time to spare

Yesterday my friend Barb and I were on the phone commiserating over these long, quiet, pre-Christmas days of 2020.

“I am so bored,” this previously perpetually active woman said, “that I have set up my train set.”

There had never been enough time or space when her house was filled with excited children and grandchildren, she explained.  But in 2020 she and her husband don’t have that going on.  Her children and grandchildren will stay in Pennsylvania and Barb and Rod are stuck in Rhode Island.

We commiserated about our decades of Christmas busyness and how exhausted and yet happy we had been making the holiday special for our families.  And how strange that it had all come to a screeching halt.

I told her that I was going to make seven pans of cinnamon rolls.

“My God,” she said.  “That will take you all day!”

“I HOPE SO!”  was my reply.  “I need something to do besides feel sorry for myself and sew.”

I told her the rolls were going to be her Christmas present.

She was very happy about that.

I warned her that I haven’t made cinnamon rolls in 33 years.  She didn’t care.  She wants some.  She assured me that baking cinnamon rolls was a life skill that never went away.  And because she is an excellent baker, I believe her.

The Funny Grandson Face-timed yesterday afternoon.  I hadn’t talked to him for a couple of weeks and he had plenty to say.  He was swigging a rare and exciting treat– Cherry Dr. Pepper– and wearing his prized Dallas Cowboys hat.

I caught up on many, many details of his life and how he feels about all sorts of things.  He showed me every single one of his new football cards and his favorite funny tv commercial, via Youtube.

I told him about my plans to make cinnamon rolls (one of his favorite treats when he is at the lake with us) and he wished I could mail him some, which led to discussing the problems with the mail and how his Christmas presents from RI were going to be very, very late.

He had questions about the Covid vaccine.  I gave him hints about his gifts.  He gave me hints about his mom’s gift.  I got an update on flag football (it starts in January and his team is the 49’ers).  After almost an hour (this kid is wonderfully chatty) I suggested that he might want to hang up and see if his dinner was ready.

He was shocked that I would suggest ending the call.

“Grandma,” he declared, “I have all the time in the world!”

Oh, my heart.

And–of course–I had all the time in the world, too.  So I curled up on the couch and chatted for another half an hour or so.

It was the best thing that’s happened for weeks and broke through my gloom and doom.  I miss him terribly.

So today I’ll fill the hours with baking.  Banjo Man has requested sugar cookies, the thin crispy kind.   And I’m excited about the cinnamon rolls.  They bring back memories of raising my little ones in Idaho, when baking every day was part of life, and cinnamon rolls shaped like Christmas trees were distributed to the neighbors on Christmas Eve.

This year, for better or for worse, I have all the time in the world.

And I plan to play with Barb’s train set tomorrow.  The Funny Grandson will like hearing all about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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some notes in december

Good morning.

It was 15 degrees here Friday morning.  That first mug of coffee tasted really good on such a cold winter day.  This morning I’m looking out my window at snow and ice.  Winter is here, for better or for worse.

Yesterday was my Great Uncle Mac’s birthday.  He would have been 122.  I always called him on his birthday and, with long-distance phone calls being so expensive back in the 70’s and 80’s, my Great Aunt Laurabelle would insist he cut the conversation short in order to save me money.  My protests would earn us a minute or two more, but Aunt Laurabelle always prevailed.

I came across a box of his letters the other day.  He always typed them and only used half of a sheet of paper (and cut the bottom half off for a future letter).

Have you mailed anything this Christmas?  I read that the postal system is gridlocked.  It’s a perfect storm of delays:  shorthanded due to Covid, the huge snow storm last week and the massive amount of boxes being shipped (online shopping, presents to family, etc).

I mailed boxes to Texas on the 11th but tracking shows they were spotted on the 15th but nothing more.  This could take a while!

If you’ve ordered something online and it has arrived?  Count yourself lucky.  The days of two-day delivery from Amazon are pretty much over for now.

2020 strikes again!

What’s on tv, you ask?

MANHUNT:  DEADLY GAMES.  On Netflix.  A fascinating mini-series about Richard Jewell and Eric Rudolph (the real bomber).  This is season 2 of this show and we will be watching Season 1 (the Unabomber) in the future.

