4-06- 2016 Plan your Epitaph Day

DSC02467We got more snow overnight on Sunday- not much and it melted by afternoon, then we got more snow overnight on Monday- a bit more than a dusting, but again, we knew it was April, and ignored it, and it went away. There are some tiny berms because our wonderful road crews kept the roads plowed for people who don’t have the option of staying home and sulking about it. I think the storm was called Ursula, and when I looked it up, it was spinning off the coast, picking up moisture from the Atlantic and bringing it back to dump on our roads (to indulge in the human-centric view of weather patterns).  It’s been sort of chilly. Not enough to have fired up the wood stove, but we have flipped on the electric space heaters occasionally.
DSC02465This week we took the kittens over to the vet for their first run of shots: rabies and distemper. The surprise this year was a choice of rabies vaccines. Apparently there are occasionally tumors at the site of injection for the old vaccine, so you have the option for a new one they think won’t do that. On the other hand, the new one is only a one year vaccine, while the traditional one lasts three years. Given my sporadic attention to such things, I opted for the three year shot. Also, that one was $34, and the one year shot was $42, which means three years would have cost $126, and that’s a significant difference. Given that these sarcomas occur at a rate of one in ten to thirty thousand shots, I don’t think that it’s a huge risk. I’d guess that most people only look at “oh, it’s a side effect” without even considering how rare the side effect is. Poor Moggie! The folks at the vet’s office were amused at the continuation of the theme of anti-depressant medication names for the cats. (Ambian is actually a sedative.)
I did finally catch a picture of the cats on the new “cat tree” Mark gave us- usually they are moving too much to be able to even tell that they are cats. The kittens now are around 5 months old, and look like small cats, although you can still tell the difference when they stand beside the older cats. Ambian seems to be outgrowing Pyewacket (who I don’t think is going to end up being called Xanax; maybe if we’d called him Niravam, that would be a pretty name for a cat I think.)

DSC02463Now that John’s not doing the low carb diet any more (getting down to 275 satisfied him), I’ve been playing with our food more. I made a dynamite curry one night, and have tried a couple of “holiday inspired” recipes. This week was Chocolate Mousse week, so I tried it. Willow really liked it (I made it milk chocolate rather than dark chocolate for her). It’s a lot less difficult than I’d imagined, although I daresay I’d feel differently if I didn’t have the blender on a stand as one beats the eggs for 10 minutes. (first you make whipped cream, keep that chilled, beat the eggs with a couple of tablespoons of sugar, melt the chocolate, then add a couple tablespoons of coffee to the chocolate which will start to harden it up, at which point you fold in the fluffy eggs and whipped cream. Not hard at all, although I think if I tried to half the recipe, the beater would have a harder time dealing with only a cup of cream or only two eggs in the bottom of the bowl. Luckily, it seems to keep in the cold room just fine, and Willow is working her way through it.)

DSC02468Then when I was posting the holidays I actually looked up Chicken Cordon Bleu and discovered that it wasn’t much more than flattening the chicken breast by pounding, and putting on a slice of ham and a slice of swiss cheese, then roll it up and secure it with toothpicks. The only problem that I had was I’m not sure I did the pounding right. I was surprised that the fibers in the chicken started to separate, because we never had that problem when pounding beef for Christmas Eve dinner. Afterwards I checked Youtube, and those chefs pounded it between two pieces of plastic and sprinkled it with a bit of water, so I’ll have to try that next time. Also, the fancier the chef, the flatter they made it. When you’ve got it rolled up, you cover it with seasoned bread crumbs and bake. Remove the toothpicks before serving (it was sort of hard to find them in the crumbs, so you don’t want to surprise anyone with a toothpick). I think it worked pretty well, and really, chicken, ham and cheese? How can you go wrong. One youtube suggested adding a bit of dijon mustard, and I’m going to try that!
I probably spend too much time posting holidays, but I do find them fascinating, and I certainly wouldn’t have tried something that sounded as fancy as “Cordon Bleu” without having had the holidays pique my interest and discover how easy they were. I did indeed discover that there are recipes out there for Cordon Bleu casserole, which seems to be basically mac and cheese with with ham and chicken, perhaps a bit faster, but then you wouldn’t have the bragging rights would you?
Kat and I also tried the spicy chicken sandwich at Wendy’s when we were out too long. It was pretty good, but I have to admit that I decided to throw out worrying about carbs and indulged in their “ghost pepper fries”- french fries covered with cheese sauce and I am guessing chopped jalepiños. I am very sure they aren’t really ghost peppers, because those suckers are dangerous! Guilty pleasure. I also liked it when McDonald’s had their jalepiño burgers, but those went away, like the sautéed onions and cheese on a rye bun. I suppose if enough people liked what I like, they’d keep serving it, and I wouldn’t be reminiscing.

