Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup

VEGETABLE SOUP

Vegetable soup has many variants as anyone who has ever eaten soup knows. I grew up on vegetable soup my mother made, which had ground beef in it, making less vegetably, plus okra and lots of butterbeans, which are what we called lima beans, and other ingredients which ended up being very good. But more of a concoction resembling something between Brunswick stew(My mother was born in Brunswick, GA.), which is fantastic stuff but not for the novice cook with little time on their hands, and a beef stew/vegetable soup/gumbo. I have all her recipes, and I haven’t seen one for it, so it likely was something she learned to make from trial and error or her mother or my other grandmother Virginia, who was the best cook in the entire family, taught her. That was back when every kitchen, in the South at least, had a big vat of Crisco handy for frying your chicken, okra, fish, hushpuppies, fritters, green tomatoes, crabs, oysters, and pretty much everything when you grew up in South Carolina near the ocean.

Point being, there are as many ways to make vegetable soup as there are vegetables. But I’ve zeroed in on a way to make it that’s pretty easy, and a big hit with my daughter makes a lot and is cheap. It’s hearty, too and perfect for when the weather starts dipping. I use my crock-pot which makes it a no-brainer. Those criteria are what I base a lot of my cooking on these days. That hasn’t always been the case whatsoever, so I’ve learned how to cook a lot of stuff, which makes cooking easier and easier. It’s learning science and how to combine tastes, over many years, is all. I’ve made everything from stuffed whole squid, cut into rings, tentacles fried as an appetizer, to chateaubriand, and everything in between. Learning to cook is an invaluable skill, and it keeps you healthy because it makes you think and know exactly what you’re putting into your body. It makes you shy away from fast food garbage and processed and refined foods that aren’t natural. I’m not a health-food nut like some trendy Californian that only eats grain-fed organic blah-de-blah. But I know how to read labels and understand what is good and what to avoid. And the cooking method is essential as well. The less damage you do to the cells of your ingredients, the better. Boiling is violent, for example. Frying isn’t that bad for you appropriately done. Most people don’t keep their frying medium at a constant temperature as necessary, which is where things go wrong. I don’t fry much because to do it right involves a lot of dishes that have to be washed and stations and is an operation that’s out of scale for just myself, or me and my daughter. And I don’t want her to think frying everything is the right path, because it certainly isn’t. But one of my favorite foods is fried chicken. I rarely eat it, though. I probably eat more lobster than fried chicken.

I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a cooking lesson or an introduction to my personal diet, but if you’re making vegetable soup, it’s good to use whole, fresh vegetables if possible. Flash-frozen is also fine. Canned is starting to get into the oversalted and nutrition-loss territory. And then you need to have some excellent knife skills to prep your vegetables. It all comes with time and practice, I guess. I’ve been doing it for a long time now. And I plan on teaching my daughter everything I know, and she seems eager to learn, which is terrific, I think. That will make her healthy, independent, and of higher worth as a wife and family member for sure. As long as your family cares about staying healthy, and eating well, which I’ve learned the hard way, not everyone cares about. They’ll say they do, but then buy frozen-quick-fix one-pot meals or head to White Castle and behave much differently from what they say. I witness it. I choose not to do that, which I’m positive will be meaningful in how our bodies age and maintain health and cells. Diet was the reason my sweet dog Annie lived so long and healthily. I made sure I fed her well and not Alpo, which is what most Americans eat, and why most Americans are morbidly obese and out of shape. And probably why we’re now starting to not live as long despite medical breakthroughs occurring all the time and technology are allowing us to live longer if we choose. You can’t feed yourself a diet of garbage between 20 years old and 80 years old and expect your body to be running like it was back at 20, though. The fuel we use is essential.

I’ll get off my soapbox and back to the kitchen now. There are no real hard lines with this type of recipe. It’s adding more of what you like, less of what you don’t, but remember everything here has a purpose beyond taste. Here’s what I use as a basis for my vegetable soup:

Combine it all in a slow-cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Don’t overcook it, or it’ll be mushy, which is gross.

Beyond that, I add whatever I have around. My daughter said she loved tomato juice one day, so I bought some for her. She took one sip and decided she hated it(go figure). So I’ll add a can of tomato juice when/if the soup gets too thick. I’ll also add chicken broth if tomato juice isn’t available, which it usually isn’t. Can of peas? Toss them in. A bag of frozen corn, okra, or butterbeans? Go for it. Note that Okra tends to act as a thickening agent, so you’ll want to loosen up your soup some with the above-stated juice or broth or below-stated stock. Cabbage is good too but I tend to leave out Fall vegetables like squashes. Chopped cauliflower, yes. Chopped broccoli? You choose.

Another variation is I’ll add shredded chicken to it. I’ll either buy a cooked bird from the grocery store and pick it apart to put on there, or cook one myself in the crockpot or bake it, which is cheaper, avoids some additives, and you can buy a good quality bird, versus who knows what the grocery store used. They usually don’t tell you. You also can boil a chicken for about an hour with herbs, but that presents a tossup. You render out a lot of fat, but you also boil out a lot of flavor and juices and are left with pretty dry “boiled meat.” So I tend to avoid boiling chickens if I can. Baking them and cooking them in a crockpot is easy and not too messy if you know what you’re doing, and it yields some stock you can later use. It allows you to use some vegetables past their prime or the parts you usually toss out as aromatics. I try not to waste anything at all, and do a pretty good job, which is another reason learning to cook pays off. It’s thrifty.

If you want to add beans, like black beans, it’s perfect, too. But I rinse my canned beans, because the juice, which contains most of the sugars the beans leach off, is what’s responsible for the gassy aftereffects associated with eating beans. You can avoid that issue by rinsing the sugars off your beans well. If you use dried beans, good for you, but messing with dried beans and legumes is another worthwhile post. They’re healthy things that humans should embrace more of. We’ve lost the time and desire it seems when Facebook and TikTok and Fortnite awaits.

I let it cool to a temperature that’s above the danger zone for bacteria and put it in reheatable containers that are good portions for myself and my little girl, so all I have to do is reheat it in the microwave, put it in a bowl and serve. It goes very fast, so I never even have to freeze it.

 

 

 

 

Twitter is a Toilet That Filters the Wrong Things

Twitter is a Toilet That Filters the Wrong Things

I have a bunch of Twitter accounts, dating back over 10 years. And I’ve watched Twitter morph and ebb and progress and regress all over that time. It’s gone from resolutely allowing 140 characters, to one day allowing 280 for no particular reason. Twitter was a toy for a long time but has finally found a purpose with the President using it for real-time transparent communication with the world. Other than that, it’s still a toilet for people to vomit their poorly-conceived thoughts into and others to react in the vilest ways imaginable.

During the early years, Twitter, being Jack Dorsey, couldn’t figure out what it was even for. It was just a platform to blurt out whatever was on your mind. It had no real purpose, which is the main characteristic of Silicon Valley products. Products rarely have a marketing plan or business plan. There’s no way the creators of most of the apps and SaaS and creations that come out of Silicon Valley could go before a traditional banker and get a loan. That’s why they rely on pitching themselves and abstract ideas and faux numbers more than any bankable, workable idea or product.

As the product gains users (MAUM) only then can another round of financing be begged for. Most of these companies go years and years without a profit. Some never operate profitably. They just operate as-is, with the funders taking big salaries until they’re bought out and then they really walk away with giant sums of money. It’s ridiculous to think about. But that’s how Silicon Valley has been working. It remains to be seen if that business model will stand the test of time. I can’t believe it’s proceeded as long as it has. It shows what a bubble that part of the world operates in.

So Twitter’s been plugging along all these years, and currently serves as a real-time news source for the White House, which is great. For the President of the US to speak his mind in real-time, versus what we’ve had in the past which is carefully prepared statements that come to mean nothing and are dispursed to the outlets the administration wants them to be at a time the administration sees fit is an incredible, unique, and unappreciated degree of transparency.

So Twitter now sees itself as the holder of the power of free speech. A big, 1st amendment power. For, you see, not everyone is allowed to use Twitter. Twitter censors, suspends and cancells users and accounts as “they” see fit. “They” being actual individuals making decisions as to who and what can be presented. These individuals haven’t ever been identified as far as I know. They stand behind a wall of Twitter’s “operating procedures.” With only vague, abstract reasons for doing so, and no appeal available. North Korea should only wish to be so dictatorial.

Something that Twitter has also become over the years is a toilet. The worst, foulest meanest, primal things I’ve ever read have been on Twitter. People using nearly anonymous accounts to unleash their poorly-worded misspelled garbage upon the world. The hatred and bile spewed around are seriously concerning, knowing there are real people behind such thoughts, walking among us. And it used to be they were free to throw up their filthy putrescence all over Twitter. That was pre-2016 or so.

Now that there’s a republican in office, which Jack Dorsey isn’t down with, and that GOP member happens to be Donald Trump, which makes matter a code red to Silicon Valley leftists, there is a scramble to arrange who can post what, when and to whom.

This is a prologue to something that has happened to my account which I can’t figure out. I have never posted mean-spirited tweets. I may have posted some sarcastic or sharp-witted tweets that others without the same knack for literary twists can appreciate, but nothing that I would call “mean,” much less anything close to some of the undeniable garbage I’ve read and seen on Twitter. I also must point out, that nearly all of the filth has been posted by those on the left of the political spectrum. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be allowed to post that crap, but it needs to be taken into account.

So, for the past few months, I’ve noticed something with my account. I have around 1,000 followers and I’m following around 1,500. And lately(for the past 2 years or so), for no particular reason I’ve been active on the platform. And others have been responsive to my tweets, and I’ve engaged in conversations, debates, and other back-and-forths that the platform was designed for. That has been a wonderful use for it, I’ve found for me personally. The best thing I’ve ever found Twitter to be useful for is that it’s allowed me to communicate with people I’d never have the ability to otherwise. Musicians, businessmen, a few global politicians, and people that I consider on another level of humanity because of what they’ve done or are doing that would be so far out of my reach otherwise that when I find myself tweeting and communicating with them, it’s beyond incredible. I won’t say who these people are, but imagine you coming into intimate contact with those you think are simply incredible people for whatever reason. And suddenly you find yourself communicating with them one on one. That’s what Twitter’s allowed me to do, which has been it’s greatest value to me.

musgrove twitter profile

But suddenly, about 3 months ago, my account went silent. I was still tweeting, as usual, engaging others in a discussion(or trying to) and posting and retweeting things with my commentary. And there has been no life derived from my activity. So lately I’ve intentionally been posting what I consider provocative and challenging statements and commentary to see what would happen. And guess what? Nothing! Not a single comment back from all of Twitter, even when I hashtag and @ all over the place. How does one explain that? The only explanation I can come up with is that “Twitter” has somehow silenced me. It otherwise makes no sense.

