Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

On Thanksgiving morning I was up at 6:00. Bedding was being washed by 6:15, and Theodore, the turkey, was prepped and already sending out aromatic wafts by 7:00. My 6 guests were arriving by noon, and three of them were even wonderful enough to call me and ask if I needed anything that I may have overlooked, but I had prepared efficiently and effectively for my feast and was steaming ahead with cooking the food, the ingredients were out and ready to go.
I had put together the stuffing the previous evening and made the Senate Cream Pie, a recipe I'd only come across a few days ago..  I changed it a bit, I added chocolate gluten free cookies to the gluten free Graham crackers. I don't have a food processor so I simply stuffed them all in a sturdy freezer zip-loc bag and reduced them to crumbs with a rolling pin (by rolling, not smashing!). I also replaced the whipping cream with a homemade mascarpone cream. I'm not a fan of large portions of just whipped cream and also this cheese cream would sit on top of the pie for a long time without turning to water. I made a fresh green bean casserole with white wine and cream, I wrapped carrot sticks and asparagus with bacon, and then roasted a tray of potatoes, parsnips and brussels. I also made an apple pie using Pillsbury cinnamon Rolls, from a recipe a work colleague sent me.  It looked like a typical American style recipe and quick to throw together. I did add nutmeg and brandy to the apple slices though. But throughout the 17 years I've lived in the states I've never used Pillsbury dough, not being a processed food fan, so I had no idea on how to open the tubes. Finally a YouTube video set me straight.
I managed to snap a few photos of the table before the guests arrived. Nothing in my house matches, I loath sets of things, so the table looked quite arty with its colorful mixture of glasses, plates and napkins, and even odd chairs. The beauty of this is that I don't ever have to worry about breakages, I can just go shop for a replacement, and I love the constant variety. No using the same old patterned plates for years on end for me.
Everyone arrived, and with the doors still open allowing the warm sunshiney day to enter the house, beers and wine were poured while they nibbled on small cheese balls, rolled with cheddar, roasted red peppers and a coating of paprika. These were supposed to resemble pumpkins but I had run out of time to titivate with them. Nobody noticed...
Cheers! A great photo from Rob and Bill took a couple too.
That's it, done with the photos! Time to tuck in and get amongst it!
I did manage to take a photo of my plate before I started munching. I was a little hungry, but why is it whenever you prepare a feast, your appetite wanes? Thankfully, this wasn't the case with my friends, who I happily watched tucking with extreme relish to their meals. And of course, they snaffled seconds afterwards too. It was wonderful to see so much of the food disappear. But then, once cutlery had finally been lowered to the plates, the moaning and groaning started, bellies were too full and there was no way dessert could be tackled.
Jason opted for the relaxed method of dealing with a full belly, and let the tryptophan kick in. Actually, I did try to explain that this is a myth but no-one would listen, so here's the truth. It's simply pure gluttony that causes tiredness!
After a while we did manage to leave our seats and totter down to the pond. The fresh air was invigorating, and we were hoping some food could be shaken down so we would have a little room for dessert when we got back.
Stone skimming or sitting on the bank was the most that anybody could manage and our lack of movement meant that soon we were all feeling the cold, so back up the hill we plodded, and indoors for dessert. Both the Senate Pie and the apple pie were attacked with much gusto, and once again, Jason had to resort to some napping, this time in preparation for his drive back to DC.
After loading up some plates for folks to take leftovers home, I was really pleased to see that I hadn't been left with too much food to polish off on my own. As the daylight faded, so did everyone's energy, and soon my pals were dragging themselves to cars to head home. I think I can quite safely say that everyone was napping as soon as they got home. But it had been a splendid day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Two Weekends Too Cold To Photograph

So the last couple of weekends have been blog busts for two reasons. Thanksgiving is almost on us, and with 6 guests, I wanted my place to be shipshape and pristine. And the weather has been horrendous. The first weekend, although lovely through Meadow House windows as I stood sipping tea and enjoying the sun, was bitterly cold and windy. I had hoped to go out and grab a few shots of the last autumnal foliage that was valiantly hanging onto its branches but once I stepped outside I knew I wouldn't be hiking or straying too far from the car at all.
The two photos above were the only photos I took, a local park and my favorite tree, the White Sycamore. The rest of the weekend was spent polishing wood floors and washing kitchen shelves and all crockery that hadn't been used for a while that I'd want for Thanksgiving Day.
This last weekend was rush, rush, rush. The winds were hurricane strength as they bombarded the house, causing the cats to look up at the strange noises and then look at me as though I could explain it. They would both dash out, wanting some fresh air, when I opened the patio door, but then after a quick roll and sniff round the log stack, would come hurtling back inside.
I also had a dilemma to solve. My tiny house has never had so many folks to dinner before and I was very concerned about seating. For years I have hated my small, boring pine table but hadn't seen one to replace that I could afford. I had popped into a Restore shop during the week but seen none I liked yet I had spotted a cute small arm chair that I was now wishing I'd got. So I drove back down there Saturday morning to snap it up. But oh, calamity, it was gone! I walked up and down the aisles, not believing it wasn't there, but then I did spot the sweetest little striped armchair in greens and blues, so I snaffled that instead. And then to my immense joy, I came across a solid oak dining table that extended, but closed up would fit in the space where my tiny pine table sat. I had resolved earlier to just use a folding table that I had in the shed and cover it with a tablecloth, but this one was beautiful, and in my cheap budget. There were 5 chairs, but I didn't need or want those, since I don't like sets of anything, so I just grabbed one and then donated back the other 4. So it was with a very happy heart that half an hour later I was driving down the road, Stuart stuffed full with a dining room chair, an armchair and a table perched on the roof, held down with my kayak straps. I took the back roads home slowly, munching on an egg sandwich and rocking as the winds buffeted the car from side to side. There were broken boughs on the road that I had to dodge and even a snake shimmied across the road in front of me, zigzagging quickly to reach the other side. The only birds flying were the vultures, sweeping low so I could see their claws tucked up under them. Not even the crows were out today.
I had to get Matt, my neighbor, to help me get the table inside once I got home, and the wind pinched my face as we unloaded the car. But it did look marvelous once it was placed under the window. Photos will be in the next blog entry. All photos below were taken with my iPhone so quality isn't great...
I had dragged in branches from outside and decorated those with lights which made the room cozy, and even managed to quickly paint a couple of my favorite birds that we see at Meadow House, the black vulture and the crow. These were on bits of wood that I'd pulled off a pallet they didn't offer much room for painting but they fit nicely under my cuckoo clock.
So while I bustled about the house, prepping for my Thanksgiving dinner, Kota and Rosie Lee snuggled up on chairs and in their beds, ignoring my pandemonium and the howling winds outside.
The fire crackled and cast a warm glow on the room as daylight dimmed and I finally managed to get to the end of my long list of chores. Everything had been washed, dusted, polished and vacuumed. The house sparkled with cleanliness and even the front door had been given a new lick of paint with shiny new numbers on it. I was ready!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Crumbling, Circumlocutory Crisfield

