Friday, February 24, 2017

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait?

I found myself in need of a new vacuum cleaner. My old one was used by someone to vacuum up construction debris. It wouldn't have been much of a problem had they emptied the cup instead of allowing so much to be sucked up that it totally clogged the filters and then they kept trying to use it. It was a 12 year old cheap Bissell upright and it now no longer functions. It was left sitting next to a wet/dry canister vac that was designed to do the job the Bissell was forced to do, but it was missing the wands. Those non flexible pipes of plastic that allow one to stand upright when using a vacuum cleaner seem to be easy to misplace. At least for a man they seem to be.

During the time I waited for the perpetrator of the crime to take the Bissell apart and clean all of the debris out of everything, I read a Consumer Report on vacuum cleaners. The vacuum cleaner that was rated #1 was one of the Dyson Ball models that will set one back by $500 or so. I admit, after reading how efficient it is at cleaning all manners of flooring I was yearning. Then I read about the #2 rated vacuum. That one fits the pocketbook amount without robbing anyone to pay anyone else.

I looked at Walmart and they didn't have the exact model I wanted. Neither did Target. I've been around the block a time or more and have learned that a ranking on 1 model manufactured by a company does not apply to all models manufactured by a company, so I came home and went online. Not only did Walmart have it online, it also was on sale and instead of free shipping to store, I qualified for free 2 day shipping to home. On Wednesday the information was it would be delivered today. Do I really believe that? Ummm...no.

When I ordered it, I received a confirmation of my order that stated they were processing the order and I would receive an email when it shipped. The confirmation did say the delivery date was 2-24-17. I haven't received the shipment email yet. As far as I understand the shipping date is 2 days after you receive that email, not 2 days after you place the order. Since I haven't received the email, I'll probably not get the cleaner until sometime next week,

I only have carpet in 2 rooms which are not heavily trafficked. They can wait and I can continue to use broom and dust mop on the other floors. The reason I bought this particular vacuum was because it was rated highly on bare floors and when the hose attachments were used. I have 2 cats with fur that sheds. Using a lint brush to remove the fur from furniture doesn't work so well. The Bissell didn't work too well either. If this one does, once I get it, I won't have to work as hard to keep the cat hairs off my visitors. That strikes me as being a good thing. I just wish I really could have it today.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Yes! I'm Really, Really Home.

I am not one to remember dreams. I can be rudely woken by a nightmare and not be able to tell you what transpired that caused me to scream out in fear. Once awake I'm hard pressed to remember any part of any dream no matter how pleasant or how terrifying. I've always resented that, but have decided after this particular dream that my inability to remember dreams occurred because I've never had such a wildly memorable one before.

At first I thought that this dream wasn't just one dream. I had pretty well convinced myself of that until I remembered that in all parts that I remember there was a connection to something that came before it. It's so wild and unreal an experience I'm not sure I can share it in any way that won't cause my readers to experience mass confusion.

It starts out with my husband and myself living in a home we've inherited from someone we don't know. He wants to sell our home and move into this inherited house and I want to sell the inherited house and live in our home. The house is beautiful and logically would bring more money in the market than our home would. He finally agrees with me and we begin the process of inviting a realtor to estimate the value and help us decide if staging would help us sell quickly. When the realtor shows up the fantasy begins.

When I looked out the window to see who has parked the car the house is in one neighborhood. When we open the door to let him in, we have moved, house and all to a different neighborhood. While we are doing the walk through so he can see what there is to sell, I'm slightly ahead of him and I can see the wall to wall carpet in each room expanding into a hump, ripping open and spewing furniture out of the opening which arranges itself in each room. They don't see the carpet hump split they just see the furniture in it's proper place. Strangely I don't find this phenomenon at all disconcerting. Seems normal to me until as he leaves, one of those humps split and spews a pack of dogs.

The dogs all want to be let out and when I open the door, we're again in a new neighborhood which is actually an old one of mine. I lived in a mobile home park decades ago that closed. This house is now situated on the spot where my old home sat. In the dream, the owner of the old park had decided to invest money into making it a double wide community which was now how the house looked on the outside. Everything inside was exactly the same. Although it looked now like a double wide on the outside there were stairs that took you to the second story rooms that existed in the house when it first appeared in my dream.

