dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Saturday is a great wasteland for television. And as August and the Summer of 2015 winds down, there's not a lot of new movies coming out that we HAVE to see. I think the next big movies on our To Do list is Scorch Trials and... drum roll... The Martian. So... maybe stream something on Netflix?

I don't remember if I mentioned this, but a couple of weeks ago we went to watch something on Netflix and discovered that the Blu-Ray player with WiFi would not come on. It was not the case that the BD player was dead -- rather its small surge protector apparently died a valiant death in one of two violent thunderstorms we've had in the last month. We have a temporary kluge, stringing an extension cord that I use with various devices next to the computer desk. But we shall rebuild the system, making it better, stronger, faster... and costing less that $6 million. (evil-grin)

Netflix has redone its screens and its Android/Kindle apps a number of times. To look more dramatic, no doubt, the ubiquitous red letters spelling out Netflix on a white background is now red letters on black. But one of the changes was the TV lost its listing of My List -- the things I'd checkboxed and hoped to someday get around to seeing them. Of course, Netflix pulls things out of rotation from time to time, either through licensing agreements or just changing up what is available on streaming as opposed to DVD rental. When we got the Sony Blu-Ray player for the new HDTV, we reactivated my old Netflix account, but streaming only. So what's available for DVD isn't too important.

But surely there is something to watch. And one of the offerings was this quirky film:

In A World... [R] (2013)
Netflix streaming

I remember when this little film came out and had gotten some decent reviews. Who doesn't remember all those "In a world where..." movie trailers? Don LaFontaine owned the movie trailer business for many years. As opposed to Hal Douglas, the east coast movie trailer voice, who also did "In a world..." trailers -- and was sometimes mistaken for LaFontaine. (Douglas did the overblown fake trailers designed by Cameron Diaz in The Holiday.) Both men are gone, in 2008 and 2014, respectively.

But honestly, I was thinking that this was a documentary -- about the daughter of The Voice of God.

Turns out... no. Although the movie does open with a tribute to Don LaFontaine, including his most excellent GEICO insurance commercial, it's a fictional look into the whole very small voice over industry, especially the vacuum left after La Fontaine's death.

It's delightfully quirky, with a lot of inside baseball humor about voice over work -- and many classic voice over moments. Unlike The Red Shoes, which I reviewed recently (DW) (LJ), hopefully In A World... will not encourage hordes of young people to rush into Hollywood to become movie trailer artists. (grin)

Watching movies at home is not the same as watching in the theatre -- it's less total concentration. As is typical, I was Kindling while watching. But I had to put the machine down because I was missing some of the complications of the dysfunctional friends and family going on. It's a comedy... but it's much more human. And having grown up in schools surrounded by creative people -- artists, actors, musicians -- I have much more attachment to these people than in most comedies. Even if I want to knock some sense into the heads of a couple of people.

Lake Hill, who also wrote/directed/co-produced, stars as the daughter of one of the great voices, trying to make it in her own voice business. She's really good. (Lake is well known for several series we didn't see, including The Practice and Boston Legal, so some of you are much more likely to know who she is.) Michaela Watkins plays Hill's sister and seemed awfully familiar. We both thought for a bit she was Lisa Edelstein who was on House for so many years, but the voice was wrong -- it turns out she was on Saturday Night Live from 2008-9. Likewise, the sister's husband Moe, played by Rob Corddry, I kept thinking was the husband in the movie Fargo -- but that was John Carroll Lynch. Confused so far? Good.

I liked this movie. It was definitely a case of a "sufficient" budget. Too much money and it would've looked fake. This is a small voice over industry, and it needed to look small. After all, the smaller the pond, the bigger the fights over nothing but scraps.


The Search for General Tso [Documentary] (2014)
Netflix streaming

Now this really is a documentary. I remember hearing about this documentary -- a search for both the historical General Tso and the origins of this damned chicken dish named after him. Several people had recommended it, but I couldn't think of the name -- all I could remember was Jiro Dreams of Sushi (DW), which we saw back in December. But after In A World..., I was flipping through the list of movies on the Netflix home screen when lo and behold here it was. Also about 90 minutes, we figured there was still enough Saturday evening to watch this.

General Tso's Chicken. It appears on nearly every Chinese restaurant menu in America -- and apparently many other countries as well. Though not, in particular, China. (grin) As one might expect, it's an Americanized Chinese dish for the blander American palette. But what was the source? Who invented the dish? And was there a General Tso?

It's not my place to spoil any of the adventure for you. It's a good solid, and funny, documentary. Very much worth the hour and a half to see it. And especially if you have interests in food, American and Chinese culture, and the whole creation of industries. The history down this rabbit hole -- or chicken coop if you like -- is well worth it.


Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (red-haven-peaches)
Ah, the summer produce of West Michigan...

For several weeks Mrs. Dr. Phil has been buying the asparagus grown a few miles from us. This year's crop has been extraordinary. Most of the stalks have been medium thickness, but they've been as tender as the dainty thin ones. Not a woody one in the bunch. We've had the wonderful chicken with asparagus in tarragon mustard sauce -- twice. And the new small upper oven of the new stove does a fine job of broiling/roasting asparagus. Yum.

Last Wednesday, 3 June 2015, was the start of the weekly Farmer's Market on the campus of Grand Valley State University in Allendale. Somebody is apparently using little tents to grow early tomatoes and so we had two nice ripe local tomatoes. We had BLTs and tomato bisque soup on Saturday for dinner, and the first of the traditional Dr. Phil summer tomato sandwiches (DW) (LJ) for lunch on Sunday. Oh. Yum.

But it's the beginning of June and we're awaiting strawberry season. Looking back through the years, I've seen discussion of local strawberries in this blog back in May. This year, though, well we had a long winter and a cool spring. The last few days I've occasion to head up 68th Avenue towards Coopersville -- and as I've passed through Eastmanville, I've looked for the little white signs for Cook's. Consistently for at least fifteen years, Cook's has had the best local strawberries, about a mile east on Leonard.

