Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Clean Up

I've been trying really hard to get this blog post up but I really have been way too busy. So I'll just throw up the pix and you can see for yourself. The sand and the water came up on the boardwalk in Ocean City and when I went there the day they reopened the city, there were bull dozers all over the place trying to shovel up the sand and put it back on the beach. Oh, and we lost the end of the pier. You will see it hanging in one of the pix and we lost the light at the end of the rock jetty. Overall, not too much damage. I found it curious that we got the Category 1 hurricane and had less damage than NJ and VT who had the tropical storm. Luck of the draw I suppose.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Video of Irene at Ocean City

I just saw this video and thought it was amazing. What you might not know is that in this video, when the reporter is standing in front of what looks like a fence and the foamy water is splashing up on him. He's actually standing on the Boardwalk and that fence is around steps that lead down to the beach. The beach is easily more than 300 yards of sand before you get to the ocean. For the ocean to be up to the Boardwalk is amazing. I'll post our after photos of OC tomorrow.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hunkering Down

So Tuesday we had an earthquake and tomorrow we have a hurricane. I totally missed out on the earthquake because I was driving when it hit so I didn't notice anything. If it was shaking I would have assumed the road was bumpy. M and co-workers felt it though. They were on the 2nd and 3rd floors on campus and said the whole building was swaying and pictures and chandeliers were moving. I'm sure I won't miss out on tomorrow's hurricane though, there's no hiding from that. We're getting indications that we will get very high winds 50-100 mph gusts and maybe a 6 ft. storm surge with flooding. They're evacuating parts of town near the river and they've never done that before (at least in the 8 yrs I've lived here.) They also evacuated Ocean City (I haven't seen that before either.) They were busing all the foreign students who work on the boardwalk and beach, out to places near Baltimore (3 hrs. away). They were telling all tourists to leave town. They shut down the city at midnight last night. Only emergency vehicles will be allowed in. So everyone here is taking this one seriously and preparing for it. So for the past 48 hrs. I have mowed the lawn (it's going to be raining for a couple days). I have taken all the deck furniture off the deck and piled it upside down behind the garage for a little shelter from the winds. I have moved all my hanging and potted plants down on the ground behind the garage as well. I have stocked up on water, foods that can be eaten without heat or electricity. I have filled all 5 of my hurricane lamps with kerosene. We already have a huge supply of flashlights and batteries. I filled the gas tank on our generator and got 10 more gallons of gas in case we have to use that for electric for a couple of days. I filled the gas tank on our 4 wheel drive in case we need to drive this vehicle with higher ground clearance. Next I'm going down to the basement and building brick platforms for our dehumidifier so when (not if) the basement floods we won't short out the dehumidifier or electrify the basement floor. We had planned a hurricane party for tomorrow night, but then the forecast got a little more ominous so we canceled the party. We could envision 30 guests getting stranded at our house and we didn't want that. Oh and for this picture. Yesterday all the "D" batteries were sold out all over town for peoples' flashlights in anticipation of power outages. Ace Hardware advertised that they would have a truck in today with more batteries. Ace is lucky if they have 8 people in the entire store on a busy day. Here is what it looked like this afternoon with people coming to get batteries and kerosene. The line went from the front of the store to the back, plus there was a long line for any remaining batteries (the Ds were already gone) and there had to be over a 100 people in 3 lines waiting to checkout. Yes, people are taking this hurricane seriously. Wish us a good strong wind to push this storm further east off the coast.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What would Jesus do?

Pastor Ted Haggard is gay. Anti-gay preacher George Rekers is gay.
Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's son has a refreshing view on all this:

Oral Roberts' grandson

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The best laid plans . . .

I made it a point to buy all new, fresh ingredients (flour, sugar, shortening, butter) so that my crust would be as awesome as E's crust. That's why I invited her over afterall, so she could teach me how to make the awesome crust she made at our last cookout. We worked from 3-6 p.m. and made three pies, a blueberry (which we had after dinner) and an apple and a peach/blackberry for tonight's progressive dinner.

I followed her instructions perfectly. She checked the dough and the ingredients as I added them. Everything was done according to the recipe. The dough was crumbly and coarse like the instructions said it should be. We cooked it for the first 15 minutes at the higher temp, then dropped the temperature. Check. We did everything the way the recipe said and just the way E did it last time.

