SEASONALLY FESTIVE

Festive?

The house looks festive. Lights are lit. The sun is shining on the sleeping dogs and there are Christmas cards spread across the coffee table. It definitely looks like Christmas.

300-table-xmas-eve2-4122016_03

After wrangling the lamb roast from another dimension and the rest of dinner for five yesterday — including two contiguous days of grocery shopping — by the end of the evening, I was beyond dead on my feet. I had moved into that Neverland of “everything … absolutely everything … hurts.” No drugs I have would touch it. There are entire classes of drugs (say NSAID twice, quickly) I can’t take.

 300-table-xmas-eve24122016_01

They are the ones that help, but they turn my stomach to rubbish and are on my “never allowed to take” list. I cheat occasionally, when I feel bad enough. One prescription-size ibuprofen makes a difference. It’s ironic that narcotics help a lot less than aspirin, but I can’t take aspirin. In this I am far from alone since many people can’t handle aspirin or any of the NSAIDs, but it makes dealing with pain incredibly complicated. And annoying. Because this particular issue always pops up at exactly the time when I most want to be functional and active.

300-poinsettia-xmas-eve-24122016_06

It’s the morning after the night before. The night before was tame by anyone’s standards, even mine. If I was previously unaware how my life has changed, mornings like this remind me. We had plans for today, but I woke up coughing, too.

That did it. I threw in the towel. I had been wondering how I was going to get through the day before the coughing started, but that was the straw that did me in. I call, apologized, and cancelled. I don’t even think I’d make it to the car today. I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to cook later. Are you surprised we have leftover lamb? No? Bet you’re not! I wish I had kept some of the gravy, but that horse has left the barn.

It was a great Christmas Eve, but this day is recovery, recuperation, and trying to breathe. In a seasonally festive way, of course.

FESTIVE | DAILY POST

HAPPY SOLSTICE TO ALL – KIM HARRISON

Sunrise - Winter Solstice - New England

Sunrise – Winter Solstice – New England

From Kim Harrison, a happy Hollows Solstice!


 ‘Twas the Night of the Solstice

by Kim Harrison


‘Twas the week before Christmas, and up in the Hollows,
Solstice bonfires were burning, to toast the marshmallows.

The pixies were snug in their stump, even Jenks,
Who claimed he was tired, and needed some winks.

 So I in my parka, and Ivy in her boots,
Were toasting the season, with thirty-year hooch.

When out in the street, there came such a crash,
I thought that it had to be ‘coons in our trash.

Away to the gate, I trudged through the snow,
While Ivy just said, “If it’s Kist, say hello.”

I lifted the latch, and peered to the street,
My face went quite cold.  We were in it thigh deep.

‘Twas a demon, who stood in the headlamps quite bright,
With his coat of green velvet, and his uncommon height.

His eyes, how they glittered, his teeth how they gnashed,
His voice, how he bellowed, his tongue, how it lashed

The street wasn’t holy, so on Big Al came,
As he bellowed, and shouted, and called me by name.

“Morgan, you witch.  You’re a pain in my side.
“Get out of your church.  There’s no place to hide!”

Like hell’s fury unleashed, he strode to my door,
Where he hammered and cursed, like a cheap jilted whore.

But Ivy and I, we circled round back,
To stand in the street and prepare for attack.

“You loser,” I shouted.  “I’m waiting for you.”
And the demon, he spun, taking on a red hue.

Ivy stood ready, and I whispered, “Okay . . .
“If he wants to get rough, I’m ready to play.”

With nary a word, us two girls got to work,
Putting foot into gut, of the soul-sucking jerk.

I circled him quick, with a few words of Latin,
While Ivy distracted him with lots of good wackin’

“Get back!” I yelled out when my trap was complete,
And Ivy somersaulted right over the creep.

My circle sprang up, entrapping him surely,
Al fussed and he fumed, like a demonic fury.

The neighbors all cheered, and came out of their houses,
Where they’d watched the whole thing, like little house mouses.

So Ivy and I, we both bowed real low,
Then banished Big Al, in an overdone show.

