Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Today I've had a few moments to contemplate age. It's my dad's birthday. He is 79. I posted a picture of him onto my FB page where he is 35. He looks like a different man. In the shot I'm a little toddler sitting on his lap. He's not the dad I remember here. The dad I know, perpetual dad as I think of him, is 50 years old. It's the age he was when I was in high school. No matter how old he gets, when I call him on the phone, the person on the other end looks like perpetual dad. When I step off a plane and real-time dad is waiting at the gate, I'm shocked at the person greeting me. He's so different than that picture I have stored in my mind. Of course, it's not scary or mind-blowingly strange, just something my brain has done. It's imprinted and will always need some tweeking.
Last week I got to spend some time with a gal I met at work and have continued a friendship with, who is, well, sort of old. She's 80. I love visiting her because she's always so charmed to see me. She opens up her home, she offers me copious amounts of tea, she asks if I want to play cards or work on puzzles. She gives me her full attention when I'm there. That's something you don't get very often by ANYBODY these day. I've stopped bringing my phone in when I visit her because it is such a huge distraction and I'm irritated by it. I always leave her house feeling like I'm the one who got the better end of the bargain.
If you spend any time with an "old" person you will immediately understand why you should make this a part of your life. They are kind. (Yes, they can be cranky. How would you feel if your body stopped doing all the things you thought it should do?) But man, they can tell a great tale. They know things that you don't. They've experienced life in a way that you haven't. The men usually have an amazing fashion sense. Ask an older gent about a pocket square, you'll get an earful. Ask the same guy about shining shoes -- that's another tail that could lead to good places.
Or his first job or the good God ---- THE WAR! These are amazing stories that are dying to be told.
Let's face it. We are all getting old. Someday I will be the person waiting for my bell to ring. I hope someone comes to hear MY stories. I'm terrified no one will. Yep, it can sometimes be difficult. You may have to repeat yourself. You may have to fine tune those ears to really REALLY listen to what the person is saying. Try it. Not because you're some saintly person earning accolades or brownie points, but because its something amazing that's just waiting for you.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
First off, it almost DIDN'T happen! A bully of a storm rolled into New England just as my Delta Flight was scheduled to leave. I ended up getting out of Boston a day early on American & flew to Chicago instead of Indy. I'm lucky to have a friend who picked me up on a moment's (ok she had four hours) notice at O'hare, and we started our weekend a day in advance.
Because of the reroute through Chicago, I got to spend a little time in the town I grew up in - Crown Point, INDIANA. Here's me at the beautiful Court House on our town square. Kris (my driver) and I went to the McDonald's where we used to ride our bikes on Saturday mornings to get french fries with our babysitting loot. The large fries in the red cardboard container seemed so much bigger then! But I digress. The McDonald's has a lot of history for Kris and I, there were the giant fries of course, but also an unfortunate bicycle crash that took place in the parking lot when I was 11. We laugh about this now, but my three speed suffered major damage. (and my ego) There was an additional incident when I wrote a boys name on the bathroom wall and was later confronted by the boy's MOTHER! It went something like "I don't like seeing my son's name on a bathroom wall." Agreed. I was a complete dork.
Back to girls weekend. How much fun is it possible to have? We had it. It's amazing to have these women in my life who I've known since GRADE SCHOOL. We always just fall right back to where we left off and it is totally amazing.
My luggage packing skills are still suspect. My girlfriend Mary kept trying to keep me organized, as every belonging inside the bag spilled out all over Michelle's floor. I'm a hopeless traveler. I never think much of my "skills" in this area until I'm with people who are actually organized, and then I know I'm a complete mess. Luckily, these ladies don't judge. I did lose a few socks, that reminds me to call Michelle and see if she found them.
So my last word on the weekend is this... if you have friends that have been in your life for most of it, make every effort to keep them in it.
You'll be the better for it!
