Countdown 365: #312 – Thanksgiving Day

TDay14Thanksgiving Day is THE day for gratitude and thanks.  However, I have been “counting my blessings” daily and so I want to use Thanksgiving Day 2015 as a day of gratitude for THAT specific day as it turned out to be a wonderful day from stat to finish.

The day would prove to be a very busy one, but one filled with joy points, family gatherings, and lots of food and fun.

Early Morning full moon on Thanksgiving Morning

Early Morning full moon on Thanksgiving Morning

The full moon glowed opposite the sunrise

The full moon glowed opposite the sunrise

I actually started the day off early to make an early morning visit to my favorite sunrise viewing spot at Jacobson Lake, only a few miles from my house. The skies were partly cloudy and still dark as I made my way to the lake. The moon was bright and full.  The air was crisp at about 46 degrees, but it was beautiful.

Behind me the moon was full and still glowing at 7 AM.  In front of me the sky was filled with dozens of shades of pink and orange at dawn.  The sun still had to make its way up above the

A jet streaks across the sky before the sun made its way above the horizon

A jet streaks across the sky before the sun made its way above the horizon

horizon, but, was already lighting the sky.  A jet streaked across the sky with its contrails glowing orange.  Canadian geese welcomed the morning…some took flight, others took a morning swim in the cool waters of the lake.

For me, this was a glorious and magnificent way to start off my Thanksgiving Day.  I stood by the side of the lake with a heart filled with gratitude for the beauty of this earth and for the blessing of being able to experience it with all of my senses.  And photos honestly don’t do justice.  But, here are a few from this early morning experience.

A panorama shot of the lake and skies just before sunrise

A panorama shot of the lake and skies just before sunrise

Geese in flight overhead at dawn

Geese in flight overhead at dawn

Geese hit the water for an early morning swim. It is wonderful to see them glide into the lake in tandem

Geese hit the water for an early morning swim. It is wonderful to see them glide into the lake in tandem

The early morning sky was filled with color

The early morning sky was filled with color

Geese swim by as they await the grand entrance of the sun

Geese swim by as they await the grand entrance of the sun

The sun finally makes an appearance as it peeks through the clouds on the horizon

The sun finally makes an appearance as it peeks through the clouds and trees on the horizon

Here comes the sun (I can hear George Harrison's sweet voice)

Here comes the sun (I can hear George Harrison’s sweet voice)

Glorious Thanksgiving Sunrise

Glorious Thanksgiving Sunrise

I sat in awe, as I often do, watching the glorious sunrise, listening to the cackle of the geese, watching the blue herons snuggle with the bushes to stay warm in the early morning cool.

I was physically and emotionally revitalized and ready to pursue the exciting family events of the day.  This solitary time with camera, wildlife, clouds and sun is something I crave.  Yes, I love music in my ears and I work in front of a computer all day.  But THIS is escape for me.  I love the open roads for the same reason. The world is glorious and God’s creations are magnificent.  And, on Thanksgiving morning, it was almost like a private worship service for me.

Sunrise on Thanksgiving

Sunrise on Thanksgiving

Turkey in brine getting readied for the Big Green Egg experience

Turkey in brine getting readied for the Big Green Egg experience

I left with a full heart and headed back home.  I had already put wood chips out to soak in preparation for grilling and smoking a turkey on my Big Green Egg. Originally, Julianne and I had planned to just go to a catered buffet for Thanksgiving this year.  No fussing, no dirty dishes, etc.  Julianne’s cousin Tregoney Shepherd, who happened to be in Louisville as one of the performers in the traveling Broadway production of “Wicked,” would be joining us for this brunch.  But our daughter Chelsea made it known that she was having a big get together and wanted me to smoke a turkey on the BGE.  Soon, Julianne had volunteered to bring a “few” things as well. So much for the “non-cooking” day.

Got the Big Green Egg smoking

Got the Big Green Egg smoking

We prepped the turkey the night before by brining it with numerous herbs, etc.  This has traditionally been our way of doing a turkey for a few years.  When I got home I warmed up the BGE and got it smoking good.  I actually heated up the grill to about 700 degrees to clean off all of the stuff that had built up and then cooled it back down to about 250 as we prepped for the turkey.

