Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wednesday, 4/25

I just realized something. Three Dog Night helped make me the strange person I am today.

Okay; maybe that's oversimplifying it a bit. But let me share two different back-stories to explain why that thought popped into my head. First of all, the group is appearing at the Island Resort next weekend, so I've been hearing a lot of commercials for the show. Now only that, but in getting ready to feature the group next Friday on “Upper Michigan's Favorite Friday” I've been listening to a lot of their music recently. So to no one's surprise I've had Three Dog Night on the brain recently.

That's back-story number one.

Back-story number two is something I've written about in here once or twice. Every so often I get a song stuck in my head so much that I have to listen to it 20 or 30 times in a row. It's just one of those things. I don't know why; I just do. Every couple of months I'm so taken by a piece of new music that it burns itself into my brain and won't let go. A few months ago it was John Mayer's “Emoji of a Wave”. Currently it's Leon Bridges' “Bad Bad News”

That's back-story number two.

Here's where they come together. Until I started immersing myself in the world of Three Dog Night I had totally forgotten that the first album I ever had was the group's “Naturally”. I was given the cassette of it for Christmas one year when I was, I dunno, seven or eight years old. I was given it as a gift because I really liked one song on the cassette, and it wasn't until I started getting ready for the group's appearance here that I realized that particular gift resulted in my weird habit of listening to a song over and over and over again. Because, you see, when I was given the cassette copy of the album, I would slip it into the little cassette player I had at the time and would listen to the song “Joy to the World” over and over and over again.

See? I did it when I was a little kid, and I'm still doing it as a not so little kid. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Don't worry; I don't hold Three Dog Night personally responsible for my life-long habit. I'm sure there were other extenuating circumstances. I just find it interesting that I've been doing it for so long and yet didn't remember where and when it all started.

But thanks to the group's upcoming appearance in the U.P., I now know for sure. So thanks, Three Dog Night!


(ps—the song that I'm currently listening to over and over and over? Well, it's slightly different than
“Joy to the World. Check it out for yourself!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tuesday, 4/24

The notes have come from blog readers and Facebook friends alike--

“Stop the bragging and share the brownie recipe already!!”

The notes, of course, are referring to the brownies I made for Loraine for our anniversary this past weekend, as well as a picture I posted of them on social media after they were done. This picture, specifically--

And since people have asked, I'd be happy to share the recipe that I (somehow) came up with when Loraine had some Grand Marnier and a bunch of chocolate lying around.

Here ‘tis, with a warning--the Grand Marnier that’s in the ganache can be kind of expensive if you buy a whole bottle, so head to White's Party Store in Marquette, where you can buy in it a single serving bottle for 3 bucks, as opposed to 30 bucks for a full-sized bottle. Of course, if you like Grand Marnier, go ahead and buy the whole bottle. I’m sure it’ll be gone soon!

Anyway, make the brownies first. Combine 6 ounces of dark chocolate (at least 60%) and a stick of butter. Melt in a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Then add a quarter cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, a cup of sugar, and a pinch of salt, stirring until mixed. You can also throw in a little freshly grated orange zest or a teaspoon or so of orange juice, if you’d like. Add in two eggs and a half cup of flour, mix together, and bake in an 8 x 8 greased pan for a half an hour or so at 350. Let cool completely; you know, like overnight completely.

When the brownies are cool, make the ganache. Take another 6 ounces of at least 60% chocolate and a quarter cup of heavy cream (whipping cream works wonders). Warm up over a double boiler. When it’s smoothly melted, add in a tablespoon and a half of the Grand Marnier and a tablespoon of freshly grated orange zest. Mix well, and then spread over the brownies. Once the ganache hardens, dig in and don’t stop until you’re done (or until you get a stomach ache).

There you go, everyone. Bake, eat, and be merry!

(ps—know I was speaking about finally taking the plunge and getting my DNA tested to find out what makes me “me”? Well, the kit has been ordered. As soon as I spit into it and send it back, we're then on the countdown clock of six to eight weeks until another recipe—the one that makes up “me”--gets shared!)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday, 4/23

Yay. I get my hair cut tonight!

Now, I realize that celebrating a hair cut may not be the biggest cause for joy in the world, but because things have been so hectic and because schedules haven't coincided it's been a bit since I've had a haircut. As it turns out, a little longer than normal. And because of that, if you know what you're looking for, you can really tell I need a trim.

You can really, really tell.

I can't speak for anyone else in the world, because as we ALL know I'm not like anyone else in the world. But for a certain window in the hair growing process—say five or six weeks after I get a cut—my hair starts to get really weird. For the next two or three weeks it starts to get curly. Really, really curly. Whatever natural wave my hair has to it gets really exaggerated. For those two or three weeks I can look like I'm a human mop, a human mop that just stuck a finger in an electrical socket. And then, if I keep growing my hair, it starts to look normal again.