Also…MAGIC CITY, on STARZ.  It’s a mini-series set in 1959 Miami at the city’s most gorgeous hotel.  I’m not sure about this yet, so I’m not going to recommend it yet.  We’re in the middle of it and I’m finding the episodes a bit intense with all the Mafia stuff and bodies dumped in large bodies of water.  The clothes are absolutely gorgeous, as are most of the cast.

Last night CBS broadcast Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood live from their home studio.  They took requests and sang Christmas songs.  I was glued to the couch and even cried when Trisha sang “Oh Holy Night”.

I was so lucky to see her in person at a concert in Austin a few years ago.  And on my bucket list is going to a Garth Brooks concert.  Alas, live concerts will have to wait a while longer and tickets to Garth are few and far between.

But I have been a fan of his forever so the Christmas show last night was a very happy hour for me.  I recorded it and will watch it again tonight before episode 8 of MANHUNT.

My BELOW DECK addiction continues at 9 PM tonight, on Bravo.

And LIVING ALASKA, BUYING ALASKA and BUYING THE YUKON are always hard shows to resist.

VIRGIN RIVER on Netflix is one of my favorites.  I’m trying to make Season 2 last so I am not binging the episodes.  I read all the books in the series a few years ago.  Romance, drama and a small town?  Yes, please!

I’m also watching lots of cooking shows on the food channels.  I love the holiday shows that were filmed pre-Covid when the hosts are planning holiday parties for friends and family.

The 2020 versions, when everyone is on Zoom and someone holds up a chicken to show you how to season it, are just too annoying.  Give me the 2019 version so I can pretend to be entertaining my friends and family!

In case you think I spend my days on the couch in front of the tv, please know that I have a small tv in my office/sewing room from which I “watch” (aka listen to) shows as I turn quilt tops into quilts.

The name of the game is to keep busy until Covid is a thing of the past and we are free to live our lives again.

Thank goodness for cable tv, electricity and Banjo Man.

 

 

Posted in family, rhode island, television | 1 Comment

what’s new on the tree

No one had a better Saturday than Banjo Man.  He loves the tree.

He so happily hauled the boxes of Christmas decorations from the basement and decorated.  I stayed on the couch, but I supplied the history of every single ornament he held up to show me.

That, along with decorating the mantle, was my contribution for this Christmas’s nonexistent festivities.

So what’s new on the tree?

An anniversary ornament from Dancing Mandolin Player and her Boyfriend Bob:

And from Jeff and Angela, a touch of country music:

Willie Nelson.

Dolly Parton

My Christmas gifts have been purchased, wrapped and either tucked under the tree or shipped to Texas.  There is nothing else to do but think about making cinnamon rolls, which I haven’t done in 30 years.

It’s about time.

My grocery store was completely out of powdered sugar last week.  Does that mean everyone in RI is frosting Christmas cookies?

Daughter Nancy snagged me a few bags from another store on Tuesday, so I can now drizzle frosting on these fantasy cinnamon rolls.  I’m quite excited about it because I love making big messes with yeast and flour.

But that will happen next week.

For now I’ll sew.  And make soup.  And coffee cake.

And count the days ’til 2021.

 

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first snowstorm, hot soup and Hillbilly Elegy

A “nor’easter” hit last night.  We had plenty of warning, as the storm had trekked across the Midwest and the Mideast before hitting New England.

At midnight we had 3″ of snow.  This morning there is about 6″, but we’ve had sleet and rain and now it’s snowing again.  The predicted 50 mph winds are what bothers me.  Because, you  know, I love electricity.

The problems come when the temps drop later this morning and this stuff freezes.  Oh, the joy of winter!

Yesterday I made a massive amount of sausage-pasta-vegetable soup in the crock pot.   My goal was to use up as many half-empty bags of frozen vegetables as possible.  I found a frozen glob of red paste in a little plastic container in the freezer and assumed it was tomato paste, which would give the soup a nice color and flavor.

At dinner time I discovered the paste I’d used had been Thai red curry paste.

Let’s just say the soup  had a lot of flavor.  I added more chicken broth and then more chicken broth…

Banjo Man loved it.  I didn’t.  I’m going to make an old-fashioned chicken noodle soup today.

