Sunday, December 26, 2010

...and a Happy new Year

We had a beautiful Christmas.  First, there was time with family.  My son and I took the ride to my daughter's to deliver presents and hug the grand children--three months worth.  The ride home was like the perfect white Christmas with the sparkling snow and the houses all lit up along the way.  Mike and I had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner.  My son stopped in on Christmas Day and then we went for dessert at my nephew's house.  I went to bed with a feeling of well-being and contentment.

Now, it's packing up and getting ready for the trip south.  Looks like we will have to work around a pretty big storm!  Be back in a week or so.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Grandma! It's Christmas Time!

That was the extent of my phone conversation with grandson, Dane, today.  The excitement was electric, popping off the wires.  My Christmas is amazing and it is not even here yet.
And in contrast, I have just returned from a funeral.  There was heart wrenching grieving, but, at the same time, there was the awareness of the fullness my Uncle Bill's life.  The service was a beautiful tribute to a life well lived.
When my mother died five years ago my grand daughter--four years old at the time--asked why people were smiling and laughing when someone had died.  It was my Aunt Jule (Uncle Bill's wife of 63 years) who explained to her that it was the good memories that prompted the smiles and laughter.  My Aunt Jule passed out Hungarian kolache (sweet nut bread) at the dinner after the services.  "Have this for your Christmas breakfast."
And in contrast, I am deeply worried for my son and my son-in-law, who are both experiencing periods of angst and depression--so, so painful.
This is life.  Yes, bittersweet.  And those of us who can just keep on trucking--hoping this will be the season of peace.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Off and Running

My computer time for the rest of the day will be for arranging travel plans and flower delivery.  My sister and I will rent a car and head to Rochester, NY, for our Uncle Bill's funeral.  When I get back, it will be another trip to my daughter's (Thursday or Friday??)  Then a day of R&R on Christmas.  Pack up for target heading south day of next Tuesday.  Oh, and some where in there we'll need to put the house back together after the painting is completed.  I think I should head out right now and get a case of Red Bull or one of those other energy concoctions because this all sounds like an energy taxing plan to me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Well, my family gathered yesterday and, while everyone noticed that the house was a bit more bare than usual, it did not have much of an impact on the festivities.  The adults were focused on food and conversation and the children were busy with drawing,  decorating gingerbread boys (which was a fun activity that came in ever so handy to settle them down a bit when things got really rambunctious), and then opening some presents.  By then, it was pretty impossible to notice anything but sheer excitement and wrapping paper swirling through the air.

Kristen and Dane made this tree for me.
 One nephew had just returned from Afghanistan, but he did not attend last night because he was on his way to a Giants football game.  My two nieces and another nephew have moved out of state.  It just doesn't seem that long ago that they all were the source of frenzied anticipation for the pile under the tree.  The older of my two brothers now is in North Carolina, so the group is smaller.  My sister, her husband, her youngest son, his wife and two kids were there.  The younger of my two brothers and his oldest son came.  And, of course, my son and my daughter with the two grand kids were there, too. I love the fact that we can get together and there is joking and laughter and memories shared.  It was a good time.
 The evening did end on a sad note, though.  We got a call from my cousin.  Our Uncle Bill passed away quietly yesterday.  He was my father's younger brother--87 years old.  He was a teacher, a school principal, a devoted husband and father of four children, a friend to more than one can count, and a man of deep faith. A good enough life so that even at the age of 87, one can say it was too short a time on the earth.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lemon Pie for Christmas

My mother--using my paternal grandmother's recipe, I must note-- made a killer lemon pie.   I do not consider lemon pie a traditional Christmas dessert.  We always had an English Christmas pudding--made with suet and raisins and a fair amount of whiskey in the sauce--also courtesy of my paternal grandmother--as a Christmas Day dessert served late in the evening.  However, the family lemon pie making seems to have fallen in my lap and last Christmas a nephew was visibly crushed when I failed to serve a lemon pie at the family Christmas gathering.  Needless to say, I will be getting up with the sun (which lets me sleep quite late this time of year) to make a lemon pie for the dinner tomorrow.  We don't get together the way we did when my parents were still alive.
I'm hoping the family will also appreciate my effort to make the pierogis this year.  I am not making my mother's kolache or the nut bread, though.  It's funny how holiday dinners did not vary when I was growing up.  We always had traditional Ukrainian foods for Christmas Eve and a traditional English Christmas Day and my mother cooked and baked for weeks.  And, really, Christmas, with all that,  did not come close to the pile of traditional foods that went with Easter. 
Now Mike and I have seafood for Christmas Eve in the (sort of) Italian tradition.  I make a Christmas brunch and then we usually have leftovers for supper.  However, I think that I feel myself pulled by the old ways lately--how else to explain the pierogis?
I never thought I was very much of a traditionalist.  I kind of pooh-poohed that for years and years.  Now I find myself being nostalgic.  At the same time, I am appreciating new traditions--like lemon pie at Christmas time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Orange Gingerbread Muffins

