Sunday, March 27, 2011

Finding A New TV

As I related in my last post, I’ve always had TV’s in my life. From watching my parents TV to getting my own 13” Black and White when I was about 13 to purchasing new and better models as needed. Now, in 2011, it was time to get yet another new TV. I had known for awhile that the time to replace it was coming so I had been doing a bit of research and trying to keep up with all the changes in TV’s over the last few years. I pulled out my Consumer Report’s magazines to read up on current TV’s. I read customer reviews online for a variety of brands, models and sizes. I asked friends and family what brand and size screen they had and if they liked it. I went to several stores and looked at the various models. There was so much choice out there! Narrowing it down wasn’t going to be easy. Originally, I was going to get another 32” – I had pretty much decided on a Samsung actually. But as I was researching and talking to various people, I learned that a 32” flat screen was basically equivalent to the old 27” – at least for shows that were not in HD. Since not all programming is in HD at this time and I often watch classic TV shows and old movies, that meant that a fair bit of what I watched would likely be in that smaller screen. I could stretch it out but that doesn’t always work without some distortion. Well, I certainly didn’t want to end up going down in size, so started looking at larger screens. The additional cost was a factor but the main problem for me, was that I only had a limited amount of space. As much as I would have loved to get a really big screen, I just didn’t have enough room – even if I mounted it. The only place I could put the TV was in the same area as my old one had sat - near a doorway. Since the new TV’s are so much lighter in weight, I was concerned about knocking it over as I came around the corner. I had bumped the old one several times over the years! If I mounted it, it would have to go above where the old TV sat. The wall space was also limited as the thermostat was to the left and the PC desk/hutch was to the right. I checked the external measurements of different sized TV’s. I didn’t bother with the depth as they would all come out 8-10” after mounting. Using newspaper and tape I made mock-ups of the surface area I would need for each of the sizes. A 42” was too big for my space. After some debate, I decided that I could go as big as a 40” if I mounted it. I finally settled on a 37” as that was a more comfortable fit for the wall and my wallet! As luck would have it, just as I made that decision, I got a flyer from a local electronics store with a 37” Toshiba on sale for $449! I did some checking online and learned that the suggested retail price was $750 but the set was most likely on clearance. I also learned that 37” sets are gradually being phased out and that the size below will be 32” and the one above would be a 40”. I knew I couldn’t afford a 40” but this 37” got great reviews on all the sites I checked so I decided this was the best fit for me. One morning in late January, one of my gal pals met me at the electronics store to pick up the TV, a new surge protector and the wall mount kit. I wasn’t sure when I would get it wall mounted, so we set it up on the base that came with it and set it on the floor in front of an old stand that I still had from my 20” set. Getting it mounted was going to be a bit harder, as the walls in my apartment are either cinderblock behind drywall or steel beams behind the drywall. A regular drill was not going to work. I had researched the wall mount kits almost as carefully as I had the TV, so knew that the one I had picked - Rocketfish 26" - 40" Full Motion Flat-Panel TV Wall Mount (RF-TVMFM02) would be good for various sized screens but also included the hardware to mount on the walls I had. The tricky part would be finding someone with the right kind of drill who was willing to do the mount. Luckily the caretaker had such a drill and was willing to do it when he had some extra time.I had to wait about 10 days but he did a great job with the mount! I had him hang it a little higher than most people probably would have, but this way it is easily viewed from all points in the room. It has only been two months since the purchase, but so far I am really enjoying the new TV. As you can see from the pic, I still haven’t gotten around to tying the cords properly. I also haven’t decided whether or not to replace this old stand with something a little newer. But for now, it all serves the purpose. Now, if you will please excuse me, I have some TV to watch.... dn

