1-3-2018 Festival of Sleep

2017 yule cookies

This year’s cookie collection, the last of many of the varieties. Shortbread, Loki’s, sprinkled shortbread, coconut macaroons, Wishing stars, Ganesha’s treats, candy canes, Peppermint chocolate “Roses”, Lebkuchen, Mint trees, Finnish butter cookies, mince pies, and in the middle Chocolate butter cookies, and cinnamon horns. Fewer this year, but enough.

Well, it’s been cold. Today the sun is shining. We have a “high-low” thermometer, but it’s on the front step which holds heat and tells us that it’s 70 degrees when the one in the shade says 20 degrees. It does explain why the cats like to sit there. Yesterday I was coming in and put my hand on the door and the wood felt warm. (I won’t say that that might not be because my hands were rather cold.) But the lowest this week has been -30º during the night, and I’m more likely to believe that than the high. The forecast indicates that this is the last sunny day for a week or more. At least snow is insulating, although you do have to remove it from the driveway, mailbox and cars.

But the cold is a problem. Many people worry about the animals. I worry about the homeless, especially with the cruel “motivate them to leave our town” attitudes many towns are showing these days. Police really need to simply refuse to vandalize the meager possessions of the homeless. If it works for war crime tribunals, it should work in local situations. People are dying. (Although not in the numbers that happen in heat waves.)

We were doing OK with the wood stove, but then the toilet (or probably water pump) “screamed” when we tried to flush- the cellar had gotten down to 30º, so we had to heat it.

The kerosene heater space heater we had for warming the cellar wasn’t cooperating, so we got a replacement- this one is propane. (Yes, we are being careful.) The big issue is that it does go through about a 20 pound can every day, which is both an “unexpected” cost, and an inconvenience to go get refilled.

Then yesterday Willow’s car wouldn’t start. I’d needed the jump box to get mine going, but it didn’t work on hers, and hooking hers up to mine for a half hour wouldn’t get hers started, so we are going to have to get her a new battery. As a “last chance” measure, we have called AAA. They’ve added a new item n their voice mail menu- “Press one if this is a battery problem”. And it took more than a half hour to get to the operator “Due to large call volume, we apologize for the wait…” and while usually they can just sell you a new battery, they are out at the moment (no surprise). We were hoping they could sell us one because the price is about the same and there seems to be a bar going across the top of the battery in Willows engine. I’m guessing it’s to discourage people from stealling the batteries. I’ve heard that they will do that, toss out the old battery, then go back the next day and steal the replacement for resale. Anyway, your mechanics won’t change a battery, and we don’t have the right tools.

It occurs to me if logic ruled, this should be a short letter, because we really didn’t do much this week that didn’t have to do with the cold. I’d say we “huddled” most of the week. Bless John for keeping the wood stove going! (He’s actually willing to put on shoes when he goes outside, at least temporarily.)

My friend Edward, (who I still slip and call Gary or Danamus Icarus because that’s how I knew him from the SCA in the 70s) and his dogs came down to visit on Thursday. They are charming and well behaved Pomeranians. He told me about how he almost lost them in his divorce. It’s a pity when people get to the point where they just want to hurt the other.

Steve came up for New Year’s Eve, and we had a scaled down version of our usual “feast of small foods”; it was at least partially scaled down because I also served the prime roast I’d gotten for Christmas. Even with the larder just above freezing it wouldn’t last forever. I watched some Youtube instructional on how to carve it- but when I came to do so, the butcher had already cut the bones off- they were simply tied back on! I felt a bit cheated. And was once again reminded that prime is not as flavorful as the cuts that cost a third their price.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t “all that and a bag of chips” either.

“Evil”, one of Willow’s friends, came by on New Year’s Day. She brought cookies because Willow sounded like she “got the morbs” (I like the way she thinks), and also a new game Scrawl. It is a cross between dictionary and telephone. There are cards with clues, and many whiteboards with wipe-off markers, you pass around, with a clip to layer them. The first person draws whatever their clue is, the second writes down what they think it was (clips that on top), the third draws what they think what phrase THAT drawing represents, and the fourth writes down what they think that means. Some were fairly easy, like Star Gate. Others were harder- like Gorilla pit or Giraffe Limbo. (I mistook the gorilla for a chimp.) Fun, but I don’t think I’d pay $50 for it.  I think the key is that if the phrase actually makes sense, it’s a lot easier to guess! It’s an “adult” game so there’s lot’s of sexual innuendos and phrases like “assess chaps”, “sex bomb”, and stuff I don’t want to think about much less draw. They need some brain shampoo! But a good time was had, especially when we switched to Monty Python Flux (what with the singing and the “outrageous accents”).

