Four Cherry Cordials, A Welcome Treat

I’ve had these all my life.

At least as long as I can remember.

These are the G Rated version of a treat that I discovered probably before I could walk well.  Always having a sweet tooth, I would gravitate toward them and anything else that tasted well.

I’d pop one in my mouth, and if I was patient, allow the chocolate shell to melt until the cherry sugar syrup would run out onto my tongue.  Then I’d have a third treat as the cherry waited behind for my molar to pop it open like a sweet balloon.

My sister discovered that I liked those things and when we realized that tradition said we should be giving gifts on holidays and birthdays, a box of these would show up.

A welcome treat.

Once, and only once, I found the Real Version of these.   They’d have an alcoholic brandy in them, most likely Kirschwasser, a German Cherry Cordial.  I remember those being “amazing” but decidedly hard to come by.  New Jersey, where my sister and I grew up, most likely had regulated them to being frightfully scarce and in “all my years” I’ve only ever seen them twice.

It has been a while since the Mastodons roamed free in the North Eastern United States, and I suspect that they ate most of the Alcoholic Cherry Cordials to keep them out of my own hands.  I guess they like Kirschwasser as well.

It’s an open secret between my sister and I that I will receive these in a “Care Package From Home”.

I see them here at the supermarket and it Isn’t Quite The Same.  Of course we could just toss one in the cart, but it just hasn’t felt right to do so.  While I truly enjoy these overly sugary treats, it wouldn’t have quite the same feeling since my dear sister didn’t toss them in a box, cart them to the Cherry Hill, New Jersey Post Office, stand in line, and post them to me here in South Florida.

Luckily those events are in the cooler parts of the year.  Shipping chocolate to Florida via the US Postal Service guarantees that they will arrive partially melted and most likely “deformed”.

But, Hey!  They Eat Well, Right?

I had gotten a welcome Care Package back around the holidays and set a few of these aside in a very cool part of the refrigerator.  Not so much to hide them from anyone else in the house, I did it to hide them from myself.  I wanted a small treat to remember a well thought and welcome present from someone dear to me, far away.

Plus they taste damn good.

POP! All gone!

Oh and frozen?  They’re amazing too!

Winter in Florida and The Dogs Are Prepared

It was scheduled last week on Friday.

I hear we may be getting more this week.

By “Winter” I mean temperatures in the 50s.

That would be a low of between 10 and 15C for my international readers.

If you live in South Florida, have a pool, have social and intelligent dogs that follow you around every day, watch your Iced Tea.

This was an older picture.  That’s Lettie who passed a couple years back.  I was going through my pictures and she popped out at me.  It’s pretty much what I go through though.

You see that small area is a spa, or hot tub, and we rarely use it.  The heater takes hours to get it to a nice comfy 104F/40C and we settle for 95F/35C.  That last 5C is a killer.

I’ve sat in that spa at oddball times of the day and night.  Days are better since you can see the mosquitoes to swat at them.  Night is more comfortable since the air is cooler, and that is of course quite relative.

Lately thought it is just something for my dog, Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM) to leap over when he’s

excitedly running circles around the yard and the pool and out to the portal in the front gate to see who is there.

Portals help.  It entertains the dog.  Entertained dogs are good dogs.  Herding dogs need to be mentally stimulated just like they need to be able to run off some of that energy from time to time.

Lettie used to have a portal that I created in the Laundry Room door.  It was completely frosted glass panes and Jalousie windows, since replaced.  I removed two of the slats at the bottom and replaced them with clear panes so she could go out there and watch the world.

Trust me she did.

She’s gone, the door was replaced with fully frosted impact glass, and Rack has the front door to look out of anyway.

Things certainly change in five years.  The weather is about to change.  And for now, Rack’s happy to watch out the front door.   He watches for his favorite people, and whines quietly as they walk past.  He also gets all bent out of shape when any sort of delivery comes through.  I think that is a requirement of Dog.  When Dog is selected and the soul inhabits the creature, there is a little subroutine written.  Delivery Truck requires Alert.  Luckily, Herding Dogs are easy to train and a simple “Go Look!” works.

