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!

A Woman Goes For A Facelift

When I was a wee brat, my sister had quite a few dolls.  Dolls everywhere, on shelves, in the corners, on the beds, in the closets in her bedroom.

Right, Pat?

And this was something of a golden era of dolls.  They all had their gimmicks.  Some were super tall, others had the ability to walk, there was even one you could give a hair cut by turning a knob in the back of her head.

To this day, I refer to “Turning the Knob on the Back of Your Head” as getting a hair cut.

Seeing that I have been giving myself haircuts since 2003, I know that knob well.

My British audience would most likely be having a quiet giggle about how I turn my own knob.

My American audience will have to understand that means just what rudeness it sounds like.

At any rate, the joke today… it is on the same vein.   I present “A Woman Goes For A Facelift”.

A woman in her 40’s went to a plastic surgeon for a face-lift. The surgeon told her about a new procedure called “The Knob,” where a small knob is placed on the back of a woman’s head and can be turned to tighten up her skin to produce the effect of a brand new face lift.

Of course, the woman wanted “The Knob.” Over the course of the years, the woman tightened the knob and the effects were wonderful. The woman remained young looking and vibrant.

After fifteen years, the woman returned to the surgeon with two problems. “All of these years, everything has been working just fine. I’ve had to turn the knob many times and I’ve always loved the results. But now I’ve developed two annoying problems: “First, I have these terrible bags under my eyes and the knob won’t get rid of them.”

The doctor looked at her closely and said, “Those aren’t bags, those are your breasts.”

She sighed and said, “Well, I guess there’s no point in asking about the goatee….”

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.

My First Boil Water Order

I’m pretty stoic about some things.  I tend to overprepare, but that is what you’d expect from someone with my career history and path.   Plan things out as far in advance as you can see and you will be fine.

So this particular morning when I woke up, I was surprised to hear everyone panic.  I mean You Do Prepare Don’t You?

In reality, a Boil Water Order can be a pretty important thing to worry about, if you haven’t planned.

My Freezer had a full tray of ice, and I know that would last me a solid week.  I slid the switch on the Ice Machine to Off.

I heard about it very early in the morning so Coffee and Tea were safe.  I simply poured off all the extra water in the kettle to a pitcher and refrigerated it.  There’s extra Mint Tea made, since I had to boil the water anyway.

Mind you, the dog waters the Mint too so I never have that “right out of the garden” without really washing it well.  If you think your produce hadn’t been watered by wildlife, a dog, or even a person, you are most certainly fooling yourself.

The Dog?  I’m not worried.  I see how he says hello to other dogs, and he cleans himself doesn’t he?  He’ll be fine.

Then I got to thinking.  Has this ever happened before?

Probably.  In the day of Social Media, we hear everything seconds after it happens.  Think back to things that you saw just last week online that you might never have heard about.  Anniversaries of a fire that happened back in the 1970s in Cherry Hill NJ when the Garden State Park burned to a twisted wreckage.  That was the first time I heard about it in years, but it came instantaneously.

The reality is that if you go back to pre-social media days, a Boil Water order would come out and you would hear about it hours or even days later if you happened to miss the “Six O’Clock News”.

That just meant you were drinking tainted water for an extra couple days.

In this case my Boil Water Order was caused by e coli coming into the pumping station.

E Coli?  I can remember swimming in the Delaware River south of Stroudsburg PA at the Water Gap more than once.  Maurice River in the Pine Barrens in NJ.  Atsion Lake in the Pines too.  I’m sure there was some e coli in that.

Drank Well Water?  Directly from the source?  Yeah, me too.  I doubt people on well water boil that every day.

The Pioneers certainly didn’t and they used to poo right into the creeks.

My own irrigation well?  I wouldn’t drink from that, but I have gotten blasted full strength in the eye and in the mouth more than once. 

That gator is definitely not smiling.  It’s thinking “You Look Tasty”!

Mind you, I wouldn’t swim in a river or a lake here in South Florida.  The gators would have you for lunch.  Definitely not safe whether there is e coli or not.

So it boiled down to “In Me or On Me”.

In Me gets boiled.
On Me I take my chances.   After all the water is still getting treated.

My coffee and tea are safe, as are the drinks I make from them.
Iced tea from a mix?  I’ll use that extra pre-boiled water.

When I got finished with the morning routine, I made some rather nice Rye Bread Rolls from the Wonder Bread Clone Recipe I found a while back.  Just substituted Rye flour for Semolina and it turned out fine.   The water was from a case of bottled water we had bought for Hurricane Season.

We made some bow tie noodles later on.  Water was from the tap, but it got boiled for a good 10 minutes anyway. 

The rule is bring the water to a full boil and hold it there for 1 minutes and you are safe.