That’s about it- except for going out on errands (exchange propane tanks, get more Rescue Remedy, go to the library, etc.) I haven’t done much. I picked up a larger pad of charcoal paper because I got another art commission, lovely and romantic but it’s a surprise, so I can’t talk about it until it’s done. I did finally finish fixing Kat’s white sweater that some cat had chewed. The cats are not thrilled with the change in the weather and don’t go out much. Zoloft has returned to sleeping with me. I LOVE my bed, it’s so comfy, although it stays about 40º, (I find that good sleeping weather when sandwiched between featherbeds and quilts and furs).

Last week’s New Normal was on Ethics and Magick and we had several people call in- and my connection was dropped again. I am SO done with LiveParanormal, I have blown it off for this week! I need to find a different venue. But first I’m switching banks. I keep an eye on it, but sometimes with the auto-payments, it goes low, and I have to switch money in from the other accounts- but they always take out bounced check fees BEFORE they transfer the money in, and I am so sick of that! I can’t afford it. It’s going to be a pain in the butt to change all my auto-payments over to another bank, but it’ll be worth it.

Poor Willow also had her Kindle (e book reader) screen break, so we got her a new one. Actually I got one too since it was $70 for one and $100 for two. I want to separate my books so that I have fiction on one and non-fiction on the other- I hope I can do that. Sadly, while I got the extended warrantees, I missed the size when I got the screen protectors and will need to get the right ones for these.

Kat finished her year-end video “for a year we’re glad to see end”. John points out that I am healthier than this time last year. By way of some explanation (assuming you’ll follow the link to watch it) there are images of Willow looking like a big pink jellyfish are from the October anime con, and there are some from taking Avi’s kids to the Science Museum, of the girls up at Clearwater, of us at the War, Canobie-Con, Kat-con, our Walpergis Night Cake, Halloween pumpkins and costunes, the Solstice feast, Willow making her blankets, undignified images of our cats- of course, and oddly the clothes line. Although I’m not sure that helps (except in explaining why Willow was dressed and moving like a big colorful jellyfish- it was the con’s avatar, so it actually does make sense- in a cos-play sort of way.

Willow has pointed out that “Michaels is booty calling me.” We are stubbornly holding on to the medieval way of looking at the Yule Holidays- it’s not over until the Epiphany (the 6th), or Orthodox Christmas if you prefer! The rest of the world may have gone straight from pre-Christmas sales to post-Christmas sales, but we celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, and should not have to pick up the plow and spindle again until Plow/Distaff Monday. Of course, since I neglected to get any calendar this season, I’m a bit thrown off. I did go back to Toadstool (the bookshop), but they were out of the ones I wanted. For years we’ve had an appointment calendar with a grid of days (vertical) and people (horizontal) into which to plug appointments, and another (whatever turns up) on the pantry door- on which I record what we’ve eaten. This really helps when you are trying to figure out just how old a leftover is! And for nearly 20 years I’ve been getting a moon phase calendar- but they are out because I didn’t get there in time this year. I’ll have to check their other stores.

January is (in my opinion) the time for comfort foods: casseroles, soups, Mac and cheese, meatloaf, potatoes… I have to admit that I am thinking about pies more because of the Charmed Pie Shop series. By the time I’d finished Pies and Prejudice, I was reassured that it wasn’t just a knock off of the Enchanted Bake Shop series. That’s more mysteries with a touch of magic- witches, druids, mambos, etc. But this one has a whole mythos going about descendants of fairies- Gwenevire and Morgan la Faye, with occasional references to silkies and Gilgamesh and elementals. Both series are full of references to and appreciation of baked goods as well as magick, and I’m loving it. This week I read

Peach Pies and Alibis, Lemon Pies and Little White Lies, and Pecan Pies and Homicides, and I am teetering on the edge of wanting to try some of the pies (especially as the recipes are included at the back of the book). I do expect that shoofly pie, pecan pie, and many of others would be too sweet for me. I am used to Apple, Blueberry, Cherry. I find strawberry too sweet alone, but with rhubarb, marvelous! I also find adding cranberries to blueberry pie improves the balance in my mouth. Meat pies, chicken, pork, beef, turkey, sausage? I’m there! I’ve never gotten into custard pies, although Chocolate isn’t bad, and I do like pumpkin. Would you believe that Pumpkin pie is more popular than Apple? I figure they must be putting too much sugar in it, or using the wrong sort of apples.  I like the lemon curd part of lemon meringue, but have always felt they put the meringue on to use up the egg whites that you don’t use in the filling. I wouldn’t even try coconut or banana cream pies. Because of my historical background, I may some day try a funeral pie (I think it’s basically a raisin pie), and maybe a treacle pie (Harry Potter’s favorite), although I’m pretty sure that treacle is just molasses, and wonder how good it could be. I suspect it may be akin to Shoo Fly Pie.

