Monday, February 16, 2015

Closed for the Season


All I can think about right now is how long it's going to take for this massive amount of snow to finally melt.  April 1st is about 6 weeks away.  Not that April 1st guarantees that we will be safe from snowfall.  Most of you probably remember back in 1997 when snow dumped on the Cape, Boston and most of Rhode Island.  I was still living in an apartment in Boston while commuting to work in Rhode Island.  On my way home from work during the storm, I decided to cut my losses and go to Val's house where I knew at least the house would be warmed by her wood stove and there would be homemade snacks to eat.  My sister, her newborn son, 2 year old daughter and husband were hunkered down on Old Meeting House Road as well, along with Val and Dick and a few pets, too.  Just thinking of the memory of that late season snowstorm makes me cringe and a little crazy. I long to see some green instead of the huge expanse of white that looms outside my window.
I want to get outside and dig around in the dirt.  Empty out the composter into my small gardening plot and all over the flower beds.  Finally get out the clippers, loppers and gardening gloves and go to town on the corner that protects the shed and house from the rest of the street. It gets so overrun with thorns, weeds and poison ivy year after year.  By the time I think about doing anything about it in the late spring, it's already become unruly and unmanageable.  Especially all those shiny green leaves grouped in three's threatening to cover my body with an itchy rash.  Childhood memories of waking up in bed with my eyes swollen shut and my skin covered in red welts keep me from battling it out with these plants once they have grown to just a few inches tall.  But not this year.  Cabin fever has emboldened me.  I can't wait to eradicate those terrorizing weeds.
I'm ready to cut back bushes, dig up some plants and move things around.  I can't wait to open my doors to an outdoor space, an additional "room" where I can spread out away from all my stuff: computers, to-do lists and TV's but all I can do right now is crack open a few windows to let in some freezing cold fresh air and quickly shut them again before I owe my life savings to the electric and gas companies.
It's getting to the point where I am excitedly waiting in anticipation to finally see the thing that usually drives me absolutely crazy: the lawn.  It's really a terrible sight , having been neglected and played upon by children and dogs for quite some time without any additional care from me.  At least the thought of being able to plant new seed and shoo everyone off of even a small patch until the new grass takes hold would be a welcome option.  For now, all I can do is trudge in knee deep snow(threatening to reach my waist with each forecast!) to empty the kitchen compost hoping that my boots don't get stuck and come off with each attempt at taking a step.  Is there anything worse than jamming a snow covered stocking clad foot back into a warm boot and creating a melty, cold, soggy pedi-environment in less than five minutes of being outdoors?  Damn Snow!
I guess all I can do right now is accept the fact that "the best room in the house" is closed for the season.  That's what my father, Dick calls the backyard on Old Meeting House Road.  The place where everyone in the family can comfortably relax at the picnic table under the tall oak trees after a long day at the beach.  We gobble up grilled pork tenderloin, warm potato salad and crunchy lettuce, tomato, name it, fresh from Val's garden.  The breeze at dusk keeps the mosquitos away and the kids run around playing hopscotch, shooting hoops and swinging on the old tire swing, a leftover piece of Harding history from the tan Volkswagon Bug that carted our family around town in the years before we all lived in this house.  The kids stop playing just long enough to yell, "Can we have dessert?!!"  What kind of a question is that?  Anyone who knows Val is counting on something warm from the oven.  If we are lucky, we'll be enjoying strawberry rhubarb pie smothered in whipped cream.  Or if it's been an exceptionally hot day, at the very least we can expect to pile in the car for a ride over to Smitty's Ice Cream....her treat!
All that seems so very far away on this 10 degree day.  (With any luck, we might make it to a high of 20 degrees.)  Today the snow threatens to stick around and the forecast for tomorrow promises at least another 6 inches.  On days like these, I don't think about eating hot soup, or heavy stews.  Instead, I dig out some of those "summertime" recipes.  Maybe I'll put on some Jimmy Buffet "beach" music and make an ice cold cocktail, preferably with Bourbon or tequila (to remind me of warmer climates).  I might whip up a batch of biscuits or even roast a chicken to warm up the house.  But the rest of the menu needs to conjure up high temperatures, flip flops and the distinct smell of Coppertone on suntanned skin.  It's the only way I know to make it through until winter is finally over and I can open up my extra "room".

You can make this pie with frozen fruit to create a brief moment of summertime.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
(makes on pie)
For the crust:
2 cups flour, plus extra for rolling
2/3 cups vegetable shortening (Crisco)
4 tablespoons COLD butter, cut in teaspoon sized chunks
1/2 cup COLD water
Place 2 cups flour, shortening, and butter in a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, work the ingredients together until small pea size pieces form.  Make a mound out of the ingredients and a hole in the middle.  Pour 1/4 cup water over the mixture, blend with a fork.  Add more water and continue blending until mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Do not overwork dough!
Once dough comes together, separate into to small balls.  Flatten into 2 disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
For the pie:
3 cups sliced strawberries
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup tapioca
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, place strawberries and rhubarb.  Mix sugar, spices and tapioca in a small bowl.  Combine all ingredients.
Roll out one disk of pie dough on a floured board into a 10"-12" circle.  Place into pie dish.  Pour fruit mixture into pie shell.
Roll out second disk of pie dough on a floured board into a 10"-12" circle.  Using a crinkled rotary cutter, cut 1/2" wide strips of dough. Place the longest strip down the middle of the pie.  Place the second longest strip across the first, forming an "x".  Place the 3rd longest strip parallel to the first leaving 1/4" opening between the 2 pieces.  Continue in this manner until the top of the pie is covered in a lattice pattern.  Trim excess dough from the edge of the pie dish leaving 1" overhang.  Roll edges inward.  Crimp edge of pie by pushing dough between your two forefingers, continue around entire outer edge of pie. 
Place pie on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (for overflow).  Bake in preheated oven until crust is golden and berry mixture begins to bubble up between the lattice, about one hour.  Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool well before serving.
*(Use a large piece of tinfoil with a round cut out to cover the crimped edges of the pie if it begins to brown faster than the lattice.)

Mailbox Cocktail
(recipe from "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea" by Martha Hall Foose
serves one
Crushed ice
at least 2 ounces of good Bourbon
2 ounces ginger ale
lime wedge
Fill an insulated tumbler with crushed ice.  Pour the Bourbon over the ice.  Top with ginger ale and a squeeze of fresh lime.
***Silver lining moment:
According to Martha (Hall Foose), Tervis Tumblers are the best and keep ice from melting on the hottest of days.  However, we don't have the problem right now here in New England.