‘Tis the Season

It is the season to trot out  jewelry that I’d never wear at any other time of year.  One of my favorites is a silver chain link charm bracelet, loaded with charms that scream Southwest.  The presents are under a decorated saguaro.   The snowmen are wearing cowboy hats, and Santa looks like a pot bellied gold miner from the 1800s.  Ball type ornaments are interspersed between the Santas, snowmen, and cacti.

God forbid that thing ever gets a bad coat of tarnish.  Forget silver polish.  The only way to clean it would be with aluminum, baking soda, and boiling water.

Another one I like is the gold-tone rhinestone Christmas tree brooch my mom gave me years ago.  It’s totally tacky, but fun.

Holiday Season

Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way, it’s on to the next holiday, which, for us, is Christmas.  That means hauling out our decorations, setting them up, and making sure they all work, so that if I need to replace some LED string lights, I can do it in time.

My neighbor two houses diagonally across the street already has his whole house and yard lit up with thousands of lights after dark.  Another neighbor tells me that he strings them up himself, rather than hire a landscaper to do it for him.  That’s a Herculean task.  He’s got the main house, a smaller cottage, and the entire tree row along the road to decorate.  Maybe he leaves them up all year, and only lights them up for ~ 6 weeks of the year, but I doubt it because each year, it looks a little different.

I use solar LED light strings on the Alberta Spruces outside.  Those work if I set up a tree in the sun porch, too, but elsewhere in the house, they need to either be plug-in, or run on batteries.  With three cats and a dog, all tree ornaments must be unbreakable.  That goes for both the tabletop sized ones, and the 8′ ones.  So, they’re mostly metal, wood, cloth, or straw.  Fortunately, all of our pets are 11+ people years old by now, so they’re no longer into climbing the trees, or batting ornaments around.  Still, if something happens, I don’t want to be sweeping (or vacuuming) up tiny shards of glass.

So, it’s one big tree and one tabletop tree for the main house, and another set for the annex.  Then, there are the door wreaths to hang.  For those, I just go with plain grapevine wreaths that I leave up, but redecorate for each season.  It’s more a matter of swapping out (by now desiccated) red, yellow, and orange maple and oak leaves for sprigs of holly, and other evergreens than anything else.  Finish those off with a red velvet bow, and they’re done.

This year, I think I’ll incorporate costume jewelry as tree ornaments — rings, brooches, and pendants that I’ve inherited, found at flea markets, or barn sales.  Not everything you find at barn sales involves farm implements; it’s just where people choose to set up their sale for whatever they want to get rid of that still has some nominal value to someone else.

On a semi-related note, ordering holiday string lights directly from China, if you can’t find an importer with a U.S. based warehouse, and have ~2-3 weeks to wait for it, you’ll pay 20-25% of what it would cost to buy the same item from a U.S. retailer, who imported it from China, anyway.  Also, I don’t have to sign upon delivery from China, like I do with orders shipped from Japan, Poland, Peru, etc.

Although we have not yet been extended an invitation to our across the street neighbors’ Christmas party, I’ve already ordered a box of John & Kira’s chocolates to bring as a hostess gift.  They have their party in mid-December, so they probably haven’t even sent out invitations yet.  Last year, we only got a few days’ notice.  If they don’t have it, or we don’t get invited, we’ll just eat the gourmet chocolates ourselves.

Happy (Almost) Thanksgiving

It’s almost here!  A day ahead, I can get ~1/3 of the menu items either completely done, or mostly done.  The cran-orange sauce is already off the stove and cooling.  The pie crust has been shaped into a disk, and is chilling in the fridge.  I roasted one of the sugar pumpkins on Monday that we grew in our garden last summer, ran the flesh through a food mill, and got enough after it drained for two pies, so I froze half of it for Christmas.  Next up:  parboiling some sliced spuds, and making the béchamel for scalloped potatoes.  That can be assembled today, and baked tomorrow.  The pumpkin pie will be assembled and baked later today.  The turkey, baked sweet potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and whipped cream will have to wait until tomorrow.

