Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas,
when all through the house
not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug
in their beds,
while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.
 And Mama in her kerchief
 and I in my cap had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave a luster of midday to objects below.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name: 
"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer!   Now Prancer
and Vixen!
 On Comet! On Cupid! On Donner
and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!  Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
so up to the housetop the coursers they flew,
with a sleigh full of toys,
and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!  His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!   The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
 and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.  He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.  He spoke not a word but went straight to his work
and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk,  and laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!"
Originally written by Clement Moore in 1822, a New Yorker.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Home Maintenance Replacing a Lens on an Overhead Fluorescent Light Fixture

Early in November, on the 6th, Daylight Savings Time ended.  I attempted to change the time on my kitchen clock, and unfortunately knocked out the plastic  lens on the fluorescent light fixture above.  It was old, and I saw it shatter as it hit the floor, because old plastic gets really brittle with age.
I knew this meant a lot of trouble for me because the fixture was around thirty years old, and I had replaced the lens once before.  At that time I went to a high end lighting gallery and it had to be custom formed to fit this fixture.  Most lighting manufacturers create overhead lighting to their unique measurements.  the products are not standardized.  You cannot go to a large "orange" hardware store and purchase a lens to fit, because the ends are rounded and shaped.  For some reason I looked inside the fixture and a manufacturer's label was there!  It read LaMar Lighting Company, Inc., Farmingdale, NY!  I live a few miles from Farmingdale.  So, I took a chance and  Googled  this name to find the company.
As luck would have it they were still in business. 
I phoned them and went over.
The two things that I always do when looking for replacement parts, is to bring along the original part, even if it is broken, and I always carry cash.  Even with the end in tatters, this company recognized the lens part. 
Although they did not have this piece in stock anymore, they knew who did!  
Again luck was with me because Diversified Lighting Diffusers, Inc., was also located in Farmingdale.   The woman behind the counter told me that they didn't usually sell to individuals, but if I could pay exactly the correct amount I could purchase replacement lenses.  I bought three, two new ones for the kitchen fixtures, and one spare.
I replaced both lenses although one was not broken, because they yellow over  time.  The woman at the diffusers (a fancy name for a lens) store mentioned that  many contractors try to keep the prices of lighting down by buying fixtures from Asia, out of the country.  The fixtures are created and delivered, but not replacement parts. Each fixture is so unique that her entire business caters to creating the replacement plastic parts for overhead fluorescent lighting.  Now imagine whole factories, schools, motels, places of business , with hundreds of fixtures  that might lose their lenses.  The moral of this saga is buy local, at least buy American made , because you will eventually need to find parts.  The cost of replacing the fixture would be much greater; electrician, dry wall worker, etc. than the cost of parts. All of that went through my brain as the lens crashed to the floor.  When you start something think of the end,  and the end always requires replacement parts.  I was very lucky this time.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rustic Old Fashioned Apple Pie Making Part II Pie Filling

 This is part two of the Jarvis House "back to basics"  Apple Pie making.  If I can do it then anyone can.   For the pie filling I used a combination of Marianna's recipe, and added some details from my mother's, Rose Guglielmino,  pie making.
 Gather the ingredients and kitchen toolks necessary for the filling.  One of the things that I consider essential for a great Apple Pie is combining many different varieties of apples in one pie.  This works out well because my grocery store, Waldbaums, often puts in the quick sale basket, packages of not so perfect apples.  They put together all sorts of varieties into one package.  Works for me.
 Something that my parents taught me was that a cook needs really top notch knives.  Each knife has a distinct purpose and here I have a Henckels serrated knife, for quartering the large apples, and a Sabatier carbon steel blade knife for paring and cutting out the core.  I have many wooden cutting boards.
 Slice the peeled apples into thin slivers.
 Mix up a coating mixture consisting of 1/2 cup sugar, two teaspoons Cinnamon,

 and I added one teaspoon ground Nutmeg for a really great flavor.
Pour sugar mixture over apple slices.
 Add two teaspoons lemon juice.
Combine the coating ingredients and toss the apple slices well.
 This is a tray of apple peels and cores, a with the lemon skin which I put into the compost pile.
 The pie dough was in the freezer, so unwrap it and let it soften.
 Meanwhile "flour" a pure cotton dish towel which makes a great surface for rolling out the dough.  You can use waxed paper, if you prefer so that you can lift the dough up.
 I flipped the pie dish upside down and placed it on the circle of pie dough.
Then I just turned over the whold thing and the dough goes into the pie dish nicely.
 Make a few pricks with a fork on the bottom crust before filling.
Pile the coated apple slices as high as possible, arranging the slices so that they do not stick out of the pie crust.  Dot with small pieces of margarine, or butter.  Sometimes I add raisins to the top if the family likes raisins, some don't. Ask first.
 Somewhere I found a small cookie cutter that looked like a turkey.  You can use any small shape to make the steam vent.  Do this before flipping the top crust on to the pile of apples.

 After rolling out the top crust on the floured cloth, just like the bottom crust, flip it over the apples.
Adjust the top crust to center it on the pile of apples.  I also take the paring knife and make several wheat marks for additional steam vents. (Mom's touch) Pinch the top and bottom crust together and flute the edge with fingers.
 Brush the top crust with a mixture of one egg and one teaspoon water.
 Sprinkle top with sugar.
 Bake at 425 degrees F. for the first 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. for about one hour.  Depending upon how high the apples are stacked, test them for doneness with a wooden pick.
 Cool the pie slowly.  The filling may drop a bit when cool,but the crust will be fine. I'm never going to win a pie making contest, but it's the effort that counts.
These are some of the pie crust tools, wheels that cut interesting strips in case you are making a lattice top pie crust. The tins contain small seasonal cutters for the steam vents or you can use them to make leaves etc. which may be applied to the top crust for interest, and my trusty wooden rolling pin.  Have fun with this and amaze your family with a pie that could can never be equaled by anything a store can produce.  Cheers from the Jarvis House kitchen.  Happy Thanksgiving.