But I heard Al exclaim, ‘ere he poofed from our sight
“You won this time witch, but I’ll get you one night!”

– – – – –

Kim Harrison, December 14th, 2005

(Last-minute gift givers, I’ve got your The Turn is coming card for under the tree right here: http://www.kimharrison.net/BookPages/TT/TurnSignedCopy.html )

THE CHRISTMAS LEG

I was planning to make chili. In fact, we had just come back from the supermarket and I had brought it all home with me. The fresh meat, the chili beans. Big sweet onions. Diced tomatoes. We had not finished unpacking when the phone rang.

“My boss just gave me a 13 pound leg of lamb for Christmas,” he said. “We’ve got a great roast.”

“Thirteen pounds? I’ve never seen a leg of lamb that big.”

“It’s huge,” he said. “I’m sending Sandy over with it. She’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Indeed she was. By the time she brought it upstairs, she could hardly breathe and all I could say was “Are we sure that’s lamb? It’s gigantic.”

“Yes,” she said, leaning on the fridge and trying to breathe.

300-lamb-23122016_07

I cleared out the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. By angling it slightly, we got the door closed, but it wasn’t easy. Sandy went home.

Garry and I ate dinner. No big surprise that I was thinking about lamb. I went online to see the latest greatest advice on cooking bone-in leg of lamb. I was pleased to see we have gone back to the “torch it for 15 minutes, then cook the rest slowly” which is how I learned to do it rather than the “medium heat and cook it until it is gray, tough, and flavorless.” The newer information suggests serving it medium rare, at about 135 degrees on the thermometer. The previous generation of lamb recipes says 160 to 170 degrees. Which is desiccated and, in my opinion, inedible.

Some sites are recommending using an oven roasting bag. What struck me was that there was no information on roasts larger than 10 pounds … and most seemed to believe that a leg of lamb will never exceed seven pounds including the bone. I knew I did not have a pan big enough to cook that piece of meat.

I confided my concern to Garry who suggested we weigh and measure it. He brought the scale to the kitchen and set on the stove. We hauled the huge roast out of the fridge and weighed it. The scale said eleven pounds, but I’m positive this scale always leaves off a couple of pounds, so I was forced to believe that my son had it right. Thirteen pounds. This would later be confirmed when we unwrapped it and there was a tag that announced it was a “restaurant cut full leg 13.13 lbs.”

Moreover, it measured 22 inches long. The biggest roasting pan I could find in any store was 17-1/2 inches. I wasn’t sure it would fit in the oven, much less the pan. Garry thought maybe the butcher at Hannaford might be willing to cut off the shank for us.

300-lamb-23122016_05

We had to go buy a few things anyhow, so nothing ventured, nothing gained. I needed a gigantic roasting pan. Extra extra-large turkey roasting bags. Fresh rosemary and maybe a few other fresh herbs. Heavy duty aluminum foil in the extended play version. A veggie to go with dinner. I had been planning to bake corn bread, but the change in menu suggested hot buttered rolls and something green. Which turned out to be spinach because we like it, it’s quick to prepare, and they still had some. Yesterday, the grocery shelves were over-flowing. Today, half the shelves were empty. Denuded. Locusts? No, just Christmas.

While we were at it, I bought little red roasting potatoes and a pound of bacon because we might as well all finish off the evening with a trip to the hospital to deal with pancreatitis, the result of massive over-indulgence in rich food. Sandy and Kaity are doing the dessert specialties and I had a mince-pie which I had promised Garry I would bake. (I did.)

Hannaford said “no way, absolutely not.” If you didn’t buy it there, they won’t touch it. Time for plan B. I called my son.

300-pie-23122016_02

“It’s beautiful. It’s huge. It’s too big for the biggest turkey roasting pan. Do you have anything you could use to hack off a piece? I can deal with everything else, but it has to fit in the pan.”

“I have a Sawzall,” he said, uncertainly. “Not terribly sanitary, but it’ll cut through stainless steel, so I suppose it’ll cut a leg of lamb.”

