Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year 2017

It's still 2016 as I start to write this, but 2017 is less than 9 hours away.  I can always come back and edit this post if something happens during those 9 hours.

2016 went fast.  Too fast.  And I'm just guessing, but 2017 will probably go even faster.  And will probably full of surprises, good and bad, too.

There is a new President and a world gone crazy.  But the economy is better than during the past 8 to 10 years.  At least that's a good start.

I won't dwell on the problems we Earthlings face.  They are too many and the only way most will be solved is for there to be a total annihilation of the human race.  Well, we certainly don't want that so it behooves us to get along better.  I'll try if everyone else will.

Once again 'diet' raises its ugly head.  Yes, I've got to re-start mine.  I've already recorded all my vitals including blood pressure, pulse, weight, BMI, Body Fat, Visceral fat, Body age, and even visited with my doctor two days ago to make sure I'm okay.  He gave me a thumbs up.  So there should be no reason for me to go softly into my diet.  But first, there's a ribeye to be cooked and eaten tonight.  After that I'm thinking there will be lots of chicken and bushes on the plate after that.

So like everyone else on Earth, I'm waiting to see what 2017 brings.

Christmas 2016

Once again, Judy and I drove to New Orleans for Christmas.  Seems a lot easier than all of them coming here.

And once again, we ate a lot of good food and gave/got some nice gifts.

But this year we also got to see Joyce and Allen's new home being built in Terra Bella, in Covington, Louisiana.  It looks to be about 1/3 along but the construction people move fast and I'm sure it will be ready to move into in March.

The trip was also the longest yet in our new Honda Pilot (almost 800 miles) and we were very happy with the comfort and performance.  We averaged 28.1 mpg if you believe the on-board computer, but 25.1 mpg if you actually calculate the fuel purchased.  Still not bad considering it's a much larger car than the Toyota Hybrid.  It may well be our last car to buy.

It was a fun trip with some time leftover for packing china and cleaning out closets.

Now to lose the eight pounds I put on.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving is usually associated with family, food and football, but this year it included making stained glass.  Yes, the stained glass workshop (our garage) was busy with glass being cut, ground to shape and fitted into a pattern where it was eventually soldered into place and ending up as a work of art to be fitted into a custom door for Joyce and Allen's new home being built in Covington, Louisiana.

Meanwhile, Sandra was learning how to make mosaic art, this time a garden stone with a dragon fly. It turned out really nice and she is excitedly planning her next mosaic art project.

We had the usual food items for Thanksgiving dinner but we decided to cook the turkey 'spatchcocked' style instead of the usual way.  Spatchcocked is a galic word for butterflied, if you were wondering.  We also wanted to try some new seasoning created by our friends at Dizzy Pig BBQ Company in Virginia.  And naturally, the turkey was cooked on the Big Green Egg.

It turned out really well.  As is typical of spatchcocked chicken and turkey, it was easy to cut up and was very moist throughout.  It went well with all of the other food we had laid out for the six of us.

Anyway, it was a wonderful holiday.  And I took some photos which I included in this video.  I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed living it.

Thanksgiving 2016


43rd Wedding Anniversary

December 1, 1973...  I remember it well.  It was the day my Sweetie and I were married.

And we just celebrated that day for the 43rd time.

I was feeling poorly and we had to postpone until today our little celebration in style.  But we did go for a special lunch yesterday at a popular new restaurant called Cape Code Cafe.  Our neighbors joined us.

Reviews all gave it high marks and advised people to be prepared to stand in a long line for the evening meal. So we though it best to get there when they opened at 11:00. It pretty much filled up by the time we left.

We may have been a bit over hyped by the reviews but we didn't like it.  We even ordered their signature dish, a lobster roll, which we didn't like at all.  We also ordered cups of lobster bisque and New England Clam Chowder.  The bisque was weak in flavor and the lobster bits in it were tough and stringy.  The Clam Chowder was only pretty good.  We make better at home.

We even ordered the Sampler Platter that  included some crab cakes, fried clams and French Fries. Really bad.  We can't wait to NOT go back.

Even so, it was a nice outing with our neighbors.  It also let us know that our tastes are definitely not for New England style seafood.

I slept most of the rest of the day.

But today I felt better and we both went for pedicures.  And I have to say, an occasional pedicure is worth it, even for the manliest of men and the most frugal of women.

Then we had a delicious lunch at a favorite Chinese restaurant just across the street from the spa.

No sooner than we arrived back home I was ready for a full nap.  Apparently, I needed it.

After 43 years, celebrating it doesn't actaully have to be on the same day.  Today was much nicer.

Happy Anniversary Love of my Life

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Big Vote

I'm 75 years old, and I can't recall a Presidential Election as challenging to the voters as this one.  But not so challenging for me because I knew early on who I wanted in office. And no, I'm not going to tell you who.  No matter who I voted for, I would lose friends if I told who.

But, trust me; my vote did not come without considerable thought and research regarding the issues. I knew I had to go beyond the endless name-calling and daily 'Gotcha's' as the news media pounced on Wikileaks' documents and endless Congressional Hearings as if they were inconvertible truths, or on charges of personal misconduct, or hundreds of other 'colorizations' of each candidate's qualifications.  

Sadly, more news was given to the 'unimportant' than to the 'important.'  The issues were not worthy news.  Issues didn't gain viewers for the 'talking heads' that seemed to be everywhere fanning the flames of mistruth, doubt and fiction.  But to me, the issues are many, and they are the most important thing at stake, not only for the three generations of us who will vote, but for at least three generations who will have to live with our decision.

I knew going in that the 'Politics' of this election would get nasty.  It seems to be the norm these days.  As much as I don't care for it, I could not do anything about it. But I could ignore the nastiness and focus on what was really important.  

Yet in spite of the nastiness, one thing is for sure, it brought to the surface the frustrations of a lot of concerned American voters.  Both parties were fighting each other at the public's expense over issues that could have been easily resolved if only those in power would just work together to resolve them.  

As Citizens, we've known for years what is wrong with our elected leadership, and finally we stood up and said we've had enough.  Now in the final hours of this administration, we are determined to do what we can to get our government back on course.  And we have the most powerful tool in the world to do it - our vote. 

