Thursday, July 30, 2020

Civic Duty, Family Responsibility and a Celebration

As I write this post, we are in Day 132 of Covid-19 self-isolation.  Like many others, we have discovered that because we’re basically confined to our home, we’ve undertaken tasks that we’d probably put off for years…or maybe we’d never get around to digging into them!

But first, it was all about our civic duty!

We’d never voted via absentee ballot before but when Covid-19 and the 2020 primary elections rolled around at the same time, I checked it out.  I learned that, at least in Tennessee, if you are over 60 years of age, you qualify for an absentee ballot, even if you would be in town for early voting in person…or the actual election-day.  Great news!  We handled our civic duty and stayed away from another gathering… Be sure and get out and vote!

Love that new patriotic face mask…but it didn’t fit my noggin, so it now belongs to Laurie! 

On to familial responsibilities… Laurie is the ‘historian’ and ‘caretaker’ for her family’s history and we have piles of photos, documents and other items that evoke memories of times past.  When her sister Bonnie was down here for a visit, the 2 ladies weeded out hundreds of meaningless photos that were in our care.
However, she’d also been the recipient (via her niece Judy) of her older sister Glenda’s and Glenda’s husband Ken’s slides…  That big plastic container is jammed with them.  In addition we had 6 of those metal boxes on top that were also full of slides.  The metal boxes are very nice and if they had only held the number of slides they were designed for, the total in them would have come to 900.

So we got out our old slide projector.  I set it and the screen up in my cave/bonus room/computer room.  Those metal boxes were jammed full of slides…bundles of slides.  Instead of 150 per box, I’m estimating that they averaged at least 420 slides each!  That’s at least 2,500 standard slides...or a minimum of 31+ loaded carousels.  

The shelf in this photo is now laden with stacks of slides labeled for delivery to appropriate family members.  We probably tossed 200 – 300 slides that were blurred or faded out… One small stack on the shelf is actually for Laurie!

But wait!  Remember that big plastic container shown in the second photo?  That big container was also loaded with slides!  The problem was that they were ‘stereo slides’…as shown in this photo.  There were at least a couple thousand of them!  (This photo shows the relative few that were most meaningful to Laurie and her younger sisters)

One problem with stereo slides is viewing them… It required a stereo slide viewer and a lot of extra effort.  We put out a request on our neighborhood “Nextdoor” network, to see if we could borrow one.  We got lucky and Laurie was able to start going through these ‘special’ slides.  They are special in that you can only put one at a time in the viewer.  Then you have to push a button to turn on the battery powered light in order to see the slide.  Laurie’s hand was hurting after days of viewing the slides!  What a trooper!

Then of course, the light bulb burned out.  Also, if we were to going to keep some of these slides, we needed to be able to view them.  So, off to eBay for a bit of shopping.  I found a working viewer (shown above) and I bought some extra light bulbs too.  The good news is that the ‘task’ is done.  With a little luck and a coronavirus vaccine, we should be able to return the slides and various boxes to appropriate family members by mid-2021!

Yes, it was time for a celebration too!  But this time it was because I’m still here to celebrate yet another birthday…my 78th.  Laurie always gets more birthday cards than I do… She is after all more social and lovable.  This year however, perhaps due to Covid-19 and social distancing, I may rival her total.  We’ll know in December.

Laurie insisted on a ‘selfie’ on this august occasion.  It looks like I was gritting my teeth in an attempt to smile. (I’m notorious for not smiling, especially for photos)

So how did I spend my birthday?

I’d been to the doctor the day before my birthday and he noted that my numbers were good and that I’d lost about 5 lbs.  So of course, the first thing I did to celebrate my good health was to stop by Master Donut in Lenoir City Tennessee.  For my birthday breakfast, I had juice, coffee and this blueberry Danish.  Oh yes, I ‘might’ have also had an apple fritter…

So what for dinner?  I’d decided that we’d run a couple of errands and following that effort, we drove up to Oak Ridge Tennessee for a Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburger ‘fix’.  We love Freddy’s burgers and fries and it had been quite a while since we made the trip.  Since we were going to dine in the car, Laurie planned ahead and brought paper plates and extra napkins.  