Today I headed north on 68th at around 10:09am -- nothing. Then south on 68th around 12:09 and BOOM. Sign. STRAWBERRIES.

There were people all around. Some driving up, some driving away, some working, some young teens out in the fields. Cars everywhere. I asked for two quarts. Did I have a preorder? No. What kind did I want? Huh. We've been going to Cook's for a long time. This time, they had two varieties ready at the same time. One called Jewel and one called Honey Something (all I can think of is Honeycrisp, the "new" apple variety that everyone has gone gaga over the last few years). Which do YOU like better? The woman working the stand -- I like the Honey whatevers. The two boys bringing back baskets of strawberries from the field and logging their loads in the book -- both are really good. Great, so why not one of each? Good choice!

Cook's lovely strawberries. The Jewels are on the left and the darker Honey Somethings on the right. Also one of the wonderful brown eggs Mrs. Dr. Phil has been getting from someone at the GVSU library. With natural light, I can get decent color shots at ISO 1600 on the Nikon D1H and the 24-120mm VR lens is very good at low shutter speeds. Pleased. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Also asked Cook's How is the crop? Well... there was some winter damage. So, shorter season? Not necessarily, but the yields per plant are expected to be lower. If you've every grown strawberries, they take a couple of years to settle in -- one of the buyers today was explaining their strawberries are in their first year, so they had to come to Cook's.

Alas, it doesn't sound like I'll get strawberry shortcake tonight. S-i-g-h... But! We'll do a taste off of strawberries and whipped cream, so that's not so bad. (evil-strawberry-grin)

Summer. Is. Here.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (kate-robot-chicken)
Back In The Mid-80s

When we moved to Laurium MI in the Upper Peninsula and Mrs. Dr. Phil started her job at the Michigan Tech library, we started off without a lot of money. The old mining house we rented was an odd duck, "renovated" by the landlord would be one way of putting it. But it was warm and comfortable enough.

At some point, possibly after our October 1984 formal wedding, we decided to buy a chest freezer for the basement, so we could take advantage of storing some of the leftovers, baked goods, meats and things on sale. We looked at several at the local Hancock hardware store, and settled on a 6 cu.ft. Whirlpool chest freezer -- a sort of beige colored cube. The salesman wanted us to get the larger rectangular 9 cu.ft. unit, but we liked the look of the little 6 cu.ft., plus without kids how much freezer storage did we really need? The kicker was there was a scratch on the front kickplate of the floor model, so we got it for about fifty bucks off the price.

A trip to Ace Hardware in Calumet got me some wiring, a box, outlet and a new circuit breaker and we had the unit resting on two very heavy boards I'd acquired somewhere from a shipping crate.

The freezer was moved twice -- once to Henry Street in Allendale, where it survived about a year-and-a-half in the garage, subject to heat and cold, and then in the basement in the current house for the last twenty-some years.

Which Brings Us To Sunday Morning

Mrs. Dr. Phil went downstairs to get the second dozen bagels we bought before Christmas. And found they were not frozen. Also a little fuzzy in the bag. Also that the freezer smelled BAD when opened. Yup, it died -- death date unknown.

Now some people would be really upset at losing tons of food in a dead freezer, but really, though the freezer was stuffed, we just lost the bagels. Everything else in there was old. We used to buy frozen pizzas on sale to have a cheap quick meal from time to time, but I can't remember the last time we did that -- so the couple of pizzas in there were at least five years old. And the other things were of even more depressing vintages. There was a plastic tub of chicken stock on the bottom that had a paper tape label of June 1993 or something like that on it! Enough frost had accumulated that there was a couple of inches of water in the bottom once the contents was removed.

So really, the lost food was pretty much amortized over the last twenty years, so a dozen bagels from the bagel store in Holland is pretty much small potatoes, to mix our food metaphors here.

Six cubic feet ended up as three garbage bags, too much to fit in our old Rubbermaid trash bin. But the overnight temps have been about 19°F, so leaving one of the bags outside the garage before the midweek trash hasn't been a problem.

The Ironic Wrinkle

Saturday was our 29th anniversary (judicial version). Rather than going out, Mrs. Dr. Phil made a really wonderful batch of spaghetti with eggplant and turkey Italian sausage, flavored with a very nice Spanish red wine. And capers. Since she'd shopped at the D&W in Holland, we also had a loaf of a garlic sage sourdough bread. Oh, seriously YUM.

Which meant that we had nice big slices of garlic sage sourdough bread instead of moldy bagels for our late Sunday breakfast downstairs with the Sunday paper. (grin)

When Mrs. Dr. Phil posted on Facebook that we'd lost the freezer, many of our friends immediately decided that she deserved a new freezer as an anniversary present. "so what IS the proper gift for 29 years -- white-goods, by any chance?" Turns out, according to one website, 29 years is furniture. Didn't say what kind. Well, we did use the lid of the freezer for some tasks...

Seriously, though, we don't really need a chest freezer. My folks had bought a big double door freezer back in Medina one winter when we bought a big chunk of a cow -- half or a quarter, I don't remember. And in Greensboro, we ended up with a 2nd refrigerator in the shop to handle the overflow of produce from the garden, etc. But with just Mother at home, we unplugged that last year. We don't need the reserve.

Still, the big upstairs refrigerator is as old as our house -- about twenty years -- so maybe we'll budget a new fridge this summer. Be proactive and replace it before we have a product emergency. That and the dishwasher sometime.

Ah, entropy.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Cooking For One

... isn't a lot of fun, at least in terms of doing anything elaborate. But I've done okay during the nearly three weeks Mrs. Dr. Phil is in Nicaragua. With one real exception.

Probably ten years ago, when Mrs. Dr. Phil was off conferencing, I decided to try some childhood favorites. One was Spaghetti-Os. Every family has certain common meals and often standard brands of foods and snacks. We did Franco-American canned spaghetti, often with hot dogs, and never Chef Boyardee. As I recall, the Spaghetti-Os were fun.