Judy and I couldn't wait until Election Day.  We wanted to express ourselves as soon as possible, although our vote would not actually count until Election Day.  So we took advantage of Early Voting and happily stood in a long line of people who obviously were also in a hurry to get the election underway.  

It felt really good to move a step closer to exercising our Right and Privilege in the voting booth.  It felt even better as we walked out of the voting booth knowing we did what was necessary to keep our Country on track for at least the next four years.

Now it's a long wait to see if our vote counted.


The election is over, the world is now facing a new leader who promises to fix everything.  I guess we'll see...

Follow-up.  Here's a link to the lies and perfidious statements the new President made in order to get elected.  This does not include all the promises he made to his supporters.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Jefferson Eggfest 2016

"Third time is the charm..."  We've all heard that ancient phrase, and maybe even wondered if its true, but it is most certainly true for the Jefferson Eggfest this year.

This was the third, and possibly last Jefferson Eggfest for some of us if it didn't pick up with larger crowds and better weather.  After all, each of us Cooks have to underwrite all of our own expenses to go help a far off town library survive.  The first two years, attendance was so low that we Cooks could have just donated a portion of what we spent out of pocket and stayed home, and the library would still come out ahead.

But not this year.  The weather was perfect, the mood was right and the word got out.  The official estimate is 'something over 400' paying attendees.  That's because they ran out of attendance bracelets at 400 and had to revert to temporary bracelets.  I'm thinking 500 easy.

Even better, those 500 were very pleased that they came.  There were lots of comments about how good the food was and about their first experience eating food cooked on a Big Green Egg smoker/grill.  Lots of questions, and some actually decided on the spot to buy a Big Green Egg to take home.

Of course, everyone was encouraged and all of us are looking forward to next year.  And, most important, the Library ended up with a sizable chunk of new funding to help them with their many community projects.

I took a number of photos and borrowed some from others who share their photos on social networks, and assembled them into a video which I promptly uploaded to YouTube.  If you would like to take a look at the video, just click here:  Jefferson Eggfest 2016 - The Movie

By the way, next year's event is already scheduled for October 14, 2017.  Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Our Chicken Coop

We're known in Big Green Egg circles as Spring Chicken and Spring Hen.  And the way we tell the story is that we became Spring Chicken and Spring Hen soon after we purchased our first Big Green Egg in November 1999.

We had no clue as to how to cook on it so we just set it up on the deck until we could figure it out.

It was a couple of months before we discovered the Big Green Egg Forum, where "Eggheads" hung out and shared information about the Big Green Egg, recipes, and happily, how to cook on the darn thing.

Well, the first thing the Big Green Egg Forum asked was for me to register.  I did, and then they threw another curve at me: What is my Big Green Egg Handle?  Handle!!!  I don't have one.  So I figured since we live in Spring Texas and the first thing I cooked (not very well) on the Egg was chicken, then I would become Spring Chicken.  And soon afterward, my Sweetie would become Spring Hen.

My first question for my newly found Egghead friends was, "How long does it take knuckle hair to grow back?"  Yes, I learned one of the first lessons of cooking on an Egg - 'burp it first...' meaning, don't suddenly open the dome when the fire is starved for oxygen.  To do so will surely offer up a surprise that can leave a lasting impression, not to mention losing some arm hair and eyebrows.  To the member Eggheads, I had just been baptized by fire and they readily accepted me into the best group of people on the planet - Eggheads...

I wanted to establish myself quickly by showing photos of my cooks.  My first attempt at posting a photo failed miserably, but a fellow Egghead posted it for me and that photo and others clearly established me as a novice at this new way of cooking.  I also learned that I wasn't a 'novice' as much as I was a Newbie.  It's a step up because Newbie means I'm actually asking for help, whereas, novice thinks they already know, or can figure out, how to cook on an Egg.

Anyway, when I did post a photo of me cooking on the Egg, it was suggested that I return to my dealer and get an adjustable damper (aka Daisy Wheel) for the top vent on the Egg.  I had been cooking better and better without one, but I desperately wanted to do it right.  So I bought one.  What a difference that made.  The steps taken when cooking on the Egg all started to make perfect sense.  

More important, it was becoming fun.  In fact, a lot of fun.  And it has remained fun all these years as we both continue to grow our cooking skills.  

And, of course, it didn't take long before we knew we had found a hobby that we thoroughly enjoyed.

Here we are almost seventeen years later with six Big Green Eggs, an outdoor kitchen known around the world, and friends by the thousands whom we would never have met had it not been for the Big Green Egg.

Our outdoor kitchen is now ten years old and continues to be a focal point in our lives.  It has many stories to tell and, rest assured, those stories get told to everyone who will listen.  Even better when they hear the stories while visiting here.

For those who have no idea what our Chicken Coop looks like, I keep updating YouTube videos so they can 'take the tour' so they can see what makes it so special to us.  The Coop is a collection of memories brought to life in a whimsical setting designed to have fun.  We enjoy it every day.

Take the tour and see what I mean...  Coop Tour

Saturday, August 27, 2016

I Don't Want To Brag, But .....

Sometime in my early life, probably while still in high school, maybe even grade school, someone told me that I had an IQ of 127.  

I didn’t know what it meant nor was I particularly interested in it.  But the numbers stuck.  I never followed up to see what it meant, but when I joined the Army in February of 1960, I was told by an Army processing person in Dallas that my Army aptitude scores were quite high. He asked me if I had taken an IQ test.  I told him that I remember taking lots of strange tests, none of which seemed to be related to classes I was taking in school, but the only time I ever heard of IQ when someone told me I had an IQ of 127.  He said, well that explains why you scored high on the Army’s tests.

He went on to say that I qualified to go into the Army Security Agency.  And by that evening I was on a bus headed to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  It was February 29th, a Leap Year, and there was snow on the ground from Dallas to Missouri.  And it was cold.  I was dressed for Central Louisiana weather.

Somewhere about the third week of basic training, I was told to report to a building on base.  No reason was given other than just be there, people are waiting to see me.

I arrived promptly at the time I was told to be there and found three men in civilian suits hovering around a coal-burning pot-bellied stove.  They showed me their FBI badges and told me to sit down, that they had some questions to ask and that I would undergo a polygraph test.  I didn’t know what a polygraph test was, but I figured it was just another of the Army’s endless battery of tests to find out what I was suited for in the Army.

