Saturday, November 29, 2008

Musical Rugs--Take Two

Remember when the MiL and I hauled furniture and rugs around to put down Duchess's rug in the living room? That was so much fun, we thought we'd do it again!

Okay, really, it's not so much fun, but the other rug had been rolled up in the parlor for weeks, along with two rug pads and a bunch of other junk, and we thought maybe it would be nice to clean that up before the hordes swarmed the house for Thanksgiving and saw how feckless and lazy we are.

Shame is a powerful motivator.

So, second verse, same as the first: Drag out all the furniture and cram it in the living room, clean the floor, lay down the rug pad, center the rug, smooth out the wrinkles in the rug, haul all the furniture back in, and then collapse face-first on the pretty new rug in a heap of exhaustion. And then get up and take a picture.

Just so you know beforehand, there is no way of getting a full-room shot of the parlor. Short of trussing myself up from a rope in the middle of the ceiling to get the birds-eye view. I elected to stay on the floor, however, so this is the best I got.

With that in mind, here's Duchess's Rug #2 in the parlor:

This room cries out for a pipe stand and a red velvet smoking jacket.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving Thanks and Eating Potatoes

Well. Did everyone have a fabulous Thanksgiving? Did you consume enough starch to see you through until next Thanksgiving? Lord knows I did. I'm of the school that believes the turkey is an afterthought and the real stars are the bread and potatoes.

We hosted Thanksgiving this year. The MiL has several siblings in the area, and they all trade off hosting all the holidays. This year's feast was prepared for 23 people, though only 21 ended up coming. Only 21. Sniff. A paltry, pathetic number.

We did not raise and butcher our own turkey this year, for the first time in three years. The turkey flock is no more, alas, and so the MiL had to buy a turkey this year. She did admit that there was a certain ease in just cutting open the plastic and throwing the thing in the oven. I don't think she missed the killing, gutting, and plucking this year.

We did raise and butcher our own potatoes, though, because we're hardcore like that.

Everyone who comes brings something, so we didn't have to prepare all the food ourselves, though the MiL did do one turkey, two kinds of stuffing (vegetarian and carnivorous), cranberry sauce, two kinds of pie, and some tarts. I made the mashed potatoes. I think that's a fair division of labor, don't you?

Okay, I'm not a total slug. While the MiL was cooking, I was moving furniture and setting up to accommodate 21 people for a sit-down meal. That means three tables, one in the dining room and two in the living room.

This is the living room:

And look! There's Duchess' rug again!

I didn't get a photo of the dining room because it was crowded with family members seeking to be close to the wine and the woodstove. Wimps.

I did get a photo of all the desserts, though. The MiL's family are renowned for their skill in the kitchen, especially desserts, and pies in particular. So here we have berry, strawberry-rhubarb, lemon meringue, pumpkin, and apple. Plus pumpkin-pecan cheesecake, creme brulee, and green tomato mincemeat tarts, because why not?

Only I and my atrocious photography could make so many beautiful desserts look like dog doo. Apologies to the cooks.

And then there was squash and cabbage and bread. Lots and lots of bread. Olive bread, cornbread, and, OH YUM, the rolls. The MiL's sister makes these rolls for every holiday. They're some kind of overnight yeast dough made into crescent rolls. I love them with a passion you might not think possible for flour and yeast, but I assure you, it is true love.

Oh, and there were also copious amounts of beer and wine. And later, they broke out a handle of whiskey. Helps to settle the stomach, dontcha know.

We have leftovers enough to last a week and a whole lotta napkins to wash and iron. And that's it for Thanksgiving.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

From Me to You

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now get out of here and go eat some turkey. And stuffing. And mashed potatoes. Mmm, mashed potatoes . . .

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When Targeted Marketing Goes Wrong

We're hosting 22 people for Thanksgiving tomorrow. I prefer to ignore that fact (and the floors that need to be mopped) at this moment, and instead discuss . . . Sesame Street.

I got an interesting bit of spam in my Inbox yesterday. It was an exhortation to not miss my chance to buy tickets for a show called "Sesame Street Live: When Elmo Grows Up."

There are many, many things wrong with this.

I have purchased tickets to a show at this particular venue before, so you might think they just send out announcements for all their shows to anyone who's on their buyer's list. Except I went to that show* a year ago, and this is the first such announcement I have ever received.

Last time I checked, I do not have children. (Despite my particular kind of Dog Crazy, I do realize that Mia is not my child, thankyouverymuch.) I would have serious doubts about any adult who goes to a show called "When Elmo Grows Up" unaccompanied by someone under the age of, say, seven years of age. Unless Elmo grows up to become a crack dealer or a male prostitute, this is not an age-appropriate show for me. I don't think I'm the demographic they meant to target.

And anyway, does this not sound like the stupidest idea for a show EVER? I mean, come on. I would much rather see what happens to Oscar the Grouch. Does he ever get out of his garbage can? Do the worms go with him? Does he go to a therapist and discover a new, sunny outlook on life?

Which Sesame Street character would YOU like to see a sequel for?

*"Phantom of the Opera," and A. had to go with me. We went out to eat at a kick-ass German restaurant afterwards. Someone later asked how he liked the show. He said he liked the sausage. He's a great one for culture, that A.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let's Burn Some Cabbage!