After all, burgers are considered safe if cooked to an internal temperature of 165 and allowed to rest for 3 minutes.  “Muscle” meat is typically 140F or warmer for at least 3 minutes, internally.

Then I got a little paranoid and rethought things.  If I rinse and reuse a plate what happens?  That’s technically “In Me”, I set it in the still hot oven.  That should make sure it’s sterilized.

That brought me to thinking about the dishes in general.   Baking fills the dishwasher.  Run it or not?  We decided that since the water is heated close to boiling, and the soap is basically Lye, then the air-dry cycle afterwords fills the house with steam.  I’m good.

We just don’t hand wash anymore anyway.

Showers?  “On Me”.  Lather Rinse and Repeat.  Just don’t drink the water.

Toothbrushes.  Use bottled water, or rinse it out with a little Hydrogen Peroxide or Vodka afterwords.

Vodka?  In times of trouble, field hospitals use Vodka to sterilize instruments.  The Russians, where autoclaves are not available,  used Vodka to sterilize their instruments.  They also used it to sterilize wounds.

I just hope we don’t come to that. 

Don’t use rubbing alcohol on anything that goes “In Me” because it is poisonous.  Vodka is safer.

So basically it’s a week of annoyance here.  It will take a while for the pipes to get flushed, and Fort Lauderdale was planning on flushing their system with Chlorine to make things cleaner this week, anyway.

Now if they could do something about their speeders coming through town.

USB Turntable With Built In Speakers – AKA What You’re Given When You Are Handy

I had been watching this item and laughing.

Vibe Sound USB Turntable With Built-In Speakers!

Ok, I have a stash of old school Vinyl Records in the house.  I’ll admit it, I actually bought some of these when they were Current.

I won’t pretend to be a Hipster.  I do have a goatee right now, but that’s because I was bored.  Maybe it saves time, yeah that’s the excuse, it saves time! 

Anyway…

I’ve got a reputation around here for a number of things.  I’ve become “That Guy”.  It’s a reputation of That Guy Who Can Actually Fix Things.

As a result I am given things that people can’t figure out or just don’t want to mess with.

You know the type.  You’ve got some old gadget that has been taking up space in storage.  It annoys you or your partner and you decide to toss it out.  Put a tag on it on the night before Trash Day saying “Free To A Good Home” and hope someone who needs it finds it.

Or you do what this guy did.

A neighbor who I know in passing lived around the corner.  I’d pass by from time to time and wave hello, or perhaps we’d bend each other’s ears on a dog walk.

Lets call him A Dog Walk Friend instead of an Acquaintance because Dog Walk Friends are Friends Who You Get To Know Better Later.

Or so I’ve been told.

We’re walking past the other night and he’s getting stuff out for trash day when I hear “I’m Beat!”.

He’s standing by a 1970s vintage Console Radio complete with 8 Track and a box under his arm.  The Free To A Good Home tags are flapping in the breezes.

“I can see why”…
“Here!  Take This.  You fix things, see what you can do with it!”.

A box that had seen at least one move and some strapping tape was thrust at me.   I pass the dog leash off to Kevin who is shaking his head “NO!” just out of direct view.

I tell him to stop shaking his head and take the box for examination.  The pack rat is about to get a new toy.

While laughing, I tell my friend that I had been watching this and I still have a foot locker full of records.  Mine and some from Dad.  Dad’s old Swing Era records, still in the Time/Life boxes, ready to be listened to and loved.

I should do something with those records.  I’ve had them in the foot of my closet since before I moved to Florida because I couldn’t bare to pass them on.  They’re complete but not particularly worth much on the “resale market”.  Collectable to me, but … well I can’t get rid of them, Dad would hate it.

Even if he is gone to the great beyond.

It isn’t the kind of thing I’d buy for myself.  USB Turntables aren’t exactly all that expensive, but I have a better turntable from back in the day when a good turntable was a requirement instead of like now when it is a confusing relic from the last century.

We got the box home, and I took it out to the backyard where I inspected it.   For good measure, I slid the equipment out, sprayed the box with bug killer, then slid the turntable back into the box.  That should kill anything that might be lurking.

Waiting until the next morning, I unboxed it.  It was complete.  I dug out my last milk crate of old records, finding someone else’s taste in music I realized “Not Mine” and moved them aside.  I found my crate.  I guess I’m down to just one crate of my own records.

Choosing a classic disco record, I put it on the turntable.  Powered it up.  There in Mid-Fi I got to listen to a song that I had heard dozens of times before.

Sigh with me everyone:

“Memories!” 

It even has the software if I am bold enough to try it.  Apparently I can plug it into my laptop and capture the vinyl onto an MP3 so I can listen to the same stuff that I have been listening to since my childhood another time.

Mmmm pops and crackles on MP3 complete with loss and low top end.

