Christmas Day 2022

Christmas Eve with the grandsons at their home was great.  They were in epic high spirits and we talked of various things.  With the eldest it was nuclear fusion and robotics.  With the youngest it was, of course, dinosaurs but also his latest pet, a bearded dragon with an inexhaustible appetite for “super worms.”  With the others there was talk of soccer and what they would be doing on the Christmas holiday next week.  Much food was eaten and the younger kids were occupied with happy mayhem.  Something with plastic swords and shields.

 

But this morning, Camera Girl is at peak output with potatoes being mashed, lasagna, roast beast and ham cooking and side dishes being prepared.  I can tell her patience is exhausted so I have to tread carefully around the outskirts of her kitchen or a carving knife might end up under my ribs.  She does have Sicilian blood on her mother’s side.  But I can tell all is going well.  She’s in the zone.  All of the desserts are already prepared and the meat courses are right on schedule.  It will be a feast to remember.  And the leftovers will be glorious.  That ham will end up in at least a lentil soup and probably some breakfasts.

But after eating way too much food and way too much dessert I’ll spend the time with the grandkids.  Now that Princess Sack of Potatoes is a full four years old, she’ll be right in the thick of it with her older cousins.  I might even try to put on a showing of one of the “Christmas Carol” movies but Camera Girl frowns on television watching on the holidays.  She prefers more sociable pursuits like cards.  We’ll see.

The weather has cooperated.  Although bitterly cold, the roads are in mostly good shape.  Only a few curves of the hills have some large ice hazards but last night I noted that these had been treated with salt so my guests should be safe coming and going today.

Monday we can get back to the political nightmare our country has descended into but today will be “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”  So, all of you have a great day and night and in Tiny Tim’s immortal words, “God bless us every one.”

Update:

I ruined my own surprise by hanging around the kitchen.  Camera Girl had secretly bought me a boneless loin of lamb.  She hates lamb and vociferously refused making it when I mentioned it last week.  But after performing my duty of cutting an X on the raw chestnuts, I glanced over at the stove and there it was.  My discovery angered her but what could I do?  She should have hidden it.  I did thank her heartily but she is pretty mad for me spoiling the surprise.  Well, I’ll make it up to her later.  Christmas just got a whole lot merrier.  But, boy will I be groggy tonight.

Wampanoag Lasagna

It is reputed that at the Pilgrims’ first Christmas dinner the main course was lasagna.  Apparently, some of the Wampanoag Indians learned how to make this dish from Christopher Columbus or one of his friends back in the late 1400’s when they were on a Caribbean vacation and upon returning home it became traditional in the New England area.  Admittedly some scholars reject this time line.  These dissidents claim it came into vogue in the 1900’s with a later wave of Italian influence.

Regardless of which camp you find yourself in it’s obvious that lasagna is a very interesting choice for a Christmas menu.  Now Camera Girl had asked my opinion about the Christmas menu.  I had recommended a roast beast after the Italian wedding soup and she added a ham and then as an afterthought I asked about lasagna as a course.  Surprisingly there was resistance to this reasonable recommendation.  Something about not everyone liking lasagna.  I can’t remember if I pounded my fist on the table and shouted some strangled syllables that might have been, “Heresy!”  Later I calmed down and just swallowed my disappointment.

But Camera Girl is a mysterious creature and without my knowledge or permission she bought the ingredients for lasagna and today she is doing the assembly for later cooking.  There are fragments of sausage and meatball, sauce and various cheeses that go into the layers between the pasta layers.  Of course, I forgave her for her treacherous silence and subterfuge.  Just as Adam forgave Eve for that whole apple thing, I was the better person and put the whole treacherous story behind me and gave my blessing to this lasagna conspiracy.

But this does create an awkward situation for my meal.  I really like roast beef and I like ham.  But lasagna is enormously delicious and infrequently available.  How do I do justice to this dinner without ending up in the hospital emergency room?  Ah, heavy is the head that wears the crown.  Well, I’ll figure it out.  And of course, left over lasagna is a very pleasant situation and I’m sure Camera Girl will distribute it to the households that have children to feed.  Maybe the real concern is that some of it remains for me on December 26th and 27th.

Here is a photo of the intermediate stage of the lasagna assembly process.

And one of the end product.

And here’s one of the Italian cheesecake she’s also got going.