These grills are fabulous because they have what they call the convEGGtor™  which provides for indirect Convection Cooking on the Big Green Egg.  These allow heat to efficiently radiate within the dome while preventing the flames and heat from over-cooking the food.  I put this in the grill and added the soaked Pecan wood chips and the grill was ready for the turkey!

FireintheHoleThese get nice and hot and provide a great balanced method of cooking almost anything.  We have cooked pizzas, veggies, pork loins, steaks, Portabello mushrooms and even cantaloupe on them.

You can see by the photo on the left that they are flaming and warm.

It was ready for the turkey!!

 

 

Turkey on the BGE

Turkey on the BGE

I opened the grill for a great shot of the BGE doing its job smoking.

I opened the grill for a great shot of the BGE doing its job smoking.

At Copper Roux with Tregoney

At Copper Roux with Tregoney

Once we had the grill going, it was time to get ready to head out with Tregoney for the Thanksgiving brunch.  We made arrangements with Bayou Bluegrass Catering, which offered a Thanksgiving Buffet that started at 11 AM at their Copper Roux facility. It was a nice experience and NO DISHES AND CLEANUP!

The Thanksgiving Buffet had many traditional offerings, but there were also some southern accented dishes such as their green beans with bacon, collard greens, Cajun spiced turkey and gravy, corn pudding and shrimp with grits. There were also many amazing desserts.

Salads aplenty at Copper Roux buffet

Salads aplenty at Copper Roux buffet

Enjoying buffet at Copper Roux

Enjoying buffet at Copper Roux

Some of the amazing desserts at the Copper Roux buffet

Some of the amazing desserts at the Copper Roux buffet

We left the Copper Roux fairly full.  I tried not to overdo it and I avoided the things I knew I would get at Chelsea’s later in the day.  We hurried home where I checked on the turkey, which was basically done.  Julianne prepped a couple more things for Chelsea’s shindig and then we all took some brief naps before heading to Chelsea’s at 5 PM for their festive Thanksgiving affair.

Ugh...an undesired Thanksgiving tradition continues with a trip to Kroger

Ugh…an undesired Thanksgiving tradition continues with a trip to Kroger

Over the past three to four years it has become an unfortunate Thanksgiving tradition that I end up making two to three trips to Kroger for forgotten or needed items.  Due to our advanced preparations and our going to the buffet, I figured for sure that I would not have to make a trip.  But alas, I ended up keeping this unwanted tradition….

Seems like there is always something that gets forgotten or is needed at the last minute.  This time it was creamed corn, pumpkin pie spice and aluminum foil.  Thank goodness it was a nice day!!

Joined my granddaughter Autumn in the tradition of a Thanksgiving "Turkey Hat"

Joined my granddaughter Autumn in the tradition of a Thanksgiving “Turkey Hat”

After the naps we were off to Chelsea’s.  Ultimately, there were going to be 30-40 people show up for this one.  Her husband Jorge and his brother Luis have an extended group of Mexican friends that are almost like family.  We have gotten to know many of them.  This was a mixture of American tradition with Mexican flair.  We brought our smoked turkey and there was a Mexican spiced turkey there as well.  Along with the pumpkin, pecan and apple pies, there was also a tres leches cake.  Chelsea also made this tasty warm fruity Mexican punch called “ponche” which was wonderful.

Mexican Ponche was delightful.

Mexican Ponche was delightful.

Our smoked turkey from the Big Green Egg

Our smoked turkey from the Big Green Egg

Mexican spiced turkey

Mexican spiced turkey

Some of the spread, including spicy deviled eggs with jalapenos

Some of the spread, including spicy deviled eggs with jalapenos

Chelsea's famed Googleberry Pie (actually using an old family recipe from my wife's family)

Chelsea’s famed Googleberry Pie (actually using an old family recipe from my wife’s family)

Thanksgiving Hat Fun with Tregoney, me, Julianne and Chelsea

Thanksgiving Hat Fun with Tregoney, me, Julianne and Chelsea

Pot of Ponche with pineapple, apples, raw sugar cane, and more.

Pot of Ponche with pineapple, apples, raw sugar cane, and more.

