Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dr. Smak's Bucket List

I'm not getting any younger. Mortality dances in front of me on a routine basis, whether at home or at work. While I'd love to plan on doing fun and fabulous things in my retirement, I don't want to live waiting for that grand event. There sure aren't any guarantees I'm going to get there. So, without further ado, my bucket list. (I'm adding it as as new sidebar, and will add to it periodically as things come up. I'm deleting my nightstand, since knitting continues to gobble up the scarce free time I have. I'll read a book again in a few years.)

1. See the aurora borealis. Or, as a dear relative once coined, the areola borealis. In her defense, it was after a glass of wine.

2. Take a super fabulous grown-up vacation with Mr. Smak. We started marriage penniless, and pretty quickly started making Smaklings, so this one has eluded me thus far. I'm talking 2 weeks, no responsibilities, food, drinks, travel, sightseeing, foreign countries. Right now I'm thinking Mediterranean, but the details are unimportant and subject to change. (Fodder for another post, but after you have kids do you ever really have no responsibilities? Did we miss our chance?)

3. Become a certified Master Gardener.

4. Learn to speak another language. Not great, but at least passable.

5. Drive across this big and beautiful country in an RV with Mr. and Smaklings. I'm hoping to hit the right age, where everyone is in the range of pretty self-sufficient but before teenage attitude kicks in. I think this is the one that has the real time constraints on it. I've never seen the Grand Canyon, and I'd love to do it with my kids.

6. Learn to make a kick-ass pie crust. "Kick-ass" is per my own standards. If I never ate another piece of cake in my life I'd be fine, but a crisp, flaky, buttery pie crust is about as good as it gets.

In general, I don't make pies, as the crusts aren't up to my standards. But the whole point of a bucket list is that there is no time like the present to start, so tonight middle Smakling and I practiced on some apple dumplings. They look prettier in real life than the photo. I can't wait to taste them tonite!


Kathy said...

Love the idea of putting this on your blog...I may just steal it if you don't mind.... And I share your dream of wanting to do the Grand Canyon in an RV with the family...not sure when we'll all have time though...

Anonymous said...

Just go on and do it. My kids are grown but they keep moving and having babies and needing us (in different ways, of course) so it doesn't stop when they get grown.

rlbates said...

Good luck with your list. Would love to taste the apple dumplings with a little vanilla ice cream.

Eric, AKA The Pragmatic Caregiver said...

Replace half the ice water with freezer-cold vodka in your next crust batch. I'm astonished how tender and flaky this makes pie crust. Also, try one of the cultured butters like Plugra - the lower pH and higher fat content seem to improve pastry doughs.

I agree about vacations, btw. I realized it's been 17 years since my parents and I had an actual non-work-related family vacation together, and now mom's too frail to do another, despite not being old enough for Medicare. I know it's cliche, but seriously, this is not something to neglect. Marshall whatever resources it takes to make both a Romantic Vacation and a Family Adventure happen.

That said, if you do the RV thing, get the biggest one you can - the 30 foot rental RVs from like El Monte or Cruise America aren't nearly large enough for two adults with stuff, let alone a family. You want about a 36' with multiple slides - everything else is bad comedy. I speak with the voice of experience here. Larger/nicer models are harder to find than the national chains but well, well, well worth the money.


Dr. Smak said...

Eric, I can't tell if you're joking or not about the Vodka.

Really? Vodka in a pie crust? Better than using ice water?


SOCKS said...

If Eric is serious, I'll try the VODKA.

Great blog - lots of fun and adventure.

Let us know your plans.

TBTAM said...

If I might be so bold as to offer a recipe for #6...

Also, check out Shua's blog for great pie crust recipes and advice -

Nice looking dumplings, BTW.

Dr. Smak said...

Thanks to all for your encouragements and suggestions. TBTAM, I was totally fishing for a recipe from you - thanks!

As a post followup, the dumplings were excellent, tho a little too sweet for my taste. They were doused in a cinnamon syrup, so I wasn't able to really judge the crust. Will have to try again.

Eric, AKA The Pragmatic Caregiver said...

I am as serious as emphysematous pyelonephritis!

Essentially, the alcohol moistens, but doesn't contribute to the sulfur crosslinking of glutenin and gliadin that occurs when you add water and mix. By replacing 20% of the total liquid volume with ethanol (40% ethanol in vodka * 50% of the liquid volume as vodka) you get all the moistening but with 20% lower gluten formation.

You don't even have to use the good stuff. If your pie crust production is such that shaving a few cents off the vodka budget matters, you can use cheap stuff. I personally follow the advice of the NY Times on vodka, and use my regular brand.

I'd suggest having some for yourself before you roll out the crust, but the vasodilation would result in warmer hands, which would melt the fat, and that's a problem too.

I can't believe my reputation for snark is such that friendly advice gets mistaken for deadpan schtick. Where did I go so wrong?

Eric, Who Is Baking Pumpkin Bars For His Mom Today

Anonymous said...

wow, so much info about pie crusts....hope the next one you make Dr Smak is up to your standards.
When the plans come together for your vacation with Mr. Smak, let me know what I can do to help---guess going to the eastern shore doesn't count as a romantic get away with the hubby.

Ann of the Incredible Gift said...

I like your list.

Learning another language can be easier than it might appear at first. I've done it, at least well enough to talk to my visitor from Brazil and have her understand my portuguese.

go here
and choose your language
then go to the barnes and noble web site and purchase the pimsleur cd set for your language.

I stick the cd into my car player during any trip approaching a half hour.

I was impressed enough with the results in Portuguese to purchase the cds for Mandarin also. I haven't learned all I want there, yet, and it is very slow for me because the tone variations take a good bit of getting used to.

We went to dinner the house of husband's friend from work. He and his wife come from China. She was impressed that I could speak clearly enough for her to understand what I meant.