It was with pleasure that I handed the dog back to his 'parents' on Tuesday night. Having not slept for a week, I was looking forward to having a whole night where I was not woken by a tail vigourously wagging across my nose, or by growling every time he thought he heard something!
The turbulent weather had not helped settle the poor animal, and thunder storms threatened all through his stay. Dana is usually 'in charge' of Frank, and I am the 'odd one out' when he camps with us. However, at three in the morning, short of dragging him by his toes, down the stairs and putting him on the patio in the rain, Dana will not wake to see whether the dog needed to be 'watered'!
After sleeping for minutes at a time, Sunday night, I rose not very brightly on Monday morning. Dana had told me that he wanted to make an early start, to which I was not opposed, as my weekly routine was going to be rather contrary to the usual harmonious schedule! As I went into 'auto pilot', Dana and Frank took advantage of my early start, by going back to sleep! I continued on with my chores, and when I felt that I was at a good 'stopping place', I chose to end their blissful snoring by announcing that it was time to get up!
My entrance into the office was rather early, and I took my daily constitutional early, between storms. I smiled, and exchanged salutations with other 'walkers', none of whom found it interesting that there was a man attempting to climb out of the dumpster at one of the condominium complexes en route. He did not appear to be in any kind of distress. On the contrary, he appeared to have found what he was looking for! He smiled and waved at all who passed, in a nonchalant manner, that did not intimate any need for assistance, and so we all just smiled and waved back! As my fellow exercisers did not so much as raise an eyebrow, I assumed this was either normal practice for the gentleman in question, or just normal practice for the complex!
A trip to the supermarket was on the agenda, as I had to purchase some items for dessert on Tuesday evening, as I was expecting visitors for dinner. Something 'light and airy' was going to be on the menu, as 'mains' was shepherd's pie (or to be precise, cottage pie). I had taken my larger back pack, with my 'lunchtime' purse which is quite small, and which is refilled with a couple of smaller notes each time I spend money during the lunch hour. The reason for the smaller wallet is two fold. Firstly, when I go for my lunchtime walk, I try to carry as little as possible, and secondly, it limits the amount of things I do not need being purchased! I am a 'sucker' for a bargain, and have to stop myself from saving a fortune by buying things I would never normally buy! However, the clearance rack was full of amazing things. Of course I have never bought 'huckleberry and jalapeno marinade' before, but as it was being sold for a fraction of its original cost (which would have made whatever it was that I was marinading into a meal that would have cost more than that in a five star restaurant!) I had to buy it! Then came the question, "What if it is as amazing as it sounds, and everyone buys a jar?" I had to have two! Other items that were from festivals just past, and weekly 'extravaganzas' that were no longer being promoted, were sitting side by side, just waiting for someone like me to walk into the store, and purchase them 'just because'! It was when I realised that my small basket was not big enough, and I would have to go and get a trolley, did my common sense gene kick in and remind me that I was not cash prolific, and I would have to leave some of the items on the shelf! I was judicious. The chocolate and soup were returned, albeit reluctantly, but no one was going to steal the huckleberry and jalapeno marinade from my grasp!
With only a few cents left in my small purse, I struggled back to the office, with several pounds weighing down my back pack! On arriving home, I prepared dinner for that night, and peeled the mountain of potatoes and carrots for the next day.
Storms raged! The dog barked! The night seemed to last forever, and I was awake for most of the darkened hours. I rose, exhausted, but somewhat relieved, as the alarm sounded on Tuesday morning, and let the 'boys' sleep a little longer.
Tuesday's trip to the supermarket was a great success, unless I was on a mission to curb my passion for bargains, and not buy things that looked like they might be interesting just because they were reduced to a fraction of their cost! An exotic sounding name does not mean the taste will be delicious! Once again, I found my back pack to be very heavy, and struggled back to the office. I smiled at fellow walkers, but the man in the dumpster was no where to be seen. I could only imagine that he had either found what he wanted and was satisfied, or that he was back inside making it more comfortable! Sad as it may sound, he did not appear to be dissatisfied with his surroundings!
The flight from Las Vegas was arriving early! However, it was still not arriving until thirty minutes past midnight, and we did not get to bed until after one o'clock. The dog was so excited to see his
'parents', but nothing could compare to my delight at handing him back to them! I was able to sleep without falling off the edge of the bed, and without being 'tail whipped', at various intervals during the night.
I enjoyed a leisurely cup of coffee with Joe and Gail at the coffee roastery on Wednesday morning, before going to collect a prize from the radio station. (Yes, I too thought I was going to go a week without winning....but....) We walked on Wednesday, and this time my daughter proved she was made up from my genes, and found some items that she would feel uncomfortable leaving on the shelf! I let her carry the back pack. Although I spent comparatively little, I saved a lot! "Wow. You have saved $28!", exclaimed the assistant behind the check out. "Wow", I exclaimed, "I would have had $14 more in my purse if I had not saved so much!" She could not see the irony!
