Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Things

1. Our current dilemma: The air conditioning check up tech said everything is fine (more or less), it works (technically, it blows cool air), and there's nothing specifically wrong, but since it's 22 years old, it's not sucking out the heat as well as it should and not cooling as well as it should. Its current SEER is around 10. That's... not good. There's nothing to fix/replace. It's just old age. It could die at any time, but there aren't any indications of when. He also said that it's going to keep declining and we'll notice it working less & less effectively (like we did the weekend we got home from NC). In fact, he said that this summer on the 85+ days, we'll have trouble with it keeping the house cooled to 78.

So annoying! We can ride it out until we are sure we want to replace it (ready to spend the $) or until it dies and we have to replace it (and suffer without it for a few days). If we wait, we'll likely suffer a bit on the super hot & muggy days in July & August. Or we can just bite the bullet now and spend the $ for a new one. Or we can just move into the perpetually cool basement for the super hot days. Or we could replace it and be happy anywhere in the house on hot days.

What to do...?????????

2. Meanwhile the yard guys came today. So SP decided it was time to check the mail. Funny how when the customer is home, everything gets done and gets done nicely.

3. After my tablet froze a gazillion times last night and re-booted a zillion times, I think it's pretty clear it's time for me to replace it. Tomorrow's shopping includes a trip to Best Buy.

4. When does the weekend cocktail hour start? I see $ flying out of the bank account and feel stressed.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

1. Tomorrow is the appointment for the a/c unit check up. I'm a little worried. On the one hand, after those initial 2-3 days of seeming to be sick, it's been fine, keeping up with the heat inside and cooling as desired. On the other hand, SP took a closer look at the stickers/information on the unit and discovered ours is from 1993. So it's 22 years old. That doesn't seem to bode well for a happy, problem free, working great a/c system!

2. Of course this morning we had to turn on the furnace because the house was 68 degrees and we were chilly. I think I saw a possible frost warning for Friday into Saturday - ? In late May!

3. There have been several family health issues lately (the kind that involve hospital trips, for both our families). The latest was my mom taking my dad to the ER on Monday and now he is having outpatient surgery tomorrow. I'm kind of worried even though it's not a major surgery but... the older I get, the more freaked out and worried about this stuff I've become. I'm much more aware of just how short life is.

4. In the past couple of weeks I've read:

I still have a pile of 4 library books to read plus 2 more ready for pick up. Looks like there's still a lot of reading in my near future.

5. This weekend is Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. We're celebrating by hosting a gathering with friends. I'm not yet sure of the complete menu, but I think we've decided on pork, smoked and grilled.

6. The weekend also means it's time to transplant the herbs and veggies into their big pots/garden spots and plant the petunias as well. I wish some of our herbs were bigger but the ones from last year have revived nicely:
The rosemary and chives made it through the winter and look great. Last weekend we used a bunch of chives on the baked potatoes.
7. The pea shoots SP planted this spring are growing nicely. SP hopes to harvest them this weekend and then plant tomatoes in the box.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vacation Lunch Time: Frisco Sandwich ~ Gibby's ~ Poor Richard's

Sometimes finding a place to get lunch is the hardest part of vacation. We never know exactly where we'll be when hunger strikes. Since neither of us much likes the usual fast food places, and since sometimes our sight-seeing takes us to some deserted areas (like a day trip from Portland to Mt. St. Helens, or a day driving from Las Vegas to Death Valley), I try to plan a rough schedule of activities for a day of vacation and then research lunch options in what looks like a lunch time area. We always take a bag full of snacks because sometimes, you just can't find a lunch place (like in the middle of driving around Death Valley, or on a volcano). This trip, we toted our food bag of goldfish crackers, club crackers, pretzels, Pringles, Snickers, Wheat Thins, Milanos, and Smarties everywhere. 

Sometimes there's fruit, too. 