Although these tests were similar to some I had taken in High School and during the early processing of my joining the Army, they were a lot more complex.  Some of the questions didn’t make sense at all, nor did the choices of answers to select from.  Plus, it was a timed test and they made me stop immediately when the timer bell went off.

They didn’t grade the test or even look at it, just stuffed it into an envelope.  Then they explained the polygraph to me and that it would be used to see if I was lying about any of the questions they asked me.  In fact, they made it sound like they would not only know if I was lying in my answers to their questions, they would know if I had ever lied about anything ‘ever’ in my life.  I just knew they were going to ask me some highly personal questions that I preferred they not ask.  But I told them I was ready because I was also a bit curious.

A strap was placed around my chest, a cuff around my upper arm and a small device was clamped to my finger.  I also seem to recall there was a small flat coin-like device to hold in the palm of my hand which would detect moisture.  (Apparently your palm sweats when you lie)  Each was explained to me as to what happens when I answer a question.  Simple questions, such as “are you sitting down?” would probably not excite any of the devices and therefore would not excite the polygraph machine’s chart needles.  But more complicated “think type” questions might and probably would generate more excitement and therefore cause the needles to record on the graph that excitement.

But if I was lying, or deliberately being deceptive, the excitement would be detected in my increased breathing, blood pressure or pulse rate, and recorded on the graph.  Simple enough to understand now but to an 18 year old small town boy in the 1960’s, it was ‘Rocket Science.’

As with the earlier written test, they just looked over the chart and stuck it into an envelope without saying anything.  Then they told me to report back to my unit. 

After I returned to my unit, I really didn’t give much thought to the whole process I had just gone through. 

About six weeks later I was in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, assigned to the Army Security Agency's Morse Code 058 MOS classes. It took our class six months to get up to the expected proficiency the Army needed.  

Meanwhile, some of us were ahead of schedule and added Voice Intercept 055 MOS training, before the entire class graduated and was transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

I can’t recall ever once being asked for my IQ after that.  Until yesterday when I suddenly remembered it and decided to look it up using Google.

The very first thing that came up said, “127 IQ sd 15 means your IQ is at the 96.4 percentile. That means your IQ is higher than 96.4% of the general population. Pretty darn good.

Well, that made me feel good about myself, at least until I read the next one that said, “It means that you have been tested and that the result of that test is that you have an IQ of 127. Other than that it means nothing at all in real life.”

Well Pooh!  I thought I could brag about my IQ, but it’s nothing but a ‘so what!’ number.

Now I know…

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Another Theft in the Neighborhood

When you hear of someone reporting their home or car was broken into, or a bike stolen off the front lawn, or a million other such incidents of theft, you think, “Those poor people must have forgotten to lock the door or take necessary precautions to protect their property.”  Then you just dismiss the information as ‘just another criminal act in the neighborhood.’  That is unless you are the victim.

We just became the victim.  This time some low-life stole two cordless drills from our garage:

An old but very powerful Porter-Cable drill

And a Makita 18v Drill and Impact combo with case and accessories:

It probably happened during the night because we rarely leave the garage door open for long during the day unless we are in the garage.  Our garage is detached and set back 90’ from the street in a very small cul-de-sac, so it’s not likely they did their thievery during the day.  But if we were home, we may have not locked the side door because we go in and out of the garage many times a day.  No, it had to be at night.

Nothing else was stolen or damaged that we can see.  And one of the drills was so old that it has no useful value unless someone purchases very expensive replacement batteries for it.  But the other 2-drill set will require at least $200 to replace.  And even that’s peanuts compared to what all could have been stolen or damaged.

The greatest loss we incurred was the security we felt in our home and neighborhood.  That is now gone forever.  We will always feel venerable to the infection and many faces of crime.

What have we done about it?  Well, we reported it to the Constable’s office, and shortly thereafter a nice Deputy Constable came by so we could file a Police Report, the first step in any criminal investigation. 

Surprisingly, providing the necessary information about the loss isn’t as easy as you would think even though it is something you own and use on a fairly frequent basis.  For example, I use one of the drills at least five times a week, yet I could not instantly recall if it was a Ryobi or Hitachi or Makita, and I certainly could not recall the serial number, something ultimately needed to confirm that I am the true owner of the drill.

Nor could I produce the exact model number or even an exact description because the Operator’s Manual was inside the handy carry case along with the drills, which I also failed to clearly mark with my name, driver’s license number or some other ownership information which the Police could legally use to retrieve from a pawn shop.  To me it was just a cordless drill, but it was ‘my’ cordless drill, not some lowlife’s opportunity to lower his status as a human by yet another notch.

Anyway, I learned a lot about the legal process after the fact, but a lot more about what I can do to protect my property, and for that matter, myself and my family.  Most of what I learned is actually just good old common sense which sometimes needs a reminder, such as becoming a victim.

I’m also reminded that criminals do not operate by the same rules the rest of us do, nor or they treated any differently as citizens until they are actually arrested and convicted of a crime.  No matter the crime, they continue to benefit from a system of justice that can be harsh or lenient, often with the weight of forgiveness to those who truly deserve it.  I can’t say I will ever forgive the criminal, but I’m not going to let him or his actions affect my belief that most people are inherently good.

Our home security company will be here tomorrow to install additional security features that may or may not prevent a re-occurrence of a criminal act with us being the victim.  But it’s a start.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sewing Machines

My Sweetie learned from her Mother at an early age how to sew on a sewing machine.  She even inherited her Mother's sewing machine but never could get it to work.  So we bought a new one, a Singer Inspiration.  It's portable and has pretty much all the features necessary for most day-to-day sewing.

But after a while, she couldn't get it to work either.  Something to do with the bobbin.  So it sat unused for a long time.

Then, her hairdresser asked if she wanted to buy an older Singer Touch & Sew machine that even had the original sewing table.  $50.  And it worked.  So we suddenly had two sewing machines.  But then a problem developed in the older machine.  It was obviously some stripped gears. %&$#

Sweetie took the machine apart herself and figured out which gears were stripped and ordered them. But when it got time to put it all back together, she asked for help.  I jumped at the chance to fix something I've never worked on before.