I personally like mince pies, although the kids don’t- with the result that if I make one, I’ll probably end up eating it all myself- luckily it lasts well. The Charmed Pie Shop in the book serves breakfast, lunch and tea, so they have meat pies and quiches as well as dessert pies. I made a quiche for breakfast a few days ago, and there are some variations I’d love to try like Pancetta and Gruyere. I’m intrigued by the idea of Chocolate Bourbon Pie, and Chess Pie. But as I turn to read other things, will my attention follow? I’ve now started The Shadows, which I think Tamar or Karen recommend. (It is such a joy to discover that new wonderful books are still constantly being written. BTW- this is JRR Tolkien’s birthday, or Tolkien Day, and yes there are books worth re-reading. Sadly, a book called The Little Red Chairs– was in my reserved pile at the library, did someone recommend it to me? I don’t remember why or when I put it on order?

Although they were out of calendars, I picked up a little book Icelandic Magic for Modern Living at the Toadstool, which takes the bind runes or “staves” from Icelandic Grimoires, and updates them, so that have one to quiet a bothersome child, one for improving your wifi, others to bring in tourists or get rid of tourists. Some of them just look silly, but I’m not sure, they may actually work. To complement that I’ve pulled LeCouteau’s Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology and Magic off the “to read” pile. I hope to work my way through at least 25 this year! (If I can just stop taking new ones out of the library!

I finished watching the final season of West Wing with rather mixed feelings. It was all about the election, and frankly, we used to turn off the TV during election years because we dislike those shenanigans so much. I’ll admit that they portrayed a lovely fantasy world where both candidates were good men, and they even decided to chuck modern debate formats and actually debate each other- which I would dearly love to see, but if it happens, I’ll probably miss it because I dislike what they really do now so much.

I watched several videos this week (knitting and other hand-work supports that), and when Steve came up and we were waiting for Midnight to happen, we watched Death Takes a Holiday– a lovely 1948 film. I had my usual distaste of the rich that I try to curb, (but they they are so clueless!) I loved that Death (not as cool as Terry Pratchett’s, but cool in a 1940s way) was trying to understand people, and in the end there was some suggestion that when they met Death again, they could greet him not with fear but as an old friend. I’ve always felt that Death was a great blessing, as long as it wasn’t off schedule. On the other hand, in the movie, when a man jumped from the Eiffel Tower he walked away unhurt, when a building burned, all miraculously escaped. It wasn’t like the man hit the ground, splatted and lived on in agony, or the burn victims survived in pain for the three days death was taking his break. I think that might have been more honest.

I must have been thinking about romantic comedies when I put in my requests to the library a few weeks ago- I re-watched Emma, not Austen’s best, but still lovely characters.

Lovely and Amazing, was so not. It was the story of a mother and her three screwed up daughters, one of those “life sucks, even if you are beautiful and have money, deal with it” stories. Yuck. Someone Like You, was better, as a woman try to figure out why men she falls in love with tend to dump her, but then falls in love with her genuinely nice male room-mate. There’s a marvelous (sad) scene of her going to a New Years party to which he’d invited her, but she couldn’t find him, and left, and he spotted her, but couldn’t get through the crowds to get to her. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to go to a party like that! At least it had a happy ending, even if it rode the old “I was cynical, but now I believe in love” trope a bit too far.

We also took out The Christmas Toy which we had on VHS, but can’t play now (and is available on DVD for over $100- explain that!). Anyway, I remember it from when the kids were young. It’s a nostalgia thing. It’s the same story as Toy Story, only with Muppets, and a bunch of not particularly good songs. And this one didn’t even have Kermit introducing it.

On the other hand, I really liked and strongly recommend Absolutely Anything. The premise is intergalactic aliens are judging the inhabitants of various planets by giving the power to do “absolutely anything” to a random person for ten days and seeing if they use the power for good or evil. The random shuck is a high school teacher played by Simon Pegg. The supporting cast is marvelous- Eddie Izzard is the nasty principle, the crew from Monty Python voice the aliens, and Robin Williams voiced the dog- apparently this was made in 2015 and I only discovered it now. I loved so many things about this- it’s very enjoyable, if totally frivolous.

I got a picture of the covered cookie tray John gave me. I love when I can cover the cookies! I still haven’t found my camera, but Willow pointed out that there is one in the Kindle, and Kat showed me how to get them onto the computer.


Beware of any enterprise that requires new clothes.– Henry David Thoreau

(Like going outside at 15º below?)

Holidays Next week:


3 Wed Chocolate Covered Cherry Day, Tolkien Day, Festival of Sleep, Memento Mori

4 Thurs Spaghetti Day, Trivia Day, Hypnotism Day, Braille Day, Pop Music Chart Day

5 Fri Whipped Cream Day, Bird Day, Screenwriters Day,

6 Sat Bean Day, Technology Day, Shortbread Day, Cuddle Up Day, Smith Day

7 Sun Tempura Day, Pas Gas, Bobblehead Day, I’m not going to Take it Anymore Day

8 Mon English Toffee Day, Bubble Bath Day, Clean off your Desk Day, Joy Germ Day

9 Tues Apricot Day, Word Nerd Day, Choreographers Day, Poetry @ Work, Play God

10 Wed Bittersweet Chocolate Day, Peculiar People Day, Houseplant Appreciation Day