Thursday, October 25, 2007

EggtoberFest 2007 - Atlanta

Another fantastic EggtoberFest. And this one was made even more special by being the Tenth EggtoberFest. The two of us were right in the thick of it too. We even cooked.

The final figures aren't in yet but I heard 3,000 showed up Saturday. That's over twice as many as last year. There were 500 at the Meet & Greet the night before. And the weather was perfect the entire time.

Texas wasn't well represented this year so I made sure they knew we were there though. I made some Texas shaped waffles here and took them with us. Saturday morning I fired up an Egg, put my cast iron griddle on it and heated up the waffles. I added some butter and syrup and handed them out. They went over great.

Then my Sweetie broke out a Dutch Oven and made a pot of chili for her famous Frito Pie. It sure didn't take long for the hungry crowd to scoop that up. They loved it and naturally asked for the recipe.

Then we started making our version of a Muffuletta. We started with sourdough bread slices, then buttered one side. Then we added some Creole Mustard, ham, turkey, genoa salami, provolone cheese and then the secret ingredient, olive salad (Just like they use in the original muffuletta in New Orleans). Then we buttered another slice of bread to top off the sandwich. About 20 seconds each side on the hot griddle and it was ready. They loved it...

Naturally, we sampled as much as we could too. Most of it was close to Fantastic. We got full real fast and missed out on a lot of stuff we wish we could have tried.

Then there was the After Party, a gathering of souls who just didn't want the day to end. We had another great time there too.

Here are a few photos for you but they really don't do it justice. It's unique, it's fun and it's gonna be bigger and better next year.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Flagstone Patio

Home ownership... There's never an end to the challenges or the opportunities for improvement. No sooner than I finished my outdoor kitchen, called The Coop, we decided to cover a 200 sq ft area next to it with flagstone.

Easier said than done.

First of all, the sod has to be removed down about four or five inches in order to be replaced with decomposed granite for a solid foundation that can also be adjusted upward or downward for each individual flagstone piece according to its thickness. All of this is very labor intensive.

As for removing the old sod, that is a real challenge, especially considering the fact that there is a clay-like substance that sticks to everything. A shovel can quickly become heavy with the clay as it accumulates more and more layers. Then you just have to stop and scrape it off.

But finding a place for the old sod is also a problem. I've pretty much decided to put it behind some heavy Pampas Grass to make a sort of levy between our property and the cemetery where a great deal of water flows into our yard during heavy rains.

All of this is taking time, lots of time, primarily because I've been sick with a chest cold for almost two weeks. And the weather, dewpoint mostly, is really dragging me down. But I've got a goal, a pallet of flagstone and a yard of decomposed granite just waiting to happen.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Back Surgery

They call it "surgery" but it's really an epidural injection of cortisone to reduce inflammation of the area between L3 & L4. In other words, to fix my sciatica problem that I've had for over an year. This was the third one. I had it done last Tuesday and I feel great. In fact, I've been digging up dirt and moving heavy walking stones all day, something I couldn't do without some serious pain before.

Tomorrow I will resume the digging and hopefully be able to start spreading the decomposed granite base for the flagstone I will eventually use to cover the area.

If you've never had sciatica you are lucky. If you have had sciatica you probably understand the need for epidurals, especially if you plan to live a half way normal life.

In fact, I feel so good I think I'll go move some more dirt right now.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Cough That Wouldn't Die

Ever get a cold and the resulting cough just won't go away? Well I've got one. Had it six days now and haven't had more than about two hours of decent sleep in all that time. It isn't just a cough, it's hacking up endless amounts of phlegm. So that means having to get up, find a place to spit and try to settle back down, only to go through the process again in five or ten or fifteen minutes... all night long.

So here I am at 4:30 AM during a lull moment attempting to put my frustration in writing with the hope that it will take my mind off the pending next round of coughing.