2 cups  biscuit and baking mix (such as Bisquick)
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup skim milk
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
Butter-flavored vegetable cooking spray

1.   Combine baking mix, 3 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar, and ginger in a bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk and next 3 ingredients, stirring well. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
2.   Spoon batter into muffin pans coated with cooking spray, filling one-half full; sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar over batter. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes. Remove from pans immediately.

From:  Cooking Light, JANUARY 1997

Gingerbread just says Christmas to me.  I made gingerbread people for the kids to decorate at the family gathering.  That reminded me of this recipe for gingerbread muffins.  I love a breakfast muffin with my coffee.  This is a good one for Christmas morning brunch.

A TIP TO PASS ALONG:  Martha says to spray the measuring cup before measuring the molasses.  I have not tried this yet, but Martha wouldn't lead us astray.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Days Ahead

The painter/ceiling repairer will be here bright and early tomorrow.  I have taken things off the walls and stowed away knickknacks.  Interesting how much bigger the house looks with the drapes and decor gone.  I shall have to think carefully about what I'll choose to put back up.  I'm sure that I will enjoy the clean new surface and then put it all back.
Amidst that we will be preparing for my family get together here on Saturday.  I thought that the painting would be done a bit earlier than this, but what can one do but role with it.  The house will not be in perfect shape and the menu will be quite simple.  At first I thought that might be reason to cancel.  Then I realized--it's my family coming--they may just already suspect I am not perfect. 
Also, it has been snowing pretty much continuously over Jericho, so a certain amount of getting out with the shovel is required each day.  The accumulation has not been that great and it does provide an opportunity to get out of the house for some fresh air and exercise.  Mike was out with the snow blower yesterday, even with his head wound (a suspicious lump take off his scalp by the dermatologist).  He jokes about the snow blower being so easy even a wife could do it, but he would have to be bed ridden--and chained there to boot--before he would actually trust me with it.  Okay be me.
Then it will be time to start getting organized for the trip south.  Such a frantic time of year.  Talk about making lists and checking them twice.  It's hard to believe I once had a full time job on top of everything else.  How did I manage?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

When the lights go out

A recent power outage in the area made me realize just how much my life style depends on the availability of electricity.  Sure, it is an annoyance to not have the TV or computer, but it is possible to go on living without.
Other things are more concerning.  I'd just filled the fridge and freezer with holiday supplies.  Will I have to move all that stuff out into the garage or even outdoors to keep it cold or frozen?  Or will it get that cold inside?
There will be no vacuuming, but there is always dusting to do.  Why has no one yet invented the indispensable electric furniture duster with electrostatic feathers? 
I won't be able to do the laundry that I have ignored for days and days because I have been distracted by blogs and computer searches.  Here's the time opened up, but no electricity to run the machines.  No hot water after a bit and then no water at all since the pump is electric.  Now the toilet cannot even be flushed.  How concerning is that?
The furnace goes off.  Is it so cold that the pipes will freeze?  Thank goodness that we have a wood stove and plenty of wood.  I complain about its messiness sometimes, but not when the den is snug and cozy while the temperature in the rest of the house is dropping.
Thank goodness, also, that I have a husband who, without benefit of ever having been a boy scout, is always prepared and is a well equipped camper.  Coleman lantern, a full container of fuel, matches, flashlights, charged batteries, a camp coffee pot--check, check, check check, check, and check--better yet, all right where always live so you can put your hands right on them when needed.
Reading is an option, for a while anyway.  But it gets dark really early and it is too much strain on my weak eyeballs to read by flickering lantern light.  Really, the thing to do, I think, is sit by that warm and cozy fire with a glass of wine, a sliced pear, a bit of cheese,  and that wonderful man who has it all under control.  After that, well, there are flannel sheets and warm woolen blankets on the bed.  It doesn't really matter how cold the rest of the house gets.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Morning Moping

