An Abnormal Normal Christmas

Back to Normal Christmas Letter
For many years I wrote an Annual Christmas Letter for family and friends. There wasn’t much to report on a personal level in 2020 and 2021 because of Canadian pandemic social restrictions. Everything I wanted to say about everything else was on my blog – so I didn’t do letters for those two years.

January 2022 was the end of the pandemic for The Car Guy and I. We promptly got Covid when we left the restrictions in Alberta and moved to the open social life of Arizona – sure made writing the Annual Letter more interesting and easier to write!

An Abnormal Christmas
The Car Guy and I moved up our migration to Arizona to early December 2022. That meant we celebrated Christmas with real family in Alberta in November, while December Christmas was a series of virtual visits with family who were also in small pods in far flung places. Our Christmas Day meal was a simple gourmet BBQ hamburger dinner for two – if that isn’t a stress free holiday recipe, I don’t know what is!

One can never have enough socks. Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.
– Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone –

I always know what I’m getting for Christmas…
fat… I’ll get fat.

I bought my brother some gift wrap for Christmas. I took it to the gift wrap department and told them to wrap it, but in a different print so he would know when to stop unwrapping.
– Steven Wright –

As for this post – “It’s A Wrap” too!

Pea Pods and Black Coffee

Green Pea Pods

My Virus Update – a cold, the flu or Covid? Don’t know and stubbornly don’t care. The medical treatment (so far) is the same as it has always been for a cold/flu and the isolation/masking is socially required these days…

The Car Guy and I have not been tested for Covid yet and we hope to make it through the whole pandemic without having got one. Call it Baby Boomer defiance to the last two years of government mandates and mass media fear mongering…

So, I’ve made it through the sniffles and the cough and now I’m at the tired stage. I wouldn’t say fatigue, just ‘walk around the block and then lay down for a while’ tired.

The Car Guy has not succumbed to the virus at all. I didn’t think he would. He never gets colds or flu. There are too many variables to figure out why this is, but in the true spirit of finding spurious correlations and claiming them as causes, I present raw green pea pods and black coffee. He consumes both in significant quantities. I don’t. So there you have it.

At Home Dining – We Up our Game

The Eating Bar in the Kitchen: every day dishes; cutlery we got as a wedding present (51 years ago); mismatched drinking glasses. In the background on the right – the box with the new kitchen taps act as a reminder that The Car Guy has to either install them or call the plumber…

For most of the last 270 days, our evening meal has been consumed, in our home, at the kitchen island Eating Bar,  by a Party of Two.

What with Lockdowns; Mandates of how big our social bubble can be; living in a rural setting (a bad mosquito season this summer); general caution by others for (and by) people in our age group; the threat of  Fines for non-compliance; and Snitch call lines – well lets just say our social life has been very ‘quiet’.

Christmas Day Dinner was no different and when I asked The Car Guy if he wanted to ‘up our game’ for dinner for two, maybe use the ‘good dishes’ and newer cutlery, he gave me that look that said “We’re having left over ham from Christmas Eve’s Dinner…”

So I imagined left-over ham on the good dishes on place mats and newer cutlery and Canadian Festive napkins – and said “Yeah, it doesn’t make much difference does it…”

The next holiday dinner is today – Boxing Day. At this point in time,  we have eaten left-over ham at two dinners, two breakfasts and two lunches (because a ham of any size is the definition of eternity). Boxing Day we are serving what we affectionately call New Food.

To celebrate, we invited a guest and I set the table in the Dining Room. (How many of you have Dining Rooms? How many times a year do you use that room? We travel through ours many times every day because it is the only way to get to the kitchen from the rest of the house.)

Boxing Day Table set; guest is already here.

The good plates, the good cutlery, the good crystal glasses, a centre piece and Bruce the Moose as our guest. We are all set to ‘Up’ our Dining Game!

(To be honest, this post was inspired by some truly awesome photos of Christmas Dinner posted by friends and family. By virtue of extremely good taste in decorating and/or more people in their family bubble, they had what looked to be a festive and fun Christmas Day.

The reality for many seniors (like us in Alberta and maybe elsewhere) Christmas was somewhat more subdued. Maybe this is because as Covid time passes, it is getting harder and harder to emotionally ‘kick it up a notch’. We are surrounded by a society where government is ruling by keeping people in a blind, perpetual fear.

We are asked to put ‘safety first’ but ignore the inner voice that asks, “what about the collateral damage?” So, we do things as safe as we can, we keep the people near us as safe as we can, but it is a task beyond our ability to make sure everyone else and everything we do is absolutely safe.

Many of us seniors have lived through two pandemics already. Some served in a war or two. We learned to drive before seat belts and air bags. We rode our bikes without helmets. We got chicken pox, measles and mumps. Between 95 to 99.9% of us seniors will chalk up another win in the pandemic column!

