Score!

I had to drop something off at the UPS Store about a mile from here, and decided to stop by another place on my way back to pick up a 12-pack, mostly because my home brew needs another week’s worth of fermenting, and it was on the way.  The place happened to have a nice big display of promotional glassware from various breweries for $2/glass, or 12 for $20.  Why not snag an extra two for the same price?  So, I did.

It’s a mixed bag of Stella, Heineken, Chimay, Allagash, Long Trail, O’Hara, and Red Hook.  I didn’t want any of the Guinness ones, and the Hoegaaarden ones looked like they should be filled with ice cream and root beer, rather than beer, so I passed on those.  We have a wet bar in the basement rec room, and when we host parties, usually during the summer, when we set one up outside on the main patio, glasses get broken or chipped.  It never hurts to have extras.  None of the ones I snagged look like your basic pint glasses.

I felt sorry for the woman who decided they had to be wrapped individually, because none of them would fit in a 6-pack or 4-pack box.  But, she’s a doll.  We’ve known each other by sight for a couple of years.  It was like packing glassware or coffee mugs for moving day, except that they all went into paper bags, rather than a corrugated cardboard box.  She even helped me carry it out to my car, so that I didn’t have to make two trips.  I didn’t ask her to do that, but I appreciated, and took her up on her offer.

I’m sure the place got these promotional glasses for free from the respective distributors, but selling them for what they did is a win-win for them, and their customers.  These sort of logo’d glasses normally run anywhere from $5-8 each (plus shipping), if you order them directly from the brewery, depending upon whether the rim is plain, or covered in gilt or silver.  The Stellas are gilt; the Chimays are silver.  Hand wash those.  The rest can go though the dishwasher, just like any other glass can.  The niftiest part is that eight of them could do double-duty to serve wine, in a pinch.

Coach

I love Coach handbags, and their other leather goods.  Although we have a Coach outlet store `5 miles away, I had to order this clutch sized purse online directly from Coach to get it for half price, plus another 10% off, in the color I wanted.  For some reason, they call it “plum.”  No.  It’s more like burgundy.  The funniest thing, though, was that 3/4 of the instructions for cleaning it were written in Chinese, and they involved buying cleaner and moisturizer from Coach.

Seriously?  Saddle soap works just fine.  It’s available for ~$5 per can.  Also, if you’ve got some decades old smooth sided ones like I do, that get a little scuffed up, shoe polish does the trick, black, navy, green, or burgundy.  Black shoe polish and cocoa butter works just fine on my 1920s horse brass.  Why would they not work on this clutch bag?  It’s not suede.

Post Holidays Sales

This is the best time of year to stock up on indoor/outdoor lighting, whether it’s “fairy lights” or torches.  I don’t mean flashlights, when I say torches; I mean things that are solar, but look like what people in the movies carry with their pitchforks.  Most of my outdoor lighting is solar.  Some is electric, and some uses some AA batteries.  When it’s crummy cloudy, rainy, or snowy, the solar ones don’t always get a full recharge, but they won’t trip a GFCI outlet circuit if water gets in.  Battery operated ones aren’t my fave, but AAs can be bought in 30-packs for ~$15, so swapping them out isn’t a big expense.  It’s even better if they’re on a 6-on/18-off timer, with a waterproof battery case.

For me, anyway, it’s best to find a Chinese eBay supplier that ships from a U.S. warehouse, because the goods arrive within a week, even if they’re shipped via mule train from CA, and they’re so much cheaper than buying them at a local bricks & mortar store.  Failing that, the cheapskate in me will order directly from a vendor in China.  Yeah, the shipment can get stuck in customs for a couple of weeks, but LED lights always pass on through.  If you’re not in a rush, it’s the way to go.

So, I got enough “fairy lights” and “torches” to light up our patios, deck, and pool area, with enough left over to light the ends of the driveway, if I want to.  The thing about the driveway is that if it’s icy, it’s easier to drive over the lawn.  I don’t care about any ruts left in it.  The tractors leave enough of those as it is, when the ground is a bit squishy, and nobody can see them from the road, anyway.  This place is/was a farm, after all.

1979 and Counting

As of 2019, a local classic rock radio station has changed its schedule to play five hours worth of music from one year starting with 1979, every Saturday afternoon, and working its way up to the present.  Next Saturday’s treat will be 1980.  You get the idea.

1979 is a weird mix of Punk, New Wave, Ska, leftover Soul, Funk, Disco, and even some Folk.  I could do without the Soul, Funk, and Disco.  Takes me back to my school days, though.  Thumbs up, overall!