No, nobody is out there, is there?

But that would be a story for a different day wouldn’t it?

The Story of Santa Clothes and the Lump of Coal

A comment flew by me this morning that tripped a memory of a while back.

When you are a kid, one of the things you want the least are clothes for the holidays.

Oh sure, you need them, but they’re not exactly exciting.  At least now.  I remember an old picture of right after World War 2 in the rubble of a bombed out building, there was a child who was clutching a brand new pair of shoes as if it were the crown jewels he had just been given.  So be thankful that you can have that sort of a First World Problem, young child…

I know, get off the soap box, big guy, right?

Anyway, my nephew was another one of those kids.  I was like it and so was my sister, his mom.

“Uncah Beewl!  Santa Claus is coming soon and I am getting toys!”

Yeah he had that kids twang to his voice.  Uncah Beewl.  For the record, I never liked being called “Uncle Bill” because it reminded me of that horribly saccharine show Family Affair from back in the 1960s on US Television.   I had told my nephew it was ok, just call me Bill, but it didn’t stick.

“Are you now?” I asked

I was then treated to the excitement of a little pre-school boy telling me a list of toys and what he wanted to do to them.  Of course I was going to have a bit of fun with him.

“But, I heard you were getting a lump of coal!  Are you sure?  Maybe it is Santa Clothes who is coming, not Santa Claus?”

“NO! No lump of coal!  NOOOO!  No Santa Clothes!”

“But I heard that you were getting a lump of coal and some new clothes.  Socks and T Shirts for school.”

“You silly, Uncah Beewl!  No Santa Clothes! Noooo!  No lump of coal!  Toys!”

I swear the kid believed me, but hey he was young still!  “See, Santa Clothes comes when Santa Claus can’t.  Santa Clothes brings good boys and girls the clothes they need to go out in the world and be with their friends!  You are a good boy, right?”

I got the strongest “YES!” I could ever get from a kid.

“So you will get some clothes for the holidays then.  I will tell Santa Clothes that he can come and you will get socks and …”

“NOOOOOO!  NO Santa Clothes, Uncah Beewl!  No clothes for Christmahahahahs!”

 

He was on the edge of crying, I needed to back off a bit.  “We will see.  Maybe I can get to Santa and see what he can do.  But remember the holidays are soon and the sleigh is packed!”

My sister thought I had lost my mind, she may be right, it might have slid out my ear and rolled under the couch somewhere.

So when the day arrived I had found some items.  Wrapped in a nice pretty box was a bunch of kids socks.  Yep, had to do it.  Along with it was a separate box of a lump of black licorice candy that looked like a lump of coal.

Jon was not downstairs yet, so I slipped the two items front and center under the tree.

He came down, spotted the pretty little box with the lump of coal inside of it and opened it.

“Jon!  It’s a lump of coal!  Isn’t that great!”

“No Uncah Beewl!  Not great!”

“But look closer!  It’s not a lump of coal!  It is candy!”

Jon perked up.  He opened the candy up and had a smile on his face when he tasted the stuff.   I see he had the same like for Licorice as I do.

“There’s another box, Jon, go for it!”

Ok, not so happy about getting a box of socks are you?

“Jon, come here”  He was pouting thinking that his holiday gifts were over.  I had to make this right.

“Come on out to the Jeep.  I caught up with Santa but he said he was late and could I bring things to you personally? ”

Jon’s eyes were huge and he got real excited.

“Lets go to the Jeep!”

We trundled out to the big grey CJ7 that was parked in front of the house.  I remember some ice on the driveway that I skidded over.  I opened the tail gate on the car, and Jon got another big present.

This was the year of the fire engine.  My sister hated that thing, just like mom did.

 

But it was Perfect!

