12-3-2014 Cookie Cutter Week

Cookie Cutter Week is the first week of December. I am actually more focused at the moment on my cookie stamps, as I’ve gotten caught in that horrible thing where you start to clean one thing, and that leads to cleaning another. (cleaning the cookie stamps rack over the stove hood). I had a great plan- I was going to clean one little thing a day, small steps. (the stove hood shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to clearn, right?) But when you clean something, the thing beside it needs cleaning, and you have to move everything off/out of/away from it, and all the things you moved need to be cleaned, and it creates a cascade of things that are out of place… staged to be cleaned and put back, and if you can’t do them all in the time allotted, it leaves everything looking worse. Feh!
DSC01617I love cookie cutters, I have over 400 cookie cutters. On the other hand, I may not even make sugar cookies this year. Also, when I do use a cookie cutter, I’ve started using one shape for one cookie, so you know what you’re getting. (Clearly I need grandchildren to whom to feed cookies since I no longer have squires to feed!)

It has been cold this week, or maybe I’m just getting more susceptible to it. I love it when the woodstove is going. Year before last we got three cords of wood, one green, one seasoned, one half seasoned. Time to do that again. (Clearly what’s left is well seasoned.) I’m not sure which is a better value, using electric heaters for spots (like by the computer) or buying wood. Meanwhile, Sarah O’Conner sarah- no earringhas taken to wearing headscarves to keep her head warm (they look SO good on her!) so I tried it. While itPhoto on 2014-12-02 at 21.14 does keep my head warm- until it falls off, it doesn’t look elegant on me!
We are also discovering that suddenly warm stockings seem like a GREAT idea for a Christmas present!
Wednesday (Thanksgiving Eve) they told us it was going to snow, and we felt ready to deal with it. When we woke up it hadn’t started, but it did during breakfast. Around noon the power went out, and Kat and I thought we’d go out (I wanted a FRESH turkey- Willow had picked up a frozen one), since we couldn’t use the sewing machine or computer, and were sure the power would be back soon. I drove slowly, as one does on snow, but we were turned back on 31 just before you come into Wilton    as there’d been an accident. We decided that maybe we’d just go home. The power was back by two, and “just in case”, I warned Mark and Steve that we might have to postpone Thanksgiving dinner depending on the power, and I posted that if I wasn’t there for the live podcast, I’d probably lost power again. Around four it went off again. The snow really was very sticky- it made a lovely “winter wonderland” effect coating on the tree branches- but clearly, also all the power-lines, and probably branches that hadn’t been trimmed back sufficiently.DSC01607

We settled in, brought out the oil lamps, and waited to see if  the power would be restored before the podcast. We used the woodstove to make hotdogs, and played Gloom. Board games are a “black-out” tradition in our house. Gloom is a neat card game Kat has- the cards are transparent, so you can stack them up. Each player has a family of characters and the other cards are good things and bad things that happen to them. You play things like horrible accidents or being socially distressed or catching a disease (or something nice- which you put on other people’s cards). At maximum misery, you kill them off; When all the characters are dead, whoever had the worst stuff happens- wins. It was a fun game and we played it several more times before the power came back.
Because it gets dark by five, after a couple of hours of dark, we felt ready for bed- this continued the whole time. Wednesday we were waiting to see if it would come back in time for me to do my show, and it didn’t, although Jane and someone else called to find out why I wasn’t on. We maintain a land line because the cordless phones don’t work when the power’s out, and cell phones don’t work at our house (although Willow can do messaging from the second floor). I think it has to do with the granite mountain we’re backed up against.
Thursday- still no power, so I called Steve and Mark. Sadly, I got an answering machine and apparently it wasn’t Mark (the recipient called us back to find out who we were- his message was “you have reached #” so we didn’t realize. At least he wasn’t nasty about it, as can happen. Poor Mark arrived at three, having not gotten the message. I’d spoken to Karen Holland from up the road, (and there was a turkey walking around, although you can’t really see the footprints in the picture- they are there) and she’d said that there were downed lines all over- but Mark hadn’t seen them. Rather than try to cook a turkey in the woodstove (forgive me for griping again about having a gas stove in which the oven doesn’t work without electricity!), we had a waffles for breakfast, and when the sausage I started to go with it smelled too “Italian” we turned it into a lovely tortellini soup for supper. Another day we had stew, and we experimented with the oven. Kat made an apple baked in maple syrup, I actually made a loaf of bread and batch of rolls that worked pretty well. The trick is I have to keep turning the dish because it is hotter on once side.
PSNH maintained updates on their voicemail (also their website, which doesn’t make much sense to someone without a smart-phone).
We did the usual thing of keeping washed up by melting snow on the woodstove, and flushing toilets from the cistern in the cellar. In theDSC01621

