Today would have been Julia Child’s 107th birthday (15 August 1912 – 13 August 2004). Wow! Where does the time go? My grandmother, Nanny, and I used to watch her shows often. But I must admit I much preferred Graham Kerr and The Galloping Gourmet. Most likely it was the accent. Julia was a bit hard for my young ears to understand.
Specifically, two ladies that gave me a love of good food and how to prepare it.
Those two ladies, are my paternal grandmother “Nanny” and my great aunt (my maternal grandmother’s sister), Arline. I’ve mentioned Nanny several times before on this blog, so I will start with Aunt Arline.
Just about every year of my childhood we would all pile into the family station wagon (mom always drove a station wagon) and head out to visit mom’s family in South Carolina. We would leave way before the sun came up and drive the 14 or so hours straight through, stopping only for gas, restroom breaks, and a quick meal. Since this was before I-95 was completed, we had to travel the entire distance of the Florida Turnpike. The turnpike is, without a doubt, one the most boring drives in America. Flat and straight, and the same damn trees the entire way. Since it runs through the middle of the state, there aren’t even any alligators to break up the monotomy.
But it did have well maintained and clean rest areas. Several of them, such as the one at Fort Pierce, even had full service restuarants. Dad wouldn’t dare pass up that rest area. It was a great place to gas up the car and fill our bellies as well. The only other stop would be somewhere in Georgia at a Stucky’s for the filling up of both car and kids.
Finally arriving at our destination of Marion, SC things would go downhill quickly as all the cousins showed up. Many days were spent running around in the yards of various family members; especially Aunt Arline’s yard. You do remember Aunt Arline right? This part of the post is about her.
She had a pond in her back yard. I wasn’t allowed to go down to the pond by myself. My mom couldn’t swim and was deathly afraid I would fall in and drown. And with good reason, as when I was abvout 5 I did fall into a pool at a friend’s house; and if it wasn’t for my brother who noticed my struggling to get to the side of the pool and jumped in a brought me safely out of the water, I probably would have drowned.
Out of that pond Aunt Arline would catch some little brim or sunfish. She would scale and gut them, then fry them whole. Remember, this is South Carolina in the 60’s. Damn near everything was fried. I will admit that at first I didn’t even want to try a whole fried fish (I means bones??). But one of my uncles showed me how to open them up and get to the good stuff. I was hooked after that – bones and all. Aunt Arline also had a cage that she kept crickets in for bait. She would somehow catch these crickets by hand! I never did figure out how.
So, let’s talk about Sunday dinners at Aunt Arline’s. There would so much food! There isn’t a buffet around that could compare. Of course there were, at times, 20 or so of us eating. I was not allowed in the kitchen then. That was all the women. My mom, her sisters, my older sisters and some cousins that were old enough handled all the cooking. The “men folk” sat out front talking weather, politics and such. My cousins that were too young to take part in the serious talk would be outside playing in the mud, trying to get down to pond, and just basically getting into trouble.
But then, those magic words – “Dinner is ready”! Naturally, we all had to wash up, which took quite some time since there was only one bathroom we were allowed to use. But by the time the kids got to our table, our moms would have a plate ready for us.
And what a plate! There would be at least three kinds of meats; ham, the fish she caught, and my all time favorite – fried chicken. Fried chicken is still my most favorite meal. Many times there would also be a turkey or a beef roast! Then there would be so many veggies – all fresh. Lima beans (another of my favorites), corn, black-eyed peas, collard and/or mustard greens. Then mashed potatoes and rice. Three kinds of bread – cornbread, dinner rolls, and just plain white. Three or four sticks of real butter would be placed around the tables, along with the usual vinegear for the greens, and if needed, condiments to make sandwiches. One thing I don’t remember is ever seeing a “garden salad”; you know lettuce and chopped veggies. But I don’t think I missed it. To this day, I still don’t care for greens.
We would sit around and eat and drink (Carolina Sweet Tea) until we couldn’t move. Then at some secret signal (unknown to “men folk” and kids), out of nowhere large white bed sheets would be used to cover everything up. Nothing put into little plastic containers that go “burp” when you do that other secret thing men folk are not allowed to understand. Nothing even close to a precaution except keeping the bugs off (and kids out).
Then, at another prearranged secret signal the sheets would be taken off and everyone would sit back down and eat. Remember, this is the 60’s in rural South Carolina. Microwave ovens are still a good 10 – 15 years away from general use, so everything was at “room tempature”, whatever that is.
