Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bad Neighbors?

How friendly are you with your neighbors? I always thought that we were "above average" on the friendliness scale. We wave whenever we see them outside, we stop and have the typical lawn/weather chat every now and then, and we even gave Christmas goodies to our neighbors on our immediate left and right.

Yes, I thought that we were good neighbors. Until yesterday when I walked to our group mailboxes a few houses down. On my way back, I stopped to say hello to our neighbor caddy-corner from us who was working in her yard. A few days before, I noticed some orange spray paint on our curb, and saw that she had the same paint on her curb. I asked her if she knew anything about it (she always seems to know everything that happens on our street), and she said that the city was going to re-do our curbs. I didn't feel too out-of-the-loop at this point, because apparently she and her husband were the ones who complained to the city about the curbs being poured wrong initially. They complained enough that the city agreed to re-do them. So, I considered that insider information.

She then informed me that our immediate neighbors to our right are expecting their first child. Oops. Didn't know that either. That bottle of wine with attached spices for mulled wine that I gave them for Christmas probably wasn't a big hit! I think she's almost six months pregnant now ... but she's been hiding under sweaters and coats for the past few months. Eventually I would have noticed ... right?

We continued to chat and she mentioned that her immediate neighbor (our neighbor directly across the street) might cut some of his trees down. He never liked the ornamental pear trees, but his wife had wanted them planted a few years ago. But now that she had passed, he might cut them down. What?!? How could I not know that my neighbor had passed away? And not just recently, a few months ago. Granted, she rarely came outside when she was alive. Almost all of my interactions with them was chatting with the husband about plants and trees (yes, he's elderly). But I still felt really bad. I should have known. I should have taken over food. I should have done something. Maybe I still will. Is it too late? Are we bad neighbors?

Yummy Recipes - Bean and Bacon Soup

I made my husband's favorite soup last night before we went to see The Flaming Idiots for my birthday. I found this recipe on (surprise!) my favorite recipe blog, For the Love of Cooking.

Bean and Bacon Soup

4 strips of lean bacon (I used turkey bacon)
3 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
3 15 1/2-ounce cans white beans, drained
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a large Dutch oven, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Let cool, chop, and set aside.

Over medium heat, add the carrot, celery and onion to the pan drippings in the Dutch oven and sauté for 7 minutes; add the garlic and sauté for an additional 60 seconds, stirring constantly. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste.

Add 2 cans of beans, bay leaf and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the carrots and celery are soft.
Uncover and remove the bay leaf. Using a potato masher or an immersion blender, partially mash the bean mixture until it thickens slightly. Stir in the last can of beans, parsley and bacon. Taste and re-season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, if needed. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cable Guys in Disguise

Time for another funny story. This one comes via my mom. She just recently moved into our former house that had been a rental house for the past 15+ years. She was super excited to finally get digital cable and a DVR for the first time ever. Not long after everything was hooked up, she started having problems. Her cable would go in and out, and then she would only get a blue screen. A guy came out once to fix it. Then one Friday, I tried to set her DVR for her to record some of her favorite shows, and while I was doing that the cable went out for another time. She called the cable company AGAIN, and they said they would send someone out the next morning at 10 a.m. to look at it.

At 9 a.m. the next morning, her doorbell rings. She opens the door to find two men with clipboards on her doorstep.

Mom: "Oh, you're early, great! Come on in!"

They take one small step inside.

Mom: "Thanks for coming out on a Saturday, I really appreciate it. The T.V.'s right over there." (motions to the T.V. a few yards away)

The two men hesitantly take a couple more small steps into the living room and stop.

Mom: "It's this T.V. right here. Yeah, I've really had a lot of problems with my cable, I sure hope you can fix it."

The two men still haven't moved more than three feet from the door, and my mom is now wondering, why aren't they going over to look at it?

Mom: "Um, you're with the cable company ... right?"

Man #1: "Um, no ma'am, we're with the local fire department, and we were hoping you would help us out today and sign our petition."

At this point, my mom bursts out laughing, and soon the hunky firemen are laughing, too (that's right, she said they were lookers). Then the second firemen chimes in:

"But you know, as firemen we've been known to fix lots of things, so we can take a look at your cable box if you'd like us to!"

... which just makes my mom laugh even harder.

They then proceeded to try and give their pitch as to why they were actually there, but failed miserably because they were laughing so hard. My mom was embarrassed, mainly because they were hunky firemen, but at least she gave them some entertainment on what was sure to be an otherwise very boring day for them. I wasn't there to verify their hunkiness, but I like to imagine that this is what they looked like ...