I searched through my emails to see if I received a notice of suspension or something from admin@twitter.com to explain it. Nothing there. I looked within my account to see if I missed a DM or something to explain it. Nothing.

So, what’s the deal? It’s as if I’ve been muted. My tweets still exist on my Twitter page: http://twitter.com/mbmusgrove however, it’s as if there’s a mechanism in place to prevent my tweets form being sent out and from anyone seeing them.

 

MST3K and Netflix Part Ways

MST3K and Netflix Part Ways

mystery science theater 3000This area of my life is where a lot of nerdom resides. At least I recognize it as such, which is the first step in getting help if I ever want it. I like Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the offspring like RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic. The lead writer, Mike Nelson, and I share a lot of similarities, in our appreciation of English, music, and sarcasm.

The lead guy who was the brainchild behind it, Joel Hodgson, is the defacto captain of the ship, and as creative and wry as a mind he has, it doesn’t always shake hands with reality. When they began the series, it was a skeleton crew, with Trace Beulieieu as an art director, writer, on-camera personae, and more. He had a significant influence on the show, and he is one of the reasons I like it so much. He’s a prodigy and a comedic powerhouse.

The concept and show have always been eccentric and malformed for pure numbers-driven type entertainment as we have today. There are a lot of variables that have to add up to make a good episode. And they managed to do it a lot. Not always, but many times. And Netflix was willing to hand them a big budget and see what they could do.

They blew it, which I thought they would. The casting was poor. The idea was weak and overwrought with skeleton/motorcycle-helmeted musicians and a poor attempt at trying to keep the campiness there when it wasn’t. The credits at the end went from a handful of the same overworked people to Hollywood sized roles that made no sense. I mean, how many people do you need to rag on bad movies? A few competent writers and puppeteers and not much else, as it was shown. It wasn’t the big corporate giant hiring actors to make fun of the amateur or bad movie makers, it was the feebler everyday type guy ragging on some obviously campy and funny bad movies that made the jokes stand up.

The new guys that riffed on the shows had voices that you couldn’t tell apart when in the theatre. And the comments weren’t edgy. They were too safe. It’s like the PC crowd got their hands on it. And having a giant budget should have allowed them to obtain rights to some riff-worthy classics, not jazzing up the set or costumes or animation or all the rest of the superficial stuff that is secondary to the reason the show was great originally.

They joked tongue in cheek that they were going to blow up the brand and sell it to Disney for a Billion dollars. But that came across to me as more than a wink-wink type joke. Like when American Dad asked within an episode to be syndicated. It was really what their plan seemed to be, and so they set off on what they thought would take them there. And missed the target.

Patton Oswalt isn’t funny by himself. He’s funny when someone else points out what a loser he is. In front of the camera and real life. He’s a jerk. And trying to have a PC cast with a young female as the antagonist is weak. Instead of using quirky references from times and films long ago that appeal to the intellectual fanbase, they tried to appeal to the mainstream and employ rap songs in their skits, “as the young kids like,” and the original series would have made fun of.

I’m writing about this here, safely away from the Facebook groups and fan sites that collect the hardcore fans that believe the people working on MST3K are infallible. I’m a member of a lot of those sites as a sideline observer, and if you dare pose an opinion that casts doubt upon any of the producers and cast and caterers over at craft services at any of the shows, you’ll be swarmed on like flies at a ribroast. Banished! Exiled! Hate speech! Which is what the direction of MST3K is taking. The California inclusivity mindset, where comedy no longer relies on humor to be funny. What matters is how everyone feels afterward, and that should be safe and secure in every possible way.

The concept of what MST3K has is great. But they’re trying to alter it to fit target markets when they’re getting their marketing backward. They need to realize which demographics appreciate and will sustain it financially and market to them, instead of trying to make the product appeal to the target market they want. That doesn’t work, as we’re seeing. That’s why Netflix told them thanks, but no thanks, even though it’s a powerful concept they have in their hands. They could turn it into a billion-dollar product just like they want, but they’re going about it the wrong way. It’s an example of creative types being unable to look at projects from a quantitative and realistic side. I’m able to do both, but it’s a rare competency. To remain successful both ways in tandem, creatively and financially, requires both sides to agree to take and be able to manage risks which is a complex juggling act. Disney does it well.

yes it does

Take The First Step

I was reminding someone today that although we may look back at our past and we recall it being a certain way, that we keep memorabilia and photos/videos to remind ourselves with evidence what life was truly like.

I’ve always been a sentimentalist, and perhaps for that reason, the job of historian/archiver has been delegated to me. I keep stuff from long ago. I’m not a packrat by any means and I don’t relish the responsibility. It’s been an onerous job lugging all the family’s memorabilia around the country as much as I’ve moved. As a result, cherished things have been broken, I never polish the silver, and the story behind the items that have been bestowed upon me was never told. I have dainty tea sets, Lemoge china, odd artifacts from a civilization that ended in the last millennium. They’ve been more of an albatross around my neck than anything, but I dutifully have them wrapped and safely stored. I have a bajillion wine glasses, and I don’t drink. But somebody somewhere thought it was wise to hand them to me for safekeeping long ago. So I lug them around with me like a comb collects lint.

But I’ve always taken lots of photos. And when we went digital, I was taking pictures of everything. So I have all sorts of SD cards, CDs, and other memory chips lying around. Fortunately, stuff started going to the cloud and to SSDs and other hard drives.

But as time went on and I found myself in Louisville, I started taking a lot more photos. I was married then and was the dorky dad taking everyone’s pictures. I took a lot of them. So my recent past has been well documented. I have quite an archive, and they tell a tragic story.

So I was going through some of them tonight and came across this video of Cecelia, my precious daughter, taking her first steps. And I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to be there when she did it. I consider it a big deal, as I’m sure she does. When I watch it, my eyes well up with pride. I just can’t imagine what more she has in store for us.

 

Do Yourself a Solid

Do Yourself a Solid

“Doing a solid” was a national catchphrase that went, thankfully, as quickly as it came. Middle America likes to adopt specific phrases and gestures and latch onto them as if they make the walking cliche’ using the fad in public unique in some way, or suddenly “cool” even though it’s been used already millions of times and wasn’t all that smart in the first place. I’m glad to see fist-bumping has been on the decline since 2016. Unfortunately, saying “I know, right?” as some insightful response is sticking in some females’ brains interminably. And even a few sad males. These types of cultural failures would be an exciting study, fer sure. That was the pinnacle of cool in the early 1980s for a few months — California Valley Girl lingo, which still contributes now and then. Black Americans seem to hold the licenses for most of what white middle America appropriates as “cool” in an almost satirical, mocking manner, but then cements it in place through popular (read: lame, brainless) media, mostly coming out of Southern California, where the black population is somewhat under-represented in many ways. Still, their equality is diligently defended with much talk. As long as they stay far away or assimilate exactly to white protestant culture, it seems. It’s the same way here in Louisville, a very blue city, also, coincidentally. Just some observations as I’ve moved around this great country.

fist-high-five-fail

But “doing a solid” means “doing a favor for,” and in this case, I mean, to do a solid for your future self. As much as you can.

I only really began noticing I was doing this over the past few years, which could be for a few reasons. As we get older, we gain experience and can use history to know what we’ll need in the future. It’s like linear regression modeling but just using your head instead of plotting points on an x and y-axis. Wisdom, in other words, which comes with age and experience. I was in my 40’s when I had an epiphany that I had turned a corner and could see more clearly the world around me because of the accumulated experiences behind me. I could more easily connect dots through time and see how events led to one another, versus what had been told to me or some connections had been left unattached. I could see the whole picture. And I think that comes with age and having lived life like I’ve had to, via much trial and error. And then beyond that, into the future to see where they will lead to some extent. That’s the power of knowing regression modeling and statistics. You can tell the future to a scarily accurate degree. My statistics professor in grad school was seriously a wizard and should have been a billionaire the way he could predict the outcome of future events by manipulating numbers. It was excellent and for the very brainy. I don’t think there a whole lot of people that can do that.

I’m digressing. But the way to do yourself a favor is to go the extra mile when you’re doing a job for yourself. Delight yourself. When you do a job, give it 100%. And then give it a little more. And that little bit is often found in a reward waiting for you in the future.

 

But seriously, if you do a lot of work in a workshop, there are lots of opportunities to go the extra mile today that you’ll thank yourself for in the future. Many have to do with safety. But mostly convenience of having something right at hand when you need it — or keeping things charged. Keep the air in your spare tire filled, for instance. Most people don’t ever think to check the pressure in their spare tires, but it slowly leaks out over time, and a flat spare is no better than any other flat tire.

There are tons of little and big ways to do this. Put some cash in your suit jacket so that in church, when you don’t have some money for the offering in your wallet since most people don’t carry cash anymore, you’ll have it on you. Keep a spare set of gloves or pack of crackers or bottle of water in your car. Stupid, natural things, but things you’ll be grateful for when the time comes. Bring in some dry firewood for when you know it’s going to snow or rain. Or put a tarp over the wood. Front-load the work, and you won’t have to worry about it when you’re weary and tired later. These are just easy examples. You have to learn what yours will be.

There are more significant ways to pay it forward. Savings is one way. People don’t set aside savings first, but spend first and save what they have, if anything, afterward. I did this for a long time because I was never taught better. But all it shows you is how to be broke. And I’ve been there. There are good ways to buffer against that scenario as well I’ve learned.

When times are good, stock up on the items you know you’ll need and buy them at great prices. Don’t ever pay retail for anything. There’s no reason to anymore with the internet. And if you’re sharp, you’ll learn how to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on items each year by being a savvy shopper. But that’s another post.

When I was flush with cash and had a high income, I bought things I knew I’d need in quantities that assured I wouldn’t run out or even need to worry about going and getting the as frequently as some people do. Toilet paper and paper towels are prominent examples. The kind of shampoo I use is expensive, so I buy it in bulk, and it’s enough to last me years. I use the same type of soap, so I get it by the caseload. Same with garbage bags. And Toothpaste. And deodorant. And detergents and other sundries. And I have storage for all this out of the way, of course, so it’s not stockpiled in my living room or anything. One good thing about Kentucky is most houses have basements. Even boxes I save for the next time I have to move, so I don’t have to go box-hunting. I order a ton from Amazon and Boxed, and keep the boxes, which have come in handy. All the time. For moving or making a rocket ship or house for my four-year-old daughter. I think there’s a parable about this like the ant and the grasshopper.

