Undercover Restaurant Critics

Dear Husband and I decided to have dinner in a restaurant that was totally new to us.  It’s not terribly far from where we are staying for the duration, and we thought we might enjoy trying something new.

When we walked in, there was a sign announcing that there would be a private party downstairs.  We were seated on the main floor, four or five steps up.  We had the choice of a table or a booth, and choose a booth on the outer edge of the room.  At the time, only one other table was taken, which didn’t surprise us given that we were dining rather early on a Monday.

Our waiter appeared, told us about the restaurant and their aim to buy food locally. The menu had a nice selection, and we both opted for soup, and an entree.  And then things began to  go downhill. Just little things, really.  We talked about it, quietly, during dinner.

For instance, the chipotle honey butter was okay, but it seemed the chef was trying a bit too hard for originality.  Whatever happened to plain butter?  DH ordered a Pepsi, but when it came it seemed that the syrup to soda mix was wrong, and he ultimately sent it back, and settled for water.

I asked what the soup of the day was, and the answer was, “Clam Chowder.”  I had to ask which kind.  When it arrived, it might have been a corn chowder, because there was more corn than clam in it, and it looked like it was  chicken broth thickened with cornstarch.  That’s not my idea of a good New England Clam Chowder.

We finished our soup, and the soup and bread plates were still on the table when a bus boy brought our entrees.  His hands were full.  He couldn’t remove the dishes so that he could set the entrees down, so we had to assist him.  I’m surprised that they didn’t bus the table first.

We ordered two different steak dinners.  Both of us ordered the steak done medium rare. Both our steaks came rare

I rarely order dessert, but I was tempted by the idea of cheesecake.  I asked the waiter (who had been conspicuously absent during our meal) what the cheesecake of the day was.  He said it was chocolate and strawberry.  I asked for a more detailed description.  He said he thought it had a ground oreo base, and had strawberries and chocolate over the regular cheesecake.  I asked if I could get it without the chocolate and he allowed as that was possible.  When it came, it had a graham cracker crust, was slightly overcooked, and had frozen strawberries in sauce over the top. For some reason, I was expecting fresh strawberries…you know, their commitment to fresh produce, grown locally.

Now, I should tell you, that we ate most of our dinners.  What bothered us was that the service was off, and the meal didn’t quite live up to the prices.  The look of the rooms, and the look of the staff told me that we should have had a better experience.  As we left, we realized that our waiter was handling all the outside seating.  Another waiter came along and commented that they were short-handed due to the private party.  I’d have thought they would have made sure they had the staff to cover their needs.

One last thing, I went to the ladies room without my purse.  Too late, I discovered that there was no toilet paper.  Luckily a server was in the next stall and shared with me, but someone should have checked the restrooms to be sure they were stocked following the busy weekend.

So, DH and I have decided to offer ourselves as undercover restaurant critics.  We know enough about fine dining to be able to assess what’s good and what isn’t.  The staff would never guess that we were critics.  We don’t look the part.  I wonder how much that plays into whether the staff makes your experience a good one, dressing up for the occasion?   I have to say we are rather casual these days.

Maybe we can find a local newspaper that wants a restaurant column.  We could really expand this, and make a living eating out!

My first comment will be, “Don’t say ‘How’re you dooin guys?”

A Blast From The Past

I was delighted to receive an e-mail from a friend with whom I used to chat when I was new to the computer.  It’s probably close to 15 years since that group broke up.  I’ve lost contact with many of them, but I’m glad to say there are still a few who visit now and then.

QT sent me a note, asking if I still blogged.  I’ve been a terrible blogger lately, but if this is a way for us to keep in touch, I’d be happy to try to resume.  Of course, all my comments these days have been about the sale of our house, but in time that should ease.

Welcome, QT!  I hope that we’ll have the chance to visit with some of our other friends, too.

Easily Entertained

We are so easily entertained.  When we took breaks in packing or moving boxes we would meet in the kitchen and sit where we could look out at the herb garden and the bird feeders.  We have watched a lot of birds over the years, but we were being entertained by a family of squirrels, a colony of ground squirrels, a bunny or two, and some mourning doves.

There was a constant circus going on below both the feeders, but the one closest to the kitchen window provided more cover from which the  ground squirrels attacked.  As with most species, there was definitely a king of the ground squirrel colony, and when others got too close to the prime seed snatching areas, he would run them off. Everybody headed for the highlands rather than risk his wrath!  There were ground squirrels running through the day lilies, the oregano, the thyme, and the choke cherry shrubs,

At one point seven gray squirrels and four mourning doves were peacefully eating seed when the entire chipmunk population decided to run through. Gray squirrels hopped up into the air, and came down and continued to eat.  Some of the doves raised a wing to ward off the little beggars and others were bowled over by them.  I’ll have to see if I can get some video of the circus to save to the computer.