Now, I had no issues with the meat not being reheated. And as much as I love mashed potatoes and limas, I balked at eating them cold. This was where the sandwich fixings came in for me. But mom still wasn’t happy. I had to have a “balanced meal”, meaning veggies. But I would not eat them cold like that. So Aunt Arline came up with a fix. She would take a big helping of the limas (she knew I would eat them all), toss them into a small pan with another stick of butter (Paula Dean has nothing on my family), and heat them up for me. Such a sweet lady! I would then take the entire pot of butter and beans and pour it over a mound of mashed potatoes or rice, depending on which I could get my hands on. Guess it’s not really odd that the majority of my mom’s family died of cholestrol issues, and that I fight that myself.
Let’s switch gears and sides (in a civil war theme). Obvisiouly, my mom is from South Carolina. The little town her daddy’s tobacco farm was in, Fork, is no longer there. She couldn’t remember exactly where the town was but believed it was swallowed by Marion. And that’s where Aunt Arline lived, Marion, South Carolina.
Dad, on the other hand, was from central Pennsylvania. I joke we had the civil war in our house growing up. Mom was a southerner and grew up Baptist. Dad, a yankee (and a damn yankee at that), grew up in a Methodist church. After WWII they settled in the south (if you can consider Miami part of the “south”) and went to a Methodist church. Best of both worlds?
Nanny (again, you do remember Nanny, right? This part of the post is about her), was an exceptional lady. She was widowed at the age of 34 in 1919. Dad was all of 6. She never remarried. From 1919 until she came to live with us about 1968 or so, she was out on her own. She spent a lot of time going between Pennsylvania and Florida, playing the snowbird roll, before she stayed permantly. This was mostly before my time and when I was an infant, so I don’t really remember it.
What I do remember is her cooking. We may not have had the big ol’ spread that we had in South Carolina, but the quality was every bit as good. Nanny was the one that really started me cooking. I was old enough (well almost) to stay around when she was preparing meals. It also helped that I was the only child at home then and our little kitchen had a dining table. I could sit there out of the way and watch, ask questions and more importantly taste!
Not only did she cook your basic meals, she could bake. She would make bread from scratch. This is where I learned how to use yeast. Being the smart woman that she was, she always made me a small loaf when she was baking bread. As soon as it was cool enough to remove from the pan she would give me the first loaf and yet another stick of butter and send me off to get out of her way.
And here is another example of fried chicken; yet completly different from Aunt Arline’s. The crust was different and she would use a buttermilk bath on the chicken pieces. Still every bit as good, just different. Not to brag (who am I kidding??) I have been told that my fried chicken is better than either of their’s. That may be, but I will admit that I am nowhere as consistent as either of these ladies.
But Nanny taught me something more than fried chicken and bread. She taught me BBQ. We didn’t have a smoker growing up, and I can only remember my dad grilling something once. But both my brother and I love to cook with fire. We had to get it from somewhere. It was Nanny. She had a BBQ resuarant in the Altoona, Pennsylvania area. I can find city directories from 1935 and 1936 that list her as the owner. Can you imagine being a widow with a young adult son, in the middle of the Great Depression, and making a good living from a restuarant? The industry that has a very high if not the highest failure rate? Blows my mind.
Her potato salad, fresh made coleslaw and beans were out of this world! And a meatloaf to die for. Somewhere there is a recipe book with all these notes. I really think the printed recipes were there as a distraction. The true treasure were the handwritten notes in the back. My mom, a better than average cook in her own right, added to that collection.
It makes me a bit sad to know that I didn’t get the chance to cook for these ladies before they shuffled off to wherever great cooks go. I’m sure there would have been lots of “this is nice, but if you had done ….” comments. And I would have taken everyone of those comments to heart and tried to live up to their legacy another time.
Yes, today I hit the big 6 – 0, I think about 7PM tonight, but I don’t have my birth certificate here to read. Sixty damn years on this rock travelling around the sun. Not bad for one who didn’t expect to see 25. But you can blame Wifey® for that. I would have been either dead or living on the street long ago if not for her love.
Here are some of the things that stand out about my early life growing up in South Florida.
Go barefoot as often as possible – screw the sand burrs.
Rain can be fun – I remember sitting in my front yard watching it rain on the house across the street – but not on me.
Wear sunscreen – well, I didn’t learn that as a kid. I was much older with kids of my own before that sunk in. I dare say I was sunburned more often than not.
Needless to say, life has taught me many lessons since those carefree days of running around in just a pair of shorts, chasing lizards, and playing ball. Most of it good, but there have been lots of tough lessons too. But I won’t get into that.
Things from way-back-when I still remember;
My big brother picking me up early to go fishing on my birthdays. I never caught a single damn fish, but it was still fun, riding down US1 to the Florida Keys and fishing off the pylons and bridges.