After finding some shade for both the car and to enhance our dining experience, I ‘managed’ to down 2 Bacon and Cheese Double Steakburgers and part of an order of French fries… Best yet, I didn’t ‘wear’ any of my food despite eating in the car. 

I’d had my birthday burgers in late afternoon…which worked well when it came to my birthday ‘cake’.  Actually, I’m not a big cake guy…but I do love a good pie.  One of our earlier errands was to stop by Fresh Market in Farragut Tennessee and pick up a nice French Apple Pie! 

So, when it was time for pie, Laurie put a slab in my bowl.  Then I heated it up in the microwave and added a scoop of ice cream on either side of the pie.  Laurie inserted and lit a candle…and then she sang Happy Birthday to me!  Later on the family checked in with birthday wishes…and there were presents too.

All in all, it was a good birthday, especially in this Covid-19 era.  I'm back to watching my diet to ensure that I celebrate 79 years in 2021… We even gave half the pie to the neighbors.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, July 27, 2020

Dining Out in Relative Safety…

About 3 weeks ago, as Covid-19/coronavirus cases were beginning to surge across Tennessee…and the South in general…we decided to join our friends Norm and Linda for dinner in an actual restaurant.  At this point we’d be a bit more hesitant.  One thing for sure, we won’t go out to eat at any restaurant without calling and checking on their Covid-19 safety standards.

This is Copper Cellar and Cappuccino's, a dining destination with a dual personality.  The Copper Cellar side at the left side, offers an American style menu with burgers, seafood and steaks.  In the right side of the building, Cappuccino offers an Italian based menu.
A sign greets customers at the door that states that customers have to stay socially spaced while waiting and until they’re seated.  Face masks are required while waiting for a table. 

The colorful bar and adjoining wine 'cellar' actually divide the two different dining experiences.  Laurie and I hadn’t eaten at this iteration of Cappuccino's  and we were definitely looking forward to some Italian food… We had eaten at an earlier Copper Cellar Restaurant's location that had was also named Cappuccino's.

Of course, in a restaurant named Cappuccino's, there just had to be a really impressive cappuccino machine!  We assumed that it’s operational but since we didn’t order a cappuccino, we don’t know for sure.

Back in the 1990’s Laurie worked in a gourmet food shop in Arlington Heights Illinois.  She became one of the shop’s baristas and learned the trade on a very similar piece of equipment.  Working in that shop was not a true source of income for us as she tended to spend more money there than she made…

Not a great photo…too much light behind Linda.  Nevertheless, this photo gives you a look at the dining area at Cappuccino's.  The fact that the tables are widely spaced apart due to Covid-19 takes away from the ambiance a bit but with a wine bottle chandelier, brick and wood on the walls, fancy windows and cowhide upholstery, the room has a lot going on!

FYI, Laurie imbibed as did I.  She ordered a Red Sangria ($6.00) and I ordered my usual Miller Lite. ($4.50) 

This is the appetizer that Laurie and I shared.  On the menu it’s called Fried Ravioli. ($10.00) Now, since Laurie was born in St. Louis, which is the home of fried ravioli, and where we’ve eaten fried ravioli dozens of times, we’re not sure how this can be called fried ravioli.  I don’t see any ravioli, do you?  It was really breaded and fried or baked cheese with tomato sauce.  Now, that’s not to say that it wasn’t very nice…because we did enjoy it.  But it isn’t fried ravioli!

I’m using 2 photos here to explain both Norm and Linda’s appetizer and Norm’s entrée.  I’m going to explain the photos in reverse order.  

The first photo is of Norm’s entrée, the Cacio e’ Pepe. ($16.00) It was made with fresh spaghetti, pecorino Romano cheese, and freshly cracked pepper mélange with extra virgin olive oil. 