I really need some sleep too. Yesterday I was scheduled for back surgery (epidural) and needed to be at the hospital at 5:00 AM. I was home by 8:30 AM with instructions to take it easy because I was still under the influence of anesthesia. After being awake all night and undergoing surgery you would think I could sleep like a kitten. NOT! Not a wink.

Anyway, the coffee pot will automatically kick on in one hour and fifteen minutes and that's when my new day starts. My plans are to make some Big Green Egg handles for Lawn Ranger until about 9:30, then go to the heart center for exercise, and then start digging dirt to lay in almost 200 sq ft of crushed granite base with a flagstone top. It's all part of the Chicken Coop Project.

I suppose you could say, "Life is good." Well, except for this $#%^&@ cough...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

French Drain

We moved into this house in 1988, and immediately noted some back yard drainage problems. The builder quickly responded and fixed the problem, that is until years later when settling and new landscaping caused the problem to return.

Then I decided to build the Chicken Coop and matters got even worse. It wasn't so bad that we were flooding or anything like that but it annoyed us to no end that water would not drain off quickly. Plus, we are in the early stages of expanding our deck by installing flagstone around the front of The Coop. We thought we needed good drainage for that project.
So a few days ago I started digging a French Drain that would hopefully give the rain water a new route to the front street. I finished Phase I today. That includes 70 feet from just off the deck, around the back of the house to the fence where it will eventually go on out to the street. I put in black drainage pipe and covered it with pea gravel.

According to my calculations this will greatly help transfer the water from where we don't want it to where we do want it. Phase II and another 90 feet will take it to the street where a pop-up valve will allow the water to flow directly into the street.
I dug the trench but my Sweetie and our neighbors helped by hauling the gravel and putting it in place. It was hard work and we're all tired and sore, but we're pleased that we accomplished something worthwhile.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Health - There's no end to it until The End...

My heart attack in January produced it's first "scare" the other day. I had just arrived in the parking lot of the Heart Center for my exercise class when I felt a slight pain in my chest. I didn't think too much of it but as I walked to the gym the pain grew in intensity from a 1 to a 4, and it didn't seem to want to slow down.

I went ahead and had them do the routine blood pressure check and it was fine. I told them I didn't feel that great and was going to pass on the exercise. They asked what kind of pain and I told them the chest.

Seconds later they had me hooked to a heart monitor and oxygen tank. They the nurse gave me two squirts of Nitroglycerin. All of this helped and within five minutes the pain was gone. Meanwhile they called my doctor who happened to be at the nearby hospital emergency room. He said to drive over and he would check me out.

A couple of hours later he said it wasn't a heart attack but he wanted to see what caused it and scheduled a heart cath for the following morning. I stayed there overnight.

The heart cath went well and he found nothing wrong with the stents he installed in January. So after all that he concluded that it was probably due to stress brought on by my mother's recent death and two brothers who also suffer from serious illnesses.

So the end result is that "stress" does manifest itself in harmful ways. Therefore, it goes without saying that avoiding stress is good for you. Certainly is for me.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Death In My Family

My 85 year old Mother passed away this week. Heart attack with too much damage to repair. We got to see and talk to her before she passed on.

Although I'm sad, I'm also joyful that she lived a long time. I'm also pleased that she avoided the two things she dreaded most: slowly dying of cancer and slowly dying in a nursing home. She is surely Up There looking down saying she won on those two points.

Her last three years were difficult but she didn't complain. And she was clear-headed enough to repeatedly express her wishes to be cremated and her ashes distributed by my father's grave, her parent's graves and her aunt's grave (the person who raised her from birth after her mother died).

There was a gathering of relatives and friends at her beloved Catholic Church in Jonesville. We laughed and cried together, all expressing a loss that can never be replaced. The Priest held Mass and spoke of her as if he had known her all his life, even though it was a few fleeting moments when he took Communion to her at home. All of this was followed by the traditional meal for all those attending the services. People far and wide brought food and flowers and photos and memories to be shared by all.

