Category Archives: Random Reflections

The changing seasons

November is a month that isn’t any one season, at least around here. It is a blend of fall and winter and spring.

The start of the month had spectacular autumn colors, but the winds and rains have been steadily denuding the trees. We have had some quite chilly days with the north wind blowing and also some nice balmy weather, enough to trick several plants into thinking it’s spring.

My advent “wreath”.

This year it feels like everyone is jumping the gun on Christmas…Encouraged by the advertising complex. I am more than a little cynical about that. Sometimes I refer to Christmas as “consumer-fest”. It really is not a religious holiday for most. I like to take things slower and celebrate advent, trying to find something less like jolly and more like joy.

My holiday window starting to take shape…with a little help from Max.

With no kids in our lives the pressure is off…but the dark days seem to cry out for something special, something hopeful and a little bit sparkly and fun.

It seems fitting that my last NanoPoblano post would be also a Changing Seasons post. Posting every day for a month is a real challenge for me. You’d think that with just dogs to walk and household things to do I’d find it easier.

It’s been great fun to read and explore the many different posts of all the cheer peppers, thank you all for enriching my month and to Rarasaur for the very cheerful and encouraging hosting of this event.

Wishing you all a joyous Christmas, or whatever mid-winter (or summer for those in the south) fest you prefer.

Another cranberry chronicle

If we were having coffee I’d offer you some cranberry upside down cake. It’s a hybrid of two recipes: one I copied out of a magazine years and years ago that became a family favorite, the other is a scaled down one from a Baking for Two magazine I got a few years ago, not long after our son flew off to make his own nest.

Cranberry upside-down cake.

It’s kind of fussy to make but worth it.

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

The recipe makes a 6″ round cake, just right for two.

For the topping (bottom?)

  • 2 tsp (or up to 1 tbsp) of melted butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans and/or walnuts work well)
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Oil the 6″ round cake pan. Pour the melted butter into the pan and spread it out. sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter as evenly as reasonable. Heat in the oven for 2 minutes, then add the nuts and cranberries. Set aside.

For the cake

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup milk (I tend to use Trader Joe’s Almond Beverage)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated, plus one large yolk
  • pinch cream of tartar

Whisk together the flower, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Whisk the milk and vanilla together in a separate bowl.

Beat butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until combined, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Reduce speed to low then add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk mixture in two additions, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Beat the egg white and cream of tartar to soft peaks.

Whisk 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining. Pour over the topping layer in the pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes then run a knife around the edge and invert it onto a serving plate.

Another cranberry idea from this week

I don’t have a recipe for this, because I made it up on the fly.

I used the crusts I cut off of the bread I used to make dressing for Thanksgiving to make a cranberry apple bread pudding.

Bread pudding ready to pop in the oven.

I cut about three cups of the crusts up, tossed them with a sliced up apple and a cup or so of cranberries. then put the mixture into 6 muffin cups and a mini loaf pan (grease the pans well). Whisked together a bunch of eggs, about 6, some milk, about 1 cup (I use Trader Joe’s Almond Beverage), some sugar, about 1/4 cup, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Pour the egg-y mix over the bread and let it soak for a while, then bake at 350 deg F until a knife comes out clean. This makes a nice breakfast, with a drizzle of maple syrup, or just a sweet, but not too sweet, snack.

Thanksgiving was fine for us

We went to my Dad’s (we officially designated him part of our household for pandemic purposes months ago) it was just the three of us plus one close friend of the family…plus the three dogs…and our cat.

We had all the usual suspects: turkey, gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce, with pumpkin pie after. Needless to say there were significant amounts of left overs.

It rained a bit, but didn’t pour, so we were able to walk on the beach when the tide was out. The dogs love that.

All-in-all it was a relaxed time, more so than the last couple of years, which included my grandmother’s last Thanksgiving in 2018 and our first without her in 2019.

How was your week? If you celebrate USA Thanksgiving how did it go?

For Weekend Coffee Share by Eclectic Ali.

It’s cranberry time!

If we were having coffee I would share this cranberry coffee cake.

Cranberry-apricot-almond coffee cake.

