Thoughts and assorted philosophical musing about: Family, Friends, Fun, Hobbies, & other everyday things.
My continuing efforts to serve as a First Sergeant (Top) in the Army of God.
My latest interest is in Letterboxing.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

S'nuff of this Stuff

I have definitely had enough of that white snow s#%@ s░░w stuff !! I am looking out the window at falling s░░w. The prediction is that it will accumulate a total of up to 4-8 inches. I can't imagine how bad of a blizzard we would be having to deal with if we didn't have (TIC) Global Warming. Donna went to a Rotary breakfast early this morning. She had planned to make a few stops on the way home to finish some choirs, but the roads were so slick she cut it short and came back home. I guess we are in for another few days of "Cabin Fever".

I was reflecting this week on all of the things that I have to be thankful for. The aspect of my life I tend to complain about most is my health. At 69 I am no longer a fresh new branch on the family tree. Among other things I have lousy balance due to peripheral neuropthy, my hearing is shot from years in noise environments including battle fields, then there is the hypothyroidism, sleep apnea, and congestive heart failure. Oh did I mention gout? The dentist's cash register starts to purr every time I drive past his office and the eye doctors pace the floor in eager anticipation of our visits.

Still I thank My Lord in all of this. You see I did have many many years of very good health. My family has also had few serious medical issues to deal with. Now it seems that every day brings us the bad news of another friend or acquaintance experiencing real challenges in dealing with the results of infirmities such as chronic disease, illness, or trauma. Much of the time these concerns involve persons much younger than I. Thinking on these less fortunate individuals helps me to realize that I have really been very blessed in my medical history.

Then there are all who are struggling financially in our slumping economy. Many of those in need are themselves young and have a young family. Large numbers of these had either not been in the job force long enough or due to continuing demands for basic necessities had not been able to acquire a financial cushion. In many cases even those with the means who had tried to prepare underestimated the pervasiveness, length, and severity of the upheaval. Everyday we hear of more in our circle of friends loosing their jobs.

We are certainly not affluent and our meager retirement investments have suffered very badly in the market, but at least much of our limited retirement income is from sources that seem to be stable and should provide for our needs with a pittance of mad money left over.

Our mortgage payment is pretty low and we own two aging cars that are paid for which provide adequate transportation. In most cases our clothes are not very fashionable but they are suitable for our needs. We are still able to put food on the table and even eat out on occasion.

So for these blessings of health, wealth, and welfare it is past time for me to acknowledge their source.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Winter Whin and Whimper

Whin Whin - -Will it ever Stop !!!!!

The snow has been coming down again on and off all week. It's been a very long winter already, but it just keeps on coming and coming and coming!! I am beginning to think that Buckeye Chuck lied to us. Donna was going to meet her sister and uncle for lunch this week in Mansfield Ohio, but the snow closed the Interstate for several hours and created generally unsafe driving conditions for days. It became a "Don't drive if you can avoid it" period so she wisely stayed at home. Thank God it isn't as deep here as it was in this picture (taken elsewhere) which I have included below.

As I whine and whimper about the everlasting winter I am reminded of my post on another blog in July 2008. in that article "The White Note", I introduced what I believe to be a new acronym into English jargon. Follow that link to see the origin of WHIN.

But let me go on and WHIN of more recent things. At least the last week has been packed with entertaining events and some things that I can do while confined inside.

Valentines Day: By all indications it was a great success. We ventured out to Buccis, a very nice local restaurant, where we celebrated the day along with one of our sons and his date. There we enjoyed good food and the good company. I am still receiving many hugs, smiles, and thank yous. You just can't go wrong letting your spouse know that you love and appreciate them.

Winter Olympics: Something to keep couch potatoes occupied. This has been our primary evening activity since the games started. We enjoyed the opening ceremonies and watching most of the events that were selected by the network for prime-time viewing.

A new season of Amazing Race. IMHO they haven't managed to totally ruin it yet. I don't think it is nearly as wholesome as the first few seasons but still pretty good. Someone's politically correct agenda is becoming increasingly evident in the selection of participants and gutter language is becoming more frequent, but it is still passable entertainment on a cold winter's night. It is certainly a cut above most of the supposedly "Reality" shows.

President's Day: Actually the federal holiday is still legally know as Washington's Birthday even though the date to celebrate it has become flexible. Banks closed, no mail, and kids out of school.