But something most people wouldn’t think about is clothing. I buy well-made, durable clothing and shoes (I mostly wear men’s boots) that, if taken care of properly, will last a long time. I still wear leather Wellington boots that I bought in high school, for example. I’m no fashion plate and don’t try to be. I dress conservatively in things that don’t go in and out of fashion. Women may say they can’t do that as easily, but that’s nonsense. When most women try to dress with the latest trends, it goes horribly wrong anyway. Women’s fashions have gotten far worse if anything, which is saying a lot as someone who started noticing the horrors of the 1970s. And then the neon bubblegum 80’s and then the poseur 90’s. And then some hipster scene junk that turned into mall trash tattooed/pierced colored hair insanity that lingers, which brings us to the slovenly yoga pants/pajama bottoms and shoulderless rags and outdoor housecoats of today. Most women seem to try and dress like the other women they know, instead of what they look and feel good in. Bad mistake, all around. So far, I’ve been mightily impressed with what clothes my daughter chooses to dress in and how she puts her outfits together. She has a good eye, I believe. She loves to wear her fanciest dresses.

snake dress

Anyway, I get my shoes and boots, resoled and clothes repaired if and when necessary. I have a lot of functional boots for various activities and spent a lot of time researching which were best and why and who uses them for what. I have waterproof steel-toes for hazardous areas I find myself in all the way to dress boots that I can wear with a sports coat. I luckily live in a city big enough to have some high-quality cobblers and tailors/seamstresses. My clothes cost more than most people’s, but they’re nicer than most people’s, and therefore they last longer than most people’s. I have lots of clothes and will never lack for decent clothing, which is a nice thing to be able to say. And I take care of them probably better than most people because they do cost more and are worth the extra attention.

Same as if you owned a Ferrari; you’d take excellent care of it, right? And the companies I buy them from stand behind them 100% so if something is wrong, they’ll always make it right, no questions asked and with a great apology. I’m very brand-loyal when I find one that’s solid. So even if I am broke, I can still dress nicely and not look or feel quite as broke, which is essential for self-esteem while getting back on my well-shoed feet, I’ve found. So that’s another way to pay yourself forward. Take care of your nice things, and they’ll be there for you in good shape when you need them — oil your boots and leather goods. I’ve bought shorts or pants/shirts/sweaters offseason on clearance, knowing I won’t be able to wear them until the next year when it gets warm or cold. And it’s cool finding a brand new pair of awesome shorts or pullover waiting for you in your closet you forgot about when Spring or Autumn comes around. I realize all this clothing talk is unrelated, but this is a life lesson, and there are things to pay attention to here with clothing.

Buy durable clothing that stands the test of time, like Pendleton, Orvis, Barbour, Filson, etc…But don’t necessarily buy brands without knowing why. Brands change over time, and usually not for the better. Burberry used to be a high-quality brand, as did Brooks Brothers and Polo/Ralph Lauren. But money is what drives those companies, and eventually, they all succumbed to clothing the masses instead of the elite. This is to say they commoditized themselves, started selling lower quality clothing in “outlet” malls, and started cutting corners, and instead of working for high margin, well-made clothing, they opted for lower-margin but sold en masse cheaply made clothing.  Sure, they still offer high-priced goods with premium margins attached, but they aren’t the same quality as they used to be. They’ll market them as “purple label” or something distinctive, to match the distinctive price.

What’s the difference, you may ask? With clothing, look at the stitching. Inspect the quality of the fabric and how it was cut. Check out the hardware, like zippers, pulls, rivets, toggles, and buttons. Is it double-stitched or single stitched? Does the material feel durable? Are the fibers woven tightly and is it heavier than it looks? Where there are ends, does it look “carefully finished” or just like “one and done?” Is the hardware genuine brass or flimsy, never meant to last plastic?

Learning to discriminate between high quality and junk is doing yourself a solid. You won’t end up wasting your time and money, frustrated with an inferior tool, garment, shoe, piece of furniture, or anything else that commands a high price. Learn to inspect the joinery and materials of furniture. There are big differences in quality and price and very often a high price doesn’t equal high quality there, either. As far as tools go, look at what the pros rely on for their livelihood. DeWalt is always a good bet. But there are others. Bosch, Milwaukee Tool, Snap-on, and even Sears makes some decent wrenches. We have so much to choose from in America, you need to be knowledgable or else marketers will decide for you, which is what you want to avoid.

geezer

Think of it like hiding an Easter egg for yourself. And when you start getting good, you begin forgetting all about them and surprising yourself when you find them, and you want to pat yourself on the back.  As I read this, it sounds like old-geezer-talk, so maybe it is something that comes with age, but I don’t see any reason not to try it sooner than later, knowing the benefits it brings.

wisdom

This is cleverly accurate

 

 

 

 

 

Learn When to Take Advice

Learn When to Take Advice

Life Lesson…what number are we on?

Another valuable life lesson I’ve learned the hard way is when to take guidance from someone. And just as relevant, if not more so, is WHOM to take advice from.

In light of this post being about when to take advice and from whom, I thought a post-script prologue was due since I’m giving advice myself. Who am I to give someone advice? I dance around that question in the body of the article but I don’t address it head-on, which I think I should so I’m providing some enlightenment on that now, after originally publishing.

What are my credentials, and who have I taken advice from, and ignored? What were the results? What patterns and linear trendlines can be seen over time? I have 50+ years of life to base my advice on now. What education, people and experiences do I know and possess from which to draw upon? Talk is cheap, as I’m often reminded by others. So what substantiates my words? What evidence is there to prove what advice I give is trustworthy and not a load of puffery and utter crap? Glad you asked.

First, I wouldn’t give advice that I don’t have experience personally. I’ve put money where my mouth is in other words. Literally, and metaphorically, in terms of time(my life), which is not replenishable as is cash, and great emotion. Via blood, sweat, and tears, basically. I’m drawing my advice from roads I’ve chosen to travel down through life and retelling the results of those adventures. All journeys have some good and bad, but some are far more regrettable or fruitful than others. Some have ended in a bloody dead end. Some have opened up new paths that wouldn’t have been available by traveling any other road. It’s those that I try to impress as the ones that most valuable so that they can most easily be recreated by others. Especially my young daughter as she grows. She has the whole world ahead of her, and I write these words to her as my audience. I want her to be able to lead the most fulfilling, fruitful, happy life possible, and avoid the many regrettable, and avoidable, wastes of time, slums and heartbreaking dead-ends that I have. Either by having to forge my own path or being told to go down them by someone else who I shouldn’t have listened to. So a lot of this advice has been gained through hindsight. which is 20/20, and if you don’t know optometry, it means perfectly clear. I’d call that trustworthy.

A lot of the advice I have has been gleaned through the battle of life, which I have the scars to prove I’ve engaged in fiercely. Both physical and emotional. In the first part of my life, I was allowed to explore the world rather freely when that was a lot safer than today. I’ve always been curious, and loved nature and figuring out how things work, so I have always been turning over logs, looking under rocks, pilfering through books and closets, digging through boxes, inspecting animals and natural science as closely as I possibly could(which was scarily close), finding out the inner workings of everything, and never sitting still. A trait my daughter shares.

As a result, I’ve been to both the emergency room and to therapists more times than any average human will. The emergency room visits were to fix broken parts and stitch up wounds, and therapists to do the same emotionally, when my heart and mind were attacked out of nowhere by mental grizzly bears. Those visits were the result of my ex-wife’s personal pursuits and a hereditary issue that I’ve learned to cope with better than the vast majority that shares it. That came at a great financial cost as well some others but was worth every penny and more. So I’ve spent lots of money and time on one-on-one consultations learning when and how to take advice from others, and what to do with it. That gives me lots of psychological armor and a treasure chest to draw from when giving advice, which few people have.

I’ve had the immense and rare fortune to have been surrounded, befriended by and have as close friends people that are either exceptional themselves and, usually, are the products of exceptional parents, who give their time to me. That’s part of what makes them exceptional.

My mother’s father was the most exceptional man in my family and I’m grateful to have been able to spend as much time as I did growing up, even though at the time it was the last thing a young boy wanted to do. The lessons I learned from him were valuable and steered me through life in a positive direction when the odds were against me. His daughter/my mother died when I had just become a teenager, and he died when I was in my early 20’s. I never had a chance to fully appreciate him. And for all he did for me, my father never developed a relationship with him. On the contrary, he kept him as far away as possible as he does with anyone that doesn’t fully enable his want to be inert.

I went to a boy’s boarding school in Virginia where I met and became close friends with many young men who were taught as I was what honor meant and how to become a young man of character. That meant not lying, cheating or stealing, valuing scholarship, treating women and elders with respect, valuing comradery and teamwork, how to be a leader, how to be humble and a lot of other characteristics that aren’t taught much anymore by fathers, single mothers, or anyone at all. Most women aren’t taught these traits at all, which turns them into some rather unpleasant people, I’ve learned also the hard way. They may tell you they have them, but as I’ve said, talk is cheap. Reading a book doesn’t give you these traits, unfortunately, any more than just saying you have them does. Actions show what you’re made of. As does inaction.

I was able to spend a lot of time with the fathers of these exceptional boys I made as friends. My own father came to campus once while I went to school there, which was to my graduation, with my grandfather. The only other time to drop me and my things off the very first day I went there to begin attending and quickly left. So on weekends, I was able to leave campus I went to friends’ houses and saw how these exceptional boys were raised. And what their dads were made of, which was often some impressive stock. Leaders of their towns and cities, self-made men who remained humble, titans of industry, people who influenced this entire country in some way, or owned a great portion of its land, lots of military officers when young men themselves who fought in actual wars, and men who earned and deserved great respect. Many had families with 5, 6, and 8 children they helped raise. Just incredible weights they managed successfully. And of course, they had strong marriages with strong wives at their sides. All of them had endured tragedies. The loss of a child, or sibling at an early age or an event that strengthened them it seemed. Yet they persisted, never stopped fighting, kept their eyes on prizes and led lives that made you say “wow.” These were guys that I took a lot of cues from and tried to hang around with my mouth open at their achievements. But of course, they had their own families and lives to lead. But their advice was and remains solid.

I took their advice, which led me to places a lot of people wouldn’t be able to go. And I also took advice from people that didn’t have any credibility. I was too young and inexperienced to know it at the time, so that’s where I spent a lot of time learning by trying and failing and having to teach myself through wasted time and hard knocks. It feels a lot like a rat trying to complete a maze. There’s no plan. And you always need a plan. That part wasn’t mentioned by anyone.

I’ll provide some examples of receiving poor advice, or even no advice when some were needed that resulted in a lot of lost time and money and emotional strife which was all unnecessary. I was allowed to choose whatever college I wanted to go to. I chose the most expensive, farthest away from home and one that assured I would have no one to help guide me. A terrible mistake that should have been avoided. I then had to put myself back on the right track and go to a school I was accepted to before, cost all four years what 1 year at the private school I originally chose cost, and had people that could help guide me better. I needed guidance and advice. And I got advice but it was all bad advice steering me in the worst directions.

Upon graduation, I didn’t know what to do. My friends all were going to grad school, which was never really something mentioned to me. I took the LSAT, but that was from my own curiosity, not anyone helping guide me. Those that didn’t go back to extend their education went to work for their dads or had jobs lined up by their families. So I turned to family for guidance as well.

