Archive for September 2014

9-29-2014 Journal Entry-Fryeburg Fair Day #1   Leave a comment

My body is talking to me this morning and it isn’t all that happy.  Fryeburg Fair Day has come and gone for another year leaving us walking wounded behind.  I’m going to post our Fair Day over the next few days because I have a lot of photos I’d like to share which should help give you a real feel for the place.  The ride to Fryeburg was uneventful but the closer we got to the fairgrounds the more the traffic increased as you can see.

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Being the simple person that I am I thought I’d start our day at the main entrance to the fairgrounds.  This is one of the few events where I don’t mind paying a $10.00 entry fee.  It’s worth every penny of that $.80 an hour it’s costing me. That’s a good deal anytime.

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Yesterday was a day of smells. Twelve hours of smelly crowds, really smelly animals, and the aroma of deep fried everything.  If you ever wanted to deep-fry a particular item, you could find a booth selling it here at the Fair. There’s nothing like the smell of old and hot cooking grease at 8:30 in the morning.

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‘You don’t see signs like this too much anymore.’

If you like crowds this is the place to be.  I’ve been coming to this event for seven years and my better-half for almost fifteen.  In our opinion the crowd today is the largest either of us have ever seen.  The fact that it’s Woodsmen Day is probably part of the explanation.  It’s the day for axe throwing, log rolling, tree climbing, and an assortment of other events for the wannabe lumberjack. If you like beards and flannel shirts this is where you need to be.

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I’m not sure exactly sure just how large the fairground  is but with all of the campgrounds surrounding the place it must cover at least 100 acres or so.  That’s an uneducated guess so those of you from Fryeburg who may be reading this shouldn’t get your panties in a knot if it’s a little inaccurate. To put it simply, the place is huge !!!!!

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We normally start our visit with the area set aside for the little kids.  Pony rides and small merry-go-rounds right next door to Old McDonald’s petting zoo.  The little ones seem to love getting in there for a little "hands on" with the baby animals.

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‘They love milking the plastic cow.’

Before doing anything else we stopped for our traditional Fair Day breakfast meal.  A large order of greasy French Fries, vinegar, and ketchup will certainly get the old heart started on these cool Fall mornings.  Another hour or so of wandering around is next on our agenda before we head for the animal barns. My better-half waits all year to return here to visit all of her animal friends. I swear she must have been born a farmer in a previous life.  My next posting will offer up an assortment of animal pictures and a few other interesting events like the skillet toss.

That’s it for today, installment two will post in 2 days and if you have an interest in farm animals, stop back to visit.

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09-27-2014 Journal Entry-Drinking Wine Before It’s Time!   Leave a comment

With most of the gardening chores completed things have slowed down around here a bit.  Who am I kidding?  We’re just killing time until the day the “Fair” opens.  That would be the Fair held every year in Fryeburg, Maine.  It’s by far the largest event in the state and it’s a week long party for the many thousands of attendees from all over the country.  We’ll be attending next week and it will be twelve hours of farm animals, large crowds, crazy good food, and hundreds and hundreds of photographs.  So like I said we’re just killing time until the Fair.

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Today I’ve been completing a number of small projects which required very little effort on my part.  As I was walking through the house I remembered one thing that I absolutely had to do sooner rather than later.  It was time for the Concord grape wine to be bottled.  It’s been almost three months in the making and the fermentation has finally stopped.

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The final product is a beautiful dry ruby red wine with an unbelievable bouquet. So it’s a half hour of washing bottles and making my usual mess.  I tend to be a bit clumsy and if I don’t spill at least one bottle of wine in the process I just don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything.

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There’s nothing like siphoning wine through a little plastic tube, spilling it on the floor, down your leg, and onto nearby books, papers, and house pets. Curiosity may have killed the cat but in this house a good squirt of wine onto a persistently nosy cat is as good as it gets.

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After filling and corking nineteen bottles it was then time to put on the fancy gold PVC covers.  This requires a large pot of boiling water into which the bottle tops are quickly dipped causing the cover to shrink and seal the corks. It’s imperative that the bottle not remain in the hot water for more than a few seconds or there will be trouble. That truth became immediately evident when my first cool glass bottle was held into the boiling water for more than four or five seconds and the top exploded.  Now I’m down to eighteen bottles but with a much better understanding of things I shouldn’t do.

