcasts that have come out and I feel it's my duty to share them with you.  Here's a list of the latest ear candy on my to-listen list. 

Slate's Trumpcast
My absolute first choice must-listen-to is this podcast.  Donald Trump provides so much material, it's impossible not to have something to say about it.  In addition to Jacob Weisberg presenting crack interviews and insightful information on the most polarizing candidate of our time, John Di Domenico, Trump impersonator, reads Donald Trump's latest tweets.  It's my favorite part of the show.

How I Built This
Another winner from NPR, How I Built This is a podcast they describe as, "about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. Each episode is a narrative journey marked by triumphs, failures, serendipity and insight — told by the founders of some of the world's best known companies and brands. If you've ever built something from nothing, something you really care about — or even just dream about it."  It's hosted by Guy Raz, who hosts another one of my favorites, the TED Radio Hour.

This is a new one - only 8 episodes so far - but a real winner.  Found explores "personal stories of love, loss, hope, transformation, and aspiration through the lens of lost and found notes --with the power of humor and music."  After you listen to the episode, you'll want to check out the notes through the FOUND app or the website.

Code Switch
NPR knows how to crank out great podcasts.  They say, "Ever find yourself in a conversation about race and identity where you just get...stuck? Code Switch can help. We're all journalists of color, and this isn't just the work we do. It's the lives we lead. Sometimes, we'll make you laugh. Other times, you'll get uncomfortable. But we'll always be unflinchingly honest and empathetic."

More Perfect
A spinoff of another favorite podcast of mine, Radiolab, this one is super-interesting.  We are in the midst of having a new justice appointed to the Supreme Court, so it's very timely.  And appointing this justice is a big freakin' deal.  As most of us have seen, it's a country-dividing deal.  This podcast "dives into the rarefied world of the Supreme Court to explain how cases deliberated inside hallowed halls affect lives far away from the bench." It's a winner. 

Produced by Howard Schultz (Starbucks CEO) and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, this podcast is "a unique collection of stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities. Upstanders help inspire us to be better citizens."  It's a Starbucks original series narrated by SuChin Pak.

And one I just heard about but haven't listened to yet:

Remarkable Lives, Tragic Deaths
This podcast examines the lives and deaths of prominent people who changed history and influenced pop culture. Each episode is focused on an historical figure and takes you on a dramatic journey through the life and ultimate tragic death of those who have had an impact on society. With the help of voice actors, we attempt to honor these individuals by bringing their stories to life. New episodes are released every Wednesday. Remarkable Lives, Tragic Deaths is part of the Parcast Network and is a Cutler Media Production.

So now you have a few new entertainment options.  Happy listening! 

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Look Away, Look Away, Look Away, Dixieland

2014: Denial For Sale In New Mexico
2013: Friday Night Fright
2012: Ten Things For October
Jane’s Addiction

2010: Isolated Iesolana
2009: WWJD?
2008: Where The Angels Arrive And Depart
2007: Diamonds In The Deep Blue
2006: Everyone Is Doing It
2005: En-Gulfed Coast