Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Year-End!

Oof. Half a bottle of wine, a glass of cider, and a slice of rum-soaked Christmas pudding with rum butter, and I am not firmly anchored to the turning world, I must say.
So I will post some pics, which will not risk spelling or syntactical errors.

 An artistic shot of one of our saffron-producing croci, beside the front gate in November, taken by Mark.
 Me icing my birthday cake, with the icing left over from doing Christmas cookies. Also taken by Mark. He took about a dozen, but I kept moving at the crucial moment and coming out blurred.
The overall icing is butterscotch, melted butter, cream and brown sugar. The coloured icing is basic butter icing. The red behaved much better then than it had for adding holly berries and suchlike to the cookies, but I don't know why.

Baking tally, hmmm...
Two batches of cake gingerbread
1 batch of gingerbread men
4 pans of 'petticoat tail' shortbread
1 batch of rolled shortbread
2 pans of oatmeal shortbread
2 pans of chocolate shortbread
1 pan of domino cookies (choc shortbread with white choc chips)
1 batch of cardomon sugar cookies
1 batch of honey cookies
2 batches of rolled & cut Christmas cookies, iced
1 batch of caramel sandwich cookies
2 batches of cheese shortbread (1 spicy, 1 plain)
2 batches of butter pecan shortbread
3 pounds of sugared walnuts
3 pounds of candied grapefruit peel

Tomorrow I may do butter tarts.

For Christmas dinner I made a spinach and feta pie for the boy, who has gone vegetarian, the pastry done with a veg shortening called Fluffo (which makes me laugh). Mark very very kindly dealt with the stalks and washing and stir-frying of the spinach, to spare me from the cooking side of things. I get somewhat nervous when I have to jigger a recipe the first time  I use it, so his prodding was more than a little helpful. 

The duck was dinner for the carnivores. Mmm. And made into curry, it fed another ten diners (two to four at a time).
I got to try out my Christmas present of an ergonomic potato masher, and very effective it was too.
Other cool presents - a long-handled pruning hook, with saw, so that I can Deal With that tree that's overshadowing the roses in the front.
And a Kobo e-reader. Which I am still learning my way around, after helpful lessons and work-arounds from Chris.

 A definitive sign of Christmas being over, I reckon. A flat Santa. (photo by Mark)
By the way, while I understand several of the Christmas totems (nutcracker soldier, reindeer, Santa in a prop airplane), I am stumped by the cartoon owl with Santa hat. Is it from some animated Christmas special I've missed? From the back it looks like a monstrous baked potato with a Santa hat, which is less Christmassy than one might think.
I prefer plywood to inflatables, but that's probably just my failure to move with the times.
A cute cat picture to see you to year's end. At present, Priss is squished between my breastbone and the back of the Capisco chair, relaxed and purring. Here she is at the kitchen table, preventing me from doing anything useful.
Though in cat terms I'm probably doing the most useful thing of all, providing aid and comfort to the cat. 

all photos by Mark, it seems!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

And other winter festivals as appropriate to your particular circumstances. Also my birthday. Yay!
The beating of Cost of Silver into another shape has been set aside for a while in favour of Christmassy things like writing and mailing cards, visiting friends, wrapping presents, decorating, and baking cookies (in a leisurely way, since I only just finished icing the rolled cookies).

 A little early this year (that is, before Christmas Eve) we brought in the greenery.
The tree was decorated with the assistance of Tess and Rowan, so there's rather more ornaments on the lower 2/3ds than on the top, and some of them are a bit crowded.
It still looks good with the lights on - and none of them blinking, after Tess's careful examination of every bulb to make sure.
If you're wondering, yes, we are standing on the big table, which Mark's mother used to polish by walking a floor polisher up and down it.

(The box of stuff in the front is my collection of antiquities, waiting on the new position of the display case, which is waiting on us figuring out where it will go.)

And here's my cubicle at work, where Christmas gets serious. It takes a couple of days to get everything out and on the shelves, once I've cleared off the books and orders that usually occupy that space.

Each year the Times-Colonist paper (yes, Victoria's newspaper really is called the Colonist) prints a map with routes to see the best light displays, and I always resolve to go and see them, but there isn't always time.
This year Mark got me out of the house, abandoning baking and wrapping for an evening, so here are some pics to share the Christmas wattage.

Here is but one small corner of the house that really goes all out. You need to get out and walk around the yard for the full experience.
I managed to enjoy it in an entirely non-ironic fashion, and without wondering about their electric bill until later.
 I admit it, this pic is for the sake of the madly excited pine tree in the front.
Whe I was a young child, our family would drive into Vancouver for Christmas shopping, and to visit my godmother. Near her house was a family who each year put up plywood figures of a snowman family. This was a high point of Christmas shopping, to drive by the snowman family.

On the other hand, the big department stores, like Hudson's Bay and Eatons, would fill their display windows not with fashion mannequins and goods for sale, but with Christmas scenes of trains, skating rinks, Dickens-era carollers, inhabited by animatronic children and elves. I don't know if anyone still does that, devote retail display space to a non-retail purpose. Perhaps no one can afford to anymore. So it's fallen to individuals to make up the balance of animatronic skating rinks?
I have to mash potatoes in a minute, so I'll leave you with the more spiritual side of Christmas, as expressed (like the snowman family) in plywood.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

metaphorical cat

Here, the cat takes on the role of symbolising Christmas tasks such as addressing and mailing cards, wrapping presents, and decorating the house, as she rises over my head.

Picture taken with Mark's IPad.

Monday, December 5, 2011

long tail?

Two weeks knee-deep in the 1600s, and last week hip-deep in other people's books.

I was helping with the United Way booksale at the university Student Union Building, and a right object lesson in humility for fiction writers it was.
See, it turns out that the hardest category to sell, even for $2 a pop is ...

Hardcover fiction.

Doesn't matter which genre. We had stacks of mysteries, thrillers, romance, Canlit, bildungsroman, small-town angst, wry slackers, picaresque, in shiny clean dustjackets and shabby library brodarts, sitting there yearningly like unattractive Babylonian women in that Herodotus story.
In the meantime, nonfiction, maps, and mass-market paperbacks were trundling steadily out the door.
Sarah the amazing co-op student and I made up gift baskets of thrillers, mysteries and romances with props like martini glasses, teacups, teabags and candles, in hopes of moving a few more, but even this did little to thin the ranks.

I took pity and took a few home at sale's end. For Christmas presents, of course.
Really. I'm not adding more books to my library when I should be weeding. Of course I'm not.