Sunday, September 24, 2017

Top Secret



I found the secret. 

It’s unbelievably simple. So primitive, my grandmother should have shared it with me. But she was a lousy cook and probably didn’t know about it, either. For sure she didn’t have access to Pinterest, The Source Of All Secrets Worth Knowing.

Which is where I found it, of course.

I want you to know I’ve spent at least the last fifty years of my life looking for this secret. I’ve spent countless hours experimenting with other guaranteed techniques which all had one thing in common—a failure rate of 100%. It was practically a waste of time. But I’m no quitter.

Maybe nobody knew the secret. Or they did know it but kept it to themselves. Unbelievable. It’s like a government plot or something. “Don’t tell middle America the secret or they’ll stop depending on us,” they probably whispered to one another. That’s the most pathetic thing I think I’ve ever heard. Or read.

Or written.

Why on earth would the government be involved in a conspiracy theory about something so trivial? Don’t they have enough trouble on their hands, between keeping one eye on North Korea and the other one on Republicans furious over healthcare? Yes. But maybe this isn’t trivial. Maybe this is the answer to world hunger. The key to world peace. The correct question in Final Jeopardy.

You’re dying to know, aren’t you? What? You quit reading two minutes ago?

Fine. I’ll skip the rest of the buildup and just give it to you straight. Bummer. I had a sequel planned and everything.

I learned how to boil eggs.

Hey! Where are you going? This is going to be amazing!

Listen, I have an entire page on Pinterest dedicated to all the tricks people use to peel hardboiled eggs so that what you’re left with actually looks like a smooth, oval egg and not a handful of white, rubbery confetti. And none of those ideas work. I tried them all.

Vinegar in the boiling water? Smelly and pointless.

Salt in the water? Morton is rolling over in his grave.

Baking soda in the water? Please. That’s for amateurs.

I’m almost giddy now with the suspense I’ve created here. You’re never gonna guess in a million years the way to boil eggs so their crunchy jackets slip off like butter. Go ahead. Try. I’ll wait.

What? You went to my Pinterest page—without me? You already found out how to do it? I can’t believe it. That’s just so . . . smart.

So what do you think? Crazy, right? I’m telling you the truth—it's the only way to cook them. I’ve done it half a dozen times now, it’s worked like a charm, with only two self-conscious eggs who wouldn’t come out of their shells, and I am happy to tell you we’re eating deviled eggs at our house again. Just for the heck of it. Because hard boiled eggs are so simple now, they should start calling them over easy.

Who knew that the secret for easy-to-peel eggs is to steam them. Right. I forgot. The government did. Well, the secret’s hatched now, big brother. Put those chickens in your basket and count them. Or something like that.

I’m voting Pinterest for President.




Easy To Peel Hard Boiled Eggs:  Put one to two inches of hot water in a soup pot. Place a vegetable steamer in the pot. Place one to two dozen eggs in the steamer basket. Eggs should not be submerged in water. Bring water to a rolling boil, cover the pot with the lid, and lower the heat to medium high. Steam the eggs for 12-15 minutes for hard yolks or 6-8 minutes for soft yolks. After steaming, immediately place the eggs in an ice bath to halt cooking. When the eggs are cool, either peel them or store them in the fridge to peel later. Either way, the eggs shells will slip right off after cracking. Use a little running water if you need to.

And if you want to know why this works, here’s the link to the article where I learned about it: https://nourishingjoy.com/perfect-easy-peel-hard-boiled-eggs/

I feel like a regular Ambassador for Eggs after all this. And that's no yolk.





Thanks, Marcin, for your heroic photograph. Your secret footage is safe with me. Us. The original photo above, graciously on loan, can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mwichary/





Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Last Straw



What does the last straw look like?

It looks just like the first. Small, lightweight, no big deal. Blow it off with a puff of air and attitude. The second one looks identical. Then the third and thirty-third. Gradually it gets worse. Pretend you're surrounded by amber waves of grain. Aside from a lot of sneezing, everything seems fine. This is the only normal you’ve ever known so you don’t realize the danger you’re in. 

After all, you still have a brain. 

But let’s say you get stuck there, right in the center of Kansas inside your very own cyclone. It's so windy now it makes the rest of Tornado Alley seem like a summer breeze. If you’re resilient, you can handle it - that’s what all those child psychologists say, anyway. But maybe they didn’t grow up standing in the middle of hay field like you did. Maybe resilience isn’t the antidote to suffocation. Just look at you. You’re completely covered up by a mountain of chaff, barely breathing. If you’re very careful, you can still inhale a little oxygen through tightly pursed lips, though.

