A Month of Sundaes

I seem to have an affection for the hyphen. The humble horizontal line appears regularly in my posts. The “dash” is more formal than the “dot-dot-dot” yet more relaxed than the semi-colon – perfect for blog pauses, don’t you agree? My hyphen habit may be the result of formative moments in my life, like Hanna-Barbera cartoons (hello, Yogi Bear) and Hewlett-Packard, where I worked most of my professional career. But if I had to pick just one – or should I say, thirty-one, I’d go with my favorite hyphen of them all.  Baskin-Robbins.

The next time I write a post, remind me to have something to eat before I sit down to the keyboard.  My last four entries cover graham crackers, doughnuts, waffles, and now ice cream.  Might be my anticipation of Easter Sunday (when my Lenten sweets sacrifice comes to an end).  Bring on the jellybeans, Peter Rabbit!  But today is about ice cream – and not just any.  It’s about the one you grew up with; the one you still identify with.  For me, it’ll always be Baskin-Robbins.

“B-R”, as they’re now called, has a quaint beginning worth a few sentences here.  Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins got into the ice cream business independent of each other.  Then Burt married Irv’s sister.  The now brothers-in-law decided to combine “Burton’s Ice Cream Shop” (10 flavors) with Irv’s “Snowbird Ice Cream” (21 flavors), and there you have it – the birth of “31 Flavors”.  B-R was a single shop back in 1948; today, how about 8,000 parlors in 50 countries?  Their new slogan – Seize the yay – has more to do with “celebrating small, joyous moments” than ice cream.  Even the rebranded logo removes the nostalgia of the B-R I grew up with (though the embedded “31” is clever).  But I get it – B-R needs to appeal to younger generations as well.

Dad’s favorite

Baskin-Robbins is inextricably tied to my childhood memories.  Our local B-R was one door over from my mother’s hair salon.  It was also right down the street from our church.  So ice cream for me was often the reward of patience with Mom or simply going to church with Dad, who often couldn’t resist a stop at B-R on the way home.  You could always find a container of B-R Rocky Road in Dad’s freezer, all the way up to the last day of his life.  He was fond of saying while he enjoyed a bowlful, “Nothing beats Baskin-Robbins’ Rocky Road.” (I beg to differ with B-R’s Peanut Butter ‘n’ Chocolate, but hey, we all have our favorites).

A lot of my posts mention ice cream yet I’ve only mentioned Baskin-Robbins once in all my blogging (in The Sweets Life three years ago).  Kind of a crime there because B-R deserves a post of its own, as does your favorite ice cream parlor.  Wikipedia has an article called List of Ice Cream Parlor Chains (of course they do).  Your favorite is on that list.  I may be partial to B-R but I’m familiar with several others, including Braum’s in Oklahoma and Texas, Carvel to the Northeast, Farrell’s to the West, and Lappert’s in Hawaii.

Of course, with Baskin-Robbins I’m talking “ice-cream-parlor ice cream”.  Back at home, you won’t find any B-R in our freezer because Häagen-Dazs (ice cream) and Talenti (gelato) earn the shelf space instead.  H-D goes a whole lot higher on the butterfat scale so naturally it tastes better.  H-D even has a hyphen!  And Talenti, well, it’s gelato.  Need I say more?

If you live in a bigger city than me, you have better ice cream options than Baskin-Robbins.  Big cities have wonderful local places (follow Lyssy in the City for some of the best in New York).  But do they have hyphens?  Mine does (as does this post – 48 if I counted correctly).  Yes, B-R may be updating its brand, but I’ll always insert the rainbow-sprinkle “dash” between the initials, returning me to those ice-cream parlor memories of old.

Some content sourced from the CNN Business article, “This 77-year-old ice cream chain is getting a makeover”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #13

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

We passed the ten-hour mark with the build today, which amounts to a very long piano concerto. (Good thing you’re not being asked to sit and watch, eh?) Bag #13 – of 21 bags of pieces – added another five keys to the board for a total of fifteen.  Eight more next week will complete the entire set.  Maybe we’ll be installing them into the piano as well!

Here’s a stop-sign warning if you take on a project like this.  Pieces can easily be installed backwards.  For all my “practice” building keys these past few weeks, I got a few tiny pieces reversed today and had to disassemble to make things right.  Mr. Instruction Manual includes warning-like diagrams to make sure you don’t do this. In other words, the piano student must pay attention at all times!

Running Build Time: 10.2 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Strauss’s The Blue Danube waltz. Leftover pieces: 3

Conductor’s Note: The Blue Danube is familiar from the very first bars (especially if you saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and remember the scene with the rotating space station).  Strauss was fond of waltzes and this one is his most famous.  With its repeating theme, I thought The Blue Danube would be appropriate this time around since I’ve been building key after key after key.

