Well…

…it has been a while.

Not much to report. Snow every few days, followed by shoveling. Bouts of cabin fever. 4-5 inches of weighty powder fell yesterday. Today, however, temps have reached the 40s(F), and there is sun. Stuff is dripping off the roof. I went out and got a massage, then had lunch. Amazing how revitalizing even a hint of Spring can be.

Gaby’s outside now, curled up atop a snowbank. Other times, she lurks beneath the bird feeder and waits for a squirrel to make a mistake. She’s nailed at least 5 that I know of since the first of the year. Buries them in the snow. I expect I will encounter them as the snow melts, unless night critters scavenged them.

Yukon Gaby

She is a Winter Dog. I let her outside yesterday before the snowing and blowing began, and after it started, she still did not want to come in. Instead, she curled up in the snow. I had to go out and leash her to get her inside.

In other news:

comix

…because I am 12 yo again. And because Loki. And because we need a Black Widow movie, Marvel.

Fave song of the moment: After the Disco–Broken Bells. I have it on repeat on iTunes.

It’s a Spring song.

Cold

That’s pretty much the update. It’s COLD, with occasional light snow. I am very much looking forward to spring.

Gaby, however, doesn’t seem to mind the chill. She lurks under the bird feeder and waits for squirrels.

Tax forms are showing up in the mail, so I will be working on things financial over the next few weeks. Annual physical stuff, which I hate but has to be done.

Not much else happening, so I will close with the news headline of the year, courtesy of writer Liz Williams over on the Facebook:

Ghost ship full of cannibal rats could be about to crash into Devon coast.


There are fears a ghost ship full of diseased cannibal rats could be about to crash into the coast of Devon or Cornwall.
The abandoned Lyubov Orlova has been missing since it cut adrift while being towed from Canada nearly a year ago. The 40-year-old liner has been driven across the Atlantic by high winds and is thought close to the UK shore. Based on emergency beacons activated last year aboard the ship, it is feared the 40-year-old Yugoslavian liner registered to Russia could crash into the shore of Devon, Cornwall, Ireland or Scotland.

Those searching for the ship say there are likely to be thousands of disease-ridden rats on board with no source of food except each other, according to The Sun.

Belgian-based searcher Pim de Rhoodes said: “She is floating around there somewhere. There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other.”

Shades of James, Stoker, and Benson.

Read more: http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Ghost-ship-cannibal-rats-crash-Devon-coast/story-20487193-detail/story.html#ixzz2rFbSk8u4

You hear a rumble

…like heavy machinery, a clatter like a slow train trundling down the track, but you know it’s not possible because you’re alone. Then you climb a dune and look out over the lake and realize that what you’re hearing are sheets of ice crashing and shattering on the shore.

The lake

Emerging

Yeah, it was cold. Snow blew and drifted and crackled underfoot. The wind bit. The house creaked. No exciting frost quakes, just loss of cable internet for most of Monday. Given what other folks went through–stranded on roadways, in train stations, etc–not going to complain. Well, not much. I did get cranky as the day wore on and the lack of instant news/stock market/publishing gossip got under my skin. I fear I am an addict.

I struggled to assuage the longing by baking brownies. Pondered a wip. Started reading Over Sea Under Stone by Susan Cooper, an older YA series that folks online had been raving about as a classic winter reread. I’m halfway through and have put the rest of the books in the series–5 in all–on hold at the library because yeah, the story is pretty good.

But hey, the warm-up has begun! -3F currently, but the wind has died. Saw a squirrel for the first time since Sunday, gnawing on the fresh suet block. A few hardy birds had gathered throughout the onslaught–the usual crew of jays, cardinals and juncos and even a pigeon or two–but more today, because HEAT WAVE!

I was worried about the car, since the garage is detached/uninsulated/unheated. But air temp in there is routinely 10 degrees warmer than the outdoors no matter what. That meant it was close to 10F in there this morning, which in turn translated to yes, the car started and I was able to get out of the house for the first time in 4 days. That lightened the general mood considerably.

Hope everyone affected by the polar vortex–that is so the name of my next band–is staying warm. I’m looking forward to spring, but there is still so much winter left to live through.

Another day before

The snow’s started, fine crystals that will fall through the night. Just a few hours left in 2013.

It was a year. I lost King. Retired from the day job. Pondered and planned. Hit some speed bumps. Struggled to adjust to having All The Time In The World, because it seemed to zip past even more quickly than it did when I didn’t. Lollygagged a little too much–I need to stop that. I’ve heard from several writers that it takes a year to adjust to being a full-timer, and I believe it. So that’s one big item on the 2014 agenda. Adjust.

