2-25-2015 Clam Chowder Day

DSC01792It looks like the snow is receding a bit. When I looked out the window last week, all I could see was the white berms, and often wondered if it had snowed during the night, but it turned out that it was just that I couldn’t see the brown strip of plowed and sanded road between the berms. Now it shows when I look out, so I’m thinking the berms have lost six inches or so. This probably means that they are turning into solid blocks of ice, but it also shows that they are melting. Hard to believe, as it’s been so very cold. I don’t trust my thermometer by the door- I think some heat is leaking out, and during the day it collects solar heat, so while it says we haven’t gotten down as cold as many of our friends have been reporting, I think we have gone below zero. Right now the thermometer claims (and it feels like) it’s 50º out in the door-well, and was 70º yesterday, and only 10º last night.
We still have icicles, and they are huge over the windows on the south side of the house (again making it seem like a combination of solar gain and leaking heat). We may have a bit of an ice dam in the back, where the roof grade is more shallow, and there’s a bit of leaking over the window in the pantry. Since it hasn’t snowed for a couple of weeks, I haven’t been able to grab Steve when he came to plow to ask him to shovel the roof. There’s a LOT of snow accumulated, and I’m not unhappy that there’s none in the near forecast- although I suspect March still has some snow coming for us.

I continue to mend from that cold last month; I am in the frustration phase. Frankly, I feel it should be just a bad memory at this point, but I’ll feel good and go out to do some errands and suddenly be weak and wobbly again. At home I can just switch over to doing a sitting down job (is there a dinner that doesn’t require chopping some onions and or garlic?), but when I’m out it’s more obvious. I am very impatient about this. As my energy returns I am motivated to run around the house cleaning everything, and my energy doesn’t last long enough to more than start a project (unless it’s very modest). So I grumble a lot, and I don’t think anyone else in the house is any less emotionally fragile. Feh. We are all looking forward to spring.DSC01795

Perhaps because I can do so much of it sitting down, or perhaps because it’s cold, or perhaps because it makes people smile, I’ve been baking a lot this month. (It is Pie Month.) Also, there’s a certain amount of “my energy is coming back, so I can play with my new birthday toy.” I finally made a batch of Oreshki cookies. They are as good as I’d hoped, although I don’t expect to make them more than once a year. The traditional ones are shaped like walnuts, and the iron makes little hollow halves that are traditionally filled with caramel. Having leftover caramel from Christmas, we tried that, and it’s good. I also tried simply filling a half with jam, and that’s also good, although perhaps not quite as good as the caramel ones.
DSC01796I am thinking about trying to get some more shelves somewhere in the house to put the various cooking toys I’ve got. One wants to be able to find them, but if only once a year, I don’t really need to have them right there in the pantry.

We are still using the snowflake dishes, it would seem odd not to, although we’ve switched the blue plDSC01792ates for the red ones. I brought down the valentines tablecloth, but never got around to using it. Oh well. I got a lovely new blue jacquard tablecloth, it’s supposedly 5 feet long, but it’s actually shy that by about a centimeter, so that’s really frustrating because the table’s exactly 5 feet long.

Jonathan’s birthday was on the 21st, and we went to theJon's birthday
Grand Buffet to celebrate. It was snowing, but I noticed that Willow drives really well on snow. Willow took a “selfie” of us at the restaurant.
Selfies are a bit weird, especially with groups.  When we got back home I used another one of my birthday presents to make his cake. It’s a slicer. I’d made a DSC01797lovely sponge cake, and this let me cut it into 7 layers, between which I put raspberry jam. In deference to Kat not caring for whipped cream (odd child that she is) John opted to have it unfrosted and let each person add as much whipped cream as he or she preferred to his or her slice. I think it would look better with a layer of cream, and want to try it again with cream and fresh berries between the layers. I think this may have been the second sponge cake I’ve made, and am eager to try another. There’s something appealing about not having to figure out something to do with the extra egg yolks (as one must with an angel cake).
I also finally got around to trying my new “waffle DSC01799bowl maker”. This one is electric, and I think one of the elements in it is shot, because with the first batch, all the waffle bowls slumped on one side- and they were paler there too. So the next time when the light went out, I turned the bowls a quarter turn and left them in for another 20 seconds, which evened the color, and they didn’t slump. Sadly, they taste pretty much like a cake cone. You can’t fill them in advance- they absorb moisture from the pudding or whipped cream, but they’re fun. This morning we tried them with scrambled eggs with bacon, scallions, cheese, and banana peppers in them. It would be good for a situation where you didn’t want to invest in silverware, and could have them pre-made and fill them last minute. They have lots of recipe suggestions, but bizarrely, they suggest putting maple syrup on them all- even the eggs and bacon bowls. Weird!