Well, I have to say, Christmas 2022 is shaping up to be pretty remarkable.  It seems that the crazier the world becomes the more special become the personal moments that we share with our friends and family.  In fact, that’s probably why they’re that way.  It’s a defense mechanism to keep our sanity and concentrate on the things within our control and keep the awfulness at arm’s length.  Well even if that’s so it doesn’t detract from the greatness of these special things we do.  Tomorrow we’ll be away at Christmas Eve most of the day so I’ll say Merry Christmas to everyone here.  May you enjoy your time and make the most of it.

Merry Christmas

In Hera’s Kitchen

Today is the highest of solemnities in Camera Girl’s kitchen calendar.  I, even I, am banned from encroaching on the rituals being performed.  And I’m no fool.  Interfering with the magic going on risks the spoiling of those spells and the blighting of the baked goods being produced; a horror not to be imagined.

Today Camera Girl and her daughters and now her granddaughter will gather like a coven of witches and take their magic ingredients and hover around the stove and drink coffee (or hot chocolate in the case of Princess Sack of Potatoes) and knead dough and add vanilla extract and hand shape the grandma cookies and the chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies and whichever new variants they decide on.

And wondrous aromas will waft through the house and when they’re through there will be a pile of cookies to get us through to New Year’s Day.  Splendiferous confections that turn a coffee break into a feast.  And make watching an old movie into a special event.

But even ignoring the practical results of this activity, this is a primary ritual of our domestic calendar.  The hand written recipes are coming on fifty years.  The paper is beginning to crumble and the writing is fading from exposure to ingredients and wear and tear.  I’ve warned Camera Girl that they need to be copied and digitized, printed out and distributed to her daughters to preserve them from loss.  But if it’s going to be done, I’ll have to take on the project.

I look at some of the recipes and the notes on them and see the names of friends and relatives from long ago.  Only one or two living women are represented.  Most are from our parents’ and grandparents’ generation.  A few go even farther back.

And that’s a comforting legacy.  In these times when fools are trying to deconstruct the meaning of man and woman and sever the traditions that have given meaning to our lives, there still exist people and rituals that ground our lives and make them human and pleasant.  Baking cookies may seem to some people to be a trivial and possibly harmful activity in a world of obese people.  But it’s exactly opposite.  Christmas cookies are a special and specific part of the year.  Once they’re done, we don’t make more.  We move onto the winter months when we subsist on meager fare, far removed from the bounty of summer and fall.  Christmas is a celebration and an ending of the year and needs to be treated as such.

So, I will withdraw from the kitchen and keep myself busy with other things while the women commune with their flour and butter.  From time to time, I’ll find an excuse to walk by the kitchen and see how things are going.  And maybe my granddaughter will come visit with me for a game of Candy Land.  But for the most part I’ll leave them to their industry and their talk.  And before I go to bed there will be the hoard of golden and white and brown cookies in various cookie jars and containers.  And of course, there will be a big mug of coffee and one or two (or even three) cookies waiting for me to enjoy during a holiday movie.  God bless you Camera Girl and long may you bake.

With Visions of Sugar Plums Dancing Over Their Heads

Christmas Cooking, Sony A7 III, Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens

 

The last week before Christmas.  Now Camera Girl must marshal all her powers to coordinate the schedule of buying and cooking the feast.  Today she came home with a ham, chopped meat, escarole and some of the other ingredients of the various courses.  The roast beast won’t arrive until the end of the week.  And the pies and cakes won’t be baked or bought for a few days more.  I was explicit that there must be a good quality vanilla ice cream in copious quantity to complement the pies.  And very good coffee to wash it down.

The mashed potatoes, corn, crescent rolls and the stuffed mushrooms are all last-minute items that won’t be started until Christmas Eve but they’ll add their dimension to the meal.  And finally, I demanded chestnuts and that rope of dried figs that no one ever eats.  Camera Girl, being the frugal woman that she is, complained bitterly that chestnuts now cost $8 a pound.  But I was adamant.  I never liked them as a kid but my father-in-law always had some out at Christmas and after trying them a few times I actually developed a taste for them.  As for the dried figs, they’re so hard that they’re almost inedible but somehow it wouldn’t be Christmas without them lying around on the table so I demanded them too.

And this year I’ll show my little granddaughter the trick with the mandarin orange skin and a lighted match.  The oils in the skin are flammable and she’ll be amazed to see it ignite around the match when I squeeze the skin near it.  And this year I think I’ll try to get the kids to join in a penny ante poker game with me.  Camera Girl has an old bucket of pennies.  There must be a thousand of them and we can play for hours without any serious money changing hands.

