Gingerbread (Hot House)

I can’t place the timing, which always irks me. I wouldn’t even be questioning the timing, if there hadn’t been that recent ‘50 years ago’ today newspaper story. That startled me into a memory, too.

I know what happened, but I’m not always sure how or why what happened, happened. So, on that note, I confess: I’m not at all sure how I got to the beginning point of the story I’m about to tell you. Obviously, some things had to have happened first.

Like the conversation, Jeff and I had. That’s easy enough to recall, because… Wait, wait. It could have been something that came up in a BNI meeting, but it would have had to occur at the end of September 2006. I can’t help thinking that would have been pretty far in advance. I suppose, though, as area business were looking ahead to the holiday season, it might not have been unreasonable announce plans for an open-house and contest.

It’s something Jeff and I talked about, were excited about and planned to do: enter a gingerbread house contest at a local, main street yarn store. I’m sure they carried more than yarn, but the first time I entered the shop wasn’t to shop. I was there to drop off our creation. Near tears, I didn’t linger.

Physically, it was only my creation, assembled in the weeks following Jeff’s death. I didn’t have much time, and I’d never made a gingerbread house, before. The ideas and enthusiasm were just as much shared as everything in our lives was.

Jeff started it, so I expected Jeff would be making it, too. But, there I was, a few weeks into widowhood, thinking about how much fun it would have been to do it together. Perhaps, well probably, I was still in a sort of shock. Functioning and trying to keep moving along. I decided to keep the plan, and set out into the internet world of gingerbread and patterns and royal icing.

My edges weren’t straight, my technique was terrible. My royal icing either didn’t harden fast enough or hardened too fast to use. Eventually, I baked and sugar-solder assembled on a plain cardboard base something that happily looked like a lot house. I stared at the pile of decorations I’d amassed and the naked shell for a while wondering, “Now, what?”

I decided to let the structural bones set-up overnight and dragged out the top of our Tupperware cake carrier to protect it.

Quote for the Week: 

2018 01 02 A good overnight set could either make a lot jakorte

Bonus Photo & Story:

Tecumseh Herald Gingerbread House Jeff and Eric 1967

 

 

Keto Parking

So, I didn’t fall off the wagon. I wasn’t involuntary tossed. I didn’t jump for fun. I simply parked my luge along the trail and wandered off believing I’d be keto-back shortly.

By now, a snowfall of sugar in various forms has covered up my tracks. I haven’t slid far enough away to lose sight, though. Which is one of those blessing-curse situations. It turned out to be a comfortable sleigh as far as rides go. I guess you could say I didn’t realize the smooth way an adaptive lifestyle works.

I thought the things I missed the most were good summer fare. Fruits and vegetables way too loaded with sugars and conversion complexity. I ate a pear one week; I bought 3 bananas the next. I added an apple, after that. As silly as it seems, initially, those things are truly cheats.

I can’t say I’m cheating, now. I can only say I’ll walk right by any piece of meat if there is an available cookie. Because, cookies are temporary. At least, they should be. Yeah, they are, actually, but not until I run out. The beauty of running out is non-replenishment. Unless, of course, you’ve got another oven ready round.

Then, it’s decision time. I’ve learned this much: if it’s there and easily available, whatever it is, it will be eaten. So, here’s how it’s going to go. What’s going to go down is all about what’s going to go down my gullet.

I was absolutely resolution-less last year. On purpose. I mean, I made an effort to come up with the resolution to just not resolve. I won’t be doing that again. 2018 will be my vague resolution year.

I don’t know that it absolutely necessary to buy into time/action/result formalities. Mostly because they haven’t helped all that much. Setting even a realistic goal, then realizing despite full-out effort from the outset, you’re not going to reach it too easily degrades to disincentive. Knowing where I want to be is pressure enough without adding a finite end.

Besides, an end isn’t the goal. The goal is just beginning. I don’t doubt I’ll make it back to the place I left it all waiting. Sometime soon. After New Year’s, of course.

