1-13-2016 Soup Month

Not only is January Soup Month, it’s also Hot Tea Month (June is Iced Tea Month), so I guess they know it’s the month for clutching a hot mug of something and looking forward to warmer weather.  I’ve had fun posting holidays this week, and here’s some of the food holidays for you to look forward to this week if you feel so inclined:
13 Peach Melba Day
14 National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day
15 National Strawberry Ice Cream Day (whereas in the UK it’s Soup Day
16 National Fig Newton Day &  Hot & Spicy International Food Day
17 National Hot Buttered Rum Day
18 National Peking Duck Day
19 National Popcorn Day
20 National Buttercrunch Day (also Cheese Lovers Day, and Coffee Break Day)DSC02380
The light is noticeably returning, thank heavens. I am SO looking forward to a full day of sunshine. At the same time during December, as the sun was low in the sky, it would come into the kitchen below the valances and get right in my eyes, making it hard to work in the mornings! Fussy, aren’t I?  I remember there was a time of year (I think in the summer) when the sun set right down the road Ælfwine drove home on, just as he was coming home- for about a week.) I think one would have to be pretty unobservant not to notice how the suns path shifts across the year.
The weather has been pretty nippy- which is New Hampshire speak for around 20º out on the thermometer by the door- which is probably reading warmer than it is when you get a few feet from the house. I know that when I open the cupboards in the kitchen a puddle of cold air falls out onto my feet. Wally assured me the wall outside the kitchen was insulated, but if so, not very frakking well! We are adjusting the temperature in the pantry by opening and shutting the window to maintain it at 38º- refrigerator temperature (colder by the window). We did have some apples freeze when the latest cold wave came through.
This week I took down and clipped the trees into kindling. They are now in bags, drying to become fire starter. The Christmas ornaments are being packaged. Somehow there’s always a problem finding a way of fitting them all into appropriate packaging. The lights are all in the light bin, the breakables in their bins. Walmart had some very clever plastic ornament storage- but the ornaments rattled badly. Then I put down a layer of the large air pockets that came in my last delivery from UPS and those held them nicely. DSC02379

I’m still collecting various containers- this one’s full of tablecloths, that one’s full of general ornaments- the garland from the stairs, the battery powered Lucia crown, the ceramic XMAS, … This is the box that holds the most precious- the home-made ornaments. In order to close it I had to pull out the not home-made by perhaps odd things we’d been hanging on the tree that had previously been packed with them- like Max from Where the Wild things Are, and a china hula dancer. We’ve brought down the wreath from the upstairs bathroom door, but the wreath in my room still has a strong scent and isn’t dropping needles (probably because my room is unheated). The pinecones and artificial berries on it will probably go up to the attic in February when they finally do get too dry; I fear there are several boxes of “final holiday decoration discoveries” from various years that didn’t get sorted into the collection properly. I entertain fantasies of someday organizing everything – when it’s warmer. I am pretty sure there are several boxes full of tissue paper that used to contain ornaments and dishes and such.DSC02361

We are currently eating on blue plates with glasses and dishes with snowflakes, but at some point I seem to have put my Snowflake Trivet away “for the summer”, and who knows where it is or when we’ll find it. Clearly we have “too much stuff”. It’s a pity. I dearly like stuff. But it loses utility when you can’t find it when you want it. It’s a sad thing, we only have 3 each of the snowflake pattern tumblers and glasses, and 2 of the cocoa mugs, even though we started with 8 of each. At some point glass will break. The frustrating thing is that since we got them at the dollar store, there must still be thousands out there, but I guess everyone else must be hoping to find replacements as well. I checked etsy, and the shipping for anything available is more than I spent for the ones I want to match! I suppose it would be worse if I actually had glasses on which I’d spent more than a dollar each.

