What a Spread!

Wow.  Kathy and Charlie put out one heck of a spread.  We got there around 4:30, which was fine.  A lot of people were already there, but just as many people arrived after we did.  It was appropriate to bring a bottle of wine.  Others did, too.  Kathy swears that Charlie loves his Christmas parties, but I could swear she does most of the work involved.  They had to have caterers do at least 2/3 of it, and she did all the elaborate decorating.  I think all she left up to Charlie was where to set up the bar tables, and lay out the booze — the wine bar in one room, and the beer and hard liquor out on the back patio.

They were such gracious hosts, and everyone we met there was very nice.  Several people there knew the previous owners of our house, and a few of them had even been inside it a time or two.  Everyone knew which house was ours when I said “literally across the street from the end of this driveway is ours.”  The hosts are ~10 years older than we are.  As far as parties go, this one was fairly informal, despite the trouble they went to, to host it.  That suited me fine.  Velvet and silk wouldn’t have looked too ridiculous, but corduroy and an Aran knit sweater was just fine.

The only part that got a bit dicey was dashing across the street from our driveway to theirs, and back again after dark; the road has a 50mph speed limit, and not everybody obeys it.  But, who in the hell drives across the street, just to avoid climbing a really steep long driveway that probably should have a ski lift?  No wonder Charlie drives his lawnmower down to his mailbox and back.

That is one heck of a hill, and at the top, there are still something like 30 steps to climb to get to the front door.  Who needs a gym membership when you can do that?  Besides, walking around my own yard gives me a pretty good workout.

The best news is that Charlie took us up on our offer of half a cord of cured hardwood fire wood (mostly maple and walnut).  All we have to do is load it onto a trailer and tractor it across the street, giving Kathy a call ahead of time to alert them.  We know where they store their wood (Charlie showed us), but adding it to their stack without their knowing we stopped by with it would be a bit weird.  I’m thrilled to know they like to use their wood burning stove as much as we do ours.  At least the sparks don’t go flying onto the carpet as they would from an open fireplace.

Christmas Party

Our neighbor from across the street stopped by yesterday morning to invite us to the Christmas party he and his wife are having this Sunday.  We’ve never even met them before.  It’ll be a bit tight on timing.  We have to visit my mom on Sunday, and almost never get back by 4:00, when this thing is supposed to start.  Sounds like it might not matter though, as we got the impression people would be coming and going while the thing lasts.  If we don’t get there until 4:30, it’s probably okay.

So, I went to a state store yesterday to find a decent bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for them, with a gift bag for it.  Until the guy showed up in person in his SUV, at our front door to invite us, neither on of us had ever met him.  We knew he and his wife lived across the street, but that was it.  It’s wrong to show up to someone’s party with nothing.

Today, we got my M-I-L’s Christmas present mailed.  She’ll get a kick out of it, being a librarian in USDA zone 4.  Winter there is the best seven months of the year!

On another note, the John & Kira’s chocolates I sent into the office went over really well.  They did last Chaunkah, too, so it was a no-brainer this time around.  The owner loved them so much last year that he brought a few home to his wife, who in turn, looked up the company online, and ordered more.  These chocolates are even better than Teuscher’s champagne truffles.  When Ellen is impressed with something enough to buy some for herself, you know it’s good; not much impresses her.

Home Security for Christmas

I’m glad I ordered this in time.  It arrived with all its “accessories.”  Let’s just say that a .22 CO2 pistol probably looks scarier to a home intruder than a dog, or a BB gun.  Crime is not an issue around my neighborhood, but we do have varmints that get in the garden.

TBH, my aim is better with a real .22 rifle, than a .22 CO2 handgun, which technically isn’t a firearm.  I’ll get better at it with practice, though.

Still, if we ever got a home intruder who managed to get through our real home security system, he’d shit his pants if he thought he had a real firearm pointed at him, and probably go ass over teakettle down the stairs in his scramble to make a hasty exit.

Christmas and Chanukah Shopping is Done

Got hubby a new pair of pac boots from Cabelas, mom some wicked good shearling slippers from L.L. Bean, and my m-i-l a 5-pack of bibliophile socks (she’s a librarian) from John’s Crazy Socks.  John has Down Syndrome, so his dad helps him out with running the business.  You get what you order, lickety split.

And, the chocolates have arrived from John& Kira in time for Chanukah to be delivered to the office.  There’s nothing about them that screams religion.  They’re just damn good chocolates.

