Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wienerdog Wednesday, New Year Edition

Here's to saying goodbye to a year that went to the dogs! No party plans here, but I'll certainly be awake at Midnight  -- if only because of the gunshots and fireworks that will be going off all around me. Who says small towns aren't exciting? 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday Meh, Retro/Introspect

Meh. I was hoping for a nice big fluffy snowstorm over my break, but the weather refuses to deliver. There's still time . . . .
While I was deciding whether or not to get out of bed earlier this morning, I was thinking about the past year, sort of weighing all the positives against the negatives that have happened in the country, seeing if they would balance. Does the fact that so many states have progressed in the granting of equal rights to gay couples help to counter the heavy weight of ugly racist incidents and commentary that have surfaced? It's almost hard for me to believe that the two can exist here and now, in the same time and country. I carried a big ol' bag of naive optimism with me from the "Flower Child" years, and it's not that I'm denying that we haven't come a long way, baby -- but I honestly struggle to understand how and why the status keeps quo'ing when it comes to equality and rights for brown and black folks. 

Some of you will say it's human nature, needing to have an "other" to blame for when the majority don't get their way. Or it's the way the system is skewed, will be skewed, it's out of anybody's control except the 1%. In truth it's probably a little bit of all that and then some. It's the unwillingness of many to look in the mirror and really see what's there. Are all the steps in the right direction just like my dreamed-for snowstorm, something that comes along and temporarily pretties up the everyday, covering the ugly bits of our surroundings with something sparkly and bright, but destined to disappear  once things heat up again?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wienerdog Wednesday, Yuletide Edition

Scooter Pie can't believe it's December 24 already! 

I can't believe how much I have to do to get ready for the coming festivities! Didn't get around to baking any Xmas cookies until last evening, one batch of overcooked chocolate crinkles. Hardly did any shopping for or making of gifts, either...but so be it. Everyone has too much of the stuff that doesn't matter, anyway. 

Here's hoping that your holiday is filled with the stuff that DOES matter, that your cookies aren't burnt, and that the jingling you hear is some seasonal magic and not tinnitus!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Meh, Solstice Edition

(Night, by Tom Thomson)

Although yesterday was the Winter Solstice, it was bright and sunny and warm here in Upper East Tennessee. I should've driven the few miles up to the Cherokee National Forest and checked out the new trail that just opened this year, but I puttered around the kitchen instead. Snow isn't supposed to make another appearance around here until Christmas Day, if the weather folk are right, which they seldom are these days, so there'll likely be another nice day soon.  

So here it is, winter, and I look forward to the first real snowfall, whenever that will be. We've had several bouts of wintry precip since before Halloween, but the weather can't seem to make up its mind which season it wants to be. I have trouble making up my mind, too, about lots of things. Which is why I welcome substantial snowfalls whenever they arrive -- then, the only decision I have to make is whether to change out of my pajamas or not. 

Happy Winter.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


I'm making Cranberry Jam this morning. Just because. Actually I am not a fan of most overly-sweet commercial jams & jellies, but ja gotta have something to put on your toast and waffles besides butter, right? Many years ago I found Martha Stewart's Cranberry Jam recipe and it's tasty stuff, whether you use it to accompany your Thanksgiving bird or to dollop on your Christmas bagel. It reminds me a lot of lingonberry preserves, which cannot be had locally, and I don't always have time to drive the 3 hours to IKEA in Charlotte to buy a jar or two. 

Other than the freezer-type strawberry jam, this is the only jam I've ever made. I haven't bothered with actually doing the hot water canning dealio with it, either, because the jars I make and store in the fridge are usually consumed within 2 weeks. It's always disappointing to have to resort back to store bought preserves when the good stuff is gone, but maybe this year while cranberries are still available, I'll try my hand at long-term preservation of a batch or two, with an eye to expanding my repertoire to include other jams.  