Santa and the lump of coal aside, this Fire Engine was big, and Sturdy, and when you pushed it, the siren would sound.  It was the hit of the year.  In fact it was the hit of the next couple years.

He went from being a pouty toddler to being completely happy with what he had.

The next couple years became a tradition.  Until he was around 18, Jon would get some licorice candy in the shape of a lump of coal.  A couple years I even got it back.

Good licorice candy too!

So the moral of the lesson was to calm down and Uncah Beewl will make it right.

And lumps of coal can be tasty too!

Happy holidays folks.  Glad you could share this fractured memory of days gone by in the prairies of South Jersey.

Time To Rebuild My Skates

I’ve done this before. 

I have skated 21,000 miles.  Elite Inline Fitness Skater.  I’ve taken a long break from the sport.  There’s practically nobody doing it any more, except us “hard core” group who do it because we enjoy it.

That and your kids.

But it’s not like it was back around 2000 when there were races and competitions and you would trip over people trying to get into a shop.

For a brief time I was even sponsored, although that could be stretching it a bit.   I had a relationship with a skate shop in Philadelphia who would give me some gear from time to time to try out and report back how it worked out.  Not too much, mind you.  T-Shirts, of course.  Water Bottles, but everyone had those.  Deep discounts on parts like wheels and bearings.  Some free bearings that I liked so much that I kept them clean, lubed, and used them for over a year and well into the second year.

A year then was 2000 miles plus.  My peak week was a week I took vacation to simply skate. 

204 Miles in 7 days.

Seriously.

I’ve introduced people to the sport.  Served as a coach and trainer for others.  Even got paid to train people which was a serious ego boost.  Enjoyed Skating more than just about any physical activity that you can do in public.  Had a resting heart rate of 42 BPM as a result.

But lately I’ve come back.  Skating in Florida is different.   There is no park here like the Schuylkill River Trail.  I’ve skated from the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to Valley Forge and back a number of times.  That is 20 to 30 miles of “Black Ice”.  Smooth asphalt complete with regular Water Stops.

There was one trip that I came around a bend in Valley Forge and spotted a Buck.  A Deer.  Pointy things on its head.  He spotted me and trotted beside me for about a half mile at my speed.  We looked back and forth at each other enjoying the workout and parted friends.

That sort of thing doesn’t happen often, does it?

Here I find myself going to Pompano Airpark in Pompano Beach.  Meh.  Better than most, at least it is safe.  4.5 mile loop of table top flat asphalt with a water stop at start and middle.  Not exactly exciting but … well it works.

After a while though, you find yourself thinking it’s time to rework things.  The wheels get flat spotted.  In the 94 degree heat and direct sun, the polystyrene compound breaks down on the black pavement that you could cook an egg on.  Where I got 50 to 200 miles on the wheels in the cooler conditions of Philadelphia, I am lucky to get 10 out of them here.

Swap the wheels out, especially the all important rear wheel – the Push Wheel that wears out on your power stroke faster than all the rest. 

Look at the bearings.  Wipe off the dust and road grit.  Hold the center spindle in your fingers carefully and see if they spin free.

Nope.  I thought so.  I was out with my dog Rack skating around the neighborhood the other day and thought I was being held back by the bearings.  Takes too much effort to move forward, may as well skate with a parachute.

Take a pin to flick the C Spring clip out.  Then spin the shield around that looks like an aluminum pancake with a hole in the middle and pop it out of the bearing.  Flip the bearing and repeat.  Spin the bearing and see if it is free spinning.  Drop it in a plastic container for later.

Repeat for each wheel.  10 wheels for the racing skates.  8 wheels for the cruising skates.  Two bearings per wheel plus a speed kit in the middle to hold it all together.  36 bearings, 72 O Rings and C Clips.

Do a few extra in case there will be a problem.  Throw out all the sealed bearings because they can’t be rebuilt.  It all comes out in the wash.

