New Horizons in Baking

Earlier this week, Husband started to muse about the next thing he wanted to learn to bake.  He makes  all sorts of rye breads  and sourdough breads, and he just made Julekage for for first time. He decided that he was ready to try his hand at Nordic flatbreads, crispbreads, and crackers.

That, of course, means purchasing a new Swedish rolling pin with little knobs all over it,  and ammonium carbonate or Hartshorn, aka Baker’s Ammonia, a rather smelly leavening agent. (I guess the odor dissipates as the crackers bake.) The Nordic Baking book we consulted was very clear that out grooved lefse rolling pin just wouldn’t do, and that Hartshorn or Bakers Ammonia was essential to crispy crackers.

What have you mastered?  What are you trying to perfect? Do you make your own crackers or flatbread?

Comedy Tonight

On February 5, 1967, the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour premiered on CBS. I remember watching it, as well as Laugh In, Carol  Burnett, Jackie Gleason,  Jonathan Winters, Jack Benny, and Red Skelton.

I was only 9 years old at the time, and sometimes I just didn’t get the humor.

I think I liked Carol Burnett the best.

It was such an unhappy time, the late 60’s, yet  such shows proliferated. One thing that surprised me as I researched this was how long the sketches were that I found.

What was your favorite comedy show? Know any good jokes?

Rhianny-Boo

Almost 15 years ago, we had been dog-less for several months (after the death of Tristan, who was crazy, I need a bit of breathing space). Then that summer, YA and both decided it was time.  We debated and debated about whether to get an Irish Setter or a Samoyed, although we both wanted to try for rescue dogs.  There were two rescue organizations that had good reputations, one was Play it Again Sammies in Wisconsin and Save our Setters in Tennessee; we filled out the paperwork (miles of it) with both and said we would see who came up first, a Sammy or a Setter.

Rhiannon was about a year old and had actually been found in Alabama. After a few weeks of posted notices, no one had claimed her so she went to the rescue organization in Tennessee. Even though I was technically waiting to be approved, when I saw her photo on the SOS site, I called them and after a couple more phone calls, they agreed that we might be a good fit for her.  A volunteer drove her from Tennessee to Chicago and then another volunteer from Madison, drove to Chicago to get her.  Then YA and I drove to Madison on a Saturday morning to pick her up.  Except for that photo online, sight unseen.

The volunteer didn’t want us to come to her house so we met in the parking lot behind a steak house on Highway 94. I felt a little like somebody was going to show up wearing a big overcoat, whip open the coat and say “pssst, you wanna buy a watch?  Or an Irish Setter?”  My first words on seeing her were “Oh, she’s so little.”  In fact, over the years, many folks have assumed she is not a setter because of her size.

But that little body held a huge Irish Setter mentality. All toys were hers; she didn’t destroy them or even play with them much, but they were hers.  She would pick up a toy or lay down near one and none of the other dogs (or cats)  were allowed to have it.  All food was hers; over the years we had to move the trash totally out of the kitchen onto the back porch and also to lock the organic recycling.  She could open ANY trash container, including our current one that opens with a motion detector.  Food left on the counter was completely hers – just a month ago, she ate half a recipe of ginger cookie dough while it was waiting to be set on cookie sheets.  All dog beds were hers.  For the last few years, there have been two dog beds in my room, a red one and a blue one, same make and model.  If Gwen or Nimue laid on one of the beds, Rhiannon would get up and move over to the taken bed, shoving the inhabitant out.  Once she laid right on top of Nimue before the kitty could get out of the way.

And stubborn. Oh my stubborn.  Despite having passed two dog training classes, “come” was optional in her world, as well as “stay”.  Only if it suited her.  We have a dog gate to keep her out of the kitty box, a dog gate to keep her upstairs at night, dog gate to keep her in the breakfast room during parties (she once took a cookie right out of the hand of a toddler.)  And although every single treat I ever gave her over the years was accompanied by a stern “gentle”, she never mastered the art.  Grabbing was her thing.