That consisted of 4 people. 2 who had been given jobs by family or a friend and had since dropped out of the workforce never to really return. So their advice was to find someone that would give me a job, rather than find a way to earn a job by getting the skills needed to convert them into a situation where I could be paid for my skills and education and experience, which I had quite a bit of by my own effort. I worked at a law firm for 4 years through school and had a degree in hand and was no slacker. On the contrary, I was hungry and ready to get the ball rolling full-pace.

The other two were an uncle and more of a friend of the family, than an actual family member, but a very close friend of my family’s, and remains so. My uncle, who I always admired for his assertiveness, style, and a quick brain, was an angry man who couldn’t offer much to me. No hard feelings. For some reason, I always got where he was coming from, and I certainly can understand it now, better than ever and anyone was ever able to explain it. I don’t believe he’s still alive, but he was a memorable character in my life, the few times he was present. That probably can be said about him in any room he ever graced. He had an intensity and passion that was enviable. He would have made a wonderful actor.

The other person was a man who was given a political position as a favor and parlayed it into a lifelong career and income stream. The president he worked for is still alive, at age 95. He also got my aunt her most memorable job in the 1970s, which is how long ago I’m reaching for help for professional advice. I realize I was asking them the wrong question, which was “how do I get a job?” What I meant to ask is “how do I EARN a job?” not “how do I go about someone giving me a job, as you did?” Because the advice I was always given had to do with finding people to GIVE me jobs, not how to go earn one with my skills, education, and experience, which is what it really takes to remain employed. I have gotten lots of advice about employment from people that A) have no job and B) have never earned a job and C) managed to keep a job. That has led to years of floundering around. I took the wrong advice from the wrong people. And to this day, there are people always willing to give advice about that who have no business doing so. It’s more harmful than helpful, in fact, although their intentions are good. Good intentions often pave the pathway to Hell. (END: prologue)

As an only child, I didn’t have older siblings to watch and learn from. And from my early teen years on I didn’t have a mother to provide advice. And the father I had only offered advice to do as he said, and not as he did, which was advice that was half-right, but hardly anything anyone who knows him couldn’t figure out on their own. I did have a grandfather who was successful by a number of measures, depending on whose measures you used, and he probably gave me the most consistently good advice. Which normally was contrary to the advice I received from everyone else willing to provide it. Turns out he was right far more than anyone else has been. I’ve had to figure out life for myself while watching my friends be ushered along by men and family who knew what they were talking about. I state that from an envious but realistic podium. I am far happier to have the opportunity to know such people and they not be among my counselors than not know that such wonderful people even exist.

When you learn my grandfather’s life story, that shouldn’t come as a surprise because he didn’t have an easy time growing up and had to learn lessons the hard way. (Which a lot of people think they do, and even though they may have had a hard time, the part that matters is learning from the lesson and acting upon what you learned in a positive way. Don’t repeat your mistakes is a lesson a lot of people may learn, but they refuse to act upon it, for example.)

My mother’s father was the son of middle-eastern immigrants who moved to the American South and was born in North Carolina, I think, in 1919 with plenty of brothers and sisters, whom I never even met and he never talked about. Not an easy time for that ethnicity in the rural South, or the US for that matter. He settled in southern Georgia. A lot of turmoil and big changes for our country awaited culturally, economically, politically and technologically. And in medicine. Polio was a real thing. Life spans were relatively short. Life was a lot harder then versus today where we have anything we want, usually immediately within arms reach and if not, within a day, as promised by Amazon on our smartphone, which is always within arms’ reach. If you wanted something then, you usually had to go out and make it or make the hard-earned money to get it for yourself, no matter what age you were. People grew up having little, and houses and living situations would make Americans plead absolute destitution by today’s standards.

buy liberty bonds

Come On! This poster was put out by the US Government the year before my grandfather was born, enticing people to buy “liberty” Bonds to help fund the war. It shows you in no subtle terms what you’re funding, in gory detail.

I have a school photo with my young grandmother and her schoolmates and most of the kids didn’t even have shoes. And the girls all used the same chili bowl for their haircuts. Clothes were handmade and handed down. Radio was the entertainment, for those who had the time and money for such a luxury. Illiteracy was rampant. Women had few opportunities in life, and forget it if you were black. Christianity provided much-needed hope and salvation to most of America. That’s been replaced by the government’s lifelong politicians’ empty promises and celebrity entertainers fighting for the lowest common denominator to make a buck today it seems. We’ve exchanged many forms of actual poverty for cultural poverty, and many people, although having many material possessions, still live paycheck to paycheck and carry huge loans for years and years for everything they “have.” No one admits it though. If you ask around, everyone pays their fair share in taxes and “works hard” for what they have. Both being completely relative, of course. Half of America doesn’t pay any income taxes, and many receive “credits” in fact.

Roberta High School 1927-28 4th grade

Roberta, GA School 1927-28 Grandmama (Virginia Moulton) in 4th grade

But everyone has their own story to tell. And the topic of this post is a study in what stories to listen to, and give credence to, and how those stories relate to instruction that those same people may want to give.

I’ve chosen to live my life to a large extent differently from a lot of society, in that it’s been a true roller coaster ride. I believe I inherited that “desire” to embrace risk more than most and that trait has lead to some very tall highs and very low lows and twists and turns with no idea what lies around the corner, from day to day in some cases. It’s not a life many people are built for or want, which is normal. It isn’t anything to take pride in or shame. It’s what makes life what it is.

unconventional life

What’s largely contributed to this style of living has been looking to people for life guidance that I probably shouldn’t have, and took it when I shouldn’t have. But that’s easy to determine in retrospect and paints those people in a dim light, which I don’t mean to. Their hearts have always been in the right place. They just have given consistently poor advice based on their own life experiences. And I was too young and immature to realize it, and looking for answers for, what was at the time, the present. I’ve had to live my life by trial and error, which is a method I don’t recommend. It’s an expensive way to live in terms of resources. Especially time, which unlike money is a resource that cannot be replenished. It’s the exact reason why I write these lessons down. And many of my lessons have come with great hurt, which still lingers. I have several family members that have tried to help guide me based on their own life paths, which was appreciated but led nowhere. That’s because everyone has their own goals and path to travel. And when you’re young you can’t see how people arrived at the places they did in life, which is often a different story than what they would have you believe, I’ve learned.

One of the finest bits of advice I’ve been given is to not judge a man before walking a mile in his shoes. It’s something we hear enough, but I’m not sure people really take it to heart because I’m judged all the time by those who couldn’t possibly walk a mile in my shoes and even if they could, it’s clear they haven’t before forming their judgment of me or others. I don’t mind being judged at all, because as I often state, I live my life as an open book for people to judge. It keeps me honest and able to work on critical areas of weakness. No one’s perfect, and certainly not me. Some people can’t even admit that, and they’re the ones who judge others the most it seems, and usually wrongly because they tend to reflect their own imperfections onto me. Known liars want to call me a liar, for example, which is something I definitely avoid doing. And Christians will tell you the Bible states not to judge others while at that very moment they’re making (often false, or at least uninformed) judgments about you. And so it goes.

Judging others is something we do as humans, and it’s hard not to do. And I’d argue it’s necessary to a degree for self-preservation and safety. We learn to recognize danger signs when in a situation or around strangers that may present a danger. That’s exercising “good judgment.” And the same goes for being able to recognize when other may endanger us in more subtle ways, like with toxic personalities or a tendency to suck the life out of people for their own purposes, or maybe they’re just narcissists and selfish people, that will end up hurting you badly and not think a thing of it. It’s said to not cross an ocean for people that wouldn’t cross a puddle for you. Idealistically, that wouldn’t be true. In reality, it’s probably better advice than you know. I’ve crossed oceans for people that wouldn’t cross a puddle for me, and I was left out of breath, life and vulnerable, while they sat dry and safe on a high perch looking the other way.

So, who and what advice should we listen to? In the heat of the moment, it’s not always clear. Do we turn to religion? Family members? Therapists? Our dogs? Our significant others? It’s not who we have learned to trust. Although that sounds counter-intuitive, it isn’t. We want factual, unbiased advice, and family or boy/girlfriend aren’t unbiased. Religious figures such as our reverends and priests aren’t unbiased either because their advice will naturally have religious undertones of their denomination and religion, and in many cases provides more false hop and places serious situations in the context of prayers and thoughts, which may be comforting, but hope and thoughts of others don’t pay bills or help make crucial life choices.

The lesson to be learned here is to take everyone’s advice and weigh the impact that it’s likely to have individually and/or in conjunction with other advice and your own life experiences. Play out a least likely scenario, a most-likely scenario, and a best-case scenario. Writing them all down isn’t a bad idea to look at them across the board and next to each other. If able, sleep on it. Your mind does magical things when you allow it to do it’s thing while you’re asleep and coming to a problem with a fresh perspective works. Even walking away from a problem for a while is better than nothing.

These days we have the “advantage” of going online for explanations. While tempting, that’s a method that could lead to even bigger, or at least more, complications. No one cares more or knows more about your dilemma than you do, and assuredly not anyone on the internet. Except for the sole exception, which is this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh The Places You’ll Go!

Oh The Places You’ll Go!

 

It’s time to talk about the places I’ve lived because I’ve moved around a lot. I’ve lived in a lot of places, in different states and stayed for a long time in a lot of places people don’t typically get to go. Most of them are places people dream of living in. So in that regard, I’m thankful. I’ve seen and experienced things a lot of people can’t even imagine, which I’m grateful for, and I hope one day I can share these places with my daughter.  

Where I’ve lived is different of course from places I’ve stayed for long periods of time, like New Hampshire or different spots in Florida or at the beach house in North Carolina. I traveled a lot as a child and into my twenties and thirties, I moved around a lot, looking for opportunities and adventure. I usually found more adventure than opportunities. Sometimes more than I wanted.

I’m a South Carolinian. I’ve lived in Quinby, Columbia, Lexington, Charleston, Bluffton, and Beaufort. I’ve lived in Asheville, NC. I’ve lived in and was born in Atlanta, GA. And by Atlanta, I mean the HEART of Atlanta, not the sprawling suburbs that people tend to want to include in that city, like Decatur and Alpharetta. I was born right on Peachtree St. In Crawford W. Long Hospital, which is about an 8 story building that was probably a magnificent edifice in 1969 when I was born. It’s right around the corner from The Varsity, a culinary institution where my dad and uncle were when I was born, having a beer and a hot dog. The little hospital’s still standing today, amazingly, dwarfed by glassy skyscrapers on every side. It’s owned by Emory Hospital and who knows what its fate will be. I hope it’s designated historic and won’t be leveled to the ground by development.

crawford w. long

Crawford W. Long Hospital. My birthplace.

I’m proud to be from South Carolina and my parents made a good decision to plant roots there. My mother went to Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, so she was introduced to the Palmetto State at an early age. We shuffled around Columbia, Lexington, and Irmo until my mother got her CPA and a job with Uncle Sam as a business tax auditor. I can’t imagine finding that interesting.  But she had a plan and was the leader of the family, for sure.

