Here’s what the crazy little elf, Ginger has been up to this week.
And that ends week two. Next week we’ll see just what grows from these magic seeds! What has your elf been up to?
Our sweet little, mischievous, elf has returned! The jury is still out on whether on not this is a good thing. Just as last year (here, here, and here), I will post weekly updates. We still have the girls weekends only, so I expect Ginger to do some silly stuff again this year.
The girls think that Ginger put herself high upon the tree to keep away from our new dog.
Granddaughter-the-younger was first up that morning and was brave enough to open the tub and smell. “She must have eaten too many candy canes!”. Later the girls were practically shoving their dad’s face into the canister “Smell it! Smell it!!”
Once again, Ginger The Elf has shown just what happens when a little elf gets bored. But she can also be helpful!
Got any silly elves at your place?? Check back next week to see what Ginger is up to!
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
So you either know this song, or you have no idea what I’m talking about. This particular track has become a Thanksgiving classic. But it’s only tie to the holiday is that the beginning of the story takes place at Thanksgiving, but as Arlo says; “That’s not what I came to tell you about”. The true message of the song is anti-draft and against the Vietnam conflict.
I am, of course, talking about the classic “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree“. The song was originally released in October of 1967. I don’t think I heard it until 1974 or so. Since the song is long (over 18 minutes), it wouldn’t fit on a 45 RPM single, and therefore was never released for airplay. It would take the advent of the “AOR” (Album Oriented Radio) format, a precursor to today’s “Classic Rock” format (Oh! How I hate that term) for radio to start playing longer tracks like this. Think Iron Butterfly’s iconic “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida“.
Alice’s Restaurant is based on a true story. Arlo Guthrie, like a lot of folks at that time, resisted the draft. I don’t totally blame those that did resist. Even though I went on to join the military and eventually retire from the Army, the prospect of going to Vietnam was not something I was looking forward to. But I was too young for the draft.
The moral behind the song is summed up in one line;
The ironic punch line of the story is that, in the words of Guthrie, “I’m sittin’ here on the Group W bench ’cause you want to know if I’m moral enough to join the Army—burn women, kids, houses and villages—after bein’ a litterbug.”
What I find is that in all my years in the military, I served alongside plenty of folks that had much worse than being a litterbug on their records. In the end, Arlo was not drafted. And though the draft board used this arrest as the reason not to draft him, I think was more that his dad, Woody Guthrie, also a singer-songwriter, and a political activist, that had more to do with it. They just didn’t want a potential disturbance in the ranks.
So, go grab you a beverage, and a snack, and sit back and listen to the tale of Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.
Oh! And have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow (if you’re here in the USA). Otherwise, just have a great Thursday!
As I’ve mentioned before Turkey Day 2018 is just around the corner. And that also means my birthday is right there too. But this isn’t a post about my birthday. It’s something very Thanksgiving related.
In a previous life, I was an on-air DJ. I didn’t do it very long, as the money just wasn’t there, and I had a wife and newborn to take care of. Back then I watched TV. There were several shows that I really enjoyed, Barney Miller, Taxi, and SNL were excellent shows (although I had trouble staying up for SNL). But my favorites were Cheers and WKRP In Cincinnati. Music and a bar? Even back then that was where my head was at.
WKRP and the cult movie FM were two of the reasons I wanted to be a DJ. I have not been able to find a source to watch FM again. Which is a major bummer because Martin Mull is so hilarious. But WKRP, well that’s a different story. I believe every episode is available on YouTube.
This episode has to be the craziest ever! According to the wiki page, it’s even based on a true story! Check out the wiki page for some very interesting facts about the show.
Many of the characters and even some of the stories (including season 1 episode 7, “Turkeys Away”) are based on people and events at WQXI.
As funny as this clip is, it leaves out station manager, Arthur Carlson, after the drop exclaiming “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”
But my hero’s, intrepid newsman Les Nessman (winner of the Buckeye Award!), cry of “Oh! The humanity!” makes this so damn funny.
I’ve smoked, fried, roasted, undercooked, overcooked, done damn near everything to that damn bird. One year we even did a bourbon brined and bourbon smoked turkey! That was interesting. I’ve cooked them whole, spatchcocked, even quartered, just the breast, you name it. But, I’ve never done this:
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (even when it doesn’t coincide with my birthday). One thing I like is if I take the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of turkey week off, I get a total of nine days in a row off (counting weekends). I’m always down for extra days off! (I’m just starting day 1 for this year).
More importantly, family and food are what make this holiday special. Even though I end up cooking for days ahead, and the day of, I enjoy it. Wifey®, not so much. We are usually the hosts for everybody, and it’s very stressful for us. That’s why last year we took off, just the two of us, to the Smokey Mountains for the holiday. We also took a cruise one year, but it kinda sucked. Not only did it feel weird not having the usual Thanksgiving trappings but the cruise was rather boring. But we lived through it. We’re still deciding what to do for this year’s turkey day. But it looks like we’re going to a friend’s house this year (although we may end up here mainly because we have more room). All I can say is that the menu had better be set by the time I go shopping later today. Any turkey large enough to feed this crew will need to start thawing today!
