Happy Dyzemas Day! (unluckiest day of the year)
The last few days of rain pretty much melted most of the snow we had accumulated. A few days before we’d had a lovely sticky inch that coated the trees and made everything look like a “Winter wonderland”, but now most of what’s left is plow (or shovel) berms. We don’t mind. Ever since we rented the splitter a few weeks ago and it got too cold for the hydrolics to function, I’ve been watching the weather page closely. Finally, after a week of freezing temperatures (and looking forward to another week of freezing), yesterday was in the forties! We rented the machine again (more on that later). Today we had a few flakes and I understand we’ll be getting “plowable snow” tomorrow and Friday. Well, the cistern is full again, so I guess we can deal with it.
Poor Avi had to work Christmas Eve, so so did Willow. We went out on Friday (figuring that would be safe), but apparently a lot of other people had the same idea- the traffic was impressive. We went to Costco, looking for a roast beef for Christmas. As fond as I am of standing rib roasts, I’m not able to wrap my mind around what they cost. Costco had some lovely samples they were giving out- Willow commented that she wished she had an excuse to get their 4 layer chocolate cake, and I liked one of the cheeses so much that I got a chunk. We did get a round roast- easy to carve, but not as flavorful as other cuts, and some sirloin tips for our traditional Christmas eve supper “Zog”. (Well, it’s traditional since we got the grill for the woodstove.)
Mark came over and read me more stories from the Watley universe, while I finished making the cookies I’d planned for this year. While I would still like to make some lebkuchen (they are good until Pennsic), and some mince pies (for good luck, also, last year I discovered I like them), I am pretty much done with this year’s baking and made up my picture for this year.
So this year (starting in the middle, then going to twelve o’clock and around clockwise) I made mint trees with white chocolate, coconut macaroons, rabbit ears/fattigman, Ganesha’s treats, Anise peppernuts, Solstice Spirals, Lisa’s Cinnamon horns, Finnish butter cookies, Lokis (ginger), Wishing Stars, Peppermint brownies (also some plain ones), Citrus Pizzelles, and cardamom Goro, and candy-cane cookies.
The “new” one is the solstice spirals. When I was making the cookie doughs one night, working on the candy-cane cookies, I grabbed the clear extract bottles discovered only by the scent that I’d put in almond not peppermint. So I made another two bowls of the candy cane cookie dough, and added chocolate to one of the batches of almond dough, rolled them flat and then together. The almond goes well with the chocolate, the texture is the same fine shortbread as the candy-cane cookies, and the spirals look good on a collection, so I expect I will include them again. The sirloin tips were quite good.
Christmas morning we lazed abed until around ten, got up and had our usual breakfast- bacon, scrambled eggs and fattigman bakkels (fried cookies). Then we went in for the traditional “opening presents”. Kat and John both had impressively large gifts to deal with- John’s was a new fuzzy blanket, Kat’s was a new dress form that her sister had found on an impressive sale. (Her old one has fallen apart, and will now be relegated to the roll of shop display.)
John mostly got videos- also video games (all the kids got the Pokemon Sun and Moon), and a quite impressive pile it was. It was a trifle inflated by Amazon not having taken out two of the collections on his wishlist between the time Kat and I selected from it. But that turned out OK because it turned out that Hawk and Jean also like Horror and Sci-Fi movies, and didn’t have those that were duplicated. It was nice to be able to give them something to thank them for their work. (When I suggested that I’d have liked to give them money, they pointed out that they wouldn’t have accepted it, indeed as Jean said: My grandfather would come out from his grave to give me a hard time if I did.”) But back to Christmas…. I got John a set of John Carpenter movies. I know he is especially fond of B movies, but I think that The Thing and Village of the Damned are classics, and he should get to enjoy them. Other titles he got included Meteor Man, Dredd, X-Men Apocalypse, Deadpool, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Spaced Invaders, Justice League Crisis on 2 Earths, the duplicated sets were the horror marathon including Cellar Dweller and Dungeonmaster, and the SF Marathon including Arena & Time Guaridans. That should hold him for a while!
