Thursday, December 31, 2015

HIS NAME IS

Dwight Brooks.
Reader Dear, it was the final chance meeting of a stranger-turned-friend in the year of 2015.

All I can tell you is that we were both waiting for the Giant grocery store to steam our shrimp (he for a party in Delaware at his sister's house; me for the traditional party with the friends of The Yard Man and me.)

Well, honestly, I could tell you far more!  We had fifteen minutes to visit, we two kindred spirits.  Though I could give you all kinds of details of his life story,  I'm just going to say he's got 23 grandchildren.   "But you don't look more than forty!" I protested. (Let me tell you, Dear Reader, he's far older! "It's your black skin!" I told him. "Unfair advantage! Hides the wrinkles!")

We hugged and said goodbye with our wrapped packages of shrimp- with-"medium"-Old Bay-seasoning-treatment.  I'll likely never see him again in my life, in spite of our pact to meet again on New Year's Eve 2016 at the seafood counter. The fifteen minute friendship put a sparkle in my final day of 2015.  Happy New Year 2016 to you, Dwight Brooks!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Day led right into

the Day after Christmas, which led right into the eating of chicken-corn pies.  It's an immutable tradition for the extended family of The Yard Man!

video



Of course, we didn't move our forty-two selves to the garage and eat those one-dozen homemade chicken-corn pies with the gallon of gravy and the home-baked rolls  (may the sis-in-law Beth and the bro-in-law Rob please take a monumental bow and may the whole extended family leap to their feet and with rousing Christmas spirit give them a standing ovation!) and the several salads and the fancy pears and all the desserts until after...(oh, Dear Reader, should you grimace and put your hand to your stomach I won't complain...) until after we'd eaten the pre-pie spread*!

*Talking about the hors d'oeuvres , Reader Dear.
(We never call them that [but we do have lofty
discussions every now and then (after all, we've
got bro-in-law Walt to raise the bar on subject
matter])



Friday, December 25, 2015

Twenty-fifth Day

of the Twelfth Month, Reader Dear, was ushered in by a full Christmas Moon!

video


And, here in the household of The Yard Man and me, it was followed  by more things round and full and yellow...


(So simple when one can give up one's perfectionist ways and throw the pie crusts in the shopping cart in advance of the big holiday; beat the eggs, grate the cheese, chop the veggies, thaw the loose sausage on the eve!)
*Qathy's Quiche:
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 handfuls of spinach
4 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup cubed ham (sliced to a 1/4-inch thickness)
1/2 cup cubed Gruyére
Just kind of wing it,  Dear Reader, if you wish to copy.  I wasn't using ham and the cheese was not Gruyere. The Quiches were so scrumptious there was a proposal for a start-up business.
5. (This is not actually step 5 in my slapped-together step-by-step guide.  Do you mind?) To the bottom of the tart shell or pie crust, add the wilted spinach (or the hurriedly washed and chopped, fresh spinach plus the chopped red bell pepper and onion, which you sauteed in the first ingredient listed), cubed cheese and ham. Pour 3/4 of the egg mixture over top and transfer to a baking sheet. Place in oven on rack and top off with the remaining egg mixture (this way [if you are a lucky one (or it's Christmas Day)] it won’t spill over).
6. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. The top of the quiche will be puffed and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly until serving.

The day sped by in a blur.
All my small actors exhibited lots of Christmas energy.
(They were the ones eating at the celebrity table.) 

 (They were also the ones jumping up and down and bouncing off the walls and requesting something-or-other regarding "presents" while the remainder of us ate our quiche in a relatively calm and Christmas-like manner.)




The Small Actor got a Christmas tiger tattoo.

All of us got Christmas cookies at the door (oh, the good neighbors).




And then First Son-in-Law took Second Son-in-Law and they traveled off somewhere to get us  fantastic Yours-for-the-Taking produce to enhance our second Christmas-Day meal!

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The second meal featured sweet potatoes and peas and mushrooms along with the ham (I'm forecasting ham and Gruyere in the Post-Christmas Quiches).





I'd have to say, Dear Reader Dear.....Merry Christmas to you!  Yes, that.  
And.....although the day here was more red-and-green than yellow, it was quite full and delightfully (gathered) round with loved ones!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

On the Cusp of Christmas

video 
 (Commonly known as Christmas Eve Day)

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Big Day

draws near.
I called the Dark-haired Daughter and David this afternoon, on the first leg of their trip from  Asheville, NC (I supposed).  "Where are you?" I asked. "Are you getting here around midnight?"
"No, we're only an  hour away!" she said.  "We left early!"
So, Reader Dear, it turned out  

they (Dark-haired Daughter, the [dark-haired] Son-in-Law, along with the [dark-haired] dog) were also drawing near!

