Meh Thanksgiving

My in-laws also spent Thanksgiving by themselves for the first time in 20-ish years.  Holidays are the few times of year that both of my brothers-in-law and I typically get jazzed about cooking up a storm.  None of our families spent it with anyone else.  That’s just wrong.

R and D are both good cooks, and my nephew is pretty good at pies, but, nah, no sharing this year.

Don’t get me wrong.  We have plenty for which to be thankful.  Just not anyone to share it with in person, so phone calls had to suffice.  Not the same thing, but 2020 has not been an ordinary year by any means.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, we are prevented from visiting and catering Thanksgiving dinner for my mother because her retirement community has threatened retribution against residents who allow visitors.  Supposedly, they will be sending staff out to look for non-residents’ vehicles, and go door knocking to sniff out interlopers.  It is not in my mom’s nature to rebel and flip ’em the bird, so we have been instructed to bring over leftovers this weekend, when the spies won’t be lurking about.

Well, alright.  Some things are good as leftovers as is.  Cran-apple sauce, and apple crisp will be fine.  The leftover turkey will probably have to be repurposed into pot pie or stew.  It’ll come out of the oven this afternoon plenty juicy, with a sage compound butter smooshed between the breast skin and flesh, and periodically basted with the same, but the longer the leftover sits in the fridge, even tightly sealed in a ziploc-type bag, the drier it gets.  I can guarantee any leftover stuffing and scalloped potatoes will be gone before we visit her.

We’ll also bring over some coconut carrot curried ginger soup, which she loves.  That has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, but I always make a big enough batch of it that we can spare a quart.

Have a great Thanksgiving, with or without family, according to circumstances, and/or local diktats.

“Black Friday” Sales

Finally, I could get the Christmas presents I wanted, at fair prices.  Around here, a pair of Sorel or Kamik pac boots only lasts ~3 years, as do Merrell hiking boots.  Theoretically, they should last for a decade or more, but not with the daily abuse they get on this property.

So, I bought new Sorel pac boots for my spouse.  The last pair was blowing out its outsoles.  Ker-flup, ker-flup, ker-flup is not a good way to start a new winter.

Also, I stocked up on tac light style camping lanterns.  Those take AA batteries, plain or rechargeable, but not by a solar panel.  They are what they are.  We rarely lose power in winter, but when we do, the outage can be for nearly a week.  Last time that happened, we had a crew from Alabama in their truck camp out by our barn while waiting for the parts to arrive to fix the blown transformer out by the road.  Something like 600k of us were left w/o power.  God bless ’em.  Once those parts arrived, those guys got right on it, and were off to their next job within an hour.

Anyway, I’ve been considering putting in a whole house generator, but for a house this size, it’s expensive, even though we already have the propane tanks to run it.  Nope.  So, we work with what we have when the power goes out — extra blankets, quilts, 3+ layers of clothing, and whatever works on batteries, solar powered or otherwise.

Still, this is a good time of year to buy presents for loved ones that really should not have cost any more than they are now on sale for.

One year, I got loppers, ’cause my other half killed my old ones.  I usually get some sort of tool.  The best was the variable speed reversible drill, with a set of screwdriver bits.  The next best was a hammer drill.  The best non-tool Christmas present was a space heater for our downstairs biff.  Okay, it was for both of us, but it’s very much needed in the dead of winter.

Both of us are easy to please with stuff that’s needed, but not ridiculously expensive.  If it’s not needed, why bother?  If it’s too expensive — WTF were you thinking?  We both know that, and adhere to it.  It works for us.  Heck, dish towels work for me.

Interesting Business Model

There’s a company out there called Naked Wines.  It’s not really a wine-of-the-month club type thing.  They do some cross promotion with other mail order vendors, and I received a promo card with a discount code for them when I bought a set of flannel sheets from another company.  Hey — winter is coming in the northern hemisphere.

So, I took the bait, after checking out the company, and gave it a try, with remarkably good results.  It was a helluva discount for stocking up on a mixed red/white case of wine, with “free” shipping.  So far, not one of those we’ve opened and consumed was swill.  It was remarkably good.

