Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

It's been a busy weekend here. We had seven people over, ending up with 10 of us at the table. All three of hubby's children were there, along with my sister and her daughter, various housemates, and our grandchild. You can barely see the top of his head on the left side of the picture.

It's a good thing my husband's had lots of practice cooking turkey. With contributions from guests, we had turkey, three kinds of stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, green salad, and made-from scratch pumpkin pie.

I used some kind of small, green-skinned winter squash for the pies this year. Not sure which variety, but they had a lot more water in them than the small pumpkins I've used before. After a few tragic attempts in the past at cooking pumpkin from scratch, using boiling, microwave steaming and stove-top steaming, I finally found oven roasting works best. The last thing you want to add to fresh pumpkin is more water. It's hard enough to get rid of enough of the liquid already in there. So I squeezed what I could out of these after roasting the halves. The eventual mixture was a bit more liquidy than I like, but the pies really set well during cooking and the filling didn't split after it cooled.

His oldest daughter, her son, her housemate, and their dog were here all weekend. It was a busy, noisy house these past few days. We had sunny, if freezing weather, so at least we could go outside. My poodle and the Shih Tzu puppy they brought got along well enough, thank goodness, even if our cat was emphatically not thrilled with a second dog in the house. He spent a lot of time outside when he wasn't perched on the highest piece of furniture he could find.

The only black mark of this long weekend was Thursday morning, when we discovered a stray dog or dogs had attacked the duck enclosure. There were large holes dug all around the pen, and IN the pen, so somehow this dog, or whatever it was, got into the pen, chased the ducks and managed to run off with the two females. Probably more than one dog, since they got two ducks. The lone male, my beautiful black Cayuga, has been limping around very quietly ever since. Were these strays, or just a pair that got loose that night and stumbled on our ducks? Why didn't we hear the quacking, as we have so often before for lesser disturbances? If they weren't strays, we wonder what the dogs' owners must have thought that morning when their dogs came home covered in dirt and possibly duck blood and feathers? We haven't found any chewed up carcasses anywhere. It's very mysterious, and shocking. We're relatively sure it wasn't foxes or coyotes, as we haven't seen any in the area. But we really have no idea.

At any rate, the chickens and the duck are due for butchering this winter. The chickens are over four years old and their egg production has really dropped off. It's hard to justify buying their food when there's no return on it. The male duck may still be young enough that he'll make a reasonable dinner, so we'll give that a try. Next year we may try a mix of rare breed chickens and guinea fowl. We'll see.

Anyway, aside from that, we had a good Thanksgiving. There are so many things to be thankful for, I can't possibly name them all, but my husband and family, good friends both near and far away, a job I like, the time to pursue our interests, and good health are all near the top of the list.

Blessings of the season to you and yours.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Asilomar review

We had a wonderful time at Asilomar Scottish Country Dance Workshop last weekend. I remember going to Asilomar Retreat Center when I was a young, for church retreats. The main things I remember clearly are sitting in Merrill Hall looking up at the high wood-beamed ceiling, and going to the beach. Lots of things have changed, but Asilomar beach is still wonderful, even in November.

It was good to see some old friends again after so long. I last went to this event in 1992, so I didn't really expect a lot of people to be there that I'd know. Or if they were, I didn't expect them to remember me! Happily, an old friend, one of my bridesmaids from my first wedding, was there. I haven't seen her since about 1995. It was good to re-connect and catch up a bit on our lives. We've both been through a lot since we last saw each other.

There's lots going on at this workshop. There's a welcome dance on Friday night, and an after-party, of course. Our group had chosen to be in the party dorm, so our common room was the center of activity until 3:00 or 4:00 am. I went to bed at midnight.

Saturday morning was taken up with dance classes. I was put in the Advanced Technique class. It was good, but I wouldn't say we were worked as hard or challenged as much as I'd expected. My seven Idaho compatriots were spread between three other classes of different levels and they felt the same. We all thought there were people in our groups who perhaps should not have been there. But it's a very difficult task to categorize dancers when you haven't seen all of them dance. So no surprise if some (who knows, maybe us!) were misplaced, I guess.

Saturday afternoon was mostly open. Finally time to go to the beach! A bunch of us went down and walked through the coming evening’s dances. And of course we paddled in the surf. Ice cold water is great on sore feet. Mine barely hurt at all afterwards.