He kept his entrée simple for a good reason… Their appetizer had been a large bowl of Italian Sausage, Peppers and Onions. ($10.00) The problem was that my photo of their appetizer was horrendous…so I took advantage of the fact that Norm decided to top his entrée with the remainder of their appetizer.  He really enjoyed it!

Linda also went with a basic noodle dish as her foundation for her ‘constructed’ entrée.  She completed her entrée by ordering the “Orange and White” Scallops appetizer, ($14.00) and then topping her bowl of spaghetti noodles with butter and Romano cheese with those great looking scallops.

FYI, the “Orange and White” Scallops feature jumbo scallops, tuaca, fresh squeezed orange juice, butter, shallots and blood orange gastrique.  OK, I didn’t know what tuaca or gastrique meant either…

It turns out that Tuaca is an Italian Liquor that is a blend of brandy, citrus and vanilla spice.  A basic gastrique is a reduction of vinegar and sugar that can be infused with just about anything you’d like…including liquor.  Its purpose is to bring out the assertive flavors and saltiness of meat and seafood.

On to Laurie’s entrée… It was a challenging decision for her but since mushrooms are not served at home (my bad!), she went for the Wild Mushroom Ravioli. ($20.00) This time the ravioli were indeed as advertised.  The wild mushroom ravioli were served with heirloom tomatoes, pine nuts, garlic sherry cream, and goat cheese with truffle oil.  Laurie was very happy with her choice!  She took about half of it home for another meal...

For my dinner, I ordered a basic menu!  This was my order of Spaghetti and Meatballs. ($16.00) I added Italian sausage to my entrée just because it’s one of my favorites. ($2.00) The homemade marinara sauce was a bit too bland for my taste but the homemade veal and house ground beef meatballs were excellent and the sausage was mild but it was a high quality product.  The serving may not look huge, but I ended up taking home enough for lunch a couple days later…

All in all, our experience at Cappuccino’s was very enjoyable.  Heck, it was just nice to get out of the house!  The staff was efficient and they were all wearing masks…as were all of the customers who came in after we were seated.  The menus were printed on paper for a one-time use.

Cappuccino’s Italian Restaurant is located at 7316 Kingston Pike (US 11) in Knoxville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-673-3422.  Their website is at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Thursday, July 23, 2020

A New Grill and a Favorite Meal

I am not a handyman…nor am I even slightly able to perform even the simplest mechanical, structural or electronic repairs, assemblies or installations.  Hanging a painting is just about the maximum achievement given my limited abilities… Laurie is more capable around the house than I am.

So when our old 3-burner Weber Grill stopped working, I gave up and it went to a local resident who was handy and who could make the necessary repairs.  Then, while Laurie’s sister Bonnie and her husband Bill were here, we stopped by a local Ace Hardware and bought a new grill.

The good news is that our new 2-burner Weber Grill was assembled and delivered by Ace Hardware.  With me ‘supervising’, Bill tried to install the grill but we couldn’t figure out the connection required to hook up the grill with our 500 gallon propane tank.  So…the grill sat in our plant room for a couple of weeks.

We’d given our grill to new neighbors Mike and Ann and I knew he was handy.  I also knew that he’d need a unit to connect the grill we’d given him to a portable bottle of propane gas.  It dawned on me that since he was handy, perhaps he’d hook up our new grill in exchange for the necessary propane connection.  Voila…our new grill installed! 

I do not claim to 'barbeque'…but rather to just grill my food.  I don’t have the right temperament to slow cook anything so I just crank up the grill and slap down whatever meat that’s on the menu. (Due to my lack of patience chicken isn’t something I grill)

This was the first thing that I grilled this year!  It’s a cut referred to as country style pork ribs.  There were 4 of them.  We each had 1 rib and it was sided with roasted potatoes, half a toasted buttered hamburger bun and a few artichoke hearts. (The latter isn’t pictured)

Best of all, I had 2 left over country ribs for another meal!

