Tuesday, December 29, 2009
When we went downstairs Christmas morning, we looked at our presents and no one could figure out what one of the packages was. I asked my mom what it was but all she would say is to look at the shape of the gift. When I looked again I saw it was a ping pong paddle. I tore downstairs. I opened the ping pong table and got it set up. That gift was a very amazing one!!!!!!!!!!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
We had the room to ourselves, as the patients had returned to their rooms from their lunch. We told stories about our mother and father. Some of what we read was from a typed copy we had made long ago of my mother's story of her courtship and marriage to father.
That took up most of the afternoon.
In the other picture are the whole group who visited me that day: on the back row, Grant, Doral, Bev, Kelvin and Anita. On the front row, Boyce, Molly, Dalton Annica, Nadine and Sharon.
I am greatful to Doral and Trent for organizing the blog. Trent is the one who gave Doral the idea that blogging together would be fun and Trent was right.
Doral keeps reminding me that he hasn't seen my first blog yet. So, here it is.
December 23, 2009
Are you sitting down? Don't say I didn't warn you.
Nathan won the award for top grade seven on his football team. Here's a picture. I know, unrecognizable.
I have been approved for Professional Development in Austin July 25-28. Hope you haven't changed your mind, Trent. In my application, I am flying. I am thinking of modifying that to driving so the whole family can come. We'd stop at Yellowstone and Boulder Colorado on the way, make a couple weeks of it. Can you set us up in your sweet guest suite, Trent?
Andrew is potty trained.
We have 3 paper routes. So we're spending CEve and Cday in Cardston, but that's it. Nathan is saving for a laptop. Alicia doesn't know what she's saving for. Chelsea is buying stuff. She doesn't get up very often, so it's not that much stuff. I did a unit on child labour in my social studies class. It truly is the future of our economy.
Mom and dad were ahead of their time.
We did a spy party for Chelsea's birthday. None of her friends screamed when they found plastic bugs on the treasure in the dark basement. They just tossed them into the hall.
We made a gingerbread castle.
Will post the pictures soon.
Glad to hear the plans for Alicia's London trip are proceeding.
Nathan is becoming interested, which is to be expected.
2 more days.
Teague and Cheri
She offers free lessons to anyone who want to learn how to make them. As well she had learned how to make the two kinds of reindeer that grace other trees. The one made of clothes pins and the second of popsicycle sticks and then hung on the tree.
The third decoration is on her cheek.
How is that for a sparky festive tattoo.
The beautific look on her face is from ear plugs you can see for she is listening to music on the couch.
The late evening brought 3 more guests to Citadel Heath, the Treleavens. Zach, within 10 minutes of arriving, had lost one of the important video pieces that was in his hand when he came in the door.
So a search began, upstairs, downstairs, through the garbages, under toys, over counters, parents wondering why there isn't a way to attach some kind of locator to toys that can be lost.
The lost toy was located where? Down in the cracks between the cushions of the couch, the first place anyone would look if they were searching for money.
Gabe wore a new red Santa fur-trimmed hat for much of the evening. A Santa hat he said, one that he had just got that day. Nobody could enjoy the social events of the season more than he. The Treleaven families got together for Chinese food at Shirley and Ron's on the 24th, a long standing tradition for them.
Art and Marcia cooked a turkey on Christmas day and Marcia's sisters joined them for festivities. When Gabe heard that Alex and Duncan would be at Doral's & Anita's, he wanted to join that party as well. Go, Gabe, go.
Audra was present at the party, quietly present, making her way through each room, her little cast showing just above her fingers. She is invisible -- going upstairs, and downstairs, barely at knee level for most of us. She sat on her mother's lap for a while, since she has now forgiven her for leaving for a week.
Marcia was wearing a beautiful red sweater which I tried to scam off of her, or at least have my name go on the top of the list of people she is going to give it to when she is tired of it.
"You can borrow it, but there is no chance that I will be giving it away. I have had it for 20 years. Wyona knit it. Yes, it is beautiful and it is not leaving my possession."
I wonder why Audra wouldn't go directly to Marcia when she returned home. An hour, it took her, Marcia said. I wonder if it wasn't because she was in shock after losing her beloved primary caregiver, and now having found her again -- paralyzed with happiness, I think.
Soon it was late. The evening had come again. The sky had darkened. Some were packing up to leave for home.
A a new family treasure had been pulled from behind the Christmas tree and placed by the hearth -- to go above it.
Something Doral has beening eyeing for a while now. A large screened TV. The Johnson's last TV was $800 and lasted 10 years -- about $70 per year or $7 a month.
They are hoping to get the same wear from the new model.
She woke her parents and siblings at 1 am. .
Their family has a triple present tradition: opening the gifts Santa leaves under the tree; opening the gifts from friends and family; enjoying the present game with the guests when the meal is done.
I missed part one. I tell the kids that they can call me anytime they know Santa has arrived. Making that call is not even on their agenda Christmas day. Getting up at 1 am may be something that happens in other families. Christmas Eve it is hard to sleep.
The Johnson kids have premiere parents who allowed them the gift opening at that time of the morning/night. And then back to bed for the Johnsons where again in whose house, it was the night before Xmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring.
Dalton, up again at 7 am when I got there. Doral and Anita watched the kids open the gifts. I had my camera out for my second annual Christmas Day photo shoot, an hour an a half that charms me. My technique is improved this year. I figure out more quickly that the reason I can’t see through the viewfinder is that I have not yet taken the cap off of the lens. I know about that slight delay after the snap of the picture, the one that gives me the image of someone running in front of the camera instead of capturing the moment I thought I was seeing through in the frame.
