Tag Archives: food

Christmas Traditions, Part 6

I had a busy day today, sweeping and mopping upstairs, and tidying and sweeping in the basement. Youngest tried helping with the mopping, wiping a soaking mop around the floor, creating a sizable puddle, then later dumping the mop bucket on the floor, creating a giant mess. Thankfully we managed to contain the spill enough to keep it from getting anywhere important (like the nearby stack of presents, the one stack that is actually on the floor).

I write these at the end of the day, so talking about “tomorrow”, I mean Thursday, but in local time it has already turned into Thursday. So tomorrow, then, in the last full day of getting ready for the Brunch, we take a pause and go out for lunch. This lunch, pizza, is also a celebration of the birthday of a member of the household, one whom I am particularly fond of. I think we’ve done this every Christmas Eve since we moved back here.

So there you go, that’s a pretty cool Christmas tradition :)

Christmas Traditions, Part 4

In the old/new pattern that has sufficed so far in this series (and which may fall apart tomorrow), today is a New day. Today’s tradition is still relatively new to me, but my family-in-law have been doing this for rather a lot of years.

Today I write about the Christmas Brunch.

A whole load of food is made, by my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Biscuits and gravy (a dish which sounds really weird to a Brit, because it’s not how it sounds to us), quiche, cinnamon rolls, cracker toffee, and more.

I’m hungry already.

We invite a bunch of people to come over on Christmas Day, to help eat it (and hang out with us, of course). And come they do.

Being more used to getting together with close family for Christmas festivities, it seems like this ought not to work. The roads aren’t always nice, and it seems like people might just want to congregate with their families. But that assumption does not seem to be borne out by the facts: people come, they even sometimes bring their families and out-of-town guests. And perhaps it ought not to work on our part: it’s already a fairly substantial day, and adding a lot more people to that adds a lot of work, social interaction and so on. But the people who come over are people we like, so we have fun hanging out, and hosting. The kids enjoy hosting, too (even when they wish they could get into their presents).

So preparations have been slowly building, but this week it really kicks in. Cleaning, tidying, rearranging, temporarily removing things from the living area. Temporarily adding more tables and seating. Already the construction of chocolate-related treats.

So, if you happen to know us in real life, and happen to be in the area, you’re invited (but you probably already knew that). And if you just happened to stumble onto this blog, it sounds crazy, but if you like cooking for that many people, give it a try!

Musings On Being Not From Around Here

I thought that I should write something more about the experience of being an Englishman in a foreign land. Occasionally there’s stuff I miss, like certain kinds of cheeses I was particularly fond of. I’ve been watching Pie In the Sky with my wife, and Henry Crabbe’s signature dish is steak and kidney pie, which has me drooling. I was not so fond of the kidneys in those pies, guess I lean more towards Steak and Ale. And once you start down that path, Shepherd’s Pie, Cottage Pie (hey, I could probably manage to make one of those. Hmmmm….)

Rats, now I’m hungry.

And just having been through Candy Day, sweets/candy are different. What’s called Smarties in the US, those from the UK would recognise as Refreshers (weep with me, people).

But other than inconsequential stuff like that, there’s not always that much noticeable difference. The flags everywhere one gets used to. The politics is several decibels louder, but is otherwise much the same: people I wouldn’t want to vote for, against other people I wouldn’t want to vote for. I mercifully don’t get to vote over here, so I am freer to ignore as much as I can. Which is nice, because so many people are extremely uncharitable to differing viewpoints.

On that note, that reminds me of an incident from a year or so ago. It seems that the pool for jury duty is pulled from the Department of Motor Vehicles’ list of people with a driving license. I’m pretty sure the application form for the driver’s license asked about my citizenship status, but I can’t find the form online. If it did, and if the person working there entered the information accurately (so, pretty big if), then the system wasn’t clever enough to disqualify me there.

I got a questionnaire about jury service. Question 18 was (and I truncate it somewhat): “To be eligible… you must… be a US Citizen… do you meet these qualifications? If not, why?”.

I took the questionnaire back with the relevant portions completed. Handed it in to the people behind the desk, said I wasn’t a citizen so I couldn’t be on a jury. They told me that not being a citizen didn’t automatically disqualify me to be on a jury. Well it says right here on the form… We know what it says.

I believe I have mentioned on this blog before, my intense dislike of forms (especially ones with stupid questions). Imagine how much I don’t like the form and all my research saying one thing, and people who have to deal with the form saying the exact opposite. Lying to my face, whether they know it or not. I must confess, I have a hard time being charitable.

Had I ended up on a jury, I’m sure one lawyer or another would have had a field day with that.

Anyway, I happened to know a guy… my neighbour used to be the Justice of the Peace, and so when I saw he was around, I took the form round and asked him about it. He didn’t think the issue had come up during his time (and who knows, may not have since: could go some way to excuse the desk jockeys). He said I should fill in question 19 and get it notarised.

Question 19 was:
“Do you feel you should be excused from serving as a juror because of undue hardship or because you do not meet the eligibility requirements for jury service? [yes/no] If you answered “yes”, please complete the Affidavit For Excusal on the reverse side and have your signature notarized and return to the address above.”

“Do I feel?” That’s a really weird way of putting it. It is not lawful for me to be on the jury, what on earth do feelings have to do with it? Or excusals? If I’m not allowed to do it, and they would open themselves up to legal trouble if they made me do it, “excusal” is a funny word. I’m not let off the hook, as it were, because legally, I’m not on the hook.