Lovely Thanksgiving, and Working on the Farm on “Black Friday”

Mom didn’t once complain yesterday, ate a little of everything we catered, and kept most of the leftovers.  All was good, except for us having to drive home into the sunset, with the sun glare on a 65mph highway for half of it.

Today is a work day on the farm, despite the 20F high.  I don’t really consider it cold if it stays in double digits.  This time of year, it’s mostly downing snags, and chopping them up for next year’s firewood, plus reloading our wood rack by the house to make it easier to fetch wood for the wood burning fireplace at night, or first thing in the morning.  The main wood shed is a football field away, by the barn.  We really could cook on the wood burning stove, if we had to, but we don’t.

I love it that the old Kubota (’72) runs like a champ, after a few repairs, and the only other thing that needs to get working is the old International Harvester one with an enclosed cab.  Shouldn’t bee to difficult to get working, but in these temps, a butane heater is in order for the open door barn to make the repairs.

Happy Thanksgiving

Made the pumpkin pie and cran-apple sauce earlier this week.  The bird’s been in the oven for a little over an hour.  Still need to make the scalloped potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and sweet potato mash with butter and brown sugar, but the side dishes are half cooked and assembled, ready for a half hour bake.  Last minute things are the pan gravy and whipped cream to go with the pie.  Other than that, it’s pack it all up, hop in the car, and hit to road to mom’s place.

I may or may not have time to make a batch of butternut squash soup.  It’s not part of the Thanksgiving menu, but since we cater for mom, and bundle up everything in coolers to drive over to her place, it doesn’t hurt to leave her with a quart of soup in addition to whatever leftovers she wants from the meal.  She hasn’t cooked in years, and won’t go out to pick up a meal when it’s below freezing, so the least we can do is leave her with a couple of days worth of food.

She’s funny.  She’ll tell me “Don’t run yourself ragged and get so tired that you can’t enjoy the meal.”  I’ve been catering holiday feasts for so many years that it’s all under control.  She gets more stressed setting the table than I do putting together 10 or 11 items for the feast.  I used to make fun of Nicky “Two Kitchens” Pacione, but now that I live in a house that has two kitchens, I really appreciate having two ovens, so that I don’t have to try to bake the scalloped potatoes and sweet potato mash at 325F, and guess at the extra time that takes.

The previous owners added an annex for the guy’s mother who couldn’t climb stairs anymore; that “mother-in-law” suite/annex has a full kitchen, although it’s not as large as the one in the main house.  It comes in handy for holiday cooking, and canning tomatoes in late summer.  The good news is that we can close it off from the rest of the house during winter, and only heat it enough to keep the pipes from freezing.

On another note, my new computer arrived yesterday, almost a week ahead of schedule.  Took a couple of hours to get it set up the way I wanted, with my favorite scanning/malware/antivirus utilities, and Firefox, but it’s sort of where I want it.  There’s always the bloatware that comes with a new Dell, along with frickin’ McAfee, which hogs up way too much RAM and processor power.  I intend to just let McAfee’s “free” trial expire, then not pay for a renewal.  I’ve already removed a few programs from startup and unpinned a few more from the taskbar.  FWIW, I really like the keyboard on this thing; it’s black against the aluminum casing   It was worth having the dead HD on my old machine replaced, if only because it’s still a zippy fast machine, and has a numeric keypad, which is an essential for me.

First Snow

This sucks, a little.  I was supposed to have my favorite roofing/construction contractor send over a guy around noon to re-caulk a leaky skylight.  When I talked to him this morning about the job, and scheduling, I thought I was joking about snow.

The contractor called me to cancel, and possibly reschedule for tomorrow.  I’m fine with that.  I don’t need some guy slip sliding around on my roof, and potentially sliding off onto the patio or the wood rack.  Neither of us wants to put someone’s life in jeopardy.

The snow only started an hour ago, but it’s already looking like a winter wonderland.  It’s sticking now.  It might be your typical heavy, wet snow that we get in the NE, but at the moment, that’s not what it looks like.

Ugh! Computer Repair

Last night, my favorite laptop crapped out on me.  First, it inexplicably put itself into airplane mode, and wouldn’t let me switch it back to wireless after a half dozen attempts.  Okay, that was annoying, but I thought maybe a reboot would let it find the signal.  Nope.  All it did was give me an ominous DOS level error message, and refused to boot.  Not even the rescue thumb drive was able to get it to boot.