And I am faster with other people’s shots – taking advantage of the moments when Anita poses the kids for their own Christmas morning staged picture, wishing I could capture Dalton’s voice on the picture where he uses ventriloquism to tell her that he can’t keep this smile on his face any longer without his face cracking. I did get a better shot than this one, but this is my favorite, for there Meighan is, scrunched down, being leaned on, but she knows to smile for just this minute and then the whole thing will be over with. I can almost hear the sigh in her head from the look on her face.
Doral assigned Ceilidh and me the punch, saying that since I put the Holiday Punch recipe on the blog, he thought we might be interested in that assignment. Ceilidh gave everyone their choice of drinks: Sprite, Coke, mango juice or our holiday punch of equal parts pineapple, orange and cranberry juice topped up with a splash of Fresca and floating cranberries. Anita provided the personalized ornaments on the stemware – everyone with their own sticker on the base of their glass, a sticker out of the craft box, an idea she picked up from a friend.
Ceilidh and I practiced offering beverages – next year we will be as good as waitresses, add more choices, perhaps even a slice of lime in the Coke, or making the mango juice seem preferable , or at least a choice, for at the end of the evening, that lid hadn’t even been cracked on that bottle.
I had to ask Anita about the different shapes of my own stemware, why one seemed taller and and other more bowl shaped. She explained that we were drinking from a bowl shaped glass, know as a red wine glass and that the elongated shaped vessel was for white wine. That is the moment when the penny dropped for me: why I was so confused when the red wine glasses I purchased at London Drugs turned out to be clear.
Doral was reading the instructions on how to put the turkey in the portable roaster. “Use it only 3 times a year,” he said, “and you have to read the instructions every time. Shortly he had the ham in the oven, was mashing the potatoes and adding cream, butter and garlic to them. “Ten pounds of potatoes is too much for this small crowd,” Anita had told him, but it was hard for Doral to stop and peeling and mashing and adding the cream, butter and garlic. He finished by saying, “Next year I am really going to remember Duncan’s allergies and leave out the dairy.
“We are going to be meat eaters today,”articulated Steve.
I didn’t write about Duncan’s Christmas meal, since seeing a picture of his plate will be enough evidence for the reader of this blog. One sweet potato! Duncan and Dalton had not plated up when all of us were satiated and wishing we had eaten less.
“You didn’t call us,” they said. “We kept playing.”
There were olives stuffed with cheese, stove top dressing, salads, sweet potoatoes, soft buns, crusty buns and juice au turkey.
On the red cabbage salad topped with blue cheese and toasted pecans recipe, I must write that 4 cups of red cabbage might be enough for 100 people if it is served on Christmas day. I heard Doral saying he has something he must remember for next year as well. In the grand scheme of things, it may be next year when he remembers what it was that he was supposed to remember from last year. I, on the other hand, will have the note on my recipe, but will not be able to find the recipe again.
Snacks of Cheesies, chips, orange-chocolate, and bridge mix were on every table. Anita’s community cookie exchange was evident on the tray of assorted cookies: rum balls, Nanaimo squares, hermits, cherry-topped whipped shortbread, a shortbread Score-filled square and her own individual cherry-topped cheese cake.
I heard Ceilidh tell Rebecca, “My mom made these and they were a lot of work – she made them with love.”
Anita said that she started out to make four dozen but ended up with 7 dozen. The recipe is a Treleaven family treasure and on the phone Shirley told Anita the biscuit that forms the bottom of the cheesecake fits into the bottom of the small paper cup. Anita didn’t know until too late for her to return to the store, that she had purchased the mini-small paper cups, so the part Ceilidh described about the confection being a lot of work, was that Anita spent a lot of time cutting down the biscuit so that it would fit the bottom of the mini paper cup.
I ate seven of them – after finishing off my entrée which was spilling over the edges of my dinner plate.
I asked Kelve at what age he thinks it is that the meal on Christmas day, trumps the gift-getting. Food was the further topic of conversation at our table. We rehearsed the scene we all remember from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, the place where Scrooge throws down a shilling to the boy who goes to fetch the turkey for the Cratchet family, for that is the scene where some of us get our first reference to Camden town which you might want to follow below.
'What's to-day, my fine fellow?' said Scrooge.
'To-day?' replied the boy. 'Why, Christmas Day.'
'It's Christmas Day!' said Scrooge to himself. 'I haven't missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!'
'Hallo!' returned the boy.
'Do you know the Poulterer's, in the next street but one, at the corner?' Scrooge
'I should hope I did,' replied the lad.
'An intelligent boy!' said Scrooge. 'A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they've sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there - Not the little prize Turkey: the big
'What, the one as big as me?' returned the boy.
'What a delightful boy!' said Scrooge. 'It's a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck.'
'It's hanging there now,' replied the boy.
'Is it?' said Scrooge. 'Go and buy it.'
'Walker!' exclaimed the boy.
'No, no,' said Scrooge, 'I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell them to bring it here, that I may give them the directionwhere to take it. Come back with the man, and I'll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I'll give you half-a-crown.'
The boy was off like a shot. He must have had a steady hand at a trigger who could have got a shot off half so fast.
'I'll send it to Bob Cratchit's!' whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. 'He shan't know who sends it. It's twice the size of Tiny Tim. Joe Miller never made such a joke as sending it to Bob's will be!'
The hand in which he wrote the address was not a steady one, but write it he did, somehow, and went down-stairs to open the street door, ready for the coming of the
Poulterer's man. As he stood there, waiting his arrival, the knocker caught his eye.