I am a bit sad. This week I have lost my latest black fur hat that the kids got me for my 2014 birthday. This is the third hat that’s gone missing. The previous two were in hotels, this one was in Walmart. I checked immediately, then later at “lost and found”, but clearly whoever picked it up simply thought “lucky me!” and didn’t turn it in. It makes me sad that people would do that. Especially because in my observation, people who don’t buy something often don’t value it. For me, a fur hat is an investment- you save up for it and are thrilled to have it. Chances are that whoever found it probably doesn’t even recognize the difference between real fur and fake fur (but that’s me being a class-ist and looking down on Walmart shoppers, which I shouldn’t do since I am one).DSC01800
I also made a Washington’s Birthday Cherry Pie. (I’d meant to make it for President’s Day, but didn’t get to it, so this gave me another chance.) We also had an apple pie, which certainly WAS because I was trying to come up with an excuse to sit and peel and chop rather than move around. Last night I made some lovely Turkey a la King with the turkey leftovers. Last week I’d had one of our little $6 turkeys I get in the November sales. It’s very nice to be able to have turkey more than once or twice a year. I’ve also (I think) used up the corned beef I get in March. It’s a lovely boiled dinner- I’ve always preferred it to a simple pot roast. We are trying to work our way through the freezer backlog. Since every so often we find something that is sadly freezer-burned, this is an important project (too often forgotten).
Working in the kitchen, I’ve watched far more movies that I’d actually like to have seen in one week. I regret none of the Downton Abbey, and am a bit sad that having finished the fourth season, the show is almost used up, and I’ll have to wait for the next season to come out, like all the people who discovered it before me, or learn to stream it (if that’s possible, which it probably is), and I’ll still have to wait for each next episode. It’s funny, I keep picturing my grandmother (the flapper) as Mary- she’d have been about the right age, yet I identify Robert with my father- who’d have been the next generation after.
Virginia PFNow Kat and I are back to watching Upstairs Downstairs. There is still a bit of THAT left (I think we’re at about episode 20). When we started on Upstairs Downstairs  I realized that I’d somehow conflated it with the Forsyte Saga in my head, so I took the first disc of that out, and watched it again- although haven’t dragged Kat in on that one. I really don’t think much of the clothing from the ’80s and ’90s (who thought bustles were a good idea?), but I’ve gotten used to the clothing from the `20s. I’ve decided that I like the decoration and the theory, although I dislike the silhouette and find it flatters almost no one. I am appalled that a fashion so unflattering as the 20th century business suit has lasted so long. It has no right to have done so. Kat and I gleefully discuss the clothing, and I keep pausing the action to try to get a better view of the food and the kitchen. I am SO glad I have a modern kitchen, but would love to try to make some of that food. But really!  the impression they have a souffle of some sort in every dinner, lobster, maybe, but kidney? Eeughk! I borrowed the Downton Abbey Cookbook from the library, but sadly it was “inspired by” and has been adapted for modern tastes. Feh! I want to try what Mrs. Patmore and Daisy (and Mrs. Bridges) were doing! I’ll have to look for reprints of period cookbooks that haven’t been “updated”.
I tried a recipe that is easy, and you may want to try. I took a packet of Ranch Salad Dressing mix, and mixed it with sour cream and a bit of butter as a dressing for pasta (shells) the other night when I was too tired to think. It did have that taste in the back of your mouth that commercially prepared things have, but it was dead easy, so some people may like it.
I watched a lovely film: Mao’s Last Dancer, which has a really neat dance from Stravinski’s Rites of Spring at the finale; lovely dancing! John had the new Robocop, which confused me because the design of the Robocop armor was so close to the 1987 version. The ending was happier, which I didn’t mind, but I still think I prefer the old one. He also watched (and I noticed, and borrowed Joe vs the Volcano before he sent it back. It’s a charming movie from back when Tom Hanks was young, and I still enjoy it. I was reminded that when I first watched it, I never noticed that Meg Ryan was playing multiple roles, which shows what a good job she did (or how unobservant I was. Perhaps I would have now, as I now recognize her as an actor.) I decided to check out the new Conan; someone told me it was closer to the books than the ’82 version. Sadly, I discovered that I had actually seen it before and forgotten, and even with a fair portrayal of the character, the rest of the movie was all special effects, and icky crazy priestess, and splatting blood during the fighting, of which there was a LOT. I may forget it again. I watched a couple BBC documentaries about Pompeii (the Last Day, Back from the Dead) to complement the recent (fairly dumb) movie version I watched last week. (I’m still looking for the version I saw as a kid.)