Called a local computer and cell phone repair place earlier this morning, and dropped it off for them.  They did a perfectly respectable job replacing the fan on it that shot craps several months ago, for a very fair price.  For all I know this could be anything as simple as reinstalling the OS, or, at worst, needing a new HD.

Since the machine that is in for repair is ~5 years old, I ordered a new one from Dell.  I had to customize the one I wanted to triple its standard RAM, but otherwise, it had all the specs I wanted.  A RW CD/DVD optical tray drive was a must.  I’m not going to use all the 1Tb HD space, but that’s standard on this model.  It was thin on RAM, though, so I had to upgrade that.  So, Dell won’t be shipping an “off the shelf” model from a warehouse, but I will get what I want.  Given the 11% sale promo discount, and the additional 10% cash back from Ebates, it’s a pretty good deal, even with state sales tax.

In the meantime, I’m using a ~7-8 year old laptop that’s running Win7 Pro.  Hey, it still works.  It’s fast enough, but it’s only got 8Gb of RAM, and I’d forgotten how much I dislike its keyboard.  The keys are plenty big, but I really miss having a numeric keypad, and if one of my bracelets skims the touch pad, it screws up whatever I’m typing.  Anyway, it works just fine.

Hopefully, I’ll hear back later today from someone at the repair place with a diagnosis.  Unless it’s as simple as reinstalling the OS, I’m going to have to approve the repair estimate, anyway.  They don’t have carte blanche.

In other news, Ozzie is curled up next to me on the sofa, purring up a storm.  Even someone who is allergic to cats can’t help but like the little guy.  He’s so affectionate.  Once the girls realized he wasn’t going to challenge their authority, they decided to tolerate him, and leave him alone.

Ozzie

Ozzie is the 10 year old longhair gray male cat we adopted a couple of months ago.  He was a picky eater at first.  When we went on vacation a month ago, we decided to “lock” him into the annex, so the girl cats wouldn’t steal his food when he didn’t eat it fast enough.  Turned out to be a good plan.  He did a good job on his kibble while we were gone, without interference.

Last night, I was feeling like crap, with my neck arthritis acting up, so that I needed some fake Ben-Gay, and an ice pack for it.  Fine, but within another hour, I needed another ice pack for my facial sinuses, so I decided to go upstairs to lie down on my bed.  Within three minutes, Ozzie was up there on the bed with me, standing on my chest, licking my face, then settling down, wedged up against my ribcage.  The critters know when you’re feeling crummy, and do their best to comfort you.  He was aces, purring up a storm.

Ozzie was already 10 when we adopted him.  He had all kinds of problems when he was brought to the shelter, probably because his former owner could no longer take care of him, and he got his own room for three months, instead of being shoved in the cattery room, which is only slightly larger than the one he was given to himself.  He does have permanent sinus and oral issues, but he’s the best cat.  He’s super affectionate, and actually likes being brushed/combed to get rid of his mats.  If he had been mistreated, he wouldn’t be so affectionate, so I chalk it up to being neglected.  The girls bossed him around for a couple of weeks, but when his reaction was “Whatever, dear,” they gave up.

Every male cat I’ve ever owned has been such a sweetheart.  Not so with the girl cats.  They can get really bitchy — or possesive.

So, right now, we have two female cats, one male cat, and one male dog, all over the age of nine.  The dog won’t go up on the bed, but the cats will, when I need them.  A snuggly cat is maybe not as good as ice packs, but when you need one, one of them will volunteer.

Lasagne!

My other half wanted me to make lasagne a few days ago.  No.  Not happening after I had my molar implant removed.  This is day four later, and although I had to scarf down some ibuprofin this morning when I woke up, I think I can finally handle eating somthing a little more solid than soup or mashed potatoes.  Lasagne it is!

The best news is that with this Indian Summer we’re having, our oregano hasn’t gone dormant yet, so I can use fresh oregano in it.  Dried will suffice in the dead of winter, but it’s not the same.  We have all the ingredients, and it’s just a layered casserole, so there’s nothing time specific about it.  Make it.  Assemble it.  Bake it.  Enjoy that meaty, pasta-y, cheesy goodness while it’s fresh, but the leftovers the next day are even better (like chili).

Good.  I was getting so sick of butternut squash and egg drop soup, both of which I like, but not for days on end.