I cannot complain. I’m very lucky that I was able to do what I’ve done. In the coming year, I need to make the most of the opportunity. Push myself. Take chances.

I hope you all get the chance to do something you always wanted to do. Have a plan come to fruition. Take that first step down a winding, overgrown path, one that doesn’t get a lot of traffic.

To the new year!

’twas the day before

Been a while since I posted. Funny that it seems as though I have less time now than I did back when I had less time.

Been busy around the house, taking care of the unexpected. The quest for a dishwasher retrofit led to my needing to upgrade the electrical box and get a new hot water heater. Still haven’t started work on the kitchen cabinets–I think I’ll hold off until after the 1st of the year. Also need to clean out closets, the basement. Paint bedrooms. I’ve tossed out self-imposed deadlines because these first few months of repair work have taught me that things take as long as they take, and what’s first on my list of priorities may not rank as highly on the lists of those I need to do the work. So. Things will get done when they get done, and not in a rush.

In other news, it’s a frigid, sunny Christmas Eve–temp around 0F earlier this morning and wind chills like Brrrr. It shall be a cookie and movie day. Nothing specifically holiday, but kitchen-sink cookies. Chocolate chunks. Raisins. Nuts. Oatmeal. Wheat germ. The works. The Prestige is playing on SyFy tonight. Haven’t seen it, so, it shall be a Christian Bale/Hugh Jackman/David Bowie as Nikola Tesla night. A little snow expected, an inch or so to add to the 4-5″ already on the ground. A White Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and Happy Holidays to all. A toast to the coming year.

Pear preserves

After some delays, on Monday I finally got around to my first attempt at pear preserves.

I love pears, but I’ve usually been disappointed in preserves and jams made from them. Price doesn’t matter. Supermarket or boutique, the pear flavor has been weak to nonexistent; even added flavoring like ginger has been flat. I wasn’t optimistic about these pears, either. The neighbors had left them on the tree for a while waiting for them to ripen, but it stayed cool for so long that they had to pick them while still unripe. I think the prolonged chill adversely affected the flavor–after I let them ripen in a paper bag for a couple of weeks, they were okay, but lacked the usual rich pop you get from a tree-ripened pear.

Anyway, went with this recipe from Emeril because it looked simple. Then, I made changes. Added 5 small apples leftover from my other neighbor’s donation because I wanted to add some pectin for thickening. Together with the pears, that resulted in 8 cups diced fruit. I read the recipe comments, and decided to cut back on the sugar because the pears were so sweet. So, 3 cups instead of 4. Added a couple of teaspoons of salt** because salt reduces the need for sugar and helps bring out the flavor of the fruit. 1/3 c chopped candied ginger instead of 1/4 c. Zest and juice of two limes because no lemons. And a tablespoon or so of fresh diced thyme because I thought the lemony taste would work well with the pears.

You’re supposed to boil this stuff until the mixture “sheets off a metal spoon.” I may have let it go too long because I wasn’t sure how sheety the sheeting needed to be. In any case, the stuff thickened until it entered the marmalade/borderline candy realm, with pears, apple, and ginger all turning translucent. I shoveled it into 4 Bonne Maman jars–yes, I reuse them–and stuck it all in the fridge to cool.

pear-ginger-thyme preserves

It’s good. Different than anything I have ever had before. I’ve eaten it smeared on bread with Brie, on toast with butter. On a turkey and cheddar sandwich. It has a combo flavor–not quite any single thing, but a mix of the ginger, thyme, and pear. It’s waaay thick, like commercial preserves. I would make it again. Might even reduce the sugar a little more.

**thinking back, not 100% sure whether I added 1 tsp, 1.5, or 2. I used a half-teaspoon measuring spoon, so I know I shoveled a couple of times. I’m afraid I cook like my mom–a little of this, a little of that, and how much of this did I add again? So, salt to taste. Not too salty.

Turkey Day prep

Stuffing made. Put it in roast pan, then buried the turkey breast within. Popped it all in the fridge to marinate until tomorrow afternoon.

It’s a savory bread pudding, heavy on the sage and onion. Also, celery. A handful of chopped parsley. Bay leaves. Herbes de Provence. One loaf of dense white bread and a box of TJ’s cornbread stuffing mix sans seasoning packet. To this amount of bread, I added a half-gallon of liquid–one quart chicken stock plus one quart 2% milk. A stick of butter. Four eggs. Salt and pepper.

Not a fan of dry stuffing, me.

The house smells good.

