Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bread Making

On a cold, very rainy day such as today, there is nothing quite as satisfying as producing a freshly baked loaf of bread. It’s yeasty warmth fills our apartment with a fragrance that takes me back to my childhood.

Mom also made doughnuts once in while, but bread was a fairly regular feature in our house. Of course, there were no fancy bread machines or stand mixers in those days so hand-kneading was the only way. I think I inherited her love of baking because we used to chat together about the delights of kneading bread. That may sound weird, but don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!

Until recently, I thoroughly enjoyed hand-kneading bread to the point that it took on the feel of a newborn baby’s bottom. Cookbooks often employed that description, I think, to make us forget the hard labor of kneading bread for about ten minutes, twice. Nevertheless, making one’s own bread had become something other than drudgery after commercial bakeries started producing it for our grandmothers.

Unlike most other baking projects, if you forget an ingredient such a salt, you can always knead it in once you remember it, so bread making is almost foolproof.

When arthritis in my hands got too painful, I gave in and bought a bread machine -- to make the dough -- that’s all! I still shape the loaf/ves, watch them rise and bake them.

Thinking I was adjusting enough for today’s high humidity, I added a little extra flour before I turned on the machine. When it beeped me to check the consistency of the dough before it was allowed to rise, I realized I hadn’t added nearly enough flour, so sprinkled in more, thinking the machine would incorporate it. I was wrong.

When I returned about a half hour later, there was my fragrant dough rising almost to push open the lid with the added flour undisturbed on the top. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

I unplugged the machine and twisted the pan of dough off its perch. Turning it upside down, the flour fluttered gently onto the counter while the dough stretched from the pan in sinuous strings of magnificence. You want those strings which mean that the dough is alive and holding together. However stretching like that wasn’t good because it indicated the need to knead more flour in so the dough wouldn’t fall in the baking pan resulting in a solid, hard, inedible brick -- very difficult to remove. I know this from experience . . . sigh.

My hands ache a bit, but the pan of dough is enjoying a slow rise in a corner of the kitchen. Before long, it will be gifting me with it’s lovely fragrance and memories of my childhood.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Who wouldn't want this kind of job?!

Did you know that the very people who process our federal income taxes at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) get away with not paying their taxes AND, many of them get nice bonuses despite that?

Yes, indeedy -- millions of tax-payer dollars are given to scofflaws employed by the very agency responsible for catching them. In 2011 it was reported that 3.6 percent of all federal employees owed back taxes to the tune of more than $1,000,000,000. That’s not chump change! [About 8.2 percent of the general population owes back taxes.]

Seems to me that, if you work for the federal government, you should be acutely aware of your obligations to your employers: every man, woman and child in the United States!

Having said all that, I willingly acknowledge that there are far more capable, committed and honest federal employees who don’t deserve any of the bad-mouthing haphazardly aimed at the entire federal system. Either supervision is lax or the unions are too powerful. I think the blame game belongs in those laps.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

We enjoyed a lovely Easter Sunday and this is how it is ending.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Thoughts on today's milestone/mill stone of a birthday.

A Facebook friend posted this a short time ago.

I'd been somewhat dreading my birthday today,

But this gave me a whole new perspective!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Skeeeeech, bam-bam, spraaaahng, BAM

Above are the sounds I associate with my brief, thankfully infrequent experiences driving large vehicles.

Having grown up during the era of huge family station wagons, I actually preferred small cars. I still do. Nevertheless, during my working life the necessity to drive big vehicles was forced upon me several times.

The first was when I had just turned thirty and was asked to drive all of the officers of the organization that employed me. I’d been to Gettysburg on a family vacation many years before, but not as a driver.

With the officers in tow, we approached the 15 passenger van. They were busy chattering happily together. My knees and teeth started chattering, too. Being that we were all women - them considerably older than me - I decided I could not show my fear and climbed into the driver’s seat.

Pulling away from the hotel, I couldn’t help but whisper a quick prayer that I wouldn’t cause the demise of the entire leadership of the international organization they represented.

Touring the battlefield was one thing; it was pretty much wide open. Getting to the battlefield was quite another thing. Teeny-tiny, narrow lanes with old houses and humongous, over-hanging trees were an obstacle course I hadn’t expected. What seemed like mere inches between my monstrous vehicle and approaching cars forced me to drive close to the edge of the lane, thus rubbing shoulders with low-hanging limbs and branches -- skeeeeech. Thankfully, no one seemed to notice and there was no visible damage to the van, but phew!!

March just about anywhere you go in the U.S. tends to be extremely windy. My next job, also in D.C., required occasionally driving company cars to branch offices in all four city quadrants, usually in nice little cars.

It was just my luck that on a day that necessitated me to drive from lower Northwest to upper Northeast D.C. the only vehicle available was another 15 passenger van; this one with no seats. It was like driving a Quonset hut on wheels across town in city traffic during a hurricane.

Bam-bam, spraaahwng, BAM! I enjoy swaying to and fro in a hammock, but not in a two-ton moving vehicle! The noise was terrifying as I thought the old thing was going to start losing parts. And let us not forget the effect of Spring potholes! Rhode Island Avenue was like a bomb-pocked terrain. It was impossible to avoid every chasm and steel plate.

A few years later, not only was I a facilitator and trainer for a week-long teen leadership conference, but I had to drive another big-ole-van full of teenagers from D.C. to St. Mary’s College in southern Maryland. The kids were no problem, but the lead driver had a lead foot and I didn’t know where I was going.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have missed these experiences. I love to drive and once I mastered driving those behemoth vehicles it boosted my self-confidence -- that and my faith in a supreme power that watches out for us fools.

Monday, April 7, 2014

I must confess . . .

. . . I've been neglecting my blog.

I discovered I was missing a lot of family news and photos because I wasn't on Facebook.  A loss of privacy had been preventing me from joing "social media" sites.  However, considering recent news stories, I probably don't have much privacy left anyway!

Since joining, I've been very pleasantly surprised about how many childhood friends I've been able to reconnect with.  A guy from my home town started a page where we could share memories of living there.  "Kids" I haven't seen in 50 years are sharing stories about their lives since way back when.

Family members who live all across the country now seem much closer.  Getting reaquainted with them has also introduced me to a whole new generation on our family tree!

I think the inventors of Facebook thought that young people would be the majority of users.  However, I'm dicovering that plenty of Baby Boomers and more mature types are making good use of the site.  It may not be for every one, but . . .

Boomers rock!