12-20-2017 Mother Night

The winter weather seems to have stayed around, so we should have a white Christmas. We’ve had a few bits of snow this week, and we’ve appreciated the woodstove (especially the cats), although perhaps not the shoveling (especially not John). John’s pretty much had to handle it himself and I’m very grateful that he is around to do the heavy lifting for me. I’m hoping any more snow holds off so people can come to the party this weekend. … starting day after tomorrow.
I did finish the silly toothpick tree. It looks just as I remember- wonderfully horrible. Willow found me some little ornaments for it. I’m looking forward to dressing our food up as 50s food, although I can’t bring myself to do too much “artificial” food. Jello is about as far as I’m willing to go. Kat’s been watching tutorials on youtube for 50s make-up and hairstyles, and they’re making 50s outfits (not unlike the way I used to make new garb nearly every weekend). Willow started by ordering a dress on line- using their chart and measurements, but it didn’t fit when it arrived, and on impulse, they tried it on Kat, and it was totally Kat’s size. It should have been fine since she took her measurements and used their chart, but it didn’t. Feh. Kat ordered some stockings with seams. I have to wonder if anyone else will be dressing up.
It’s also really close to Christmas this year, so I’m afraid not many people will be able to come. I hope they’ll come after Christmas if they can’t manage to find a hole in their schedules before. I don’t actually mind having folks come a few at a time. First of all, you can have better conversations when there isn’t a crowd. Second, the parking situation would be better. Third, I think the idea of parties that causes problems is the idea of getting the house “show off” clean to impress people. This is NOT happening, ever around here. Our friends accept us shedding cats and all.
I finally got a picture of the sweater vest I made with the gorgeous shiny yarn. Sadly It didn’t come out as I would have liked. But it is warm. Had I realized that it was going to make such a regular pattern, I think I’d have taken care to start both front panels in the same point in the color sequence on the yarn, in an attempt to make the front panels match. I’m not certain that would work, which is probably the whole reason I’m not pulling it out. Now on to repairing Kat’s sweater.
Willow took Kat out on Friday, and they got her roots done, then I took her out to the dentist Monday, and to her therapist today, so she’s been out a lot. Sunday night she was trying to have a chestnut. The first two were bad, then after she had the third one, which seemed OK, her tooth felt odd- apparently it chipped. That was Sunday evening- of course. But we called Dr. Edwards and they had her come in at 3, and it turned out that it was just chipped. In fact he told her that other than the chip, it was very healthy. It was, however, sharp where it had broken off, so he ground it down to round so it would stop cutting up her tongue. They didn’t even charge for that. Sadly, she ran out of (some of) her meds, and it was stressful while we waited for the doctor to get back to the pharmacy to renew the prescription. Willow picked them up tonight. They confirmed that they were ready while we were at the clinic today, but that’s in Peterboro- a half hour Northwest, and the pharmacy is an hour to the southwest, which adds up to a long drive there and back. I was very happy Willow could get it as she was already partway there, at Avi’s.
Poor Avi has been ill this week. She really loves having Willow come and get the kids to do through their homework. Occasionally she will also do some dishes or laundry, and this week picked up some laundry. Other than that, she’s been working on orders. What good does it do to say right on the website that you have to order early to get it in time for Christmas? Apparently not much. She made a special order for Jane. People who’ve seen what she can do, really like her blankets and shawls. This year I think we’re doing better on not buying too much. Now we’re in the part where we are wondering if they’ll get here in time, or whether we’ll have time to finish ones we’re making. Liz and I, old women that we are, have a wonderful exchange. I sent her some cookies, and she’s potting me another cutting from Fred- the Christmas Cactus that started with Grandmothers. She’s warned me that they don’t bloom if they’re root-bound. But if you do that, they grow. When she kept re-potting it in Winchester, as I recall the pot was huge and Fred took up a 4×4 foot corner of her living room. She’s given me cuttings before, but I am NOT good with house-plants. With some of them I wonder if the house simply isn’t warm enough.