'I shall love it, as long as I live!' cried Scrooge, patting it with his hand. 'I scarcely ever looked at it before. What an honest expression it has in its face. It's a wonderful knocker. Here's the Turkey. Hallo! Whoop! How are you? Merry Christmas!'
It was a Turkey! He never could have stood upon his legs, that bird. He would have snapped them short off in a minute, like sticks of sealing-wax.
'Why, it's impossible to carry that to Camden Town,' said Scrooge. 'You must have a cab.'
The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he recompensed the boy, were only to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his chair again, and chuckled till he cried
A new chamois “as-seen-on-TV” cycled around the room, the Carter-Johnson’s hoping that they would end up with it so that they would wipe Kiwi’s feet with it when she comes out of the shower.Lots of movies were in the game this year. And a super-warm fleece blanket. Among other gifts, I broke home a tool belt -- suede -- very nice to go with my new hobby, and a vegetable chopper, tried out right away by Duncan and Dalton.
Fourteen people present, sixteen gifts and a new opportunity. After the last of the fourteen of us opened our gifts and made our willing and unwilling exchanges, there were still 2 opportunities left for exchanges for the unknown gifts at the centre of the room.
I had a note from Martin Lingenauber, who reminded me that his favorite part of Christmas last year at Citadel Crest Heath was the family present game. We have been playing it for a long time, haven’t we?
My all-time favorite parlor game has no name. I got to play it again on Christmas day, since 4the Settlers Game crowd wasn’t there. I learned the loose rules of my game from Catherine and Eric Jarvis. Everyone writes on pieces of scrap paper, as many words as they can think of – ones their team are going to say, once they are coached with hints, clues or definitions of the word. So, it was the Carter-Johnsons (Steve, Rebecca and Alex) vs the Johnsons (Arta, Kelvin and Matiram Poon).
“We shall win,” I taunted the other side, “for I have a medical doctor and Dr. Dictionary on my side.
“We shall see,” said the other side.
Sometimes the words in the pot are so difficult that we have to find out afterwards, whose idea that word was. My personal favorite was Ceilidah’s entry “p,b & j”. She had missed the early part of the game where I explained, no acronyms, no proper nouns. I had no idea she might want to play, but she joined us half way through the game, so we began to print instead of use cursive style writing. Her mom coached here when the words were too hard. She rose to the task of being one of the top scorers.
Alex was right when he said that what was written on the paper didn’t make that much sense to him. His team called out to him, “Give us something it rhymes with, because that one-minute time frame to get as many definitions out of your mouth as possible, needs to be used up in productive ways. Alex could only think of his dog’s name as a rhyming word, so he shouted out, Kiwi. From that clue Rebecca guessed “peanut butter and jelly [sandwiches] “.
How is that for a family who works together to whip the other side with their good answers. Rebecca frames the talent as their family’s random OCD-ness.
To Alex’s a-typical clue, “Something that lives on the side of your head,” came the answer, an ear. Later in the game, a word that seemed impossible to get kept being tossed back into the bowl of words. Kelvin had tried to get at it with out team: “a period of time”, “time in the past” and whatever specific time period I tried to give him (the Renaissance, Medieval, the Romantics, the Puritans) , I could not get the right answer to his clue.
When Alex picked out the same word, he gave the clue again “something that lives on the side of your head”, which we all knew by that time was the signal for the word ear to be called out again. Still we could not get at the mystery word, which turned out to be era, the letters of ear scrambled.
Into the game was inserted the longest word in the English language which the Carter-Johnsons can all spell, pronounce and define. Do not take them on as a team unless you are prepared to face defeat. Oh yes, for next time, the longest non-technical word in the English language is … Floccinaucinihilipilification: Defined as "the act or habit of estimating as worthless" by the Oxford English Dictionary, this 29-letter mouthful is perhaps the longest non-technical word to appear in a dictionary. Read more about long words on Ciffsnotes.
When we took our early morning ride to Citadel Crest Heath, I drove along John Laurie, enjoying the Christmas-day beauty of Nose Hill, the low prairie grasses speckled with snow, dark lines in the snow where hikers had criss-crossed paths on the hills, the groups of sledders keeping their balance while pulling their new toboggans up steeper knolls.
On our way home we slipped down 14th Street passed the “The Lion’s Club Festival of Lights” where the lights are turned on from 7 to 10 pm every night from Nov 28th to the end of December. We used the sidewalk lane dedicated to slow driving vehicles. Some families were out of their cars and walking down through the coulee’s, getting up closer to the light displays: Christmas written in many languages, a cowboy Christmas by an open campfire, the skeletons of tee pee poles lit up, and a locomotive, representing the coming of the RR to Alberta.
When we were unpacking our boxes to come inside, I could hear carolers singing outside of the back door of the house next door.
On my wall is the Johnson Family 2010 magnetic calenda, a gift from Anitar: the picture of the wedding in one corner; Catherine’s genealogy tree in another and all of us in a picture at the bottom. A miracle, all together in the same spot on the same day. A look at the calendar reveals Xavier, hand in pocket, standing on one foot; Dalton with his arms around Tom and Duncan, the flower girls in mauve dresses, David in a purple shirt
A moment of happiness for all of us.
Friday, December 25, 2009
I was taking pictures of decorations around the house. I asked Meighan if she wanted to have a picture with her sock. She hopped up on the couch and showed me these pink socks. Apparently, the pink socks are more interesting to her than her Ruldoph the Red Nosed Reindeer Christmas sock.
Ceilidh took her Hannah Montana decals right up to her room and put them on the wall. I haven't seen transfers like this before. They peel off of their backing and wipe right onto the wall -- can even be moved when we got them going crooked.