The first football game I went to. My mother was president of the high school PTA, so she always had a little table or booth at every game. I don’t remember what the function of the table was for, was she selling something? But I remember that first game, I was maybe 6. Her table was in a location where she couldn’t see the field, so she had to listen to the PA announcer to know how the game was progressing. Our team had made a first down, and mom, being the somewhat rabid football fan that she was, was happy. I had no idea what a “first down” was, so I asked. All she said was “that means they get to keep going”. Not knowing anything about football, or any sport really, it made no sense to me. But it made my mom happy, so I took it as a good thing.
My oldest sister took me along with her date, to a local fair. This was one of the little travelling deals that used to set up in shopping center parking lots. You just don’t see those anymore. She, and my other sister as well, would take me along to these affairs quite often. I clearly remember sitting in the Faris Wheel, between my sister and her date, stuck at the top for a good ten minutes. It was night time, so all the lights in the area were quite amazing. We could even see a little of the airport from our vantage point. I don’t think her date was as excited as I was. I wonder why??
My other sister and her friends using me as a makeup dummy. They used to try different shades of lipstick, and who knows what else on me to find the correct complimentary colors. Maybe that’s why clown makeup was such an obvious thing for me. Who knew lipstick was a gateway drug??
The importance of animals. We always had a pet of some kind in the house. Many times several at the same time. I learned just how important that relationship is, and it taught me the compassion and some of the responsibilities that are needed to maintain a family.
Since my birthday falls around, and sometimes on, Thanksgiving, my mom would buy me pretty much whatever I wanted for my birthday dinner. Mostly to get me out of the way while she and my sisters were working on the big dinner. I always asked for pizza. From one place only. Frankie’s on Bird Road. They didn’t deliver, and the line was always long. But I would get my pizza, take it to my room, turn up the music as loud as I could get away with. That was cool!
My (still) best friend, Maurice and I spending entire days driving around in what we called “The Search For The Blue Nehi”. For those that don’t know what that is. A blue Nehi is a cream soda. It just happens to be a very lovely shade of blue. And it’s very hard to find. But it was a way to just drive around, make fun of people, and spend time with someone important.
I could go on forever. Remembrances of my military days. Going to Alaska, Korea, and all over the country. Having spent twenty years in the military and never seeing a day of combat is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it kept me safe, but all my soldier buddies that were pulled from our hospital duties to deploy for Desert Shield/Storm came back at least one rank higher (some two ranks higher). Meanwhile, the reservists that came in to take their place lost my promotion paperwork twice!
What about my wife and kids and grandkids? So many memories I could write pages upon pages. So that will be another post, I’m afraid.
Before I leave you today, I do have a birthday request. Not just for my birthday, but for anyone’s birthday.
I have been blessed with more than I need. I have family, friends, a roof over my head that has room for more than just me, food aplenty, lots of beer and whisky, and pretty good health. While I want lots of stuff, I am not in need of anything. I bet you’ve friends and family that can say the same. So, don’t give material things (unless there is a special need for that thing). What I would love is donations to a good charity instead. And there are many LOCAL charities available.
A local women’s shelter
A local homeless shelter
Your local animal shelter
A local food bank
I don’t like big conglomerate charity places (i.e. United Way and the like). Their problem is overhead. One report I read said that for every dollar donated to these types of organizations, only 3 cents or so actually make to the folks that need it. Give directly whenever possible. National charities are good too.
The Red Cross (International!)
Many veteran’s organizations.
That’s enough, you get my drift. Make a donation in your loved one’s name (and don’t wait for a birthday or other holiday). And if you’re an Amazon shopper like I am, use their automatic donation option. You can have a portion of your purchases go directly to the charity of your choice. It costs you nothing. Currently, I have St. Jude’s as my choice. But I do change it now and then.
Having said that, if anyone wants to send me a boatload of cash so I can get those “wants, but not needs”, I’m not gonna say no. A nice big pellet smoker, an RV (along with a new vehicle) are on that list. And they ain’t cheap.
But now I have to take on another of my birthday traditions. Namely, cook my own birthday dinner. But hey, I don’t mind. I cook because I love to eat.
Thanks for spending a little of my birthday with me. I appreciate your time. Hope your day goes well, as I expect mine to go. But I really must go, the smoker ain’t gonna light itself!
I leave you with this video, which has absolutely nothing to do with birthdays. But it’s another memory from one of my trips around the sun. This one is for you Lloyd.
(I originally was calling this event a “Throw Down”, but since I was the only one running the smoker, that title just didn’t fit. Kinda hard to “throw down” against yourself!)
Yes, I’m a bit late, but it was a very busy weekend. I seriously doubt I had more than 8 hours total sleep between Friday night and Sunday morning. Keep reading and you’ll understand.
The Sunday party was excellent. We had about 30 – 35 people show up. We had friends and family come in from an hour or more away, and folks from just down the street. Several kids for granddaughter-the-younger’s birthday. Lots of food, craftbeer, whisky (and whiskey), and did I mention food??
