Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving Solutions

Given the fact that the turkey neck is incompatibly shaped with the hole it's coming out of, that pulling it out usually involves pain, bloodshed, and possibly uncouth noises, extracting the neck from your Thanksgiving turkey is somewhat akin to childbirth.

This year,  I ordered a local turkey, and other Thanksgiving perishables from Relay Foods.  I didn't have to set foot inside of a store or wait in line and simply picked up my order from the back of a truck on my way home from work.  When it came time to do the pre-roasting chores, I found the giblets and neck tucked neatly in a crevice between the leg and the breast.  High class!  Why didn't someone think of that forty years ago instead of making us risk salmonella-infected cuts and frostbite by plunging our bare hands into the hostile environment of a half-frozen turkey? Just because the turkey carcass is hollow doesn't mean you can use it as a container.  Words to live by.

My kids' reaction when I told them I was trying a new stuffing recipe this year

My response

This year, the cooking was something like a series of failed science experiments.  For the pie crust, I departed from my trusted recipe and improvised a butter + lard combo, because that's what I had on hand.  The dough was TRAGIC, but the finished crust was acceptable, although not my best.  When I made the rolls, the buttermilk curdled, but it was too late to start over so, I forged ahead and the rolls were fine, if a tad underbaked.  The sweet potato gratin didn't cook properly, even though we cooked for a half an hour longer than recommended.  The one unqualified success was the alien stuffing--Pretzel and Sausage Stuffing from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  It's not made from pretzels, but from pretzel buns and it's super yummy.  Highly recommended if you want to get out of the Pepperidge Farm stuffing rut.

So the food wasn't tiptop, but it was a great day.  I was on call but didn't get paged.  I didn't feel stressed about getting the food done. I thoroughly enjoyed the long weekend, even if I was on call. I only got paged once on Friday, not at all on Saturday and once on Sunday.  I spent the time happily tidying, taking long walks, and reading In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin.  On Sunday, as a reward for nearing the end of the on-call week, I went to the public library and got two new books and then bought yarn for two Christmas knitting projects.  All of my children were home, all happy and in good health. What more could anyone want?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Real Housewife of Charlottesville

At work, we implemented another upgrade of our software.  (My fourth upgrade.  I remember posting about how worried I was about the first one.)  We must "go-live" with these upgrades in the middle of the night, so as to affect the fewest number of people.  Hospitals are a 24/7 operation, but in the night, they're relatively bare bones, so if we must take away the EMR for several hours and then turn it back on in a new and (we hope) improved version, the hours between 1:00 - 3:00am are the best time to do so.

Anyway, this is just a long preamble by which to say, that because I worked midnight-8:30 am Saturday, I had Friday off.  It is exceedingly rare for me to not be at work on a business day.  I got up at 5:45--which is sleeping in by an hour for me-- had a leisurely hour for tea and a book, tidied the house, and still had time to cook Seamus a proper breakfast before he left for school.  I attended the 9:15 Pilates class at my gym (such a luxury to go to the gym mid-morning!) then accomplished a long-overdue errand that it's impossible to do outside of normal business hours.  I did the grocery shopping, which I usually have to do on Thursday nights after the gym.

In the afternoon, I had time for more reading with a large espresso, then raked leaves, and tore the last section of paneling off a wall I'm demolishing in the girls' old bedroom.  I had hoped to have this room completely redecorated by Thanksgiving, but we had one of those life events that put all projects on hold.

This room needs a LOT of work.

I cooked a proper family dinner and spent the evening Kon-mari'ing the game cupboard, while watching an episode of Outlander.  What do you guys think of the Outlander TV series?  I think it's kind of awful, and I hate the gratuitous violence.  I tell myself I'm only watching for the knitwear.  I KNOW it's unrealistic (and not always desirable) to demand historic verisimilitude from Hollywood, but I just finished reading a history of housework in the British Isles which revealed shocking domestic practices in Scotland in the eighteenth century.  (I think I understand now why Samuel Johnson was so disdainful of Scotland.)  So I can't help giving the side eye to Outlander's magically illuminated and clean Scottish castle and the multi-piece wardrobe that appears out of thin air for Claire (especially the immaculate white fur collar and cuffs).  Also, I can't decide if Jamie is attractive or not, but I felt ambivalent about Michael Fassbender the first time I saw him in a movie, so what do I know.  I AM decided in the opinion that Claire is super irritating. As for the books,  I tried to read the first one in the series but it was so bad I stopped reading 3/4 of the way through. (Book Claire is really irritating too.)

I attempted (unsuccessfully) to take a nap before going in to work and had a second espresso at 11:00pm, hoping it would be enough to keep me up.  (It was, although by 5:00am, just as we started getting post go-live help desk calls, my ability to think clearly was seriously impaired.)

I know that if I were to stay home full time, I'd be bored.  My career gives me intellectual stimulation, the opportunity to wear clothes other than jeans and sweatshirts and a chance to interact with other adults. Not to mention the all-important paycheck.  Still, something is lost when there is no one to keep the home.  My inner domestic goddess is bereft.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On the Nightstand

Let's take a look at what's on my nightstand lately.

I apologize for this dark picture

A Woman's Work is Never Done: A history of housework in the British Isles 1650-1950 by Caroline Davidson.  (1982) I love books about housework and domestic life.  This one is a bit dry, but still very interesting and has a great selection of illustrations.

Eating in America by Waverly Root and Richard de Rochemont (1976)

Pure Pleasure: a Guide to the 20th Century's Most Enjoyable Books by John Carey (2000)

A Reader's Delight by Noel Perrin (1988)  I am reading this now and it truly is a delight. Beautiful little essays about obscure books you've never heard of and will immediately want to read.

Assorted Prose by John Updike (1965)  Essays

A Book of Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David (1958)  David's first cookbook, written during the period of austerity in Great Britain after World War II, and meant to be a sort of consolation and vicarious thrill, since most of the ingredients were unavailable.

In Pategonia by Brush Chatwin (1977)  A classic of travel literature

Come Back, Wherever You are by Lenora Mattingly Weber (1969)  The last book in the Beany Malone series.

All Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard (2013)  The final book (published much late than the others and shortly before the author's death) in the superb Cazalet series.  I had difficulty finding it for some reason and had to order a copy (used, I always buy used) all the way from the UK.

The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams (1907)  Henry Adams was the great-grandson of John Adams and this is a memoir of sorts.  I am reading this now and I have to admit it's a bit dull.