Look at me, writing recipes like I'm some kind of foodie. Except this isn't so much a recipe as a method. And do foodies ever write recipes for cabbage? Whatever, cabbages are stupid cheap this time of year. Especially if you're like the MiL, who stopped at a farm stand and bought two of the biggest damn cabbages in the WORLD for $1.50 each. Good food value, if you can get over being intimidated by a cabbage the size of a volleyball. Thankfully, cabbages keep extremely well.


If you don't like cabbage, don't run away. It's just because you haven't had THIS cabbage yet. "This" is Burned Cabbage. That's what my grandmother, Duchess, called it. It's not really burned--it's actually kind of caramelized. Except in the 1960s, your average housewife (Duchess) didn't watch The Food Network and didn't know what the hell caramelization was, and so she called it burned. This is the only way my grandfather, Holy (let's not get started on my grandparents' nicknames at this time, okay?), liked cabbage. Holy also liked scotch and cigars, and he called everybody "Skax." You would have liked Holy.


The MiL calls this "Holy's Cabbage," and this is now the only way that A. likes cabbage, too.

So. Green cabbage will be softer and sweeter, but purple cabbage works too. It will just be a funky color and take a little longer to cook. Core the cabbage and cut it up into ribbons. It doesn't need to be particularly fine, not like coleslaw or anything. And you can leave the pieces fairly long. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a skillet. How much butter is kind of up to you, but you need enough. "Enough" will be about one and a half tablespoons for about half of a normal-sized head of cabbage (which will make three side-dish servings), but if you want to use more, I'm not gonna stop you. When the butter has foamed, dump in the cabbage, stir it all around, then cover and cook until the cabbage is soft, stirring occasionally. Then take the cover off and increase the heat to medium. And now you just cook it. Don't stir continuously, just every once in awhile. Let it brown, but not burn. You don't want black bits in there, just dark brown (although I HAVE literally burned it a little before, and it still tastes pretty damn good, so don't get your panties in a bunch over the exact color of the bits). It will take 10-15 minutes. When it's done, it will look like this:

Messy stove, dirty spoon . . . yup, one of my signature food photos.

I usually add a bit of salt, even when I use salted butter (and I ALWAYS use salted butter--for everything). But that's it. Three ingredients, and the result is meltingly soft and surprisingly sweet.

Try it--you'll like it. And if you don't? Eh. So you're a cabbage hater. There are worse things.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Walls Weep

I know that title sounds terribly literary and promises some kind of beautifully written story that's damn near poetry. Unfortunately, this is me and my life we're talking about, and poetry rarely enters into it. In this case, it is the literal truth that the walls were weeping. Allow me to explain.

Two of the four walls in our bedroom are both external walls, which means they're stone, and north-facing, which means they're colder than a witch's . . . nose. Cold like radiating cold. The room is unheated, except for a space heater that is only meant to keep it from being literally freezing in there. So these cold walls that radiate the cold into the room also suck warm air out.

It's all very pleasant.

Especially because one of these cold stone walls is directly behind the head of our bed, and when we sleep at night, condensation forms on the wall behind us. Imagine, if you will, the fun of reaching behind you when half-asleep to readjust your pillow and brushing against a freezing, wet surface. Cozy.

However, this is something I have come to accept and deal with. In the morning I pull the bed away from the wall, swipe at the wall with a tissue, and it's dry by the time we go to bed that night. Until this weekend.

This weekend we reached a whole new level of wet. I guess it's because the temperature dropped so sharply so fast, and then stayed cold for awhile. Whatever the reason, the stone walls in our bedroom were weeping moisture. The condensation was literally running down the walls. The whole wall was wet and dripping. Wiping them down didn't help. The space heater didn't help. Leaving the door open to circulate air didn't help. Friday night, I couldn't even sleep half the night because my head was so cold, and when I got up on Saturday, I realized my hair was damp from the moisture and our pillows, sheets, and down comforter were wet.

AND, the paint on the walls, the pretty paint that I just applied a few months ago, was starting to bubble and blister. Oh, HELL no. That was NOT okay. Discomfort I can handle. Damp sheets are gross, but manageable. But allowing our newly-painted walls to get all cracked and wretched again was not an option.

This called for serious measures. This called for the brilliant problem-solving abilities of A. Who decided that the best way to dry the room out would be to close off all the heating ducts in the house except the one that goes to our bedroom, and blast all the power of the furnace into that one room. Which is what we did on Saturday night. It was the first time the furnace had been turned on in about a month, and the first time EVER that our bedroom was even reasonably warm. Not tropical or anything--we still slept under our usual flannel sheets, two wool blankets, and the down comforter--but when I got out of bed in the morning, my whole body didn't automatically clench into a full-body shiver because of the cold.

And the walls were dry.

Alleluia and praise A.'s precious name. Worth his weight in pie, that man.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Most Pretentious Euphemism EVER

Yesterday in the Home and Garden section of our newspaper, there was a big article about heating with woodstoves or pellet stoves. Some jackass quoted in the article referred to this sort of heating as "European zone" heating.

As you know, we heat with a woodstove here at Blackrock, and have for some years. So I took a photo to illustrate "European zone" heating:


I guess calling it "huddling around the woodstove in the dining room because every other room will freeze your cojones off" wouldn't sell as many stoves.