“That leg will be roasted for hours after we cut it. That should sterilize it. I don’t think we have any other choice. Maybe a restaurant would have the right size pans and ovens, but we don’t.”

300-lamb-23122016_12

And so it went. Owen bought a new Sawzall blade, wrapped the rest of the saw in plastic. Then he and Garry wrestled the roast into submission and removed the top of it, which turned out to be a good size crown roast. I wrapped it up and stowed it in the freezer. Another dinner awaits.

I don’t know exactly how the day will shake out, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. Not sure if I’ll cook it in the bag or do the broil-then-slow-roast. I didn’t expect those herbs to be so chopping-knife resistant, but I realized I have a food processor. I don’t have to do it by hand.

There will be dinner. I will not be beaten by a leg of a lamb. I shall prevail!

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE | HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS – CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE

By Clement Clarke Moore


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads.

1864

1864

And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

1883

1883

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

1886

1886

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen;
“To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

1896

1896

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys — and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack.

1898

1898

His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

1901

1901

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight —
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

STAY CALM AND WATCH FOR SIGNS


CALM: Noun


  1. Quiet and peaceful state or condition.
  2. Peaceful mental or emotional state.
  3. Complete absence of wind, or presence of wind having a speed no greater than one mile (1.6 kilometers) per hour. Also, a period or condition of freedom from storms, high winds, or rough activity of water. (“The calm before the storm.”)
  4. Tranquility.

All is calm, all is bright says the carol. It’s not bright today, but it is calm. Yesterday, a crew of three women armed with cleaning implements and a level of energy I have not had at my disposal in many a long year turned our dusty cave into a clean home. The floor in the kitchen is really completely clean! There is no dust on the picture frames and even the blinds are dust free. Every doll is clean, too. If there was no other reason to celebrate, having a clean house would be huge.

300-lr-clean-22122016_01

But … where are the dogs? Is that barking I hear?

There comes a moment when you have to accept reality, even when it goes against the grain. My ability to take care of this house has been in decline for more than a decade. My get-up-and-go got up and went a decade ago and does not appear to be planning on returning. So this year, instead of buying presents for other people that they probably don’t need and won’t appreciate anyhow, I bought us a clean house. If I can squirrel away a little money every month, I will buy it again in a few months.

I also bought a vacuum cleaner. In the end, not a big professional one, but something with a bit more guts than we have and lightweight so i can actually use it myself. We have a monster machine downstairs that when it was new was too heavy for me and now, is too heavy for both of us.

Dolls and a president

Dolls and a president

We needed a real machine. For several years, we’ve only had a very lightweight electric broom. It’s fine for sweeping up crumbs and light dust, but doesn’t have what it takes to tackle the carpets (very old carpets … 50-year-old carpets) in the offices and bedroom. We are on the brink of a glorious future of peace in our little corner of Earth. A place where the air is clean. Glory to the highest.

Stay calm. Watch for signs!

CALM | THE DAILY POST

THE ANNUAL GEORGE R. STEWART-JIMMY STEWART CHRISTMAST POST

Annual George R. Stewart, Jimmy Stewart Christmas Post


If It’s a Wonderful Life can be a tradition at Christmas, why not this post from a year ago about the connections between that great film and George R. Stewart?  So here it is, with only minor editing to bring it up to date.

But it has a bonus at the end – a radio interview with one of the stars, who was – of course – doing charitable work in the Central Coast area when Tom Wilmer of local PBS station KCBX found him:

It’s A Wonderful Story


This is the time of year when most of us watch the classic Christmas movies.  A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sims, Miracle on 54th Street, A Child’s Christmas in Wales,   (An almost unknown gem, produced in Canada, starring Denholm Elliot); and, of course,  It’s a Wonderful Life.