This year? Not so much. Oh the sauce had the right flavor, as did the flavor and texture of the little round concentric nesting pasta-like substances. And the Beef Ball Park franks were lovely as usual. But my palate must've changed, because in two meals the Os were just blah. Plastic. Ugh.

I'll have my childhood memories. But I shan't be repeating that childhood meal ever again. (grin)

On Being Alone

The six weeks of Clarion in 2004 was tough on everyone. Some quit jobs to attend. One had just gotten married. For us it was the longest scheduled time apart since we got married twenty years earlier.

But I was lucky. Not only had I arranged to not teach during the summer, after a year of full-time teaching, so I had the time and the money. And Clarion was still in East Lansing, which was just a 90 minute drive away. So we weren't really apart for six weeks, as I chose to bop home most weekends to do laundry and Mrs. Dr. Phil drove out for the 4th of July.

This time we only have had a few emails and no phone calls. And I'm the one kicking around the empty house -- not teaching this summer -- and Mrs. Dr. Phil isn't even in the same country.

I'll be very happy to have Mrs. Dr. Phil back in a few days and hear all about her adventures.


The weather has been mostly pleasant, yet still odd. Not sure I've been able to go with more than a day or two with the heat completely shut off, with overnights in 30s and 40s. So very nice daytime temps the last two days -- low 70s. But hazy overhead. And two days of humid 80s coming? Why do I feel like we won't be able to see the sunset partial solar eclipse on Sunday?

Ah West Michigan weather versus astronomy... West Michigan wins most of the time. (wry grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-nikon-f3-1983)
I Know, I Know...

Overkill excessive. But hey, I'm having fun. Will explain more soon... (grin) Meanwhile, more pictures of the Friday the 13th snow in West Michigan (DW). And meanwhile, the road crews do a semi-adequate job, while the university seems not to completely understand how to keep the lots plowed so that people don't start parking stupid.

4:50pm and still snowing -- it will take me two hours to drive home. (Click on photo for larger.)

M-43 West Main and Drake Street. The rain before the snow has made an ice layer which really makes intersections much more adventurous than the average rush hour driver wants to consider. Not total chaos, but "interesting." (Click on photo for larger.)

As so often happens with storms, the hills just north of Kalamazoo on US-131? Barely moving. The near truck is merging from Business US-131 on the right -- he's not stopping, slowing or using his turn signals -- he's just gonna merge right in. The far truck has just pulled over to the shoulder for some reason. (Click on photo for larger.)

This guy is also pulled over, but I don't think he meant to -- or overshoot the left shoulder so much. Maybe he believed the sign SPEED LIMIT 70. (Click on photo for larger.)

Original forecast had the northwesterly winter storm ending by 7pm on Friday, lake effect ending by 7am on Saturday, but 2:40pm on Saturday and we're now in a westerly lake effect band until 7pm...

Because of the fluffy cake frosting nature of the snow, it's a little hard to tell how much we got, but probably 6-8". (Click on photo for larger.

Maybe I should use the phrase icing, not frosting. (grin) This is eastbound on Warner on Saturday afternoon. (Click on photo for larger.)

Of course, the weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday goes warmer plus some freezing rain.

In The Kitchen...

Mrs. Dr. Phil is playing with the magic pot -- she got a pressure cooker on her birthday and we're finally giving it a test run today. Oxtail stew. Really pretty package of oxtails, just cut yesterday at the Allendale Meat Market. Should be yum.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (seasons-best-kate)
Welcome to 2012!

At long last the somewhat crappy miserable year that was 2011 is done. Yay. Alas, New Year's Day as a single holiday has been ruined by the twin conspiracies of the calendar and greedy graspy capitalists. Once New Year's Day included a solid day of college bowl games, plus the Rose Parade, and the last several years an outdoors NHL hockey game. But 1 January 2012 is a Sunday, can't do that stuff until Monday.

Then everyone wanted their bowl game to be shown unopposed and they also created this worthless BCS Bowl Championship Series to create a mythical NCAA Division I "national champion", so the big bowl games are no longer on New Year's -- or January 2nd this year -- and the bowl games are spread out until MONDAY January 9th. Ridiculous!

Anyway, we welcomed in the New Year with the traditional eggnog -- and then I had some pickled herring. Mrs. Dr. Phil has given up on combining these two good luck foods from my family in one sitting. As I said the other day (DW), "My theory is after having hit your gut like a bomb, if that's the worst thing to happen in the new year -- it's good luck!"

Our NY/Sunday morning breakfast downstairs with Sam and the Sunday paper had two kinds of stollen, as did Christmas' breakfast (DW), though we added kumquats but moved the kielbasa to lunch. The last few years we've had Shrimp Sauterne for dinner, but this year we had a salmon and mushroom dish -- very yummy and more fish for luck! Oh, and Iron Chef tonight is also farm raised Atlantic salmon. (competitive grin)

The sabbatical is, I suppose, over. Classes begin Monday January 9th. I shall have to get serious about prep. And Epic ConFusion is in like three weeks -- 20-22 January 2012 -- and I have to blog about my panels. So I suppose I have to get busy. So much for vacation days... (grin)

Happy New Year, good friends. May you have a good year even if you didn't scarf down fish. Buckle your seatbelt and make sure your seat is in the upright and locked position. The year is off to a start.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (xmas-kate)
Ah, Christmas Dinner

As we got home from our road trip early on Thursday -- 6:58pm -- there was plenty of time to relax and think about a grocery list. And Mrs. Dr. Phil decided that she would be willing to do a small turkey. Now the old Joy of Cooking makes you calculate times, based on the size of the bird. Our small 10 lb. bird didn't quite need all that time. In fact, it was so lovely and tender and moist that the prized thighs and drumsticks came off without a fight. And the stuffing? Totally divine.

Roast turkey, sage stuffing with multi-grain breads, roasted root vegetables (including rutabaga, leaks, potatoes, carrots, celery root, garlic cloves, sweet potatoes and green beans), beer gravy from the drippings, two kinds of cranberries.

The remaining turkey practically deboned itself.

Of course one has to have pie -- pumpkin pie.

