Thursday, March 27, 2014

Not Exactly Springing

Okay. Spring is now a week old. Winter is over. But you can't tell looking out my window. The back yard is still completely covered with snow, and although there are puddles of water in the driveway, they are surrounded by a thick sheet of ice, and they, too, will turn to ice overnight. This is what passes for Spring in New Hampshire.

I know I should expect it. After all, I have lived here for a little more than a dozen years, and it takes a long time for the last signs of Winter to go away. But it has been such a long, cold, snowy, expensive Winter, that we are just that more anxious to bid it good riddance.

Even my children, who play happily in the snow, wonder aloud when it's going to warm up.

Karen will be happy when I can get back outside again and finish the front porch, and begin work on the back deck. I don't know how I feel about that; it seems that every time I turn around I'm having to learn some new carpentry skill, and while I knew that I would get stuck with it when we moved into an unfinished house, it always feels as though it's taking time away from the important things in life, like writing and music and filmmaking and, well, paying someone else to do carpentry, which I could do if any of those other things were actually making me money.

Alright, I admit there is a certain satisfaction in accomplishing something when I had no idea what I was doing going in. But I think I could learn to take even more satisfaction out of patronizing a fine craftsman who needs the work and can do a far better job than I can. I like specialization, as a concept.

But there's no sense living in the past. Or the future, for that matter. I'm here now, waiting for the thaw and spending that time on a lot of different things, including writing and music and filmmaking, and even some fun theater projects.

And Karen and I are working on some more craft videos and books, so I'm definitely not sitting, staring at the ice and snow, and saying "I'm bored."

Actually, I don't think I can remember the last time I was bored.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Coming Full Circle

Last night I attended a performance of a play called Dearly Departed, performed by the Pittsfield Players at the Scenic Theater. It wasn't the first time I'd seen the play; in fact, the first time was eight years ago about this time of the year, and it had a profound effect on my life.

In 2006, the play was performed at the Village Players. I had been toying around with the idea of trying my hand at stage acting ever since I'd seen a casting notice for The Sound Of Music in the summer of 2005. I didn't audition for that play, because our house went under contract and I thought that I wouldn't have time to rehearse because we would have to be moving to another house.

As it turns out, the deal fell through. When I went to see The Sound Of Music, I enjoyed it very much, but I found myself thinking: "I could do that."

And then, the following Spring, I saw Dearly Departed. It's hilarious, and full of heart, and I said to myself: "I have to do that." And so, the next day, I auditioned for a play called That Darn Plot, and I got cast. And my fate was sealed.

What made last night's performance even more interesting was that one of the directors was the same director who had put the play on eight years ago (and the other had appeared in that production). One of the actors was even the same, playing the same role.

So, in a way, I spend a couple of hours going back in time. And loving every minute of it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Early Birthday Celebration

Yesterday Karen and Tom both had the day off, so we decided to let the kids have a little bit of that, too, and go out for an early celebration of Tom's upcoming 24th birthday.

But before we did that, we took William to lunch at a very special place. The local school district has a technical center, and one of the programs there is a culinary arts program. William, who has shown a great interest in cooking lately, and especially in baking desserts (to go along with his lifelong interest in eating desserts), has also show an interest in the culinary arts program.

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, the students run a small restaurant inside the technical center, and so we took William out of school early and let him experience the place. Based on yesterday's lunch, he is even more excited about the program. Unfortunately for him, it looks like he will have to wait for quite a while to join up, as the program appears to start in the junior year of high school. But he'll have plenty of time to practice at home in the meanwhile.

After that, we picked up Danny and went off to Funspot, the arcade on the other side of the Lake, and the only bowling center in the region with a ten-pin alley (the rest are candlepin, and if you don't know what candlepin bowling is, you can watch this YouTube video, which ironically is set in a tenpin alley and shows a bowler in the back showing very poor form.

We played tenpin, two lines each. Karen and I were the champs (being by far the most experienced); Karen beat me the first time, and I beat her the second time, and we all had fun the whole time.

Tom's early birthday dinner was at Hart's Turkey Farm, just up the road from Funspot. The three adults had turkey, which is to be expected. I had a turkey burger, Tom had a stuffed turkey burger (with cranberry compote), and Karen had a turkey and brie sandwich.

The boys were boring: William had a beef burger and Danny had chicken fingers. Danny at least has the excuse of not liking turkey (although he liked in just fine in the turkey chili I made a few days ago).

The cake had to wait until tonight, since the stores were closed when we got home. Winter hours and all that.

So, as he did when he was young, Thomas gets multiple birthday celebrations. And we all get to enjoy them.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Winter Coming To An End?

There has been about eight inches of snow since the last time I wrote in this blog. The blizzard turned into the first six inches, light and fluffy and without the wind, not not really a blizzard. And not even close to the timing the weather reports predicted.

