Strut

“Golf was invented in Scotland. It’s not supposed to be fun.”

I saw that quote in a magazine a while back, and I’m still not sure if it was supposed to be funny or not. I mean when you think about it, things that originate in Scotland are mostly meant to be endured, not enjoyed. Haggis. Bagpipes. Plaid. Robbie Burns. Presbyterianism. Fly fishing. The aforementioned golf. And of course, Scots.

To be fair, not every culture is all bad, Scottish included. So while they do indeed toss cabers and eat nettle soup, they also invented whisky. That alone is enough to forgive all other sins. (On the other hand, whisky is probably what initially produced haggis, bagpipes, plaid, and an awful lot of Scots in the first place.)

Other things on the positive side of the equation? Oatmeal is actually pretty tasty when made right. And they stir it with something called a “spurtle”, which is an excellent word to toss around at parties. “Yeah, this damn prostate problem is driving me crazy. I never thought it could be so tough to spurtle, but now...”

Also, Sheena Easton.

37851fa1518bfd2b962e9a73af3041e9-sheena-easton-disco-pants

I think she was also a singer.

Oh wait! There’s one more:

Finnan Haddie.

There is a grand tradition in many countries of using desiccation – sometimes with smoke, sometimes just a-hangin’ in the cold air – to preserve food. This had the welcome effect of staving off starvation during lean months in the days before refrigeration.*

In Scotland one of the carryover dishes from this primordial era is smoked haddock, or “finnan haddie”. But here’s where things get a little fuzzy for me. A few years ago I got caught between two dress – sorry, kilt – wearing Scotsmen who were engaged in an Islay fueled argument about whether all smoked haddock was called “finnan haddie”, or just that haddock which had been smoked long enough to turn a golden color. (They did agree that the smoked haddock dyed yellow to look aged was a national disgrace – unlike haggis, apparently.) I’m not sure what the final resolution was, as I managed to wriggle past them and out the door before cabers started flying.

Either way I love the stuff and call it “finnan haddie” yellow or not. My mom used to make it for my dad, as his British mother did before her, and that’s how I was introduced to it. However the price of this once peasant dish has since risen to the point where the last time I prepared it for myself was sometime around 2006.

That is, until last Monday. Last Monday I was trawling the aisles of my local Price Chopper looking for replacement sock garters when a familiar golden glint caught my eye. It was coming from the fish counter.

Finnan Haddie! A whole pile of ’em!

And they were on sale!

I practically leaped over the glass case and grabbed the fishmonger by the throat.

Yo! Fishkeep! Get your halibut over here and serve forth some of that Hebrides haddock!

“Huh?”

I’d like a half pound of the finnan haddie, please.”

“Oh. Ok. Here.” He handed over a paper cone. It smelled like my old Chevy Nova after I drove it into my neighbor’s compost heap to put out a brake fire.

I immediately abandoned the sock garter quest. Hosiery could wait – I had finnan haddie!

Back home I tore the top off the cone and slid the golden slab of fish onto my cutting board.

Not 10 seconds later NewWifey(tm), back in the computer room on the complete opposite side of the house, yelled out, “HONEY! DID YOU BUILD A CAMPFIRE IN OUR LIVING ROOM AGAIN?!” I heard her padded feet come sprinting down the hall. She slid into the kitchen, eyes wide with fear.

I laughed. “No, it’s just finnan haddie. I promised I’d never try to make S’mores indoors ever again, remember? But that does remind me of a joke: how do Cub Scouts become Boy Scouts? They eat a Brownie!

She rolled her eyes. “You told me that joke in 2007. It wasn’t funny then either. So what the hell is finnan haddie, and why did you light it on fire?”

Finnan haddie” I said, “is smoked haddock. It’s Scottish.”

“Why do the Scottish hate haddock so much?” she said.

They’re Scots. They hate everything. But this stuff is actually really good. You simmer it in milk and onions and stuff to tame it a bit and get it soft, then pour thick cream sauce over it and –

She cut me off. “You enjoy” she said, and turned to leave.

You don’t want to try it?

“Smoked fish in milk? I’d rather eat haggis.”

I can make that too. I just need to find sheep lungs.

She padded back to the computer room without answering.

Fine. More for me.

I made the finnan haddie.

Now let me back up just a minute here, because I gotta set the stage.

Two weeks before, lamb went on sale at Price Chopper. This was highly unusual. Lamb normally only goes on sale twice a year: just before Christmas, and just before Easter. To see it marked down to $2.99/lb a week after Christmas meant there must have been some sort of epidemic that decimated the sheep flocks of Australia and they had to get rid of the carcasses fast. Oh well. Their loss is my meal. I picked up a 7-pounder.

If you’re new to my blog, here’s a quick fun fact: in addition to haggis, smoked milk fish, and sock garters, my wife also hates lamb. I’ve written several entries mentioning this, and it still holds true. So, once again, I went it alone.

I made a pretty simple preparation. Just boned it out, butterflied the meat, spread it with an herb paste and some fruit compote, then rolled it, tied it, and baked it off. Made a stock with the bone.

It was very good. But of course you knew it would be.

I ate that damn roast for the next five days straight. Mostly just sliced as-is, but a few times in more exotic dishes. A bunch went into a batch of Scotch Broth, one of my favorite soups.

It just occurred to me: I actually do like a lot of Scottish stuff, don’t I. Maybe I should forgive them already for being forced to read “Tam oShanter in high school. After all:

37851fa1518bfd2b962e9a73af3041e9-sheena-easton-disco-pants

Where was I? Oh yeah –

So I’ve eaten all this lamb and now I’m basically down to scraps. But they’re lamb scraps, so I just can’t throw them away. I seriously mulled over the possibility of turning them into lamb ice cream, just to see. But I only had a couple of eggs left, and the crème anglaise base I use to make my ice cream requires at least 8.

So I made pie:

Pie 1

I likes me a good meat pie. But examples around here tend to feature either a small amount of meat bolstered by large amounts of veg and a rather soupy base, or an overly dense, no-filler block of meat that would be better used as a wheel chock (you need some filler to lighten things up, since protein is pretty damn dense. If you wonder why it’s so hard to swallow your meatballs/meatloaf , try using lots more breadcrumbs than you think is necessary next time).

I like plenty of meat, not too many competing flavors, soft texture but not soupy, and Sheena Easton serving it to me. So that’s what I made. To really amp up the lamb flavor I used the rest of the stock, and thickened the entire thing with Chinese sweet (sticky) rice, a roux, AND an egg/cream liaison. I wanted it to set up firm without being dense, and that’s the way to do it. I added a few leftover roasted mushrooms, a bit of miropoix, and a couple of  smashed roasted baby potatoes to keep things from getting monotonous, and dusted the top crust with rosemary and sea salt.

It was very good. But of course you knew it would be.

So why am I telling you about my lamb pie in the middle of an entry dedicated to finnan haddie?

I dunno. Vanity, I guess. That’s why I do anything, after all.

But there’s this also: I took a pic of the finnan haddie, but not by itself. I artfully (*cough*) placed a wedge of the aforementioned pie in the shot on a whim. If I’d posted that picture without context, you all would have been terribly confused.

