Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wrestling with the Spirit of Christmas.

I am not a lover of holidays.  It may be because I am so turned-off by the tsunami of Christmas ads, bad music, non-stop commercialism that starts earlier every year.  It may be because I am older and crankier.  It may be because all the hoo-ha exacerbates the fact that I am solo.  There is also the fact that my family is small, there are no little tots over which to squeak and squeal (I do that over my dogs.  In private.) and we are never able to all get together at the same time.  I have, over the years, begun a campaign to stave off the dark mantle that starts to settle over me mid-November.  I put on holiday music and change the lyrics to entertain the dogs.  I find something to bake.  I focus on the multitude of good things in my life.  This year I am tempted to dress the dogs up in embarrassingly silly get-ups and take their pictures.  I may put reindeer antlers on my cow, Jasmine.  She is very good-natured, as long as I have a cow treat.

One of the good things about a small family with no tots in attendance, is that we can skip the gifts.  Not only ease my financial burden, but it puts all ones focus on the gathering, the food, the music, the being there.  It is way more special.  Plus, it doesn't add stuff to my pile of stuff.  **I swear I will clean out my craft/office/dog/cat/room this winter**

Any gifting I do is homemade.  Whether the recipients want it or not...however, I doubt if the Barn Crew will turn down cinnamon rolls, nor will the postman, nor will the transfer station guys.  I do some selective gifting - homemade chicken liver pate for my neighbor - and other giftings that I am not at liberty to divulge.  New traditions that are a highlight of my holiday season is breakfast with my neighbor, Nancy, early on a weekday morning before work.  And possibly working in a gossip/knitting/catch-up session with my DS Melanie (HINT HINT HINT). 

Speaking of gifting, my 'boss' - whom I love to pieces - always overdoes it at Christmas.  She staggered in with a hefty basket that contained a lovely scarf (handmade by women in Nepal), a very nice girlie-type set of lotion and shower gel, a gift card for, an amaryllis bulb kit, and ... a re-gift.  I hooted with laughter when I opened that bag (containing two precious - read: expensive - bottles containing balsamic vinegar and a wild mushroom sage infused EVOO) and a card dropped out.  It thanked her for 'having' this couple over for dinner.  I am not complaining, envisioning as I am, that infused oil drizzled over some al dente pasta.  Providing I can find some GF pasta I can tolerate.

I am a firm believer in re-gifting.  As one who liberally bestows gifts on the unsuspecting, I always add to my greetings that they should feel free to pass it on if they don't want/need it.  That does not bother me at all.  What's the consensus out there on re-gifting?  Yay or Nay?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hate greasy pots and pans?

You need a Weeno-Rooter.  I ran across a great deal on chicken thighs and pressure-canned 24 qts of chicken and broth for the dogs.  There is nothing I hate more than to have to deal with grease up to my shoulder when I wash my largest stock pot.  Ergo - the Weeno-Rooter.  Or, Pepper Pot Licker.  I may just rent him out.

He rotated the pot as he cleaned.  He's very efficient.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My very first Advent Calendar!

Believe it or not, even at my (ahem) advanced age, I never, every had an Advent Calendar.  I secretly coveted those of my friends in school.  I came close dozens of times to buying one of my very own.  I also came close more dozens of times making my own.  But, as is always the case, a combination of procrastination and my pesky lack of focus delayed me past a reasonable deadline.

Then, this came in the mail:

My first, very own, lovely, wonderful Advent Calendar!  I love it!  Gifted to me by the eminently talented, lovely and muy compasivo Chicken Mama!

You are the BEST!  Plus, what magic did you use to find the time to make this?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Inspiration! Inspiration? Where art thou?

Or, Monday Musings gone all whiny-like.

I am wallowing in the too-little-daylight blues.  I really do need to give myself a swift kick in the tush, but I'm not as limber as I used to be.  I have sat down four times to compose a pithy post, only to stare, blankly, at the screen.  The only reason I'm typing now, is that I'm at work (please don't rat me out) and trying to appear bustling.  Sometimes the only way to get through writer's block is to force your way through.

I had thought about borrowing Tami's ploy and posting the alphabet.  I thought I would start in reverse order, though, because that is more my style.  Back-ass-wards.  The only thing I could come up with for Z, however, was zebra.  When I was a tot, I had a stuffed zebra that I named Eeyore.  Yes, yes, I know that Eeyore was a donkey without a tail, but the beauty of being a child is that there are no boundaries as far as your imagination goes.  Why do we lose so much of that when we are older?  I also had a doll named Poor Pitiful Pearl.  It was supposed to be a homely doll, but I thought she was spunky and beautiful.  Too bad I don't still have her, as I'm sure she'd be a valuable relic by now.  As much as I loved my PPP, I had nothing but disdain for my Barbies.

While the "Z" has given me a little pep in the writing department, I doubt if I will continue on.  I chafe at restrictions (including restrictive jeans...snort).  The weekend was pretty much on a par with all weekends, with the exception of getting to stand on tall ladders in gale force, arctic winds trying to attach another tarp to my fuel tank enclosure.  Gee, that was fun.  I did get a smidgen more in the holiday mood when I put up my parents' cute little tree.  They have always had a fresh tree - with the rare exception of last year.  We will give it a week to relax, and my dad will take his time putting the lights on.  As he grows older (92 and counting), he becomes more focused on individual tasks.  Sort of like obsessive.  So, I am sure the lights will be perfectly placed and evenly spaced.

