Most of the pictures I take are landscapes. Whether it’s of water or land, there are so many it’s hard to pick a few favorites. So, I decided to take a couple from each season. This satisfies my sense of balance and makes it easier for me to make a choice. Hope you like them.
SPRINGTIME IN THE VALLEY
I opened one eye. Just a little. Snow, definitely snow. Falling on my house. My trees. My deck.
“It’s not fair,” I think to myself. “We have to go into Boston tonight. Not snow. No, no, no, NO!” I’ve still got “Can’t Buy Me Love” stuck in my head.
I consider just staying there, under the covers. But my head hurts . Coffee thoughts are milling around. That and the realization that the dogs would need encouragement to actually go outside. They seem to think if the weather is bad, they should be allowed to stay in. Use the floor.
Do we, their humans, go out to the yard to do our business? So how come they have to, huh? Pointing out they are dogs and we are not doesn’t carry any weight with them. They look at me, and I can see little thought balloons: “And your point is?” they are thinking.
I struggle into some P J pants and a sweat shirt. Usually I get dressed before I leave the bedroom. Maybe not fancy, but real clothing, more or less. Hair combed, face washed, teeth brushed. My “face the world” look … but we have a concert this evening and I’m going to have to get properly dressed later. Twice in a day is once too many.
In the kitchen, the platoon of furry faces is waiting. Panting with eagerness. I explain, again, the whole going out thing and like a pack of clowns in the circus, they race, hop, and limp down the stairs. They all try to go out the doggy door at the same time. Lots of scrabbling of paws on the floor. Bunch of clowns.
“One at a time!” I yell, but they ignore me and continue to fight their way out. My headache is getting worse. I click the coffee to “on” and wait. I hear the thunder of paws as all four dogs charge back up the stairs.
“You didn’t DO anything out there,” I reprove them. They only stayed out an eighth of a second. They didn’t have time to do anything. Nonetheless, I give them each a greenie, and they go to their separate places to furtively consume, lest some other dog steal a crumb. I haven’t had a chance to reconnoiter before they are back.
“You haven’t finished chewing yet,” I point out, but it doesn’t matter. One biscuit is not enough. They need another (and another and another) and I give them another one and wish the coffee would brew faster because I’m going to crumple to the kitchen floor and just lay there moaning.
And finally. Enough coffee to put into the cup. We use big cups. With covers. So we don’t wind up with our coffee in our keyboards. Usually I am polite and wait for the coffee to finish brewing before I take some, but this morning, I want it and I want it right now. If Garry wants first crack at the coffee, he can get up earlier.
I know he’s awake, really. I saw his eye open. He was looking at the clock, calculating if he could get another couple of hours of sleep. 10:15 is right on the cusp of “get up or roll over.” It can go either way. I hear him moving around the bedroom, so clearly getting up won.
I got the first cup of coffee. But oh, happy day, the dogs will get another biscuit.
I know it snowed last Thanksgiving too because I have photographic evidence, but I don’t remember. I know it was a terrible and long winter. That it was bitterly cold before Halloween and stayed cold until the middle of March.
It’s not so cold this year. It has actually been a bit warmer than usual, though it’s not warm today. It started snowing — more accurately, sleeting — yesterday morning and has been dribbling icy stuff from the sky ever since. Now, at 3 in the afternoon, it seems to have finally stopped.
Nothing is falling, but the sky is a leaden white that to me, in my unprofessional role of meteorological guru, screams rain. Probably followed by freezing. In other words, ice. We have new snow tires, but they aren’t much help on ice. Nothing, including 4-wheel drive, is much help on ice.
So here are pictures of Thanksgiving Day, 2014. Not the dinner table because nothing is served yet … it’s all in the oven. I can smell it. The best part of Thanksgiving is how good it smells. My nose is singing a Hosanna.
Shaken and Stirred – What’s the most elaborate, complicated meal you’ve ever cooked? Was it a triumph for the ages, or a colossal fiasco?
Once a year, half the population of the Blackstone Valley dusts off their driver’s licenses, takes the old buggy out of storage, and heads for downtown Uxbridge. It’s the day before Thanksgiving … and what the weather people call “a wintry mix” is plopping from above.
The nasty, slushy, sloppy mix of ice and snow falling from the skies is the perfect finishing touch. Over all, when I think “holiday,” I think “expensive” and “work.” Sorry for my lack of spirit, but I think I’m one holiday meal over the line. Fortunately, the kids are doing almost all the cooking this year. If if were up to me, I’d send out for pizza, if anyone was open and delivering. Which they aren’t.
Fancy cooking has fallen victim to the years and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I used to make special dishes for the holiday. I have a bread pudding recipe to die for. Literally. It almost killed a guest one year when, despite active diabetes, he went berserk and couldn’t stop eating it. It’s that good.
I continue to make my cranberry-orange relish and cornbread. The relish is made entirely in a food processor. No one could call it complicated, but it’s a favorite. The cornbread is delicious, but ridiculously easy. It turns out that many fancy recipes are no better than simple ones. And not more popular, either. A lot of people prefer simpler food.
If you do make fancy food, you can watch hours — sometimes days — of kitchen prep vanish in a few minutes, sometimes seconds. It can be a bit disheartening. I used to wonder if anyone noticed what they were eating or if they cared.
