December 17, 2007

Metaphorically Snowed In

Snow Bunny

It’s a 6-foot 6-inch snow bunny

My blog is suffering a post NaBloPoMo whiplash, going from daily posting to not even posting a Shotgun Post last week. As the days have gotten shorter I’ve felt a little bit overwhelmed and not very talkative.

The snow that fell last week (twice) and blanketed everything with a heavy coating that slowed the world to a crawl is a good metaphor for how this time of year can feel. I don’t remember it seeming like this 20 years ago, but it is definitely the case today. The “to do” list grows faster than it can be cleared and the Sun just isn’t around enough to cheer you up.

But progress is going on. Lots of shoveling has been accomplished. I look out on the driveway and I see that the half that I cleared is bone dry. Beautiful — no ice or anything. The half we use for guests was covered with snow twice, rained on and is now frozen solid. I expect to see the blacktop again sometime in April. Clearing it was not an option; the snow there is just too heavy and too voluminous. And now, too frozen.

And raise your hand if you, too, enjoyed the pleasures of shovelling snow in the freezing rain this weekend. I learned something about myself out there.

I called my somewhat-cleared driveway “beautiful” but it’s not an accomplishment I can take much pride in. It was unpleasant work, but it’s not as though I had a choice, or as if much thought had gone into it.

It was some of the least pleasant shoveling I’ve ever done. Freezing rain pelting you and soaking you through is a real deterrent to being outside, never mind flinging snow. And it didn’t take too long before parts of me were quite numb, and my head was pounding. When I finished, I barely felt like I could lift the shovel as I tramped up the drive.

But, rather than go inside, I started to build a snowman. When the girls saw, they came outside to help, and to build their own little ones. So, we were all out in the rain, building snow sculptures. I wasn’t sure if they would even last the day, because the forecast was saying that the 33 degree rain would later hit 40 degrees (it didn’t). Building a snowman in the rain seems like an exercise in futility, but it seemed necessary, for sanity, to not go back inside the house until I had something to show for my work that was more than a clear driveway (a driveway which had been clear the night before).

I had to build a snow-ramp to get the heavy torso snowball up onto the base, and it took me a while to get underneath it. The next-door-neighbor’s snowman was challenging me. I admit to some competitive spirit rising within me. When I was a kid, I remember a snowstorm in which my uncles came over to help us dig out and they ended up sculpting a giant snow camel in response to a giant snow frog that the neighbors had constructed. My crazy rabbit was going to have to be big enough to devour my neighbor’s snowman, if it came down to that.

The snowman was completely frivolous. The kids weren’t even planning to come outside. My neighbor across the street was just coming out to clear his driveway as I was creating the torso, and I think he thought I’d lost my mind - soaking wet and wrestling with 70 pound chunks of snow. But I was already soaked and miserable from shoveling. I figured that unless the thing fell over and injured me, I couldn’t be any more miserable. So why not continue?

Of course a snowman is frivolous. But what I never realized before was how necessary it was. It’s clear to me now that if I don’t build snowmen once in a while, I’m going to go completely bonkers.

Posted by James at December 17, 2007 8:39 AM
Create Social Bookmark Links

Glad you managed to have some fun. Yesterday wasn'tso bad on us. I managed to clear the driveay before the snow turned to sleet (never really got to rain in our parts) then only needed to clean up the ice later in the evening.

I did enjoy a long weekend though since my almost 4 hour commute home on Thursday night made me very unwilling to get out of bed on Friday. I did but only to call in and take a nonexisting vacation day. Oh well I can borrow against the ones I get in January. Did manage to discover the joys of the VO manhattan and the Rob Roy during the down time by the fire though. Nice.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at December 17, 2007 9:28 AM

I think that if I were to make any drink with whiskey and vermouth, I'd use the Alton Brown method he describes for making martinis. Basically, you coat the ice with vermouth, pour out the vermouth then shake the gin with whatever vermouth clings to the ice.

That's my idea of a martini. A whisper of vermouth. I can't take but more than a whisper of vermouth at one time.

What's your Manhattan and rob roy recipe? I've never been a fan of the Manhattan, but maybe I just haven't had the right one yet.

Posted by: James at December 17, 2007 9:52 AM

Not sure whether it's the sweet vermouth or the angostura bitters, but I hate Manhattans. I'm pretty sure there's no "right" Manhattan for me.

Due to a lack of drainage on my street, there was a real risk that my car's tires would be frozen into four or five inches of solid ice. The slush underneath my car had melted, but the car itself was surrounded by a thick, hard ring of shoveled snow from my neighbor's sidewalk and the street plow.

There was nowhere else to put the snow, but I did my best to create drainage channels that would let at least some of the water flow out of the little pool my car was sitting in. Even if that worked (I haven't checked yet) I'm not sure I'll be able to actually escape from that ring. I'm going to try later because I need groceries. If I can't get out, I'll be stuck for a while.

I guess I was a bit hasty in mocking people for acting as though they were preparing for the apocalypse on Thursday morning. I'm just glad I keep enough canned goods on hand to survive an apocalypse at any time.

Posted by: Julie at December 17, 2007 10:20 AM

There's a big difference between sweet and dry vermouth. I've avoided manhattans, etc. like the plague because they contain vermouth (sweet) since every time I've tried a martini of any variety I end up tossing it. Ruins perfectly good vodka or gin.

