As Bofur said to Bilbo (sort of):

•January 15, 2021 • 2 Comments

The geese all squawk and then they stop

•January 14, 2021 • 5 Comments

A year ago today.

It’s funny. I felt rushed when I wrote that post because I was so tired and I wanted to go to bed, and although I think about all of that quite a bit I haven’t written about it much more. Such a year.

Dad was horrible. My flight got caught on the tail end of a snowstorm and ORD was a maelstrom of unhappy, unwashed travelers. The flight attendant was extremely kind to me and let me sob on his shoulder for about ten minutes. I stayed at LHR for an hour drinking coffee and hoping my soul would catch up with my body. After so much time in processed air, going into real air to get into London was beyond bracing. Piccadilly Circus — more people in one place than I had experienced in some time. A great deal on the hotel, and it was like falling asleep into a cocoon. The last phase of the Harry and Meghan scandal dominated the news. I was teaching my online class and it all seemed very surreal from the darkened hotel. View of Trafalgar Square from the window. Those pictures are all on my old phone; I need to download them all still. Dinner with Hari at a fantastic continental / Viennese sort of place. I’m still remembering that meal. Feeling truly relaxed for the first time in months.

There’s a start. I need to at least jot it all down.

Dwarf Camp was TEN YEARS AGO

•January 12, 2021 • 22 Comments

This is insane. Prompted by Herba I was looking at last year but I just saw a post by Adam Brown that ten years ago today, he got on the plane to go to New Zealand. Here’s my post from Jan 14, 2011.


Richard Armitage waits to get picked for teams in PE class.


And a vid I can’t not love.

Something else

•January 9, 2021 • 15 Comments

It did snow twice in quick succession during the last week of 2020. I’m calm enough now about the tussle and yelling that resulted from the snowplowing discussion to post a picture of our front entry.

Corner of the wall next to the front stairs.

Since then, we’re having unseasonably warm weather, so we’ve been seeing this on the trees in the morning lately. It’s called “rime ice.”

This is how it looks when someone who can take pictures photographs it:

These pictures I took:


Weed among the pines in the front yard.


“My” elm tree, front yard.


Front of our property, from the road, plus my car dashboard.

It’s really pretty but climatologically wrong. Average daily temperatures around here are now 5.7F higher than they were when I was a child.

This is amusingly written

•January 8, 2021 • 4 Comments

Review of the Vanya screen adaptation. I know I’m in the minority about Aimee Lou Wood, who in my opinion was not at the level of the other performers. However, it also shamefully neglects Rosalind Eleazar, who was really great in this. Honestly, when I see a review like this that just erases a main character and the performer who plays her, there’s only one conclusion left for me about our society, and the author.

At 2:42 a.m. central time

•January 7, 2021 • 6 Comments

A joint session of the US Congress was finally able to certify the votes of the U.S. Electoral College. Biden / Harris are now finally elected. They only missed the deadline by 2 hours and 42 minutes.

What an awful day. Time for it to be over.

There’s an (incompetent) coup attempt going on in the US

•January 6, 2021 • 51 Comments

I don’t fucking know what to say anymore.

I’m intrigued

•January 6, 2021 • 2 Comments

Paying it forward

•January 4, 2021 • 30 Comments

When you remember his own mother was prevented from having a scheduled surgery at this time of year, it’s impressive.

me + Tee + Plätzchen in the time of COVID-19

•January 3, 2021 • 43 Comments

[Warning that this is not especially cheery. It is what it is. Whatever you do, please don’t give me dementia advice.]

Last time’s “mach was” was Plätzchen (little Christmas cookies popular among those of German descent) and the plan was to actually bake some. When I was a kid, Christmas baking started during deer hunting (around Thanksgiving) and it was what we did while the men went out hunting. The baking went on for days and days, producing dozens and dozens of cookies (and candies), and my grandmothers packed them in ice cream pails and stored them in the coldest part of the house. They reappeared a week to ten days later beginning with Advent, were eaten at home and given away to friends, and hopefully they were all gone by New Year.

I have many happy memories of participating this process, and HL loved making decorated cut-out cookies. The thought of baking on such an industrial scale filled with me with dread. It’s putsy work and controlling the temperature of the oven to keep the cookies uniform is kind of a chore. But I had been thinking for a while that I could make at least a few Christmas cookies this year.

My mother’s favorites, for example, the peanut blossom, with which we note that German-American Plätzchen have expanded the definition of the form a bit (no one in Germany eats these as far as I know, even if they should!). You make a basic peanut butter cookie, roll it in sugar, and bake. About ten minutes into baking you interrupt the cookies to press a Hershey’s kiss into them and then return for a few more minutes.

My paternal grandmother also made rosettes, which I think are Scandinavian in origin.

My personal favorites are almond crescents, although tasting them now as opposed to forty years ago, I think my grandmothers must have used a different nut, probably one that grew in their yards, like hickory nuts or walnuts. They must be pan-German, because I know Viennese and Italians make them, too. I love that they are so crumbly that they barely stick together.