Turns out, The Small Actor and his dad were on their way to our house, too.   So I lit into the mountain of food on my kitchen counter (just back from a food-procurement shopping trip),
and I did myself proud with a very tasty sausage and tomato soup (Best he ever ate, declared The Yard Man; hmm, he's prone to superlatives, Reader Dear, when he's hoping for a repeat!)  And I chopped up fruit for salad (my latest binge).


Here's the thing, Dear Reader.  I knew Christmas was getting close, but I didn't expect it to get out of the car with our dear loved ones the way it did!
Oh, Merry Holidays!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

More of those

video

   Christmas  sounds.    And a paper airplane, too!
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Friday, December 18, 2015

Twenty-second or perhaps

the thirty-second sound of the season...
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and this round of applause for a just-missed
(based strictly on the view, Viewer Dear) sound of the season!
video
...........
Then there was this sound of the season, as well.  It was so brief, I failed to catch it. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

First Sounds

of the season!

videoListener Dear, I took this video clip a week ago (three days past Thanksgiving Day), when dining out with friends. To our surprise, into the restaurant popped these singers from the local opera house.
They sang two carols, and left as suddenly as they'd arrived!


..................

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Oh, my!

Dressed up in its finery, this Douglas fir feels very good about itself.
Ask me how I know.

Or, well, Viewer Dear, I'm just going to tell you.

Today we had a beautiful, late autumn afternoon. The Yard Man was once again trotting his horses to and fro at the tree farm.  But I was having a fine time stringing lights and hanging a whole assortment of historical, fancy do-dads upon that Douglas fir.

"I love this part of the process!" I told the tree.
"Some of these ornaments with which I'm gracing your boughs go all the way back to Creation!"*

Every time I opened another dusty box of decorative items, I would exclaim over them, letting the tree know how stunning it was going to look once I'd got them pinned on!

And, wouldn't you know, late afternoon, just about the time my exultations were beginning to be a bit strained, I finished dressing that tree and stepped back for a look.

Reader Dear, that tree was absolutely glowing!
..............................

*I had to confess that it was only back to the time when I was the Creator.  Those empty  English walnut shells, with a hand-fashioned wire hook, glued together and spray-painted silver  were painstakingly formed when I was a child.

Friday, December 4, 2015

It Was so Early in the Season

when The Yard Man hauled that Douglas Fir tree home and we sat it in a bucket of water on the porch.  It was already dying, you know, and I hoped that the outside cold air might extend its green life at least until the tree has served its life purpose.

There it sat for a week, until yesterday.  I mustered up my courage, did the annual trek to the attic to scrounge around for all the paraphernalia, and supervised the anchoring of the tree into the stand (Only Son happened to stop by, oh, so providentially.  He assisted with the top-level job of Vertical Verifiability [no easy chore, Reader Dear, when the trunk has got twists and turns of which the supervisor was previously unaware)] And, speaking of twists and turns,  the tree has been subjected to quite a few as I aim to put its best face forward [Its got more flaws than formerly found at the farm!])

So, now you see it, Viewer Dear,
The naked Douglas Fir, awaiting its destiny.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas Wishing

at the local Costco:
video

video
....

Monday, November 30, 2015

Eclectic Mix



She told me about the do-it-yourself mailing machine!

They brought the cookies I wolfed down on the way to the post office!

This is Paul.  I spent twenty minutes feeling up Lego packets with him at the Toys-R-Us store, trying to determine which mini-figurine was inside each one.

I couldn't afford to get another "Mr. Piggy"!
("I don't like PINK!" declared The Little Actor, when he'd opened the first two mini-figurine packets I'd purchased and, against all odds, they were both the same!).




Saturday, November 28, 2015

Getting an Early Christmas Jingle

with a little bit of a jangle!
Since it was The Yard Man himself who was trotting his horses back to the evergreens, I had the privilege of riding on the high seat.
video

The Yard Man was under the employment of a Christmas tree farm not far from our house.  He's going to be driving shoppers into the fields every Saturday for the next few weeks, and I determined that tagging a tree today (for future cutting) would be easy and fun.

But, Dear Reader, it was a damp and gray afternoon.  After I climbed down off that wagon and started tramping around in search of Christmas tree perfection, the clouds yielded up real tears.  By the time I left that tree farm, I was damp and a little gray myself.

As I explained to the Yard Man, each time he jingled by to see if I'd achieved success,  "I'm driving myself crazy!"

For here's the thing, Reader Dear: I was intent on finding a Douglas Fir that was lush and green and beautifully formed,  and there were none! 
Well, there were some that looked healthy and green, but they were few and far between. Worst of all, they'd already been tagged!
Dear Reader, I searched and searched. Tramped and tramped.  Always the good ones were tagged!

videoI rode on the wagon once with another party who had found Christmas tree happiness in a relatively short time.  But, they had a Frasier Fir.