It used to be such a trick to figure out what mom will and won’t eat because every time we visit, she announces what food items she’s decided she can no longer consume — sugar, fat, dairy, salt, anything acidic, etc.  I’ve learned to ignore that, bring what we all used to eat, and let her skip over what she won’t.  It won’t hurt my feelings, one way or another.  She’s always been obsessed with her own health, but she’s also very manipulative, and her own health concerns are her #1 way to go about manipulating family members.  She always ends up having a few spoonfuls of something she claims she can’t eat, anyway.

What I’m thankful for:  family, friends, great neighbors, getting Christmas shopping done already, getting to cook the holiday meals (which I love doing, and don’t at all find stressful, like some people do), plus a whole list of other things.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Catalogs Galore

Catalogs roll in throughout the year, but heading into the holiday season, I never fail to get new ones from companies of which I’ve never heard before.  Sure, mail order/catalog companies trade/sell their mailing lists, and have for many decades.  I can understand receiving the ones from hunting outfitters, because I do buy from them occasionally, but the ones from all these gourmet food places seem a little odd.

It always makes me wonder which catalog company sold my name and address.  I have ordered, and continue to order gourmet chocolates from John & Kira’s, but never in my life have I ordered popcorn gift baskets online, or by phone, nor have I ordered cheese and charcuterie items.  I can find all of that at Wegman’s, if I want to assemble my own gift basket assortment, knowing it won’t be stale, or moldy.

For some reason, Harry & David dropped me from their mailing list, although I have ordered fruit baskets from them within the past year.  John & Kira’s chocolates make good hostess gifts when neighbors invite us to parties, the people in my other half’s office really love those chocolate gift towers when I send one in for Chanukah, and the small boxes of favorites (Bees, Ladybugs, or ganache filled figs) make good stocking stuffers for Christmas.

Also, I somehow got back on The Sharper Image catalog mailing list, although I’ve never bought anything from them in my life.  If I want something that can pick up and move a large, heavy outdoors planter from one end of the patio to the other, I’ll use the 800 lb. capacity convertible handcart I bought from a U-Haul store for $34, before I’d cough up $120 plus shipping for a one trick pony from The Sharper Image.  I can get a perfectly serviceable heating pad for my neck and shoulders at any pharmacy for ~1/3-1/2 the cost of one from The Sharper Image.  The only reason I can think of that they stay in business is that they sell to people who get out and about so seldom that they have no clue these items are readily available elsewhere for far less.

My mom’s pretty clueless about where to buy some things.  She had no clue where to buy a replacement toilet seat, for instance, until I told her we could get one at Home Depot for ~$6-8, and install it ourselves for her.  She thought she’d have to hire a contractor to fix her garage wall, when she drove her car too far into it, and punched a nice big hole in the drywall.  She was too embarrassed to admit she’d done it herself, so she told her home health care aide that I did it, even though I’ve never driven her car in my life.  We spackled it all up for her, sanded it down after it dried, and even swept up all the spackle dust.  The funny thing is that when we did that, we could tell that someone else had done the same thing before, because we could see the less than stellar repair job that was done in that spot, next to where mom hit it.  Still, I cannot imagine my mom ordering anything from The Sharper Image.  She’d browse through the catalog, think, “oh, that’s nifty,” but would choke at the price.  Over the past decade, she’s sent me running all over god’s little green 400+ square miles to find her something someone told her she had to have, only to make me return it after she decided she didn’t want it after all.  Grrrrrrr.

Can’t wait to see what next week’s catalog dump is going to contain.  Some are interesting.  Some make my sides ache with laughter. Others are … dafuq?

The ones I really want are the gardening/seed catalogs.  Those typically start rolling in in mid-January.

Mom’s Next REAL Meal

Canada has its Thanksgiving in October, but ours is in late November.  As has been our habit for years, we visit my mom every other Sunday.  She uses her one meal per day meal plan to get lunch, so she does what I would do, and load up on as much as is allowed, to get two meals out of it.  The food is crap, except for Sundays, when she can get salmon or beef tenderloin.  The beef is usually stringy tough, no matter how rare to medium-rare it looks cooked, so salmon’s the best bet.  The rest of the week, it’s some unappealing sounding sandwich. Sure, she can get salad, and side veggies with it, but it’s mostly yucky — maybe a little better than Army food, but no better than college cafeteria food.   She sends us over with her plastic bar code tag for the checkout woman to scan.