There was fun and music (Jorge set up his DJ equipment and we listened to Christmas music on the back deck drinking the ponche and enjoying the festivities in English and Spanish).

It is always fun to join Chelsea and her family friends.  Though there is a great deal of Spanish being spoken, we are still able to communicate.  We have been to so many of these that many of the friends are almost like family, giving us hugs when they visit.

Julianne and I typically leave before the REAL fun begins. Many of them have a few beers or some wine and the dance music begins.  They party and dance late into the night with traditional Bachata dancing and perhaps some other kinds.  They all know how to party hearty and it is all in good fun.

As for Julianne and I, we returned home, put the food away and crashed.  It was a long, yet wonderful Thanksgiving day.  Friday would bring family to the house for more family feasting and fun as our three children and their kids would spend the afternoon with us.

Truly grateful for Thanksgiving and the opportunity to celebrate with family and friends.

 

 

Countdown 365: #354 – A Free Dinner at Chuy’s

(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)

ChuysNachoTIt is not everyday that you can be “counting your blessings” and an unexpected one happens right before your eyes.  Tonight was one of those nights, so I am counting this one in as an unplanned blessing.

Julianne and I usually try to get a date night in once a week. Due to our schedules, it is usually going somewhere for dinner.  Since we are striving to eat whole foods, lots veggies and such, we always seek the places that serve vegetarian or even vegan choices.  Fortunately, Chuy’s in Lexington is very accommodating this way.

Hatch Green Salsa from Chuy's

Hatch Green Salsa from Chuy’s

I am a lover of Chuy’s because they have awesome Hatch Green Chile Salsa.  I can devour that stuff like candy…and I do.  Some of the waiters and waitresses know this and bring me out my 4-5 bowls of the stuff!  Honestly, I could eat with a spoon and skip the fattening chips! (And then there is the fresh guacamole…another treat)

We also like Chuy’s because we can order typical items and ask for no cheese or meat and additional veggies.  Tonight was one of those nights.  Thursday is “Big Daddy Enchilada” night, which is a chicken enchilada stuffed with mushrooms, spinach and cheese.  We just skip the chicken and cheese.  Kind of a special veggie enchilada, which they also serve.  Julianne and I both love them.

Chuy's Veggie Enchiladas

Chuy’s Veggie Enchiladas

Chuy's is Fun and Tasty

Chuy’s is Fun and Tasty

Well, tonight we ordered the “Meat/Cheese” free Big Daddy Enchiladas. The wait was a bit longer than normal, but Julianne and I were busy talking about the events of the day and things from work, etc.  Then, without notice, one of the managers came over and apologized profusely for our meal coming so slow. He wanted to verify our order and then went back to “get it right.”  Shortly thereafter we got our meal.  Allen, the Asst. Manager, apologized again and then said “tonight’s dinner is on me.”  We said that was not necessary, but he insisted. (Remember, we never once complained or even intimated any unhappiness).  The other Assistant Manager was over soon checking to make sure we were happy with the meal, noted that dinner was on the restaurant due to the inconvenience and then gave us a card for another meal on the next visit.  We were stunned!!

Chuy's Veggie Burrito slathered in Hatch Green Salsa - yes it is yummy

Chuy’s Veggie Burrito slathered in Hatch Green Salsa – yes it is yummy

chuys-neon-signEven after all of this, we were fine with paying for our meal, but they insisted.  THAT, my friends, is EXCELLENT and CARING customer service.  We are already good customers, frequent visitors and count this restaurant as one of our favorite dining establishments. This time they went far and beyond any expectation and it needs to be noted.

And I count it as a blessing out of nowhere. My wife leaves on a trip out of town for a week and so this was our last opportunity for a date night.  It was an excellent one!!

Jumping for Joy

Jumping for Joy after a good blessing

This place made us both smile tonight and count our blessings.  We left a tip and left with a smile.  Tomorrow, I am calling Chuy’s 800 Customer Service number to let them know how great the service is there.  (It was not the first time they have made sure we were happy, but this particular unilaterally initiated effort was a first for me at ANY dining establishment EVER!)

Count your blessings folks…you will be surprised!