Sunday, March 3, 2013
There are eight of us hooking up in Indy this weekend. We all grew up Hoosiers -six of them are Hoosiers still, one lives north of Chicago, and of course I live in Massachusetts. We've all been friends since junior high or earlier. Whenever I think of these ladies (really we aren't very ladylike) I think of that quote at the end of Stand By Me.
"I never had any friends later on in life like the ones I had when I was twelve, Jesus, does anyone?"
We don't have any firm plans. There will be booze, I'm sure (I hope) There will be lots of riotous laughter. The kind where you might accidentally pee a little (at our age it happens!) I have a bag packed and there are six skirts in it. I am only there for two nights! But just thinking about all of us in a room trying on each others outfits and jewelry and junky makeup - like we did before 8th grade dances -- made the skirts seem like a good idea.
I wish we all lived closer sometimes. Technology has played a big role in making weekends like this upcoming one happen - with Facebook, texts and skype. So THANK YOU technology -but mostly it's an effort on each of our part to either be in or be out.
And if by chance you fall out for a few years, the circle is never so tight you can't get back in.
There are plenty of loopholes built into our friendships for that.
Monday, February 25, 2013
For real. I am slowly losing my eyesight. In the old age kind of way. It's depressing.
More than wrinkles or droopy eyelids -this gets me. The gig is up. My indestructible boast-worthy perfect 20-20 eyesight is both a scam and a sham. It's over now. (cue bad singing w poor lighting)
My mom used to have me thread her sewing needles (she rarely sewed so it was infrequent, but I remember thinking, that's weird, why can't she see do this? She could do everythng else. She permed my hair!) I feel her pain.
I can't see the shades of my lipsticks anymore. (see my lipstick post, that's rough, and possibly dangerous.)
God forbid, I need to read the MEID number from behind the battery of a cell phone. In that case, I need to take a photograph then zoom in A LOT! I also have a hard time with some text messages
And tonight I couldn't read the dosage on some over the counter stomach stuff I purchased. Why is the font SO DANG small.
I need readers. Tomorrow I'm going to purchase some. It's not a big thing. I know its not, but putting down the mantle of youth feels like it will be.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
FP Patisserie in the Plaza Hotel. They were a little spendy for a cookie, ($2.50 a cookie) but one of the options was the little green pistachio one and I LOVE PISTACHIOS so I bought a half dozen.
I googled like crazy for recipes. There are a lot of macaron recipes out there. The common denominator in all the recipes is that these cookies can drive you to drink. (As if I need a driver) They are finicky. You need to weigh your ingredients. The egg whites have to be prepared just so. You need stiff peaks. Also, your oven needs to be perfectly calibrated and you need to know how to pipe batter. Then, if by some miracle the cookies come out ok with a perfect convex dome and a nice crusty "foot" on the bottom, you've got the filling to contend with! (For this you will need ingredients that aren't easy to find, some may need to be ordered if you're not willing to spend hours slaving. My homemade pistachio paste took two hours to make. I needed a candy thermometer and a mortar and pestle but I persevered and it was delicious. The filling procedure would need to be a post of its own and I think would bore you to tears. Just add 5 stars to my crown and read on) But what the hell. I was up for the task. It was going to snow all day on Sunday, why not? Football season is over. I spent two days finding all the ingredients and I took a stab at macarons. Here are my findings.
Weight not volume.
First off, you NEED a digital scale to weigh your ingredients. This is not optional. I own one, so that was fine. I don't mind weighing, but it takes some time of course. The recipe called for 100g of egg whites (not 5 or 6 egg whites) I was a gram over as you can see. I also weighed the castor sugar (that's just superfine sugar) almond flour, and confectioners sugar. Those are the only ingredients in the cookie base. I'll post the recipe at the bottom or better yet here is a link to the youtube video. I watched this 27 times. (This woman from The Joy of Baking rocks.)