Hail to the Chef, Mrs. Dr. Phil! Who was very pleased with her results.

It wasn't so much as we used to do, once upon a time, but it was pleasant and sufficient and I don't feel like a complete comatose beached baby whale. But we'll have this meal again several times this week... (happy grin)

We made some phone calls to family. We watched the newest Iron Chef Jeffrey Zacharian win his first contest, Battle Trout, with a perfect score. And the Packers have just about beaten the Bears with two minutes to go.

Best Wishes

We hope that your Christmas, if you Christmas, was also full of food and family and fun and fond memories.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (xmas-kate)
Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve dawned with a new blanket of snow -- it's been clear here since we got back -- about an inch on the deck and a nice covering of the ground. But it's not below freezing and we had a high clear blue sky yesterday, so by this morning it was all gone save for in some shadows. And by afternoon it was definitely far from a Currier & Ives snowy Christmas scene. (grin)

Mrs. Dr. Phil took a picture of me and my Mother on Wednesday, so here's proof we were in Greensboro.

Dr. Phil and Dr. Phil's Mother just before we drove off.

Mrs. Dr. Phil got a package from a friend who is in Germany right now, with a Dresden Christstollen -- which immediately set up a Christmas morning face-off with Mrs. Dr. Phil's own wonderful stollen.

Mrs. Dr. Phil's stollen (R) and a German stollen (L) -- Let the tasting battles begin!

The whole breakfast including two kinds of stollen, Allendale Meat Market kielbasa, clementines & bananas, and the traditional Before Noon Hit Of Christmas Chocolate (Godiva).

The Christmas Cat

Sam... Sam... Sam... Will you turn towards the camera?

Okay fine, cat, look at something else. Ignore me. I'll still put your picture on the Internet.

Well, Sam, we love you anyway so he just got fed. And we got a small 10 lb. turkey for free using our grocery store "points", which is in the oven Right Now. We've been watching Mythbusters marathon all day. But tonight we get Bears and Packers. No losers for us!

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (big-mac-meal)
One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others

Every year Coke does some sort of holiday packaging of their flagship product. And of course they do lots of holiday advertising -- the iconic Santa Claus of North America is of the classic Coca-Cola image. And polar bears.

So in 2011 they didn't just print a nice design on the 12-pack cardboard, they created a stunning can in white and silver with red lettering.

But here's the problem. Coke cans have been color coded for a long time. Red = Real Coke. Silver = Diet Coke. Gold = Caffeine Free. Black = Coke Zero. And this Xmas 2011 white can? It looks too much like Diet Coke -- even the 2011 Caffeine Free Diet Coke snowflake can.

I guess there've been complaints. "Guys" can't drink Diet Coke. Too close to the pink canned Tab of the 60s and 70s. Which is why the black canned Coke Zero was created to make a more manly Diet Guy Coke.

What you say? People can't confuse the two. One can clearly says Diet Coke while the other has the classic Coca-Cola script. And yet last Sunday morning, when we take a tray and the Sunday paper down to the kitty room, I found a Diet Coke can sitting in my mug. Our recent guests, you see, drink silver and gold Cokes, and the white and silver cans were too similar to Mrs. Dr. Phil, who doesn't drink Coke nor appreciates the finer distinctions. (grin)

Maybe there's something to the "complaints". Pity, because the white can is very pretty. But it ain't right neither...

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (norman-rockwell-thanksgiving)
Rescheduled Visit

Mrs. Dr. Phil's Mom, aka Momcat, and Joe were were going to come up for Thanksgiving, but given a variety of things on both sides of Lake Michigan, that didn't happen. So they came up this weekend. Moving into December means that (a) Mrs. Dr. Phil begins to bake batches of stollen and (b) we get an annual box of lovely Arkansas pecans from her Little Rock cousins. This year, the pecans were apparently very happy with the weird weather and are simply gorgeous and plentiful.

The pecans come already rolled, so the shells are cracked. Huge advantage. Momcat is now sorting the pieces and picking the meats from the shells.

Smile for the Kodak, Momcat!

Dinner From Stromboli's

Stromboli's Pizza on M-45 in Allendale MI is one of the few real restaurants in Allendale and it's a favorite to boot. When company comes, we frequently call in a big order and have them deliver. Might as well show you what the fuss is all about.

Clockwise from bottom: Meatball sub (footlong), Seafood Stromboli (black tiger shrimp, crab, side of Alfredo sauce), Pasta Funghi e Vino (Penne in mushroom sauce w/ basil, garlic and mozzarella, Spaghetti Con Salsiccia (known by the staff as Pasta Susie -- w/ sauteed onions, green peppers, sausage and meatballs) and Mostaccioli (w/ added meatball).

And out guests Joe and Momcat digging in.
For the technically minded, first two pictures taken on the Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n with the 28mm f2.8D AF-Nikkor and Nikon Speedlight SB-28DX, the rest with the Nikon D1X with the 18-55mm VR DX AF-Nikkor at 18mm -- which gives an effective 28mm focal length on a DX camera -- and Nikon Speedlight SB-80DX. So I guess this is all a 28mm party. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (norman-rockwell-thanksgiving)
Thanksgiving Weekend

As previously reported, we had Brunswick Stew on Thanksgiving itself and we did a Saturday movie. For years, when we are home for Thanksgiving, we haven't done the big meal on Thanksgiving itself, but on Friday or sometimes even Saturday.

So on Friday I was able to make a perfectly ordinary grocery store run -- which in Allendale doesn't involve getting anywhere near the insanity of the so-called Black Friday shopping nonsense. It was a pretty blue sky day and I threw a camera bag in the back of the Blazer.

Made it all the way back up our driveway before shooting this stand of exploded milkweed pods -- next year's Monarch butterflies. (Click to enlarge)

We had company scheduled to come for Thanksgiving, but they had to cancel. I was just getting back from Atlanta and Mrs. Dr. Phil was treating her sinuses, so we settled on little chickens -- Cornish hens -- which are so easy to cook versus turkey.

A whole little chicken, sage stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, gravy and fresh cranberry relish.

