it's hot...finally!

the weather has turned muggy and warm again, after several weeks of cool days. i can't complain, as this has been a very reasonable summer, weatherwise. i am running the a/c full-tilt all day and night, and it only barely stays caught up in the afternoon. i've been cooking, too, and the oven heat is counter-productive on the comfort level, but it's only for a short while. fall will be here soon enough!

tony and i entertained the couples group here last night. it was real nice, although unusual for us without a topic and some directed discussion. everyone seemed relaxed and we agreed to do it again in september. i served them potato chip chicken, which my mother used to make when we were growing up. it was just as good as i remembered. i also made a summery salad with arugula, mache, 3 kinds of tomatoes and basil; cream biscuits; and an apple pie with apple cider sorbet for dessert. they all took seconds and cleaned their plates. i put out a jar of each of my pickles and some jam and they gobbled them up. as a parting gift, everyone got a jar of pickles to take with.

tonight, we are going to our friends' house for dinner. i made tony a carrot cake for his actual birhtday cake. (this is supposed to be the end of his birthday celebrations, but he told me last night that in his mind, it continues on for another couple of weeks. we'll have to see about that!) they are making the rest of the dinner, so it will nice to not have to do any more cooking today! especially given that my freezer is empty and i need to get some stuff cooked up tomorrow so i have meals for work in the coming week.

this blog does seem to be largely about the food i cook and eat, doesn't it? i guess that's not a bad thing. my life is relatively calm and happy these days. thursday is the one year anniversary of my final drive to cleveland, and the day i got the keys to my condo. god knows my life looks NOTHING like i imagined it would from my apartment in chicago. mercifully, it looks alot better than i thought it would! i am very happy with my work; i get on great with all my family here; my parents are getting their house here fixed up and planning their move; and of course i have found tony. this was all meant to turn out in this way--i am certain of it.


a trip to PA

in celebration of tony's birthday, we took an an overnight trip to pennsylvania. the border is just 45 minutes away, and pittsburgh is about two hours, so it's easy to get there. we left early monday morning and stopped for breakfast at eat'npark in youngstown, ohio. then it was back on the road to our hotel. i booked us a room at the radisson. it was on the top floor with a great view of the gently rolling hills in the distance...very swanky. after checking in and dumping our stuff, it was off to kennywood! thisplace bills itself as america's finest traditional amusement park, and that is the best way i can describe it as well. most of the attractions are older (such as wooden rollercoasters and a traditional train) and there is very little in the way of commercial sponsorship. it's been privately owned since it opened in 1898 and it has alot of structures dating back many decades. things are maintained beautifully, with lots of attention to detail and many historical plaques describing some of the older features. it was very clean, not overly crowded and reasonably priced. it was a welcome antidote for someone who has become jaded by too many trips to disneyland and six flags, where everything seems to have a corporate sponsor. we ate french fries drowned in cheese sauce and bacon, hot fudge sundaes and italian sausage...YUM! tony likes the coasters (which i can't do anymore) and i like the round&round rides, so we split up for part of the day and rode a few things separately. other than that, we just walked and rode and ate from 11am to 8.30 pm! we were wiped out when we got back to the hotel.

the next morning, fortified with many cups of coffee, we were off to the grove city outlets. tony likes nothing more than a good bargain and if there were ever a place to find one, this is it. with more than 140 stores, there is something for everyone. we walked the whole mall. of course, tony restrained himself, buying nothing, while i came away with a bunch of bags! actually, i got a couple of nice cotton sweaters for 4.99 each and a shirt for work fo 9.99. as a bonus, there's no sales tax on clothes in PA, so you feel like you are getting an additional discount! we took a time out for lunch and ate at hoss's steak and sea house. my only question...isn't a "sea house" an aquarium?

the drive back was uneventful. the countryside in this part of the world is just beautiful. the stretches we drove were largely unspoiled and very lush this time of year. we had dinner last night at the clifton diner. on our way home from there, we ran into patrick on the street. he is at cedar point today and, as promised, he is blogging from the park all day. he is gutsier than me, going on all those big coasters!



