Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Channeling a past generation

Since little Geoana is at church camp this week Geogal and I decided to jazz up our nightly meal menu. Like most kids, little Geoana is a picky eater though her tastes are slowly moving toward more variety.

Tonight's meal was chicken-fried steak. Since we have plenty of tenderized round steak in the freezer (courtesy of a Kansas cow) this is not a dish that will set us back many dollars. The only things I needed to purchase during the weekend grocery run were a small container of buttermilk and a bag of potatoes (you just can't have CFS without mashed taters on the side!).

Going down one of the grocery aisles I spotted the envelopes of powdered gravy mix. For a split second I pondered taking the easy way out, then the vision of my paternal grandmother flashed into my consciousness.

No way! You make the gravy out of pan drippings, just as grandma did.

And so I passed on the manufactured krep. However I did make sure I had plenty of flour, milk, and salt.

(An aside: My grandmother died when I was very little and sadly I do not remember her. However over many years I've heard from both dad and mom that she was an outstanding cook from the old school, where everything was fresh and made from scratch. I wonder if I've inherited some of her culinary talent.)

I haven't cooked chicken-fried steak in over 25 years. As a teen I made it a few times, using a recipe taken from The Genuine Texas Handbook. It was a simple dish: tenderize the meat by hitting the dickens out of it, make the crust from an egg-and-flour mixture, fry in a skillet. Make the white gravy out of the pan drippings.

The reviews at the time were polite. Steak was OK, not great. Certainly not anything compareable to what I'd get in one of the better restaurants.

This time I decided to do a little homework. Scoured Allrecipes.com for the different variations, then decided to mix buttermilk with beaten eggs, plus crush some corn flakes to add to the flour. Salt and pepper the meat first, then dunk and dredge. Repeat.


Steak was good. Still not restaurant quality but more flavor than my teenage attempts. Crust had more integrity. Gravy? Much better flavored than I remember, but a bit lumpy (it will get better with practice, I'm certain). Definitely tasted better than the powdered stuff. I had to fry the steaks longer than anticipated (thicker than what I am used to) and the crust did come off of sections of the meat.

Overall not a bad freshman attempt. Just like my other dishes of note, I'll get better with each attempt.

Judge for yourself?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A week in a small town

If I had Tom T. Hall’s talent I could write a “story song” from the events of this week.

But given my abilities I’ll keep things limited to prose.

Sunday: Church, lunch after church. Then Geogal gives the kitchen a deep cleaning. Shortly I hear a YIPE!, followed by whimpering.

No limbs lost, but one heckuva bloody finger. Cut it on the inside of the toaster oven. She decides to head over to the ER and returns in short order with a sophisticated bandage and the needle stick from a tetanus shot. But no need for stitches.

Monday: Begin week as usual. Breakfast, check over evening meal plans, head out to work. Eat leisurely lunch.

Notice storm clouds gathering. It’s getting darker. Soon I hear folks in the building listening to weather radio and chatter over the city’s 2-way system.

Get a call from Geogal. “Are you coming home?”

Nope. The higher-ups haven’t excused any of us.

Tornado warning. And the building in which I labor does not have anything resembling a storm shelter.

The siren sounds. Then the rain pounds, followed by hail (only pebble size).

On the home front the gals are huddling in the basement.

Turns out our town is spared. Tornadoes do touch down at points south and east.

Get home at quitting time. Next thing you know the phone jangles with the sheriff’s department doing reverse-911 calls. Another tornado warning. And in the middle of meal prep.

Go down to subterranean safe level. Come back up a few minutes later when it is revealed the warning in question refers to the northwest part of the county, not anywhere near us.

Tuesday: Next-to-last softball game for little Geoana. A nail-biter but they pulled it out in the end. Final score: 7 to 6.

Her games commence at 8:30 in the p.m. Hard to go home and hit the hay after all that.

Wednesday: Normal routine (see Monday). Get home from work, go exercise, Come back home, eat a leisurely meal.

Oh, did I mention I saw a utility vehicle at one of the lots in town? Would meet Geogal’s needs perfectly. (When winter drew to a close she voiced her desire for a large SUV that has 4-wheel drive, the better to tame the snow with!) She rings me in the 4 o’clock hour, want to come over and test drive it?

We do. Nice. Maybe a bit too nice.

Back at the domicile, she and little Geoana go about making cookies from scratch. (For the blood drive the following day.) I’m down in the basement minding my own business. Next thing I hear is yelling, then whiny little girl voice. More yelling from the adult of the pair.

I head upstairs to ensure nobody’s finger got sliced off.

Nope. Just the little girl not paying attention and most of an egg winding up on the counter and floor. And a mother who is on the edge of postal.

A short while later, all is calm once again. Congregate to watch Star Trek--TOS on the DVD. (The episode was “Arena,” if you’re curious.)

Thursday: Kitchen is a wreck from the evening before. Cycle is off, dishwasher ran in early evening. Dishes inside are clean and waiting to be put away. In the meantime the cookie preparation and mealtime did the usual damage to cleanliness. (Normal cycle would involve an empty dishwasher after supper, then it gets loaded and we hit the “on” switch before going to bed.)

Before I even have breakfast I commence on the evening meal. Pulled pork sandwiches. Involves dry rubbing a shoulder roast and preparing a concoction of apple juice this and apple cider vinegar that. Throw in some Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke to boot. Set in Crock Pot and turn switch to low. Many hours should make good meat.

