Saturday, January 22, 2011

Little Red Hen

One of my best friends is Little Red Hen. She likes to go on vacations with me, uninvited. She somehow manages to stow away and then appear as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on. Her latest escapade involved “The Great Chicken Caper”.
We were on a cruise to Canada out of New York City when Little Red noticed a deck cam. She always wanted to be on TV so she flew back and forth in front of the camera, hoping that a famous talent scout was watching. No word yet, but she’s still waiting for her big break into show biz.

It’s fun traveling with Little Red. People like to talk to her and have their pictures taken with her. You’d think she would be a little stuck up due to all this attention, but no, she’s still a humble little hen. Surprisingly, she’s actually quite shy.

In about a month I’m going on a cruise to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. I haven’t told Little Red, yet, but I suspect she knows. She was packing her carry-on bag yesterday. Stay tuned…

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Migrating Geese

The honking of geese can stir a variety of feelings, depending on the time of year. For me, August honking signals back to school while late winter honking: spring! Both are harbingers of new beginnings.

In the predawn moments when I’m out walking the dog and I hear the ruckus of geese flying overhead, I’m always compelled to look up, fascinated by the v-formation. As far as I know, geese are the only birds that fly in that configuration. Sometimes they are in perfect synchronization and the honking seems to be a supportive, “Let’s keep going, guys.” Other times there is chaos in the skies with the formation looking more like a w and the honking more argumentative. I imagine they’re like my students, fighting to be the leader.

The times that I feel the saddest while observing the semi-annual migrations are when there is one solitary goose, honking and flying solo. It makes me wonder…did they lose their mate? Geese mate for life and the thought of their loss creates a lump in my throat.

It’s incredible how far these birds fly every season, inspiring, even. Just goes to show how far we can get in life with a little help from our friends.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Holiday Traditions

One of my family’s traditions for decorating the Christmas tree involves homemade caramel corn. Not just any caramel corn-- Grammie Forbes’s recipe. I usually whip up a batch just before it’s time to start the festivities. We put a Christmas carol CD in the player, box brigade the ornament containers from their cellar storage, unpack, munch, and decorate. We enjoy reminiscing about the histories behind our very un-Martha Stewart-y ornaments as we hang them on the branches. It’s always a pleasant surprise to discover that the mice have neglected to eat the macaroni wreaths made by Kate and Nick 20-odd years ago during their preschool years. Last year, however, something happened that changed my life forever.

As a person who finds it difficult to stay on task, I have a new rule: No texting while cooking! In the middle of whipping up my annual batch of caramel corn, I suddenly had an uncontrollable urge to text my daughter, Kate. Although I can’t for the life of me remember what it was I “just had to tell her,” I interrupted my kitchen duties to tap out a message on my cellphone.

Meanwhile, back at the stove, a saucepan of sugar, corn syrup, butter, and vinegar was boiling merrily as the needle on my candy thermometer inched toward the goal: 290o F. Usually I tend this molten mixture closely, stirring frequently until it turns a creamy amber. Too hot and it burns, too cool and it stays sticky, never reaching that crisp-crunchy-melt-in-your-mouth heaven that is Grammie Forbes’s Caramel Corn. (This recipe is practically famous having traveled around the world during the Vietnam War to sustain my uncles and their navy friends.)

I snapped my phone shut and mixed in the vanilla and baking soda; the liquid was now a foaming froth, threatening to bubble over the rim of the pan. I quickly stirred and poured it on the waiting popcorn, coating every kernel. Finally, the popcorn cooled and I popped a morsel into my mouth, only to discover that my teeth were now stuck together! With visions of pulled fillings, I kept my teeth together, waiting for the sugar sealant to melt. What seemed like forever later, I was able to open my mouth. Argh! The batch hadn’t reached the proper temperature! It was a soggy, ruined mess! All for a text that could have waited the ten minutes it would have taken to perfect Grammie Forbes’s caramel mixture.