One of the dogs that came from the hole in the carpet hump was injured and in need of veterinary care. I decided to take him to the emergency vet in the next town, 10 miles away. At the house, there was a vehicle in the driveway but for some reason I didn't load it up and drive off. I loaded the dog into my yard wagon and proceeded to start walking to the vet. At this point my husband is no longer around and I don't know what happened to him nor does it bother me.

The journey to this vet takes me past a former friends home and when she sees me walking with the wagon she volunteers to drive me and this dog to the vet. This is where the trouble starts. She tells me we have to make a stop on the way that won't take a minute except the stop is back to the last neighborhood where I left the house only the house was gone.

We are at a party in a different house in the place where the house I flew to that neighborhood had sat when I was in it last. Somehow my former friend and I become separated and she simply leaves without me. While I'm trying to locate her in this party so we can take the dog to the vet, someone steals the yard wagon and the dog and I get locked out in the rain. I find a shopping cart, put the dog in that, start pushing the cart which morphs into a golf cart which flies us to the vet and as the door of the vet clinic opens I wake up.

No matter what happened in this dream, no matter how far fetched it was, the only constant emotion I experienced was a desire to go home. I woke up at home with a big smile on my face. First because I was home and secondly because apparently my subconscious conjured up a home that disappeared and reappeared as if by magic. Isn't imagination wonderful?  If there is a third reason for the smile on my face it is because no matter how bad my dream experiences got, I simply went about taking care of things in whatever way I could. I simply accepted what happened and kept on moving forward, because sooner or later forward would take me home. And it did, and here I am. Happy to be home.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Problem With Winter Is..

That it's both beautiful and terrible at the same time.

This is the time of the year for me where the beauty of flowers and gorgeous blue skies are found only in pictures or kept as decorative accents inside our homes. For months at a time, Mother Nature rests in a deep frozen slumber designed to refresh herself to meet the demands of Spring and rising sap.

For humans, the winter is a long dark time of cold and depths of snow cover that must be dealt with before we can leave our homes to face a treacherous commute on icy roads to travel to our destinations. For some of us it's a time of anxiety, sadness and depression. For those true lovers of nature in any condition there is skiing, ice skating and snowmobiling.

In between are those like myself. People who no longer need to engage in the rat race and can take the time to contemplate what happens outside our windows. For those of us who are not driven to escape ourselves and our thoughts, no matter how dark, the view outside our windows is not bleak. I suspect that ability stems from our sense of superiority over those who do not have the choices we do.

I can choose to pay attention to the weather forecast and plan accordingly. I don't need to rush out at the last minute to stock up on necessities in case the storm comes. I can plan my outings to take place on the days when the temperatures will be a little warmer and the roads traveled well enough to be bare. If I have an appointment scheduled on a day when the weather will make travel less enjoyable, I can pick up a phone and postpone the appointment.

I can choose to spend a stormy day cleaning house in my pajamas, or wearing sweats and sitting in the easy chair to read. I can sit at my kitchen table and admire the diamond like glitter of a light snowfall on a somewhat sunny winter day. Sadly I don't have the camera equipment or the knowledge to capture that phenomenon digitally. However, I do have knowledge enough to capture the beauty of Winter during a heavy, wet snowfall.


By the time it stopped yesterday my backyard had 10 more inches of snow on the ground. 

I may not be someone who throws themselves into the great outdoors and embraces Winter activities with gusto. I'm content to stay inside where it's warm and toast Mother Nature's efforts with a hot cup of coffee, chocolate or tea. Unfortunately for me, it's also a time when I lose the battle with weight gain. 

I was hoping to have a need for a new wardrobe in April. I've admitted to myself that I'm not quite going to make it and have decided to get by with what I have until Fall. I'm also going to work on losing more than 2 pounds a month once I have the 5 pounds I've regained off. That shouldn't be too hard once I quit contemplating Winter out my windows and get back to moving to the beat of my favorite music. Now I need to go find my "Boogie Shoes". 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Basic Common Sense, Where Are You Hiding?

There are members of my husband's family that qualify for the category known as "Special Kind Of Stupid". It's embarrassing. If they'd spend 6 seconds thinking something through, they'd see the problem with what they repost and what they say about it.

