Category Archives: Uncategorized

How Do They Do That?

I have mentioned before that we order a fresh Christmas tree every year from Williams-Sonoma.  I consider it a Christmas present to ourselves. It is always a Frasier Fir from North Carolina,  and it is delivered by UPS.  Ben, in the past,  has wondered how this is possible. Well, the tree arrived yesterday and I will now show the Baboons how this works.

I ordered an 8-9 foot tree this year. Last year’s tree was only 7 feet tall, and it wasn’t big enough in height or diameter for the ornaments I like to hang every year.  The tree arrived Tuesday in this box:

At about 12:00 Wednesday, Husband opened it up with a box cutter. The tree wasn’t tied or secured in any way in the box.

The tree always has a really straight trunk, but some trimming is usually necessary.  We took off about 5 inches at the bottom.

Then,  Husband dragged it into the living room:

I had to cut off about 4 inches from the very top of the tree, or else it would scrape the ceiling. By 12:30, we put it in the tree stand, and we waited for it to relax.  Our Tortie tried to help.

By 3:00 pm, it started to look pretty good.

We will let it relax for the next day or so, turn it so that its best side is facing forward, and decorate it on Friday.

How do you think they got  that tree into that box? Tell about some interesting experiences you have had with shippers and boxes. What has amazed you lately?

More Than I Bargained For

I have often been accused of “biting off more than I can chew”.   I have always liked a challenge.  I suppose the most memorable experience with this is getting  purebred Welsh Terriers,  who proved, despite their smaller size, to be far more dog than I had ever anticipated.

My latest experience with this occurred last week. I treated myself to a new Springerle rolling pin for Christmas.  That is a rolling pin with intricate carvings used to make Springerle or Speculaas cookies.  I had been eyeing one in the King Arthur Baking Company for several years. The pin arrived last week. It is much bigger than it looked in the catalogue,  and it weighs 5 lbs. It is the classic blunt instrument.  Husband says it should be in an Agatha Christie mystery.  You can get an idea of its size  in the header photo with the 12 inch ruler in comparison.   It has really lovely, deep, carvings.  It is too big to store in the drawer with the other rolling pins, so we keep it in the entryway closet wrapped in bubble wrap in its box so that the carvings don’t chip. I never imagined I would have a rolling pin that requires such special care.  I guess should have been prepared for this since it is called The Showstopper Springerle Pin. I sort of overlooked that hint.

When have you got more than you bargained for? When have you bitten off more than you could chew?

Problematic Hymns

Our church choir, usually at about eighteen voices, is now down to five, (two altos, one mezzo soprano, and two tenor/baritones). The director is an operatic type of soprano who can sing and direct at the same time, and the accompanist is a very fine bass/baritone who can’t sing and play at the same time.  He just accompanies, and does it very well.  We sing masked and socially distanced, which is interesting in terms of listening to one another and blending.  We sing once a month.

I love to sing in the church  choir.  I have mixed feelings about sitting in the congregation and singing hymns.  I grew up in a Norwegian Lutheran congregation in South West Minnesota, and we had to sing every blessed verse in every hymn on Sunday.  To this day I just cringe when I have have to sing  four or more verses in the hymns.  I like the sentiment in the early verses, but I am more drawn to the melody and harmonies.

The folks we sing with in choir are an opinionated bunch when it comes to hymns. The accompanist, a retired high school choir director,  blanches when Amazing Grace is in the bulletin.  He can’t stand it for some reason.  The mezzo soprano, an elementary music teacher, refuses to sing Blessed Assurance  because she finds it so smarmy, and my fellow alto, a college librarian, cringes at Holy, Holy, Holy  because she had to sing it so often as a child.  I am drawn to mournful Scandinavian, German, and English tunes, but please don’t make me sing more than two verses of anything.

When I attended Concordia College in the 1970’s, the Concert Choir sang what I thought was a very odd song written by Paul J. Christiansen,  the choir director at the time,  based on Carl Sandburg’s  Prayers of Steel:

Lay me on an anvil; O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar.
Let me pry loose old walls.
Let me lift and loosen old foundations.
Lay me on an anvil, God.

Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike.
Drive me into the girders that hold a
skyscraper together.
Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the
central girders.
Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper
through blue nights
into white stars.

I don’t know If I would have chosen this as the text for a sacred song, but hey, it only has two verses.

What are your favorite songs?  What songs can’t you stand?  What do you like to sing?

Lights – My Way

For the last 35 years my best friend (Sara) and her husband (David) have come over to help decorate the Christmas tree.  We have cookies along with hot chocolate and Baileys.  Real whipped cream.