I figured that since I'm mechanically inclined, have probably all the tools necessary to fix most mechanical things, I'm personally challenged by things that don't work, and I'm bored to tears, I should be able to figure it out with the help of YouTube videos and downloaded manuals.

Well, after about 40 hours of trying, I finally threw in the towel.  I fixed about 98% of it, but 2% was still not working right.  So it was finally decided that we should take it to a sewing machine repair person.

We took both of them thinking they are worthless if they don't work but valuable tools if they do work.

Surprisingly, the guy called later in the day saying they were both ready.  We went back and got them, paying something over $200 for getting them restored to excellent working condition, cleaned and oiled, along with a couple of replacement parts and answers to a lot of questions.  We think it was a good investment, so much so that I'm thinking I might learn how to sew.

I seriously doubt that I will attempt to repair any more sewing machines, but I've gained a whole new respect for those who can do it well.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

On Yet Another Cooking Adventure

Back in 1999 when I finally decided I wanted my food to be an adventure instead of just being the necessary intake of nourishment, no matter how bad it tasted, I set about looking for the ways and means of cooking great food.  I settled on purchasing a Big Green Egg, and life has never been the same since.

For the first time ever, I was off the path of familiar home-cooked meals by my parents and friends, and the occasional visit to a restaurant.  And although those foods were delicious, they really didn't satisfy my need to explore what else was out there.  The Big Green Egg was the first step in a continuing education about food and how we cook it, particularly food we cook for our own needs.

Since 1999, I've grown my Big Green Egg collection from one to six.  Three are the same size, Large Eggs, and the other three are different sizes ranging from the Small Egg, down to the Mini-Max Egg, and to the cute but very capable Mini Egg.

The Mini-Max is relatively new on the market and has been getting high praise from just about everyone.  And I have one.  So it made sense for me to dress it up with some useful accessories.  I particularly wanted to try the new GrillGrates that were showing up everywhere along with excellent comments, many with photos and videos showing the GrillMates in action.  Needless to say, I just had to buy some GrillGrates.

They arrived the very next day after I ordered them from the Ceramic Grill Store in Denton, Texas. The owner is a long-time Egghead friend.

I immediately set about seasoning the GrillGrates, anxious to do my first cook on them.  I even made a video of the seasoning steps so others might find it helpful should they suddenly find themselves owning some GrillGrates.     

GrillGrates Seasoning

And the first cook on them just had to be a sous vide Tri-Tip roast that we have learned to cook well and enjoy a lot.  I also made a video of that cook.  

Sous Vide and Grilled Tri-Tip

It was delicious, tender and perfect in every way, so much so that I can truthfully say I just moved my level of grilling up yet another notch.  And to prove it, here's a prime ribeye steak that I first sous vide and followed with a sear on the GrillGrates:

Sous Vide and Seared Prime Ribeye

I can only imagine what lies ahead on my culinary journey.  But so far, it has been an adventure of a lifetime.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

We Bought A New Car

We tend to keep our cars for a long time.  Five to seven years is not unusual.  My 2002 Chevy Avalanche was new when we bought it and still looks new today, 14 years later.  I love that truck.

Our 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid was only three years old and we enjoyed it for typical trips where fuel economy was important and space wasn't so important.  But most of our long trips were to Eggfests where we cooked a lot of food.  And that requires a lot of cooking gear and ice chests and chairs and tables etc, not to mention considerable luggage, camera gear and computers.  Add to that the sometimes boxes of gifts and decorations for special events.

Yes, the Toyota was way too small for our needs.  Plus, as everyone knows, the price of fuel was no longer $4 a gallon and going up, it's now $2 a gallon and going down.  So fuel economy is no longer the main issue, it is space.

There are a lot of very nice vehicles on the market today.  Probably most of them would fit our needs but we liked what Brother-in-Law, Allen said about his Honda Pilot.  He's had it for a couple of years and loves it.  And the few times we rode in it, the ride was comfortable.  So we went to our nearby Honda dealer, Honda of Spring, to see one from a buyer's point of view.  Before the day ended, we no longer owned a Toyota and were the proud owners of a 2016 Honda Pilot Touring model with more gadgets that we've ever seen.

Needless to say, we drove straight home (3 miles) and searched YouTube to watch videos that explained all of those gadgets so we could understand them.  Of course, the salesman explained them to us before we left, but we were missing some of the finer points he was making.

The car is loaded with safety features.  Traffic is so heavy and moving so fast at times that any safety feature is welcome, but the ones on the Honda make safety the number one priority while the car is being driven.  As a former Safety trainer, I very much appreciate those well designed features.

I'll watch the videos again from time to time to make sure I don't forget all the gadgets and how they work.  Eventually, I hope they all become second nature to us as we use them to their fullest in order to keep us safe.  And the one thing we felt right away is that the size and weight of the new Honda gave us more of a feeling that the car itself offered better protection than the smaller Toyota.

Here's what ours looks like.

Finally, I have to say this was the first time in over forty years of buying cars that I actually enjoyed the experience.  From the young salesman to the finance director to finalize the sale, and everything in between, it was a very easy purchase for us. If you are in the market for a new car, check out Honda of Spring.

South Mississippi RiverFest - Biloxi

Once again, we took advantage of an invitation to attend an event held by a fellow Egghead.  This time it was in Biloxi, Mississippi.  It was well worth the trip.

We had never met Scott and Andria Allen (aka TheGrimGuy among us Eggheads) but we instantly became friends.  They live in a beautiful home on the Tchoutacabouffa River, a comfortable river that swimmers and small boaters alike can enjoy.  And as you will see, their home is perfect for entertaining.

No amount of 'telling' the fun we had but hopefully, you can see from this video that we all enjoyed the day.

South Mississippi RiverFest

Since we had never met Scott and Andria, I thought it appropriate to make some tokens for the occasion.

But after seeing photos of their home, I also thought it may an appropriate place for one of my handmade Christmas Cathedral Birdhouses.  Sort of a Christmas in July gift.

They liked it.  I'm sure it will become part of their Christmas decorations for many years to come.

There's already talk of making the event an annual affair.  For sure, we will be there for the next one.