I wanted to fix the dessert today as well, but Gaby decided to make life interesting. She was outside–I was just getting started in the kitchen when I heard her barking in that loud, rapid-fire way that meant that either someone was in the driveway or something had invaded the backyard. Sure enough, I found her dashing around the ornamental crabapples in the middle of the yard while a squirrel darted back and forth from one treetop to the other. I tried to grab Gaby and failed just as the squirrel leapt to the ground and tried to make it to the oak on the far side of the yard. It didn’t make it–Gaby grabbed it, and a battle ensued. Squirrel would break away, only to be caught again. It finally ended squirrel lying on the ground and Gaby walking off, blood dripping from her mouth. I leashed her and pulled her into the house, then called the vet’s office. Yup, they were still open and yup, they could fit me in. Before we headed to the car, I went out to check the squirrel, and was relieved to see it move when I drew close. It headed toward the oak, favoring its rear leg. Last I saw, it was climbing slowly.

I know–they’re just rats with cute tails. Still, I’d prefer to not be the one who has to dispose of the remains.

Anyway. I was concerned that Gaby might need stitches, but by the time we got to the vet’s, she had stopped bleeding. No injuries were visible except for some claw marks on her nose. She ate a cookie that the vet gave her. I brought her home, and she ate dinner as though nothing happened. She kept wanting to go outside, though. I would check on her, and find her sniffing around the crabapples. My little killer.

I’ll make dessert tomorrow morning.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate! May you enjoy good food and good company. And a lack of squirrels.

Been a while

Over three weeks since my last post.

Busy, been, yes. Fall yard clean-up. Some major electrical work in the house. Meeting with an attorney to work on estate planning. A storm last weekend knocked out power for 15 hours, which allowed me the joy of an overflow sump pump cistern, fallen branches, and worry about the contents of the fridge. I dried things off, raked things up, and kept things cold. All good.

Took care of what I pray will be the last session with a rake for 2013. What I thought would be no more than an hour spent picking up branches turned into 3 hours and 15 lawn bags of branches, honey locust leaves, and pine needles. The honey locust leaves and needles are a bitch to rake–the leaves are small enough to sink in between the leaves of grass, while the needles weave through and get tangled. I could rake the same spot over and over, and still bring up needles and leaves.

I cut bushy bits off the fallen pine branches and tucked them into the planter–they’ll make a nice surround for the little Christmas tree I’ll be sticking in there later this week. Yup, ’twill be time to put up the lights and decorations. I don’t do many–a couple of trees made of coils of lights. Some wreaths. Simple, in anticipation of the fact that they will be taken down sometime in early January.

Cold, cold morning, cold enough to dig out the base layer for the morning walk. Gaby carries her base layer with her, and was quite content.

The Dr Who Weekend is playing in the background. The top 11 Matt Smith eps. I’d enjoy them more if they didn’t break in for commercials every four minutes. And if they hadn’t trimmed the eps in order to fit in said commercials. I’ve seen some of these episodes waaay too many times. I know which lines have been cut; some of them were from favorite scenes. Irritating, like favorite songs with phonograph record skips.

Time for coffee.

In closing, a couple of recent pics. Herself, post-grooming session, with bows, neckerchief, and a forlorn expression:

You did this to me.

You did this to me.

Yet another fall photo. Golden maple leaves:

Autumn gold

Apples

Lots of apples.

Last week, one of my neighbors gave me a shopping bag full of apples from their tree. 17 pounds worth.

Yesterday, I dealt with them. A couple quarts of applesauce. Apple crisp. Today, apple nut bread.

I recommend the crisp recipe. I did substitute white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose when making the crumbs, and added a couple tablespoons of wheat germ as well. The crumbs may have turned out a little dry as a result, but they do have a nice, nutty flavor.

Lots of cooking over the last week. Autumn food, Jacques Pepin’s tuna w/ pasta (best tuna casserole ever, imo, and yes, I add the raisins), butternut squash soup and maple-brined pork loin roast (result: a very juicy roast that tasted a bit like ham).

House stuff took up a lot of my time. The basement guys came and fixed the window wells and filled All The Cracks. I cleared lava rock from a patch next to the deck, and planted some shrubs. Raked leaves. Set up appointments for more estimates.

Downloaded Gimp, which is freeware photo manipulation software. I’ve heard that it’s difficult to learn, but I would like to use it and try my hand at ebook covers for some short stories. I can understand paying to have a novel cover made, but it’s a little more difficult to justify the expense for a short story. I’ll see how well I do. If it proves a disaster, I’ll look into alternative coverage.

Raining now. Cool, dreary autumn. Trees that were still mostly green seem to have changed over the last two days–maples are either vermilion or a gorgeous deep gold, like butterscotch. Oaks aren’t as flashy, all tarnished brass.

Some folks have already put up their Christmas decorations. That just staggers me. Not ready for that at all.