Saturday, December 10, 2005

Stupidity custom-fit for everyone!

I was at the store at the express line picking up chocolate to dip biscotti in for the concerts and there was a couple in front of me. They looked like dzhlubs--definitely not in the "world-beater" category. The guy was carefully explaining to my favorite cashier that red wine started fermentation with blood, which was why vegans couldn't drink it.

Say what?? I said "No, that's complete bullshit. I've made wine for years and taught winemaking and I've never heard of blood being used in the winemaking process." The guy replied "Maybe not, but you're an ass!" and the woman accompanying him demonstrated her capability for independent thought by adding, "Yes, you're an asshole!" and they scurried out. Oy!

The cashier said "Did they just call you an asshole?" "Yup," I said.

Geeze, you'd think we were back in Indiana or something! I can only hope these two haven't figured out how to breed.

Room-temperature IQs, unite!


Friday, December 09, 2005

Further fruitcake fun

Making the one fruitcake a few days ago just wasn't enough for me, and I did have a bunch of the candied fruit bits left to use, so wotthehell? I wanted to try a recipe on one of the containers for a fruitcake that's really a fruitcake: there's a ton of fruit and nuts with a lot of eggs and just enough flour to glue everything together. I actually didn't have enough fruit to do this (it calls for about 6 pounds of fruit and nuts), so I looked for more fruitcake bits at Safeway and found them at about half the price I'd paid for them before. Oh, well... I bought four pounds of fruitcake mix and I had almost everything I needed except for bourbon to soak the fruit and nut mixture in.

I made it to the liquor store Thursday and bought a fifth of cheap bourbon ($6.45, good for cooking or swilling) and a fifth of cheap rum (not much more expensive and with the same level of, erm, quality) so the Babe can make a rum cake. I threw all the fruit and nuts into my biggest porcelain mixing bowl, sloshed it with the bourbon, and then covered it with plastic wrap and set it aside to cure. I'll be mixing the remainder of the ingredients at some point soon to finish the process, but the biggest problem is that you bake everything at 250 degrees for 3-1/2 hours and I don't foresee a 3-1/2 hour window of time until Saturday afternoon at least.

I sloshed a little more brandy on the fruitcake in the refrigerator and wrapped it back up. It's doing very nicely. I'm looking forward to it. :)


An amazing speech!

Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize, which in itself may not be a great surprise. What was surprising was his videotaped acceptance speech, the text of which appears here. It's something people don't really hear a lot about in this country and I think we need to.

(If the link expires, I'll find another or post a copy of the speech here myself. It's important.)


Thursday, December 08, 2005

St. Drogo, redux

Back in April, I wrote a blog entry about St. Drogo. I'd not heard of St. Drogo before, but he's an interesting saint and his purview includes coffee shops, so he's of distinct interest to me.

Little did I know that there was such an interest in St. Drogo! A surprising number of the hits on this blog are from people who are searching in Google or other search engines for references to him... and they find my blog entry.

What is it about St. Drogo that people find so interesting? Is it just that he's associated with coffee shops or is it some other connection?


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Willow :(

Last night, I noticed that Willow was doing a lot worse. The tumor has gotten large and she's lost bladder control. She's also stopped grooming and is clearly looking miserable. This morning, she was having trouble breathing--nothing really big, but her breathing's looking labored--and she couldn't sleep: she'd lie there but her eyes would be open and she looked uncomfortable. I've been waiting for a sign that it was time for her to go and I think that this is it. She's not happy and she doesn't like being touched. I'd hoped that Willow would continue to feel no significant pain and just drift off, but I'm going to have to intervene.

I called the Westmoreland Animal Hospital, who will do housecalls for this sort of thing, bless 'em, and scheduled Dr. Voss to come over this afternoon. She ultimately couldn't make it because a surgery ran long, but Dr. Moring came over about 5:00. She confirmed that it was time. I held Willow while they administered the drug and she drifted off very peacefully. We made sure that BC had a chance to see her right after she died, which sometimes helps kitties adjust when there's a death in the househould (although I expect BC to be wandering around looking for Willow for a while).

The Babe and I buried Willow in the backyard near the maple tree in a hole I'd dug earlier this afternoon. I gave Willow a handful of kibble and a big sprinkle of catnip for the Summerland and we covered her up. I'll miss her.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Decembers are always kind of difficult for me. There's an awful lot of work that goes into them and this year is catching me emotionally shorthanded. But there are things that are perking me up: I'm working on the Yule letter for cards, which I truly intend to get out this year (didn't last year and only got a few out the year before). I've been baking tons of stuff and will be baking more shortly, as I bought proper fruitcake mix and a few other things for more sweets. And "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has just started, something that made me feel good the first time I saw it 40 years ago. I have three or four copies of Vince Guaraldi's album of music from this. It isn't the holiday season without this. I'm smiling.