I suppose I should also explain the bread. Finnan haddie is often (in my house, anyway) served with toast points, similar to how Welsh Rabbit is (and it’s “rabbit”, not “rarebit”. Yes it is). But if I’m gonna fork over half a week’s salary for a slab of Scottish smoked haddock, you can bet your single malt that I’m not gonna spoon it over Institution Grade Wonder Bread. I quick whipped up a loaf of basic American white, fortified with a little whole wheat and some vital wheat gluten** to give it a bit more structure, and used that.

(BTW, if you never learn any other cooking thing, learn how to make a basic loaf of white bread. At its simplest it takes 2 hours start to finish with “Quick Rise” yeast. That’s less time than it takes you to drive to the store and buy a loaf…if you blow a tire along the way and have to change it yourself by the side of the road. Anyway, just make the damn thing. You can’t fuck it up, not even you, and it’s world’s better than that aerated sponge you paid $3.99 for just because it comes pre-sliced. Write me if you need a recipe.)

Ok, enough talk. Pictures:

Finnan Haddie group

(I read a food photography article that said you should place one of the ingredients of the dish in the shot. Since the lamb wouldn’t stand still long enough, I used mustard powder, which went into the cream sauce. They also said to drop the exposure one stop to evoke a rustic, country setting. I think the article lied. It just looks dark.)

Here’s the pie alone (again, because vanity):

Pie slice 2

So, that’s why I’m fat. Thanks again, Scotland.

On the other hand.

I guess it’s a wash.

Oh, what the hell. Pass the haggis…..

Finally, I know this was a food intensive entry. To make it up to those of you who aren’t interested in such things, here’s a gratuitous picture of my cat winking at you:

One eye cat

We cool now? Good.

Ciao!

.

* Go watch the movie “Babettes’s Feast”. If you’re a foodie, this is mandatory.

** Do not tell me you are gluten intolerant unless the Celiac test came back positive. You DID get tested when you first suspected you might have a debilitating biological disorder, didn’t you? You realize that “But I feel pukey whenever I eat a cracker!” is not a diagnosis, right? Gluten intolerance is just today’s version of the 80’s MSG hysteria. And no, there is no such thing as “Frankenwheat”. They tested it against historical stocks, and there’s no difference. Go look up “placebo effect”, then make yourself a sandwich. Stop being stupid.)

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I shoulda said “Neptune”….

As I write this it’s 4 degrees outside.

4 degrees is stupid cold. Almost surface of Uranus cold. And you know how cold Uranus is.

(NewWifey(tm), looking over my shoulder as I typed that, said “Will you stop with that stupid Uranus joke already? Nobody thinks it’s funny any more.” Tough. I do.)

Anyway, it’s 4 degrees out.

Of course as I write this it’s also 4:30am, the coldest part of the day. Yesterday during the day it was a relatively balmy 7.

Which is why NewWifey(tm) and I decided to see the holiday display at the Orange County Arboretum then.

Let me qualify that: as usual, when I say “we decided” I actually mean “she decided”. I almost always write “we” though, so I don’t feel quite so emasculated.

So, yes. “We” decided when I got home exhausted from work yesterday that we would drive an hour up Rt. 207, past Goshen, all the way to Montgomery, New York to see a bunch of trees strung with lights. Just like the ones we have in our yard. Less than 5 seconds away.

I did put up some token resistance when the idea was first floated, but as usual it booted nothing.

“Honey, I -”

I can’t wait to see the new additions this year! Hurry up, I wanna get there before they run out of hot cocoa!

(One of the arboretum’s big selling points is that every year they add a new bug, flower, or cartoon character display to the pile. It’s always a Big! Surprise! that everyone for miles around drives in to see. They also have a corner table with paper cups, a kettle of hot water, and a basket of Walmart imitation Swiss Miss brand instant cocoa flavored beverage for revelers to enjoy. Along with a donation basket. “Suggested Gift: $5 Adults, $4.50 Kids Under 10“).

“Honey, I -”

I said, hurry up!

Did I mention it was 7 degrees out? When we got in the Nissan we (or rather, I) had to sit and let it idle long enough for the steering fluid to warm to the point where I could turn the wheel again. Then I beeped and NewWifey(tm) joined me. She was carrying the camera case.

I want you to take pictures” she said. “My wussy friends think it’s too cold to go, and I want to show them what they missed.”

NewWifey(tm), forged from generations of hearty midwestern stock who regularly trudged out to the north forty in the middle of a South Dakota (ie: Uranus) blizzard to patch that barbed wire fence “because the cows ain’t gonna do it themselves now, are they“,  will without hesitation venture out into conditions that would stop an Emperor Penguin in order to Get Shit Done. Ten years ago I posted this pic, and nothing has changed since. Witness this past November’s storm:

Snow Blowing '16

I’m telling you, she would hands-down win the Hunger Games if it were held at the Casey Station. It wouldn’t even be close.

Going to a local park to look at Christmas lights strung in the shape of insects and orchids when it was 7 degrees out was nothing, therefor. That’s practically thong and flip-flop weather for her.

So off we went in 7 degree weather to take pictures of holiday bug displays and drink envelopes of imitation hot cocoa. Again.

Speaking of taking pictures….

You know how in my previous post I mentioned that I got NewWifey(tm) an Epilady (with upper lip wand!) for Christmas? Well, er, I may have neglected to add that I also got her a speedlight and a zoom lens for her new camera, too. Both used, but…she doesn’t have to know that. Ok?

Another Christmas present I neglected to mention was the cloth face shields. These are small tube tops that you pull over your head and are supposed to keep everything between your eyebrows and your sternum warm while you struggle to find your way back to the cabin in a blinding snow storm.

NewWifey(tm) got us each one, and in true NewWifey(tm) fashion they each had a funny pattern. Mine was some monster with gaping maw and teeth dripping with blood.

Hers?

Behold the Abominable Wifey!

Abominable Wifey

Hmmm. An improvement. In fact, one might say one of her 2017 favorite looks.

Hideous artificial visages in place, we set out on the icy paths to gawk at –

a chipmunk:

A chipmunk

a grasshopper:

A grasshopper

who’s about to be eaten by:

A robin

Audrey II from “Little Shop of Horrors”:

A green flower

a bee:

A bee

a beehive:

A beehive

a beehive hairdo:

A beehive wife

a racoon that swallowed a dancing sunflower:

A racoon

a frozen spider:

A frozen spider

and a small intestine:

An intestine

BTW, all of the above shots were taken in my camera’s “Program” mode. I set it to what I hoped was an appropriate ISO (12,000) and let its little computer brain  figure the rest. Not because I’m too stupid to do it myself (*cough*), but because…7 degrees, remember? I couldn’t feel my fingers, let alone the tiny knobs they were supposed to manipulate. I fired the shutter button half the time by mashing a fist down onto the camera and hoping it was in the right general area.

I really needed to warm up.

But when I suggested to NewWifey(tm) that thawing out for an hour in the arboretum’s public hall might be in order, or maybe even calling it a day and retiring back to Dangerhouse, I got this:

A wifey glares

Uh-oh. I know that look.

We forged ahead.

