Happy Birthday Pat

Somewhere in the beautiful and fabled land of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, there lives a woman. 

You may know her, but you probably do not.  If you don’t that is your loss, because I do.

She’s my sister.  If you do know her on Facebook, wish her a happy birthday, I know she will appreciate the thought.

I won’t put her picture up here, she never liked it when I took them of her so I don’t have too many to share.

A couple weeks ago, I sent her a “Care Package” for her birthday.  I purposely did it early.  Packed it chock full of goodies that I know she likes.

About a half pound of my best home-roasted coffee.  Ground to Espresso Grind, roasted to Second Crack – A Full City Plus or French Roast if you know the lingo.

There were three jars of homemade jam in there.  Cherry Jelly, Lemon Curd, and Key Lime Curd.  The Curds are a recipe that I posted a while back.  It works great with any citrus fruit that I have tried it with, including Grapefruit. 

There was also a birthday card in the box.  I wrote a note for her, by hand of all things!  Yeah, really, I write on here sometimes as much as a thousand words a day and I actually put Pen to Paper and scrawled out something for her to read.

I also tossed some random things in there because I do that sort of thing.  Just a few things I thought would make her scratch her head and wonder whether I have lost my mind, because I generally have. 

I’m sure it all made her smile.

The reason why I sent it early was so that it would be there roughly at her husband Mike’s birthday as well.  Mike’s a great guy, and I have to say I was truly happy when they got together and built a relationship, then a marriage, then a life together.

Thanks Mike for all of that.

So Pat, nothing else is coming in the mail, but if there is any of the jam or the curds left, I suggest a little on a toasted English Muffin with some cream cheese.  It’s excellent.

Pat’s Pile of Pretzel Rolls

I actually have written about these before.

I’m revisiting this because my sister, Pat, up in beautiful Cherry Hill, NJ, the home of the water tower at Kresson Road, the Turnpike, and I-295 wanted to see them.

A refreshing refresher.

Here’s the deal.

Making bagels and pretzels are pretty simple.

First, you make a dough.  I normally use Pat’s Pizza Dough for the pretzels and pretzel rolls.

For bagels, I prefer a Challah recipe, which I have here. Don’t forget the raisins, they’re wonderful in this recipe.

The trick is that you have to par-boil these beasts before you bake them normally.  The parboiling will give the crust that you’re looking for.

To a large pot of water add 4 to 6 cups of water.   For each cup of water, add 1 tablespoon of baking soda for pretzels or 1 tablespoon of molasses for bagels.

Bring the pot of water to a boil.   The water will boil quicker than usual and the additives will make quite a bit of foam on top that may not go away right off.   So you will want to turn down the heat and stir until this stuff that looks like sea foam gets dispersed, mostly.

Here’s the problem with these pretzel rolls.   If you want a “roll” texture, you want a nice fluffy well risen roll of dough.  Start with 80 grams of dough, about 2 3/4 ounces.   Allow it to rise fully – about two hours at a “normal room temperature”. 

When you go to parboil your dough ball, it may deflate or fall.   Boil each dough ball for 30 seconds per side, then remove it and place it on your cookie sheet to bake.

How do you make sure you get a nice fluffy dough ball into the pot of boiling water?

I have a lot of trouble with this one.   The dough will stick to your cookie sheet since it has risen and pushed some of the corn meal out of the way.   It will stick to baking parchment.  It will stick to a silpat silicone sheet.  If you flour the sheet, it will stick.   If you cornmeal the sheet it will stick.  If you try to remove the dough ball with a spatula, it will stick.  It will stick to your fingers when you go to pull them up and it will stick to your fingers when you drop them into the boiling water.

Don’t burn your fingers.  You have been warned.

I simply have not found a way to reliably get the dough that has fully risen until it is about the size of a medium orange or a baseball into that water without it at least partially falling.

If you look closely, really closely, at that picture, you’ll notice that the rolls are all flattened somewhat.

The traditional bagel and soft pretzels you are used to eating are not “fully risen”, and I think it is a plot!  Since you have to remove them from the sheet, you want to have them deflate as little as possible.  Solution?  Don’t let them rise as much so the gluten hasn’t stretched out.  Partially risen dough will hold together better.

So you get a chewier baked good as a result by not allowing it to rise quite as much.   It will be denser as a result.

These do taste good whether risen or not.  In fact they’re excellent with ham, sharp cheese, and a strong mustard, or just with cream cheese and cherry jelly.

They’re just not “fluffy”.

I’ll work on that and let you know.  I may just have to accept defeat and not have really fluffy pretzel rolls.

But next time, I’ll try both flour and corn meal and really dust the daylights out of that cookie sheet!