SC-regions map

I’ve lived in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa, Alabama and have spent a lot of time at Lake Martin in Eclectic, Alabama, where I married my last and final ex-wife. Coincidentally, my grandmother briefly lived in Eclectic before moving to Helen, Ga. I never cared for Alabama, and although I have a degree from the State University there, there’s not much that is compelling about it. It’s still very rural and is a low-lying piece of land, which makes it hard to develop and why it doesn’t have a lot of companies looking to headquarter there. So it maintains its quiet southern charm. But it doesn’t offer anything unique other than an incredible football and MBA program and some good hunting. I have relatives there, but only because my aunt married a person from Montgomery and he decided they would never leave. Ever. There are some good people there and some beauty, but nothing like if you went eastward.

Georgia Florida ALabama

You can see the many roads I’ve traveled just through these three states.

I spent 10 summers in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. We had beach houses in Holden Beach, North Carolina, Alligator Point along the panhandle of Florida and in Marathon Key in the southern part of Florida, and I went to school in Winter Park Florida for 9 months and spent a lot of time in Ft. Lauderdale, where my grandparents lived when I was growing up. Enough to know how to drive around the place and know my way around. I went down to Florida a lot, even though I’ve never liked Florida. I spent a lot of time there as a kid both in the car, and poking around on my own. It’s too flat, hurricane-prone, full of transients, grumbly Yankees and misfits, and in general, it’s a boring, weird state. It’s where a lot of people go to die. I’ve been going there since I can ever remember, having my 4th birthday down there at Alligator Point which I still have photos of. It’s changed a lot since then. I met the mother of my daughter not far from there, and we even took a trip to the house we owned, which is still there in its same form, when my grandfather built it back in the 1950s. I have a lot of childhood memories from that beach house as do my parents and relatives. I’ve spent a lot of my life in Florida, mostly unwillingly. But the memories are good and the beaches are pristine. It’s the closest to California you’ll get in the East. Unless you surf – the waves in Florida aren’t anything to write home about. My grandparents moved there to keep an eye on things/their daughter and grandchild when my father announced he was going to some diving program down there, and of course, didn’t. It’s similar to the false alarm that caused me to move from Asheville to Montgomery, Alabama which comes later. And my grandparents stayed, with a house in Albany and in Alligator Point, which we made good use of until they sold them.

Beaufort is beautiful but it will go the same way as Charleston eventually and soon. There’s only so much waterfront property and plantations around. And the Yankees are buying it all up. And hiking up the prices of everything and bringing the worst aspects of the North with them, changing the landscape of the South that I grew up in. That’s how life goes — I understand it. I’m complaining but I’m not ignorant of what’s going on.

the castle in beaufort

I lived across the street from this house for over a year.

New Hampshire was like a dream. I was there from late spring until early fall so I got to experience the best weather, the freshest air, the cleanest spring water, the juiciest blueberries, and all that New England had to offer every year. Happy, friendly people all around, and they should be. It took me away from my friends back in SC so of course, I complained like a child. But looking back it was perfection. I went to a two-week boy’s camp every Summer on a big lake and took golf and tennis lessons and traveled around New England with my grandfather in a giant pink and white Cadillac for 3 months out of the year. What more could you ask for? I had it all. I have some funny stories from hanging out with a bunch of 70 and 80-year-olds all summer every year.

boathouses on lake

Boathouses were everywhere on Lake Winnipesaukee, housing some gorgeous Chris Crafts

I plan to go back to New Hampshire and revisit my old haunts. Things change slowly up there, so although I know it’s not going to be the same, it shouldn’t be too different. I know my name is still emblazoned on the wall in the Lodge at Camp Belknap, nearly forty years later. And I can still get ice cream at Baileys and bread from the Yum Yum Shop. And I can still catch crayfish and sunfish all day long in Lake Winnipesaukee.

I’ve lived in some dumpy apartments and some grand mansions. Every place I’ve lived had some character, though. And has a lot of stories through me they can now tell. I’ve lived in some of the most beautiful places in this country, which at times makes me think I’ve been spoiled. But we all have the ability to some degree to choose where we live, and I think it’s an important decision. I was married to someone who I honestly believe didn’t care where she lived and in what manner. She never evaluated the quality of what was around her, to her detriment. Including her spouses. But to me, it’s one of the most important aspects of life. So I’ve chosen some very pretty places. And I’ve wound up in Louisville, which I’m bound to stay at least until my daughter turns 18, or my ex-wife and I decide to move to another place, which is unlikely to the degree that it’s impossible. She’s gotten everything she wants, (at everyone else’s expense) so she’s settled in for a while until she has another selfish folly or something truly extraordinary happens, which on occasion does happen I’ve found.

new zealand

New Zealand, which is a small magical country consisting of 2 big islands and a few really small ones.

I’ve spent time in places for rather long periods as well. I spent 3 months in New Zealand, for example, which was an adventure to remember. And a month in Statesboro, Georgia in a hospital setting, which is where I got the Statesboro Blues. Georgia is where my family really hearkens from. My father was born in Macon, Ga, where the Allman Brothers are from, which is about the only cool thing about Macon. My mother was born in Brunswick, Ga., near Savannah, which is near Bluffton where I lived for a long while. I was born in Atlanta, as stated earlier, and my parents lived almost on Piedmont Park, back when Atlanta was much different. The hippies hung out at Piedmont Park and Atlanta didn’t sprawl out into the suburbs like it does today. Lenox Mall was an outdoor mall, and everything north of it was fields and Kudzu. The crime rate wasn’t off the charts and the political corruption was under control. My parents grew up in Albany, Georgia, and that’s where I visited a lot growing up. Radium Springs and the Flint River were all I heard about and I’ve spent some cold time swimming in both. My dad was stationed in Ft. Benning, Ga. when he was in the Army. My grandmother eventually moved to Helen, Georgia, in the northern part and is buried among many of my relatives in Thompson, Ga., if I remember correctly. I went to her funeral in 1993 or so, so my memory fails me sometimes.  

bluffton

I spent much time in Bluffton, SC

At one point I was free financially and unburdened in every way, and I had the liberty to decide where on this Earth I wanted to live. It seems like a liberating situation, but it’s overwhelming, in fact. I kept trying to think of a place like Asheville, NC. I went to Roanoke, Va, and found a beautiful house and even made an offer on some mountaintop property for sale there. But I finally realized, instead of looking for a place “like” Asheville, just move TO Asheville. Which I did.

asheville

Asheville was great, and it was where I met up and adopted a very good friend, Annie. I had a lot of friends there (I still have a few), and there was a good reason George Vanderbilt decided to build his little vacation home there: it’s gorgeous. The Blue Ridge Mountains are cozy and rich in color and history and I loved the stone and river feel to it all. There are a lot of craftsman style houses there, and the world’s largest Stickley furniture collection is at the Grove Park Inn, which I lived a stone’s throw from. The fishing and air and arts and people were all lovely, and although the NYT calls it “progressively minded” and there are a lot of hippies around there, it’s not overwhelming like you might find in Portland, Oregon or San Francisco. Or Louisville, for that matter. 

asheville

As I mentioned earlier, like my grandparents, I was conned into picking everything up and moving to Alabama, to renovate a little weird house for my father to move into, which he never did. But I fixed it up and maintained it for him for several years and ended up staying in Montgomery, Alabama which had its good moments and bad. I have family there, which was wonderful to be able to finally get to know them. My entire life I was shielded from that part of my family for reasons I won’t get into, so I’m grateful for that overdue opportunity. And I enjoyed being so close to and getting to know them while there. Montgomery itself was a pretty bad place to live. High crime, sprawling development, very segregated, hot, hot and hot. I had someone steal the hanging plants off my front porch. I had someone steal my CDs out of my car at a gas station while I paid. Hardly any decent restaurants or places to go for entertainment. You make your own fun and food, which I was groomed to do, fortunately. Luckily I lived in one of the most picturesque neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as soon as you stepped across the street you were in the ghetto everywhere you turned and risked your life going to the store after dark. I tried to find some nice pictures to post here of Montgomery and failed. That says it all.

I moved from there to Tuscaloosa, about 2 hours Northwest to go to graduate school and earn my MBA, which was a goal I’d had in mind for a number of years. I was glad to be able to check that off. I traveled between Tuscaloosa, Eclectic Alabama, where my family had a lake house and where I got married in 2010, and Montgomery relentlessly. I must have driven that triangle a thousand times. I got to know that region of Alabam really well and documented it pretty well with photographs. I lived in a teeny-tiny one-bedroom apartment with Annie while I went to school, and would go to Montgomery on the weekends to maintain my father’s house there, and to the lake house during the warmer months in Eclectic. Tuscaloosa is a small University town, that without the school, would be like most small towns in Alabama are, a place for truckers and trains to pause and travelers to fill up with gas and food on their way to a better place. Alabama has its southern chams, but if you’re from the South then that doesn’t matter much.  

And from there, I ended up moving to Louisville so my wife could live out her dreams and I could watch. And that places me here, where I am now. I long to move back to the “real” South – it doesn’t even matter where. But that goal is in the distant future because of the situation I now find myself. I hope to one day share the oceans and woods and mountains that I enjoyed growing up with my daughter. It may appear that I love moving around. I don’t. In fact, I hate it. I would love to have a home in one place and never move from it, which I believed at one time I’d found but it was taken from me. I’d somehow always planned to get back to South Carolina, where all my best friends still live, as life passes us all by.

I love to travel, which is much different than moving, which of course is more difficult, exhausting, expensive, stressful, dangerous and taxing in every way than traveling for pleasure. But at least I know the world well enough now to present it to my daughter and know what I’m talking about.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

downtown charleston

Beaufort is beautiful but it will go the same way as Charleston eventually and soon. There’s only so much waterfront property and plantations around. And the Yankees are buying it all up. And hiking up the prices of everything and bringing the worst aspects of the North with them, changing the landscape of the South that I grew up in. That’s how life goes — I understand it. I’m complaining but I’m not ignorant of what’s going on.

the castle in beaufort

I lived across the street from this house for over a year.

New Hampshire was like a dream. I was there from late spring until early fall so I got to experience the best weather, the freshest air, the cleanest spring water, the juiciest blueberries, and all that New England had to offer every year. Happy, friendly people all around, and they should be. It took me away from my friends back in SC so of course, I complained like a child. But looking back it was perfection. I went to a two-week boy’s camp every Summer on a big lake and took golf and tennis lessons and traveled around New England with my grandfather in a giant pink and white Cadillac for 3 months out of the year. What more could you ask for? I had it all. I have some funny stories from hanging out with a bunch of 70 and 80-year-olds all summer every year.

boathouses on lake

Boathouses were everywhere on Lake Winnipesaukee, housing some gorgeous Chris Crafts

I plan to go back to New Hampshire and revisit my old haunts. Things change slowly up there, so although I know it’s not going to be the same, it shouldn’t be too different. I know my name is still emblazoned on the wall in the Lodge at Camp Belknap, nearly forty years later. And I can still get ice cream at Baileys and bread from the Yum Yum Shop. And I can still catch crayfish and sunfish all day long in Lake Winnipesaukee.