The stollen I started last week FINALLY rose. Since it was a day I was doing a lot of baking, that might have warmed it up and made the difference. It’s rather nice, and didn’t take on a sour-dough flavor as I’d worried it might. It may be because of the spices in there along with the fruit and nuts.
I have now made Peppermint Brownies, Cream Cheese Mint Trees (Kat drizzled them with white chocolate), Wishing Stars, Chocolate butter cookies, Candy Cane Cookies, and Finnish Butter Cookies. I still have a lot of that dough. Apparently I lost track of how much flour I’d put in the dough when I made it, and when I put the first batch of cookies, they all melted together and flowed out over the edges of the cookie sheet. So I made another batch (1 cup of sugar, 5 sticks of butter, and 5 cups of flour), and used that to compare the doughs so I could add enough to what was left of the first to make them match. So there’s a LOT of shortbread this year. I took some and put chopped almonds in it. I took a bit of it and mixed in some of those longer softer colored sprinkles (they came in a collection and I had no idea what to do with them); I’d seen someone do it on facebook, and I figured I’d give it shot. I was dubious about the sprinkles- what are they made of? Artificial fats and food coloring, I think. Sadly, each of us tried one, and Willow put it best. “They taste of artificial color and regret.”  They will look nice in a collection, and children may not be too fussy to eat them. I also lost track of what I was doing when making the chocolate butter cookies. I grabbed the bottle of clear extract and measured in a teaspoon- then noticed that I’d grabbed the mint, not the almond. Oops. So I started over, then took the half recipe, and added other ingredients to make it into sliced shortbread cookies- divide in two, and roll into spirals. Even that didn’t quite work, I put too much cocoa powder into the chocolate half, and that made it stiff enough that it cracked while I was rolling it up. Oh well, they make lovely chocolate peppermint cookies.
Last week I mentioned not being able to find my star and tree cookie cutters. I did send for one, then Willow picked me up one, so I was able to make the wishing stars and the cream cheese trees. I probably spent too much time looking for them, and actually finally catalogued the bags of cookie cutters- although I think there’s still a container with the ones I “frequently use” around somewhere I haven’t looked yet. I am missing not only the star and tree, but the hedgehog, the gnome, and a couple others. I set aside several dozen to give away, and I actually found the missing cutters from the 12 days of Christmas set. I really have a lot of cookie cutters. It’s just a pity that I no longer have young squires to make cookies for! While looking I found some shortbread molds I used for simple plain shortbread. I also one day copied all the recipes I’m using this year into a small notebook which is easier to carry around than the sheets printed out of the computer. I am so distractible. I really do better when I cut the printed recipes up and tape one to each bowl, then go along adding the right amount of butter to each, then the sugar, then the eggs, then the flour, spices, etc. (most recipes are amenable to this treatment). Since so many cookie doughs want to sit and chill anyway, I like to make up a half dozen doughs at a time, wrap them in plastic, and store them in the pantry. I can bring them out to roll and cut as I have the time. Another thing I found during my searching was a can of pizzelles from last year- not edible any more, but I was able to hang them on the kitchen tree.
At this point the kitchen tree has a few cookies (I don’t think I’m going to get to gingerbread men this year), popcorn strings, bags of Hanukkah gelt, candy canes, sticks of rock candy (very pretty when the sun hits them), and the last of the Lucia buns. I still haven’t located my camera, so I may send a few pictures that should be in this letter in another after I get out of the house next and am able to send pictures to facebook from my phone. People are always amazed that we don’t have mobile coverage here. But the mountain we live on is a big freaking piece of granite!
