Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cookie Season

This February was not a good month for door-to-door cookie sales. There was basically one Saturday where it was feasible. For the past three years, our house has turned into cookie central for a troop and the cookie convoy came in on Thursday. Instead of breaking down the cookies that my daughters sold looking for any trends, I took a look at the troop sales. Turns out it was pretty easy since the troop ordered 101 cases of cookies, so each case is damn close to 1%. I suppose it is slightly unofficial since there will be some supplemental cookies coming in for a booth sale and the troop also ordered 2 cases of a new gluten free cookie that aren't in yet. With those minor details in mind, here is an extremely scientific analysis showing exactly how the entire country feels about which Girl Scout Cookies are better than others.

1. Thin Mints - 31 cases
The Thin Mints reign supreme again this year. People love these cookies. I've always been so-so on them. But in moving 31 cases of them, I think Thin Mints may deliver the most bang for your buck. All the cases have 12 boxes of cookies in them, and the Thin Mints felt the heaviest.

2. Samoas - 26 cases
Always a bridesmaid, never a the bride. These are may favorite Girl Scout cookies. While several Girl Scout Cookies are eaten by the sleeve, these are eaten by the box.

3. Tagalongs - 16 cases
A solid showing for Tagalongs. I've always thought these cookies aren't anything special. If you are looking for peanut butter in your Girl Scout cookies, go with Do-Si-Dos.

4. Trefoils - 10 cases
These shortbread cookies have a loyal following. The people that like them, love them. 

5. Do-si-dos - 9 cases
These are pretty good. A guy I work with loves them. He got 4 boxes.

6. Rah Rah Raisin - 5 cases
These are new to the show and I haven't had any...yet. They replace Dulce de Leche cookies which I thought were pretty bad. I'm told they were good dipped in coffee. I never tried that, and I guess I'll never get the chance.

7. Savannah Smiles - 4 cases
I don't get these. Like the Dulce de Leche cookies, after tasting one, I wouldn't buy a box of these. That said, the people that do like these, love them and probably want to hit me for bad mouthing their beloved Savannah Smiles.

Well, there you have it. I think I deserve a patch for putting this list together.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

So Stupid

Every now and then, I do something pretty stupid and wind up hurting myself. The last good one was a few years ago. I was in a rush, a drill was involved, and I did a very nice job cutting up my left thumb. At the time of the drill incident, it hurt. It stung. It bled. It looked ugly.

I went to an urgent care. They looked at my thumb. Cleaned it with stuff doctors use to clean cuts. In the end, they basically covered my thumb in Neosporin and put on a fancy band aid. One day this past February, one of my kids was home sick. So after I cleared the driveway (because it seemed like I had to clear the driveway everyday in February), I went with shovel in hand to knock down a few icicles. A few came down easily and I moved onto a fairly big icicle. I hit it with the snow shovel. Nothing. Hit it a little harder. Nothing. I took a good wind up and hit it again. It came down. But in hitting it hard, the shovel went a little further than I had anticipated. As the icicle was coming down,  it grazed my right ring finger and cut it.

At first glance, I knew it was a fairly deep cut, but it was nothing like the drill incident. It looked like I had done something stupid with a knife - which also happened once during a moment of complete stupidity. I washed the cut out, put a little pressure on it and the bleeding almost instantly stopped. I figured Neosporin and a band aid then I sat down on the couch and watched The Price Is Right with my daughter (because of course that's what you watch when you're home sick). The cut healed pretty well, took a little while but it was just an annoyance. After 3 weeks, the cut was gone but there was still a little bit of swelling. Then I noticed that the tip of that ring finger wouldn’t straighten out. Sadly, I really only noticed this when stretching out pizza dough. If it wasn’t for making pizza, I wouldn’t have given it another thought.

I went to a doctor. I was basically instantly diagnosed with a torn ‘terminal tendon.’ The fix is to keep the front halt of the finger in a splint to immobilize the knuckle. For a minimum of 6 weeks. Maybe 10. I have 3 of these little plastic splints to cycle through. So the big nasty cut that hurt and looked gross is basically a boo-boo that needed a kiss, and the minor looking, almost pain free cut required xrays and a splint.

