Monday, December 17, 2018

Functional Kitchen

If I have a hobby, or at least something that challenges me and diverts my attention from bearing the weight of the world, it has been my kitchen adventures.  I have avoided trendy appliances, though there are still a few unopened boxes of panini presses and a deep fryer in my basement.  And I've never used my induction cooker.  But generally I buy good pans and strainers and a stir fry stovetop wok.

Keeping this functional has been a challenge with a major makeover about two years ago and the addition of a rolling island which I use for fleishig preparation.  Wall racks and S-hooks keep the pots and pans easily accessible.  On the down side, any flat surface gets covered with stuff that compromises my workspace.  With my wife's help, we made the kitchen table and most of the floor visible, sorting things into two categories:  paper and not-paper.  It came out roughly even between us on paper, I had the majority of not-paper.  Need to do better with the counters which have a lot of contingency containers from plastic egg containers that I'm sure could be used for something, to clear plastic peanut and peanut butter jars that store my pens and those little aluminum pull tabs that one of the synagogues collects to support a charity.  Toaster, k-cup maker and k-cup holding tower get used and have to stay.  Dish rack has a fairly permanent space with exchanges for milchig and fleishig.  My milchig utensils have to stay along with a corner shelf that could be put to better use.  My wife likes to listen to the classics on the small clock radio we keep there.  All else is negotiable, and probably clutter.  Make my quartz countertop mine again.

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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Haircut with the Women

כולם אומרים. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, גברים אומרים: שֶׁלֹּא עָשַׂנִי אשָּׁה נשים אומרות: שֶׁעָשַׂנִי כִּרְצוֹנוֹ.
Men- Blessed are you, Hashem, our G-d and king of the world, who did not make me a woman. Women- Blessed are you, Hashem, our G-d and king of the world, who made me according to his will.

It has been said periodically, and believed by a lot of people, that look good promotes feel good.  We can debate what look good means, from John Molloy's Dress for Success best seller of the 1970's to those Trumpkins that have emerged from our sewers who think their Nazi insignia is a form of look good.  I've dabbled with this correlation of appearance with well-being, but my suits or white coats never quite fit right, my pants that I payed a tailor to shorten too often got frayed at the cuffs, my hair gets cut when it's convenient to get it cut from where it is convenient to get it cut, and my eyeglasses get straighteded out at Costco when the frames bend enough to affect the vision.  My self-esteem never correlated well with pre- and post-haircut.

I look at Facebook submissions of Friends, largely HS classmates of my age.  The men all have gray hair with varying abundance, the women with few exceptions make a point of not having gray hair.  My nails are the color provided by nature, typically chipped by some form of manual activity, theirs are colors that might be found in an art museum.

So I really needed a haircut.  Usually I go to the New Castle Farmers Market which is a schlep but they have professional barbers who moonlight there on the weekends and they are open on Sundays.  They will straight razor the trim and shape the bushy eyebrows, all for a very competitive price which I supplement with a meaningful cash tip.  I didn't want to drive all the way there.  When I worked nearby, I would sometimes go to one of several local salon's nearby, which I started doing again in retirement.  One stood out, a little higher price than the others but a better experience to justify a small cash increment.   My wife had once even given me a Father's Day gift certificate there which I spent on a professional massage, which they apparently no longer offer.  So I gave it another go.

Interesting experience.  The other nearby places had men and women getting their hair revised in some way, even giving a discount for men on certain days.  This place had men's services in their brochure, but I was the only male on the premises unless the postman came by while they were tending to me.  I was also the only one with gray hair and if anyone else had too much facial hair, the estheticians had various waxes or lasers to make their faces smooth again.  The room where I had my massage those many years ago remains a private nook dedicated to skin services.

My basic haircut started with a shampoo.  Real barbers leave behind minor clippings which remain after the powdered brush and blower.  We wash our hair later that day at home.  Here, the belief is that the newly shampooed hair makes it easier for the stylist to control.  So neck hyperextended to put the scalp in a tub, refreshingly warm water in a shower type delivery applied, followed by shampoo.  I assume the stylist looks at the scalp, then decides between Prell or Kwell, lathers it up and rinses it off with a brief towel dry.

How would I like it cut, or really the first question was when I last had it cut.  A while ago.  I do not track this but most likely it was on a $14 Tuesday at the strip mall around the corner.  Potential styles:  Beatles, Bill Clinton, Nixon.  All mostly before her time.  I do not know how many businessmen she styles, but we settled on businesslike.  All around me ladies had various do-dads in their hair suggesting works in progress that will take a while.  Mine just got a lot of scissors with some electric clippers at the end.  No offer to tend to my unruly beard.  She probably has enough experience to never mess with the Rebbe's beard.  No offer to trim the eyebrows.  To be fair, she tended mostly to the shaping, which is the best I've had in recent memory.  Better proportion between the sides which were left a little longer than usual and top a little shorter than usual.  Good job if appearance is the end point.

