Thursday, July 22, 2010

Out And About

Yesterday was a mix between work and fun. After spending the morning bound to a computer I went photo hunting with my sister, Elisha, who was looking to practice her outdoor photography. We made a quick trip up North Mountain to see what we could photograph and I came away with this image you see before you. It's a Swallowtail butterfly, a pretty common butterfly around here. There were dozens of them along the road and it was a simple matter to stop the Jeep and take a photo without ever leaving the air conditioning.

Last night for dinner we tried something a little different. I made chicken rolls. You simply pound out chicken breasts until they're decently flat, cut them into strips, place whatever seasoning or stuffing you want in them and then roll them up and secure them with a toothpick. Fifteen to twenty minutes on the grill in low heat and you have yourself dinner.

I made my classic Italian Hagy chicken just to keep it simple so I could try out the method. I cut the breasts along their length, which made the rolls bigger. The seasoning definitely seems to clump together at times and, while the flavor was excellent, I believe that the "less is more" approach will make it better next time. Next time I might even add goat cheese. I've been told that would be excellent.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back To Basics

In my continuing quest for culinary exploration and education I turned to pork chops last night.

I was reading through my cook book, Master the Grill and found a recipe for basic chops. The idea of basic appealed to me so I went with it. All it took was a pinch of coarse kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper and some quality time on a hot grill. Those chops were some of the best pork chops I've ever made. I couldn't believe how far a little salt and pepper went. I guess that just goes to show how well the basics really work in the kitchen.

Now that I've touched on the basics, I think that I'll skip ahead to something more complicated. I saw Rachael Ray flatten some chicken breasts, stuff them with tasty things and roll them up for cooking. It's probably one of those things that looked a lot simpler than it really is, but I'm hoping to find out in the next day or two. I don't think I'll like the recipe for them in the grilling book (and I don't have any goat cheese anyway) so I'm going to just see what I can come up with. Anyone out there have any suggestions?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The To Read Shelf

Those of you who know me, or have been reading this blog, know that I read a lot of books. And by a lot I mean upward of 60 per year, on average. So my "To Read Shelf" is usually fairly well stocked.

This morning it's 15 titles deep, ranging from Don Quixote by Cervantes to The Host by Stephanie Meyer. In between there are three Garrison Keillor titles for a little moderation and the always classic The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas that I've been reading for the better part of a year. Why a year, you ask? I'm over five hundred pages into that novel and I'm only a third of the way through. It's not light reading.

In the digital realm I have about eight titles on my Kindle waiting for my perusal. The great thing about the Kindle is that all of these cost less than I could get them in the store and some of them even come free. Just last night I downloaded Agatha Christie's Secret Adversary free of charge. It's been a long time since I read anything by the Dame of Mysteries, but I'll be looking forward to that one.

So all told, my To Read Shelf is about 23 deep. With the exception of a couple of fluff fantasy pieces that I'm debating over whether or not I'll even keep them, this is all that I haven't read in my personal library. Not that the To Read Shelf is in my library. No, it's the night stand beside my bed, piled high with adventures I haven't had yet. I'm not sure Bethany's thrilled about having them piled there, but that's OK. It's on my side of the bed.

Just last night, when I couldn't sleep, I picked up The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. These are the authors who combined to write Relic, which was the first book that ever deeply creeped my out. The movie they made from the book was awful, but the book is chilling. I didn't go outside after dark for weeks. And I read it when I was a senior in high school.

This novel has set on my shelf for some time. I picked it up for a paltry few cents at a library book sale somewhere. My interests changed from mysteries to other adventure so its gathered dust on my shelf for a while. Last year when I trimmed the library down a bit I debated on getting rid of it, but I decided against it. You see, this book comes to my attention with two very solid recommendations from Devan and Patrick.

I don't know a great deal of people who read like I do. Devan, Patrick and Dick do and we constantly are in search of new authors and new titles. We know each other well enough to take the recommendations we pass out seriously. Dick was who first got me reading the works of David Liss. I've only doubted Patrick and Devan once apiece and both times I was proven wrong.