And now for a movie recommendation:

This is one of my favorite movies of 2020 and I’ve seen a LOT of movies this year.  Based on a memoir by J.D. Vance and produced by Ron Howard, this Netflix movie is a story about a family’s struggle to survive and a young man breaking the cycle of poverty and dealing with his mother’s addiction.  The acting is incredible.

Banjo Man told me the movie received tons of bad reviews.  I don’t get that.   Sure, it’s a grim subject but there was also a lot of love between the characters.  And that love was what held them all together, no matter what.

If you’ve loved the movie or hated it, I’d love to hear about it.

And now it’s time for more coffee…

 

Posted in food, movies, rhode island | 2 Comments

the one you’re not getting

Here’s the Christmas card you’re not receiving this year.

As you can see, the photo came out too dark when printed on the cards from CVS.  You can’t see Banjo Man’s face!  This photo was taken on our 50th wedding anniversary as we bundled up and shared a bottle of wine on the dock.

I wanted to send you a card that toasted the arrival of 2021.


At least that was the plan.

So I had to start over, meaning the cards will be late (again!) this year.

And I thought I was so organized this month!

But things are looking up, as the vaccine hits our hospitals today.  Medical staff are first in line.  Daughter Nancy should get her dose this week or next as we protect the nursing home residents and their caregivers.

It’s very exciting, especially since last week our state was listed as the “worst in the world” for virus infections.  No one knows why.  Rhode Islanders have been exceptionally obedient mask-wearers since May.

But…brighter days are ahead, right?

 

 

 

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shopping in america

The week began Sunday with a hunt for lemons for Banjo Man and a visit to a fancy grocery store in downtown Westerly.  Unfortunately their lemons weren’t all that great, which was surprising.  I cut the trip short and headed home.

I’m getting all of the groceries and making my husband stay safe, remember?

This was a busy week of shopping and medical visits.  I’m glad it’s a rainy Saturday and I can stay home with my sewing machine and crock pot (potato soup is on the menu).

At the Cancer Center Thursday I was surprised to see a chubby, older gentleman in the waiting room.  He was obviously waiting for someone (his wife?) and he caught my attention because I didn’t think visitors were allowed in waiting rooms right now.

The poor man’s fly was unzipped, but his mask was on.  Priorities.

Another funny thing happened in Aldi’s, in Westerly.  At ten o’clock on a gray Tuesday morning, I roamed around Aldi’s looking for bargains.  You never know what is going to be in the “specials” freezer section and I enjoy the treasure hunt atmosphere.  It’s also a great place to save money on oyster crackers, chips, dairy products and frozen vegetables.  The store was busy, with age 65+ shoppers pushing carts.  Basically a store full of old white people looking for bargains.  I know this because I staggered around the store twice because Banjo Man called me just as I was ready to check out and wanted cheddar cheese.  I gave a woman directions to the hummus.  Another woman and I waited patiently in front of the milk while an elderly gentleman read all the ingredients labels on the bottles of juice.  It was lovely and quiet and civilized until it was time to check out.

The “six feet apart” rule has made lining up in front of a register a little confusing.  One person is in front of the cash register, the next person in line is waiting her turn at the end of the conveyor belt, and the others line up on the other side of the aisle so they don’t block traffic.

There were two registers open.  I chose one and lined up across the aisle.  Another line had formed for the other register.  When it was my turn to be in front of the register to pay, I was surprised that no one was behind me.  And then the shouting started.  People were yelling at each other about “line protocol”.

One woman had mistakenly decided to organize the shoppers into one line (not allowing them to line up behind me) and insisted that everyone had to wait their turn for a register to be available.  Other shoppers protested.  It got loud.  I was shocked and a little nervous.  Was this mask rage?  Was there going to be a geriatric throw down?

My check-out lady rolled her eyes and shouted, “There are TWO LINES.  Someone can come over here!  Make two lines!”

She was ignored.  The screaming back and forth continued, with a woman yelling, “This is AMERICA!  This is not the way we do it in AMERICA!!!!”

One old white woman yelling at another old white woman about how we do it in America.

Go figure.

I guess it’s getting harder and harder to stay sane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in food, rhode island, shopping | 3 Comments

come to mama!

Meet the new member of my Making-Dinner family.

It’s huge.  It doesn’t look huge in this photo, but it is.

See?