At last it was quitting time.
I gritted my teeth, tagged a tree that I tried to love, and rode my jingling way back to the shop.  
"I searched a long time!" I explained to the owner of the trees. 
"So many of them were filled with brown needles."
"Yes," he explained.  "The Douglas Firs got a disease.  We had to burn three-hundred of them that were too damaged to recover!  There were only a few that escaped the disease, and those were tagged by Penn State.  They are going to do research on them."
Then he added,
"We decided we will let our customers buy them.  But, Penn State can take any of those healthy tagged trees that we don't sell."
Reader Dear...uh...did you hear it?  Most of those hundreds of Douglas Firs were suffering from a disease (they say that many will recover by next year).  The few nice tagged ones are only reserved for Penn State if no one buys them!
............
Epilogue: After nearly two hours of slogging around under weeping skies, and believing that any lush green Douglas Fir I found was already claimed by someone else,   I couldn't go out in that field again!  I carried away a nice-looking and disease-free Douglas Fir that had already been cut and sitting at the shop for sale* when I boarded The Yard Man's wagon to begin my quest.

*"It's not true of all the varieties, but the Douglas Firs start dying the minute they're cut," the tree farm owner told me.**
 **"We cut this tree on Wednesday," he said.




Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day Meal made Simple.


All I did was turn the cranberries into the cranberry sauce, and--abracadabra--The Yard Man and I ended up with a decidedly delectable Thanksgiving Day Meal and delightful dinner companions!****

Reader Dear, here's the secret:  Gracefully (and gratefully) bow out of the job of host and-or hostess to the meal!  (If you've got an Only Daughter-in-Law with meal-making talent and clamoring to take on the task [along with her sous chef, Only Son], you're in luck.)
I was in luck!
video

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...............
 *Oops.  No photo of a full half of those partaking of the yummy food! Got the family members of Only Daughter-in-Law and their  British (and China-dwelling) neighbors (next to whom I had the good fortune to be seated!) Neglected to photograph First Son-in-Law and my three diminutive actors.  Also missed a picture of the two adolescent cousins of The Small Actor, who were able to give my three young ones a rousing good time!**
**Turning off the lights in an upstairs bedroom, moving things around and arranging them in weird and unusual ways; then, suddenly snapping on the lights to provoke screams of fear and bravery bunched together into fun! ***
The adults were far more staid. No screaming.
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****For which we were truly thankful!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I Like the Gray, November Day

And bare dead boughs that coldly sway against my pane.
I like the rain.
I like the fall,
the mist and all.

Except, truth be told, Dear Reader, I far prefer the sun and all.
Plus unusual warmth,
let it befall!
(Thus far, here in my spot of the world, November has treated the residents warmly)



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\
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It's been such gloriously sixty-ish weather for the first half of the month that my little actors and their entourage were able to take shirt-sleeve walks in two different parks on two separate Sunday afternoons!

video
On that first occasion, the movie I produced is entitled, Into the Wild Bamboo.

Fortunately, the little explorers were not lost in the jungle during their expedition. I was able to get the sequel:
Out of the Wild Bamboo

video
.........
Second Occasion:  Millport Conservancy Park.
                                          




Oh, yes.  It's so true!
I very much prefer the yellow to the gray (November day)! 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

SIX=6=VI

The Little Actor Turned Six Years Old Today!

He had a birthday party!  He got birthday presents!
And, The Yard Man and I, we got a gift, too!
We were the lucky ones to take this little celebrity out to eat tonight.  People magazine's been  hanging around, but I'm giving the inside scoop directly to you, Reader Dear!  His dinner order was Mac n' Cheese, with a side of squeezable yogurt.  Birthday dessert was a big cookie full of M&Ms. 
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(We didn't linger long at the restaurant, because even birthday boys have bedtimes [and, anyway,  what's to top a big cookie filled with M&Ms?]!)


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Autumn

at its loveliest.
This, Dear Viewer Dear, is the fitness center where I took my daily* walk this evening.  Stunning,** no?
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*This word an approximation.
**This word not an approximation.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Now I'm a Carver Craver!

It's the truth; I'm craving this soup.  Reader Dear, this soup was like no other I've ever tasted.   I took one bite and swooned!
I'm speaking, of course, about the George Washington Carver Memorial Soup that Mi Amiga prepared for her guests when The Yard Man and I went to see her and Mr. Amigo at their home in Virginia the other weekend.

Yes, it made me ecstatic.  I started craving more of it from the very first delectable spoonful.  And I've been craving it ever since!  I so want to concoct some of this stuff.  If I were able to collect all the ingredients and carve out enough time, my lucky stars would shine!