After 15 great years, filled with treats, walks and lots of spoiling, Rhiannon has gone onto that big dog park in the great beyond. She’d been struggling for a month or so and really went downhill the last couple of weeks.  My feeling has always been that I don’t spoil my animals for years to let them suffer at the end; over the weekend it was clear that she had finished her journey and it was time for me to let her go.  All of her “queen-of-the-world” attitude aside, I will miss her gentle eyes and beautiful red fur.

Any good animal stories to cheer me up today?

Too Much Tech

I realized the other day that between the two of us,  Husband and I have five computers we use on a regular basis. I think that is kind of excessive.

We have a desktop computer at home that we both use.  I have a personal laptop that I use for my regulatory board work,  when I travel , or I need one when I am out and about.  (I  also use it at work to live stream MPR  since  I am not allowed to use my work computer for that.)   I have a  work laptop supplied by the State  that I use in my office and that I  can also  bring home to  access my work email as well as the Electronic Health Care Record system. That means I can do paperwork anywhere.  I used it at home yesterday just for that purpose when I was ill and at home with a fever and a cough. Husband uses a personal laptop for his private practice,  as well as a work laptop supplied by the Tribe for his work on the Rez.

I suppose that is how it goes when one has work and personal business to take care of, but it seems like too much tech in our lives. Thank goodness we don’t have work cell phones. It is hard enough to keep track of the two we have.

When have you had too much of a good thing?  How many computers in your life?

Idle Curiosity

I mentioned in a comment on the Trail  on Saturday that I was enjoying some Veuve Clicquot champagne, and that led to some research on my part that I found fascinating.

I noticed on the bottle a portrait of a woman. I don’t speak French, so I looked up the name and found it meant “The Widow Clicquot”. I went on to find that in 1805,  at the age of 27, this woman inherited a champagne vineyard and business upon the death of her husband, and was the only woman to run a champagne house.  Her father-in-law insisted that she do an apprenticeship in champagne production, and she went on to be wildly successful. She invented a method of champagne production that is still in use today. She was the first to make Rose champagne. She was a friend of Napoleon, yet she made a point of smuggling champagne into Russia. Here is part of the Wikipedia entry for her:

On 21 July 1810, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin launched her own company: “Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin”.

Barbe-Nicole exported the vast majority of her champagne out of France.  Unfortunately, she was facing naval blockades that kept her from sending her wine abroad. Furthermore, Czar Alexander I banned French products.

Facing bankruptcy, Barbe-Nicole took a business gamble: she decided to send her champagne to Russia, when peace returned ahead of her competitors. While the war’s naval blockades paralyzed commercial shipping, Madame Clicquot and Louis Bohne secretly planned to sneak a boat through the blockade to Russia.

With the French monarchy restored, Madame Clicquot and Louis Bohne put the plan they had been preparing for five years into execution. In 1814, as the blockades fell away, the company chartered a Dutch cargo ship, the “Zes Gebroeders”, en route to Königsberg,[6] to deliver 10,550 bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne to the Russian market, taking advantage of the general chaos, while their competitors still believed such a move to be impossible. The boat left Le Havre on June 6, 1814. Meanwhile, Russia had lifted the ban on importing French products. The whole shipment was quickly sold. A few weeks later, another ship left Rouen laden with 12,780 bottles of champagne destined for St. Petersburg, which were sold out as soon as they arrived. When the champagne reached St.Petersburg, Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia, Czar Alexander I’s brother, declared that Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin champagne would be the only kind he would drink. Word of his preference spread throughout the Russian court.[11

During the years that followed, Russia continued to buy Veuve Clicquot wines. Sales rocketed: from 43,000 bottles in 1816, they climbed to 280,000 in 1821 and increased until the 1870s. Within two years, the widow Clicquot had become famous and was at the helm of an internationally renowned commercial business.