Ok, it’s a nice toy and it didn’t cost me anything.  

So since you’re reading over my shoulder, how about flipping the LP over.  They only put one track on the A Side, and I want to hear Cerrone’s Paradise again.

Thanks!

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.

Wilton Manors, Where Nobody Thinks Twice if You Are Running In The Sprinklers at 6:45AM

I’ve lived in a few places, but all of them were what I’d call Suburban.

I grew up in a Wonder Years house, in the Wonder Years suburb of Cherry Hill, NJ, in a split level that backed up to a wooded area and some small wetlands, baseball diamonds, and places to explore.

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I moved off after college to an apartment building in a similar suburb, or rather a set of suburbs, and finally settled in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.  Oh, yet another suburb.

All of those places were stable.  There was a certain quiet way of life.  Sure, the kids were out and about on bikes, skateboards, and rollerskates having fun and generally tearing up the place.  This was the era that kids did that sort of thing, now it’s called Free Range Parenting and it is the exception and not the rule.

That’s a shame.  Kids are expected to sit in front of a screen making icons move and play first person shooters.  Turn the games off, it’s a more interesting world offline than it is online.

But there was a certain way about these places.  Nothing too out of the ordinary, everyone seemed to have a role in life.  I guess there also was a bit of a small town air about it where you knew your neighbors and they’d look out for you if you needed help.

Then I moved to Wilton Manors.  Think of it as a resort town where the resort is for adults who want to sit indoors and play with their cell phones, just like anywhere else these days.  Some of that is good, the rest of that is a bit odd.

Again, Odd can be good.

Down the block there’s a neighbor, Scott.  He has a wife, Cindy, and their kids.  When I moved in here I came to the realization that it isn’t quite what it seemed living two blocks off of Wilton Drive.  I think I moved into Mayberry.

The kids were small back then.  They would come walking past the house in a pack.  Probably the only kids left on the block at that time, the families having raised their kids before and moved on out.  Homes get bought in waves when they are built in waves, these homes were built in the 1950s and 1960s so those children raised in these homes are at least in their 40s and have their own kids.

But the reason why they were in a pack was because it was difficult to walk with a big green aluminium rowboat on your back.  They’d go down to the nearest open water access with their fishing poles and buckets and go on the water for a proper day of fishing.

When their dad needed to find them for some reason, he’d come flying past the house.  No, he didn’t run.  He was on a skateboard and frankly he’s better at it than I am.  His wife was good at it too.

I figured if they could use their skateboards, I could get back on my inline skates and be at home.  I was.  Nobody thought twice about it.  In fact, I suggested that they use some of my old racing wheels on the boards for a smoother ride.

After a while they gave up the skateboards for an ATV.  Quad bikes.  They’d go up and down the block learning how to ride the things that gradually got bigger as they did.   The kids were better at driving than most people on the roads here in South Florida, and Dad had just as much fun as they did on them.

I remember telling them that they had better toys than I did and I was jealous.

I stepped out onto the porch thinking about this.  They were going off to the river today, early and on a rare week day.  I didn’t see them as they were approaching, but that wasn’t why I was out. 

It was irrigation day.  Sprinklers were running and I needed to check the things.

On the porch, I looked through the gardens.  There are a few plants there to make the property look less sterile, and they’re indifferently cared for.  Some took, others withered away.  I didn’t know why until I looked at the sprinkler heads there.  One was turned off, the other was down to about 1/2 power.

In most suburban neighborhoods, someone would notice a sprinkler problem and Have A Guy Come By.  That way you don’t have to get your hands dirty and surprise the neighbors.  Always be wary of that, you don’t want to surprise the neighbors.

People my great-grandparents age would say “Stop that, you’ll scare the horses!”.

Nonsense.  The sprinkler was turned off, and it needed to be turned on.  Now.  While there was still another half hour left on that zone.  That was Zone 1 and it only runs 50 minutes twice a week.

I watched the timing and realized I could trot out past the golf sprinklers that watered the yard from two directions and get there relatively dry.  I was right.  I got to the distant one and turned it up full, then repeated the process on the nearer sprinkler head.

Looking down I realized that my foot was in standing water.   Comes with the territory.  Wet clothes and wet shoes.

I watched the timing and trotted back to the porch.

At that moment I heard the kids say “Hey, you made it!”.

I had a small audience.  Instead of being concerned that I was being odd or Un-Suburban, I smiled and thanked them and went back to playing Sprinkler Guy.

“Good luck fishing!”  I called back to the big green aluminium boat on the little cart that I grew to accept as part of the background here.

I heard “Thanks!” as I reached for the door knob.

Yep.  I live in a town where nobody thinks its too strange if you’re running through the sprinklers talking to a rowboat on a cart just after sunrise.  After all, the crotons in the garden like it too!