Comfort Food Day!

While looking to see which of todays holidays I had not used on a letter before, I got distracted by my website. There’s a section on holiday memories that I have just spent the last five hours editing. I hope I get to going through Mother’s old photo albums again (having lost most of the ones I scanned back in the aughts in a computer crash), so I could put some of those into the memories. I doubt anyone much younger than I am would remember painting the windows at school. The Janitor would go into each classroom and trace a bell, a stocking, or a stencil on each pane of the lower windows, and then the teachers would supervise us so each student could paint in one of those shapes in tempera. This made it easy enough to clean when we’d left for vacation. More on this here.
The snow has stayed. It hasn’t snowed recently, so when I look outside the ground is white against the tracery of black trees, and the road is a black ribbon with clear edges, which contrasts to when they are blurred, either because of snow in the air, or smeared on the ground. It’s very pretty, although I’ll admit I don’t go out much. I do enjoy sleeping with the window open, listening to the wind in the trees, hearing the wind chimes, and mostly smelling the fresh air. I note that in most of the books I read about previous generations they assume sleeping with the windows open. (Or maybe they only mention it to indicate that characters are eccentric because they do. I’m not sure.) I like it. Zoloft sleeps in the furs on top of me. I’m jealous because I usually have to get up two or three times a night and she curls up and sleeps 9 hours straight. Then she goes straight to Kat’s door and sits and glares at it. When she can she sneaks in and beats up Gretel, who still won’t come out. I guess Zoloft has her properly cowed. But Kat is getting thoroughly sick of having her in there 24/7. Did I mention that sometimes she seems to open the search function? But I’m so comfy in my nest of furs that, for example, this morning when I woke I was stroking Zoloft and watching her fur shed off, and wondered “What time of year is it?” Because in theory, cats wouldn’t shed as much in the winter as they do in the summer. I think Zoloft sheds all the time. But I find it hard to remember without looking what season it is, much less what day. That’s why we have holidays to try to pin events into our brains.
Today is also Krampus Night/ St. Nicholas Eve. Since the kids were small we’ve always opened the season with putting our shoes out- it seemed more practical to give the kids red and green accessories, T shirts, books or Christmas Albums, at the beginning of the season rather than the tail end. Now we are in that part of our lives when we have everything (we can afford) and want to get rid of excess, so we won’t be putting our shoes out tonight. And, if we’ve been good, Krampus shouldn’t carry any of us off.
I still haven’t heard back from the lady in Maine with a stove to sell. I’m guessing she had an attack of life, and remain hopeful.
Speaking of life happening, last week I got a call from Morgan Kuberry. They are adding a room to their house, and while he figured that the company doing it would put a plastic sheet over the door to where they’re putting up the new room, and mostly work out there, it did not turn out to be the case. Thursday morning a man arrived and kicked him out of his house (with his kids), so he came up here. Apparently they are doing something with dangerous fumes that kids can’t be around. He had asked the people with whom he scheduled the work if there were going to be any risks or disruptions, and they assured him that there wouldn’t. So he brought the kids- Ruby, called Ruberry (3), and Eli, called Twoberry (1.5) and we chatted for several hours. I was finally able to deliver the favor I embroidered for him! I enjoyed seeing him, and he invited me to a party this weekend- sadly against a Baronial event. They headed down again around 3- it would be rush hour, but it’s in the good direction except when they get off Rt. 3 at 128. Then it will be awful. I expect as soon as he’s home he’ll be have several choice words with his contractors.
What I’ve been doing this week, mostly, is cleaning and repairs. With John’s help I cleaned out the refrigerator.  I really need to figure out a way to not lose things at the back; Willow suggests putting blocks of foam in the back. I found seven pints of Sour cream (two still sealed, two open and smelling bad, and three open but still good enough to use). So I used them right away and made cinnamon horns. Kat says that I am the woman the math books warned them about: “If Tchipakkan has 7 pints of sour cream 2 of which are bad and 5 of which are open, how many does she have to use immediately?” I also found three open jars of salsa, and four open bottles (pints and quarts) of real maple syrup. I can remember the last one being opened because Kat couldn’t find any open ones last month. Guess she didn’t look at the back. Part of it is that no one wants to move the front Tupperware, part is that it’s dark. The bulb in there is good, but the fixture is bad- in order to have the bulb stay lighted, you have to push it with your finger. I have dealt with that (finally) by putting on one of those stick up touch lights. Now we just need to remember to turn it off when we close the refrigerator door.