Anita gets a present. A surprise present. She didn't know the book was out yet and was right to the table of contents before the wrapping paper had hardly hit the ground.
Monday, December 21, 2009
No more late sunrises, no more early sunsets. We begin to climb back into longer daylight hours and in no time green grass will appear and the sun will be shinning for us.
At least that is my fervent wish.
For more info on the solstice possibilties, click on this Christian Science Monitor link.
Today we stood on the Greenwich Meridian. Yesterday we saw the classy Camden people and had a free tour of the Military Museum (Greg being the tour guide). Saturday we saw the sunset at Stonehenge. The days before that we saw wonders at the British Museum, took a day trip to Hampton Court Palace, kept our wallets shut at Liberties, and just so many other fun things. I don't know how we fit it all in, but we got through our list.
I wish I could extend my list and extend my trip, but I don't think I want to miss Christmas with our kids. See you on Wednesday.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Richard walked in with a small tupperware container at about 7 pm.
"Come to borrow something?" I asked from where I was kneeling on the floor, putting wax on the hardwood.
"Yes," he said as he was leaving out the door again. "Ice for my tooth. I just knocked it out eating something. I have a phone call in for some emergency dental work."
Now two hours later I phoned his house. The new dentist at Stonehockers, Curtis Holmes, has met Richard, put the tooth back in and Richard is home again.
Richard has what he wants for Christmas: two front teeth.
Zoe and I went to the last bowling event of the year this morning. We actually went twice. The first time was to bowl. The second time we went to the bowling alley was after we returned to Chisholm and she got out of the car. That is when she noticed she still had her bowling shoes on.
"I guess we have to go back?"
Yup, I thought. We might never find her real shoes again if we wait until bowling begins in the middle of January.
The Fairfax Bowling Alley is in the Pacific Rim Shopping Centre. I thought I would go shopping in all of the Chinese shops there, while Zoe bowled, but I found myself interested in the party that was going on and didn't get out of the bowling alley.
Food for the homeless circled the trunk of the the large decorated Christmas tree. Santa walked around with his ho-ho-ho's, speaking to everyone. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year's greetings were freely passed out among friends, along with many hugs.
Japanese oranges and cookies were on a table for a short time. After the announcement that there were treats for the bowlers, the line-ups around the table were efficient. Not a crumb was left. Zoe did the line twice. Opted out on the oranges and in on the cookies.
One of the organizers had a list in her hand, something like the lists I carry. I remarked to her that we are the same -- lists on napkins. She said that this list in her hand was pressed there by someone who had to leave early: a list of names of people who needed to be taken home in the Access taxi's and handibus, and she was now to check off that everyone had their ride home.
"That will mean that I stay here until the last pick-up is done. A little longer than usual. I haven't had time to decorate for Christmas," she said. "Christmas 2007 my mother-in-law had a stroke and that took all of my time. Last year the contractors who were working on my house were behind schedule and we were in the middle of so many renovations that there was no use pulling out something for Christmas. And now ... so much going on with Special Olympics Bowling," she said, "that I haven't decorated. My husband's business hours are 9 am to 9 pm and he is not well enough work those hours, so I am doing it. I have been over at the business and now here helping the athletes. I wonder if it will matter if I wait until next year to decorate."
I suggested to her that she decorate in January and then just leave it up all year, which would at least make her ready for Christmas 2010.
I thought about another friend, Polly Steele, who calls the decorating of public spaces that she does, random acts of beauty.
I was trying to find a few words to capture the selfless Christian charity I was watching during the bowling event: a woman choking and someone going over to see if she was alright; two girls, hand in hand, best friends, wandering aimlessly between their chances to bowl; two care-givers coaching their clients about appropriate greeting behavior.
One couple were semi-necking in the corner. I said to the woman in charge, "I guess someone is going to have to interfer over there," for I had heard Richard say that budding romances are discouraged at bowling.
She turned her head to take a look and said, "Well, I don't have to deal with that. Those are another group, not our people."
That really made me laugh -- relief that she wasn't going to have to deal with at least that problem.
I got to the place in this post above where I was trying to figure out what was going on for me today. What it was that I sat watching for three hours.
Random acts of kindness.
One of this year's Christmas joy highlights for me.
At 11:30 pm, I was talking to Doral and Anita, wondering what I could bring to Citadel Crest Heath for dinner on Christmas Day. I was further questioning the Johnsons about how many people would be there. They said that when they invited guests over for Thanksgiving, one by one the people phoned to say they couldn't come, so their family ate that turkey alone, and perhaps it might be the same this Christmas.
Doral was planning on cooking a ham and a turkey. The community turkey. I asked what that was. Doral said that the women on the block got together and bought a turkey for a block party and have stored it in his freezer. Bought in September and still there, he asserted with passion and so he thinks it is time for that meat to become dinner for a different community -- us.
Anita was not in favor of that action.
I told Doral that as a landlord, I have learned from Richard, that what is left at your house is not yours until 6 months has passed, so we will have to find another turkey.
I was going to buy the buns at the Coop for the meal, I told them. One day Moiya told me that the tray buns there are as good as the ones we can make at home. That was enough for me to sign onto buns from the grocery store.
Doral warned me though, that there will be guests with milk and cheese allergies, which put me back into the mode of thinking, make the buns. Afterall, who am I to spoil Christmas by presenting food that won't work for some of the guests.
Then Doral added that Bonnie, Joaquim and David will be there for dinner. I told him that was last year -- not this year. He was certain he had talked to Bonnie last week and she had run that by him. So pinning down the number of guests to be fed is a job for the future.