Quote for the Week:

2017 12 26 It is absolutely easier to resist temptation jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Food Spend:  Increases After Holidays

Detox without Gimmicks: Naturally, Seriously

The Cycle of Carbs: Processed and Processing

Jalapeno Puppy!

My holiday seasons rarely lack spice. I know a lot of folks who like it somewhat hot, and some weirdos who like to see how hot they can go for equally weird bragging rights. There’re stories there, but ….

First let me introduce, Sadie the Pepper Pup. As hyper as she was, she also was terrified of weather an sounds. Not just rain and thunder, winds and motorcycles were equally scary. While having her nails clipped at a Lenawee Humane Society fund-raiser, Sadie shook a bit. When we said she was scared of a lot of things, we were advised that she should own a thunder shirt.

We eyeballed each other and seemed to silently agree to give it a try. On our way home with a pink camouflage doggie hoodie and a clipped puppy, Jeff mentioned he was kinda surprised I wanted to buy one. He thought I’d be doubtful. I was absolutely doubtful. I only went along with it because I thought he believed. We chuckled about that. As soon we got home, I sat Sadie down, and said, “Here goes nuthin…”

To our mutual surprise, she didn’t balk. It was surprisingly easy to get her in and out of it. And it was surprisingly easy for her to get it dirty. Instead of washing it every day, I went back and bought her another one.

After which, “I got to thinkin’” as Jeff would put it. I figured I could go to Salvation Army and get her some kids clothes. “What?” Jeff raised his eyebrows, “You’re gonna put her in pants?” “No, no. Not pants!” I shook my head. “Dresses?” he asked. “No, no.” I squinted in his direction. “Not dresses.” Just cheaper shirts so we didn’t have to do doggie laundry every other day. Just enough to get through a week. Jeff crinkled his eyebrows; his face and forehead followed. “She’s gonna have seven shirts?” he tried to clarify. “No, no.” I grinned at our silly conversation. “I’m thinking eight or nine, so she’ll have one to wear while we hers are in the washer….” “Geez,” he teased. “That dog’s gonna have more shirts than I have!”

Sadie’s (and my, our) fondness for shirts meandered easily into to holiday outfits. An American flag t-shirt for 4th of July, red with hearts for Valentine’s day, green for St Patrick’s day.

I was amazed when Jeff found a dog store on-line that also had  a wide selection of Halloween costumes. They were all so cute. As he was scrolling quickly, one in particular caught my eye. My crazy-chicken lady-ness kicked into high gear. “I want it!” I squealed. “That one,” I pointed – “that chicken dog-fit with a matching chicken head hat!”

Jeff said, “Oooo-k…, but what I really want to show you is… THIS!” he announced in a ta-dah flourish. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but an obviously, divinely, inspired red satin chile suit with ‘just picked’ greens as the neck.

“Ooooo,” I leaned over to get a better look, touching the screen as if I thought I could feel it. Both were definitely higher priced than the second-hand toddler shirts I’d been collecting. For some reason, though, the hot pepper was way more expensive than the chicken.

Leaning on Jeff’s shoulder, I decided out loud, “Well, we’ve just got to get that one!” “And the chicken, too?” he turned to ask. “Umm,” I pondered. “No, not right now,” I said. “Let’s just get this one. Maybe, we can make it a business expense…” Jeff just arched his eyebrows at me.  “You know…” I shrugged with a little smugly smile. “A business suit… for our new mascot!”

And that’s how Sadie the Pepper Pup came to be.

Quote for the Week:

2017 12 19 there seem to be more misunderstandings jakorte

Bonus Pictures:

2017 12 19 MHSC first year store Christmas card and santa and Sadie bonus pix jakorte

 

ps… would you please let me know if you’ve read this? all feed back welcome.