And saw…

two fish:

A Fish

being stalked by two herons:

A heron

a rat:

A hedgehog

It’s a hedgehog!” said NewWifey(tm). Uh-huh. Sure it is, honey.

a pink tree:

A pink tree

a Vegas showgirl:

A peacock

and a family of soon-to-be venison:

Deer lights

Finally, finally, NewWifey(tm) had her fill and we started back. There were a ton of other displays along the way, but honestly my hands were just too cold to work the camera. I did grab one or two on the loop back though, like this hot underage sprite:

A sprite

I woulda made a move on her, but this whole sexual harassment hysteria has really crimped my style lately. Plus, a pat on her ass would probably result in a 30,000-volt response. I’ll stick to harassing NewWifey(tm)’s unplugged ass.

Nearby that electric Lolita we also spotted:

A kingfisher and goblin

Uh…a kingfisher attacking an orc? A winged Martian asking a bunny and his feathered headpiece to take him to their leader? Not sure.

One last thing. As we came around a curve at the far end of the grounds there was a statue of Pan, unlit, that you could barely see in the dark. I snapped a pic with a few lights in the back just to see how the Nikon’s 24 megapixels decided to balance it. This is it, no flash, just program mode. Waddaya think:

A statue and lights

I’m pretty sure I could have done better on my own…but not by much. I mean, depth of field obviously. But it’s good to know at least that when I’m sporting 10 Good Humor Bomb Pops at the end of each paw instead of fingers, the Nikon will at least give me something serviceable.

And with that, we turned and made for the clubhouse:

A look back

I’ve never been so happy to gulp down a paper cup of Walmart brand imitation hot cocoa flavored drink in my life. I had two.

When I could finally feel my feet again, and after peeing out two cups of Walmart brand imitation hot cocoa flavored drink, we made for the Nissan. Another 5 minutes of warming up was needed again before the wheel would turn, and then we were off.

An hour later we were back at Dangerhouse, for some real hot cocoa (the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa powder box is actually really good) and an assortment of liquors to enhance the proceedings. We popped a Perry Como Christmas album in the Wollensak, hooked the Nikon up to the TV, and kicked back in the recliner to watch a slideshow of the pics I took.

NewWifey(tm) was really impressed. “I can’t believe how much better that Nikon is than your Nintendo DSi!” She snuggled closer, and I poured more cocoa. She spiked hers with Amaretto, I went with Cointreau. Then we had another. She snuggled closer.

When we finally got the the end of the shoot she sighed. “That was really nice. Thanks for bringing me out there. I know cold really isn’t your thing. But maybe I can make it up to you” and she reached up a hand to pull me towards her.

“You know, a nice view of Uranus really would warm me up” I said.

The hand reaching up turned into a fist, and she clocked me right above the ear with it. “I told you I hated that stupid joke!” And she stormed off to the bedroom.

Dammit. Overplayed my hand again. I pressed my cup of cocoa to the lump that was forming on the side of my head.

Oh well, at least not all was lost. That electric Lolita is still set up at least through the New Year….

Speaking of, I wish all of you much happiness, real cocoa, and warm companionship in 2018.

And please, this coming year let’s all try to be a little nicer to the environment, shall we?

A Brace

Thank you.

No Pony.

So what’d ya get, huh? We’re you a good little munchkin and got that pony for Christmas? Or were an evil Mnuchin, and got not only the pony but also the stable, the stable hands, free transport to visit your pony on a cozy government jet with that bombshell wife of yours who loves you for your looks and charming personality and not because you gave her a duvet made out of uncut sheets of American currency, and everyone else’s pony?

I didn’t get either one.

You know what I got?

An ugly Christmas sweatshirt with a tractor on it.

A tractor? Yes, a tractor.

Tractor Sweatshirt

And not even a sweater. An ugly Christmas sweatshirt with a tractor on it.

What the hell? Was Santa telling me I needed to get plowed for the holiday? Spread cheer AND manure? Wear bib overalls?

NewWifey(tm) saw the quizzical look on my face.

Yeah, about that” she said. “The store sent the wrong one. You were supposed to get a matching sweatshirt for this.” She tossed me another package, soft and smaller. I tore it open.

GuP T-shirt

*gasp*

A GIRLS UND PANZER SHIRT!

Santa DOES love me!

The sweatshirt version should get here in a week or two” NewWifey(tm) said. “In the meantime, you can keep the tractor. They didn’t seem to want it back.”

“Gee, I wonder why.”

My wearable anime obsession wasn’t the only thing I got, though. Under the tree Santa also left

AN ALL-CLAD STICK BLENDER!

I have wanted one of these atomic blitzing wands for years. I do have one, but it’s an anemic consumer model that’s pretty much a stick blender in name only. It’s actually so under powered that I can make mayonnaise faster by hand. Plus it’s about 15 years old now, and really starting to show it. I was planning on getting a new one – same model, since it’s one of the few in my price range – after the new year.

But Santa came through! With an ALL-CLAD, no less!

Check out this new bad boy next to ‘Ol Wheezy’:

Two Stick Blenders

Between that and my Vitamix, I’m gonna be able to puree my freakin’ Subaru now if I need to.

Oh! In addition to the weeaboo anime shirt, I also got

Drumroll.……………

THE MATCHING WEEABOO FILM!

Yes! The “Girls und Panzer” anime series was made into a film 2 years ago, but they only just released the English subtitled/dubbed version like a month ago. I was seriously considering stowing away in the wheel well of an ANA jumbo jet and catching the film in Tokyo if I had to. But now I don’t.

Oh heck, what’s another beauty shot?

Stick blender and Gup

(Hmmm. I’m noticing a theme to my Christmas presents over the years. We even had the same meal: a prime rib roast. I wonder what that says about me?)

I also had a stocking, hung over the VCR with care, and when I awoke I found it crammed solid with little airplane bottles of various alcoholic libations. Thanks, Santa! I wonder how he knew….

Still, as wonderful as that pile was, it was nothing compared to the swag NewWifey(tm) got under the tree.

Ready for this? I got her an Epilady, with the upper lip attachment.

Oh yeah. I got some that night, you better believe it.

That’s about it. I just wanted to post a quicky here before I drank that entire stocking and forgot what the hell else I got. Stupid fragile neurons.

I hope you had a merry one, too. Sorry if that was your tractor sweatshirt I got. I’m wearing it now, btw. It’s actually very nice.

Tree 2017 2

Ciao!

Cloud Rape

“I want to go to the City.”

No.”

“I want to go to the City.”

No.”

“I want to go to the City.”

No.”

“I want to go to the City.”

No.”

“I want to go to the City.”

No.”

“I want to go to the City.”

No.”

“I want to go to the City.”

No.”

“Do you want a blowjob?”

N…wait, yes.”

“I want to go to the City.”

We went to the City.

We went to the City five days before Christmas, along with seemingly every other organic communal life form that evolved to breathe oxygen in the universe, to gawk at the Macy’s window, the windows along 5th Avenue, the tree in Rock Center, and that family of 9 from San Antonio waiting in line at the TKTS booth in Times Square hoping to score half price tickets to see The Lion King. Again. Complaining of the unbelievably frigid 45-degree weather the entire time.