At the end of the day the chipmunks and squirrels had discovered that there is finally a choke cherry branch that leans far enough out over the feeder that they can get to the feeder from above.  Baffles below the feeder have frustrated them for years.  We watched as they tried all the branches until they found the right one.  The squirrels would hang from the eave of the feeder and scoop food into their mouths just as fast as they could.  They understood that if they sat on the bar, the feeder would close.  It’s astonishing that they can hang from one foot for such a long time!

I’ll miss all this entertainment.  It will be interesting to see what visits our back yard at the new house..  You can be sure I’ll put up bird feeders!

Catching up with friends

Hi, All!

We’re having a quiet morning, so I thought I’d do a little catch-up.  The tree you saw in the last post is gone.  The tree service was quick and professional.  They even raked up small bits of branches and “stuff” so that we have very little to do to clean the lawn.  They will be returning today to take down the remainder of the trunk, and two more trees which we feel  might be dangerous, should we have another big wind.

The restoration company is sending someone to look at the damage to determine the scope of work to be done.  We’ll see their representative tomorrow, and will do our best to light a fire under them to get the job done.  Dear Husband tells me that I can expect several days of repairs.  The damage is mostly located in one small area, so they won’t be able to put more than two or three men to work at one time.  I want it repaired before the spring rains come!

We have talked with another agent, and decided to sign a contract for their services to sell our house.  There are two of them, working as a team, and the older of the two has quite the success rate for sales in this area.  We asked a lot more questions this time, and think that they may be a good fit.  Once the repairs are done, they will come back to stage the house and take pictures.  This time the brochure for the prospective buyers will show the house with gardens in bloom, an improvement over the last which made the house look like it was in a desert.

My mind is focusing on more packing!  I go to sleep thinking about one more place we can clean out, or another way to make the rooms look their real size.  I think this will be the year we move.  I’m resigned to leaving my wonderful home, but eager to see what the future brings.  Wish us good luck!

Visitors

We have been in our home twenty-five years.  We spend a lot of time looking out the windows at the wildlife.  I knew there were two species out there that I hadn’t seen, but this was my year to see them!

We have been seeing robins through out the winter!  About fifteen years ago I attended an Empty Nester breakfast with my mother, (I know…that sounds odd.  :-)  She lived with us.)  There was a speaker following the breakfast, who talked about local birds, and she said that we have robins year round.  I’m sure I made a face when she said that, because I had NEVER seen a robin in the winter.  Well, the woman was right.  I have no idea what they are eating, bur we have seen robins all through the winter, despite the fact that it’s been one of the worst winters on record.  Mother and DH and I used to have a race to see who was the first to sight a robin in the spring,  Little did we know that our birding skills were sadly lacking.

The second species that I have finally seen is coyote.  I’ve heard them, and seen them a mile away.  I’ve heard neighbors talking about being afraid for their small children and dogs, but I’d never seen one on our land.  In the last six weeks I’ve seen at least three.  The first looked pretty bad.  It’s fur looked torn, and it was emaciated.  No doubt anything it was used to eating was hibernating, and feet of snow weren’t making things any easier.

I saw a second trotting through north of the house, on an east to west route.  It looked as though it planned to cut through all the back yards as it hunted.  The third was a healthy looking young adult, sitting at the base of a choke cherry shrub quietly watching for any bird activity at the feeder.  We had a freak day of rain, following six weeks of arctic freeze and about 60 inches of snow.  The coyote was sitting quietly in the downpour, hoping for a bit of breakfast.  When he saw me watching him, he moved off to the north.  This winter has been really tough for anything that doesn’t have shelter.

Robins and coyotes.  I wonder what else we will see before we move?

Tree hugger

I admit it for all to see:  I’m a tree hugger.

Twenty-five years ago we bought a wooded lot, to build our home.  It was filled with mature trees and rough areas where trees had fallen.  The only place to situate the house was in an area of very old pear and apple trees.  It nearly killed me to have to give them up.  I managed to save two of each kind, and two of the pears and an apple tree are still with us after all these years.

We left the rough areas as passage for wildlife (and barrier from our neighbors).  Woodpeckers, dozens of other birds, raccoons, deer, coyotes, skunks and the neighbor’s cats and dogs all find the area interesting.

It became apparent that we were going to have to take down pods of trees at two corners of the house.  The trees had reached old age and died off and there was no doubt that  they would land on the house one day, so we hired a tree service to bring them down.  It was fascinating to watch, but I was very sad to see them go.  The shade around the house had changed, and the view out the sky lights showed a lot more sky.  Still, my favorite tree of all, a HUGE evergreen, was still there.  We communed every morning through the skylight, as I dressed.

That is, until last Thursday.  We were eating a late dinner when we heard a terrible thump.  It had been raining all day, one of those freakish warm days following six weeks of arctic cold.  The rains had given over to very high gusts of wind when the house shook.   We both went to see if we could tell what had happened.

At first there didn’t seem to be anything wrong.  Whew…missed the bullet again.  Then, I walked into the office and discovered bits and pieces of drywall on the floor.  I looked up and saw a branch about 3″ wide jutting 15″ into the room right where the ceiling and the wall meet.  At that point, I could hear Dear Husband above me in the attic, counting holes in the roof.  At least four branches from the upper part of the tree pierced the roof.

