120 Minutes of Prep and 15 Minutes of Joy

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At three o’clock this afternoon, I emerged from the man-cave to prepare supper. I had a taste for beef stroganoff. The desire had built within me this past week, so I shopped for the ingredients: mushrooms, beef cut in strips, cream of mushroom soup, etc. I had it all. By three-fifty, I had the Paula Deen recipe simmering, and a side pot of water heating for fresh pasta. I forgot to buy wide noodles to serve with the stroganoff, so I substituted the only heavy pasta I had on hand, rigatoni.  While the heat did it’s job, I washed dishes and all the utensils I used for the prep. There was time for a quick dash to the basement wine cellar for a bottle of Cabernet which I promptly opened and began to imbibe while I sat at the computer for ten minutes before Peg asked me to help her with something. She is reviewing 2005 bank statements. Why she spends so much time trying to understand something that she can’t remember for more than ten seconds I do not understand. All I know is that my life is crazy lately repeating the same explanation over, and over, and over again. I have to admit, today I lost it, and got angry, and my voice proclaimed a pronounced displeasure with the routine. I finished breakfast dishes and escaped to the man-cave. I cut and ground wood into shapes that will ultimately look like a flower. After several hours my back announced it was time for a break, thus we join the opening sentence.

The stroganoff turned out delicious, but it only took me fifteen minutes to satisfy my lust and to eat the stuff. No wonder dining out is so expensive. Someone has to be paid to make the things we order. Either way, I pay in money, or in time. Home made is superior to restaurant made any day. I will match my culinary skills with that of any chef in the world including Emeril or Giada. They have only one thing over me as cooks, they know how to make more than five recipes (and Giada is a hell of a lot better looking than me), but I will compete with them on the five I make.

Burp.

“Eat Dessert First”

Stargazer LillyThe last two days have been spent traveling. Peggy and I were touring the West Michigan shoreline. Our destination town was Holland, Michigan. We wanted to see the tulips in bloom. I love to stop in the small towns and explore the shops, and the beaches. We pick up real estate magazines and look at what kind of homes are available in the towns. Most are resort towns with a huge summer time population that are near deserted in the winter.

Our first stop was in South Haven. We lunched at Clementine’s. The lunch rush hour was over, so we had great service. I always give Clementine’s four stars****. I pointed out to Peggy that South Haven has a wonderful ice cream parlor that serves Sherman’s Ice Cream. Our waitress, Janet, told us that we had to go to the dairy just outside of town to experience the “real thing.” To work off lunch,  we walked the business area browsing the shops. Peggy searched the shops for a summer wreath to hang on our front door. We did find one that we liked, but it was the wrong color. We wanted a blue, rose, or lavender color. This one was pale green.

Driving out of town, I looked for Sherman’s, but could not find it. We proceeded toward the town of  Saugatauk. Instead, I decided to show Peggy the town of Douglas. Douglas is adjacent to Saugatauk. As it turned out, they were paving the main street of Douglas and the entire business area of two blocks was shut down. We kept going to Saugatauk.

In Saugatauk, I made my regular visit to the drug-store and souvenir shop.  I have been there several times. On more than one occasion, The druggist was being hollered at by his gay lover. It was funny, but embarrassing too. It didn’t happen this time. Maybe they broke up. We walked shop to shop looking for a wreath. We have a very specific vision for what it should be. We kept asking at the shops if anyone in town carried such a wreath. Each time they sent us to another shop. No luck, none of them had what we were looking for. It was becomming more and more apparent that the wreath we turned down in South Haven was the one we wanted. Peggy and I agreed that we would venture back to South Haven if we struck out in Holland.  Our biggest treat was a stop at the fudge shop.  We bought two kinds of fudge before leaving town.

We arrived in Holland by six o’clock and checked in at the Holiday Inn Express. Instead of going out to eat, we snacked in the room, and watched tv. The next morning we toured Windmill Island. We were hoping to see buches of tulips in bloom. There were indeed many tulips, but most were spent, and the colors faded. We climbed the four stories of the De Swaan windmill, now 257 years old. “The Swan” came to Holland, Michigan from the Netherlands. The town purchased it in the ninteen sixties from the country of Holland. It is the  only one imported from the Netherlands. Our tour leader, who was much older than us, climbed the stairs without getting winded. Peggy and I puffed at each level. After the windmill we visited the caliope. What a wondeful instrument this is. Another, younger lady gave the history of the caliope. She showed us the player book, a series of cards with holes punched in. These cards fed into the machine and played the pipes and the drums. The music was great.

We left Windmill Island and drove the two shores of Lake Macatawa. This lake extends for several miles and opens into Lake Michigan. The result is a great harbor for Holland. The homes along both shorlines are magnificent. Obviously they are not occupied by the middle class of Holland, rather the very wealthy. My guess is that these properties are in the one million to three million dollar range.

We left Holland for lunch at the “Golden Arches.” We tried the new southern chicken sandwich. I gave it one star.* From there, we ventured north to the Veldmeer Tulip Farm. Luckily, there were still acres of tulips in bloom. The colors were absolutely brilliant. The trip became a “baby step,” for my new garden. We selected several colors of tulips and purchased them for fall planting. This purchase now solidifies my vision to add a few more flower beds into the yard. More grass to take out, more soil amendment, more compost, and lots of mulch. 

Having spent a ton of money on the tulips, we headed back on the scenic Blue Star Highway to South Haven. I gave up a stop to the Fenn Valley winery to get to my son Steve’s in time for dinner. We found the wreath at the ‘Rambling Rose’ in South Haven. The lovely proprietress gave us directions to Sheman’s along with another fantastic recommendation. On the way out of town we “ate dessert first. *****”  Sherman’s dairy, established in 1906, has had alot of practice making ice cream.  We jumped onto I-196 South to get to Steve’s farm. Twenty minutes later, I pulled into his yard.  Steve was waiting for us. We drove to Saint Joseph’s for supper.

We ate dinner at the ‘Pump House Grill.’  This restaurant is in the heart of the historic Saint Joseph’s business district at the top of the bluff.   The menu has a nice variety of foods. The wine list features wines from Australia. Our server Andrew took good care of us throughout the evening. He incurred my sacasm when he confessed, after a very long wait, that a printer mal-function in the kitchen prevented our order from being placed. He apologized and promised to discount the meal to appease us. He did as promised. All in all, we had a nice visit with Steve while we waited, ate soup, bread, salad and the table cloth. The food was tasty. I had lake perch, Peggy had a t-bone with too much sauce, and Steve had a Thai Salad with chicken.  The portions were hefty. Even with the screw up, I give the place three stars ***. 

On the drive home we were treated to a fabulous sunset. The clouds covered the sun but produced ribbons of lavender, taupe, and rose with tinges of yellow that merged into the grey lake.

Peggy and I arrived home in Frankfort, exhausted by 9:30 p.m. We pretended to watch T.V. until finally retiring after mid-night. Not long after we had both fallen into that deep sleep the phone woke us up. It was 1:00 a.m. I answered, “Where the heck are you Dad?” the caller asked. The voice was not that my sons or my son-in-law.

“I think you have the wrong number,” I replied.  

“No I don’t, I have been at Mc Donald’s waiting for you to pick me up. Where are you?”

Again, I tried to explain, “I think you…” He interrupted again.

“I’m sitting here lookiing forward to getting home and having a drink and a smoke.”

“Oh,” I answered, “I’ll be there to pick you up in ten minutes.” click

I went back to bed to resume that deep deep sleep. 

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