I saw people I had grown up with but had not seen for thirty or more years. We all talked like nothing had changed knowing full well that our accumulated ailments and wrinkles alone presented a more truthful expression of our unstoppable aging process. It was fun talking to them and in many ways it reflected their belief that I'm just temporarily away from home.

I had the good fortune to have my Judy by my side the entire time. She was my strength when I needed it the most.

And so ends another chapter in my life.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Chicken Coop Is Complete

Over a year has passed since I started building my outdoor kitchen, affectionately known by all who care as the Chicken Coop. The finished product didn't come without some anxious moments, especially around January when I had my heart attack. And the physical work was delayed considerably by my ongoing bout with sciatica, or as I like to call it: Mad Max Disease, after my good friend and fellow Egghead, Mad Max, who figured out a way to transmit his sciatica problem to me via the Internet. Ironically, Mad Max was the very first Egghead to visit the final version of the Coop, and he gave it a thumbs-up.

So without further ado I present to you my Chicken Coop...

My Large Egg

My Small Egg in it's transporter.

Left rear corner showing my rubs & spices Frig, and the Gas Grill where I store Dutch Ovens.

Some "nesting" chickens...

The Lights add both lighting and a touch of Chicken Coop Class

Ain't that a purddy light?

My collection of Lawn Ranger Tools

The Rooster doesn't crow but we always know which way is North...

This is the Official Coop Photo.

Here it is lit up at night.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Clan MacMillan Society of Texas Followup

As I reported earlier, I became a Charter Member of the Clan MacMillan Society of Texas. I also attended the inaugural Gathering held in Austin and met a few of my "cousins." We had a great time and I have to say, there wasn't a single one who could be considered a turnoff. They were all very pleasant and just as eager as me to learn as much as they can about their family tree. Naturally, we all questioned each other as quickly as we could. It was fun talking to them. In fact, it was almost like a family reunion.

Chief George McMillan of Finlaystone, Scotland, the leader of all MacMillans (any of 200 various spellings) worldwide was there. Not only was he a storehouse of information but he was genuinely warm and personable, charming and delighted to help kick off the Texas chapter of Clan MacMillan.

Chief George McMillan

He and I hit it off early, probably because he looks remarkably like my Dad. They could easily pass for brothers, if not twins. Even certain mannerisms were the same. I suppose it could be a coincidence but I'm thinking there is a connection somewhere back a few hundred years. He invited us to Finlaystone Castle if we are ever in Scotland. We hope to take him up on the offer.

One of the topics we discussed at length at the Gathering is how important it is to identify which family tree you belong. One of the best and fastest methods is to make use of DNA Genealogy testing. Naturally I wanted good information as fast as possible so I sent away for the 67 Marker Kit. The goal is to match as many of my markers to others in the extensive database. It's doubtful that I would ever make a perfect 67 match but the more matches there are the closer I am to confirming my family tree. I will have the results in a few weeks.

In addition to doing the DNA test, I also authorized my data to be shared over the Internet so that McMillins (any spelling) around the world can see if I'm that missing link they have been searching for. Of course I will be doing the same with their data. This is going to be very interesting to say the least.

Meanwhile, I spoke to my uncle, Charlie McMillin, and learned that he has done some genealogy research over the years and he will be sending the data to me. The only thing he could tell me over the telephone is that my Great Grandfather, Mike McMillin, and his wife, Hulda Ann Finlay, came to America from Ireland via New York, to escape the potato famine in the mid 1800's. How they ended up in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana is a mystery at this time but the data may shed some light on what happened between New York and Louisiana.

I also registered with the Genealogy Forum, an on-line genealogy search and discussion forum for those seeking and sharing information. I've already posted an inquiry for any information about the McMillins of Catahoula Parish, Louisiana. You can check out the McMillin Family Genealogy Forum at: The first thing you will notice is that there are a lot of us searching for information. Hopefully, someone will see my message and come forward with important information.

So, there you are. The wheels are 'a turning and hopefully will produce some information in the very near future.