So now -- the dilmena I was facing. Is it better to have only milk, cheese, meat and butter for the meal -- thus limiting how much some of the guests will eat.
Or shall we go with a lactose-free, vegetable laden meal? Again, limiting what some of the guests will eat. Healthy, but not a meal sounding like a Christmas feast made in the queen's kitchen with double cream gracing the plum pudding and all.
Anita said, "Only the Johnsons would think up something like that -- a meal no one can eat."
"Not the Johnsons. Not the Johnsons. This is Pilling humor. We can't blame the Johnsons."
Yesterday, in between cutting in the last coat of paint around the top of the front room, filling in the holes in the pantry molding with white wood filler, and mudding some of the holes on the living room walls, I remembered that the gas tank on my car was reading empty when I drove over in the morning.
I slipped up to the Coop to get gas -- at which time I found out I was at the 16th Ave and 64th Street Coop, one doesn't have a gas bar -- as opposed to the 24th Ave and 52nd Street one that does. How am I supposed to know that? I am new to the Penbrooke neighbourhood.
I had seen a mom and pop Latin American restaurant on the way to the gas station, advertising empenadas, and wondered if Trell would like those. I was past the intersection where I should have turned by the time all of that went through my mind.
I continued up to the Coop where, since I couldn't fill up with gas, I got their Hot and Spicy Thai Chicken Wings to go, which Trell and I shared for lunch.
Two wooden chairs, an industrial garbage can by our side into which we tossed the bones, and the food laid out on a 3 riser step-ladder between us. Trell was reminiscing about the past and while he acknowledged that there wasn't much money, he wanted to remark that there was plenty of food, more than he saw on the table at his friend's houses.
Then Trell said, "And you always had the table set. Set well."
That might mean that we all had a napkin, a plate, a glass, a knife and a fork.
The bar isn't quite as high now, though Trell and I did each have a bowl on our laps, which only means there still is a bar ... a low bar.
The lunch conversation was still equally enjoyable.
Fit for the table of a queen.
We just didn't have her table deckers working for us.
Friday, December 18, 2009
A few days later, Leo got out his lego trains and track and the kids helped him set up a track around the tree. They built a present car (with mini lego presents), got the engine and tender ready, and around the tree it went. At one point Xavier took his digital camera, put it on a flatbed, turned on the video function, and sent it around the tree. It is a hilarious video. I will have to see if we can download it to the blog.
Tonight we will start a new tradition -- making gingerbread houses. We got a great cast iron mold to make the cookies (at Lee Valley Tools), and Leo is stopping at the Bulk Barn to load up on candy. Leo's dad used t make spectacular gingerbread houses. It will be fun to see how the kids first ever houses turn out. A friend of mine told me they always put little gingerbread people inside their house as a surprise for whoever gets to break it open. Fun.
Hope you are all getting you fill of Chrismas goodies.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
1. Richard and Miranda’s wedding – I liked the mauve dresses on the little flower girls, the ceremonial words share by a hippie justice of the peace and a law professor, the dancing all night [I had forgotten I can do the Congo line], two roasted pigs and the wedding breakfast waffles
2.The Easter Monday LaRue AGM
3.Retirement – As my brother-in-law, Ralph Sabey predicted, retirement, the best job of a lifetime.
4.London in the Fall – museums in the mornings, markets in the afternoons, the theatre at night; then practising the dance moves we had seen on stage when we got home from the theatre in the late evening.
5. The Camp and the Ramp Camp – especially the legend of the Half Man/ Half Goat, roasting marshmallows, holding the skull to share a story, seeing the space station as it passed by , Gabe’s bag(s) of treats for all, singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and “The Quarter-Master’s Store”, and the walks back up to the cabins for those who can’t make it through the night … yet.
6.Making Home Depot my best friend – just today I was trying to find where I put my nail set. My $5.39 nail set. I have wanted to buy a tool box but I am afraid Richard, David Wood and Glen would mock me since they carry their tools in wooden and cardboard boxes. I shall do as they do -- invest my money in the tools.
7.Lunch with Judge Claire L’Heureux Dube. Did this really happen to me?
8.The Polygamy Workshop in Victoria – I was coerced by Rebecca both to write a joint paper and to go the event. Still the workshop ranks up with one of the outstanding events of a lifetime – not writing the paper. That was excruciatingly painful. But listening to the other papers from across the nation. I didn’t go to sleep in those sessions. Or for nights before hand.
9.Bread Making at the Lake – Ceilidh can punch down the bread for me. How sweet is that? Shared work.
10.David Camps and Meighan Johnson’s Art Work – free form, some three feet high, created with lovely blue pastels in less than 10 minutes, -- on the porch, the outside stucco, all along the basement wall, up the stairs and in the bedroom halls. Move over Picasso. Enter Camps and Johnson.
Monday, December 14, 2009
After lurking for a while on this list I thought I better put in a word or two. If you are at all plugged into the gaming crowd (of which I am not), you will know that “Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2” or COD6 is the must have game for the xmas season. Along with an RESP, Alex has his own savings account with a chipped access card. I said that he could use his money to buy the game and gave him is bank card to make the purchase. He completed the whole transaction like a pro, putting in his card, selecting the correct account and then putting in his PIN at blazing speed (and blocking out potential would be wondering eyes buy moving his body around the terminal). I guess it is all part of their surroundings. I know for Rebecca, when she got her chipped card, she missed her PIN three times in a row and therefore her card was locked.
