Thursday, March 31, 2005

Contributing to the delinquency of an elder

When did we as a nation abandon common sense? When did we forfeit the ability to act on our own without the aid of signs and reality TV hosts telling us what we should do? Could someone please explain to me when this happened?! Or am I just getting crotchety in my "old age"?

Tonight, after a stop by the Cambridge Public Library to discuss the upcoming book group I am leading with the librarian and order some background material for the next meeting, I stopped by what MBH calls the World's Worst Grocery Store; World's Worst for short. I needed to pick up a few items that somehow had been missed on my weekly list and well, frankly really REALLY needed a bottle of wine. As it was almost 5pm, the lines were rather long and since I had alcohol I decided to forgo my usual trip through the self check-out.

So there I was, standing in line staring at the mindless tabloids with headlines screaming about Charlie Sheen cheating on his pregnant wife, Britney Spears and Demi Moore's unplanned pregnancies (hmmm..a theme here) and the four headed aliens from Mars who really are in charge of the Vatican, when the most ludicrous and asinine display of what this country has come to played out right in front of my eyes. The elderly lady in front of me was carded for the wine she was buying. Yes, you read that. The 81 year old lady in front me with walker and all was carded by some ninny at the check-out. The lady looked puzzled and asked the check-out girl to repeat herself. "I need to see your id". "Oh, Dear, I haven't carried a drivers license in years. I'm 81 years old you know and have bought a bottle of wine here every Thursday for 21 years and they never ask for my ID". Idiot Check-out Girl from Hell points at a sign attached to her register that says "If you look younger than 50 we will ask for ID to purchase alcohol". I looked at the woman behind me to see if she was as incredulous about what was happening in front of us as I was. She looked at me with that "I can't BELIEVE I'm seeing this" look only intelligent people today seem to be able to produce. The obviously "under age" elderly lady looked at the check-out girl and said again, "Dear, I don't have an id. I was born in 1924. I think I'm just a bit over 50 and if you go ask the manager, he will tell you to just ring up my wine". The check-out girl just pointed at the placard on her checkout and put a look on her face that would have made the mule that lived behind my folks house in Michigan proud. By now, the elderly lady started to get frazzled and the people behind me started to grumble and rightfully complain about how stupid this all was and how they were running late. There was no manager around to walk over and punch into the cash register some magic code or better yet thwack the nincompoop behind the cash register for not being able to use any portion of her brain.

So, I did what any good girl raised to respect my elders would do. I took the old lady's wine, handed the mindless twit behind the register my ID, took the nice elderly lady's $10.00 from her and handed it to the check-out girl, gave the lady her change back and wished her a nice rest of the evening. My grandmother would have been proud.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Quick! Get a magnifying glass

I'm not one for superstitions or for that matter one who necessarily believes in old wives tales but I always believe the Groundhog. That little furry bucktoothed squirrel is never wrong when it comes to winter and when it is going to end. However, I do believe the end is near. It was so nice in Boston today, I didn't even need to wear a coat when I hauled the garbage to the curb. I saw my first robin this morning and the geese were honking on their way to Fresh Pond this afternoon and since I was out in the front yard, I decided to go in search of my elusive spring bulbs still somewhat buried under a snowbank.

You see, I have flower envy. For the past three weeks I've been listening to MBH's mother tell me how gorgeous her early crocus are and how the early tulips are starting to poke their tips through her front yard and how the neighbor's tree is budding . MBH's folks live in Youcan'tgettherefromhere, TN and if you stand on their back patio you can throw a rock into the Appilachian Mountains so their growing season comes much earlier than ours. I keep wanting to tell her, "Of course your bulbs are popping. You live in the South!" but I don't because I adore MBH's parents and I accept that even though the package for the crocus I planted last fall said "late Feb/early March" for my region that really means "late March/early April". But yesterday while we walking to Harvard Square, I noticed my neighbor's bulbs were poking their way through the dirt. So tonight, I got on my knees and gently brushed the snow from where I planted my crocus, daffodils, and tulips to see if maybe, just maybe, spring was really and truly on it's way.

And you know what? Right there, under the last crusty bit of snow were little shoots of green where my purple and blue crocus will be. I could see where the dirt was starting break on top my yellow and orange tulips. I even think I saw the tip of an early daffodil. I sat back, looked down the street, watched the kids get off the bus without their coats on, listened to the birds in the tree across the street and breathed in the smell of spring. Yup, spring has sprung and it is about time...