This is a Gourmia 7-quart air fryer.  I ordered it from Kohls one morning before Thanksgiving.  They were having a pre-Black  Friday sale and this was one of the specials.  It was half-price, plus I had a fistful of Kohls cash and a couple of coupons and free shipping, so this monster ended up costing about $3.00.  Or something like that.

I hurriedly looked on Amazon for Gourmia reviews and didn’t find anything negative, so I ordered this baby before the deal ran out.  What I didn’t know was SEVEN QUARTS = a monster of an air fryer and is recommended for “crowds”.

Crowds?  We don’t know nothin’ ’bout no crowds.

Fact:  A 5-6 quart is considered suitable for a family of 3-4.

Last night we cooked a sliced, Panko-coated chicken breast and fresh Brussels sprouts.  And they were both delicious.  The clean-up is the bonus, though.  There’s a pull out basket with a rack inside.  And it washes quite nicely.  No pots and pans or baking sheets needed.

Banjo Man was thrilled.  Especially with the vegetables.  And the fact that the chicken was cooked in twelve minutes.

I even had an olive oil mister/sprayer on hand, which is a necessary addition.

The downside?  It takes up a lot of precious counter space in my small kitchen, so I need to do some rearranging.  Or store it on a shelf underneath the island.

Just in case anyone in my family put “air fryer” on their Christmas list, I did some research yesterday.  There are many brands out there and several review sites, such as Food Network and Good Housekeeping and Airfryer World.  I checked their top picks against actual buyer reviews on Amazon.

Here’s what I learned:

Cosori is a best seller and has its own Facebook page where users post recipes and photos of food.  It also had some fun-looking extras for baking and cooking eggs, etc.  But buyers were not happy with the steam that came from the basket and pooled on the counter.

Instant Pot Vortex 4-in-1 and Vortex Plus:  Some of these had a problem with the plastic smell not going away after several uses.

Ninja:  this brand had good reviews, but the Ninja Max XL 5-quart was pricey at $200.

GoWise:  This brand had trouble with the basket handle separating from the basket.

Gourmia:  Reviewers liked the square basket (holds more) and it was rated well.

Hoepaid:  Not on the review sites, but highly rated on Amazon with positive reviews.

Yedi: on the Oprah Favorite things list, with great reviews on Amazon.

AirFryer World also recommended the Philips Premium XXL and the Tiluxbury 5.8, but I did not research these.

I don’t know if this will be one of those appliances that we use a few times and then ignore or if it will be a vital part of the kitchen just like my crock pots are.  Time will tell.

And it’s going to be a long, crowd-less winter.  So if this monster livens up dinnertime, count me in.

 

 

 

Posted in a more pie opinion, food, rhode island, shopping | 2 Comments

black friday, black saturday, etc.

Are you shopping online more than you ever have in your life?

I am, and I thought I was pretty active online before Covid.  This past month I’ve found myself not only ordering Christmas gifts, but sewing supplies, toothpaste in packs of three, protein bars, cd’s, cleaning supplies and–of course–books.

The highly anticipated air fryer is supposed to be delivered next week.  I can’t wait.

With the demise of the last quilt shop within an hour’s drive, I’ve had to resort to ordering quilt batting, needles and thread online.  I’ve also ordered quilt backing, the extra wide fabric that makes assembling the quilt sandwich so easy when I don’t have enough fabric to sew one together (and two weeks later it still hasn’t arrived).

Quilt batting has also been very elusive.  Is it because thousands of quilters are home and making a zillion quilts while they are holing up in their sewing rooms?  Or is there a break in the cotton supply chain?

I’ve ordered Banjo Man’s vitamins, my prescriptions, a new foot for the sewing machine, makeup, Christmas gifts, and a host of other things, none of which has shown up at my door or in the mailbox yet.

I did get a pack of sewing machine needles last Monday, which was semi-exciting.

It’s very hard to keep track of everything, especially now that even Amazon can’t promise a speedy two-day delivery and many other companies warn that they are delayed at least ten days.

I’ve had to keep lists in my handy-dandy notebook so I don’t forget anything.

Verizon sent a new set top box after finally admitting–after an HOUR AND A HALF negotiating the website and four different “chats”–I needed a new box because the old one was making noises that sounded like it was going to blow itself up.  It arrived 24 hours later, a miracle!