The Wash is when you pour Citrus Degreaser on all bearings and shake vigorously for about a minute.  The degreaser goes from a pale orange to black.  All those miles melt into the bottom of the plastic cup.

Triple rinse the bearings in water to loosen more grease, grit, and degreaser.  Bang them out on a paper towel to par-dry so they don’t rust.

Then take them to the hair dryer that everyone has hidden in the back of the cabinets.  Don’t have one?  Stop off at the thrift store and get one for this purpose.  It has to have a metal mesh on the air outlet.  The mesh has to be flat.  Put as many bearings on the mesh as fit.  Turn it on full blast and get the bearings as hot as you can.  That will boil off the last of the water.

Repeat for 36 bearings.

Reassemble the bearings.   One shield, one C Clip.

Snap!

Lay it out on a paper towel and drop 3 drops of Tri-Flex Teflon Lube on the bearing. 

Repeat for 36 bearings.

Put the other shield and C Clip back on.  Spin to test. 

Ahhh, silky smooth!

Each wheel gets one bearing per side, and a speed kit.

Slide the wheels in the skate “truck” that holds them to the boot.

Now, you are good.  Another 200 miles per bearing rebuild if the conditions are average.  If you can hear them get loud, rebuild them. 

Two and a half hours of rebuilding, snapping, lubing, and reconstruction.  They’re not doing this sort of thing any more.  Want to know why? 

Skating is still fun.  Even in 94 degree 75% humidity Florida heat.

Gliding over Black Ice at up to 15 MPH.  4 Minute Miles.  Slower when the wind comes in off the ocean.

That makes that afternoon well spent.  The knowledge that I will be able to go out and have the park practically to myself flying free in the sun.

Feel like a workout?  I’ll slow down for you.  I’ll even give you some tips.  There was this time where I was at mile 20 when I burned through all my breakfast and needed a rest and there was the most beautiful sunrise over the city of Philadelphia.

You’ll be surprised what you will see on 8 wheels.  10 wheels if you’re lucky.

Rack Hates It When I Sleep In

Every so often you just get a little tired.  You think to yourself, boy it would be great to sleep in a little tomorrow morning.

The schedule allows it, so why not, right?

Not so fast, sunshine.

See, I’m used to getting up at 5AM.  I’m not sure why, most likely it’s because I was getting up in Philly to get to Fairmount Park on the weekends to train on my inline skates in summer.  It would get me to the park by sunrise, maybe a little before, and I could get in the workout before the charity walks would start. 

Charity Walks plus “regular park use” do not mesh well.  I gave up on that at one point and went out to the Schuylkill River Trail starting at the City Line and skating past Valley Forge to Oaks at the Perkiomen River Bridge. 

Even now, I’m up earlier than I really have to because it’s “normal”. 

As we all know, Normal is just a setting on a dryer.

This particular morning I slept in.  6:30.  Oooh, such a slacker!  Up only 30 minutes before Sunrise!

The result is that things just got pushed later, including breakfast.

Rack doesn’t like that.  You see, herding dogs are creatures of habit.  Even more than I am, Rack does things in specific orders at specific times.  By 9AM, he’s sitting in his crate becoming one with it until pretty much Dinner Hour.

If you ever wondered what your dogs do while you’re gone, it’s probably very little with a few exceptions.  People at the door and the UPS truck.  Both of them make my boy Rack grow a pair and let loose a tirade of barking that sounds like a cross between a Yodeling contest and a Machine Gun.

Fearful Dogs can bark too.  Yodeling barks usually mean fear.

A bit late, I wandered into the kitchen and started making breakfast and the second mug of coffee.   I’m beginning to master the art of standing in one place and reaching over the dog to get things done.  I am joined in there by 45 pounds of mostly black fur and two twin brown laser beams staring me down.

Why?  Yogurt.  He loves my yogurt to the point where it effects how much he will eat of his regular food.  I know that because when I stopped feeding him yogurt, two things immediately happened.  He began to eat more, and got more insistent in wanting yogurt.