About 30 years ago, I was a little too vocal about how I like the lights as David was putting them on the tree.  He stopped, handed me the remaining lights and “suggested” that I should probably do the lights from then on.  He was correct.  I like the lights to peek out from the interior of the tree and for at least 20 years I’ve had lights that slowly fade on and off as well. 

Covid means no tree trimming party this year, so I was thinking there was no rush to get the lights on the tree.  YA thought otherwise and asked me repeatedly when I was going to put the lights up (we got the tree on Friday).  She even took the lights out – hence the decorated dog in the photo. 

When I eventually relented and started with the tree, she sat on the steps and watched.  Then she made a recommendation.  Then another.  I told her the story of David handing me the lights and telling me to do it myself.  She went upstairs and didn’t come down until I was finished. 

What job do you just like to do yourself?

MOM!!!

I was so looking forward to the end of the day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  My plan was to have a quiet evening with Husband and  make two pies so that he could have free rein in the kitchen on Thursday.  I hoped for a calm evening.  Alas, it was not to be.  It started out with a text from my son in mid afternoon:

Mom! When you thaw your pie dough, do you let it come to room temperature before you roll it out?

I advised him to keep it cool but supple enough to roll out.

I got home at about 5:00, and started mixing up some pie crusts. About 5:30 I received a phone call from our daughter:

Mom!  I was slicing onions for that squash casserole with the mandolin and I sliced my thumb. Do you think I need to go to to Urgent Care? It stopped bleeding but it is a big cut!

I told her I had no idea but I thought she was probably ok and to bandage it up tightly. This led to a steady stream of photos of the thumb, anxious inquiries about how she should proceed, and great upset when I missed her calls because I was using the mixer for pie filling and couldn’t hear my phone ring.  I suggested she call  her dad on his phone if I didn’t answer my phone, since he was here, too, and I was trying to bake pies.

In the midst of this, our son called:

Mom! What should I use for pie weights when I pre-bake the pie crusts?

I suggested dried beans or rice after lining the crust with parchment, and video chatted briefly with our grandson.  Soon after our daughter phoned again:

Mom!  Two nurse friends said I should go to Urgent Care. I am going. Do you think I should go?

I told her I thought that was a good idea, and she went, and received five stitches in her thumb and we received photos of the sutures and bandaged hand.  Then son phoned again:

Mom! Should I brine the turkey in the garage or outside on the patio? I am worried that the garage is too warm. Hang on while I take the temperature in the garage. . . Oh darn, the cat got out and is under the car.  Hold on.

I told him I needed to see to my pies, and would he please figure this out with his dad, since he knew lots more about brining than I did. Husband told him to keep the turkey under 40° and brine it outside.

It wasn’t until 9:00 that the pies were done and both son and daughter had settled down.  Husband has always been a most attentive and involved parent, so I have no idea why the children always want my advice in times like these. Its exhausting!

Who do you go to for advice? Who comes to you for advice?  What is the best (or worst) advice you ever got?

 

 

The Chess Gambit

Several baboons responded on Tuesday to a comment about the 6-part Netflix mini-series called The Queen’s Gambit. It’s based on a book by Walter Tevis (who is also author of three other books which became movies: The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth).

Apparently chess sets have been flying off the shelves, both in-store and online. I have located our set here, a Christmas gift years ago from son Joel. I’ve never really taken to chess – though Husband has tried to teach me, I never thought I had enough…  desire, mental acuity, or stamina to be a competitive player.

Because of this movie, I’ve become aware that women have been serious chess players for centuries first documented during the Middle Ages – this from Wikipedia:    “Chess games between men and women were a common theme of European art[2][3] and literature in the fourteenth through 18th centuries.” By the 19th Century, the field was dominated by men, and “during the 20th century, female players made significant progress in breaking male dominance on the game.” The first female International Grandmaster was Nona Gaprindashvilli, who received the title in 1978.

Back on the home front:  It wasn’t that I thought women in general wouldn’t be good at chess, just me. I am willing to rethink that and, with a long and at-home winter facing me, I think I just might take another stab at chess. I will, however, need to do a quick room-arrange to accommodate a table where we can leave a chess board up. And wouldn’t it be fun to paint our own chess board right on some old table?   

Here’s a puzzle:  Imagine you’ve decided you need a chess set and there are none to be had in all the land. By what art or craft would you create the board?

What found objects around the house could stand in for the various pieces – pawns, rooks, bishops, knights, king, queen ?

OR:

Because you may be home-bound for several weeks (or months), what other sort of learning might you tackle, that you would otherwise not have attempted?

