It’s raining today- if it weren’t so “warm” I’m sure we’d be getting a typical February snowstorm, but it is around 40º (which certainly doesn’t feel warm), so no shoveling in the forecast. Even more snow is melted. If it weren’t raining, I’d feel obliged to go out and try and harvest some firewood. I actually don’t go out much, prefering to stay near the woodstove, on which I have a lovely pot of Krupnik soup simmering. (It’s a mushroom barley soup- vegetarian, the way I learned it, but apparently, as with most soups, this is up to the whim of the day.) A couple each of onions, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, (what root vegetables can you find in your cellar?), some mushrooms, barley, garlic, salt and pepper. I added a hunk of rutabega this time (a bit less than a cup), some celery, and a jalepeño I found while digging in the refrigerator drawer. I’m thinking of adding some bouillon (because “why not?”). I like having soup on the stove in the winter.
This week I made “Cholent (I think) for the first time. I actually may have made it under another name. I’ve been watching old NCIS shows while sewing, and they mention that Ziva made it- Gibbs described it as “slow cooked beef and potatoes- delicious”, and I was trying to decide what to make for supper, and gave in to the suggestion. Since then I’ve looked at a lot of recipes and it seems to be highly variable. Germans seem to like using Goose, which would in my mind turn it into “cassoulet”, which I know I’ve tried. I think what makes it Cholent is putting everything in and slowly baking it (14 hours at 200º). I think this might make a good Pennsic “fireless cooking” recipe. Fireless cookers were the rage in the pre-elevator tenements where you had to carry any fuel you were going to cook with up the stairs as well as the food and sometimes water. The concept is to use the range to get a pot containing the meat, vegetables, and everything hot, then put the covered pot in an insulated box to cook on the starting heat. You can do that in a cooler stuffed with hay and maybe a feather pillow. Modern people would want a way to make sure the temperature stayed in the safe range, but it would mean being able to leave the campsite during the day (one doesn’t leave a fire), and still not have to start a fire mid-day to have a warm dinner before dark. Ours was pretty good, and well received for a dish with beans in it. I think it was because the beans were mixed with barley and play “thickener” to the meat and potatoes. Every family seems to have his or her own recipe- I think when I try it again, I will increase the meat and have more garlic. I’d intentionally only used a pound of beef, so as to avoid leftovers. It’s definitely worth playing with.
If I can get the recipe down, I’m wondering if I can use my new “toy” on it. This is a ceramic kiln or furnace Tiberius sent me from Birka. Last summer they tested one with a much tighter egress for Sarah’s bead making, and this may be for enameling, or cooking. The holes let in enough air to allow the brush wood to burn hot, and with a flat top, this may possibly hold a pot. Experiments must be made.
That and replacing our honey were the one thing I really wanted to get a Birka this year, and Willow wanted and got a leather sewing kit. Having done the SCA for 4 decades, we have just about everything we could possibly want, so the opportunity to shop isn’t as seductive for us as it is for many.
Sadly, I did not actually make it to Birka. Remember last week I wondered if taking the Golden Turmeric Elixir on an empty stomach had upset it? Maybe yes, maybe not, it may have been the first awareness of getting what afflicted Willow last week. I had a bad couple of days Thursday and Friday, but Saturday I was still concerned that I could be contagious, so I did not get to go. There are times when one wonders if one really IS as virtuous as we want to think. I discovered that I really, REALLY didn’t want to take the chance of being “Patient Zero” for Birka this year. Actually with over a thousand people from all over the country (and even Europe), crammed into a “box” (I seriously dislike the expo center). there is ALWAYS a “plague” passed around after Birka. Or any conference really. But I didn’t want to be the one offering up the virus or germ to everyone else to take up and down the east cost. So I stayed home, felt a little sorry for myself, a little proud, and if anyone got sick it wasn’t my fault!