In this cold, dark time of year, I have been doing a lot of comfort foods: spaghetti, fettuccini, tuna-noodle casserole. Also beef- the local Market Basket has roast beef for $1.99 a pound (cheaper than hamburger), so we’ve had a bit of that. It’s actually even easier than a casserole. On the other hand, even a good cook has food-fails sometimes (as noted in the cookie chaos above). After making too much shredded potatoes, I made a few latkes most mornings all week- and we are FINALLY done with them!  With the cold weather, once again mice have returned to the oven. I think they are looking for crumbs- or maybe they just live under or near the stove to take advantage of the waste heat. But we’ve started putting the traps in the oven (when it’s cool enough when we go to bed) again. I have to admit that I am NOT fond of setting mouse-traps. They have sensitive triggers, and I often get snapped. I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea- put a mini-marshmallow under the catch- the flat part you put peanut butter or whatever on, that wil keep it raised enough that the trigger clasp will stay caught while you put the frakking trap down! I figure that if a mouse when after the marshmallow, it would spring the trap. I was wrong- it kept the catch blocked up long enough for them to eat the bait, and then they ate half the marshmallow- and it didn’t spring shut until we got it out. Feh. Sadly another trap sprung and the mouse got caught not on the neck but on the nose, and it bled all over, and didn’t die immediately, so we felt awful about that. We don’t want them defecating all over our kitchen, so we want them to move out or die, whichever they choose, but not be injured.
Sadly, the cats can’t get into the inside of the stove which is mostly where the mice go. The cats still go outside, so we still get to play the cat game: “Flea or scab?”. They also have been asking for more food- perhaps they need more because it’s colder. Either that or they’re going to get fat.
Another “awful” (in the way of people who have wonderful lives) thing that happened to me is that I had re-filled the vitamin boxes, and one of the B vitamins had gotten damp, so I set it aside to throw away and hadn’t gotten to that yet, and I dropped a cookie near there, felt the small hard bit, assumed it was a piece of cookie and popped it in my mouth and chewed. Oh, uck! I ended up scrubbing my tongue with a washcloth! Do not chew B vitamins! A bit later I picked up another “crumb”, and discovered that it was a lady bug! (Have you ever squashed a lady-bug? They have a really nasty smell!) Back to the wash cloth! I think I may have finally learned not to pop cookie crumbs in my mouth without examining them carefully first!
What else have we been doing? I’ve too busy to spend as much time on facebook this week. Mostly I post the days holidays and check for messages, but this week I have been changing my profile picture  every day. I’m running our old Christmas pictures backwards (watch me get younger!). Today I’m at what I think was 1960. I still remember that one- with us “wrapping presents” (empty boxes). Mother liked to pose us looking as if we were doing something for Christmas, even though we had to shoot the pictures a couple of months in advance. First they had to go to be developed, then she picked a shot, then waiting for them to be printed took nearly a month, and she sent out the cards early. Dad had a sales show the first weekend of December every year, and Mother would put a card table up in the dining room, put on Christmas records and write a personal note on each of over a hundred (what grew to be about 200 cards). When we were young we’d help stamp and put Christmas seals on them. Later we could help address the cards. 
After Dad died, I got her file box- she never took out the ones when people died, just crossed them out. I suppose that’s why I still have it, as I doubt any of the addresses are still good. It’s good to remember those who have died before us.
The tree is trimmed; presents are under it. I found the bead garlands, and Kat put on the at level ornaments, John put the boxes away, and has been checking the water level. I got a wreath that I hung in my bedroom to make it smell good. I have been staying up too late as I try to finish “one more thing”. I’ve been up until 2 at least three times this week, which has let to me falling asleep when I post the holidays. (Sitting at the computer is about as sedentary as I can get.) I may have picked up another portrait commission tonight. Not an oil portrait, just sketches, but art is art.
Today I was supposed to do my podcast, but for some reason while the studio looked like it was on, there was no sound. I had a friend call in, and he didn’t have any sound either.  Oh well.
Kat and Rose from Hobbitronics made up badges (Rose makes the program for the machine) and Kat does the embroidery, and makes the pouches. So the East Kingdom soothsayers will be able to have pouches with the badge on them. I think that’s pretty cool. I’ll probably sell most of them at Birka.