Friday, March 18, 2005

Another wild and crazy Friday night

"Boy, you really are a nerd aren't you?" - business colleague to me after I explained 2nd order sound reflections and how they affect speech intelligibility at lunch this week

I am nerdier than 89% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Thanks to Lady Crumpet for the Nerd Quiz

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Lazy Day at the Ranch

It finally quit snowing and thankfully the Boston weathermen kept their perfect record of completely mispredicting the severity of the storm intact. What was to be 6 - 10 inches of heavy wet snow actually was 1-3 inches of wet snow. Not even worth shoveling. Now it is just gray, gloomy with a spit of drizzle and the occasional snow flurry. Cars going down the street are making that splashy, slushy sound of almost spring.

It is one of those perfect, stay in bed and read/sleep days. And since MBH has decided we will forgo our normal Saturday routine of Dammits, bookstore, and lunch, I have declared that today will be an official "Lazy Day at the Ranch". YIPPEE!! A whole day to catch up on a week worth of NYT crossword puzzles, make sourdough bread with my neglected mother starter, read a few cookbooks, finish one of the seven library books I am currently reading, take a nap or two, and if I really feel energetic, I may even make homemade mac and cheese for dinner.

MBH swears I have "ADD" during the weekend but what he doesn't understand is there is so much I want to do and so little time on the weekend to do it all. Normally by Thursday I have a mental list three pages long of all the things I want to get done on my two days of freedom. Some of them include those awful domestic chores like laundry and ironing, cleaning the bathroom, and during the winter the near constant mopping of the hardwood floors. But mostly the list includes things like: make the Cherry/Pecan Scone recipe in the "BBC Good Food" magazine from April, work on one of the three cross-stitch projects I have been working on for two years, try and finally finish Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a Small Island", and make Congressional Bean Soup with the hambone that is in the freezer from Christmas. All the while, I also want to drive up to Portsmouth, NH to window shop and have Bangers and Mash at Molly Malone's, or go to Kittery Point, ME and have winter lobster at my secret lobster shack or head further up the Maine coast to Freeport and LL Bean with a stop at the Cook's British Imports for four packages of Fox's Ginger Crunch biscuits, Heinz Baked Beans for my toast, and a Yorkie bar for MBH.

The nice thing about a day like today is the weather is too nasty to do the "go out and about" things on my mental list. I don't have all the ingredients to make the scones and while I could go to the store and pick them up, I don't feel like fighting the panicking "OH-NO-the-end-of-the-world-worst-snow-since-the-Blizzard of '78-better- pick up-that-last-loaf-of-bread-and-4 gallons-of-milk" crowd. Oh darn!! Forced to read, bake sourdough, watch really bad 80's movies on TV and nap. Now where are my bunny slippers...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Ok...Enough already

The National Weather Service in Taunton MA continues the Winter Weather Advisory and Wind Chill Advisory for the Boston Metro area:

Winter Weather Advisory continues in effect until 4 am EST Wednesday. Wind Chill Advisory continues in effect from 1 am Wednesday to 9 am EST Wednesday.

Snow accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are expected in the advisory
area through midnight.

Snow is expected to taper off from southwest to northeast
tonight then taper to flurries after midnight. Blustery northwest
winds will cause blowing and drifting snow which will reduce
visibilities to near one half mile or less at times.

Bitterly cold air will enter the region tonight. Overnight low temperatures will fall into the single digits and lower teens. Strong northwest winds will combine with these frigid temperatures to cause the wind chill index to drop to between 15 and 22 degrees below zero. At these wind chill readings exposed flesh will freeze in as little as 30 minutes.

The roads will become very slick so motorists are urged to drive with caution. If you must be outdoors wear many layers of clothing: a hat, gloves and cover any other exposed skin.

If anyone wants me, I'm in St. Barts.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sometimes you just have to jump

I hate the month of February. I find myself not only getting the seasonal "blucks" in February but I find that I get more introspective and not necessarily in a good way. I start thinking about squandered this and wasted thats. I say to myself, "Did I make the right choice about Opportunity A and what about Chance B?" I relive some of my more boneheaded moments and wish that I could climb into Peabody's Wayback Machine and fix what I did wrong. This year I seemed to think a bit more about the past than usual and now that it is March, the question, "What have I done with my life" is being asked by my inner-wench quite frequently. I'm afraid I don't think I have good answer for her.

