Well, hasn’t it been cold this week? My thermometer that’s supposed to record the highs and lows says that we’ve been down to -30º this week, although I’m not sure I believe it. Still, the weather has been central to our lives this week. We’ve gone from this to this:
So looks like we’re going to have a white Christmas unless the rain next weekend melts it all.
John has been shoveling like a hero, and I got really cross when I saw it starting again.
But the big problem was the cold.
I’ll be frank, I am to blame for most of my own problem. I’ve been grooving on having the lovely pantry that we can use as a walk-in refrigerator, and all fall we’ve been regulating how cold it is in there by opening and shutting the window. But I didn’t notice that it was in the teens on Saturday, until it was already below freezing in there. I shut the window, but when Kat wanted to start a wash, the washer wouldn’t go. The hoses made crackling noises if I wiggled them, so I figure there was ice inside and put a space heater on it. An hour or so later John “heard a noise”, and we came in to discover water squirting out from the pipes behind the washer. I tried to flip the switch to turn off the water to the washer, but that wasn’t what was leaking, so I threw my (already soaked) shirt over it to reduce the spraying, and ran downstairs to try and find the shut off valve. John threw the breakers for the water pump, and I called the plumber. Sadly, the snow had started already, and Richard is at a higher elevation that we are, so he said he’d come as soon as he dug out in the morning.
He was as good as his word, and did manage to fix the pipes Sunday morning. We’d gotten 10″ of snow, he’d gotten over a foot. (We spent the morning digging out enough for him to get into the driveway.) But the damage was done. The water had squirted directly into the back of the control panel of the washer, and that’s all electronic these days. When we called the repairman last he’d told us we were lucky with what we had, because if the electronics get wet, the cost is nearly what a new washer would cost. Luckily, not quite, they’re estimating a bit over $400, and it would be at least $600 to replace. Besides that, it’s more ecologically sound to repair rather than replace. But I guess we’ll be going to the laundromat until 12th night, which is their first opening for the repair.
We have done our first three loads yesterday. We resisted going out again, but had run out of kerosene for the cellar space heater. We don’t need it often, but we need to keep the cellar above freezing so we don’t lose our water heater. We’ve also invested in some more insulation as well. And while we were out, it started snowing again, and got another four inches. Really? The night before it had been brilliant and clear. “The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow” was really bright! I guess since it was the Full Cold Moon, it should have been. But after that, when it started snowing AGAIN while we were out getting the kero, I was really annoyed. We had our snow, we didn’t need more! I guess we were better off than we knew, because it had took Steve five hours to get home from work! Admittedly, his usual commute is supposed to take a little over an hour, and generally takes two hour because of “rush hour”, five hours of really stressful driving seems way out of line! (I haven’t heard, but I hope he telecommuted today!)
We maybe could have gotten by without going out, but we were in “survivalist mode”. When the temperature dropped again, we’d put space heaters on the water pump as well as the pantry, and that seems to have blown our breakers. Before we figured that out, we’d pulled out the propane lamps, and other stuff we use when we lose power. I’ll admit that between being in a house that was designed to be heated by wood (1852), and our SCA background, we may not LIKE the cold and snow, but we can deal with it. I still would like a generator, but may have to save up for it.
I am really irritated by how much of our lives “require” electricity these days. I have a “perfectly good” propane stove- but since the oven thermostat is electronic, with no power, I cannot bake. (Yes, technically I can bake in the wood stove, but I’m really not very good at that.) We maintain a land line not only because cell coverage here is not good, but because they work when the power is out, as the radio phones don’t. And we stay in touch with the rest of the world through email and internet. (I wouldn’t have known about the snow in Cairo if I hadn’t seen it on facebook.) But it’s hard to keep track of.
This week will be our first Changing Times-Changing Worlds Planning Committee meeting, and I’ve spent far too much time getting ready for it. We are doing it on “Google Hangouts”, which means we can have people from all over without having to gather in one place. On the other hand, Google seems to want to force everyone to use only its various systems, I had to get a gmail account, and I don’t need any more accounts. I forget to check some of the ones I’ve got already! Now we have the Yahoo group (we’ve had that since the beginning) as well as the website. We have the facebook pages, an “event” page each year, and now a group page- for social networking. And we have the CTCW planning group-I think on google. In theory other people will be covering a lot of this so I will only have to provide oversight and coordination, but I’m just dreading having someone set up other venues. I told Jane that we’d learn to tweet if we had to, but I’ll be honest. I don’t want to!