You will whip the egg whites til they are frothy. That takes about 1 minute, then you add the sugar in thirds and whip those til you have STIFF peaks. What is a stiff peak? Well, I learned via video and am willing to share. Stop the mixer and take off the whisk attachment. Smash whisk down into the mixture a few times then pull it out and turn it so the egg whites are facing upwards. That pointy "beak" of egg white needs to be pointing straight up and STAY up! If it bends down, you've got a beak and need to keep mixing. Here is my stiff peak. It took about 7 minutes of mixing.
Of course the recipe calls for mixing and folding etc. (watch the video, that woman did a great job explaining) But the final obstacle was piping batter onto cookie sheets. I'm a very inexperienced piper. It is important that all the cookies are identical in size because in the end they are sandwiches. I give myself a C+ in piping. See my trays? They yellow cookies were too lumpy. I moved the ziploc bag too much. The green ones are better, but some are too large. When I did the pink ones, (after I took this picture) I was much improved on my piping, but that batter was more runny and when the cookies settled they ended up much bigger that I though they would be. I had some GIANT macarons, not really what you are looking for.
white-chocolate-pistachio-ganache! It was amazing. See it in the little casserole tray. I've never made a ganache before but this one "set-up" perfectly. (that's what you want when your making ganache - you need it to set.)
As you can see, at this point I was on the wine. And yes, I drink wine out of a rocks glass.
Do you like my apron? My friend Karen said it was very June Cleaver. Well I'll tell you one thing, it was very messy by the time the evening was over.
So here's a shot at the final product. I was pretty happy with the results. See how the pink ones are too big? Also, I think I'd use more yellow food coloring - they were very pale! I keep scrolling up to the display at Paper Source. Theirs were SO pretty! As far as taste, I think mine were right on. The yellow ones were filled with a store bought lemon curd and the green and pink both had the pistachio ganache.
I was horrified to get home from work on Tuesday and see two big pink ones each with a tiny bite out of them in my rubbish barrel. Apparently my son and his friends, do not like macarons! Oh well, more for me! Be well Montanans.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Part of any snow storm is the getting prepared part. There are things you need to do. The problem is that more and more these storms are hyped and overproduced. Now they even name them, like Hurricanes! (This one was called NEMO, after the Captain not the Fish -- I think) I've been fooled many times by the storm that's suppose to dump 20 inches and only leaves 2! It's like the boy who calls wolf, over and over and on every channel at 4, 6 and 11. Its hard for me to commit.
But with this storm, the media was SO persistant that this was going to be EPIC (yes one announcer said EPIC three times during his segment) I decided to believe. So once you committ, there are some things you need to do.
My number one concern is always food. Because food...you should know....is important to me. You should have plenty of food. Stuff that will be easy to cook if you lose power and if possible stuff that can hold warm a long time like chili in a crock pot or beef stew. This also means lots of snacky food, fruit and vegetables, and dips. You want to have plenty of eggs and milk too. Although I'm not sure why. I get the eggs part, but why the milk? I don't suddenly want milk during a snowstorm. But eggs can be breakfast, lunch or dinner, and you can go through a dozen fast. (especially with teens in the morning for breakfast)
What else. You need to have a gas tank filled in your garage for the snowblower. You also need to make sure you can START the snowblower. And that there is a clear path for the snowblower to get out of the garage.
You should make sure you have laundry soap. Because you'll be stuck inside and you may as well wash all the sheets and dirty clothes.
Make sure your oil tank is filled. (that's how my house gets heated)
Oh firewood. You want to make sure you have a lot of firewood. I had a cord delivered about a month ago so I am totally set there.
You need at least one flashlight that has good batteries. Make sure it works.
I like to have a good cache of red and white wine. And some whiskey and beer. I bought some Bullet Rye and some extra vermouth, for in case I wanted to make some Manhattans.
Oh and plenty of reading magazines, I like foodie ones. And a book to read. (Remember if you lose power you also lose TV)
And there are some steps above that I skipped. You'll manage.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
So what can I say about this drink, well, maybe a lot.