Happy Birthday Pat!

It’s that time again!

It’s time for Pat’s Birthday!

This is what she’s getting! 

A Box of Random Goodies!

That is if the box made it.   I sent it parcel post last week.  Went up to Oakland Park P.O. on Dixie Highway, just over the other side of the line from Wilton Manors.

Nice folks up there, they always ask what smells so good in the box.

I tell them but I’m not saying until Pat gets the box.

I’ll probably hear something got crushed.
It usually leaves her scratching her head as to What on Earth was I thinking?

Something Granular,
Something Blue,
Something Baked,
Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday Pat

Hey, Happy Birthday!

No, I didn’t tell anyone which one this is.

Yep, sure is, welcome to the dark side.

Hey, there are a couple of those Dark Side birthdays, right?

What’s that?  Going out tonight for a special dinner?

Hope so, no everything’s pretty much the same here.

Where’s he taking you again?

Never been, but I’ve been away for a while.

It must have opened before I left.

It sounds real nice, I know how you like that kind of restaurant.

Yep, six years.

Was just looking back at some of those old pics. 

If I find some I’ll scan them and send you the cleaned up versions, but you have more of those than I do here.

Not too many made it here in the big move.

Nope, newest one of him was when he was 16.  I still have that pic in the frame you gave me all those years ago.  Mom’s pic and Aunt Betty too. 

Glad to hear he’s OK too.

No, Betty’s pic was one she sent all of us in that little frame.

Yes,  I know you’re a Jersey Girl.

Well maybe some day you’ll come down for a visit.  We have the room.  It would be tight but just like old times.

Sure you will, you never liked all that ice either.  Snow can be pretty but ice?  Yuck.

Yeah I know, got over it.  Like we say “In my drink, not on my lawn”.

Ok, good to hear from you too.  Glad all’s well up there.  Don’t be a stranger!

Happy Birthday Pat

Happy Birthday Pat

I won’t tell them how old you are, and I haven’t used a picture here.  After all you haven’t sent me one to post here.  I could have grabbed one from Facebook but it’s for the best.   I don’t use my own here after all!

I’m sure Mike’s going to take you out for dinner at some point during the weekend.  I bet there’s going to be one of those cakes that you like to make that’s drizzled with caramel or chocolate squiggles of sugary goodness.

Keep Jonathan out of the icing until you’ve finished with decorating the cake.

I’ll make something over the weekend here, promise!  I haven’t sent any baked goods up there yet this year.  I’m working on some recipes for the holiday season.  The old standbys are good at any rate, you’ve said how much you like them.

The card’s in the mail, went out on Tuesday.  If it isn’t there today, my guess is Saturday or Monday.

Enjoy your weekend as I am sure you will!

Growing up without a cell phone

My sister sent this to me the other day.  I wonder if she’s trying to tell me that we’re getting older… NAAAAH!

Growing up without a cell phone
       If you are 36, or older, you might think this is hilarious!

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were. When they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning…. Uphill… Barefoot… BOTH ways…yadda, yadda, yadda

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they’ve got it!
But now that I’m over the ripe old age of forty, I can’t help but look around and notice the youth of today.  You’ve got it so easy!  I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia!  And I hate to say it, but you kids today, you don’t know how good you’ve got it!

1) I mean, when I was a kid we didn’t have the Internet.  If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!! 

2) There was no email!!  We had to actually write somebody a letter – with a pen!  Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox, and it would take like a week to get there!  Stamps were 10 cents!

3) Child Protective Services didn’t care if our parents beat us.  As a matter of fact, the parents of all my friends also had permission to kick our ass! Nowhere was safe!

4) There were no MP3’s or Napsters or iTunes!  If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the record store and shoplift it yourself!

5) Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up!  There were no CD players!  We had tape decks in our car.  We’d play our favorite tape and “eject” it when finished, and then the tape would come undone rendering it useless.  Cause, hey, that’s how we rolled, Baby!  Dig?

6) We didn’t have fancy crap like Call Waiting!  If you were on the phone and somebody else called, they got a busy signal, that’s it!

7) There weren’t any freakin’ cell phones either. If you left the house, you just didn’t make a damn call or receive one. You actually had to be out of touch with your “friends”. OH MY GOSH !!!  Think of the horror… not being in touch with someone 24/7!!!  And then there’s TEXTING.  Yeah, right.  Please!  You kids have no idea how annoying you are.

8) And we didn’t have fancy Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was!  It could be your school, your parents, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, the collection agent… you just didn’t know!!!  You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

9) We didn’t have any fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics!  We had the Atari 2600!  With games like ‘Space Invaders’ and ‘Asteroids’.  Your screen guy was a little square!  You actually had to use your imagination!!!  And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen.. Forever!  And you could never win.  The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died!  Just like LIFE!