I picked up a not quite 10-pound pork butt and a not quite 16-pound beef brisket from my local butcher on Wednesday. While I have smoked a brisket this size before, I have never smoked a butt ever! I was somewhat apprehensive but very eager to try.
The butt, all trimmed
The brisket, all trimmed
I started the butt about noon on Saturday. The plan was to heavily smoke it (I used a combination of hickory, cherry and apple woods) until it reached about 140º F internal temperature. I had recently purchased a little device to help maintain the temperature in my big ol’ smoker and to keep a better eye on the meat temperature as well. And I had nothing but problems with this device.
It’s called a “CyberQ Cloud”, put out by The BBQ Gurus. I had already done a test run two weeks ago to make sure it was working as expected. One excellent feature is that it can connect to my home Wi-Fi setup and I can sit inside and watch a webpage that has all my temps, timers, and just about anything else being monitored. But for whatever reason, it just would not connect to my Wi-Fi even though it showed it as available in the list. I tried calling the support 800 number, but they’re not open on the weekends? Seriously? You have to figure that most people BBQ on the weekends (unlike my family – we’ll fire up a grill anytime!). Yet there was nobody to answer the phone. “Please leave a message and we’ll get back to you” is NOT good customer support. I even tried to contact them via their Twitter, and never got a response. I could still use the unit, I just had to run in and out to check the monitor since it wouldn’t connect to the cloud.
We used “Cool Smoke Rub” all over the outside and injected it with a basic solution of apple juice, salt & sugar and other stuff. The butt reached the target temp about 6PM. I let it sit a little longer while we ate dinner.
After the smoker but before wrapping and into the oven.
Then I wrapped it in foil and placed it in a low (225º F) oven for overnight. It didn’t need any more smoke since I had very heavy smoke going the entire time it was in the smoker.
So it was time to trim the brisket, inject with a beef broth solution and dry brine it. It would not get its “Big Bad Beef Rub” until tomorrow morning.
The plan was to get up at 3AM Sunday morning so I could get the brisket on the smoker by 4AM. Due to the problems I had with the CyberQ, I changed my alarm to 2AM to give me time to get it working again. And since the universe hates me, I was up and out of bed at 1AM. What a life.
It took a factory reset to get the CyberQ reconnected. Thankfully there is ample documentation on the web for the device. It only took about 45 minutes to get it back up and connected. Whew!
So the brisket when on the smoker about an hour earlier than planned. No worries, it can be held in a faux cambro (basically an empty plastic beer cooler) for up to 5 hours without a problem.
This what a brisket looks like at 0 dark 30!
The brisket probably weighed in around 14 1/2 pound or so after trimming. And since I didn’t separate the two muscles that make up a brisket, I knew this would take quite a bit of time. Following a very basic plan for brisket is simple. Smoke (I used all mesquite for this brisket) until it hits the “stall”. This usually occurs around 150º – 170º F. Mine kicked in about 160º F. I then wrapped it in butcher paper in a process known as the “Texas Crutch”. Some use foil for this step, but I prefer to use the paper. I believe it leaves the “bark” (that wonderful outer crispy edge) much dryer and crunchy. It also will help cut down on the cooking time. Once the brisket is wrapped, you return it to the smoker (or an oven at 235º F or so) until it reaches an internal temp somewhere around 195º F or so. When you hit the mark at 195º then cut the point muscle off from the flat muscle. I then test the flat for tenderness by sliding my temp probe into various areas of the meat. If it slides in “like buttah” then you’re good to go, if not you can continue to cook until it reaches the 203º to 205º F range. But be careful, it’s very easy to overcook and dry it out!
When I separate the point, they become the wonderful concoction known as “burnt ends”. What I like to do, and Wifey® requires that I do this any time I’m doing brisket,
Chunking the point
is to chunk the point up and throw in the pan that has been set in the smoker to catch all the drippings along with some warmed Au Jus and then covered and set in a warm oven to braise for a time. There are no “set times” for any of this. Every piece of meat and every smoker are different. Throw in other variables like weather (I had to pull the brisket off the smoker early due to a sudden rainstorm and finish it in the oven), and you can’t go by time. The temperature and tenderness of the meat is what makes it done.
These little flavor bombs are damn tasty. And look how juicy those are.
On Sunday, the CyberQ redeemed itself. It worked as expected, and I enjoyed sitting in the garage with my music playing and watching my cook being recorded on the web.
The butt shredded up very nicely! I had also made a vinegar sauce for the butt. As much as Wifey® loves her brisket, I love pulled pork even more. My grandmother taught me that if any meat is seasoned and cooked properly it won’t need sauce. Seeing as she had, as a widow, at the height of the great depression, a successful BBQ restaurant, I’ll believe her. But I do like a vinegar sauce with my pulled pork.