Patrick introduced Devan and I both to the Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. The first book, The Eye of The World isn't an easy read the first time through. However, it is the gateway to an amazing series and if you can survive the first 400 pages or so, the last 150-200 pay off in a major way. I read part of that book and set it aside, scoffing. When I finally finished it, I had to admit Patrick's review was pretty dead on and 13 books later I'm glad that I did.

I doubted Devan when he handed me a copy of John Steakley's Armor and told me, at that time, it was one of the best books he'd read. His copy was old, something from the '70s or early '80s and looked like a literary knock off of Robert Heinlen's amazing Starship Troopers. I read the first 20 pages and didn't think it was anything more than fluff. He bet me that if I could read it and honestly tell him that I didn't like it, he'd buy me another book. If I liked it, I owed him one. Turned out that it was a bet I didn't mind losing at all. It is definitely one of my favorite books.

So when Patrick called from the beach last week and wanted to know what order to read the Pendergast novels in, I looked it up for him and discovered that I'd read the first two, Relic and Reliquary and had the third, Cabinet, sitting on my shelf. I mentioned in passing that I hadn't read it yet.

"Oooh, that one's good. I can't believe you haven't read it yet," he said. And then I remembered that Devan had said much the same the last evening he was at the house before he left for duty in Iraq.

So as I finished the last two Patrick O'Brian novels in my possession, I picked up Cabinet of Curiosities on the strong recommendation of two close friends whose literary opinions I hold in pretty high regard. So far, it hasn't disappointed and it looks like their record will remain untarnished.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back In The Day

So here's something from back in my reporter days. I've been staring at wedding photographs all afternoon and as I'm uploading the next 300 to the flash drive so that I can work on the laptop, I thought I'd take a break, dig up an old photo and blog about.

Baseball is, of course, our national past time. My absolute favorite sport is basketball, followed closely by football. But there's something about baseball in the summer time...I don't even like to watch it on television until the playoffs roll around. Yet I can go to the ball park, smell the hot dogs cooking and hear the crack of a bat and suddenly all is right with the world.

Obviously, the bat didn't crack on this picture, but it's still one of my favorite sports photos I've ever taken.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cookies & Chicken

We took advantage of a cancelled meeting and tried out a new rub for chicken tonight. It was a Tuscan Rosemary rub, which is pretty simple. All you need is two cloves of garlic, minced, two tablespoons of crushed rosemary, a teaspoon of kosher salt, a teaspoon of fresh ground pepper and a quarter cup of parsley. Stir it all together and you've got yourself a pretty tasty and simple rub for chicken.

For dessert, and mostly 'cause I had a hankering for cookies, Bethany made the classic preacher cookies using a recipe that you can find here. The chicken, of course, was a healthy meal. The cookies not so much. But I worked out today. It'll be ok.

Into Every Life A Little Rain Must Fall

Now this is my kind of day.

It's been so long since we've had any rain that I've nearly forgotten what it looks like. But today is a perfect rainy day. It was after 9 a.m. when I pulled myself out of bed. I got myself together, grabbed my keys and headed to Covington to return the tuxedos from Patrick's wedding.

I stepped outside into a light drizzle that turned into a raging downpour the moment I put the Jeep in park half a block away from Rooklin's Department store. I returned the tuxedos at a dead sprint that still left me soaked. After seeing to a couple of things in town I came back home to do a little housework, process some photos and continue the job search.

Now it's a perfect rainy day. The sky is completely overcast and the rain is falling straight down with just enough breeze to bring the cool summer air through the open windows. All the splashing and pitter-patter of the rain is a perfect counterpoint to the all instrumental, all jazz radio station that I've found on one of the upper digital music channels on the television.

After Bethany comes home from lunch I'm going to hit the gym and spend a couple of hours on the free weights and the basketball court. Then I'm going to settle in to processing wedding photos. We're two weddings behind and one of them absolutely has to go out this week.

But on a day like this, I can handle it...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Meanderings After The Wedding

Patrick McNown got married today. 

Those of you who know Patrick will know how momentous that sentence is. His passing from the freedoms of the bachelor life into the bonds of Holy Matrimony marks the last of our group of four close friends to tie the knot. He did hold out the longest, whether that was his intention or not.

