Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Years Eve At Home

Home is a good place to be for New Years Eve. We stashed all the ingredients to make our traditional fancy drink... pomegranite juice, lemon-lime soda, and pineapple juice. Max blended those with ice, and we had a toast.

Earlier in the day, Geoff was overseeing the planning, and early assembly of benches for our table. I haven't shared this yet, but we dragged home a free table, and it's awesome... large, wood, with steel pipes for legs. Our super lucky score. I thought we could look out for chairs to add, but Alex pointed out that chairs are going to overcrowd our deck. Then I thought of benches. Two long benches, that could be tucked under the table, would give us lots of seating, without taking up lots of space. It was only an idea, but these guys are running with it, and designing it to look good with our new table!

On Instagram, I shared the picture of potatoes and tortillas, and Sara was curious to know what we were up to with these ingredients, and I was happy to share! "There’s also bell peppers, chives, avocado and cilantro," I began, then continued, "Here’s what happened! I had hot coals ready in our campfire. I sliced the bell pepper, cut the potatoes into chunks, sprinkled salt, pepper, and thyme over these and drizzled a little olive oil over everything, and all of this got wrapped In foil and set in the hot coals. While those roasted, I diced the avocados, chives and cilantro. The potatoes cooked for about half an hour. We heated tortillas in a pan over the fire, and ate potato-pepper-avocado burritos with herbs and butter! Why is campfire cooking so extra yummy? I know the sea-salted butter didn’t hurt!" There were also Beyond sausages, and a couple of steaks on the grill. By the time everything was cooked, we were huddled around the heat fire and the cooking fire. It was a cold night. I'm glad we cooked out, though. I think I have a special fondness for being closer to nature when celebrating milestones, like Solstice, a New Year, Ground Hog Day.

Did you notice our Kindling Cracker? This is not an ad. I saw that this child, only 13 years old when she invented it, designed a safer way for splitting kindling. I love reading about young people following their ideas and making new things, and we actually like splitting logs. Anyway, it seemed like a well made and possibly useful gadget, and I made it my Christmas gift to the family. It is well made, and useful. We really like our Kindling Cracker, and makers, and creativity, and campfire burritos, and frosty drinks, and being together at home for New Years Eve.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Another Trip

I went around the sun, again. Does it show? This is 54.

The "plan," for my birthday, was to go to the mountains, then the desert. I need trees, the smell of pines, big rocks to climb. You would think by now that we would know better than to make plans in 2020. We made the responsible decision to skip driving our 20 year old RV, the Green Goose, up hills, because of the sketchy brakes, and the inevitable down hills. (Burning Man is always with us... one trip, a lifetime of memories, and mechanical repairs!) Okay, so scratch that plan, and we are left with the beach. We parked ourselves in a scenic spot, brought sandwich fixings, and spent most of the day relaxing, and stuff.

Geoff brought a couple of bikes, and I rode four miles, even making it to Dog Beach, which was exactly as my friend Diana says, a Disneyland for dogs! The happiest energy in the world is running loose, wagging tails, making waves. It's a sight to behold. Pure wholesomeness. Those miles went into the notebook I started for my make-believe bicycle journey. It's the idea that's been in my head for some time, to track all the miles I ride, looping around our neighborhood, and then imagine them as a cross-country bike trip. I'm taking it out of my head, and putting it down on paper. I brought an atlas to the beach, and Geoff played with me by doing mileage searches. I would run my finger across Washington, or Wisconsin, through Ontario, Canada, and ask him, "How many miles between Sault Ste Marie, and Toronto?" One thing, I am not being too fussy about is it being exclusively a cycling trip. I decided to hop aboard the Empire Builder in Glacier National Park. We can get a sleeper car and ride all the way to Minneapolis, before we pedal to Eagle River, Wisconsin. I have things roughly mapped out all the way to Prince Edward Island. Next up... how to get from Charlottetown, PEI to Iceland? Also, my plans are very vague from our house to Seattle, but I am looking forward to going into specifics and details, for all of the trip. Imaginary trip planning is brilliant. We have not had a single mishap nor obstacle we cannot manage with ease, and pleasure!