I’ve lived in some dumpy apartments and some grand mansions. Every place I’ve lived had some character, though. And has a lot of stories through me they can now tell. I’ve lived in some of the most beautiful places in this country, which at times makes me think I’ve been spoiled. But we all have the ability to some degree to choose where we live, and I think it’s an important decision. I was married to someone who I honestly believe didn’t care where she lived and in what manner. She never evaluated the quality of what was around her, to her detriment. Including her spouses. But to me, it’s one of the most important aspects of life. So I’ve chosen some very pretty places. And I’ve wound up in Louisville, which I’m bound to stay at least until my daughter turns 18, or my ex-wife and I decide to move to another place, which is unlikely to the degree that it’s impossible. She’s gotten everything she wants, (at everyone else’s expense) so she’s settled in for a while until she has another selfish folly or something truly extraordinary happens, which on occasion does happen I’ve found.

new zealand

New Zealand, which is a small magical country consisting of 2 big islands and a few really small ones.

I’ve spent time in places for rather long periods as well. I spent 3 months in New Zealand, for example, which was an adventure to remember. And a month in Statesboro, Georgia in a hospital setting, which is where I got the Statesboro Blues. Georgia is where my family really hearkens from. My father was born in Macon, Ga, where the Allman Brothers are from, which is about the only cool thing about Macon. My mother was born in Brunswick, Ga., near Savannah, which is near Bluffton where I lived for a long while. I was born in Atlanta, as stated earlier, and my parents lived almost on Piedmont Park, back when Atlanta was much different. The hippies hung out at Piedmont Park and Atlanta didn’t sprawl out into the suburbs like it does today. Lenox Mall was an outdoor mall, and everything north of it was fields and Kudzu. The crime rate wasn’t off the charts and the political corruption was under control. My parents grew up in Albany, Georgia, and that’s where I visited a lot growing up. Radium Springs and the Flint River were all I heard about and I’ve spent some cold time swimming in both. My dad was stationed in Ft. Benning, Ga. when he was in the Army. My grandmother eventually moved to Helen, Georgia, in the northern part and is buried among many of my relatives in Thompson, Ga., if I remember correctly. I went to her funeral in 1993 or so, so my memory fails me sometimes.  

bluffton

I spent much time in Bluffton, SC

At one point I was free financially and unburdened in every way, and I had the liberty to decide where on this Earth I wanted to live. It seems like a liberating situation, but it’s overwhelming, in fact. I kept trying to think of a place like Asheville, NC. I went to Roanoke, Va, and found a beautiful house and even made an offer on some mountaintop property for sale there. But I finally realized, instead of looking for a place “like” Asheville, just move TO Asheville. Which I did.

asheville

Asheville was great, and it was where I met up and adopted a very good friend, Annie. I had a lot of friends there (I still have a few), and there was a good reason George Vanderbilt decided to build his little vacation home there: it’s gorgeous. The Blue Ridge Mountains are cozy and rich in color and history and I loved the stone and river feel to it all. There are a lot of craftsman style houses there, and the world’s largest Stickley furniture collection is at the Grove Park Inn, which I lived a stone’s throw from. The fishing and air and arts and people were all lovely, and although the NYT calls it “progressively minded” and there are a lot of hippies around there, it’s not overwhelming like you might find in Portland, Oregon or San Francisco. Or Louisville, for that matter. 

asheville

As I mentioned earlier, like my grandparents, I was conned into picking everything up and moving to Alabama, to renovate a little weird house for my father to move into, which he never did. But I fixed it up and maintained it for him for several years and ended up staying in Montgomery, Alabama which had its good moments and bad. I have family there, which was wonderful to be able to finally get to know them. My entire life I was shielded from that part of my family for reasons I won’t get into, so I’m grateful for that overdue opportunity. And I enjoyed being so close to and getting to know them while there. Montgomery itself was a pretty bad place to live. High crime, sprawling development, very segregated, hot, hot and hot. I had someone steal the hanging plants off my front porch. I had someone steal my CDs out of my car at a gas station while I paid. Hardly any decent restaurants or places to go for entertainment. You make your own fun and food, which I was groomed to do, fortunately. Luckily I lived in one of the most picturesque neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as soon as you stepped across the street you were in the ghetto everywhere you turned and risked your life going to the store after dark. I tried to find some nice pictures to post here of Montgomery and failed. That says it all.

I moved from there to Tuscaloosa, about 2 hours Northwest to go to graduate school and earn my MBA, which was a goal I’d had in mind for a number of years. I was glad to be able to check that off. I traveled between Tuscaloosa, Eclectic Alabama, where my family had a lake house and where I got married in 2010, and Montgomery relentlessly. I must have driven that triangle a thousand times. I got to know that region of Alabam really well and documented it pretty well with photographs. I lived in a teeny-tiny one-bedroom apartment with Annie while I went to school, and would go to Montgomery on the weekends to maintain my father’s house there, and to the lake house during the warmer months in Eclectic. Tuscaloosa is a small University town, that without the school, would be like most small towns in Alabama are, a place for truckers and trains to pause and travelers to fill up with gas and food on their way to a better place. Alabama has its southern chams, but if you’re from the South then that doesn’t matter much.  

And from there, I ended up moving to Louisville so my wife could live out her dreams and I could watch. And that places me here, where I am now. I long to move back to the “real” South – it doesn’t even matter where. But that goal is in the distant future because of the situation I now find myself. I hope to one day share the oceans and woods and mountains that I enjoyed growing up with my daughter. It may appear that I love moving around. I don’t. In fact, I hate it. I would love to have a home in one place and never move from it, which I believed at one time I’d found but it was taken from me. I’d somehow always planned to get back to South Carolina, where all my best friends still live, as life passes us all by.

I love to travel, which is much different than moving, which of course is more difficult, exhausting, expensive, stressful, dangerous and taxing in every way than traveling for pleasure. But at least I know the world well enough now to present it to my daughter and know what I’m talking about.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
new hampshire

I was headquartered in Wolfeboro on Lake Winnepesaukee which is the BIG lake in NH

I spent my teen years in pastoral Virginia near Charlottesville and went to Washington DC quite a bit, so I know northern Virginia pretty well. I lived in Arlington after my freshman year in college in fact and hung out on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley. Virginia is one of the prettiest States we have with its rolling green fields and white fences and blue skies. I love Virginia, and Virginia was my grandmother’s name, which makes it even more special. I tried to stay close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is one of the most beautiful drives you can take in the Fall. I drove along it in a convertible red Porsche I owned for about a year when I lived in Asheville, and the experience is truly magical. Fall in Virginia is absolutely incredible. Crisp, clean air, warm colors everywhere you look, everyone’s invigorated. 

The rolling hills of Virginia. It gets much hillier than this.

My best friend growing up had a beach house in Litchfield, SC, right near Pawley’s Island, so I spent a lot of time surfing and playing in and around Litchfield, which is the beach across the inlet from Pawley’s Island, which was where more people visited because it was bigger. But we spent a lot of time on Pawley’s as well. And he lived in Darlington and had a large family farm, so I spent a lot of time out in the country on that farm with him. And I was an hour from Myrtle Beach, so I drove over to the beach a lot back before it turned into a crazy place. From the woods to the farm to the beach. Most of my beach time was at Pawleys, Litchfield and Holden Beach. Holden was with family, Pawleys was for fun with friends. And I had lots and lots of fun at Litchfield growing up.

pawleys island - litchfield

Litchfield and Pawleys Island. Much time was spent here.

My parents bought a beach house in Holden Beach, North Carolina which we went to frequently. Holden Beach is just above the NC/SC border and was about 3 hours from our house. I fished, surfed, learned a lot about sea life and nature there. I complained a lot about being bored when we were there, which in retrospect was ridiculous. I was free to roam about the entire island, sea, inlets and wherever I pleased. Which was how my life was growing up everywhere, which is entirely different from today, where I wouldn’t dare let my daughter out of my sight. Not because I don’t trust her. I do. Because I don’t trust the world to behave the same as it did when I was young. It doesn’t anymore. America has twice the population it did when I was a kid, and the types of people and rules are different. It’s not for the better. It’s been much for the worse, which politically, the left wants more of. Keep that in mind.

holden beach pier

Our beachfront house was very close to this pier, to the left of it in this photo. I walked down there to the arcade, to surf and see what people were catching all the time. The longest pier in NC, actually. 

I’ve spent my life growing up in the Deep South, near the Atlantic Ocean. I grew up during a time when it was normal and safe to play outside, with friends. Football games in friends’ yards, biking and exploring creeks, woods, rivers, farms, and ditches with my buddies. And since there were so fewer people around, there was a lot more wilderness to explore. I spent a lot of time in the woods, the fields, the dirt roads, the creeks and swamps and many other places I discovered. And I learned a lot about the animals and vegetation that grew around such places. I’ve always loved animals, so finding new ones was always exciting. I’ve always loved catching animals and know how to properly catch nearly every living thing. I had a bike, and roamed as far as I could pedal, which at times was pretty far. Crazy far, to places that Daniel Boone and Captain James Cook would have been frightened of. 

Something I’ve noticed is that when I was a kid there were lots of forests and land overgrown with Kudzu. Today that land has all been subdivided, turned into apartment complexes and groomed to look like an architect’s rendering. Everything is nicely curbed, with trimmed bushes and flowers, and just so. It’s all starting to look the same. There’s not the abundance of nature and unkempt properties like there were in the 1970s and 1980s even. That’s not to say it doesn’t still exist, but you have to go farther into the heart of the south and look deep to find them. When they used to be everywhere. Kids probably don’t even know what Kudzu is today.

kudzu

I live in Louisville, Kentucky today. They like to pretend it’s the south here, but it’s not. I’d even say Kentucky itself isn’t Southern. It doesn’t have anything southern about it. Tennessee is below and it has some southerners, and especially a southern twang. Virginia is the South by proxy. It’s the gentleman’s south.

South Carolina is where my heart is and will always be. It fits me and I consider myself a South Carolinian above all else. And Proudly I should say. SC gets a lot of unfair heat thrown its way(no pun intended. SC can get HOT), but it’s one of the best Staes in the union, even though one of the smallest. I never realized how small until I moved back to Atlanta, and found out the populations we’re the same. It’s why I feel like I know everyone in SC, and I still feel that way. Everyone that matters, at least. It’s a unique place and the people there are special.

oak alleyI’ve spent a lot of time on plantations in South Carolina

I graduated from the University of South Carolina and spent years in Columbia, which is a fine city, but too hot for my taste with no relief. It gets hot in Charleston but at least you can go jump in the water. Which is why I love Charleston. Charleston is an elegant city with more to do than you can believe. But over the past few decades the secret got out and its become overrun. It’s not as fun anymore. Traffic. High prices. People that aren’t from SC living there and telling you what to do. It got crowded with Yankees, basically. It’s not the same at all. 

