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Too Little or Too Much

This morning, as Mike dropped me off at the T station, I heard blood-curdling screams coming from the car in front of us. I rolled my eyes at first, imagining yelling kids and a flustered mom and turned to walk to the station. But then I heard a woman’s voice very clearly screaming:

“Somebody HELP ME!”

So while trying to look as nonchalant as possible, I grabbed my cell and dialed 911.

The state police helpfully forwarded me to the locals. I stared at the license plate and memorized it. I told the police exactly what I heard, and what I was seeing. What I was seeing was a man repeatedly getting in and out of a woman’s car. Opening and closing doors. Opening the driver’s door, the passenger’s, the driver’s, the passengers. And occasionally I heard her just scream.

I gave my best description of the vehicle, of the man, of his clothes, of his hair, of everything I could see. I couldn’t see her. I couldn’t see where that terrified voice was coming from. I couldn’t even answer, “White, black, or hispanic?” I just watched and reported.

They said they’d send someone. This was just as he was finally walking away, carrying his backpack. She peeled away back into traffic. I gave my name and number, not knowing if I really should.

So I’m stuck in a haze of wondering. Did I do too much? Did I do too little? Should I have walked away? Should I have approached the car? Should I have left my name? I don’t know. I can’t know what was happening. I just knew that she screamed for help and I … I couldn’t do NOTHING. I did the best I can. That’s all I can do.

I really hope she’s okay.

June 1st, 2010 • 9:32 am • dinane • Posted in Life, UncategorizableNo Comments »

Thanksgiving Recipes 8 – The Traditional Pies

[This is part of a multi-post series on Thanksgiving. Start from the beginning.]

[A note from the blogger: I was going to post every other day as I have been, but I figured since today is Pie Day, I may as well post this last one.]

[Another note from the blogger: I have updated this post to reflect the fact that some of my measurements were wrong. While making pies last night, I realized a few mistakes in this post.]

I’m from New England. That means my traditional Thanksgiving pies are pumpkin and apple. I know down south is more of a pecan and sweet potato thing – and I respect that. I even like that. But if I’m only going to make four pies, it will be banana cream, chocolate mousse, pumpkin, and cranapear. Okay, sure cranapear isn’t really traditional apple pie. But it looks like a traditional pie. And it tastes better.

Let’s start with pumpkin. I frequently get the idea in my head that I’ll roast up my own sugar pumpkins, but then I remember that I’m lazy, and I buy a can of One Pie. It is important, however, to get the pumpkin puree, not the pie filling. One Pie is a brand name, and while I have no idea if it is the best quality pumpkin, I know it is good, and I know that the recipe on the can is a good start. I don’t follow it exactly, but it has the proportions I need to get me going.

Pumpkin pie can be horrible stuff. Even if you put all the right ingredients in, it may come out funny looking with a texture that is less than desirable. It’s all about the technique. And I think I’ve perfected it. Ask anyone who has tried my pie – I make the best pumpkin pie. And now, I’m telling you how.

Start by mixing the can of pumpkin with 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch, 1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 cup sugar. It is ideal if you have a big bowl with a spout. Use a really stout wooden spoon, and make sure it is thoroughly combined and evenly colored.

Next, melt 1 1/2 tsp. of butter in the microwave. Add 1 1/2 cups of whole milk to the butter, stir, and put it back in the microwave for 30-40 seconds. This is necessary because the cold milk will have re-solidified some of the butter, and if you leave it that way, weird things will happen. Add 2 Tbsp. of real maple syrup (do not even think about using the fake stuff) to the milk and butter, and check to make certain there are no butter bits and that the liquid is just barely warm – not hot.

In a separate bowl, beat 2 eggs until homogenized. Slowly add the milk mixture, and beat until it is all one color. Dump it in with the pumpkin mixture, and combine until smooth.

Oh wait! I forgot to tell you how to make pie crust! I make butter crust. I like the flavor, and I’m a fan of flaky crust. My recipe makes two crusts (a top and bottom) which almost always causes me to have to do math in order to make the three I actually want for Thanksgiving (one top and two bottoms). So as I write this, I will do the math, and then I will have that to refer to!