Happy Thanks-Carb-Giving

For the first time ever, it’s just me and YA today.  Even though it’s just the two of us, YA is determined that at least the food will be the same as always.   Normally all I ever bring to Thanksgiving dinner is my Sage Sourdough Stuffing (vegetarian) and sometimes a dessert.  With at least four or five other families, everything else is covered.

I did find some nice platter-sized paper plates and matching napkins along with a paper table covering at The Dollar Store, so we’ll have a festive table.  Here’s the final menu:

  • Sage Sourdough Stuffing
  • Scalloped Cheesy Potatoes
  • Mashed Potatoes w/ Vegetarian Gravy  (YA making)
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Green Bean/French Fried Onion Casserole  (YA making)
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Cornbread
  • Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Any plans for the day?  In a particularly difficult year, is there a way you are maintaining any gratitude?

Driving Dreams

For the most part, I love my car.  I love that she’s red, I love that she is a hybrid.  I love having a hatchback again.  I really like that she tells me when it’s time to change the oil, based on her internal workings and not an arbitrary date.  And she’s small.  No Intimida or Sherpa here; with a tank capacity of 8+ gallons, my monthly gas budget is about $30.

There is one frustrating thing though.  She feels the need to let me know when tire pressure has changed, with a big ding and a reminder every time I start the car once she has noticed a pressure issue.  This usually happens twice a year… when it first gets cold and then again in the late spring when it starts to get really warm.  I usually just drive down to the dealership; they top the tires off right away and I don’t even have to get out of the car. 

But this fall, the pressure notification has gone off TWICE.  When we had a couple of seriously cold days last month and the again this past weekend when it was warmer.  I will admit that I whined a bit to the service guy and he said that it was happening a lot this fall since the temperatures have fluctuated quite a bit.

While he was adjusting the air, I daydreamed about my fantasy car.  I’d like to have those little lights on the sideview mirrors that indicate when someone is coming upon alongside you.  I would love to have built-in GPS and a north/south/east/west display.  Heated seats would be nice.  Of course, my fantasy car would actually drive itself; of course that could only be supplanted by my ultimate fantasy car — a transporter.  “Beam me over, Scotty.”

Tell me about your fantasy transportation. 

The Find

This past Saturday morning, right before Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Husband and I decided to do a Deep Clean on an alcove right off the kitchen. This corner houses a tall shelf unit full of large items like crock pots and cookbooks, and a small chest of drawers. I had accidentally shoved something behind the tall shelves, noticed when trying to retrieve it that it was pretty dusty back there, and realized that space hadn’t been deep cleaned since we moved in 4 ½ years ago (!).

Well, you know how this goes. In the process of clearing everything off, you find stuff you’d forgotten you had – which gets returned to its proper place or tossed. Stuff piles up in the rest of the house for a while, but you promise you’ll put everything back before day’s end, and you roll up your sleeves. And you swear you won’t let the cleaning lapse for this long again.

Then you move the furniture out so you can sweep and swipe and clean everything in sight, and vacuum out the cobwebs and dust fuzzies. As the small chest was being moved away from the wall, I heard a “thunk” as something dropped to the floor, and discovered… MY CAMERA, which has been A.W.O.L. for about a year. I don’t own a smart phone, and luckily I hadn’t bought a replacement. I am so happy to have it back!

So, for the first time since last December, I’m able to submit a blog post AND supply the photo.

What have you found that was lost?  

What cleaning or clearing project are you likely to accomplish during self-quarantine?

B-17 Fridge

We are extremely unhappy with our kitchen fridge. It is a GE brand fridge, with a top freezer and bottom refrigerator section. It is no frills, without an ice maker or water dispenser.  We have had it for about 10 years.

The  plastic edging on the glass refrigerator shelves cracked and we had to replace the shelving. That was not cheap. The fan for the freezer burned out once already, and was also replaced.  A couple of months ago it started making a horrendous noise every time the motor runs. It is so loud it is hard to hold a conversation in the kitchen, and it seems to run all the time.  It wakes me up at night. I manually defrosted the freezer the other day, and that helped for a day or two before it started with the noise again.  I refuse to throw any more money at it.

My father never liked loud noises or cramped spaces. I attribute that to his time as a gunner in a B-17 when he was stationed in England during the Second World War.  He would have found the noises from this fridge disturbing.  He also hated throwing money at appliance repair. We went to our main appliance store a couple of weeks ago and found an LG fridge that fit in our kitchen space. It has a double fridge door with the freezer section at the bottom.  I was shocked to find that it will take two months to get it. This was true for all the models and brands we looked at. I guess Covid has slowed manufacturing.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that the current fridge lasts until the new one arrives.  I will think pleasant thoughts about my dad to counter the annoyance when the Flying Fortress in the kitchen roars.

What appliance or machinery woes have you had?