In the meantime, we have a lovely real life to enjoy, and the beach day was good. There was a low tide, and William found an amazing shell. Bambi and Maria watched shrimp swaying and flitting in a pool. The water was cold, and I liked how it felt to step in and out of the pools, on sand. Maria took my picture, and made a kind remark, and that, along with other birthday messages that came on social media, made me feel special, made me feel thankful to know kind people. My birthday is like a dress-rehearsal for New Years Eve, when I get contemplative about the year I've spent, and the year ahead. I rarely feel exactly jubilant, confident, but I do feel grateful, and ready to move forward.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

We Have Been Feasting

Alex, Bambi, and Maria have been immersed in the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons. This all began well before the pandemic, and lockdowns. I was surprised to be reminded that some of the earliest rounds were played back in 2011. Ok, I admit, now I am just enjoying seeing these old posts, any where I refer to or mention Dungeons and Dragons! For sure they were playing two summers ago. And even two years before that summer! Anyway. Sorry. Where was I? Alex, Bambi, Maria, Lucas, and Tori play every week, online, and during the week they plan, strategize, discuss, create art, construct models, write scripts... they're in to it. And now they are cooking it, thanks to the Heroes' Feast, The Official D&D Cookbook.

Everyone cooks. I mean, there are 7 of us living here, under lockdown since March, and we all take turns in the kitchen, fixing meals. Geoff is our grilled cheese hero. Max's specialty is sausages and hotdogs, with cabbage, or pickles. Maria helps Alex and Bambi some nights, and other times she treats us to handmade pastas, scones, smoothies, soups. William has mastered a delicious pasta in cream sauce, as well as soups, spaghetti, and salads. Alex and Bambi fix us Japanese menus, as well as curries, pasties, and crepes. The cookbook has introduced a whole whole new world of dishes, and flavors, and inventive titles, and themes... it's bit Alice Waters cooks with Harry Potter in Middle Earth. And we get a vegan's and omnivore's option at every meal. The first meal was hearty and comforting Traveler's Stew. And, I might as well say it now, we are loving these recipes! And not just because Alex, Bambi, Maria, and sometimes William, have been doing lots of great cooking, but also because the food is good, the flavors compelling. It's been a real treat! It's as if we are traveling, visiting new restaurants, trying different seasonings, and combinations, and the experience is a welcome change.
Seeing the recipe for Mushroom Tea didn't excite me, but that was my lack of experience. Bambi made something simple and deeply satisfying. This broth, over noodles, was a lovely lunch... much like the soup base for a good ramen. We are looking forward to enjoying this again.
Bangers and Smash was a real big hit. Alex, and William had Beyond sausages. The rest of us enjoyed sausages from Trader Joes. I'll mention the weather, which has been cold, because it just adds to the appeal and heartiness of this dish. We ate up every bit. Love the leeks, all of it. Next time we will have some of our favorite bread to go with our Bangers and Smash.
When cooking like dwarves, elves, and halflings, it's nice to do a little foraging for the meal. We still have peppers, and chives in the garden. Cilantro and beets are coming up, and our wonderful hens are still laying, even though the days are short. We all enjoyed the Feywild Eggs, a frittata. Bambi added sauteed bell peppers, and that was a good choice.

Will the dishes get better and better? This meal might be hard to beat! Alex used his vegan hot dog bun recipe to make rolls for these turkey, and Impossible protein, sliders. The sliders were full of onions and garlic. And we topped them with a fig and olive tapenade, and a dill dressing (made vegan by substituting the yogurt with an almond yogurt, by Kite Hill.) On the side, a gorgeous salad of radicchio and brussels sprouts, citrus, and flowers... a true Wood Elf dish. We even had garden flowers to top the salad.

I picked up the book, just to be sure I was getting the details right, and now as I recall the meals, and skim through the book, I am not surprised that Maria read it cover to cover in one sitting. I want to read it, too. And more than that, I want to know what they are going to cook next!

