Lumpy Green Mystery Fruit – Picture

When you move to a new region, you will have mysteries.   Some are pleasant, and some are even tasty.

I haven’t been brave enough to taste this mystery.

Besides, it’s not even on my own yard.  It’s on a “vacant” lot about a half mile from my house.  Vacant does not mean Open And Free, so I let it be and take only pictures and leave only footprints.

I’ve seen many curiosities since moving here.  Black Racer snakes that help to keep down the number of roof rats that run on my awnings at night keeping me awake.   There are snails in the garden that ate all my flowers one night that had been growing there for months.  Opossums and Raccoons that walk through the place. 

Some are intentional.  The Mango Tree on the corner I watch over since the owner of the property doesn’t like Mangoes and doesn’t want a nearly 2 pound fruit falling from 50 feet in the air onto the car parked below.  I’ve picked more than 100 pounds each year that I’ve lived here and given away much of it.  Now that I know how to make proper Jellies and Jams, I’ll be making Mango Jelly out of some of it.

I just can’t get enough Mango.

Learn your trees, snowbirds.  Do not park under a fruiting tree.   You’ll have to use that insurance that you paid for without knowing when you rented that white Chevrolet at the airport.

But this tree was a bit of a mystery.  I was told it was either a Sugar Apple or a Soursop by different people.  It looks like a Screw Palm with buttressed roots.  Leaves grow up the trunk in a spiral.  It actually is a striking tree, very tropical looking.  You simply would not expect a blobby green fruit growing in a Northern Hardwood forest or out west off of a cactus.

It just doesn’t look like the pictures.  In fact, I spent a block of time on wikipedia looking at every, and I do mean EVERY entry they had under Tropical Fruits.  No such luck.  Nothing that looked like my blobby friend here. I probably missed it.

Some day the property will be built on.  Land in this town is too scarce.  The City of Wilton Manors has a price premium over a block on the other side of the line in Fort Lauderdale or Oakland Park of at least 10 percent, and in some directions, even more.   The blobby fruit tree will be cut down to make room for some other boringly large Mc Mansion squatting on that large corner.  

For now, the mystery of Dixie Highway has its time in the sun.  I’m sure it’s a tasty mystery, but it’s someone else’s tasty mystery. 

How About A Pretzel Roll? – Picture and Recipe

I wanted a little something different.
I wanted something a little familiar.
I wanted something a little special.

I started reading.

Coming from anywhere near Philadelphia, you know you can get a good soft pretzel.   I’ve had them in other cities, and sometimes they come close.

But not quite.

I can do “Not Quite” very well.  Many of my recipes come very close to commercial food, which is scant praise.  Most of my recipes are better than what I can buy at the market which is another reason why I keep trying.   After all, when is the last time you could buy a sandwich sized roll for five cents and have it taste like something other than sawdust.  Yes, I did the math, these rolls cost between 5 and 10 cents for the ingredients and the price variance depends on the market price of the flour.  It makes 1500 calories of dough, approximately.

Yes, it takes time, and yes not everyone has the interest or the knowledge.  I always enjoyed baking, there’s something “elemental” about it.  Bringing life forth from food and making it rise, then tossing it in the oven and baking it to perfection.

Once you learn a recipe, it gets tweaked.

Making pretzels is on the surface simply a tweak.  I used my standby recipe – Pat’s Pizza Dough for this.   I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can make excellent rolls with that recipe.   I followed it literally and simply dropped the ingredients in the bread machine to make dough.   I pressed start then went to take a shower.

That’s it.

I ended up with 780 grams of dough.   Yes, grams, it’s easier to do the math – divide by 10 to get a 78 gram roll which is 150 calories if you need to count the little buggers.  That’s 2.75 ounces in good old Imperial Measurements which are not used in the Empire any longer.

Dough Recipe is at this link if you want to see the original article, but the ingredients are in order:

  1. 1 cup plus 1 ounce (9 ounces) of warm 110F water
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 3 cups bread flour
  4. 1 teaspoon sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 tablespoon yeast 

How did it become a pretzel?  Very simple.

  • Prepare the dough.
  • For proper pretzels, you want to allow it to rise then knead to remove most of the “gas”.
  • For Rolls, form the dough into a ball and allow to rise for at least an hour or two.
  • Roll it out however you want it to be – It’s your choice!
  • Put a saucepan with one quart of water in it plus 1.75 ounces by weight of baking soda.  That’s 50 grams to the Liter of water.
  • Bring the water and baking soda to a full boil.
  • Place each dough ball in the water for 30 seconds.
  • Flip to the “other” side and allow it to boil for 30 seconds.
  • Place the dough ball on the cookie sheet, and repeat for remaining dough.
  • You can paint the dough balls with melted butter at this point if you wish.
  • Dust with Salt, Sugar, Cinnamon, Sesame Seeds, or any other seasoning or leave plain.
  • Bake at 375 for 13 minutes or until deep golden brown or to taste.
  • Cool, eat, enjoy.