Today we are facing the chance of snow; Panic! People are already booking off early today so that they can get home before the accumulation starts (at least 1-2 cm predicted). Unlike last year where I thought my all seasons could take the snow (proven wrong by being stuck at Arta’s house until Glen was able to pour enough gravel on the snow to get me out), I have purchased snow tires. I did have a tear in my eye after leaving Canadian Tire 1000$ lighter than when I entered but now I am at least ready to tackle the hills around Merritt and Rogers pass.
Last night (Sunday) Rebecca wanted to go into work to clean up a few things. It was 7pm, I had the boys in front of a great French movie (Les Visiteurs – Jean Reno) so I said go ahead. At 4am, I finally phoned her work number as I had hit my time limit without having to pop one of Bonnie’s magic blue ‘calming’ pills. No answer. So what to do with no vehicle, sleeping boys and a wild imagination. I decided that I could ride my bike over to the university to at least check to see if the van was still in the parking lot. I was getting dressed to go when Rebecca did call back. In her words, it was the only time she had left the office the whole night. So she made it home, Kiwi let the house know that she was back, and I was ready to get some sleep to see it was already 5 so I might as well stay up.
In anticipation of a long day,
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Am I the only person left in the world who boils the turkey bones?
My mother did it.
I do it.
I know that Rebecca is not going to do it. She doesn’t cook turkey and so isn't going to have the bones to deal with.
I know Bonnie isn’t going to do it … to a turkey that someone else cooks.
But someone might be interested in traditions of the past. I came across the perfect recipe and the perfect method, described below.
When someone else is cutting the meat off of the turkey, have them put the bones, the whole carcass, even the giblets that were too frozen to take out of the turkey 5 hours previously -- have them put all of that into a large pot as they take the meat off of the bones. Then fill the pot with water and let it simmer 3 to 6 hours … while the meal is eaten, the clean up done, and then the last joy, a turkey bun with cranberry sauce is consumed when there is space in your stomach to do so again. Then strain the broth and throw out everything else.
Toss a peeled and quartered onion, a couple of carrots and 12 to 20 peppercorns in with the bones that are going to be boiled, as well as filling the pot to the top with water. When the broth is separated, throw out everything else, let the broth cool outside in the winter weather, cool, and skim the fat off of the top before you freeze the 4 litre pail of broth you now have to use when making soup later in the month.
Alternately, you can let the solid part of what was boiled, cool, and pick off the meat that has come away from the bones. My mother did that. I do that. But I toss out the onion and carrots which are pretty well boiled beyond recognition.
Someone else besides me has to remember that Wyora used to make egg noodles to go into the broth that was made from the boiled turkey. I hated that meal when I was a kid. When I was married, I asked her to show me how, since by then I noticed that many other people used to think that was a delicacy.
Here is how she created home made egg noodles. She took 3 eggs and beat them with a whisk. Then put in enough flour to make a soft dough. Rolled out the dough by taking a few pieces of it at a time and making it super thin, then cutting it into strips about 3 inches wide and six inches long. The strips were put on top of each other, flour dusted between each layer, and then cut very finely into thin noodles. She stressed to me – cut them thin. And then she made me practise -- very thin.
She brushed the noodles apart, easy because of the flour between each layer. and let them dry on the counter.
When the thickened broth with lots of turkey in it came to a boil, she dropped the noodles in, leaving all of that extra flour on the counter. Just the noodles into the pot -- for a fine meal from the past.
I will give a demonstration to anyone who asks, if you want to know more – either about the old custom of boiling the bones or making the noodles.
And now, continuing on the theme of making food at Christmas time, Moti, the roomer from Nepal, made a carrot cake. At midnight. The time the roomers like to cook the best. An 8 x 12 inch pan of carrot cake with cream cheese icing as thick as Wyona adds to hers.
Since he came to our house, unschooled in the ways of cooking, I couldn’t figure out why he could go straight from having no kitchen skills to making carrot cake in 3 months. I asked him what happened. The other guys were equally suspect and kept asking him, "Are you sure Arta didn't help you with this?"
He explained that at work, they all brought ingredients for someone else to make the cake and he was in charge of getting the carrots, the cream cheese and the cassonade sugar for the cake. He bought too many carrots, too much cream cheese and too much cassonade sugar, so he came home and made another cake. Afterall, though he is not a cook, he doesn’t like waste and he is a scientist, so how hard can putting the right ingredients together be.
“Cassonade?” I said, while eating his cake for dessert. “I know golden sugar, demara sugar, brown sugar, but not cassonade.” He and I interrupted our dinners to go and look at the package of sugar he had. Ah … our country is sweet. Everything labeled both in English and French.
Cassonade -- French for brown sugar.
After our meal, David Lorne slipped back to the university to work at a study group. "Why, oh why would a person go out at -35 degrees," I asked him.
“Easier to get answer to my questions in a study group than to work the answers out myself,” he said, and toque in hand, out the door into the bitter cold he disappeared.
Wyona told me that I could post this Oct 24th letter from her to her kids up on the web. I thought it was an interesting way of doing Xmas shopping, early in October. So ... for a long read, look below and know you are reading Wyona:
I spent a few nights last week searching auction sales throughout southern England. So I found one antique auction taking place on Oct. 22 in a little town called St. Neots in Cambridgeshire. St. Neots is a 40- 50 minute train ride from Kings Cross. Tonia had never been to an auction so we headed out at 8:40 a.m from the train station. I wanted to leave at 7:30 a.m. but that did not happen. The train was to get in at St. Neots at 10:10 a.m.
Tonia and I were aware of the first few train stops but then we got to talking and Tonia saw Huntington pass by. I looked at my watch and it was 10:20 a.m. We went three stops past St. Neots. So we headed back on the next train, got there an hour later, and took a cab to the auction.
