ught out the holly dishes, and hung the big wreath on the Great Hall. There is NO Christmas festivities before December! It’s rather chilly, but of course, no snow yet. John and I managed to help Mark get out of his extra locker on the 30th! Cutting it very close. Next project is for me to profit from Mark’s example and go through our house and get rid of any stuff we probably won’t use. We did actually bring some of his metal shelving units- right now they’re in the barn until we can get the old appliances out of the cellar, at which point they will help us organize our junk. The cellar is huge. Much bigger than a storage locker, and while not quite so full, I think it has a higher proportion of stuff that was unwanted but simply “too much work to get rid of”.
Actually, the next small project is to move the Shadowmaker knife that we found behind one of the shelves. Mark can use the money more than the knife now
that he’s not doing the SCA anymore, and it may be worth a thousand dollars if we can find the right buyer. Alron Shadowmaker was a well known bladesmith in the SCA who died about twenty years ago (wow). I feel lucky to have two of his knives, one he made and gave me when we were on the throne that says “Honi soit qui mal y pense.” The thing I loved most about him was that he was one of the few people who agreed with me that honesty is a virtue. Sometimes when I think about all the great people I’ve known who’ve died, I feel very old.
One thing I’ve done this week that is probably a waste of time is I’ve resumed posting the holidays. I enjoy them, I just need to figure out how to make it take less time. There’s a facebook page, Holidays that might be Overlooked, and the gentleman who ran it seems to have gone into politics and disappeared, which was sad, so I started tossing up holidays again- mostly from previous year’s collections, so they aren’t always updated. I did have a mystery last night though, I put up Oshiroi Matsuri, an interesting Japanese holiday where they paint their faces with rice flour. When I was just doing it on fb, my hobby horse was that I looked up the holidays and made sure that they weren’t simply mistakes being
passed around the internet (and put in links so other people could check). For facebook, I try to get two or three pictures to post as well, so when I was looking up Oshiroi Matsuri, and looking for a good image to use, to my surprise, there was my daughter on the images for the festival. What the heck? Our best guess is that since these pictures appeared in the letter on my live journal page, and if you follow the link from the google image search it takes you there, that some mechanism in the computer looked for white or faces or both, and tossed my page in under the festival. A None Too Subtle Reminder that googling is NOT research!
Last Thursday was Thanksgiving, which was low-key, but pleasant. Inasmuch as I tend to stock up on small turkeys (12 pounders) when they’re down to 69¢ a pound, so we can eat turkey any time we like, I decided to get a BIG turkey for Thanksgiving. The one I found was 18 pounds, and it was, indeed, impressive looking. And yes, we are still eating it. ( Monday a lovely turkey à là King, with probably the best white sauce I’ve ever made, and tonight a turkey pot pie.) But it was way too much for six people, and then Mark (who loves turkey and might have polished off a pound by himself) got sick and couldn’t make it, so it was just Steve and us Taylors. We eliminated a couple of vegetables, and had only the Turkey (and way too much stuffing!), mashed potatoes, peas, and cinnamon rolls. Back when we had in crowds, there were sweet and plain rolls, turnip, squash, green bean casserole, and onions.
We did have a bit too much by way of hors d’ouvres: Stuffed celery. Kat whipped the cream cheese and used a pastry tip to fill them. She said she wished she could go back and reassure her 12 year old self that yes, someday she’d be able to make gorgeous filled celery! I had a small shrimp cocktail ring, and a cheese and cracker (and apple slices) plate, and we had bacon puffs. I got a moment of satisfaction the night before when Willow remembered them and wished that we’d had them, and I was able to reassure her that I’d gotten the ingredients when I was doing the shopping- they were in the pantry with the shrimp ring (by the back window- we open and shut it to regulate the temperature and keep it at 40º).
I also indulged Jon with a bottle of Ginger ale so we could make the traditional cranberry punch (as well as sparkling cider). We had (only) three pies this year: apple, pumpkin, and blueberry/cranberry. Liz introduced me to that the other year and I find that the cranberries cut the sweetness of the blueberries, which can really be too sweet. What you can’t tell from the picture, because I turned it away is that the cranberry pie dripped on the apple, leaving gory red streaks down half of it. It looked like it had been decorated by an axe murderer (or goth girl).
So we all ate ourselves into proper “food comas” and chatted, and sent leftovers home with Steve. Kat had set the dining room table, after having spent all morning polishing the silver, and setting it with an extra leaf, and the best plates. I actually love the silver serving dishes because they have lids to keep the food warm, and that shouldn’t be a luxury. Kat uses crumpled foil, baking soda and salt to polish them, and they look great! (While she was at it, she did the porringers and baby mugs as well.)