Thanks Scott and Andria.  We really enjoyed the party.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Whateverthehellitisitis Is Hard To Get Rid Of

Four and a half weeks ago today, I took sick with something that had me coughing like crazy 24 hours a day.  It was a Saturday and I suspected it would end up with bronchitis so I prepared myself to go see my regular doctor first thing Monday.  Sure enough, I had a touch of "onset bronchitis" and enough other symptoms for him to give me a hip shot with antibiotics, a prescription for some pill antibiotics and some codeine laced cough syrup.

None of it worked and I went into 'full misery stage' with what I dubbed, "Whateverthehellitisitis." And for day after day, night after night I coughed, hacked, spit and cussed enough 'stuff' from my innards to fill an oil drum.

No way I could sleep, especially in my own bed, because  my coughing is best described as being "Violent." That's what it took to get that 'stuff' from my lungs up high enough for me to hack it out.  Many times these coughing/hacking fits went on for twenty minutes or more, leaving me exhausted from the effort.  I couldn't sleep lying down for sure because it would start immediately once my head hit the pillow.  So I ended up sleeping in the guest bedroom or a chair sitting up where I might squeeze in twenty minutes of sleep before it started again.  I was miserable around the clock.

I had another appointment with my doctor in the third week of my "Whateverthehellitisitis," and much to my surprise, he said my lungs were clear. "CLEAR!"   I can't sleep because of the wheezing, whistling and gurgling.  And my wife thought cats were fighting outside our bedroom window because of the noise coming from my nose and mouth.  And he says my lungs are CLEAR!  And he qualified that by saying I was "Fit!"  So, in spite of my continuing discomfort, lack of energy, lack of sleep, hardly able to take a deep breath, coughing, hacking, spitting and cussing every five minutes, my prognosis is I'm "Fit."

So I only had two choices, be fit or die.  I'm still here and haven't coughed a single time today.  And I've even done some work around here in spite of the heat.  I must be well, or fit, or Whateverthehell I'm supposed to be at this stage because I feel pretty good.

I'll probably go to my grave not knowing what "Whateverthehellitisitis" is, but I damn sure know that it can knock a fully grown man for a loop.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Surprising Miss Charlotte

A good friend of ours from Arkansas just celebrated her 70th birthday.  But since she was still recovering from shoulder surgery, she was restricted to doing almost nothing.  So her birthday could have come and gone unnoticed except by a few family members and faraway friends.  So some of those faraway friends put together a surprise party for her.  And although she was curious as to why husband Richard was busy primping and fixing inside and outside, she didn't question why he was doing it.

It went off without a hitch.  And we ended up having a really great time.

I took the liberty of making a video of it using my own and some borrowed photos taken during the two days of partying.  Here's the link to it on YouTube:

Surprising Miss Charlotte

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Rain Rain Go Away

Three years ago pretty much everyone in Texas was praying hard for rain.  They were praying because entire forests and many thousands of acres of farm land dried up, burned or were just left untended.  Lakes and rivers were at their lowest point in decades and some had never been so dry. Wildfires were everywhere, burning everything in their path, including hundreds of homes and businesses.  Lives were lost and others changed forever.

Eventually, relief came but not nearly enough to fill the reservoirs and rivers and lakes. But it was enough to start the healing process.

As I understand Prayer, those who pray aren't always specific about when or how much to ask for. So most who prayed for help probably just said something like, "Please God, let it rain."  

Well, it took a while, but those prayers are all being answered here and now, apparently all at the same time.  

As a result, more Texas land than ever is flooded, along with lakes and rivers that are well over their highest mark in decades, and some areas had never been so wet.  Flooding is everywhere, soaking everything in its path, including hundreds of homes and businesses. Farm land is unusable and farm animals are drowning by the thousands.  People are dying and survivor’s lives are changed forever.

Record Keepers say that every day a new record is set.  And there's no end in sight.

So, those of you who rely on the Power of Prayer, please be more specific as to when and how much you pray for next time.  Better yet, just let someone who knows how to pray do it.  Or we will likely face the same problems in the future.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Space City Eggfest 2016

It was a long time coming, but the very first Houston Eggfest has come and gone, and it was a success.  Not a large crowd this time but all the ingredients are there to make it one of the premier Eggfests in the country.

Alspaugh's Ace Hardware, the Host Dealer, had the idea to bring the first Eggfest to Houston over a year ago.  But they knew it had to be right the first time, so a couple of their management staff attended other Eggfests in Salado, Athens and Austin to see how Eggfests work.  Only after seeing how effective Eggfests can be in attracting crowds, and what was needed to make Eggfests run smoothly, they put together a plan.

The theme, appropriate to Houston, was 'Space' as in NASA.  So Space City Eggfest seemed to be a name that Houstonians could readily relate to.

And with Ace's already huge commitment to the Texas Children's Hospital, the Eggfest proceeds were earmarked for that worthy cause.

All that was left was to just do it.  And they did.  May 21st was selected as the date and Old Town Spring, a small village-like community with historical roots, was selected as the Eggfest site.

Egghead's far and wide were invited to come cook.  Many of us jumped at the chance to not only do what we do best, but help introduce he Big Green Egg to the 4th largest city in the United States.

The first Houston Eggfest is now in the books and was a success.  Plans are already underway for next year's Space City Eggfest.

I assembled a few photos (my own and borrowed from others) into a video and posted it on YouTube.

Space City Eggfest

I hope you enjoy watching the video as much as we enjoyed actually being there.

Friday, May 13, 2016

On Turning 75

Remember that old saying, "If I knew I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself!"

Well, here I am.  On May 8th I turned 75.  Still alive and wondering where the time went.

In fact, it looks like I will live another year.  Says so on my Texas Driver's License - "Expires May 2017"  Nice of them to let me know.

I'm told I don't look or act like a 75 year old.  Yet.  So maybe I'm doing everything right.  I try to but all that stuff about diet and exercise doesn't set too well with me.  Although I do try to do it on occasion, and lose weight in the process, I kinda drift back into what I do best, eat what I want and do what I feel like doing.  There seems to be reward in both and I'm not dead yet.  So it must be working.

Anyway, for the past 44 years I have been sharing my birthday with my Sister-in-Law, Joyce.  I suppose we shared birthdays before that too, but I only met her when I met her sister Judy, who soon became the 'everything' in my life.  Still is.

