41 Degrees? Seriously?

CoryinSweater

Like everyone else on the East Coast, I’m sick of this weather. Yesterday, my husband took our Border Terrier to be stripped. Twice a year we have her coat done, and since two days ago she was panting in the 70 degree heat outside, it was time. This morning it’s only 34 degrees and the high for today is only 41. We’ve taken her coat so now she’s cold. I put her in a sweater to go out this morning and she was very miffed about it.

Unlike my other two dogs who have a variety of clothing options, Cory has exactly one sweater and one coat and she hates both of them. She would have been fine to go out naked for a few minutes, but she likes to linger and give the stink-eye to anyone walking their dog. It’s hard to give a good stink-eye when you’re shivering. To add insult to injury, I didn’t immediately take the sweater off of her when she came in and instead I took her picture. What is she, a mini pin? Hardly. Cory is a serious dog, and it’s only because she’s so obedient, that she sat for the photo. Look at her dainty little paws. She’s adorable. What a good girl.

Brutal Spring

Influenza Virus

Influenza Virus


My mother rarely gets sick, but two weeks ago, in a fit of overachievement, she managed to get both Strep Throat and the Flu. Impressive, I know. This sent my sisters and I into a flurry of activity. My middle sister went first because she’s the closest and was thus exposed to the brunt of the germs, but due to a Herculean effort of cleaning, managed not to get sick. She ended up at the hospital with my mother after calling an ambulance. It was a nightmare. She was followed by my oldest sister who spent a week cooking meals and doing laundry and essentially catering to every whim. While she was there, my father developed pneumonia from a cold he’d had earlier in the week. She took them to a lot of doctor visits, including a hour long drive to Duke University Hospital. My middle sister came back for the trip to Duke and I drove down to stay with my mother while they took my father, and then I stuck around for the next five days.

The first day I arrived, I had to take their dog to the vet. She had pancreatitis. I started to feel like I was in that episode of M.A.S.H. when Klinger wants to get leave and shows Colonel Blake a letter that says his grandmother is dying and his sister is pregnant. Colonel Blake goes into a file of other letters and begins reading out all the people in Klinger’s family who were dying or pregnant. He eventually comes to one that says half of Klinger’s family is dying and the other half is pregnant. That’s how I felt last week.

My oldest sister left after the Duke visit. Then my middle sister left a couple of days later. I stayed a few more days and did a lot of laundry. I cooked. I cleaned. I knew my parents were feeling better when they began to politely hint that I should go home. They put it in terms of me having to get back to my own life and my husband needing me, but what they were essentially saying was “we love you, please get out of our house, so things can get back to normal.” Concerned that I was interpreting their comments in a way that benefited me, I checked with my sisters. They agreed that I could leave provided my father’s trip to the cardiologist went well and that my mother would be checked to make sure she hadn’t developed pneumonia. They were both cleared and so I headed home via my middle sister’s house, where we drank beer, ate a pizza, and stared at the TV. Long fortnight, my friends, and yet, there was comfort in knowing that in a crisis, we don’t fall apart (much), and we don’t fight (much), we come together and get it done.

*Image made by Dream Designs courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

Overriding the myth

Wonderful article on writers.

Snowflakes in a Blizzard

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to interview an author named Garth Stein. We talked on the phone, it was a freelance story for my old newspaper, and I was once again grateful that my job provided me with this access.

Stein’s latest book, “A Sudden Light,” is a big deal. His previous effort, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” — narrated by a dog owned by a race driver (and for all you genreheads, where’s the genre there?) — was a New York Times best-seller.

He told me that people have named their dogs, and even their children, after Enzo, the dog in the book. And that he once encountered a young man who had tattooed one of the lines from “The Art of Racing in the Rain” all around his neck.

That was Stein’s third book. His first two went nowhere. Hardly anyone bought them, and…

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Coffee of the Month Club: Viennese Roast

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The third pound of coffee from Trager Brothers arrived today. While the previous two bags were single source beans listed by country of origin, this bag was mysteriously labeled Viennese Roast. Now since you can’t grow coffee in Vienna this bag of beans could be from anywhere, and since a Viennese Roast is the lightest of the dark roasts, it’s hard to tell much about the beans. The problem with dark roasting beans is that, along with lowering the caffeine content, dark roasting disguises a lot about the actual beans. Knowing that, it then becomes clear why companies like Starbucks dark roast most of their beans. It gives them a consistent product that can be shipped all over the place, because the darker the roast, the longer the beans last. That sounds good, except it also leaves them with a fairly bland product, which is why Starbucks is really in the milk business. Most of their drinks rely on milk and syrups to give them distinguishing characteristics.

The whole point of going to small private roasters is to experience the complexities of different types of coffee beans from around the world. Ideally, I don’t like beans roasted any darker than a city roast, and really prefer an American roast or lighter. The lighter roasts preserve the unique characteristics of the different beans, so you can really taste the difference between say beans from Ethiopia as opposed to beans from El Salvador. True coffee experts can tell where a bean comes from simply by taste. I can’t do that, but I do enjoy some of the acidy of lighter roasts and I miss the unique flavors that are lost in darker roasts.

Having said that, the coffee arrived fresh, smelled good, and produced a lovely bloom when hot water was added to the grounds. After that, it’s pretty average, not bad, not great. It’s very fresh regular coffee, which let’s face it, is still pretty good. You’ll note in the picture, this is the first cup of Trager Brothers Coffee I’ve photographed with cream. It needs it. If you love Starbucks, then you’ll really love this Viennese Roast from Trager Brothers. It’s essentially a really fresh, slightly lighter roast than what you get at Starbucks. I’ll drink all of it, but it’s not something I would go out of my way to get.

Snow

HettyOrangePillow

Hetty and I are working in my office. We are both very sick of this weather. We are happier sitting on the porch in the summertime, with the fan going, while we sip iced tea. We are not the snow-loving sort.

Leftovers

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I recently read and really enjoyed Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham and was surprised to find out that there is no tradition of eating leftovers in India. It makes sense, because in the days before refrigeration, leftovers in a tropical country would be spoiled by the next day. Even though I understand that, the idea of no leftovers is foreign to me. I love leftovers, or what I like to call “lunch,” which brings me to my husband’s lunch yesterday.

He was on his way out the door and wanted to microwave some leftover savory pie for lunch. He set the container in the middle of the microwave and I suggested he set it to the side so it would heat better. He’d never heard of doing that. Kristin and Spencer were there and they had never heard of it either, so I told them about testing out this idea from Life Hacker and it works, so that’s what I do now.

I also mentioned that I make a hole in the middle of the leftovers because I read this food hack from WonderHowTo. That also works. None of them had heard of doing that either, so they suggested I blog about it. So there you go, make a hole in the middle of your leftovers and offset them on the carousel in the microwave.

I like to test out stuff I read on sites like that, so I’ll let you know when I find something that really works.

*image curtesy of Amazon.com