See what I mean about stupid questions. Which then continue.

On the affidavit mentioned towards the end of Question 19, there was a space for “Permanent Exclusion based on incapacity due to illness or injury”, and a space for outlining “undue hardship”, but there was no space properly designated for any of the grounds for disqualification/ineligibility from Question 18.

As the “illness or injury” part said “Permanent Exclusion”, the neighbour, and later the notary, thought that might be the right place for saying why I couldn’t do it. The notary was surprised that the people I’d dealt with didn’t seem acquainted with that part of the law.

When I took the form in this time, it was a different person at the desk, and she was dealing with someone when I got there. When I could, I handed the envelope over. In the envelope, I’d also enclosed a note that suggested it might be good for the affidavit to be amended to include an appropriate space for the disqualifications. I seem to recall mentioning that the envelope was about jury duty, and that I couldn’t do it because I’m not a citizen. She said she’d give it to the judge or JP or whoever it was that deals with them. Whoever it was, I was surprised it was someone so high up the food chain who had to deal with it. On my way out, I heard the envelope being opened.

This was over a year ago, and I haven’t heard anything back, so I assume it went ok.

I think that’s the biggest thing that’s directly relevant to my experience of being an alien (“whoa, I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien…”). I had to take a long trip to have my biometric information recorded for my green card. I had to carry my immigrant visa everywhere, and now I have to carry my green card everywhere, but I’ve never been required to show it.

So, that’s what springs to mind about being a foreigner. Feel free to throw me some more questions about the experience, in the comments below.

Garden Update

As we descend into the end part of the growing season, it seems a good time to make notes on how things have gone this year.

I picked up a pack of strawberry popcorn at a choiry event, and planted some. It has tried to be enthusiastic, but I’m not sure it has had time to grow the actual corn part before the weather gets too cold. Don’t remember when I planted it, but if we grow corn, growing it earlier would seem to be a good policy. Maybe try starting it indoors even earlier, then it might have a chance to get big enough to grow some beans up them, with the squash around them, like the Three Sisters is supposed to be.

The squash around the corn… I know some squashes grew, but I’m not sure if it was as many as we ought to expect. Harvesting hasn’t really been my thing this year.

I heard today of someone’s corn being plagued by earwigs. I know I’ve seen some earwigs this year, don’t know if they’ve touched the corn or not. Should look into what companion plants might repel earwigs, and plant it around the corn.

Tried adding peas in extra places, to help some plants. Seems to have been a good move. The stuff by the house dried up a bit, but the back fence seems to be a good place.

Mint is doing very well around the fruit trees. Might need to make a note of what we’ve got where, and move the mint we like eating least, to around the trees at the front, and extend the others to various places at the back. Fill in the holes, as it were.

Tomatoes seem to have done very well this year. The seed ones better than the already-started ones. Whatever we did this year, we should do again next year.

One of the three Arctic Kiwi plants has survived – we need to weed around it now. And try to find a bunch of females to plant around the male we have, for next year.

The new raised beds have done very well, probably want to add some more soil to them next year, and the second year should be more productive than the first. The one that ended up being more my thing turned insanely productive: the marshmallow grew above the washing line, a couple of the squashes turned giant, and a load of beans grew. Spotted a couple of echinacea flowers.

Some of the new trees we’ve planted have done better than others. Some died, some seemed to die then tried growing new trunks from lower down. Looking forward to the apple and pear trees that we planted last year, to grow to the point of producing fruit. Hope the new peach trees get enough life in them to grow a bunch of branches, and start producing. Hope the old peach tree hangs on long enough for some overlap.

After a worrying start, the grape plants have taken off. Hope they fill in a bunch of fence, and of course we’re looking forward to them producing, too.

The blackberry plant that we planted where the compost pile used to be, has taken off. We planted it a bit away from the fence, but it grew right to the fence. It has wanted to just continue its limbs through the fence along the ground, we’ve tried to encourage it to row up the fence. Hopefully we’ll get more of an edge in that battle next year. I haven’t spotted any fruit on it yet, not sure if that’s not a first-year thing, or what.

Three of the four raspberry plants that we transplanted from the mountain, have survived. Hopefully they’ll send up new stems next year, as they’re supposed to. Only got a few raspberries off them this year, possibly because of when we transplanted them.

The raised beds we but soil from our garden in, got rather weedy. The ones we just put soil-from-bags in, have done better in that regard.

We put a bed in the front, and planted a whole load of seeds, I don’t think we got much in the way of grown-on-purpose stuff in there at all. There’s one plant I’m pretty sure is comfrey, but that’s about it.

The mushrooms haven’t produced as much volume-wise as I hoped, and I’m just starting to get some mushrooms from a second tub (out of the seven that are out there). Still, to have gotten anything is pretty promising, hopefully can start figuring out some tricks to increase output there.

In summary, I think we’ve had a lot of production this year, which is encouraging, and we have lots of potential for more production in the future, with the perennials and other recurring plants.

We’ve had a lot of drinks with mint or lemon balm from the garden. More herbs will be a good way to go, lots of peas round things was a great move. Something viny and fast-growing up the side of the house, after mulching down there, will be a great step (especially towards keeping the house cool in summer – it hasn’t seemed too hot this year, thankfully). Hops have been suggested, and that’s not a bad idea.

A lot of work done, a lot more to do, but it all seems promising.