ad_hominemFor fiction, I’m nearing the end of Dickson’s Dragon series, finished the Gnarly King and am on to Lyonesse.  I have also read the Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments, and am wishing they’d put it in every school. Make it a requirement for kids before they get on the internet. I still think they should teach the trivium: Illustrated-book-of-bad-arguments-3-600x542Logic, Rhetoric, and Grammar in grade school. If how to think, speak and write clearly aren’t basic life skills, I don’t know what are. I’ll admit that this book mainly is explaining what different arguments are so the reader will know the difference between equivocation, guilt by association, affirming the consequent, and a “straw man”. A discussion of what they are will teach how to recognize them, and why they are BAD arguments, and wouldn’t it be nice if people using the internet had this knowledge, and could then use fewer bad arguments. I’m reading The Pecking Order, which is sort of an antidote to Birth Order books. The author argues that because of diminished resources, the big reason birth order has an effect is because the first and last children have more of the parents time and money available. I can see how families do create “roles” for each person, Bob was, of course, the Heir, I was the “artistic one” (even though every one of us has a lot of talent), Liz got stuck with being the “dependable one”, Kitty was (and to a certain extent still is) “the baby”, even though Trish took up that role for a few years, then she became “the go-getter”. Sadly, (and I hope that the author is going to get to this) I fear that our kids may have taken on the roles assigned to them by the school: “the gifted one”, “ADD/CFS”, “HFA”, and “forgetful one”. Certainly within the school system these labels are powerful and restrictive even when “positive”.
Personally, that links in to the story my friend Sarah shared on facebook about her great aunt who was recently found on the floor after having fallen and not being able to get up over night. Why is it that our culture has convinced us that all adults should live alone? This is bad economically, and emotionally. Humans need each other. It seems to me that we are asserting our rights to be as nasty to each other as we feel like, and trying to make up for what we lose by that with paying people to do what family and friends used to provide. Rich people have always been able to do that, but even they missed out on having people who cared for them. Why can’t we be nice enough to each other so that it’s worth it for our kith and kin to go out of their way to help us when we need it? Would it kill us to compromise? To learn to be as polite in private as we are in public? Having glorified the virtue of  personal “independence” over mutual support and community, we end our days in public institutions where we are being cared for as “efficiently” as possible by strangers- away from anyone we know, the places and things we’ve built in our lives, and why? Because in our culture, a human’s value is set by income- the amount of money we can make and spend. The women and men who cared for people are now so busy trying to make money they haven’t got time (and have no cultural support) for caring for the young, the old, the ill, the weak, or the handicapped. When homes are multi-generational the challenge of the culture is how adults share space and responsibility. I’m sure those are not small challenges. As I recall a Chinese character for disharmony is a house with two women in it. Each woman wants to be in charge of her own kitchen, just as each person wants his own space. But you can have that without every child having his own room, or every young adult having his or her own apartment. It mostly requires respect and recognizing that a person is an adult, even if they are still at home. That’s hard for parents and I think that lacking good “rites of passage” in our culture, some parents keep on treating their offspring like children all their lives. Others recognize adulthood when their child has children, or moves out, or starts paying their own way- but once again, that takes it back to money. We need to recognize that we’re all in it together, and then having to help someone who needs extra help isn’t an imposition, but simply “how life is”. I am hoping that there will be something in later chapters of The Pecking Order that will make me feel better about it. So far I tend to be argumentative and cranky. (That could simply be a manifestation of cabin fever.)
I also got REALLY annoyed at some of the responses to Sarah’s story that shared techniques for old people who’d fallen and “can’t get up”, all of which required them to lean on their arms. I’m sensitive about it having spent the last few years not being able to put much weight on my wrists without discomfort, and thinking that it’s not unlikely that someone who’s fallen might have put her arms out to break her fall, and hurt them even if she hasn’t got my problems. Also, some of the techniques they show seem rather beyond someone who’s frail enough that falling might not be recoverable. Really, put a speaker behind you and lift yourself up on it as an intermediate step to a couch or chair? This woman with a butt probably no wider than the speaker (12 inches) might be able to do it, but there are a lot of us with butts twice that wide! I also tried Willow’s “weebles wobble trick” (raise your legs, bend them and grab your ankles) for rolling into a sitting up position, and discovered that padded though my posterior may be, it still hurts a LOT where the pelvic bones hit the floor. All my years of sleeping on a water bed have left me blissfully unaware of what pressure on my back feels like (unless the cat walks over it- how is it that a 10 pound cat can put what feels like fifty pounds of pressure into each foot? And they seem to have some special ability to find those diagnostic pressure points doctors use to see if you have FM.) After trying it on the living room carpet, I tried it again on my bed where it worked beautifully, but once again, I’m loving my waterbed. (It’s especially wonderful in winter with the featherbeds and many sheepskins! I sleep like a Russian Princess!)