I’ve also been doing mending- I took the elastic waistband off my navy quilted skirt and put on a non-stretch one. Life is too short, and winter too long to go without quilted and woolen skirts and flannel slips. I also mended one of those, but I’ve also been chucking things that are too often mended, and stored food that’s gotten old. I’m sweeping, doing the dishes after supper, doing laundry, organizing cupboards, cleaning woodwork, and wiping the stove… all the things that most people do daily & habitually. (Or do they? I’m not sure that everyone does. I know too many people who are chronically ill who have had to embrace the concept of “good enough” and “clean where it counts”.) Willow pointed out that between the new featherbed, the cleaning, and the early snow, I’ve probably been hit by Mother Holle again. “You’ve been Holle’d!” She may be right.
We got the featherbed a couple weeks ago, but it had to be sent for and we picked it up this week. I was thinking of it to keep Willow warm. We’ll see. Basically we noticed a sale in a Big Lots flyer- Featherbeds all sizes $100, with a $100 gift card. Since it is unlikely that we wouldn’t spend that much there anyway, it looked a lot like a free featherbed. That’s how people stayed warm back when they heated with wood and slept with the windows open! Oh, and I’m baking more (possibly because it does heat the kitchen up). I made a gingerbread on Saturday- dark as chocolate cake and so rich! Yesterday I baked whole wheat beer bread (to go with stew) and made cinnamon buns because willow was tired and I wanted to do something nice for her. While picking up the featherbed we also got a new oven thermometer- I think the old one died, and I know the oven thermostat is not good. The new one has been really good. We know know that to get the oven to 350º we have to set it to 408º. No wonder it’s been taking too long for things too cook. NO WONDER the popovers haven’t been popping! I know what I’m making tomorrow!
On the first John and I put away the gold and orange tableware and brought out the holly and Christmas pattern ones. Plates, bowls, tumblers, goblets, and SO many mugs. We’ve all gone back to using our favorites. It’s nice because this pattern has snack sized plates, but frustrating because there are only 3 left of the holly pattern bowls. I have 4 of a different Christmas pattern, but they are really too large for single servings, and usually are used for side dishes.
Sunday was the first night of Hanukkah and Steve came up. Years ago Lisa taught me how to make latkes (Ianthe had showed me at the 1975 solstice feast, but Lisa and Steve used to come up for Hannukkah and we’d make them together- two or three pans frying at once. I remember her saying that she’d make 50 pounds of potatoes worth, although Steve and I find that hard to believe now, and think I must have misunderstood. We got potatoes, and so did he (and thank goodness, he brought the matzo meal, because our local Market Basket was out). He bought an eight pound bag and I peeled and shredded all of them. Lisa said she would empty the salad drawer in the refrigerator and totally fill it with Latkes at the beginning and eat through them during the week. Maybe it was her mother who did that. Maybe she did it for the synagogue once? I don’t know. What I do know is that they only had the three of them, and I was making for the four of us and him, and what we could send down with him. He only took a half dozen, as they get rubbery when they are more than a couple of days old. All I know is that eight pounds probably made six plus pounds of shredded potatoes, and we used about 18 eggs and most of two canisters of matzo meal, and still didn’t get through all the potatoes (until today- I finished them up today). I also tried something new. I had grabbed a half gallon jug of corn oil, only to discover it was “mixed vegetable” oil when we got home. (When I took it back, it was indeed next to the corn oil in an identical bottle- an easy mistake.) But all the corn oil in the house was in the fryer, so we used that to make the latkes this year. I think that they were a bit heavier since I used a bit more matzo meal to make them form into neat patties, which I didn’t bother with in the frying pan system. But I didn’t want any loose shreds of potato sticking to the frying basket- so I made them neat. They were also less greasy- I think the thermostat on the fryer helps with that. There’s a red light that goes on when it’s heating, and you can set it to 350º. There was a lot less oil on the draining paper- it could also be because I can move the basket up to sit and drain after frying for a bit. It meant I could only fry two at a time, rather than six, but I liked the less greasy ones. I like the basket. We also made home-made apple sauce and I was reminded how much better it is than the store bought.