I impulsively bought a 2 lb bag of cranberries, an awful lot for just the two of us. So this will be a very cranberry holiday season. My first adventure was to make this cranberry sauce: the recipe intrigued me because it contained apricot jam and almonds.

The ingredients.

It goes like this:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 1/4 cup apricot or peach preserves
  • 1/4 cup toasted, sliced almonds

Boil the water and honey for 8 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for about 4 minutes (until they are popping). Remove from the heat and stir in the jam and almonds.

Here’s what you get…I used chopped roasted almonds because I didn’t have sliced on hand.

I used the sauce in place of the fruit filling in a coffee cake recipe. It seems to work pretty well.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the holidays this week. We did our shopping on Monday, because Tuesday Dad had a doctor consult about his heart test results (via Zoom), so we took the food over there (where we have Thanksgiving*). That shopping trip was when I grabbed the cranberries.

I looked back at a post I wrote about surviving the holidays last year: Aunt Kate’s Safe and Sane Guide to the Holidays. It really does seem SO last year!

Finding ways to have a bit of cheer and a break up of routine without doing anything much seems to be how I’m approaching this year. I made six bright holiday print masks from bits of fabric left from projects gone by.

Holiday cheer 2020 style.

How about you? Do you have any fun cranberry recipes? How about ideas to be merry and bright during the dark days of winter (obviously I am northern hemisphere).

For Weekend Coffee share hosted by Eclectic Alli.

*I feel like I have to explain, so you don’t think we are cheating, that for pandemic purposes we define our “household” as including both our house and my dad’s. Since he is in his 80s, lives alone and I often need to take him to medical appointments.

What comes after antipathy?

Don’t worry, lots of people live in fascist, authoritarian regimes. Quality of life for regular people inevitably drops, but that takes time. (Time that lets the authoritarians cement their power as they take from poor and middle class and give it to those who will help them stay in power. No one really cares about those losers anyway.)

I am tired. My heart is sad and my nerves are frayed. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, even more than usual.

I find myself just over it, in terms of antipathy. I’m ready for a sane president who respects the constitution and the citizens of the USA, and that is sounding like that might not happen, through cheating and collusion. I’m not angry about it. I’m depressed.

Ballots

It’s those pesky ballots, you see…the ones people use to vote. “If you get rid of the ballots…” Donald Trump said at one of his rallies last week. Let’s be clear: If you do that you get an autocracy, in this case a fascist autocracy.

Continue reading What comes after antipathy?

In the name of all that is decent

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Philippians 4:8, King James Version of the Bible

I know I should have sought a Jewish passage for Justice Bader-Ginsberg, but that one jumped to mind.

Consider taking a small action

Don’t let this great woman become just another campaign rally event for someone who has no respect what-so-ever for the constitution and laws of our land.

In addition to voting in the election there are other ways to make your opinion known.

The current incumbent of the White House is again pushing against all that is even marginally decent. By announcing his proposed replacement for Justice Ginsberg before the dirt has had time to settle on her grave.

Please do not watch his obscene news conference. Instead spend the time honoring the truly great person Justice Ginsberg was. There are numerous movies and programs available to stream during that time. Please, don’t let her passing become just another campaign event for a petty dictator. Let the ratings reflect your priorities: honor and decency over a three-ring-circus.

A different kind of prepping

Another Wordy Wednesday for me.

My Pinterest feed has been popping up a lot of “prepping” articles lately, leading me to believe that a lot of people are very pessimistic right now. I understand that. But I think the “preppers” have the wrong end of the stick.

With the passing of RBG, the T-party has embarked on yet another power grab. It’s getting boring.

The US Constitution isn’t worth the paper it’s written on anymore.

Give up protesting, kids, the first amendment** is toast at this point. Also, protesting just gives the T-Party a target, and attention, for reprehensible behavior. But, also…

The real risks right now are fiscal. But don’t panic, prepare.

Vote…and prepare for a depression

Medical expenses are no joke, and medical insurance is not cheap.

The Affordable Car Act is gone, give it up. There is no way to save it. If the Senate flips and Joe Biden is elected president, there might be a new plan, maybe even a better one, but don’t hold your breath. If the senate doesn’t flip, forget it. The Republicans haven’t ever done anything meaningful on health care and they won’t start now.