There were carrots, potaotes, etc. all being auctioned off at four pounds a bushel or one pound for five pumpkins where Tesco charges 6 pounds for one tiny pumpkin.The people and farmers around were real English country folk. It is a world so faraway from London. For one pound I could have had fourteen plants for my flowerboxes but my flower boxes are too full already.
Tonia and I took a walk around the furniture and general goods barn. Tonia fell in love with a table and six chairs. I fell in love with every other piece of furniture. I went into the little shack to register for a bidding number...I read on line that you have to have show resisdency to register and a passport does not prove residency.So I took a bank statement showing our Cavendish address and that was accepted. Now I can use this card number all over Britain at any Peacock Auction. Greg will have to foot the bill.
After getting the card I asked around until I found someone who would move big stuff to London, however it was going to cost 110 pound and that was a big deterent for me. At 11:00 a.m. the auction began with a good-looking, tall, tie and suit auctioneer beginning the auction. He began by telling the few rules about the auction and thenhe said, "Nell, where are you?" He looked around till she identified herself and then he gave her a public dressing down for not picking up her goods from the week before. She sassed him back and he did the same to her but everyone got the point that you must pick up your stuff immediately.
The auction systematically goes around the room selling every crazy thing youcan think about. There were a number of very nice furniture pieces that I wanted and they went for 12 pounds for a china cabinet, 18 pounds for another. I was just sick at heart. So when it came time to bid on a little stool, I bid. However, I quit at 12 pounds. But when this little folding out side table came on, I knew I could take it home on my lap, so I bid until I got it for 18 pounds. By then Tonia andI knew who the dealers were, who the poorest people were, etc.
This was Tonia's first auction and she was taking it all in and loving it. She was amazed at the speed which the auction moved at...like 10 seconds for items to sell.This beautiful old display case with three glass sides and flocked fabric on the inside went for next to nothing. So after an hour there was a five minute break so the auctioneer could move his stand and gavel to another place in the room. I happened to be in his way and commented that I was sorry for him that he had to move his own furniture around.
There were about 4-7 old antique horns and instruments that went for 20 pounds.Tonia had seen them when we were walking around but I missed them. I would have bought them for Lurene and Tim if I would have had more than five seconds to think about it. Tonia reiterated to me that she wanted that table and chairs if it went for under100 pounds. I was on the other side of the room from her when the table came up for sale, so I bid to 65 pounds and got the two pedestal, one leaf table and six chairs. Then I was so sorry that I had not bought the other pieces offuniture for 12 pounds. However, I still had time to buy six items to send back to London in the hired truck with Tonia.
Before we went to the auction, Tonia and I were reading about it online and one of the pieces of information we read it said that it was just a myth that if you scratched your face you could be buying the item. We were happy about that. However, at one point in the auction, after I had purchased 3-4 items I did scratch my face. I was standing 3 feet to the side of the pulpit and the auctioneer looked at me, went five pounds higher on whatever item it was, and I looked back at him shocked and shook me head. Then as he was writing down the final bid, without evenl ooking at me, he said, "DO NOT SCRATCH YOUR FACE, MADAME!"Tonia and I just about died laughing. So then when I had to scratch my face I ducked way down to do it.
S ome of the poorest looking people at the auction would buy a corner pieceof furniture for 2 pounds. At one point in time after I had purchase somethingI forgot to show my number to the auctioneer, and had to pull it out of my pocket. I kind of mumbled, "Oh sorry, I am new at this". One of the dealers said back, "You seem to be doing a mighty good job of it."
I think we will go to St. Neots every Thursday. It was just so much fun and we did not even get to take it all in. Tomorrow is a viewing for the auction sale at Chiswick which is the antique auction sale that is featured on TV here. In talking to some of the folks, Tonia found out that people are not paying as much for things as they used to because there isn't much money anymore.She also found out that at St. Neots auction things are going cheaper than at the Bedford aution even though it is the same kind of stuff. There were boxes of old china and bowls going for 2 pounds for a large cardboard box. Even one nice bowl in that box would be worth more than 2 pounds. So all you visitors, put Thursday St. Neots auction on your schedule andyou can get back in plenty of time for the evening Westend shows.
Now I am off to get me a senior ticket for Benjamin Britten's 'The Turning of the Screw", an English opera, a hauntingly atmospheric and ambiguously twisted tale of domestic abuse and corrupted innocence. Greg is not coming with me...he is taking a big pass on this one and Tonia has gone out with a friend. I looked the opera up on line and told Greg and Tonia that the twleve-tone 'Screw' theme divides into equivalent tetrachords, each a segment of the circle of fifths but not having achieved any higher learning in music, they screwed up their faces at me.I even played them some you-tube pieces from it.
Arta is arriving on Monday morning. I am so excited to see her. We have shows four days in a row. The sad part is we have matinee tickets for Thursday afternoon so we will have to miss one day at St. Neots.
I am checking in today by saying I have cooked the first turkey of the season.
I was wondering how many turkeys are going to be cooked by the time the season is over and all of us have pulled out our turkey roasters.
Rebecca has never cooked a turkey yet, so whatever number of you I predict will be cooking turkeys this season, I will subtract one for her.
One for her.
And one for vegetarian Bonnie.
I can also pretty well say that every turkey I have ever cooked has been roasted with the giblets not only still in the bag, but with the bag hidden deep in the cavity of the turkey. I was unable, yet again, to dig them out of the frozen state – even after letting the turkey thaw all day and overnight. I did get the legs out of that piece of skin that holds them together, the legs pried apart and the heart out of the bag. But the neck was frozen stiff inside as well as the bag. I just put everything back together, tied the wings and the legs tight to the turkey with some cooking twine and shoved it in the oven.