I’ve got my favorite Christmas DVDs at the ready and several albums of Christmas music on tap.  And no one should be sick this year because everyone has already been stricken with the Chinese Bioweapon recently.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had a sugar plum but I’m pretty sure there’ll be all kinds of chocolates and mints on the table.

Sure, everything is about twice as expensive as normal and that old dimwit Biden keeps gassing off every few days about Ukraine or gay marriage or trans-something-or-other but I’m satisfied that this will be a good Christmas despite him and the rest of the grifters who run the crime family that fleeces us.

It’s still Christmas, friends, family and food and that’s a pretty good combination.  I can no longer feel any community with the degenerates that surround us and plot bigger and uglier ways to degrade the good things in the world.  But I feel kinship with the normal people that work hard and raise their kids and try to make the world go round.  With them I can hope for a Merry Christmas and we’ll worry about the New Year later.  Where’s that sweet potato pie?

Camera Girl Angers the Lightning God

Many years ago, when Camera Girl was just a simple housewife.  This was before she became a jet-setting companion to a high-powered photographic dynamo; me.  One day while I was at work, I got a call from home.  She informed me that the fire department had to be called because our electric stove had malfunctioned and burst into flames.  The highly professional volunteer firemen had heroically dragged the stove out of the house and it was lying on the driveway like some stricken beast brought low by forces beyond the control of nature.  And she further informed me that the meat loaf was still in it and unless I wanted to try carbonized beef we would need to eat out.  Now, I know for a fact that she’s always disliked electric stoves and ovens.  She claims that only gas stoves provide the kind of temperature control she needs to cook food correctly.  I’m not saying she sabotaged that stove but it is true she was glad to get a new one.  Even if it was also an electric model.

Well yesterday lightning struck again.  At about 4 pm I heard a loud crackle of electricity like something out of the Frankenstein laboratory scene coming from the kitchen followed by Camera girl screaming something incoherently.  I ran into the kitchen to find smoke pouring from the oven.  I shut the power to the oven and turned on the vent fan above the stove.  Then I took the smoke alarm off the wall and put it where it wouldn’t go off.

Sure, enough for the third time in her career as chief cook and bottlewasher in “Chez photog” the heating element in one of her ovens failed.  This time I was there so the fire department wasn’t needed.  I could see the element was cracked and the sound I’d heard was power arcing over the gap.  After gently coaxing Camera Girl off the ceiling fan, I comforted her in her terror and convinced her that all would be well once we got our local appliance store to send a serviceman to install a new element.

But when I called them, it wasn’t as simple as that.  After providing them with the stove’s model number they informed me that they would have to order this critical part.  And when I asked them when they would be able to send someone to install it the pleasant young fellow on the line said, “In three or four weeks.”   I dared not tell Camera Girl that her stove would be out of service for a month so I asked the guy how difficult would it be for me to install it myself.  He thought it would be quite simple and foolproof.  So tomorrow morning I’ll go and pay fifty bucks for this replacement part and spend some part of the day installing it.

Obviously, this is a double-edged sword.  On the up side, I get to save a hundred fifty bucks in service call charges and appear to be a competent and self-sufficient alpha male.  On the down side if I louse up the installation Camera Girl will mock me mercilessly.

Well, there’s nothing to be done about it.  I must rise to the challenge.  I was thinking of watching some episodes of the Honeymooners tonight to see if I can get any pointers from Ralph Kramden’s technique handling Alice’s bouts of sarcasm.  What’s the worst that could happen?  Where did I put that fire extinguisher?

 

01MAY2022 – OCF Update – May Day Comrades!

May Day!  That glorious day when Soviet leaders would parade fake ICBM’s down the main street of Moscow to impress the world with their ability to make fake ICBM’s.  And the music.  Just inspirational.

Today is the second beautiful day in a row and I’ll be heading out with Camera Girl to photograph Spring!   You know, renewal, rebirth, everything blooming, all that crap.  She will be my driver and native bearer.  A sort of combination of Frank Buck’s right hand man Ali and a Sherpa guide.  Her job is to watch the road and if I shout to be let out on the road, she must try and find a spot where it won’t cause a major crash.  Then she returns to pick me up after a few minutes without law enforcement intervening.  It’s a delicate dance.

Yesterday I finally attacked the poison ivy.  So far I seem to have escaped without dissolving into a puddle of festering sores and bubbling flesh.  But there’s still time.