That’s when it happens. The last straw.

Though a tiny, little piece of you can still be seen through the beige decoupage silencing your voice, speaking up is out of the question. All you care about now is remembering how to breathe.

“If I stand very still,” you think to yourself, “the chaff will fall off on its own.”

That’s when you’re glad you can’t talk, since anyone hearing that comment would think you didn’t have a brain.

“Surely the wind tunnel I’ve always lived in will blow this stuff away . . . eventually . . .” 

But it doesn’t. It’s as though straw is magnetic and you’re the Tin Man. It’s heartless. Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.

You have become a living mound of straw. Not because you love the feel of it. Not because you deserve it. Not because you are afraid to escape it. But because it is bigger than you. Survival is your only option. Breathing your only luxury.

Until the last straw. The final nail in your grassy coffin. The piece that found your only connection to the outside world and covered it up, covered you up, threatened to smother you.

But you. Brave little you. You refused to be suffocated.

For a minute there, you thought you were a goner. Everybody did. Everyone thought the last straw would be the most powerful piece, the one to take you down, shut you up, bury you. Instead, the last piece was the one to inspire you to speak up, push back, dig your way out, and refuse to stop breathing.

That's when the wind blew harder. But now you knew what to do. You turned around. You faced the other direction. You kept your back to the wind and watched the straw blow past you as you walked away from the hay field where you once were stuck. 

It took a million little pieces to glue you to the ground. It took one last piece to set you free.

Thank God for the last straw.





Thanks to Karmatosed for the photograph at the top of the page. Love it. You can view the original at https://www.flickr.com/photos/karmatosed/5291199462/in/photolist-94yMfW-ei15yW-ocEN5f-creKMJ-5wja9w-a9GcBV-vJedRq-oeYYxo-ytv7Mp-aXJsyR-k5ywch-k5wBqB-iMhYP7-e53Vyy-JAaDtL-iMhjS4-4ZwCPj-uTuNbJ-fYUMfd-k5w1x2-oeTVQ7-k5yqTm-o7ECEz-ousu7b-owuJnM-826KCJ-iKf7ye-dehN8R-othVeR-oeSksS-k4YPpb-rQTTwM-ouq6f1-tCR1Np-k5wvtB-A4fUAt-aKwpft-k5wwPc-aaQ8F3-p6JfDk-k5wwwt-ouK4dP-oeUCYR-p6Jfyk-bXjrMz-a9JZdG-ounF8K-BSkTaB-a7eSCx-obZ6Nw

Sunday, July 9, 2017

How To Bribe A Dog



I took my dog, Brody, on a date to Starbucks this morning. He knew what was coming the second he stuck his head out the car window at the drive through.

“I’ll have an iced venti decaf four pump peppermint whole milk no whip mocha,” I told the invisible barista who frantically searched her register for the tweaks I was ordering on my overpriced addiction. For the record, most addictions are overpriced. That’s the first way you can tell you’re addicted, you know. And if you didn’t know, now you do.

This one was free, though. I earned it by spending too much money and too many calories on a lot of earlier mochas. To be perfectly honest, that’s also proof of my Starbucks addiction—I’ve bought so many personalized, iced indulgences there the cups now come with my photo on them. This could be the reason our fixed income needs to be fixed. Talk about a budget bender.

But this morning, instead of focusing on guilt and condemnation, I chose to be delighted in the “make it as big as you want” option on my free beverage. “Venti!” I declared in my best Italian.  Brody wagged his tail enthusiastically.

I don’t know what Rob is going to say when he finds out what I’ve done to his dog.

Brody was my Christmas present last December, you may remember, but he’s definitely playing favorites with my husband. Sell out. Just because Rob takes him outside to throw a ball to him in 110 degree afternoons while I prefer to stay inside where the thermostat registers a sensible 76.

I think Rob’s dog is an opportunist.

This morning, though, my husband put on his celtic kilt (great knees, that guy has) to go play his drums with his bagpipe band at a Diamondbacks game where they don’t allow giant white dogs on the field. So Brody had to stay home with me—the woman allergic to summer in Arizona.

“Want to go for a ride?” I asked my turncoat Christmas present.

His tail went into ballistic mode and he jumped three feet into the air with rapture. Twirling in jubilation, he bounced with joy beneath the hook where we keep his leash. He doesn’t know where we’re going or how we’re getting there, but if I use the word, “ride” and reach for the leash, suddenly I am his new best friend.

I.Am.A.Genius.