And I’m very happy to say that several folks said the magic words – “Best I’ve ever had!” and “It didn’t need any sauce”. I take that as the highest compliment to be had. Thank you all!
I guess it was a good cook in any event. With all that meat, there was damn near nothing left. I was really hoping to have a pulled pork sandwich from lunch Monday, as I think I had one burnt end, one slice of brisket, and maybe two tastes of the pork. I did graze on all the other side dishes that friends brought, and some we made, but I didn’t get much of the meat.
This is all that was left.. (And I brought it for lunch today!)
A little bit of pork, and one lonely brisket slice!
And my beautiful granddaughter-the-younger had a good birthday with her friends as well. I do believe her uncle’s (son-the-elder) gift was the hit of the party! A Harry Potter Lego set.
I have no idea what time it was when I fell asleep. I remember most everybody leaving, especially those that had to drive an hour or more. All I remember was sitting down with a nice craftbeer and nodding off. It was a very long day. It started at 1AM, and didn’t end until that evening. I’m way too old to be up that long. Wifey® and I were smart enough to take Monday off. We knew that we’d be in no shape to do anything. I slept most of the day away.
Here are some links to the recipes and instructions I’ve been using.
Smoking Meat. Jeff Phillips website. This was the first website I found several years ago. I have used many of the resources available here. For this cook I based my pork butt on this guide.
Cool Smoke. BBQ Champion Tuffy Stone’s website. The website doesn’t have much in the way of free recipes, but his book; Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue has a crazy amount of good stuff.
CyberQ Cloud. The BBQ Gurus have a whole line of BBQ stuff. From full on smokers, to tongs and other accessories.
I hope this little post was something enjoyable for you to read. Hopefully, the food porn didn’t make you drool too much!
And thanks again, to everyone that came over. I enjoyed myself, and I think ya’ll did too! (And a special thanks to those that helped put away the food, the grills and other parts and pieces after I had crashed for the night!)
Well, I’ve had these blog posts sitting here not being posted for quite some time now. All of these have been assigned to “I’ll finish this later”, or “Nobody wants to read about that”, or my fav, “Do I really want to post that?” categories.
An Anniversary (Of Sorts)
Today is the 30th anniversary of my vasectomy! I realize you don’t really care. But it’s important to Wifey® and me. The funny part was later.
We were stationed at Ft. Greely, Alaska. Four days after my getting fixed was son-the-elder’s birthday. Needless to say, we had a party. And as with most kids birthday parties, the adults consumed massive quantities of alcohol. The big toy that year was laser tag. I don’t remember how many we purchased, but we had several pistols, rifles, vests, and helmets. Many hours and batteries were spent running around in the playground and parking lot shooting at each other. Naturally, I was extremely sore for several days after. The beer kept me from hurting that day but did nothing after that.
Pro tip: Don’t go running around right after having your nuts cut!
Still Not The Song I Want To Hear
The posts I’m referring to are here and here. After dinner Sunday the family was sitting at our little bar in the kitchen (where we usually eat dinner) and within 10 minutes or so I had to change the station at least 5 times. Nothing but Skynyrd, Zepplin, Springsteen, U2, etc. Even son-the-elder noticed and said I was having a bad night.
Genealogy Still Sucks
If you missed the original post go here. Since everything I find on my Campbell side either has too many questions to lay claim to or goes back to King Arthur, I have decided to work on some other lines for now. Besides, I can’t get anyone to answer any requests on Ancestry.
I’m just happy that I haven’t found a “tree” that links back to Adam & Eve! Although I have to think that the Campbell’s would have sprung from Adam & Lillith, Eve was too prissy.
I have many DNA links on my paternal grandmother’s side, and my mother’s side (both her mother and father’s sides). I’m also going to start on Wifey’s® tree even though she has cousins with a lot of the family already there. But I have doubts about a lot of the historical family members.
Samhain is right around the corner! Even though we don’t participate much in Halloween (unless we have the girls), I still enjoy this time of year. The Celt in me loves the traditions and once this day passes the next holiday is my absolute favorite of all holidays, Thanksgiving.
We have always enjoyed carving Jack O’Lanterns. But since this year Halloween falls on a Wednesday I think we’ll cut it back this year.
To Gym Or Not To Gym
Yeah… This post didn’t get very far…
Mental Health Day (Or Lack Thereof)
I’ve mentioned before that I am bipolar type II. I don’t post about it much because I really can’t. When those days hit the last thing I want to do is talk. Not that talking about it doesn’t help, it does. But, I am not one to talk about what’s going on in my messed up head. And to spit it out only relieves the pain for a very short time. And the roller coaster emotions that this causes is even worse than just dealing with it in my own way.
