Because, of course, this is a time for looking back and for looking forward.
I’m often better at looking back…and beating myself up for things I didn’t do, or didn’t do enough. I’m really good at that. And then I look forward and I do one of two things.
Either I give myself too many things to do in the coming year – not just resolutions, but projects, plans, lifestyle changes and challenges – and then I freeze because the list is so overwhelming – or I just curl up and worry that the coming year I’ll be a bigger and better loser than the last one, and while, yes, it’s important to try to improve on things, I don’t think improving loserhood is something to strive for.
Yes, that’s right. Seafood! In sausage form! Is there no end to the sausage madness?
We decided to make a batch of Lobster, Shrimp and Leek Sausage (from Charcuterie) to serve as part of the appetizer segments of both Christmas Eve and Christmas. Not a ton of it, because we didn’t know how it would be. But enough for everyone to taste.
And so everyone could say “Wow! I’ve never had lobster sausage before!”
We live for praise. We live to inspire.
This is really the first day I’ve had time to sit and type since before Christmas. All that other time was spent either in preparation for the holiday (and holiday eve) or cleaning up after it, or working.
And my camera hasn’t been working, either, so that’s been frustrating. Bear with the cell phone pictures a bit longer, please.
I’m skipping ahead to our dinner on Christmas Day. Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. I believe I’ve said it before, but this meal alone is probably responsible for me never lasting as a vegetarian years ago. I think I could survive for five days on the aroma alone.
And the best part, especially on a busy holiday, is how easy it is to make.
We were driving early. Very early. Before a hint of sunrise. The car zoomed along through the surrounding blackness, highway lights giving the journey a holiday effect. Like we were tiny beings traversing the branches of a night-lit Christmas tree.
The kids were in the back seat, bundled up and snuggled with their stuffed animals (only two, guys, it's just a short trip) against the shoulder harness portion of their seat belts.
We don't have a dvd player in the car. The kids don't have handheld DS things. There is no electronic entertainment for them. There are, instead, signs. Highway signs. Business signs. Lettering on tractor trailer trucks whizzing by. Entertainment involves participation.
When we left the house, in that pre-pre-pre-dawn pitch blackness, Alex shouted out "I found an A!"
An hour later "I see a B!"
In between those letters, there was quiet. The kids silent, still half asleep, the half-awake state due only to bubbling anticipation. They slouched. And stared out the window at bright highway lights and office buildings that leave lights on 24/7.
Well, there was mostly quiet. There was also the bumping of our Subaru wagon over typical Rhode Island roads scarred with filled pot holes.
And there was the voice on the radio. We were tuned to WGBH out of Boston. We were listening to the news, which was read in the steady, informed, measured cadence of that radio newsman. It was a voice I found soothing. Comforting. Not that particular voice, but that style of voice.
I remember when I was very young, younger than Julia is now, on similar dark-of-night car rides. We would drive to New Jersey to visit my mother's parents for Christmas sometimes. There were probably other seasons we visited as well, but Christmas stands out.
Maybe that's because of the darkness. The stillness at that oh so early hour. A time when everyone else on the entire planet had to be asleep.
I remember looking up at the clear, starlit sky as I walked (or was carried, perhaps, still sleepy but bubbling with excitement at the same time) out to the warmed-up, wood-paneled station wagon.
This was back before seatbelt laws. My parents would fold the back seat down and put a mattress over the whole back part of the car. They'd give a tranquilizer - a small, light blue pill as I remember - to Bonnie, our Standard Poodle, a feisty, energetic animal who would have trampled us small children during the ride if we didn't drug her - and she would curl up in a corner toward the back of the car.
My sister and I would lie on the mattress, snuggled in blankets and pillows and stuffed animals, and doze...or stare at the little dots on the ceiling. I think it was some sort of vinyl upholstery - I don't really know. But there were tiny dots, and I learned that if I blurred my vision just the right way, I could make the dots seem closer to me, or I could sort of make sections of them move.
Neither of us, my sister and I, were great travelers at that age. My sister, especially, would get car sick. Most journeys to and from New Jersey were punctuated by vomit and paper towels. We laugh about it now. The stench has long since faded from our minds. Mine, anyway.
When one of us was not throwing up, we probably mostly just dozed.
