David and Maren made it into town last night. Their flight was on time. In fact the only delay came with our pickup. The line of cars trying to get into arrivals was so long that we ended up diverting to departures, where there was no line. Maren and Dave had to schlep their bags upstairs, but other than that everything else went fine and we were on our way in no time. Since then it has been nonstop cooking. Our new stove is getting its baptism by fire, as they say. Speaking of fire, the crème brûlée was a big hit, but not near as much as the little blowtorch that I have that turns sugar into brûlée. Six of us were standing around in the kitchen last night, taking turns at browning the contents of our ramekins. I think that some people enjoyed doing that a little too much. At least we didn’t burn the house down. I’m thinking of bringing the blowtorch with us this summer, when we go camping. Most of the parks don’t allow open fires, because of the constant fire danger. We have a stove that cooks fine, but last year I saw another camper cooking hotdogs with his portable flamethrower. I was green with envy. I guess a blowtorch or even a flamethrower is not considered open fire. Now if I can only talk Anne into letting me do something like that too? Maybe asking for forgiveness would be easier than permission.
Eight sticks of butter, three pints of cream, whatever does this mean? Separated eggs, yolks from whites. Sugar, lots of sugar, some white some brown. Crème brûlée for dessert tonight. Along with a variation of Jane’s chicken enchiladas. Vegetarian, so sans chicken. Anne is rolling tomorrow’s pie crusts. Croissants to set out tonight, letting their dough rise, for early morning baking. Trying to get as much done as possible today, because tomorrow will be a very busy day in the kitchen.
Dave and Maren are due in tonight. Hippity hopping southwest from Boston on Southwest. A couple of Beantown buckaroos brought to us by aeroplane, hippity hopping home, here in the Lou. Could be a late night though, what with weather.
As usual, I dropped Anne off at school first thing this morning. I then headed to the grocery store. Pictured is most of today’s haul. I later shopped two other chains, supplementing our grocery goods. I beat the Thanksgiving crowds, but I didn’t exactly have the aisles all to myself. Vendors and stock boys were busy restocking the shelves, in preparation for today’s rout. Pallets littered the aisles. The checker was amazed that I had managed to fit as much as I had into one of the smaller carts. In addition to shopping, I laundered, made beds and cleaned the bathroom, making for quite the demolition domestic derby.
All of this domesticity got me my steps for the day, but one of my errands should reap even more steps in the future. As part of our Medicare coverage, we are also covered by something called Silver Sneakers. This program grants us access to numerous fitness centers. In particular the one closest to us that is run by our city, The Heights. I got my swipe-able key fob and come the next rainy, snowy or just plain cold day (It’s 68 °F today.), I will have no excuse to still not to get some exercise. Unfortunately, the pool at the Heights is undergoing major renovation and is closed into next year. Not to worry, there is also the YMCA. Once all this recently purchased food is eaten, a lot more exercise will be in order. So, shop ’till you drop, but then drop and give me twenty.
As we wade into Thanksgiving, the menu is set and our guests are schedule to arrive. Some grocery shopping still remains, but that can wait until an off-peak hour. Our guests will have to battle not one or two, but three winter storms to get here and once home, a rainy wet weekend will greet them. A triathlon of cooking awaits us and is sure to test both our culinary skills and physical endurance. Anne and I are both looking forward to this holiday with the kids.
We went out to dinner last night. Mayo Ketchup is a new restaurant, located off of Lafayette Square. It got a big write-up in the paper, which is what attracted us. It features Caribbean cuisine, in particular a mix from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. This fast-casual restaurant gets its name from the place’s go to condiment. Squeeze bottles of a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise adorn all the tables and comes in regular and spicy varieties. I got the reporter’s favorite, a roasted pork bowl. While, Anne had a chicken bowl. Anne was able to talk food with the hostess and recounted some of Harry’s Puerto Rican dishes, which seemed to impress her.
As they say, “winter is coming.” I don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg or in this case Mayo Ketchup or our next snowbird getaway. I spent most of the day surfing for winter beach vacations and just barely avoided all of those dog surfing videos. We finally hit upon St. John in the American Virgin Islands. I booked flights and an Air B&B in Cruz Bay, the island’s main port. This will be the third year in a row that we have headed south. Unlike the past two trips, on this one we won’t be driving. In the first summer of my retirement, we tested international travel, by driving to Quebec City, the most European city in North America. Since that went well, the plan here is somewhat similar. Being a US territory, St. John is technically not international. No passport is required, but since they drive on the wrong side of the road, it should still have that vibe. It seemed like a good place to get our feet wet, sorta speak.