The one concession I demanded in return for agreeing to go, however, was that we leave the house early. How early?

“I can’t believe it’s not even 5am and I’m standing outside waiting for a bus. You’re insane!” said NewWifey(tm)

I’m telling you, if we’d waited til 6 the Park-n-Ride would already be filled and we’d have to drive through the Lincoln Tunnel. And at 6am the Lincoln Tunnel is gonna have an hour long line at the tolls, minimum. After which we’d have to find parking – at 30 dollars an hour – in midtown Manhattan, a near impossibility this time of year.

“Why didn’t we just wait til after rush hour to come in?”

Because then we’d be leaving the City during rush, getting caught in that same traffic going back. And we still might not even have found parking by then. Trust me, this is better.”

So Wednesday morning our alarm went off at 3:30am, we showered up, coffee’d up, and hit the road. An hour later we pulled into the North Bergen Park-n-Ride – which was already half full – and got at the end of the line to grab the 5:05 bus into the City.

At 5:20 we hopped off at the already bustling Port Authority bus station on the west side. NewWifey(tm) had plotted out the course she wanted to walk, and it started with Barney’s on Madison Avenue at 60th Street on the east side. So we did escalators and corridors and stairs and more stairs until we got to the Times Square station, where we hopped on an R train. The R has a stop 59th and Lex, a block from our starting point. Game on!

At 6am on the dot we got off the R and trudged the stairs to street level. A block west, then a block north, and we were at Barney’s.

Where the first thing we saw was cloud rape.

Humping Clouds

The Barney’s windows were AWESOME, the highlight of my morning. Seriously, Google them.

But, yeah. Cloud rape. (Although from the look on her face, I’m not sure it was rape. Maybe #METOOANDILIKEDIT. )

Here’s the full 9 second animated sequence, btw. Make sure the kids are out of the room.

Lord and Taylor’s had a window depicting two of the last remaining polar bears on earth celebrating an impending kill, which I thought was nice.

Lord and Taylor bears

Poor narwhals.

Some stores that didn’t have display windows got into the spirit by covering their grimy exteriors with as many 50,000-watt bulbs as City ordinances would allow.

Ferragamo lights

That was all on one plug, btw. You could smell the ozone from Jersey.

I liked this one. Who knew the NY Philharmonic had their own window?

Red Window

Eventually we hit Rockefeller Center, and the tree. I tried to take a pic, but NewWifey(tm)’s hat photo-bombed me.

NewWifey Tree

I kicked her out of the way, but she kicked me back. Hard. As I was lying there nursing my shin, I took a shot from ground level.

Rock Center Tree 1

Couldn’t get the tree centered because there was a large pedestal right there. I considered knocking it down, but there were heavily armed security goons everywhere. God, it was so much better before these stupid terrorists ruined it for us Good Folks.

I’ve gotta say, as imposing as the tree was, the sight of it unlit during daylight hours is pretty disappointing.

So I added boobs.

Tree and Boobs

There we go. Boobs make everything better.

BTW, if you ever go there yourself, tear your gaze away from that gigantic bit of flora for a minute and spin 180-degrees. You’ll see this:

Saks storefront 2

That’s Sak’s Fifth Avenue.

Saks storefront

The gates are there to keep people not wearing ties out. But we got around them and soiled their sidewalk with our commoner shoes anyway so we could look at their – for some reason – Snow White and the 7 Dwarves movie tribute. For Christmas.

It also had a rape scene.

Snow White 1

Or two.

Snow White Kiss

Rape is apparently very big in New York.

As are the squirrels.

Squirrel ornament 2

This one almost took my finger off at the elbow when I tried to feed it a hot dog.

Squirrel ornament

Ingrate.

Around the corner was the New York Public Library. No lights or window displays, but they did force the lions (appropriately named Patience and Fortitude) to don silly Christmas garb. Here’s Patience. Or Fortitude.

Library Lion 2

Lion 2

I felt bad for him. Those cones itch. I know.

NY Public Library Christmas

He wasn’t the only feline forced to posture for the holiday. This is from the Cartier window.

Leopard Cartier window

I suggested they title that “Time For Cats”, but they ignored me.

A little farther down 5th I spotted this tree in the courtyard of some officious looking building, but because it wasn’t 450 feet high and exploding with more lights than the city of Paris, no one stopped to look at it. I did.

Roman Embassy Tree

“What the hell are you doing?” NewWifey(tm) said. “All it has is white lights!” I felt like Charlie Brown….

Finally we made it to Harold Square, and

Macy's 1

Why was that such a poorly framed shot? Because at 10:32 in the morning, it already looked like this:

Macy's Crowd

I had no place to stand. This, and the following, are all “hold the camera up over your head as far as you can and hope” shots.

Macy’s window displays were, as always, incredible. I tried to think of a better descriptor, but “incredible” really is the most apt. Unfortunately, because of the crowds and my shaking in rage at them, I couldn’t get many good pictures. But here’s a few that aren’t as sucky as others.

One window had a cylinder model of Central Park, which slowly spun and showed various scenes. It was really incredible:

.

.

Nah. Y’know what? ALL the pictures I took here turned out sucky. Go hit ’em up on Google Image, and pretend I took those, ok? Thanks.

Wait, I think I will post one, sucky or not. It’s a giant dancing cat. She twirls around, and when she farts it billows her skirt up, revealing a bunch of mice doing wheelies on dirt bikes. Crappy picture or no, I gotta post that.

Macy's window cat bikers

Boy, do I need a polarizing filter. Write that down.

NewWifey(tm), btw, was having the time of her life. Me, jaded local, suffered through every excruciating minute of that jaunt through Tourist Town. But my little Midwestern bumpkin wallowed in it.

Janis Harald Square 1

I haven’t seen her smile like that since I told her I knew how to make Pimento Cheese.

Once there were no other windows left to press our noses against, we made our way back to the Port Authority. Along the way we saw a pair of shoes NewWifey(tm) wanted.

Taxi Shoes 1

But as this was a shop on 5th Avenue, they cost almost as much as a real taxi. We kept going.

A few blocks uptown NewWifey(tm) stopped and began laughing.

What’s up?” I said, looking around. I didn’t see anything I thought she’d find funny, like a hobo on fire or anything.

“What blows AND sucks?” she said.

I give up.”

She pointed across the street.

Victoria's Secret Dyson

Ah, my demure little lady.

(Still not as good as the time we went to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular a few years ago, and midway through the show she leaned over and whispered in my ear, “What’s the difference between a circus and the Radio City Rockettes?” “What?” I said. “The circus is a cunning array of stunts....”)

Along the way we spotted this dress made of genuine fir.

Mood fir dress

I hope PETA doesn’t get wind of this.

Then we were at the Port Authority. It was barely after noon. There was hardly anybody on line waiting for the bus back to Jersey.

Port Authority bus wait

And just like that we were dropped off back at the North Bergen Park-n-Ride, and an hour later we were sitting in the kitchen of DangerHouse having a beer.

“See, that wasn’t so bad” said NewWifey(tm).

Yeah, you’re right” I said. “But only because we traveled off-hours.