The Beginning of the 14 Day Chinese New Year celebration: It fell on Valentine's Day this year. If you are near a Chinese population of any size it is fun to observe the parades and fireworks. In the 12 year cycle of the Chinese zodiac this is the year of the Tiger.

In traditional Christian circles Fat Tuesday was the day prior to the beginning of lent. Lent has historically been observed as a time of fasting, and other forms of solemn and pious behavior. Throughout Europe this meant no red meat, no fat, not sweets, no alcohol, and even no sexual activity. In a fit of housecleaning prior to lent and the last minute enjoyment of multiple excesses "Fat Tuesday" celebrations became common. Of course you know about Mardi Gras, and other questionably Christian Carnival celebrations. One less know practice by many with Western European origins is clearing the pantry of sweets and fats by preparation of various sweet treats. Locally the primary purveyors of this tradition are those of Polish Extraction. The Polish version of these Fat Tuesday treats, know as PNCSK, is essentially a variety of very, very rich and delicious filled donuts. Of course, being an incorrigible foody, I enjoyed one!

I'll finish with this little tidbit that I picked up today on the Atlas Quest website:
80 years ago (18 Feb 1930) the first cow was flown in an airplane. For the complete story see.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ruby What ??

With tomorrow being Valentines Day my mind has been going back all week to this the "Official" holiday for lovers. For several recent years I had prepared a fancy feast for my beloved wife, but now lack the energy to pull it off. After church we will eat out at her favorite local restaurant then come home to spend the day. I have arranged for delivery of both fruit and flower bouquets. Also the requisite chocolates and a card.

When I think of romance the first thing that always comes to mind is the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a Persian poem that dates back well over a thousand years. A rather free translation by Edward Fitzgerald is somewhat familiar to most of us. The complete text can be read here, but the stanza that is easiest for my mind to remember and interpret follows:

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread-and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness-
O, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

That has often intrigued me. Personally I would also throw in a chunk or two of good cheese. In fact that pretty well defines my diet while traveling for days in remote parts of the world without refrigeration or safe drinking water.

The picture that comes to mind is of lush grass under a tree by a river bank with a table cloth spread out and laid with foods from our picnic basket. My lover and I are sitting there with our attention more on each other than the food. This romantic image is so strong that Donna & I have often given a picnic basket containing these items as a wedding present. The book of verse is relegated to third place as I am both a romantic and a foodie.

I had considered creating a Valentines day letterbox to intersperse with others in Marjorie's Nest, my garden hostel. With the heavy snow cover letterboxing is slow this time of year. I already have a Groundhog day box out with St. Patty's day to follow soon. The Valentines day box will have to wait.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Happiness is a Hoagie

Yesterday we watched the Superbowl and ate lots of chili and other snacks. It was a good competitive game and for no particular reason I was rooting for the Saints so I was pleased with the rather unexpected outcome.

Our daughter Ellisa (who has since graduated from college, married, and is now the mother of two boys) started participating in the Local Berea High School's Marching band as a banner carrier while she was still in middle school (1993?), then continued on for several of her high school years. The very highly regarded band has a funky show band style that has resulted in it's performance at both the Rose Bowl and Disneyland several times. The Berea City School District Band Program has been Nationally ranked among the Best 100 Communities for Music Education for the last 9 years.

The band receives virtual no public funding and is essentially self supporting. The fund raising arm for the band is the Berea Band Boosters. Their primary funding activity is an annual hoagie sale. If you are a band member, parent of a band member, close relative of one, or have one as a neighbor, you would have difficulty in not helping with the sale, distribution, or purchase of hoagies. I recall spending many hours helping to assemble them in the schools cafeteria.

But these folks have an ace up their sleeve. The hoagies are distributed for Superbowl Sunday. So of course the other major food item on our menu yesterday was band hoagies. They are actually quite good but we did not put a large dent into the pile. I expect they will be on the menu several time in the upcoming week.

Now it is time to move on looking forward to Valentines Day.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Knock your socks off chili

I promised to post this yesterday, but never got to it. Still there is nothing that warms my soul more on a cold day. A good motto - Chili when it's chilly.

