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January 2007

Travelling casserole

The mashed potato extravaganza turned out great - and a 5 quart casserole of it was definitely more than enough for 10 at Christmas dinner. So - I went over to a friend's last night for dinner - and brought the casserole. We had generous helpings, but there's till some left, so we will be ready for any other dinner invitations over the holidays.

I put my mom on the plane yesterday, she had a great visit. We went out a few times but mostly kept it low key. She's slowing down a bit, but needs to be reminded that she IS 91, so can't expect to be as active as her younger years - like her 80's. She's glad to get back to her own place I think, and her routine. She usually heads off to warmer climes in late winter - Mexico for many years,  and then Victoria. But she has found that health insurance costs keep going up, and the logistics of traveling are getting to be more onerous.

Time now to do some odds and sods around the house -  and get out and walk off some of these Christmas calories. We finally have snow, so there's another opportunity for exercise. Leisurely of course - glad I don't have to leap out of bed and shovel in a panic before rushing off to work.

I heard a news item today, that wasn't actually new, being from August of 2005. Apparently a huge chunk of the ice shelf at the north end of Ellesmere Island  broke off - but nobody was around to notice when it happened. It was finally picked up on a satellite scan. To give an idea of scale, the newscast described it as being the size of 11,000 football fields. Because that's something we can all visualize - not. Later reports added that is was about 66 sq km, still not much help. Then they added it was about 4 km wide, and started with a crack about 15 km long - finally something I could grab. 15 km is a couple of hour's worth of jogging, a fair distance. Especially up there, wearing insulated boots.   


No, not in the classical sense, but that huge casserole of mashed potatoes I mentioned in a previous post. I'm off to Christmas dinner tonight, so cooked up the potatoes yesterday, it all fit just fine in my Christmas pot from my daughter. I ended up doubling the recipe, as 12 medium Yukon Gold potatoes doesn't look like much for a 10 person dinner. I'll added some cooking notes to the post.

Christmas has gone well - my mom arrived safe and sound from Toronto, I unfolded her walker for her, and then jogged alongside her to the parking lot. Well, almost - she's pretty quick with it. We did the obligatory drive to see the lights at Taffy Lane here in S'Norleans. It was very busy on Friday night, solid with cars creeping along. The SUV behind me was so close I was ready to get out and tell the driver if he wanted to get any closer to my back end I was going to have to insist he at least buy me dinner first.  Saturday we put up a scattering of decorations and just visited with each other and enjoyed the view of the sunny and green backyard. I've three of those Christmas Village houses - Norman Rockwell inspired. A school house, doctor's office, and toy shop. And in front of them, a little Nativity Scene that my mom brought from Mexico years ago. Pretty simple design, just flat stamped metal, hand painted and with a little bent wire rammed up the back to support them. Somehow Mary isn't in the set any more, my assumption is that the paparazzi have chased her away with all the speculation over the father. She's left the kid and headed off to the pub. Joseph is eying one of the wise men - I think it's Chet - since it's obvious with all this virgin birth stuff he wasn't getting any.  And one of the wise men is eying the toy store side door -he forgot to bring a gift so is thinking of a little B&E. Maybe my son can help with his latest hobby.

As I mentioned, not a bit of snow. I'd worry about the signs of global warming, but I saw Rhona Ambrose in a news clip with Stevie Harper and she assured us all not to worry, it would all be under control by 2050. Assuming we leave them in charge by then of course (cold shiver up the spine). At least I think she said that, her mouth was moving but it did sound more like Harper's voice.   

Christmas Eve was traditional - kids and me and stockings hung by the chimney with care. Well, sort of, we had it at my daughter's apartment downtown on Cumberland, and the fireplace is lovely, but a fake, with NO nails banged in. My son and his girlfriend were there, and of course mother - we did hors d'oeuvres first, things like little baguettes and Stilton cheese with mango and ginger in it, pate, chutney - and wine of course. Then dinner - tourtiere was great (secret family recipe), purple mashed potatoes, green beans and almonds, and a salad with radicchio. Desert was very chocolate - sort of like truffle in a cup. Then we opened presents - everyone loved what they got. My mom has been playing her jazz CD's, tapping her feet and tooting harmony with Louis Armstrong, sort of like Glen Gould on his recordings, but in a nice way.