Actually, someone did get sick. Kat from Hobbitronics came up, and spent the night with us because we’re old fashioned SCAers and prefer guesting to hotels (as convenient a place to store stuff as a hotel room may be). Not to mention cheaper. She shared a ride with another Catherine who sells leather work- even though that one is allergic to cats. She hoped that it wouldn’t be too bad. Sadly, by Friday morning (they arrived Thursday night), she was really feeling it. Luckily they found another place to stay for Friday night, and had put her bedding in their car to keep the cats from shedding on it. I’d THOUGHT we’d locked the kittens up in our bedrooms over night, but you know what escape artists cats are, and how cats seem to be attracted to people who have allergies like iron filings to magnets. Apparently she is OK with kittens, but not adult cats. Sadly, our adult cats HAVE shed all over the house. I feel badly about it. (Note that the kittens love the furs we brought down for Kat to sleep on!
Birka is sort of a one day event, but with all those merchants, they let us/them come in to set up around 3 on Friday, which means they left around one and got back around midnight. After emptying our car of our goods, since we only have one car, they had to go out to the SCA storage, and get all the bins of Gold Key garb and bring that in. Then Kat had to set up Gold Key, while Willow set up Cabochons- alone. I wasn’t there for either of them. Kat has an assistant now, but she’s in High School and couldn’t get there until evening. She was apparently very helpful on Saturday. Kat has created a new addition to the Gold Key gear- knockers for the changing room “doors”. The problem is, that Gold Key is almost always in a tent, and at Birka, they put up hanging curtains (I had a picture of last year in last week’s letter). Because of that she put clips on the back to clamp to the tent poles or pipes they use to hang the curtains. Clever!
Usually she only brings a bin each for men, women and children, but for Birka she loans out over 100 outfits, helping insecure people find something that makes them feel good, when this may be the first time they’ve ever worn garb. If they feel pretty, or heroic, or piratical, they feel good about being at an SCA event. She got great enjoyment this year being able to assure ladies who figured they’d be “too fat” that she’d have something nice for them. “I get a choice?” It makes sense- these are the clothes our SCAers make for themselves, and donate when they run out of room and have more things even better, and there are lots of us in the “plus size” range. She had another idea this year. The queen had a costume challenge– to make garb inspired by characters from the Pixar movies. Mostly it’s normal looking garb, but the color scheme and some of the detailing is analogous to the character. There was a child in a gown that the color and line was reminiscent of the Frozen gown, and Kat thinks if she can get similar gowns, it may make the little girls happy. I have seen that kids who have gorgeous garb tend to behave better, probably because they feel good about themselves. Another innovation of hers is that she has been collecting the plastic rings from the top of milk jugs all year, and when she took a piece of garb back, she used it to mark the hanger, showing it was used. With 400-500 pieces of garb, she would rather wash only the ones that get used rather than the whole collection. Still, they’d never have fit even that “little” in the car, if Avi hadn’t brought the “GK to wash” home in her car for us. (She dropped it off on Sunday.)
Both Willow and Kat reported that it seemed less crowded this year than previous years. I don’t know whether people were sick, or broke or what. I spent the day on the computer mostly sorting my Live Journal Scrapbook. They let you add pictures to your posts, and you can sort them into different “albums” when you do. Only I didn’t. Recently, after several years of adding pictures about the daily holidays, I hit the limit (a thousand pictures or a thousand Mb, I’m not sure). So I have been sorting them, throwing out a lot of duplicates, which is allowing me a bit of leeway. Also making it easier to find old pictures. Sadly, if you can put them in order, I don’t know how, and I’ve got over 400 in the “holidays” album- so to re-use them I have to scroll through them all. Still, 400 is easier to check than a thousand! That semi-mindless sorting was about all I was good for between bathroom trips. Sorry if that’s TMI.