Sunday Deliveries

I do feel for post office staff who have to work extra hard this time of year.  It’s only the few weeks leading up to Christmas, and after it that they deliver packages on Sunday (no regular mail, though).  Today, I got two:  one from Feather Three, and one from The Vermont Country Store.  I needed a pair of drapes to block the mid-morning and mid-afternoon sun glare that comes through the patio sliders this time of year, when the sun remains fairly low in the sky.  And, we ordered a beanie and sweatshirt from Feather Three.  Full disclosure:  Feather Three is my nephew’s e-commerce site.

I thought “feather three” meant feather the number 3 engine on a plane, because there are several pilots in my family.  Evidently, it’s also a reference to ballroom dancing that I didn’t know until my nephew explained it.  Anyway, the merch is nicer than I expected.  My other half will use the beanie while he’s out felling and chopping wood, or plowing the driveway after a snow, and I’ll wear the hoodie.  A unisex medium is rather baggy on me, but it means it fits fine over a turtleneck and heavy duty flannel shirt.  I hate any kind of clingy clothing that isn’t a bathing suit, or underwear.  I didn’t really need a new sweatshirt, but I’m happy to help support my nephew’s business.  Ballroom dancing, or any other kind of dancing, for that matter, isn’t my thing, so paying to take lessons from him, which he does get paid to teach, isn’t going to happen.  Even someone who has all the grace of an ox can wear a sweatshirt.

Plant Porno

I went out to our mailbox to send a thank you card to our neighbors who dropped off some phenomenally delicious Christmas cookies.  Missed the mailman, but there was a mailbox full of 1/3 real mail, and 2/3 catalog junk mail.  I suppose it depends upon your perspective what qualifies for junk mail.  Aside from a catalog from The Company Store (excellent for sheets, towels, quilts, comforters, and the like) that mom wants me to bring over when we next visit her, the catalogs from plant and seed companies have started to arrive.

Burpee is the first, which makes sense, since it’s a local company.  The ones from Park Seed, Gurney, Ferry-Morse, Jung, and Johnny’s will start rolling in soon.  I’ve already dog-eared three pages in the Burpee catalog.  The only reason to order from a catalog, since seed racks pop up in every grocery and hardware store starting in February or March, is to get a very specific variety.  Besides, we typically save some seeds from last year’s crops, but there’s no guarantee they’ll come true.

Right now, there are no discount codes, or 20% off plus free shipping deals, so I’ll hold off ordering anything.  Plus, Burpee seedlings are stocked at several local nurseries around May for cheap.  We can’t really direct sow seeds, or plant seedlings here before mid-May, unless it’s unusually warm, anyway.  Peas are the one exception; those can be planted much earlier, but won’t show signs of life until maybe April.  What we can do, though, is start seeds indoors under lights in late February, keep our fingers crossed that the germination rate is high, and toss the seedlings we get into a cold frame until it’s safe to harden them off before planting them.

Seed company catalogs are wonderful.  Flipping through them really is like looking at porn, but much more interesting.  Naked plants!  Veggies, and flowers, and pods, oh my!

Great Christmas

Dinner went over well.  Mom likes my cooking, and if she didn’t, she would not hesitate to say so.  We had the curried eggs and smoked salmon while we waited for the main course and fixings to reheat.  It’s hard to screw up curried eggs, or rolling up strips of smoked salmon into “logs.”

She was funny about dessert.  She did have one of my neighbor’s cookies (holy hell, my neighbor is a phenomenal baker!), a piece of my peppermint bark, and a slice of carrot cake, but did not want any of the leftover desserts.  Every time we show up with food, we have no way of knowing what she has suddenly decided either not to eat, or to cut way back on, so it’s a bit of a crap shoot.

Anyway, mom loved the shearling slippers I bought her (not UGGS).  She had been talking about wanting a pair of slippers for months, but wanted to try them on before buying them.  That wasn’t going to happen, but I know her size, and I know her feet get cold, so shearling “pixie boot” slippers were the solution.  I also am very familiar with the brand, and know how the sizing runs.  Fortunately, they fit her feet just fine, so I didn’t have to take them home, pack them back up, use the return shipping label, and drop them off at the UPS Store a mile away for a refund.  I would have done that, easy-peasy, if necessary, but it wasn’t.

On our way out, mom gave me her hybrid Phalaenopsis, a friend had given her a few months ago.  It had done blooming, and she had no clue what to do with it.  My instructions were too complicated for her, so she gave it to me.

As of now, it smells like our turkey stock is done simmering.  I’ll turn off the burner, and leave it sit overnight to cool before filtering out the mirepoix and bones.  There might be some recoverable turkey flesh for the cats and dog, too.

Tomorrow night, it’s turkey pot pie for sure.  Yum!

I hope everyone else had a good Christmas, even if it was “Chinese and a movie.”

Merry Christmas

Okay, so it’s still Christmas Eve in the U.S., but it’s Christmas in most of the world.

