It’s been a quite week- The snow is falling gently outside, and it is kind of pretty. The goats have come out of the barn and made paths up the hill, around the big rock and down again, but while they do eat the snow, they don’t go out and walk on it much. The snow compacted down a great deal and has melted off the driveway, but didn’t go away as I’d rather expected it would. It’s nice to just relax inside where it’s warm (at least near the woodstove- as I type I am wearing my hand warmers). Still, looking at pictures Elinore took up at Ekke’s place, it seems we haven’t much snow at all! Only a week ago I was at Megan’s baking Christmas cookies, Friday and Saturday we had the Solstice Feast, followed by Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day- woof!
Of course, I’ve had the usual disorientation of a non-weekend holiday, which tends to make me lose track of what day of the week it is. Most of the day after Christmas I was pretty zoned out. (In fact, that’s why I forgot to send out the letter on Wednesday.) Oh well.
December 27 Today is the second day of Kwanzaa, although I don’t know anyone who celebrates it. It’s Make Cut out Snowflakes Day- which is a little tempting for me to do with cookie cutters in dough, but we still have piles of leftover cookies, so adding to it would be ridiculous. It’s also Visit the Zoo day- I suppose in this weather the crowds would be light.
Tomorrow, the 28th, is Card Playing Day. Dan wrote recently that they have friends over to play games a couple times a week- I think that sounds marvelous. There are many reasons I like living out here in the boondocks, but one good reason to live in a city is so that there are enough people around that you can get a bunch of friends over for an evening sounds fantastic. It’s also the Most Dubious News Stories of the Year Day- probably because of all the recap stories they have during this last week of the year.
Saturday, the 29th, is Pepper Pot Day, and yet another Chocolate Day. Also Broadway Day- so sing those old show tunes. It’s also No Interruptions Day. I’m thinking other people need to rest after the holiday craziness.
Monday, New Years Eve, we’ll be having our usual party for anyone who likes to just play games and eat, as opposed to get drunk. On New Years Day Dan will be back from Vegas and having his waffle party down in Cambridge- we tend not to drive on New Years, but will be eating Hopping John (beans and rice) for luck.
All last week we were cleaning- clearing away for the Solstice Feast. We’d been hoping to actually get to the library, but didn’t, and the papers all over the dining room got shuffled to the newly cleaned back hall, and all have to come back this week- as we attempt to get our financial records in order. I’ll admit to dreading that horribly.
I took a half day off last Thursday to go bake Christmas cookies with Megan (aka Linda). (seems odd that I think of Megan by her SCA name, and Dennis by his modern one, but that’s how I met them first, and those are the names that stuck in my head). I’d meant to spend from 1 to four or five there, but didn’t get home until nearly 8. Part of that was because we doubled her “never fail” sugar cookie recipe and it failed because we forgot to double the flour- oops. so that batch spread out too much. Sadly, by the time it came out, we’d rolled, and cut out and put on pans most of the batch, so they all had to be dumped back in- munged together again, flour added, then rolled and cut out again.
I’d taken over my whole cookie cutter collection- mostly to show off. I haven’t counted it since I passed 400, and I think I’m near 500 now- and I gave her some of my duplicates. I love cookie cutters- and not just because it’s something you can collect that still costs less than a buck! At this point I have 10 different snow flake cookie cutters. This year I got a really good stags head, and a monkey, and a carousel horse. Mostly I’m concentrating on the mini cookie cutters these days. I so much prefer cookies that you can pop into your mouth whole- so I don’t get crumbs on this great shelf I have before me. Also, when the cookies are little, you can have one of each and get more cookies than if they are big.
The other big thing that happened over there was I got to watch Dennis’ poor computer attempt to show the picture’s I’ve been sending. I am SO sorry! I really enjoy sharing the pictures, but since I tend to think I’ve always got the oldest computer, I tend to figure that everyone else has as good or better than I do, and I forgot how slowly pictures load on old computers. I am going to post pictures on the LJ version of this letter and in the Flikr account, and not send them directly anymore (unless they are so good I am sure everyone would want a copy).
Friday at 4:15 we lit the Solstice candle, (the one we made with the melted outside of the original Solstice candle I’ve been burning this 14 hours once a year since 1972). Tom and Hannigan showed up around supper time, and we got to show them our cool woodstove griller. You put it on the open round port on the woodstove and it grills steaks, sausages, or whatever beautifully. Frankly, it’s easier than outdoor grilling in the summer.
Willow had been making gingerbread men during the day, and had run out of steam (actually she spent most of the night in her room) but the guys hove to and finished decorating the gingerbread men and women. They also helped shovel the new snow Avi and Trevor arrived with Bianca. Obviously with a little baby, they didn’t make it all night, but just about as they left, Brian and Darcy came with Bear and Lee, and they managed to stay up until Dawn. Tom had to work in the morning and meant to leave at 4, but I introduced them to Hero-scape and they didn’t actually get out until 6. I played the first round until the others came, but they did the second round themselves. The kids had bought me the Marvel Hero set, so one of them got to play Captain America and he wiped out the others- ninjas, robots, valkeries, dinosaurs and all! Kat just perched up on the counter by the sink and sketched- but she was having a “bad art day”, and nothing came out. I thought it was cool- she was wearing the dress I’d made for the first Solstice feast.