For instance. This morning oldest DIL posted a question about states being allowed to teach English only in schools. To this post she added the words "English only". So. Tell me. How many English speaking families have sent their children to school and had them come home speaking a language other than English? What part of English speaking children can't learn from a teacher who only teaches in Swahili or some other foreign language escapes them? Obviously if the kid is leaning anything at all it's being taught in English, so why is this English Only an issue?

Illegal immigrants from Latin America are sending their children to American Schools and guess what? They are going home speaking English. Are they learning this from teachers not teaching in English? It's a miracle, right?

We have a First Lady born in Slovenia who comes to the US with the ability to speak 5 languages fluently. Can someone explain to me why our kids can't have the same level and quality of education as that? Oh no, we have to dumb down what is being taught so our kids don't have a chance at competing in a global economy. Good paying jobs are just so plentiful here that our kids don't need that kind of education?

Exactly what language do people think these people from India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam and other countries where our tech corporations recruit employees, are speaking when they come here? To the best of my knowledge, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard don't bring them here and pay them a salary to learn to speak English. They learn that in the schools they attend in their home countries.

Out of 40 countries the US ranks 17th in educational performance. We're also 24th of 60 countries when it comes to literacy. With what remains of my basic common sense I'd call that embarrassing rather than exceptional.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Giving Myself A C But The Experiment Tasted Good

I never did get to a store to buy a candy thermometer. On Thursday I twisted my knee and wasn't able to walk any distance without hanging on to things so I didn't leave the house. I did find my knee brace Friday morning and it helped but was still too painful to walk on for any distance. I decided that since I am capable of baking bread without one I should be able to heat milk to the correct temperature for Paczkis without one. I am not convinced I was wrong, but I'm also not convinced I was right.

The recipe called for Rapid Rise which has a hotter proof, or activate temperature than regular yeast does. Regular yeast is 110 while rapid rise is 120 to 130. Once I got everything mixed in I found I had to use a lot more flour to stop the dough from being sticky. The recipe called for 1.5 cups and a quarter cup for the kneading process. Also, kneading was only supposed to be 50 turns. I found I had to keep adding flour and that resulted in more than 50 turns.  The additional kneading created a final product that had more of a bread consistency than a raised donut consistency.

I am wondering if the size of the egg yolks used might have contributed to the sticky dough? There was no specification as to size but I used jumbo eggs which have quite a bit larger yolks. I'm wondering if that might have contributed more liquid to the recipe than should have been there?

My filling technique needs some practice. Some of the donuts were so stuffed the filling leaked out and others had barely enough in them to taste. I need a longer, slightly narrower tip than the one I have. Also, I got a dozen of them from the recipe but feel I need to cut them slightly larger than I did.

Once I get a candy thermometer I'm going to use the recipe to make cinnamon rolls with. I'm going to use the electric mixer for the first stage of the wet/dry ingredient incorporation which I didn't use when I made the Paczkis. I'm going to use 1 egg yolk instead of 2 to see if that keeps the knead turns to the stated 50.

I probably shouldn't be baking and eating the results but it does me no good to give up everything I love to eat healthy. Setting aside one day a week to eat the things I love isn't a bad thing if I expend the energy to make it. When I got done yesterday I found I had flour and powdered sugar to clean up as well as extra dishes to do and the kitchen floor to mop. It was fun and I was happy so maybe the experiment should earn a C+? For the next baking experiment I'll have to remember to get pictures. Maybe even at different stages in the process if I don't have sticky dough all over my hands. We'll see.




Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Paczki Experiment

One of the best memories from my childhood was weekends at Granny's and the jelly donuts. We always went grocery shopping on Saturday mornings and if I'd been a particularly good little brat and helped Granny with the dusting and vacuuming my reward would be jelly donuts. Nothing like contributing to the obesity of a minor child, is there?

Anyways these weekends at Granny's pretty much stopped when my parents divorced and Grandpa got sick. No more early Saturday morning shopping trips to stores with the bakeries that made them. By the time I was making my own babysitting money and could get down to the Mohegan Market to purchase one, it would be after noon on Saturday and they would be all sold out.

The Dan Dee Donuts came to town with their 50 different varieties of donuts. Except they didn't make the jelly ones with the same dark red almost purple jelly.  They had strawberry, raspberry in bright red that really didn't have the consistency of jelly. It was more like a really thick glaze type substance. With the other flavors like lemon or pineapple they frosted the top of the donut and there went the powdered sugar mess. Not at all what I was used to, even though I can't tell you what the jelly inside was, the ones Granny bought were better.

