Saturday, April 12, 2008

I Think We'll Keep Her

I came downstairs this morning to find the MiL carefully layering apples into a cast-iron skillet. This is what she was making. It's called a Dutch Baby. I don't know where she comes up with these things. It's apples and sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg and some kind of crepe-like crust. It puffs up like a souffle, and then deflates really fast. It's also called a german apple pancake, I think, but I like Dutch Baby so much better. And once again, ignore my complete lack of photo skills. That's just pathetic.

Now, I would not be amenable to making this little treat at any time of the day, and especially not when I first wake up. I am not so much a baker. And this is where it's useful to have the MiL around. Because my God, can that woman bake. She's totally spoiled her sons with baked goods, and now they expect nothing less than the very best. A. won't even eat pie anywhere but this county, because he says only women in this county can make a good pie crust. I think that's a little provincial, but I can see that his point of comparison is a little higher than your average Marie Callendar's pie. It is not unusual to have a dozen pies for two dozen people at the MiL's family holidays. Her mother had 6 kids, and 4 of them, including one of the boys, should have been pastry chefs. Seriously, it's nuts.

And here's the real kicker. She can't even eat this stuff. Because of a wheat sensitivity. Can you imagine baking an apple pie and then watching other people stuff their faces while you eat an oatcake? No, me neither. I'm not that selfless, sorry.

But this mad baking prowess is the reason I will not make pie. I have never in my life made a pie crust, and I'm sure as hell not going to start now. Too much pressure. I mean, Christ, the MiL rendered our own leaf lard primarily for pie crusts. How am I supposed to measure up to that?

I can't, and I'm okay with that. Because I happen to share a house with one of the best bakers outside a professional kitchen. So I can be lazy and just get up on Saturday morning to a freshly prepared apple confection. Works for me.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Meet (Still More of) the Family

The two dogs you have met thus far aren't actually mine. They're the MiL's. You could say I'm like their nanny, caring for them and giving them affection until their real mother gets home. But this one is my BABIEEEEE. So naturally, she's the cutest and smartest and best behaved. Except not really.

This is Mia. A. picked her out from the MiL's last litter of puppies (did I mention she sometimes breeds her collies?) because when he walked into the puppy pen, she attacked his shoelaces. A sound reason for choosing a dog, yes? At the time, we were still living in a one-bedroom apartment in Albany, NY, but we brought Mia back there with us for the month or so before we moved so she could bond with us. This required A. to get up twice every single night to take her out to pee, as we were potty-training her. And we also had to pick up her poop in a plastic bag, which I personally hated (gross--it's all warm and squishy and sometimes there's a tiny little unnoticed hole, and then . . . just gross) and am so glad we no longer have to deal with. This should be stressed more as an advantage to country living.

But back to Mia. You can't really tell from the picture, but she's huge for a female collie. She's very tall and long, which makes her less than graceful in confined spaces like the kitchen, but beautiful when she runs. She also has a whole lot of scars on her face. We could be charitable and call them freckles, but they're scars. From fighting with her siblings. When she was little, the MiL called her Brunnhilde, because she was bigger and meaner than the others. But obviously, when she became my little princess, I couldn't allow her to keep such an ugly name. And she's also pretty much grown out of the fighting, though she still sometimes has to remind Otty who's the alpha bitch (that would be Leda, but Mia likes to believe it's her).

Sometimes I give her hugs, just because she's so cute I can't stand it(coughcoughchildsubstitutecough). And she lets me, because she loves me. And also maybe she's afraid of me because I am a CRAZY DOG LADY, GET OFF MY NECK WEIRDO!
Yes. Ahem. That is Mia. I hope you've enjoyed seeing the dogs, because next up . . . the cats. Brace yourselves.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Am a Financial Genius

Allow me to share my financial wisdom with you. Warren Buffett, take note.

First, some history (what, you thought I would actually get to the point right away? Ha!). My financial education first began with a book my father gave me when I was about 16 called "The Millionaire Next Door." This is a terrible book (sorry, Dad). It's written in this kind of folksy style about some barber (who is, of course, a millionaire next door, but no one knows it) who dispenses financial advice along with haircuts. I did manage to read several wretchedly written chapters, but quit at the life insurance and living wills chapter. Those didn't seem to so much apply, since I was 16, for God's sake.

I managed to learn nothing more until 8 years later, when I went to work as a proofreader for a company that publishes financial newsletters, among other things. I read a lot of financial advice there, most of which I paid not much attention to because the newsletters were written for and distributed by banks and other financial institutions that want your money. Hi, biased much?

BUT, I have a point, I swear to God. One of the pieces of information that did manage to take up residence in my otherwise sieve-like brain is that you should not order checks from your bank. I had no idea there were other options. So today, I realized I'm almost out of checks, and ding! A bell went off and my brain un-filed that one useful tidbit of information I retained from 3 years of cubicle hell. So just to be thorough about it, I checked with my bank first, then I Googled "order cheap checks." I chose a company that had verifiable security, since you have to give them all your account information, obviously. In case you're wondering, it was Carousel Checks. But I won't give them a rousing endorsement until I see if any money is siphoned from my account in the near future.

The point! Yes! The point is this, finally. Totals for 150 standard checks, including shipping: KeyBank--$30. Carousel Checks--$6.

I think we've all learned a valuable lesson here. Don't say I never did anything for you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

This Photo Speaks for Itself

UPS delivered this yesterday. The level of testosterone in our house went off the charts as soon as I brought it in.