“You know, I kinda liked it that way. Yeah, it sucked getting up at 3 and arriving when everything was closed. But it was nice not having wall to wall people everywhere we went. And we got to see cloud rape!”

Speaking of, I vaguely recall someone intimating that in return for going into the City a blowjob would be forthcoming….”

“Hang on” she said, picking up the camera. “I’ll answer that with a picture.”

Funny Face Small

Rats. Fell for that tourist scam again.

Hey listen, if I’m not back before Monday I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas. Maybe this year you’ll get that pony!

Or cloud rape. Also good.

Ciao!

Cooking With Cat

Woke to another coating of the White Death outside, but since it was Sunday I could start drinking as soon as I got out of bed and forget it was happening. So I did.

I decided to ease my liver into it with a French 75. I didn’t have Champagne to hand (as usual), but in a mixed drink like the Soixante Quinze, even a half decent Prosecco is pretty much indistinguishable. So I popped one, grabbed the $3.99 clearance “gin” I found at Gary’s, a lemon, and the suga-

“Oh, hello. You’re up early.”

Yeah. I heard you banging bottles around, so I thought I’m come see what was up. Hey, do we had any of that canned turkey and cheese stuff left?

Kitchen Cat 1

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“Yeah, I think so. Hang on, I’ve just gotta finish making my breakfast.”

I’ll wait.

Kitchen Cat 2

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Dude, you’re taking forever. What are you, going to France for the ingredients?

Kitchen Cat 3

This is literally what I look down at every day when I’m cooking now. Hard to believe this same cat bolted in terror whenever he saw us just a few weeks ago. Now I can’t take two steps in my own home without him practically velcro-ing himself to one of my limbs. I’m not sure which version of him I prefer.

So what was I making in the kitchen this morning that so captivated him?

Mouse pie!

Wait. No. Although that would explain his rapt attention, if I was.

I was making something only slightly less exciting: Acorn Squash Apple Custard Pie! IN A HORRIBLE PRE-MADE PIE SHELL! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

Yes. I had to get rid of the last of those damn Thanksgiving acorn squashes, and I was getting sick of my usual soup/curry/ice cream/bread rotation. So I looked around, found I had some other stuff that needed to vacate the premises soon or go bad, and winged it into a pie. It’s that whole “difference between being able to follow a recipe, and knowing how to cook” thing I bored you with recently.

So here’s what went down in a nut – er, pie shell:

Peeled and chunked the squash.
Steamed the chunks over apple cider til soft.
Mixed the two together, pureed them, and passed it through a fine sieve.
Simmered it down to a thick consistency, with a slice of ginger and a cinnamon stick.
Made a custard base of eggs, brown and white sugar, leftover sweetened condensed milk, etc., and a little flour (the squash paste still looked a bit soupy – good tip).
Poured it into a leftover Pillsbury pie crust. (Normally anathema, and banned from Dangerhouse. But NewWifey(tm)…ah, never mind. Just accept the fact that I’m married.)
Did not blind bake the sucker. Sometimes that’s best, and you should learn the difference.
Out of the oven, topped with whipped cream (yes, real).

Oh my god. If I had known how good this was going to turn out I would have made all 10 of those bastards this way. It was bliss on a plate. The brown sugar combined with the reduced apple gave it a deep caramel apple tinge towards the edges of the pie where it darkened and took on a bit of a crackly crust. The rest of it was a creamy, smooth custard with a melange of  squash, fruit, and spice flavors.  I seriously might retire and open a pie shop that only offers this one pie. I’ll make a fortune. (I’ll make my own damn crust if I do, though. I have some professional pride, after all.)

Just before I sliced into it I thought, ‘Hey, I have that nifty new Nikon wunderkamera. I bet it’s GREAT for food porn shots, especially with that super high tech macro lens!’

(BTW, I apologize for all the pics in this entry other than this one. I have the Nikon set up for a macro shoot downstairs, so I just grabbed the PlaySkool Samsung for everything else. It shows.)

So here you are. A super closeup of a freshly made Acorn Squash Apple Custard Pie, shot through a super closeup lens. Cue the bawm chikka bawm bawm

Squash Apple Pie macro

 

Looks scrumptious, no? Actually, it looks an awful lot like a closeup of my nose pores. God, I hope I downloaded the right pic….

(Ok, here it is through a more human scaled lens:

Pie slice.jpg

I like the closeup better, myself.)

In news of Christmas traditions ruined, our local fire department every year does a tour of the neighborhood streets, spreading cheer and sometimes road salt (the latter being especially appreciated). They start up the big hook and ladder and send it out at about 5 mph with sirens going and lights spinning, stopping at any house that has kids to hand out candy and little treats, and pose for pics. Depending on the weather they either hitch up a large flatbed trailer that they make into a Christmas float, complete with Santa on a sleigh, or if it’s too icy to drag the float they stick St. Nick in the cab of the fire truck and string garland and lights all down the side. They always – always – have Christmas music blaring through the PA system so locals don’t think they’re moseying slowly to a house fire.

Yesterday they came around again:

Highland Lakes Santa FD December 2017

That was it.

No towed float, even though the roads were cleared. No lights down the side of the truck. No Burl Ives blasting at 140 db.

Not even a goddam Santa.

They just rolled along slowly, sounding the air horn and sirens, and REGULARLY DRESSED FIRE DUDES waved when they saw us step out with our camera. At least they stopped at our neighbor’s house and handed their rotten kid a stuffed Picachu or something. Still.

Don’t get me wrong. The next time one of my cooking experiments threatens to engulf in flames my little ramshackle hovel in the woods, these guys are first on my list to attend to it. But, jesus. Talk about “Bah. Humbug!” At least put on a seasonal hat, guys.

merry_fucking_christmas_cap

Ok, gotta wrap this up. I’m about to have a pussy attach itself to me again.

The cat, too.

Ciao!

ps. The title’s a bit of an homage to my favorite of all the Japanese cooking channels on YouTube which features a dog who narrates in English with a French accent. Au revoir, Francis. RIP.

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pps. Y’all can stop sending me angry emails about my previous post now. I get it, I get it: this is America. Pictures of pubic hair are only appropriate if it’s a woman’s.  Sorry.

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Click Clique

Pube

Woo hoo, it’s the long awaited Camera Entry!

Shut up. I heard that. Look, if you don’t like it, the Back button’s right there.

Sheesh. Whiners.

In a previous photo entry I mentioned that back when I was a much younger idiot than I am now I used to be into film photography. Had a nice little Olympus OM2-S setup (because my then-girlfriend had an OM4 and I could steal her lenses), but once everything went digital I got left behind*. No money to upgrade, busy with new career, too stupid to learn new skills, the usual.

Enter, NewWifey(tm).

Also mentioned in earlier entries: NewWifey(tm) started a small business and it’s starting to gain some traction. Her designs and products are being carried in shops around the country. The world. She’s becoming a star in the land of beehive hairdo’s and support hose.

If you clicked on the link to her biz back there and then clicked “Products”, I staged and shot almost all of those pictures (with the exception of those cheeky yellow waxers that populate the bottom 2/3 of the page – NewWifey(tm) shot them in a light box). They were taken with a little Samsung point-n-hope we bought just for that purpose, and overall I think it did an ok job. Good enough for what was needed at the time, anyway.

