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.

Real Life, Plus Some Nicky Antics

As I previously mentioned, our neighbors across the street, who we had never previously met, invited us to their Christmas party.  They had so much leftover food that Charlie popped by last Tuesday afternoon to invite us over for dinner, from roughly 5-7pm.  My other half was at work, so I was a bit non-commital, and merely said I’d let him know.

We made it there ~5:30, because my other half had to swing by a concert venue on his way home to pick up Wishbone Ash tickets to save the $5/seat online booking fee.  The dinner party comprised maybe a total of a dozen people, including the hosts, only two of whom we hadn’t met before.  They probably were at the Christmas party, but there must have been at least 50 people at the Christmas party, so we didn’t get a chance to meet everyone.

This weekend, I finally got my Christmas decorations up:  stockings over the mantle, tree, wreaths on the doors, plus interior and exterior lights.  Most of the lights are solar, which kind of sucks when it’s cloudy and rainy; sticking the solar panel under a lamp only partially recharges the battery.

On another note, there are some Nicky antics to report, courtesy of Just A Guest.  For some reason, the comment alerting me to them got stuck in moderation, which is odd. 

There’s a treasure trove of new Nicky stuff – This guy calls him and talks to him for like an hour. It’s crazy…

Just A Guest, December 13, 2018

I haven’t viewed it yet, but it promises to be classic Nikita.  ETA:  I have seen it .  Cut to 19:26 for the shits and giggles.

Completely OT:  Someone on Twitchy posted a comment that linked to Tim Willard’s thread about Communism.  Yes, he’s the same Tim Willard that some of us may remember from the days when Nikita was off his meds, and raging at the EONs.  Those were either the good old days, or the bad old days, depending upon your perspective.  In case you’re interested in reading it, it’s an excellent thread.  It was good enough to make me fire up Twitter, which I haven’t used in god knows how long, to follow him.  It took me something like four or five tries to enter the right password to login.  The last time I used Twitter was two computers ago.  Anyway, here’s the link to it.

I think we’re finally ready for Christmas.  All the food/ingredients we need to cook and cater the feast for my mom is on hand.  Her present arrived.  She always tells me “You don’t have to give me a present.”  No, I don’t, but last year she loved the solar powered watch I bought her with a decent sized face that was easy to read, and a pinch-to-release metal strap.  Her fingers don’t work well enough anymore to fiddle with leather straps that have holes, and buckles.  She’d been complaining about how her watches always needed new batteries, so I took care of that for her.  She had to have a few links removed, but was perfectly willing to have that done.

This year, it’s “Wicked Good” shearling slippers.  Her feet are bad, and she’s been complaining about needing some slippers for a few months.  She wants to try them on first.  Meh.  I know her size, and I know the way these fit.  If they don’t work, I still have the receipt, and pre-paid return mailing label.  All I have to do is drop them off at our local UPS Store, a whopping mile and a half away.

Merry Christmas!

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.