Monday, December 29, 2008

My perfect latkes

Yesterday I fullfilled a year's worth of social obligations by hosting an open house for Chanukah. We had more than 40 people in our teeny house, with kids running mad in the back half and grownups sipping mulled wine and nibbling food in the front half. I love that about my house -- the playroom is separate from the living room and parties always break out this way.

I served my famous latkes -- famous mainly because few of our friends are Jewish or if they are, no one bakes them like I do. I don't really have my own recipe -- I fake most of the quanities, but I do have a secret. And since I ought to post something today, here's my recipe, which I'm now writing out for the first time:

5 lbs of potatoes (or if you have big plans like my party, double or triple this!)
1 medium onion
3 tbsp flour
2 eggs
1-2 tsp salt
1/2-1 tsp pepper
Lots of oil

Peel potatoes. Rest wrists, and whatever you do, don't try to bowl that night (lesson learned the hard way while husband gloated). Peel onion and chop in half.

Using food processor (unless you are masochistic!), grate potatoes and onions in batches. Change to main blade in food processor. Process shredded stuff in batches with a short burst, 20 seconds or so, to make mixture less stringy. Using hands, then squeeze out all the liquid handful by handful. Rest hands again. Get wrist massage if possible (not in my house, but maybe your partner is more into this than mine).

Add flour, egg, salt and pepper to mixture. Heat oil in frying pan over medium heat. Using large spoon, drop latke-sized amount of batter onto frying pan. When brown edges appear, flip latkes until golden brown on both sides. Remove from pan to paper towel (to absorb a lot of the oil -- don't want them greasy!).

Serve hot, with sour cream and/or apple sauce.

There, family secret recipe revealed. The trick is the second run through the food processor, and of course squeezing out the potato liquid.

Happy Chanukah!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Who gets the last word in emails?

I'm in PR , and today I pitched a story to a reporter who writes for my local daily and who also has a blog. She bit and wrote back, so I sent her a document, and later she emailed to tell me she posted it on her blog, so I wrote back to say thanks and happy holidays, and she wrote back to say me too.

I've stopped the back and forth now, but who should have the last word, and when do you stop thanking someone for an email greeting?

This happens a lot, when you send someone something, they write thanks, do you write back that they're welcome and so on? Is it rude not to answer every email? But if it is, when is it okay to stop replying? There must be an etiquette guide for this kind of thing.

Anyhow, happy Hanukkah and Christmas to you all. Maybe I'll get lots of comments now wishing me the same back, so I'll comment back to them, and so on, and so on.....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The morning commute

Normally when I have to come to my part time job, I bus. It's clear across town from my home, and I always suspected that the drive would be not much shorter than the bus ride, so why waste the gas, I thought, and why not sit and read. Of course, I spend a couple hours each work day just getting here and home, but I'm reading a lot of books.

Anyhow, earlier this week my office had a holiday potluck, so I needed to bring in food (I made latkes, potato pancakes we eat at Chanukah, a secret Santa gift (lucky me, even though I have a pedicure set at home I'm anxious to regift to someone, I drew a man about whom I knew nothing), and some clothes my kids had outgrown that I was passing on to someone here. So I drove. Of course, the one day I chose to drive turned out to be two days after we sold our second car and became a one-car family. It also turned out to be the day after Vancouver's first snow of the year. Do I pick 'em or what?

Anyhow, my loving husband, who of course believes he knows significantly more about driving than me (I admit he knows more about cars, but not about how to drive!), recommended a particular route to traverse the city eastward, and silly me, I listened to him. It turned out to be an incredibly slow-moving route, and it took me more than an hour to arrive at the office (the bus takes about 55 minutes door to door). Still, the driving wasn't too bad, roads were okay, and I picked my own route home and it was only 40 minutes.

And loving husband survived just fine without the car for the day. He got the kids to school, walked to the grocery store, etc. Good thing he didn't have to go to work that day though. And today I'm back on my bus -- thank goodness because first off, I missed my book time (I'm reading the John Grisham football novel now) and because it's snowing again, and much harder today. No point in taking my chances in a car when I can leave it to the bus driver to figure out how to drive up the hill.

Of course, it's still snowing as the day goes on, and this city doesn't cope well with snow, so I expect the commute home to be nuts. At least I'll have my book!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The office Christmas party

Last night was my new office's Christmas, I mean Holiday party. Calling it a holiday party is silly -- it was all about Christmas, even though at least five of us don't celebrate Christmas. Whatever.

Anyhow, it was the first office party I've had to attend in many, many years, and the first my hubby had to be dragged to in many years. Mr. unsociable had the advantage though, since I agreed to be designated driver and he got to drink. I was pretty worried about the party -- I don't know these people very well, and I don't want to make the wrong impression. But at the same time, I wanted to appear sociable and fit in.

We were on a boat cruise, which while pleasant enough means there is no leaving early. We ended up at a table with people I didn't know, but older people (our office joined with another association for the party) and not the young'uns that make up most of my co-workers. Still, there was lots of mingling and mixing through the night, and I think I managed to convey just the right image in the end.

I didn't get out on the dance floor with the dozen young'uns and boyfriends, so I avoided looking like an old fogey trying to fit in. But we did a lot of schmoozing and chatting and got to know some people a bit better (especially the guy I have to buy a secret santa gift for). I had a fine time, but I can't say it was fabulous.

Of course, hubby became semi-social and had probably a better time than me. But then again, he was drinking. ;-)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Why Gen Xers like me won't have retirement parties

Last night, I went to a retirement party for my favourite client. I'm very dissapointed to be losing this man as my client (I don't know if his replacement will keep working with me or not), but I am also sad to lose regular contact with him as he enters the retiree world.

So I stayed for hte whole party, including all the speeches. He has had a 39 career in the federal public service, so there were a lot of stories about old collegues (none of whom I know) and previous positions (I've only known him for three years). It was all a bit dull for me, but it made me think about what a retirement party for me or someone like me would be like.

And I realized that it wouldn't. I couldn't have a party with people there that had worked with me my whole career. I haven't stayed put anywhere long enough for that to happen, and I don't forsee that happening at any point in the rest of my career either.

A job for life is something the baby boomers had, but it's not something most Gen Xers have, nor is it at all something the generations following us will have. Does this mean retirement parties like my client's are soon to be a thing of the past? What will a retirement look like in twenty years? No gold watch, but will there be people to celebrate the end of work with, or will it just be a winding down and closing of doors.