We have been very lucky.  The rain had stopped, and the temperature had dropped again, so we didn’t have water pouring or dripping in the holes.  The heavy part of the tree didn’t hit the house.  We have a tree service coming today to cut back the tree so the damage can be assessed.  They will have to bring in a crane to support the trunk so that it won’t swing into the side of the house once the branches are cut off.  Luckily, we have insurance that will cover the tree removal.

So, we have at least four holes in the roof.  We’ll need new shingles, and plywood cladding and whatever else went into making our roof.  We’ll need a new stretch of gutter and soffit.  It’s possible that we might need some bricks replaced.  And, we will need drywall and paint in the office.

Oddly, all that isn’t bothering me terribly.  It can all be fixed.  But, my favorite tree is gone, and when it came down, it took out my second favorite tree, a beautiful mature star magnolia.  The view out my skylight, and the view out my office window are both terribly bare and I won’t get to see the magnolia bloom this spring after a winter of anticipation.

I’m  tree hugger.  These trees were my friends and I feel their loss.

My Renaissance Man

Dear Husband saw an ad for a sale on some of the Great Courses and decided to buy several of them.  He has very eclectic tastes.  He chose a class on the Hubble telescope, one on Math, two on gardening, one on cooking and a lengthy series on the Dead Sea Scrolls.  This evening we watched the first  4 lectures on the Dead Sea Scrolls.  It’s fascinating, but I think I need to watch the lessons during the morning, or earlier in the evening.  By the time it gets close to bedtime, I find it more difficult to follow some of the points.

I think we may watch the cooking series together.  I find these classes are promoting some discussion between us.  Occasionally, it’s a simple matter of not having heard something, or of having heard it wrong, but more often it’s discussion of a concept that is new to one of us.  I learned a lot of baking technique in my 20s, and then set it aside when a doctor told me to stop baking to make it easier to loose weight.  I tend to be a cook who follows recipes, while DH is more likely to take ingredients that please him and put something together.  He makes something we call “slumgullion,”  (beef chop suey), that is different each time he makes it, and usually very tasty.  I wish he could recreate some of the versions, but he doesn’t work from a recipe, and he doesn’t take notes on what he’s doing.  This course may help us blend our talents.  I may become a free spirit in the kitchen, and DH may be encouraged to keep track of his inventions!

While DH is busy with courses that don’t interest me, I have several classes from Craftsey on how to machine quilt using a regular sewing machine.  I’ve finished one of the courses and started a second.  I plan to go back to the beginning of the second course and start over.  Too much time has passed since I first started it.

And, I have too many quilting projects underway.  I have two baby quilts to quilt for family members, and at least five large quilts cut out and calling to me to finish them.  It’s almost time for Scraps on a Mission to start, and I have two laps quilts underway for them.  I don’t have any difficulty at all finding ways to fill my time.  Don’t you feel sorry for people who are bored, or those who can’t find something that interests them?

Hibernating

Winter has been brutal in my neck of the woods, but not as brutal as places to the east of us.  We have been coping with horrible cold, and even worse wind chill.  Monday, when we had to go to the doctor’s office at 9:00 a.m., the weatherman hoped that we might hit a high of ZERO for the day.  There are two snow storms headed our way which might bring us six more inches of snow.

My youngest sister, Frankie, who lives in Indiana, has had her school closed a record TEN DAYS.  The school will have to go longer than the proposed school year to make up for the lost days. She posted a picture of a drift across their rural road in which a snow plow got stuck.  Another plow was called in to dig it out.

We are staying at home, burrowing in.  I finally tried my hand at sewing sashing on a quilt, and it seems that I can do simple straight sewing now.  Dear Husband is doing a couple of the Great Courses, one on cooking, and another on ten pictures from the Hubble telescope.   I have books, and books on disks to read, a Craftsey quilt class to finish, and I still need plenty of snooze time.  We’ll make a quick trip out on Thursday before the next round of snow comes.

I hope all our friends are safe, and finding ways to stay warm during this terrible weather.  Think “safety” if you must go out!

Heads up

I’m yet living, but I’ve had a little surgery.  In October I discovered that I had a hernia and made arrangements for surgery last week.  Doc found there were actually TWO hernias during the surgery.  I’m five days into an expected four week recuperation.  Dear Husband is taking exceptional care of me.  I still have some pain, and spend a good portion of the day snoozing.  Today was the first day I felt clear enough to post.

I’ll visit more as I feel better.

TMI

Be forewarned, this post may have too much information for you.

I was good and went for a colonoscopy today.   This is my third.   Everything is fine.  My mother had colon cancer at 78.  With that in mind the doctor is now shifting me to an “every three years” schedule.  He said that as I got closer to the age when my mother had her cancer we would need to be more vigilant.  I protested that I have a lot of years to go to reach 78, and he said it didn’t matter.  So in three years, I’ll be doing this again.

I’m always glad when I get test results like this.  It puts my mind at ease.