Steve also bought me a early Yule present- a new keyboard, so typing the letter this week is a great joy! I must be careful not to eat over it. I am having a few problems- the move I’m accustomed to making to hit the delete key goes to the “home” key, which can be frustrating, and a couple of other “muscle memory” problems because it’s not identical to the old one. (This one has the number pad on the side, which I really love!) I am beginning to learn the new one, but more importantly, I am not having to bang the keys hard to get the space to work, and the shift releases in time so I don’t get the first two letters of each word capitalized!
I’ve been “blogging” a lot too. As with today, when I was going over the holiday memories section of my website, I’ve been writing posts for the CTCW blog. As we are still without a venue and firm date, the blog posts are generic- mostly about the December holidays: Hanukkah, Krampus Night, St. Lucia Day, Saturnalia, Mothernight, Solstice, New Years…. Celebrations and rites of passage are very important to people, and we are supposed to be ecumenical.
I’m also following the news and am pleased that Mueller seems to be getting to the point where he’ll be able to get evidence showing Trump’s collusion. I’m not sure that Trump is aware that he’s done anything wrong- for him it’s just business as usual, doing whatever seems to him will help him. I think he’s a sociopath and has no concept that other people are real.  On the other hand, I have no idea why the high level Republican politicians are supporting him, and I frankly expect that if he’s impeached, that his supporters, of whom there are a lot, whether they are a majority or not, will react badly and won’t believe it. Trump has been telling them that all their fears and hatreds are valid and that they can’t trust the information in the media nor any politicians except the ones who agree with them, and that taking matters into their own hands is the right way to handle it. So far the increase in hate crimes supports the idea that they feel empowered, what will they do if they feel threatened?
A hundred years ago the labor movement managed to get the unions going and got people living wages, which may have reined in “the Gilded Age” a bit, and it’s time we do that again. I doubt there is one cause, but certainly Citizen’s United was the camel sticking it’s nose in the tent, and it’s in all the way now. Usury was considered a sin, a variety of theft, but now it’s acceptable. There are many good rich people, but companies cannot possibly say “we must look to the common good” because they must try to maximize their profits. Well, we need to go back to having companies run by people who think about what the company is doing, not just profit.
This week one of our friends, Lyrion, is waiting for her beloved sister to die. With the sporadic help we get from Facebook, and the age I am, there’s almost always one or two people who have parents or loved ones dying. That is the way of the world, and I am pleased that Lyrion seems to be dealing with her loss with sadness, but also understanding that death is better than suffering. On the other hand, another friend, Ragnar, just lost his mother, and due to some bureaucratic mix-up, not unlike what nearly happened with Ælfwine (because I didn’t realize I needed to do something), his mothers corpse was not acceptable to the place she’d donated it, and he needed to come up with a couple thousand dollars to get it cremated. Rags is currently homeless, and didn’t have the money, so he almost lost his mother’s body. They were going to turn it over to some group that deals with “abandoned corpses”. Luckily someone put up a “go fund me” (which fell a trifle short because of the processing costs) but he was able to get his mother cremated. THIS IS JUST WRONG! People shouldn’t have to get crowd sourcing to bury their dead, or meet their medical bills, when the rich are going to great efforts to hide their assets so that they don’t pay their fair share of taxes, with the result that our children and grandchildren will be burdened with the costs of what we are doing now. Worse, policies are designed to benefit the bottom line without consideration for destruction of the environment and other important issues. I’m doing my best to balance not stressing over it with staying aware. It’s hard.
