All is Well with the Mole Family

We are extremely fortunate in that Frankenstorm left us relatively unscathed and that we had plenty of warning that it was coming.  Much of the weekend was spent preparing for an extended time without power.  Jim, who was in Tokyo, changed his flight and got back Sunday night (instead of Monday afternoon).  We were all very excited to see him!  I spent most of yesterday doing laundry and getting ready for Frankenstorm’s arrival.

We lost power at about 9:00 pm last night, but our generator kicked in and all the vital functions of the house (heat, refrigerator, well pump (we’re on well water, so when we lose power, we lose water, too), television, etc.) continued to function.  We were in the middle of watching The Avengers when the power went out, and once the generator kicked in, finished watching the movie before going to bed.

Power came back on around noon today.  School was cancelled for a second straight day today but will resume tomorrow.  (Yay!) No major trees down on our property and no damage to our house.  We count ourselves blessed.

Our friends who live in New Jersey and New York have been much less fortunate, and our prayers are with them and the millions of others in the northeast as they start the clean up process.

Chronicles of the Mole Family, Chapter 14

Technically, I suppose we aren’t the Mole Family anymore, as we have moved above ground (shading our eyes from the vicious daylight).  But since this is a story of our continued renovations, I feel it justifies the heading.

Our driveway and front yard are now what’s being renovated (for the most part—there are still parts of the interior of the house being worked on).  The kids and I were having dinner out last night as the workers were working late in the kitchen installing a new piece of granite.  (That turned out beautifully as you can see.)

granite countertop

When we came back from dinner, the door from the garage into the kitchen was locked, as it should be.  We don’t have the keys yet for that door but there is a lockbox for that very purpose.  We opened up the lockbox only to discover that there was no key.

No problem, I think.  We’ve had this happen before.  We have keys to the basement door and will just get in that way.  So I dispatch handy-dandy son to make this happen (children aka slaves are so very useful).  Handy-dandy son returns after scampering down there to say he can’t unlock the door because it’s been boarded up.  Daughter then remembers and mentions that the same is true for the front door.

So, to recap:  the doors that we have keys for have been boarded up and are inaccessible.  The door that we do have access to we have no keys for.  I am beyond delighted at this turn of events.  You’ll be pleased to know that no profanity issued from my lips (which, in full disclosure, is not the same as no profanity crossing my mind).

So, I call our contractor’s son and tell him what our issue is.  He calls back a few minutes later to say that there are keys taped to a shelf for the garage door.  I find them and think, “Great!”  Only to discover that the keys don’t work.  I call back.

After about 40 minutes, the contractor’s other son arrives.  First thing he does is try the keys.  (I am mildly annoyed by this–while I am generally not handy, I am able to use keys–but then I realize that I would have done exactly the same thing if I had been him.)  The keys don’t work.  He doesn’t have a key to the garage door.  So, after mulling it over, he gets a drill from his car, squelches through the mud that was our front yard (did I mention that it has been pouring rain since we got home?), removes the plywood boarding up our front door, unlocks it, comes and unlocks the garage door, and then reinstalls the plywood.

It’s now been over an hour since we’ve gotten home, but at least, we’re inside the house, which is a vast improvement.  And working keys have been promised to us tomorrow.

It was a fitting end for a day that began with a bomb threat at the school, but that’s a story for another day.

Birthday Dinner at Disneyworld

We celebrated our son’s birthday dinner at Disneyworld at a restaurant called Citrico’s in the Grand Floridian hotel.  It’s pretty casual, as most Disney restaurants are, but the food is surprisingly good.  With five reasonably sophisticated eaters, there were a lot of fun choices.

Dinner started with an amuse bouche from the chef of venison with capers.

amuse bouche of venison with capers

There were a variety of appetizers ordered, including arancini (crispy risotto with crimini mushrooms, asiago, and charred tomato coulis),


a charcuterie plate (with prosciutto, beef bresaola, duck breast prosciutto, and palacio chorizo),

charcuterie plate

a cheese plate (with murcia al vino from Spain, fourme d’Ambert from Auvergne and petit agour from the Basque region),

cheese plate

a macerated heirloom tomato salad,

macerated heirloom tomato salad

and sautéed shrimp in lemon, white wine, tomatoes, and feta cheese.

sauteed shrimp

I’ve also included a photo of the cheese plate description.

description of cheese

There were only two different main courses ordered at the table (evidently, we suffered appallingly from a lack of originality when ordering that night).  The most popular dish was Berkshire pork two ways, consisting of a rotisserie pork tenderloin and roasted pork belly with aged white cheddar polenta, escarole, Brentwood corn salsa and cherry gastrique.

Berkshire pork two ways

The other main course was Madeira-braised short ribs served over trofie pasta with wild mushroom ragout and truffle crème fraiche.

madeira braised short ribs

There was a celebratory birthday treat of miniature vanilla ice cream cones with sprinkles on top.  Unfortunately, these were consumed before I could get a photo of the dish (I often lose dessert photos that way).