More biscotti news

I was still up around 10:00pm, so the loaves were just about cool enough to slice. I covered the trays with cloths and put them outside in the 33-degree weather to cool the last bit. I did keep an eye out for the raccoons, who showed up again Sunday night. They stood up on their hind legs and plastered themselves against the sliding glass door to look in, clearly after food. (You know how raccoons are.) They were not in the slightest afraid of people, which isn't a good thing but it's inevitable in the in-town suburbs. While everything was cooling, I did all of those domestic things you do the night before the garbage & recycling gets picked up: emptied all the trash containers, cleaned the cat boxes, swept, mopped, and so on.

When everything was cleaned up, I washed up thoroughly; then, fresh, pink, and slighly damp, I got the cold biscotti loaves and sliced them up and baked them. I now have 80 or 90 fresh biscotti on trays and plates in the kitchen. This morning, I need to put them in an airtight container and do something about the pounds of crumbs I've gotten all over everything. After that, I'm making a cheese and onion omelette for breakfast, then probably starting the second double batch of biscotti. The first had dried cranberries (aka "Craisins"), pistachios, and a little cured citron, as well as the rather obligatory almond and vanilla extracts and the anise and fennel seed. I used all the pistachios I had on the first batch, so the second batch has lots of dried cranberries, grated orange peel, and macadamia nuts (as well as the de rigeur flavors). Hey, and you think chocolate chip cookie dough is fun to eat out of the bowl....

The house is smelling heavenly.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Biscotti and Seahawks

I've got the first double batch of biscotti loaves baked now. (If you've never made biscotti, you make a large loaf of this wonderfully eggy sweet dough full of fruit and nuts and so on, then when it's cool, you slice it diagonally into the classic biscotti pieces and you bake them on a tray on the cut sides to crisp them up.) They're so nice I'm starting a second double batch. The dough will have to rest overnight before I bake it, but it'll be a way to make the house smell nice Tuesday, too.

And I've been checking the Seattle Seahawks-Philadelphia Eagles game periodically. It's the middle of the 4th quarter and it's 42-0, Seahawks!! Who taught these guys to play football? And can they get some of this will-to-win to rub off on the Mariners??


Catching up from the last few days

Having uploaded some pictures, I wanted to take a moment to update the blog.

First, the cat news: Willow keeps hanging in there, although she's down to maybe 6 pounds and the tumor is huge. But she's still in no apparent pain or signficant discomfort and, while she may be eating only a little, she's definitely drinking enough liquid. I know this because she's still peeing on the rug and, oh, yeah, there's plenty of liquid in her system (sigh). I haven't a clue as to how long she's going to last, but I'm very pleased she's still doing okay.

BC is responding well to the Lasix and the biggest problem has been getting him to eat enough. However, he's continuing to lose weight and I am pretty sure that the underlying problem is, in fact, some kind of cancer. Bleah. We don't know: blood work for cats is not yet sophisticated enough to track protein markers for cancers. If he doesn't present any further symptoms, he may be fine. At this point, I'm pleased that he's alive and stable and still as snuggly as ever.

We picked up a tree on Saturday, a grand fir (the Babe's favorite). I got it set up in the corner and Susan and I brought the ornaments in from the potting shed. I then went out and picked up ingredients for biscotti and fruitcake and other baked things that I want to make, while the Babe decorated. This year's tree has a Santa theme to it, so there are all kinds of Santa decorations on the branches.

We sang the Bach cantata at church on Sunday with a Renaissance consort: double bass, harpsichord, oboe, and several other instruments. We were a hit.

Susan was getting ready for a date Sunday evening and she looked pretty darned good. She also had on heels of some kind that made her even taller. The Babe only came up to mid-chest on her.

Never one to resist an opportunity, Susan mugged heavily for the camera. The Babe stuck out her lip.

Sunday night, I had a hankering to make fruitcake (I like fruitcake, damnit!), so the house had a wonderful smell of cinnamon, ginger, and molasses. I left it to cool overnight, then wrapped it in a linen cloth, drenched it in brandy, and wrapped everything in foil and tucked it into a corner of the refrigerator. I'll pull it out in a week or so and add more brandy. Making fruitcake is a bit of an exercise in delayed gratification: the recipe (I used the Betty Crocker recipe for this) says that you have to let it age with the brandy for 2 to 8 weeks.

Today (Monday) I made a pan of gingerbread and then started a double batch of cranberry & pistachio biscotti. The bowl of biscotti dough is resting outside on the picnic table with a cloth over it (you're supposed to keep it cold while it rests). I'm going to post this and go grab the dough and start baking the biscotti loaves, so the house will smell like almond, anise, and vanilla.