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I finished the remainder of the job but held back another bottle for the better-half and I to have with dinner.  I poured myself a large glassful and waited for her arrival from work.  I found out in the middle of the second glass that there was definitely a sufficient amount of alcohol in the wine.  I had a wonderful glow on which translated to my canceling dinner. There was no way I could safely cook without possibly burning down the house.

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When the better-half arrived home she drank a couple of mouthfuls of the wine, declared it delicious, and then immediately opened a beer (she isn’t much of a wine lover).  She made her own meal and I ended up having an off-the-cuff snack consisting of Wheat Thins, a dab of Smart Balance and peanut butter with a dash of triple berry jam.

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This batch of wine has passed my final acid test.  Any wine that can make me eat this slop for dinner  contains more than enough alcohol.  I tested it with my vinometer and it contain just a hair more than 9 percent.  That makes for an excellent batch of 18 proof red wine, more than enough to make almost any food edible.

09-25-2014 Journal Entry-Shopping Day!   Leave a comment

I’m not entirely sure how to handle all this beautiful weather. I suppose this is what used to be called an “Indian Summer”.  I don’t know why it’s so damn nice but I certainly intend to enjoy it.

The better-half and I decided to make a day of it after her early morning doctors appointment.  She received loads of good news about her health which put us both in a great mood.  As we were leaving the doctors office I had a brainstorm that was totally not something I would ever do. I spontaneously headed north from Portland to take her shopping in Freeport, Maine, known for it’s endless supply of outlet stores and L.L.Bean.

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Freeport is a place I’ve always tried to avoid but I figured what the hell.  I gave her control of our day and followed along like the good little boy that I am.  We visited a thrift shop and a number of ridiculous tourist traps looking at all things Moose.  Not only are the gifts a little lame the prices are ridiculous.  I remember a time when visiting outlets meant cheaper than normal prices and  it’s too bad that tradition has slowly faded away.

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‘One of My Favorites’

We made the obligatory stop at L.L. Bean’s to look around a bit.  It’s quite the place to visit but if you intend to shop there bring lots of credit cards.  It’ll be a cold day in hell when I spend $90.00 for a pair of jeans or $350.00 for a plain brown leather bomber jacket.  Insanity from the front door all the way through the huge building. I decided not to spend any money there and just cruised around the buildings and grounds snapping a few pictures.

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As lunch time rolled around I was starving.  We stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that specializes in seafood and chowder.  The better-half settled for clam chowder while I dug into a plate of fish & chips.  It was incredibly good and that lunch stop became the best part of our day.  We left feeling good and ready for a quick walk through town and then a long and leisurely ride home.

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The remainder of the day was kind of blah. The weather was sunny but the day was what could be called "in between".  The trees have started to change color but aren’t quite there yet for those vivid colors everyone loves.  While it’s sunny it’s also very chilly verging on uncomfortable. We’ll have to try this trip again in a few weeks when the foliage is worth photographing.  Her are a few blah photos from that ride home.

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Just another day here in paradise.  Hanging around waiting for the leaves to change and the snow to fly.

09-23-2014 Happy International Coffee Day!!!   Leave a comment

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I’ve been a coffee addict in a serious way since my time in the U.S. Army.  During those years my Army buddies and I drank a great quantity of what was called coffee.  It was strong and thick and black as night.  It was really just a poor man’s substitute for “speed.  It would keep you alert for hours on end while patrolling or carousing in the nearby villages until all hours.  It was as important to us as the food we ate and there was an endless supply available in the mess hall around the clock.

I returned to the states to resume my civilian life and within a  short time became a member of the Pennsylvania State Police.  The coffee was a little weaker but we drank it constantly as we patrolled both at night and during the day.  And no, donuts weren’t as prevalent as the media and stand-up up comics would lead you to believe.  It was all about the caffeine.

