Tuesday, January 22, 2013



We're just a little cold here.  Today we started off around 9 degrees and we've topped out at 15.  Tonight we should be at 6.


 Six. (If you like to measure things in Celsius, that's -14.444 degrees, according to the nice people at Google.)

Which is, in my book, bordering on unreasonably cold. But not quite cold enough to encourage teenage girls to wear mittens and hats.

I'm not complaining.  This is what January should be like here and I get spooked when the month fails to live up to my meteorological expectations. Plus, it's much colder in other places.  And it's sunny and clear here, even if it's cold.

Last month it was not sunny and clear.  It started off that way (probably), but around 2:00 one afternoon, the snow started coming.  By 5:00, we looked like this:


See the pumpkin in the corner?   Not anymore:


By morning, we were good and covered and it took us a few hours to dig ourselves out.


Actually, I did the shoveling.  The boss-man hopped in his big-old manly-man truck and plowed and plowed and plowed until the driveway was passable, and then he thought he would plow a little more.

The big-old manly-man truck thought otherwise.

We've had this truck for a few years and in that time we have come to realize that it has some independent notions about stopping and starting.  It is also not road-worthy, so it is not registered with the authorities.  This is not really a big deal since we use it only on our private property, except for that moment of thrilling lawlessness when we have to venture out into the public road to turn the thing around.  But it has, naturally, become our fear that the truck would suddenly decide to make an unscheduled stop while we were practicing our lawless ways.

And so it did.

But it didn't just stop in the road.  It, being a vehicle of independent and contrary ways, stopped across the street:


Of course.


In the hour before the tow truck came (impressively fast for a stormy morning), we learned (1) how to unhook the plow from the truck, which involves an unfortunate amount of scrabbling around on the dirty snow under the truck to hammer rusty pins out of sticky spots, but which had to be done before the truck could be towed away, and (2) that we have neighbors who are willing to spend that hour out in the snow with us, sorting out the plow removal, providing moral support, finding chains and trucks with which to haul the plow back up the driveway, and not laughing at us too much--at least not to our faces.

I think we'll be hiring someone else to do the plowing now.

The storm raised another important question:  What do the chickens do with all the snow?

The answer?  Not a whole lot.

While I was out with my shovel, I cleared a path to the coop and then, in a fit of industry that turned out to be entirely wasted, I shoveled the snow out of half of the run  so the chickens could come out and play.


Which just shows that after three and a half years of living with these birds, I haven't learned a whole lot.

They looked out the door


and they ate whatever snow they could reach



but they refused to come outside.  For days.  Even though the temperature was in the 20s and 30s and even though I shoveled a path for them. Fifteen degrees and wind, though?  Doesn't bother them at all.  Go figure.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Tale of Two Loaves



is an unbaked Challah.
So is this:

They look lovely, don't they?

Here they are all baked for our (rather late, as usual) dinner last night.

You might think that two loaves of Challah is a trifle decadent for a family of 6 and I would normally agree, except that the first loaf is actually an Emergency Backup Challah, which was a necessary precaution given that the second loaf contains fig paste.

I kid you not. Fig paste. I baked it on a whim, which is a complete and total lie since I am not the kind of person who keeps figs in the house just in case I am suddenly seized by the urge to surprise my family with figgy baked goods. What really happened is that I pre-ordered the Smitten Kitchen cook book last spring. The book contains a recipe for this avant garde Challah and I immediately ran to the store to buy figs so I could make it. That's another lie: what really happened is that I put figs on the weekly shopping list, forgot to buy them two weeks in a row, and then, after I finally remembered to buy them, stuck them in the baking cabinet and forgot them for two months. Kind of like I forgot about the SK cook book and was therefore completely freaked out when Amazon billed me for it in October.

Getting back to my point (which was not to demonstrate to you that I am a compulsive liar), yesterday I finally made the figgy challah because (a) I had time and (b) I needed to score a major culinary hit in order to restore my self-respect as a cook after Thursday's little "incident."


(Really? Do we want to know about this? Here goes: I promised my family--in particular EH who has grown disillusioned with the pizza available for take out in our tiny town-- home made pizza. I found a reliable recipe, messed with it as little as possible, and made two perfect pizza crusts, which I topped with a nice sauce and exactly the right amount of pizza cheese. Then, still following the recipe, I put the first pizza in the oven and burned it to a crisp. Fortunately, I had the second pizza. I reduced the oven temp by 50 degrees, lowered the time by 3 minutes, and baked it to perfection, which made it all the more painful when the pizza pan caught on the edge of the oven door and dumped the pizza face down on my kitchen floor. So now you know how I have come to doubt my skills as a cook and I think you'll understand why I needed to stage a culinary comeback.)

So getting back to the point for real this time, I made the figgy challah and I made a standard challah because I knew that dining among us would be those who would fear and resist challah innovation, seeing in it the the abandonment of all standards of decency and, probably, the end of civilization. And in defiance of those hyper-conservative diners, the figgy challah was lovely to look at.

Here it is again, in case you forgot

See? Here it is again so you can gaze upon it with awe.

It was also lovely to eat, kind of the upscale city-dwelling cousin to the raisin challah. Well worth the effort and sure to impress the guests, should we ever invite any.

Or at least the corners were. You may have observed its square-ish shape, which provides such striking visual contrast to the reliable oblong braid of the traditional/emergency backup challah. This is an exceptionally fun shape to braid, but if your dough is--just to give a random example that has nothing to do with me--a little less elastic than usual, and if as a result--again I'm not drawing from any recent personal experience at all here-- you stretch the fig-filled dough ropes out to their full length only to have them snap back to their original size so that you can only shape a squat and heavy loaf, you may find that the outside bakes beautifully whereas the inside remains somewhat gummy. Pudding like, if you will. Not that I would know; this is merely speculation.

Fortunately, there was the reliable, traditional, emergency backup challah, which was excellent at dinner and again as toast today. And just to preserve me from the ego-shattering effects of a third dud dinner, EH has kindly said that I am under no circumstances to think about making dinner tonight; he will take care of the whole affair by bringing some food in from a restaurant. He was very charming about how it would be his pleasure to get dinner and I shouldn't even think of cooking.

In fact, he was quite firm about it, and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm not on to something here . . .