Ah, the aftermath. We eat one side of the little chickens on one day and the other the next -- and the remaining bits get used another day. Note that the one Corning Ware has both chickens. (grin)

New Toys

Mrs. Dr. Phil has been debating getting some sort of tablet or smart phone, mainly because the university library is expanding its online and borrowable e-book holdings, and she wanted to be better equipped to deal with both students and technology. Apple has refurbished iPads on sale at educational discount, and there's the iPhone and Android variants. But while I was away she decided to give the Amazon Kindle Fire a try. It certainly made being at home with her sinus cold more bearable, especially with the spiffy red case she found. (e-grin)

Here's Mrs. Dr. Phil using her Fire in the Alt-Mode to do the Sunday Sudoku from the newspaper.

She hoped it was okay to spend the money on a new toy. Okay? After I'd picked up some bargains on eBay and acquired a backup digital SLR for home -- a Nikon D1X -- and another for the office -- a Nikon D1H -- how could it not be okay?

The D1X is a 6MP camera with an extended 27 frame buffer and 3 frames per second speed, the same resolution as the medium setting on the full-frame Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n I bought last year. The D1H is a 2.7MP camera, can shoot at 5 frames per second, has a 40 frame buffer and has a more sensitive sensor up to 6400 ISO, with almost no noise at 1600 ISO, which I intend to mainly use in B&W mode.

I'd inherited from my sister Wendy an extra auto-focus lens, a simple 35-70mm f3.3-4.5 AF Nikkor, and a compact Nikon Speedlight SB-22 electronic flash, which I tested in the Kindle Fire shot above. I'll add them to the office Nikon D1H setup.

Tonight we had a spicy Szechuan eggplant -- Mrs. Dr. Phil feeling we'd had enough chicken the last couple of days. All in all, a lovely weekend. (Even if Northwestern didn't win against Michigan State.)

Dr. Phil

I'm Home

Friday, 25 November 2011 18:01
dr_phil_physics: (wkb09-purple)
This Phase Is Finished

I turned in Wendy's keys on Tuesday and then started north -- it's a two-day trip from either Atlanta or Greensboro. Tuesday was damp and traffic was jammed for an hour beginning in Knoxville, 20-25mph on I-75. But unlike the way down, Ohio was blue sky civilized. Finally pulled into the garage Wednesday evening around 7:30pm.

We unloaded my things and a few things that needed to come out, like Wendy's laptops, on Wednesday night, but saved the main offload to Thanksgiving afternoon. Over the weekend I had to make some quick executive decisions. Most of Wendy's things were given away. We just don't have room for a lot of stuff, but I did gather up the DVDs -- no time to sort out the duplicates, but Wendy had a lot of sets of things like Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica. No point in me spending money on those things if she had. And a lot of Wendy and Paul's photographs and yearbooks -- heavy damned things. (grin)

But there were a couple of things I had made notes to look for.

First on the list was the purple Bargello quilt that Mrs. Dr. Phil made for Wendy in 1991, after she was widowed. I was going to take a picture of the quilt, but Mrs. Dr. Phil beat me to it. (grin) The colors are fabulous and this was the first in a series of Bargello quilts Mrs. Dr. Phil did.

Operation Rodney Rescue gathered up Big Rodney from a stack of books in the living room first off -- he's now looking at us from atop the CD case or rather I think he's looking askance at the ceiling fan. Many smaller Rodneys were pulled from the boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations.

There were a couple of pieces I wanted to bring home, including a brass rocking horse (not shown), a wooden carousel horse and a lovely German Shepherd in honor of Suzie from years ago.

The one piece of furniture is this tiny little chest which we had in the toy room when we were kids and then Wendy took for a nightstand. I hoped we had room in the Bravada and we did. Stuck next to my side of the futon, it looks like it's been there for years, but that's just my familiarity with it, methinks.

Mrs. Dr. Phil didn't come down to Atlanta, which turned out to be a good thing with the cold she's been nursing to say nothing of having more space to load up. But our quilted chicken is always there to look after us when the other is out of town.

Sam barely acknowledge my return Wednesday night, but the next night he was all happy to see me. Cats. Fickle.

Mrs. Dr. Phil made a big vat of chicken stew from this recipe for Brunswick Stew. So we had this on Thanksgiving itself. Not to worry, we usually do our Thanksgiving dinner on Friday or Saturday, often going to the movies on Thursday. This year we stayed home... and had a quiet day.

Having made a lovely key lime pie this summer, Mrs. Dr. Phil made key lime tarts on Thanksgiving. We'll have some today, though we did have Edy's pumpkin pie ice cream with our stew on Thanksgiving.

More anon...

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (red-haven-peaches)
Alas, No More

I'd hoped to get one more round of tomatoes from our Potter's farmstand. Yesterday as I drove off to Holland on an errand, I passed by Potter's and the signboards still said TOMATOES. But today, despite the lovely autumn sunshine, following a below freezing night, the TOMATOES sign was down and all they had was apples and squash and a few peppers and such.

It's not that the other things aren't good, but one of my favorite things to have in the summer is a tomato sandwich -- and with me on sabbatical, it was practical to have tomato sandwiches several times a week. Yum!

The Dr. Phil Tomato Sandwich

I know I've rhapsodized about tomato sandwiches before, but I guess I've never gotten around to posting about, though I've meant to. The other day I was looking for another photo from the Sony from two years ago and came across this picture:

Dr. Phil's Tomato Sandwich

Cheese (Velveeta, Sharp Cheddar, American or other yellow cheese, 
                or Swiss)
Peanut Butter (smooth or chunky)
Thick slice of tomato (or two if the bread is large enough)
Salt to taste
Mayonnaise (optional)

What is amusing about this 2009 picture was that we'd just discovered the Kraft mayo with olive oil -- really nice stuff. Alas, we don't use mayo all that often and around here, we can't even get a bottle this small anymore, which would be a waste because it doesn't have an enormously long shelf life. So we don't.