During the last few minutes of the New Normal last Wednesday my guest Jeffrey Cerneson mentioned he’d be going to the Magical Marketplace, and it occurred to me that it would be a great place to look for CTCW participants- if I had cards. I contacted Maryalyce and she sent an order out to our local Staples and I was able to pick some up the next day (and have them for the weekend)! I am amazed at that turn-around time.
magickal marketplaceI had had to bail on Arwen and miss Mithracon last weekend, but because I couldn’t afford to spend the weekend down there, I was able to pop over to Mike and Beth’s Magical Marketplace in Nashua and pass out business cards for CTCW there. I am SO in awe of what an impressive event they’ve created. It is huge. And so well organized! There was a room with dozens of readers reading for thousands of attendees solidly for probably the eight hours it was open. Aside from the readers there were vendors- a huge room and more tucked in every corner of the area, and constant performances, and  workshops. It’s not what we’re trying for with CTCW, because we are going for a whole weekend, and want the workshops and panels to be the main focus, and also we want it to be more than pagans- to get people from all faiths to be talking about the impressive psychic and magickal abilities humans have and foster some sort of communication between the many who are not particularly nice to each other. Mike and Beth have created a wonderful event that allows people to learn, and shop and get readings, and be entertained- for one day.
DSC02476I sternly avoided indulging in buying any of the fantastic stuff they had until I was done passing out cards, but one of the vendors was selling their stock of wind-chimes wholesale so they could get out of the business, so I did indulge my passion for windchimes. I got some pretty ones with colored crystals and another set that simply sound good.
I have to admit that just going through the vendors and readers rooms left me exhausted. I really need to exercise more, I was actually afraid I’d damaged myself. (luckily woke up in the morning feeling better!) I had promised myself that I could simply give a card to each vendor (with an invitation to check out our event) and go and enjoy some of the workshops. By six not only was I hurting, I was weak and trembling. (That’s what I get for leaving right after breakfast and not thinking about lunch.) But, hey, every where I looked I saw friends, and people who knew me, (although I didn’t remember half of their names) and that was incredible!  Zoe took pity on me and fed me one of her cookies, and a bunch of friends from A Sacred Place were headed out for dinner at a nearby restaurant, so I decided to join them. But as I found the Tavern, I was so tired I gave up and went home- although I’d hoped to stay at least as long as the light held so I could drive.  I went home and just sat at kitchen table, knit and watched TV. I didn’t have enough “ooph” left to sew on pearls.
DSC02477This week I’ve been working on the jeweled gown to wear to Coronation. The project started years ago with the simple goal of showing people examples in our garb of how to use our product on theirs. After all, why should the cobbler’s children go barefoot? On the other hand, as much as I’m liking how it’s coming out, I also feel distinctly uncomfortable wearing something so alien to my persona. (Now that I’m a Companion of the Laurel it behooves me to be a good example even more than before.) Yes, it’s probably from the right time period, and the Franks (across the channel) had jeweled gowns that were not that far from this, I’m confident that they’d have decorated a linen gown with strips of brocade because they couldn’t afford a whole brocade gown, and I’ve seen images of jewels on gowns like this, but it really does look more the ones one sees on murals of Byzantine Empresses.  It would be as if my mother had worn a Christian Dior gown to a cocktail party in Maine- or even a charity ball. I think the high fashion designer gowns don’t really show up except in a few places (like academy awards and inaugural balls- or other occasions where the one percent gather- maybe the top percent OF the one percent). That’s what this would be- something you’d only see in a very select VERY high ranking court circles, and not on even a wealthy Saxon lady from Wessex. Oh well, I shall look marvelous. Sadly, I’ve got only two days left, and I’m still adding the jewels to the centers of the motifs- and have stuff happening every night between now and then.Me and the banner If it’s not done, I shall console myself by looking spectacular in the gown I made for my elevation, and have a bit more time to diet, because I was under 250 pounds when I started this, and I fear that people might notice how tight it is, rather than how “bling” it is. (I also want to couch on gold cord in patterns around the jewels on the skirt. Subtlety is not my goal.
I’m still frustrated because Coronation is going to be at the Higgins Armory which is an hour to our south, and because it has become so common these days for people to get hotels rather than ‘crashing’ with other SCAdians (probably because our events have hundreds rather than dozens of attendees these days), that if I want to enter my gorgeous banner into the heraldry contest, I’d have to drive it down to Worcester so that they can hang it up the night before. Not only am I busy Friday night, I’m not driving 2 hours just to show off. (OK, maybe it is because I’m busy.) I’ve asked on the barony list to see if anyone from up here is going to be heading down early, who could take it, but apparently the rest of the Stonemarchians are also planning on day tripping- which makes sense. I’m very excited, it’s going to be the Saxons Kenric and Avelina again!