upstairs bathroom, we used a water holder upstairs for tooth-brushing etc.  We were discomfited by discovering that the mantles in both propane lamps were broken and we’d run out of spares. We did pick up a couple later, but made do for most of the four days with kerosene lamps and candles. We turned the kitchen table around to maximize the light from the candelabra hitting it.

Each morning Kat cleaned the lamp chimney’sDSC01609 and re-filled the lamps. I suppose people used to be used to that. I’m rather fond of our wall mounts for lamps- they light the room pretty well. I, personally, have a very small window of comfort when it comes to light. Too much glares, but too little makes fine work difficult. Willow and Kat were able to sew and do art. Although Willow has had notices up for weeks, people are FINALLY remembering to order her hand-made blankets that they want to arrive before Christmas.IMG_0421

Kat’s sewing the white fur onto her Saxon coat. I thought about putting more black fur on mine, but the light wasn’t good enough for me. Willow also did a lot of the painting of greeting cards- she paints a different one for each person to whom she sends them. She also has a “advent calendar” project where she posts a new picture on her tumblr, taking requests. This year she’s getting lots of requests for holiday sweaters. Sweaters are hard! And of course, she was really happy when the power came back before the first!
I chopped up the last of our door-step pumpkins, sorting and roasting the seeds, and cooking down the flesh. This year we tried a white pumpkin, and the seeds were odd. I think it may be a hybrid, and not meant to reproduce itself because most of the seeds were really thin- sort of ghost seeds, empty shapes with no shell to speak of. On the other hand, when roasted they were delicious. The texture was different, sort of the difference between Pringles™ and real potato chips. We’d picked up three tiny sugar pumpkins to make a pumpkin pie, but I couldn’t bring myself to just throw out the white pumpkin, so I cooked that too. It lacked the color, but once it was cooked, it looked and tasted just about the same as the “orange” pumpkin. I figured I’d let you know in case you ever have one.
Another thing I did was do everything but bake our traditional Russian Balls, we baked them when we finally got the power back. Willow made her baked potato salad- this time with TWO jalapeños, (we think maybe one and a half next time). The recipe is simple:
Toss cubed potatoes, a couple of cloves of garlic, chopped onions or green onions, (I think she added the jalapeño pepper because we had one) in olive oil (I think she may have used the herbed “dipping oil” we had around).  Wrap them all up in heavy aluminium foil, and baked until done, then garnish with shredded cheese, cooked bacon (to taste), and sour cream before serving.
We tried a couple of new games- Ghooost!, Snake Oil, and Forbidden Desert. I enjoyed them, but then, I really like games. Kat finally made up a new rule that games were OK, but she didn’t want to have to learn any new ones. It’s hard to get used to how a new game works, and fairly easy to mess up the first few times you play a new game. Oddly enough I won Snake Oil- apparently good luck trumps salesmanship- a skill I do NOT have.
We did dig out the van on Thursday, so we’d be able to get out on Friday. Everyone asks, so what we got was 11 inches Wednesday night, and another two on Thursday. (When I went down cellar for my back saving shovel it sure was dark (snow filled all the window wells).
Friday Kat and I went out to the Red Cross blood-drive (usually they’re on Thursdays. My battery clock was running slow, so we were a bit late, but went straight in. It was a very low turn-out this time, probably because it wasn’t in the usual place.  It was the usual crew- they recognized us. Someone said “It’s Kat- tiny veins, better have Trevor do it!” Still, she managed the whole pint without clotting this time, and we each got a hotpad- although one of the phlebotomists warned us that they weren’t as thick as she’d like.
Since we were out, even though it was “black Friday” we went over to the hardware store and got more oil, more batteries, and mantles for the propane lamps, also got more drinking water at the grocery store. We had gone through our stored drinking water and were a bit dry- the people at the blood drive gave us some to take with us. There was a roast beef on sale, so I cut that into steaks we grilled on the woodstove, and the rest became stew for the next day. There’s something really nice about having a pot of something simmering on the woodstove (aside from the big pot of melting/melted snow).