Start with 3 cups plus 6 tablespoons of all purpose flour. Add 3/8 tsp. salt (a scant half should be fine) and 2 Tbsp. sugar. Put this all in your food processor, and whiz it up to aerate it. Then move the bowl of your food processor into the fridge. Cut 3 sticks of butter into half-tablespoon cubes, and put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Fill a two-cup measuring cup with a spout with ice and add 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar. Fill the remaining with cold water. Put that in the fridge. Bring out the processor bowl and the butter. Add the butter to the processor and process until you have pea-sized or smaller butter chunks. Add the icey water mixture a teaspoon at a time until the dough has collected. Divide into three disks and refrigerate for at least an hour before attempting to use.

Back to pumpkin pie! Roll out one crust, and line a 10-inch pie plate. Yes, 10-inch. You can use a 9-inch, but you’ll have extra filling, and unlike chocolate mousse, this is hard to snack on. Make pretty edges on the pie, put the pie plate on a sheet pan, and open the oven (which is preheated to 450). Put the sheet pan and pie shell on the rack and THEN add the filling. Gently push it into the oven, and bake it at 450 for 15 minutes. Then drop the temperature to 350 for 50 additional minutes. Allow to cool slowly, first to room temperature, then to refrigerator or porch temperature. (Unless there’s a massive heat wave, it’s usually in the 40s in New England around Thanksgiving, which is just fine for keeping this pie, and all the others.

And now for my piece de resistance! Cranapear pie is wholly of my own creating, and completely delicious. You’ll need about 2/3 of a bag of fresh cranberries, two Fugi apples, two Granny Smith apples, and four D’Anjou pears. If you can’t find D’Anjou, Bartlett will work, but the floral D’Anjou is about the best pear there is, in my humble opinion.

Put the cranberries in a good thick bottomed pot with 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup of apple cider, and cook over low heat until they pop. Meanwhile, peel and slice the apples and pears. Try to make even slices, I think about 3/8 of an inch is perfect. They have to be even in order to cook evenly. As you cut them, put them into a bowl of cold water with a teaspoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Once they are all cut, drain them and add them to the pot with the cranberries. Add 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. ground allspice (optional – I say this, because I totally spaced and forgot). Stir to coat the apples and pears with the cranberries and spices. Leave over medium low heat until everything is hot. Now it’s time to break out the Wondra, which is pregelatinized flour – it’s a miracle product. Sprinkle on Wondra, stirring all the while. Add just enough to thicken what juices and sauce are in there, and turn off the heat.

While the filling cools a bit, roll out the bottom and top crusts. I like making pretty designs in my top crust, but you can do it however you like, so long as there’s some venting to let out steam. Line a 10-inch pie plate (it’s a lot of fruit!) and pile in the fruit filling. Cover with the top crust, and brush the crust with some milk. Bake the pie at 375 for 50-60 minutes. Let it cool. If you like hot pie, it’s better to warm up your slice than to try to eat it when it’s fresh. If you cut a fresh pie it will be mush.

Four kinds of pie.
I am the queen of pie.
Turkey, fresh from the oven.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
November 24th, 2009 • 10:52 am • dinane • Posted in Uncategorizable3 Comments »

What If

I’ve been reading this book, Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter. It’s a thick book, both physically and in content. The rest of the post may include some bits that relate to the book, so if you haven’t read it and you intend to, you might want to avoid continuing. But then again, it isn’t really about the plot so much as what the book did to my brain, so I guess it doesn’t really matter. In any case, I do recommend the book – especially if you have any interest whatsoever in physics, astro- or otherwise.

One of the components of the book talks about these kids that are cropping up in society with super intelligence. These kids exhibit some Asperger’s tendencies, but more than that – they’re extremely smart and think about things that elude many adults. But this post isn’t really even about that.

It’s this: What if my kids aren’t smart?

I used to wonder what I would do if my kids are smarter than me, but I think I know how to handle that. Give them something to think about. Give them something to learn about. Libraries are awesome things, and when the town runs out of interesting materials, there are more colleges within reach around here than is really fair to the rest of the world. So it’s not really a concern. Extra-smart kids just need extra things to use their brain for. And the more the better. (And why this isn’t obvious to the people in the book, I don’t comprehend. Fear, I guess.)