I’ve been knitting as well, and that’s when I watched movies. Sadly, there are some that I think I’ve seen before, but am not sure. I don’t think I remember films I didn’t enjoy. This week I’ve watched several that fall into that category. Apparently I put several movies about Thanksgiving on my queue last month and they came. The Ice Storm was interesting as a flashback to the 70s, looking at the clothing. It had an impressive list of stars, but as Willow characterized it after walking through twice, it was a “depressing movie with people making stupid mistakes and screwing up their lives.” I think I watched it sometime in the past and just suppressed the memory. One True Thing– about the same. When I couldn’t take it any more I put on old Buffys (season 4). Somehow they conveyed some pretty good lessons without getting depressing. There was one dream sequence in which Willow answered a question and was told no, but when a guy gave the same answer, he was told yes. This is a real problem, and worth bringing to attention, so why not just do it like that? The dialogue in Buffy was great! The ongoing plots tied each separate adventure together, and there was good character development. I also discovered that they made a TV show with the same folks who did the Librarian movies. I am hoping they didn’t just use the original characters in the pilot and make a new team (like the NCIS or CSI) in the same universe, but they don’t have Noah Wyle, Bob Newhart or Jane Curtin on the cover, so I’m waiting with some trepidation. If the characters and writing are as good, it may be worth checking out another season. I like FUN, unapologetically!
Reading this week has mostly been the Melendy books- the Four Story Mistake and Then there were Five. I wonder occasionally if even when they were written they were a fantasy of how great life in the country is. I was pleased when they did include scrap drives and rationing when the war was on. I keep forgetting how long it took for the USA to get into the war. (Given Pearl Harbor Day is tomorrow, I should remember that- but it’s the 1941 I tend to forget.) But while they mention rationing, they seem to have more sugar than I’d imagine was available. I know it hit people less hard when they did grow victory gardens and have their own eggs and milk. I can forgive a writer idealizing childhood, although it seems that these kids are smarter and more talented than the average kid. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book about someone who was the slow one in the class, only a smart kid who became friends with a stupid one. I think it’s because children’s books try to portray heroes with whom their readers will identify, and the slow ones aren’t going to be reading, they’ll be playing baseball (or hookey). I’m going to say that about half the books I remember are about smart kids feeling isolated because other kids make fun of their interests. The Melendy children are the same, but they remind me of my family, so I’m cool with it. In my experience just about everyone has some sort of talent, something that makes him or her special, although sometimes it’s not something that is appreciated in the family or culture they live in.
They think and talk about the things kids I knew think about, although as in life, sometimes they keep their thoughts to themselves. But an example if a discussion was this one on character, when Willy, the hired man told them that you couldn’t tell what character a kid would have, as they are constantly changing like ‘little jellyfish’.
Always do the right thing. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
– Mark Twain
“Maybe you have flat feet, or a flat sense of humor,” interrupted Rush. “Maybe hardening of the arteries, or hardening of the heart. And then you could have a false set of teeth, or a false set of values or both.”
Goodness, it’s late. I am going to have to sign off now if I’m going to make cookies for the cookie swap tomorrow. Monday I went to the Library to pick up our wreaths and found out that they were having a cookie swap, but it was only two hours before it started, and I didn’t have time to make some in time to go. I started- that’s when I made the cinnamon horns. But they are closer to pastry and take 25 minutes to bake (or 35 as I hadn’t yet learned about the oven), and so it was a half an hour after it had started before they were out. Oh well. I don’t really feel a huge need to swap out cookies made with real butter and vanilla, and organically grown sugar and flour for cookies with ingredients we usually avoid.  I feel a bit guilty about that, but given my kids problems, I’m going to try everything I can to avoid things that could possibly make them worse, and I’m not sure that others need that level of caution (and extra expense).


“Hatred erodes the container it travels in.” Kirk McLaren
Holidays next week:
Thursday 6 Gaspacho Day, St. Nicholas Day/ Pawnbrokers Day, Microwave Oven Day
Friday 7  Cotton Candy Day, Letter Writing Day, Faux Fur Friday, Fairy Floss Day (UK) Pearl Harbor
Saturday 8 Gingerbread Decorating Day, Brownie Day, Christmas Tree Day, Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day
Sunday 9 Pastry Day, Christmas Card Day, Candle Lighting Day, Intentl. Anti-Corruption Day
Monday 10 Lager Day, Human Rights Day, Green Monday, Festival for the Souls of Dead Whales
Tuesday 11 Noodle Ring Day, Mountain Day, Holiday Food Drive for Animals Day, Have a Bagel Day
Wednesday 12 Gingerbread House Day, Ambrosia Day, Poinsettia Day, Festival of Unmentionable Thoughts