DSC01610We used the wood-splitting gadget my sister gave us- you pump it with your legs, (so it’s much better for ladies because that’s where we keep our power)
and it rachet’s the chunk of wood down the wedge. Very clever.
Saturday, since it wasn’t Black Friday, Kat and I went out to Jo-Ann’s and got the fabric for her commission. Also my beloved quilted flannel skirt is showing its age, so I got another piece of fabric. Sadly this one is not black on one side and red on the other, but just red, so it won’t be reversible. Kat found a quilted purple paisley she’ll be making a skirt out of for herself- when she’s done with the commission. I cut it out, and spent the evening doing the first part where you pick open the quilting and remove the fill on the seam allowance. Pre quilted fabric is very cool, but that part is a pain in the butt.
Willow’s phone and kindle had both lost power, and Avalon invited her over to charge them and visit. (It was very frustrating for Willow that she could read her kindle, finished the book and was prompted that the next books in the series were available, but without electricity, our wifi didn’t work, so she couldn’t download it!) She’d been turning her phone on once a day to check for messages and the PSNH website. They understand that people want good estimates of how long it’ll be until they get power back. Saturday afternoon they were able to tell us that there were 35 customers in Lyndeboro’ still without power (this doesn’t really tell you where your trunk is on their priority list- we know we’re a small dead-end. Willow was going to pick up some dry ice for our freezers on the way back from Avi’s, but PSNH called and asked us if our power was back yet. That sounded like a good sign to me, so I told her not to bother (although the ice-cream had gotten pretty soft!)
Then just after dark a parade of trucks came up Pinnacle and stopped across from the juncture of Holt Road. When I say a parade, we counted 6 large trucks, and three smaller ones (and there may have been another around the curve of the road). Apparently their mop-up crew was going around to the last “out” spots together so they’d have whatever they needed. The small trucks went down Holt, and about an hour later, the lights came back on. We did go out and yell “Thank you!” to them.
Having gotten used to going to bed around nine, (and getting up when it got light), and already yawning, we separately decided to go to bed and catch up on the computer the next day (except John who was really cut off without his computer access)! We did let Mark and Steve know that the power was back and Turkey Day was on again!
The next day I didn’t actually get to the computer much because that was when we picked up where we’d left off Wednesday night. The “to do” list was something like this: mix stuffing, start simmering giblets and veggies, stuff turkey and put it in (wait, first we baked the Russian Balls while chopping the onions and celery). Willow had found a “magic” turkey because it was EXACTLY ten dollars (around 15 pounds). Then I made the pie crusts, peeled the apples, mixed up the cinnamon sugar, and the pumpkin pie and cran/blueberry pie mixtures, assembled the pies and put those in, started the yeast, peeled and chopped the potatoes, mixed and started the dough for the rolls rising, (at that point John had to clean the warming drawer because it had gotten nasty burnt stuff in it when we cleaned the oven- not that it lasted, because I forgot to put the catch-pan under the apple pie, and it dripped on the oven floor- as usual. He also stuffed the celery and put out other crudités and dip, and one of the kids made a cheese and cracker plate), peeled and chopped the squash, make the rolls, cook the various vegetables, make the gravy. that’s the cooking list. There was also the cleaning list: catch up on the dishes (thank goodness we’d mostly kept up with it!), clean and put away all the lamps, catch up on the laundry (four loads I think), sweep the kitchen, clean the bathroom, clear the table (after sorting all that laundry!), polish the silver, set the table, and move the cars so we could fit in two extra.IMG_0442