But I don’t really like dealing with people who aren’t smart. I know, it makes me sound like an ass, but I prefer spending time with smart people. I’ve been some combination of lucky and smart about my friends choice in me as a friend and in my choice of fields. I keep myself surrounded with people who are smart and intellectually stimulating. My friends are smart. I work in a company where the people I interact with daily are more likely to be much smarter than me than not (and it sometimes gives me an inferiority complex, which just makes me want to get a masters so I can know more – but that’s for another soul-searching post). I know how to deal with smart people. I avoid “stupid people.” And I use that term generally to refer to people who may not technically be stupid, but “just” average.

Yeah, I’m an ass.

Moving on.

What if my kids aren’t smart? I can’t avoid them. I can’t make fun of them. I can’t be laughing or even frustrated at them if they can’t keep up.

Maybe they’ll be good with music. That would probably be enough. To have music in common. Or art in general. That’s something I think I could handle.

But, and here’s something far more terrifying, what if they don’t like music? Or art? What then?

I was musing about such things, while walking up the hill from the train. I finally came to a conclusion – it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t. And I don’t have to worry about it right now anyway. I’m not having kids now. Someday, but not now. And I guess all the fear just reminds me that I’m not ready.

Thing is, I used to get creeped out by my friends having kids. And I can sense in some of my friends that they still are baffled that our friends are having kids. But it doesn’t freak me out like that any more. I know it’s something that just happens, and something that I hope some day may happen to me. (Just not now.)

I guess the introduction of this set of “what ifs” is just a part of the progression of my genetic imperative.

Either that, or this book is making me think too much.

When I finish these (there are three in the series), I think I might need to go back to Harry Dresden. He only makes me think about how cool it would be if I could do magic.

September 23rd, 2008 • 4:46 pm • dinane • Posted in Books, Life, Uncategorizable11 Comments »

Beth Cherry Rocks

I was pointed to Beth Cherry’s website some indiscriminate time ago by a post on Magazine Man’s. It is an odd site: a blog that isn’t exactly really a blog. She updates when she feels like it, a couple times a week maybe, and when she does – the previous post is gone. Poof! Into the ether never to be seen or heard from again. It’s an interesting format. Every visit is just a moment in the life of. But today, she said something that I couldn’t let poof into the ether. I hope she’ll forgive me.

I also think that you should know that tonight I have introduced a new word into the German language. Germans don’t have a word for Boogerhead. Directly translated, it would be Popelkopf, which I think, is even better than boogerhead. This is how I contribute brilliance to the universe.
–Beth Cherry, “Always look on the bright side of life”, 9/08/08

Just say it. Say, “Popelkopf.” Say it! It’s hillarious!

And anyone who doesn’t agree is a popelkopf.

September 9th, 2008 • 8:27 am • dinane • Posted in Blogosphere, Uncategorizable1 Comment »

Who’s bad luck for whom?

Would you believe the green line trolley that I’m currently riding isn’t doing so hot either? When it got to Arlington, it said the destination was Science Park – unlikely as it’s not usually a destination. It then proceded to automatically anounce that the next station was Boylston at each stop all the way to North Station, where I am now. I can only hope the commuter train will continue to give me excitement.

March 17th, 2008 • 5:05 pm • dinane • Posted in UncategorizableNo Comments »

Not dead!

I am safely in North Station, seriously comsiddering walking home…

March 17th, 2008 • 7:30 am • dinane • Posted in Uncategorizable3 Comments »

Uh-oh…

The ringing started again…

March 17th, 2008 • 7:20 am • dinane • Posted in UncategorizableNo Comments »

Transmission

Just in case we’re all about to die, I thought I’d make a transmission from the 7:30-something Reading departure. Since we left my station, there’s been a ringing eminating from the direction of the next car. The train was moving slowly, at the same rate it usually moves as it approaches stations. Then, just before I decided to make this tranmission, we rolled to a stop… And then backwards. Crap, I just saw an engineer walk by outside.

Ooh… We’re moving again. At the crawl, of course. And here’s my favorite part of the experience: We were stopped for at least 10 minuites, and the first announcement came after we started moving again – they announced the next stop. Thanks, MBTA!

Thank goodness for my iPhone and the internet, or I would not have been able to make this transmission.

March 17th, 2008 • 7:05 am • dinane • Posted in UncategorizableNo Comments »
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