Apparently Oscars happened last week. Yesterday I looked up who won and put in a staggered series of requests at the library. I was rather surprised that I hadn’t heard of any of them. Birdman and Boyhood seem interesting, and I’m looking forward to them. I suppose in last year’s winner’s circle I’ve only seen 12 years a Slave, Gravity, and the Croods. (looking it up, I did watch Captain Phillips, and liked it, I also seem to have seen the Hobbit, Iron Man 3, Star Trek and the Lone Ranger– guess what I like to watch? If you say comedy & adventure, you’re right.)

There’s been a lot of discussion on the internet this week about 50 Shades of Gray, the movie, the book, and mostly the issues that they bring up. Is what the characters doing OK, even though it makes a lot of us very uncomfortable? Many people have pointed out how manipulative and coercive both of the characters are, and while I have no urge at all to see it, I have no shame about riding the coat-tails of it’s popularity, and tonight my podcast is about love spells, and is called 50 shades of Stupid.  I’ll admit I’ve done this subject before, but let’s face it, Love, Wealth and Health are the three things most people try to get using magick. It’s understandable, Affection, Security, and a functional body are basic human needs. But most people just don’t understand how magic works- your mind effects your body, and when you pour emotion into an intent, something is going to happen. If you haven’t figured out what it is you want and why, you are probably going to manifest something way off from what you need or even want. I don’t think I can say it too often (and my friend Kerensa is going to help me talk about it).

Last Thursday Willow went to the dentist, and is going back to get a tooth refilled- the temporary filling had come out. She got a lecture. What part of “yes, I’d love to do all the work you suggest, but I can’t afford it?” do they not get? Kat and I are going in tomorrow to get our dose of cleaning and condescending advice.DSC01801
Willow is making blankets. Today she had to cut out yet another triforce blanket, then a special one for the Guardians of Childhood with a symbol for each of them- the movie version, not the books (of which I’m fond).DSC01803
Kat has been pouring almost all her time into her most recent commission. You can see the pictures she takes to track her progress on her Eating Words with Kittywitch.
Haven’t noticed much in the news, but I’m happy Obama stopped the XL Pipeline.

Well, the podcast is coming up. I need to get ready for that!

Until next week,
“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen, even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.”  Leonardo Da Vinci

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