cottage

#754: High Steaks at Huron Lake

GETTING MORE TALE #754: High Steaks at Huron Lake

A lot changed in 10 months.

We haven’t been to the lake since last July.  Then Jen’s mom got sick and we spent the rest of the summer driving to and from Toronto, and in hospitals.  Then before we knew it, she was gone.

As part of the healing process, Jen and I have been aching to get back to the cottage.  Her mom loved it here, and she never made it again, though she really wanted to. We’d drive up with her mom in the back seat reading a book.  Every once in a while, I’d look in the mirror and see her, eyes closed, snoozing in the back.  Or so it appeared.

“Jen, look.  Your mom’s sleeping.”

Then suddenly before Jen could see, Mum’s eyes would open.  “I can hear you Michael and I’m not sleeping.  I’m resting my eyes.”

We’d laugh.

Finally we were going back. We packed our bags for the lake, and I spent an hour or so loading music onto a flash drive for the ride.  Specially curated of course, and including the newest hits like Flesh & Blood by Whitesnake.  I have so many flash drives, however, that I made the mistake of loading the one with the little Autobot symbol.  I should have thrown out that flash drive a long time ago.  It works on a computer but not in the car, not since it fell in a puddle a while ago.  We were forced to listen to another random flash drive that I had in the car, which turned out to be serendipitous.

The only album on this specific flash drive was Alice Cooper’s A Paranormal Evening at the Olympia Paris.  Our first concert together happened to be Alice Cooper, so at least it was something we’d enjoy.  “Hurricane” Nita Strauss is phenomenal on it, so I was really tuned into the guitar playing.  Jen was just rocking out and singing along.

But things sure do change in a mere 10 months, the last time I was driving those particular roads.  There is a new Tim Hortons, a few improved roadways, and some traffic lights where there were none before.

By the time Alice Cooper informed us that school was indeed out for summer, we were past Lucknow and well into the windfarms.  That meant the lake was close.  Again we laughed.  Jen’s mom hated those windfarms.  “A Liberal financial disaster,” she called them.  We tried to count the windmills on the way up and it’s all but impossible.

Finally we arrived at the cottage and smelled that country air.  A mix of pine, rain and earth.  I was napping within hours of arrival!  I knocked out good.

We always arrive at the lake prepared to entertain ourselves.  With a killer wi-fi connection (welcome to cottage life 2019) I was showing my dad scenes from Infinity War within minutes.  I also copied that faulty Autobot flash drive over to a fresh one and tossed out the original.  Won’t be making that mistake again, but recovered the Whitesnake album in the process!

I didn’t have much in terms of goals, except to relax and not let anything stress me out.  One thing I was looking forward to was cooking, so I did up a couple steaks, hot dogs, and fish for the family.  I wanted to try a couple new things this time.  First, I wanted to do one of the steaks on a wood fire instead of the barbecue.  We have not done them like that in over 25 years, but the smokiness of a real fire can add its own character to a good steak and make it perfect.  That’s what happened this time.  The steak cooked over the fire was the superior steak for flavour.  I did it to a rare, which was something else I love.  I did the fish over the wood fire too (using maple and cedar).  I chose a nice fatty piece of salmon, and a cheaper but larger fillet of Lake Huron trout; both darker fish.  I tried something different for them.  I laid down a bed of lemon slices onto the grill, and then cooked the fish on top of the lemons.  For seasoning I only used salt, pepper and a roasted garlic olive oil.  The result was a juicy, perfect fish that took longer to cook than normal but acquired all that lemony goodness right into the skin. I added more salt as I went, then I finished them directly over the flames to get the crispy skin.  Surprisingly, the lake trout was the superior tasting fish.  I’m usually a salmon guy but I haven’t eaten a trout since I was a little kid.

We had a birthday party and cake for my dad, now young at 81.  You know what my dad enjoyed more than any of that stuff?  Going to a car dealership on a Sunday and help me pick out my next vehicle.  I won’t reveal what I’ve chosen until I buy the car — stay tuned.  We took my dad’s new car there, and he showed me all the latest gadgets that I’ll be getting too. I was impressed to see that he had three USB ports!  I plugged my flash drive into one of them and treated him to some music.  Max the Axe – “Next Plane to Vegas”.

“This is my friend Uncle Meat singing,” I told him.

He listened for a bit and said, “Your friend Uncle Meat can sing.”  High praise from him!

The weather wasn’t the greatest, but we slept with the windows open and the lake air coming in — the best way to get a great rest.  And rest we did.  We ate some good cooking and came home with bellies full.  Best of all, I have some ideas for the next cookout.

The May long weekend is the official ushering in of summertime.  Welcome, summer 2019 – we’ve been expecting you!

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Sunday Chuckle: Sh*t LeBrain’s Dad Zaps

#567: Creatures of the Night

GETTING MORE TALE #567: Creatures of the Night

“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” – Bram Stoker

For decades, trips to the cottage and music were synonymous. When I was a younger fella, I would bring all my music with me. That usually meant five or six tape boxes, full of cassettes, and a walkman. I even brought my turntable with me for a couple summers.

As the music collection grew, I’d have to pick and choose tunes for the trip. It’s sad to admit it, but true nonetheless: I spent hours picking music, far more time than I used to pack clothes and essentials. It wouldn’t be unusual to find I didn’t pack enough pants, but plenty of Deep Purple.

It’s much easier today. Load up some flash drives, or better yet, bring all the music I have ripped so far on my 2T external hard drive. In the olden days, we didn’t even have a phone or cable TV. We had radios and a big TV antenna that could pick up two channels.  It was a cavalcade of classic Ontario television:  Bowling for Dollars, the Hilarious House of Frightenstein, and Trivia Company with Johnnie Walters.  Now, we have five or six devices fighting for the Wi-Fi signal, with me usually streaming Netflix. We have multiple computers, several phones, and of course cable TV. Talk about roughing it! In the 1980s, my sister and I would struggle to pick up any radio station that wasn’t playing country. Now, I just set my browser window to my home station of 107.5 DaveRocks. Unbelievable!

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The interesting thing is, there are already plenty of sounds available to listen to if you don’t bring your own music. People used to spend tons of money on “nature sounds” CDs, but at the cottage you can get that for free.

You haven’t lived until you’ve gone to sleep with the sound of crashing waves coming through your open window. Nothing can put you to sleep faster, even when it’s just an afternoon nap. The sound of children playing in the lake only makes the afternoon snooze that much more peaceful. In the evening, the waves pick up intensity and are augmented by nocturnal woodland creatures. These “children of the night” can be heard pitter-patting around the deck, and in the branches just outside the window. Soothing sounds. Nothing to be afraid of, even in the dark. The only thing to fear would be a wayward skunk poking around looking for garbage. I used to like pitching a tent in the back yard and sleeping there. I used to bring a Walkman in there to listen to tunes on the earphones, but sometimes in the night I’d be woken up by a raccoon sniffing around for scraps.

The absence of city sounds can be strange for those not used to it. In the city there is a constant backdrop of automobile sounds, planes flying overhead, and trucks hauling their freight. Even at night, there is a dim background hum of traffic, and of electric lights buzzing overhead. At the cottage the quiet is amplified by the dark. We are so used to the light pollution of the city, that the pitch black of a cottage night can be quite striking, especially during a late night stroll.

Bringing music to the lake is still mandatory. It’s important to turn it off now and then, and just listen to the creatures of the night.