12/11/2013 St. Lucia Eve

Once upon a time… December 11, 2013
oops, wrong beginning.
We now have a bit of snow cover- not much. So little that it’s in that place where it seems like it might not be worth the trouble of shoveling because it’s going to melt anyway, but on the other hand, it might just turn into a sheet of ice covering the driveway. Even when it’s around freezing, where the sun hits warms up. The Southeast side of the barn has had the snow melt off, but not the backside. DSC00779
Decisions, Decisions. It’s been chilly this week. We’ve had the wood stove going most days, but I’ve yet to be cold enough to close my window.
On the other hand I may have to close them today (or some time soon). Last night I woke up around four with a wet spot on my back. It was about six inches wide under me, but about a foot wide on the top feather-bed, a yard wide on the next, and the bottom one and the wool blankets I use to pad the waterbed mattress were pretty well soaked. Since I sleep without my contacts on I was in no position to find the leak. Clearly it was slow, so I dumped my bedding in the tub, spread a towel or two across the mattress, covered them with the sheepskins I generally keep on the window seat, and was able to use the bedding that was top of me with no problem. In the morning Willow helped me find the leak- just a tiny oozing pinprick. I have no idea how it came about. I was initially suspicious of the cat, but I can’t imagine how she’d get through so many blankets and featherbeds. Luckily it’s fixed now, the wool blankets are on the line (it is a gorgeous day today), and we’re cycling the featherbeds through the dryer. Some of them are rather hard to fit! But I think it will all be done before bed-time! (I may put the wool blankets in the dryer for just a minute to warm them up after they’ve spent time on the line!) It is the little things that fill up our days!
Willow has been working straight out on the blankets she makes. My mind may be exaggerating, but it seems like she’s getting a new commission almost every day, and she cuts them out, stitches them, and sends them off! I’m not sure whether she’s charging enough for her time, but she enjoys it and can sometimes do something else as she stitches. I think she took one with her when she went down gaming on Thursday, but don’t know if she got anything done- I remember something about a lost needle. But I’m very impressed. She has a bin full of patterns so that when she gets an order for a popular one she can just cut it out quickly. She’s got one dedicated cutting mat because cutting fleece with the roller-cutter seems to push some of the fleece fibers into the mat, making them look furry. I think they work out with subsequent uses- but right now I can see the Seal of Rassalon “growing out of” the mat from the last one she cut (or maybe last-but-one).
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Our move into the holidays progresses slowly. I have started on making cookies. At this point I have a pile of doughs made so I can form and bake them when time becomes available. My technique for making what seems to be an excessive amount of cookies is to line up a row of bowls, tape the recipe on the side of each, then go along and put in amount of butter specified in each bowl, the amount of sugar, vanilla, eggs, flavoring, etc. Then I can mix those ingredients, one at a time, add the flour, leavening and spices, and finish up the doughs in a sort of production line. It works for me.
DSC00781Sadly, the living room is not ready for the tree yet (but it’s still not Lucia Day). I’m hoping to finish the letter early enough to work on it before the show tonight. (My guest and I will be talking about Numerology.) I’ve been hoping to get the rooms shifted- we’re going to make the front room the dining room, and the dining room into the living/work room since we’ve got the computers here, and only use the table for cutting fabric (except this past Thanksgiving). We do have our tiny tree in the kitchen- the one that gets decorated with popcorn, cookies and other edibles. It’s actually hanging from a rafter. I found one this year for $3! It will be fun to decorate. (There are some swedish fish under the seat of the car that we’ve never gotten hungry enough to use as a car snack, they may end up there!) The living room is suffering from the same thing as many other spots in the house: when we took things out of the way of the handy-men, they never went back to the improved parts of the house. Much needs to be tossed, and that requires decision making.
Still it’s a good feeling that we seem to have finally wrestled the Excessive Gifts Monster into submission. Not going to the family Christmas Eve gathering, since Dad’s dead, we will probably only send my generation cards (maybe cookies). As Kitty said: “It’s no fun if I can’t see you open them”, and she was the last hold-out for giving gifts. We are getting back to the more historical “only gifts for your immediate loved ones” bit.
I was going to go to the Lyndeborough Women’s Club Christmas Dinner on Monday, and that included a Yankee Swap, but I completely spaced it. We did go to the Baronial Yule feast. It was a potluck- which meant more food than you could possibly eat, and all the cooks were showing off, so it was incredibly good! I brought traditional cookies (Danzig pepper-cakes, Nurnburg Lebkuchen, Thor’s Pepper-nuts and another type of bar that hasn’t got a name), and posca (“soft” version of watered wine). Shannon Hart brought cupcakes with a bean in them, and a present for the winner. I must say that she is really jumping into the SCA with admirable gusto (even though she still doesn’t like long skirts). Avalon came to Yule too, so Willow came along. I don’t think she’d have come except to see Avi. AviandWillowBFF
Yule is usually a tiny event, just for the kids (noon to four- eat, sing, give kids presents, go home), but it was also the last court of Xavier and Maria, so a lot more people than usual came. I think there were around a hundred, so it was really packed! Since it was potluck, there was plenty of food, but it was rather loud for talking, and hard to hear the singing and story telling. Willow told the story of Thor and Loki’s visit to Jotenheim. She added that while he’d lowered the sea-level when he tried to chug the magic horn, he went outside after and refilled it with a visit to the euphemism- a point I’d always found missing! We have decided we need to go to more SCA events just for fun (although Kat was working- as Mistress of the Golden Key). I got to chat with friends- Rachel let me hold her baby, and I got to watch Gideon, Kaiya’s son, who’s started talking. My hormones are SO ready for me to play with babies!