The week is starting out with wind and rain again.  So I was wrong, we have lost almost all the snow.  At some point it will get colder and this rain will turn to snow again (like as I write this rain has turned to sleet), but at least the roof is getting a fresh start.  Shovelling the driveway is bad enough, but having to shovel off the roof is the absolute pits--or so I am told because I have never done that myself. 
Oops, Mike just came in with the latest weather report--winter weather advisory--sleet turning to snow, temperature dropping fast and turning conditions icy.  I find winter so dreary.  At least I have no where I need to go right away and I have plenty of things to do around the house that will keep me busy.
Instead of my whining and complaining, I recommend moving on over to Marcia's post for some inspiration and then on to Patti's post for a good giggle.  If you haven't read these already, you'll thank me--two delicious treats.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The icicles are dripping slowly outside the window as I sit here.  My cat would have been riveted.  He could sit at the window and watch the drip...drip...drip all afternoon.  He loved Christmas, too.  The tree went up and he was ensconced under it for the duration of the season.  We still miss that cat.
We do not plan on putting up a tree this year, or on doing anything else in the way of decorating, for that matter.  The ceiling and wall painting will not be completed until a couple of days before Christmas Day so it would not be worth the work involved to decorate and then take things down three or four days later.  Usually, I like decorating so I am not giving it up forever, but things are definitely scaled back this year.  I will have our family get together, but other than the pierogis already in the freezer and two pies, everything else will be store bought.  The kids will be kind of disappointed not to see a tree at Grandma's house, but I will make a point of going to see theirs.
I made a mistake today.  I had to pick up a prescription so I decided I would do a couple of other errands.  I needed to pick up the prescription, but everything else really could have waited until next week.  I have time to go out during the week.  It seems that everyone else in the entire world has only Saturdays to be out and about.  The traffic was congested and the stores were all packed, lines everywhere.  I didn't mind that so much as the slush all over the roads and parking lots.  Everything I did involved openning and closing car doors and so I was pretty well covered with slush and road salt myself.  I should have worn my working in the yard clothes, not my going shopping clothes.
Snow is so pretty until you have the up close and personal encounters with it.  The romance dies pretty quickly.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's Cold

I woke up at some very early point this morning and actually had to pull a blanket over me.  I am rarely cold while I'm sleeping--probably because I fortify myself with piles of pillows.  The thermometer reading was below zero this morning so I guess the need for a blanket wasn't too crazy.  It's managed to roar all the way up into the mid-teens this afternoon.  Looks like all that snow is not going to melt any time soon--and another storm is predicted for the weekend.  I may have to join the other seniors at the mall for my exercise walks--when my exercise is not shovelling.

We got the package to California off today, along with a stack of Christmas cards.  Mike took care of the standing in line at the post office hassle.

We had a card with letter from friends in New Zealand.  Shuts me up about complaining about the weather.
After years of buying-restoring-reselling (aka flipping) houses, the bought a grogeous historic property--then got hit hard by the earthquakes this past September.  They still experience enough aftershocks that they cannot begin any kind of restoration.

I wonder if there is anywhere that is free from the worry of extreme weather?  Maybe in another galaxy?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Crafts

A felted sweater pinecone in a bowl of real pinecones.

This will be our Christmas tree for this year.

Angels for my angels.

Poinsettia--a package topper, instead of a bow.
These are some of the crafts I learned as part of the Betz White workshop.  I would make these things again, but not right now.  I'm taking a crafty things vacation.
It's only 4 p.m. but already dark.  I'm putting on my pajamas, making a cup of peppermint tea, and sitting down by my reading lamp with a book (The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver).  I'm taking a cooking things vacation, too--sandwiches for supper tonight only because I wouldn't get away with serving only toast.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Snow Day

The weather predictors admitted that they were taken by surprise by the snow storm.  Travel four miles down the hills to the south or the west of us and there is only an inch or two covering the ground.  Travel north or east and you'd be gaining elevation, so I would guess it is more.  We have 16 to 24 inches.  During the cleaning up of the walkways and driveway, I honestly had to ask myself just how much longer we will be able--and willing--to keep up with the maintenance required by home ownership, especially a home in this kind of winter climate.  My brother now lives six months in North Carolina and six months in Vermont.  The wisdom of that is dawning on me!  Well, no, we can't afford two homes and I'm here complaining about the upkeep on one home, so I guess I'll just have to keep  looking for other options.

Mike dragging the snow blower.  When he gets done, the street plow will roar by and push the road snow back into the driveway...just to make him mad.
The house smells good at any rate.  I made a beef stew in a red wine sauce that simmered all day.  I even got out for a walk to the little store in the village.  I bought a bottle of red wine when I bought the beef ribs the other day, but disappeared.

Just in case you are planning to do a little cooking, I will share these tips from Martha Stewart and the card character, Maxine.   Now I just love Martha Stewart, bless her heart, but this is kind of funny.  (It has pictures of Martha and Maxine having this little debate, but copying and posting the pictures--readers here know my computer skills--or lack thereof.)

