12-30-2015 “Best of the Year” Lists Week

DSC02305It’s been a marvelous week. We’ve had lots of wonderful visitors, eaten lots of wonderful food, and not had too much stress. I had the thought that if I was given a week to live over, this might be the week I’d choose. On the other hand, I might be reacting like my mother, who seemed to declare “That was the best dinner I ever ate!” after nearly every Sunday or holiday dinner.  That sort of selective memory can be a great blessing, but with experiences, why not have all of them be “the best” because they were at the time.
steven payne  The weather continued unseasonably mild- here at least. My friend Julia in New Mexico was snowed in, the fellow I was following on facebook, Steven Payne, had to deal with constant rain for most of the week, but at least he didn’t have to deal with the flooding they had in York, and of course, even that was nothing to the Tornadoes and flash floods that killed people (and hurt thousands more) across the midwest.
My attention was on Payne. I’d started following him when I heard about him starting his recreation of a medieval pilgrimage. Apparently he’s had over 5000 people following his progress on his blogs (including me- he even replied to one of my questions). So I’m not the only one who found it fascinating. I told the kids about his progress over supper, and we were all concerned when the wind whipped his coif away, and happy when he found it in a tree and was able to recover it with his staff. My favorite picture of him is one someone else took of him. After a night too cold to sleep, the owner of the Blue Anquor pub came by and found him napping, so he left a bunch of carrots and apples (he couldn’t carry much since he was carrying everything), snapped the picture and posted it. Sadly, he got lost and wasn’t able to accept dinner from him. He was recreating the traditional pilgrimage from Southampton to Canturbury- with the handicap that the infrastructure of monasteries, where most people stayed, were wiped out (along with Thomas Becket’s shrine) by Henry the Eighth. He’d decided not to stay in any place that wasn’t around in the 14th century, and did make lots of side trips to see historical sites. I was very pleased to read that he is going to write a book about the trip. He says he intended it to be about the historical sites, but turned out to be about the people he met. Even the homeless were helping him. I’m exhausted after a day at a museum; walking 200 miles, and sleeping out means he’s really fit (although he was looking a bit ragged toward the end). Here’s an article about Steven Payne’s pilgrimage, and a quote.  “It clears your mind and allows you to take a long look at who you are and what you are doing.”
But Monday, the cold arrived and the snow, well, 3 inches anyway, and so we enter that piece of the year. I really don’t understand why people expect snow in December, it doesn’t happen often. January, February and March and the snow months! I have to admit that I kept putting off transplanting the plants from the Pennsic boxes until Kat helped me do it on Monday. (The poor aloe did NOT survive the previous frosts. It looked melted.)

DSC02326Last Wednesday while I was writing the letter, Kat finished the black and gold skirt, and wrapped it up for me, then Thursday, she made a blouse to go with it.
Last Thursday, Christmas Eve, Raven and Bella came up, and Bella swept the chimneys. She declared herself satisfied with them, apparently we manage to burn the stove hot enough to avoid creosote building up. Sadly, while tapping the vents open yesterday, the knob came off. Our lovely 1940s cookstove is gradually breaking beyond the possibility of getting it fixed. Cast iron isn’t as fixable as other materials. Replacing it is going to be a trick since it’s a lovely small stove, and the kitchen doesn’t have that much room. It was also well designed for cooking in a time when people didn’t consider cooking with wood anachronistic. Ah well, I guess we need to start saving. The girls picked up the Boxing Day cereals, and some steak tips. This allowed me to show off my cook wood stove griddle,DSC02308 which I’ve never seen anywhere else. Raven is on a extremely low-carb diet, (as I’m supposed to be, but for me it’s only losing weight, not liver damage), so meat is good. Bella was interested in the plum pudding. Raven told me about some of his travels last year- one of his hosts took him around to Glastonbury, Stonehenge and Avebury. Cool! This year, they’re working on an extension on their house.
After they headed back to Cauldron Farm, we settled down for the evening- Kat brought down the Dr. Who audio “Chimes of Midnight” and we listened to it while I made cookies. Then I scheduled posts about holidays (which I’ve started doing again), and finished reading the Christmas in France book.

DSC02270Since we are now all adults we tend to stay in our rooms until we hear other people moving around, rather than the child version of getting up first thing on Christmas morning. The first person moving around this year was Steve, whom we had invited up for breakfast. When he got here around 10, we got up and started making our traditional breakfast: eggs, huge amounts of bacon, fattigman bakkels, cocoa, and more. Then we opened the stockings and presents. (Didn’t get any pictures this time.) It was our first Christmas breakfast since we moved the dining room into the front room, and it was very bright!

DSC02271We did much better at not over-buying this year. Someday we will hit the “only 3” presents we aim at giving. I’d have to say the skirt and blouse Kat made was the most impressive present. Her “big” present was more downloads from Big Finish Audio of Dr. Who episodes, and flannel sheets (My Goodness, are we all grown ups! John mostly got videos, manga and games; he’s really quite a connoisseur of B movies. What he really needs now is someone who knows as much as he does about them with whom to talk about them. Willow got monster high dolls and an expansion of Cards Against Humanity, and a really cool “instant” water heater. It lights up while it’s heating and reminds me of a lava lamp. It’s not so necessary when the wood stove is going, but will be marvelous in the spring and summer when it isn’t, and anyway it looks cool! The girls also gave me a wax tablet they picked up at the war. And a new wafer iron- this one makes lozenge shaped wafers! (Sadly, it looks like the Stonemarche 12th Night event may not happen this year, which would have given me a chance to show it off. On the other hand, good news- we got into Birka with three tables!)