Then this meme came across my Facebook the other day and I think it may have some merit.
I can understand this. The universe has a finite amount of energy (E=mc^2 tells us this). And since we are all made of stardust (and to stardust, we’ll return) we are all connected. Maybe days when you are sad and can’t place a reason why the universe is signaling that someone needs mourning. I’m down with that.
So those are all the leftovers that have been ignored. And to continue the Still Not The Song I Want To Hear post, this morning on the way to work, it was either Starship, Aerosmith, or Rocket Man, easily Elton’s worse song. And while putting this post together, Michael Martin Murphy’s Wildfire just came on. There is nothing that will make me change the station faster than that “song”. Has to be the absolute worst thing ever written.
But fear not dear reader (both of you), the music world is still kicking! Saturday night driving home from dinner with granddaughter-the-younger I had the Beatles channel blaring in the truck. Both of my girls love the Beatles. As this song came on, and I was singing it to her, she was laughing the entire time. When we made it home we watched Beatles videos on YouTube. It was wonderful.
So it’s been a while since I posted anything. So let’s catch up, shall we?
The reasons I haven’t posted are several. I had a killer head cold for about 2 weeks, that I couldn’t shake (same one I mentioned in my Celebrate Good Times (Come On)! post). My work issued laptop died on me, and I’ve been so busy at work that when I get home and I feel like crap due to the cold, I had no desire to sit in front of any PC. When you consider how much computer time I log at work, it’s rather surprising how much I use one at home.
But not everything was bad. I bought a new SiriusXM radio for my aging truck. It’s an external device that plugs in through the aux port on the existing radio. I also stream, mostly the “Classic” (oh, how I hate that term. Can we go back to AOR please?) stations. I like SiriusXM over the local radio because the DJs don’t think they have to be funny so they can get hired and go to a larger market. SiriusXM’s market is North America. Quite a bit bigger than any terrestrial market. Plus these DJs know what they’re talking about. I also like SiriusXM over most streaming services (Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc.) because they play the music the way it was recorded. One thing that always pissed me off with the various streaming services is they tend to cut apart songs the segue into each other. A classic example is Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out/Stay”. Streaming radio turns those into two separate songs. It increases the total number of songs in their library, but it totally screws up the listening experience.
My office replaced my very small Micro$oft Surface Book with a beautiful 17″ HP laptop. This thing is a beast! An i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and this wonderful huge screen! These tired old eyes can see again!
Wifey® and I have planned, and made the deposit on, something that is on both of our bucket lists. A trip to Scotland, the land of our heritage. We’ve both did the Ancestry DNA tests. I’ve posted about this before. Turns out both of our DNA points directly to Scotland/Ireland/Land of the Vikings. I’d like to try to find the ancestor that made the trip over the pond to settle in America before we go. But that costs money, and right now we’re trying to save, not spend so we can blow the whole wad while in Scotland. I’m hoping the duty-free shop in the Edinburgh airport has a good selection of native scotches. I will have a separate post(s) about the trip as things get closer, and when we are in country.
We had a wonderful dinner the other night with my brother and his wife here at my house. I smoked three whole chickens. Not that I expected we would eat them all that night, I planned on leftovers so we (as in Wifey® and son-the-younger and myself) could make pot pies from the leftover chicken and other veggies we made that day.
Yup, there are 3 whole chickens in there!
We ended up with 10 pot pies of varying sizes
I confirmed something I learned the last time I smoked chicken. From now on I’m only buying leg quarters. There were 4 and a half breast quarters left, but only one leg quarter. Seem we prefer the dark meat!
And I’ve read a couple of good books too. I won’t write any reviews. If you want book reviews, there are plenty of sites that have them (I recommend Once Upon A Spine).
I’ll leave you with a video. Has nothing to do with this post, but the opening line “Been away, haven’t seen you in a while”, fits with the theme. Plus it’s Dave Mason. I’ve been a fan of his since his days with Traffic.
As I mentioned on my 4th of July post, Wednesday was granddaughter-the-elder’s birthday, and Thursday was Wifey’s®. Last Monday, granddaughter-the-elder informed us she was having a unicorn party at both houses (as in our house and her other grandparent’s where she lives). Of course, she didn’t bother to ask us if she could have a birthday party, she just decided she was going to have a party, and that was the end of the discussion. Well, what’s a good papa to do, other than making sure she has a unicorn party? Between Wifey®, son-the-younger (AKA Daddy), and myself, we managed to get everything together.
Wifey® and granddaughter-the-elder, along with granddaughter-the-younger, starting browsing the Intertubes for unicorn party ideas. Somehow they decided on unicorn cake pops. Now we have never made any cake pops before, much less unicorn type, so Wifey®, being the smart cookie that she is, said we should make a trial batch before the party so we could get things right. Damn good thing we did. The first batch was an utter failure. The “instructions” (not really instructions – more like general ideas) were so generic, nothing went as shown. So she broke down and bought a cake pop tray. And while the cake pops came out correct, it was still anything but smooth sailing.