What Naked Wines does is sponsor experienced winemakers who have set off on their own to produce wines under their own labels.  Those winemakers range from Europe through the Americas, to Oz.  Most are in the U.S., though.  Anyone in the U.S. can order wine through them, but if you’re not a member, the wine will cost “market price,” rather than member price, which is at least a 50% discount.

“Members” chip in $40/month, which accrues to the member’s account until he/she wants to spend it.  The member does not automatically get shipped wine, although it could be set up that way on a regular schedule if the member so desires.  Members do get a “free” bottle of wine per month, or one to make an 11-bottle order to a full case, which is up to Naked Wines to select.  But, there are options to order 6, 9, 11, or 12 bottles at a time.  Shipping will be charged for any order that is less than $100, but I don’t get why anyone would bother to mail order a case of wine that costs less than that.  There is no need to become a member, and anyone who does can drop membership at any time.

As I said, it’s an interesting business model.  So far, the wine’s been good.  There was one from Oz I wasn’t too keen on.  It wasn’t bad — mostly too sweet.  The rest have been remarkably good.  These wines are not swill.

Nice Stuff

It was a side deal I was offered when I bought some stuff from Wayfair for holiday decorations.  The deal was $100 off a case of wine from Naked Wines.  So, I thought alright, let’s try it.  We have plenty of vineyards within a 20 mile radius that sell directly to the public, but most of them are only so-so, unless you want a dessert wine like raspberry, blackberry, or even blueberry, which is rather nice poured over vanilla ice cream.

What happened next was that they automatically signed me up for their “angel” program, which I intend to cancel.  It’s not a wine-of-the-month club per se, but it does nick you for $40/month on your credit card to help finance the small vintners whose products they sell.  I went with it, because that got me an additional $100 off, so this case of wine with an assortment of bottles that would normally go for anywhere between $20 and $49 each cost me less than $100, with tax, and “free” shipping via UPS.  It was a good deal to stock up on some decent wine.  With my double discount, it came to less than $10/bottle.

The angel program gives members 60% off all future purchases, accrues in your account until you select what you want to spend it on, and if you leave the program, you will be refunded the amount you have not spent.  Fair enough, if you’re big wine drinkers, but we’re not.  A case lasts us at least a year.  We’ll open a bottle on holidays and birthdays, but that’s about it.

Their business model is really intriguing.  My sister-in-law would appreciate it more than we do.  She’s not an oenophile, but she does like her wine, and won’t show up to any family reunion w/o at least five bottles to toss into the coolers as necessary.  Most of us just bring a case or two of local (or semi-local) craft beer from wherever we live that isn’t distributed there, so people can have something a little different than they’re used to.

When the UPS truck pulled up in front of our house, our dog alerted me to his arrival.  I was supposed to have had to sign for the delivery, and possibly provide ID to prove I was 21 or older.  Nope.  Even a driver who looks like he’s 28, tops, can tell I’m almost old enough to be his grandparent.  Also, with COVID, all I had to do was spell my last name for him to plug into his hand-held device.  He even hefted the box over our threshold into my house for me.

Mom’s New Cell Phone

Problem solved.  It was user error, as we suspected.  Visited yesterday because of her problems figuring out how to use it, thinking it was broken, and in case it really was, wanted to be able to return it within the two week post-purchase period.  There’s nothing wrong with the phone.

Frankly, it doesn’t work a whole lot differently than her old one, but not all the buttons on it are labeled the same way, or have the same graphic on them as her old one did, but they perform the same functions.  I added my home phone number to her contacts list.  We had her turn the phone off, and back on at least half a dozen times until she got the hang of it.

Her main problem when turning it off, is to not hold down the red button until it shows the “power off” and “restart” option menu, but even when it does, she often “fat finger” hits the OK and outer ring navigator simultaneously, and gets a message that confuses the daylights out of her.  We showed her how to clear/erase/back out of that, and start again.  Sometimes it takes her four tries, but the main thing is that she knows how to do that now.  At least, now that I’ve seen and used her phone myself, if she calls me for tech support, I’ll have a better idea guiding her through it than I did last week.