I just love looking up stuff like this. It makes me no richer, but it makes life interesting. Research is sort of like finding out the juicy gossip about neighbors, but it is less damaging and hurtful.

What do you like to find out about? What were you doing when you were 27?

A Brand New Start

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

I have been marveling at what my daughter accomplished this past year. Last winter she, her family and I were living in Port Huron, Michigan. She couldn’t find a job, for the local economy is depressed. My son-in-law had a job he detested, with no possibility of finding a better job. I lived in a senior citizen complex near their rental home, staying alone in my room unless my daughter was visiting me. Nobody was very happy.

It became painfully clear that my daughter and s-i-l had to move and set up new lives. Since I cast my lot with my daughter’s family when I sold my home in 2014, I would have to move too. The experiment of living in Michigan was mostly a botch.

Because my daughter was not working, she was the obvious person to do the research and planning necessary to make the move possible. But, oh my, what a fiendishly complicated task that would be.

Breaking this challenge down into smaller pieces, my daughter needed to:

  • Pick a new town and neighborhood to live in where all four of us (three adults, a kid and a large old dog) might be happy.
  • Find a new apartment or rental home where my daughter’s family could live, doing this research while living in Michigan, unable to look at rental properties in person. This would be especially difficult due to the shortage of affordable housing.
  • Find a senior living community for me. It had to be near her home near her new job . . . wherever they might be. Once again, my daughter had no way to visit the various facilities under consideration.
  • Find movers who could relocate two households 800 miles without charging much.
  • Devise a way to get three automobiles from Michigan to Minnesota, a feat complicated by the fact we had only two drivers.
  • Find a job for herself (a job near her new home and my new apartment, wherever they would turn out to be). This decision, too, had to be done without the benefit of a visit.
  • Find a job for her husband (or at least identify a process which he could follow to find one).
  • Find a great new school for her fourth-grade son.
  • Do all the physical work of boxing up two households for the move.
  • Clean her rental home and my apartment.
  • Accomplish all of this and make the actual move in less than three months.

I wonder if that list adequately reflects how complicated this was. The sixth item alone is daunting. Everything on the list was inextricably connected to all the other issues, which made the overall project extremely tricky. Each choice depended on several other decisions, and there seemed to be no obvious place to start.

My daughter was amused by how her research turned out. The Minnesota metro region emerged as the clear favorite for many reasons but especially its strong economy. St. Paul seemed the most attractive city in Minnesota. The most desirable place to live in St. Paul, her research said, turned out to be Highland Park. So my daughter’s search for the ideal place to move led her to exactly the neighborhood where she had grown up.

We made the move last June. I believe this is the most difficult my daughter has ever faced. As of the middle of January, 2020, every single item on the list has been met successfully. My daughter now lives in an apartment a few blocks from her childhood home (although serious house-hunting begins this spring). And everybody, even the old dog, is delighted to be here.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done? Have you ever discovered that you needed to make a brand new start?

Too Hot to Handle

KELT 9-B seems an innocuous-enough name for an exoplanet. It was discovered in 2017 and is apparently an “ultra-hot Jupiter” – huge gas giants hotter than anything in our solar system.  In fact, some of the new data coming in suggests that it is three times larger than our Jupiter and approximately  7,800 degrees Fahrenheit on its surface.  So hot in fact, that hydrogen atoms are shredded by the heat during the daytime and can only re-form until they appear on the dark side of the planet; KELT 9-B is tidally locked to its star, so the hot side always faces its sun.

It’s amazing to me that we can figure this stuff out since we can’t just look it up on the internet. All the data on KELT 9-B has come from two robotic telescopes in the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope project, one telescope in South Africa and the other in southern Arizona.  And of course, it makes me wonder how a planet like KELT 9-B comes into existence.  And can it survive its own heat?

How do you cool down when you’re angry?

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