Monday, January 31, 2011

Dear Diary,

One of my readers (and I know who all 11 of you are) has left a critical comment that I should have been posting more often. Ordinarily I wouldn't react to that sort of comment, lest people think I can be shamed into writing a blog post. Those are not precisely the words I intended to use, but LK just walked into the room, saw my screen and said, "I see you've been shamed into writing a blog."

So let me tell you what has happened in the past rather undramatic week. I read some good books, played in lots of online poker tournaments, followed the news and watched the latest episodes of Dexter and Glee. (And have come to the conclusion that merging Dexter into the plot line would make Glee a lot more interesting.)

The books I've been reading lately have been very good. After finishing Laura Hillenbrand's "Unbroken", an amazing biography of WWII hero Louis Zamperini, I started in on "Cutting for Stone". Sandy had recommended it, and I really enjoyed it. It started relying too much on coincidences toward the end when everyone brought up in Ethiopia runs into one another half a world away, but by then I was hooked. Besides, it was always more about the characters than the plot.

Next I finally got around to Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections". In the new parlance of Kindle, I can tell you I am 32% of the way through and it is impressive. Unfortunately some of the dysfunctional characters (and they all are) seem way too much like some people I know and love, and that's always a bit creepy.

On the poker front, I've spent the last couple of months learning new games and now mostly play at the tournaments where you have to play five or ten different types of poker. I am actually doing a lot better there than just the no-limit hold-em you see on TV. I am considering turning pro, and probably will if I ever start winning.

On the home front, the baseboards (skirting boards) are in, the lights are in. In fact, everything is in. We will have the painting done in about two weeks and the renovation will be complete. We would have the painting done sooner, but it would interfere with our travel this week. You know, the first week of February in the Year "We Won't Travel This Much in 2011". I'd tell you more, but travel actually gives me something to post about, so why waste it when at least one of you is starting to nag me.

And finally, the biggest news of last week happened on Sunday night. Or, more precisely, did not happen on Sunday night. I was really enjoying big fat queen olives stuffed with feta cheese. They were marinated in a chilled gin-and-vermouth sauce, and it was so tasty I had several.

Regrettably, that meant that I forgot to put the trash and recycling bin out and both were already full to overflowing. The trash isn't a big deal and we could more or less catch up with last night's collection.

The recycling, however, only happens every other week. And now we have boxes and boxes of empty bottles sitting in the garage. Every time I leave the house it is a bit embarrassing to see how many bottles we have emptied in the last three weeks. Of course, I am usually leaving the house to go buy more stuff in bottles, so I don't really know when this is all going to end.

So there you have it - a new post. Now please stop bugging me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fat as a Pancake

There was a sweet surprise in my e-mail inbox this morning - a very sweet surprise. Sandy had shared a recipe using that best of all the social networks,

It was called David Eyre's Pancake, but LK and I already knew this one under its other name - the Dutch Baby. That's what they called it at the Original Pancake House in Delray Beach, Florida. And that's just about all we ever ate when we went there.

I am pretty sure the Dutch Baby was a contributor to the fact that my waistline grew more quickly than a tropical storm during the six months I worked in Florida. I guess the ribs and conch fritters at both Tom's and Tom Junior's and the biscuits at L&M may have helped, too.

It's funny that I can barely remember the work I was doing down there but my mouth starts to water when I think of that food. Pavlov's pups had nothing on me.

The David Eyre/Dutch Baby Pancake is one of the simplest dishes in history. Flour, milk, eggs, butter, sugar and half a lemon. My hunch is the lemon was added so it would have at least one item that gets the tick of approval from the Heart Association, but it offers the perfect mix of flavors with all the sugar.

Food52 tracks  recipe to the 1966 New York Times cookbook, when the paper changed its slogan from "All the news that's fit to print" to "All your pants won't fit after this". I am pretty sure this yummy treat has been around a lot longer than that, though.

Anyhow, Sandy's message on the e-mail was succinct: "This is an OH MY GOD breakfast recipe. We had it this morning! Love you guys!"

Oh my God, indeed, but now that they have discovered the Lord in a plate of dough and sugar, I worry that Sandy and Dave may just start looking a bit like me by the time we see them later this year.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Post Time

We finally got around to watching the movie musical "Nine" the other night. I am pretty sure they named it that because that would be its rating. On a scale of 1 to 100.

Or maybe I am being unfair since I did think the acting was outstanding. But the fact is I don't like musicals, especially movie musicals. Except maybe West Side Story, Cabaret and Hair (loved the dancing horses). And I am a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I enjoy watching Glee. Hmm, maybe I do like musicals but just not Nine.