Larry’s Superbowl Chili


1 Lbs lean stew meat, chopped
3 Lbs ground chili beef
1 Lbs ground pork loin

Cajun Trinity
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large Onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped

Searing Seasoning
sea salt -- to taste
1 Tbs black pepper, fresh ground
2 tsp Creole seasoning
garlic powder -- to cover

Wet Ingredients
28 oz plum tomatoes, diced
14 oz tomatoes with green chili peppers, diced
12 oz beef stock
2 qt water, divided into 2-32 ounce amounts

Dry Ingredients
2 Tbl garlic powder
1 Tbl gumbo file'
1 Tbl fajita seasoning
2 Tbl Creole seasoning
1 Tbl tandoori
1 Tbl Jamaican jerk
4 Tbl brown sugar
2 Tbl cumin, ground
1 Tbl oregano, ground fine
1 Tbl paprika, ground
¾ Cup chili powder
2 Tbl cayenne pepper
6 clove garlic, minced fine
salt & pepper to taste.

Just in Case
¼ Cup corn flour

co-jack cheese, grated
mild cheddar, grated
onions, chopped
olives, chopped
jalapeno peppers, chopped
green onions, chopped
cilantro, chopped
lime, slices or wedges
sour cream

Optional additions
canned Beans (kidney, chili, white, lima, butter, pink, black, or whatever)
annatto (achiote)
maple Syrup


Heat a 10 qt stock pot or Dutch oven on high heat. Begin adding chili meat a little at a time, so as to not cool the pot down, once all of the ground meat is in add the trinity (onions, celery, and green pepper) when onions are translucent stir in the searing seasonings followed by the stew meat, stir again. When all of the meat is well seared reduce heat. Drain off half the fat.

Add all diced tomatoes and 32 ounces of the water. Stir well, bring to slow boil.

Stir in Dry Ingredients and chopped garlic. For a medium spicy chili only add half of the cayenne pepper, For spicier add all of it.

NOTE: Don't be scared of the chili powder, it's not hot with spice, but your chili will be bland if you don't use enough. The longer the chili sits, such as over night, the better it gets.

Add beef stock (or beer) to pot and stir in well. If needed, add the rest of water. Bring back to slow simmer.

Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

If adding canned beans do so during the last half hour of cooking so they don't get mushy.

Adjust seasonings to taste.

NOTE: If thicker than you like, add more water. If too thin, whisk a couple tablespoons of masa flour with 1/4 cup warm water and stir the mixture in slowly until desired thickness is obtained.

Ladle up a bowl of chili and pile on toppings of your choice.

Note: Recipe may be cut in half if you prefer a smaller amount

Note: I use this recipe with the heat kicked up quite a bit by doubling the cayenne. It takes a real chili head to enjoy it. I refer to that variation is Esau's revenge an allusion to the biblical reference to Esau having traded his inheritance for a bowl of soup or stew.

In much of the world, where refrigeration is limited or nonexistent, a container of pottage is kept on the fire to keep bacteria from growing in it. New food is added to the pot as it is brought in resulting in a consistently changing hunters stew. This is probably what Esau was eating. As hot peppers have been introduced to the local culture they have frequently been incorporated into this stew pot resulting in some version of chili.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A tale of three Chuck's

A Tale of three Chuck's --- Woodchucks that is. The woodchuck is a type of marmot that is also know as a Whistle-Pig, Ground-Beaver, and Groundhog, is never more talked about than on Candlemas Day. On the Second day of February there have historically been Candlemas celebrations that mark this mid point between the beginning and the end of winter on the astrological calendar. But in the United States it has come to be know as the somewhat whimsical "Groundhog Day".

Each year celebrants gather to see if the Groundhog emerges from it's den and sees it's shadow. According to the tradition, adapted by citizens of Pennsylvanian from Germanic beliefs, if the shadow is observed winter will last an additional 6 weeks. Apparently Groundhog Day has it's Origins in Punxsutawney, PA where Phil is now the official prognosticator. However outside of Pennsylvanian several others compete for recognition. Here in Ohio Buckeye Chuck is the official winter weather predictor.

So what happened yesterday. We are told that Phil saw his shadow whereas Chuck did not. So it is a tossup, I will go with the more local forecast by Buckeye Chuck.

Also here in Berea to help us out we have Berea Bart. Bart is a letterbox which is placed out to determine the local forecast. Bart has the advantage of a cozy nest provided by another letterbox Marjorie. Apparently Bart was warm and snug yesterday and slept right through the morning so we have not been able to get a prediction from him.

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I did not bake my Groundhog cookies to celebrate the day, but I still may do so in order to have a sweet treat to accompany the other foods we will have for Superbowl watching next Sunday. I smoked a beef brisket late last year and found a large chunk of it which I had frozen. I am now thawing it out and plan on using it to make a pot of chili for the big day. We will see how it goes.

I will publish my Chili Recipe later today or tonight.