Dammit. If I had just put the pair of gloves I was wearing back on, this is barely a bump. So stupid. On the plus side, I can still make pizza with the splint on, so I got that going for me. Which is nice.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Shared Experience

There is something great about a shared experience. That may be why I like cooking so much. After all, the most common shared experience is a meal. In the local curling world, there is another shared experience and for a lot of people, it happened last weekend. The Sir Francis Dykes Bonspiel. This curling tournament is commonly referred to as The Dykes as in:

"You haven't been to The Dykes? You should definitely try to go."

The Dykes is a men's 5 and Under, meaning that all of the players have a maximum of 5 years curling experience making it a pretty level playing field. This year's tournament was the 76th so a lot of curlers in the Northeast have been. I believe the Schenectady curling club sent 5 teams. Albany sent teams too. In all, 20 Northeast curling clubs sent 56 teams. When I curled in the bonspiel, there were 30-something teams. The event just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

One of my favorite things about The Dykes is that it is a tournament of firsts. For many curlers this will be the first time curling in a tournament, first time traveling to curl, first time playing on ice that isn't their club (it is surprising how easily you get comfortable with your clubs surroundings), first time drinking with a team kitty (a kitty is when everyone chips in $20, drinks until the money is gone and then repeats as necessary) and the first time playing in front of a crowd. There were 56, four-man teams and only 8 played at a time. That leaves 192 people (plus other spectators) with nothing better to do than drink and watch the games.

A lot of clubs have added web cameras so they can stream some tournament games. It was fun checking in on the Schenectady teams over the weekend. One team made it the The D event finals, the Sinnett Cup. I have good memories of this event, because I once played in it. This particular match wasn't being streamed online, but the Schenectady Curling twitter account was sending out a shot-by-shot call of the game. I was cleaning some of the house and taking frequent breaks to see what was going on in the game. It came down to the last shot, and it didn't go Schenectady's way, but it was a great effort.

Every fall, curlers that have been to the tournament encourage newer curlers with their stories about The Dykes, encouraging them to check it out. This week, the participating curlers will return with stories of this years adventures. For some, this was their last trip to The Dykes as they aged out this year. Others still have trips left. I bet they are already making plans for next year. And the newest curlers, future curlers that will begin playing for the first time in the fall, well they haven't even heard of The Dykes....yet.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My First Delivery

This happened a little while ago (January 25th if you are keeping score at home), and when I think about it, I still laugh. Like right now.

I bought some pizza boxes from Restaurant Depot. The wind blew open the outdoor cabinet where I was storing them. I didn’t want anything to get at the boxes, so I moved them into the basement. Lately, I’ve been making eight 13.5 inch pizzas when I fire up that little pizza oven. We maybe eat a little less than three. I keep a lot of leftover slices in the storage containers I got for my birthday and we slowly pick at the slices during the week. It’s a lot of pizza…not that it’s bad thing.

I’ve also been flip-flopping between dough formulations and recently made a decision to stick with one and try to dial it in to a repeatable, good pizza. Unfortunately, that requires some self restraint and I really don’t have any. When dialing in the recipe, it’s best to only change one thing at a time, analyze the impact of that change, accept or reject the change and then continue with additional adjustments.

Lacking that level of self restraint, I changed two things in my last go around. I upped the salt and moved to a 2-day ferment by dropping some of the yeast. Madness, I know. As it turns out, I got lucky and it looks like both changes improved the dough. I was making some pretty good pizza that Sunday night. I was filling up, my wife and kids were pretty much done and I had already cooked 6 pizzas with leftover slices all over the kitchen. Two dough balls left. Since making pizza is a lot of fun, I was making these two pies.

Having moved the pizza boxes earlier in the day, they were fresh in my mind. I came up with the idea of delivery. If that didn’t pan out, I have them boxed and bring them to work on Monday. So at precisely 6:22, I texted Albany Jane:

“Any chance you are home…and want some pizza?”

I proceeded to cook a sausage pizza, slid it into a box and giggled. I closed the box and headed out to make the last pizza of the night, a pepperoni. This particular pepperoni was sliced on the thin side and was kind of drying out in earlier pizzas. So I sauced the dough, placed the pepperoni and then topped it with the rest of the cheese I had grated. Probably a bit too much cheese. As I was pulling it from the oven, I got Albany Jane’s reply: “Yes and yes”

I texted back, “See you in a few,” sliced the pizzas and headed out the door, laughing at the idea of delivering pizza. I giggled like a little kid the entire short ride over to her house. I knocked on the door and made my first delivery. Albany Jane took a few pictures to commemorate the event. Basically me looking like a slob, wearing a crummy green jacket covered in flour and grinning holding two pizza boxes. She also took a shot of the pizzas.