Friday, December 25, 2020


Santa left something too good in one of the stockings, and that's why on Christmas morning all of the stockings were crashed and spilling on the floor. My ingenious system for hanging stockings was no match for a determinded cat after a fluffy wool llama toy.
Geoff and I were the first ones up, and I solved the crashed stockings mystery, then restored all. It was 5am. We unloaded the dishwasher, then filled it up, again. I made tea. Geoff made coffee. Then I rang sleigh bells. And that's how the morning began. I confess... I love all the days from Thanksgiving right through Christmas Eve, and then Christmas Day feels like the beginning of the end. The end of anticipation, of wonder, of preparing, of secrets and plans, even of the longest nights, which I particularly love. After Christmas comes the awareness that Winter break will whiz by, that the tree will need to come down, and school will start up, again. Sorry. I sound more morose than I actually feel, but it's a shame to see the veil lifted.
There can be no denying it... we positively spoiled each other. And it was a slow, appreciative, happy morning. Each and every gift is opened one at a time, and we play, and admire, read aloud, share, pass things around, and laugh. If Christmas must come to end, at least we make the very most of our celebration. Do you know Reddy Kilowatt? He found his way into our stockings, along with notebooks, pencils, Pez, and kazoos!
Seven kazoos! Each handmade, not by Santa's elves, but by William. The body is bass wood, and the resonator cap is walnut. I wrote about them on Instagram. For weeks William has been very busy at several different projects, including these kazoos. They sound good, too. Funny thing is, instinctive kazoo playing may be a hereditary skill. Maria and I are still trying to get the hang of it, while Geoff was able to bzzzzzz out a tune right off the bat! The kazoos look pretty, and feel buttery smooth. We love them.
And there was another woodworker in our midst! Just look at what Max did for my knife. This is the same knife Alex rescued for me. It never should have gone into the dishwasher, but life happens, and after four years, my favorite knife needed another rescuing. This time Max took charge. He chose ancient African bog-wood and a band of purple acrylic. Max sat beside me and described all of the steps he made to refurbish my knife. The brass pins were formed on the lathe, and then all the parts were assembled around the knife's tang, so he could shape the handle on the belt sander, with a spindle handle, and finally, sanding it by hand. He sharpened the blade, too. Everyone knows... my favorite knife doesn't go in the dishwasher! It's beautiful, and lovely to hold.
The rest of the day went, pretty much, like this... reading, naps, reading naps, cats playing and napping, and people playing, and napping. It's wonderful. Also, we make a tremendous mess. Even when we tidy as we go, things get absolutely jumbled. It makes me twitch, but the young folks insist that it's a good and necessary jumble, essential to the merry of Christmas. It's a good practice... to be merry, even in the midst of jumbles, to appreciate all of it. We have made the most of our holidays, and there is more to come.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Together Distantly

Here is Pod A! Ruth, Izzy, Emma and Nick, Rich and Holly~
Christmas Eve at Tutu's has been a happy tradition, and not one we were ready to give up, despite everything. Ruth devised a plan, and with some tweaks, adjustments, compromises, and lots of precautions, we did get to be together, for Christmas Eve, distantly, and happily. I am glad, and thankful, that she didn't give up, that we made safe choices, and still managed to share laughter, and engagement.
Ruth provided individually packed provisions, one for Pod A and another for Pod B. Max is still raving about the jalapeño muffins. And we exchanged gifts. A very fortunate thing is the that rain held off, and we had the park all to ourselves. Of course, we missed our homecooked brunch and being cozy, and close, in Tutu's beautiful home. It takes a good mix of hope, for better days, and humor, to make these things work out... and we have plenty of both. It was good we made the effort to pull this, modified, Christmas Eve off.
I propose we recall this as the Year of the Christmas Gopher, when we were all entertained, especially Rich and I, by the industrious work, and silliness of this little guy. He didn't seem to mind that we were near. He kept right at his business, popping up regularly to be sure we were minding the spirit of lockdown, and Christmas. Thank you, Christmas Gopher.