In the pan, of course.
I have a beautiful new recipe for cranberry sauce – one written down out of a People’s Magazine I was reading while eating my lunch one day:
1 piece of ginger, flattened with a knife
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
Zest of 1 orange
Salt to taste
Boil until mixture thickens. Remove ginger.
I am not making the recipe, as I used up the entire piece of ginger root last night when make a stir fry, so we are going to be having Cranberry Sauce from a can – No Name Brand.
My recipe for the stuffing is, boil 3 cups of water and drop in 3 pkgs of Stove Top Stuff. Fluff with a fork in 5 minutes. That should work.
Anita borrowed my Bosch for the fall, but brought it back yesterday, so I should be making buns for our dinner today. However, Moiya convinced me that the tray buns at the Coop are as good as anyone can make – thus, we are dining with buns from the Coop.
I am not feeling guilty, or maybe I am feeling just a little bit guilty, for a few years ago, I heard a guest ask the hostess at a party, “Did you make this cake”, to which the hostess replied with disbelief in her voice, “Make the cake? Are you kidding? That is what the Coop is for.”
Some lines just get burned into my brain.
Doesn’t really sound like I am doing the traditional turkey dinner, but I am still calling it that, for at the very least, there is a turkey being put on the table today.
I have a back-up turkey in the freezer for later in the month.
Zoe and I decided Saturday was the day to get her flu shot. This was also a good day for other families, five other sections of people in the line-up for the flu clinic. The woman handing out the numbers for us to stand in line with, told us we should wander off to shop and then take our place in the line-up in 45 minutes when we would be coming close to the place to officially enter the clinic. Or, she said, “Drive down to the clinic at the Stampede Grounds. They have no line-up there.” The weather was -24 degrees. No thanks to another drive, I thought.
I had checked Zoe’s clothing to make sure her upper shoulder was accessible. She wanted to know if she had to go without food, for she has been doing other testing at the Dr.s offices, some of the tests being fasting tests.
I did not know that I could get the seasonal flu shot, so decided to double up on doing work for me too, when I was standing in the line-up. But I hadn’t designed what I was wearing for the day around me getting a shot. When I tried to get the public health nurse to go in through the crew neck on my shirt by pulling it from my neck, down over my shoulder, she said, “Oh, just pull your arm out of your sleeve and I will go in that way.” Then she hiked up my shirt over my shoulder saying, “Here, I will delicately drape you with the rest of the shirt that is left so that not too much is showing.”
I burst out laughing. "I need a lot of draping help after having had 8 children," I told her. “Delicately draped is a word I choose to use on 2nd century alabaster Greek statues."
“Oh,” she contiuned, "there is a lot of draping done here. Mostly by older men who have to take their shirts off, but don’t want anyone to notice their pot bellies.”
I had noticed some handsome older men in the line-up, but hadn’t really put my mind to the idea that even they want to do draping at the flu clinic.
Zoe’s and my Saturday adventure had taken us to Canada Trust. “I only have five dollars,” was the clue she gave me that she needed to stop in at the bank. And she was beaming when she slipped $40 more into her purse. She is better at the instant teller than me. I also go in and get a clerk to help me.
We slipped into Safeway to purchase a bag of chips and a bottle of Coke, her treat for being good, and a treat meant to accompany the crib game we were about to play when we got home.
She is getting good with the language of crib. Today she added to her cribbage lexicon the fact that four numbers in a row is called a straight run, that the cribbage board is divided up into streets of 30 points each, that the card that is turned over after each player has thrown 2 cards into the crib, is called the starter card and that the rules stipulate that you have to make three shuffles of the deck between rounds.
If you try playing Zoe a game of cribbage this season, work hard at counting all of your points before pegging. She is good at Muggins. She gets more pleasure than I wish her to have when she is able to find points in my hand after all of the counting I can do on it.
I went to see a man dressed in red orchestrate a tournament for all of the children who have been good this year, ie attend their karate lessons, practice at home, and come to the tournament to be judged. No whiskers, no red hat with a tassel at the end, no fur-lined boots – just a red karate suit on the master teacher and all of his student dressed in their white shirts and pants – all with different colours of belts surrounding their waist depending on their level of skill.
Meighan and her cohort did their sequence and were each awarded a karate tattoo and a bookmark on which is written, “A Karateka must never attach first – mentally or physically”. The message felt right in the season for me. Meighan had not decided if her tattoo was going to go on her cheek or on her arm.
Dalton and Ceilidh were called into the same sequence to be judged. I have never been to a karate tournament before – the scores are posted by the five judges, with their fingers to denote the score they are giving. The judges raise their hands at the same time with the number of fingers raised signaling the score they are giving, and then they go down the line and call out the score.
If there is a tie score at the end of the judging the competitors have to re-do their sequence, or do an alternate sequence, depending on the level of their ability. Dalton and Ceilidh had to square off against each other in a separate competition, both of them having received the same score. This time the judging was done only with one arm going to the left or right, depending on which competitor was judged superior.
I was interested in the sound that is made by the participants during the sequence, an energetic one-syllable sound that I might have made myself, after doing some hard work. I tried to imitate it, but Ceilidh told me I was not doing it right – I don’t have quite the breath control needed for a superior grunt yet. I asked her what that energy is used for. She told me that for one thing, it is a sound that is very good for scaring off dogs if they jump up on you.
My visit to the DoJo, a school or room for practicing judo, ended when all of the karate families packed up to go home, so I had to as well.