Countdown 365: #356 – The Simple Things – Part 1

Sometimes, we overlook the simple things in life.  Here are a few that I count as blessings…. (all photography by David Kravetz/Sumoflam Productions):

Tranquil Snowscapes

Tranquil Snowscapes

Birds in Graceful Flight

Birds in Graceful Flight

My wife running her fingers through my hair

My wife running her fingers through my hair

Mountain Majesties

Mountain Majesties

The Curiosity of Children

The Curiosity of Children

Morning sunrises

Morning sunrises

Spring FLowers

Spring Flowers

Homemade S'mores

Homemade S’mores

The curious art of nature

The curious art of nature

A robin egg

A robin egg

A baby yawn

A baby yawn

Curious wildlife

Curious wildlife

Nature's variety

Nature’s variety

Grandchildren at play

Grandchildren at play

A bee at work

A bee at work

Nature's Art in flowers

Nature’s Art in flowers

A grandchild dancing

A grandchild dancing (photo by Marissa Noe)

Young goslings in the morning sun

Young goslings in the morning sun

Morning fog on an autumn day

Morning fog on an autumn day

Sunbeams in the evening

Sunbeams in the evening

 

Countdown 365: #359 – Wasabi Rush

wasabi-ft1OK, I know what you’re thinking… Gratitude and Wasabi? Well, yes.

In 1975 I had my first taste of wasabi while living in Japan.  I grew up a lover of hot spicy chilis and so the zing of wasabi was not bad.  But, unlike chilis, it left no “afterburn.”  What it did do was send a rush through my brain and my nose.  Not being one who ever took drugs, I only imagined that this was what it was like being high.

Benefits of Wasabi

Benefits of Wasabi

Wasabi5I was never one to look into the benefits of wasabi. I have just enjoyed, with fascination and wonder, the amazing flavor and the sensory rush it gives me. Although wasabi does have a strong, spicy taste, it is different than the taste of capsaicin (which I also love and will cover in another future gratitude piece), the chemical found in chili peppers that gives them their hot or spicy flavor. Whereas capsaicin gives the sensation of “burning” on the tongue, wasabi affects the olfactory sense, releasing chemical vapors that affect the nasal passage. And that is what I love about it.  Indeed, The potent taste of wasabi is similar to hot mustard (which I also like), and it is most commonly used as a condiment. Since wasabi’s unique flavor is not oil-based as it is with chili peppers, the strong or uncomfortable sensation of eating wasabi does not last very long, and some people actually find it pleasant and invigorating, which is most certainly my case!

Real Wasabi

Real Wasabi

When we moved to Oita, Japan in the late 1980s I learned that this area of Japan was a major grower of wasabi.  I had numerous opportunities to eat sushi with FRESH wasabi right out of the ground. Man oh man!! What a rush!

Of course, it is really a condiment, like mustard or ketchup, but chiefly used with sushi and sometimes with buckwheat noodles (also known as soba).

Have some sushi on that wasabi...

Have some sushi on that wasabi…

SushiI have always loved sushi (sushi has rice and vegetables and sometimes raw or cooked fish and a dab of wasabi, in most cases).  Sashimi, which is just cut raw fish, is also typically eaten with soy sauce and wasabi.

I have to admit that it is one of my favorite things in the world to eat!  I am grateful that God created wasabi for our taste buds as well as for our health benefit.

In recent years there have been a few other products with wasabi, only available in Japan and not yet tasted by my tongue.  But I thought it would be fun to share — no explanation is necessary.  You’ll get the picture.

WasabiKettleChips

Wasabi KitKats?

Yum?

WasabiDoritos

And finally, how can I not write a gratitude piece on Wasabi without including this classic TV Commercial from 2000.  Yes, I know its a beer commercial.  But who cares? Wasaaaabi…..

Coming Soon to Sumoflam Singlewide Blog – 2015

David in a National Ad Campaign for Asahi Solar in Japan, ca 1992

David in a National Ad Campaign for Asahi Solar in Japan, ca 1992

As 2015 has already come on strong, I already have plans in the works for new blog posts and, honestly, I can’t wait, so I thought I would pop in a little teaser of what to expect over the next few weeks:

#TBT Posts

Cartoon2

Cartoon from Oita Godo Shinbun (Oita Daily News – Japan)

The #TBT (Throwback Thursday) movement is getting bigger and I have already boarded that train on my Less Beaten Paths Travel Blog as I look back at old travel journal entries that are now going to be integrated into the blog.  For this particular blog in 2015 my #TBT Theme will be “Sumoflam in the Media” and I will resurrect magazine articles, newspaper articles, television shows and commercials that I have been in over the years.