More pork!!  This time it was all about a couple of huge pork steaks we’d purchased at Food Lion.  I seasoned them with some rub from our collection of spices…and then, with the grill turned all the way up, on the grates they went!  

This was one of the finished pork steaks… Lots of nice char!  When I flip them, I lightly brushed on some Famous Dave’s Devil’s Spit spicy BBQ sauce.  Repeated the action when I turned them over again.  Despite the high heat, they cook so fast that they’re still moist when they’re done.  That light coating of sauce helps too…

When we lived in the St. Louis Missouri area, pork steaks were a staple meat item, especially in the summer time.  That was because they were ‘invented’ by a Florissant Missouri resident in 1956 in honor of his son’s birth.  He’d asked a local butcher in a Tomboy Grocery Store to cut steaks from the hogs shoulder.  Large local chain Schnuck’s Grocery picked up on the idea and this cut quickly grew popular with area residents.  When we moved to Chicago in 1981, local butchers had never heard of a pork steak!  We resolved that problem…

This is one of the salads that we had with the pork steaks… It was just iceberg lettuce with shrimp, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and an Italian dressing.

The pork steaks were excellent and since Laurie couldn’t finish hers, once again I had leftovers!  

Here is yet another grill favorite!  In this instance it was all about a pair of ribeye steaks… I cut a minute off each side of the recommended times in the chart we have on hand from Omaha Steaks in order to achieve our ideal finished product…at medium rare.  If I follow the times provided for the thickness of the steaks, they come out medium or medium well…not a good thing!

Yes…We do have meat thermometers but I don’t like using them with grilled meat as I just don’t trust my ability to insert them correctly and get the correct reading.

The steaks were perfect…no leftovers this time as I promptly ate what Laurie couldn’t finish.  Two ears of corn each.  Excellent!

I’ve rarely grilled vegetables.  In the past, I have grilled Portobello mushrooms for Laurie.  However, in this instance Laurie suggested that I grill a huge zucchini that our friend and gardener Norm had gifted us with.  So I sliced it in quarter inch lengthwise sections, then we prepared a mix of virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic, pepper and rosemary.  Laurie supervised and she slathered the mixture on the zucchini as I grilled them.

This was the end result of our zucchini grilling efforts.  It came out very nicely and it was very tasty too!  The next time, just to change things up, I may try a different recipe, topping the slices with melted parmesan cheese.

I didn’t remember to take this photo until after we’d served up our portions.  Laurie makes an amazing meatloaf using 1.5 lbs. of ground beef, 1 lb. of hot Jimmy Dean sausage with a variety of seasonings and spices.  She tops it off with a thick crust of parmesan cheese…

This shows both the meatloaf and the grilled zucchini together on Laurie’s plate.  It was an excellent meal… That meatloaf is one of my top 4 or 5 home cooked meals.  Beyond the fact that it is amazing is the ‘absolute’ that there are always leftovers.  Her meatloaf is one of the few leftovers that Laurie will eat…and there is still plenty for yours truly!  As for all that zucchini, I just had to finish it at one sitting!
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Décor and More

The pandemic and our general self-isolation has eliminated some of our excuses for not digging through our piles and stacks of ‘stuff’, figuring out what to give away, what we could sell and what we could actually use…

Then there are those items that really aren’t immediately usable…but which we would never discard!  This is a large glass framed collage created by my mother…Elizabeth (Beth) Weed Myers Thomson.  It was made with egg shells, ferns and an assortment of flowers and leafs.  It’s held together pretty well for the last 40 – 45 years.  We still don’t have a place for it.

Then there’s this photograph of a castle in Scotland, on the isle of Mull to be exact.  This is Laurie’s family castle on the McCormick (maternal) side of her family.  The two people standing directly in front of the tower are Laurie’s cousin Alan and his son Jeremy.  We did find a space for this large photo in our bedroom.