So, we’ve gotten in the habit, for at least the last 15 years, of catering holiday food for her.  We promised her a “real” meal on Thanksgiving.  Although we have to pack it in coolers, or a multi-crockpot thing that can rewarm whatever’s gotten back down to room temperature during the two state drive to get there,  the turkey’s never dried out, and all the fixin’s are up to snuff.  She’s not going to want all the leftovers, but she will keep the leftover turkey breast slices, some of the cran-apple sauce, and maybe a slice of pumpkin pie (made from the heirloom sugar pumpkins we grow in our garden).  The only thing I cheat on making is the stuffing, by using a “Stove Top” equivalent.  I make everything else from scratch.

By way of background, mom sometimes sends us over to get her meal from “The Bistro.”  She did so yesterday.  By now, the lady at the front desk in the main building sort of recognizes us, and doesn’t make us sign in when we tell her “My mom just sent us over to pick up her lunch, and bring it back for her. ”  You really only have to sign in at the frot desk if you’re visiting someone who has an apartment, assisted living suite, or is there in skilled nursing, in the main building.

FWIW, Thanksgiving will be a good meal.  The first time I ever had to roast a whole turkey, I was terrified of having some sort of disaster, but it came out nice and juicy, and not undercooked.  A little compound sage butter tucked under the breast skin,  plus basting the bird with it every half hour or so works wonders, and the nifty thing about sage is that around here, it’s almost evergreen, so I can harvest fresh leaves of it right out of my herb garden, long after a hard frost.

What the funniest thing was that when we were in line in “The Bistro,” which really is a small-ish cafeteria, the residents in line behind me, who looked like he had to be 90-ish, told me “I like your boots!”  It wasn’t a come-on.  Told him “Thank you,” and the conversation continued for another minute or so when he asked how they are in snow.  My reply was “I haven’t tried that.  Might be okay if the snow’s packed down, but hunting boots would be better if it hasn’t.”  Anyway, he was a nice guy, from my parents’ (“The Greatest”) generation.  I wish him well, whoever he is.

Holiday Season Is Almost Here

How can I tell?  Sure, the calendar gives a clue, but even without that, all the catalogs are rolling in — Plow & Hearth, Wind Song Hammacher Schlemmer, Novica, Smithsomian, National Geographic, Orvis, Woolrich, The Company Store, L.L. Bean, and the best of all — Bass Pro and Cabela’s.

Okay, those are nice, but the catalogs I really, really want are the ones from Burpee, Park Seed, Gurney’s, etc.  I know where to buy a flannel shirt or a pair of shearling slippers for a family member for Christmas without having a hard copy catalog.  I know where to order gourmet chocolates for my other half’s office for Chanukah.  It’s the seed catalogs that really rock my socks; they’re plant porn!  It’s all about what could be next summer.  I can dream, right?

On another note, we got a menu from a (supposedly) Chinese place a town away from us that actually delivers.  Really?  Nobody else around here delivers w/o GrubHub as the middleman.  The thing about the menu is that it’s not really Chinese.  It’s pan-Asian.  Some dishes are Chinese.  Some are Japanese.  Some are Thai, and at least one is more Malaysian than anything else.  Nothing on it is Vietnamese, though.  That’s a shame; I’d love a quart of Pho. Parking in the center of that town to fetch a “pick-up” order is brutal, and is best avoided.  Still, we’ll have to try it at least once.   I don’t mind tipping the driver, as long as delivery cost no extra.

Wayward Kitteh

One of our cats escaped this afternoon.

The background is that I wanted to roll back up the awning by the pool almost a week ago, but had to wait for a couple of days worth of sunny weather for it to dry out after all the rain, and before the snow started, so it didn’t mildew over the winter.  The old (partially plastic) hand crank pole shattered when I tried to retract the awning.  Fine.  I was able to temporarily swipe an all metal one from the main patio by the house, but it was too short for long term use.  No way was I going to climb on a storage trunk to reach the crank every time I want to extend or retract the awning down by the pool, so I had to order a new 6’6″ one.  Besides, I want the shorter one back where it belongs for next summer.

