12-7-2016 Letter Writing Day!

dsc02684Well, we’ve had our first snow. It wasn’t much- about an inch, but the plows were out making sure it wasn’t a problem. The next day was in the fifties, then last night we had another inch, so maybe in won’t disappear before Yule. We’ll see.
Yes, the rose bush is still blooming, bless its perverse little heart. We still put it out on the stoop when it’s over 40º. Sometimes we can, and sometimes we can’t. During the day the area by front step is in the 70ºs, and it has gotten down to 10º (if we are to trust the hi-lo thermometer) at night. I have seen it go down to the middle 20ºs before I go to bed, so it might be possible. It’s variable; “Welcome to New England”.
Today is National Cotton Candy Day, the 8th is National Brownie Day, the 9th, Friday, is National Pastry Day, Saturday the 10th is National Lager Day, Sunday the 11th will be the third Advent Sunday, (also Noodle Ring Day), the 12th is Gingerbread House Day and Ambrosia Day, Tuesday the 13th is National Cocoa Day.dsc02688

Yesterday, while it was sunny, Wally Holt came up and put up our Christmas lights for us. It’s been years since we’ve had outdoor lights, except around the door, as none of us is good with ladders. (I don’t know when they’ll come down.) But when I saw them, as I was coming in from acupuncture, last night, it made my heart glad. I like the simple lights- and we still have some of the blinking bulbs (in a still photo they can look like they’re off), because we bought a lot when they stopped making them. The fuse on every one of the 7 lengths of lights we had was blown and needed replacing. I wonder what makes a fuse blow. (I know it is common to end a statement of wonder with a question mark because it is an implied question, but it is clearly a statement about what one is doing. That punctuation tradition makes no sense to me.)

Thursday was the first, and we put away the fall plates and brought out the Christmas holly-patterned plates, cups, mugs, tablecloths etc. John brought out the Christmas videos, and we’ve watched some- Gremlins and Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol were the first. We finished up the last of the Thanksgiving turkey in the form of Turkey à là King and turkey tetrazzinii;  I’d never tried that before. It’s a lot like turkey à là king- only rather than a plain white sauce, it’s got parmesan cheese in it. Also it seems to be served over spagetti with peas in it rather than the pimentos that add color to the à là king. Not bad. We also got out the “ugly Christmas sweaters”, and Willow sent more sweaters and socks to Standing Rock.
My facebook feed has been full of Standing Rock posts. I understand that there was a news black out from the major media, but I have to assume it’s over now. I can’t imagine it being ignored after this long, with this many people (and this level of violence). We cheered when the veterans arrived, and cried at their apology for what the army has done to the First Nations over the years. We celebrated when the Army Corps of Engineers decided to halt the pipeline on Sunday, and Tuesday were angry, if not surprised, when the DAP people said they didn’t care what the ACE said, they were finishing the project anyway. After all the money they’ve invested, of course they want to complete it. What we need is to get them to bargain in good faith about making it safer and less polluting, and not just route it through the land where people have the least power to protect themselves. It’s not that anyone is anti-infrastructure, but it must take into account long term costs, not just short term profits. Today I read that thousands of migrating geese died when they landed in contaminated water in an open pit mine. If a company makes a toxic mess, cleaning it up afterwards should be considered part of the cost, not just left to whoever gets around to it. This week we took our old toilet to the dump and had to pay to put it into the landfill. Everyone should be responsible for every bit of material they use, even when they’re done with it. It’s easy to say “value added” when you take something you don’t pay for and sell it, but that can be simply stealing. Whether you’re stealing it from the future generations by polluting or using it up, or taking it from people who can’t stop you, it’s still stealing. As the Lakota point out, originally the pipeline was going to go through Bismark, but was rerouted because it was too great a risk for the white people there, but apparently not a risk for the Native Americans. There is such a double standard about bulldozing through Christian sacred land, and indigenous sacred land. Often their excuse is- “it’s already done, so why bother complaining now!” If it was made financially unprofitable for them to not steal it, or not let it be as polluting as it is, they’d find a different way of making money I’m sure.