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The TV’s In My Life

My parents got their first TV a year or so before I was born. When I was a kid, I used to sit on a hassock in front of it and watch the cartoons on Saturday mornings. If she had time, my mom would watch a couple of soap operas or game shows in the daytime while she was sewing or doing other stuff near the set. Dad would watch the sports on the weekends if he wasn’t working in the fields or doing other farm work. I don’t recall a lot of arguments over what we would watch in the evenings – after all we only had three stations to choose from! We didn’t get our first colour TV until the early 1970’s. I was in junior high and my mom was working at the school. Dad and my brother had been shopping that day and wanted to surprise us, but when we came home that evening we noticed part of a large folded box sticking out of the rafters in the garage as we drove in! The men thought they had it up all the way, but it had slipped a bit after they’d gone back in the house. I think they were a little disappointed that they didn’t get to surprise us when we walked in but it was the thought that counted! I got my very own TV when I was about 13. My dad had won $3,000.00 in a local area lottery and gave each of us four kids a couple hundred to do with as we pleased. I spent part of my share on a 13” black and white portable TV for my bedroom. I didn’t abuse the privilege of having my own set, but I sure loved being able to watch the stuff I wanted to watch! That set lasted me for several years. I eventually replaced it with a slightly bigger 15” model which I kept till the late 1980’s. In 1987, I finally bought my first colour TV – a 20” RCA. If I recall correctly, it cost me almost $500! That was a lot of money at the time and I debated about spending that much, but was really tired of watching everything in black and white! I had a bit of trouble with the picture tube in the first few months but it was repaired under warranty and actually lasted till the summer of 2002, when it died. TV’s had changed a lot in those preceding years. My eyes had also changed and I wanted a bigger screen to see things a bit clearer. Since, the 20” died rather quickly, I didn’t have as much time to research a new one this time. As a result, I only looked in a handful of stores over a couple of days before deciding on a 32” Sanyo. It had a great picture and the sound quality was also very good. The downside, was that the thing was big and very heavy. It also cost close to a $1,000.00! Ouch! That was a LOT to spend for a TV. Add on to that, the fact that I would also need a new stand to put it on and this was a major investment for me! The stand I picked out weighed almost as much as the TV and was a pain to put together – in no small part because it was a blistering hot August day and I had no air conditioning! It took me several hours, but I did it on my own and had it ready when the TV was delivered a few hours later. Despite the weight, the Sanyo was a good TV and I was pleased with the quality and performance – until last summer. Every once in a while, the picture would go a little jaundiced. It would correct itself fairly quickly but it was still a bit annoying. Gradually, it started doing it more often. Once every couple of weeks, eventually became once a day and then it started doing it several times a day. As time wore on, the picture wouldn’t correct as quickly or as well. The jaundiced would switch to a flickering blur of blue as it tried to correct then go to black screen for a few seconds before the picture would come back. The sound was never affected through any of this though. At first, this routine would result in a fully corrected pic, but over time the effort to recover, became harder and it often took two or three attempts over a few minutes to get decent colour again. Sometimes, I even had to turn the TV off for a few seconds before I could get it to work properly. It was definitely time to start looking for a new TV! dn Next: Finding a new TV.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

dn's Peanut-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

I came across the original recipe for this entre on page 19 of the Spring 2010 issue of the magazine called “Inspiration”. It sounded quite tasty but called for an ingredient that I didn’t have - Sensations by Compliments Lime & Chilli Kettle Cooked Peanuts. I guess I could have bought a package of these specialty peanuts, but I really didn’t think I’d use them for anything else and the taste combo might be too spicy for my liking to eat them on their own. I didn’t want to spend the extra money for a premium product either. So, like pretty much every other recipe I’ve ever tried, I decided that I could do a little improvised adjustments and create a similar version with everyday ingredients!

Here is what I did differently: The peanuts were seasoned with lime and chilli so I added some lime juice and some red pepper flakes to replace those flavours. I also added a bit of garlic for extra kick and well, just because I love garlic! I used regular salted peanuts for the crust. The result was a very flavourful dish that I have made several times since.

dn's Peanut-Crusted Pork Tenderloin
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic (bottled type from produce section)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound pork tenderloin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 cup crushed Peanuts
Finely sliced green onions for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F (190°C). Mix mustard, peanut butter, lime juice, red pepper flakes and garlic in a small dish and set aside. Season pork tenderloin with salt and pepper. Heat canola oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat and sear pork on all sides until browned.

Spread peanut butter mixture evenly over pork and roll tenderloin in peanuts. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 min., until golden and temperature reaches 160°F (71°C)) on a meat thermometer.

Let pork rest 5 minutes, slice, garnish with green onions and serve with brown rice and a green veggie such as broccoli or green beans.

Yields: 4 servings

- I had some leftovers so the next day, I scraped off the coating and set it aside. I sliced the meat very thinly. Then I took a soft whole wheat tortilla and spread it with a bit of mayo, added the meat, coating mix, some shredded lettuce and a bit more chopped green onion. SO GOOD!!
- I have also tried this recipe using thick, boneless pork chops. Sear the chops as you would the tenderloin and proceed the same with the rest of the recipe.



Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dad and Charlie

In a recent edition of Assignment America on the CBS Evening News, Steve Hartman told the heart-warming tale of Dominic and Maria...

This story brought back a lot of memories for me. Memories of growing up on the farm and of a certain gander...