We’ll fly into the neighboring island of St. Thomas, taxi across it and then ferry to Cruz Bay. Most of St. John is a National Park, on land originally purchased by the Rockefellers. It is less crowded and less touristy than its bigger neighbor. There are plenty of fine beaches, coral reefs and tropical nature around to see. We’ll likely walk, taxi or take the bus to get around. There are still lingering effects from 2017’s Hurricane Irma and crime is an issue on the islands, but we’ll do our best, not to suffer Death in Paradise. Apparently there is more truth to that show’s murder rate than you might believe. We’re trying to see as much of the world as we can, before our final fossilization.
This is our new stove that was delivered yesterday. In preparation for this delivery, I slid the old stove away from the wall, leaving enough room to clean out the corner where it had sat for 35 years. It was not a pretty sight. I left the old stove’s flexible gas line connected. We had paid extra for the delivery men to disconnect the old stove, cart it away and install the new stove. When the delivery arrived, one man busied himself unpacking the new stove from the truck. The other man began disconnecting the old stove’s gas connection.
It soon became apparent that he was having difficulties. He couldn’t budge the gas shutoff valve lever. He soon gave up and offered me the choice of accepting delivery the new stove and not having it installed and not having the old stove removed or they could put the new stove back on the truck, not to return for two weeks. Neither choice was very appealing.
Our house is over eighty years old. The presence of a coal chute and an oil tank in the basement indicate that gas was not necessarily initially available. The problematic valve looked pretty ancient though and I know that it hadn’t been touched since we first moved into our home. The delivery man went back to the truck and I tried my hand with the valve. After some percussive adjustments, I got the valve unstuck. Don’t try this at home…
The delivery man came back and although he was now able to turn the shutoff valve, he still couldn’t turn off the gas. We went back out to the truck. I experimented with the valve. The delivery man had left the valve turned 180°. I turned on the gas at one of the old stove’s burners. Electricity was unplugged and the kitchen was well ventilated, with the backdoor wide open. When I quarter turned the old valve, the sound of gas flowing ceased. The delivery man came back again and seemed satisfied with these new developments. The old stove was finally disconnected and removed.
The new stove was brought in and soon connected. Once operational, the delivery man commenced a bake-in process that was intended to remove any factory oils from the range. It also stunk up the house. At this point he thanked me for my help and left shortly later. The cleaning process took about an hour and after its completion all smells had dissipated. For dinner last night, I boiled water on our new stove top, with pasta and we had leftover spaghetti. Not a very auspicious initial usage, but Thanksgiving is next week and were ready to go.
Yesterday, we purchased a new gas range. Our current range has served us faithfully for thirty-five years. It is the last appliance left standing from the then all new suite of home appliances that we bought when we first moved into our house. Lately though, being so long in the tooth, it has begun to show its age. It has acquired an idiosyncrasy. The stove has electronic ignition, but with its new quirk, the electronic ignition ceases to work, when the oven is warm. This isn’t too inconvenient with the stove top burners, because we can always light those burners manually with kitchen matches, but relighting the oven with matches is a bridge too far for us. 364 days out of the year even this defect is not a problem, but that one day out of the year, Thanksgiving, is fast approaching. We are expecting a full house this year and at least one of our guests wants to help in the kitchen. Never mind the embarrassment of having to apologize for our old range, but with several cooks in the kitchen, the opportunity for someone to inadvertently turn off the stove would lead to delay and disruption in the kitchen choreography of supper preparation.
Shopping began on the Internet. I found a Good Housekeeping article that recommended ranges. Picking their best choice led us to Home Depot. Braving the ice and cold, we ventured over there. They didn’t have in stock the model that we were interested in, but they did have other members of the LG line. So, we ended up buying one sight unseen. A mitigating factor is that the one we wanted was discounted 55%. We expect delivery and installation next week. That doesn’t give us a whole lot of time to familiarize ourselves with the new range before the big day, but if worse comes to worse, we could always take a page from the movie A Christmas Story and dine out with Chinese or maybe Vietnamese, with our new range playing the part of the Bumpus hounds.