Monday, August 21, 2017

This Week Is Off To A Good Start

To say that I had a bad weekend is putting it mildly. I'm having some serious issues with the person who oversees the Residential Housing program here at the Y.M.C.A. and the longer things go unresolved, the more upset I become.

For me, getting over a bad couple of days is not easy but it is important. So, today, I got up at 7:30 in the morning and got busy from the get-go. I cleaned the room, took out the trash, showered and shaved, and then put together everything I needed to cook a good meal.

I've had a craving for really good pasta sauce for a few days. I love to make it from scratch. Part of that is because I learned how to do it from my grandmother. She was of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry but spent several years living in the part of Endicott that was settled primarily by Italian immigrants in the 1920s and 1930s. She learned the way to make truly authentic Italian food and taught me, in turn.

Everything she needed for her sauce came from her own garden, with one exception. She had a former neighbor who for several years had an olive grove in his back yard. She would trade some of what she had for the olive oil he made.

So, into the kitchen I went this morning. I made the base for the sauce, then added a three cheese blend (Romano, Parmesan and Asiago). I've done this so many times I never measure the amount of cheese. I just add what looks right and cross my fingers. Today, as happens most times, it was just the right amount for my taste. I do measure my spices because over-seasoned sauce is not a good thing.

I turned on the burner and set it at medium heat. I let the sauce come to a simmer and then moved it to the back burner with very low heat. I got the water ready to cook the pasta, adding just a little olive oil and a very small amount of spices. I do not care for large amounts of sodium so I never add any salt to the water. The only salt in the sauce was a small amount added to the tomato paste that I used.

The package said it would take thirteen minutes for the pasta to be "al dente", which is how I like it.

It took just that exact amount of time. I drained the pasta, poured the sauce into a clean storage container, and put the pasta in two more containers when cooled sufficiently.

I did my dishes and cleaned up not only after myself but also cleaned a minor mess someone else had left behind.

The sauce was delicious. It was robust, not overly sweet (I do not add sugar unless it's needed to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, which was not an issue today), and just tasted so good over the nicely seasoned pasta.

I still have things I need to deal with, some of which are routine, some of which are not. But today it was nice to get off to such a good start.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We Miss You, Elvis

Forty years ago today, the world lost a living legend. A man who had grown up dirt poor wound up making a fortune by being one of the very best singers ever. Elvis Presley burst onto the music scene with "That's All Right" in 1954. Over the next twenty-three years he put together one of the deepest and best catalogs of any artist ever. For most artists, a double-sided hit such as "(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame" backed with "Little Sister" would be the crowning achievement of their career.

For the King, it was just two more slices of rock and roll that have stood the test of time.

When he was drafted, he was offered the chance to have his duties consist of performing for his fellow service men and women. He politely refused, and was assigned as a mechanic and driver.

Yes, he made several bad movies, movies he wanted desperately to get away from with their bad writing and almost worthless songs. But he also did make some good films, like "Jailhouse Rock". If you want to see him really nail a dramatic role, watch the film "Flaming Star" from 1960.

I've been saying for years and I do believe it to be true, that no other major artist of the 20th Century had the range Elvis did. I speak not just of his singing voice, but of the kinds of material he recorded. Some people call them pop records and some call them sell outs but records like "Are You Lonesome To-Night?" and "It's Now Or Never" thrill me every single time I listen to them.

Even near the end, when RCA had to set up a mobile recording studio at his mansion, he rallied and came up with some good records. I've been a fan of "Moody Blue" ever since my Mom put the 45 single of it on our turntable one afternoon.

He had his own personal demons, ones that challenged him and changed him. We all know about the prescription pills. But less well known, or at least less recognized, is that he had multiple health problems.

In the end, he simply couldn't overcome the odds against him. There is a school of thought that says he might have lived a better life, a longer life, if he had been in a more stable relationship. His marriage was a failure. Personally, I see a man who never stood a chance of making it all that much further than he actually did. He died at the age of forty-two on August 16, 1977.

And we still miss him.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Kevin The Caterer, Part 2

Hello, again. I've not posted recently because I've been very busy. Today, however, the only errand I need to run will take just fifteen minutes or so. I'm enjoying the chance to rest.

I've been working on starting my catering business. I've priced out some of the things I'll need, and purchased a few of them. I found a great bargain from QVC on something I really want, but things got so screwed up I may never do business with them again.

First, their website gave me a "this page is unavailable" message when confirming the order online. So I called customer service, who said the order had indeed not been placed. I was transferred to a sales representative who placed the order for me.

It turned out that the first order had been placed. I found this out when I got two e-mails for two orders. I called back and cancelled the second order. Now, at this point, I wasn't the least bit upset. People make mistakes, right?

I was told that the first monthly payments for the two orders ($35 ) had been pre-processed. That means that a hold on my checking account in that amount had been placed. I was also told that the payment for the second order would have the hold released within three to five business days.

Now, at this point, I was still pretty mellow about the whole situation. But on Monday, two days ago, when both holds were released, I began to wonder just what was going on. That afternoon I got a call on my cell phone from an out of state number I didn't recognize.

My standard procedure for such calls is to let the call go to voice mail. I did just that.

Yesterday, I checked my e-mail (regular and spam folders) to see if any messages about my order had been sent. There was nothing there.

So, today, I tried to log into my account on their site only to keep getting kicked back to the page to create a new account. After three tries, I gave up and called customer service.

For the record, this is where I got upset. I was told that my debit card had failed to be authorized. The order has been cancelled. My account has been cancelled. The person to whom I spoke said that the e-mail address I gave her didn't match the one on file. When I asked her to explain how two messages had reached me already, she hemmed and hawed but couldn't explain.

She also said that they tried to call me on Monday. Now I know who the out of state call was from. No voice mail message was left.

Then she said that the address I gave doesn't match what my credit union has on file. Of course, it does. I called and checked just to be certain. So, someone at QVC really screwed up on that.

What really got to me was how this person acted as though everything was my fault. I told her, not in an entirely polite tone of voice that-

#1- This was my first time ordering with QVC in over a decade. I had an account several years ago,  but all of the information associated with it is long out of date.

#2- That I may, or may not, try to create another account.

#3- That I may very well purchase the item from someone else, even if it means paying more money. I do not have a lot of time to waste, and this whole situation had indeed been a waste of my time.

 What really bothers me is that I want the item. The price QVC is selling it for is by far the lowest to be found. And I can split the payment up over six months. If I do buy it, total with shipping is $105. The next lowest price I've found from a reputable source would come to $135 and be due all at once, as well.

So, I have a decision to make. I'll let you know what happens.