We all need to take stock of our finances and figure out how to manage without health insurance if you get COVID (or anything else) and cannot work. COBRA insurance costs an arm and a leg, and paying for it may mean some serious sacrifices if you have not accrued some savings before hand.

Remember that POTUS has already signed an executive order that de-funds Medicare and Social Security until the end of the year. The promise to make that permanent means that NOW is the time to get your finances in order, before the payments stop.

Figure out how you will manage without Medicare and Social Security. If you rely on the Affordable Care Act, figure out how you will either manage without health insurance or pay the increased costs.

Spending money stocking up on beans and ammo* may not be the best use for it. A better idea is to make sure to have money on hand. A massive pile of bullets or beans won’t help you pay medical bills…And if you don’t pay those you may wind up on the streets. And those streets are already full of people who went that way before you. The best shopping carts are gone. (That is a reference to an old Dilbert cartoon.)

It also means not borrowing more and paying down any debt you have, maybe giving up on a few luxuries like high price cable, Disney or Netflix.

We went down to one, paid-off, older car a couple of years ago. Savings on insurance alone were big. Maybe you could live in a more modest house…that could save a bundle. I’m putting off things like new carpets (my current one is about 40 years old) and my rummage sale wardrobe is holding up quite well. My husband likely never will finish replacing our fence, but we saved $20 grand over having it done by a contractor, and the dogs aren’t really inclined to roam…

Think through your medical choices and get your will in order

Like the teachers who responsibly made out their wills as they were being forced back to work, we all need to think about how we will manage.

While I plan to keep hiding away in the basement, wearing a mask when I do go out, and generally avoiding people to prevent getting sick (or making others sick), I have already decided that I do not plan to seek any treatment if I do get very sick, from COVID or cancer, or what-ever, in hopes that there will be something left for my son to inherit.

The younger generation is at a tremendous disadvantage: the plethora of jobs created recently are pretty much crap, like serving beer, delivering Amazon packages, and driving Ubers, with low pay and no benefits.

I do sometimes wonder

Will The Economy (as measured by stock indices) eventually reflect what’s going on in our homes?

*Most of the articles on “prepping” are very thinly veiled marketing to get you to spend (waste) a bunch of money so the authors will get rich.

**Second amendment folks shouldn’t get too cocky: they will be next.

Pondering freedom on a smoky day

People were free. They went out into a tinder dry world and set fires, because they were free to set off fireworks and build campfires and no one could tell them what to do.

Now we can’t leave the house, again.

Technically we are “free” to do so, but…

The air is a sickly yellow color. It’s worse than the pandemic restrictions. Before I could take the dogs for a vigorous walk and exercise, now I have to avoid breathing deeply; it’s even unhealthy for my dogs. I got us take out at the local diner last night and spent the evening coughing.

We aren’t free to breath clean air.

Pandemic freedom

USA style

A similar “freedom” phenomenon happened with the pandemic here in the USA. People had to be “free”. They went out and did what they wanted, the virus took hold and people died, and were maimed by the virus.

The people who got sick and died and their families and loved ones had their freedom eliminated by someone else’s freedom; someone who thought that being unable to go out to a bar and party was an outrageous infringement of their rights.

Swedish style

I watched a video about Sweden’s response to the pandemic. It is held up by many as a shining example. But there are actually some key differences between lying about the severity of the virus and pretending it is safe for people to pay no mind to it and what Sweden did.

In Sweden the government told people the truth about the virus and what they could do to stay safe. They requested that everyone do their best to keep the virus under control. AND THEY DID!

They trusted their government and the doctors and did as they advised. They were free to make decisions and made ones that supported the common good.

Uneasy money

I’ve been following the news lately and pondering about “The Economy”. These days The Economy is being treated as a living entity. We are being bullied to do unsafe things for its sake.

The Economy has more respect and right to life than human beings. The USA recently passed 190,000 COVID-19 deaths with no fanfare from the press, or any acknowledgement of that grim milestone of pain from our dear leaders, but plenty of assurances from those same “leaders” that The Economy is healthy.

Pretty, but you can’t buy food or pay rent with it.

What is The Economy?

Continue reading Uneasy money