Today Camera Girl alerted me to a war going on in the field.  For the last three years running a pair of barn swallows have taken up residence in one of the blue bird houses I put up.  And for the third year running a blue bird shows up after they’ve set up house keeping and tries to dispute their ownership.  He’s like the Occupy Wall Street of birds.  And every year they kick his butt and send him packing.  These blue birds are pathetic losers and I am ashamed that I installed these houses for them.  No wonder they’re endangered.  I’m renaming the houses barn swallow houses.  I’ll leave the government and Section 8 housing for those shiftless blue birds.

 

Here’s one of their earlier attempts to steal back the house last year.

So anyway today will be Camera Girl and I at play in the fields of the Lord.  But I’m sure to be back later to complain about something else.  Enjoy the day.

 

14APR2022 – OCF Update-Camera Girl Finally Frees the Slaves

Winter, Sony A7 III, Voigtlander 10mm f\5.6 lens, 22APR2021 – Photo of the Day

Today was a day of toil.  About a week ago Camera Girl was  in her garden, supposedly turning the soil with a pitchfork.  I say supposedly because after ten or fifteen minutes of effort the pitchfork was still stuck in the ground and the ground was having the best of the argument.

Finally she gave up and complained bitterly of her fate.  Being the gentlemanly parfait knight that I am, I mocked her.  I said, “Sure women are always saying how they can do anything a man can but apparently that doesn’t apply to pitchforks.”  She sot me a look that seemed to imply something about the quality of that night’s dinner.  So I displayed magnanimity.  I said, “You poor weak creature, I will turn the soil for you, only not today.

Well, apparently “not today” was today.  So I went out to the west field and starting singing road gang spirituals.  And to be honest, between the matted weed roots and the stupid liner that someone put in the soil was incredibly tough and heavy to turn.  But three hours of working like a hired field hand got it done.  About half way through it occurred to me that I could have rented a rototiller.  But by the end I was so satisfied with myself that it was worth it.  I showed up afterward in the kitchen drenched in sweat and covered with dirt but extremely pleased with myself.

I preened in front of Camera Girl and lectured on the difference between man’s work and woman’s work.  I mentioned that I left some clean up of weeds and liner next to the garden.  And that she should get that squared away as soon as possible.  She mumbled something under her breath but I pretended not to hear her.  Then I headed up for a well deserved shower.

Remarkably shortly after i finished working the skies opened up and it poured to beat the band.  Probably some of the seedling I put in this week may be washed away.  But some of them will make it and I ‘ve got more for next week too.  As long as we don’t have a repeat of last spring when it rained for forty days and forty nights, things will be fine in the garden.

This year we intend to grow a lot of butternut squash because Camera girl makes a great chicken soup with it.  And we’ll grow lots of zucchini and eggplant.  This year we’ll put in some thorn-less raspberries and I might move my blueberry bushes to make it easier to protect them from the birds.  Most years they get more than I do.  And I have to remember to put out the egg cases that the praying mantis laid over the winter.   I sure don’t want them hatching in the house.

So it was a work day but I’ll be sure to find something to be outraged about in the news when I check it out.  Enjoy your Thursday night.

Geometry and the War Between the Sexes

On Mondays Camera Girl is in charge of Princess Sack of Potatoes.  Which makes me her errand boy for anything that needs doing.  So today she wanted me to get the memory card from the game camera so she could show her protégé what kind of animals had eaten the food she stole from me.  Now, sure, the scraps she gives the wild beasts living in the forest are probably not premium protein anymore.  Bits of chicken fat and skin and whatever doesn’t end up on the menu for me probably shouldn’t arouse my sense of outrage.  But in these days of skyrocketing food prices, I’m acutely aware of threats to my survival.

But I digress.  I brought the memory card in and popped it in the card reader slot on my laptop and reviewed the numerous files.  But what we discovered was that Camera Girl had miscalculated the line of sight of the camera.  She threw her largesse too close to the camera’s location and thus the viewpoint was mostly above the location of the food.  Therefore, mostly what we saw were the animals before and after they were feeding and typically at the edge of the photo and moving away from the camera.

I respectfully brought this situation to Camera Girl’s attention.  But she said she did what I told her to do.  I carefully and calmly reminded her that I showed her the line where the camera would see the action but assumed she wouldn’t put the food right below the camera because it was elevated from the ground.  She told me what she thought about my assumption using a popular breakdown of the spelling of ass-u-me.