Sunday morning, I had my early birthday breakfast with my friend, Maggie.  She is my oldest friend up here.  I have known her 15 years.  I always look forward to spending time with her - she is one of those people who make you feel lighter and happier after spending 15 minutes in their presence.  I also like this type of birthday celebration.  I return the favor for her birthday - a win-win, win-win.  Then I came home and roasted a pie pumpkin and made peanut butter pumpkin dog biscuits.  Once I was nice and warm, I forced myself outside to schlep 100# of chicken feed to their bin and wrestle with the aforementioned tarp.  I have long ago resigned myself to having to do jobs, no matter what the weather, since I usually have only one day to do them.  And Ma Nature can be a tough broad with a quirky sense of humor.

The sheep got three pumpkins (frozen/thawed/frozen/thawed) and were very happy.  Norman has gotten over his fear of pumpkins and can gnaw them down with the best of them.  I begrudgingly put up outdoor holiday lights - but only because I can't see from the garage to the front door at night.  It sure ain't because I'm in the mood...I did, however, put up my twinkly lights across the mantelpiece and that always mellows me out.

By golly, I wrote a whole post!  Of drivel, however....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Plus Side of Snow.

While I might have been grumbling (putting it mildly) about shoveling a quarter- mile of paths through a foot+ of heavy, wet, icy snow on Thanksgiving morning, it did have it's positive side.  Apparently, being trapped in the coop with only their nesting boxes to keep them occupied, has joggled the hens' memories.  I am now getting three or four eggs a day!  This has been the longest dry spell as far as eggs go, ever on the Little Lucky.  I have a total of 24 chickens - three are roosters, about half are getting on in years, and the rest should be laying their little hearts out.  The reality is, I have gone over 27 days without one. single. egg.  Sluggards.

However, even my Peanut (banty) is back in the boxes.  So, while the days continue to shrink into 4 hours of so-called daylight, the hens are back to work.  The irony is not lost on me...but I will count my blessings and my eggs.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Well, the ocean's blue, ain't it?

Being frugal and prone to use every last scrap of everything can have interesting consequences.  Besides being way ahead of the gourmands on the fusion front, it can lead to rather spectacular results.  Take my dinner last night.

I had made a paella-like dish for my sister on Wednesday night, not wanting anything remotely close to turkey.  I had leftover mussels, clams, clam juice and a nice piece of cod in the freezer.  Perfecto!  I would make seafood chowder for dinner!

Rummaging in my vege bin, I found white and purple carrots and a half an onion.  In my root cellar aka the guest room closet, I found potatoes and garlic.  All set.  I set about dicing and chopping and threw it all in a pan with the broth and then snuck in some knitting while it all simmered.  Once the vege was tender, I tossed in the cod and shellfish and stood in wonder as it turned blue.  Wow. Obviously, the purple carrots had worked their magic.  I added a little milk and it turned a lovely shade of blue-lilac.

The photograph doesn't do it justice.

While I thoroughly enjoyed both the flavor and color, I was also glad I didn't have company for dinner.

This also brought back a memory of fixing dinner for my parents when I was a twenty-something.  I wanted to create an elegant and memorable meal, so I made Cornish hens stuffed with rice, sultanas and pistachios.  Unfortunately, I used the red pistachios and the subsequent stuffing was a lovely but shocking shade of pink.  My mother was quite gracious about it....

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Good People.

This was my Thanksgiving view.  We got over a foot of snow on Wednesday into Thanksgiving morning.  What a treat! (dripping sarcasm here...)  My sister was driving up from Newark NJ to spend Thanksgiving with us.  In a rental car.  With no snow tires, shovel, flares, blankets or other winter gear.  Bless her heart, she made it to within 15 miles of me, averaging 30 mph.  It took almost six hours.  She made it to the first hill on her long journey, and then she could go no further.

An aside here,  For those of you who think that our highway departments - who face winter every stinkin year, and who had been listening, I am sure, to the same dire warnings of the oncoming nor'easter for a week prior to its arrival - would have had the roads cleared to make sure that this, the most-traveled day of THE ENTIRE YEAR, would be safe, would be wrong.  Not a plow in sight.  I do believe they sit in their garages waiting for the clock to strike overtime.  Dastards.  I digress.

She and I had been in regular contact through the white-knuckle drive.  We were both a wreck, but I wasn't driving.  I was cleaning surfaces - something I do when I am highly stressed.  She said she was going to try to get her car off the road and was going to knock on the door of a house that was nearby with the lights on.  The next call came minutes later - she had parked her car in their driveway and could I pick her up.  I got the address and headed out - even with four wheel drive, the road was treacherous.  I am still amazed that she made it as far as she did in one piece.

Turns out she had knocked on the perfect door.  The Universe had directed her to a family who is the poster-family for kindness, warmth and hospitality.  Not only did they insist she park her car in their nice, shoveled driveway, but invited her in to use the bathroom, made her a cup of tea and fed her cookies.  They let her leave her car overnight so that we could come get it the next morning when the roads were clear (triple overtime guarantees clear roads).  When we arrived to pick up her car, they had cleaned it off before they left for their own Thanksgiving trip.  I tell you, the whole experience gave me a new and kinder view on humanity.

The storm abated and left every surface with a coating of snow.  It was beautiful.  Until I had to shovel it...

Pepper loves his Aunt Cynthia and was quite crushed when I didn't bring her back on Thursday.  He has been watching the cats and has discovered a way to insert himself in your view at every level.  My sister heads back today, thankfully with clear roads and nothing more than arctic temperatures.  If this is an omen of winter to come, I might as well sew myself into my long johns right now.