But for those two or three weeks—the two or three weeks I'm in right now—I can, on occasion, look like Carrot Top, expect my hair's brown (& gray) instead of red. Yikes!

Normally, I'll get it cut before that happens, but like I said, the last month or so has been kinda hectic. And since I'm done shooting “High School Bowl” for the season, I don't necessarily have to have the best looking hair. So for the past four or five mornings, when I get up for work or to lounge around, I look at the mass of hair sticking here and poking out there and just chuckle. It'd be easier if I wore hats, because I could just throw one on and be done with it. But since I don't (another story in itself) I try to tame it.

The operative word, of course, being “try”. Because when we're in that little hair growth window, like we are now, my hair pretty much has a mind of its own.

I really don't care if my hair is long or if it's short; as long as it hasn't totally fallen out (yet) I'm happy. So I suppose I could try to live through the next few weeks and let it grow out to the point that it looks normal again. But that means I'd have to spend the next few weeks looking at it in its present state and trying to make it presentable. And that, in all honesty, just takes too much of my (rapidly diminishing) brainpower. So by getting it cut tonight, I can now spend the next four or five weeks not even thinking about it.

And I'm fine with that.

Now, we just have to make sure that my next hair cut happens on schedule. Otherwise, I'll be right back at the same place, looking at the same curls and the waves that are currently invading my head, and starting the process over again. Either that, or I could just start shaving my head and be done with that.

That, however, would probably open up a whole 'nother can or worms, a can I'd rather not deal with at the moment!

Okay; that's enough about hair for today...


Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday, 4/20

I have to make brownies tonight, so I may not sleep for the next few days.

Let me explain. I make these really gooey dark chocolate Grand Marnier brownies that Loraine likes so much. It’s actually a two-day process; you have to make the brownies the first day, then let them cool overnight so you can spread the ganache over them the second day. And technically, since the ganache also has to harden a little, it’s actually could be a three-day process to put the brownies together.

But I digress. I'll be making the latest batch of the brownies tonight after I get home from work. It'll be past 7 when I start them, and they're pretty much made up of dark chocolate, butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and dark chocolate chips. So with the preponderance of chocolate in the brownies (and just as an aside, do you think there’s enough chocolate in them?), it'll make our entire apartment smell like, well, a melted chocolate bar. Normally, that’s not a bad thing, but when you’re trying to get to sleep at night and all you can smell is chocolate? Uhm. . .

Maybe not just then.

I don’t know why the smell of chocolate keeps me awake at night, unless the caffeine in the massive amount of the stuff I use in the brownies somehow gets transferred into the air in our apartment, and I don’t THINK that happens. What I (kind of) think what happens is that, somewhere in that strange brain of mine, I know that chocolate has both caffeine and sugar in it, and that I know the combination of the caffeine and sugar can keep me awake. So while there really isn’t any caffeine or sugar in the air of our apartment, just the smell of all that chocolate makes my weak brain think there is.

I know I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but be glad you’re not a dork like me. Be really, really glad.

Thankfully, it’s only in baking the brownies that the smell of chocolate permeates our apartment. When I do the ganache tomorrow it won't leave any particular odor, despite the fact that it uses another massive amount of chocolate, along with whipping cream and a copious amount of Grand Marnier liquor. That’s probably because I just melt it all together and pour it over the brownies, instead of baking it for a half an hour and letting the smell go everywhere. One sleepless night because of the smell of chocolate was bad enough; two, I just can’t imagine.

In the end, though, it’s worth it, because (and I know this sounds bad) the brownies are just amazing. And I don’t say that to brag; just about everyone who’s ever tried them has told me how good they are. I just got really lucky when I put the combination together one day, all because Loraine had a hankering for brownies and a small bottle of Grand Marnier lying around. It’s as simple as that.

Now, if I could just figure out a way to stop them from keeping me awake at night!


And, if you're wondering exactly WHY I'm making brownies on a Friday night; well, they're anniversary brownies. That's right, the women who inspired me to come up with the recipes, the woman who actually inspires me to do a lot of things, the woman I constantly refer to (because it;s true) as “the most amazing woman in the world”...well, she and I will be celebrating another year of being hitched tomorrow. I can't believe we've been together as long as we have been, but I sure am glad it's the two of us.

So happy (early) anniversary, Loraine. I can't wait to dig into the brownies with you!!!!


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday, 4/19

I think I'm gonna take the plunge.

Over the years I've written in here about someday wanting to definitively find out about what exactly is my ethnic makeup. I've babbled in here about taking one of those DNA tests and getting back the report, finally putting to rest questions like just how much of a mutt am I, and why do I have such a dark complexion?

