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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Building some Adirondack Chairs

     Although I haven't been posting much, I haven't been totally idle.  One of the current projects is building a pair of Adirondack chairs.  Some of you remember the two folding Adirondack chairs we used for many years.  They were painted pine, and they are now compost.  Cindy's copy is still on her screen porch.  These are being made out of local cypress, which is famous for being relatively impervious to rot.  There are 22 pieces in each chair, so I have been taking my time.  You can see from the picture that I have a rather modest woodworking shop in the garage.  Most of the time the tools are arranged so that the Corvette fits in the garage.  When I have to spread out, it gets parked in the driveway along with the Jeep.
     This is not an economic venture.  You could find some nailed together, painted pine chairs for $39.95.  I paid $120 just for the cypress.  With all stainless steel hardware and a $20 caulking tube of marine adhesive, there is no profit in these things. 
     The picture shows the table saw (currently being used as an assembly table) a planer, and a drill press.  Except for a bunch of hand tools, that's all there is. 
       Speaking of hand tools, the next picture shows the work bench.  It is currently in the "mid-project" mode and is very cluttered.  Normally, it is pretty well cleaned up.
        Note that the pegboard panels roll on sliding door hardware to give me 12 feet of space over an 8 foot bench.
     Tomorrow I'm going to the Charleston Food and Wine Festival.  It runs for five days with a bunch of high end events.  I'm going to the big tent in Marion Square for a three hour food tasting.  I hope it will provide some good photo ops for another blog.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

George Birthington's Washday

  Again I start with an apology for the time since the last post.  Everything is going well.  On Tuesday we ventured up to Myrtle beach to have a nice "lupper" with Bernie and Ann Dunn at Greg Norman's restaurant in North Myrtle Beach.  Unfortunately, I did not bring the camera.  I have, however, taken a few bird feeder photos in the backyard.

      All is well here.  I've been spending quite a bit of time working on my two Adirondack chairs that I am building out of native cypress.  There is no golf to report because of semi-continuous rain.  The paper this morning said we were in a "muddy drought".  What that oxymoron means is that, in spite of the recent rainfall, the ground water and water table have not yet recovered.
     When all else fails you can count on Baxter to provide some grist for this mill, and I thank my readers for hanging in there during this period of slim pickins.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


     Guess what?  Another food blog.  Tonight to celebrate(!) my 74th birthday we went to Al Di La, the best if not only good Northern Italian restaurant in a land of great restaurants.  On previous occasions I got osso buco, but it was not on the menu tonight.  We had four courses, although we each only had three.  My first was Carpaccio and Durelle's was a bruschetta salad..  Here's a picture of my Carpaccio.
.     For the second course I had tomato basil soup.  It was outstanding, Ann.  Durelle had asparagus risotto with seared scallops. 

Durelle did not have the third course, but I had a veal/pancetta dish from local veal that would melt in your mouth.

     The fourth course was a house made Tira Misu.  This was for Durelle, although I had a taste as she did of my veal.
     We finished with decaf for her and a cappuccino for me.  The wine was a Chianti Classico. 
     As you can tell, it was a nice meal, and for the next three months I will be as old as she is.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


     In the run-up to the super bowl, in addition to chili recipes and avocado dips, one can always find a recipe for gumbo.  It was particularly true this year because the game is being played in the Big Easy.  The traditional versions are quite an undertaking and produce an amount far exceeding the demands of a two person household.  Nonetheless, I've always wanted to try it and, based on a picture of a freezer stacked with Tupperware bowls of gumbo, I set out to try it.  I used a recipe from the well-known New Awlins chef, Emeril Lagasse.  Many classic Cajun recipes start with the phrase, "First, make the roux."  A roux is nothing but a mixture of equal parts oil and flour.  This recipe used a cup and a half of each.  They can range in color from blonde to chocolate depending on how long they cook.  The challenge is that they need to be continually stirred over a medium heat in a cast iron pot or skillet for a half hour or so.  My back, especially after standing at the chopping board with all the other prep work, was not enthused about another 30 minutes of standing and stirring.  Hence, the stool.
     As always, when I'm cooking, our fuzzy scavenger is patiently alert for ANYTHING that might fall or even spatter to the floor.  It is actually a challenge to avoid stepping on or tripping over him while bustling about the kitchen.
     The first step is to simmer a chicken (6 pounds) and make two gallons of stock.  In addition to the water and chicken I used 2 quartered yellow onions, a couple stalks of celery cut into 2 inch chunks, 2-3 bay leaves, a tablespoon of salt and half tablespoon of cayenne pepper.  That's the big pot you see on the back left of the stove.  It simmered for 2 hours.  When it was done, I removed the chicken, strained the broth, and discarded the solids.  After stirring the roux slowly and continually for about 35 minutes, it was smooth and dark brown.  At that point I added to the roux 2 cups of chopped onion, 1 cup of chopped green pepper, 1 cup of chopped celery, and a half pound of chopped Andouille sausage.  While the roux and veggies simmered, I removed the skin and bones from the chicken and coarsely chopped it.  It made quite a pile of chicken.  The next step is to combine the broth and the roux.  If you let the broth cool some and add it a few cups at a time while stirring gently you can prevent the roux from separating.  That would be a difficult, if not impossible, disaster to recover from.  This all went back into the stock pot along with the chicken and a pound of smoked sausage cut into quarter inch slices.  I returned it to a boil and simmered it for another hour and a half.  Adjust the taste and stir in 2 Tablespoons each of chopped green onion and fresh parsley.  Serve with rice.
     As you can tell, it is quite a project; and it requires almost continual attention.  This is not "fix it and forget it," slow cooker recipe.  But, it was a fun, if messy, project.  The first meal was good, but I'm expecting a subsequent meal, warmed up slowly in a double boiler, will be even better.  Although I did some clean up as I went along, Durelle muttered something about, "Never again" for nearly an hour as she cleaned up after me.
     Let me close with a shot of the photogenic member of the clan comfortably ensconced in Durelle's recliner.