My heart belongs to Charleston. Charleston is neither the same as North Charleston nor the areas surrounding it, which people confuse it with, intentionally or not. Like Atlanta proper, and the many square miles that surround it. South of Calhoun Street is what I mean. It’s a richly storied, historic neighborhood where I spent my youth and many days and nights walking, bicycling, running, singing and stumbling down the streets of. At night, when no one else is around at all and the streets are empty and strangely quiet, with the gas lights and cobblestone and brick streets and pathways, it feels like you’re in Europe. Charleston has a distinct smell, with horse pee from carriage tours, the marshes, the ocean, the vegetation, and the trash cans all the restaurants have out in alleyways. You’d think it smells atrocious which on some summer days it does. But with the sea breeze that comes through, it’s tempered with a fresh life-fulfilling scent that you get nowhere else. And the bright sunny days from the reflection of the sun off the water is something I took for granted until I moved ot drearier, greyer inland locations.

The memories and stories I have from Charleston are epic and many. They defy reality at times. Which is what makes it such a magical place. There’s a lot of me in the streets, houses, graveyards, churches, nightclubs, gardens, porches and sidewalks of that city. And that doesn’t begin to mention the time I spent on the beaches of Sullivan’s Island, James Island, Johns Island and in Mt. Pleasant, where I lived for a long time. I was all over that place and saw it grow from a tween to an adult. The sudden development was mazing, which was due to a few things. But it managed to preserve its authenticity, which is important. Not without a lot of fights, to be sure, between architectural review boards and longtime residents, and no-good lawyers and carpetbaggers. At the heart of it all is money of course, versus keeping things like they were. I had boats and knew the waterways blindfolded. I could captain you all through the waterways, inlets and creeks of the coastline around Charleston. I spent the night in my boats around there and shrimped and fished there. It seems like another life looking at it from landlocked Louisville, where I’m trapped now.

downtown charleston

Beaufort is beautiful but it will go the same way as Charleston eventually and soon. There’s only so much waterfront property and plantations around. And the Yankees are buying it all up. And hiking up the prices of everything and bringing the worst aspects of the North with them, changing the landscape of the South that I grew up in. That’s how life goes — I understand it. I’m complaining but I’m not ignorant of what’s going on.

the castle in beaufort

I lived across the street from this house for over a year.

New Hampshire was like a dream. I was there from late spring until early fall so I got to experience the best weather, the freshest air, the cleanest spring water, the juiciest blueberries, and all that New England had to offer every year. Happy, friendly people all around, and they should be. It took me away from my friends back in SC so of course, I complained like a child. But looking back it was perfection. I went to a two-week boy’s camp every Summer on a big lake and took golf and tennis lessons and traveled around New England with my grandfather in a giant pink and white Cadillac for 3 months out of the year. What more could you ask for? I had it all. I have some funny stories from hanging out with a bunch of 70 and 80-year-olds all summer every year.

boathouses on lake

Boathouses were everywhere on Lake Winnipesaukee, housing some gorgeous Chris Crafts

I plan to go back to New Hampshire and revisit my old haunts. Things change slowly up there, so although I know it’s not going to be the same, it shouldn’t be too different. I know my name is still emblazoned on the wall in the Lodge at Camp Belknap, nearly forty years later. And I can still get ice cream at Baileys and bread from the Yum Yum Shop. And I can still catch crayfish and sunfish all day long in Lake Winnipesaukee.

I’ve lived in some dumpy apartments and some grand mansions. Every place I’ve lived had some character, though. And has a lot of stories through me they can now tell. I’ve lived in some of the most beautiful places in this country, which at times makes me think I’ve been spoiled. But we all have the ability to some degree to choose where we live, and I think it’s an important decision. I was married to someone who I honestly believe didn’t care where she lived and in what manner. She never evaluated the quality of what was around her, to her detriment. Including her spouses. But to me, it’s one of the most important aspects of life. So I’ve chosen some very pretty places. And I’ve wound up in Louisville, which I’m bound to stay at least until my daughter turns 18, or my ex-wife and I decide to move to another place, which is unlikely to the degree that it’s impossible. She’s gotten everything she wants, (at everyone else’s expense) so she’s settled in for a while until she has another selfish folly or something truly extraordinary happens, which on occasion does happen I’ve found.

new zealand

New Zealand, which is a small magical country consisting of 2 big islands and a few really small ones.

I’ve spent time in places for rather long periods as well. I spent 3 months in New Zealand, for example, which was an adventure to remember. And a month in Statesboro, Georgia in a hospital setting, which is where I got the Statesboro Blues. Georgia is where my family really hearkens from. My father was born in Macon, Ga, where the Allman Brothers are from, which is about the only cool thing about Macon. My mother was born in Brunswick, Ga., near Savannah, which is near Bluffton where I lived for a long while. I was born in Atlanta, as stated earlier, and my parents lived almost on Piedmont Park, back when Atlanta was much different. The hippies hung out at Piedmont Park and Atlanta didn’t sprawl out into the suburbs like it does today. Lenox Mall was an outdoor mall, and everything north of it was fields and Kudzu. The crime rate wasn’t off the charts and the political corruption was under control. My parents grew up in Albany, Georgia, and that’s where I visited a lot growing up. Radium Springs and the Flint River were all I heard about and I’ve spent some cold time swimming in both. My dad was stationed in Ft. Benning, Ga. when he was in the Army. My grandmother eventually moved to Helen, Georgia, in the northern part and is buried among many of my relatives in Thompson, Ga., if I remember correctly. I went to her funeral in 1993 or so, so my memory fails me sometimes.  

bluffton

I spent much time in Bluffton, SC

At one point I was free financially and unburdened in every way, and I had the liberty to decide where on this Earth I wanted to live. It seems like a liberating situation, but it’s overwhelming, in fact. I kept trying to think of a place like Asheville, NC. I went to Roanoke, Va, and found a beautiful house and even made an offer on some mountaintop property for sale there. But I finally realized, instead of looking for a place “like” Asheville, just move TO Asheville. Which I did.

asheville

Asheville was great, and it was where I met up and adopted a very good friend, Annie. I had a lot of friends there (I still have a few), and there was a good reason George Vanderbilt decided to build his little vacation home there: it’s gorgeous. The Blue Ridge Mountains are cozy and rich in color and history and I loved the stone and river feel to it all. There are a lot of craftsman style houses there, and the world’s largest Stickley furniture collection is at the Grove Park Inn, which I lived a stone’s throw from. The fishing and air and arts and people were all lovely, and although the NYT calls it “progressively minded” and there are a lot of hippies around there, it’s not overwhelming like you might find in Portland, Oregon or San Francisco. Or Louisville, for that matter. 

asheville

As I mentioned earlier, like my grandparents, I was conned into picking everything up and moving to Alabama, to renovate a little weird house for my father to move into, which he never did. But I fixed it up and maintained it for him for several years and ended up staying in Montgomery, Alabama which had its good moments and bad. I have family there, which was wonderful to be able to finally get to know them. My entire life I was shielded from that part of my family for reasons I won’t get into, so I’m grateful for that overdue opportunity. And I enjoyed being so close to and getting to know them while there. Montgomery itself was a pretty bad place to live. High crime, sprawling development, very segregated, hot, hot and hot. I had someone steal the hanging plants off my front porch. I had someone steal my CDs out of my car at a gas station while I paid. Hardly any decent restaurants or places to go for entertainment. You make your own fun and food, which I was groomed to do, fortunately. Luckily I lived in one of the most picturesque neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as soon as you stepped across the street you were in the ghetto everywhere you turned and risked your life going to the store after dark. I tried to find some nice pictures to post here of Montgomery and failed. That says it all.

I moved from there to Tuscaloosa, about 2 hours Northwest to go to graduate school and earn my MBA, which was a goal I’d had in mind for a number of years. I was glad to be able to check that off. I traveled between Tuscaloosa, Eclectic Alabama, where my family had a lake house and where I got married in 2010, and Montgomery relentlessly. I must have driven that triangle a thousand times. I got to know that region of Alabam really well and documented it pretty well with photographs. I lived in a teeny-tiny one-bedroom apartment with Annie while I went to school, and would go to Montgomery on the weekends to maintain my father’s house there, and to the lake house during the warmer months in Eclectic. Tuscaloosa is a small University town, that without the school, would be like most small towns in Alabama are, a place for truckers and trains to pause and travelers to fill up with gas and food on their way to a better place. Alabama has its southern chams, but if you’re from the South then that doesn’t matter much.  

And from there, I ended up moving to Louisville so my wife could live out her dreams and I could watch. And that places me here, where I am now. I long to move back to the “real” South – it doesn’t even matter where. But that goal is in the distant future because of the situation I now find myself. I hope to one day share the oceans and woods and mountains that I enjoyed growing up with my daughter. It may appear that I love moving around. I don’t. In fact, I hate it. I would love to have a home in one place and never move from it, which I believed at one time I’d found but it was taken from me. I’d somehow always planned to get back to South Carolina, where all my best friends still live, as life passes us all by.

I love to travel, which is much different than moving, which of course is more difficult, exhausting, expensive, stressful, dangerous and taxing in every way than traveling for pleasure. But at least I know the world well enough now to present it to my daughter and know what I’m talking about.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

This is a dish I make a lot because like almost everything I post here it’s easy, cheap, fast and makes the house smell unbelievable. You’ll think you’re in Italy. And my 4 year old loves it, which is important. You can add sausage which has been rendered, shredded chicken, meatballs, or whatever meat you like, too. But I like the vegetarian version and sometimes add a few handfuls of steamed, seasoned broccoli florets before baking.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 3+ cloves of garlic
  • 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1 box ziti pasta
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • Kosher S & P to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Start water for pasta to boil.
  • Pour about 2 TB of olive oil in large saute pan and add garlic and saute until soft, about 1 minute
  • Add crushed tomatoes, salt & pepper and oregano and basil, chiffonaded, simmer for 10+ minutes
  • Cook pasta until al dente. Drain.
  • Add Tomatoes to pasta.
  • Oil 3 qt baking dish. Add tomato sauce/pasta just to cover the bottom of the pan. Add a healthy layer of cheese. Repeat until the last layer is cheese. You can also top with parmesan.
  • Spray foil with cooking spray and cover. Cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10 minutes until the top is browned and bubbly.
  • Let cool for 5 minutes.

baked ziti

 

 

 

Chicken Bog

Chicken Bog

It may seem strange that I post so many recipes on this website, but as someone who cooks a lot, it makes it easy to find recipes that I cook often but may forget the exact measurements or times or ingredients. So it’s a quick reference, plus these recipes are really good, so I thought it’d be nice to share.