Talk Turkey to Me

The first time Jeff used the turkey fryer, it was awesome. He followed directions,  precisely. No matter he was outside in the snow behind the townhouse and not too far from a neighboring house. It was quick and juicy and we vowed we’d never succumb to long-cooking turkeys again.

The second time, there was a little clean-up disaster as Jeff tried to return the used oil to the plastic jug. Unfortunately, the roiled oil was still too hot, melted the jug and ruined his boots. We were both very glad he was wearing full coverage foot wear and not his usual winter sandals.

The third time involved 2 Jeffs and a plan to cook chicken wings out of the way of the freezing wind, in a garage. For some reason, it took an awfully long time to heat. So, they waited and waited and finally decided to check out the problem by lifting the lid. The result was a flume of combustion that blackened the garage ceiling and singed eyebrows. The temperature gauge had not been in contact with the oil, so it was plenty hot and smokin’. The result was a heavily burned, super hot pot that ended up coming to rest in a big pile of cul-de-sac snow.

The fourth time, breaking in a recently purchased new pot, the turkey didn’t cook all the way through in some spots. Could have been the pot needed to be seasoned first; could have been we bought the lower grade peanut oil at a discount store, rather than the good stuff at Cabela’s.

The fifth time, nearly a year later, we took it along with us to a family gathering. To fry the main course turkey, of course. Apparently, the new pot must have not enjoyed the infield at MIS and/or disliked living in the shed. Because, as oil went in, oil came out, creating another slick situation.

So, off we turkey trotted off to Meijer, returning with a new pot, more oil and an ugly pair of fish slippers Jeff planned on bring to his family’s Christmas exchange. I’m not quite sure which brotherly direction it went, but one of them had either chased Jeff or been chased by Jeff with an actual fish head.

After attempt #5 and negative incident #4, the fryer was unceremoniously and unsadly retired.

Optimistically, we opted for a smoker….

Quote for the Week:

2017 11 14 when frying a turkey for the first time jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Turkey Fryer Fire Song: by William Shatner (video)

Turkey Fryer Safety:  by State Farm (list)

Turkey Fryer Reviews: 2017 Top Picks

Bonus Picture: First Time!

Jeff Turkey Fryer (2)

 

 

Fart Suite: Reluctance & Success

“I told you not to buy the Fart Corn!” I agitatedly exclaimed. “That’s just going to be a tacky waste of money.”  

“I don’t think so,” Jeff answered, reasonably, as always. “I think it’ll sell.”

Even worse, in my opinion, was that Jeff had purchased what he nicknamed “The Fart Suite.” Themed merchandise included 2 Old Fart hats, 2 Old Fart aprons, 6 boxes of Old Fart beans in 3 versions with various heats, 4 boxes of Fart Corn microwavable popcorn.

Everything else was fantastic. It took us about an hour to empty the boxes and gaze in wonder at the beautiful mess we’d made in the middle of our living room. Pieces of clingy Styrofoam peanuts attached themselves to Miss Fred speckling her with white dots like a reverse Dalmatian. Sadie didn’t care about the statics, she was too busy going wild over and chasing the crumpled paper purposely tossed to remove her curious nose from the goods.

We’d purchased two of each product to deepen the presentation, plus three of some things because Jeff felt he couldn’t recommend what we hadn’t tried. After a brief debate we settled on a presentation package. It made sense to grocery aisle the salsas in one spot, sauces another, all of the popcorn, chips candy and snacks, etc. In the end, though, we’d decided to shelve alphabetically for easy brand location and easier inventory.

Re-unpacking our goods in the store made us both a little giddy, and soon we were laughing over the ridiculously hard question of which end of the store the A’s should begin. We both beamed happily as we broke down the and hauled out the last box. Actually, Jeff hauled out the trash. It was while he was gone, that I saw it.

Jeff had apparently felt the need to ignore the alphabet and place the fart suite directly inside the door where it would never be missed, by anyone. I stealthily moved it to a less obvious spot, obviously between E and G.

