10 December 2019

On the 10th day of ...

Sometimes, there's "nothing" in the house for dinner.

Last night, my husband suggested making cabbage omelets. There was an arrowhead cabbage; there are always eggs. I'm not sure what he was actually planning to do - maybe he was going to sauté the cabbage, make an omelet, and fold the cabbage inside? Frankly, it sounded sort of nasty.

But it got the wheels spinning in my head.

I shredded the cabbage and a carrot, and my husband set to sautéing. Meanwhile, I minced some garlic, and got out a handful of frozen peas, and beat up a few eggs. When the cabbage was good and wilted, we tossed in the garlic and peas, and seasoned the lot with sriracha, sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger Momo dressing. Lastly, we stirred in the beaten eggs. And, lo! We had something that was kind of like low-carb fried rice, hot and tasty.

I was reminded of this meal when Mark Bittman's enewsletter slipped into my inbox this morning, with Dinspiration in the subject line.

His 10 recipes are a bit like this one of mine - take what you've got and turn it into something. Often, the best results are the ones where you let your imagination fly.

09 December 2019

On the 9th day of ...

I have a lot of ornaments. Really.

Many are old, almost all are glass.

Every year for the past few years, as I've pulled out the ornaments and fondled them, I've thought I should segregate out the foodstuffs and give them their own tree. But I live in a tiny house! I don't have room for a second ...

Oh wait. I have a tiny tinsel tree in the attic. Aha!

The food ornaments have now been duly assigned to a tree in the dining room.

Four pieces of cheese, four little squashes, a green pepper, a red pepper. A tomato and a potato. An ear of corn and a carrot. Several bunches of grapes, a fruit basket, and a plum. Two acorns and a walnut. A lemon with a Santa hat, and one without. A pig, a hot dog, and a slice of bacon. A head of garlic. And a pickle, of course.

I cannot tell you how happy it makes me.

08 December 2019

On the 8th day of ...

We bought the tree a week ago, and managed to get lights on it yesterday. That, of course, was a production, because half of one string was out and although we fiddled with all of the bulbs and replaced the teeny tiny fuses, nothing worked and so we had to trot off to the hardware store. (Before we threw the bad string out, I pulled all of the bulbs out of the good half, in case I need them next year.)

It was almost like a reprise of last weekend, when half of one string for the outside garland turned up kaput and we had to go to the hardware store and then come home and rebuild the garland that we'd fabricated with measured rope and fixed hanging points (and lights and fake evergreens) so it would be easy to put up over the front door. Easy ... until the lights don't work.

What is with these light strings where half works and half doesn’t?

Anyway, I finally got the ornaments on the tree today.

Unpacking the ornaments is always an exercise in nostalgia. There are boxes and boxes of ornaments, including boxes that have my grandmother's handwriting, and probably date to the 1940s.

What's in the box isn't necessarily what she's written. But that bell in the middle of the bottom row? That was definitely her bell.

My mother stored tiny glass ornaments in egg cartons. I once took a Bloomingdale's gift box (back when gift boxes were sturdy and worth keeping) and made dividers out of shirt cardboard. At this point, I think that box is 30 years old.

I do still need to address the mantle, and vacuum up the needles, and install the skirt, so no tree picture. Yet.

07 December 2019

On the 7th day of ...

My kid is taking the SAT today, December 7th.

She took the PSAT on October 19th.

If SAT scores are generally available three weeks after taking the test, when are PSAT scores available?

a) three weeks after the PSAT
b) 17-22 days after the PSAT
c) on or about November 9th
c) on the 7th day of never
d) on December 11th


If you answered a, b or c, you were being logical, thinking that the PSAT scores should come back in a similar time frame to the SAT scores. If you answered d, there's no hope and you are not going to a college that isn't test-optional. The correct answer is e. Why does it take longer to score the PSAT than the SAT, and why are the scores not available BEFORE the poor child has to take the SAT?


06 December 2019

On the 6th day of ...

Overheard one day:

Oak trees drop half their leaves in the fall and the rest in the spring. And then there's the spinners, crappers and nuts.

We have a big oak out in front of our house. I don't mind the leaves, but wow this was a banner year for acorns. I got beaned outside a couple of weeks ago - ouch! And I found one in the cellar the other day. How. Did. It. Get. There? I especially like to crunch the acorn caps - I will serpentine up the driveway to make sure I step on all the upside down caps, because it's fun and I haven't grown up yet.

05 December 2019

On the 5th day of ... Sniffing

You know what's creepy? The US Postal Service scans all of our mail (the envelopes, not the contents) before it ends up in our mailboxes. And if you sign up for "Informed Delivery", you get an email every morning with pictures of the envelopes, so you know the Christmas card from Great Aunt Margaret is gonna be there when you get home.