The new hand crank arrived today, ~early-mid afternoon, so I unpacked it, and opened the sliders to go outside to hang it where it belongs.  That’s when Ozzie slipped outside behind me, before I could close the sliders.  DAMMIT!  There was no point chasing the old geezer, or yelling after him; he would have run away even faster to explore the great outdoors.  Hours later, he still hadn’t returned, and we had to leave to go to a birthday dinner.  We “Motel 6’d” him, and left the patio and deck lights on.

More hours pass after we get home, and finish watching Star Trek on MeTV.  Still no Ozzie.  Then, just when I was ready to turn off the lights, he appeared by the patio sliders.  “Get the dog!” I yelled.  “Get the dog.  NOW!”  Ozzie would not come inside while the dog was there staring at him.  My other half grabbed Ben by his collar and pulled him away.  Ozzie was a little skittish, but in he came, thawed out a bit (it was maybe high teens to low 20s Fahrenheit), and demanded dinner.

That little guy scarfed down an entire can of food faster than I’ve ever seen him eat.  He’s missing teeth, and has various other issues that make it tricky for him to eat dry food, unless it’s mixed in with canned stuff, and he’s been on a special urinary tract formula food, ever since he passed a couple of kidney stones ~two months ago.

After he was done with dinner, he decided my lap was the best place in the house, and hasn’t left it since.  I’m so glad we have him back.  He’s a special needs senior citizen cat, so to speak — not mentally, but physically.  I would have felt awful if a fox had gotten him, or we’d found him frozen to death.

If I’m lucky, he got his big outdoors adventure out of his system, and won’t try that again.  Phew!

Outlaws Concert

Some band called Cosmic American Derelicts opened for the Outlaws.  They were remarkably good.  Their genre was closer to Country than Southern Rock, but there is overlap between the two.  Aside from playing good music, they looked so relaxed onstage, played their own stuff, and it might have been complicated for someone else to try to cover it.

Outlaws were really good.  How many times have they dissolved, and reformed, with Blackfoot in between?  Anyway, they played for 90 minutes straight, after a brief intermission to remove the warm-up band’s equipment, etc.  We got our money’s worth for those tickets, no question.  Their new stuff doesn’t really sound a whole lot different than their ’70s stuff, which suits me fine.  When you have a sound, it’s your trademark, so to speak, and the fans keep showing up to pay for tickets, don’t mess with what made you great.  They don’t.

G.A. Kohl Bottle

My other half found an antique G.A. Kohl bottle in the backyard, down by the pond and creek.  We knew nothing about it, but I looked it up online, as best I could.  Turns out there was a brewery in NJ by that name in the mid-1800s that produced porter and ale.  I found a few examples of ones like it for auction, that went for anywhere from $50 to $150, depending upon condition.  We knew it was old because there were air bubbles in the bluish-green glass.  Modern glass beer bottles aren’t shaped like that, the green ones are more of an emerald green than this teal green, and they do not have air bubbles in the glass like this one does.

I got the mud out of it, but it might take a little bleach in hot water to eradicate the moss/algae/whatever growing in it.  It’s not in perfect shape, but it has no cracks that will leak, and the neck/top is intact, so it’ll make a nice bud vase or candle holder for a taper.

Cool find.  This property dates to pre-Revolutionary War days.  Something 120-150 years newer isn’t that unusual to find on the place, but it is unusual to find an artifact in such good condition.  We’ll just keep it.

Tornado Warning

Last night, our electricity went out twice, only for ~15 seconds per time.  That tells me that a circuit tripped at a substation, and successfully reset itself.   No big deal.  It sometimes happens during torrential rain with high winds.

Then, we go to bed, and the radio station we had on beeps  three times, indicating one of those emergency messages.  Thankfully, it was repeated, because my other half was yakking away so that I couldn’t hear it the first time.  It was a tornado warning — not unheard of, but unusual for this part of the country.  My county and township were specifically listed, along with several others in the general area.  Not much we could do, except stay away from the windows.

This morning, on the radio news, it turns out that eight houses were leveled just a few towns away.  Wow.  Nothing like the April ’96 tornado that completely wiped out Ogden, IL, but still.  We’re nowhere near tornado alley.  We escaped with some branches down in the yard, but that’s it.  Hopefully, those homeowners were all paid up on their insurance, and either have some relatives with whom they can stay, or can either afford something like an extended stay motel, or a rental house while theirs gets rebuilt.