The radio was usually tuned to a news station. I don't know, but I have a feeling most of the few AM stations we could get in that car were news stations. I don't remember music, really.
I just remember the voice. Always male. He spoke of weather and traffic and sports, perhaps. And of strange people like Dow Jones, whoever that was. And no matter what the topic, the voice pretty much stayed the same. Steady. Informed. Measured.
Comforting. I would close my eyes and that soothing voice would talk of things that didn't matter at all to me. I would doze off to that almost monotonous (but not in a bad way) voice as it told stories to my parents, then awaken to the same highway shake of the car, the same dots on the ceiling, the same voice on the radio.
And it didn't matter what station was playing, or where the news was coming from - Boston or New York or Providence...it was the same voice.
On that recent early-morning ride, I was the parent, and the radio voice was telling his stories to me and my husband. We have no dots on our car ceiling. Our children sat mostly upright and buckled in. So some things change, of course. But I still found that steady, informed, measured voice soothing and comforting.
Maybe that's one of the reasons I have no plans to equip our car (or a future vehicle) with a dvd player, or to give my kids little hand-held games to keep them entertained.
I want them to have memories of the car ride, of alphabet games and stuffed animals and of dozing for a while, snuggled against their seat belts, listening to the voice on the radio.
This is John. (John is the taller one.) Telling you about John would take a whole separate website, and I simply don’t have time to launch such a project, so suffice to say John is Bill’s best friend and my very awesome friend as well.
I’ve mentioned John here in various past posts, most recently in my last series of sausage-making stories. There have also been mentions of John in beer brewing posts, and probably here and there in other posts as well.
But I tilt toward digression…I need to pull myself back to the post at hand. And the sausage.
I’ve been baking cookies over the last few days (in a frantic attempt to get caught up), and I decided to save the final trimmings from the cut-out cookies to bake and toss outside for the birds.
Yes, I could just throw those last few scraps away, but it just seems so wasteful. So I made cookies for the birds.
Well, and for the squirrels.
I baked the little bits, let them cool, tossed them out the window onto the platform outside my kitchen window, and went back to the next batch of cookies.
I was scraping down the stuff inside my stand mixer when all of a sudden I heard a THWACK!
And here’s what I saw:
Fortunately I had the sense to pick up my cell phone and fortunately the squirrel had the courtesy to freeze in position every now and then.
What the heck was he doing? They don’t usually behave this way. They sit there, cutely nibbling seeds or crusts of bread. They don’t ATTACK THE HOUSE.
But then, I don’t usually give them freshly baked cookies, either…
But I didn’t have any more. I shook my head regretfully and the squirrel scampered away.
I thought he (or she) had accepted my head-shaking and was okay with that, but apparently not. Because several minutes later I heard another THWACK!
And I looked behind me and saw this:
The squirrel made a rude gesture and fled.
That was weird. Maybe I shouldn’t
But yep. Again.
This time at the kitchen door!
“I know you’re in there, lady! I NEED THOSE COOKIES! And stop taking my picture!”
Warning: All photos in this post were taken with my little cell phone. There will be blurriness. And poor lighting.
There is the replacement of the drive belt in our dryer, so it will all be worth it! (Well, to me and mine, at least.)
Anyway – this was not really difficult at all. I did it solo, so you probably can, too. If you haven’t already.
I just fixed my dryer.
I replaced the drive belt that spins the drum that tosses the clothes that lives in the house that jack built.
My dryer is now running properly, and there are wet clothes being thrown about inside it and soon they will be dry and fluffy.
I will post pictures of the whole thing but first I have to email them all to myself from my cell phone. Yep. Didn’t even bother to use my real camera because I don’t need any more frustration at the moment. My kids’ cameras? Dead batteries in both. No wonder they haven’t been taking pictures of their butts lately.
Anyway, I found a FABULOUS how-to video on youtube, which I’ll link to as well.
But right now the main thing I want to convey is this glorious sense of accomplishment bubbling inside me.
I told my sister it’s like that scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where Dick Van Dyke has been working night and day on the car and then finally, FINALLY, the workshop doors open, like the splitting of a chrysalis, and out comes the transformed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
And (this is the part in my head now) you hear the high-pitched English voices of his children shrieking delightedly “He fixed the cah! Daddy fixed the cah!”