And there are so many more that I used to love — the ones made with rolled-out dough in different colors cut into patterns (Schwarz-Weiß-Gebäck), or cinnamon stars. Ex-SO’s mother added a few things to the list of stuff I associate with Christmas: “dicker brauner Weihnachtskuchen,” Teepunsch. (That was really what I wanted to do for this post but I couldn’t find anything that resembled the stuff she made.)

Anyway, what pushed me over the edge into deciding to bake again was this massive Black Friday sale: the basic level Kitchen-Aid professional mixer was marked down from $500 to $200 at Best Buy.

This is the color I got.

Admittedly, my grandmothers mixed mostly by hand, and a lot of cookie doughs for Plätzchen are sweetcrusts and need to be cut together and rolled out rather than mixed. (And, it just popped into my mind, Ex-SO’s mother’s Sandkuchen was a pre-war recipe and called for being mixed by hand for forty-five minutes.) Still, this is the mixer every serious baker in the U.S. wants, and I have looked at them out of the corner of my eye for years. Mom received a Mixmaster for her wedding, and it’s pretty ramshackle after being used for 50 years. I also don’t like the glass bowls (glass is an insulator, not a conductor).

So I bought one, and then Herba made her challenge, and I thought I could maybe get POP!Thorin involved.

About the time I bought it, the barrage of complaints from dad about food (there’s too much; it’ll spoil) and money (you’re pissing it away) intensified drastically, and we had the “you can’t leave the door open to bring in groceries” fight, so I didn’t bake. Indeed, the mixer didn’t made it out of the back of my car initially as I was too tired to risk more anger. I figured I could smuggle it into the house as a Christmas present for myself. I did that, but that didn’t legitimate it, either, even though I paid for it myself and showed dad the receipt (he didn’t believe me). This is really insane because the struggle to make sure he gets enough calories gets more challenging every day and baking at home more would be a more economical strategy than what we are doing now.

As the dementia caregiver coach (Calluna) says: “you never win an argument with dementia.” Check.

Anyway, it’s still in its box and I can’t wait to use it to make something. Whenever that moment comes.

What I ended up doing was buying some Plätzchen. I’ve never done that before. A pound was $18.00, and I admit that made me gasp a bit, although it was cheaper than making large amounts of different cookies. My grandmothers are probably rotating in their graves.

Thorin poses with some store-bought Plätzchen. He kept his sticker on because it seems like the 2020 US Presidential election may never end. He’s very ready to defend my vote, but he shared the cookies very politely.

However: they were really good. All that butter. And even if they weren’t home made, the taste of my childhood came roaring back. In fact, the first pound was so good that I went back to try to get more, but by that time, the confectioner’s store looked like it had been hit by locusts. The family patriarch died of COVID-19 right before Christmas and they were out of just about everything. I didn’t have the heart to look elsewhere.

So this month’s theme was “Tee” and again I thought I’d do a post. I prefer iced tea (and not “sweet tea,” I’m a Northerner!) to iced coffee, but I’m primarily a coffee drinker when it comes to hot drinks.

Even so, it’s on maybe a 70% basis; I drink hot tea fairly regularly. There are a number of scenarios that will make me opt for tea: if it’s Advent and there are Plätzchen on offer; if I have a scratchy throat; if the tea is a variety I love (ex-SO really got me into Darjeeling FTGFOP, but he would only drink it from the TeeKampagne. It’s available in the U.S. via Boston Tea Campaign, but I don’t buy it because unlike him, I don’t drink a whole pot of it twice a day). On a trip to London, I went to Fortnum and Mason and fell in love with their Green Darjeeling, but it’s been unavailable for a while now (not sure if this is COVID related or not, but there are so many production problems owing to the pandemic that it seems likely to me). I also like hibiscus teas quite a bit, and before Starbucks discontinued their Defense tea, I drank a lot of that (not the citrus defender, though).

So, I thought I’d just make a cup of Blueberry Hibiscus Rooibos tea (made with regional strawberries) in my Cup of Joe cup and make a joke about that. (I’m suppressing a painful moment from the summer when dad destroyed a pair of my favorite teacups that I had left in the cupboard; since then all of my favorite dishes and everything of mom’s that has sentimental value have moved into boxes for their own protection.)

Rosenthal Romanze in Blau

This turned out to be harder than I had anticipated. It turns out we don’t have a tea-kettle anymore, either — we did in May, but it’s not in the kitchen anymore — possible dad discarded or reappropriated it for some other purpose. So I boiled the water in a sauce pan. Then I looked for the coffee cup. It’s disappeared, possibly because dad is not a fan of Biden, or possibly because he used it to hold a paintbrush, or something like that. I’d like to replace the teakettle, which admittedly was probably forty years old, with one of those electric water cookers, but I don’t  know how I’ll ever sneak it into the house. So I just put it in a Fleet Farm coffeecup. And then I forgot to take a picture of it!

Blueberry Hibuscus Rooibos, at my fave local café, pre-COVID.

So anyway. Better times are coming, I hope.

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