She laughed when I said “You can teach an old dog new tricks, but will she remember them?” since she’d already made a joke about forgetting things before I said that.  She also laughed when I turned off her phone myself for the first time, and felt it vibrate in my hand as it shut down.  Told her she’d know for sure it shut off when she felt the vibration, then quickly corrected myself to add — assuming you can feel it.  She’s had MS for nearly five decades, so the feeling in her hands and feet is minimal at best.  The muscles mostly work, but the nerves don’t so well.  She also laughed when I said “If you want to see the vibration in action, put it down on the kitchen table, turn it off, and watch it wiggle around.”

The one thing her new phone has that none of our old ones do is an entire icon screen to get into various functions, instead of just a navigation bar at the top of the screen.  We had to teach her how to use the ring around the OK key to navigate through the icons.  For now, it’s best to K.I.S.S.  Teaching her how to clear her call record, reading/erasing text messages, and listening to/erasing voice mail messages is a lesson for another day, assuming she wants to learn how to do that.  She probably doesn’t.  Too complicated, but we can do it for her every so often when we visit, if need be.  Mission accomplished.

As for Thanksgiving, even though mom was looking forward to us catering a home cooked feast for her as we have for the last ~15 years, her retirement community has banned all visitors this year, so we have been instructed to bring leftovers the following weekend, when the Stasi won’t be out there.  We will, but it probably won’t be naked slices of roast turkey.  We’ll probably re-purpose the leftovers into pot pie, or stew, to give them an extended “shelf life” in the fridge.  She loves my soups, stews, etc., when I bring her some, even for no occasion whatsoever.  Beats the food her “Bistro,” which is really just a cafeteria, serves.  I’ve never sprung a pot pie on her, but those are pretty tasty, too, and she loves the pie crust I make from scratch.  I can make those in single serve sizes easily enough.  All she has to do is reheat them, like she does with soup or stew.

Here We Go Again

Last Friday, we drove all the way to mom’s place to take her out to cancel her old cell phone plan, and start a new one, but since her old 3G flip phone was about to be obsolete, she got a new one that runs on 4G.  The new phone is still a flip phone, so you would think she could figure out how to use it like her old one.  Nope.

Aside from the fact that the new ones don’t hold a charge for a week like the old ones do (she was dismayed that it was dead after six days), she couldn’t figure out how to make a call on it.  So, she called me on her land line to ask for technical support.  Turns out she was looking at the schematic drawing in the instructions, and pressed the keypad number on the drawing instead of the button to which the number pointed.  *headdesk*

She couldn’t figure out how to clear that number, which evidently wanted her to install some app she didn’t want.  I couldn’t give her instructions for clearing it without being able to see the phone, but she eventually started fiddling with it until the message went away.  Since I had previously given her instructions for calling my number from her cell phone (told her to get in the habit of dialing 1 first, just like on a land line), she was finally able to call me.

This took her two land line phone calls for my “tech support.”  Finally, half an hour later, she successfully called me from her cell phone.  All I can think is thank god she didn’t get a smartphone.  She’s not stupid, and she’s not losing her marbles, but she simply cannot learn any new tricks in her 90s.  As it stands, she never could figure out how to get into her cell phone’s voice mail, let alone erase old messages, and no amount of instruction could cure that.

Oh, well.  We’re going to visit again this weekend.  No doubt we’ll have to spend a good half hour training her how to use her new phone, which probably works 95%+ the same way as her old one did.

This reminds me of when we plugged an address into the on-dash GPS in her car, which worked fine, but then later, she couldn’t figure out how to clear it, so that it didn’t keep trying to direct her there on subsequent trips.  Her aide couldn’t figure it out, either.  Then we had to drive over there to take her car to her dealer for service, and I just started fiddling with it as soon as we pulled out of her driveway.  Took me less than two blocks to cancel it.  It was still stored for future use, but cleared from memory.  Evidently, old dogs can learn new tricks (ours does), but nonagenarians who really have no interest in learning how to use technology that wasn’t in widespread use 30+ years ago either can’t, or won’t.

Harbor Freight, Again

We had to take my mom to a cell phone store to do her thing, and it took us at least half a day to get it accomplished, with the round trip, and a couple of hours in the store.  It should have taken 20-30 minutes in the store, but there were several roadblocks, so to speak, along the way, most of which were of my mom’s making.  Well, we finally got that done, and she was trying to hit us for taking her shopping for other stuff that we’d already gotten for her last Sunday, because she wanted another paper bag.  Her logic goes out the window when she has a figurative bee in her bonnet.