There's just no way, Dear Reader, I can convey the velvety mouth- feel and the sweetly savory richness of this soup unless I offer you a bite.  And, well, here's the hitch.  You, Dear Chef, will have to be the one to prepare this delicious soup before I can reasonably say, "Go ahead.  Try some!"*

So, here is the recipe.  Mi Amiga got it from a friend so true,** who likely got it from someone she knew, who could have gotten it from a radio show (for all I know).  However, I believe that Mi Amiga tweaked the ingredient list enough that I'm going to give her full and total credit for it.  She's the one who collected all the ingredients and  carved out the time to prepare it for her guests!  She's the one who got me craving!

George Washington Carver Memorial Soup 

Ingredients:
(The list is daunting. Be brave! [I whisper to myself])
....1/2 Cup peanut or grape seed oil
....1 large onion, peeled and cut into eighths
....2 cloves of garlic, minced
....2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated              
....2 teaspoons cumin powder
....2 teaspoons coriander powder
....1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
....1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
....2 tablespoons organic tomato paste
....8 cups organic chicken or vegetable stock
....2 sweet potatoes (1 1/2- 2 lbs.), peeled and cut into 2 inch cubes
....2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch sections
....1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
....1/2 cup organic dark roasted peanut butter
.....1 teaspoon salt
....1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
....Sour cream, dollop, optional
....1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped, optional

Instructions:
(Just twelve easy steps! [I fantasize])
.....Coat sweet potatoes, carrots and onion wedges with all but two     tablespoons of the oil.
....Sprinkle with salt.
....Place on a baking sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until soft.
.....Cut off any black (and eat it. YummySmiling face with open mouth). Dark brown is fine.
.....Meanwhile, heat a heavy-bottom saucepan and add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.
.....Add the garlic, ginger and all of the spices.
.....Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring.
.....Add the tomato paste, peanut butter, the roasted vegetables, salt, cayenne pepper, and stock.
.....Mix well.
..... Remove from heat.
.....Put mixture in bowl of a blender or food processor in batches and blend until smooth.
.....Pour mixture back into saucepan and heat over medium - low heat until heated through.
(following steps are all totally optional)
.....Ladle into bowls.
.....Garnish with dollop of sour cream, chopped peanuts and cilantro.
.....Take a bite.
.....Gasp with delight.
.....Dance around the room throwing flower petals (paper confetti would also suffice).
.....Sing a short aria.
.....Dream of serving George Washing Carver Memorial Soup to every soul who's ever smiled at you.
.....Blog about it. 

Serves 6-8. (So they say.)
Dear Chef, let me know if you make this soup one day!

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*Reader Dear, it's not easy shipping soup.
**I really have no idea about the friendship other than knowing that only a friend so true would share this recipe with you. 
(Gracias, Mi Amiga!)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mas (More)

regarding the delightful weekend with our forest-dwelling friends:

I did tell you, Dear Reader, that we went for a walk, The Yard Man and I and our hosts.
One of the curious crowds (well, there was really just this one) who flocked to see us as we strolled along, was these cattle.
Even the lone steer turned to stare.
(I have to confess, I'm a bit of a celebrity in bovine circles; but, they seemed fascinated by every one of us!)

...........................................
As I also mentioned previously, on Sunday morning Mi Amiga (my [female] friend, aka our hostess) took me with her to su iglesia (her church).

Mi Amiga is teaching herself to habla Espanol (speak Spanish)She is not yet fluent, but she knows more than I do, considering my study of this language was...er...mucho, mucho tiempo (a long long time) ago!

However, it was interesting to pick up what I could, and to watch the waving fabric that looked for all the world like flames.
video
Following the service, as Mi Amiga and I were leaving la iglesia, we were asked about staying for la comida (the meal).
Eh?! (Huh?!)
Mi Amiga did not have prior knowledge of this meal, but we decided to stay, since we were being invited so warmly and by now it was past one o'clock in the afternoon.

We followed church members down the narrow steps to the basement of la iglesia
(are you learning a little Espanol, Dear Reader?) and there we found a room filled with decorated tables, and balloons hanging on the walls!  By doing a little sleuthing, we discovered there was to be a surprise baby shower.
Aha, un bebe! (A baby boy!)

Plates of food were soon carried to us, and el nino (the boy) seated near me pointed out to us, "If you have green sauce on your plate, that is hot!"
(He spoke in English, but I know caliente when I taste it). Happily, the sauce was not too hot to spoil the rice and beans.  The tamale was homemade and delicioso (surely you can figure that one out, Dear Reader Dear?) Mi Amiga and I carried the hunks of meat home to our hombres (you're on your own here, too).

Altogether, the Spanish middle-of-day* was one of the highlights of the weekend! *(Service began at eleven a.m; by the time we ate and left la iglesia [just as the young, expectant couple arrived] it was past two o'clock.)
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But, as you know, there was yet another highlight (er, perhaps you don't know; it's all in Espanol...**

**later