LOST IN THE U.S.A.

Map

No vacation is truly an adventure, until something goes wrong.

Based on that statement, our recent excursion into the Excited States was actually a roaring success.  It all started just after we crossed the Niagara River, and pulled up to the American Customs booth.

I had packed our Koolatron, a mini, portable refrigerator, the night before we left, with all kinds of drinks, Pepsi, iced tea, bottled water, orange juice….  As I was packing the car, the wife added some snacks to keep a diabetic’s blood sugar up – snap peas, baby carrots and cherries.

The border guard asked if we had any fruits or vegetables.  I said ‘no,’ and the wife startled.  He wasn’t worried about the peas or carrots, but Canada has cherry mites.  Wifey says, ‘That’s okay.  They’re Washington State cherries.’  ‘Let’s see them.’  The bag she had just finished was Washington, but the replacements she brought along were from British Columbia.  ‘They have to be quarantined.’ he says, and into the garbage they went.

Still distracted and smarting from the loss of the cherries, I was one lane too far right, and ended up heading south towards Buffalo, instead of swinging east towards the New York Turnpike.  A situation usually easily rectified, at the next exit I pulled up, over, and back down.  I practiced a bit of Zen driving, by following a Greyhound bus that looked like it knew where I was going.  I was right.  He led me well into Pennsylvania.

Our Canadian cell phone plan won’t talk to American cell towers.  Several miles down the Turnpike, the wife’s phone rang.  Is the car haunted??   It was our Canadian Virgin Mobile plan.  “For a mere $7/day, we’ll contract AT&T to provide you full phone service.  We realized that you were outside Canada by GPS tracking your cell phone.”  Great idea! and I didn’t hardly feel stalked at all.  We got Google GPS on the wife’s phone.  I wanted to call the new voice Navigator Nancy, but that name was already taken.  She became just Google Girl, and I now have three female voices in the car, telling me where to go.

The second episode of Lost, was filmed in Wilkes-Barre, PA, where we stopped for the night.  Frenchmen and ballerinas call it wilks – bar, but the locals insist that it’s wilks-berry. The address of our motel was right on a main access road, but we couldn’t find it.  By finally asking a convenience-store clerk, we discovered that it was actually up a hill, behind a U-Haul storage facility, and accessed from a small side-road, by going through a TGI Friday’s parking lot.

We didn’t learn that until we’d been past it 4 times.  I pulled into a small side-road to turn around, only to discover that it was the entry ramp for the Interstate.  We went nine miles back North.  I tried my patented up-over-and down maneuver©, only to find that the down ramp took me to a narrow, twisty State highway which only eventually got me back to what passes for civilization.

I must have earned some positive Karma points.  The next day’s highway mishap actually brought me out ahead – still behind, but not as far.  We wanted to go from an Interstate, to a State Highway, in Harrisburg, PA, to save about 60 miles.  All three female voices told me to take exit 5B.  I thought that 5B would be on the far side of the overpass, but like the one I missed in Buffalo a few years ago, both were on the near side.

Just as I realized this, and tried to reach the off-ramp, a local air-conditioning repair truck swooped out of the outside lane and cut me off.  Oh well, we’ll go down to exit 4.  No ‘up-over-and-down’ in the middle of a city, Ethel’s directions took me ‘down here,’ and then ‘across there.’  The wife complained that, if I must get lost, I should at least do it in an area with stately, historical homes, not the grubby factory and warehouse route we took.

When I reached the highway up-ramp, I manage to insert my vehicle into a ‘volume of traffic’ jam.  When I looked in my mirror, I found the air-conditioning van 3 or 4 spaces behind me.  After inching along for 3 miles, because of two more feeder ramps, we finally got back to ‘highway speed.’

In a previous blogging challenge, I’ve said that Life makes me happy.  Just before we leaked out of Pennsylvania into the Maryland panhandle, we curled around the base of a small mountain, just in time to see 10 colorful hot-air balloons rising up its sides.  The long, smooth, descending curve allowed us to observe them from a variety of angles and elevations.  Perhaps not as large or exciting as the Taos, NM hot air balloon festival, I still took it as a sign of apology and reward for the travails of the previous day.

There’s more to come, so I’d like you to come back.  😀

Taos Balloons

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Xmas Cookies (Memories of Christmas Past)

Good morning Peter.  This post is for you, and any others interested in food in general, and our Christmas cookies in particular.  You can’t pull them off the screen, so get your own breakfast before we begin.

