Last week was another one of those weeks. I had a migraine headache Monday that kept me home, pretty much flat on my back all day.
On my way to The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield on Tuesday morning, I made it as far as the parking lot at the WIlliamstown Cumberland Farms when my truck decided to give me another headache -- it stalled completely and without warning and refused to start again.
Two-and-half hours at the service station and a new battery later, I was good to go -- but only around town for the day because the mechanic had a gut feeling it was more than just the battery. I spent the rest of the day in the North Adams Transcript office, doing what I could, between text messages to and from my son and friend Nancy.
The gist of the texts?
Them: Don't put any more money in that thing! You've spent $1,000 on it since June. Get a new one!
Me: Maybe this is the end of it and it will run another few years.
Them: Maybe it won't. You can't trust it driving to Pittsfield every day.
Me: It only has 93,000 miles. I thought trucks were supposed to go 200,000 or more.
The final text from David sealed the truck's fate: We're going to look at cars tonight when you get home from work. Decide what you want to look at.
To make a long story short, I'm now driving a brand-new Jeep Patriot. I picked it up Saturday -- tearfully saying good-bye to the truck.
A few quick statements: There's nothing like that new-car smell. Where has satellite radio been all my life? The space shuttle had fewer lights and buttons, and I'll probably lose weight from walking from the far corners of parking lots, where I now park so the car won't get "dinged."
Sunday morning, our dog, Sassy, woke me at 7 a.m. insisting she had to go out -- and presented me with another "headache."
Sassy went crazy, barking and pawing at the back of the small refrigerator on the deck we keep filled with beer, soda and water, so we don't have to go inside when we're using the pool or entertaining on the deck. I pulled it away from the wall to prove there was nothing behind it -- and the pandemonium increased. I pulled her into the house and closed the door, but she continued her protest.
It was then I noticed it -- something with gray fur was lodged next to the refrigerator motor. David was away for the weekend, so I texted a neighbor to come and deal with the "dead critter." I sure as heck wasn't going to go near it!
He arrived shortly after and poked at the gray fur with a pair of long-handled pliers.
"It ain't dead!" he informed me as he jumped back. "It's a squirrel and it's looking at me!"
Fearing a rabid animal, I sacrificed my long-handled tongs for the rescue mission.
"I'll go and get my gun and shoot it," my neighbor offered after a futile attempt to dislodge it with the tongs.
"You're not shooting a poor animal on my deck," I stated firmly. "It's probably against the law, and with my luck the bullet will ricochet and hit one of us!"
After tipping the refrigerator forward a little and pulling on the squirrel with the tongs a few times, it literally came flying out, hitting the far deck wall and sliding down to the floor.
"It's dead!" I wailed -- just as it began its frantic dash behind the patio furniture and eventually off the deck and into a nearby tree. Imagine what a tale it told its family!
Dealing with the squirrel brought to mind one of my favorite childhood treats -- Squirrel candy -- guaranteed to stick to your molars all day. Do they still make it? If so, at my age, it would probably pull the caps off my teeth!
This recipe for homemade Squirrels is close in taste to the original and fairly easy to do since its made in the microwave, thus eliminating the need to boil the mixture and use a candy thermometer. I have no idea where the recipe came from, as it wasn't signed and I don't recognize the handwriting.
Homemade Squirrel Nut Zippers
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light Karo syrup
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup finely chopped nuts of choice (I used walnuts)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (optional, but recommended)
Prep a 8x8-inch pan with cooking spray and parchment paper. (Do not skip the parchment paper.)
Sprinkle nuts on bottom of pan and set aside.
In a large microwave-safe glass bowl mix together the butter, sugars, Karo syrup and condensed milk.
Cook on high for 7 minutes, stirring at the 2, 4 and 6 minute marks.
Remove the cooked mixture, add the vanilla and stir. The caramel will bubble up so be sure the bowl is large enough.
Pour the hot caramel into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle sea salt evenly over the caramel and set aside to cool on counter for 20 minutes, then in fridge for 2 hours.
Remove caramels from pan by lifting the parchment paper. Cut into 1-inch squares or rectangles. Wrap in wax paper and enjoy.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.