I'm sure the food critics out there will have plenty to say. Velveeta? Sure you can use "real cheese", but I eat a processed cheese food stuff slice sandwich every day -- and have since I was a little kid. I like it. Ketchup? It adds a little sweetness and some moisture against the peanut butter. Don't want ketchup? Don't add it. If you're making a tomato sandwich, it's YOUR tomato sandwich, not mine. (grin)

Look, the real taste here is the tomato versus the peanut butter. For many years we bought Reese's peanut butter, but then the local stores stopped carrying it. So we did Skippy again for a while. My mom uses Jif. Lately we've found a really nice Planter's peanut butter -- and a Skippy All-Natural. Grind your own if you like. For my taste, despite the salt in the peanut butter (and the ketchup for that matter), I still need the salt on the tomato slice, too. Again, your mileage will vary.

Anyway, the real tale here is that I had my last tomato sandwich of 2011 on Wednesday or Thursday this week. Alas.

The BLT Factor

But ten days ago we ended up with a bunch of lovely tomatoes, and also had the rest of a package of Smithfield bacon. So what could be more fun for a dinner than B-L-Ts?

Now for many of you, the mere mention of bacon makes you go crazy. Frankly, neither one of us believes the current foodie mantra that "bacon makes everything taste better". Mainly I prefer bacon as, well, bacon. Preferably sitting next to a lovely stack of pancakes, smothered in maple syrup. (Ah, WindyCon and breakfast via the Harry Caray's Steakhouse... coming up on November 11-13 -- you going to be there?) A good club sandwich or BLT will do, though, because the bacon can stay crispy and whole, rather than get lost in the mush.

The Parts

Dr. Phil's B-L-T. Note the new Hellman's container which can make ribbons of mayo, rather than blobs. It works, sort of, but can get messy and leaves the cap messy. The jury is still out as to whether this is an improvement to either the regular squeeze bottle or a jar-and-a-knife.

After I shot those, Mrs. Dr. Phil piped up and asked, "What about mine?" So here's Mrs. Dr. Phil's B-L-T:

Note the fresh dill on the right side -- and I think there was some spicy mustard under the lettuce on the left side. Also the soup was a Campbell's Select squash soup, I believe. Needed salt -- two words I never thought I'd need to say with a Campbell's Soup product. (double-word-score-grin)

Needless to say, the sliced tomato season of 2011 was a complete success. We won't be trying to duplicate this with the sad and hard and tasteless tomatoes of winter. Some things are best not to speak of.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (pink-plot-bunny)
Yes, I Know

Even more so than Christmas, Easter is a holiday which confuses children. So it's not my fault that I still associate Easter with chocolate. Amazingly, this year I did not have chocolate before noon -- my usual criteria for the start of the secular Christmas and Easter.

Last Monday

Having been warned by my mother over the weekend, I checked the P.O. Box on Monday, something I would not normally do. And indeed, there was a box from Greensboro NC. When I opened it -- and I hadn't been expecting anything and certainly not marked Perishable -- I was greeted with purple Easter grass and a note. Seems that my mother and my sister conspired to equip us with Easter basket material.

Our Basket

Mrs. Dr. Phil found an appropriate basket and...

The box came with a package of Peeps. "Best used by 5-2012." But it seems we had another unopened package, "Best used by 4-2011." The latter was definitely firmer. So at lunchtime we did a proper sampling test, eating one each of each type. I think we concluded that the perfect Peep, if one could say that such a thing exists, would probably be inbetween in consistency. I would also say that, despite being wholly in favor of Peeps and all the things that get done to them, in most years the number of Peeps I consume is one or less. Two was a lot. This despite the package pointing out that a Serving Size was five Peeps, or the whole package. Per person.

I don't think I've ever eaten that many Peeps in my life at one sitting. The very thought curdles my stomach.

As for the two hard boiled eggs, actually we had five eggs to hard boil. These two were the best looking. No, we had no plans to decorate them this year. However, two of them were made into deviled eggs for lunch, with a homemade mayonnaise that Mrs. Dr. Phil had made for some potato salad last week, along with some jalapeño relish, since we had no pickle relish lying around. The latter was labeled hot, but it wasn't. (grin)

We discussed the concept of having deviled eggs on Easter, though there is some story about what deviling means and it isn't evil in cooking. Funny thing, someone else on Facebook had to deal with the same conundrum. (evil grin)

Hope your Easter was swell. We had lamb shanks with cumin for dinner -- they were wonderful.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-mrs-phil-xmas09)
Boxing Day

Christmas is over. Except of course it isn't really over. We have Christmas until Epiphany, as well as Greek and Russian Christmas. Then there's the Christmas-is-a-state-of-mind or Christmas-spirit-lasts-the-whole-year-long set.

No matter.

We had a very pleasant quiet little Christmas here in West Michigan:

Other places got whomped with a White Christmas. Ours was white by virtue of previous snows, but even that wasn't very much.

Mrs. Dr. Phil did get the bows put up this year.

And the dancing Turtle seems to lord over the Christmas team -- is The Turtle Santa's pimp?


Mrs. Dr. Phil and the kitties.

A wee bit of loot.

Sam bravely investigates a Christmas hat.

While Blue settles into the packaging.

A fine dinner of little Cornish hens and trimmings -- Paula Deen's Pumpkin-Pecan pie for dessert. Very much yum.

Hope you and yours are having a pleasant holidays, as we wish the remainder of 2010 "Good riddance!" and hope for a healthy and happy new year.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-13)
It's Been A Schizophrenic Weekend

Sunday was the actual Fourth of July. But of course there is the pressure for a weekend holiday to be observed on a Monday, so Independence Day (Observed) is the fifth. So the question becomes -- when do you have a parade, if you're going to have a parade? Sunday -- it's the actual 4th, but some of the local jurisdictions don't want to intrude on church. Monday -- it's the official day off, but a lot of people want to make that a play day. Saturday -- it's available, but it's a big consumer shopping day, so no one wants to hurt local businesses.