Candy for dogs is bad, yogurt good.  Go fig!  Moderation in everything is best, little guy.

The kettle begins to scream for attention.  Looking down I see Rack less than a foot from my foot.  I step over him, get the kettle and pour the hot water into the French Press.  Give it a stir and I’m able to finish breakfast.

Until I open that 2 quart Mason jar of plain yogurt that finished brewing the other day.  He’s up begging.  Playing it cool, I ignore him until there’s only a tablespoon left in the bottom of the bowl.  Of course I had to make sure that all the Mango was gone from the bottom.  He hates Mango.  I must have the only dog in the world that does.

I’m back at fussing over the coffee and cleaning up the morning spills.   I hear padding feet back and forth pacing furiously.

It’s his way of saying Damnit Let’s Go! 

I get the rest of the things done, turn around away from the sink and I notice that my left side is smoking.  Smouldering from the twin brown laser beams vying for attention.  Intensity, thy name is Rack.

I say one word only.  “What?”.

He gets up and trots to the back door.   “OK, let me get my coffee” I say as I see the tip of the tail wagging in the distance in response.

Open the door.  Two steps forward and he freezes.  There was a trash truck over at the businesses a block

away. 

“Oh fer!  Come on Rack, come on out.”  He doesn’t really go very far.  I had to do a perimeter search anyway.   Getting to the far side of the property, Rack is still sitting at the door.

“Come on over here, boy!”.  Head down, he comes around the pool and visits.  The truck had moved on and we are all clear except the FEC train going North out of Miami blowing its whistle to get people off the tracks a mile or so away.  That never bothered him before.

I ask him to Show Me and he trots back to the house.  I give up.

You see, what it is is that at 5AM it’s a very different world out there, no matter where you are.  The world is still asleep.  It’s quiet and restful.  Cotton candy clouds and stars like jewels sparkling in the skies and precious little else.  That’s what a fearful dog needs.  Just a little bit of excitement.  Too much is like putting too much pepper in the soup – it won’t be right.

Oh well, life moves on and adapts, little pup, and you’re getting stronger too.  Some day, little guy, you’ll be fine.  Until then you will just have to come to me when that big bad trash truck scares you. 

Ok, lets go back inside.  I think there’s some yogurt left in the bowl.

My Old Florida Heater

According to the almanac, which ever one it was that I saw it in, we do get a “winter”.

It is all of two weeks long.

Or as a good friend of mine is fond of saying:  We do get all of the seasons here, just not the ones that stink.

Change that last word to something maybe a little more harsh for accuracy.  Four letters, still starts with an S.

Yeah, that one.

But it is two weeks long.

My own Cherry Hill, NJ would descend into Fall somewhere around mid October, Freezing temperatures in December, but sometimes not until New Years.

Give or take a bit.

It would warm up to spring in late April, and by June we were in the mid to upper 80s.

If Memory Serves Me Right.

With Global Warming, that may be shorter, you’ll have to ask someone who stayed behind.

Yes, there is Global Warming, No, being a Republican does not excuse you from that.

The weather up there gave me a lot of time to be indoors.  After all, you didn’t really want to be out in all that cold slop did you?

We had a house with a gas heater.  It was about as tall as a full grown man, so to my childhood size, it was big.  There were six large burners in it that ran front to back, and were about three feet long.  Just shy of a meter.

When it kicked off, it would FWOOMPF! and light up solid from the back to front.  There was a port hole that fascinated me as a kid because Bright! and Hot!, Daddy! 

To me a heater should be that big.  Especially something meant to heat up a split level home.  Those houses weren’t all that efficient to heat or cool.

But down here I hear rumors of some hearty souls that brave our long two week long Winters and month long Spring and Autumn, yes, you guessed it, Without A Heater!

Hey, it gets all the way down to 34 here!

When they replaced our heating and cooling the other day, I took the chance to take some pictures.  The pictures came only when I looked in and was surprised just how little things were.