Hopefully Santa was good to all my readers - in his magical way. The Urban Legends site has an interesting Spock-like analysis of why Santa just can't do what he does, along with several cute rebuttals. CBC's Quirk's and Quarks had an interesting show this week that included the Science of Santa - how he uses relativity, quantum physics, and nanotechnology to solve the problem. The podcast is here, or listen to the original lecture. The CBC show also talks about this year's virgin birth - not as mysterious or as pretty a mother as in the traditional story, this is parthenogenesis in a Komodo Dragon.

BTW - anyone have New Year's Eve plans/suggestions here in Ottawa? Some single friends and I are looking for somewhere to go and dance - as singles - with a good DJ (not the waltz/foxtrot style), mostly an over 30's crowd, not too fancy, minimal cover. I suspect the last point will be hard to find. My daughter suggested Heaven on Dalhousie - she says it's ex-ravers fron the days of the old Atomic club.

Memories of litterbox

Tara had her checkup yesterday - losing a bit of weight, losing a bit of fur, already lost some hearing and vision. A special senior diet would be better than what I buy her now, but she would probably not eat it - that's what she did last time, as the food that's good for her doesn't taste as good. (One of life's truths.) So the vet figures we just carry on as is. Good to hear that this year's present for her wasn't from a more sinister doctor. Instead I bought her more paper towels to wipe up the occasional messes in the back hall - I think she figures as long as she can see the litter box, it's close enough. Hence the memories of litter box phrase. And at this stage - that's good enough for me - after all she is about 20, or 96 in human years. My friends say - poor thing - I bridle at that and suggest she's fine, it's poor ME, I'm the one that does a cleanup every morning before making breakfast. (So no sleeping in with Mother here.) But I don't really mind that much. Tara spends a lot of time cuddled up to me, so I feel guilty if I head off for a coffee or something, because she wants to follow me. I used to try to reassure her that I would be right back, not to get up, then I realized she was deaf and couldn't hear me. Then I realized since she is a cat she doesn't understand me anyways.

My mom arrives shortly, and I keep trying to tell her to accept at 91 some of the shortcomings of old age and appreciate what's still working. And I think she's starting to see that, although I did say only Tara is allowed to have "accidents" in the back hall. She was amused. She's amazingly active for her age, and still has a quick mind.

Almost ready

My mom arrives Friday at noon so have a bit of a push on to get organized. But it still doesn't seem like time to panic - no snow yet, and Christmas isn't until Sunday night. Got some last minute presents today, I looked at the local mall for some Jazz CD's for my mom. I had a couple of lists from the web, but both HMV and Music World are pretty pathetic, I shouldn't have bothered looking there, hardly any Jazz stock.  CD Warehouse on St. Laurent is so much better - rows of the stuff. They couldn't find anything on my list (they looked it up, was all Imports), but I talked to the "Jazz Lady" and after explaining what type I was looking for - jazz for my mom to tap her foot too, not modern stuff - she suggested a few. Got her "Ella and Louis" (Fitzgerald and Armstrong of course) and also "Side by Side" (Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges). Just have to get her CD player working again - might be the headphones.

My daughter had called while she was in TO last week to say I had bought her a really nice (and expensive) bag for Christmas - I told her I really needed a large pot (other than the 12 pack I've developed) so she said to pick one out for myself. I browsed at C.A Paradis on Bank - I love that place. Ended up getting a stainless steel Heinkel 4.75qt casserole -shallow so I can use for saute also. But I will be filling with potatoes for Christmas day - mashed with garlic, cream, white cheddar, green onion - etc. Recipe is here.   

Edit - Dec 25 - I did the casserole yesterday - some updates. First, it calls for 12 medium Yukon Gold potatoes - they're not that big and I am bringing for 10 - so I doubled it. Checked with my brother (the corporate lawyer, opera singer, marathon runner, and chef), he'd just made to too for his big Christmas dinner and had doubled everything. he added some notes also:

hand mash initially with some butter and sour cream, then use the electric mixer. gradually add in the rest of the sour cream, cream, and cheese. beat until smooth and fluffy - you may need extra cream if they're a little dry. And always add more butter! Fold in bacon bits and chopped green onion (reserve a bit of each for a topping), then carefully spoon into well buttered casserole. The incorporated air will help the potatoes fluff up when re-heated.  Takes about 40 min in a 350 oven.  Endedit.

Took my son shopping at Mark's Work Warehouse last week for his gifts - so I know they'll be a hit. The rest of today was Stocking Stuffers - more expensive that the presents it seems. Stuff from the Dollar Store, and Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's, and Shoppers. We all have stuff for each other's stockings -I think we may need to hang up Queen size pantyhose this year.