Monday, May 30, 2016

Awesome Appetizer/Snack

The  discovery of a new cheese at my local independent grocery store, Schniders, got my culinary wheels turning in over-drive.  The possibilities!  I mean, seriously--a cheese from Wisconsin called Mango Fire Cheddar?

So I looked around and thought about what I also had at home that would work with my diabolical imagination.  I settled on a French Baguette and a Green Pepper.  Then home to realize my scheme.

 To the afore mentioned items, I added CompaƱa Tomatoes, Golden Raisins, Butter and my Black Pepper grinder (not shown).
No time to waste I sliced some medallions out of the bread, sliced some of the Tomatoes, diced some of the Green Pepper and then assembled them thusly: Baguette medallion buttered, add Tomato slices, season with freshly ground Black Pepper, topped with a little diced Green Pepper and some Golden Raisins.  Then I added a couple of sliced of the inspirational cheese.  Next into the broiler.  May 5 minutes, but don't set your time--watch, otherwise those sugar rich raisins will burn to a crisp in a heartbeat!
Can I say, that for something I just pulled out of my ass on the spur of the moment, I would so make these again and happily serve them to guests!  The flavors blended perfectly--the tart, the sweet, the creamy, the hot, and mildly bitter--all on bread.  I mean, get doesn't get any better.  

The Story Of My New Fountain

My life with birds (and fountains!). 
As I left today around noon to run an errand and stop by the nursery to pick up a couple of things, I noticed my fountain in the front yard was dry. I went around and grabbed the hose and began to fill it. Around me there was a sudden flurry of action in the maple tree and the bushes. I realized that a bunch of little Titmice had descended and were watching me. No sooner had I turned off the hose and while still standing next to the fountain, a brave little titmouse flew onto the rim of the fountain's bowl and while watching me repeatedly dipped her beak into the fresh water. I spoke to her in a low calm voice complimenting her on her courage and her dashing good looks! She hopped around a little closer to me and gave me one final look over before flitting off to a nearby hydrangea bush. By the time I got to the spigot with the hose, I turned to see the fountain mobbed by Titmice and one scarlet Cardinal!

At the nursery, I happened by a display of fountains--the little lotus ones (The place is huge and has several displays of different models of fountains and bird baths all over). The 36 inch one was sold, but three of the 30" lotus fountains remained. Encouraged by my recent avian encounter and thinking that it would be perfect on my new deck, I impulse purchased one. I will say that it was $150,00 less than the fountain that I have in my front yard, but still a pretty penny. (And yet, if amortized over the decade that I have owned that fountain, and all the joy is has brought to me and my avian friends--it's only cost me about $3.12 a month....just saying, it's all about the perspective.)
It's perfect! The sweet sound of the gurgling water makes for an excellent background to the plethora of other sounds all around. Around 5 o'clock, Romeo and I went for a walk in the park. When we got home we both made a beeline through the front door to the back to get out on the deck (as is our habit), and as I caught sight of the new fountain I was delighted to see Catbird had discovered it and was enjoying a cool drink! I love the birds. They are all great garden companions.

Little Free Library: Up-Date

When we got back to the truck after our walk in the park, my neighbor Ana called us over to give Romeo a treat (she spoils him something fierce), and a donation of books for my Little Free Library.
 Presently the little free library is fully stocked and lots of great books for the taking: "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese, "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver, "Go Tell It On The Mountain," by James Baldwin.  Essays "Here If You Need Me," by Kate Breastrup and "Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara," by Jow LeSeuer.  Memoirs by Brooke Shields and Lesley McSpadden (Michael Brown's mother), non-fiction titles like "How Children Succeed," by Paul Tough and "Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?," by Frans De Waal.  There are several detective mysteries and a couple of intermediate elementary chapter books, and more.

Sligo Creek Park Adventure

Today was a fine day for a walk--at least until the rain began to fall.  The overcast sky kept the temps into the mid-80's, and previous days of rains and drizzles have everything lush.
 This is, of course, the Sligo Creek money shot from the first bridge we cross on the hiker-biker trail.

 I love when you can look down and see the sky!
 And sometimes looking down leads you to other discoveries!  Like this amazing snake skin from some amazing and absent snake!

Romeo found it intriguing, but kept his distance.  Some puppy flashback from the mean jungles of Costa Rica!?

My Kentucky Coffee Tree

Three years ago I collected a seed pod from the ground from a Kentucky Coffee Tree and planted the seeds.  One sprout.  And here it is three years on!    Soon I will need to find a good place for it to go into the ground.  That will be interesting in my limited and quite full yard.