So every year about this time, there's some kind of special event planned for Joyce and me.  It usually involves cake and travel, sometimes really long travel, and presents, and fun.  And this year was no different, but there were a couple of other things to celebrate: Joyce finally turned 65 and I turned 75, but she also celebrated Mother's Day and her retirement.  That called for a really big party.  And it was held on Sunday, May 8th, 2016 at Michelle and David's house in Metairie, Louisiana.  There were a lot of people there to help celebrate.  We all had fun.

And here's just a few of the 300+ photos we took.  So sit back for a few minutes and watch.  Press here:  Birthday Party

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Texas Eggfest 2016

The 2016 Texas Eggfest is over but the fun we had lingers on in the form of remembering all the fun we had, the weather related drama leading up to it, and the gathering of old friends while making new ones before, during and after the Eggfest.

As always, we all worked hard to cook and serve our treats to the masses of Tasters who were obviously enjoying themselves.  I heard mention that there were over 2 ,000 tickets sold, and like all the other Cooks, we served a lot of them more than once.

We also had to explain what we cooked, how we cooked it and everything there is to know about the Big Green Egg.  This was the most 'Egg-Interested' crowd I can remember in a long time.  I'm sure the Egg was moved way up the priority list for a lot of people.

Of course, the cooking and serving was pretty much non-stop but we also slowed down long enough to roam around to see and taste some of the other Cook's treats.  WOW!  There were some really creative Cooks serving both simple and complex treats that clearly showed off the Egg's magical powers.

I could go on and on but it's easier to just watch the video I put together.

As for the Meat Church, I've been making the Cathedral Birdhouses for years and I just didn't think the cathedral design fit the Meat Church image.  So I went looking for ideas and happened on an image of a small, rustic church in the woods that not only seemed perfect, it was something I could build.  Once I started, my Sweetie got in on the decorative ideas and helped bring it all together.  It really turned out great, especially when we tied in the name of one of his most popular products, Holy Cow rub and placed the halo on the cow.  Perfect!!!

Yes, I also made him some tokens...

And yes, he loved it...

It was a fun weekend.

Monday, April 25, 2016

I Lost Another Uncle

Well, I lost another uncle.  This time it was my Uncle Robbie.  

Here’s what the obituary says:
Obituary for Robbie Randall McMillin
A celebration of life service for Robbie Randall McMillin, 88, of Jonesville, Louisiana will be held at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church on April 26, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. with Bro. Craig James, Bro. Dustin Robertson, and Bro. Lynell Hatten officiating. Interment will follow at Heard Cemetery in Manifest, Louisiana under the direction of Young’s Funeral Home. 

Robbie was born on October 14, 1927 in Catahoula Parish to Tolbert Roy McMillin and Lillie Hazel Terry. He passed away Saturday, April 23, 2016 at his home in Sandy Lake. 

He was a retired Gas Inspector for the State of Louisiana, owner and operator of the Lakeside Fish Finn. Robbie served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He was a member of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. His life revolved around his wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a host of family and friends. 

He was preceded in death by his wife, Imogene (NeNe) Swayze McMillin; children, Randy McMillin and Janice Pritchard; grandchild, Jamie Pritchard; sisters, Maxine Gumbaravic, Irene Wiggins, Helen McMillin; and brother, Leroy McMillin. 

Survivors include: one sister, Margie Beasley; two brothers, Charlie McMillin and Terry McMillin; three daughters, Robbie Wilson and husband, Mike Wilson; Corrie Porter and husband, Bobby Porter; Mary King and husband, Ken King; one son, David McMillin and wife, Gayla; eighteen grandchildren, Elizabeth Spinks and husband, Denny; Jennifer Kinberger and husband, Robert; Nick Nicholson and wife, Cari Ann; Karen Richmond and husband, Kevin; James Porter and wife, Kelli; Corrie Davis and husband, Chris; Kristy King; Vanessa Graves and husband, Chris; Camille Charrier and husband, John Michael; Cliff Wilson and wife, Candy; Morgan Woods and husband, Will; Angela Neal and husband, Kyle; Dani Pendarvis and husband, Drew; Kelcey King; Davin Sullivan and husband, Matt; Justin Richmond; Chase McMillin; and Avery McMillin; twenty-six great-grandchildren; Carter Spinks, Cameron Spinks; Hunter Nicholson and wife, Jessica; Natalie Nicholson; Ali Kinberger; Emma Kinberger; Autumn Jackson; Blakely Porter; Addsion Porter; Taylor Neal; Kullen Neal; Rowyn Sullivan; Rilynn Sullivan; Roman Sullivan; Brooke Graves; Katheryn Graves; Gabriel Graves; Peyton Graves; Ava Wilson; Madeline Wilson; Austin Marceaux; Leila Marceaux; Eli Charrier; Davis Paul; Brandtly Davis; and Gahvin Davis. 

Pallbearers are grandsons and great-grandsons: Nick Nicholson, James Porter, Carter Spinks, Hunter Nicholson, Justin Richmond, Cameron Spinks, Chase McMillin, and Avery McMillin. 

Honorary Pallbearers include: Ken King, Mike Wilson, Bobby Porter, Robert Kinberger, Denny Spinks, Will Woods, Drew Pendarvis, Kyle Neal, Matt Sullivan, and Kevin Richmond.

Obituaries never tell the whole story of a person.  How could it.  There's always more to a person's life than the few words that try to say so much to so many.

But as I read it I was immediately reminded of the first time I can ever recall seeing him.  I was probably about five years old.  He had just returned home from World War II, and was lucky enough to get a job at the ice house in Jonesville, Louisiana.  

Mama and Daddy were living in Jonesville too because I remember stopping by the ice house sometimes when Mama and me would walk down to Brown Brothers store where Daddy was working, or as he told me later in life, ‘learning the grocery and meat business.’

Anyway, when we stopped at the ice house we always ended up with a piece of ice to suck on.  It tasted good and it was cold.  Apparently, that was enough to keep me happy back then.

One time, Uncle Robbie took me for a tour of the plant in back where they made the ice.  He talked about how the ice was being made but it just went in and out of my head, mostly because I was mesmerized by seeing water turn into huge blocks of ice.  When the ice was ready, someone would lower some big ice tongs down into the vat and grab onto the ice.  Then as if by magic the ice would rise and then be moved over to a room where it was kept cold. 

And the hole where the ice came out started filling with water again, just like magic.