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I come by my coffee addiction honestly and it still remains an important part of my existence to this day.  Just as a point of information I feel the need to reiterate; I hate Starbucks.  They’ve made coffee a yuppie joke to those of us who are real coffee drinkers.

With International Coffee Day approaching on September 29 I thought you might find a little coffee trivia interesting since it’s been an important commodity for millions of people throughout the centuries.  Here we go. . .

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Once in the past, coffee was believed to be the devil’s drink. Pope Vincent III heard about it and decided to taste it. He enjoyed it so much he baptized it, saying "Coffee is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels (Muslims) have exclusive use of it."

Both the American Revolution and the French Revolution were born in coffee houses. The American Revolution was developed by patriots who were customers in the Green Dragon (some say it was the Green Lion) Public House in London.  The infamous French Revolution in 1789 was spurred on by Camille Desmoulins’s verbal campaign in coffeehouses.

  • Vincent Van Gogh was a big frequenter of the café society and famously said “I have tried to show the café as a place where one can go mad.”
  • An interesting Turkish law decreed that it was quite acceptable for a woman to ask for a divorce if her husband failed to provide her with adequate coffee rations.
  • Coffee was denounced by many religious leaders as the drink of Satan. Coffee houses were known as “hotbeds of sedition”. In the 1700’s many coffee houses were ordered to close.
  • There are 900 different flavors of Arabica. Complex and very volatile, they deteriorate if exposed to air and light.

The original blend called "Maxwell House" got its name from The Maxwell House Hotel, where it was first served in Nashville Tennessee in 1886 (also where Teddy Roosevelt was heard to say "good to the last drop", creating the Maxwell House slogan).

In 1732, at the height of his creative genius, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote the Cantata No. 211 or Coffee Cantata. It is considered by many to be a work of perfection.

In Turkey, bridegrooms were once required to make a promise during their wedding ceremonies to always provide their new wives with coffee. Failure to do so would be grounds for divorce (no pun intended).

  • The second most widely used product in the world after oil.
  • It is a living to more than 100 million people.
  • It is consumed at the rate of 1400 million cups per day.
  • The world’s second most popular drink after water.

Beethoven, a known coffee lover, was not only particular about his music. He was also particular about his coffee brew. He always wanted 60 beans for each cup of his coffee.

Today, there must be 10,000 coffee shops in Venice alone! (In the year 1763, there were already over 200 coffee shops in Venice)

Cappuccino derived its name due to its similarity in color to the robes of an order of Monks called the Capuchins.

Well-known performers such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan began their careers performing in coffeehouses. Another singer, Lightnin’ Hopkins, complained about his woman’s neglect with her domestic situation because of her coffeehouse socializing in his 1969 song, Coffeehouse Blues.

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Well there you have it.  Every thing you always wanted to know about coffee but were afraid to ask.  It’s now time for me to get back to my new friend, the K-Kup coffee maker, for a hot and sweet cup of vanilla/biscotti.  Man that’s the cats ass.

09-21-2014 Journal Entry-Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Pumpkins!   Leave a comment

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Well to continue the story as I promised in the last post, we (my better-half and I) were in dire need of pumpkins.  Why, I honestly don’t know but we can’t live without them apparently.  We especially need to find those ever so illusive white pumpkins which are just ghostly enough to make Halloween worth celebrating.  After checking prices at Walmart and Lowes the decision was made to go elsewhere so as not to feel any more extorted than normal.

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These days the prices continue to climb on just about everything. The love of the almighty dollar leaves little regard for us customers and with the advent of the big box retailers the days of lower prices at roadside stands are slowly disappearing.  The farmers no longer try to beat the prices of the larger stores but are certainly happy to match them.   That translates to an end of bargain prices for all of us.

Fortunately if you want to spend the time and effort there are still a few farmers who’ll sell their wares at a decent price, collect their profits, and retain their customer base.  It’s one of those places that we headed to after our drive to Kennebunkport and the southern coast.

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As we arrive at the farm there are piles and piles of pumpkins and squash of all sizes and kinds.  These folks cultivate just over a hundred acres every year and they always seem to have excellent results.  They actually sell a large portion of their products to local school districts for the kids lunches.  I’ve always been a firm believer about "buying local" and supporting the farmers in our area and it’s folks like these that make that happen. They also give me an excellent place to take incredible Fall pictures. Here are a few.