We washed, cut and prepared all the fruit fillings according to the directions. We used tapioca starch for the blueberry filling because E said that made them just the right balance between juicy and creamy.

The dough rolled out just fine. We did have some difficulty getting the dough off the rolling mat and into the pie pan. The bottom crust wasn't too hard to manage because even if it tore or fell apart, you could put it in the pan and mold it with your fingers to the form of the pan. The top crust was much harder, so the crust on our blueberry pie was lumpy and misshapen. That was okay though. It didn't have to look pretty as long as the pie was tasty. So we cut into the blueberry pie after dinner while it was still warm and put some vanilla ice cream with it. We ate on the screened front porch. As I came out I asked how the pie was. Everyone said the filling was awesome. I said that's great, but how's the pie crust? I was hoping it was a light, flaky, buttery goodness. My friend, A, said, "it's a little sandy." I said, "what? What do you mean sandy?" She replied, "well, it's a little gritty. Taste it." It was. It was like tasting a mouthful of flour. For some reason, the pie crust ingredients didn't blend together, and in fact, it didn't taste like the pie crust baked all the way.

Since we now knew the first pie crust didn't do well and the other two pies were in the oven, we watched these ones even more to make sure they baked all the way. They never did. Here's the apple pie. I tried to do a cutout diamond flower shaped top. You can kinda see it here. The top of the pie cooked, but when you looked through the glass side of the pie pan you could see the rest of the crust was a pale white where it hadn't cooked.

Here's the peach/blackberry pie. I tried to do a lattice top crust on this one. This one was like the other two, the top cooked but not the sides and bottom, plus none of it cooked all the way through. So even though it looked well done on top, if you pinched a bit of the dark brown crust, it would dissintegrate into a floury, uncooked mess. We couldn't figure out what went wrong. We did everything according to the recipe and we made sure the heat was right on the oven. We left the last two pies in at least a half hour longer trying to get the crusts to cook, but they never did. So today I made new pies, with ready made crusts and crumbled tops. I also got a "thaw and serve" freezer pie as a back-up in case these last two pies didn't do well either. Oh well. I did try.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Getting Ready . . .

I'm getting all the ingredients out to begin making pies today. My friend, E, will be coming over to teach me how to make her awesome pie crust. We'll make 3 pies, have one for tonight and two for tomorrow's progressive dinner. I've got apples, peaches, pears (from our tree), blackberries, and blueberries that I picked a month or so ago. I haven't decided which combination of fruits will go into which pies. I'm also making a roast chicken with rice and asparagus for dinner tonight to thank E for her instruction. We'll have another friend over, eat, play backgammon and maybe partake of a little wine.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Surfing Lessons

So you should know by now that M is a total water baby. She can't get enough of the waves. She's been wanting to take surfing lessons before she gets any older, and of course, I'm not about to do that. The ocean kayaking was scary enough for me. So our friend and co-worker J decided she would do this with M. J has also jumped out of a plane before because another friend was doing it.

So last Saturday J and M took their first surfing lessons. And lo and behold, they both managed to get up on their surfboards in a somewhat standing position before falling into the waves. This was very exciting for them and they vow to get back out there again soon for a second lesson.

This is J. She seemed quite surprised when she realized she was standing on the board. For those of you who think you might be too old to attempt this, J is 53.

Here's M in her glory. You might have to click on the pictures to make them larger. I didn't have copies on my work computer so I pulled them off my Facebook folder.

Tomorrow I learn to make a "from scratch" awesome pie crust so I can make a couple of pies for our next Progressive Dinner Saturday night. I will post on that soon. Haven't finished Min's room yet, just got slammed with a lot of legal work and that has been taking all my time lately. Almost done with that, maybe I'll get a day off before classes resume.

Here are the re-loaded pictures so you can make them bigger.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mini-Movie Reviews

That means the review is brief, not the movie.