Nekkid cake pops
The concept is once you have the cake pops baked and stuck on a stick (and there are several sizes of sticks available – but no advice as to which size to use), you’re supposed to dip them in some melted candy. This will give them a nice smooth surface to decorate, plus it seals the cake portion making them last a bit longer.
But here’s the thing. We bought a package of “candy melts” that are specifically made for this type of project. We bought a 10-ounce package (only size available), the “instructions” say you only need 4 ounces to cover 24 cake pops. Bullshit. For one thing, despite following the melting instructions on the candy packaging, I never could get it to dippable consistency. I have been melting chocolate and other candies for many years and never had a problem like this. One “instructional” video shows that instead of dipping the pops, use a spoon and drizzle the melted candy over the pops. Nope, not gonna happen. The candy was never liquid enough to drizzle either. So we ended up only covering some of our pops.
So on to the unicorn decorations. Wifey® found “instructions” on how to make a unicorn horn with fondant. It sounded easy enough. Just roll out some fondant cut into about a 2-inch section fold, and twist to look like a horn. You can then mount it on a toothpick, or something similar, so you can stick in a piece of styrofoam like stuff and put them in the fridge to harden. Once they’re hard you paint them with a small mix of either water or something alcohol based (for quick evaporation) and some edible glitter. We used vanilla extract, but I think the dark color of the extract made the horns turn too dark. But for the ears, mini-marshmallows cut in half, and painted with the same mix, they came out beautiful.
Next, we were supposed to draw eyes on the pops. We
have special edible markers just for this purpose. But since the candy coating didn’t work correctly, and wasn’t smooth, it didn’t work either. But granddaughter-the-elder had a blast doing it anyway!
Wifey® then showed up my failures by piping the manes and little flowers on some of the pops. She has considerable piping skills!
But, cake pop issues aside, the party was a lot of fun. Since we didn’t have a lot of time to plan it, we let granddaughter-the-elder set the guest list. So only a few really close friends of hers were invited.
Daddy (AKA son-the-younger), made us some homemade pizzas. He is a sous chef for an Italian restaurant here in town, and he has this pizza making stuff down pat. We had five pizzas and a mess of garlic knots (also homemade). And they were amazing! I think we only had three slices of pizza left over!
The best of all the kitchen work was how little I had to do. Not that I didn’t want to help, but my lower back issue flared up again Saturday afternoon so I was on muscle relaxers most of the weekend. So all I really did was sit and chop veggies, and fail at the candy coating for the pops. It also meant that I couldn’t join in on the tequila shots later that evening.
Granddaughter-the-younger said that the kids were celebrating sissy’s birthday and the adults were celebrating memaw’s (Wifey®) birthday. So there was a water balloon fight (all ages), fireworks later in the evening, beer (and I did have some of that) & tequila (adults only!) and movies with popcorn and a sleepover (kids only!). My driveway looks like a battle zone right now. Remnants of fireworks and brightly colored balloon pieces are everywhere.
One of granddaughter-the-elder’s presents was a stuffed turtle. She has a fascination with any stuffed toy, with a soft spot for turtles. The turtle looks decidedly drunk. One droopy eye and the pupils are different sizes! She absolutely loves it.
SO… how was you’re weekend?
P.S. If you have any good tips on cake pops, please leave a comment. Thanks!
I was challenged by Kirsten over at Once Upon A Spine to do the “7 Day Black and White Photo Challenge”, and I’m always up for a challenge. The rules are simple: Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.
Since I never tend to follow directions I’m going to comment on my selections for this challenge. First, the “no people” requirement made it very difficult for me. As you can tell, all the photos I’ve used are old photos that I’ve scanned in to add to various genealogy projects. I have some wonderful old photographs of family members dating back to the early 1900’s. But I couldn’t use them for this challenge. What a shame. Maybe I’ll use some for another post.
Day one is a picture taken by my father of the beach at Matheson Hammock in Miami, Florida. My family (and Wifey’s®) grew up on this beach. My dad was a pretty good amateur photographer. He had some of his work of Hurricane Donna damage (1960) picked by the Associated Press and United Press International.
Day two is the “Campbell House – Milesburg, PA”. Yes, there are people in it, but they’re not the focus of the shot, and it’s not really a B&W – more of a sepia, but I used it anyway. The 1930 census lists my paternal grandmother as a “boarding house owner”. I think this is that house, but I am not sure. And I have no idea who the people sitting on the porch are.