Just over 40 years ago, my maternal grandfather was writing the family history and decided to tell the story about my dad and a certain gander we once had on the farm. I really like the way my grandpa wrote this story, so I’m going to share his words with you before I add my own recollections. With the exception of removing our family surname and referring to my father by his initial only, the story is exactly as my grandfather wrote it:

“An amazing and touching episode which occurred on the family farm in 1969 probably should be included in the epistle. The family is very fond of fowl and in order to have a well stocked freezer, they grow their own chickens, ducks and geese. In the spring, they had a gander and a goose. Somehow the goose got mixed up with the pigs and got killed. Naturally, the gander was exceedingly perturbed. When L buried the goose, the gander seemed to blame L for the mishap. L caught the gander, stroked his (the ganders) head and talked soothingly at some considerable length until the gander seemed to be mollified. From then on the gander, which they called Charlie, followed L wherever he could. Charlie demonstrated at every opportunity that L was his one and only friend in the cruel world. Often Charlie would honk outside the bedroom window. If Charlie was not near the house when L went outside and called, Charlie came with a wide open throttle. Charlie appeared to feel that everyone except L was the enemy and would attempt to chase them away.

One day when they were sitting outside, Charlie kept bringing grass etc. and laying it at L’s feet. Eventually, the obvious became apparent - Charlie wanted L to build a nest. L consolingly explained to Charlie that at this time of the year he just couldn’t take time to set on a nest.

Every effort was made to locate a mate for Charlie. Eventually the only one available was obtained. She certainly was not a luscious of goose pulchritrude. Charlie would have nothing to do with her at first. She was named Cleo, probably short for Cleopatra. After a few weeks, Charlie seemed to overcome his antipathy towards Cleo and apparently concluded that she was better than no mate at all.

Cleo built a nest across the creek and in due course nine goslings were hatched. One did not survive. If you are still with us, we will leave you to imagine Charlie’s pride and joy in his family. He became the ideal father. He remembers L as his only friend in time of dire need.”

Now for my recollections. Let me begin by saying that I’ve never been fond of geese. They are actually a very majestic bird in flight and the feathers of the northern varieties. make an excellent down duvet! I don’t mind seeing them flying overhead, but their honking can be very loud and annoying. Even the taste of goose meat is not appealing to me. I prefer chicken. But most of all, I disliked the birds being a part of our farm.

Charlie and dad really did have a unique bond. When Charlie would honk under the bedroom window, dad would either go to the window or yell from the bed for him to go back to sleep or tell Charlie that he would see him later. Sometimes hearing dad’s voice was enough to calm his ruffled feathers and other times he wouldn’t settle down till dad went outside and spent some time with him.

We had a small motor boat that we would use on the creek from time to time or to get around the farm during flooding. Charlie would swim alongside the boat honking at dad the whole time. Being a domestic goose, Charlie wasn’t able to fly but he did get a bit of air when he got enough speed while chasing various vehicles. That could be a bit unnerving to drivers or to anyone sitting next to open windows! Some of our family and friends claimed that we really didn’t need a dog since we had Charlie as he wouldn’t let anybody except dad out of a vehicle without alerting anyone within earshot of his loud honking.

As grandpa noted, Charlie was very protective of dad. In his mind, dad was his only friend and no one got near him if he had any say in the matter. That included mom and I. If dad wasn’t around when I was getting on or off the school bus, then mom would walk out the lane with me or meet me as I got off the bus in the afternoon. She was armed with a broom stick to scare off the gander guard.

Oh, how I hated that gander! He could be downright vicious! Charlie would try and nip at our legs or heels as we walked. If he saw us outside he’d start running towards us. If he got enough speed up he would become airborne for at least a few feet. He’d chase me when I rode my bike if dad wasn’t around. Trust me, having a honking, angry, wing flapping gander coming straight at you was not a pleasant experience!

For Charlie, I think it was partly a game and partly protecting his territory. Even if dad was around, he would still use that snarling hiss of his or honk loudly at anyone who was nearby. If we were entertaining anyone outside for any length of time, dad would put Charlie in the barn or one of the sheds. Charlie voiced his protest but at least he wasn’t chasing us or our company.

Charlie did calm down a bit once he and Cleo finally got together but he still didn’t really like anyone else being around either him or dad. Cleo didn’t take to kindly to most of us either. The goslings were quite cute – until they grew up. Granted they all made a handsome family – at a distance!

As with all farm livestock, Charlie, Cleo and family were eventually ... hmm ... how shall I put this ... “Dressed for the freezer”! Dad was a bit sad to see them go, but being a lifelong farmer, he knew the inevitable must happen at some point. The rest of us, were just glad that it was once again safe to go outside without a broomstick in hand.

Over the winter, whenever goose was on the menu, we would wonder out loud if this was Charlie. Of course, we never knew for sure, but there was that one bird that was particularly tough......