The other Idaho dance teacher and I went to the Teacher's Reception before dinner. We're so isolated from every other SCD class in the country (the closest is 345 miles away), it's important to network as much as we can. I keep trying to recruit other teacher friends to come out to Idaho, do some rafting or hiking, and teach our Monday night class. It would be good for our dancers to experience other teachers. About half of them have never had another teacher.

The Saturday Ball was wonderful. I danced at least 80% of the program, which I don’t often get to do because my feet hurt, but so many of the dances were really great. I've included a picture of Merrill Hall to show the banners and other decorations. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves - at least six dances were repeated by request from the floor. Afterwards was a ceilidh, then the after-party/musician's jam in our dorm's common room.

The ceilidh was nice, but it didn't seem as enthusiastically supported as I remember from before. Maybe it was just an off year.

A fair amount of musicians are hired for this kind of weekend. Aside from two evening dances, there are six different classes on Saturday, running concurrently, and all of them need two class musicians. So we had Andy Imbrie, John Taylor, Lyle Ramshaw, the three members of Terpsichore, Janet Kurnik, and Mike Hird. And most of them came to the party/jam after the ceilidh, as well as a few others who'd brought their instruments. It was amazing. This was when I was really wishing my husband had been able to come. He would have loved joining in with his fiddle.

Sunday morning we had all of those same musicians up on stage for the combined class in Merrill Hall. What a great sound. We learned some fun dances that were interesting but not overly-complicated, to allow for our sleep-deprived brains. In fact, we remembered two of those dances well enough to bring them home for our Idaho class.

Now I’m back at home and well into preparations for the holidays. We’ll have a small crowd for Thanksgiving, then there’s the Solstice Party in December, so I want the house to look clean and tidy. We had the carpets steam-cleaned yesterday. They may be old (circa 1970’s) but they’re good quality and cleaned up very well! Our bedroom carpet looks so much brighter now. And of course, once we moved things out of the way for the cleaners, the rooms looked so much tidier and open, we couldn’t face putting it all back. So we’ve spent today sorting and throwing things away. Less is the new more!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

November Already?!

Happy All Saints Day to everyone. Gee, November? How'd that happen? Halloween was quiet for us. We never get any kids here, since we're on a hill and surrounded by older families.
Sure enough, previous experience held and we had a good frost last night. It really feels like proper winter now.

For the past three weeks we've been working out more at the local Rec Center, and I can feel it. We walk a mile on the indoor track and then do some weights. I hate lifting weights. I wouldn't go on my own. But my husband likes it, and there are no exercise classes in the early morning when we go, so I do it along with him. I used to be soooo conscientious about exercising in my 20's and 30's. I was in much better shape then too. I think getting married and owning a house really started the downward slide. Anyway, it's satisfying to feel fitter again, and the good feedback helps me keep going. It makes all the other physical things I do easier as well, like Aikido and Scottish dance.

In fact, I'm off to Asilomar, CA, tomorrow morning for a Scottish dance weekend. This is one of the most popular SCD weekends in the western U.S. It takes place in an early 1900's retreat center built right on the beach north of Monterey. You can walk out of your dormitory and onto the beach boardwalk along the shore. Most of the attendees are from California, but there are also people from Oregon, Washington, B.C. Canada, various other states, and this time there'll be 8 of us from Idaho!

The forecast is for mid 70's F. all weekend, with sun, a change from here! Hope I haven't packed too many warm clothes. My summer shorts are all in boxes now! Figures. I haven't been to this particular event since 1992, before my first marriage. It will be interesting to see how many people I know, and how many of them remember me.

Anyway, it's been a busy few weeks since I last posted. My parents were in town for two weeks. They helped us fix the carport roof, got us a dishwasher, and installed a new toilet in the master bath. Basically our Christmas presents a few months early. It's soooo nice to have a dishwasher again. Hubby is still getting used to it, as he's never had one. But I am thrilled!!

The garden is pretty much over, though I've had a few late raspberries. This recent frost has probably done them in now. Still haven't dug up any potatoes, but that will be soon. My husband harvested the gourds. There's a whole army of them drying in the living room. One really is as big as a beachball. The others are more normal, basketball-size or smaller.

So, early day tomorrow. More soon.