Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cookie Contest

You may point to the chirping of birds in your backyard, the emergence of a brownish-green lawn or the budding of forsythia as sure signs of spring, but for me it's the arrival of my Girl Scout cookie order.  I'm a traditionalist and stick to the two best cookies: Thin Mints and Samoas.

Fun fact: Not all Girl Scout cookies are the same. There are two authorized bakers: ABC Bakers in Richmond, Virginia and Little Brownie Bakers in Louisville, Kentucky. The Mississippi River may be the dividing line: Little Brownie Bakers distributed in the east and ABC Bakers in the west. At least that's my conclusion based on a story from heartland TV station KFVS in the greater St. Louis area. Such a dilemma there, where traveling across the river can get you a totally different cookie. Here in Bergen County NJ, east of the Mississippi, we get Little Brownie Bakers.

Not only are there differences in appearance, taste and ingredients, but also the names of the cookies. Samoas can be called Caramel deLites; Tagalongs know as Peanut Butter Patties. Is it Trefoils or Shortbread, Do-si-dos or Peanut Butter Sandwiches? It all depends on where you live. As for the 3 new varieties offered this year, I'm not sure my neighborhood sales girl had them. I certainly got no sales pitch for Rah Rah Raisin (oatmeal raisin) or the gluten free Toffee-tastic (toffee bits in a butter cookie) or Trios (chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal). She also didn't mention that my beloved Thin Mints are now vegan - smart little salesgirl, knowing my preference over the years. I may have hesitated if I'd known. Vegan cookie is right up there with favorite oxymorons like Military Intelligence and Jumbo Shrimp--impossible, contradictory combinations. If I'd known, I may have just resorted to the Stop and Shop imitations, which are actually quite good.

When I got my order, I immediately examined the "nutrition" information on the box and confirmed that whey had been removed. Yippee - my first vegan cookie! The taste test was next. The thin mints box suggests a serving size of 4 cookies (160 calories), but everyone knows the actual thin mint serving size is one sleeve. Yes, folks, that's 16 cookies at a whopping 640 calories! Yum.

The thin mints passed my test, but I decided I will hold a cookie tasting contest this Saturday to get wider input. Contenders will be the Little Brownie Bakers vs Stop and Shop. If someone could express ship me some ABC cookies, I'd greatly appreciate it!  The strictest guidelines will be followed including blindfolds, milk to cleanse the palate and a detailed questionnaire. 
Stay tuned for results. Wishing you a very Happy Easter or Passover!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Florida Respite

Happy Spring! View from my kitchen window.
Just realized when I was confronted with this lovely scene on the first day of Spring on Friday that I had never written about my winter weariness relief trip to Florida 2 weeks ago. Seems like ages ago now, but here goes.

I've been to Florida many times over the years, especially to the Tampa area, since Gary's parents had retired and lived just south of there for 20+ years.  But, this trip on March 7-10 was particularly sweet. Gary had a course to attend over the weekend and I was happy to absorb the Florida sunshine and amuse myself.

On the first day I checked out the Tampa Museum (a Norman Rockwell exhibit), had lunch on the museum patio overlooking the Hillsborough River and the Harry B. Plant Museum and enjoyed listening to some rock music drifting up from the park's music festival.

I knew I had to get myself to the beach and I tried out a delightful state park called Honeymoon Island, just north of Clearwater. Ah, the restorative waters of the gulf! I waded along the shoreline, splashing up the water, looking for shells and admiring the few hardy souls who had plunged in for a full swim (mostly kids). Although temps on all 4 days were in the 70's and 80's, they were still springtime 80's with a cool breeze coming off the water and even whipping around the hotel pool.

Cool breezes did not stop my favorite couple from their morning exercises in the pool. He walked back and forth, while she chose an up and down route. They'd exchange a few words as they passed each other. I realized when I saw them on dry land that she walked with a cane and needed the security of the pool's edge to be always within easy grasp.  He had a limp, but they were at the pool every morning and afternoon.  Not that the conveniently located Embassy Suites-
Airport was an ideal resort. To the left of those palm trees came the steady hum of Rt. 275 traffic, although plane noise was minimal.