We had the actual feast- starring ham and turkey and rabbit, around midnight. The mead, despite having had to have been re-made on the tenth was great. Bear was incredibly appreciative of the cookies. The guys (I won’t say enjoyed, but) appreciated watching me dress out a couple of rabbits, and adopted the furs. (One of them left one behind and it’s still in the freezer- waiting for their next visit.) Sadly, I overcooked the rabbit and it was dry.
At some point during the night the roof started to leak- we guessed we got a ice dam, and Tom and Hannigan vollunteered to go up on the roof and clear it for us- which they did. Then, since there was a 7 foot tall and very wide pile of snow in the herb garden, they jumped off the roof into it. Kat tried to get pictures of the “ninja’s on the roof”, but black against black sky- of course they were invisible.
Brian tuned into the live feed from New Grange where they had cameras set up to catch the sun coming through the lintel space- but it was cloudy and didn’t work- so they kept replaying the footage from the 20th, when the dawn had come up clear. That was cool. Bear and Lee hadn’t been here before and I got to show them my library… I think I may be able to lure them back. We blew out the candle and all crashed at 7:30, and I had to get them up at 11 to get home in time for whatever they had to do next. (We are all so busy!)
and spent the day taking pictures of cookies- in case I need them for a cookie book some day. In the evening Steve and Caitlin came up. He hadn’t made it for the party- which may have been on purpose because he doesn’t care for crowds, but it was pleasant to sit and eat leftovers, and watch a dumb Christmas movie.
Megan/Linda and Dennis/Claus couldn’t make it to the party because he was doing is book signing on his new book at Toadstool on Saturday. Linda spent all day talking to about 20 different papers from Milford and Nashua to the Globe and the NY Times to promote the book. This one is the Astonishing Tale of the Gump of Oz. No- it’s not “canon”, but Den has such a respect for Oz that he wouldn’t do anything to disturb the universe.
We actually didn’t have to/get to got to Lyrion’s event on Sunday. She got a cold during the week, and as it was supposed to be raining on Sunday she decided to cancel. So I didn’t get to play Mother Holle again (and Linda didn’t get to play the Virgin Mary and Dennis Joseph). Since I was still recovering from staying up all night, that didn’t really crush me as much as it might have done. Instead Steve came up again- I’d found some marscapone cheese and decided to attempt tiramisu.
Very complicated. We decided that when they charge $6 a bowl, it’s probably worth it. First I had to make the lady fingers, then you soak those in a mixture of coffee, sugar and rum. The cheese gets folded into whipped cream and that gets folded into some whipped egg cooked in a double boiler with red wine (who’d have thought of that?), and this fluff is layered with the soggy cake and shaved chocolate- then you refrigerate it. We watched the fourth Die Hard movie while I did that. I was surprised it lived up to the first ones. And the tiramisu may very well be worth the trouble. I think I put in too much rum, and I’m sure the recipe called for too much chocolate. Before that I made popovers again to see if I could do better than the night before and this time they were worse. That’s when I began to suspect the thermostat.
Oddly enough, after the rain on Sunday, which didn’t melt away the snow, we ran out of water on Monday. When I was taking my shower in the morning, there was puffing and spluttering of air in the lines, and I wondered if maybe during the cold we’d had a break, so I got out, and went down to the cellar to check for any leaking. (And Star and I beefed up insulation anywhere it looked too thin.) No leaks- just in case, I ran the hot water and turned up the thermostat to make sure hot water went through the pipes to melt any potential ice blockages. Sadly, while I had gotten concerned between washing and conditioning, Kat ran out of water while she still had conditioner in her hair- and we called the plumber. He did come over, and is not happy with the age of our pump and water tank, but tracked the problem down to the cistern. We were out of water. Too many showers, too many loads of laundry and dishes. Maybe the cold reduced the fill rate during the previous week? I don’t know. At any rate, the cistern was almost empty. We turned off the pump while we went to Nancy’s for Christmas Eve.
To jump ahead, next morning, Star checked the water level and it was still low, so we didn’t turn on the pump, but melted snow for dish washing and flushing. Today it was low, but we turned on the pump so the tank could be filled and did the dishes with water from the pipes rather than melted snow heated on the woodstove and dared to flush. Running water is a great blessing.
Because I wasn’t going to leave until I knew what was going on with the water we didn’t get out as expected on Christmas Eve, so we didn’t get to Nancy’s until six. Dad, Liz, Kitty, and Trish were already there, and of course, so were Nancy, and her kids Jay and Cate, Cate’s baby Connor and Frank, his father.
Dana was also there (although he ate no bugs this year) and Trish announced that they are going to go to the Caribbean and get married on February 29th, rather than waste money on a wedding. Apparently weddings are now running several tens of thousands of dollars, and they can have a nice vacation for only a couple thousand, and miss the stress of the modern wedding.