But I mention Nine for another reason. It's about a movie director with writer's block (director's block?). It's a musical version of Fellini's movie "8 1/2". I think only Fellini could create a masterpiece by making a film about how he's unable to make a film. (Well, only Fellini and Woody Allen, Bob Fosse and Arthur Penn.)

Which is a very long introduction to explain that even I am getting a bit annoyed at how seldom I post to this blog anymore. I could offer plenty of explanations, but the fact is I haven't had much go through my head that makes me want to sit down and write a post.

It's not that life is boring me right now, but I think writing about it would be. Do you really want to hear how excited I was to discover our grocery store was having a massive sale? Sure, to us old retired farts saving $4 on a jumbo pack of toilet paper is exciting, but what else can I say about it? Or to be more precise, what else can I say about it that would not be in very bad taste?

I could write that slowly we are making progress getting the house set up, but how many days in a row do I write that before even Judy loses her patience and writes a comment to get a move on and finish the bloody thing already.

Do you want to know that the herbs are growing magnificently? That we (we being LK) have changed our (her) mind slightly about how to set up the family room? That I am totally bummed out that the Patriots lost. And shocked that Jason would rub it in with a text message. (Shocked because I had no idea he was a Jets fan. Where did we go wrong?)

Or should I tell you that this blog has magical properties? I can't tell you how often I write about something and almost immediately the opposite happens. Right after big-noting myself about writing 500 posts I had troubles much like this month and couldn't think of a thing to write.

Or more recently, desperate for anything to write about, I decide you all need to know I have cracked heels? Almost immediately, they healed (pun intended). Short of ideas, I whine and complain about tradesmen not coming by to finish off the kitchen renovation. Within an hour the fridge is in place (pics here if you care) and the others I complained about have rung to set up a new time.

So now I am writing about how hard it is to think of things to write about. And hoping that the magical blog will make it easy again.

And if it doesn't work, at least I am beginning to understand Fellini's trick. You can't expect people to be interested in uninteresting stuff. Unless you write about how difficult it is to write about uninteresting stuff.

Hmmm, Maybe tomorrow I will write about getting my hair cut.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Wait Problem

Today I am reminded of Gaudi's masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona.

I am not thinking of this amazing building because of its unique architecture or dazzling beauty. I am not even thinking of it because Linda and I had such a wonderful day when we went there a few years ago.

No, today I am thinking about Sagrada Familia because construction of the cathedral, which began in 1882, only passed the halfway point last year. Yep, 128 years and they're finally thinking it might get finished eventually.

Which is a bit more certainty than I am have with our renovation project.

Sure it's a little tough to complain that it isn't complete when we blew the stop-work whistle in November and took off for seven weeks. But when we returned, the work that remained looked like it coule be wrapped up pretty quickly.  The plumber/gas fitter needed to connect the stove and the ice maker in the fridge. The electrician needed to hang the rest of our new lights. The painters had to paint.

It started well. Pete the electrician came out within a week and worked a solid five hours before calling it a day with most of the lights in. Most, of course, meant that he had to come back in a week to put in the last few.

Simon the plumber came right away. He and I brought the stove in from the garage, and he connected it to the gas supply. However, he said moving the fridge in was the responsibility of the project managers and he would come back when they put it in.

LK rang the joinery who built the kitchen and they argued it wasn't their job. She pointed out that the fridge was in the garage and not the kitchen because of them and somebody had to help us move it in. After arguing longer than it would have taken them to just do it, they relented and said they would come the next day.

So we were on track. Until the joinery cancelled and moved their visit back four days. And then didn't come that day. And didn't call.

And Pete didn't come when he said he would. And didn't call.

In the meantime, LK talked to the painters who told us we need to get the skirting boards (aka baseboards) put on before scheduling their dates. So I called Justin the builder who said he would send someone to measure on Monday. Of course, they came Tuesday. They measured and said they would call the next day to give a quote and time frame. But we still haven't heard from them.

And so now - a couple of weeks after holidays ended - we are waiting for the fridge and lights. The joinery said they will be here today so we may finally have a refrigerator in the kitchen. The electrician (whom I finally called) said he would call to let us know when he is coming. But he hasn't. And we don't know when we can get the painters in.

Oh well, it gives us enough time to go back and enjoy the photos we took of Sagrada Familia.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Man with No Facebook

I am in the midst of a social networking experiment. Well, to be precise, a social non-networking experiment. A couple of days ago I deactivated my account and my Facebook has been moved to the remainder bin.

It's not because I am one of those people who thinks there are all sorts of nasty things wrong with Facebook. Nope, my problem with Facebook had more to do with me than with Facebook.