We are both doing a bit of cleaning every day, and the house is looking better. Willow is getting the expected blanket requests and is sewing and sending out her blankets almost daily.
Because of this, and because of a 75% off sale on the fleece she uses, we ventured out on Black Friday for the first time. She meant to buy 3 bolts of colors she uses a lot, but when we finally got to the cutting table, the lady said. “That’s it, I’m not cutting any more fleece today!” (She’d been waiting for a familiar face so she could use the joke without upsetting a customer.) So Willow took whole rather than half bolts of any colors where she knew that she’d be able to use the full 7 or 8 yards. And various other appealing colors and patterns. And I bought a piece of quilting fabric for which I was able to use a coupon. In the end, the order was $203. Before you gasp in wonder, you have to remember that this is not the first time that we’ve spent over $200 on fabric at a go. On the other hand, as they announced over the intercom “There’s a lady who has just saved over $600!” I think there was a sign mentioning someone had saved over $200, and at the cutting table they told us that so far the record had been $400 saved. So, yes, we bought $800+ of fabric. Feel free to be impressed. I’m sure it took work for Willow to rearrange what she already had, so it would fit in her room.
Having gotten the last piece of fabric, I went over my figures and cut the strips to make the tier skirt. The ball is in Kat’s court now. Given that she’s also working on her Damsels book, as well as — I somewhat hate to give her something else to do. But really, giving her the prepared strips is what I should have done before CTCW. I have gotten the two years of audios up on the website- now just waiting for Brian to fix the plug-in. Apparently during the last week he was only sleeping a couple of hours a day because of his being “on call” for his work. Ouch! Doesn’t sound healthy to me. We’ve also begun the “find a new venue” process. To my surprise the Crowne Plaza called to see if we want to try them again. We REALLY need to figure out what we’re going to budget before we can negotiate with anyone!
Other than that, we’re gearing up for the holidays. I am hoping to have the place cleaned before the Solstice Feast. This year the Solstice is on the 22nd, so there’s no weekend day. Also, the Barony isn’t having a Yule feast this year, (they’re going for a 12th night instead), so we’ll be doing the open-house thing on the weekend before: the 18th through the 20th. We sent out invitations (via facebook, now I have to figure out who isn’t on fb and send them invitations). The thing is that I invite not only everyone I hope will come, but everyone I’d like to come, even if they’re in Florida or Michigan. Clearly at this time of year people are incredibly busy, but if we let them know we’d like to see them, then they’ll feel loved. And maybe they’ll be traveling nearby and can stop in on the way!
Having done the Hogfather and the Krampus themes, I enjoy themes so we decided to go Victorian (slash Steampunk?) this year. It should be fun. Kat and I generated a Victorian menu: I’m going to do a Boar’s Head and we’re going to try making a Shrub (it’s a ladies drink). No oysters though.
I got a HUGE bunch of books on Christmas from the library last week and am reading through them (quickly as there are a lot of pictures. Rick Steve’s European Christmas was apparently the book that accompanied a PBS Christmas special, so I watched it on you tube. I like the addition of the cream cheese to the mince pies. There’s a tradition that you are supposed to eat 12 mince pies during the 12 days of Christmas to insure luck for the 12 upcoming months. I wonder if that didn’t originally mean you should visit at least 11 other people and try their pies (exchange) which would cement community ties. Victorian Christmas had lots of interesting tid bits including types of tree ornaments I hadn’t heard of before. I’d only heard the word Kugel as a type of casserole, but apparently it’s the word for glass Christmas balls (means ball). There are also Sebnitz (wire and cotton), Dresdens (embossed cardboard, Gewgaws (anything that shined), Cornucopias, Wax Ornaments, and “Scraps” which may have been the origin of Scrap-books when people saved these paper pictures. I got so excited I did a blog post on it!
Christmas Customs Around the World is a 1975 book collecting bits from all over the world- more than most books, including South America, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East and the Antipodes, which most books of this sort generally stick (as Steves did) to Europe. (Admittedly, he had to travel to all those places to shoot them.) It mentions a cookie of which I hadn’t heard before the Tirggel- another stamped lebkuchen it looks like, from Zurich. I found it on the internet, and the first reference to it was in a 1461 witch trial court document. Early Christmas has an amazing collection of images from early America- mostly old prints.
I took out a set of discs: Midwinter a celebration of the folk music & traditions of Christmas & the Turning of the Year and have started listening to the many songs. Some are marvelous, some not so much. It comes with a booklet with comments on each song, but I don’t think I’m going to get to reading it, more’s the pity.