One of my fondest memories of Thanksgiving over the years was my mom’s turkey pot pie that she made from the leftover turkey. That was to die for. I’m sure my siblings remember it.
As I mentioned above, last year at this time Wifey® and I were headed up to Maggie Valley, NC all by ourselves. (Start here to read about that trip. There are 6 total posts.) The granddaughters usually go with their other grandparents to somewhere in western Tennessee to visit the girl’s great-grandparents. And as much as I’d love them to be here, it’ very important they spend time with other family too. I just hope they tolerate the 15 + hour car ride well.
But remember –
What are your plans for the holidays?
(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.
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.
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.
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,
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!)
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.
Amazing Ribs. Meathead Goldwyn’s website. I have used many of the FREE recipes several times, and for this cook I used both his Big Bad Beef Rub Recipe and the Lexington Dip North Carolina Hill Country BBQ Sauce Recipe. He has a great book too. Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling available everywhere.
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!)
P.S. Who’s up for Turkey Day???
It’s both a joy and a hindrance growing up and now living in Florida. The seasons don’t really change. The calendar changes just like everybody else’s, but that’s the only way to know which holiday to celebrate. Yes, we get our 12 hours of autumn, and maybe four days of winter, but other than love bug season the rest of the year it’s the same. It was nice to get bicycles and skates for Christmas because we could use them right away. We didn’t have to wait for the spring thaw. I spent many Christmas afternoons outside on my bike, skates, playing with whichever piece of sports gear I got that year. No bundling up, hell I seldom wore a shirt or shoes! Brag all you want about winter sports. We spent two years in Alaska. You can keep all your skis, snowmobiles, and hockey gear. Not for me.
With my birthday falling during Thanksgiving week (no, I was not born on a Thanksgiving day. I am not a Turkey. I was born on a Tuesday), that holiday holds great importance to me. Except for the year I turned 18. That was on a Thanksgiving day. But I was at Lackland Air Force Base, in basic training, pulling KP duty. So that year it basically sucked.
One thing that has bothered me for years now is the “holiday creep”. It really pisses me off when I go into a store before November and they have Christmas decorations already up. Let’s give all the holidays their proper time.
That would make Samhain/Halloween/Allhallow’s Eve first.
Again this year, trick or treating falls in the middle of the week, so we had to take the
girls out for fun early. We hit up a “Fall Festival” with a corn maze, games, food, and other typical events. Despite the heat, it was quite fun. The girls had two of their younger cousins come along, so the adults didn’t have to be with them all the time. We just had to keep them in sight.
We also took the girls to a local church’s festive events. We got there a bit late, but there really wasn’t much to do anyway. Both the girls did the “box maze” (you had to crawl through large boxes that were placed together. It was more of a tunnel than a maze). Granddaughter-the-elder spent her time on the big inflatable slides. Her costume was one of the characters from Disney’s Descendants 2 show. Don’t ask me which one. Maybe you can tell from the picture. But her costume was so slippery she beat all the boys down the slides every time. They said she was cheating!
Granddaughter-the-younger (costume from the same show) spent her entire time waiting in line to get her face painted. She didn’t seem to mind (don’t think she was feeling well anyway), so I’m not complaining. I just sat on a chair off to the side where I could see everything. But the music! So bad! They’d blast some pop tune all the kids all knew followed by a Christian song that had no relevance to the event. Sheesh..
And of course, we carved the Jack O’Lantern’s you saw above.
Tomorrow the veil thins, and travel between the realms is easier. At least that’s what some believe. It may well be true. Having never been dead, I don’t know what it takes to cross over. But last year’s posts have more info (they’re linked at the top of the page).
There aren’t many kids in our neighborhood, although some families are moving in as us old folks die off, so Wifey® and I usually don’t stay home on trick or treating night. We’ve found that even leaving all the lights out in the front of the house doesn’t stop the most determined
hoodlums’ kids from banging on the door and screaming for candy. In the past that made the dogs go crazy. But sadly, the dogs have passed on so that won’t be a problem.*
I used to dress up in costume and hand out candy and /or go to parties. But not anymore. If my granddaughters were available during the week and not just on weekends, I would do it again. Way back in the day I would drag my sound system out to the front porch and blast Rick Wakeman’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII at a very loud volume while my bud Mo and I would do our best to scare the kids trying to steal our candy. But, alas, those days are past.
Check out my friend Kirsten’s blog Once Upon A Spine. She still has the spirit.
* Wouldn’t it be a hoot if the dogs and cat we lost last year crossed over and visited us??
For those that are Twitter or Facebook buds (no? – why not? links below), you know of my “love” of anything pumpkin spiced. For those new to the game, this expresses my “love” perfectly.
So yesterday Wifey® and I were doing the weekly shopping, and lo and behold what do we see in the cereal aisle? Pumpkin Spice everywhere!
Seems that life has jumped the pumpkin spice shark… So sad. I’ll just leave you with this tidbit.
While the rest of the USA is celebrating our Independence Day today, I have a much better event to celebrate. Today is granddaughter-the-elder’s® birthday, and tomorrow is Wifey’s® birthday. I will not tell you their ages, as I know better than that!
And since it is the 4th of July…
How are you spending the day today?