when i was a kid, we would go to the porter county fair in indiana. it was a small one, with maybe a dozen rides and a handful of food vendors. corndogs, cotton candy, slushees and popcorn. (there had to be popcorn because valpo was the home of orville redenbacher.) this week tony and i took a friend and went to the cuyahoga county fair. this is huge in comparison to my childhood memories! lots more rides, lots more commercial booths and so much more food. some of the things we saw, in addition to the usual suspects: fried pierogies with sour cream and grilled onions; italian sausage with peppers and onions; corndogs dipped and fried to order; steak-on-a-stick; porkloin sandwiches; turkey legs; pizza and stromboli; these strings of potato chips that were yummy; real lemonade; chicken paprikash; brats with sauerkraut; fudge; caramel apples; blooming onions; french waffles (what we used to call rosette cookies); funnel cakes; elephant ears; deepfried snickers bars, twinkies and oreos; birch beer; ribs and pulled pork sandwiches; nachos and something called a walking taco; fried swiss cheese; candied almonds, peanuts and cashews; roasted corn; kettle corn; deep fried vegetables; softserve ice cream; soft pretzels with mustard; cabbage and noodles. i am sure there was more, but that's all that comes to mind. the best thing out of those that i actually ate were the pierogies, and the worst was the twinkie...it was WAY scary.

after we ate we went to see the 4-H barns. first the canning, baking and farming barns. now i realize that i have years of experience as a baker and chef, but this stuff looked AWFUL! i vowed on the spot to enter stuff in next years competition. the canning in particular looked so lame. i really think i could win at least one blue ribbon for my green beans and carrots, if nothing else. there were some baseball-bat-sized zucchini and some beautiful heirloom tomatoes, as well as golden raspberries and gorgeous squashes.

our next stop was visit to the farm animals. there were bunnies, guinea pigs, horses, cows, pigs (including a sow suckling 5 piglets at once--yeouch!), chickens, geese, ducks, pigeons, goats, emus, cavies, alpacas, squirrels, possum and raccoons. these last few surprised me, but i think they were there more for show than for any competition. it was fun to see all of them. they had bags of award winning wool from the sheep-shearing contest held the day before. it was wonderfully soft and still rich with lanolin. many of the animals are for sale, but tony refused to buy me a chicken or a rabbit. this despite a promise of coq au vin or braised rabbit with prunes.

which brings me to the other big news of the week. at age 91, julia child has passed on. this woman was a giant in the culinary revolution that swept our country at the end of the twentieth century. her influence over me was enormous. as a child, i remember our family arranging our saturdays so we could be home to watch her program on pbs in the afternoon. then we would go into the kitchen and, using her cookbook, prepare what she had just made on tv. i remember french onion soup, roast duck a l'orange, cheese souffle, hollandaise and mayonnaise. she got me interested in cooking at an early age and it's an interest that has held. this is one of the first times in my adult life that i have NOT made my living from cooking for others. i have alot to thank this woman for. more than any other single person (outside my ma), she brought me into the world of food and cooking. let's all raise a glass of really good champagne and toast this lady. i know she is in cuisiniers heaven along with auguste escoffier, fernand point, james beard and brillat-savarin. all hail julia!


cool summer

this is the third round of this cooler weather and i am so relieved. now summer is more than half over, so how bad can it get? the less time i spend with the house closed up and the a/c on, the happier i am. it's been mercifully little time this summer.

tony and i had our last meeting with our couples' group on monday. it was fascinating to meet these other men and learn that the issues they face and the ways they deal with them are not that far from what tony and i are experiencing. of course there are differences, but in principle it's the same. we all agreed that we would like to continue to meet up socially, so we are planning on dinner at my house in a couple of weeks. i think it will be fun to have them over. these are some of the first friends that tony and i have made together as a couple. we have seen each of the couples at other social functions. one of them is even friends with yet another couple that we know....which none of us realized until after the fact. it's a small, gay world here in cleveburg. at long as i don't do/say anything embarrassing, i think that can be a good thing.