As you might have guessed the Kentucky Coffee Tree was the Kentucky state tree.  I say was, because it was down-graded to the state "Heritage" tree when surveys discovered that there were actually not that many in Kentucky.  The tree is more common in Indiana and southern Ohio!  The Bluegrass state replaced it with the Yellow Popular which is a common tree across the eastern United States and is also, in fact, the state trees of Indiana and Tennessee.  I think a state tree ought to be more common in a state.  I lived in central Kentucky for nearly two decades and I honestly couldn't tell you where to find one!  I could; however, take you to a Sycamore, a Hackberry, an Osage Orange,  a White Oak, and Shagbark Hickory or any one of a dozen other common trees.  Oh well....

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Romeo's Special Place!

This is Romeo's idea of Heaven. Napping in the hallway in a "nest" of bones that he's taken the time to arrange. I tell people that he's an unusual and exceptional creature, and most just think I'm jaded--which I am, but he's STILL a wonder to observe! 

Chicken Stir Fry

Another great easy dinner made with my new favorite sauce: House of Tang's Korean Teriyaki.
Chicken Stir Fry

Peanut oil
Chicken breast fillet (cut into smaller pieces)
Baby Corn
Bamboo Shoots

Served on a bed of bean sprouts and La Choy noodles

Friday, May 27, 2016

Case Study Dysfunctional Federal Courts: Alabama

You all know one of my hobbies is Federal Court watching. I love our government and I take the time to understand it and track it. When people hear the news of how this Federal Court or that Appeals court ruled this way or that one an issue and ask, "How is this possible?" It's an easy answer. It the result of the function of a trifurcated governance meant to allow the evolution of juris prudence along with society with some caution. You may have learned at that the system of "checks and balances" in school.

In that system, Judges at the federal level serve for life free from the winds of popular electoral pressures. It's a position of great honor and it requires 1) a nomination by the executive branch (President), followed by a vetting of the Legislative Branch with the judicial committee of the United States Senate, and then 3) a confirmation vote by the Senate to affirm the judicial turpitude of the nominee.

Even before any of this happens the Executive Branch meets with the Senators of the states involved in the confirmation of nominees to discuss candidates and decide on mutually agreeable nominees. Well, that's how it USED TO HAPPEN. Now under the Republican take no prisoners era, many senators from the Republican Party refuse to even meet to discuss candidates and no where is this more egregious than in Alabama.

Alabama has 3 federal District Courts and all of them are suffering with a lack of judges, and neither of the states Senators have stooped to participate in the process of selecting compromise candidates with the Obama administration since 2012. The last judge being approved in 2013 after committee vetting. It's just a ridiculous situation that only adds to the complete and total disfunction of the political infrastructure of Alabama.

What's the next thing to go? Public education? Public works (potable water and sanitation)? Electricity? How far back to the Republican overlords in this Bible-belt Theocratic-leaning little southern backwater plan to drive their citizens? And more importantly, when will they rise up and make effective change?

Consider this:

1) Voting has been wittled down to the most narrow access possible of any state to obtain credentials to participate in the nation--a fact that disproportionately impacts black and elderly voters (read that as Democratic).

2) The State's Supreme Court Chief Justice, Roy Moore, has been removed for the SECOND TIME for unconstitutional behavior.

3) The Governor, Robert Bentley, (who campaigned on a pro-family values platform) is not embroiled in seriously litigation around his extra-marital affairs and sexual misconduct.

4) The Speaker of the Alabama House, Mike Hubbard, is under indictment on felony ethics charges for financial misconduct! I mean really--is there even an honest dog catcher in the state?

In conclusion:

You have to ask yourself this: "How fucking bad does your conduct have to be for your lily-white-ass, "Christian," Republican brethren to step away and toss you under the proverbial bus?"

This is all of the Republican's making. When you eliminate an environment where a healthy balance between two or more political parties exist, you just invite a scenario where the "fox" (or in this case, Elephant) is all that is left to guard the hen house. A recipe for corruption and unquestioned stagnation.

I just can't wait for Hillary to be elected president and the crisis in places like Alabama drive the system to a place of greater sanity and compromise--maybe even a constitutional amendment to clarify and end this partisan obfuscation of the system.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Dinner

The only reason to order Chinese Carry Out is because it's convenient.  I do it for that reason.  But I can make it myself just a good and even better!
Dinner: Crispy Beef with Bamboo Shoots and Broccoli over noodles.  I used a market Korean Teriyaki stir-fry sauce to season it.  OMG--delicious!

Sunday Breakfast

Sunday Breakfast = 2 Eggs, 3 Cheeses, Fresh Herbs from my gardens (Chives, Oregano, Thyme, Parsley) with fresh sliced Tomatoes and Toast with 3 Jellies: Apricot, Cherry & Grape.

Rain, Rain...better than drought any day!