Can I eat that? was a TV show, and while it talked about some weird stuff like eating bugs, it also talked about cooking and tasting, and to the guy who did the 47 pound cookbook Modernist Cuisine (I would SO love that, but do I need it? No, but I’d love it. I’m never going to have it, since they’re down to $500. I can RENT one for $215, so I’ll see if I can get a copy of the home version out of the library. Speaking of which, when we picked up our wreath at the library, I got a new card, and Lyndeborough now has internet ordering! Cool!)
I’m nearly done with the fifth Odyssey of the West lectures- most recently heard about the Federalist Papers and then (o joy) The Reign of Terror. When I heard about it in High School they didn’t go into quite how awful it was. (did they want to avoid giving us ideas?) The organizers actually appear to have intended to create an atmosphere of terror, to change how people thought (I’m thinking like how boot camp traumatizes men intentionally to forge them into people who depend upon each other, take orders and are willing to kill). They changed their names, changed the calendar, measuring system, tried to eliminate religion…, and were frustrated when their plan didn’t work and transform everyone into happy, rational worker bees. It must have been incredibly bizarre to have lived through it. Not just 1792 (“year 1”), but until Napolean took over. I can see why historians would find the period fascinating, but very disturbing. Moving on from there, the Romantics in Literature and painting was a joy. Upstairs, as I go to sleep or am putting away laundry in my room, I’m listening to The Other Side of History, Daily Life in the Ancient World, and have recently heard about Greeks- Greek Aging, Illness, Religion, Relaxation, and Refugees, (wow, synchronisity!). I have to remind myself that this was made years ago before the current refugee crisis. But there are always refugee crisises aren’t there?
Fascinated by the idea of Lights Out, I took out A World lit only by Fire: Portrait of an Age, but was disappointed, as it only covers the whole period broadly, and with too many mistakes from the point of view of someone who’s been studying it for 40 years. I watched In the Heat of the Night again, I just keep seeing more and more. The tension Tibbs is under the whole time, knowing that he could easily be killed if he does what would be perfectly normal and appropriate in a different state is striking. The characters who have intelligence, the police chief, the rich man, and the mayor show how they are becoming aware of the changes happening around them, whether good or bad, they still do not want to deal with it mainly because the vast majority of the people see no reason to change. The black characters, which the movie doesn’t really show, except for Tibbs, may want change, but they are not in a position to try to get it- it reminded me of the Terror. The people living through it didn’t dare speak out or they’d become even more victimized, and so would their loved ones.
I looked at the car-cam clip of the Chicago police shooting. It’s got a warning about graphic violence. What struck me was how non-violent it looked compared to most fictional depictions. Five minutes of driving, a few seconds of a man (kid?) in the road waving his arms, cops get out of their car pointing their guns at him, he turns his back, then turns and falls. You see a few seconds of him moving, a cop comes up and kicks something (his knife) away, he stops moving. More cop cars come, they get out and all stand around not approaching him. That’s about it. No one seems to check to see if he’s alive and needs help. They say he was shot 16 times, so maybe that’s why they felt no need to check. But from the car-cam it certainly didn’t look like any of the police were needing self defense. It seems we need to train police so that they have a “shoot first” reaction. It’s going to be even harder to train away the solidarity that they feel. They are doing dangerous jobs, and are often the targets of hostility. I doubt anyone but other officers can understand the stresses involved. Still, you don’t get to shoot the people who upset you, even if your friends will support you. Maybe especially if your friends support you when you screw up. But as with medical problems, the trick is spotting warning signs before something terrifying erupts in a way that’s too late to be anything but a dangerous disaster. On the other hand, considering the way the War on Terror (or Schools against Bullying) has produced all sorts of stupid systems that are more about proving that they’re doing “something” rather than having any real utility, I wouldn’t want the job of trying to come up with something to change that aspect of police culture. Saying no, admitting that it’s wrong and it happens is the first step. We can hope for improvement, and as fast as possible so that there will be as few disasters/deaths as possible until the needed changes happen.
Ah well. Josh Friedman died this week, wonderful musician, married to Amy, who we knew well in the 80s. Mark was sick, but seems better. I can’t figure from her facebook if Megan is well enough to fly home yet. It seems like every day on fb I hear about people who are sick, or having car crashes, or otherwise need healing energy sent. But Sarah (the friend who was burned at Halloween) is responding well to her skin grafts. And I have a guest lined up not only for this week, but for next. So I think I’ll plunge into Christmas preparations, and enjoy the season where “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” (Norman Vincent Peale). That could be it, the nostalgia mists our eyes, and things go soft focus. Almost everything looks better in soft focus.
I guess that’s it for this week. Next week I hope to get some pictures of us in our “ugly christmas sweaters”. Now each of us has one, but so far I haven’t gotten pictures of any of them!
When they tease others at table;
But still, tempers will begin to flare
And a brawl soon breaks out
Among the guests.