Sunday, November 30, 2008


It seems crazy that Thanksgiving has come and gone already--I've been looking forward to the days off for weeks, forgetting that a lot of both days would end up wrapped up in driving to one place or another. We spent Thanksgiving itself at my aunt's house, reminding ourselves how my mom's family puts the fun in dysfunctional. We aren'te the football watching type, so we played Trivial Pursuit instead. To be frank, my mom and I wallupped my husband and uncle pretty thoroughly. They were ready to kill us, mostly because each and every question went something like this:

"This Stetson-clad actor appeard on a 1980 People magazine cover with the phrase 'Whodunnit?"
Mom: "I have no idea."

Me: "Stetson--so it's some kind of Western? Who are some Western actors?"
Mom: "Robert Redford or something...but it's a mystery, too, the Whodunnit thing?"

Me: Wait, wasn't that around the same time as that whole "Who shot JR thing"?
Mom: Right! Dallas!
Me: What was the actor's name?
Mom: Larry Hagman!
Uncle: <flips card> You have got to be kidding me.

And on Saturday I came, I saw, I sort of conquered cooking Thanksgiving dinner at Randy's mom's house. The only caveat? The twelve pound turkey was done in two and a half hours! It was supposed to take three and a half, and when I, out of curiosity, checked it early, it was kind of a surprise. At least I didn't leave it in until it turned into a styrofoam-dry inedible turkey-shaped blob.

Hope everyone's recovered from their food comas!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lessons for cold-weather camping

We made our way to the eighteenth century and back again yesterday, for a one-day event outside Chicago. The rescheduled day-trip was a reminder of why our regular "season" stops in late October: Anything after that starts to get, simply put, miserable. But we had our little ways of coping and managed to survive and even enjoy ourselves. I learned two lessons worth passing on.

One: This may seem obvious, but fires can singe eyelashes.

Two: Even if you don't think that the shake-to-activate foot warmer packs aren't working, they are. To elaborate: My feet didn't feel warm all day. To the contrary, they were pretty stiff--but when I pulled the little packs out at the end of the day when I changed indoors, they were toasty. I'm now realizing that, without a little chemical help, I wouldn't have felt my feet at all. Yay for heat-producing, probably dangerous chemicals to put in close proximity to my body.

Often I think we chalk up our ancestor's ability to deal with this kind of weather and hardship to "being used to it" or "they were hardier than us." While I agree that our forebearers were certainly a less whiney lot, and had more experience having their faces scoured by biting ice pellets in a November wind, I don't think that they were immune. I think they cursed inwardly at the downpours and wished desperately for a warmer pair of socks in the snow--and that makes managing to withstand and prosper despite the downright nastiness much more impressive.

Regardless, I'll opt for winter camping with shake-to-activate foot warmer pack do-jobs rather than without.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


On what may have been the last decently warm day for a long while, we planted next year's garlic before mulching the garden. We've devoted a spacious chunk of ground to the pungent little cloves that, theoretically, should each be a full bulb by next summer. There are so many cloves embedded in the soil that the garden started to smell like garlic, like a promise of sautéed and roasted dinners still months away.

And now it's gotten cold--it seems like every year the end of fall rear-ends the beginning of winter at an upsetting speed that doesn't allow one to adjust at all. There's frost on the car in the morning now and the months-long battle with the thermostat will begin. I changed out the summer coverlet for the winter bedding this weekend, just in the nick of time. Now I'm digging into soup recipes and planning on minestrone made with the tomato juice I canned a few months ago.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Box o'

I never thought I would be one to extoll the virtues of the box of wine. It seems like a classless concept, suited only to twenty-somethings who start out attempting refinement by upgrading from Keystone and end up spraying each other with a nondescript blush.


There's a new breed of boxed wine out, sized for the fridge and flavored for the grown-up. It's nothing that's going to blow a sommelier's socks off, but it is tasty wine. I wouldn't bust it out for a dinner party or take a box to a friend's as a hostess gift (for some occasions, the bottle speaks a certain dialect that the box can't quite fathom), but for the day-to-day, cup of dry white for a recipe here, glass while watching Top Chef there, it has its advantages. For one, the price is much better than an equivalent bottle. The inexpensive packaging doesn't compromise the flavor, but the savings are passed on to the consumer. Also, the unique packaging, so well suited to the aforementioned spraying, also has a legitimate function: It keeps the wine fresh. As someone who generally doesn't go through a whole bottle of white before it starts to turn, this is a nice bonus. And, of course, the box fits nicely in the fridge for easy dispensing.

My current box is Target's Wine Cube, Pinot Grigio. Suggestions, anyone?