But now NewWifey(tm) is becoming a victim of her own success. The president of France bestowed the key to the city of Paris on her, she won a MacArthur Fellowship genius grant, some magazine wants to do a spread on her business and needs profile and product pics, and Taylor Swift called and begged her to be part of her squad.

I’m tellin’ you, NewWifey(tm) is good.

Alright, so only the magazine spread thing is true. For now. Anyway, the mag asked for pictures – a nice portrait of NewWifey(tm), and a few high quality images of her latest releases.

No sweat. I grabbed the bright red $129 Samsung, gave NewWifey(tm) a beer to make her smile, and popped off a few head shots. Then a few product pics. In less than 15 minutes they were on their way to the publisher.

In less than 5 minutes we got a reply back. “Is this a joke? Please send us pictures taken on a camera, not an Etch-a-Sketch.”

Uh-oh. Not good. The Samsung isn’t able to give the sharpness the magazine wants. If this is gonna be a regular thing, we really need to get a new camera. But cameras ain’t cheap, and we need all our available funds for disaster relief at the moment.

But…NewWifey(tm) could really use the exposure this fluff piece will give her. We decided we had to go for it.

I sold a kidney (my third), NewWifey(tm) turned a few tricks, we set up a still in the woods, and…ok, actually NewWifey(tm) just took every last penny she had in her company’s account and shoved it at me. “Get me a camera” she said. “One that takes pictures those assholes will like.”

I looked at the bag of mostly nickles and food stamps. This was not gonna be easy….

Fortunately the magazine’s deadline for submissions is January, so I had a bit of time to work this miracle. I started scouring websites for suggestions, then hit up retail shops, Craigslist, and anything else I could think of to perhaps score a killer deal.

And I got one!

I’ll spare you the details of the hunt, but this is what I ended up with after several weeks of clicking and sweating:

Nikon D3300, refurbished, body only, from a Nikon authorized refurbisher. Came with battery and all cables.

Nikon Micro‑Nikkor Macro Lens, 40mm, f/2.8, used, from B&H Photo.

Lens mounted ring light.

Tabletop tripod.

Remote shutter release.

Big-ass SD card.

It looks like this:

Nikon with Ring Light

(And a hard shell case.)

All for under 400 clams. I still had several food stamps left for NewWifey(tm) when it was all over.

I really really really wanted a speedlight too, or even a pair I could use for a master/slave setup. But I just didn’t have enough money left, so it has to wait. I do have some studio lights already, along with a light box, and that will have to do in the interim.

For the photogs reading this: I was specifically asked to assemble a macro setup. Not only are many of NewWifey(tm)’s pieces very small, but she sometimes reproduces historical stitched pieces and needs 1:1 closeups of minute thread patterns. I wanted the Nikkor 105mm macro, or equivalent Sigma, Tamron, or even Tokina, but OHMYGODTHEYCOSTMORETHANMYCAR!!! The 40mm cost less than that. By a factor of whew. The tradeoff, of course, is that you have to get much, much closer to your subject with the 40. So close for her smaller pieces that the extended lens was casting shadows. Hence the ring light, which solved the problem.

This is the office NewWifey(tm) built in our basement. She tore apart the back crawl space and laid down a floor, put up new walls, wired up lights and outlets, and emptied IKEA of all their office-y stuff. This is where we’ll do all our camera work. That ceiling, though, is just a c.h. over 6-foot, something that plays into portrait lighting. But I’ll get to that. (This pic, the previous one, and the next one, all taken with the Samsung. If that’s not obvious.):

Noteworthy Office

This is the light box macro setup:

Macro Setup 1

I was using one of NewWifey(tm)’s designs, a thimble holder, as a test subject:

Thimble box 1

To give you an idea of it’s size, here it is with a thimble and one of my last dimes:

Thimble holder, thimble, dime

(Technically poor shot, but this was from my first test session. I’m still trying to figure out the SEVEN ZILLION MENU COMMANDS AND SETTINGS I’VE NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE. So it’ll get better. I hope….)

I do want to mention here that I have no post-production programs, or skills. This is all JPEG, straight off the memory card. I really would like to shoot RAW and work all sorts of magic in post, but honestly…I’m too stupid. The Nikon came with a photo editor, which I downloaded and spent several nights trying to decipher. But no good. I can’t even figure out how to save a picture, let alone how to adjust things. So I’m going all-JPEG start to finish until I get that donated brain. Maybe this Christmas will be the one where it finally happens….

That macro lens can really get in tight:

Thimble box closeup 1

No, I mean tight:

Thimble box closeup 2

Incredible, right? You can see the threads that the threads are made of.

This is one of the reasons I went with the Nikon. NewWifey(tm) needs this kind of fine detail for her work, and the D3300 has a whopping 24.2 Megapixel sensor which records down to near microscopic levels with extraordinary clarity (particularly when shot through a fast dedicated macro lens like this). That shot is a zoomed-in and cropped detail of the previous pic, in JPEG, no editing. Not many entry level DSLR’s – especially DX’s – can come anywhere near that level of detail. Zoom in a shot this much on most other DX models and you’ll end up staring at what looks like a pile of tapioca.

And if I ever do get up to speed with an editing program and can shoot RAW, she’ll be able to see practically down to the molecular level. I think.

So those were my first test shots in the light tent. I wasn’t happy with the ultra-shallow depth of field in a lot of shots, even in aperture priority on f-16. Playing around since then I’ve gotten better results running tons of light, shutter priority 1/30 or a little longer, and riding the exposure compensation to keep that ol’ 17% grey effect at bay.

Here’s one where I got the depth of field I wanted it, but forgot to pop the exposure up. You can see the camera turned the snow-white background a light grey bottom-left, dark grey upper-right:

Secret Garden small

That is one of my favorite of NewWifey(tm)’s designs, btw. It’s a pincushion, called “The Secret Garden”. Those two pieces fit together to form a cube, the outside of which is decorated to look like a plain fenced in bit of greenery. But pull the two halves apart and the bottom half reveals a spray of flowers with a tiny stitched bee perched atop, with the top half showing the blue sky above with some taller fronds stretching into it. (For you stitching nerds out there: NewWifey(tm) is a master of finishing techniques. None of her pieces are glued. Only stitched. She’s in great demand to teach finishing at shows and retreats.)

Of course I also had to take a portrait shot of NewWifey(tm). Fortunately, 40mm digital is about 55mm film (or so I was told) and I was used to shooting portraits back in the day through a 50mm prime.

I set the office up for a head shot, but this was where that low ceiling came into play. Light bounced everywhere. It was nutty, with shadows all over and children screaming and space shuttles exploding. I had to get a handle on it.

This was the final setup:

Noteworthy Portrait SetupThe softbox bouncing off the ceiling was the prime. I used two fill lights: the gooseneck table light in the background, and the boom-arm job in the foreground (one of NewWifey(tm)’s magnifying stitching lights). There was a recessed ceiling light right over her head for the halo.

This was the result (again, no post processing):

Noteworthy Wifey in Office

Not bad. A speedlight and umbrella or other diffuser would have helped, but for what I had to work with I’m happy.