I will keep shopping via computer, though I would love to go into Home Goods and roam around for inspiration and pretty things to give as gifts.  The truth is that I just can’t wear a mask for more than 20 minutes without getting hot and dizzy so I have to plan accordingly.  Last week I raced through Walmart to get Banjo Man’s fruits, vegetables and various health products only to end up in a very long line at the register (at 10 am!).  I finally had to pull the mask off my nose in order not to faint right there in front of the candy bars.

I don’t know what’s the matter with me, because everyone else looks perfectly comfortable (and oblivious to the lack of air) while wearing masks.  So…I’m a wimp.  A wimp who needs to breathe.

Have you bought anything–big, small, weird–online lately?  Are you avoiding stores and staying home?  Or venturing boldly through store aisles to find exactly what you need?

Or have you given up shopping altogether?

 

 

 

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my 2020 turkey let me down

My attempt at cooking a turkey breast in the crock pot was a disaster.  The breast was dry, the gravy’s flavor and consistency needed a lot of work, and it was all just so disappointing.

Fortunately there were only three of us to notice.  And two of us didn’t really care all that much.

This outcome was a surprise to me, because I’d cooked a whole chicken in the crock pot last summer.  The recipe was very, very similar to the Thanksgiving one and yet it produced the most delicious, moist, flavorful chicken we’d ever eaten.  Which is why I assumed that slow-cooking a turkey breast this way was sure to be delicious.

Nope.

I don’t know about you, but I’m at the stage of Life With Covid that when sad, stressful or disappointing events happen, I just shrug and think Whatever.

I’m beaten down.  I’m numb.  I’m just putting one foot in front of the other until the light at the end of the tunnel blinds me with its joyful brilliance.

So today I’ll slather sub-par gravy over dry turkey and call it good enough.  Because that’s how we roll in 2020.

 

 

 

Posted in food, rhode island | 1 Comment

thanksgiving 2020

Table for three, please!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  I’m sure yours is as abbreviated as ours, although I hope you are in a place where that is not the case.

In fifty years I have never NOT cooked something the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  But this year I stayed away from the kitchen, enjoyed brunch out with a girlfriend (yay!), ironed fabric and made toasted cheese sandwiches for dinner.  The kitchen sink was not piled high with dirty pots and pans and the refrigerator was only half full.

Weird.

But I was up early this morning to try a new recipe:  a turkey breast in the crock pot.  I tweaked the recipe a bit and will let you know how it turned out.

I am presently baking a frozen, store-bought pumpkin pie.  I can’t remember ever doing that for Thanksgiving, but…old dog, new tricks.

Rhode Island has experienced a turkey shortage.  A friend’s son went to six large grocery stores Tuesday in a panicked attempt to buy a turkey or a turkey breast.  Usually the stores are lowering prices and begging people to buy them, but not in 2020.  Why?  Because everyone needs their own turkey to cook because they are staying home.  Who knew?

Normally my friend Pat would have ordered a turkey ahead of time, but she has been in and out of the hospital (not with Covid) for the past two weeks and otherwise occupied.

Her son finally saw a new posting on Facebook and lined up half an hour early–along with many other panicked people– in front of a small local market in order to snag a turkey when they opened their doors.

I offered the other turkey breast in my freezer, but he found success at Confreda’s market.

So…our table is set and Nancy will join us for the day.  We will snack on guacamole and chips, drink wine and eventually–whenever the Crock Pot Turkey is cooked–eat dinner.  Angela told me about a wonderful movie, “My Octopus Teacher”, and we’re going to settle in on the couch to watch it after dinner.

I was a bit sentimental when setting the table this year.   The china is our wedding china.  The napkin was a gift from a much-loved and missed friend who gave me her grandmother’s set of twelve one Christmas.  The napkin rings were my mother’s.  The water goblets from my grandmother.  The gold-trimmed wine glasses were wedding gifts.

And as far as being grateful?  I’m grateful no one I know has had the virus.

I’m grateful I had the virus.

I’m grateful for the vaccines that will soon put all of our lives back to normal.

I’m very grateful for my family–all of you, near and far–and I’m so grateful for my friends who keep me smiling.

Enjoy the day–in that strange 2020 way!

 

 

 

Posted in family, food, rhode island | 2 Comments