However we were out at a great bar in Cambridge (B-side lounge) that makes lots of great classic drinks and has a pretty inventive list of new ones and I decided to try the "Classic" manhattan, Rye, sweet vermouth(they use a upscale one from CA) and a dash of their homemade orange bitters.

then Patti found a recipe for a bourbon manhattan that required both dry and sweet vermouth so I bought some sweet. I already had dry since it's good for cooking. It was not terribly good and I wondered if it was the dry vermouth so I made a classic without the dry and voila. Yummy. I did them on the rocks rather than neat. So what I ended up with in both the manhattan and rob roy were 2 oz. VO or scotch and 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth. I forgot to buy the bitters so I'll need to try that next time.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at December 17, 2007 10:25 AM

Julie- it might have been the bitters. As I said above I left them out and liked it and the one I had out had some home-made orange bitters. Also I used Stock vermouth, in case that makes a difference.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at December 17, 2007 10:27 AM

I love the snow rabbit! Honey is outside cursing our plow guy right now, who did the worst job EVER this weekend. Honey will be shoveling for many hours today to clean up all plow guy did not get. He isn't happy. We'd buy a snow blower, but I think it is too late in the season - we didn't realize plow guy was going to have job related ennui and not plow well this year, so we didn't grab one early.

Posted by: leslie at December 17, 2007 10:47 AM

Our snow blower saved me this weekend. Well worth the money. Our driveway isn't big enough to pay a guy to plow but big enough that shoveling would be a major hassle. I'm sure you could find a blower out there somewhere. Maybe not in stock after this weekend but I'm sure more will come in.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at December 17, 2007 11:30 AM

It's not even 12/22 yet, and I'm already sick of winter. Getting hit with two nasty & significant snowfalls in a few days time sucked. Plus, the last two Sunday nights we got precipitation that snarled Monday morning traffic. Maybe I should move back south. :(

Posted by: Kitten Herder at December 17, 2007 1:00 PM

It's all moot now since I can't have vermouth anyway.

As for my car, it took 20 minutes and a 200-point turn, but I was finally able to move it. As soon as I hit the road I was sorry I hadn't stayed in, though. I'm not sure if the snow hypnotizes people or what, but I saw some of the worst driving ever out there today. (And the road itself is fine, so skidding wasn't a factor.)

Posted by: Julie at December 17, 2007 1:33 PM

I haven't noticed bitters making a huge difference in any drink I've ever had Bitters aren't a mixer exactly, they're meant to be a flavor note on top of the liquor and mixer. I can't speak for Julie, but I know my problem in the past has been the vermouth.

I actually kinda like bitters, but I don't generally use them for anything.

"Where to put the snow" is such a big issue, especially in cities. I remember seeing them cart away snow a couple of years ago in the center of Taunton.

Which reminds me - Taunton blew out its snow budget two years ago. But already this season we've gotten more snow than we got all of last winter. This does not bode well for city and town budgets.

Posted by: James at December 17, 2007 2:48 PM

I honestly don't know which ingredient is to blame, since I've only ever had either of them in a Manhattan. It doesn't matter much, since there are plenty of other ways I'd rather drink bourbon, rye, etc.

Does December snowfall usually indicate what the rest of the winter will be like? I would love to think that it shouldn't, but it seems like in the last 4 winters I've been here, that's the way it's worked out. Bad December = bad winter.

Posted by: Julie at December 17, 2007 4:03 PM

That's what it seems like to me, too, Julie. It seems like either you start out getting pummeled and it never stops, or you don't get snow. Last winter I got the parsley out of my garden for the caroling party, and the woman at the local nursery told me she was selling plants in December. We had a very mild winter last year. I hope that this is not indicative of what's to come.

Posted by: Maggie at December 17, 2007 4:15 PM

re. Dec weather, it doesn't necessarily. A few years back we had a horrendous early storm, maybe even late November and then had essentially nothing until a bad late storm (the April Fools storm). I thik they are predicting a wet but slightly warmer winter this year. I'll take precip over arctic cold any day.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at December 17, 2007 4:17 PM

If by wet you mean rain, that's fine with me. Even snow isn't that bad as long as it melts promptly. (And drains!) What I can't take is when there's... well... like what's out there now. I used to have nice neighbors, but with this new bunch, there is no cooperation or consideration at all with the parking situation, and the family with the biggest driveway is still parking all of their gigantic vehicles in the street.

The woman next door to me has a driveway that she doesn't even use. She doesn't want anyone else to use it, either. But that didn't stop her from asking me to shovel her walk.

Posted by: Julie at December 17, 2007 4:56 PM

Can you counter with a question?

Will you shovel my walk?
Can I park in your driveway if there's a parking ban or a storm coming?

Posted by: Maggie at December 17, 2007 6:33 PM

Sure, if I spoke Portuguese. I could ask. The people who used to own my house (and did speak Portuguese) offered her money to park in her driveway, and the answer was no.

I usually do half the length of her sidewalk as a courtesy, since I don't want her dropping dead to do it and no one else will do it otherwise. I just thought she had some nerve to ask me to do her steps too. I don't want her to have a heart attack, but she really ought to be able to shovel off four steps herself.

(This is elderly Mrs. G, not the weirdos on the other side who wanted to "move the fence a little" onto my property. Yes, all of my neighbors have a lot of gall and speak just enough English to ask for things but never enough to offer them.)

Posted by: Julie at December 18, 2007 6:27 AM

Copyright © 1999-2007 James P. Burke. All Rights Reserved