I used to make stuffed cabbage. It was as good as anything you could get in a New York deli or restaurant. The recipe took me years to perfect and its preparation was a multi-day event. It wasn’t difficult to make, per se. No special genius required. You merely need to be willing to do everything.
The secret to gourmet food is not skipping steps. Not taking short cuts. Not skimping on rich, expensive, caloric, high-cholesterol ingredients. You have to use the heavy cream; milk doesn’t produce the same results. Do use the entire dozen eggs, the whole pound of butter. Don’t cut back on sugar.
I can’t eat that way anymore and neither can most of us. Or shouldn’t. I’d like to keep my new heart valve for a few years.
So, other than wrapping almost the entire turkey in bacon (it’s just once a year, after all), it’s a pretty simple — large — meal. Turkey. Cranberry relish. Cranberry sauce. Stuffing. Veggies. Hot cornbread. Pies for dessert. No one had time to bake all the pies this year. Usually we have a pre-Thanksgiving baking frenzy, but this year, we bought frozen apple, mince, and pumpkin, leaving only custard to make from scratch tomorrow. You can’t buy good custard pie.
Oh, nearly forgot. Mashed potatoes. Mashed sweet potatoes. Gravy. We forgot to buy cider to drink with the meal. It’s too horrible outside to go back to the store and the roads are a parking lot. All the last-minute shoppers are out there.
I have no idea what we’ll serve in the way of drinks. Oops.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. Whatever you eat, have fun. No fighting at the table.
My Top 10 Cold Weather Songs, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog
With much of the nation having already been visited by cold and snow, it seems like a good time to bring on the winter tunes. Songs by any band with “Cold” in their name is not what we mean here. Nor shall we include song about loves who are as “Cold As Ice” or running “Against The Wind.” Our tunes are really songs about winter, cold, and snow. Some are a bit more symbolic than others, but they will do nicely for my purposes.
Let’s be clear, they are not holiday songs, although some of them only get played in the holiday season. Since the Christmas holiday season seems to start around Halloween and go until New Year’s Day, I guess there is already ample opportunity to hear some of them. You will discover that there is no holiday greeting included in the cold and snowy lyrics. In fact, we will give you some instrumentals just because you can already place them in your winter memory.
Let me start you off with an honorable mention from the movie White Christmas. No I am not sneaking in a Christmas song. This is strictly two minutes of wishing for snow by four big name performers:
There are a number of other songs about snow that may not be classics, but are good nonetheless. Track down “Snow” by Harry Nilsson, for example. Type in “Snow” in a You Tube search and you will certainly see “Snow (Hey Oh)” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. On second thought, you better type in “snow songs” so you can avoid all those home-made videos of people stuck in a snow drift.
Here’s our bottom 5 with everything from a Classical sound to traditional, rock to rolling “down the streets of town” by a snow man. There are winter birds of all kinds if you just let it snow:
10. Wizards of Winter – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
9. Winter – Rolling Stones
8. Frosty the Snowman – by just about everyone with a Christmas Album or two
7. Snowbird – Anne Murray
6. Let It Snow – Frank Sinatra, but there are probably a thousand versions of this by now
The next one earns a place here as much for the back story as anything. This symbolic “A Winter’s Tale” was written by Freddie Mercury from his hospital room overlooking Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The visions he describes are what he could see from his room. He laid down the keyboard tracks and vocals in a Swiss studio two weeks before his death. Queen later finished the song with their parts. It was released as the second song on a posthumous album four years later.
5. A Winter’s Tale – Queen
Winter imagery can be found in a lot of songs by Paul Simon, especially from the Simon and Garfunkel years. A Hazy Shade of Winter was certainly one of their biggest hits and earns a spot on my songs of the Polar Vortex. You will find an intriguing version by the Bangles from years later, but let’s stick with the original.
4. Hazy Shade of Winter – Simon and Garfunkel
One of the most popular songs of the Christmas season is Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson. Although often played only as an instrumental, the lyrics say nothing of the holidays. There is, however, “a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray.” They are rather seasonal as they “pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie,” but the song really is about a sleigh ride through the snow. Find a version with someone singing, if you must. Nothing says “Sleigh Ride” like the Boston Pops Orchestra:
3. Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson – John Williams & The Boston Pops
If you are not sleigh riding through the snow, perhaps you are walking in a winter wonderland. There are many versions of this seasonal classic, but I could not pass by Tony Bennett singing outside in Rockefeller Center. Tony’s nose is so red he could be Rudolph. Despite the frozen crowd, the musicians somehow manage to play as Mr. Bennett looks appropriately cold:
2. Winter Wonderland – Tony Bennett
When I think of cold and snow outside, this is my song. There is nothing that inspires me to go out in a storm. While I enjoyed seeing Joseph Gordon-Leavitt do this with Lady Gaga, of all people, and nothing compares to Ricardo Montalban crooning at Esther Williams or Red Skelton at Betty Garrett in the movies, the best version is Dean Martin and anyone. He recorded the song with a number of people, here with Martina McBride
1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Dean Marin with Martina McBride
This Frank Loesser penned tune won the Academy Award for the 1949 romantic comedy musical Neptune’s Daughter.
Cee’s Black & White Challenge: What is Beautiful to You
Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Contrasting Colors The color wheel is one of the primary tools of anyone who works with graphics. It shows us which colors oppose or complement each other. Most of us know it instinctively, but a reminder can be useful. Contrast generally means the mixing of colors that oppose each other on the […]