So I'm gonna spit in a cup and find out.

I have no ideas what answers I'll be finding out, and in a way, that's kind of exciting. I mean, I know I'm part Irish, part Swedish, part Finnish, a big chunk German (Prussian, actually), a slightly smaller chunk English, and, if stories older relatives told me are accurate, a little Scottish and French, as well. Are those stories true? A DNA test would tell me. A DNA test might also narrow down from where in a particular country my ancestors came. Maybe the English chunk of me is Welsh or Cornish. Maybe my German/Prussian ancestors didn't actually come from what we now know as Germany, but from another part of the Prussian empire, like Poland or Lithuania. So one of the things the test might do is confirm, narrow down, or revise what I already know.

And then there's the stuff I don't know. I have an awfully dark complexion for someone whose relatives came in part from Ireland and Scandinavia. In fact, I got my skin tone from my dad and his mother, who came who came from the Irish/Swedish part of the family. So how do people who descend from among the fairest skinned on Earth end up so relatively dark? I have two theories about that. There's either a missing chunk of family heritage no one knows about—could I be part Italian or Greek? Or could I have dark skin because 1,000 years ago, when the Moors took over a big part of Europe, they were trading partners with the people who became the Irish. Maybe, among all that trading, they also traded (ahem) DNA. If that's the case, I could throw Mediterranean/Northern African into my background, as well.

Or I could be wrong about both. Maybe there's a third option I hadn't even considered. Or, just maybe, it's a random genetic fluke, passed down among generations, of a darker-skinned clan living among a fair-skinned population group.

It wouldn't be the first time I was out of the ordinary, after all.

That's why I've been thinking about taking the test. I've heard stories and have been told tales, but you don't always know if they're true. The one thing about science is that science doesn't lie, so once I have this test done, I'll know for sure if the tales were true. But more to the point, I'll then know which ingredients have been added over the years, over the countries, and over the generations, into the stew that eventually became me.

I can't wait to find out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday, 4/18

Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.

If you've been reading these you know it's been a rough few days thanks to the weather. Among the things I haven't even complained about was a power outage at the station that fried one of our computer networks. I was working on trying to fix it when someone came into the station. Because I was busy I didn't get a chance to speak with that person, but when they left one of my co-workers came into the studio in which I was working and gave me a package, which had been dropped off by that visitor.

Here's what they left for me--

And with that hand-carved spoon was a hand-written note, which read like this--

“Dear Jim—For years you have shared your talents to make the community better. I very much appreciate hearing my name and those of my family and friends as we come across finish lines. I made this spoon as a way to say 'thank you'. It's is spalted birch from a tree that the BLP cut down on the side of the Noque Trail”.

Wow. I was floored when I read the note. I was even more gobsmacked when I looked at the spoon. Here was a gift from someone I don't think I've ever met, someone who skis the Noque and rides the Ore-To-Shore. And that someone thought enough of me babbling out a stream of names to take a part of a tree from the trails on which those races are run, form a work of art out of it, and give it to me in appreciation for, you know, babbling out a stream of names.

I'm not worthy.

I'm often amazed at just how incredible the people who live around Marquette can be, and this is yet just another example. I didn't do anything I thought was out of the ordinary. I just did what I do. But someone thought enough of me doing that to craft a work of art and to give it to me in appreciation. I announce the races because they're fun, and because they're a big part of what makes Marquette Marquette. I don't expect anything for doing them. I'm just doing my little bit, at least as far as my limited skill set goes. So to receive a gift like this just, you know, blows my mind.

I was able to get in touch with the person who left the gift and thank him properly. He said he was just happy to show his thanks, which was in no way required but which is still massively appreciated. So if you've ever wondered where the greatest people on the face of the earth live, I have your first nominee.

And the wooden spoon to prove it.,

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tuesday, 4/17

I was thinking the very same thing.

After yesterday's entry, I received a note from daily blog reader Jordan of Marquette, who had a thought. Jordan is of the opinion (the same as I) that almost everyone is probably sick of the snow, and that if I posted pictures yesterday of the crud that keeps coming and keeps coming, shouldn't I today post pictures of what's to come? She noted I've been trying to keep an optimistic tilt to the most pessimistic of weather situations, and you know what?

I couldn't agree more. In fact, before I received Jordan's note, I was thinking that maybe I should pull a few shots from a hot summer day and see if could tilt Mother Nature's mojo. Because, as you know, she and I are on speaking terms, and she listens to everything I say.


So on that note, even if Mother Nature doesn't listen and even if her mojo isn't tilted, enjoy these. The crap we have can't last forever, and soon we'll be enjoying living in weather like this--

And this--

And this---

And this--

Remember—these pictures prove this crap can't last forever!!

Tomorrow, the story of an unexpected gift.