Thursday morning started early and ended late! I was late into the office, as my choux buns could not be cooked before the rye loaf had been removed from the oven! It has become somewhat of a tradition for me to prepare dessert, and bread, for our 'neighbour's get together' each month, and I have taken the challenge seriously! Since moving to the USA, (and I apologise if I am repeating myself,) I have rarely had the opportunity to 'show off' and make the desserts for which I was somewhat famous in England! Having exhausted most of my specials, it was time to create one of my favourites from years gone by. Gateaux St. Honore was a specialty that was not only impressive by appearance, but also tasted pretty good! The ingredients are easily found in supermarkets here; eggs, butter, flour and cream! The sweet shortcrust pastry 'rested' in the fridge while the bread was cooking, and the melted butter and flour dough was cooling awaiting the eggs, whilst I made coffee. The only difficulty I have making the said dessert is patience! Once the dough is cool enough to add the eggs, they need to be beaten into the mixture a little at a time. I do not do 'a little at a time', and up until recently, my choux pastry has been made with me sitting on the floor, with the saucepan between my feet, beating in the eggs, with such vigour, I have needed a holiday to recuperate! However, one of the recipes I recently encountered suggested that the dough be put into an electric food mixer, and the eggs be whisked in gradually. Electricity! Now when did that become available? Suffice it to say, (not so) modern science has made the making of one of my signature desserts a lot easier! At a little after eight, I left the house, with the base (sweet shortcrust with a ring of choux, for those interested) and the choux buns cooling, ready to be filled with cream and stuck to the said base.
As mentioned earlier, my weekly routine was going to be somewhat contrary to the norm, and whilst I had driven myself to work three mornings this week, I was chauffeured on Thursday and did not have my car at the office, should I need to leave early. The
'get together' was at seven. At six thirty, I started to panic, as the 'final touches' take just as long a the making of the dessert, in my experience, and Dana had just launched into a monologue with one of our servers about his early days in the industry, the changes that had taken place between then and now, and appeared to be in the mid 1990's, with another twenty years experience to go! Eventually, the history of our company was wrapped up, as he noticed that seven o'clock was approaching more rapidly than a food mixer takes to combine eggs to choux dough, and realised that he had several tasks to complete before we could 'shut up shop'.
I was quite amazed that the finishing touches took no longer than fifteen minutes! I filled a plastic bag with cream, and rather ungracefully stuffed the buns by piping. The sugar was melting on the stove, and rather than drizzling, I dolloped globules of syrup clumsily upon the 'ring of choux', and stuck the buns haphazardly to the sticky sauce. Then, instead of making the lighter version of Chantilly cream, (I did not have a recipe handy,) I slopped the remainder of the whipped mixture into the center, and threw strawberries on top, and flicked the remaining toffee pieces randomly across the dessert.
Arriving twenty minutes late was apparently better than not arriving. My neighbour who usually hosts the soirees told me that he had walked past my condo several times in the hope that he would see me cooking! When I did not show at seven, he thought he would have to resign himself to a dessert of cookies! (Not that the cookies were not delicious, he added!) I attempted to apologise for the unorthodox way in which it was presented, to wit, no Chantilly cream, fruit that was not in the original recipe, and dollops of toffee, but no one appeared to care! "Formidable", shouted one neighbour, in her best French accent. I was thinking more in the region of 'formidable', in my best English! Apparently, she had not tasted this dessert since her departure from Paris in the early nineties! She thought that my adaptation was quite wonderful. I chose to stop apologising and basque in the glory!
Friday was a longed for day. I could not believe that it had been hiding for so long! Before I left for the office, I completed gateaux number two, for Jason to share with his ex-marine buddies at their Friday night get together, (my way of thanking them for their previous service) and as I had some strawberries and cream left, I whipped up (I was on a roll) a Swiss roll, and filled it with the mixture, for Samantha to share at her 'craft night'. I had graciously, and perhaps more proudly than I should, accepted the previous nights compliments, and stuck to the new recipe for the gateaux, although I did spend a little more time adding the 'spun' sugar, which predictably just melted into the cream whilst in the fridge!
Saturday returned to normal routine. Shopping with my daughter. Lunching at the various sample stations at Costco. Giving Walmart the honour of our presence, and eating dinner with my husband, on the veranda of a local restaurant. I managed to survive the contrary week, and became a star in the process!
The sun has finally started to appear for longer periods, and the rain has stayed away for longer periods of time. I am hoping that I shall be able to start swimming at lunch time, rather than walking, within the next week or two. The supermarkets profits shall no doubt decrease, but they know this is only seasonal! My cupboards are full of exotic marinades, and having exhausted my repertoire on the dessert front, I am now looking for new ideas and suggestions. I do not think that huckleberry and jalapeno marinade will be a part of the pudding process, but that may very well end up being ...... another story!