As I have been sewing I have watched the first season of The Newsroom, and I am so impressed with it.  Usually I figure I haven’t missed much by not having TV since 2008, but THAT was an excellent show, and I look forward to watching the other seasons. I suppose the characters express similar perspective to mine, so that creates a “warm fuzzy” feeling for me. I love that the anchor is a Republican and is frustrated by the recent usurpation of the GOP by the Tea party. I love that just about every character in it is a really decent person, even when they do things they would rather not do. I enjoy watching them screw up their lives in an attempt to be good and nice. And the way the writers used actual news events to lend verisimilitude to the story is brilliant! There were certainly stories that I remember, and others I totally missed, and wished I’d noticed at the time.
Watching this meshed well with my finishing the book Why liberals win the culture wars (even when they lose elections) : the battles that define America from Jefferson’s heresies to gay marriage. The last section was about “current” culture wars. I was reassured that everything from the 60s to now was included- essentially my lifetime. It’s always hard for me when people act like things that were current events when I was younger was some sort of distant historical period. So I followed a lot of it, and mostly what I got out of that section was the descriptions of how various people and movements changed their positions over this time period. When it’s gradual and “current”, one tends not to notice. Remember when HIV was a disease of homosexuals? Remember when Herpes was the plague God sent to punish the sexually promiscuous?  Remember the horror stories from when abortions were still illegal? We should not forget some of these things, and how sometimes our reactions were really stupid. Overall, the book was reassuring. I expect that in a couple of years, it’s going to be nothing but a period piece because it will be all in the past.
Also in this progression, this week I remembered the group Capitol Steps who we enjoyed during the Newt Gingrich period, and discovered that they are still “putting the mock in Democracy”. Their website has new songs they are putting up (weekly?), and as they said in the introduction to one, it’s a good time to be in the business of political satire. (I tripped over it hoping to find the lyrics to Wonderbra when I found out about “Cleavage Day” March 31st. It was created by Wonderbra.)
I’ve just started watching the series Bonekickers, a mystery show about archaeologists, which is hugely fun. It’s from the BBC and the plots are about as ridiculous as National Treasure or Indiana Jones movies- so far I’ve seen them burning the true cross in an ancient underground sanctuary of the Templars, and a pitched gun battle between the supporters and enemies of a black candidate for president. (yeah- 2008) If you are not asking for realism- and I’m not, it looks like a fantastic romp- with grids marked out on lawns.
Somewhere along the line the opening tune to All in the family got stuck in my head. It started with remembering something nice from their youth: “Boy, the way Glen Miller played songs that made the hit parade”, and it went on “And you knew who you were then, girls were girls and men were men.” It was an expression of the core of culture wars- a paean  to to a (mis)remembered idyllic past. It ended with “we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again”. As if the president improved the music and the interaction between the sexes (or generations, or races).