I stayed there a long  time with him one day and watched how people would come up and say they wanted to buy some ice.  Some just wanted a dime’s worth, which was about the size of his hand.  Others wanted large pieces that might cost a whole dollar.  But most just wanted about a quarter’s worth, or as the customers would say, "About two bits worth."

The reason I’m mentioning the size is because of the way that huge piece of ice that came out of the hole, was dragged out and quickly chipped away with an ice pick to the size the person wanted.  My eyes almost popped out as I watched that ice pick, pick away at the ice, almost always into a perfect square and size for the money.

But that was nothing after I saw what they did to a big block of ice when the customer wanted it crushed.  Uncle Robbie would chip out just what the customer wanted and then toss it into a big machine that turned it into small pieces, scaring the daylights out of me with the noise it made.

One time Uncle Robbie asked me if I wanted to go deliver ice to folks out in the hills near Manifest.  Mama said I could go and all I could remember about Manifest was a spring where Mama and Daddy and me always stopped for water.  It was cool there under those trees by the spring.

Only we didn’t stop at the spring.  That old rickety ice truck with a load of ice in the back under a tarp just passed it up.  We went way back in the hills around Manifest, places I had never been, stopping now and then at people’s houses to deliver ice to them.

Most of the time, there wasn’t anyone around and he would take a chunk of ice inside and place it in an ice box.  There would be a dine or sometimes a quarter on the table and Uncle Robbie would take it back to the ice house and turn it in to somebody.  We would ride around in those hills all day and stopping a lot to deliver ice, so there were a lot of dimes and quarters to take back. 

Sometimes there would be a letter to be mailed and a nickle for a stamp.  And sometimes there would be a slice of pie sitting there.  He would take out his pocket knife and cut it in half and always give me the bigger half.

I noticed that sometimes the dime size pieces of ice were larger than he sold at the ice house but I figured he had a reason for giving them more than a dime’s worth.  I think it was because they were real poor.  My Daddy did stuff like that too when he opened his own grocery store.  I learned later in life that there’s some who really appreciate being nice to like that, but there’s also some who kinda grow to expect it and will get mad when they don’t get it.

Later on Uncle Robbie had a gas station about a block from the ice house.  I liked the smell of the gas and how he would sell people a quarter’s worth of gas and put air in their tires and clean their windshield and lights, check their oil and even sweep out the floorboard if they wanted. 

It was about twenty years later that I went to work for him one summer while on break from LSU.  He worked for a butane company and said he needed some help.  I didn’t know anything about the butane business but he figured I’d learn soon enough.  The first thing I learned was that there was no training program of any kind. He just gave me the keys to the service truck and turned me loose.  I guess he knew I was mechanically inclined and figured if being ‘self taught’ about the butane business was good enough for him, it should be good enough for me.

The second thing I learned about the Butane business is that it’s endless hard work with a considerable amount of danger thrown in to make it more interesting.  Going back to LSU was a little easier to take when that summer job ended.  But I'll never forget it.

We rarely saw each other after that, but when we did meet and talk a bit, it was like he still had that natural presence about him that demanded respect.  I still do.   

Goodbye Uncle Robbie.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


In case you're interested, we’re still high and dry here after the latest storm, mostly because the rain finally moved on.  

The sun even came out yesterday afternoon.  Up until it came out, we were both numb from all the negative news we kept hearing and seeing on our computer and then later the TV as reporters began to venture into the flooded areas.

A LOT of areas are flooded, some that had never been close to being flooded.  I’m betting there are at least 10,000 cars flooded, many completely under water.  And some of these cars are in apartment complexes, million dollar home areas, and shopping mall parking lots where people tried to get their cars to safety.  The water just kept rising and rising because the creeks and bayous could not handle that much water.

A national news organization reported that some areas of Houston got 16” of rain in 24 hours.  I can believe it.  According to the National Weather Service, we got between 7” and 8” here before the second front came through,  and about 5 miles west of us got 10”  After the final band of rain roared through dropping another 2" on us, we probably hit 10" total.  Here's the rain amount chart from the National Weather Service.  We live in the circle just above Houston.

And the image does not even come close to showing the rising water that flooded neighborhoods that never flood.

Click HERE and you can see some videos of the flooding.

We stayed home, but a neighbor ventured out and pretty much found herself blocked from even getting out of our neighborhood.  Even if she did get out, most businesses were closed.  Oddly, our Target store just up the street was open, but I’m betting even it shut down due to lack of staff and lack of business.  Most people in our area just stayed home.

Damage assessments will surely be in the Billions of Dollars, but they won’t know until it’s over so that damage estimators can get into areas.  Right now, they are just doing it by ‘guesstiment’ by taking areas and determining approximately how many homes, businesses, etc were inundated by how much water.  Then applying some formula to come up with an approximate amount.  Even then, it’s not an exact science.  

Plus, when they start to re-build, there will all kinds of additional charges due to lack of manpower, equipment and materials.  The delay creates a problem for black mold development which can greatly multiply the costs due to its toxic nature.  Mold, by law, has to be completely eradicated and inspected before any repairs can begin.  There’s not enough mold treatment technicians and inspectors in the US, much less Houston, to get the job done quickly.

Add to that the long term effects of the flood regarding re-sale value of property and flooded cars, and the drop in property taxes due to homes being declared unfit for human habitation, and must be torn down, usually because the owners had no insurance of any kind, much less flood insurance.

When you take everything into account, it could be a Trillion Dollar Storm.

To make matters worse, one very highly regarded TV news anchor/reporter said that no matter what the government says about ‘flood zones’ and ‘100 year flood exempt zones’ that any property in Harris County is susceptible to flooding, and owners (like us) really should buy flood insurance from the government. 

Well, that’s unnerving to say the least, especially after we purposely built on high ground 27 years ago.  Even so, being 90 miles from the Gulf and 110’ elevation will certainly keep us from getting flooded from the Gulf of Mexico, while our house is built on the highest point in our area will keep us from getting rain-flooded.  Unless, of course, God is out to get us.  Then it probably won’t make much difference.

As of today, 4-21-16, the rain is over for a while, but not the flooding.

Once again, the Coop held up well in the 50 + mph winds and suspected tornado in the area, and although it got pretty wet from the horizontal rain, I was able to wipe it down without seeing any damage.  