Snacks only stave off hunger for so long. Fortunately there's Yelp. I'm very bad at contributing reviews to Yelp (I much prefer linking my blog posts like at Urbanspoon rather than writing the blog post again on Yelp's site) BUT we have found the Yelp app incredibly useful when on the road.

For instance, our first day of vacation, we headed from Corolla down to Hatteras, stopping at places along the way (like Bodie Lighthouse). Just before we got to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, we decided we were hungry. I had not marked any lunch places on our map, so we pulled up Yelp and discovered this place, just 11 minutes down the road from where the car was:
Frisco Sandwich Company. It got good reviews, and who doesn't like a dancing pickle?
We pulled up the menu on our phones, chose our sandwiches, SP went in to order, and we ate in the car. We chose the same sandwich:
TBC (smoked turkey, bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, ranch on white (me) or wheat (SP)). The sandwiches were excellent. The potato chips were amazing! Super thin and crispy and a light seasoning. We couldn't stop eating them.
Definitely a great lunch choice if you're near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Frisco Sandwich Company on Urbanspoon

The day that we were driving from Fort Fisher to Carolina Beach, we had to quickly find lunch around 2 pm (we were starving despite eating a bunch of pretzels and crackers at the beach near Fort Fisher) and used Yelp to find this place:
Gibby's Dock & Dine. Sadly, after choosing this place, we discovered there are 2 entries for this place on Yelp, one with an average rating around 4 (the entry we saw) and the other rating around 3 (the entry we didn't see). When we went in, we were a little unsure if we should stay. It was seat yourself and we had to choose between going left or right, we had no idea of the difference, an employee said either was fine, we chose right and entered what seemed to be the bar area. There were a few people here and there but we felt really out of sorts. Kind of like intruders. Another employee suggested the dining room to the left, so we went there. We were the only ones there and waited a long time for a server. It was kind of creepy.
SP chose the Seafood Chowder Classic. It was very thick but had lots of potatoes, bacon, clams, crab, and shrimp. It's not my kind of soup but SP really liked it.
He also chose the House Salad and was happy to see mixed greens, not iceberg. Fortunately, after soup & salad, he had room left in his tummy to help me finish my lunch:
The Intracoastal Club. It was HUGE. I chose white instead of wheat or rye bread and turkey instead of ham or roast beef. I asked for cheese (cheddar) and mayo on the side. My side: sweet potato fries. The fries were pretty darn tasty and had a bit of cinnamon sugar sprinkled on them. I'd never had slightly sweet and cinnamony sweet potato fries before and it was a nice change of pace. My sandwich was good. The turkey was just OK but there was lots of it, and lots of bacon, lettuce, and tomato.

The menu also lists a sandwich option, The Gibby, which includes fries and cole slaw on the sandwich and under appetizers there is a Pittsburgh Pepper option. We asked our server if the owner is from Pittsburgh and he said yes. I will say that our server, once he found us at a table in need of service, was quite friendly and accommodating. Not only did he talk to us about the owner being from Pittsburgh but he also told us a lot about the new boardwalk and about the owner's new restaurant just a block or so away.

A good choice if you're in the area and need lunch just beware these are Pittsburgh sized portions! And beware of the slow service.
Gibby's Dock & Dine on Urbanspoon

The day that we were near Manteo, Fort Raleigh, and the Elizabethan Gardens, we snacked until around 2:30 and then found this place: Poor Richard's Sandwich Shop. The menu is on a chalkboard along the left wall as you enter. You order at a counter then take a seat and they bring your food. When we went to order, a young girl behind the counter told us they were closed, but then an older guy (owner? manager?) corrected her and said, no, they were still open. ? I think because we were there about 10-15 minutes before they closed on a Sunday and because they were starting to clean up and because the young girl wanted to be done with her work day, she tried to turn us away and got caught by the guy in charge.