So, this year is different, and we can live with that in good humour and good grace. But next year I hope we’ll see a full complement of people at our ‘turkey or ham’ table!

 

 

 

Eggsellent Arrangement of Eggs

I’ve done quite a few blog posts about Eggs over the years.

In a post called Playing with the Word Egg I noted that “Nature recognized that the Egg was eggsactly the type of ineggspensive, eggstremely simple container needed for many housing situations. With an eggsternal shell that would survive eggstreme conditions (barring eggsplosions), the egg was an eggsellent choice where eggsessive sharp edges were undesirable for the eggspectant mother when it was time to eggspell it.”

I looked at an equation for drawing an egg shape in the post Eggs Are Eggs-actly Complex.

I even did a post about Devilled Eggs. (How hard can it be to hardboil an egg… yet the ones I did a few days were just a bit under done, so yes, it is a rather exact science.)

In this post, I’m going to explore another aspect of eggs – when you remove eggs from the carton, do you do so in a particular order? What would your egg storage container look like when you only had half the eggs left?

This was a topic on Twitter a few days ago… who says Twitter is a useless waste of time! (Thanks to Gavin Jones @ecologyofgavin for starting this inquiry.)

Gavin suggested these four possibilities:

Egg Carton arrangements 1 to 4

Then he added this one:

Egg storage arrangement #5 (ignore the 3B label)

Twitter followers added the next two:

Egg storage arrangement #6
Egg storage arrangement #7

There were a few people who were basket storers:

Egg storage arrangement #8

And last, but certainly not least, there was the ‘any place there is room in the fridge’ arrangement.

Egg storage arrangement #9

So, how about you? How do you store your eggs? Do your eggs have a storage symmetry?

Cookbook Shelf

Savella Stechishin

In response to a blogging suggestion from Feeding on Folly – What does Your Bookshelf Say About You: I got no further than the Cookbook Shelf and this book – Traditional Ukrainian Cookery by Savella Stechishin. The Car Guys sister, by remarkable coincidence, had just asked us if we still have this cookbook.

The answer is yes, we still have it – the 9th edition (printed in 1976). This book was first published in 1957 by Trident Press Ltd in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The Car Guy looked it up online, and found out that used copies are for sale on various sites for as little as $35 to as much as $400!

Savella Stechishin’s Traditional Ukrainian Cookery is to Ukrainian cuisine what Julia Child’s cookbook is to French cooking.
– Vera Krycak –

Savella Stechishin did much more than write a cookbook! She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1930 – the first Ukrainian woman to receive a degree there. She taught in Saskatchewan schools, was a home economist for Women’s Services at the University of Saskatchewan and lectured at the Department of Slavic Studies at the University of Saskatchewan. She also gave Ukrainian language courses at Saskatoon’s Mohyla Institute, where she was dean of women. She co-founded the Ukrainian Museum of Canada in Saskatoon and was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1989.

The Car Guy’s heritage is Ukrainian and Swedish. This has introduced a wealth of interesting recipes to our family. My culinary repertoire was blandly vanilla in comparison!

What is the most dog-eared, well used, loved, recipe book in your kitchen?

Game Changing Three Word Phrases

Can the utterance of just three words change the direction of your day, if not your life? Here are a few examples from a Twitter Account called @SoVeryBritish:

– You’ll be fine
– Just a trim
– How are you?
– A quick word
– Out of milk
– Might be fun
– Contact customer support
– Meet and greet
– You look well
– Honestly, you choose

I’d add these to the list:

– out of nutella
– internet is down
– battery is dead
– no toilet paper
– clean your room
– let’s get high
– I am pregnant

For Canadians who are going to go to the polls this fall, I came up with these three-word ‘it sounds good until things go wonky’ phrases:
– national carbon ‘pricing’
– ‘irregular’ border crossings
– budgets balance themselves

What would be on your list for three word game changing phrases?

This and That – Owls and Grapefruits

The Lighter Side of Arts, Crafts and Leisure Activities

I’m a ‘jack of all trades’ in the crafts department. I’ve never stuck with anything long enough to get really good at it… except for collecting quotes.

On the Crafts front, I’ve been collecting red Tim’s Iced Capp straws (so I can keep them out of where ever discarded straws go in my prairie province.) I wasn’t sure what to make out of them until I saw this sculpture by the artist David Moreno who makes these out of steel rods. I think I could use my red straws for a project like this – I have just about enough straws for the house on the far left…

In some Future Time or State

I believe in the hereafter.
Every time I walk into a room, I ask, “What am I here after?”
– Author Unknown –

Grapefruit and the Post Office

We have a grapefruit tree at the Arizona house. Sometimes the fruit is oddly shaped, but it is delicious. I am more than optimistic that there will be enough fruit to last me until we go home, in addition to the fruit we will take to the post office every few days. No, we don’t mail it. Our post office simply has a box on a bench near the door where people share their fruit harvest.