 

 

 

Second Mesa, AZ

Cover article for the Asahi Solar Magazine – Me with Hopi Indians, providing a Solar Water Heater to them in 1990.

In this I will include my short-lived TV documentaries from Japan, translated versions of my newspaper column while living in Japan, more recent publications in American Magazines and Newspapers. And, there may be a few other fun surprises.  Watch for these every Thursday (or at least every other Thursday).

A TV Food Competition Primer

FN-ShowLogo-Chopped-1920x1080I have become an avid viewer of great Food Competition programming on television, including Food Network shows such as “Chopped,” “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “The Great Food Truck Race,” “Guy’s Grocery Games,” and more. While listening to judges, I have learned all sorts of interesting things from cooking styles, food names and, most interestingly, terminology such as “flavor profile” and others.  I will introduce you to some of these and try to explain them away. Appearance and taste aren’t the only winning things with these shows as many culinary experts are becoming TV stars.  I’ll introduce some of them as well.

Scampering with squirrels – a Photo-Essay

DSC_5838Over the last couple of years I have become enamored with squirrels!  Through all of my wildlife photography, I have captured some great squirrel shots.  At the same time, as I look out by back deck door I have thoroughly enjoyed the amazing shows that squirrels present including their leaping, their frolicking with others and their foraging.  My fascination is seemingly endless.

How to be “Awesome, but getting better”

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

I have become known for replying “I’m awesome, but getting better” when asked how I’m doing.  I am a firm believer in trying to take a positive vent on things and be resilient.

Life may be hard, but the attitude one takes can really be life changing. I enjoy every day of life despite the stresses, challenges and obstacles thrown at me. I hope to share some of this positivity in an upcoming blog post.

The Joys of Being a Grandparent

David (Grampz) with all 9 grandchildren on Christmas Day 2012

David (Grampz) with all 9 grandchildren on Christmas Day 2012

My nickname is “Grampz” to my Grandkidz.  We are all hip…we use the letter Z at the end.

I never dreamed of having 9 (and maybe more) grandchildren.

I may have been an OK parent, but I like to believe I am a Helluva grandparent!

Sumoflam Tackles “The World’s Hottest Burrito”

The BurHEATo™

The BurHEATo™

A couple of weeks ago, Julianne and I visited a new place called Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina that recently opened in Lexington.  Always on the lookout for something yummy, fresh and healthy (hopefully), we dropped in and had a good meal.

While there, I noticed the poster which I have added on the left.  At that time I decided I wanted to try their BurHEATo™, which they claim is the “World’s Hottest Burrito.”

This guy is made with  the Guinness World Record®’s Hottest Chile Pepper: Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper® in partnership with the PuckerButt Pepper Company from South Carolina. The Reaper Sauce is packed with the World’s Hottest Pepper, and just the right amount of all-natural spices.

Reaper Sauce

The Reaper Sauce made from Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper®

So, this evening we dropped by and I decided to try it out!  They have a deal, if you video yourself eating it, they will give you a t-shirt.  So, here is my video, in two parts…and there was no cheating.  I devoured it with happiness!!

Sumoflam explaining the BurHEATo before indulging

Sumoflam explaining the BurHEATo before indulging

The BurHEATo™ is made with grilled chicken, black beans, rice, pueblo corn salsa, tomatoes, cilantro, and only one tablespoon of Smokin Ed’s Carolina Reaper® pepper sauce. It was filling and satisfying…and really could have been hotter….

Part 1: The Beginning…Sumoflam vs. the BurHEATo™

Finishing off the BurHEATo

Finishing off the BurHEATo

And here is Part 2: Finishing it off without a tear!

This was definitely fun and tasty.  It may not be suitable for some palates, but for mine…YUMMIFEROUS!! (OK – I’ll confess here that it did cause my lips to tingle pretty good…but oh, the capsaicin rush!!)

Now get me that t-shirt!!