Martha says:  To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes

Maxine says: Buy Hungry Jack mashed potato mix. Keeps in the pantry for up to a year.
Martha says: When a cake recipe calls for flouring the baking pan, use a bit of the dry cake mix instead and
there won't be any white mess on the outside of the cake.

Maxine says: Go to the bakery!  Hell, they'll even decorate it for you!

Martha says: Wrap celery in aluminum foil when putting it in the refrigerator and it will keep for weeks.

Maxine says:  Celery?  Never heard of it!

Martha says:  Cure for headaches: take a lime, cut it in half and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away.

Maxine says: Take a lime, mix it with tequila.  Chill and drink!  All your pains go away!

Martha says:  Don't throw out all that leftover wine.   Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces.

Maxine says: Leftover wine???????  HELLO!!!!!!


Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter is Here.

The calendar hasn't said so, but winter has arrived in our corner of the world.  The "some snow flurries" predicted have turned out to be a day of snow falling and accumulations of about ten inches now.  Traffic is just inching by on the road in front of the house.  I cleared off the deck and Mike took shovel to the driveway (twice) but that was as much going out as we did today. 
The painter will not be coming until next week.  We have pretty much decided that means that we will not put up a Christmas tree this year, or do much else in the way of decorating.  I did put out wreaths on both front doors on Saturday. 

I made this wreath to hang indoors.  It may end up being the only decoration I put out this year!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Roof is Fixed

My son-in-law arrived today--along with my grandson.  Our roof is now fixed and that is a major relief.  It was bitter cold and snowy, so we were kind of sorry that we had him drive 70 miles to climb onto our roof and replace three shingles.  However, a guy  going around with his card offered to do the job for $200 and that seemed a bit excessive.  We already had extra shingles.  So...We are really, REALLY appreciative of our son-in-law"s efforts.  Plus, I got to spend some time with my grandson...sweet, sweet, sweet.

According to the local paper, there are still people without power in the county.  I can't imagine.  The weather has taken a decided turn towards winter.

I went to my doctor's appointment to have my blood pressure checked late Friday.  I have to go back in two weeks because it was still somewhat on the high side--although lower than a month ago for sure.  My home checks are mostly within normal range--eating out and not having total control of the salt level is not good for me--so the next time I will take my home monitor for calibration.  If that checks out, my doctor said she will stop worrying about it; if not, we will look at changing medication.  That is problematic only because we will be leaving for Florida and my insurance seems to think there are no qualified doctors in the entire state of Florida--so who would monitor a change?  I can't imagine that my blood pressure would be high while I'm spending three months at the beach, though.  Meanwhile...pesky family history, but I feel great.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Before the power went out the other day, I had undertaken a blast-from-the past culinary experiment.  My mother used to make pierogis--alot, but it was not something I had ever attempted.  I happened to see an old Martha Stewart Show that featured her mother and her mother's recipe for pierogi dough so I decided I'd give it a go.  (I just can't seem to allow Martha to get the better of me!!  I should give this competition up as I am quite sure Martha does not consider me a threat.)  I started this project at 10:30 on Wednesday morning and finished it just as the electricity cut out at 3:30 in the afternoon.  That's five hours of working in the kitchen.  Now I know why homemade pierogis are not on my "what's for dinner" rotation.

The pierogi dough.  King Arthur four flying everywhere.

My mother made triangles.

I found it much easier to make round pierogis and actually keep the potato filling inside.
  We tested some out and then I put a fairly large supply in the freezer.  I'll serve them with toppings when my family comes for a pre-Christmas gathering.  They were fun to make, once in a life time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Classic Downslope Wind Event

Yep, that's what they call it.  The wind started blowing late night on Tuesday.  The rattling windows woke us up I don't know how many times.  One might have thought we lived next to the  tracks with endless freight trains roaring past.  It wasn't a hurricane and it wasn't a tornado, but it was an impressive display of wind power from a warm front colliding with a cold front that sent 60+ MPH gusts down the mountains. A torrential downpour followed the ending of the wind Wednesday night.
We lost power on Wednesday afternoon around 3:30 and we were without for 26 hours.  At least we have a wood stove and a gas stove that we could light for cooking.  Mike dug out the Coleman lantern that belonged to his father.  It's at least seventy years old, but still dependable.  Still, we were reminded just how much nearly everything we do on a daily basis requires electricity.

Our yard used to be an open field where corn was grown so we have few trees on our property.  I managed to load up the wagon with twigs and sticks, but others were clearing large trees out of driveways and the town highway crew was out straight dragging tree trunks off the roads.  We lost a few shingles off our roof, but there were some who lost entire roofs.  Lucky for us, my son-in-law has a roofing business.
So, that's quite enough weather-related excitement for me.