Compounding the schizophrenia has been the weather. Two weeks ago was hot, humid and full of dangerous summer storms, including even some small tornados. Last week, though, was dry, blue skies, light breezes and highs in the 70s and occasionally the low 80s. Friday got up to 86°F, Saturday was 88°F and Sunday at least 92°F. Sunday was also the return of the humidity and Monday will begin a return to some rain.

So given the expected crowded roads for people getting away, plus all those doing staycations at home or in the area, I suppose we can forgive those who started bugging out of work on Thursday or Friday -- both of those days had reduced traffic volumes for commuting in the Grand Rapids area, enough to be commented upon by the news people.

Gas Prices: Meh

I'd previously thought that 4th of July gas prices would be around $3.50.9/gal, but in mid-May they were saying not much more than $3/gal by mid-summer. Well, local regular gas this weekend has been $2.82.9/gal. My current theory is that the oil companies are all treading lightly while the BP oil well disaster in the Gulf is still unresolved.


It's a summer holiday, so once one has been solemn and respectful, it's time to eat. For us, the weekend has become a celebration of all things tube meat. (grin) Friday and Saturday we had some new Aidele's garlic and gruyere cheese sausages, with some potato salad Mrs. Dr. Phil threw together with some odds things we had on hand. Sunday we had "picnic" -- consisting of all sorts of things that had come on Friday in a Zingerman's deli gift box and things we had in the pantry. Liverwurst, a herb encrusted sausage, another salty sausage like a moist jerky, three cheeses, three kinds of olives, some tiny sour pickles, a tin of smoked mussels, and a lightly toasted hard bread. And Monday we have some natural casing hot dogs and German wieners from the local excellent Allendale Meat Market which we'll have with some baked beans. Yum.

Oh, and after a good several weeks of outstandingly lovely local strawberries, the strawberries are now gone from the local farm stands, but Mrs. Dr. Phil came back on Saturday with blueberries, raspberries, dark cherries and apricots -- all local West Michigan. Not a dud in the batch.

In observance of the day, Sunday's dessert was red, white & blue -- blueberry crisp topped with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. Yum. We like summer here.

A Minor Upgrade To This LiveJournal Blog

Since I have been adding LJ tags to all current entries for quite a while, and slowly doing retrospective updates of older entries, I've added a link over on the left side of my LJ page for jumping to the list of all my LJ tags. Frankly, I don't care if y'all make use of it -- tags are making it easier for me to find previous posts on things. (selfish grin) But, knock yourself out if you want to peruse older entries or look up reviews and things.

Back To Writing

Now if you excuse me, I have to dive back into a new short story I started this morning. These poor characters are going to find themselves shortly way out of their league. (evil writer's grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (kate-tea)
A Soggy Start To The Day

Big storms rumbled in from the southwest and it poured buckets of rain in the morning yesterday. Since we had a dinner date for Thursday night and Mrs. Dr. Phil had to get to the downtown campus early, I drove her there. Also, no breakfast for me, as I had to stop by the Campustown lab in Allendale to get blood drawn for a cholesterol test. It could've been done any morning, but as you'll see, I didn't want to do it after Thursday morning. (grin)

The rain slowed on the way back from downtown G.R., but picked up to a roar at the lab. Only had to walk less than 20 feet and still got quite wet. For once, the lab didn't have the order from the doctor's office. And when the lab called over, they sent the wrong lab form -- one that I might have needed if my spring break GI illness had come back. (grin) Eventually they got it right and I gave a blood sample, not stool. (big grin) End result -- I got up at 6:30am, left home at 8, got to the lab at 9, finally had breakfast at home around 10:15am. Poor baby! (sarcastic grin)

Another In An Irregular Series Of Reports

I'm probably inconsistent about blogging about the absolutely wonderful GVSU Food Services' Classic Pairings special dinners, and I completely forgot last night to take some pictures as I did in February for the Route 66 dinner. But we had such a lovely and leisurely meal last night. Oh yum!

Classic Pairings Wine Dinners
May 13th, 2010

Meadows Club House

Fresh Fruit
Tostones and Shrimp Mango Mojo
Plantain Chips with Garlic Sauce

1st Course
Picadillo Hash with Avacado

2nd Course
Roast Pork Croguetas, Black Bean Puree, Yellow Rice Radish and Mango

3rd Course
Citrus Snapper, Arroz Amarillo, Black Beans and Sofrito

4th Course
Cordero en Salsa de Vino Rojo (Lamb) with Corn Cake

Banana Custard Empanada with Dulce Gelato
Coconut Rum Flan
Figs and Cheese

They didn't have a printed list of the wines, but they were extraordinary -- I took notes as they talked about the wines, but surely didn't get all the spellings right. Hook & Ladder red and whites by a retired SF firefighter with the appetizers. A Michigan white, Left Foot Charlie Riesling. An Orello Maloc Pinot Grigio which had a lovely pear finish. A Dry Creek Valley Quivira Red Grenache. A DOCG Querceto Chianti Classico Reservo '04 (rated as one of the top 100 wines). And a Chenin Blanc dessert wine, which a little went very nicely with the three desserts.

As for the food, I've had some Cuban or Cuban-inspired dishes before, but never this much range and it really was something different in total than I'd expected. Chef Paul talked about the basic Cuban type food groups, so of course we had to have pork, fish, fried, black beans and yellow rice, in variations forms and recombinations. They'd had kumquats amongst the fruit in the appetizers, but they also did a candied kumquat reduction on the croguetas. At my grandparents' Florida house in 1965, I saw kumquats on a tree, but my grandmother insisted that nobody eats them. Since then I've been delighted to run across kumquats from time to time -- you pop the whole little tiny orange thing in your mouth and eat it rind and all. Bitter and sweet. Chef Paul told me that he describes the candied kumquats as being like natural Sour Patch Kids. (grin)

The Meadows is the GVSU golf course and club house. Last year they had a dinner at The Meadows and arranged one really long table in the small dining room. It didn't work well for conversations. This year they set up diagonal tables of eight and not only had more seats but it really worked as a nice layout as you were closer to more people on the adjacent tables. Hats off to the wonderful people at the GVSU Food Service who put these on, with the servers making sure all the right glasses were changed, the right silver placed and all the food served and wine poured in a timely fashion. Amy, who joined the staff in the Fall, once again served as the perfect hostess. And with all the glass windows overlooking the golf course, it was a lovely evening with the setting sun after so much rain earlier in the day.