That picture is actually my entire heater. 

Entire.

It’s about six inches square.  Look at the palm of your hand and spread your fingers as wide as you can get them.  About that big.

That’s all.  Two layers of “resistance heating”. 

I think I have had floor heaters that were larger.  You know, those things that women would stash under their desks in office buildings because they have already put on three sweaters and it’s cold in there will youturnupTHAT DAMN HEAT!

Those women.  Five minutes later and they’re complaining it’s too hot.

But here, that dinky little six inch square of wires?  That’s it.  That heats my house.  1200 square feet, a whole 110 square meters.  Two bedrooms, 1 bath. 

I was fascinated by it like a Great Dane would be with a Kitten.

A KITTEN!????  Awwwww!

Yes, a heater, er a kitten.

Classic White Bread or a Clone Of Wonder Bread? You Decide

I finished up the “pressing tasks” of the morning rather early.  Happens when you’re up almost two hours before sunrise as a normal habit.

I was debating what I wanted for breakfast and realized that everything I wanted needed to be baked.

I’d have something else, but I would make everything later.

I ended up baking some Cream Biscuits for Biscuits and Sausage Gravy for the next day, and a Pizza In a Skillet for lunch. 

But I realized that I finally had enough room in the freezer to make up a batch of rolls. 

Since I was sitting at the computer doing some decidedly random surfing, my mind turned to Reddit because it had been in the news lately, and I started hitting some random subreddits within the site.  Each “subreddit” is an old school list of topics that people can write about.

Ending up on a subreddit devoted to recipes that are clones of commercial foods that we all enjoy, I started reading Mimic Recipes.

There are a host of things there that I will be trying, but I did find something to help with my need for rolls.  I was intrigued by a Wonder Bread clone recipe. 

Yes, Wonder Bread.  That “stuff” that you feed your kids.  When it goes stale, if it ever goes stale, it makes good to excellent French Toast.  A whole generation was raised on Peanut Butter and Grape Jelly, on Wonder Bread.

The last time I had the stuff it tasted … like air.  I had grown used to thick crusted rolls with actual flavor.  “Ethnic foods” changed my preferences.

I wondered how close to the old Wonder Bread I could come with this recipe.  Even Wonder Bread isn’t the same as I remember it.  The crusts were rather strongly flavored when I was a kid, in my own memory.  The Bread itself would be great to roll up into a dough ball and chew but there wasn’t a particularly strong taste.

I have to say, this recipe pretty much nails the crust taste, but the inside had a light flavor that wasn’t bad. 

I didn’t have the semolina flour that was called for so my own recipe used the commercial All Purpose bread flour that I keep on hand. 

In 25 pound bags.  Cheaper that way.  It also reduced the price of these rolls to about 7 cents a piece.  Maybe a buck a batch give or take.

I guess the idea is that sometimes you want a crusty roll to make a hoagie, other times you want a thin and soft crust roll for a PB&J or other sandwich. 

Will I make it again?  Sure, not bad.  After all, the company did get bought up after it went bankrupt and their bread is being sold everywhere just like the good old days.  Someone out there must like the stuff!

Call it a “Classic White Bread” recipe and skip all the double talk, it was pretty darn good last night with dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups Water
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons Dry Yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted Butter, Melted
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup Semolina Flour – Or just substitute 1/4 more all purpose Flour
  • Melted Butter for Glazing

Process:

  • Process Ingredients on Dough Cycle In Machine or alternately use mixer with dough hook.
  • Gently Deflate dough
  • Form into an oblong loaf and place in lightly greased 9″ by 5″ loaf pan.
  • Place the entire loaf pan in a large plastic bag to allow it to rise – or other enclosed space like a cool microwave oven.
  • Allow to rise until the dough is about 1 inch above the pan rim.
  • Brush with Melted Butter.
  • Preheat Oven to 350F.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes until evenly browned.