Tonight I haven’t got a guest for the New Normal, so I’ll use the material from one of my workshops, on Runes, to be able to blither on for an hour by myself.
I’ve been making cookies all week. The shelf in the back hall is finally looking the way I want it to look! Kathryne Goodwyn has been posting which cookies she’s making on facebook, and I tried her Angeletti cookies- REALLY nice! I split the batch and made it half lemon, half anise flavored. I’ve made our traditional candy cane cookies, Ganesha’s treats (snickerdoodles with saffron and sesame seeds, rolled in colored sugar for the holidays), Finksbrod (shortbread with almonds), Finnish butter cookies, Nurnberg Lebkuchen, Linzer cookies, the Mint Christmas trees sandwiched with chocolate. I chopped block chocolate and tempered it for that, but also chopped the tip of my finger, and don’t think it’s that much better than just melting chocolate chips- so learn from my mistakes. Kat helped me decorate the Wishing Stars, and Gingerbread men. I don’t know what happened to them, but I couldn’t find my gingerbread men cookie cutters this year, and the girls had to pick me up another while they were out shopping Monday.
They had to go out because Willow’s blankets, have been selling really well this season. Friday she mailed out five, and then Monday she mailed out another three- she got two more orders Saturday night, and I think another just an hour ago. She has done so many blankets that she’s behind on the cards she usually paints people.
Kat meanwhile is working on her Billy and Zoe stories for this year. She has been writing these stories every year since high school and at this point I think it’s time to edit the older ones, and add some of her gorgeous pen and ink drawings and put the collection out as a book.
Friday the girls got the room clean enough that Saturday we went out and got the Christmas tree. We also stopped by Nelson’s candy and got some sweeets for our stockings. If you are ever in range of Wilton you must stop and Nelson’s. They are famous for their fudge, but they make bon-bons, and salt water taffy, barley pops, their own candy canes. They even make ribbon candy and “clear toys” that you may have read of in Tasha Tudor. He has the old molds, as well as the big copper pots for making fondant (they dip their own cherries) and a taffy pulling machine, and one for making ribbon candy! It is a magical place!
Aside from the cookies (and the mead which has been bubbling beside the woodstove for 3 weeks), we’re also cleaning up for the Solstice Feast this weekend. I realized this year that it’s going to be the 41st Solstice Feast I’ve had. (Wish I’d remembered that last year for the 40th!) Even though our friends know us, there’s nothing like having people coming in to make me look around and suddenly see spiderwebs in the corners, and how long it’s been since I’ve washed the floors. While our friends are very forgiving, I still and trying to figure out where to put the extra “stuff”, so I can fit people into the house. And while we’ve been trying to scale back, we have gotten some presents, which must be wrapped, so they can be set aside for later. Willow has done her usual thing and found a bunch of little toys (now in brown paper tied up with string), to distribute. There’s nothing like handing someone a toy to bring out the kid in them!
One of the sentiments posted on facebook this week (with a game like the giraffe one at Halloween, in which I declined participation) was “A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” There’s a certain amount of wisdom in that. We share the good, we share the bad, and we are all focusing, for a little while, on what makes us happy, what makes our friends happy. I like cookies and carols and getting together with friends. What are your favorite bit? Chuck the rest, and stick with that! Last year I did cards, this year, not. The thing is to take this excuse to do the things we like, and remember that it’s OK to enjoy stuff like toys and having fun.
Are you getting enough sleep? Are you feeding your body and soul the things that nourish them? I think you are great. So don’t insult my taste by putting yourself and your needs as a lower priority to everyone around you. Got it? Enjoy yourself! And if you have a chance to drop by anytime, I’d love to see you. If not, at least we can share the occasional story. (Your turn, but you can wait until after the holidays when you have more time.)
The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort. Confucius
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. Tolkien