10) You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing!  You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel!!!  NO REMOTES!!!  Oh, no, what’s the world coming to?!?!

11) There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning.  Do you hear what I’m saying? We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little rat-bastards.

12) And we didn’t have microwaves.  If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove!  Imagine that!  
13) And our parents told us to stay outside and play… all day long.  Oh, no, no electronics to soothe and comfort.  And if you came back inside… you were doing chores!

      And car seats – oh, please!  Mom threw you in the back seat and you hung on.  If you were lucky, you got the “safety arm” across the chest at the last moment if she had to stop suddenly, and if your head hit the dashboard, well that was your fault for calling “shot gun” in the first place! 

      See!  That’s exactly what I’m talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You’re spoiled rotten!  You guys wouldn’t have lasted five minutes back in 1970   or any time before!

The Over 40 Crowd

Getting Up To Speed – Humor

Usually when I post humor, it’s from my friend Velma up in Philadelphia.  Today instead of being an “Open Letter To My Sister”, this posting turns my blog into an “Open Letter From My Sister”.

Pat’s responsible for this posting.  Thanks, Pat!

 (I like WAITT and ROFLCGU personally)

In case you want to *try* to GU2SPD (Get Up To SPeeD)….especially
with the rise of social media, more and more of us  ‘senior citizens’ are texting and tweeting. Here is a guide to some of the codes they use in communicating with peers:
ATD: At The Doctor’s
BTW: Bring The Wheelchair
BYOT: Bring Your Own Teeth
CBM: Covered By Medicare
CUATSC: See You At The Senior Center
DWI: Driving While Incontinent
FWB: Friend With Beta Blockers
FWIW: Forgot Where I Was
FYI: Found Your Insulin
GGPBL: Gotta Go, Pacemaker Battery Low!
GHA: Got Heartburn Again

HGBM: Had Good Bowel Movement
IMHO: Is My Hearing-Aid On?
LMDO: Laughing My Dentures Out
LOL: Living On Lipitor
LWO: Lawrence Welk’s On

OMMR: On My Massage Recliner
OMSG: Oh My! Sorry, Gas.
ROFLCGU: Rolling On The Floor Laughing and Can’t Get Up
SGGP: Sorry, Gotta Go Poop
TTYL: Talk To You Louder
WAITT: Who Am I Talking To?
WTFA: Wet The Furniture Again
WTP: Where’s The Prunes?
WWNO: Walker Wheels Need Oil

You Left Something In Your Cart

Yes, I certainly did you silly machine.  Now delete it and go on.

That’s the G Rated response that I had to that nag email that I got from overstock.com

Back a few days ago, My Sister, Pat, the person who I started writing this blog for, had her birthday.

Go ahead, wish her a happy birthday again.  She’ll appreciate it.  🙂

Yeah I know …

So I ordered something from overstock.com and had it shipped to her directly.  Very convenient, and I tend not to do that sort of thing often.   With all the cookies and cakes that I make , usually I send her a couple pounds of goodies around the holidays and her birthday.  With the nonsense and drama that’s swirling around, I got into a bind – I couldn’t take the morning and make my cookies. 

When I do get the time, I’ll let you know…

I’m thinking December.

The reason why I went through that order was a happy coincidence.  I load up 130 or so web pages every morning at around 7:15.  I started slogging through all of those assorted job search pages that are peppered with pictures of cats and fails and other things to keep up the happy when doing the task of finding permanent work.  Being a Freelance Project Manager/Web Designer/and all around Tech Guy Extraordinaire in this Republican Induced Great Depression is tough and I’m good at figuring out the problem and getting it solved. 

One of the web pages has a lot of “deals” on it.  One of the deals was a piece of folk art that was a piece of a steel drum pounded into the shape of a Gecko.  They’re made by hand in Haiti, and they’re all over South Florida.   This particular buy was considered a Fair Trade item which meant they try not to take too much of an advantage when bargaining with them. It may be “Green Washing” for the soul and just an excuse to tack an extra buck on the item, but the item was what I was looking for and not a terrible price at all.  If *I* can afford it … it certainly isn’t too badly priced.

After getting into the sales cart I got to the point where for some reason Firefox didn’t show the link I was to click on to actually complete the sale.  I went through the process again on the Bloated Browser, Internet Explorer, and there was the link.   I went on my way happy that I could send a little South Florida to Pat. 

I hope you like it, Pat.  It isn’t much but it should be nice on the wall under an eave like the real things down here.

Apparently I left an item in the cart.   If I wanted the second item I would have bought it you silly site, so stop sending me reminders…  Rule Number One Of Marketing – Do Not Annoy Your Customers!

