Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Idle Hands

I have two more days of leisure until my boss returns from her big holiday trip to North Africa. I have so far filled my down time at Mi7 with celebrating my office’s very first Holiday Party and…. well really that is about it. I could do some filing and tidying and still have time to mourn the recent death of our desktop orchids but I felt that I should use this time to close the door on 2009 with a revisit to the world of INTERNET DATING!!!!

How could I leave you all high and dry? How could I ignore your cries for MORE stories from the wide world of faceless email courting? Well today is your lucky day, for no other reason than lack of anything to do I signed onto OK Cupid and within 20 minutes I received a letter in the ol’ inbox. Now this guy is not really crazy as compared to the “I like blue” gent of months past however all of you who know me will recognize immediately this guy’s major mistake. Please read an excerpt from his email below:

(set up – his email is in response to my posting. Specifically to my response to the OK Cupid question, “What are you doing with your life right now?” My answer is, “Discovering creative ways to inhibit the sub arctic air from seeping in around my AC unit”.)

Subject: STOP with the creative ways...
“Go to the Home Depot down on 23rd Street and look for Painters tape (don’t be overwhelmed just ask a man in an orange apron to help you). This is a blue tape and you can use a regular scissors to cut it to the lengths you need.”

Continued - “Good stuff foam, this is something that comes in a red can with big letters on the label that say GOOD STUFF. Just be cautious in application, you can wind up making a mess if you aren't careful with it, and you should be wearing gloves.”

Continued -“ It sounds harder than it is but it's the best solution to your problem.”

I was going to delete the email BUT then I decided to respond, here is my retort in total:

Thank you for putting a pragmatic spin to my AC situation and for REALLY over explaining the process. I however worked as a professional Prop Master for years (had my own corporate Home Depot credit card within 2 weeks of undergrad graduation) so I am very aware of blue tape. YOU should however graduate to Gaff Tape - if you are intimidated by the black colored Gaff Tape you may want to first purchase the white (it’s more unassuming). I would never spray good stuff on my AC – it dries like cement and the yellow gunk is not only unsightly but permanent. I have already in cased my unit with soft insulating foam, tape backed foam, and have heat sealed the window with shrink wrap plastic (did you think this 'sounded hard' or did you assume I thought it 'sounded hard'?)- this is why I am NOW exploring creative ways in which to battle the biting cold. And no I will not stop my “creative ways” for that is vehicle that propels me towards creative solutions.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Baking (part 3) – This stopped being fun once the oven timer went off

3:30pm with the storm ramping up and my Fresh Direct order safely in my possession I began the baking. Blog Girl’s instructions were to use Martha Stewart’s recipe which I completed rather easily – thank you – and without sounding too boastful my gingerbread dough smelled fantastic! As my brown blobs of ginger goodness chilled in the fridge I cut out the template house pieces that Blog Girl so helpfully posted online. In no time my templates were complete and my dough was ready for phase two.

I didn’t want to bake too many pieces at once, just in case something went wacky so I began with just one house (6 pieces). Martha directed that I roll the cookies to ¼ of an inch but Blog Girl instructed that I go to 1/8 inch… indecision, great thanks. I stayed true to BG (blog girl) since these were her houses in design and went with the 1/8” thickness. My new fondant cutter worked like a charm slicing through the cool dough (yes I now own a fondant cutter) and in no time my first batch was in my 350 degree oven for a length of 12-14 min (as instructed by Martha – BG gave no direction as to baking temperature or time). At the end of my 12 min cycle my cookies were flat, dark and had a slight taste of burnt coal. I will cut to the chase and tell you that after 4+ hours of trial and error (and 8 inches of snow fall) I discovered that the cookies should be at least ¼ inch thick, placed on the top rack of the oven and baked for no longer than 10 ½ minutes. Martha and BG – you can both suck it! By 10pm the dough was not done (1/3 still in the fridge) but I was done with the dough.

Baking (part 2) – In search of Cinnamon

First Location, Corner Bodega
Upon entering my neighborhood bodega I quickly made a bee line towards the rear of the one set of high shelves that held the overflowing stock of adobo meat tenderizers. I was immediately overwhelmed at the number and variety of items, I never knew that the Woodside community had such a need for softening meat and poultry products, but I digress. I read every label at least twice but I could not locate the cinnamon. At this point I realized I was alone in the bodega, not even the clerk was in attendance. I yelled out, “HELLO? HELLO?” Then out from the darkened doorway immediately to my left appeared a man with his pants completely spread open with his belt dangling limply at his sides. “Yes?”, “Ummm (eyes diverted) do you have cinnamon?”, “No. No cinnamon” and with that he turned on his heels and returned through the darkened doorway. I left the bodega feeling like my gingerbread would always be tainted by this very dirty situation.