I apologise for blurry photos.  This post is a learning experience in publishing pictures.  It runs down a long way.  I wanted large pictures for detail, but there’s not much text.

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Cookie Nests 2These are cookie nests – chocolate drops pushed into balls of dough.  Our chiropractor and his family prefer milk chocolate, while we like the darker.  I took the picture below first, before I realized we had one light one left.  We also made a batch with mint chocolate drops, but apparently the last of them followed the daughter home.

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Cookie NestsMore dark chocolate cookie nests.  Even with a fast digital camera, I manage to get fuzzy photos.

3Maple Sugar Shortbreads

These are the Maple Sugar flavored shortbreads.  The wife found a correctly-sized maple leaf cookie cutter, and I used a small steel cookie spatula to lightly carve in fake veining.

 

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Meringues

These are some of the hard meringues, two of each flavor.  Grated dark chocolate and hazelnut ones on the bottom left, almonds and Skor Bits at the top, and chopped cherry and coconut at bottom right.

 

 

5Oat Delights

These are the Oat Delights.  No-bake cookies, they’re easy to make and yummy.  Put grated chocolate in a glass bowl in a pot with a bit of boiling water in the bottom, to melt the chocolate.  Mix in the other ingredients, dollop out in spoonfuls on waxed paper, and let set.  These, and the meringues above, are the no-flour cookies the grandson can have without allergy problems.

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ShortbreadsTrue Scottish shortbreads, just like Grandma used to make.  After much practice, Granma Ladybug makes them just as good.  Five different basic shapes – winter mitt, holly leaf, Christmas tree, star and plain circle.  The pictures don’t show as much detail as I’d hoped.  Again, I used the cookie spatula to cut in a cuff line on the mitts, a center vein on the holly, a Chrysler star out to the vertices of the star, and just an X on the discs.  It makes them easy to break into four mouth-sized pieces.  I used the end of a chop-stick to indent small holes in the Christmas trees, to simulate decorative balls.

 

7Spritz

These are some of the spritz cookie shapes I pushed out of the cookie press.  You may notice that some of them were from the first batch, and got a little too brown.  They’re not burnt, but are not cosmetically acceptable as gifts, so we get to keep and enjoy them.  As you can see, different sized and colored decorative balls (dragees), mini M&M candy, as well as slivers of red and green glazed cherries are used to brighten them up.

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Sugar Cookies 1

A few of the shapes of iced and decorated sugar cookies we made.  Making and baking is quick and easy.  The icing and decorating takes far longer, but we use the time for some family togetherness, silliness and stress relief.  Note the results my steady hands produce on the candy canes.  The wife sprinkled a little of the Maple Sugar on the reindeer to produce a fur effect.

9Sugar Cookies 2

Some more of the iced sugar cookie shapes.  I can slather red, green or white on wreaths or snowflakes.  The son helps his mom dress up the wreaths, bells and Christmas trees after she’s done with reindeer.  She puts names on all the stockings.  The dressing of the boy- and girl-cookies falls mostly to LadyRyl.  These are just the extra ones we bake in case one of the ones intended for gifts might break, so these are the plain ones.  If I’m still around next Christmas, perhaps I could slip a couple of pictures of the more ornate ones in with a post about motorcycles or sewage disposal.

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Thumbprints

These are called thumbprint cookies, glazed cherry halves pushed down into walnut coated dough balls.  Of all the cookies we make, by a narrow margin, these are my favorite.  I could, but don’t, eat these by the dozen.  There is absolutely no taste difference between red and green cherries, and my mouth can’t see….but I like the red ones. Granma Ladybug is partial to the green ones.

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Yule Logs

Last, but not least, we have what we call Yule Logs.  The dough is similar to the spritz, cookie nests and thumbprint.  (They are all shortbread types.) Form small cylinders and bake, next day, someone with a steadier hand than mine (see The Wife, above) dips them in more melted chocolate, and puts them aside to cool and set.

 

Granma Ladybug said that my contribution to this industry is my ability to put the cookies in the oven, take them out to cool and then pack them into the containers.  Wife says without this assistance, she would be very hard pressed to do this.

We feel we can do this for at least one more year, and hopefully beyond.  Friends and family enjoy these, but our caring Chiropractor and his family receive the single largest donation.  They are overly generous in return.  Half a fruitcake goes along to ride shotgun.  No photos were available because it’s shy and wishes to remain anonymous.