My stack of books was equally impressive! Signals of Belief in Early England: Anglo-Saxon Paganism Revisited (I’ve been drooling over for a while) and the year end sale at Oxbow allowed several books that would have been in the $50 range to be had in the $10 range: Locating the Sacred, Myth and History, The Materiality of Magic, Medicine, Healing and Performance, Viking Worlds: Things Spaces and Movement, and Medicine and Healing in the Ancient Mediterranean World. Willow suggested that my idea of fun reading was “ponderous”. Kat also gave me a series of three books Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities, Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects, and the Disappearing Spoon. (Though solid at room temperature, gallium is a moldable metal that melts at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A classic science prank is to mold gallium spoons, serve them with tea, and watch guests recoil as their utensils disappear.) That should keep ME busy for a while! John also got me a new wind chime!
Willow had to clear something off one of her shelves to hold he new Monster high dolls: Slo Mo and Ghuoulia Yelps, Clawdia Wolf, and Viperine. They are adorable and the attention to detail is amazing. She also got art supplies- practice books and pens for calligraphy, and “how-to-draw” books, for many Disney characters. She figures the ones she doesn’t want she can give to Avi’s kids. She also gave Kat professional scissors, and I got her what should have been a lavender parasol, but looks more purple to me.
The sad bit for this year was that Willow thought my shoe size was still 10, and it’s 11 for the last decade or so. She found me some wine colored fleece boots while up in Maine this fall, and Liz and Kitty put together to get me the pair of red Uggs I was jonesing over. Some people think that Uggs look like slippers because they are big enough to keep your feet warm. I have adored them since I got my first pair! So we are in the Return process to get new ones. In the area of “the thought that counts” I am incredibly impressed that my sisters were willing to get me those (and not a little embarrassed that I didn’t find anything for them this year). Still, going by the rule that after the age of 60, you don’t get anyone something you are pretty sure they don’t REALLY want, I’ll deal with it- philosophically anyway. At this point most of the people my age I know are trying to figure out how to clear out the excess stuff in their lives.
After opening the presents, we turned to making dinner- as I said, a ridiculously large roast beef, with mashed potatoes. Steve and Mark came for dinner. Sadly, after dinner Willow was amusing us by reading her Cards Against Humanity expansion packs, and one of them was based on Trump jokes. Mark expressed that he agreed that all Muslims should be wiped out, and Kat and Willow both called him out on it, so he left. There’s not much one can do in that sort of situation. Each of us believes the sources we trust, and Mark’s tell him that Islam is dangerous, and our sources tell us climate change is real, and I very much doubt that any amount of evidence will convince either of us that our sources are wrong, and the other person’s sources are correct. I was very surprised that any Jew would find the idea of treating any religious group (even one with such an historical antipathy as Jews and Muslims have) the way that led to the Shoah/Holocaust for the Jewish people acceptable, but apparently Mark thinks that it’s OK. So we played a round of CAH, and adjourned to enjoy our new gifts.
I was happy because Christmas Eve my computer stopped working, and on Christmas Day, it started working again. I am worried that I will have to replace it soon, and I have other things to spend money on. For example, the post broke off from the tooth that had come loose this spring. The dentist told me that I’ll need an implant, and that’s going to be expensive. Also the shower started dripping a few weeks ago, and this increased from about a gallon a day to over 10 gallons a day. I’ve just gotten to the point where I was able to do laundry at home again. So that needs fixing too.
Mr. Wright, the plumber, came over on Tuesday and has assessed the situation. We had to clear out the hall closet, and he had to cut into the dry-wall at the back because the people who put in the shower 30 years ago didn’t leave an access panel (sigh). Sadly, in those 30 years, they’ve decided that having a hot and a cold knob is “too dangerous”, they only make the single control version these days, which means taking out the old ones and cutting a larger hole for the modern version (then finding tile to match and repair). He will look for some of the old style fixtures, to use if he can, so the pipes don’t need to be changed. Ah well.
Tuesday was also the day the weather went above 40, and Hawk and his friend Jean came over and finished splitting the pile for us- and even got it into the woodshed. They are both pretty tall, and it is nearly to the ceiling, so we should be good for the winter. While Jean ran the splitter (my goodness that is an impressive piece of machinery!), Hawk used the maul on other pieces, and they got the rest of the wood finished before 1. I fed them cookies and pie. I was so flattered, Hawk said he’d been thinking about my pie.
It’s very strange to me, although the stories Willow brings home about Avi is helping me to understand, that people don’t have the time to cook these days. I find that sad. Even if I occasionally grab the wrong extract bottle when I’m throwing ingredients into a bowl, I don’t find cooking hard. But it is time consuming. How many magazine articles or websites talk about being able to pull a meal together in a half hour? To make food from ingredients- apples, flour, butter, etc. results in food that’s real. OK, I’ll admit that too much refined flour and sugar is not good for you, but neither is too much water or oxygen for that matter. Everything in the right proportion. I hear about Avi picking up Pizza or Chinese on the way home because she’s too tired to cook, and that’s depressing. I have no idea how single parents manage!