Second Location, Asian Grocery Market

The smell of fish was blinding, the crowd of intent shoppers was abrasive, and besides not being able to decipher the grocery labels the items themselves were unrecognizable. I found some small jars that appeared to be spices but I was totally out of my league. I asked one of the 8 cashiers if they stocked cinnamon and without a glance up from her register she grunted loudly and pointed in the direction of the spice rack that had so mystified me. I returned to the area and called back to the cashier, “HERE? Over HERE? The cinnamon is here?” She quickly lost patience with my unfocused Afikoman hunting skills and began shouting at a 4 foot tall man who was about 123 years old. He looked at the cashier, then at me, then at her again as she kept shouting and pointing. He shuffled over in his house slippers squeezed past me to the end of the row and held out a paper bag of cinnamon sticks. I smiled and shook my head while delivering a silent look that conveyed this sentiment - yeah thanks for the trouble but I need the Caucasian prepackaged ground stuff with a plastic shaker cap.

Third Location, Mexican Fruit Stand
Ah big, airy, clean and empty. I casually sauntered ‘round the indoor fruit and veggie stand thinking about all the tasty treats people who cook could make, all the while searching for the very recognizable spice jars (bottles? containers?). After completing my tour I approached the cheery cashier and inquired about the cinnamon. Pleasantly she smiled and with an outstretched arm pointed towards a peg board covered with small plastic bags. I smiled back and repeated, “No, cinnamon.” She repeated, “Cinnamon” and pointed at the peg board. With trepidation I approached the dangling clear plastic bags and within just a few seconds I discovered to my surprise a red and green package with a palm tree labeled “Canela Molida - Ground Cinnamon”. Gracias Mammi!

Baking (Part 1) – How hard could this be?

After viewing these adorable gingerbread houses on a blog I frequent I got a bee in my bonnet - I wanted these mug hugging gingerbread houses! I asked T-Bone, Bookie, and The Kid if they baked and I got No’s all around. I then reached out to my Facebook community and just like my cry for help with the AC removal; I was greeted with utter silence. So not to be thwarted by others’ lack of culinary competence last Friday afternoon I scoured the web for baking suppliers, placed a Fresh Direct order (turns out the only ingredient I owned was flour) and cleared my weekend schedule for bakefest 2009.

With warnings of a major blizzard blaring from Weekend Today’s weather center I was up and out early Saturday morning on the hunt for all my baking supplies (cutter, rolling pin, parchment paper, sifter, etc……). Lucky for me I have a custom bakery supply shop just 8 blocks down from my apartment, really? Yes really. After a quick walk down Queens Blvd. under the ominous gray sky then up again to the 99 cent shop my list of needs was fulfilled and I was home and cozy by 11am.

If there are two things I have learned from my Mom is ONE - you can never set your table too early (in the Lewis household that window is 24-36 hours in advance of the first dinner guest) and TWO – when cooking anything you should set up everything you may need during the process (utensils, ingredients, bowls, etc…) at least 2 – 3 hours prior to the cooking event. Thanks to my inherited (learned?) obsessive cooking regimen I quickly discovered that I DID NOT own cinnamon, a major ingredient in my gingerbread recipe. So on with the coat, back out into the storm in search of the Queens spice trade.

Happy Holidays

Holiday are happy and since I am known for my sugary gooberness I embrace this time of year with the exuberance it so deserves. However what usually compels me into total BahHum Bugness is the forced participation (actually in my case the forced planning and hosting) of the mandatory office Christmas Party (let’s not fool anybody, it is NEVER a HOLIDAY party, it is a CHRISTMAS party). I despise the office Christmas party, the Secret Santa, the obligatory socializing with people whom I only tolerate 40+ hours a week because my checking account smiles every Thursday and the fact that most of the people who attend the office party sulk around griping about the lame assness of the music, the lack of alcoholic beverages or the lack of THEIR favorite alcoholic beverage – which of course is also the BEST beverage, or a multitude of other issues that they deem worthy of an “eye roll” and a loud lengthy “ughhhhhhh...sighhh”. But this year as you all may know my job ROCKS it! Yep this is the first year since 1994 that I have been totally jazzed to spend the holiday season with my office mates who are the perfect combo of holiday spirit and apathy.

We began our office holiday festivities on the day of the Rock Center Tree lighting by dimming our overhead lights, blasting “Oh Tannenbaum” while T-Bone threw the switches on our desk top neon Xmas trees – after that we were in full holiday mode (silently of course, we do have to side with decorum).