I started thinking about how families have been portrayed in sitcoms. We really identified with All in the Family, Archie and Edith were cartoonish versions of the way we looked at parents, and were no less kindly used than Gloria and Mike were portrayed. I look back at the Cramdon’s in the Honeymooners, and the Ricardos, Nelsons, and Cleavers in the 50s, then on to (god forbid) the Brady Bunch in the 60s, the Cunninghams from Happy Days, (who were 70s idealizing the 60s) and Waltons (although they may not count since they were drama, not sit-com), and on up to  the Keatons on Family Ties  and the Huckstables (Cosby) in the 80s, and the Mathews (Boy Meets World), the Taylors (Home Improvement), and the Conners (Roseanne)  and certainly we have to include – who may have run longer than any other family because the actors didn’t have to grow up. There’s a basic concept that the parents are not as smart as the kids would hope they’d be, (fathers tend to come off as actively stupid sometimes), but love conquers all. By and large they are supposed to be “normal” families to whom we can all relate. On the other hand, most seemed to be in a much higher income bracket than the people I knew- and we always figured we were well off! It was amazing how many of them seemed to require live in house-keepers! Given that many were single parents or two income families, that might explain it, but I figured that the people who wrote them just came from a different demographic.  I suppose I might also toss in the Adams Family– but most of the families were supposed to be more typical: our universal” role models, as in folk tales there always seemed to be 3 sons and or 3 daughters, and the youngest was always unappreciated. If you throw in enough common tropes, someone is bound to relate.
Maybe this is an extension of the way I relate to the world. Others may wonder how people stayed in touch before cellphones and the internet, I tend to take that back further to before there were phones, before there was writing. Almost every thing I do makes me wonder- and appreciate what we have now- how did you even the nails that are snagging on your clothing before there were nail files (sandstone)? What did we use before there were bandaids? or tape? Many people wonder how we dealt with health problems before modern medicine: we got better, or we died, or we were debilitated for the rest of our lives. If you live in a 150+ year old house you are more likely to think about pre-electricity, or central heating or what were the rooms where the toilets are now? Don’t other people wonder about these things too, or do I just have an excess of energy that I can expend as curiosity?
As I enjoy the Tony Hillerman books I am once again reminded of cultural differences. These books are marvelous at pointing out that the culture of the Navajo is NOT the same as that of the Hopi, or the Zuni, and that there are whole other ways of looking at the world that are totally normal for a whole culture, but not the way we take for granted. So far I have read The Blessing Way, Dance Hall of the Dead, Listening Woman, and am deeply into People of Darkness. I am really glad I saw the movies first, because I don’t think even with the words butte, desert,  mesa, cottonwood, or piñon, I wouldn’t really be able to picture it very well because those images are so alien to my experience. I like so many things about the Navajo culture, but I bet with my talkative nature, I’d be really rude, however inadvertently, if I went there. I did have one complaint about Listening Woman, it really bothered me that neither Hillerman (the author) nor Leaphorn (the Navajo detective) deplored the loss of the sand paintings in the cave that had been made to preserve the cultural heritage. It seemed such a horrible loss to me.

But it’s getting too late- I would love to actually sit physically and chat with you over tea and biscuits, but that’s probably not going to happen soon.
Much affection,

The “central paradox of American History” is “a belief in progress coupled with a dread of change; an urge toward the inevitable future, combined with a longing for the irretrievable past”          Laurence Levine