Sunday, December 30, 2007

I'm really sorry I can't actually share any of Richard's lamb curry (or Ronnie's risotto), or the tarte tatin--all made in the bread oven--with you


This is my hosts' border collie Dot, in a photo I found on this computer from when she was a puppy. She's not a puppy anymore, but those eyes have become even more powerful. She knows how to get what she wants.

I just wrote a note to the now "Out of Burma (Myanmar)" Howie, and I've decided there's no reason why I shouldn't bore other people as well with this mundane trivia--on this, the 10th consecutive day I haven't gone to work (with two days yet to go!), a feat I don't believe I've accomplished since, well, the last time I was unemployed. (Even when I was employed, I recall managing it once or twice way back in that old century we used to have. What was it called? The 20th?)

This meagerly precedented retreat was occasioned by my company's use-it-or-lose-it policy with regard to our PTO days. Like many people, I tend not to use those precious days too quickly, for fear of not having them later on, when perhaps I'll need them--and perhaps out of the vain hope that maybe this year I'll go someplace. It never happens, and eventually each year I'm faced with having to use up the remaining days. This year there were so few work days left that I didn't even try to use up my sick days.

(I once foolishly mentioned "using up" my sick days to my supervisor--while I was engaged in working out a plan to use up my vacation days--and got back a withering reply about how sick days aren't something we "use up" but are something we are given in case of need. It served me right for mentioning it. This year I had to give up even attempting to use up my sick days.)

I spent most of the early days of this "vacation" (that is what they call it, isn't it?) watching TV, including at least five or six movies I'd never seen, several of which I remember thinking were pretty good. When I noticed that my present hosts (see below) have the 2008 edition of Leonard Maltin's movie guide (this is not a plug--I have never bought it and don't intend to, but that doesn't stop my from using other people's copies), and decided it would be interesting to look up some of those movies I watched, I was able to come up with just one actual title, plus one other picture whose content I recall vaguely (but not the title). I can't remember anything at all about any of the others.

As noted below, I'm writing this from bed (!) at my friends Richard and Leo's house in upstate New York. I have known them since about 1970, and Howie since 1961, making them my oldest friends in terms of continuous service. Which means that for some 40 years they kept hearing about each other, but hadn't actually met until this year.

Richard and Leo moved upstate a few years ago, to a lovely little converted old farmhouse, which soon showed structural problems that required serious reconstruction, which segued into a massive rebuilding and expansion project that is still ongoing. (Richard found a brilliant contractor, who seems able to build anything, and is a stickler for doing every job right. Naturally they've become great friends. In fact, we're going to Nick and Judy's annual holiday party tonight.) This is the first visit I've paid where the bread oven referred to below--a massive construction project in its own right, involving not just building the immense stone oven, but making sure that the house supports it and that it's all up to building code, which meant among other things installing a new chimney.

I began my e-mail to Howie with a reference to his recent departure from Myanmar:
So they let you out, eh? I imagine they were happy to see you go. [The picture? That's Dot again, at only four weeks, I think.]

I've been up at Richard's since Friday--will stay for New Year's Eve then return home Tuesday. Using up all my remaining vacation days for 2007, I've now had some 9-10 days of relative peace. The effects won't last more than a minute or two into Jan. 2, but gee whiz, it's been nice.

Richard now has a spare laptop working, with wireless Net access throughout the house via satellite, so after a couple of days of wrangling with the usual technical issues--an unfamiliar computer (especially the keyboard), getting connected, working in Windows (but at least in Firefox), having to use MS Word since Windows doesn't seem to have an easy-to-use utility like Notepad--I'm finally getting accustomed to it. In fact, I'm reading and writing now IN BED! At least while I was struggling with all the technical issues, I was getting blog stuff written, and now it's coming easier.

One of Richard's major construction projects--by itself it almost entailed rebuilding the whole of the existing portion of the house--was having a wood-burning bread oven built. It's a massive thing of stone, and it took ages to complete, but he's finally been using it, or rather LEARNING how to use it. He started firing it up when we got here Friday night (it takes almost a day to get up to temperature), then had it ready to use yesterday for a whole bunch of stuff. (It starts up at about 700 degrees and then gradually drops, so you have to plan a sequence of "projects" that take advantage of the gradually lowering heat.) He did a whole bunch of breads and rolls, and then a lamb curry, and a tarte tatin (one of his longtime specialties, but it's actually SUPPOSED to be baked in a wood-burning oven), and then when his friend Ronnie arrived (they met cooking together in a restaurant, and are still fun to watch cooking together in a kitchen) he was able to do his risotto in the bread oven. It was all pretty splendid--the risotto and the curry sauce tasted like they had been made for each other.

And to top it off, I've got a cold.

Happy new year!

And to everyone else out there.--Ken

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At 9:26 AM, Blogger SharonRB said...

I like our company's policy for unused PTO, as I never use all of mine. If you have anything over 25days to carry over, you get paid for them in January. I always leave my base 25 days, which I'll get paid for when I retire or be able to use if I ever have a major emergency, but then I typically have an extra 10-12 days over and above that that I haven't used and I get a nice extra paycheck for those days in January. Comes in handy when you have a husband who hasn't worked in almost 5 years!

At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not surprise they let Howie out.

I'm surprised they ever let him in.

I guess not all military dictators keep up with the Internets.


At 10:12 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Point taken, Volt!

And Sharon, I think it's great that you're getting something out of your company (the people who took over mine consider us lucky to have jobs). And I wish you luck with your husband's employment situation. Thanks for commenting.


At 8:02 AM, Blogger SharonRB said...

Thanks, Ken. I've become resigned to the fact that he'll most likely never work again -- he'll be 61 in May, and the older one gets, the harder it is to find work. At least he'll be able to start collecting Social Security in 2009, which will definitely help the situation. I'm just glad I have a good job and good benefits.

At 8:52 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Of course, Sharon, looking at the GOP presidential "hopefuls" (for want of a better words), it's always possible that come 2009 both Social Security and jobs with benefits will be things of the past.

Happy new year,

At 2:35 PM, Blogger SharonRB said...

All the more reason to make sure we elect a Dem, isn't it?

At 9:21 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

I would say so!



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