We jumped into the truck, I rolled down the windows, cranked up the air, and down the road we went—a giant, white dog with his ears flapping in the breeze and a fake redhead at the wheel with the a/c freezing off her face. It was heaven.

Finally, it was our turn to pull forward in the line of drivers too lazy to get out of their cars to go inside for fancy drinks, rolled down my window, and reached for my order. The barista glanced at Brody’s beaming smile in the back seat of our Tahoe as she handed the cup to me.

“Would you like a Pupaccino, too?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye.
 
A “pupaccino!” Oh, my gosh. That’s either going to make you want to gag at the indulgence of our culture or grin at the cleverly generous gimmick they’ve come up with at my favorite coffee shop. I thought it was hilarious!

So the date was a total success. Brody went after his tiny cup of whipped cream and demolished it before we got out of the drive through. The barista enjoyed our delight, I enjoyed my peppermint mocha, and—just like that—Brody became my dog again.

For a minute.

I don’t care. He knows who’s tough enough to exercise him in the heat with a tennis ball. And he knows who’s cool enough to take him on a Starbucks date. If you ask me, this dog has it made.

Who’s the genius now?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

In Hot Water



They’re calling us sissies in the Sahara. Whiners in Wyoming. And in Florida, they’re throwing our words back in our faces. “But it’s a dry heat, you said!” 

I never said it’s better to stick your face in a four hundred degree oven rather than dangle it over a boiling pot of pasta water. I said they’re both miserable ways to spend the summer and you have to choose which kind of miserable you prefer.

Personally, I’d prefer the misery of having cabin fever in the Swiss Alps right about now.

I live in the Valley of the Sun, Arizona, sometimes called Phoenix, but other times simply called . . . well, I’m not actually allowed to use words like that. I’m not sure how we managed to corner the market on UV rays but I’m guessing it was some kind of political power play where the desert lost and Portland won. Sigh, Portland. I’d prefer the misery of a week of cold, Oregon rain right now, too.

Of course, I’d prefer that in December, as well, so that’s probably not a very good example.

So, here it is. Today is the longest day of the year—Summer Solstice. And in celebration, Mother Nature sent us a gift in the form of a high pressure air mass that confined the daytime heat here the way you trap a lobster in a soup pot. We hit 119 degrees yesterday at the official thermometer perch near our airport, but plenty of people in outlying areas watched the mercury top out at 123 just before their whole gauge exploded.

Every June I forget why I live here.

And here’s something I don’t remember dealing with while growing up in Phoenix. Don’t get me wrong. There were plenty of days with the temps running in the high teens. And I got my share of blistering sunburns trying to stay cool in the swimming pool. But I don’t remember ever needing to warn people about how hot our cold water was coming out of the faucet.

Maybe you’re a building contractor and this makes sense to you, and if it does would you please explain it to me—why do all the water lines in new construction homes here run through the attic? I used to wonder why they put evaporative coolers and A/C units on the roofs here in Arizona—arguably the hottest place for a repairman to have to charge you time and a half. No one builds a house that way anymore, so maybe unions are good for something after all.

Now it’s our water lines that are routed through the attic where they can turn cold water from a tepid seventy-eight degrees to a shocking one hundred five in less than three seconds. I know this personally because I tested every faucet in our house today and that’s what the thermometer showed.

I think that’s taking solar energy way too far.

I don’t even need to use the hot water line in our house. In the kitchen, I just put the pasta in the pot, turn on the handle for the cold, and by the time it fills up we have spaghetti al dente. Our water heaters last twice as long in Arizona as the national average because we just turn them off for the season the same time the snowbirds head home. And still, when my husband showers first, there’s a pretty good chance he’s gonna hear this loving wife yell from the master bath, “Hey! You used up all the cold water again!”

The main problem with this identity crisis with our tapwater is that we have grandchildren over sometimes. I have to keep reminding them to turn on the faucet the second they head in to the bathroom so the water will cool down enough for them to wash their tender, little hands a couple of minutes later without requiring a visit to the E.R.

Honest to Pete, I have no idea who is responsible for this temperature catastrophe or who to sue if any of us ever gets scalded by the cold water in this house. But the next time somebody in the Sahara thinks we’re not as tough as they are, I might have to throw some cold water in their face just to get their attention.

So, you there, up in Portland, if you ever get fed up with your wet, gloomy days and want to trade homes, you know where to find me—I’ll be standing here right next to the medicine cabinet where we keep the burn ointment and gauze. I'm telling you, it’s a good thing I married a firefighter.
.
If only he knew where to find some cold water.