If you look closely in the pic above, you can see the bottle of Vikingfjord vodka in the background there. Martha's recipe calls for a teaspoon of vodka, and I have no idea why but am not inclined to mess with the delicate chemistry of the process. And as long as the vodka's already out and I don't have to be anywhere today, I might as well make myself a karsk. Then maybe I won't mind so much that I have to rewash all the dishes that my mother "washed" last night.  *sigh* 

Now I'm not particularly a germophobe and have been known to push the limits of the 5-second rule (especially when chocolate is involved), but I am still not too keen on eating off of plates and cutlery that were just rinsed off with plain water. It's not clear whether Mom's increasingly worrisome erratic behavior and memory lapses are just natural to the aging process or indicative of something bigger brewing, and it's as frustrating for her as it is for the rest of us when her hearing difficulties and inattentiveness make for some trying breakdowns in communication. Maybe Santa will bring her some hearing aids, and bring me an extra dose of patience.

. . . . Well, the jam is done, the dishes are washed (again), and I'm going to sip my "special coffee" while listening to some holiday jams. Then it'll be back to the kitchen to cook up some more holiday goodies. Have I mentioned how therapeutic cooking is for me -- even when the recipe doesn't call for vodka!

Oh, and here's the ridiculously easy jam recipe:



1 pound cranberries
1 hard apple such as Arkansas Black or Granny Smith, peeled, cored and sliced into half-inch chunks
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh ginger or crystallized ginger
3 inch cinnamon stick
zest of 1 orange in finest possible threads
1 teaspoon vodka
1/4 cup chopped pecans

1:  Rinse cranberries and put in a kettle with water, cubed apple, ginger, cinnamon stick, and orange zest. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes until berries pop.

2:  Add sugar to the kettle and return to a gentle boil, stirring constantly.  Once the sugar has fully dissolved, add vodka and nuts and cook for 2-3 minutes more until thickened, stirring carefully to prevent scorching.

3:  Remove cinnamon stick and serve or refrigerate in a covered container for up to two weeks. If you want to can the jam:  ladle hot jam into prepared 1/2 pint jar and seal. Process sealed jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tempus Fugit

Today begins "The Great 2014 Winter Break Do All The Things I Said I was Gonna Do All Year But Didn't" Challenge. Realistically, I don't expect that in the next 2 weeks I'll find a new job, improve my upper body strength, haul all of the yard sale/charity donations out of the upstairs hallway, paint the master bath, regain fluency in Spanish, and finally learn how to make crepes -- but I can damn well get started! 

Now, I have lots of justification, er, excuses for not making more progress on my goals this year. Mostly I like to blame my job, which has sucked more energy and joie de vivre out of me than a Dyson sucks dog hair. There is small comfort in realizing that one is the sanest person in the asylum, unless one can stomach Southern Comfort, which I cannot ever since that time in 7th grade when I was at a sleepover at Viki's house and we made banana splits and washed them down with SoCo once her parents went to bed. Anyway, my stagnant employment status is not for lack of trying to find greener pastures. Or sandier ones, since I expanded my job search to include the Carolina coast. I surely hope that my application-to-interview ratio improves in my favor in the coming year (currently it's about 20-to-1), and I plan to scour job postings and even send some random inquiries out over the next two weeks while I can do so without nervously looking over my shoulder to see if the boss will catch me. It's easier to avoid typos that way. 

Since my time in 2014 wasn't consumed with writing academic papers, I really, really, really should've blogged more. For that shortcoming I blame Pinterest. Get me on the internet with a swatch of spare time, and I'm more likely to be scanning that site for pretty interior decor pics and recipes that I might or might not get around to trying than sitting down to compose a few paragraphs of wit and/or wisdom to share with my blogger buddies. I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you if you ever stop by my actual abode, and treat you to a dinner of Sesame Chicken followed by the most awesome Tiramisu Cheesecake Brownies, enjoyed in my minimalist Scandinavian-inspired dining nook. We'll have a lovely time.