Moy Castle stands on a low rock platform at the head of Loch Buie.  It was built in the 15th Century but was abandoned as a residence in 1752 in favor of a newer home, Lochbuie House.  No access to Moy Castle is permitted due to crumbling masonry and a long term stabilization and renovation project. 

This Grandma Moses style oil painting, depicting a family gathering walnuts, was painted by Beth Thomson (my mother) at least 50 years ago.  She created many paintings in this style as well as a couple series of tiles and, late in her life, even greeting cards for the nursing home she was living in.  I used to have to help her gather and de-husk walnuts for dyes she used for her weavings… Working with walnuts was not my favorite job as husking them stains everything! 

This metal sign was already hanging on the wall next to my side of the bed.  It was forced to relocate by the ‘walnut gathering’ painting shown above.  Laurie and I acquired this nice sign during a visit to the Magnolia Market at the Silo’s in Waco Texas.

It reads, “grow old with me…the best is yet to be”.

We also came across an engraving of George Washington that we’d acquired many years ago when we were still purchasing antiques and collectable objects.  We looked around and decided that it would sit nicely on this old Eastlake Desk in our foyer.  The desk was originally given to my mother by her sister, Jeane W. Austin, to furnish my mother’s new house.

Here’s a close up of that George Washington engraving with his bust and surrounded by critical points in the Revolutionary War.  We bought it from a print and frame shop in Chicago back in the mid-1980s. 

At the time, the engraving was warranted as being over 100 years old and the frame was actually dated as being from 1885.  I recognize one scene at the bottom left as being from Valley Forge.  The picture at the lower right is either Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga or Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown. 

This is another oil painting by my mother, this time showing children playing in piles of fall leaves.  Stylistically, it is a crossover from her primitive Grandma Moses period over to her impressionistic period.  We ended up hanging this painting in our third bedroom.

This hand-colored engraving is from Historie Naturelle’s Ornithologie, published in 1790.  This is plate #180 and it was attributed to Denis Diderot…a French philosopher, art critic and writer who is best known as co-founder, chief editor and contributor to the Encyclopedie.  I actually believe that the art work was by Brenard Direxit. 

I could only identify one of the birds in the engraving.  The red bird at the lower left is called the musician or organ wren.  It is named for its elaborate song.  It’s native to South America, especially the Amazon rainforest.  I will tell you that when we bought it, this attractive engraved illustration cost more than the frame.  However, now I could purchase another copy of it on the Internet for $65.00!  This piece of art is now hanging our bonus room/man cave.

When Montgomery Ward went out of business in 2001, I rescued this old aerial photograph of downtown Chicago from the trash.  All of the interconnected buildings along the Chicago River starting at the far left to the break at Chicago Avenue and then on across the street to far right…were part of this huge complex.  

The 8-story building with the tower at the right side of Chicago Avenue was the 600,000 sq. ft. Administration Building.  It was completed in 1907.  That huge building just to the left of the Administration Building was the 2,000,000 sq. ft. Catalog Building.  It was completed in 1908.  I’m still holding on to this print…but don’t have a place to display it right now.

While I can’t specifically date the photo, I do know that the tower on the Administration Building was completed in 1929.  My best guess, given the height of the buildings shown on the north shore area of downtown Chicago would be that this photo was taken sometime in the early 1930s.  The former catalog center is now home to restaurants, the Big Ten Network, Wrigley, Echo Global Logistics, a gym, a spa, Groupon, Dyson Inc. and 296 luxury condominiums.

How about a bit of screened-in porch décor?  How about celebrating and remembering fond memories from the past? 

All of these items have been added over the last couple of years, but our latest ‘find’ amongst our ‘stuff’ was the rendering of Laurie’s former city skyline, Maplewood Missouri.  Her former family home is in Maplewood and that’s where she grew up.  The sign with the numbers above the porch sign provides the city’s zip code.  Heafford Junction Wisconsin is the little town adjacent to the cabin on Deer Lake where her family spent vacations every summer.  We’ve also stayed there since we’ve been together…

I’ll end this post with two more great bird photos that Laurie captured!  This hungry little female house finch did a great job of stripping the seeds from the Thai basil plant in one of Laurie’s several herb pots that she maintains on our deck. 