A few days later, I noticed it had just as stealthily reappeared in it’s eye-grabbing spot. Only now, it was further emphasized by the adjacent wall hanging ball caps and hook swinging aprons. 

Wouldn’t you know, the very first item we sold out of was the dang Fart Corn. All 3 boxes went. Immediately.

Jeff couldn’t have been happier. At the other end of what I had envisioned as the classy, high-end the spectrum, I was pretty pleased, too. Sweet salsas and unusual savories were moving, too.

So much so, that two weeks after opening, we submitted another order to refill the outs, including the dang Fart Corn .

Quote for the Week: 

 

2017 11 07 its a lot easier to figure out who customer is jakorte

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:  

 Display: Organize

Do What You Love: Yes

Do What You Love: No

 

 

Stocking Sauce

Once in motion, we spent every spare moment immersed. I’d come home from work and ask Jeff what he’d accomplished during the day and what we were going to work that night.

One evening he replied that he’d spent the day ‘getting sauced.’ The next day he’d said, “I got more sauced!” Each time a creative answer followed. “I’m having a saucy day!” “I got saucified!” “Saucing!” 

We spent three weekends preparing, in grocery stores, on the web, on Food Network, and on the phone locating our opening stock.

In stores, because we didn’t want to duplicate easily found sauces, and it was likely we wouldn’t be able to match the big store low price.

On the web, looking for other hot sauce ventures: makers, sellers, stores, web sites. Yes, it’s true. We culled the names of the more popular brands and small start-ups.

On Food Network because BBQ challenges, and the many city specific food discovery shows featuring small business owners and local specialties.

There were a ton of tiny outfits. We learned that even if a popular brand was already stocked in mainstream or gourmet specialty stores, often the hotter-hottest of the line was not.

Jeff made friends. And, I’m talking more than acquaintances. Even over the phone, he had the gift of friendliness.

Within a few days free samples began rolling in. Some came from new makers/suppliers Jeff discovered. Two of the larger branded names couldn’t accommodate our small 2-4 or at most 6 bottle orders, but they were willing to provide the name of businesses who would.

Jeff spoke to both sources and within a day, after Jeff and I had agreed and disagreed on some items, our first order was placed.

The disagreement was about anything with the name or word ‘fart’ or ‘ass’ included. I know it’s more of a man thing than a Jeff thing, but no matter what, I just didn’t find it funny. I never understood the guffawing over the fart scene in Blazing Saddles, either. Especially after seeing it for the umpteenth time. I will admit the only time I’ve ever found a fart funny was when Peter Sellers was involved.

My vision was more gourmet, experimental, unique. Jeff didn’t think anyone would ever be interested in olive salsa or crab salsa, but his approach was, “Why not? Let’s see what happens.” 

On a Wednesday, two big boxes of serious shipment had arrived.  I only remember it was a Wednesday because we were debating the merits of waiting until we could get the shipments to the store or opening them now and just being excited.

 With enthusiasm we tore open the loot. The first thing Jeff pulled out delighted him and annoyed me…

Quotes (from friends and I) for the Week:

2017 10 30 The Tecumseh Herald Oct 2004 opening jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

 

 Funny?: flatulence

What?: popcorn farts

How?: like this

Photo Essay Interlude …

Because old printed pictures tell a good story ….

First, the entire 8 foot by 8 foot Michigan Hot Sauce Club store! (See “Club?” blog)

Hand stamped spirals, hot pepper curtain, plastic shelves, and register counter.

2017 10 24 MHSC Store Layout jakorte

Next, the continuation of the driveway corn experience! (See “Canned” blog.)

We cooked 3 – yes 3 – pots of corn. Canned some plain, some with green peppers, chili peppers, onions and celery.

2017 10 24 Canned corning jakorte 10 24 2017

 

Plus, Jeff’s sense of humor and creativity – cabbage and cookies!

2017 10 24 Jeff took this picture cabbage

Stay tuned for next week’s blog: Stockings