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.

Happy Halloween

We’ve got our pumpkins out.  They’re a combination of heirloom sugar pumpkins, and sugar pumpkin/zucchini hybrids that we grew in our garden this summer.  The latter mature to orange, and look like tall, skinny pumpkins, with yellow-y orange flesh, sort of like acorn squash.  I didn’t decorate them, because I intend to roast and process them for pies, custard, and soup over the holidays.  The mash freezes really well until we need it.

It’s kind of a shame we never get kids trick-or-treating.  The houses are too far apart, there are no sidewalks, and there aren’t many kids around, anyway.  OTOH, if I want Halloween candy, I can buy it tomorrow for half price.

Even though we won’t be getting any kids stopping by, I also dug out a couple of unglazed ceramic pumpkins I had in the basement.  They can take votive candles, but it’s easier to toss in battery operated LED versions.  That way, I don’t have to carve out any melted and re-solidified wax later.  It’s rainy, so those will stay indoors.  They’re fun, anyway.

Have a spooky day!

Exit Zero Filling Station

We were down in Cape May for a few days on a mini-vacation.  Typically, we go there once or twice a year during bird migration, which is off-season.  Better B&B rates, no crowds, etc.  This time around, I got some awesome sunrise pictures at the lighthouse, and some equally good sunset pictures at Sunset Beach.  The birds were plenty, but not so cooperative for pictures.

Our favorite place to eat there is Exit Zero Filling Station.  A few years ago, it was called Exit Zero Cookhouse, and was located across the street.  We usually go for an early dinner, but didn’t this last time, and walked over in heavy rain and gusty wind around 7pm.  Turns out that at that time, there was a live band playing.  They were local, but they were no crappy teenage garage band.  They were quite good.  I stuck a few bucks in their tip pitcher.

Anyway, the place had a door prize type drawing, like a raffle, but one free entry per person.  I never win anything, but my other half won it, and selected a print of a local WWII landmark done by a very good local artist.  We thought that was the end of it.  That print will look nice in our basement bar/rec room once we get it framed, next to the pictures of WWII era planes.  It fits the theme.

That wasn’t the end of it, though.  When we got up to leave half an hour later, we were shepherded into the adjacent gift shop, in which someone  packaged up two t-shirts, two pint glasses, and two flight sized glasses for us — for free.  That was a “Wow.  Thanks!”  The retail price of what we walked away with was roughly the cost of our dinner, plus beers, and tip.  That’s never going to happen again.

We love the place, and will continue to go there every time we’re in Cape May.  It has nothing to do with the door prize winnings.  It’s just a great place for food, and now that it has a liquor license, we don’t have to bring our own booze.

Really Good Fridge

The delivery guys hooked it up, but shoved it a little too far back into the cubbyhole for it, after they made sure the water line worked.  That cut off the water supply.  I had to squiggle the fridge out half an inch to get the water line working again.  My shoulders are sore from that.  Still, everything works, and after I bought it, I looked it up.  It turned out to be #1 best rated for most reliable side-by-side refrigerator models for 2019.