Saturday, February 16, 2013

Meet the Beatles (not)

 I remember walking into my grandparents dining room sometime in 1964 and both of them laughing a little sheepishly. When my grandmother moved out of the way, I saw my grandfather seated at their dining room table wearing a wig.

 My grandfather, you have to understand, was bald - or nearly so - for all the years I knew him. He wasn't a vain man and a wig was the last thing I'd have expected. Plus the wig wan't gray; it was black.

 Turns out he'd bought a Beatles wig - a cheap, fuzzy, furry thing - that had elastic around the edges. It was for a joke. If I remember correctly, he wore it to a meeting of the bank appraisers (Mutual Federal Savings and Loan in Miamisburg) where he worked part time.

 Anyway, joke out of the way, he gave me the wig. I immediately donned it.

 I would have been 15 at this time.

 I don't remember Grandpa taking the picture of me but he must have. And then he must have followed me up the alley to Andy's Super Valu where both Dad (William H. Schmidt, above, age 40) and Andy (Andrew J. Schmidt, below) must have taken turns trying the wig on. They were both ready for anything that hinted at fun.

 Can you imagine professional businessmen doing this today?
 Ah, those early days of the Beatles. Anything was possible.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Something from Nothing

 Many years ago - twenty to be sure - while I still worked at JCPenney and managed the furniture department, I'd bring home discontinued fabric samples for Mom. She'd work through the feast, picking out the fabrics that were best suited for braid rungs, separating the colors into like-minded piles and then cutting them into long strips.
 These were sewn and turned into braid rugs. I wrote about them in Pinehaven, as impressed then with the newer additions to our home as I am now by their bullet-proof longevity. These rugs have stood the test of time and countless feet.

 This one is Mom's favorite. It's also her largest, a full 39" in diameter. The early American colors compliment Pinehaven's decor. This rug is used in our dining room at the door to the enclosed south porch.
 I can still remember Mom cutting the fabric, ending up with strips that would be sewn into tubes, flattened and turned into braids. The rug eventually became unwieldy to work with, but still she continued.
 We have at least eight or nine rugs of this sort, some so small that they serve as mere seat cushions (we use one in the car), others on the floor before rocking chairs, still others in doorways.
 I know that these rugs will outlast us all. Everything made with love does.

How crazy is this?

 Who ever heard of spring flowers emerging in February? Let alone the first week of the month? In the Dayton area?
 Last year I had daffodils blooming on March 13. This year they're already above ground on February 7.

 A friend of mine has snow drops blooming in nearby West Carrollton. Another friend in Miamisburg also reports spring bulbs pushing through the cold soil. Though this month has been below normal so far, yesterday topped out at 54°. Something below 40° would be normal. January was 4.2° above normal here at Pinehaven.
 With yesterday's pleasant weather - sunny and calm - I walked a bit at the pond and found it still ice-covered but giving up its winter's ghost.

 As I walked along the shore, the ice looked rotten and made gurgling sounds. It was melting as I strolled nearby. It certainly would not have been safe to walk upon. The surface is mottled with the snow and the blue sky reflected nicely on the surface.

 A wider view shows the pond still frozen but unsafe. The white ice of winter is already the color of water. It may be February, but spring is in the air early.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


 A week or so ago, a friend's wife posted a picture of a dozen bagels she made. They were perfect. I buy bagels every week from Meijer's. I've found them to be far better than any commercial bagel and better than many specialty shops. But, could we make them ourselves?
 Mom was game so a couple of days ago, while the wind blew snow squalls and made the day miserable,  we set out to make a batch. We cut the recipe in half. Six bagels will handle my needs for six weeks (I eat half a bagel at a time, twice a week).
 We've found King Arthur bread flour to be the best flower for our automatic bread maker and so we went to then to find their bagel recipe. It's what our friend used. Care to see the recipe? Click here

As directed, Mom made a starter the night before. I'm not sure that's necessary, though. We mixed it with the rest of the ingredients and kneaded the dough until it was well-worked and elastic.

 I found the dough a bit sticky to handle well so added a bit of flour to my hands (and the pastry cloth). It feels like bread dough, of course. It is bread dough.
 The trick in making good bagels is the water bath, I think. This recipe calls for a little brown sugar in the water. I think an actual lye bath would improve the appearance but that step isn't called for in this recipe.
 How to manage the perfectly round shape, though? I suppose the dough balls could be flattened and cut out with a large biscuit cutter. The hole in the center might be made with a small cutter or even a deep bottle cap. In any case, our bagels are hardly round and as I handled them, placing them in the water bath, they elongated a bit. Our finished product has an unusual shape!

 Nevertheless, they taste pretty much like traditional bagels. We used our oven's broiler to add the extra browning to the top (the bottoms had browned on the cookie sheet).
 It's not a quick process, particularly if the starter is made the night before. There are several rises required for the dough. But, with time, the process will get ever-easier.
 Still, fresh bagels at Pinehaven. On a cold, winter's day, what could be finer than a bagel and a glass of beer?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Icing Continues

 Who could imagine that just two days ago we recorded a record high? On January 30 we peaked at 66°, a full 3° above the old record recorded in both 1916 and 1947. It was springtime at Pinehaven.
 This morning is another matter. Dan Miller, less than five miles north of me, recorded a low of 6°. We had 5° here. That's an unusual drop for this area, 61° in 48 hours.
 But with those cold temperatures, ice again formed on a few windows, partly owing to yesterday's snow squalls which added moisture to the  air.

 This lacy ice is on my south bedroom window. The sun has not yet risen and gives the sky a salmon glow in the background. Between half an inch and an inch of snow fell last evening, completing the winter scene.

 Is it any wonder that I need a space heater each morning in my second floor bathroom? Thankfully, the ice is on the outside of the window (or perhaps on the inside of the storm window) but it gives me chills just looking at it as I brush my teeth and then step into the shower.

 The east window at the top of our steps has found the ice leaning south, betraying a north wind overnight. The eastern horizon glows brightly but the sun has not risen yet. It is well before 8 am.
 Tomorrow more snow? The winter seemed slow in starting but it is certainly upon us now.