Which was annoying, because the boys could have had the full day of school, including Danny's after-school Lego Club and his Scout meeting, if the weather predictions had been accurate. There's been a lot of that going on this season.

In other news, our stove isn't working. In a fit of truly bad design, if the computer in the stove crashes, the oven and the burners cease to function. I know from past experience that there is a special key combination that will restart the computer and potentially solve the problem.

However, no one at the manufacturer's customer service line actually knows how that works. They want to send a technician out, at my expense, to probably do something that I could do myself in five minutes if they had the information on how to do it.

There is no customer service left, I'm beginning to believe. I refuse to yield, though. I will find, remember, or deduce that key combination if it kills me. Meanwhile, we are getting along with a hot plate, the crock pot, the microwave, and the bread maker.

We also have a working stove and oven downstairs in a pinch, but bringing hot food up the stairs is not something we want to do every day. And as a result, we're rediscovering some of our favorite crock pot meals. And when the weather gets better, we'll be enjoying sandwiches and salad.

And, by the way, don' buy appliances made by Samsung. They should stick to tablets and phones. Really.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Blizzard That Wasn't?

The kids were sent home from school early today. After-school programs and Scout meetings cancelled because of blizzard conditions that were supposed to start mid-afternoon. It's now ten minutes to six at night, and it's still raining. Maybe the blizzard will still come. I hope it has the good manners to wait until my wife is safely home from work. If it comes at all.

There certainly is enough precipitation. But so far no wind, and no temperature drop. So right now we have no idea what's really coming. That's pretty much been the story all winter long. Spring will be welcome, even if it, too, is unpredictable. Because at the very least, it will be warmer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sick. Of Snow.

I'm not actually sick. In fact, everyone in the house is nice and healthy at the moment, and that's just the way I like it. But there was another couple of inches of snow last night, and we're supposed to be getting slammed with a big storm starting tomorrow late in the morning. Ugh!

I know that the thaw is coming.  I know that within a couple of weeks, the plow piles will start to disappear and—once we get past the muddy part—New Hampshire will put on it's pretty greenery, the sunny days will actually be warm days, and I can finally shut down the heaters.

But the prospect of shoveling even one more snow this season makes me want to crawl under the covers and hibernate.

Which wouldn't be such a bad idea if it wasn't for the small matter of both Thomas and Karen needing to go to work. So I'll be out with the snowblower and the shovels, making it happen.

But I hope this is the last time.

Monday, March 03, 2014

A Date Day

Karen and I actually got to spend quite a bit of time alone together today. We went out to lunch, went to the library for a bit, and then exercised at the gym before Karen went for a short swim. We actually stayed out until after William got home from school and a little before Thomas left for work.

I wish Karen had more days off. I could get used to this.

Oh, another update on the cake front. William made the frosting last night, and a marshmallow fondant. And the result was nothing short of delicious. I think that William is going to be a fine young cake baker. And he's talking about taking the culinary program at the high school when the time comes.

I think that's an excellent idea. Not only because William seems to have both an aptitude and a passion, but because the culinary program at the local high school it really excellent. Karen and I have eaten at their restaurant and enjoyed both the food and the service thoroughly.

I'll be interested to see how that plays out. Meanwhile, we get to be the lucky beneficiaries of his experimentation.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Cake Update

The first attempt at cake was a failure. Not a total, inedible failure, but one flat, dense sponge cake. So what did William do? He tried it again, of course.

We determined that the first recipe he used was relying on technique instead of good basic ingredients. To be specific, it was based on whipping a lot of air into the cake instead of using basic leavening ingredients like salt and baking powder.

And so we turned to the Cake Boss. We found a basic yellow cake recipe by the titular cake baker from that show. And much to our delight, be not much to my surprise, the recipe was much simpler.

The only problem was releasing the cake from the pan. The pan was greased and floured, but the batter absorbed a lot of the flour, and so it stuck fast to the bottom of the pan. It wouldn't come out until Karen came home; she has a knack for these things, partly from experience with sweet breads. We left a thin layer of cake at the bottom of the pan, which Karen and I promptly scraped off and ate.

The rest of the cake is still intact and ready to frost tomorrow. And the verdict on taste? Just the scrapings from the bottom, even with the extra flour from the pan, are delicious! I think William is on his way to being a terrific baker.

And we'd better find some people to invite over for cake, or we're never going to lose any weight.

A Piece Of Cake

Today William and I are making a cake. Actually, William is making a cake and I am making a video, and giving him a little bit of advice along the way. Not because I've ever made a cake from scratch, but because I have enough baking experience to read between the lines.

And no, you didn't read wrong. I said he's making the cake from scratch. William has been inspired by a reality series that he watches on Netflix called Cake Boss, about a real-life cake baker from New Jersey. So William, flush with success from his cookie-baking experiences, has decided to give it a go.

I don't know how the cake will turn out, but I do know that William will give it his best shot. And I'll do my best to record the even for posterity, or at least immediate family.