I thought this distinctly unfair.  But what I decided was to provide her with a clear target.  I said, “Do you see the pole banged into the ground?”  She said yes.  I continued, “Do you see the rainwater drain that ends near the pole?”  Again, she said yes.  I finished, “The line segment formed by the pole on one end and the end of the drain pipe as the other endpoint is the acceptable area to put the food.  Do you follow me?”  She said no.  I slowly and calmly said, “Huh?”  She said, “That’s not clear.  How will I know if it’s on that line?”

I remained calm.  I could see I was dealing with a non-Euclidean geometer and she was trying to involve me in a topological debate.  Therefore, I changed tack.  “Imagine the two points I said were the endpoints.  Instead think of them as two opposite points on the circumference of a circle.  In your mind envision a circle with those two points on the circumference.  Anyplace inside that circle will be an acceptable target for your animal slop.”  She shook her head and walked away.

So why did I write about this?  Well, I think it represents a microcosm of the male/female dichotomy.  Men use logical simplifications to model the world.  We like reasoning our way through problems.  Women want simple concrete rules to follow.  They don’t want to discuss theory.  At least that is the way women used to be.  Nowadays I’m not sure what they are.  Maybe they’ve become like men.

But even if they’ve adopted some of the practices of men I doubt if they’ve changed their nature.  There is a difference in the way the brains of men and women work.  We go about things in different ways.  And from my point of view, I think there is an advantage to this dichotomy.  These two ways of looking at things provide checks on each other.  Too much theory can lead to error based on differences between the map and the territory.  But at the same time without the imaginative leap and the simplification that modelling can provide many problems would never be solved.

I started to expound on this dichotomy to Camera Girl.  She told me the garbage pails needed to go out on the road today and walked away.  And so it goes.

17MAR2022 – Camera Girl’s Birthday

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and Camera Girl’s birthday.  Usually we celebrate with corned beef and cabbage and I bring out my bag pipes and kilt and parade through the grounds of the Compound at 6am, noon and 6pm.  Well maybe I ,made that last part up.

Camera Girl hates when anyone mentions her birthday, so I make a fuss about it just to annoy her.  It’s one of the joys of marriage, irritating your spouse.

Back in the old days New York City had a very important St. Patrick Day’s parade that involved tens of thousands of Irish policemen and firemen dressed in kilts and playing bagpipes.  On WPIX, Channel 11 they would have a televised broadcast of the parade usually hosted by “Captain” Jack McCarthy.  Captain Jack was the television host of the kids television shows that played Popeye the Sailor Man cartoons.  I think at one time he used to host the Three Stooges show but that got handed off to the other Irish tv host Officer Joe Bolton who wore a police officer’s uniform and twirled a billy club.

Irish culture in New York City back in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s was extremely stereotyped apparently.

One time Officer Joe Bolton showed up at the parish carnival to sign autographs and he dragged along Moe Howard of Stooges fame.  Moe looked awful.  Apparently the Stooge lifestyle was running down at that point.  I didn’t try to get Moe’s autograph.  But I listened to Officer Joe playing a medley of songs on his banjo.

So all that being said, I wonder if St. Patrick’s Day still means anything to the Irish in America.  Sure, it’s been turned into an excuse to get drunk like Cinco de Mayo and Super Bowl Sunday but do Irish Americans still celebrate it?  I wonder.

Well anyway, it’s Camera Girl’s birthday and that’s a big deal in this house.  We’ll have our traditional dinner and I’ll put on the Quiet Man as a tribute to Irish American cultural history.  That’ll have to do.

11MAR2022 – OCF Update – It’s a Blooming Miracle?

Today Camera Girl excitedly announced that one of her bulbs had bloomed in front of the house.  She said it was yellow and I couldn’t miss it.  But it was so small that I passed it three times before I finally saw it.

I tried to be as upbeat as I could be but I don’t know. I’m going to have to buy a magnifying glass and install it on top of this flower along with some signage.

It’s pretty enough.  But it’s not exactly eye-catching.  Well, it was covered by snow yesterday so maybe it’ll increase in size later on.  But I doubt it.  From now on I’ll have her read the descritions on the flowers she buys and specifically avoid ones described as microscopic.

On a different note we got our tax papers finished today and the accountant showed that we’ll get something less than three thousand dollars back from Uncle Sam and the rest of the thieves.  I intend to plow the money directly into some get rich quick scheme that involves a time machine and oil futures.  Right now the details are still coming into focus.  Or we might get the snow-blower fixed for next year.  Right now it could go either way.