Speaking of 275 and old age, we inadvertently drove onto 275 heading west instead of east not once but twice! When you realize your mistake, there's not much you can do, as you cross over the wide Tampa Bay to St Pete's, except look at the waves on the bay and worry about the slow eastbound traffic that we would soon have to face. There was a lot of construction and detoured entrances, so the first time we just laughed and altered our route to head north to Clearwater. The second time we were running late to get to the airport, so it was a bit more hectic.

Me: This reminds me of the time about 25 years ago when we were waiting for each other on opposite ends of the monorail at Tampa Airport. We also were running late and I dropped the rental car, while you took the luggage and the kids.
Gary: I don't remember that.
Me: You don't remember me using the white airport phones to frantically page you?
Gary: No.
Me: They almost gave our seats away. I was furious.
Gary: I seem to have blotted that out from the old memory banks.
Me: You don't remember running through the airport with the kids?
Gary: Negative.

I wonder how many other things we don't remember the same way or at all? Should I feel good that Gary erased a memory where I was being a tad shrewish or is this the ultimate rebuke-wife talking-blah, blah, blah. Of course he doesn't remember it.

Well, don't worry. I'm sure to bring it up again. Wouldn't it be sweet, if it was when we were both strolling a pool for a little aquacize many, many years from now?
At Clearwater Beach

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

She Loves Me

Our family ventured into the world of community theatre on Saturday night, supporting my talented brother Peter. Yes, he was only in the ensemble, but the review by OnStage critic Kathleen Mosel was effusive and even included this tip of the hat:
The ensemble, made up from Rachel Strazza, Ann Alford, Barbara Stolarik, Peter Haynes, Frank Gaffney and Stephen DiRocco, is one of the better collection of actors I’ve seen this season. Their “Twelve Days Till Christmas” is by itself, award worthy.

Not bad for a newby whose last role was as Joseph in the kindergarten nativity play in Schenectady, NY!

The ensemble adds depth and interest to a play, my brother explained to me, when he first started rehearsals. It's not as easy as it looks to do a walk-on stage right, exit stage left, fake conversation, sing, dance and provide crowd noise. Was it just me or could everyone pick out Peter's voice in the spirited 12 Days Till Christmas song and his exhortation to "Dance, Dance, Dance" in the madcap cafe scene

Oh, and as for the rest of the actors and the musical itself? She Loves Me is a 1964 musical, set in a Hungarian perfume shop. Boy meets girl and they hate each other, savoring instead their true love pen pals. You'd recognize the plot which was later adapted to the movies, The Shop around the Corner with James Stewart and You've Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

Part of the cast
I was surprised at the professional  level of talent and the elaborate staging. Community theatre is very popular in Connecticut and there is obviously a pool of talent. The lead, Betsy Simpson, had a gorgeous soprano voice and good acting skills. The rest of the cast was equally talented and included the affable male lead (who reminded me of  David Schwimmer), the philanderer, the dutiful clerk, the rejected lover who ultimately finds love at the library, the ambitious young delivery boy who perilously rides his bike on the narrow stage, and the crotchety store owner. Multiple scene changes slowed the pace a bit, but it's a fun play.

Our excursion to Connecticut in two cars started off with a few bad omens. Good thing we aren't superstitious theatre people! Besides getting lost and needing 3 phone calls to actually find the restaurant, we had to skip dessert to arrive on time at the Wilton Playshop. (The profiteroles looked so yummy, too)

On the ride home, one of our party, who shall remain anonymous, said, "Check that off the bucket list." I reminded him that auditions for the next play are coming soon and a certain ensemble player may be contemplating a role with a line or two. And who knows what will happen in June when the OnStage awards are given, including one for Best Ensemble. I wonder if there's a red carpet?
His own head shot!
After the show
My brother the actor gives the thumbs up!