I'm a purist when it comes to the Manhattan. I'm somewhat hesitant to share my recipe because it's so damn easy and I'll be outed like the Great OZ. But, here goes.
First off there are only 3 ingredients in a Manhattan.
Whiskey, vermouth, and bitters.
Whiskey: The whiskey should be rye or bourbon. (If you need to know the difference please google. Basically rye is made from rye and bourbon is made from corn, and rye is more potent, and there are tons of varieties of BOTH out there) I like Knob Creek small batch rye but there are lots of ryes out there and you can choose your favorite. Whatever you use make sure it's over 80 proof. It makes a difference! That heat you feel on the back of your throat when you sip, that's the alcohol! And it's required.
Vermouth: The vermouth should be the red kind. Sweet. (again google if you need more info, but in a nutshell vermouth is a fortified wine, made from grapes - so some is white and some is red, surprise!) Some people make a Manhattan with a mix of half sweet and half dry vermouth. There is a trend in bars to call this "Perfect" hence you'll see "Perfect Martinis" and "Perfect Manhattans" Again, I'm a purist. I'm all about sweet. If your liquor store doesn't carry sweet vermouth, switch stores. It's everywhere.
Bitters: I often say "I know how to drive a car but I don't know how to build one." So I fall on my sword here with the bitters. I have no idea why, but the bitters are angostora. If you find out why, please let me know in a comment. Buy the small bottle (on the right side of this picture wrapped in paper just like your Worcestershire sauce) and keep in in your liquor cabinet. It's like club soda and a cork screw. It just should be there. See note on liquor store and availability above.
Putting the drink together requires only a little love and the tiniest bit of time. I use a measuring cup if I'm somewhere that has one. If I'm making them at a cookout on someones back porch (umm, David?) I use my eyes and good judgement. By the third or fourth round, sometimes judgement slips. That's another post altogether. You need some implement to stir and some ice. And of course, a glass.
Put your glasses in the freezer before you start to assemble the drink. I won't hate on you if all you have is a martini glass, but maybe for Christmas, put some nice coupe glasses on your Santa list?
Now the recipe:
- 2 oz of whiskey
- 1oz of vermouth
- Three good shakes from the angostura bitters (I don't mean 3 drops, three SHAKES)
Do NOT SHAKE. A Manhattan is never shaken! It may get the drink to the same coldness as stirring, but it will be cloudy and ugly. I use these chopsticks that I have (they are in the picture above) but use whatever. If you own a bar spoon that came with that cocktail kit from Brookstone, use that. Just stir with your wrist about 50 times. It's ok to count, or not. Then strain that good & cold stuff into the coupe that you've just retrieved from your freezer. Add a maraschino cherry and you are done. (you will sometimes see a lemon rind twist come out from behind the bar too, but usually that's when dry not SWEET vermouth is used. I already said, I'm a purist.)
Some helpful maybe tips when bar ordering.
Depending on where you are, there are some things you may want to do when you order these out.
First, look at the bar. Do you see the brown liquor? Do you see something you know or like? Are the options very limited? You can call out your base. I'd like a Makers Mark Manhattan please. Totally acceptable.
You MAY want to instruct your bartender that you want the drink served up. (strained into glass with no ice) A good bartender will know this. Remember that picture with the google images? The rocks glass had ice cubes in it, Manhattans are not served on the rocks. (I don't know what that drink is, but if it's served on ice, it's not a Manhattan) This is also where you may want to think about what glass he/she is grabbing off the shelf. Maybe you like like the triangle? (bleck) It's your drink AND your call.
perfect, it usually means the ratio of sweet to dry vermouth. If the bartender responds with a shrug and "I'll try" and thinks you meant "perfect quality" you may want to stop him/her in his tracks.
And if your bartender is wearing a nametag (or a button that says Please tip the Bartender) you may want to just order a Heineken instead.
Happy cocktail-ing, in moderation of course.