I get those emails - which I do not remember signing up for. I find it both really creepy and a bit akin to rubbernecking past a car wreck. Like, I'm not going to unsubscribe, and I do generally look at that email in the morning, but... It's one thing for the post office to scan all the mail, but then to email it to me (and you and everyone else)? Now everyone who is reading my email knows what snail mail I'm getting.

I don't mean reading my email, like reading over my shoulder or something - but any unencrypted email sent from here to there can be picked up and sniffed by who knows? I'm not really a conspiracy theorist, but occasionally the very idea of the cloud and the data swirling around "out there" gives me pause. Now that the USPS is sending out millions of emails like this, some hacker is gonna have a field day.

So much for privacy.

US Airmail inverted Jenny 24c 1918 issue

04 December 2019

On the 4th day of ...

Half an index card has been tucked into the spiral bound blank book I carry around, the one where I jot down Broadway shows I want to see and the dimensions of the dining room table and lists of colleges the girl might need to go visit and reminders to transfer money so that the mortgage payment is covered. The half index card says, in my handwriting: "after dining on swan". (The reverse has the address of a woman who lived in such a small town that she had no street address - just her name in Denmark, ME.) (Wait, that probably needs an additional aside: my mother ran a mailing list and index cards were part of the complicated process by which people were added to the mailing list and she couldn't toss an index card with one clean side and forever and ever I will have a stash of blank-on-one-side index cards harvested by Moky because they are both insanely useful and completely full of nostalgia.)

I, of course, couldn't remember WHY I'd written "after dining on swan" on an index card, but clearly it was from something I'd been reading. Oh hail Google Books! Lo and behold, it's a throwaway phrase from The Club (Takis Würger):

Funnily enough, I hated the book - the entirety of my Goodreads "review" is "Eh. I didn’t need to read that. It’s rather ugly."

But that phrase - especially as it sits in the whole sentence - is lovely and evocative. Did she just happen to die following a swan dinner? Or was she poisoned by the swan? What happened to Lady Margaret? And who eats swan anyway‽

03 December 2019

On the 3rd day of ...

Today's #GivingTuesday.

I'm all in favor of charitable giving, but it's one area where I vastly prefer to pay by check. One, I know that the organization is getting all of my money without a fee to the credit card company, and two, it cuts way down on email. So I'll probably ignore the eleventy-seven emails I get for #GivingTuesday, tugging at my heartstrings and requesting the honor of my credit card. I might be a crank that way.

I'm also the crank that requests no tote bag, tee shirt, tchotchke (though I will use your address labels if you send them to me, thankyouverymuch).

There is a newish phenomenon that I've noticed, in the team centered fundraising events, wherein the token gifts are somewhat elevated and are tied to the dollars raised by participants. The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life does this, and the LUNGevity event does this. (Surely others do as well, but those are two I'm familiar with.) You get to choose - a backpack, a coffee mug, an Alexa Dot, a warmup jacket, an Apple watch. Here's the thing - those prizes cost money. Why is the money I raised being used to give me a prize? I want all the dollars to go to research. Sure, I can simply forgo the prize. But what of the others? Why is this even an option?

A couple of months ago, my non-profit employer got an unsolicited contribution in the mail, with the most charming letter:

To Whom It May Concern:

We are a dance competition located in Massachusetts. We host events and invite dance studios to participate in local dance competitions. We have a program that allows the dance studios to donate the funds that would have been spent on their trophies to a special charity of their choice.

We are pleased to present this check as a donation to you on behalf of (__________________).

The check was for an odd amount, slightly more than $100, and we were delighted! Such a win/win - one less tacky trophy out there in the world, and a charitable contribution to boot.

Consider your giving carefully.

02 December 2019

On the 2nd day of ...

With four days off for Thanksgiving, and a winter storm threatened, we finally cleaned up outside. We emptied and stacked the outdoor pots, we put away the porch umbrella, and I cut out the paper wasp nest that got fabricated in the doublefile viburnum.

Up close, it's beautiful, almost like banded sandstone, what with the color changing layer by layer.

I, peculiar, decided to hang it up with a bow - call it a kissing ball!

Christmas is coming!

01 December 2019

On the first day of ...

Despite the fact that our mother was the queen of Christmas, we were - oddly - deprived of the Advent calendar tradition. It is possible that she felt that an Advent calendar tipped too far into religion, given that we were complete and utter heathen pagan atheists.

Last year, in a fit of who knows what, I sent my sister an Advent calendar - 24 days of tea.

Every day, she opened it, and every day she texted me a picture of that day's tea.

This year, she returned the favor: 24 jours de thé à déguster.

I am delighted. And later today, I will have a cup of thé du Louvre - a green tea with apple, plum & quince that calls "to mind a stroll through the Tuileries Garden."

Onward to Christmas!