Sunday, September 21, 2014

Weekend Breakfast

Top: Seared grit cake, avocado, pea shoots, poached egg, roasted okra.
Middle: Buttermilk cracker, cream cheese, smoked salmon, garden cucumber, spicy dill mustard, “everything” spices.
Bottom: Buttermilk biscuit, sharp cheddar, cream cheese, avocado, fried egg.

I like to make breakfast. Liz highlighted it – here – before we were even man and wife. I’ve continued to play in the kitchen, and think that I just might pick up the Weekend Breakfast baton.

Chocolate milk cheers.

Monday, September 15, 2014

To Thirty

To a brilliant, beautiful, fiery, red-headed sweetheart, full of nothing less than piss and vinegar.

Happy birthday, Elizabeth. To 30 plus more years.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Appalachian Trail Care Package

Since I moved to North Carolina, 3 years ago, I have found that I very much enjoy hiking. I’m pretty proud of myself when I leisurely knock out a 3-mile loop at Eno River State Park. That said, what I call hiking is humorous compared to what a former coworker, and good friend of mine, is in the process of doing. This Spring Mr. Schwing put his career on hold to follow his heart, and hike the Appalachian Trail. The entire Appalachian Trail. In June, he started his trek in Mt. Katahdin, Maine.

Before he is finished (in less than 500 miles now!) he will have entered, and exited, 5 national parks over the course of 6-ish months. He will have hiked 2,185.3 miles through 14 states.  That is 5,500,000 steps (give or take). 5.5 MILLION steps! Occasional tweets note his progress (and reassure friends and family that he is, in fact, still alive). Inspiring Instagram photos share the magestic scenery he is trekking through. And this morning I got a text from Schwing. A care package I had mailed intersected his path in Damascus, VA.

It was a challenging process deciding what to pack, and send him. Who am I kidding? Hiking the AT in its entirety is challenging. Deciding what to pack, and send him, took a little bit of consideration. Consideration because he will have three options when he receives the package. 1) consume the contents immediately 2) pack them for later or 3) give some away/leave them for others. When hiking nearly a marathon daily, the less weight the better. So, he was sent all kinds of nonsense. Here is the break down…

- 2 packages of natural and unscented wet wipes – don’t want bears sniffing him out, and dude probably needs a shower.
- 10 assorted tea bags - the guy enjoys his tea.
- 12 Starbucks VIA instant coffee - although he is a tea drinker, he can trade or earn some trail magic (aka random acts of kindness), +12 xp!
- 6 Justin’s nut butters - the more calories consumed the better.
- 3 mini liquors including Maker’s Mark, Jameson, and Patron - for sterilization purposes or bug repellant, of course.
- 1 bottle of Trappistes Rochefort 10 - thoughtfully provided by a friend of ours… Good luck chilling that beautiful beer, Schwing!

Realizing he won’t carry it all with him, I hope that he can make another hiker’s day by giving them some coffee, honey peanut butter, or a stiff shot. Boost that trail magic karma!

As an aside: I could hear the single bottle of beer, and all 3 mini booze bottles, slosh around as I set the package on the post office counter. My tell-tale package. Glug-glug. Glug-glug. Thank you USPS for not asking me a single question about its contents. Cheers!

After the crazy amount of time, the crazy amount of miles, and the crazy, crazy amount of steps, I have this vision of Schwing emerging from the wilderness. He is changed both mentally and physically - a sense of enlightenment, wrapped in a slender Grizzly Adams package. He has a bird on his left shoulder, and a trail of small-to-medium-sized mammals following behind him as he emerges triumphantly... Either that, or he stumbles out of the forest mumbling something about beer, pizza, and a soft, air-conditioned place to sleep. In either scenario he has accomplished much, and has a wicked unruly beard.

Whatever the case may be, I hope the little package helps him along the way.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Homemade Sausage

Recently, good friends of ours gifted us with a sausage making attachment for our mixer (they know me so well). After much anticipation, I finally dove into the challenge of making my own, homemade sausage.   

I bought a “Boston Butt” – the “A” portion (actually a shoulder) from the image above. It is my favorite cut since moving to North Carolina. That is a big statement coming from a boy that was born and raised in an area of the country known for beef. I’m pretty sure I knew the saying, “Beef. Its what for dinner.” before I knew how to cook dinner.

That confession made, I carved the butt/shoulder into small cubes before throwing them in the freezer to get firm while I mixed spices, and ground herbs from our yard. One portion of spices was for breakfast sausage, and the other was for Italian sausage. I hooked the attachment up to the mixer, and apprehensively started the process. Liz pulled a chair into the kitchen… partially because my 90’s R&B music was too loud for us to speak to one another from different rooms, and partially to support/supervise the venture. All right, mostly for support.

We watched the cut cubes of meat turn to ground bits as I fed them through the grinder. It was impressive to see the meat, and fat, exit the contraption in a way that was recognizable as… well, meat. I could see meat. I could see fat. It wasn’t pink paste. It wasn’t sausage-flavored mush. It wasn’t elbows and assholes. It was sausage… that I made. I knew everything that went into the sausage before it went into my mouth. And I’ll be damned if both kinds didn’t turn out better than expected. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Second Week In The U.P.

I had the pleasure of spending a second full week in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was more laid back than the first. The first was celebratory while the second was … chill. I took the opportunity to get more familiar with the area. I had been to the U.P. several times before, but wanted to explore a bit this go ‘round.

I found myself aimlessly driving around downtown Sault Ste. Marie (better known as The Soo) stopping at thrift/junk/antique stores, before picking up m’lady to go to a Soo staple, Clyde’s Drive In. It was great to see Liz get visibly nostalgic about a burger joint. Come to find out, her parents had a meal at Clyde’s prior to their high school prom. Queue my forever love for the place.

The exploration continued after Liz realized I had not been to been to Tahquamenon Falls. A hop, skip, and a jump from the cabin, I decided to take the touristy trip while she worked. Luckily my mother-in-law decided to join me. We drove Lake Superior Shoreline Road, stopping along the coast of the lake to explore and reminisce about memorable moments from her past. The falls were great, but the day trip was made by the stories provided along the way. It didn’t hurt that a pit stop was made at Tahquamenon Falls Brewery.

The week started to come to an end with a hike to “The Point”. A jutting peninsula that guides the freighters through Whitefish Bay, into Waiska (Whiskey) bay, and through St. Marys River. Liz and I gathered driftwood and beach glass that would make the trip back to North Carolina. The week culminated with me making (needless) excuses to kayak out into the bay, and floating peacefully in the glass-like waters.

It was difficult to drive south, with Michigan in the rear view mirror. However, if I realized one thing on my 1,000-mile drive back to Durham, it is that you can’t return to a place unless you first leave it.