After Dan Dee donuts, there was Dunkin donuts and they still didn't make the jelly donut the way I remembered. Also used the bright red slime inside. Then an independent young man from Greece started a regional coffee/donut shop that he called Dippin Donuts. He uses the right jam inside which he tells me is Black Raspberry. The problem is that if you can't be there before 8 am they're sold out, and they're expensive. Also, deep fried. Yeah, not the healthiest choice.

I was giving the wife of the independent Greek a hard time (she's a friend, she expects it) over the lack of jelly donuts at 8:15 am Sunday morning when a nice little Polish lady behind me said I should learn to make Paczkis. I just laughed and said if I did that, I wouldn't have the fun of picking on the wife of the independent Greek. It took until Tuesday for the idea to take hold in my head.

On Tuesday I asked the Google for Paczki recipes and found that I don't have to deep fry them, I can bake them in the oven. I had most of the ingredients on hand, just needed to buy yeast and I did need the icing bag and long tip to fill them with. I don't think I have the right tip. It looks rather big, but it is longer than the others I saw available. If I plan on making them again I'll go to Michaels or Hobby Lobby and see if there is a different tip of this length, assuming this one doesn't work as well, of course.

Friday I am going to have to pick up a candy thermometer to check the temp of the milk used so the yeast won't be killed or retarded by too hot or cool milk. I've never had a use for one since I learned to cook before recipes relied on them. The only candy I make is fudge and soft ball stage is the way I learned to check the progress. Unfortunately for me, the Paczki recipe wouldn't work if I tried a soft ball test for the milk.

The kitchen here is a dream to work in. If it wasn't I probably wouldn't even try this. In my old kitchen I would have had to take everything off the countertop and also use the table for part of the process. Here I have enough room to mix and knead, enough room to cool them down and have all of them together when it's time to sugar and fill them. Plus, even if it's a lot of sugar to be consuming, they aren't deep fried and that makes them healthier than bakery made jelly donuts. The best part is I get to have them my way.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

New Neighbors And A Happy Day

I was in my craft room looking at reference books trying to decide what I wanted to paint. Precious Kitty was sitting in the window and all of a sudden he went ballistic. I looked out to see what he was looking at and there was a black and white cat out there. I closed the door when I left the room in case Precious decided to run when I opened the outside door and went out to see what was up. While observing the little thing through the window I had a glimpse of a collar that appeared to have something written on it and was hoping it would help me locate it's human.

It took me forever to find my small blanket and get my boots and coat on but when I quietly opened the door kitty was still sitting there crying. I really wasn't sure what to do at that point since most cats will run when approached by a stranger but this one was too cold, too hungry to do anything except cry.

I didn't look to see what gender she was but the collar was pink so I'm making an assumption the poor thing was a she. I brought her into the house, took her into Hubby's office and got out the carrier to house her in once I examined her collar. I found a phone number and no other info on the collar. She went into the carrier with the blanket and I called the number and told the voicemail who I was and why I was calling.

I was afraid she was an abandoned kitty whose human hadn't thought to remove her collar and I was in the process of fretting about what I was going to do if that was the case, when the phone rang. It seems that kitty and her companion had recently moved into a home down the road from me. He had her in the bathroom while the movers were bringing in the furniture and his grandchild opened the bathroom door and kitty ran. Poor thing has been out there for a week and it's been cold and snowing every day. No wonder she was so exhausted.

They're a nice couple in their late 50s. Their daughter bought their bigger home from them and they bought this smaller home since there's just the 2 of them and they're getting near retirement age. They were heartbroken by the loss of their cat. That took the shine off the new home experience but now that kitty has come home they're looking forward to many happy years together here.

She was sleeping when he found my voicemail so she didn't know her kitty had been found. I've had 2 calls from her since her husband went home. She just keeps telling me how wonderful I am and asking how they can reward me. My reward was in finding the kitty had a home and was wanted. I'm just grateful I was in my craft room instead of on the computer or I would never have seen Precious get agitated and wouldn't have known that poor cat was out there.

Seems to me that Precious was the wonderful one here. I'm thinking I should quit looking for inspiration in a book and just paint him. We'll see how that works out this week.