And it was a pretty cool and elegant ceremony. They were married in the same church Bethany and I were, though it was much hotter today. Everything went just about as smoothly as it could have gone. I found myself enjoying being on the other side of the camera for this one. Sure, the tuxedo was hot, but I looked good in it and it was an honor to be a groomsman. I'm pretty happy to say that of the three close friends I've grown up with, I've been in (or was supposed to be in if life hadn't exploded that week) all of their weddings. I count that among the things in my life that I'm proud of.

I enjoy weddings. The ceremonies are always something pretty to watch. You don't quite get the best view when you're taking part, though. Since the groomsmen were lined up by height today and I'm naturally the shortest of the six groomsmen, I had to stand at the end of the line. So I just stepped to the side so I could see what was happening. And before that there was the incident with the acolyte stick.

See, I'm a baptist (I think. I don't know. The idea of denominations is irritating. Christian is good enough for me.) and we don't have acolyte sticks. They're nice though. They're the long, golden candle lighters that have two curves, one ending in a bell to snuff the candles and the other ending in a wick to light the candles. At rehearsal Friday I was told that I wouldn't have to light anything. I showed up today and was handed a shiny stick with flames and told to go light the candles on either side of the altar, six total.

These are fancy candles with wicks that are recessed inside a plastic cap so that the candles melt evenly all round. I've never used one of these acolyte sticks and I was too short for the job anyway. The first two candles on the left I could reach. The third I had to stand on my tip toes and try to lengthen the wick and even then I still couldn't get it lit. So I stood up on the little red velvet cushioned step that was there. I really hope it wasn't something sacred that I wasn't supposed to step on. I'm not an episcopalian. I don't know these things. I'm just a guy with a shiny gold stick that has a flame on it and who's trying not to look like an idiot who can't light a candle in front of a church full of people.

I lit the three candles on the left and repeated the process with the three on the right, including stepping on the little cushioned step on the other side. Everything else came off without a hitch.

At the reception, Dick, who works at an accounting firm, made the discovery that each of his has been with our wives for nearly 25% of our lives, if not a little more in some cases. That, of course, made me thing. If I consider that a quarter of my life has been spent getting me to this point, what have I to show for it?

The answer, of course, is a wonderful wife, a great home, family and friends who are a great part of my life, a couple of novels...

But what have I seen of the world? I've never been outside the country, nor I have I been to many of these United States (or been old enough to remember than I've been to them). I am a home body and there's no denying that. But when I set down to write my memoirs in my golden years I want them to be worth reading. So maybe it's time to wander a bit.

I don't think I could be like Patrick's brothers, Andrew and Robert, who wander the world at a whim pursuing various projects. Andrew just returned from teaching in South Korea. Robert leaves Thursday to return to his graduate work in the Alaskan tundra. But with Bethany, I think I could wander comfortably and enjoy having her to share my adventures with. Europe...the Northern Lights...Seattle...

Maybe we'll start with the French Riviera next summer...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

After The Holiday

I hope everyone out there in blog land had a great Fourth of July weekend because we certainly did. We even shot a wedding Saturday that had some of the best reception food ever...barbecued chicken, pork barbecue, ears of corn roasted in the husk and just about any side you could want.

On the even better side, I purchased a copy of Lake Wobegon: Summer 1956 for just a penny. That's beautiful stuff right there.

Bethany had yesterday off so we headed to Roanoke to check out Eclipse. While Dick and I disagree a bit over the quality of the acting, I thought it was a pretty good movie overall and a definite improvement over the last one. The Twilight Saga films have been very well done and have stayed true to the original novels better than any other film I've seen yet. It's hard to be disappointed with them when they stay so true to the author's original vision. I'll grant you that these actors won't be taking home any Academy Awards for these roles, but I still think they handle to roles fairly well for the most part.

I can't say that I have much to report on any of the current projects I have waiting and being two weddings behind in the photo processing probably means I won't get much else done this week.

In the meantime, however, I am really enjoying Imager's Challenge, the latest in L.E. Modesitt's new fantasy series. I highly recommend the Modesitt's Saga of Recluse and Imager's Portfolio. Recluse is over a dozen books long and full of great characters and plots. Imager's Portfolio is only two books long at the moment, but so far they've been great reads.