I’m not sure we’re doing much worth reporting. Yesterday Willow and Kat went down to help Joanie celebrate her birthday- they played miniature golf in black light. There was a “witch” theme in the golf course and Willow sent a picture of Witchypoo from H.R.Puffinstuff (a sixties or seventies kids show of which I only was peripherally aware). Thinking that this was one of those facebook memes, and not wanting to be a spoiler, I simply quoted a bit of Witchpoos song, “Oranges Porriges” to show that I’d recognized her. Sadly, Willow was really looking for an identification since she simply had a “that looks familiar” feeling. I’m trying to remember. I think Bob used to tell Kitty that she looked like Witchypoo. I’ve always been perfectly happy not to have watched that one (something like Peewee’s Playhouse). On the other hand, when I noticed that Rubber Duckie Day was (I think) today, I tripped over a clip of Put Down the Duckie, from the 1988 Sesame Street special and had a “Nostalgiagasm”! We had such fun, such a joyful time when the kids were growing! (I did a blog post on it.)
Last Thursday, they went on errands, and I spent HOURS on the chat with Apple Help. Remember I got an iphone last week? I’ve got unlimited support for 90 days, so I want to ask them anything I need to before that’s over.  Sadly it’s sort of hard to get in touch because our phone, even though it has buttons, makes dial noises, so any time I get voice mail “press one for this, press two for that” unless they say “otherwise stay on the line and an operator will help you”, I’m stuck. They didn’t. I was calling because the phone didn’t charge, and we don’t really get reception here anyway, so I wasn’t able to get to them. I’d go through the steps on line, they’d call and then when the phone clicked instead of beeped, they’d say “We seem to have missed you, we’ll call back in 10 minutes.” So I’d get calls back, none of which could get through because I can’t beep! (frustrated? oh yes I was!) I finally tried the chat format, and they got me to try plugging it into the computer. This charged the phone, but I spent most of Saturday on with them again, because for some reason itunes kept turning itself on (like a pop-up window) and asking me why it couldn’t find “the device” (presumably the phone). I don’t need that. I don’t want anything but the back up drive turning itself on, and I don’t want to be interrupted! Sadly, it didn’t do it when I was on with them, and I stubbornly wouldn’t sign the agreement that said “I have read and accept this” that would allow the technician to see my screen without reading it, and I started to read it, and it turned itself off after five minutes. I’m not a slow reader, it’s impossible to get through that the way its set up. Clearly they expect people to click “I have read” when they haven’t. So they told me to take a screen shot the next time it happened and get back to them. I hate that they have so much set up to be impossible. Anyway, when the phone was at 100% charge (7:30 pm) I took it off the port, turned it off, then when I turned it around noon the next day, I discovered it was 98% discharged.  I find it hard to believe that that’s normal. I’ll have to ask Avi if that’s normal for an iphone. It doesn’t seem like it would be. How would anyone get through a day?
Olaf Trollheimsfjord    Sunday was even worse. The first thing was to discover our friend Olaf aka Jim Revells had died. The best I can say is that I hadn’t heard he was sick, so I hope not much suffering. Then when I got up I hadn’t rinsed my contacts well, and got some of the cleaning stuff in my eye, and it itched. An hour or so later, as I was looking for details about Olaf on the computer, I noticed that I had no contact in my right eye. I must have rubbed it out at some point- we weren’t able to find it. (Monday I called and another will take two weeks to get here. This is an advantage of Willow’s disposable contacts!) Then Willow and I went out for a few groceries and my car died on the way home. It’s been towed to Winkles but we haven’t heard back from them what’s wrong with it yet. I suspect something electronic since first the lights and speedometer wouldn’t work, then the power steering went.  Kat was also sick. We decided to put a yuck face sticker on the calendar every day she actually vomited not just felt nauseous. I do not think that this is an acceptable level of side effect, but hey, it’s not someone or the car dying, and you know things need to come in threes not fours, so we’re not counting it.
Then the internet was full of posts because  David Bowie died. I’m sure he got more facebook time than Olaf, but possibly not on my page. I was already feeling guilty because I’d set aside a book on submarines to send to Olaf, and hand’t gotten to it, so I started worrying about Megan who’s been sick and I haven’t gotten her presents to her yet. (Christmas and birthday be cause she left for England before I could get it to her). I have talked to her, but she’s still fighting pnumonia (again). I’d made a little miniature cookie of each kind to bring to Claus so he could get a tiny taste of the holidays (he’s being VERY careful about his carbs), but tiny ones go stale even faster than normal cookies and I had to throw them out. Darn! Generally I’m OK with the idea that we tend to die off as we get older and our bodies wear out. Personally, I think it’s better to die suddenly than hang on in pain and disrupting the whole family dynamic for a long time. At the same time a sudden death is a reminder that we too might suddenly be “on the other side” with a whole lot of unfinished business left for our families to deal with- or just let go. It’s sort of a wake up call to get to work and live life. Thanks Olaf. You did some good stuff while you were here, and were a great role model on how to love your babies.