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My better-half made her purchases of an assortment of orange and white pumpkins with a promise to return and pick up a few cornstalks and a bale of hay or two.  She feels the need to reassure me that we’re almost ready for Halloween and the Fall season.  I’m so relieved.

09-19-2014 Journal Entry–Sunny, Clear & Cold!   Leave a comment

I’ve been sleeping much better lately now that the weather is turning colder.  Heat and humidity seem to be my worst nightmare these days.  I’ve always favored cooler weather and it seems that will never change.

Today’s forecast was for clear and sunny skies and a temperature in the low fifties.  It was dig out a medium weight jacket and jeans because it appears shorts are out until next Spring.  The better-half and I had errands to run on her day-off but I was able to convince her to take a ride along the southern coast for a few hours.  Traffic was heavier than anticipated and I’m not sure exactly why.  I guess everyone was trying desperately to enjoy the sunshine and extend their summer for as long as possible just like we were.

We started our little journey to  Kennebunkport by cutting cross country through an area filled with horse farms. We can always find great photo opportunities there.  

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We made a short visit to the small coastal town of Cape Porpoise, Maine.  It was such a clear day I knew I could get a decent picture or two of the Goat Island lighthouse located just offshore at the entrance to the harbor.

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These lobsterman pictured below were in port with barrels of freshly caught lobsters.  As you can see they’re loading them into trucks for transport to some of your favorite restaurants.

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This area is filled with an endless supply of beautiful costal pictures as always. This small harbor was full of lobster boats and many of the visitors were sitting along the shore enjoying the view and basking in the sunshine.

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We traveled north along the coast back towards Goose Rocks and Biddeford.  There were many terrific photo-ops and we took advantage of them all. There were so many possibilities we actually were forced to pass a few by and we hate doing that.  Here are a couple of samples.

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It made for a great trip to roam around and enjoy one of our last remaining sunny and warm days.  The second half of this trip will be posted in a day or so as we traveled towards farm country looking for pumpkins. We planned on visiting a few farms in our ongoing effort to find pumpkins that weren’t priced sky high as those at Walmart.   It seems we can’t really enjoy the Fall season around here without stacking a few pumpkins and cornstalks in front of the house.

C’mon Winter!

09-17-2014 More Useless Information!   Leave a comment

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I’ve spent most of this Summer documenting my activities in the garden and elsewhere. It was fun for me and I always had plenty of things to do which supplied me with lots of material for posting.  With Winter fast approaching material concerning my outside activities will become a little more difficult to find.  That’s okay I guess if all you want to read is a continuous steam of snow stories and  photographs of more snow. Believe me when I tell you I’m no snow bunny and while I like Winter and snow that doesn’t mean I want to be outside playing in it.  That’s for other people to do and for me to talk about, photograph, and make fun of.

Useless Quote #1

“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.” Karl Marx

As most of you know I have a huge collection of material that contains nothing but thousands of facts about everything and nothing. This blog was initially created to share some of that totally useless information and I think it’s time to lay some silly, stupid, yet true facts on all of you once again.

Useless Quote #2

“High School is like a spork it’s a crappy spoon and a crappy fork, so in the end it’s just plain useless.” John Mayer

Here are ten items which might be considered a teaser for things to come.  You can judge that for yourself.

  • People magazine began it’s Sexiest Man Alive covers in 1985.  The first man to be so named was none other than that calm and rational Mel Gibson.
  • The first federal census in this country was conducted in 1790.  A population of 3,929,625 which included 697,624 slaves was recorded in the seventeen existing states.
  • There are roughly 47 billion chickens in the world (this fact is supplied primarily as a jab at my better-half). She’s been strong arming me for months to buy a few chickens.  Not happening lovey.
  • American Gothic, the famous Grant Wood painting was completed in 1930. The couple posing for the piece were his dentist and sister. I hope Mr. Wood was better looking than his sister.
  • More than half a million gallons of water pour over Niagara Falls every second. An interesting factoid but who really cares?
  • Peter Merholtz is credited for coming up with the term "blog".  Never heard of him before and I suspect I’ll never hear about him again.
  • The first US intercollegiate athletic competition took place in August of 1852. Yale competed against Harvard in a rowing contest.  Yawn. . . . .!
  • In Arizona it ‘s against the law to have more than two dildos in a house. Is there anyone out there who wants to move to Arizona anyway?  I think I’ll stay right where I’m at.
  • The average person in the U.S. eats more than 50 tons of food in his or her lifetime.  I’ll bet 30% of this food was purchased from drive-thru’s.
  • Elvis Presley was born on January 8, 1935. His twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, was stillborn.  It could really have been interesting if his brother had survived.  Just imagine two Elvis’s, what a duet that would have made.

