Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hobbit Cometh!

24:15 The Third Love

Do you remember that girl, Marisa?”, was how the conversation began.

How could I not? She was the cute one who sat behind me in Latin class in high school.

I tried to make her laugh. “Latin is a dead language/ as dead as it can be/ First it killed the Romans/ and now it’s killing me”.

That was what passed for comedy in those hallowed days. That episode inspired me to pull my high school yearbook out of its musty home at the bottom of a trunk and flip through its pages. “Hey, bud, you’re the best! Love ya!”

The pages in my yearbook are filled with grimace inducing pictures of our awkward adolescent selves, bad haircuts, cryptic references, best friends, and roller coaster loves and hates.

Oh yes, our loves were epic!

Let the eye-rolling begin.

Continue reading >>>

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Overheard In My House

The Nodlings have been passing around a cold which causes them to be a bit stuffy.  To combat this, I've given them each his own squeeze bottle of saline to help dry the sinuses.

Four-year old Nib is in a copy-cat phase with her older sisters.  So she asked for her own bottle as well.
"Daddy, I don't want the gasoline to fall out of my nose."
No, you don't want that.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chestnut Soup

I have recently fallen in love with a new comfort food.

Mrs. Nod and I had an unexpected treat at a snazzy little restaurant called Villa Mozart a month ago, when we ordered the Creamy Mushroom Chestnut Soup. It was a robust soup, full of creamy and earthy goodness, and with multiple taste accents dancing on the palate. It included a couple of whole chestnuts marinated in red wine at the bottom.

creamy mushroom chestnut soup

Ever since then I've been on the lookout for something similar to make at home. I think I've found it. It features a backbone of earthy mushrooms, chestnuts, and red bliss potatoes to which I added tender shallots and young parsnips.

Since I didn't have any "mushroom broth" I used organic chicken stock, half a cup of Merlot, and increased the cream to two full cups. I was lucky enough to have a neighbor give me fresh whole nutmeg which I grated into this heavenly dish along with fresh rosemary and sage. Fresh sage is in a word -- amazing.  I marinated some halved chestnuts in Merlot and put them in when serving.

Mrs. Nod smelled me cooking this and stayed up late just to have a bowl. It's that good.

Shamelessly ripped off from Food Blogga:

This Creamy Mushroom Chestnut Soup Is Like a Best Friend

Mushroom soup should be like a good friend-- there for you when you need it, full of understanding and comfort, and spicy enough to make you laugh. Consider this Creamy Mushroom Chestnut Soup a best friend. We met rather informally last fall in my kitchen while I was entertaining a number of other friends including tender red bliss potatoes, earthy chestnuts, and aromatic sage. We liked each other instantly, and our friendship has continued to grow.

I'm not a possessive person, so I'd like to introduce you to her.  She'll be one of the truest friends you've ever had. 

Creamy Mushroom Chestnut Soup
Serves 4
Print recipe only here.

Meaty, smoky chestnuts and savory fresh herbs add depth to an otherwise ordinary, creamy mushroom soup. Use bottled, dried, or -- if you're up for the challenge -- freshly roasted chestnuts. For a richer soup, I suggest using cream; 2% milk is best if you're looking to save calories.

3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 cup diced celery
2 1/2 cups peeled, diced red bliss potatoes (about 3)
8 cups mixed mushrooms, cremini and white button (about 2 1/2 pounds)
4 cups mushroom broth
8 ounces cooked chestnuts (about 20)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup cream
fresh sage, rosemary, and chopped chestnuts for optional garnish

1. Warm 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, deep pot over medium heat. Add shallots and celery, and sauté 3-5 minutes. Add potatoes and mushrooms, and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until mushrooms have released most of their liquid. Add broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes. Add chestnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, and cream. Turn off heat, and let cool for 10 minutes before pureeing.

2. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth; return to the pot over low heat. Stir occasionally until the soup is thoroughly heated, about 10 minutes. Just prior to serving, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter for added creaminess and depth of flavor. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Garnish individual bowls with fresh herbs and chopped chestnuts, if desired.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sleuth Readers Rejoice

221-Be still my little sleuth-y heart.

Having read everything in the Sherlock Holmes cannon, there is a certain feeling of let-down when you reach the end of the last novel.

Apparently, there is no lack of fan-fiction to fill the void. Not the least of which is a BBC radio dramatization entitled "The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" Volume 1-4. 

I know what's going on my Christmas/iTunes/ wish-list! I got and listened to Volume 2 and I liked it. There are at least 3 more of these and other series to choose from.

Ahh, it's like a comfortable old slipper ... filled with pipe tobacco, smelly chemistry experiments, and a violin waiting to be played.

In the meantime, I have Agatha Cristie's Hurcule Poirot at my bedside to keep my little grey cells occupied with problems to solve.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's A Girl!

Congratulations to my brother, Shoe, and his wife, Girl Friday, on the birth of their first born daughter, Babs!

Scheduled for near Christmas, baby Babs kicked her water out and her way into the world on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. How cool is that?

Born in the wee hours of the morning, she clocks in near 7.5 lbs and 19.5 inches, with long narrow feet and a head full of dark hair.

From all reports, Girl Friday and Babs are recovering well and it's love at first sight. A sleep-deprived Shoe was reported as saying, "Um, yeah."

Babs joins an extended family of Nods -- she is the first Nodling at Outpost 4, but the 7th girl and 10th Nodling overall.

As they say over at Outpost 2, "We're just doing our part for Western civilization."

Ain't it the truth? "Hello, Nurse!"

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Roof Is, Er, On

Got a call from the in-laws saying that a large tree branch fell on the shed roof and put a half dollar sized hole in it.

Now in my salad days I think I looked a lot more like Bob Villa because I grew a dark beard -- but the similarities don't extend to talent.  I did manage to build this shed many moons ago with my buddies and even put the shingles on more or less correctly.

I went over to do a quick patching job with a joist plate for underneath support, some aluminum flashing, and a handful of half-shingles that are at least 14.5 years into their 15 year lifespan.

I figured it's too cold already to lay shingles down and hope they'll seal, so I brought along a tube of roofing cement and a caulk gun.  Turns out my "new" caulk gun was 1) used, and 2) broken by some nice customer at Lowes and then surreptitiously put back on the shelf.

Not wanting to return to the store, I cut the roof cement tube open with my utility knife and used a board end as a spatula to coat the underside of the shingles.  It took 3 times as long and I got black gunk all over my hands. I glued down the flashing and then shingled over the hole.

The patch definitely looks like a patch, and I only had a few mostly-not-broken half shingles to work with.  The best I can say is that at least nobody fell off the roof, critters can't get in, and that it probably won't leak.

I showed the picture of my poor patch job to the in-laws. They just said they won't be looking down on the roof any time soon, so they didn't care.

Behold teh awesome. (The crooked shingles are definitely mock-worthy.)


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