Our post office also has an ‘alpha box’. This is a series of ‘pigeon holes’, each with a letter of the alphabet on it. You can ‘mail’ letters to anyone in our community (without buying postage) by putting them in the appropriate alpha box.

A Great Horned Owl on the Fence

It is impossible to not be optimistic about life when a Great Horned Owl sits on your fence.

He respects Owl, because you can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right.
– A. A. Milne –

How to Know When a Politician is Out of Touch

Catherine McKenna is Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change. She was lamenting about the cold. She had apparently not noticed how cold Canada gets every winter.

What examples have you heard where politicians in your community appear to have lost touch with common sense?

One Thing Leads to Another – Telemarketers

We are kind of like this dog when it comes to our home phone. Even though we know that 99% of the time a ringing home phone is a telemarketer, we still go over to the phone to check the call display!

Apparently, the best way to get a telemarketer to stop calling you is to say: “Please put me on your do not call list.” Don’t give them any other information. Don’t engage with them. Don’t get upset.

One of my daughters used to respond to telemarketers by immediately putting her Small Child on the phone. Small Child was always full of questions and observations. Telemarketers with heavy foreign accents were easy prey for a boy without much of a filter between his young brain and his mouth.

Christmas Desserts and Family Traditions

The QuipperyThe Fruitcake

Have you ever thought what it must be like to be a Fruit Cake? Made weeks or months in advance of Christmas Dinner, it is left to steep in whatever secret ingredient is used to give it that special flavour (I prefer rum). It is briefly admired as it is paraded down the catwalk of the dessert tray – then ignored by a bunch of carnivores who have just devoured half of a gigantic turkey.

I’ve always liked Fruit Cake. Back in the days when I’d do lots of Christmas baking, I’d serve it with Rum Hard Sauce. It is a simple recipe. Beat 3-4 tablespoons of butter (though my recipe says margarine because back then it was much cheaper than butter.) Add 1 cup of icing sugar, 1/4 cup rum, and 1/8 cup milk. Beat and chill before serving.

In a 1983 New York Times column titled “Fruitcake Is Forever,” Russell Baker claimed to be in possession of a fruitcake that a long-dead relative had baked in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington. Washington allegedly sent it back with a note explaining that it was “unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter.
– Mental Floss –

The Sugar Cookie

The Fruit Cake’s nemesis is the Sugar Cookie sitting next to it on the platter. The Sugar Cookie, made just that morning, is unaware that it will be the hands down favourite. It may or may not have been tarted up with icing and silver sprinkles – but it will be devoured. Every last crumb will be gone by the time the last guest has headed  home with a tupperware container full of turkey and mashed potatoes. The Fruit Cake will sit untouched and forlorn on the platter – much to the delight of the hostess who created it (and loves any dessert that contains booze or chocolate or fruit or all three.) It is just a matter of time, however, before the last of the Fruit Cake is also devoured (as is the eggnog) and the hostess – well, she has gained five pounds in weight. (I speak from experience.)

Gingerbread

Baking and decorating Gingerbread is a tradition in our family. I’ve written about this in the past (Line up the Usual Suspects and How to Plan a Gingerbread Party.)

Rum Balls

Rum Ball making has become one of my son-in-law’s traditions. Each year he tries to increase the amount of rum, yet maintain the consistency of the dough such that it can be rolled into balls. Needless to say, Rum Balls are for adults only. Rum Ball rolling is time consuming and is usually done in front of the TV set while watching a movie. In years gone by, the traditional movie for the job was Amadeas. Don’t ask me why it has to be that movie – it is just the right movie for the job.

My eldest daughter decided to introduce Rum Ball making to her family this year. Her post began

Turns out, twenty-two years is enough time to forget a recipe. Although, as I stood in the grocery store calling my younger sister (wife of the rum ball making son-in-law) to find out what almond paste was, it occurred to me that I might not have actually made this recipe before. I did participate in the ritual of drinking wine, watching a movie and rolling. I’m just not sure I ever assembled the ingredients and then mixed them up in such a huge bowl.

Carrot Cake

Huh? Carrot Cake doesn’t seem like a traditional Christmas dessert – but it is just about my favourite treat other than something made with dark chocolate. We have done extensive testing of store bought carrot cake and the Fountain Hills AZ Safeway store makes a carrot cake to die for! Since it is just going to be two of us for Christmas dinner this year, quick and simple Safeway carrot cake is the way to go!

What are your traditional Christmas Desserts?