Captain America: The First Avenger stars Chris Evans, a relative unknown. Which just means I haven't seen him in anything before. This movie is a good, solid family movie. You wouldn't be jeopardizing your children's morals by taking them to see it. It's a good old fashioned, patriotic, war story with a squeaky clean, pure as the driven snow, love story mixed in. For most people this should be a Netflix movie. I liked the the transformation at the beginning and the twist at the end the best.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes stars James Franco, Freida Pinto, and John Lithgow as the three main human characters. It also stars Andy Serkis as the hyper-intelligent ape, Caesar. Serkis doesn't get top billing apparently because his acting was morphed in with a computer, however, the computer generated morphing mimicked Andy's facial and eye features which is mostly how we come to understand and relate to Caesar. Caesar is the star of the show really so I believe Andy should have gotten top billing. Anyway, on to the review. There are great special effects, but I don't think you have to see them on the big screen to appreciate them. The story is good background for how the story of the Planet of the Apes came about. It ties up loose ends, answers questions, and takes a playful poke at the original movies by having them playing on a t.v. in the background and also by having characters use lines from the original movie. It's a good movie but doesn't rise to excellent. If you've seen the other movies in the series, see this one and if you've never seen any of the other movies, see this one, it might get you interested in seeing the rest. This is a good one to Netflix.

Cowboys & Aliens is a good old fashioned western except that the bad guys are aliens. It stars Daniel Craig who makes a _really_ good brooding cowboy. Think "the strong silent type" on kung-fu steroids. It also stars Harrison Ford who does the crotchedy old man part with a soft spot for children and honor. It also stars Olivia Wilde as a lone woman in an Old West town with a secret and who also seems to know something about Daniel Craig's character when he can't remember himself. I pegged the plot twist for her character when I saw the trailer. M was very impressed that I figured it out so quickly. Anyway, this is a very good western and alien thriller movie. I would recommend seeing this on the big screen to get the full impact of the special effects and the jolt in your seats when you first encounter the aliens up close. The story was interesting without being too complicated. The one negative is that there are so darn many cliches in this movie along with a bit of racial insensitivity. But hey, this is supposed to be a period western and they weren't PC then, right? Go to the theatre to see this, if you have to Netflix it, see it on a big screen t.v. with the volume up loud.

Now I've saved the best for last and I'm quite surprised by that too. Crazy, Stupid Love stars Steve Carell. I'm not a fan of Steve's. In a lot of the movies he's chosen to do, his humor is too juvenile for me and he's too typecast for my liking. I had no expectations of him in this movie and was pleasantly surprised. His annoying bits were muted down and he became more genuine on the screen. That was a first for me, no, make that a second. When he starred in Dan in Real Life he also gave a realistic performance of a character you could love. So now I know he's capable of good acting given a good script and a good director. Crazy, Stupid Love also stars Ryan Gosling. No offense to Mr. Gosling, but I've seen him in Lars and the Real Girl and The Notebook and I didn't even remember having seen him in anything before. Either his performances were forgettable, or he so inhabits a role, he completely disappears in it. Thinking back on those movies and other bit parts I now know I've seen him in, I think he disappears into the roles. When I saw the body on Ryan in this movie I was stunned! I now remember seeing him shirtless in other roles and he was definitely not ripped like he was for this role. So this tells me the actor prepares to become the character he's playing. That said, I think Ryan's character was the most complex, heartbreaking and loveable in this whole movie. There's a twist in the movie with his character that I never saw coming, and I'm good at picking up twists in movies before they happen. I think his performance is the best in the film. I was very pleasantly surprised and totally taken in by his performance. This movie also stars Julianne Moore and I found her performance flat and tired. I don't think she really brought anything to the role. That was disappointing because I've seen her do good work in the past. The last main character in this movie is Emma Stone. I've liked the roles Emma has chosen and enjoyed her performances in past movies, so I was hoping to see a lot of her in this movie. She wasn't in that many scenes, however, when she was in group scenes, her performance was just so-so, when she was in a one-on-one scene with another character, she shined. I can't say anything more without ruining the movie for you. You don't need to see this movie in a theatre even though it's worth the ticket price, so if you Netflix it, move it to the top of your list. It's a very good movie, maybe not good for younger kids, but teenagers and older should enjoy it. Happy viewing!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Laugh for the day

Go Matt Damon!

Okay, so thanks to Anderson Cooper the song has been stuck in my head all day. There's no cure for it but to play it, or rather them. Laugh it up!

Last full day in Europe

Ahh, all good things must come to an end.  Our European vacation is drawing to a close.  We leave Nice this morning to drive back to Barcelo...