I was starting every morning checking on where Todd and his new girlfriend went for the weekend, what jokes Wally had to tell, where Naomi had drinks last night, how much snow was at Stratton when Frank went to snowboard, whether Jordan was stressed about an exam, what animals Lora was trying to save, what beer Jeff drank at the tailgate party and how many newborn calves Sandy had found in Farmville.

And then there were the things that just kept reminding me that I am nowhere near as hip as I wish I were. Things like Jason writing, "Slayer!!!!" and nothing more. And while I was worrying that my kid was turning mental, a lots of his friends started ticking the "Like" button when they read it.

In the morning Facebook was the first thing I had to read. I checked back in during the afternoon and always took a quick peek at night.

You only have to look at me to know that I am not a moderate person, but even for a retired addictive personality like me with all the time in the world to do whatever I want, all the hours I was spending on Facebook seemed to be getting excessive.

I should add that I almost never write anything on Facebook. I am like Chance the Gardener - I just like to look at what my friends have done.

In fact, many of my friends are the same. My mother tells me she just likes it for the pictures. Peg tends to get active only when it's time to wish someone a happy birthday or congratulate them. LK reads it religiously but she picks up the phone and calls when she reads something from Sandy that she wants to know more about.

And of course not all my friends in Facebook are really my friends in life. What in the world possessed me to make someone a friend with whom I have never had a drink or even a personal chat? And worse. why do I feel awkward removing someone from my list of friends when I realize that I really, really, really am not interested in the minutiae of their lives?

So I de-activated my account. And each morning since then I have had to fight the urge to re-activate it. Part of it is breaking a habit, I suppose. But I do think there may be just a little bit of me that really does want to know how Todd and his new girlfriend are getting along.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Caroline's Visit

Caroline's visiting.

You may recall that near-constant downpours accompanied her last visit. LK and I started calling it  "Caroline Weather". Fortunately we haven't need to use the phrase too often because, well, we don't have Caroline Weather very often.

Friday afternoon here was hot and sunny, a lovely summer day. Then around 6pm clouds rolled in, winds whipped up, the sun disappeared and a downpour commenced. Caroline was in the air heading back to Hobart, and it was time to pick her up.

Coincidence? You will have to decide for yourself. But before you assume that Caroline always triggers atmospheric disturbances when she heads south, I have to tell you that Sunday was glorious. The sun shone all day, and we took the opportunity to do some sightseeing around here.

And Monday - with clouds filling the sky but rain staying away - we piled into the car and drove about an hour and a half to Port Arthur. This is a favorite stop for Hobart tourists, It is one of Australia's most famous prisons, a place where the really difficult convicts were sent. It was open for about 45 years in the mid 19th Century. And, in a statement that must say a lot about the Australian mentality both then and now, no sooner had it closed down than it became a hot tourist attraction. As it remains to this day.

It's easy to see why it is so popular. Sitting in a picturesque bay on the Tasman Peninsula, the setting is beautiful. And as you can see, there were even a couple of really hot women hanging around as well.

LK took quite a few pictures, and you can check them out at our Shutterfly share site.

Actually it is quite disconcerting to walk around the grounds. The gardens and landscaping are beautiful, and the buildings that are still standing are well maintained and prettily painted. They are in stark contrast to how horrible the place has been both in the past and in modern times.

150 years ago the prisoners at Port Arthur were subject to cruelty that is shocking today as we have evolved to believe that incarcerating people is punishment enough and whippings, double-weight leg chains and sensory isolation are torture. It's even more shocking when you remember that many of the prisoners were sent to Port Arthur for 19th Century crimes so petty by our standards that they would not even be prosecuted today.

And for most of us in Oz, the history of Port Arthur will always be overshadowed by our worst mass murder which happened when a madman came here in 1996. If anything good can come out of such horror, it was that Australians decided to get serious about gun control in the aftermath of the massacre.

It is a real mental juggling act to recall the evils of Port Arthur while appreciating the natural beauty of the place. It is an interesting day out, but ultimately a sobering one.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw the return of Caroline Weather. Fog, drizzle, and cold gave us plenty of excuses to laze around the house watching old movies and eating comfort food.

Caroline flies home tonight. Now where did I put my sunglasses?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Now We're Cooking with Gas

Yo Don! What's for breakfast?

Well, since you ask, this morning we're having a special brekkie: baked eggs with fresh basil sauce and parmesan accompanied by rashers of Tasmanian bacon, grilled panini with extra virgin olive oil and spinach with a dollop of vinegar made from Tasmanian apple cider. We are drinking a Virgin Mary with it, because even LK and I cannot justify vodka at 9:30 in the morning. (Well, we can, but we're trying not to.)

And even though I cooked it myself, I have one thing to say - Yummmm!