Bit of a change from my previous entry’s pic of her, huh? She cleans up nice.

BTW, here’s where knowing my model really helped. NewWifey(tm) was stressed and not used to posing, and I couldn’t get a natural looking smile out of her for the first umpteen shots. So I set the camera to continuous shooting (5 fps) and started telling her stupid jokes. This money shot was the result of, “How can you tell when a woman is wearing panty hose? When she farts, her ankles swell up.” She looks so classy, doesn’t she? Picture of elegance.

NewWifey(tm) had a very specific request for this shot, by the way: she did not want her thimble box in focus. Only her face. She doesn’t want anyone copying her design via its picture – a very real concern in her business. And she wanted a certain amount of detail that showed she was in her actual work space (no bokeh). For that, it took some playing with the settings and having her hold the box at different distances from her body. But eventually she gave both her Seal of Approval AND her Walrus of Tranquil Repose. A rarity.

While I was at it, I took a shot of her pussy:

Midnight on rug

(Longtime readers will wonder what took me so long to get to that predictable joke. Sorry. I must be getting old.)

Hey, speaking of bokeh, I tried this quick shot of a Christmas cactus bud yesterday just to see:

Cactus bud bokeh

Impressive, right? I think – think – that lens has either 9 or 11 leaves. Either way, the bokeh is nice and round. I like it.

I took that shot early in the morning, with the sun coming up just over our trees. I decided to see how the camera would handle severe front light, so I stepped out on the porch:

Japanese Maple, backlit in snow

I gotta say, that’s a LOT better than I expected. I had a lens hood on, and dropped the compensation one and a half stops. I’m amazed that shooting straight into the sun didn’t blow the whole thing out. And I can hardly see any lens flare at all (although there was a fair amount when I didn’t compensate for exposure).

So overall I’m in madly love with this Nikon D3300, and would recommend it to anyone looking for an entry level DSLR. Just the fact that it has a 24-megapixel sensor should be enough to sell you on it. Unless you’re gonna pop some serious coin on an FX camera you won’t do better, from what I’ve seen. Plus it’s light, comfortable, and has nifty buttons and screens that make you look real impressive when someone stares at you for pulling it out at a funeral. (“But the light across his bullet wound was perfect!“) The only thing I wish it had was a depth of field preview, especially with that macro lens. But if that’s the only fault I can find, this puppy is a winner, hands down.

Finally, I’m just vain enough that I think someone out there might be interested in hearing what a one-time film photography enthusiast thinks now that he’s finally gotten hold of some 21st Century technology. So here ya go (since this entry wasn’t long enough already).

Cliff Notes version:

HOLY CRAP!

Expanded version:

One: the most obvious change is, of course, film itself. Or rather lack of film itself. Goddam but shooting with film got expensive, from buying it through developing it. Especially if you were an enthusiast like me, where just bracketing shots would eat up one of those canisters faster than you could say “But it was a 36 shot roll!” Now I can take 36-hundred shots if I want, and it won’t cost me any more than a band-aid for the blister on my shutter finger.

Two: just as obvious is time. As in, it takes none. Remember this: drive down to the pharmacy, drop off your canisters, and………….wait? Unless you had your own darkroom, that’s what you had to look forward to after every session. By the time your pictures were ready and you drove back to pick them up, you sometimes forgot what was on the roll(s), let alone what camerasettings you’d used (unless you kept a log…which I didn’t usually). Now? ‘Click‘…and it’s there! Right there for me to look at! No pharmacy needed! You have no idea….

Three: WOW, there are a lot of menus. I’m used to changing settings with lens rings and knobs, which meant that you only had a certain number of settings you COULD change. Now I scroll through menu after menu of things I’ve never heard of and have no idea what they do, and I wonder…do I need this to take a good shot? There’s a pretty steep learning curve, so while I get acquainted with them I’m concentrating on the basics: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. That still goes a long way to insuring a decent outcome…right? Or did that change too while I was sleeping?

Four: post production editing. I had no idea this was such a big thing with anyone other than professionals, which is how it was back in my film days. So big that you’re looked on askance if you DON’T do it now, from what what I gather. This is presenting a real challenge for me. As I mentioned earlier, I am pretty much computer illiterate. I don’t even have a cell phone. When I opened up the Nikon editor I first thought I must have downloaded a virus. It was completely incomprehensible, even after reading through online support. So were other free editors I found, like Photoscape and RawTherapee (I know Lightroom is the industry standard, but…$$$$$$$). I need to either grow some new neurons fast, or just resign myself to never shooting RAW and being unable to take advantage of all those megapixels we just shelled out for.

This reminds me. The YouTube channel that taught me much of what I needed to know about my D3300 and how to use it is “Tony & Chelsea Northrup”, husband and wife pro photogs. If you’re *really* into camera photography as opposed to taking pictures on smart phones, Tony’s vlog about why consumer cameras may be a dying breed, and what camera manufacturers should to to stanch the blood flow, might be of interest to you. It was to me. Start it at 16:20 if you want to jump to his specific cures.

You know what’s funny, though? All my obsessing about gear, all my stress trying to learn new systems, all my foundering around trying to figure out things like histograms and in-camera edge distortion controls…none of it matters. If I set this camera to “Automatic”, point it at NewWifey(tm), and press my finger, this Nikon takes such incredibly sharp pictures that even without post editing it’s guaranteed to meet that magazine’s editorial standard. Which is, after all, why we shelled out all that money in the first place. Mission accomplished, right?

Of course that’s right. But you know as well as I do that that never matters. You would do the same. Right? Right.

But wait, there’s more!

First, remember that asterisk you saw a couple of hours ago when you first started reading this bloated carcass of an entry? It leads to this:

* I still have that OM2-S, tucked away safely in a closet inside a nice camera bag along with several lenses (28mm, 50mm, 70-210mm), two speedlights, cable release, a couple of filters, etc., etc., etc. And I don’t know what to do with it. I mean, can you even buy film any more? Much as it pained me to do so, I put it up for sale on Craigslist hoping to get enough for at least a speedlight for the Nikon. But there were no takers. I think part of the problem is I don’t even know how much to ask for it all – eBay prices I saw were all over the place. Like, literally from 40 dollars to 300 for the same body/lens combo. If some camera maven here has an idea what I should ask for this pile, could you post it in my comments? I’d appreciate it.

Group 2

Olympus OM-2S

Ok, that about wraps up this monstrous – and no doubt monstrously boring to most people – edition.

Almost.

Just one funny thing left to mention….

The day the Nikon was delivered I read just enough of the manual to learn how to turn the thing on, and then ran downstairs with it to NewWifey(tm)’s office and set up the light box. I leveled the tripod, turned the baby spotlights on, and…unzipped my pants.

What the hell are you doing?” said NewWifey(tm), who’d followed me down.

“Check this out!” I said, and reached a hand into my underwear. “Look!” I said, yanking it back out. “A pubic hair!”

Yeah, I know what it is” she said. “Stop waving it in my face. Again: what the hell are you doing?

“C’mon, haven’t you always wanted to see one of your pubes magnified 340 zillion times? I want that to be the very first picture I take with this camera!”

