February 13, 2012

Huntsville does not deliver mail directly to homes, instead there are community mailboxes for every street.  It works pretty well because you don’t have to worry about stopping your mail for vacation, there is a mailbox built right in for handy posting and it excellent for parcel delivery.  If you get a large parcel, they will place a key in your box to a larger mailbox that is large enough for a parcel.  You open the “parcel” mailbox, get your parcel, and throw the key into the mailbox (the one where you would mail a letter).  It cuts down standing in those long lines at Shoppers Drug Mart wondering why if there is 2 wickets, there is never 2 people working.
The “city” has nice modern boxes, the locks are built right in the door, and the post office assigns keys.  The post is delivered through a large door at the back that is the size of the entire community box and we have keys only to smaller doors on the front.  The hinges are smooth and the door opens sideways, making for easy retrieval.  Out in the boonies – where we live – the new community boxes slowly in and we have one of the old greenies.  Each individual box has a loop for your own lock, which you have to provide yourself.  But the post office will remove an unwanted and unknown lock.  Say if the previous tenants leave in the middle of the night taking your bird bath.  The greenie boxes have the hinges at the top and a little flap at the bottom to go over the loop.  In this case, the postal worker opens the large door at the front to inside mail, therefore, all the individual box doors are smaller than the box itself.
This is also a good point to give some advice.  If you live in Huntsville and need a lock for your postal box in the winter, do not get a lock that has the keyhole on the FRONT of the lock.  This leads to many days where your Maclean’s magazine, bill or late Christmas gift from your mother cannot be accessed because the howling wind has blown snow into the keyhole.  The below zero temperatures finish the job.   It doesn’t matter if it is pretty blue with a lovely matching blue key.  Get a bottom keyhole version or – like my neighbour has done – create a practical, if not attractive, lock protector using zip top bags and duct tape.
I also have a covetousness about skin care products.  I am convinced that I can buy line erasers, acne preventers, eyebag depuffers to increase my contentment with life.  Perhaps this is true, the problem is, you cannot find out because there is always one more that might hold the answers.  Fortunately, living in small towns, my limited access can easily contain my desires and forcing me to find such items on the internet.  This particular January, I fell in love with Pangea Organics facial products (thanks to some delightful samples) and decided to order the whole range.  Come on, if I ordered enough, I got free shipping and Acai and Goji Berry Mask.  Wowee!  Pangea Organics is a great product line, using glass bottles in some instances, and plastics in others.
I ordered and checked the mail as often as the weather would allow.   Finally, the temperature and the post agreed and after fussing with the lock and the flap and bending over to peek in the box – I saw the 6 sided brown box that we all like to see in the mail.  I reached in to take the box, and found that although it fit into my individual box, it could NOT fit through the door.  I turned it, I bashed the corners, I tried it diagonally.  Alas, contentment so close, but yet inaccessible.  Eureka!  I had an idea.   I had to take out the other mail and take off my Vancouver Olympic mittens and put them on the hood of my car.  This allowed me to open the box while was still in my mailbox and I could take the individual bottles out of the box without removing the box.  I stuffed all the items into my coat pockets and locked up the mailbox sensing products beautiful scent already.  I leapt back into car, and happily turned the car around, and got back on the road back to my house.  Soon, soon, beautiful skin, and contentment.
Whoosh!  What was that?  My red mittens!!  My mail!  Over the car, into the middle of the Road.  I pulled over and watched a tonneau covered truck run over my mittens – but I could still save them! I ran quickly out into the road when there was a break in traffic, and grabbed my mittens.  Quickly turned, increasing the centrifugal force on my pockets, causing me to dump half of my Pangea booty into the road.  Ack!!  I worked so hard for those.  Okay, grab the bottles, mail, mittens, back into the car.  Safe.
Whoa, thank god I am unemployed, otherwise, I would not have time to pick up the mail.
When I got home, I realized that one of the individual boxes was slimy and particularly scentful.  One of my beautiful products had broken in transit, I got it in my coat, on the mail, on my mittens, and as I have found out each mail checking  – in the mailbox. (Don’t worry, they replaced the broken item, no questions asked)
For two weeks, I have checked the lovely scented mail box to get our mail, and found it stuffed around the now empty box.  Each time, I thought, I need to get a knife, or leave a note for the postal person.  Oh, well, it works for now.
But today, the box was broken down, and neatly placed in my box allowing me to take it out through the door.
February 13th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event:  Finding my Australian Wild Plum & Willow scented mailbox fully accessible again without having to ask my postal person to take care of it for me.