P.S. If you can't tell, it's an attachment for the chainsaw so that we (by which I mean A.) can cut the huge spruce tree we had felled into boards. I'm just hoping no human limbs get lopped off in the process.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It's Electric!

Just typing that title made me flash back to every 8th grade graduation party I attended and doing the Electric Slide at each and every one of them. But today's post is not about Awkward Social Occasions of My Youth--it's about my dogs. Again. And my husband.

There is a very busy road running right in front of our house that separates the house from the lakeshore. That lakeshore is a magnet for our two youngest dogs. I'm sure there are lots of rotting carcasses and squirrels down there, so I guess I can see the appeal, if I were a dog. But of course, they have to cross this road to get to the lakeshore, and this road features a whole lot of traffic of the semi-truck variety. We've had several close calls with these dogs, and more than one family dog in the past has been killed on the road, so we've been trying for a long time now to find a way to keep them from going down there. Short of locking them in their pen all the time, which is what I have to do to keep them from running to the road as soon as my back is turned.

Here's where the husband comes in. We have electric fencing around a good portion of our property, and this is greatly feared by the dogs. Which is a good thing. They only need one shock to know that it hurts to try to run to the neighbors', and maybe it would be less painful to stay around the house. But of course, we can't run the fence across our driveway. Or can we?

A. came home from work yesterday all but rubbing his hands in glee about a fabulous idea he'd had on the way home. It's frightening, really, what an evil genius he is. Here's what he did: He ran a single electric wire across the driveway, about 8 inches off the ground. And then, to make sure the dogs didn't just jump over it without getting the shock that would scare them, he threaded salami through the wire.

Imagine, if you will, that you are one of our dogs. You realize all the humans are in the house, so you stroll casually down the driveway toward the road. At the bottom, your nose picks up a scent. Could it be? SALAMI! And look! It's suspended in mid-air, just at nose height! So you decide a snack is in order before your frolic on the beach. And you open your mouth, bite down on that delicious luncheon meat, and . . . HOLY SHIT! IT'S ELECTRIFIED SALAMI!

We didn't actually witness the triumph of what A. calls "the deterrent," but we're pretty sure it happened something like that. A. walked down the driveway to get the paper this morning, and those dogs didn't even follow to the front of the house, much less down the driveway. Not that they're permanently scarred or anything, because they were playing nicely outside this morning. But they sure as hell weren't playing down by the road. Obviously, we can't leave the wire up all the time, since people are always driving into our driveway to turn around or whatever. But I don't think the dogs will go close enough to find out that the wire is down.

I thought twice about posting this today, since I had commented on another site about being a dog lover and I was afraid people would jump to this site to read some heart-warming story about Lassie (see a few days ago for that one) and instead they get Electrified Salami. But we did this because we love our dogs and would rather shock them a couple of times than see them smeared on the pavement by a semi. So Electrified Salami, you did good work. And A., I salute you. This time you got to use your powers for both good and evil. But I think the good won out.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Meet (More of) the Family

Next up in our continuing series of the cast of characters that colors my world (I can alliterate with the best of 'em): I would like to present Ottoline. When she was a puppy, she was a big pain in the ass--willful, disobedient, prone to fighting with her sisters. So she was named Out of Line, shortened to Ottoline, and shortened again to Otty, because we are lazy. She is, by the way, also a collie, just like Leda the fluff ball. Otty is what is known as a tri-color smooth collie. She would like you to know that the original "Lassie" book described Lassie as a tri-color collie (meaning black like Otty). Otty would like to have a few words with whoever decided Lassie should be a sable (brown) in the movies.

Otty is our show dog. She's the only one of the dogs who is, ahem, "intact," which is a requirement for showing dogs. Every six months I have to lock her up like a Victorian maiden so she doesn't run off and besmirch our good family name by getting "in trouble" with some ruffian in the neighborhood.

Otty is also at the bottom of the dogs' dominance ladder, which means she spends a lot of time being chased and diving under the forsythia bushes to escape her pursuers. It's all in good fun, until there's a fight and someone gets a gash in her face. With three female dogs, we've had a lot of fighting in the past. There's a reason "bitch" means what it does.

Otty is a good girl who gets very excited about being petted. She also enjoys long walks in the woods and gnawing on moldy deer bones. Her interests include children, hunting rabbits in the hollow, and sleeping on the couch in the kitchen.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Revenge Is Sweet (and Chocolaty)

In my younger days I earned a maybe deserved reputation amongst my siblings as a bad cook. There were Incidents. The time I made tuna noodle casserole and forgot the tuna. The time I swear I told my brother to take the steaks out of the oven and he didn't until they were pure carbon. And the time I messed up the pudding at Thanksgiving.

I was in charge of making the pudding filling for the chocolate pie. I was using a Jell-O package of chocolate pudding. You know the kind: heat milk, add mix, stir until thick. Do not ask me how I did this, but I burned it. But there must be chocolate pie on Thanksgiving! So I ran to the store to buy a new package of pudding mix, and I decided to play it safe with the instant kind. Which, ew. Instant pudding tastes instant. There was much hilarity over Kristin's inability to make Jell-O pudding. I don't think I've made pudding of any kind since then. It was a blow to my confidence.

But being the designated kitchen wench for the last several years and making 3 meals a day, every single day, mostly from scratch, has made some of those bad memories fade. I'm a good cook now. I know this, but some things from our childhood leave scars, man. However, I mustered all my courage and attempted pudding again today. From scratch. It was delicious.

Take that, Jell-O. Who needs you when I've got "Joy of Cooking"?

*It is clear from the above photo that I should stick to eating the food, not styling it. Who am I to argue with photographic evidence?