Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving, with Snow

We got 5 inches of snow on Thanksgiving day; it turned our yard into a beautiful winter wonderland. Although I worried for a bit that the snow would keep our guests away and we would end up facing a whole turkey ourselves, Eric & Miriam braved the drive from Olympia and Dave and Anita brought Great Grandma Marjorie and Anita's friend Ann out from Bellingham so we had plenty of help with the eating.

Conan worked up an appetite riding around the yard on the "snow boat" pulled by his only-slightly-less-excited-about-snow Papa.

We don't have any real sledding hills available, but it was a lot of fun anyway. With his warm winter coat, snow pants, fuzzy hat and big boots Conan was ready to make the most of the unexpected snow bonanza.
Sadly, the temperatures rose in the night, the snow turned to rain and there wasn't a flake left by the next morning, so we didn't get a chance to make any snow sculptures. Next time!

The food, of course, was delicious. We had smashed potatoes, roasted squash, ginger glazed carrots, vegetarian stuffing, bread, turkey & gravy, and pies for desert.

For the turkey I got a little creative and went with a recipe from Cook's Illustrated that promised over-the-top glaze, crispy skin, and tender juicy meat. I'm pleased to say it delivered.

The hard part was butterflying a 21 lb turkey. The turkey came from my buddy Ben Wiley, who moved back to Plain and raised a few birds for friends and family this year. We didn't necessarily need such a large bird for our group, but it was the one I got so there it was. It was a delicious, flavorful bird with great meaty texture and good muscle tone, so much better than the flabby pale meat from a supermarket bird. It took a good bit of wrassling to get the backbone out and break the breastbone in preparation for roasting, but in the long run it was worth it. The turkey cooked evenly and the glaze (apple cider, cranberries & molasses, reduced on the stove-top - now THAT smelled good!) adhered beautifully. Mmmm!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Frosthammer Falls

Last night our biggest fir tree, the one we had named "Frosthammer" (yes, we really called him that, dorks that we are), came down during a tremendous wind storm. Thankfully it fell away from the house, landing just short of the neighbor's white picket fence. A number of other, smaller trees were crushed or snapped off, but no structures, animals or people were injured. We didn't even hear him fall.

The enormous rootball is easily 15 feet high, and positioned in such a way as to make an amazing sculpture on the edge of our yard to be enjoyed for years to come. We have often talked about digging a pond right below where Frosthammer stood, but I had been concerned that we might damage his roots; that's no longer an issue, and now we even have a hole to start from! And we'll be set for firewood for life, too. It will take a while to get used to not seeing him when we look out the southern windows, and our neighborhood eagles will have to find a new place to roost. It's sad and exciting at the same time.

Update - here's a picture with Miriam standing in front of the roots on Thanksgiving, for a better sense of the scale of it:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Birthday Story

Tomorrow is my birthday; I'll be 35 years old. Last night we had a bunch of friends over for a dinner party that was lots of fun. We're in the midst of a early-season nor'easter, with c-c-cold snowy winds blasting straight down from the Fraser valley, so I was impressed at the number of friends willing to make the drive over icy roads and celebrate with us. I really am blessed with a great group of friends.

It got me thinking back through the years, to other birthday celebrations. Some years I've had big parties, some years small gatherings, some years my birthday's an afterthought to Thanksgiving, and some years it is the the main event. There was the time - when I was 13 or 14 - when what I REALLY, really wanted (and got) for my birthday celebration was to take my two closest friends to a chanting workshop with some visiting Tibetan monks. (It was neat, if not particularly eventful.) Of course I'll never forget the year that I got an engagement ring from Cary for my birthday - that was a shock. I had no idea what he was planning, and he'd gone to the trouble to wrap it up inside a bunch of nesting boxes, with the outside one being a couple feet square. ("Oh, haha, the old box-inside-a-box trick" I said.) Opening that final box and seeing the ring is the only thing that has ever rendered me literally speechless.

Of all the years I've celebrated though, my favorite one was in my mid-twenties, when I was living at the Apple Farm. I can't say for certain what year it was, probably around 2000. It was one of those years where my birthday landed perilously close to Thanksgiving. My family was gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving at my Grandma Joy's house, so Cary and I drove out there around noon or so. We had a great meal, lots of visiting and catching up, and then a few presents for me, all very nice. Cary, however, kept checking the time and making it known that he really wanted to head back to the farm. He had some weak reason, I don't even remember what, about why he wanted to head home, but I knew he just didn't want to stay and visit longer with my family because he was a selfish jerk.

Eventually, I gave in, we said our goodbyes, got in the car and headed back home, and I let him have it. "I hardly ever get to see my family! We see your family all the time! It's not fair! You must not really understand/love/respect me if you can't spend time with my family without wanting to leave early!" etc. Cary took my increasingly hysterical rantings about his problems dealing with my family with characteristic stony silence, which only made me even more convinced that I was hitting right at the heart of the matter.

It's about a half-hour drive between Grandma Joy's house and the Apple Farm, and I kept at him the whole way home. I was merciless. I was going to make him SEE! I was right, and he needed to know it!

And then I walked into the house to find we were late for my surprise birthday party.

I don't remember much about the actual party (I'm pretty sure it thoroughly rocked), but I do remember apologizing to Cary and realizing - not for the first time, but perhaps more deeply than before - that he was a real keeper. Happy Birthday, me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Visiting Plain

Chloe turned two on November 14th, and I was able to take Friday and Monday off work so that Conan and I could make a trip over to Plain to help celebrate. We had lots of fun with Poppy and Debbie. Conan got to drive a tractor, pet a real horsie, play chase with Ginger (the most tolerant cat EVER), pound nails in uncle Jon's house, play in snow, "ride" Gracie the dog, and of course play with his cousin. I also picked (and ate) wild chantrelles, went for walks in the beautiful autumn woods, and spent a nice amount of time sipping tea and visiting with my folks. It's nice to be home now, but it sure was good to spend a few days back in Plain.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

We scored a nice kid's easel at the consignment store for $10, and Conan's really enjoying playing artist. He's quite enthusiastic, and occasionally has trouble confining himself to his canvas. This particular work took barely as much time as it takes Mama to put the groceries in the fridge and feed the cats.

I will add that Melissa & Doug's Non-Toxic Dry Erase Markers come off of skin, clothes and hair really, really easily. Which is a bit of a relief.