Bean cake winnerI’d planned to get a lot done Saturday before we left, but I fell into a book, the Long War, and didn’t get anything done. The next day we went to the recycling center. Now that there’s snow we need to find room for the many bins inside again. We’ve got the lights staged to go up, but since it’s been snowing all week, there’s been no time to do it. We DO have a string around the door, one around the back window, and the “curtain” up in the bathroom. I also picked up what The House By The Side Of The Road calls a “Charley Brown” tree. Bursey’s used to call them “field grown” trees, and THBTSOTR is the only place you can get them anymore. They used to be where you could get real mistletoe, but even they can’t get it this year. All there is is the “preserved” leaves with plastic berries. Apparently there was a drought in Texas where the suppliers used to get mistletoe. Oh well. I must have a field grown tree for the home-made ornaments because these pruned trees are so thick there’s no place for a longer ornament to hang without hitting a branch below it. Do people only put up lights and garlands these days? I find that hard to believe! The new ornament for 2013 is a tardis, in honour of the Dr. Who 50th anniversary, and how it’s been such a part of the last several months. It has at least as much relevance as the Tut head for the year we saw that exhibit or some of the others we have.
We’ve brought out the holiday tablecloths- and remembered the trick I came up with last year, to tack the narrow ones to the edge of the table. We got a big wreath from the library, and a couple small ones (so I can have one in my room for the smell!)
We forgot to put out our shoes for St. Nicholas, but Willow found some and filled them anyway. I’ve got three gallons of quick mead for the Solstice feast bubbling in the kitchen (this may contribute to our willingness to make sure the kitchen stays warm). We’re talking about hanging our stockings on the stair rails this year as a dual decoration and so we can slip small things into each other’s stockings as the month goes by.
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Yesterday I made my first piecrust with the lard I processed. (I took way too long to get through THAT job!) This was also the first time we tried the pork from the pig we got from Shema. I think this butcher is a bit too fond of the pepper in his sausage mix. Luckily, I’d put it in pork pies, with some extenders, so it wasn’t too bad, but I’m a bit nervous about trying it straight. I also made an apple pie, but used butter for that crust. The lard crust is good, but I think too meaty tasting for a fruit pie. The pork pies were good though- I foresee many more in our future.

While I’ve baked I’ve watched several movies: Epic was your standard animated fantasy adventure, similar to Fern Gully, but not as good. The Croods, to my surprise was excellent, definitely worth re-watching. The characters were well done, and it was visually stunning. Because they were making points about being in the dark, they had a lot of Chiaroscuro effects, and when they used color it was like the old Lost in Space or What Dreams May Come. Color! Smacking you unapologetically in the face! I also watched World War Z, the latest in the zombie genre- they just keep getting faster. It makes them scarier, but frankly, it wasn’t that exciting a movie.
As I said, I fell into the Long Earth, and finished that. I’m still reading the one on Disney’s influence on American culture and while it has many good points, at the same time, I see the author falling into the same pattern as so many others who have to disparage everything big and powerful. In a series of movies in which strong female characters take control of their own lives, all the author sees is that the “happily ever after ending” appears to require a man, and so is sexist. They are twisting what they see to get the result they want to get, just as much as anyone else. YES, Disney is trying to sell movies, and merchandise. But they also sell feeling good, and choosing your own path, and have uplifting music. The memories of my childhood have many Disney generated images, and what I took from them as a child was lessons like “Be sure you’re right, and then go ahead.” and “stop, look, and listen” (when crossing the street). They let villains be villainous without getting really gross. (I still think Cruella deVille was their scariest villain, because she was clearly crazy.) Yes, they reflect the time in which they were made- Song of the South, which is no longer shown, even though it shows black and white kids happily playing together and valuing the wisdom of the older black man. Peter Pan (one of my least favorites), shows Indians in an unflattering light- but no less flattering than the pirates or even the children. They were all stupid stereotypes. I read the Caroline books (War of 1812) American Girl books, and have started on the ones from 1854. They are honestly there to sell the dolls and their accessories, but both the dolls and accessories are well made, excellent toys, and the stories are well written. Critical should me analytical, not disparaging.
I will be critical about one set of DVDs I watched though- The Clash of the Gods is the History Channel collection about mythology. OMG! They were SO bad, it makes me dubious about anything they do that I don’t know about! All their gods (and humans as well)- from Norse to Greek had tattoos- or face paint, I’m not sure which. And yes, they did mess up the actual stories a great deal. (I picked up the latest Rick Riordan book House of Hades at Darkover, and Willow’s finished it, and I’m starting it. His fictionalized accounts are better than the history channel stuff!) Kat has suggested that what is needed is a MST3K (Mystery Science Theatre Three Thousand) version- a “History Channel 3K Theatre” perhaps with silhouettes of SCAers in distinctive historical style hats pointing out the major flaws in their shows.
But to end on a positive note, Mistress of Spices was excellent. Very much a “chick flick”, but a lovely one, and I liked the way the heroine integrated the magickal and culinary uses of the various spices in her work.

Well, that’s about it for this week. If I stop now, I’ll have time to get some cleaning done. Have great holidays and do whatever makes them good for you. Me, I like music and cookies and pretty lights. I also enjoy the movies with their unapologetic schmaltz, so I watch them.

Tchipakkan
Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. Washington Irving
Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.
Washington Irving

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