February 12, 2012

I am a picky eater.  I don’t like alot of things:  mushrooms, tomatoes, liquid yogurt drinks, fla (Dutch pudding my in-laws introduced me to), meat eaten off the bone, Vienna Sausages, coffee, mashed potatoes, strong curry, fettuccine Alfredo, dairy products that the run off gets stirred back into (you know, when you open a tub of sour cream and that clear liquid is sitting on the top, and some people stir it back in and it gets all runny..  Ewww), grapefruit juice, olives, jasmine tea and strawberry or peach or blueberry yogurt. (this is not an exhaustive list).  It does present challenges in feeding me, I know.
I was at my friend Nancy’s house for breakfast this morning and she – being a hostess until the end (she will be refilling drinks at her own funeral) – has learned my palate, preferences and caters to them.  This is why I eat at her house as much as possible.  This includes dropping by on Saturday nights at 4:30 just to “check on the mail” or perhaps swinging by just to say hi on a Tuesday afternoon (when she was unemployed like me) just when her husband Rob was coming in for lunch.  “Oh, dear, don’t let me interrupt.  What’s that?  You have extra??  Well, in that case. . ”  Anyways, Nancy’s kitchen is extraordinary in its self, but this is an email about my Extra-Ordinary.  It’s full of every bottled condiment you can imagine, spices and rubs and sauces spilling from all sorts of drawers and cupboards.  At any given time, she’ll pull some seemingly random bunch of ingredients out some where and have dinner for her family of 5 (and guests?) on the table in 1/2 hour.
Back on track now. . This morning’s breakfast was traditional – eggs, bacon, toast, juice and tea (fortunately, not jasmine tea).  I nibbled at the eggs my husband had made (extra salt), limited myself to 2 pieces of bacon and savoured the hot, creamy sweet tea I had made with brown sugar because I can never remember where Nancy keeps her white sugar (and artificial sweeteners have no place in her kitchen).   The toast was made with whole grains and you could actually see the seeds and grains in the loaf and on the crust.  I could already see it was Perfectly toasted – no dark edges, no “top brown, bottom soft” issues seen sometimes.  And soft butter smeared into it just after coming out of the toaster.   Where it doesn’t sog the – centre, but simply softens and flavors it.  I got up to peer into the fridge for a topping for that toast.  I stared vainly into the shelves on the door, finding all sorts condiments that I didn’t know existed.  “Nancy, where is your jam?”, hoping amongst all of her treasures there would be some raspberry jam for me.  Perfect.  She showed me two jars “Blueberry, made by Megan (her daughter, of whom I didn’t know was a jam-maker)” and “Strawberry”.   Sigh.  Gloobs.
The problem with alot of the foods listed above is texture and especially inconsistent texture.  It can’t too thin, too thick, or most important – too inconsistent.  And hence my problem with Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Yogurt, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, and all of the other products available with cooked or processed strawberries.  Gloobs.  Strawberries that are mushy, but not mushy enough to collapse completely like Raspberries are polite enough to do so.  And that is the problem.  Strawberries are one of my favourite fruits when fresh, but turn into a long overstayed, unwelcome house guest after cooking.    I have made Strawberry freezer jam (I learned it at my mother’s knee – she likes me to say things like that) and I love the flavour.  It’s like biting into summer.  When I make the jam, I tend to over mash and have even been known to puree it with a stick blender to avoid the Gloobs.  But then it is too smooth, like some kind of weird strawberry jelly.   I have never been able to get the texture just right.
I eyed the Strawberry jam suspiciously.  It was in a mason jar, and not a commercial product.  Ok, that is a plus.  I could not discern gloobs through the jar, but it was not clear like jelly.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I could dig around the gloobs.  Yes, that will work.  I returned to the table and picked up that perfect piece of toast, Opened the jar, and began to look for a gloob free strategy.  And kept looking – no gloobs. Spread it on my toast.  It didn’t need to melt like jelly, and no gloobs.  NO Gloobs!!  None, but yet some texture.  And the first bite was home, summer and love.  And so was the second.  Perfect.
February 12th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event:  The Gloob free, texture perfect Homemade Strawberry Jam on creamy buttery perfectly toasted whole grain bread.  With Sweet Hot Creamy caffeinated Brown Sugar Tea.