christmas-picture-1960Since I still am not able to accept my looks with the Bell’s Palsy, I’ve been putting up our old Christmas card pictures as my “icons” on fb- changing them each day- yesterday I think I used the last one from Farmington, and will now be getting to the Winchester ones. My kids should start showing up in the cards by the time we get to Christmas. I hope the Palsy goes away by New Years. Everyone tells me it’s looking better. I worry that they are just getting used to it.  Still, I guess they just expect me to look like the old lady who loves to hear everyone’s stories.
dsc02683Since the girls were gone, I went up to the Baronial Yule event by myself. Sadly, I since I don’t drive after dark any more (like so many of my friends), I had to leave at 3 to get home before dark, so it was a short day. Also, I forgot my feast gear. (blush) It was a pot-luck and there were some good food (more than fit easily on the paper plate I was given)! I had been planning to take drinks because there are rarely enough at pot-lucks, but woke up with the idea “I can make wafers!”, and I did. My krumkake recipe supposedly makes 75. I pulled out the Goro (another wafer) iron and had two burners going at once. (I thought of trying 3, but two was really as much as I could handle.) I don’t think I’ve used the goro iron before, or if I did, I forgot how lovely they are. The iron makes the wafer so thin that it browns on the thin bits while leaving the thicker bits creamy- it was quite lovely. Krumkakes, as I understand, should be carefully kept from browning, which is a trick when they are butter heavy. As I remarked about the wafers: “Any time you start with a recipe that takes two sticks of butter and a cup of cream, you know it’s going to be good!” This was a cardamon flavored recipe. There was a curia, but I skipped it and sat by the gate, saying hi to people as they came in. Then after we ate, I went to the cooks guild meeting. It was nice to see people. Sadly, when I put on my lovely garb, I discovered a hole in the gown- another victim of whichever unknown cat sucks holes in our stuff. (Last week Kat found several holes in her seat cushion. Obviously done while she was asleep, because when she’s awake, she’s sitting on it, or keeping the cats out of her room.) We need to figure out which cat is doing it, and how to stop him. Meanwhile, I need to find my scraps and patch my gown! I had brought the Gold Key bins, but didn’t take them out of the car, and luckily only one person needed a garb (she’d forgotten hers- made me feel better about my lapse).

studio-at-4oaks-ncc2016The girls spent the weekend at Northeast Comic Con. They had a good time and said that next year they want to take me with them. Willow ordered a new banner for their table, and a rack on which she puts the capes she’s making now. Kat took her hats and accessories, and sold out of her decorated cat ears. They didn’t do as well as they should have. All fall sales have been down- a lot. People love our stuff, but I think this is another symptom of the anxiety the election has caused. I cannot help thinking of the “Return to Normalcy” (Warren G. Harding’s campaign promise in the election of 1920) by which he meant going back to the mythological pre-war past where everything was wonderful- except that he fostered nationalism, protected bigotry, kept us out of the League of Nations, and pushed commerce- leading to the stock market crash and depression, and through that to the next war. I’m sure that part of this comes from comparing our current anxieties to what I’m reading about, but dang!

On Sunday John and I went to the dump, got gas, Agway for cat-food, did the laundry,  got lunch, changed books at the library, went to Michaels for clay, Staples for CO2, Rite Aide for vitamins, Fitch’s for a barn wreath and a tiny tree, Monadnock for water, House by the Side of the Road for mistletoe, and dropped the “leper bells” off at Claus’ that we’d picked up at the Dragon’s Hoard this summer. (They weren’t home yet, so it’s taken us this long to make contact. They are busily reorganizing their studios and getting back into Wilton mode.) After we got home, Steve came up to visit, and I made waffles and sausage for supper, then started sculpting some Nac Mac Feegles. The girls got in and pretty much went straight to bed. I think my energy is coming back. Once again my activity level makes Willow tired to be around me. When we were bringing down the lights and other yule stuff from the attic, I also grabbed some fabric to make myself more warm skirts and vests.

dsc02690We forgot to get pictures of our shoes filled with St. Nicholas Day presents, but they were nice this year. I got a new cake pan, a new holiday apron, and some sparkly bracelets, that make me smile. Also gold nail polish with a Santa’s hat for a cap. We use St. Nicholas Day as a way to share the presents to use during the holidays. There’s little as frustrating as getting an album of holiday music on Christmas when you’ll pretty much have to wait a year to listen to it. Willow and Kat got hairbows, and Kat got some seasonal leggings, John got a shirt with Santa that says “Keep Believing!” and most of us got socks (which seems logical in a shoe). Last night I tried the new pan, but even using their recipe and following their explicit instructions on greasing and flouring, it wouldn’t come out- and I had to dig it out of the pan. So I made the broken into a trifle. (Mark came over today and got to watch). I made a custard. dsc02689Then, as it was an almond cake, we mixed in some coconut and almonds and turned it into an “Almond Joy” trifle, which is good enough that I’d make it again intentionally- although I still want to find the right way to get the pan to release the snowflake shaped cake. I suspect the cooking spray I use in my bundt pans (they specifically said not to use cooking spray) will work. We’ll see. Meanwhile, if you have a cake that breaks up- trifle it!

Today’s excitement was the furnace breaking. I suspect it may be because since the well died and recovered, the line from the well isn’t filtering properly. Apparently the heating element in the hot water section can get clogged up- the technician says this is cause by impurities in the water. As the water is still slightly off color, and it wasn’t before, we know that there’s something going on with it. Or maybe sitting and not circulating for 3 months isn’t good for it. Whatever, the part now needs to be replaced, which seems to require cutting the furnace open. They’ll get back to me with an estimate soon. (They say their priority is people without heat or without water.) As so many are saying 2016 sucks. The number of people who are reporting loved ones dying on fb is getting depressing, and I know I’m missing some. Daffydd, the herald, has apparently been going through chemo, and while he told people on fb, I missed that post. This has been a hard year. Next year will be better.