Useless Quote #3

“You’re useless, I’m bored – yes or no” Simon Cowell

Everything you’ve always wanted to know about nothing in particular, right?.  I hope to keep these tidbits coming on a regular basis throughout the winter between the snow storms. snow blowing, snow shoveling, and falling on my ass a few times. 

09-15-2014 Journal Entry – Fall Has Fallen!   Leave a comment

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I really do like the Fall of the year.  It ends a rather busy season that I also enjoy but at times it’s a relief to see it end.  The better-half and I finally decided to call it a day with the garden.  We began the process of pulling up the plants and removing the fabric from the frames.  Then delivering those plants to the compost pile for use as fertilizer two years from now.

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The last cherry tomatoes were collected, the remaining cucumbers were picked and should keep us in salads for another week or so.  I’ll miss them as I always do once the snow fly’s and because I’m not all that crazy about veggies shipped into the county from south of the border somewhere.  Thanks for nothing Walmart.

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The remaining jalapeño peppers have been left whole, cleaned and canned for use in the future.  They should still retain some crispness since they were only cooked long enough to kill the bacteria on their skins.

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Some of the cayenne peppers made their way to the dehydrator and will be dried and ground into a fine powder.  A number were also strung on thin copper wires for displaying in the kitchen. They make for an attractive curiosity once they start turning into that bright beautiful red color.

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The only things remaining in the garden are the herbs. In a week or so just before the first frost I intend to further harvest a quantity of oregano, sage, parsley, rosemary, basil, and tarragon. Once dried they’ll be used to replace older herbs we have in storage.  I’ve discovered that if they’re stored in air tight containers they remain useable for up to two years.  Once they’ve lost their fragrance and flavor they need to be discarded and replaced.

I feel a little guilty wanting to see the garden end after all of the time and effort we’ve put into it but at the same time I can’t wait for it to be over so I can kick back and relax for a while.  I see Winter as the time I require to rest, recharge my batteries and begin the process of planning an even better garden next year.  I’m already considering building a small greenhouse, a larger cold frame, and even some sort of in-ground irrigation system.  For me half the fun of having a garden is the process of improving it each year and experimenting with new plants we’ve never grown before.

Our Winters here in Maine can seem endless if your not occupying yourself sufficiently.  Snow shoveling and snow blowing will only get you so far.

09-13-2014 Journal Entry–Mall Safari!   Leave a comment

I’m sitting up in my bed and the electric blanket has been resurrected once again.  The nights are chilling down dramatically as reflected by my new morning wardrobe.  A heavy robe, wool socks, sweat pants, and an extra cup of steaming hot coffee.  Things like that can only be properly appreciated while sitting up in bed at a minimum of level 4 on the electric blanket.  Just saying.

Last night no one really wanted to cook the evening meal so we made a trek to the Maine Mall to window shop, eat some almost nutritious food at the food court, and possibly spend a little money.  Forgetting that it was a Saturday night was mistake number one.  The place was packed with large numbers of rude people all rushing around, pushing, shoving, and generally being ridiculous.  I also realized something else as we walked around observing many groups of teenagers huddled here and there looking for things to do. I’m truly glad I’m not married and don’t have any young daughters to worry about. 

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Any parent that permits their daughter to loiter around any mall just boggles my mind.  If any daughter of mine insisted on hanging out at a mall with her friends I’m afraid of what my reaction might be.  I can see myself in a tacky disguise scurrying around the mall, hiding behind plants, just to keep an eye on the activities of her and her friends. There are way too many unthinkable possibilities just waiting to happen in this kind of atmosphere.