The sales director from the Cromwell Hotel got back from her trip, and unless I find something truly odious in the contract, we’ll be going back there again. I am going to read it very carefully this time. Still, It will be good to have the site settled. Once that’s done we can start to line up speakers and vendors and so on.
The kittens (more and more it’s looking like Crukshanks and Pyewacket), are visibly larger. They have settled in and the older cats seem to have gotten used to them. They still sleep a lot- often on the chair in the living room with the stuffed Librarian and bear named Chaucer- they match Amber/Ambian, Xanex does often sleep on the black fur that’s on the piano bench so he’s invisible. The also have developed the not-cute tendency to try to get between everyone’s feet.
Tonight my podcast guest was Shawna Aura Knight, a pagan author and teacher. I noticed that she was plugging her new book, and asked her if she wanted to come on, although we probably won’t get her to come to CTCW since she’s in Chicago. I read some of her books on kindle- I loved her practical approach to dealing with pagans and magick. I’ve also been re-reading some of the Pern books. It disturbs me that often I can’t tell whether I’ve already read them or not, even while I’m reading them. Either I wasn’t paying attention, or I’m losing my retention in a disturbing way.  I’m REALLY enjoying the book How Doctors Think. It’s written for laymen to help them get the best out of their doctors. There are several suggestions, as well as anecdotes to explain how doctors get that way (often it’s trained into them). I particularly liked the questions to ask your doctor when you’re trying to get him to explain what’s going on with your body: “What’s the worst it could be?” and “What else is in that area?” Apparently these are two questions doctors are taught to ask themselves while they’re being trained, so it simply reminds them to think, and not just go for the quick and obvious diagnosis. I watched a couple of episodes of a British TV show Doc Martin which is about a brilliant famous surgeon who suddenly in the middle of an operation realized that the “aorta” he was working on wasn’t a “challenge”  or “body part” but a person, someone’s wife, daughter, sister, and after that he had panic attacks at the sight or even smell of blood, so he’s trying to make it as a rural gp. The bit is that he’s still knowledgable and brilliant, and really wants to help people, but mostly, it’s that about the way that as a surgeon, he never learned to have to deal with people, and he doesn’t have those skills. Frankly, while I find his character growth appealing, (one of his challenges is that he’s been adopted by a dog, and he’s never had one before, and doesn’t want it),  the rural characters are so universally obnoxious that I may not watch more because they are SO irritating. They are worse than caricatures, they aren’t funny, although I expect they are supposed to be. I have finished all the Midsomer Murders that are available on Netflix, and am going to watch the more recent seasons of NCIS I haven’t seen yet. And perhaps Call the Midwife. Meanwhile, I have finished the series on Christmas in many lands with the Spain and Philippines books, and figure I should start on some of my Anglo-Saxon backlog. (Time to start thinking about what I’ll teach at Pennsic this year.)
I was charmed by the Spanish customs, but the Philippine ones just kept jarring my sense of White Colonizing abuse. Certainly now they are Christians, but we had no right to go in and force a foreign religion on them. The cover image is of a lovely little Philippino girl with a caucasian doll. And in so many of these books in the past 50 years from Greece to Spain to Asia, Santa Claus and Christmas Trees are being added to their own cultural traditions, even if they used to have St. Nicholas or the Befana or the three Kings bring gifts to their children. I feel ashamed of our attitude that because we can offer them better technology or medicine that we have the right to push our culture on them when we’re offering them other stuff they want. Can’t we give them refrigeration without Coke? Can’t we let them develop how they want to develop and not make them cheap knock-offs of us? (and of course, not pay them slave wages and rape their natural resources?) Why can’t we simply deal honestly with the rest of the world and not feel superior to them just because we had the ability to beat them in battle? As they said in the Life of Brian, what did Rome ever do for us? Roads, Baths, etc. but at the same time, (although it wasn’t funny to say it in context) they did loot the province rather severely.) I wish we could learn enough from history to do better than those before us did.
Ah well, having started to ramble, it’s time for me to sign off. I hope we’ll actually do something so next week’s letter will be more amusing . Maybe I’ll include recipes. I made some lovely soups this week- beef, mushrooms, barley, some carrots. I do like having the wood stove on.
Everything has Beauty, but not Everyone sees it. Confucius
Olaf- younger