Thai basil is native to Southeast Asia.  Its flavor is generally described as anise and licorice-like and slightly spicy.  While widely used in Southeast Asia, it plays an especially prominent role in Vietnamese cuisine.  It’s also the cultivar most often used for Asian cooking in Western kitchens.

That’s all for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Food! Food! Food!

During this pandemic, one of my highlights in our seemingly endless days in self-isolation is food… Food isn’t all that important to Laurie so meal plans are usually my choice, but of course veto power rests with her.  Some of the meal planning decisions are simple.  Does Laurie have to cook…or is it something that I can grill or fry?  She doesn’t grill or fry and I don’t use the oven.  Plus, if something has to be lightly breaded/coated, those tasks are also in her bailiwick!

So here’s a recent pictorial summary showing some of our meals…along with a couple of breakfast leftover ‘spinoffs’. 

When neither of us feels like cooking and Laurie feels like something both simple and light, we resort to a cheese and meat plate, usually with crackers.  In this case we had 2 types of salami, prosciutto and 4 types of cheese…buttermilk, sharp cheddar, Gouda and Manchego.

On morning as I perused our refrigerator for breakfast possibilities, I came across a bit of leftover chili without beans and a leftover all beef hot dog.  Mix, heat in the frying pan, pour it over a slice of buttered bread and add an egg… Breakfast excellence!

A recent visit to Costco, (A face mask required business), yielded a huge package of “Tuscan” seasoned pork tenderloins.  I grilled this first batch, ensuring that I had enough for leftovers.  They were moist and had a nice flavor too…

These were the pre-packaged ‘Reser’s Main St. Bistro Baked Scalloped Potatoes’ that we paired with the pork tenderloins.  Since they were pre-cooked, it didn’t take long (22 minutes) for dinner to be served!  We did opt to heat them in the oven vs the microwave, so that the top would be browned.   

This is Laurie’s plate with the pork tenderloins and baked scalloped potatoes ‘paired’ with a couple stalks of celery.  OK, what the heck, so we were a little light on vegetables.  Wait!  Potato is a vegetable too!

On another morning, I made breakfast for us.  We make a ‘full breakfast’ about once a week.  This is Laurie’s modest breakfast…

My breakfast that morning was a bit larger.  Instead of bacon, I took several of those leftover pork tenderloins and sliced them in half so that they’d be thinner and would heat up nicely in the frying pan.  Of course I did ‘have to’ make a sandwich out of a couple of them.

On another occasion, I found a box of ‘TGI Friday’s Cheddar and Bacon Potato Skins’ in the freezer.  We’d purchased them at the local Ingles Grocery Store.  They were OK if not great, dispite adding spices, but they were easy and filling.  There were way too many to finish at one sitting.

Yes…finally, a relatively healthy meal!  We paired seasoned pre-packaged Mahi-Mahi filets from Costco with fresh frozen green beans.  We’ve tried several of the pre-seasoned frozen fish options from Costco, including the salmon, cod and halibut and we’ve been quite pleased.  I don't remember the brand name for the Mahi-Mahi.

I know that this isn’t a pretty picture!  We’d eaten half of this small deep dish sausage pizza before I remembered the camera… Yes indeed, this was another frozen dinner.  In this instance, this Lou Malnati’s pizza was part of a father’s day gift from our son and his family.  Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria in the Chicago area is famous for their deep dish pizzas…and they make a great thin crust version as well.  My favorite kind of meal…free!  Thanks!

Well…what did you think I was going to do with all the leftover potato skins?  When it was time for me to make myself yet another morning breakfast creation, I heated the leftover potato skins in the frying pan with butter and more shredded cheese…creating a little cheesy crust.  Add 2 over-easy eggs and Tabasco and I was good until dinner.  The extra cheese and butter did improve the potato skins.

That’s all for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave