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Tuesday, December 31, 2019 No comments

FAR Manor paninis

I got a panini press for Christmas, a fairly fancy one that also has electric griddle and grill (open or closed) functions, Mason and I made pancakes on it a couple of times already, but what’s a panini press really for?


The wife was hungry, and gobbled hers right down, but even picky Mason liked his. Personally, I think it's better than Panera’s by a long shot. A family friend brought us a ham, and I expect I’ll be pulling out the FoodSaver and chucking a bunch of it into the freezer (joining the pound or so of ham left from Thanksgiving). But until then…

FAR Manor paninis (makes four)
8 slices Italian bread
12 oz sliced ham
Asiago cheese to taste, sliced
2 T butter
1/2 onion, sliced thin
4 mushrooms, sliced thin
8 sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted and chopped (about 5 chunks per tomato)
olive oil

Pre-heat panini press (to 400°F if it has temperature controls).

Melt butter over medium heat in a small skillet. Add onion and mushrooms, sauté until onions are soft and mushrooms lose their white color.

Layer four sandwiches thus, dividing fillings equally: bread, cheese, ham, onion/mushroom/tomato, cheese, bread. Brush bottom of sandwich with olive oil, lay on panini press, brush top with olive oil. Press one or two sandwiches at a time, adjusting position if needed to make the top sit even. Grill for 4 to 4-1/2 minutes, until bread is browned and cheese melts.

Cut in half and serve with salad, chips, or soup.

What do you like in your paninis? Comments are, as always, open.

Monday, December 30, 2019 1 comment

Upgrade marathon

Kahuna, my late-2013 iMac, has been really laggy as of late. Running EtreCheck suggested the hard drive might be failing, although it gave no evidence for that conclusion, and checking system logs turned up no obvious disk-related issues. Still, the computer is 6 years old, and has been running almost constantly that entire time. System Monitor showed the 8GB of RAM was getting used up, and that’s probably the biggest issue I’ve been having.

Back when my daily driver was a 2008 MacBook, I maxed out the RAM and put a SSD drive in it, and it felt twice as fast as before (I still use it for vacations and other out-and-about things, although now it’s running Xubuntu). An iMac is a somewhat more difficult beast to upgrade, because there’s no handy hatch to access the RAM and hard drive… but iFixit provides parts, tools, and detailed instructions for doing the deed. So I ordered the parts and tools.

And there they sat, on my dresser, for months.

I knew that it would take a fair amount of time and effort to dismantle my beloved iMac. Between it running all the time, and not having a big block of time to do the repair, it languished. I seriously considered paying someone to do the work for me, but things finally came together. Rainy afternoon, nothing pressing, wife was present to watch the kids. I made sure the Time Machine backup was current, shut Kahuna down, and disconnected all the wires. As I usually do with these things, I pulled up the iFixit manual on my iPad so I could see what to do next.

Turns out I’d made a mistake on the memory upgrade. I knew the iMac had two RAM slots, and it had 8GB total. I ASSumed it had 8GB in one slot, and had an empty slot for another 8GB, so that’s what I ordered. WRONG. It had two 4GB sticks instead. This I learned, after pretty much taking the whole computer apart. Hey, 12GB is better than 8, so I swapped the new stick for one of the old ones. While I was at it, I replaced the 1TB spinny hard drive for a 2TB SSD. I also cleaned out 6 years worth of accumulated dust. I didn’t realize the iMac had a fan, and I’m not sure it could have pushed much air anyway, given the dust choking the airways.

There were a few glitches in the repair instructions, and that slowed me down quite a bit. Between several rounds of going back and fixing things both I and the manual had missed, and wiping up dust as I went, it was a good 5 hours before I put the display (“big, heavy, and glass” according to the instructions) back on. I had new adhesive strips (Apple uses a lot of double-sided tape to hold their products together), but the instructions wisely suggested checking your work before sticking the display back onto the frame.

Fortunately, the upgrade had gone according to plan. I restored my backup onto the new SSD, and it finished while saying it had an hour to go (I hadn’t emptied the trash in like forever). Once the system booted, launching apps was significantly faster, and everything is more responsive. Yeah, it was a hassle, but I’m going to get all that time back and then some with a snappier desktop. I’m writing this post on the upgraded system, and I haven’t seen a single beachball or lag.

Now the question is: do I go ahead and button it up, or order another 8GB stick and completely max it out? I’m kind of leaning toward the latter. It’s not going to kill me to have the display held on by tape for a while longer, after all.

Saturday, December 28, 2019 No comments

Garlic-Sriracha party mix

I promise TFM won’t become a cooking blog, but eating is a big part of life here. I’ll be posting one or two more recipes in the coming weeks.

Let’s say you’re like me, and party mix is one of your weaknesses, but you long for a little extra bang in your snack. I got ya covered.

Everyone has their own variant on party mix; some add pretzels, some add Cheerios, and the wife prefers to use Crispix and lots of cashews. Personally, I think Wheat Chex is essential, because it does an awesome job of trapping the flavorings. Anyway, here’s my variant, which brings on the flavor but is less loaded with sodium than some:

Garlic-Sriracha party mix
2 c (each) Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Wheat Chex
1 c Cheerios (regular or multi-grain*)
1 c (each) Brazil nuts, unsalted almonds, unsalted peanuts
6 T butter or margarine
2-1/2 T Sriracha chili-garlic paste
1 tsp “Italian blend” salt-free seasoning
3/4 tsp No-salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic, pressed

Preheat oven to 250°F.
Combine cereals and nuts in a large roasting pan; set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Pour the mixture over the cereals and nuts, and stir until evenly coated.