For us, it was just another storm, but for tens of thousands of people, it was a disaster they may never recover from.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Growing Problem At The Chicken Ranch

Ever since the Mini-Max came out, I've wanted one. But since "Patience" is one of my middle names, I have waited and waited and waited, all the while seeing the cooks done by the early Mini-Max'ers. The photos they shared definitely stretched my patience to the limit. But I've always managed to work through it.

That is until the Athens Eggfest...

Yes, we came home with a Mini-Max.

But now what! That now makes 6 'Girls' working here at the Chicken Ranch. And there's just not enough room to put 'em all.

There's Lily Large, Shirley Small, Maggie Mini, Lulu Large, Lola Large, and now Molly Mini.

It's nice to have at least one of the 'Girls' working, even two at the same time, but there's little chance that all 6 of the 'Girls' will be working at the same time, no matter how big the party is.

Plus, the Coop just wasn't built for a half dozen 'Chicks' to have their own nesting place.

The Ranch Madam, suggested we send two or three of them packing. But they're like 'flock' here. I would hate to lose any of them. Even Lily, circa 1999, with her wrinkled and broken body, is still a favorite when it comes to providing the ultimate in entertainment. She knows what she's doing. She also serves as an inspiration to the others who look up to her as a "Mother Hen" figure.

Shirley Small was the next "Girl" to start working here. She was and still is very popular with smaller customers. Still is.

Maggie Mini came next. And she has served the Ranch well. She quickly established herself as the Go-To 'Girl' when all you want is a quickie for mid-day, or even late night.

Lulu Large sorta just turned up here by accident. She was supposed to work out of our New Orleans branch, but an opportunity came along for a new 'Girl' to be assigned there, leaving Lulu here. She's done well here and more than paid her own way.

Lola Large is the result of Lily's many problems. She came here with absolutely no EGGsperience but was quickly accepted by the other 'Girls' and established herself as more of an 'All Purpose' member. Her customers have all turned out great. She even moved into the coveted space where Lily Large worked for many years.

Lily, as some of you know, went through extensive cosmetic surgery that required a considerable amount of change to both her appearance and ability to perform. She was moved outside the Coop to accommodate her wishes to live out her life as a 'Free Range Girl.' She loves the freedom to come and go as she pleases, although she hasn't moved from her nest in months. Rarely working these days, she still gets fired up easily and does a respectable job of servicing a customer.

And now there's Molly Mini...

The challenges of running a Chicken Ranch are sometimes difficult, but I wouldn't change my job for any other. It's always fun here...

Spring "Six Eggs For A Three Egg Recipe" Chicken

Spring Texas USA

Monday, April 11, 2016

Athens Eggfest 2016 Was Wonderful

It never ceases to amaze me just how much fun can be had when everything goes right at an Eggfest.

As complicated and difficult to plan and coordinate with so many people as Eggfest are, plus all the gear and demo Eggs and weather to contend with, it's not something the weak of heart wants to take on. Unless you are a "Cook" or "Taster" you will have to be physically fit and brain-waves working overtime to pull it off.

And 'Pull it Off' they did last weekend.  It was wonderful from start to finish.  I took no photos at all this year.  But others did and they are sharing them on the various forums.

Every one of the six years of the Athens Eggfest has been bigger and better than the previous years. This one was no exception.  Here's a quick summary:

Most Attendees
Most funds raised
Most Eggs sold
Most Cooks cooking
Most Servings handed out
Most Wonderful treats ever
Most Fun ever...

It was wonderful!

We'll be back next year.

Oh, and we came home with a Mini-Max Egg.  She's already assembled and in the Coop waiting for me to make a place for her.  Her name is Molly Mini-Max.

Right now, the Chicken Ranch has six 'Working Girls' all just chomping at the bit to cook something.

I'm working on it.

Next one is the Texas Eggfest in Austin on April 30th, followed by the Space City Eggfest in Houston on May 21st. Both will have hundreds of attendees, if not thousands.  We'll be working our tail-feathers off over the next six weeks.

And it's worth ever minute of it.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Magnum Loads vs. Howitzer Rounds

Before I start with this post, it's not about guns or cannons.  It's about food.

As you know, Judy and I are avid fans of the Big Green Egg ceramic smoker and grill.  We are also among a continuously growing number of Eggheads (the name we BGE owners call ourselves) around the world.

We Eggheads like to gather from time to time at Eggfests around the country where we can enjoy meeting our fellow Eggheads and people who are interested in learning more about the Big Green Egg.

At these Eggfests, a number of us cook and serve samples of various foods, mostly bite-size morsels, that will give the Taster an opportunity to not only taste something cooked on the Egg, but also talk to the Cooks about the food and any other questions they may have about the Egg.  It's a lot of fun for everyone, especially us Cooks.  Judy and I have been to almost 75 Eggfests and Egg related events over the years and will continue to do so as long as we can.

We try to cook and serve something that will be unique and tasty.  Other Cooks do the same.  We really want the Tasters to go home with a "Wow!" feeling, and perhaps become Eggheads themselves.

One of the more popular items that we cook is what we call Magnum Loads. When I describe it, you will quickly see why we named it Magnum Loads. From a healthy food standpoint, it's a 'killer' and that's probably why everyone likes them.

We start with a 1" section of smoked sausage, bore a hole through it end to end, insert a Little Smokey cocktail sausage, wrap that with a generous handful of pork sausage, and then wrap all of it with bacon.  Then cook on the Egg until done and serve.  Yes!  It it delicious.  Here are some photos of them being made and ready to be served.

This year I wanted to try a variation of this same treat, so I came up with something I call Howitzer Rounds.  These little jewels are initially made larger but are then sliced thin for serving.  Like this:

I also made a video of the process so anyone can try it.  It's simple enough to make and you can actually cook it on your own grill, or even in your oven.  Here's the YouTube link:  Howitzer Rounds

We'll be cooking and serving a few hundred of the slices at the upcoming Athens Eggfest this weekend in Athens, Texas.  Athens Eggfest 2016

I'm sure we will have them again at the Texas Eggfest in Austin on April 30th and the Space City Eggfest in Houston on May 21st.

The tickets are well worth the price and the money goes to a worthy cause.  So come on out.  You will be glad you did.