I was thinking about my grandfather and my father today. I was thinking about all the things over the years they have taught me. My family is pretty sure I get my love of engineering and figuring out how things do what they do from my grandfather. He was a self taught tool and die maker who ended up figuring out how a lot of things on the dashboards of the cars we drive have to fit together. He was the guy who figured out how the push-button channel choice switches for the car radios of the 60's and 70's had to be made to actually work. And remember the AMC Pacer? Yup, that was his dashboard. He taught me how to fish, how to use a slide rule, but more importantly he never told me I couldn't do something because I was girl. He told me all I had to do was have a plan and once you have a plan it is just a matter of following that plan. He also emphasized that your plan had to be well thought out but also flexible because there were just some things you couldn't plan.

I get my sense of food, cooking and how recipes should go together from my dad. My dad has been baking since he was in high school. He ended up working as a cook in the Navy and eventually working as a chef and then food service manager. Somewhere there is a picture of me at about age 4, standing in the bowl of one his huge Hobart mixers in one of his kitchens. I don't think a weekend went by that my dad didn't make big pot of soup or stew. I remember getting up really early on Saturday mornings during the winter when the house was all dark and still and sitting at our kitchen table with my dad while he did his food orders for the week and worked out costs. He would pour some of his coffee, heavy on the sugar and cream, into a small little mug for me and then he would show me his recipes. He would explain how to figure out how many pounds of potatoes and onions you needed to make 150 servings of potato soup with ham from a recipe for eight or if you only needed 25 servings of Chicken Cordon Bleu, how you would break down a recipe that made 100 so that it still tasted the same. My dad taught me how to chop vegetables, make roux, and make chicken stock to die for. Everytime I make chicken and noodle soup for MBH I use his recipe; albeit broken down so I only make 4 quarts vs. 40 gallons. My dad taught me to take chances in the kitchen because sometimes your best dish was born from a mistake. That you needed a little pepper to make things zing. That if you put your metal/glass bowls put in the freezer first when making pie dough, the crust would always be flaky. Most importantly my dad has always been there when I needed his encouragement and even though he doesn't always say it, I know he is very proud of me.

A few weeks ago, I finally did something MBH has been pushing me to do for almost a year. I registered a domain name to start an online bakery; a place to sell small batches of my breads, muffins, scones and cookies locally. I've been wanting to do this for a very long time and I've been thinking about it and planning it for what seems like years now. Now, the time seems to be right to take the chance and see if maybe, just maybe, I can turn my love of baking for others into a career. I know I will need to keep my "day job" for a while but I know deep down inside I have to give this a go. So today, I finished the place-holder webpage, put the finishing touches on my business plan, ordered my business cards and I even have the promise of a first order from a colleague at work for muffins for a brunch she is having. And all day in the back of mind I could hear a voice chanting the advice my dad gave me when he was helping get over my fear of the high dive: "Sometimes, you just have to jump."

My Dad's Chicken Noodle Soup:
One 7 - 9lbs roasting chicken
1lb Celery
1lb Carrots
1lb Onions
2 Bay Leaves
1 large bag of wide egg noodles (or about 1lb homemade egg noodles)

Remove the giblets and neck from the roasting chicken. Place the neck and the entire whole chicken in a very large, heavy 5 quart stock pot/stew pot. Just cover with water (about 8 - 12 cups of water). Add bay leaves, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, one onion chopped into quarters, and 3 inner stalks of celery cleaned of any dirt/debris with their leaves still on to the pot. Bring water to boil and let boil for 20 minutes. Lower heat to simmer and let simmer for 3 or 4 hours until chicken is falling off bones. Let cool and remove chicken, chicken bones, skin, celery, bay leaves, and onion from stock. Put chicken in sealed container and store in refridge. Place cover on stock pot and place stock pot in refridge overnight to allow fat to float to top and harden. Next day, skim fat from top of stock. Stock should be clear with slight yellow tint. Cut carrots, celery and onions into bite sized chunks and add to cold stock along with 2 - 4 more cups of water (depending how long you boiled down stock) . Taste and add salt as needed. Bring to boil, turn down and simmer until carrots are almost soft. Add chicken, more salt/pepper if needed and egg noodles. Cook until noodles almost al dente. Turn off and let soup cool until serving temperature; the noodles will finish cooking. Serve with home made biscuits and honey.