The breakfast feast is a celebration of two things:

First, a major piece of the renovation puzzle was finally put in place yesterday afternoon when Simon came by and connected our new stove to the gas supply. Actually, it was the stovetop since the oven is electric, but who's quibbling?

So today we had our first meal prepared in our new kitchen. (And no, I do not count Lean Cuisine in the microwave the last couple of nights.)

Since I am the designated breakfast cook, the honor of the first meal passed to me. I had decided eggs benedict would be a nice way to celebrate our new stove but LK had a better idea. She suggested baked eggs with basil sauce.

That started the second celebration - the survival of nearly all the herbs I had planted literally on the morning we left for our overseas trip. It's hard to take credit for gardening skills when you stick plants in a pot and leave them outside for seven weeks. I suspect the combination of sun alternating with wet weather here was much more of a factor.

As LK went to the deck to collect a handful of super-fragrant basil leaves. I decided I needed to put the new stove to the test, so I made the sauce, spinach and bacon on the stovetop, baked the eggs in the oven and put the panini under the grill. We have had our first official mess in the new kitchen, as well.

Anyhow, the house is coming together nicely. LK has done lots of work this week and I've done my bit by more or less staying out of her way.


PS I need to add that yesterday's post may have unearthed a hidden epidemic of cracked heels. I won't name names to protect people's privacy (although anyone writing a comment about it has pretty much thrown their privacy in the scrapheap), but I am discovering there are numerous heel fissures lurking among my readers.

I had thought I was one of only a handful (footful?) of sufferers, but now I think I may have unearthed a widespread condition. I now believe this should be turned into a charity. I see fund drives, TV marathons, an ad campaign ---  "If all the heel fissures in the world were laid end-to-end, it would crack the earth in half. Help us heal the heel. Now."

I considered calling it the Don Kennedy Foundation for the Cure of Cracks. But apparently the Komen folks are a bit touchy about that.

So, as a working name, I am calling it the Association for "Cracked Heal And Related Injuries Traumatizing Your Feet" Research, Analysis, Understanding and Discovery. (For short, that's the Association for CHARITY FRAUD). I will let you know how to donate once I set up the account.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cracks in the Foundation

My feet are coming apart at the seams.

I don't normally like to write about my various medical and physical complaints in this blog. It's not so much that I am private or, God forbid, embarrassed.  I just figure it's bad enough that poor LK has to listen to me grumble and complain, and I don't see any reason for the rest of you to have to hear that stuff.

But this latest problem of cracked heels is worth telling you about - not so much because of the condition, which is very minor, but because I think the causes related to the condition say a fair amount about me.

As I said, it's not all that serious (I would call them heel fissures if I wanted it to seem serious), but it has been getting annoying in the last month or two and a little painful at times. Glomming cream all over my feet has helped, but it has also reduced me to wearing sockettes around the house. Just because LK doesn't want oily smears all over the new floor.
Yesterday I decided to go on the web to figure out what the cause was. I had wondered if this was a result of diabetes. Turns out it could be, but the more likely fact is that the diabetes and cracked heels are the results of the same thing. I'm fat.

In fact, when you look at the list of causes for this condition, it's quite evident what's causing them. In a nutshell, I'm getting it because I am me.

It seems there are several primary causes for cracked heels, and the first one is due to standing for long periods of time. OK, we can scratch that one pretty quickly, but get your pencils ready because now the tick marks start flying.

First, being overweight contributes to the condition.

Second, getting old contributes to the condition.

Third, wearing open-backed shoes such as flip-flops contributes.

So there you have it. Being old, fat and dressed in my uniform of choice makes my heels crack. I am somewhat surprised being bald doesn't contribute, as well.

The one thing all the web sites seem to agree on is that cracked heels is not a serious condition. It just seems to be one more of those things where my body reminds me I'm getting older and there really is a payback for not doing anything to stay in shape for so many years.

So, while the material I read has ensured I don't worry about the latest bodily imperfection, I do have a pretty unpleasant attitude about it all. The good folks at epodiatry put it this way:

Consider a tomato on the bench ... when you push on it from above, it wants to expand out sideways ... eventually the skin cracks. This is what happens to the normal fat pad under your heel ... as your body weight pushes down, the fat wants to expand sideways and the pressure on the skin to crack is increased. If the weight is excessive (eg prolonged standing) and the skin is not supple (eg callus and/or dry) and nothing is helping hold the the fat pad under the foot (eg open backed shoes) ... do you get the picture?

Yes, I get the picture.

Lovely, now when I walk around in my flip-flops, every time I feel a pain in my heel I get this image of my feet as large crushed tomatoes cracking under my weight. It's enough to make me sit even more.