I Hear You Had A Snowstorm Up North – Picture

This connected age is strange.

Sitting in the Big Green Chair in the living room, I was enjoying a sunset.  My friends are mostly here in South Florida, my family is mostly in the Northeastern US.

The Florida Friends were complaining how we’re going to have a few cool days.  I can’t handle anything under 70F anymore.  I used to stand out in the subzero cold in a shearling jacket and shrug it off.  Then I got in shape and lost my flab and with it went the insulation and the cold weather tolerance.

That said and done, it’s not fatal.  50F will be annoying, but it’s highly doubtful that someone is going to die of hypothermia sitting by a pool in South Florida.  The houses are leaky, windows are designed to allow the breezes to flow through and cool you, not keep the heat in.   In this day of Air-conditioning, that is a mistake since the breezes will blow the cool out just as well as blow it back in.

I’m watching TV.  Colonel Hogan was tweaking Colonel Klink for the hundredth time, and the snow was just beginning to hit Philadelphia and the other cities of the Northeast.  My cousin in Long Island took 3 1/2 hours to go home on the Long Island Expressway, a trip that normally took 20 minutes.  Schools started closing even before the snow stuck to the first windshield. 

I remember those days, sitting in my house on top of the hill, up in the third floor front bedroom that became our den.  Heat rises, so that room was always a little on the warm side, even if the ground floor was cold.  Tuned into all the media, we’d notice that people would be stripping the supermarkets bare of Bread, Milk, and Eggs.  The usual comments would fly that you get snowed in and make French Toast.

This time it was surreal.  I’m hearing family and friends talk about how bad it was.  It’s getting difficult, don’t go out, stay home, stay safe, the roads are clogged.  All the while the FEC train is coming through delivering Orange Juice and Rocks to places North.  I’m watching the sunset through my front window over the shopping center.  The breezes were blowing through the palm trees, and the last of the rays tickled the bottoms of the clouds to a golden glow. 

Shivering in the breeze, I brace my camera against the big blue trash bin and fire off a few shots.  It’s cold out, but nothing like what my family is going through right now.  I’m thinking of the silly things we’d do in this weather.  Fill the front yard with snow from the driveway.  Blow soap bubbles and watch them shatter when they freeze before hitting the ground.  Make snow cones from the hopefully clean snow in the back yard.  Skip eating the snow cones because it looks like something the dog made.  Joke that while the dog wrote her name in the snow, it always comes out like “blblppplllbbbttt” so that must be her name in Canine. 

Coming back inside, I see Colonel Klink get into the side car that falls off the motorcycle as Sgt. Schultz pulls away.  Another time the allies pull another fast one on reruns.  May as well watch the rest and stay warm with a can of cherry soda.

Stay Warm Folks.  I’m hearing that while I was shivering in the low 60s, it was 8F in Cherry Hill, NJ, and 15F in Atlanta.

I’ll take my 60s.

Now It Looks Like Windows XP Will Get Virus Updates After All

Microsoft blinked.

After saying April 8, 2014 XP Users will get nothing from Microsoft, they changed their minds a little.  It is a reprieve, and a temporary one at that.

Microsoft will provide Virus Warnings until July 14, 2015.

Bastille Day?  Interesting choice.  All the virus writers will have to wait to storm the defenses until that day.

Of course if you are using some other virus scanner like McAfee or Norton,  they will continue to support you like they have been.

This doesn’t mean that they promised to provide fixes in Windows Updates, the holes that scare the IT Guy at your office will still be there.   It only means that they will be providing updates to their anti virus program Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP until that date.  You will still be targeted by virus writers for those holes in the system.

Microsoft Security Essentials is the same program that runs on Windows Vista and Windows 7 and is included or “baked in” to Windows 8 and 8.1.   It seems like the virus signature file downloads are most likely the same in both products but there’s a switch somewhere that will be thrown to stop it from working with Windows XP.

Planned Obsolescence.  Pay more and upgrade or else.

Their response is straightforward – upgrade to a newer operating system.

This might be why I have so many Linux based computers around these days… But for people who don’t want to learn a new operating system, don’t stick with XP – the holes will still let the viruses get in, and if the antivirus doesn’t catch them, you won’t get a fix from Microsoft.  If you really are against learning a new Operating System, Windows 7 is the closest thing that you can get for that old beater of a computer that looks “normal”… you know – looks like XP.  Even Windows 7 may not save you if you have a really old machine with less than 2GB of memory, but Linux would run comfortably on most machines in that class.

Most.  Don’t get silly, that old Pentium 4 needs to be recycled.  I could get something  to run on that, but it would be limited and I’m not really interested in doing free support.

Also, if you really are going to keep your old machine and upgrade to Windows 7, remember that Windows 7 is an install not an upgrade.

About 30% of all desktop computers run some form of Windows XP.  I’ve read statistics that “Some Form Of Windows XP runs on 95% of all ATM Machines in the US”, although I really doubt that statistic.   That “Some Form” is probably Windows XP Embedded which is a very different monster than what you know and love on your desktop computer.   The networking component has been made more secure, although you have to wonder just how secure it really is.