Richard headed back to DC Saturday night leaving us 3 girls to continue on Sunday. In the morning we made our way towards Crisfield, stopping to explore and take photos on the way down.
There are so many old abandoned houses in this region that it's impossible to stop at every one, and some were too dangerous to even approach, let alone go inside. Roofs sagged in the middle while some houses skewed to one side, slowly being toppled over by the gales coming in from the sea. It was a miracle how some still tottered on broken boards and crumbling foundations, winds whistling through the broken panes and split boards. It seemed they were only held up by the creepers that climbed and clambered over them, stitching the broken houses together with their tendrils and roots.
We drove through Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, where there seemed to be more water than land. Patches of marsh grass tufted up through the blue water, the horizon seemed to stretch off in to a never ending flat distance, broken up only by small groups of tall pine trees or just upright bleached poles, the remnants of pine trees that had succumbed to either the salty soil or had their needles stripped by heavy grabbing winds. It was a blustery day today and we passed a couple of cyclists, their faces screwed up against the breezes that were no doubt causing eyes to water. We were glad to be in our car.
Once we left the refuge, farmland appeared, fields of soybeans or newly plowed earth with fresh green shoots poking upwards. We drove along many of the roads with small creeks running beside us, which were alive with tiny fish. I loved the tall pampas grasses, also bordering most roads, that glimmered in the sunlight like torches. These were often in huge patches and if you looked closely you could spot old trailers or boats among the 6ft rustling stems.
As we approached Crisfield, more houses appeared, but most were empty. Bare wooden walls, stripped of paint many years before, were now bleached by the sun and winds. Many had old trailers, cars or boats left next to them, or tractors or bicycles. This place was like one huge scrapyard.
One old house with a wooden front porch and once white curtains fluttering in the breeze was a draw to us, and we were amazed to see what had been left inside. It appeared someone had started packing, then decided to just take a few important pieces, leaving everything else behind. The floors were covered with belongings, strewn with old clothing, magazines, pulled down curtains, toys, ornaments, and beautifully carved vintage furniture stood dark in the shadows, avoiding the bright sun as it pushed its way through torn and dusty drapes.
Such a shame that all this has been left behind, to be flattened and lost forever when the house finally gives up trying to remain upright, or when the encroaching marsh rots the foundations causing a slow creaking collapse.
We came across this sad scene, a house fire that had occurred only a week earlier in which 3 people had perished. Crime tape was stretched across the yard and the family's chickens still clucked in their pens, waiting to be rescued. But there were neighbors very close so we hoped the hens, as well as the cats we saw peeking at us from under the debris, were being cared for.
There were very few people walking about Crisfield, once the crab capital of the world, a city built on oyster shells, it's history is here.
It almost seemed deserted. We drove up and down streets, noting most businesses were closed, and not just for Sunday. A few kids played outside the projects but that appeared to be the only activity. There weren't even many cars in the parking lots outside the housing, the whole place was like a ghost town. We were astounded at how many of the few residents left had already put up, or were working on putting up, their Christmas decorations. We passed a few yards with lights and ornaments and more than a couple of trees glittered through windows. Amazing. We were particularly saddened to see the brewery, Brew Thru, had also closed down. This place had nothing. We didn't even bother getting out of the car. The winds were pretty strong here and only a couple of hardy fisherman stood resolutely on the boardwalk, holding grimly onto their fishing rods.
We decided to start driving towards home. The afternoon was passing by and the light waning. but as we headed towards the main road, Margie spotted an old church, so we stopped.
It was in poor condition but glowed inside with the golden sunset illuminating the remaining stained glass. The entrance and back of the church had very poor flooring, it was unnerving walking through but we tottered inside and took shots in the last light, as the neighbor's cockerels hooted loudly and continuously from their enclosure.
The last building we stopped at was the Marion Baptist church in Marion Station, built in 1925, but it looked a lot more interesting outside than in. It was wide open for exploring but a quick pass through failed to uncover anything interesting or even warrant my lens cap removal. We called it a night, stocked up with coffee, and drove home as dusk turned to darkness, and I wondered if I'd ever see these places again before they disappeared under the sea forever.