I went on there trying to convince overstock.com that I didn’t want the item, again, and went away.

I got another email the next day… Is business really that bad folks?  

More likely does anyone do proper Quality Assurance these days?   I have noticed more shoddy web sites that need a Project Manager (AHEM!) sitting there telling the Business Analysts that they need to work with the QA department closer because this just doesn’t work quite right.   Oh! and go down the hall to the programmers, get them into the conference room and we’ll have a JAD (Joint Application Design) session at 10AM.

Come on folks, ecommerce is not THAT tough.  You know what you’re trying to duplicate – a trip to the mall.  Now go and get it right.

Ok, so since you can’t you can contact me here.

Happy Birthday Pat, I know you like my cookies… maybe next time I’ll remember to pack them with more peanuts so they don’t shift and make cookie dust!  🙂

Happy Birthday Pat

Today’s my sister’s birthday. 

Happy Birthday Pat.   You’re 1200 miles from here but certainly not forgotten.   There’s something coming from a website for you…

Not this, this message I had planned on doing.  It is after all an open letter to my sister.   I figure at least 50 people will see this just today. 

Everyone pause, stop what you’re doing, wherever you are and say “Happy Birthday Pat!”.

Thank you!

On Tuesday, I looked up from the dust of the insanity that is going on here around me – the island of calm.  I realized that I hadn’t sent Pat the gift I had planned, and missed the day.  It was still two days, but not enough time to get a card to Philadelphia.   I was doing my normal morning surf when I spotted something for her.  It’s very Florida.  We see this sort of thing every day and like everything else, they tend to fade into the background for most people.

Not for me.  When I see this item, it brings a smile to my face.

I’m not going to say what it is, it will be a surprise.   Hopefully Pat will like it.  She may even write out a few paragraphs and email it to me when it gets there some time next week.  Take a picture and email that along if you like.  I’ll post it all.

Turn this blog for a day from “An open letter to my sister” to “An open letter FROM my sister”.

When I was up there, I  never made the trip to visit nearly enough.  Work gets in the way, the distance and the driving time were just enough to make it something to think about.  She visited my house twice – it was in the big bad city… even if it was in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Philadelphia.   People in the region generally don’t drive that far.  It just isn’t a habit you need to get into.  More than 30 minutes in the car and we get fidgety.   It isn’t like here where people just pop down to South Beach, an hour away, and consider that close.

Now, she’s happily married to a great guy, Mike.  She’s got a wonderful son, my nephew, Jonathan.  She’s living in a suburban dream of a split level in South Jersey near where I grew up. 

Nice life Pat.  Enjoy!

Pat’s Birthday Basket

On Friday I got a slightly early birthday present from my Sister, Pat.

I was sitting in my chair watching the world go by and working on getting a LAMP Server working and the UPS truck pulls up.   I knew that I hadn’t ordered anything in three weeks, so it wasn’t mine. 

Unconcerned I went back to getting the server installed.   I’m getting a Joomla and LAMP server set up in a Virtual PC session for a client here so I can mirror the “production” environment.   That and I do seem to have an aptitude for virtualization.  It is interesting to see a complete computer running within a window that I can copy off onto a hard drive and put onto any other machine that is running the correct software, whether Mac, PC or Linux.

Enough geekness right?  Gets dull…

When the UPS driver got the box I still thought Ok, Lisa may be getting something and I went back to things.  I was wrong!  The driver came up and left this box on my porch.  Too bad, he’s a nice guy and I would have at least liked to thank him and say hello.  A kind word goes a long way even in this rushed day and age.

I was even more surprised when I looked at the box and saw my name as the addressee on the ship to label. 

Waving at the driver, I took the box in the house and opened it up.  Pat knows that I like chocolate.  It probably is a weakness for me since if it is around I will eat it.   Now I have a refrigerator of Fine Cheese, Premium Crackers, some interesting nuts, and fewer chocolates than came out of the box.   This being Florida, everything was warm so the perishables all went into the refrigerator immediately.  The little kid in me got the better of me and I tore into a bag of Toffee Covered Almonds which I’ve had before and is a favourite. 

The basket fits the top of my toilet tank and is sitting there hiding a back up roll of toilet paper and a box of tissues.  It works very nicely in there against the wood paneling of the room and tidies up a mess that was waiting to happen.   After all tissue and toilet paper do not work well if they fall into the bowl.

I have been nibbling away all weekend.  The Pecan Chocolate Chip cookies I made and froze are staying in the freezer for now.   The Aussie Red Licorice is all gone now, it went fast and was excellent.

Thanks Pat!  I am enjoying this surprise!