Precisely Enchanting

If you watched any of the Winter Olympics the past couple weeks, you witnessed dramatic moments only the Games can deliver.  Some literally took my breath away: the edge-of-your-seat overtime shootout in the women’s hockey final (a 3-2 win by the Americans); the exquisite battle for gold between the highly-touted Russians in women’s figure-skating; and the first-ever victory for the U.S. in the team sprint of women’s cross-country skiing, where Jessie Diggins’ come-from-behind lunge at the finish line took the gold by 0.18 of a second.

              

Consider “0.18 of a second” (for a second).  The blink of an eye takes twice as long.  Now consider measuring 0.18 of a second.  Remarkably, we’ve had the technology to do so since the 1950’s.  For the Olympics, that precision was provided by Omega, the watch manufacturer from Switzerland.  Of course the timekeepers were Swiss.  What other country is so renowned for the keeping of time?  What other country coordinates forty-six individual railway companies on a single network of tracks, bringing its trains into the stations on-time every time?  Where else in the world would you feel more confident banking your cash?  Six years ago, Omega developed technology capable of measuring one-millionth of a second.  At the Pyeongchang Olympics they used a photo-finish camera capable of ten thousand snaps per-second.  The Swiss redefine “attention to detail”.

I’ve had an affection for Switzerland from a very young age.  As a kid, my introduction took place in subtle ways.  Shirley Temple’s “Heidi” was based in Switzerland. The Switzer brand of red/black licorice (still available in “vintage” candy stores) was a frequent purchase.  The cute little Swiss Miss in our pantry beckoned me to hot chocolate.  As a Boy Scout, I always carried one of the Victornox Swiss army knives.  At Disneyland I roller-coasted through a scaled-down replica of the Matterhorn – one of the Alps.  I had my first taste of fondue.  And for a Suisse exclamation point, I consumed a ton of that “holiest” of cheeses.  My ancestry test should’ve produced a little Swiss DNA, don’t you think?

As an adult, Switzerland’s products are no less present in my life.  Lindt is my favorite chocolate (and I’ve tried my fair share of chocolate). A Rolex watch is still the material equivalent of corporate-America success (though my tastes are more modest – perhaps a Swatch [Swiss-watch]?)  Velcro can be found on several items in my wardrobe.  Haagen Daz is my favorite brand of ice cream (a product of the Swiss company Nestlé).  And a lengthy search for “adult” Swiss licorice led me to Chateau D’Lanz, a family-run business in Washington state producing some of the best.

Speaking of Nestlé, the Toll House chocolate-chip cookie recipe is also one of my favorites. Here’s a bit of trivia: Toll House was an inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.  Ruth Graves Wakefield is credited with inventing the chocolate chip cookie (by mistake) somewhere nearby the Toll House.  The price Nestlé paid for the right to Ruth’s recipe? A lifetime supply of Swiss chocolate.

Now speaking of Velcro, here’s another bit of trivia.  George de Mestral was a Swiss engineer and amateur mountaineer from the 1940’s. Hiking in the Alps one day, George noticed seeds kept sticking to his clothes and to his dog’s fur. When he returned home, George developed a synthetic “sticking” technology like what he’d found in nature; a hook-and-loop zipper alternative eventually patented as Velcro. The clever name is a child of the French parents velours (velvet) and crochet (hook).

Okay, we’ve covered Swiss precision and some world-class products, but I haven’t addressed what makes Switzerland so fetching.  How’s this for starters: the entire country can fit within the greater Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  Bordered by France, Italy, and Austria, the Swiss are typically fluent in French, Italian, and German; as well as their home-country language of Romansh.  Switzerland produces some of the best in skiing, snowboarding, and mountain-climbing (of course), but also tennis? (hello, Roger Federer).

     

Here’s some more Swiss charm.  The colorful Guards in the Vatican City are the only foreign military service permitted to its citizens.  Switzerland’s “non-interference policy” dictates its only participation in foreign wars is typically through the high-profile benevolence of its Red Cross organization.  And citizenship in this fair country?  You’d better hope you have blood ties through birth or marriage.  Otherwise it’ll take twelve years of a special-residency permit, combined with a long-term work visa.

Despite my obvious affection, I should probably stay away from precisely enchanting Switzerland.  It’s a real country like any other after all, which means not everything comes up roses.  Perhaps I’ll cling to my snow-globe impression of the Suiss Alpenland instead: a gentle people living high on the Happiness Scale; the cleanest and quaintest cities imaginable; cobble-stoned streets and chalet-like houses.  The magnificent Alps serve as the backdrop, their slopes ascended by rickety cog railways and descended by skillful skiers.  Listen for an accordion or a little yodeling.  Look carefully enough into my globe and you might even notice the von Trapp family, marching down the mountain trail from Austria, singing their do-re-mi song.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.