Liz’s girls showed up eightish- I think I’ve remembered everyone. Nancy’s house is very cool- it’s even older than ours- 18th century I think. It has a bake oven still in one of the fireplaces, a gorgeous front stairway, and it’s broken up (whether originally or recently) into a duplex with her on one side and Cate on the other. Sounds like a great way to have both closeness and privacy with your extended family. Nancy had made the usual meatballs, and there was shrimp cocktail; and Nancy remembered that Dad liked pickled herring, which I’d never had, but had to try. Hey, fish with onions and sour cream? How could it miss? I liked it!
When everyone was there we did the present exchange (very restrained this year I was pleased to note) my sisters got us a new camp stove- which kind of shows that they’ve been reading this letter because they knew our old one died. After that we got to the Christmas Eve readings- Visit from Saint Nicholas (which we did in unison very fast because it was late- Liz got to be the prompter), Trish read King John was Not a Good Man (with the occasional comment), we sang Rudolph the Red N—- ——– (with hand motions- you have to point to your nose instead of saying nose, etc.) and Dad read the Christmas story from the Bible. Then Trish whipped him into the car and back up to Maine, where he’d be having dinner with her and Dana, while we headed back to our goats and cats.
We have another cat (maybe) right now- she’s officially “Visitor” on the vet records, because she’s a stray and we are waiting to see if anyone recognizes her picture at the vet’s office. She turned up at Sue Egan (Avi’s) mother’s house on Sunday and since neither of them could keep her, Avi asked if we would. The big problem was that her left eye was full of blood- it looks a lot like when the block of wood flew off the table saw and hit Ælfwine in the eye, and the vet doesn’t seem terribly concerned. Obviously they couldn’t see her Christmas eve, but we took her in on Boxing Day (the day after) and also had her tested for any parasites she might have picked up, or leukemia, or AIDS or the other things they test for. Since she seems (except for her eye) merely to be very skinny- they weighed her at 3.5 pounds, and guess her to be about 6 months old, we got her a distemper shot (and some eye ointment). They won’t spay her until she’s got her rabies shot, and she can’t get that until she’s been around for 10 days without biting anyone- and frankly, I’m not eager to spend money on a stray that may yet be claimed. Willow thinks she got too old to be adopted, and was abandoned. I think she was actually adopted, but got outside and tried to “get home” and got lost. She’s very affectionate- except to the other cats. I’ve never seen a new kitten face off the established older cats like she does- maybe she has gotten used to fighting for her food supply. It’s not an attractive attribute.
Having seen how miserable my kids are when a pet goes missing, I don’t want to contribute to that for anyone else’s kids- so I am working very hard at not getting attached to her. Yet. She’s got a long tail- and that is supposed to be the sign of a good mouser- and she’s not a grey tabby. She’s black with orange and cream flecks. I was hoping for a white, pure black or yellow cat. I really want to be able to differentiate any cat in the house at a glance. Anyway- there are pictures on Flickr. That’s the picture sharing program Dan uses (he’d taken pictures of the Holiday decorations around Vegas which was neat), and I’m trying it to see if it’s easier than Photobucket. This is where our pictures are:
Christmas itself was very low-key. We got up and had our traditional breakfast. Kat cooked the scrambled eggs and a pound of bacon while I made up the fattigman bakkels. We opened our presents. I made roast beef for dinner, and we ate it (Steve came up). The popovers didn’t work- apparently the electronic thermostat is going in the oven, so it wasn’t hot enough (I’d noticed that a bit with the cookies- but they are not so sensitive). When Willow went out yesterday she got an oven thermometer which confirmed it. So now I’m learning just where to set it to make it come to the heat I want.
We ran the woodstove in the living room to burn the wrapping paper- and to melt snow for washing. That went fine on Christmas, but on Boxing Day Willow started the fire and got on the computer, and she lost track of it, and her playstation melted shut. Now it will never be able to change games again, so it’s permanently on Dance Dance Revolution- which is what it’s used for most, but still, she’s going to have to save for another one before she can use any of her other games.
My big present was a DVD/VHS machine that can copy all our old movies onto DVD. Dad tends to give us money so we never get anything we didn’t want anymore- and I guess Willow’s will go toward a new playstation, and mine will go for blank DVDs and cases. I’ll have to find a good price on the internet as I think we have over a thousand movies to transfer.
Kat and Star have been watching the Muppet’s second season. We also got NCIS fourth season but seem to have neglected to get the third season, so we are not going to be watching that right away. Star got a bunch of gaming books and dice, and we committed to getting Kat a computer she can do her animation on- but are researching it because it has some pretty specific requirements.
Well, I have to get to bed- I spent too much time today cleaning, and writing, and not enough doing financial paperwork- it looks like we may have missed selling at Birka this year! I’ll share some recipes and reviews next week. Still- you might want to check this out- it’s a nice a cappella choir.
and don’t forget to go check out my pictures on Flikr- there are a lot more of them there.
Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it. —Mark Twain