She rolled her eyes almost audibly. “Can I ever look forward to the day when you are not a 14 year old boy finally?

“Nope.”

I hit the Magic Button.

“Oh my god, look at that!! You can even see the little bulb where it was anchored under my skin!” I showed NewWifey(tm) the playback screen.

She was unimpressed. “I’m sorry now I told you not to get that Brazilian.”

“You know what I’m gonna do?” I said. “I’m gonna write a Dangerspouse entry about how freakin’ awesome this camera is, and I’m gonna post this pube picture right at the top of the page!”

Oh god” she said, “Please. I beg you. Don’t. Just don’t.

Sorry, honey.

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My Wife Got Shingles

My god it’s been a while since my last entry. Sorry. Still plowing through leftovers from the Thanksgiving feast THAT NO ONE ATTENDED NOT EVEN YOU. That’s keeping me very, very busy, and too full to reach my keyboard.

NewWifey(tm)’s been busy too. On top of her normal wifely duties (watching Oprah, eating bon-bons, pressing my shirts…into the ground, head, car repairs) she now had to go and get shingles.

You may recall that problems with a leaking roof have been looming large over Dangerhouse recently. And with the advent of winter, “problems” could soon escalate to “hell on earth”. It’s bad enough when summer rains start pooling in the attic, seeping through the ceiling, and ruining my fat guy mumus. But once those pools start turning to ice, expanding as they do, we’re now talking damage potentially in the “pack up honey, we’re moving to Guam” range.

Calling a roofer to address the issue ASAP would seem to be in order then, no? I thought so too. So we did our due diligence, typing “What Roofer Will Not Rip Us Off?” into Google and calling the first name that popped up.

“Nope. Can’t do it” said the first roofer.

Why not?” I said. “You’re a roofing company. It says so right in your name. I’m asking you to roof. What’s the problem?

“The problem” said the roofer, “is roof glue. It won’t stick below 45 degrees. Your roof will blow off if you sneeze, if we replace your roof now. Try calling again in May.”

May? As in, May 2018? As in….from Guam?

Better try another roofer. One with better glue.

No luck. They all apparently use the same brand of adhesive. None would agree to work on our roof unless we signed a waiver releasing them from all responsibility upon our inevitable death two week after they finish work.

Nuts. Time to look up Pacific island real estate agents and learn to make poi. I told NewWifey(tm) the plan.

“Are you crazy?” she said. “I can’t stand poi. I’ll fix it myself.”

You’re going to replace our roof? YOU? No offense, but…I mean, how are you gonna get around this whole ‘roof glue doesn’t work in cold weatherthing? That seems important.

“I’m not gonna replace it” she said. “I’ll just patch it up enough so it lasts the winter. Then we can call a real roofer again in the spring to do a proper job.”

So this past weekend she got up on the roof with her dowsing rod or whatever the hell she used to divine where the water was coming through, and got to work. She already had a general idea of the ingress points after scouring around the attic previously, so that helped. But she also found while on the roof itself that there was a problem with the soffits.

I have no idea what soffits are. But ours apparently have a problem. A problem that my saintly NewWifey(tm) patiently explained to me thusly: “WHAT THE HELL KIND OF MAN ARE YOU? HOW COULD YOU NOT KNOW WHAT A ROOF SOFFIT IS?”

That helped immensely by getting me to Google it. I now know what a roof soffit is. Thanks, NewWifey(tm)!

(If you’re not a man either, and you don’t feel like Googling it, a soffit is this thing that kinda has something to do with the edge of the roof and, like, connects the overhanging edge to the vertical wall of your house. Now go back inside and knit a doily or something.)

So our soffit, according to NewWifey(tm), is angled wrong and filling with water, allowing water to pool against the house instead of down the drain pipes. If it snows, that’s going to form an ice dam, and that will be dam bad. There was something in there about rotting roof sheathing being a big part of it too, but by that time my brain had left for Florida and I retained nothing.

Problems identified, she got to work. Or rather, WE got to work. Despite marriage vows which specifically state that I am under no circumstances to be allowed near power tools or construction materials, NewWifey(tm) pressed me into service. I was required to hold the ladder while she ascended and descended, and hand up beers while she worked. I’ll file a formal protest later.

In between those arduous duties I managed to snap a few pics:

Wife Roof 2

This, apparently, was the necessary first step. That strip is going down under the roof shingles so that…I have no idea. I’m Beer Boy, remember?

Note the house shingles directly underneath NewWifey(tm). We’ll get back to them in a moment. Also note the spiffy leather tool belt she’s sporting, along with the contractor grade Bosch cordless drill hanging from it. Both were Christmas presents from an attentive hubby.

Once that strip was laid down, the soffits had to be taken care of. Again, I have no idea how. But she did it. It involved the extensive use of that Bosch drill, a big-ass strip of some angled fiberglass thing, and a lot of cursing.

Including at me:

Wife Roof Finger

Yup. Til death do us part.

This portion of the work spanned the entire weekend and most of Monday afternoon. Personally I thought she was slacking off, but I decided to keep that opinion to myself. She’s pretty quick with that drill.

Tuesday, having finished soffiting and cursing, she commenced patching and cursing. Lying flat on her stomach she stapled several large squares of blue plastic tarp over the holes she had found during her previous inspection. This didn’t take nearly as long. We were done before nightfall. I only had to pass up 3 beers.

So, back to those black, ragged, and sometimes missing, shingles. I kinda like how they look, in the way that I like the way bottle blonds look when their roots start showing. Two-tone is very chic if you ask me. And I started to say so to NewWifey(tm).

She stopped me before I even got to the Peroxide Girl analogy. “Idiot, that’s MOLD. Mold and water damage. Like inside your closet. Remember how that smelled? If those shingles continue soaking through and falling off, that’s what we’ll have all through the house. Sorry, but you’re not getting a two-tone house. We’re going to re-shingle.”

When?

“I’ll be right back.”

She unhooked her belt, set down her beer, and climbed into the Nissan. A minute later she’d disappeared over our hill.

An hour later she pulled back in the driveway and beeped for me to come help her. I opened the back of the Rogue. It was loaded all the way up, and onto, the passenger seat with boxes and boxes of cedar shingles.

“I wiped out Wadeson’s” NewWifey(tm) said. “They’ll have more in next week, but this should be enough to replace the worst of them.”

When do you want to do this?

She looked at me. “When? What do you mean, ‘when’? It’s still light out, isn’t it?”

Fortunately it was only light for another hour or so. She managed to replace maybe an even 20 shingles, methodically hammering the mouthful of nails she’d loaded up, but finally had to concede it was too dark to go on. Plus, we were out of beer. If you’ve ever had shingles, you know beer is one of the only things that help. We had to knock off for the night.

As it turns out, we both have appointments the rest of this week (me: dentist, parole check-in…her: weightlifting class or something) so the remaining shingle-dingle will have to wait until the weekend. The house looks a bit of a cubist nightmare, with the blue squares of tarp on the roof and the patchwork of black, brown, missing, and cedar shingles on the front. But at least we’re not eating poi in Guam. I hate poi too.

Well, I guess that’s it. There’s really only one cheeky thing left to say:

Wife Roof 1

The end.