We shared a Grilled Pimento Cheese on wheat and chips. The cheese was so melty and gooey it kept sliding off the sandwich and we ended up using the chips to scoop up the cheese that oozed onto the plate. Truthfully, I was disappointed. It didn't really seem worth the cost. To be fair, it was just before closing, but... The pimento cheese was tasty but I thought the bread could have and should have been better (it seemed just like store bought squishy loaf bread). There was a nice deck in the back where we ate and looked at the Manteo Waterfront. But aside from the older guy who told us to stay and showed us out to the deck, the employees were pretty unwelcoming. We felt uncomfortable the whole time we were there.
Poor Richard's Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

22 North (Wrightsville Beach, NC)

We were away for 10 days. Before vacation, we didn't do any blog-worthy cooking. Since we got home, we haven't done anything blog-worthy either. So the next week or so will be a bunch of posts about what we ate on vacation. One of our favorite meals on vacation was at Wrightsville Beach in NC at a place called 22 North.
The menu changes frequently, so the current offerings are printed on a chalkboard menu. The nice thing is that the chalkboard is on an easel and our server brought it over right next to our table. No squinting or contorting to see the menu from afar! I ordered a glass of wine and SP had iced tea while we thought about what to order and our server checked on garlic. Here's what we ate:
First up was a bread basket: blueberry muffin (delicious), cornbread (SP's favorite) and an herb biscuit, which I didn't try but SP said was tasty.
I ate most of my salad before I remembered to take a photo
Mixed greens salad with strawberries, goat cheese, and candied walnuts. The dressing was a creamy garlic, but our server gave the dressing to SP on the side, and brought me small bottles of balsamic and olive oil. Really good salad. 
Bacon Wrapped Scallops with rice and mango-red pepper. Nicely cooked large scallops.
I ordered the Shrimp & Grits which came with a corn-red pepper maque choux. Our server told me there was garlic in the polenta and maque choux but that it had been cooked for a while, it wasn't raw or tossed in right before serving, so I figured I'd be OK (I was). I think she also said the shrimp are cooked in the maque choux. It was delicious. The grits were really good, creamy and if I remember correctly a hint of bacon taste. I don't really like corn, so I tried to push it off to the side, but the red pepper was tasty and added a nice flavor to the grits and shrimp. 
 SP got the King Mackerel. Served with rice and some veggies and a sauce.
For dessert we shared a slice of Chess Pie and a scoop of locally made cappuccino gelato that had a bit of a crunch to it.
We both were very pleased with the food and the service. Our server was absolutely fantastic with checking on garlic and other ingredients and she did it cheerfully. She was laid back but also attentive. We'd definitely go back if/when we make it back to the area.

22 North on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 18, 2015

Weekend Recap

The weekend flew by so darn fast! I'm already looking forward to a 3 day, less jam packed, weekend.

1. SP got his hair cut. It was only 1-2 weeks late, but gosh he looked... not as cute as usual!

2. Avengers: Age of Ultron was good, but not great. I was actually a little bored during it and a little let down. But the action scenes and Thor's arms? Fantastic.

3. Dinner at Central Diner was good but not great. My Philly Cheesesteak was not as good as the last time I had it.
4. Sunday morning we made Asparagus-Havarti Quiche for 2 dinners this week.

5. Sunday afternoon my parents came over for a belated Mother's Day celebration. My mom asked for this meal:
Baked potatoes with cheddar cheese, bacon bits, sour cream, butter, and chives. I had everything except butter on mine. I also don't really like the skin, so I scrape out my potato and mash it up on my plate. It's been a long time since we've had baked potatoes and they were delicious.
Grilled chicken. With crispy skin. We seasoned it with Penzeys Northwoods seasoning. 
Grilled zucchini. We added the leftover asparagus from the quiche.
Sauteed green beans for dad (he doesn't like zucchini or asparagus).

It was a tasty meal and happily, there wasn't any rain so we were able to grill and eat outside. Dessert was Rita's.