Bake 1 hour at 250°F, stirring every 15 minutes. Allow to cool before putting in an air-tight container.

Flavors seem to strengthen over time, so make this on the 29th for the New Year’s Eve festivities (if you can stand to wait that long).

*Multi-grain Cheerios adds a little sweetness, taking the edge off the heat. But adjust the dry ingredients as you please. Make it your own. Maybe leave a comment and tell me how you like to do your own party mix. You never know, I might adopt a couple things!

Monday, December 09, 2019 No comments

Moving to a Big Boy Bed [[UPDATED]]

AJ is doing very well. She had her first church visit yesterday, and that went well. She has put on a pound since she came home from the hospital (that was like >20% of her take-home body weight, people… babies grow fast).

So we sent DD and AJ the mattress out of Charlie’s crib, which meant we had to get serious about updating his sleeping arrangement. The crib is a “4-in-1,” which in practical terms means it converts into toddler bed, daybed, and finally (using the back as a headboard) a full-size bed. The wife thought a full-size bed would fit in Charlie’s small room at first, then realized it wouldn’t. That was the bad news. The good news was, the bed frame width is adjustable. We slid it down to twin-bed size, I cut a piece of 1/2" plywood I had in the garage to fit, then (temporarily) inflated the air mattress and layered a foam topper over it.

As long as you don't expect me to actually go to sleep…
The body pillow behind him goes on the floor for actual night-night time. He still has a habit of rolling off the bed, and we’re trying to provide him with a soft landing. He made it to about 5:30am this morning, so I think his bod is starting to program itself to not flip and flop all over the place. Then again, I remember falling out of the top bunk a couple of times, when I was 4 and 5, onto a floor (no carpet, and certainly no body pillows to cushion the landing).

Next stop is to replace the air mattress, but we’ve found he does like a soft bed. I guess we can go with memory foam if nothing else.

UPDATE: We got him a cushy mattress with memory foam. He loves the way it feels, but not so much that he’ll go to sleep by himself. :-P

Sunday, December 01, 2019 No comments

Mason got a turn…

I asked Mason what he thought of AJ after he had a chance to hold her.

“Small, warm… and her nose is really tiny.”

Tiny nose! Grainy low-light pic!

Speaking of AJ, she’s gobbling down formula (and increasing amounts of what DD is producing) very well. She’s still under a pretty strict germ protocol—anyone who holds her has to wash thoroughly first. We didn’t have those precautions for preemie DD in 1989, let alone preemie me in 1958, but back then we didn’t have MRSA, flesh-eating bacteria, and all those other fun things we have today. [PEOPLE: TAKE ALL YOUR %$@!%&* ANTIBIOTICS. FINISH THE BOTTLE. DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU’RE FEELING BETTER.]

Mason also reached a milestone of sorts yesterday: he got to crawl into the storage space under the stairs and send out boxes of Christmas decorations. Part of it was that he really wanted to do it, part of it was incoming rain paining my titanium knee. He wore out before the last five or six boxes, but all of those needed inspection anyway. I scooched in, identified what needed to come out (including a kitchen appliance the wife bought who-knows-when and never used), and what could stay.

“I don’t know if this still works,” she said about one random decoration.

“We should purge this stuff, then,” I suggested. She seemed amenable to the idea, which is good. The fewer boxes we have to retrieve (and put away), the better.. I’m sure one of the local thrift stores would be happy to get some seasonal decorations. Mason already has a fever-dream of turning that space into a fort. Unfortunately for him, there aren’t a lot of other good places for storing seasonal items around FAR Manor. The small outbuilding (a/k/a Studio FAR), that I wanted to use as an office/retreat, is pretty well packed with junk. Maybe I should return to my idea of bending some of the pine trees out back into a really big yurt; it would at least keep him (and Sizzle’s kids) occupied.

It’s definitely the most wonderful time (to drink beer).

Turkey Tacos

I’ll spare you the long-winded, self-indulgent preramble. If you live in the US, you know exactly where this is going: you have a metric crockload of leftover turkey, and you’re trying to figure out what to do with it all. This works really well to resuscitate undercooked or dry bird, too. You can reuse a pound of it this way, anyway. Think of it as a public service…

Anyway, the wife suggested I half the recipe, because Mason probably wouldn’t want turkey tacos. But when he tasted the meat, he was all in. I really didn’t know what to expect, but in the end it was a hit at FAR Manor.

I started eating before I had a chance to take the picture…

Turkey Tacos
1 lb. leftover Thanksgiving turkey (or any-other-time turkey), shredded
2T oil
1 packet taco seasoning (which usually calls for 2/3c water)
12 taco shells or small/medium tortillas as desired (we like the blue corn taco shells)
shredded cheese
everything else—tomato, onion, guacamole, sour cream (or crema), sliced avocados, etc.

Heat the oil in a wok or skillet. Add the turkey, and warm. Add taco seasoning and water, cook as directed. Remove from heat, spoon into taco shells, add toppings as desired. Serve with chips (again, we like blue corn) and salsa.

(A brief post-ramble: taco plates are awesome for the purpose, and your supermarket might carry them. If only they had a lip to keep salsa from leaking into the taco area.)

Now to figure out what to do with the other four pounds of leftover turkey.


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