Future Pairings

The regular wine distributor guy who does the pairings and explains the wines and their history, just had a baby girl, so another gentleman came in to pinch hit. He was also very knowledgeable. After dinner, a side conversation with some of the other guests may result in "Someone" organizing a Japanese saki pairings dinner. I know that there are a lot of different sakis out there, but typically you just don't get to sample many in most restaurants. To have a saki pairings dinner, with both sakis to taste and perhaps in the food as well, sounds very exciting. And I do mean "taste", as I officially do not drink alcohol, but recognize its importance as a solvent to blend flavors in dining, and so sample small amounts of wines with a meal.

For the 2010-11 academic year, which will be GVSU's 50th Anniversary as well, the GVSU Aramark people are considering having the four Classic Pairings dinners be about tributes, rather than regions. So we might get a Tribute to Pork, to Julia Child (oh YES!), a Valentine's chocolate dinner and Summer Preserves -- a little jar of something preserved with each course. Chef Paul and I were talking afterward and talked about the latest episodes of Bravo's Top Chef Masters -- Chef Paul very much likes pork and duck, as do I, so he thought he might be able to "come up with a pork and duck dish for me" at the Tribute to Pork dinner. Okay, twist my arm... Whatever they decide to do, we'll buy the series and plan on enjoying each and every one of them.

Well done, good people.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (bow-winslet)
Thursday Special Dinner

Another in the series of Classic Pairings dinners from the GVSU food service. This year's Valentine's February dinner had American fare from "along Route 66", running from Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier. As they did in 2008, they also made a point of advertising to the Alumni Association, and so there were quite a number of couples besides "the usual suspects". We sat at a small table with some library people and a young couple, GVSU Class of '09 and '10. Ah, to be young and just starting out again... (grin) Mrs. Dr. Phil took one of the crayons available on the table and made us a heart:

February 11th, 2010
"Me and My Baby Down Route 66"
Alumni House

5:30 pm Appetizers

6:00 pm Dinner

1st Course
BBQ Short Rib, Maple Gastrique
Brioche Black Pepper Mac n Cheese
Watermelon Salad, Shaved Fennel Slaw

2nd Course
Chicken Tamale with Red & Green Sauce
Corn, Bacon & Black Bean Hash

3rd Course
Santa Monica Shrimp Panzanella

4th Course
American Apple Pie

Actually, the meal began with a light pilsner from the Philadelphia Victory brewery and a tiny little Chicago-style hot dog. The miniature wieners were from Chicago and properly dressed with lurid green relish, pickle, onions and celery seed. The miniature hot dog buns were from the local Nantucket bakery -- and the chef had to keep after them to make the buns softer! The short ribs were so tender that a knife was totally unnecessary, and the two salads were quite refreshing. We've seen fennel salads/slaws on a number of the cooking shows, but haven't had it before -- might have to play with that. The wine pairing was a Syrah called BOOM BOOM, which we've had before along with a wine called (oops):

Everything was fabulous, as expected. The apple pies were more of an individual Michigan apple casserole, not too sweet, and served with cheddar ice cream -- very yum! The wine pairing was a local Fenn Valley ice wine.

On Saturday, The Kitties Got Eggs

Mrs. Dr. Phil was making a corn pudding for dinner on Saturday, for which she needed two egg whites. So the kitties each scored an egg yolk. Both Sammy and Blue like eggs. And it'll make their fur even softer. (grin) But we give them eggs every once in a while because we love them.

Yup. Love is in the air...

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-mrs-phil-xmas09)
Life in West Michigan is Good

Stayed home and inside, warm and dry. Watched The Yule Log on FOX-17, A Christmas Story on TBS, then Mythbusters marathon most of the rest of the day. (grin)

The Cutting of the Stollen

The Cutting of the Poppyseed

The Christmas Breakfast: Clementines, Stollen, Poppyseed and Kielbasa

Poor Sam -- Christmas Breakfast is All Gone

Across the Living Room, Blue is Hiding and Bagel is Just an Orange Butt in the Rocking Chair

Our Christmas Dinner -- Yum!
Little Cornish Hens, Potatoes, Wild & Brown Rice, Gravy, Peas, Cranberry-Orange Relish
and Mince Pie with Brandy Hard Sauce for Dessert

Hope your Christmas/Holiday dinner was lovely, too.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-santa-and-sam)
Mmmm -- Smells Good

There has been much baking the last couple of weeks. The latest projects have been for us:

Over on Facebook, Mrs. Dr. Phil had posted:
It's been a busy morning, and I'm liking the results! -- Mother-in-law's poppyseed coffee cake recipe, mince pie with pastry made with vodka, and an entire stollen just for us!


Plenty to share -- c'mon over!

Naturally I had to reply:
No, no! It's way too crowded here. No room. And, uh, the roads are going to be icy. You'll slide off the road trying to get here. Really. And, uh,you'd never make it up our LONG ICY TERRIFYING driveway. Yeah. You, uh, better stay home. And leave the poppyseed, mince pie and stollen for me... for us, I mean! -- Dr. Phil

The cats, however, get nothing, NOTHING I tell you, of our lovely holiday baked goods.

I've suspected our well water as part of the reason why Mrs. Dr. Phil has had problems with pie crust the last few years. So the vodka pie crust trick probably provides a solvent suitable to getting everything to line up right.

The Usual Updates

The coming weather hasn't yet arrived. The temp is hovering around 31°F, but it feels icy cold outside -- must be damp. And with the oven on earlier, the thermostat is just sure the house is warm enough... not.

Gas, which I haven't ranted about in a while, has had fairly steady prices the last month, staying around $2.57.9/gal for regular -- no sudden jump for Christmas. Maybe they'll save it for a New Year's increase. (grin)

Dr. Santa


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