We had a huge (eight pound) roast beef for dinner, and Mark, Avi and her kids and mother joined us as well, so it was sort of another party. We actually had a “kids table”- the divination chest, that we’ve started calling the “shin barker” since we are not used to having anything so much like a coffee table. After supper I watched Spamalot on Youtube. Someone had posted one song from it, and I got sucked in. Someone also got a copy of the anime Over the Garden Wall, which is about two kids who’ve gotten lost in a fairy tale world, which has a pretty good story and characters, but the 6 year old sings to himself (like they do) and I got his song “potatoes and mollasses” stuck in my head. Which was sad.

kittens tux and goldProbably the biggest news of the week is that we got new kittens. We are still settling in- exploring, being cute. I was expecting a good two or three days of squeaking until Stockholm Syndrome set in and they were used to us. Maybe because they have each other, but they don’t seem as traumatized as I’d have expected.
The older cats have dealt with it about as expected- resentfully. We are trusting in them to establish the dominance that they need to do, giving Peri and Zoloft catnip, and lots of affection so they don’t feel threatened. Zoloft (being the old lady) mostly glares at them. Peripegellium is more cranky. When we put down 4 bowls so that they wouldn’t have to fight over them, Peri started eating out of one on the end, but positioned her body and tail over the other three to make sure that the kittens didn’t approach while she was eating. I have to say that with the kittens around, Peri is suddenly looking a lot larger!DSC02275

I have discovered that while they do lots of cute things, I cannot manage to get the camera up and ready to shoot fast enough to catch them at it. This does not mean that I don’t try.
We are waiting to see what names we like best for them. At this point the front runners are Ambian or Amber for the gold tabby- maybe Crukshanks when he misbehaves. He is far more bold than the black and white cat kitten, but both are so sweet. (We got them Sunday, from Denise, a friend of Shemas. We’d thought of stopping by Shemas as long as we were up that far, but the directions from Mapquest failed, and then cell coverage was spotty, so the GPS kept going out. We got lost, took longer and traveled farther than we’d expected.  This may have been exacerbated by Willow’s phone which has been cutting out on her with increasing frequency, but we knew coverage is spotty up by A Sacred Place. Luckily, she was a half hour south of there, and by the time we’d found them, we just took the kittens, gave them some cookies, and headed straight back home! Willow has been especially wiped out the last few weeks, and the heavy socializing I’m sure didn’t help.
As when I drove home through a blizzard in the late 90s and the next day went out and got a cell phone, Monday we went over to Verizon and ordered a new phone for Willow. I also bit the bullet and ordered one (the simplest, cheapest version) for myself, so I’ll be able to do GPS and take credit cards even when I haven’t got Willow around. Avi works at Verizon and worked it out so that we don’t have to pay too much more. Still, I find it frustrating that it costs so much when land lines are so much cheaper. People have just taken to having access to the internet with them at all times, and I expect I’ll get used to it too. I probably will start with being able to take photos and put them up on facebook. Sigh- so much technology at our fingertips and what do we use it for? Sharing pictures of kittens (and porn, as I understand it, although I don’t get the appeal).DSC02295

That’s about it- it’s been a quiet week. I do like this picture of me filling the vitamin boxes- it captures how dark it is. I really don’t care for the “track lighting”. Each track had 4 lights on it when we started, and now are down to 3 each, and while there are bright spots, I don’t think the whole room has the same amount of light the incandescents used to give. Sigh. Still, I suppose if we were lighting with candles or oil lamps we’d be going from spot of light to spot of light.

I have continued reading books about celebrating the holidays (although I did start reading the last Terry Pratchett book The Shepard’s Crown, which we got for the whole family to share. We’ve really turned the season upside down. Advent used to be a time of quiet reflection, and preparation, and the celebration ran from Christmas Eve until 12th Night. I suppose considering it’s been going on for almost two thousand years (the Church didn’t decide to celebrate Christmas on December 25th until the fourth century), and covers the globe, I shouldn’t be surprised at the variety. I am still fascinated by the Krampus/Black Pete characters which appear all over Europe. They seem to have gotten separated in the Americas- in Pennsylvania they did Belsnickling (getting in disguise and going out and making noise, doing tricks) without a St. Nicholas character. I wasn’t particularly surprised that in many cases laws were made against this sort of thing when they got out of hand. Any tradition where anonymity and practical jokes (and noise) are encouraged, especially in young people, is liable to get out of hand, as the young men try to skate a little bit closer to the “what can we get away with” mark. I was also interested to note that Christmas wasn’t declared a legal holiday until 1870 (while Christmas celebrations were declared “illegal” several times- but mostly by the Puritans while Cromwell was in charge).    … but this will give you an idea of what the kids have had to deal with for the last week, since I love sharing what I find interesting. They are probably filled to the brim with more Christmas trivia that they ever wanted! Next stop New Years/ Hogmany trivia!
Since I want to run out and get milk and the foods for our traditional “feast of small foods” (since we like to stay in for New Years Eve), I’d better close this and get out. John has been busily scraping off the car off and on all morning. I am not sure where my window scrapers are, and will probably have to go searching the hall for them. Snow is nice. It insulates and makes the world look pretty. Ice, not so much. It make people unable to drive as well as they think, and is cold and hard to scrape off the cars. Also makes uncomfortable crusts on the snow- and until we have more fluff, I can’t use snow to toss the kittens in to teach them to stay off the tables. So far it hasn’t come up, although Peri seems to have forgotten.
Trivia question: What were the 4 traditional things on a Christmas tree? Answer: candles, apples, oblaten (wafer cookies), and paper roses. I get all the ones but the roses. This needs more research.

‘There is always time for another last minute.’ – Hogfather
“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.”
“If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.” “Nothing makes a person more productive than the last minute”