my eldest niece is off to college next week. we had the "advice from your uncle" conversation last night. i am SURE that this young lady will succeed at whatever it is she decides to do. she has a very clear vision of her life (college/med school/residency/job) which is a great way to get started. i warned her that what she envisions today might fall away when she is presented with other options at school. when i left for college, i wanted to be a german major and go into international business. HAH! at the very least, she understands that she has led a sheltered life up until now. she'll be going to a big school, in a major city, with lots of people from different backgrounds. this can only be a positive experience for this smart, talented young woman. i wish her all the best.

my raise came through on this most recent paycheck, and it makes a HUGE difference. i feel like i can finally really relax about the money aspect of my life. i plan on plowing most of it straight into my retirement account. some of it, though, will be added to my monthly budget for recreation. i want to feel like i can take tony out for a nice dinner on the spur (spurt?) of the moment, with out having to make it a special occasion. i feel now, too, like i am being properly compensated for the work that i do in the number of hours i put in. what a cool thing to feel like that is the case so shortly after having gone to work for this company!

my kitchen this week has been a little hotbed of activity. yesterday i managed to turn out four discs of pate brisee, a double batch of biscuits, croutons, creamy parmesan salad dressing, a big sheet of brownies and a double batch of kitchen sink cookies. these last two are as a favor to a friend, who is having a big barbecue this weekend and doesn't know haw to bake. i am flattered that he asked me to bake for him, and he'll gladly pay me for the goodies. i get to skim some of them off the top to take to work for my buddies there, so it's a win/win situation. (btw, kitchen sink cookies include oatmeal, walnuts, pecans, coconut, white chocolate chunks, semisweet chocolate chunks and bittersweet chocolate chunks.)

speaking of food, tony and i walked up to draeger's ice cream and candy shoppe the other evening. it is totally olde-timey from the fifties, with pastel green booths and pink paisley wallpaper. there is an original soda fountain setup and waitress service. they make all their own ice cream and a full line of candies and chocolates. it was alot of fun, although the icecream was rather unremarkable. it looks like it's on its last legs, so i'm glad i got to experience it. it's been a cleveland tradition since it opened in 1953.

tonight we are going to the cuyahoga county fair. an article in the plain dealer promised lots and lots of fried foods, including (but not limited to) cheese curds, dill pickles, snickers bars and oreos. i'm hoping for a light, refreshing salad bar choice, but i think i'm dreaming. ;^) i'll let you know what we ate, once the gas-x works its magic.


not too much going on...

this has been a very quiet week. my work schedule is compressed to where i work five 10-hour shifts over the course of four days. (the first of these five starts late in the day. each shift then starts progressively earlier, so that by the end of my workweek i am on the earliest shift.) the flipside of this is that when i get to my days off, i have 72 hours away from the store! so two days off effectively becomes three. while i am working, it's all-consuming and difficult to plan around. but when i am off, it's like a mini vacation. i'll see how it goes for awhile and report back.

this time around it was good, as tony and i were able to spend the majority of the time together, except for him going to work. we had dinner with some friends of his on two nights, as well as he and i sharing a quiet dinner alone one night. i also got loads of laundry done, some cooking in, my house picked up and a visit with my sister. so i WAS able to pack alot in to my time. i also feel like i am better prepared this week for the sustained burst of work that i have coming up. it is not a good idea for me to try to plan activities on nights off when i only have a 9 or 10 hour turnaround. i'll save that for when i have 12 hours away. it's still a bit tight, but at least i can get more than 4 or 5 hours of sleep.

the arrival of my alumni magazine offered a pleasant surprise. there was a major article about the gay student group on campus, Kaleidoscope. this is the continuing legacy of a group which i helped to start back in the early eighties, when i was a senior. they have recently revised their mission statement and raised their profile on campus. the story is a far cry from the quiet meetings of 6 or 7 folks, held in a basement room when we were getting started. my hat is off to these young men and women and the work they are doing!

we are having some wonderfuly cool weather. everyone is wearing long pants and jackets. this is the second time this summer that this is happening and i love it. i much prefer this to the endless heat that you cannot escape. at least with cool weather you can cover up. when it's so unbearably hot and you are out of the a/c you are simply at the mercy of the weather.

as i said, this has been a pretty boring week,.....
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