And I've added lights to my new pergola!  Evening magic, for sure...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Classic Broadway Musical Performances

Been a little while since I created some of these.  Here's a Celebration to Classic Broadway Musical Performers and performances.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Dinner @ Petit Louis Bistro

We dined after the show at the original Petit Louis Bistro in the Roland Park neighborhood of Baltimore. Petit Louis is authentic French cuisine in an atmosphere chocked full of cozy, French countryside accouterments.

 I started with the Soupe de L'Oignon.
My main course was the Magret du Canard.  This is a version from stock photos of the restaurant's dishes.  My version had the spinach, but also deep-fried Spatzle and a Rhubarb Compote--no peaches.

A Street Car Named Desire

Great theater afternoon in Baltimore with my friend, Dee. We saw "A Street Car Named Desire" produced by the Everyman Repertory Theater. It was the last leg in our Tennessee Williams' 100th birth-year Triathlon that started at the Ford's Theater in DC with "A Glass Menagerie". Then went to Bethesda, Maryland and Roundhouse Theater's production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".
 The theater was easy to get to and parking was super convenient, too.

 Scene changes were accompanied by music interludes mostly from the Great American Songbook performed by Kelli Blackwell.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Senate in the Bull's Eye: 2016

I predict that the Senate will shift to the Democrats this year.  Here's the lay of the land given the presumptive nominees.  Already the polls are giving the seats to Democrats in Wisconsin and Illinois.  Ohio is absolutely trending in Democrat's favor and Florida--without even candidates yet, just demographically is in the Democrat's pocket.

After that I am expecting both Pennsylvania and New Hampshire to join the Democrats tally board.  Though I acknowledge that both Nevada and Colorado are not easy wins for the Democrats, I do believe that they will prove Blue seats.  And this is were demographics are on the Democrat's side.

The population that will prove pivotal this November are Hispanics.  Hispanic voters will keep afore mentioned Nevada and Colorado and boost Florida into the Democrats win column.  AND here's where it gets interesting:  The power of the Hispanic vote will have significant effects on the results in Arizona, North Carolina and even Iowa.

Something Old: Races of Mankind

I love books and history and vintage stuff. And sometimes all of these things come together. I have this duo of tomes by no one less that H. G. Wells (or the War of the Worlds fame, right?) called "The Outline of History". It was published in 1920...with updates added in 1931 and 1940. So you have these ideas being taken seriously between the two world wars and it says a lot about why World War II was possible.

The books cover a lot of information, much of which is just outmoded, much of which is also still relevant. It's chapter XI of Volume 1 called "The Races of Mankind" that I really marvel at. Here's my favorite passage and to be fair Well's credits this information to Elliot Smith--he didn't think it up, he just agrees with it, right? It also comes (and the books are full of these) with beautifully executed illustrations that just punctuate the horror of these ideas. So, what's NOT to LOVE!? Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Visiting Mount Vernon, Virginia, part 5 of 5: The Education Center

 I ended my visit at the Education Center. And it wasn't until I finished that I realized that I didn't even visit the Museum which was housed on the other side of structure. The Education Center was so full of interesting exhibitions, models, artifacts and spanned in a chronological order the life of George Washington.

 The sculpture in concave and the image appears to follow you as you move from left to right...

 The Grant Wood painting a satire to the myth of young George's "honesty". On the way to Mount Vernon, I was quizzing my young seat mate on the bus, David Sanchez, about what he knew about George Washington. He thought with a serious expression of his face and answered, "He was very honest."

 "There is no saying to what length an enterprising young man will push his good fortune" ~ George Washington. As a young man he was an obsessive diarist. I love the mix of effort and largess this quote expresses. To understand the privileges of life without neglecting the power of a work ethic.

A vision of the young George out in the wilderness surveying the land he would one day become the "father" of...mythic in such a populace way.

The young Martha's wardrobe.

The exhibits covered his war efforts from Fort Necessity to Valley Forge. Watching a video of his reviewing the troops through an open window of the officer's cabin was a very novel way to experiencing history.

There was much made of his farming and inventive genius. But I felt that the role of the enslaved African was down played too much in the information.

The first and ONLY image of a black person in the entire center--that I encountered. I didn't go into the theater and watch the video presentation.

There were these amazing miniature dioramas. This one illustrating his engineering prowess in the construction of the lower locks of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal around the Potomac Falls. There was another one earlier depicting the apex of the battle at Fort Necessity, Pennsylvania--it was a gory blood bath with dead people, horses and even a herd of slaughtered cattle! On of the students looks up at me and asked, "Are they all dead?" I said, "Yup." "Oh gross," was his comeback.

A presentation about the design of DC under the Black architect Pierre L'Enfant. But the images are of present day DC. In Washington's day, much of the area where the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument stand were wetland swamps under water and not considered arable or buildable land surfaces.
And we end with his death mask.