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I was in dire need of a few new T-shirts and was intent on finding some.  We visited a store called ‘The Hot Topic’ where we seemed to be a little out of place.  It’s very much like a ‘Spencer’s’ without all of the sexual paraphernalia. My better-half and I were the only people in that crowded store over the age of 25.  I made my way to the back wall because I’d  been told they have offer quite the collection of T-Shirts made with images of vintage rock groups. 

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I decided some time ago to make a few changes to my boring wardrobe.  I concocted a few new rules to help make my life a little easier when it comes to making a personal fashion statement. 

  • No more white T-shirts of any kind. Being as clumsy as I am makes white t-shirts a nightmare.  Everything I eat eventually leaves it’s mark somewhere on the front of the shirt..
  • No more stupid or cute sayings on my shirts.  It make me either look stupid or uncute.
  • Buy only T-shirts about classic musical groups. There aren’t any current groups I’d allowed to be displayed on this body.
  • No more extra-large shirts.  I’m now just a large and proud of it.

I found a few shirts (see the photo’s) I absolutely loved, made my purchases and we headed to the food court.

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It’s a place with long lines, plastic sporks, and borderline delicious foods. There were representative kiosks from most Asians cultures as well as many of the standard American calorie and fat factories.  We pigged out on a  selection or two from Arby’s because the lines for Chinese food were too damn long. 

I think it’s quite possible the decline of this county was part of a well planned attack initiated  many decades ago by the Chinese.  I’ll bet years ago they decided as a first step towards invasion to build as many Chinese restaurants as they could in the US and get a large majority of the population addicted to their food.  If by chance over the next decade we begin to see Islamic restaurants springing up everywhere it could mean only one thing. Eventually this country will be the prize that goes to the winner of the Chinese/Muslim food wars.

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With indigestion in our near future we left the confines of the mall and headed home.  That Arby’s feast was so good it keep coming back up all night reminding us just how good it really wasn’t. 

Lesson learned, no more fast food from the food court.

0912-2014 Journal Entry – The First Fall Update!   Leave a comment

Today will be a general update on a few of the useless things I’ve been doing or trying to do.  I’m happy to report that the highchair restoration has been completed.  It was a relatively simple project that took only a week to accomplish.  The last posting on the chair had me sanding my heart out to remove the old layers of paint, stain, and shellac.  Once that was completed I then pulled out my handy-dandy Dremel tool and wire brushed all of the hinges and other hardware. Fortunately I was able to remove almost all of the corrosion.

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I discovered quite by accident that this highchair was made from an assortment of woods glued together and painted.  This made my staining job a bit more difficult but I persevered. The results were satisfactory but not as good as I’d hoped.  Once the stain was on then came three coats of a good polyurethane and a few days to let it dry. 

I installed the new modified safety straps which put me one step away from completion. The toughest part of the project was finding the proper decals for the chair.  The original had some sort of cutesy puppy on it which I immediately sanded away.  A little too lame for me or any kid who might eventually be using it. After visiting a few dozen websites and a few actual retail stores I found two  stickers that I felt were acceptable. I installed them yesterday and officially declared this project complete.

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Now to the garden which is slowly coming to an end. I harvested the remainder of the kale yesterday.  I picked the plants, cut and cleaned the leaves which left me with a large bag full.  The process included washing the leaves twice, blanching them all in boiling water, dropping them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process, and finally a last thorough washing.   A spin dry in the good old Salad Spinner and it’s into the vacuum bags and then the freezer. The process took a little longer than I liked but it’s important to keep the food as clean as possible at all times.

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‘In the Garden’

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‘In the Wash’

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‘Into the Freezer’

Another week and I’ll start the final cleanup of the garden to get it ready for winter. That includes removing all of the fabric from the frames and composting the entire garden with three or four inches of prime compost.  Once that has been rototilled in I can concern myself with the remaining yard cleanup and storage of all lawn furniture and equipment for the winter.

Just another slowly fading Summer week here in Maine.