I have a giant 6 Quart KitchenAid crockpot that I use all the time. A few times a week. I have the “Easy Serve Lid” but if I bought one again, which I would, I’d just get the regular lid, for $24 less. I rarely use it. Somebody might, if they use it to serve from, but it’s not helpful to me. This is the best slow cooker I’ve ever used, for a variety of reasons. If you’re ever in the market, I suggest giving the one I linked to up there a close look.

Chicken Bog

Chicken Bog is a South Carolina dish, called Chicken Purleau in Sumter. But it’s known as Chicken Bog everywhere else. It’s an inexpensive, hearty dish that goes a long way. It’s really tasty and uses rice, which is a southern staple. It’s usually found at barbeque joints in SC and family dinner tables when there’s a crowd to feed.

I’ve made it many times and have learned a few things. It’s easy to make, but it’s also easy to make where it’s disappointing, which may lead people to not make it again, which would be a shame. That’s because it needs lots of seasoning. The rice and chicken don’t provide a lot of flavor on their own. A common way to cook it is to boil the chicken and use the stock to cook the rice in. That boils a lot of flavor out of the chicken. And sometimes I use chicken breasts, which really need to be heavily seasoned. But it’s a very lower-fat option. Cooking a whole chicken renders a lot of fat which needs to be skimmed. But the trade-off is more flavor, of course.

A store-bought rotisserie chicken could be used as a time-saver. But there are a lot of additives you may not want to eat in those, plus the convenience erases some of the value cooking your own provides. Cooking a whole chicken couldn’t be easier, and there are multiple ways to do it. Bake it, boil it, slow-cook it, grill it, and so on.

The sausage you use is your own choice. I’ve had every type imaginable in it and it’s all good. Cooking it in a pan beforehand renders a lot of flavors, especially if you scrape and use the fond from it. Andouille is great but higher-fat. Kielbasa is also a favorite but not the lowest fat. Smoked turkey sausage is the lowest fat but not the most satisfying.

If you boil or slow-cook the chicken, you’ll end up with a good base for chicken stock. I put in chopped onion, a few celery stalks and carrots chopped, and maybe a green pepper chopped up along with salt and pepper and some garlic while it cooks. I skim the fat and add 33% less sodium chicken broth to make about 5 cups to cook the bog in.

A tip: when you’re cooking the bog in a pot, versus a crockpot, you have to be careful not to overcook it and burn the rice. If you do, it’s ruined.

So with that prologue out of the way, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 14 ounces smoked sausage, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 2 cups uncooked medium grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 chicken (about 3 pounds), meat removed and shredded
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 3 carrots
  • green pepper

 

Instructions for slow-cooker

  • In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sausage; cook until sausage is lightly browned. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer; transfer to slow cooker.
  • Stir in 4 cups broth, rice, salt and pepper. Cook, covered, on low until rice is tender, 4-5 hours. Stir in chicken and remaining broth. Cook, covered, on low until chicken is heated through, about 30 minutes

Instructions for chicken-in-the-pot

  • In a large pot, add celery, carrot, onion, pepper, seasoning, and chicken. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Remove chicken and reserve liquid. Shred chicken and discard skin and bones. Set aside.
  • Skim fat from liquid in the pot. Strain vegetables. (Quick tip: put in fridge or freezer to let the fat solidify faster, and use a fat-strainer)
  • Add broth to stock to make 5 cups. Add rice, sausage, and chicken.
  • Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until rice is done, about 20 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t burn. Don’t lift the lid off the pot any more than necessary.
  • Fluff with fork and stir. Season as desired, if necessary.

chicken bog

Chicken Bog – YUM!

The Chicken Bog in this photo is too soupy. This is before the rice has been cooked, obviously, and this looks like long-grain rice and chopped chicken instead of shredded, which is fine but not authentic. It should be fluffy rice and chicken and sausage when done.

Some notes after I published this

I’ve been making this a lot lately, Autumn being the perfect season for it, and it just being so cheap and easy and my daughter likes it, so I’ve been making it about every other week until we get tired of it. So I’ve been trying different little ways to see what makes it better.

I’m cooking my whole chicken in my big crockpot and using aromatics to keep the chicken from sitting on the bottom. Some carrots, celery, coarsely chopped onions(like in quarters-coarse). This is an excellent way to use past-their-prime vegetables. I hate wasting food and try to use everything for something. So putting a bed of vegetables on the bottom of a slow-cooker with a chicken on top is a great way to make some stock.

I put cut up oranges or lemons inside the bird while it cooks. I buy tangerines and apples for my daughter which often she doesn’t eat the whole thing or the bag of citrus is too much. So I’ll stuff the bird with what’s left of an apple or a bag of tangerines that we’re not going to be able to eat before they expire. Same with onions or garlic cloves.

I’ll season the bird with chopped garlic, some seasoning without salt, lemon juice, or whatever strikes me or I have on hand. I cook it on high for 3-1/2 hours and let it cool in the cooker until I can handle it to remove the bones and skin and fat. I use three big bowls for that process, which isn’t the most fun, but it’s necessary and what adds the love to the dish. I remove the aromatics from the cooker and pour the drippings into a separation/strainer/measuring cup thing I have to yield usually 1 cup of stock. I discard as much fat as I can.

Meanwhile, I cut the sausage on the bias into slices and render it in a deep non-stick Calphalon pot. I remove that and pour out the grease but save what’s cooked on the bottom, which is fond. I put the pot on the burner and turn it up to high and once it’s good and hot, I slowly pour some chicken broth in it while stirring to release the fond. You don’t want to burn the fond and you don’t want to burn off the broth you’re pouring in and you don’t want to warp your pot, which putting cold liquid not a hot pot or pan will do. So just watch what you’re doing.

Once you’ve scraped the fond from the bottom and the bottom of the pot is “clean”, pour your stock and broth into the pot to make 5 cups. I find 1 cup from cooking the bird plus a 32 oz. box of Swanson’s no-sodium Chicken Broth is perfect. Bring that to a boil. It shouldn’t take but a few minutes.

Pour 2 cups of medium grain rice in. That’s a 1 lb bag of Minute Maid. There’s a difference between long-grain and medium grain. Don’t fool yourself. Bring back to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and set a timer for 20 minutes.

Cooking rice is what throws most people off. Cooking rice properly isn’t easy. You have to know your range and what “High” heat and “simmer” means to it, your pot(how heavy/thick it is) and that you have a lid that fits properly. You’ll come to appreciate a glass lid so you can see what’s going on in there and determine your rice’s doneness.

Rice is done when you don’t see any bubbling going on, don’t smell anything burning, and there’s a good separation between the grains when you look through the lid. It should look moist and full, and not gluey and gloppy.

Remove the pot from the burner and carefully remove the lid. There’s a lot of steam in there. Gently fluff the rice with a large fork and make sure to fold the bottom rice up to the top and you should be good. Stir in the sausage and chicken well, season to taste, and serve.

 

Stay Positive

Stay Positive

Some Ways to Stay Positive

Staying positive is something that seems obvious to be happy, but it’s hard for some people to do. Harder for some than others, and I believe that’s because of constantly training ourselves to either think positively, which is hard and must be consciously done sometimes or think negatively. Thinking negatively is easy and I’d even say lazy, and it’s poisonous to ourselves and to relationships. No one like to be around or associated with someone that always thinks negatively, whether it’s about others, events in life, themselves, situations they find themselves (which are typically no different than any others people find themselves in at some point), or any and everything that comes their way.

Either way, we condition ourselves to think one way or another. And after time goes by, it becomes the routine way our brains travel when we have to ponder a matter. Do we look at it with optimism and trying to think of good things about it, and try to see the positive, or do we curse it and look at it woefully and how bad it is is how helpless it makes us change it? I know people that do both, and I prefer to be with the optimists. Everyone has negative events that occur in their lives but it’s how we learn to manage and cope with them that I think makes us stronger and able to hand even worse matters, that, unfortunately, do lie around the corner if you live long enough.

Learning to be grateful is one way to change yor way of thinking positively. Keeping a list of things you have to be grateful for work for me, and I still write down things I’m grateful for. Gratitude goes hand in hand with happiness. And everyone has something to be grateful for, no matter how dim life might look at times. I wrote down 10 things each day I was grateful for, and it changes your perspective. It conditions you to be more positive.

I’ve also found it’s easier to be more positive when you’re more down and out that when you’re on top. When you have more to worry about losing or are up on top, there’s a long way down to fall and the footing sometimes feels unsteady. When at rock bottom, things feel like they only get better, so it’ easy to be optimistic. It’s ironic, really.

People that have a negative outlook on life are corrosive and have an anchoring effect on your soul. They drag you along, tire you out and drain your resources. Miserable people love to commiserate (misery loves company is true) and they’ll pick at you until they find a spot to saturate and infect you with their cancer until you quickly die. So I tend to stay away from negative people because it’s as unhealthy as smoking, eating poorly, drinking alcohol and being complacent. All things I coincidentally did when younger and have quit and never been happier and both mentally and physically healthier as a result.

Everyone’s different so I don’t have specific answers for everyone can achieve that outlook, but I can list some ways that have worked for me:

  1. Keep a gratitude list
  2. Exercise. Get off your butt.
  3. Go for a walk. I don’t really consider this “exercise” exactly, but it gets you outdoors and gets your blood and chemicals pumping, which is good for you.
  4. Change your playgrounds and playmates. The people and places we choose to go to have an impact on us, good or bad. And if you struggle with keeping a good outlook, it may be due to these things.
  5. Music. Music can instantly change the mood I’m in and the things I think about. I find it’s one of the most powerful influences in my life, which is why I embrace it the way I do and play guitar and go to live performances. Bonus: Live performances also put you among lots of other happy people who share the same love of the music you’re hearing.
  6. Pets and animals. They have unconditional love, which goes a long way. They are appreciative of everything you do for them, which lifts spirits automatically. Dogs especially have a profound impact on my life. Good dogs, at least.
  7. Read good books that have a positive message or make you stronger somehow.
  8. Listen to a Ted talk. (Not a TedX talk. There’s a difference.)
  9. Help others. There are always people that need a hand, and everyone can help someone else somehow.

I’m sure there are a lot more I’m overlooking but that’s a good list for starters.

You may ask: why bother? Because being positive allows us to be happy. It makes us happier and healthier. People want to be around us more, which has a snowball effect with regards to happiness, and I’d say even success. You become a magnet for positivity and a repellant for negativity, which draws negative events and people to us, which I doubt many people welcome. When you’re happy you want to help others, which I’d say is a big reason to live. If you want fulfillment in life and are trying to find a reason we exist as people, one is to help others, which being positive helps us do, and want to do.