Willow took pictures of friends who came looking for me to send to me. I commiserated a little with Megan (too soon after her pneumonia to go, and Freya too hard on her back to go), but mostly I’ve caught up as people posted pictures over the last few days. Used to be Kingdom 12th Night was the BIG court of the year, but lets face it, if there are going to be 1200-1500 people there, it’s a good place to make large awards, thus a major court event. OH MY GOODNESS! The art is so impressive. Some of the awards given weren’t just announced on scrolls, one was carved in runes on a huge slab of wood, (possibly more than one), another made in stained glass, and of course there were calligraphed scrolls, and gorgeous garb, and jewelry (one must have regalia), and embroidery, and wow, so much to miss that I would have missed a lot of it if I’d made it. Just OMG. The SCA is so full of insanely talented people! (Sadly, they didn’t have anyone who felt like casting over a thousand period tokens, and this years were simple wooden discs that said Birka on them. And they used clip art for the program cover. I have put a flag on my calendar to volunteer next year. I, too, an am insanely talented SCA artist. I just have to remember to do it.) We did put out the Shadowmaker knife, but it apparently drew no attention. I suppose it’s been 21 years since Shadowmaker died, people may not remember him. So the fellow who’d wanted it back in November will be getting it I guess- Mark is handling it.
Sadly, I did NOT get my jeweled gown finished. I did, however, take advantage of the boxes of gems being pulled out of deep storage to pick up the last jewels and settings I needed. Now I’m aiming for finishing it this month and wearing it to coronation in the Spring. I fear that I not only felt crappy, I also lost energy on the days I was sick. I didn’t even realize it until Sunday morning when I woke up and had energy again. Ah the things we fail to appreciate when we have our health. I certainly don’t usually appreciate being able to pass gas without fear, and will probably forget how wonderful it is again. Such is the ephemeral nature of human awareness. We don’t know what we have until we lose it. (Speaking of which, as only those who love old musicals will know, when they made Damn Yankees into a movie, they took out a lot of the best songs, and I can only find the movie sound track, and I was sure I had a copy of the Broadway version, but can’t find it. The songs “Goodbye Old Girl”, “A Woman doesn’t know what she has” are marvelous love songs! I have no idea why they left them out of the movie! They also pretty much ruined Can Can taking out the entire side plot with the laundresses and artists. See? As my energy returns, so does my ability to waste energy on being upset by unimportant things!
Tonight Cathy Kane was on the New Normal talking about “Is Everyone Psychic?” Her answer was “I don’t know, I haven’t met everyone yet. It was a really interesting show, and I’m looking forward to having her back.
Winkles found a driveshaft for Willow’s car, and are putting it in today, so we have been dealing with only one vehicle, and are so looking forward to getting it back. It’s not that we usually use more than one car at a time, but there’s a certain level of insecurity at being this far out from town and having no car. I have walked to town from her, but it took more than an hour, and I haven’t done so recently. Maybe in the spring I’ll see about getting my bike (and body) back into shape. Somehow being on a hill makes it less appealing. Yes, coasting down a hill is easy, but pushing a bike back up a hill is harder than just walking up the hill without it. But, we WILL have the car, and they figure she’ll be able to get another year or more out of it. Given that she bought the car two years ago for a thousand, over all this is a very good deal! (On the other hand, we are going to have to tighten our belts for a month or so. Good thing I really don’t want anything but a cake for my birthday!)
I’ve been working on catching up on mending, and finishing projects. Today I am FINALLY wearing the blue winter skirt made of quilted material I started last fall. I kept not getting to the waist band. It’s all the final “fiddley bits” I am so bad at. Not doing, but getting to them. I realized decades ago that I’d rather make a new garment than do a repair on an old one, but I still haven’t managed to develop the discipline (or clever technique) to get around that. So I am excessively proud of myself for repairing my purple flannel slip, and some other small and necessary repairs.