I had to head out because it was a Sunday night, kid showers, bed time approaching and clean up my mess - all that fun Sunday evening stuff. I got home just after 7:00. Forty minutes, from spur of the moment idea to done. And no joke, it still makes me smile.

Back in the fall, I was all set to make too much pizza and we invited a family we know over for dinner. It was a really fun night. I ran into mom and the kids leaving the afterschool program the Monday following my first delivery. According to her mother, my pizza has stuck with my daughter’s friend. Every pizza since has been, “Good, but not as good as Casey’s dad’s.”

I promised her the next delivery.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

People Suck (but maybe not everyone - updated)

I follow a bunch of different pizza sites (apparently I have obsessive compulsive pizza disorder) and this was in the pizza news today.

Westport Car Dealership Messes With Pizza Delivery Guy, Feels Internet’s Wrath

It's easy enough to see what happened. A bunch of people at a car dealership ordered about $43 with of pizza and soda to be delivered. The guy that paid the driver had two twenties and two fives. He gave them to the driver expecting seven ones back. But he never asked for change. The driver left assuming he got about a 15% tip, which really isn't all that unreasonable to have thought.

A call is made, the driver comes back, and returns the $7. The driver also tries to understand why he got called back and that's when it starts to get ugly. Luckily it's all words and it doesn't turn into a fist fight. The driver leaves and one man is probably just being a loud mouth but he is talking about calling the pizza shop to get the driver fired.

I actually have some personal experience with a guy like that. It was back in my construction inspection days in the late 90s. A bunch of fill wasn't properly compacted. I told the site manager it didn't pass. He wanted to see the Troxler Nuclear Density Gage (fancy, right?) do the test. No problem. I set it up and started to run a 30 second test. He asked why I didn't do the minute test. I said I can run the minute test if you want. The guy lost it. Apparently he wanted know the different between the tests. My correct response should have been to explain the accuracy on the reading increases the longer the tests takes. I certainly wasn't rude and didn't raise my voice, but at the same time I wasn't a waiter in a cloth napkin restaurant.

I'm guessing this guy had a shitty day and decided to take it out on me. I was kicked off the site and told he was going to call my boss to try and get me fired. It was a weird feeling. I had been with the company for over a year and didn't think I'd actually get fired. But what if I did? Probably not the best thing to put on a resume.

The guy was true to his word. During the 10 minute drive back to the shop he had called and continued his tantrum over the phone with my boss. When I go into the office, my boss was waiting for me and I was greeted with a, "What the hell happened?" I shrugged my shoulders and told my story. Turns out our versions of the story were very different and my boss knew the construction site manager was completely full of shit before he was 3 sentences into his rant. I bet the pizza shop manager knew the complaint was bullshit and was being PC by saying he took the call seriously at first.

The people at the car dealership come off as assholes. And someone else that is stuck working with them, put this video of their co-workers online. Not sure if someone at the car dealership loses a job but this doesn't paint a flattering picture of the dealership. Maybe the lose some sales and commissions, maybe not.

In this case, I'd say the customer is wrong. Let's just try to be a little nicer to each other. And if you must throw a tantrum and be a jerk, leave the pizza out of it.
UPDATE: Maybe everyone doesn't suck 

In other random pizza delivery news, a group of real estate agents in Michigan tipped a pizza delivery man named Rob with a few winning scratch off tickets, a $25 Visa gift certificate, a friendship bread, notes of encouragement and appreciation...and a cup of cash worth $2,084.

It's a much happier video to watch.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My first trip to Guptil's

I had a minor flashback to my childhood over the weekend. I grew up in southern Connecticut during a time that in-line skates didn’t exist. We had roller skates. Four wheels on each foot. I can vividly remember skating up and down our driveway with other neighborhood kids. We were leaning over, one arm behind our backs and the other arm moving in time with our feet as we were “speed skating” like Olympic champion Eric Heiden.