Here in Arroyo Grande, the local theater,  owned by a man who loves movies, shows one of those classics each Christmas. The admission is a can of food or a toy, to be donated to those in need – in the spirit of the movie.  …To see such a film on the big screen, surrounded by local neighbors of all ages – to see how the children love the film – it is a reminder of what we’ve lost.  Now we watch movies on TV, but usually alone, and always less intently – a kind of digital sampling of the films.  Like a CD, we miss much when we do that.  But in the theater watching Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street  we missed nothing.  And – how long since you’ve experienced this? – the audience clapped and cheered when the judge decided that, yes, Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Claus.  It was a fine traditional twentieth century American Christmas experience.

its_a_wonderful_life_002

For most of the people I know, It’s a Wonderful Life   is the Christmas movie.  So those who are George R. Stewart fans should know about the connection between that classic film and GRS.

George R. Stewart was raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his mother’s family lived.  His maternal grandfather, Andrew Wilson,  planned to be a teacher, and even helped found a school nearby (which would become the prestigious Kiski School).  But he couldn’t earn enough to support his family; so he went into the mercantile business.  He  had a hand in a hardware store there, owned by another Stewart.  That Stewart’s son was James Stewart, also born and raised in Indiana.

George and Jimmy looked alike.  With all the similarities in family history, geography, and physiology, you’d expect they were related.  But they  shared only one possible distant relative.  And they lived in different worlds, in Indiana.  The George Stewarts went to the middle-class Presbyterian church on the flats; Jimmy Stewart and his parents went to the upper-class Presbyterian church on the hill.  GRS went to a public high school out west, Jimmy to a prestigious private school in the east.

Still, the lives paralleled in remarkable ways.  GRS and his family moved to Pasadena; he went to Princeton; and after marriage moved his family to Berkeley, California.  Jimmy went to Princeton, then moved to Pasadena; and spent his life in Southern California.  GRS wrote books, two of which were filmed.  Jimmy made films, like that grand Christmas classic we all love.   GRS worked at the Disney studios for a time, an advisor to Walt himself.  Jimmy worked at many studios, creating characters and stories that touched the hearts of millions.  Ironically, GRS did not like the media, and apparently did not attend movies often, if at all.

Their paths apparently never crossed.  GRS and his family left Indiana for California in 1905, when he was 12.  That was the year James Stewart was born. Out west, nothing in their interests or their work brought them together.  Since the film we now consider a classic failed in its initial run, it is unlikely GRS would have seen it even if he did go to the movies.

Yet, in this Christmas season, we should remember there is one thing they shared; and thanks to the film, we share it with them:  The experience of life in a small American town in the early 20th century.  Like a trip to Disneyland, a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life enfolds us in such a place.  For a time, we walk the streets and meet the people of the town and the time where both boys grew up.

Please follow the rest of the story at: The Annual George R. Stewart, Jimmy Stewart Christmas Post

A CHRISTMAS STORY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

A SIMPLE GESTURE CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING

Marilyn had been doing battle for days with UPS and FEDEX about vanished Christmas deliveries. It was frustrating and not funny. Her frustration got to me too, since I can’t help fight this particular battle. It finally got sorted out, but it left us tired and not feeling any kind of holiday spirit.

300-lr-tree-home-xmas-17122016_046

Add that we have been intermittently under siege from “whatever is going around,”while trying to fend off another of the seemingly endless viruses that leave us feeling old and tired. Factor in the latest appalling, comic strip news from the president-elect. We are bummed out. Wishing the holidays were over before they had begun. Whether you celebrate or not, this ought to at least be a season with hope for a better New Year to come, but this one? Good riddance to 2016, but 2017 was not looking better.

Is there no silver lining? Anything to look forward to?

300-church-uxbridge-common-xmas-19122016_009

Bleak thoughts were racing through my head as I made a deli run to pick up a few items. I flashed a smile to the friendly lady at the counter. Civility is a requirement, even if I’m feeling down. She totaled up my purchases while I pulled out my debit card and started to hand it to her.

“Nope,” she said. “Not need, it’s all paid for.” indicating I wouldn’t need my card.

300-downtown-uxbridge-common-xmas-19122016_017

I looked around confused.

The gentleman standing next to me smiled and softly said, “Happy Holidays”.

I left the deli, a bit stunned, but smiling. Sometimes, the world surprises you. In a good way. Maybe there is hope after all.