I’ll stick with my earlier comments, time to upgrade folks.  XP is about to XPire.

My Verbal Tic and the Parrot

We all have these phrases we repeat over and again.  Sometimes we don’t realize it, but they are there.

It’s called a Verbal Tic.  Just one of those things I guess.

Some folks start off a thought with a word.  “Well, I’ve …” is common.  It gives you time to think, gather the rest of your thoughts before you run out of steam and wonder why on Earth you started to speak.

I didn’t realize I had one until the other day.   Oscar the Parrot told me that I did by repeating to me what I say.

I’m used to making plans and following them out to their completion.  Part of being a Project Manager, I guess.  You get the plan going and then eventually you have to get started, right?

“Here we go.”   Yep, it’s mine.

I had been playing some music in the house in the Call To Flock hour.   That’s when parrots in a flock will call to each other to gather themselves close for either the evening roost or the morning feed.  That racket you hear when the feral parrots fly overhead serves a purpose.  Other than to give you a headache or annoy you, that chattering and screaming will let the birds in a flock know where the rest are.  You see it in a Mall or a large shop when some kid is screaming for its Mom at the top of its lungs.

Shaddap both of you.  Never mind that, it’s happened for centuries and will happen for centuries after this has been read for the last time.

My life tends to be rather ordered.  Certain things happen at certain times of day.  Meals are planned and served.  Dogs need to be walked.  There are trips out to the store.  Gardening to be done.   Many of those tasks have to be completed by more than one person, whether furred, feathered, or thin skinned.

That last one would be me.  Some of the others around me aren’t quite so thin skinned, I’m sure.

We would go through the ritual of getting things settled and “Here We Go” dinner is ready.   “Here We Go” it’s time to go to the stores and get a gallon of milk, some flour, frozen cherries, and some Fruit Pectin.

Yes, I’m planning on making more Cherry Jelly.  It’s dead easy to do.

What I didn’t realize was that telegraphing my intent was so frequent that the chattering that Oscar does now includes “Here We Go” along with “WAAAAAH!” and “Hello!” as well as other partial phrases and so forth.

He was barking and flapping and making a general nuisance of myself when I heard it clearly for the first time.

Did he just say “Here We Go”?
Yes I think he did.
I guess I really do repeat it enough.

Oscar the parrot has been with me since 1986.  He’s a bit of a grumpy bird, but I guess he’s finally finding himself someone to bond with.  I never thought it would be me, but I’m glad it is.

Now, if I could just convince him to let me listen to music loud once in a while without his own accompaniment, it might be a little better for me. 

There’s this one Soca song that I want to hear on the speakers that was done to the NFL Football Sound Bed and if I can hear it, the neighborhood will hear “BRaahhhhSSS!” coming out of the house.

Elderly Lady’s Revenge – Humor

An elderly lady’s husband just passed away and to get things ready she went to the place that sells and engraves tombstones…

When she got there, she ordered the most expensive tombstone she could afford. They were married 65 years after all and; had 6 children, made lots of money, traveled many places, made lots of memories, and loved each other very much of course.

When paying for the tombstone, they asked what she would like engraved in the stone. To which she replied, “To my dearest husband, you were my love and my life. I cannot wait to see you again one day. Rest In Peace” as it was a common and courteous thing.

Later that day she went to find out what she would get of her husbands remaining possessions, as it turns out, he didn’t leave her a thing, nothing. Not one item, not one car, not one penny.

The elderly lady was so furious. How could she not get anything after all they have been through? She knew her husband was tight with his money but this had to be a mistake. Going over the papers for a second, third, and fourth time it stayed the same. Nothing for the lady.

So the following day she goes back to the place she ordered the tombstone and said to the man running it, “I would like something added to my late husbands tombstone. You can keep everything I had on it. Especially the, ‘Rest in Peace’ , but I want you to add ‘Until I Get There’.”

Naming the Baby and Aging – Humor

Maybe I should have said “Humor?”.

A lady almost 9 months pregnant falls down some stairs and knocks herself out…

When she wakes up, she is in a hospital bed.
Doctor: “We had to deliver your fraternal twins while you slept, but they are completely healthy. Also, your brother stopped by and named them for you”
New Mother: “My brother named them? But he’s an idiot! What are their names?”
Doctor: “Well, the little girl is named Denise.”
New Mother: “Well, that’s not so bad. What about my son?”
Doctor: “Denephew.”

Aging

A young married couple was invited to their friend’s home for dinner one evening. Their host was an elderly 82-year-old couple.

The young couple was impressed by the way the elderly man preceded every request to his wife with endearing terms like: “Darling, Sugar, Dear, Honey, Sweetheart,” etc.

When the young man was alone with the old man in the veranda, the young man said, “I know both of you have been married for over 60 years and you are still so in love with one another. It’s so wonderful after being married for so many years, you can still call your wife those loving pet names.”

The old man sighed, “To tell you the truth, I forgot her name about 20 years ago.”