Kat did both the laundry and handled the silver and table dressing. I showed her the trick of using baking soda and salt and aluminum foil on the silver and she was so pleased with how well it worked that she polished every silver piece we were using, by dinner time, everything was gleaming! We know her genius is in aesthetics, so I just turned her loose and she picked what we’d use (the blue glass plates with gold edges to set off the gold-toned food, and white damask table-cloth).
Steve and Mark arrived, and we all sat down for a “Thanksgiving Dinner that couldn’t be beat” (during the dinner preparations we listen to Garfield’s Thanksgiving special, we also listened to Alice’s Restaurant- I think the 30 year anniversary version). It felt good too have the traditional covered silver dishes. I’ve already started buying more to supplement Mother’s (used, of course) because it really helps get a big dinner on when the covered dishes hold in the heat. The only problem we had was that we never found my turkey shaped cranberry sauce holder. It may have been hiding because while Willow had started the cranberry sauce (she usually makes it- but she was really wiped out all week), she’d never finished it. I discovered that she hadn’t gotten to the part where she adds honey when I tried a bit. Made my mouth go all puckered! We also didn’t have room for pie, so I had to send some home with the guys, and have it for breakfasts since then. I suppose the problem is that we don’t watch football, which probably allows most people to digest. Also, we ate at nearly normal suppertime instead of 2, which is when we ate Thanksgiving dinner when I was a kid. (This, as well as the 20+ pound turkeys we had were probably why my Mother had to put them into the oven at two in the morning.)
By the time I’d packaged up the leftovers and done most of theDSC01615

dishes, I was ready for bed. And that was November. When we got up the next morning, it was December! We put away the fall leaf decorated dishes, and pulled out the holly dishes. ‘Tis the season to be Jolly, god help us!
Thinking about the idea of writing up two weeks at once, I spent much of Monday writing last week’s letter. I plan clean a little- paint a little, and scan at lNew scans 7

east a few pictures each day- sadly, as mentioned above, the cleaning refuses to be moderated, and the printer is not behaving well either.  Still, here’s a fun one- this is from one of our Christmas card pictures- I think the last one before Trish was born. That’s Liz, Bob, Me, and Kitty in the Court Street living room.
I’m nearly done reading the Invisible History of the Human Race. Sadly, it’s due back to the library, and I’m not done yet, just when I’m getting to the parts about DNA, not that I haven’t been enjoying the history part. She covers the story from so many different angles, and they all show that how we see our past tells us more about us and present attitudes than it does about what we’re looking at.
I’m also reading two books that are about the same topic- holidays, from two totally different perspectives: Occult Holidays or God’s Holy Days- Which? and Christian Mythology. Both are about “the true origin of today’s holidays” Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc. and both seem to agree how Christian mythology has more to do with pagan traditions than Biblical ones. Phillipe Walter examines how the church fathers knowingly incorporated pagan elements into the Christian traditions in order to ease the transition and gain converts, whereas Coulter seems to argue that modern Christians should avoid all the changes of the last two centuries and return to those of the original Christian/Hebrew cult. Reading them at the same time is fascinating.
I didn’t watch as much this week (due to no power), but I did watched the movie Divergent. Since I had gotten it mixed up in my head with another series, it wasn’t what I expected. I am also wondering, if I read the book- is there an explanation of why in this Chicago a hundred years in the future, everyone is white? It may be that the war they are recovering from was a race war and the “monsters” outside the wall are the people of color, but I’d like an explanation. (Guess I’ll read the book.)
Ah well, time to get ready for tonight’s podcast. I have had two responses to Monday’s letter. Kerensa remarked that “It is hard enough being homeless and hungry without society being horrid.  I find laws against feeding the homeless to be heartless and cruel.”, (I’ve known a lot of people who’ve been “homeless” at one point or another in their lives, and it’s rarely through some fault or error in judgement. Sometimes, as they say, “S**t happens.” and you just have to deal with it. Mark pointed out that “the forensic evidence said that Brown was facing the officer at point blank range, not standing a distance away with his hands up and his back turned.” Since I hadn’t heard anyone say that he’d had his back turned (although there certainly have been a huge range of descriptions of the incident), I am mostly reminded of how many versions of the story are circulating, and how each of us seems to filter which ones we notice and remember through our own filters- whether we’re looking to be indignant or appalled. As Kat points out, sometimes all you want to do is not think about it for a while. One recent fb post pointed out that if one of your friends dumped garbage in your living room, you’d notice, but we don’t seem to feel we have the right to object when people fill our ears with things that are designed to get us upset. To protect yourself from disturbing thoughts should be a personal choice, not something we need to request timorously.
I hope that, at least on balance, what I choose to share is interesting, amusing, useful, and maybe thought provoking, but not depressing.

Look what arrived today: My Krampus ornament for the Tree!

DSC01618“You can never be done with music. No more than you can be done with breathing. The day you quit is the day you die.”
― Brom, Krampus: The Yule Lord

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