Political rant of the week:
I am really cross at the Tax bill getting passed.The government is supposed to collect and spend taxes for the greater good, not for themselves. Somehow they have come to feel that if you need donations in order to get the job, that whatever is needed to get those donations is justified because you want the job to do some good. I need to believe that this is the base motivation. Even when they are trying to suppress the black vote, I think it’s because they are ignorant enough to actually think that there’s something wrong with black people. But Government is not about having more power for yourself. It’s like power is a gun or other weapon that only one person or group has, and using it to make sure that they get most of what’s made by everyone. We give the government the right to tell us what to do, to use that power for good, to make sure that everyone gets a fair share of what’s made, and the strong mean guys don’t take it away from the weak. When the people with power use it to take care of themselves (and their contributors) that’s a huge abuse of power. This bill gives 62% of the benefits to the richest 1%, and have admitted that they “had to do it so that their contributors will keep contributing”. What are they doing to keep people from voting them out (which would seem an obvious result of such actions)? They are fomenting hatred between the members of the 99%. This should not work. But people who are ignorant and scared are easy to motivate. People who are poor and don’t have enough resources to live get scared. This is SO not good.
End of rant for now.
What have I read this week? I have continued going back to the Earth’s Children books on my kindle. The story and characters are still good, even if there’s too much sex and landscape description. Especially in the last book where she has the characters take a tour of the painted caves. The plot is good where there is some, but I’m skimming more and more. I suppose I care more about the characters with five books behind me.
I am enjoying Spells and Scones– this is nearly the last one in this series. I love the many different ways they do magick, and it’s mostly the little daily magicks I do. I also love the cooking. The Library doesn’t have Potions and Pastries, so I expect I’ll wait until they do before reading it. If I  actually buy one book in the series, I’ll end up wanting to buy them all! I don’t have room in the house.
I finished All the Little Liars (and have started Sleep Like a Baby) in Charlaine Harris’ Aurora Teagarden series. I think this is the last book of that series as well. I suppose I’ll trip over it if she writes another, but I think Harris has a bunch of series. I’ve read her Sookie Stackhouse series, the Midnight Texas series, and the Harper Connelly series; so far I’ve avoided getting into her Lily Bard series, for now anyway.
Mostly this week I’ve watched Christmas movies: Holiday, Holiday Inn, Scrooge, various Christmas Carol variations. I watched the last disc in the True Blood season 4. Again, once you’re caught by the characters, you want to see what happens next, even when you tire of the premise. I’m watching the last season of the West Wing. I like this as much as earlier seasons, but I know it’s the last, so want to finish it. I got Where the Wild Things Are from the library. We loved that book when it came out. “Let the wild rumpus start!” was often heard around camp. They waited until they were capable of special effects that were good enough. The beasts looked like the ones in the book. But the plot made the movie a disappointment. They turned it into a coming of age story about a kid trying to deal with stress. Max found himself in the position of his mother, trying to figure out how to handle things he wasn’t able to control, and wanting to help when he couldn’t, so he went back (from this dream?) with more sympathy for his mother. This may be a worthy theme, and but it wasn’t appropriate to the feeling of the original Sendak book. I really liked the special effects, but I missed the book, which really didn’t have much plot. I’d say the original story was that being wild (able to do whatever you like) may seem great, but only if you have a secure place to return to when you’re done. I think that’s such an obvious truth that you don’t need to graft on a story about how lonely it is to be king/parent.
Well, I’ve stayed up too late again. And it’s almost the turning of the year. I tell you truthfully that I will be VERY happy when days start getting longer again!
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer

These are this week’s upcoming holidays. There are dozens on the Solstice, but then they peter out quickly for the rest of the month. I notice that there is a lot of attention to ancestors during the season even in the main-stream culture.

Thursday 21: The Winter Solstice/ Yule/ shortest day of the year, Short Girl Appreciation Day, Fried Shrimp Day, Re-gifting Day, Humbug Day, Flashlight Day, Global Orgasm Day (also Don’t make your Bed Day- theoretically the day is to short to bother)

Friday 22: Cookie Exchange Day, Abilities Day, Date Nut Bread Day, Forefather’s Day
Saturday 23: Festivus, Pfeffernusse Day, Roots Day, Humanlight, Roots Day
Sunday 24: Egg Nog Day, Christmas Eve
Monday 25: Pumpkin Pie Day, First Day of Christmas, No-L Day
Tuesday 26: Boxing Day, Thank you Note Day, CandyCane Day, Whiners Day
Wednesday 27: Make cut out Snowflakes Day, Fruitcake Day, Visit the Zoo Day