Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I never wanted to be a barometer

I'm no good at reading barometers as it is (cue someone popping in to explain how simple it is and refer me to a useful website on reading barometers) and I never aspired to be one of those weather-witch sorts whose left knee will tell you whether it's going to snow or rain. When M-- asked me whether my joints hurt according to the weather (much of M--'s worldview was formed by reading Lucy Maud Montgomery), I was quick to deny it. No, I said, it's entirely random. Entirely. No weather involved. Certainly not.
So how has December been, arthritis-wise? Cold, wet, windy, December? The month that last year convinced me there was something going on beyond a supposed rotator-cuff injury?
Um. Shoulders, one knee and then the other, left hand and then right hand, right hand inclusive of elbow and shoulder, all taking their turn. None of them too bad, but enough to return me to the two-Naproxen-a-day rate, when I'd been allowed since September to drop to one a day, and had even experimented with one every other day without ill effects. Christmas Eve was the real flare. My right hand went from being vaguely crampy to active pins-and-needles, so that I kept pinching my fingertips to wake them up. Then my right shoulder started to hurt, and eventually the hand cramps spread down to the elbow.
I'd been proud of getting all the Christmas prep done in time and not having to stay up past midnight wrapping presents or stuffing stockings, so I'd be well rested Christmas morning. Instead I had the entertaining mental challenge of remembering which of tylenol, ibuprophen, generic acetaminophen and acetylsalicylic acid, was an anti-inflammatory and which was just a painkiller. Because if you're taking an anti-inflammatory, you can't take another kind of anti-inflammatory or you will deflate entirely. At 2 am this isn't always easy to remember. It isn't much easier at midnight, 3, or 5 am, when the only clue you can remember is that the easy-open non-childsafe cap is ironic somehow. The guilt over keeping one's husband awake with the turning over and whimpering part doesn't help the mental processes.
But that's done, and I feel fine today, can close both hands completely with only a little effort, and slept well. So the weather has nothing to do with it. Nothing. Especially not the clear sunny skies Victoria has just now.
Anyone who wants to tell me how changes in air pressure affect joints is going to be met by a la-la-la sound and finger-plugged ears.

Accomplished: US Christmas cards mailed on the first weekend of December. UK and Canadian cards mailed on or before the third weekend, including cards with letters. Most gifts bought by the 3d weekend, all charitable donations (Operation Eyesight, Oxfam Canada, Amnesty International, Covenant House Canada, SOS Children's Villages, Unicef) sent. Gifts wrapped and stockings sorted by mid-week beforehand. Tree decorated Christmas Eve (tradition in my family).
Scotch shortbread, three batches rolled and cut, four batches (same recipe) as petticoat-tails by the method described in Cooks Illustrated.
roll cookies, three batches, iced with two batches of butter icing
chocolate shortbread, two batches
cheese shortbread, two batches (one in reserve in freezer)
pecan shortbread, one batch as drop cookies, two batches as freezer cookies (one in reserve in freezer)
glazed shortbread, one batch
domino cookies, one batch - a chocolate cookie cut into 2x1 bars and decorated with white chocolate chips to look like dominos
butter tarts, 3 1/2 dozen, filled with triple batch of filling, a capful of rum added to mix and raisins soaked in rum beforehand, which turned out nicely
sugared walnuts, about five cups (really simple recipe)
maple-pecan tarts, one dozen, using up some maple fudge that didn't set
lemon tarts, one dozen, which don't really count - store-bought tart shells and lemon curd passed on to me from a fridge-clearing
sausage rolls, one batch (26 rolls)
cheese straws from pastry left over from sausage rolls
butter cake with caramel frosting for my birthday cake.

You can probably guess which part of Christmas prep I really enjoy. Oh, and I can post recipes if anyone wants.
Butter tarts, for my American readers (all three of you) are a Canadian treat, like tiny pecan pies without the pecans. Instead there are raisins, or currants, or raisins and walnuts. The filling recipe varies madly. Here's a link with a nice picture, but the recipe is not the one I use. The recipe book that the McPherson library put together had, I think, five different recipes for butter tarts, which hints at the variety available.
Mine, found in a tiny privately-printed cookbook from the late '70s, uses 1/3 cup melted butter, an egg, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1 tsp vanilla and a dash of salt. But I usually make it up in triple batches and put it in the freezer

Other people baked. Chris baked the apple pie from Cooks Illustrated. He made a lovely pie with hardly any space between top crust and filling, all brown and sugary on the top. He says he's never doing it again. I'd say something wise and parental about starting before 9 pm next time, if I hadn't done the same for at least 3 nights. If I'd stayed up with him, I don't know whether my usefulness in knowing where the pastry-brush is kept would have outweighed the annoyance of having his mother in the room while he was working. Probably not.
Mark, besides being the cook generally, made a proper steamed plum pudding, consisting of raisins and currants held together by suet. We took it over to Paul's for Christmas dinner and set it on fire with rum - yay! pretty blue flames! - and played snapdragon with brandy-soaked raisins between helpings.

While we're on the subject of recipes, I have, by circuitous routes, received a tablet recipe, named 'Aunt Tot's tablet recipe'. It came with a fudge recipe and the observation that the fudge recipe (which uses condensed milk) is much nicer I haven't tried either yet, so can't comment, but here it is.

1/4 lb butter
1 lb sugar (granulated)
small tin evaporated milk (runny)
few drops of vanilla essence if desired

Melt all ingreds slowly
When sugar dissolved boil for 10 mins
Cool slightly
Beat till thick but not too thick to turn into a buttered tray
Mark out squares
Leave to cool

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