This week I watched the most recent Tarzan movie: The Legend of Tarzan. I would have liked it better had he had black hair as he did in the book. I know the book was intended to be bad writing, but I enjoyed the series, and would LOVE a movie that actually followed that story. I do like them dealing with John Greystoke as having a dual life, and being ambivalent about his role as both an English lord and Lord of the Jungle.  Morgan Freeman’s character was my favorite non-canonical bit, George Washington Williams was SO frustrated trying to keep up with Tarzan.
I also finished the first season of NCIS New Orleans. Unsurprised that it was good. I didn’t relate to the characters as well as I do with the original, but thinking about it, my favorites are the geek squad, Loretta, the coroner, Sebastian the lab guy, and Patton the computer specialist, and in the original, I am not really excited about the agents except McGee. Perhaps after more seasons and more back stories I will like them better. I do like the way they make New Orleans sort of a character as well.
I read the two books Mark recommended Girl Waits with Gun, and Lady Cop makes Trouble. I didn’t realize until I got to the note at the end of the first book that it was a true story, created around the newspaper articles about a real trial. (While reading I’d wondered why the writing in the newspaper clippings was so different from that of the rest of the story. It turns out they were simply the real ones.) It took the characters through most of a year from the time a rich jerk drove his car into the buggy of three single women and refused to pay for the repairs, and indeed started threatening them when they tried to collect. There’s something distressingly familiar about rich people thinking that if they can get away with it, why can’t they do whatever they want- and this was an hundred years ago. Except for the quoted bits from old newspapers, the writing was excellent. I loved the development of the characters and the way the story unfolded.
I finished the poorly named book Victorian America Transformations in Everyday Life. It wasn’t Victorian- we weren’t England. It was the time after the Civil War, and before WWI, it covered the years 1876 to 1915- somewhat arbitrarily between the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 (that must have been amazing looking back over only 100 years of being a country!) and the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915. It covered huge technological changes and how it changed daily life, the movement from rural to urban life, transportation, communication, leisure activities, medical changes, how people worked and saw themselves. I am now reading Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940: How Americans lived through the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. Having read the Daily Life book on the 40s-60s, I read the one on the first World War, because I wanted to see how they got there; and then I wanted to see how they got from the upheavals of that period to the 40s. I will admit to seeing way too many parallels between then and now. Still, I’m thinking the 90s with it’s dot com boom, and the “great recession” in the aughts, is a better pairing with the 20s and Great Depression. I sure hope we won’t need a world war to get out of it. I was a bit soothed to read that there were four “depressions” between the Civil War and the Great War. I guess since the Great Depression we just don’t want to call economic downswings depressions anymore. (“A recession is when other people are out of work, a depression is when you are.”) I will admit that I always pretty much ignored history after men started wearing trousers and carrying swords. It occurred to me while reading this book, that it’s fairly indistinguishable from the textbooks I skimmed in High School. But now each bit makes a connection. I think maybe I didn’t know enough to know what I was reading back then. Or maybe textbooks concentrated too much on wars and treaties, generals and presidents, scandals and achievements, and didn’t have enough of how normal people lived. When subways or street lighting came to New York seems far more interesting to me than finishing the railroad. Still, that made a huge difference for people as well. I’d also like to have seen more honest information about the plight of the blacks (an average of three lynchings per week during the period I just read about), and the Native Americans. I expect when I’m done I’ll probably find a book about the early part of the 19th century, then the 18th. It’s the connections, the growth of one thing out of another I like to understand (or try to).
That’s the non-fiction I’m on, but I’m also re-reading Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series (which is what inspired me to want to sculpt a Nac Mac Feegle). There’s something appealing about a young girl learning to deal with her own talents- both the trouble they get her into, and out of. I’m currently in Wintersmith. I love that when the older witches are teaching her, they’re teaching her to take care of people and not use magic any more than you must. I also enjoy the way Pratchett mocks the witches who are into the stage dressing of the craft.
Since the next Magnus Chase book won’t be out until next year, I am reading the Trials of Apollo, another Rick Riordan book I seem to have missed when it came out. Probably because it wasn’t part of any series. Lacking another Vorkosigan book, I have started reading another by Bujold, the Curse of Chalion. A chapter or so in, the quality of her writing and characters grabbed me, but in the beginning the weird names and lack of certainty about what period I was supposed to be picturing was disorienting. Once I decided in my head that it was late medieval Spain, I felt better. Also the description on the inner flap of the dust jacket said that the main character, Cazaril, returning home at the time of the festival of the Daughter, one of the five gods.  I kept trying to figure out how one of the  gods had gotten into such bad shape. Turns out the Daughter was the one of the five gods, he was just coming home. I think this is a case of if you are familiar with the “World of the Five Gods” that sentence is clear to you, but if you aren’t you can get tangled up. It is SO easy to assume that what you know is self evident.

“The proper definition of a man is an animal that writes letters.”
― Lewis Carrollkat-w-tardis-ncc16