6. After they left, we cleaned up and watched Game of Thrones which was kind of a boring episode and then ended in a disturbing way and I was... bothered by it. After that I sent SP to his mancave so I could watch the Mad Men series finale. My initial reaction was annoyance, disgust, and disappointment. SP heard me yelling at the TV! Upon reflection, I guess it was a pretty fitting end, but Peggy deserved more.

7. Somewhere in there was another 4 loads of laundry and some yard work and we caught up on a bit more TV from the week we were away.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

1. We were home just a few hours before that wonderful relaxed vacation feeling left us. Back to dealing with hassles. Here's the latest:

*The a/c isn't working properly. It was 84 degrees in the house when we got home. 8 hours later, after running non-stop, it was only down to 80. The next day, the house was only "cooling" to 81. The a/c is set for 78. So we have an appointment with the heating-cooling company that replaced our furnace 3 years ago. Yes, it blows cool air, but...

*Both tablets have been acting up for the past few months but SP's officially died over vacation.

*The replacement digital frame died. Same issue, the washed out photos. It's being sent back for, presumably, yet another unit, but... I don't have high hopes and I'm pretty disappointed in this frame.

*The yard guys aren't doing everything they're supposed to be doing. It's not cheap to pay people to do this stuff so it's very annoying when they do an unsatisfactory job.

All issues are being dealt with, but... UGH!

2. Mother Nature is being difficult! Saturday through Monday, it was near 90, so we changed the bed from winter stuff to summer stuff. Then last night it went down to the high 30's/low 40's overnight (there was a frost advisory) and despite putting on a long sleeved pj top and pulling up the sheet, blanket, and summer comforter, I was cold all night and didn't sleep well.

3. This week our 2 meals are:

*pasta salad loaded with grilled zucchini, roasted red pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, kalamata, green olives, and parmesan

*grilled skirt steak, grilled mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, roasted red pepper on tortillas

4. SP took a quick trip to The Strip for some Northwoods seasoning from Penzeys (it's grilling season and we really like this stuff on chicken) and while he was there, he bought some bought Enrico biscotti for dessert. Yum!

5. This weekend is going to be busy, much like last weekend.

Last weekend, after getting home at 6 pm on Saturday, I had to shower (I couldn't shower that morning at the hotel because of an issue with the shower bench so I felt really gross when we got home), we ordered dinner, unpacked, went through 10 days of mail, and started laundry. Sunday SP did the usual shopping, got gas, did some yard work and garden stuff, we brewed 2 batches of iced tea, did more laundry (8 loads total on Sat-Sun), changed the bed from winter to summer stuff, grilled the grilled foods for dinners this week, and we managed to get to Mother's Day dinner with his mom at 4 pm.

**Insert my usual rant about how 4 pm dinner is way too early to eat and inconvenient in terms of us getting stuff done.**

Seriously, we weren't nearly done with everything we had to do by 3:50 pm so we dropped it all and then had to pick up again after we got home from dinner - after I ate the most disgusting dumplings ever. I have no idea why his mother says this Chinese place is her favorite restaurant because I find it disgusting. Once again, I felt queasy after eating there. They were supposedly pork dumplings but the pork looked like beef and it had an orange color, like it was taco meat. I don't think I can eat there again. Every time we've gone in the past 7 years, I've left feeling sick to my stomach.

This weekend, on Saturday alone, SP is finally getting his hair cut (it's a week or two past due), has to do the usual shopping/errands, then we're meeting a friend for a movie (we haven't seen this friend in 5 months), and then we have to meet SP's family right after the movie for a family birthday dinner, so we have to blow off our friend for dinner (usually we do movie + dinner but we had to bail on dinner), and then we have 2-3 more errands that I want to do after dinner.

Sunday we're celebrating Mother's Day with my mom. And we'll have to cook and do laundry.

And then it'll be a new work week. What happened to weekends being relaxing?!