Looking at the picture of the pie (BTW Hawk took it), I see the english muffins I’d made on Monday. I’d started rolls before Christmas dinner but forgot them, and at bed time remembered and moved them from where the dough was rising in the warming oven to the cold pantry. Monday I made some into English Muffins (which are characterized by extra yeast due to over-rising), and cut the rest into star shapes and deep fat fried them in the oil still out from making the Rabbit ears Christmas morning. I’d candied the orange peels from the oranges in our stockings (to go into the mince for the tarts), and the puffy little stars with the leftover orange syrup were really good! (as are fresh english muffins). I enjoy cooking (and don’t really differentiate between cooking and baking (or brewing for that matter). What a pity that people don’t get the option these days.
Today Osgkar and Josée came down from Maine. While we did spend some time talking knitting, and cooking, we also ventured down into the depths of Ælfwine’s old shop and found a drill press Osgkar had given him some years ago, as well as the bandsaw, he hopes to be able to make work again. It is very sad down there. It really needs to be cleared out (not until spring), because there is so much that may have been good once, but now between rust, being frozen, being unused for over a decade, rot, and being scrambled by who knows what, it’s mostly useless and really dangerous down there. There’s a hole in the floor, and a place where the broken cobalt glass that Ælfwine had meant to find some way to recycle is spilled across the floor- beautiful caltrops. There are also some things I might be able to use, and some things we won’t know whether they are usable until we plug them in- but the electricity to the hall has gone out. Tools should be used, and I’m happy they will be, but we should probably have distributed them back when we were sure they were still functional. First the library. Then the attic, then the shop. There is much to do, and little energy to do it. Oh well. This was one good step.
Willow is watching the Hart kids this week because it’s vacation week- except Monday when they were with Trevor. She’s so tired. Kalen was sick on Friday, and Bianca is coughing this week. “I don’t like to be told to cover my cough” she says, “I don’t like being coughed on” says Willow. On the other hand, she found them their favorite Pokemon as plushies, and they loved them.
While cooking, washing dishes, etc. I’ve been watching a lot of old movies: The Santa Clause, It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooged, etc. I also watched a new (2015) one (not Christmas) Strange Magic, which I really liked. It’s modern computer animation, but a sweet story. The Goblin King (played by Allen Cummings) turned out to be the love interest, and I was thrilled that they didn’t feel obliged to make him handsome at the end to justify the fairy princess loving him. Or the “funny looking” (not too bright) elf. Kat watched it with me, (good music, BTW), and we both noted the overtones of Midsummer Night Dream. There was a Puck type character who enjoyed using the love potion to create absurd situations. Kat remarked that if they’d hung a sign on that imp that said “don’t trust me” could it have been more obvious? I expect it was supposed to be cute- it reminded me of an oppossum, so it looked creepy to me. I loved the mushrooms! On the other hand, due to an amusing trailer, I watched (sort of) Bad Santa, which was so bad I am pleased I was doing something else at the same time, or I’d want my 90 minutes back. I also watched The Awakening (I think I put it on my queue during October). It’s a movie about a ghost debunker coming to the conclusion that maybe not all phenomena are faked. It’s set right after the first World War, which is a nice twist. It’s far more psychological suspense than horror in my view.
I haven’t read much this week except some of Paladin of Souls, which has a really interesting philosophy on the relationship between gods and people, and more of the Daily Life during the 20s and 30s. I am enjoying it. Bujold is really good at creating characters!
Tonight’s New Normal was about making magick with Bear, and I thought it was a really good show. He came over and sat by my computer with me, as he wasn’t sure his cell phone would last for the whole hour. It was a great to have the physical presence. (Jean and Hawk had written with him, and enjoyed coffee and cookies in the Kitchen.)
I am grateful to have such excellent friends.
I hope you all had the best holidays you could. I think they are precious, not just because of what we do this time around, but also that Holidays connect us to all the ones in the past and those we with whom shared them. One aspect of why sharing food is associated with holidays is the connection between scents and memories. Holidays are an infusion of energy into relationships- even with the people who aren’t here anymore, by chance or design. I hope this years memories are one it will bring you comfort when you connect with them again.
“Everything passes, but nothing entirely goes away.” ― Jenny Diski