Only in my head, they are shrieking “She fixed the dryer! Mummy fixed the dryer!”
I wonder if it would be acceptable for me to get my kids out of school early, just so they could shriek for me…..
If you read this post earlier today, do you remember me mentioning that our dryer is on strike (I thought it was just sick, but no, it’s now marching around the basement holding a sign that says “I’m sick of wet clothes, and I’m not gonna dry them anymore!”), and that I put one of my husband’s tee shirts (the undershirt kind, not the clever logo kind) in the oven because there were a few damp spots left from me trying to dry it yesterday near the fire…
And that smoke or steam or the mists of hell (something like that) came pouring out of the oven vent? And I didn’t know what that was?
I have tomorrow off – it will be easier to do that sausage post tomorrow. I’m letting myself off the hook for now.
In the meantime, and in the interest of writing SOMETHING food-related, here’s one of the nibbles I put out last night for our tree-trimming snacking. (No sit-down dinner last night, just snacky food. Our favorite food group.)
Next life, I want to come back as a pampered, much-loved, well-fed neutered male cat. (I included the neutered part in there because he has no stress, no strong passions that drive him crazy, no need to pee on walls. I don’t want to come back as an ANNOYING pampered, much-loved, well-fed male cat, after all. And why male? Because males generally get to lounge around like this (see above) while females, even pampered, much-loved, well-fed, INDOOR females, are nearly always on alert, ready to hunt or pounce. I just want to lounge around next time out.
I know – but what about the “O Christmas Tree” post title? What’s that got to do with the cats?
I started working on a post this morning (another sausage-making post), but it’s on hold for now. I’ve got a little project to take care of, and also, our dryer isn’t working at the moment (it’s been such a year), so I’ve got clothes out on the line “drying” in the thirty degree air, and next I’m going to hang our unmentionables in front of the fireplace so they will dry by the time we go to bed, perhaps.
Anyway, for your entertainment, here are a few pictures I took at Capron Park Zoo this summer.
You’ve no doubt heard the term mise en place (meez en plahs), which means “to put in place” or, basically, to get everything ready before you begin. We mostly hear it used in the kitchen – you mise en place all your ingredients so you’ve got everything measured and ready to go before you start cooking – and it’s a good thing to do, frankly, because it would be a shame to suddenly realize that you’re out of some crucial ingredient midway through your fancy dinner prep. Or something like that.
Anyway, in preparation for our Second Grand Day of Sausage Making this past Saturday, Bill and I did our mise en place on Friday.
When we first began to embrace the idea of making sausage at home, we were very excited, in an almost superior-toned, We Were Meant To Do This kind of way, because we already had a grinder. A lovely, old-school, made-in-America grinder. Made, in fact, by Universal, a company out of Connecticut who, unfortunately, doesn’t make everything in America any more, but still, they made THIS grinder. It had belonged to Bill’s mom, and while to the best of Bill’s knowledge she had never made sausage with it, I, at least, had seen it in use around Christmas time when she used it to grind nuts for some of the cookies.
The idea of using this inherited piece of Americana to make our sausages was like a nod of approval from the Meat Gods. Yes, my children, go forth, ye, and sausage-make.
And, thus ordered, we set forth on our journey.
I’ve got SO many pictures to sort through and organize from yesterday’s Charcuterie Day activities. Bill, John and I made three different kinds of sausages, plus we handed over a fourth project for John to run with because he has better aging/drying/storing facilities than we do. I’ve asked him to take pictures of the process and maybe write something up as well.
I served these bite-sized goodies at Thanksgiving, and I might just make them again at Christmas time.
They’re a variation on the Kale Pie I’ve made numerous times now, but I’m calling them Kale Quiche Bites because that seems to describe them better.
But call them pie or call them quiche – they are scrumptious!
I get tunnel vision sometimes.
I get so focused on what needs to get done, what I think I should be focusing on, what I NEED to focus on so that (insert Very Important Reason here) will get done/taken care of/finished/baked/cooked/cleaned.
I tell myself that it’s for the greater good.
A couple of weeks ago Bill and Alex went fishing and brought home a couple of trout. One of them was female and full of eggs.
We saved them, and what I should have done was spend some quality time online looking up recipes for curing them, so I could make us some fresh caviar.
But I didn’t. And I basically ruined them.
But before I did that, I took pictures….