6. Thank goodness next weekend is a 3 day weekend because of Memorial Day. It'll give SP some extra time to transplant the herbs and flowers from their starter pots into the big outdoor pots and get the second garden box set up. We also hope to have a gathering with some friends we haven't seen in almost a year. I'm astounded at how quickly time has gone by and how infrequently we've seen our friends, but when I look back at the calendar and weekends, between family stuff, the shows we see, work events, vacations, and crappy, snowy, stay home winter weather, there's really not been a lot of free weekends to see friends.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Steamers (Outer Banks)

Sometimes vacations get off to a non-vacation-y start. Sometimes the online map/driving directions sites are wrong. Like when you do your preliminary research and they tell you it's 8.5~9 hours from your house to Nags Head, NC but then you start the drive and it ends up taking 11 hours from your house to your hotel. You find yourself checking in at 7 pm, car tired, and starving for real food because that Wendy's junior bacon cheeseburger was good (bacon!) but not exactly satisfying (plus you ate it hours ago) and those car snacks were tasty snacks but not really satisfying (Goldfish crackers - yum!) and you're in a place you've never before visited and you NEED food.
But then you get into your hotel room to freshen up and discover it's not a true wheelchair accessible room (the toilet is too low, there aren't any grab bars, you can't get to the sink because there's no space underneath for your knees, and there isn't a handheld/adjustable shower) AND THEN YOU HEAR IT: the wailing baby next door followed by the toddler next door demanding cartoons. Thank you connecting door and super thin walls.

Happy 5th Anniversary vacation.

Poor SP marched right back downstairs and got us a new, better, truly accessible, quieter room (without mentioning the crying baby). Yay! And finally at 8:15 pm you're ready to get REAL FOOD and thank goodness your wonderful wife spent HOURS researching restaurants and made a spreadsheet (NERD) with your options and a map with all the yummy sounding restaurant possibilities. Thank goodness there's a place 12 minutes away that got great reviews on Yelp/Urbanspoon/TripAdvisor and that had a tasty looking menu.

The place: Steamers in Corolla, NC.
It's a tiny place. There are only 2 tables inside. Presumably, there is lots of outdoor seating, but we didn't look because it was windy, chilly, and drizzly. Steamers sells soups, salads, seafood (steamed, fried, grilled), chicken, ribs, sides -  you can get it to go or to eat there. Even if you say you're eating there, it's served in to go boxes, which makes taking leftovers home easy.
We started with soup. New England Clam Chowder for SP and Lobster & Shrimp Bisque for me.
Both soups had a lot of tasty chunks of seafood and other goodies in them. We both liked both soups, but he liked his clam chowder better and I liked my bisque better, so that worked out nicely.
Hearty, warming, satisfying on a chilly, drizzly evening.
We both got cole slaw with our meals. This was different than any we've had before. It was vinegary, not mayo-y, and there were slivers of roasted red pepper. It was really tasty and tangy.
SP had a special of the day 3 course meal of soup, entree, and dessert. His meal was fried shrimp, fried scallops, and fried clams. He said the fried clams were amazing and much better than he expected. I tried a bit of scallop and was surprised that it was so perfectly cooked since usually I find fried scallops too overcooked & dry.
I got a 3-for-one meal and chose the hush puppies~cole slaw~crab cake one. The hush puppies were good and very filling. I had to enlist SP's help to finish them. My crab cake was delicious.
Jumbo lump crab with a bit of red pepper. It was one of the best crab cakes I've ever eaten. It looks kind of small in the photo, but it wasn't.
We both were stuffed but then SP's dessert arrived. He chose the cheesecake. We each had a couple bites and then took the rest back to the hotel.

I don't know what it's like when the place is swamped during peak summer season, but for us, it was delicious and satisfying and just what we needed. Plus, all the employees were very friendly and nice. In fact, I cannot say enough how nice they were to us. We'd definitely go back and suggest it to others visiting the Outer Banks.

*Note: Beverages are selected from a cooler in the back (bottled tea, soda, water, etc) and they also sell beer and wine.

Steamers on Urbanspoon