The birthday boy was quite happy with the birthday festivities.  Of course, popcorn and hot dogs would have been fine since he was already at the happiest place on earth!

Frankenweenie (the movie)

Okay, I realize this isn’t an earth-shattering observation, but that Tim Burton guy is one creepy dude.  We liked his “The Nightmare Before Christmas” for its offbeat humor, but there were some really disturbing parts to the movie as well.  His newest movie, “Frankenweenie,” is both more and less disturbing but, on the whole, is as normal a movie as I’ve seen from him (mind you, this is not a high bar).

“Frankenweenie” pays homage to the original story  “Frankenstein” by Mary Godwin Shelley, to the Boris Karloff version of the movie, to Godzilla and its Japanese movie-makers, to the original “Mummy” movies and probably to many other horror movies that I didn’t recognize.

Victor Frankenstein is a young boy whose only friend is his dog, Sparky.  Sparky is accidentally killed by a car (this is quite traumatic if you are a dog lover, especially if you are a dog lover who is a child).  Inspired by a new science teacher, voiced by Martin Landau who is excellent, Victor brings Sparky back to life.  Chaos of varying types then ensues.

On the face of it, the plot unfolds in a very predictable way but because this is Tim Burton, you are never quite sure whether the predictable path is the actual path (and since it is a Tim Burton movie, the answer is it is not).  There are some excellent one-liners, but the quality of the movie depends on the whole and not any particular scene.  “Frankenweenie” is creepy and dark in many parts, but the grief Victor suffers when Sparky dies is well done.  The movie may be primarily a tribute to the horror movie genre, but it is also a movie about a boy and his dog, and the relationship between the two is the emotional crux for the entire movie.  It’s very well done.

The movie is rated PG, and Common Sense Media recommends it for kids 9 and over.  If you have a child who is visually sensitive or easily scared in the 9-11 year old range, I would wait until it comes out on DVD.  (The movie theatre screen makes the dark atmosphere more overwhelming.)

The movie is well worth seeing, especially if you have tweens or young teens.  Our entire family really liked the movie, despite (or maybe because of) the creepy dude.

The Late Summer/Early Fall Gastronaut’s Menu at the Inn at Little Washington

We went with some friends who are being transferred to Singapore to the Inn at Little Washington a couple of weeks ago.  We opted to select the Gastronaut’s Menu, the tasting menu being offered.

This time of year is a tough time for restaurants using local ingredients, as summer is drawing to an end but the fall produce isn’t quite fully harvested yet.  Not surprisingly, the Inn managed to combine the best of both and create yet another stunning meal.

We started off with truffle popcorn and Parmesan tuiles.  Honestly, I could eat vats of truffle popcorn and call it one of the finest meals I’ve ever had.  It’s very addicting.

The first official course was eggs in an egg on an egg.  It consisted of Osetra caviar on top of scrambled eggs in a ¾ eggshell.  Simply delightful.

egg on an egg in an egg

The next course was poached Maine lobster with citrus jelly.  The citrus jelly was just acidic enough to counteract the richness of the lobster but not so sour as to detract from the shellfish.  Yum!

poached Maine lobster in citrus sauce

Next up was chicken fried frog legs.  I actually would really like frog legs, if I could get over the fact that they were frog legs.  The meat is rich and flavorful (tastes like (dark meat) chicken!), but we’re still talking an amphibian.  They were delicious if you could get yourself mentally past what you were eating.

chicken fried frog legs

One of the best dishes of the menu was next—the Asian infused black cod.  The cod had been marinated in miso, and it was perfectly cooked—by which I mean that it was cooked all the way through but so delicately that the fish flaked off with a fork.  It was amazing!

Asian infused black cod

Pappardelle pasta with mushrooms and Virginia ham was next.  The mushrooms and the ham gave the dish a “meaty” texture, even though there was not an overwhelming amount of meat.  It was a perfect introduction to the beginning of fall.

papardelle pasta with Virginia ham & mushrooms

The final main course was duck served with fig au jus.  I love duck, so this dish ranked among my favorites that night.  But even Jim, who is not nearly as fond of duck as I am, thought this dish stood out.  The duck was slightly smoky and the fig sauce counterbalanced the heartiness of the duck nicely while not being cloyingly sweet.  It was an outstanding dish.

duck with fig sauce

The palate cleanser was plum sorbet served with a slice of plum on top.  The sorbet made it seem like summer while the plum flavor is definitely a late summer/early fall taste.

plum sorbet

Dessert was blueberry cobbler and lemon pudding cake served alongside a cherry sorbet.  The blueberry cobbler was just the perfect balance of sweet and tart while the lemon pudding cake was divine with its zesty citrus taste combined with the delicate but rich cake.

blueberry cobbler & lemon pudding cake

Another fabulous meal by the Inn!