There were also regular after-school roller skating events in the school's gym that were fun too. I remember a roller skating version of dodgeball where all the kids kept skating around in an oval while our school principal tried to bean the students with a Nerf ball. Get hit, you're out. It was fun for the kids and probably a little therapeutic for the principal. Occasionally, there would be a trip to a roller rink in Stratford, CT. In the early 80’s that rink was packed with people, the musical was loud, and the flashing disco lights would have made John Travolta proud.

Sunday afternoon, there was a Girl Scout event at Guptil's in Latham. It was the first time I have ever been inside the rink. I’ve been there for ice cream plenty of times but never to skate. I’ve tried ice skating a few times, never tried the in-line style skates and can’t remember the last time I laced up roller skates. This experience was either going to be uneventful or extremely painful.

The skating area is pretty much exactly how it was in Connecticut back in the 80s. A big oval with a few areas to pull over and stop skating. A huge disco ball. And while they could have deafened everyone there with the speakers that they had set up, they just paid pop music at a reasonable level. There was the skate cop - a rink employee out there skating all the time making sure all was well. Kind of like a beach lifeguard. She even had a whistle and wore a Captain & Tennille style hat.

There were a lot of people just doing there best not to wipe out. But there were also all of the same stereotypes that were skating around the roller rink back in the day. There was the guy skating around in his own world with his own music blasting in his ears while he mentally went through a choreographed routine. There was a group of “cool” older teenagers whipping through the crowd faster than they should be. C’mon dude, why would you buzz by a 5 year old kid just trying not to fall? There were also parents that looked like they used to skate a lot (and maybe still do) bringing their kids. You can tell the serious roller skaters because they have their own skates that aren't plain and look like they went with a costume. And in other people watching news, one conservative local radio talk show host appears to own his own skates. The skates looked new. Maybe they were a holiday gift.

Action shots!




Remember something like this?

This is what a waiver used to look like. No signatures, no initials, no copies in triplicate.

It was a fun time. Pretty much all over these Girl Scout events are fun. In the end I was a little sore, but it was probably more from trying to keep one of my kids from falling while we skated around the rink. I’m not going to pick up skating as a hobby, but I’d go back if they have this event again. It’s a decent winter activity. And it’s winter. Very, very winter. I think today's high was yesterday's low.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wait...what did I just say?

I’ve never liked going to the dentist. Kramer from Seinfeld would call me an anti-dentite and he’d be right. After leaving the dentist’s office on Monday morning, I figured I’d stop by Restaurant Depot on the way back to the office and pick up another 50 pound bag of pizza flour. You know, a reward for being so well behaved at the dentist.

I went with a 50 pound bag of Full Strength flour. For those keeping score at home, the last bag was Hummer Flour, and the first bag was All Trumps. I had forgotten Restaurant Depot carried Royal Oak lump charcoal so I grabbed a bag of that too. Roaming the aisles, I picked up a few more things. The last thing I grabbed was a package of 50 small pizza to-go boxes. I was probably giggling a little when I took them off the shelf and just thinking about them now makes me smile. Whenever I daydream about making pizzas at home in a wood oven, I also imagine sliding a fresh pie into a box and having one of the girls walk or bike a pizza to a neighbor. A small, in-neighborhood pizza delivery service. Wouldn’t that be great?

I figured this outdoor closet that we have would be a good place to keep the boxes. Our basement has filled up surprisingly quickly. As I was walking toward the closet, a contractor putting new gutters on my neighbor’s house looked down from his ladder and saw me with 50 pizza boxes over my shoulder. He started a conversation asking about my gutters which we both agree suck. He explained a little about his gutter system and I said I was planning to replace the gutters when the roof gets re-shingled. I’m hoping to 5 more years out of what’s currently up there. He offered to leave me some information on the gutters and I said I give it a look.

Then he said, “That’s a lot of pizza boxes. Do you own a pizzeria?”

“No, not yet.

“Six years ago someone would ask me if I had a contracting company and I’d say 'not yet' but now I do and it’s the greatest.”

He continued to tell me about his company and I suddenly realized that my response kind of made it sound like I was actively working towards owning a pizzeria. You don't need a psych degree to analyze my quick, subconscious response. While it is true I occasionally go through Craigslist and look at local pizza shops and equipment for sale (doesn't everybody?), these pizza boxes were more of a smile than a business plan.

I doubt not yet will ever turn into yes, but I should be ready…just in case. I should probably stop typing and make some dough.