Day three is a winter shot of my mother’s house in Gaston, SC, where she moved after my father passed. It may not be a true black and white, but I always thought it was a striking photo, so I used it. Plus it’s one of my favorites that I actually took!
Day four is, according to the note on the back, a picture of Shep. Shep was my dad’s dog way before my siblings and I were around. The location is unknown.
Day five shows my brother’s, Chevy Nova. I’m not sure of the year, but the house I grew up in is in the background so it had to be after 1960.
Day 6 has a very interesting note on the back; “This is where the cookies come from – Friend’s Union State College, PA.” My paternal grandmother, “Nanny”, told me many times that she was the first cook hired by Penn State University. I have a letter from the Civil Engineering Camp of the Penn State Univ. accepting Josephine as Head Cook for the school camp demonstration project, dated 9/20/1956. The demonstration project ran from 9/30 through 10/12 of the same year. Along with many pictures of her in the kitchen of this building cooking up a storm.
And finally, Day 7. Just to show how good a cook Nanny was, this is a picture of her BBQ restaurant. All I know is that it was somewhere in Pennsylvania. And you see that I come by my love of all things grilled naturally.
This is a picture of the inside of her restaurant:
Last week I had the great pleasure of attending the KnowBe4 conference in Orlando. (Official hashtag: #KB4Con18). This was without a doubt the best tech conference I have ever attended. Not only were there absolutely dynamic speakers, all attendees were treated to the best food! I’m talking some of the healthiest stuff I have ever seen at any conference.
I’ve mentioned KnowBe4 before. This is the vendor we use at the city to train, test and generally harass our end-users (OK, maybe not harass). (KnowBe4 website) With just a small part of their product, I can train my co-workers on the latest ways the “bad guys” try to use social engineering to do well, bad stuff. I will admit that I enjoy sending out simulated phish emails. Why? Because it shows me where are weak links are. And this gives me the means to do targeted training to make our city network, and by association everyone’s home PC/Network, that much more secure. I don’t do it to shame someone or hold it over anyone’s head. Since I have been an instructor of some sort for very many years, I use this primarily as a training tool. But on to the conference itself.
Other than the hour plus, each way, drive on I4 (A.K.A. the devil’s highway), and being in Orlando (way too big and crazy for me), everything else went beautifully. The folks at KnowBe4 went above and beyond in this, their first ever conference.
The opening keynote speaker was Kevin Mitnick, or as he likes to call himself “The World’s Most Famous Hacker”, a title he lives up to. If you don’t know who he is, take a moment to read his Wikipedia page, even if it a bit light on his history. Kevin gave us many demonstrations of current hacks, all of which arrive via an inconspicuous email. And all of which are very nasty. But the one hack that scared me the most was when he showed how Google’s two-factor authentication (2FA) could be hacked. Google has always been one of the toughest to crack since they stay on the cutting edge of all technologies. As a big user of many Google services, this is troublesome.
Me and Kevin Mitnick
The keynote speaker for the next day was Frank Abangale. I have to admit that I did not recognize his name. But once I heard his story I knew how he was. Here is his Wikipedia page for you to educate yourself. Frank is considered one of the foremost experts on imposters and forgery. Steven Spielberg made a movie “Catch Me If You Can” starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank and Tom Hanks as FBI Agent Carl Hanratty. I have not seen this movie, but I see it available on Amazon Prime so I will correct that error very soon. And if I caught his reference, he was also the inspiration for the TV show “White Collar”. His family story and subsequent talk on how to keep safe with online financial sources was very eye-opening.
Myself and Frank Abangale
Another fantastic speaker was Roger A. Grimes (he wants you to know he is not related to the Canadian political figure with the same name), the best-selling author of several tech books. KnowBe4 even included a copy of his “A Data-Driven Computer Security Defense” in the big ol’ backpack they gave every attendee. The big takeaway from his two talks was the point that you have to determine what your biggest exploitable problem is, and fix that first. Common sense, which as we all know, is always in short supply.
One thing that I really was happy to see was the inclusion of women speakers. KnowBe4 has several women in executive roles throughout the company, and that makes me very happy. Since I have two granddaughters, one of which is very interested in the sciences, I fully support women (and really anybody) in STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics). One of the first questions Wifey® asked me was if there were women presenters. I was so very happy to say yes!
There was one thing missing though. No vendor room. Every other conference I’ve been to there is always a room for vendors. Not only can one make some great contacts with products and services that one doesn’t know about, vendors always have cool swag (freebie gifts). I’ll have to check with my manager, but I think a conference is how we found out about KnowBe4. It may not have been in the vendor area, it may have been word of mouth from another attendee (word of mouth is ALWAYS the best advertisement).
Sorry, this is such a broad overview, but I could write about ten pages if I covered the entire 3 days. All I can say is “I’m ready for KB4Con19!”