The riotous outdoor color show is over. A lacework of sepia and gray branches framing the sky is pretty much what’s left behind, although the grass is still green, for now. I have removed the dead hanging plants from the front porch. The frost-dead mums remain in their pot on the steps, lending an Addam’s Family vibe to the place, to be appreciated mostly by those who deliver mail and packages.
The color has just moved indoors, gracing the rooms with some surprise blooms. The geranium that was brought in from outside continues to produce. Both a red and a pale peach Christmas cactus have put on a little show. It is the first time blooming for the peach-colored one, which was a surprise.
Some foibles and follies as we move into the next phase; while standing in the dining room watering the indoor plants, I looked up to see wave of water hammering the front window, as if someone had turned a strong hose onto the front of the house. Uh-oh….the hose! The hose, left out and still turned on over the last few twenty-something degree nights, had frozen, warmed up and then burst, sending a steady spray against the house and flooding the porch. I can’t believe I had forgotten to turn it off, unhook it and put it away. This is not the first time it has happened either. As a matter of fact it appears this has turned into an annual event. Frustrating and wasteful. Next year I am really going to be on top of it.
Another annual affair – while reaching into the oven to remove a pie, I (once again) received a nice burn on the top of my hand, which brushed against the wire rack. I was using a pot holder, but maybe I should have been using the oven mitt. I find the oven mitts a bit cumbersome….apparently it’s a trade-off. Oven mitt vs. oven burn. Despite immediately reaching for the handy kitchen aloe plant, it seems this is going to be yet one more cooking battle scar to add to the collection on these old hands.
To contribute to the start of the holiday festivities this year, I baked three pies, which was a pretty odd thing to do, considering baking is not my forte. The pecan pie and the pumpkin pie was a quick and easy deal, but the third one, a Cranberry Custard Curd in a hazelnut crust (a recipe which caught my attention because of the pretty color) was something new to experiment with. I cheated because I didn’t make the crust, instead buying a ready-made walnut crust, leaving only the filling to create. It’s a good thing I didn’t make the crust because it turns out even the filling was a pretty labor-intensive ordeal (at least for me, who – again – does not enjoy baking). A plethora of devices and implements were employed in the formation of that filling. A mini chopper, an immersion blender, a hand-held beater, a whisk, pots, bowls, forks, spoons, spatulas and a sieve to strain the cranberry concoction through. The straining was a pain in the neck. By the time I was done I had a sink full of dishes and pink spatters all over me, the stove, the counters, the floor.
People said they liked it, although it is hard to tell if they were just being polite. The whole thing was eventually eaten, so I suppose it held some success. My assessment is that it was similar to a Key Lime pie, except in cranberry. Some tartness, some sweetness. The color was impressive. It was a little looser than I would have liked. I served it with freshly whipped cream. If I ever attempt it again (probably not) I think I will cut some more corners on the process and adjust some steps. One thing I learned about these recipes is that sometimes it is helpful to read the comments of other cooks to see what worked and what didn’t, or what could be altered or substituted. I should have done that before I dove into this project. But it was okay in the end.
I did make two kinds of stuffing, one vegetarian and one sweet sausage. My stuffing is killer.
A good friend who reads my blog told me he has especially enjoyed the posts which note the details of seasonal changes and has dubbed me “Ms. Almanac”, which made me laugh. I supposed I’ve been on a trend with some of that.
In keeping with that direction, a few more observations – I came across (and almost stepped on with my bare feet) a dying wasp on the floor the other morning. At the end of every autumn there is at least one dying wasp found on the floor. I have no idea how they get in.
A patterned moth clings to the back door, unmoving in the cold. I believe it might be a male Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) which emerges in late November and apparently is able to survive during the winter months.
I would imagine any time now a few Large Flies will appear inside the windows. I often wonder where they come from, usually found between the screen and the glass, seeking warmth. Luckily there are never more than a few every year. I seriously dislike them.
In a previous home we used to get a massive bombardment of Asian ladybugs every year, right before winter. They would gather in huge clusters in the corners of the window frame and remain there for months, slowly dying off little by little, until by spring there were just a few hardy stragglers left. In the beginning I used to vacuum them all up, but later on decided it was interesting to see how long they could survive, so I would just vacuum up the dead ones and leave the rest alone. If you disturbed them they would emit this yellow residue, but if you let them be they just sort of hung out in the window, occasionally flying about the glass on the warmest of days. This house does not have a winter ladybug infestation, which is fine, although I admit that, in a weird way, I kind of enjoyed them.
There is a security camera attached to the barn behind the house. Sometimes I like to check the night activity to see what animals are out and about. Aside from the usual neighborhood cats, there is an opossum family that has been visiting. Last night there was a good sized skunk with a lovely pattern. I notice the skunks often have different stripe designs. The screen grab is not as clear as the video, but you can get an idea.
Relating to the seasons on a person-to-person level, I partook in “Special Person’s Day” at the pre-school of one of my grandchildren (the one who lives in closest proximity). She was very excited to have “Mema” attend, so off I went. Before these events became more inclusive, they were probably called “Grandparent’s Day”. Actually, way back when I was a kid I’m pretty sure we had neither a Grandparent’s Day or even such a thing as a “pre-school”. In the classroom there were little stations set up where you could sit with the child while they – amidst very loud collective chatter – excitedly moved from activity to activity, making beaded bracelets and bird feeders out of pipe-cleaners, coloring houses and playing with blocks, while their “special person” crouched beside them. (I noticed a number of us “special people” groaned with crackling knee joints as we tried to gracefully get up off the floor). It was a sweet little event – something about “school” and “autumn”, tiny desks, crayons, cubbies filled with boots and jackets. and their innocence, which jangled some rosily distorted nostalgia. They sent us home with chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, which they had proudly made the day before.
And finally, I will share a photo of Rudi in one of his (second hand) autumn sweaters. I call it his “Bumble Bee” look. In case anyone was wondering, I am not one of those crazy ladies who obsessively dresses up my dog in clothes. This is the first dog I’ve ever had that wears a sweater or coat, with the exception of my last dog’s blaze-orange vest, worn during hunting season. Rudi is a very small, single-coated dog that gets cold pretty quickly. After his last bout of illness, the vet advised that he’s kept warm. So now he has a tee-shirt for in the house this winter and the sweaters for outside. You may be seeing more of this in future posts. Of course I’m biased, but I think he’s kind of cute!
So that’s all I’ve got for today. “Ms. Almanac” signing off….