I feel good about tomorrow’s big schlep over to mom’s place with the feast packed in coolers, and a triple crockpot contraption that can reheat things while we have the hors d’oeuvres.  She’s 88, and hasn’t cooked a meal in many years, not even for herself.  We have the catering thing down to a science, and have been doing this for ~15 years by now, so it’s pretty easy.  The only adjustment we really had to make when we moved was to substitute either potatoes au gratin or scalloped potatoes for mashed, since they travel better in a long car ride.

Eighty plus percent of the labor was done by 3:00 this afternoon:

  • turkey, still to be roasted
  • gravy still to be made
  • cran-apple sauce, done
  • potatoes au gratin, done, but needs to be heated tomorrow
  • stuffing/dressing, still to be made
  • sweet potato mash, done, but needs to be heated tomorrow
  • mixed veggies, steam-in-bag to be nuked at mom’s
  • carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, done
  • curried eggs, hard boiled already, but yolks need to be curried
  • peppermint bark, done
  • cookies, done, courtesy of a neighbor who stopped by with some she had made
  • smoked salmon, still to be artfully arranged on a plate, and plastic wrapped

The most labor intensive thing so far was grating all those carrots, making the frosting for the cake, assembling the layers, and frosting it.  That was food-wise.  The remaining food items probably require less than an hour’s worth of real labor; mostly, it’s waiting for things to come out of the ovens.  Having two ovens is a godsend around the holidays.

Other than the cake, today’s biggest labor project was making a new ~30′ leash for our dog, out of braided clothesline.  That took a while, but only because I had to untangle whatever remained of the three 33.3′ lengths of cord every so often, because for every stitch I braided, one would reverse-braid lower down the cord, which I’d have to disassemble, so I could continue.  I could have knocked out a 6′ version in 15 minutes or less, including affixing the hardware.

Next up are New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.  That’ll involve roasting a duck, some herbed up wild rice mix, whatever veggies we have on hand, a bottle of cabernet franc, and at midnight, some champagne.  We don’t cater that for mom.  It’s just a tradition I started ~15 years ago that we keep doing in-house.  That, and watching the Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy.  No parties, or fireworks on NYE fo us.  We just fix a fancy dinner, and settle in for some damn good classic TV, with our cats and dog gathered around the fireplace.

Nephew and His GF

Yesterday, we left ourselves an hour and a half to get to Washington Rock to meet up with my nephew and his new girlfriend.  We got there before they did, but only by about 15 minutes, because the traffic was kind to us.  Just as well, since it was rather windy, and we were standing on George Washington’s lookout point in the Watchung Mountain Range, from which he could observe British troop movements in 1777.  From there, you can see Lower Manhattan, way in the distance, all the way down to Perth Amboy.  There’s not much to the park itself, but the view is phenomenal.

I handed them each a stocking stuffer worth of John & Kira’s chocolate bees (they’re chocolates filled with a honey caramel filling) upon first meeting them.  After we looked around for 20 minutes or so, standing out in the wind and cold, we agreed to meet up at Trap Rock Brewery for an early gastropub dinner.  I hadn’t been to Trap Rock since we moved out of state a decade ago.  The food is good, their in-house made microbrews are good, and although the food is not inexpensive, and all the brews they serve go for $6.50+ per glass (not even a full pint), they will fill a 1 gal. growler for $13, which is a phenomenal value.  So, I had them fill my big growler from Cape May Brewery with their Kestrel IPA, which is not at all over the top hoppy, before bringing me the bill.  It was quite reasonable for four people, all things considered, even with the generous tip I gave our waitress for her excellent service.

I hosted seven people after my dad’s funeral at another gastropub owned by the same family a few towns away, when my mom backed out of hosting it herself that evening (with good reason), and was similarly shocked by how little the bill was, compared to what I was expecting.  At least these gastropubs have vegetarian options for those who want them.  I’m an omnivore, but those who don’t want to eat animal flesh aren’t stuck with a soup or salad, unless that’s what they want.

Overall, yesterday’s meeting went well, and I really like my nephew’s girfriend.  It was well worth the drive there, and the one back, which took over two hours because we got stuck in stand still traffic behind a couple of accidents.  We typically only get to see my nephew once a year, around Memorial Day weekend, in MN, so this was a bit of a treat.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Half a Cord Delivered

Alright.  The half a cord of wood was delivered earlier this afternoon to our neighbors across the street.  We gave them a heads-up call, so they knew to expect it.  It was a little challenging driving the L210 with a trailer across the 50 mph highway; it could handle the load uphill just fine, once it crossed the highway onto their driveway.

We made good on our promise.  They got their firewood.  Charlie looked at the L210, which is older than La Femme Nikita, and commented that those old things are workhorses.  Yes, they are.  They are.  It’s our oldest tractor, but with maintenance, it still works very well.

We have a smaller Kubota, and a much larger IH, but the L210 was the one for the job.  Mission accomplished.