Then assume role of “Cookie.” Fry bacon, then whip up some farm-fresh scrambled eggs for everyone. After, head out to work as usual.

Meanwhile Geogal gets home from work, has little Geoana unload the dishwasher, then attacks the kitchen with something a little shy of vengeance. By the time I get home the cooking area is immaculate. Crock Pot is the lone warrior, doing its thing on the countertop with nary a complaint.

Looking forward to an easy evening. The meal is mostly done, then little Geoana has a softball game at 8:30. The last one of the season.

Then the phone rings. It’s the P.E. teacher/local recreation guru/softball umpire calling to tell us that little Geoana’s team has a game scheduled at 6. (It’s currently 5:55.) A quick glance at the schedule confirms it--the coach and just about all the parents missed the fact that today’s contest involves TWO games. And hardly anyone from our daughter’s team is even there. Might be looking at a forfeit.

Hit panic button. Geogal starts calling the other kids’ parents. Some are in town, some live out on farms.

She gets little Geoana there. Calls a bit later, they’re playing. Got 8 girls.

I eat in peace, then gather together said food to provide nourishment to the rest of the family.

Arrive at the ballpark, find Geogal. Tell her I’ve got the food. She’ll eat once this inning is over.

Third out. That’s the game. (Time-limited and it started late.)

Head back home, so thankful I took the food down there (said to self in sarcastic tones).

Back at the homestead, the females eat while I begin working on this piece.

Postscript: The second game of the doubleheader was won by little Geoana’s team. 11-10 on a walk off base hit. (They were the home team.)

And we haven’t even experienced Friday yet....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Is this a challenge?

Following up on the last post...

iCloud, with its features and abilities, promises to be a major improvement over MobileMe.

I'm OK with that as MobileMe certainly had its deficiencies. However I wondered about the future of Apple's offsite system as it pertains to maintaining the Web pages I built with iWeb.

And it turns out I'm not alone. Since last week numerous other Mac devotees are posing the same question in their respective realms of cyberspace.

Making things worse, Apple hasn't made public (yet) the plans for storing more than just audio and visual files, syncing information across one's iOS devices, and automatic backups.

What about our web pages?

Not only that, but what of iWeb?

It didn't escape fans' notice that in the latest release of iLife the emphasis was on iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand. iWeb (and iDVD) were left unchanged.

Unchanged, ignored.......soon to be orphans.

Even James Lileks made note in his entry today:

"As for Web Design, they learned iWeb. Sigh. Not exactly a platform with a future."

Yes, this blog you're currently reading gets the bulk of my creative attention. However long-time readers know I also maintain an Apple-hosted blog that allows more creativity with picture placement and text format. Everything I do there I create in iWeb, usually with the stalwart MacBook.

Time to start thinking ahead. I presume (along with most anyone else in the know) that Apple will kick iWeb and web site hosting to the curb. What now?

How about taking it to the next level? Obtain a different host? (Hey, now I don't have to pay MobileMe a C-note every year to keep the service, maybe I can swing this.) There are a multitude of hosting services out there, plenty of competition means reasonable prices!

And what of learning more advanced Web design? I'm not the nerdiest chap around these parts but I've tackled computer-related challenges before. I must acknowledge that while iWeb was (excuse me, is) easy to learn, it has its limitations. Perhaps I can do simple redesigns that will give the end result of a more attractive (and up-to-date looking) site.

Last but not least I don't have to sacrifice my previous work. The ever-helpful MacLife gang offers a solution to the question of migrating my site (intact) to a different host.

So rather than launching diatribes at Steve Jobs and Company I'd rather just test my own abilities. Time to make lemons into lemonade!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Geeky stuff, but at least it's COOL geeky stuff!

Like just about all other Apple fans I paid close attention to the new software coming forth from Cupertino that was officially unveiled last Monday.

I'm not overly excited, but the information about IOS 5, iCloud, and OS X Lion was interesting on several fronts.

I'm already getting the machines here at home ready. Our plan is to upgrade the memory in both the iMac and the MacBook to 4GB and 2GB, respectively. Coincidentally (?), this month's issue of Mac Life features an article on how to do just that.

A couple of glitches, however. First I learn that Lion will only be available through a download via the Mac App store.

Um, I can't access the Mac App store currently as I'm still running Leopard on both my machines. (I figured it wasn't important for me to upgrade to Snow Leopard since that release wasn't significantly different from regular old Leopard.) Why not just wait for Lion since that would be a more significant update?

Scratch that. Soon as I learned that Lion would not be coming via CD or DVD I got over to the online Apple store and ordered the Snow Leopard family pack (at least it didn't set me back much $$$$). By this time next week I should be enjoying the tweaks Snow Leopard offers plus browsing the Mac App store.

Now today I'm reading further and learn that I can't upgrade the MacBook to Lion. Lion, you see, requires at least an Intel Core 2 Duo chip. The iMac has it, the MacBook has a Core Duo.

Rats. That's the first sign of obsolescence.

I'll make the best of it. Running Snow Leopard, I should be able to get a few more good years out of my trusty notebook. It still runs great considering it's been in continuous use for nearly five years. And the memory upgrade won't hurt either. Next up is a new battery (this 'Book is of the vintage with user-replaceable batteries).

iCloud, meanwhile, poses a question to me. I'll address that in my next entry.