Bit of sticker shock at the end.  Before going I read their online brochure and expected the price to be higher than the moonlighting barbers at the Farmers Market but not $10 above what was in their brochure.  Credit card inserted.  They only allow cash tips so I broke a large bill and put some in an envelope for the stylist.  Something a little more utilitarian and less expensive next time.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

Kitchen Mishap

My right ring finger has been bandaged about a week following some latke oil that splashed on my right had when inserting a new patty.  I got what I thought would be first and second degree burns of two fingers of my right hand, mainly the interdigital area that hurt but subsided with cold water, only to discolor like a bad sunburn the following day.  The initially painful parts healed but I went on to get skin breakdown with minor ulceration over the middle finger and what appears to be a third degree burn over the dorsum of the proximal interphalangeal joint of my right ring finger.  Some neosporin and band-aids of good quality have promoted healing with avoidance of obvious infection but the ulcerated area has not yet closed.  Moreover, I assume the cutaneous nerves are regenerating as well since the area has become painful.  I've been taking ibuprofen or naproxen for my lumbar symptoms but it does less for the finger.

As a teenager, my father who worked as a roofing contractor sustained a severe burn from hot tar to his hand, I forget which.  It got treated at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and left him at limited activity for a while, but it healed with no residual disability.  And they didn't have NSAIDS then.  I assume mine will as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Immovable Mailbox

My house, purchased in 1981, built about 1967, came with a fairly modern metal mailbox, square door and more than ample rectangular space inside.  Over the years the red flag has long since rusted, the name place in adhesive letters long ago has become unreadable and the door hinges have begun to separate.  I bought a really nice plastic one 10-15 years back, stored it in my basement with good intentions, but never completed the replacement.  About six months ago, I figured the US Postal Service would eventually blacklist me, prompting me to bring the new one up from the basement, unpackage it and see what the installation would entail.  Screw holes identical.  All I had to do was remove the rusted bolts from the old one, get new bolts, which I did, and screw on the new one.

Removing rusted bolts does not go easily.  I tried rust remover to no avail.  I tried wedging a hacksaw blade between the screw head or nut to no avail. Tried to drill out the rusted bolts but the bit kept slipping.  I called a handyman who told me he could do it but at a price double my budget.  Have not gotten a bolt cutter, but probably less expensive than a handyman and I'll still have the device whether it succeeds or not.  Last try, then get somebody to do this for me.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Sukkah Canvas

Each sukkot, we erect a sukkah, which is supposed to endure the elements for a week.  After many years of faulty construction, including one when my edifice blew away like a box kite, we bought a pre-fab model that has served us flawlessly.  It has a metal frame, designated connectors, a roof that can be reused from one year to the next, and a large piece of light blue canvas that wraps around the frame to create the walls.  Not that hard to put up, even easier to take down.  We have been storing it on our deck, so it is exposed to the elements most times.  The frame does okay, but after a few years the canvas, which measures about 7x30 feet, has gotten grungy with mildew and a few tears.  Time to clean it, but who does that?  I took it to my usual laundry around the corner, very capable Chinese fellow with signs in his shop suggesting that he could clean anything.  He took one look at this, shook his head, could not even give a referral someplace else.

Maybe it goes to a carpet cleaner.  I could try.  A commercial laundry?   I queried the distributor for suggestions but not heard a response.  Maybe buy a new canvas.  Maybe just accept the weathered look as part of the ritual of living in the sukkah for a week. 

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Kitchen Adventures

Just unwrapped about a pound of gravlax that I had been turning end over end in a ceramic loaf pan morning and night under two heavy cans for four days.  Washed off the surface rub, tossed the dill into the garbage can and the loaf pan into the milchig tub for washing, then sliced off a chunk of the thicker end for myself.  Worth the effort.  Have to get more bagels.  Have cream cheese and some more dill. 

Next project, I think, Frog/Commissary Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies.  Have not made these in years but they are the best, also a little effort but worth it.

Unfortunately, FoodTV has deteriorated from masters trying to elevate amateurs like me to a series of Iron Chef wannabe competitions.  I only watch Triple D nowadays, the original, not the component where one tries to outdo the other.  Cooking as it develops into my most enduring hobby does not have an opponent.  It has beneficiaries.  I learn patience, a little creativity as I modify the core recipes to adapt to kosher or to use up ingredients at hand or just to experiment.  Some of the effort, particularly complete dinners, requires planning.  And I get to see the result, both in the product produced and the delight of those who share the meal or goodies with me.  Competition detracts from this.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Back to School

Across the USA there are branches of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, acronym OLLI.  University of Delaware has one, which my wife has attended since her retirement.  I've been there for some of their concerts, enthusiastic people, age distribution about what my shul has on shabbos morning.  While my mind was not exactly fallow early into my retirement, having read some books and written some essays, I should challenge it in a more formal way, so I will register for OLLI's coming semester.

The catalog appeared online this week.  I jotted down what interested me, then since each course meets only weekly, I made a time grid and transferred my selections to that.  It was my intent to enroll in three, spread over two days, though I might do four as there are two at different times that stand above the others and I do not want to make a special trip for one.  Applications next.  Some courses are limited in capacity, one requires pre-existing expertise for which I think I qualify, though the instructor may not.  Fill out the applications next week.

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