Anyway, we had to get to Harbor Freight before they closed, so we were a little tight on time.  I had a coupon for 15% off “everything,” which included a 420cc gasoline engine we needed for the log splitter.  Fortunately, there’s a Harbor Freight on the way home from mom’s, because the other two sort of near us would have taken an extra hour to get to from there.   It’s not in our state, but it was on the way home.  They had it in stock.  The problem was neither one of us, not even together, could lift it high enough to get on the top of the cart without blowing a hernia, or something, so a beefy store employee did it for us.  The box weighs more than I do, ffs.  He cracked a couple of jokes about how we needed a real man.  Then the checkout guy joked about how he immediately knew I was from [town, and state] before getting our customer number.  Kinda asshole-ish, if you ask me.

Whatever.  We got what we stopped by for, got our $60 discount, slid it into the back of the truck, returned the cart, and we were on our way.  It’s a new store location.  The staff will learn over time to not dismiss women who want something more than a flashlight or some ratchet straps.  Tractor Supply does not treat women like that.

Freebie and Concert Tickets

I received a promo email from Harbor Freight that advertised my choice of one of three free items with a purchase of $24.99 or more, that was only good from last Friday until today.  Didn’t see it until yesterday, and at the time, we couldn’t think of anything offhand.  Then this morning, we remembered that we needed a new 2000 lb. trailer jack, for $28 and change.  We had to visit my mom today, and take her out to run some of her own errands.   Getting back in time to stop by one of the ones we’re used to visiting would be dicey.

Turns out a new Harbor Freight opened a few weeks ago that just happens to be on the way back from mom’s place, without a detour.  We got the trailer jack we needed, and produced the coupon for the tac-lantern/camp lantern we decided we could use.  We have tool boxes galore, so a 12″ canvas tool bag was of no interest, nor was a set of titanium drill bits, because none of them were any larger than 1/4″ diameter.  We got lucky.  Those lanterns were going fast.  We didn’t quite get the last one, but they were down to their last handful.   Topped off for gas, too, on the way home because it’s ~40 cents cheaper per gallon than we would pay where we live.

As for the live concert tickets, we’d been waffling on these for a couple of weeks, mostly because we’ve booked tickets before for other artists that twice got canceled or rescheduled.  These won’t be, and the venue is really small, especially with half its usual capacity due to “antisocial distancing.”  We’ve seen Steve Forbert there before at least twice.  It’ll be an enjoyable evening, with bistro seating, and we can split a bottle of wine and some snacks while we sit and listen.  It’s about time we got to go listen to live music in person, instead of joining in to some remote event, and watching on a computer screen.

Another Vacation Reservation Confirmed and Orchids

We decided on which week we wanted to try to hit bird migration again next Spring, and my reservations were confirmed.  We love this place.  Every guest room is pet friendly, and the room we usually book has a full kitchenette, as well as a pretty large sitting area.  That’s unusual in those old Victorian Cape May houses that were converted to B&Bs.  We’ve been staying there for years.  The owner and staff are wonderful.  The room rates are quite reasonable.  Restaurant prices are typical for a resort town, but not insane.

Also, FedEx just delivered my orchids a few minutes ago.  They were originally supposed to arrive Friday.  Two days early works for me.  Kawamoto used to be very reasonably priced.  They’re not, anymore, but Reid will never, ever let a bum plant go out to a customer.  I really suck at growing ordinary houseplants, but have never had a problem growing orchids that are suited for my climate.

The ones I order are pretty tough customers, as opposed to finicky ones.  Doris Duke was an orchid collector, but that was back in the day when they cost a small fortune, and were fussy plants.  The Duke Estate in Hillsborough, NJ, had quite a display of them.

Anyway, this late in the year, it’ll probably be my last order for any live plants, because shipping in cold weather is problematic.  Probably will not be able to order any more before May or even June.  So far, this Fall hasn’t been bad, but it’s not quite the Indian Summer we had last year.