The extra down time give me a justification for more reading (known to many as “goofing off”). I finished Dragon’s Time, and started Sky Dragons (the books in the Pern series about the third pass). Actually, I’m sort of tired of them- while things are happening, the story isn’t progressing in a satisfying way- probably because they keep going back and forward in time, and the list of characters is so large as to be hard to track. On the other hand, I find it hard to put down What Doctor’s Feel. Admittedly, the short form is that doctors feel afraid, they feel sad, they feel frustrated at the system, ashamed of their failures. Short form: they feel like the rest of us, but they have to hide a lot of it in order to keep their patients from freaking out. I’d heard the Hippocratic Oath before, but hadn’t heard about the Oath of Maimonides: “May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.” I’d heard of Occam’s razor, but I’d never encountered Hickams Dictum “that says in essence that patients can have as many diseases as they damned well please.” I always liked the riddle “What can you sit on, sleep on, and brush your teeth with?” the answer being: a chair, a bed and a toothbrush. It’s sometimes foolish to try to make one answer fit all the parameters. Just because you have some disease doesn’t prevent you from having something else as well. I’m glad that, in theory at least, doctors know that. We also need to remind patients that doctors need to be helped to understand so that they can help us. It’s hard when so much of our cultural training is that they are something not like us. I remember my mother talking about her moment of enlightenment when she was dating med students and realized that they were also trying to learn as much with as little studying as every other student. How hard is it to accept that we’re all human?
On the other hand, John and I just watched a clip of some college student on the street interviews where they didn’t know which side won the Civil War, who the US won independence from, who the Vice President is, but they knew who Brad Pitt was married to, and what show someone I’d never heard of was in. OK, it WAS Texas, so I am less than surprised that several guessed that the Confederacy won, but OUCH! Also another thing going around the internet: bacon shot “glasses” lined with chocolate. Didn’t anyone ever tell people that just because you like something doesn’t mean that it naturally goes with everything else you like? I suppose I am not innocent in this regard. I have spent way too much of my time and energy exploring holidays, and find it hard to integrate the truth that while the many ways people celebrate Christmas (for example) across the world are all wonderful, it’s not possible to do them all in once place. So is exploring (mentioning) the Shinto holidays (or other odd holidays) that most of the people I send the letter don’t celebrate a bad thing? I don’t think so. I think we benefit by admiring and being aware of other cultures. America is a melting pot, but maybe we need to appreciate how our neighbors do things without trying to do that AND our own stuff as well. I don’t need to know all the cool stuff in the world. I don’t need all the books. I don’t have space for or time to read all the books I hear about that sound good. (or try all the dishes or watch all the movies…)
Kat suggested another historical PBS show to me- Mercy Street, and I’ve watched the first couple of episodes. It’s good, but I can’t watch everything. I heard last month that they’d done a film on the Stanford Prison Experiment and remembered thinking about it and how it reflected what I’d seen in High School. I guess I must have been in college, although my memories are centered in Winchester, so I thought it was earlier. Since the 2015 film isn’t available on Netflix or at the Library yet, I got out a different version made in 2010, The Experiment. Frankly it took me a few weeks to get around to watching it because each time I started it was too intense. It’s disturbing to realize how circumstances can bring out the worst in people. When I first heard about it, I wanted to try it to see it for myself, but now I find that attitude entirely innocent. I doubt I believed in people being that awful to each other. I didn’t even like watching it, although once I started, I found it hard to stop. I prefer to watch comedies, adventures, or old episodes of familiar shows like NCIS where I know what’s going to happen. (It’s certainly easier when I can listen as I work or cook and not have too look up to see what’s going on.) I got the impression the characters were updated, but the story was about the same. Some people can deal with authority, some people abuse it. When I get a chance I will watch the new one. The kids noted that I watch some “really depressing” stuff as they walked through. I can’t argue with that. Dramas are harder than adventures. One wants assurance that the good guys will win in the end.
Willow did the One day Comic this year (I don’t remember if she’d done it before, but I have enjoyed a couple of others that I found on the internet.) Hers was about her life in a day. She has an amazing ability to catch expression and setting in just a few lines. It’s not finished and full of detail, but I don’t think it needs it. Follow the link to see the whole thing.
Until next week,
“Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi.” (鬼は外! 福は内!) It means “Go out goblins, come in happiness!” This is what the Japanese say on Setsuban Bean Scattering Day. Apparently sometimes the fathers dress up as Oni (the goblin) for the kids to throw beans at them, like American dad’s dress as Santa for their kids.