31 May 2006

I'm Going on a Picnic and I'm Bringing ...

We went for a picnic on Sunday with my parents to Gillette's Castle. We arrived early enough to secure a very nice table under some trees on the top of a hill. We grilled on the public barbecue, walked around the woods, played cards, made snide remarks about other picnickers, and generally had a nice time.

I brought a pasta salad made from a recipe from the Cook's Illustrated people ("Pasta Salad with Summer Vegetables," The Best Light Recipe, 2006). Everyone else scarfed it up as if it were truly delicious and not as dry and chewy as it seemed to me. I did like the use of fresh basil, green beans, shredded carrots, and Parmesan with sliced tomatoes (I used halved grape rather than cherry) and the mustard/red wine vinegar combination did have a nice tang to it. My dissatisfaction with this recipe is probably my own fault -- I used a different pasta then I usually use (multigrain with a higher fiber count) and, while I cooked it as the directions required, I think it would have been better if cooked a few minutes longer. Oh, well, cook and learn.

Yesterday, being a day off for both of us, we went to the garden center my parent's had bought the graduation cherry tree from and ... bought a replacement tree. Yes. It is my goldfish tree. We will remove the dead one from its hole, plant the new one in its stead, and no-one is likely to notice it's a different tree (I was careful when selecting the new one to get one that was shaped similarly). It's a brilliant, if devious idea, but a bit expensive (much more so than goldfish) so if it dies again, there will be no replacement.

We also bought a Bradford pear to go along side of it. The should both grow to similar sizes and shapes and we thought the white pear flowers would look nice contrasted with the deep pink of the Kwanzan cherry. Of course, now we've bought it, I read that the Bradford doesn't smell so nice when it flowers and has a bad habit of going roots up during wind storms or heavy rains ... Well, we'll see. We're going to plant it in a nice sunny spot with good drainage and, of course, we'll fence them both off so the cats can't get at them. Hopefully, they will thrive.

21 May 2006

Beer & Chili @ the New London Rotary's Springfest & Chili Cook-Of

Took my dad to the New London Rotary's Springfest and Chili Cook-Of. We don't do father-daughter stuff as often as I do mother-daughter stuff and that seems a little unfair. The Rotary Club's twice yearly beer and chili fest seemed like a good idea as we both enjoy beer and chili.

The Husband (he does not drink and so it always the getaway driver) dropped us off promptly at 6 and, in the two and half hours we were at the fest, we sampled many beers. Some good. Some bad. Some ... indescribable. The problem is, after you drink enough different samples, they all start to taste the same. Breaking for chili helped, of course, but I'm sure there were a number of IPAs (Indian Pale Ales -- believe me, it took me much too long to work that acronym out) I might have liked if I hadn't sampled them all one after the other.

We were each handed six beer tickets at the gate and, ostensibly, this (and a strong police presence) was to keep people from over-indulging. In reality, it was probably very easy to over-indulge as most of the microbreweries represented didn't have much interest in ticket taking. The chili people, on the other hand, really wanted their money. The chili was a dollar a dixie cup and was mostly good. Different area restaurants and organizations competed to make the best chili and we drunken sots got to vote for the tastiest one. There were some really good chili, but nearly all of them lacked the proper amount of fire needed to make a great chili. Or so we thought.

Happily, along with our beer tickets, we each received a program listing all the vendors and their beers. Unhappily, not everyone listed showed up and not all the beers listed were on sample (and vice versa). My dad was smart enough to bring a pen, so we scribbled notes in our programs regarding the quality of the beers we ingested. Some of the things I expected not to like -- Diageo-Guinness's Parrot Bay Sunset Surf and Wave Runner, for example -- turned out to be pretty darned good. Other things I expected to enjoy -- like any of six IPAs or Boddington Pub Draught -- were complete washouts. After having hit all the tables, by the end of the evening we were also suspicious of the whole "microbrewery" angle. Blue Moon Belgian White Ale was one of my favorites, but it belongs to Coors, for pete's sake. Coors is a microbrewery? Pull the other one.

Anyway, without further ado, my list of beers I could happily drink more than one of:
  • Blue Moon Belgian White Ale (a smoother, milder Sam Adams)
  • Parrot Bay Wave Runner and Sunset Surf (tastes like liquid candy, smells like popsicles, and comes in scary neon colors -- a beer you would use to loosen up your underage girlfriend and totally yummy, dude)
  • NV Pear Cider & NV Chesters Cider (comes in a very pretty wine-type bottle and would be good for giving to people who equate cider with scrumpy)
  • Peels Cranberry Peach (another get-your-underage-girlfriend-drunk beer and also totally yummy)

02 May 2006

Yay For Rain

It's raining. Huzzah. Not enough to take us out of the red flag zone for long, but enough to green up the yard and put a little spring dampness back into the air.

The scariest thing about yesterday was not the idea our house might burn down, but that something terrible might have happened to The Husband. When I was coming home from work, I saw that the high school was wreathed in smoke, but there were no cars or firetrucks about so I presumed that the landfill might be on fire. I knew we were in a red flag zone and, when I was a child, our town's landfill was always catching fire so I wasn't particularly worried.

Except that the wind blowing quite strongly toward the landfill meant there should not have been any smoke around the school if the landfill was on fire. Approaching my street, it became obvious the smoke was coming from much closer to home and then I saw my road was closed and just about had a heart attack. Had a hard time getting the guy directing traffic to let me in, but I was pretty adamant about getting home and he eventually gave over.

Of course, once I was on my street, all I could see were fire trucks filling the end of the road and smoke blowing from the direction of our house. Trembling, I parked a couple houses up from ours and then flat out bolted down the street. It was obvious once I got to our yard that the fire was in the woods beyond our lot and did not yet involve us, but that did not keep me from running into the house and grabbing ahold of The Husband.

I have never been so scared. Even when The Husband was so terribly sick with ulcerative colitis and I feared he might die, I was never so afraid as I was for those few minutes yesterday. And I was never so relieved as I was when I realized he was just fine and even oblivious to what was happening outside our door.

Yes, so the fire made yesterday afternoon just a wee bit stressful.

01 May 2006

When I Said "Light My Fire," I Didn't Mean It Literally

Well, holy crap, the woods behind our house are on fire. Lots of smoke. Ash is falling from the sky. Fire trucks from four local houses are parked all over our road. The Salvation Army has delivered a flippin' canteen truck. The state police helicopter keeps circling over head and the local police's ATV keeps zooming off into the woods looking for the fire no-one has yet to find.

Darlings, 2006 is not turning out to be my favoritest year.

Because I am, perhaps, unduly paranoid when it comes to the nasty curve balls the universe might throw me, I have collected all the "important" bits of paper I think we might need should our house burn to the ground, as well as a whole bunch of emotionally important things, and a couple changes of clothes.

Yes, I understand clothes are easily come by, but if my house burns to the ground, I do not think I will be in a fit state to even contemplate shopping.

Oh, look! The media has arrived! I feel so much better knowing we are a real news item! And look! The helicopter is dropping buckets of water! Maybe, it will all be over soon.