Saturday, December 31, 2016


Hello, everyone.

A couple of weeks back, we made the annual batch of fruitcakes.

As y'all can see, we ran short of racks for cooling.

This recipe appeared in the McAllen Monitor some 30 years ago, as part of a piece on champagne. I make it with a still white wine instead, not much liking champagne, since it calls for 1 cup (250 ml) of the stuff and there's still the rest of the bottle that needs to be drunk or otherwise used up.

We did give some away and ship some out. GS1 is said to love his first fruitcake. The remainder keeps reaching its sugary hands out to me and whispering "eat know you want to!"

Tomorrow we begin the new year. May you all have un prospero aňo y felicidad. (Sorry about the strange looking enye, the symbol insert button has many things but seems to omit this common element in Spanish spelling.)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Changes to begin the new year

Hello, everyone.

The arrangement of the studio/sewing room/computer room/craft room has become overcrowded and cramped. Possibly the excess of stuff has something to do with it? ;-)

At any rate, the large desk/hutch that holds the computer was just taking up too much space. And its "corner" shape meant that the room really couldn't be rearranged.

We decided to take the old desk out and put something smaller in its place. It will keep me from piling heaps of stuff all over the place, just because there will be no place to pile things.

It's so cute!
The printer no longer needs to be within 4 or 5 feet of the computer, since it's on the wireless these days, and I moved the file cabinet across the room and put it there instead. It's possible that I'll find some little hanging shelf bits to put on the cross brace of this desk and move the speakers down there.

The picture on the computer screen is one of our pictures from the 2014 pilgrimage, a close-up of the zero kilometer marker at Fisterra. The things vaguely seen at the bottom of the desk are the router and the modem and a couple of bits of sometimes-used stuff.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Just because she's cute

Hello, everyone.

Just for the fun of it:

As y'all can see, things are quiet around ye Olde Homestead at the moment. We're all trying to recover from the cooking, and the wrapping, and the baking, and the visiting, and the baking, and the visiting and the eating....

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Hello, everyone.

As y'all know, we did tree decorating a couple of weeks back.

Well, it finished a couple of weeks back. First I tried to get out of it.

It's artistic, all by itself, right? A bold purity of form in the dark-green triangle. Simplicity. Elegance. From the other end of the sofa, these words: "you still have to decorate it."

Decorated, it is too difficult to get all of it into the phone camera view. This is the top, with one of the angels and a Wise Man or two showing.

The bow is the tree topper, now that we use fake trees, because unlike real trees the fake ones have wimpy tips. (The live trees are always pruned into a nice shape, which also means that the tip is a reasonably sturdy end that will hold up Moravian stars or angels or whatever.) The Moravian star that I tried to hard to find all those years is much too heavy to go on top of the fake tree. Likewise the little translucent-shell tree topper. The upshot was to do a florist's bow in something wire-edged and glittery.  The various star shaped tree toppers have had to find new places to be.

And the shell star has found a home for this year.

At this, the eve of Our Lord's birthday, I wish for all of you a blessed and wondrous Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Green soup

Hello, everyone.

When the cold weather hit, it was soup weather for sure.

There has been a lot of arugula and mustard around this season, and inspiration struck.

In my treasured Brother Victor soup cookbook

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lights on the Frangipane

Hello, everyone.

This is the second morning of the cold phase of this front. Today--yay!--the sun is out. It will warm up some today.

There wasn't a photo available the other day to show what we did with the frangipane pot. I wanted to put one up.

The leaves were burned with the last front, and it only got down to the upper 40's. We hope to keep it from leafing out anew before the warm season returns in about 6 weeks--which is tomato planting time in South Texas.

In the last post, the glowing tomatoes had lights under their sheets, rather like this, except that those Christmas light strings were the small incandescent bulbs. The strings of small bulbs are longer and can be stacked up a little bit more on one plug compared to the larger bulbs.

And these days the big thing is the LED Christmas light strings which are no good at all for freeze protection. (But they are brighter.) The only heat those strings put out is at the little round transformer units scattered here and there along the wire.

A mildly off-topic rant here: the noisy, hectoring Cool People are all excited about compelling everybody on planet Earth to use their, preferred, LED bulbs for everything. And if not those, which are expensive, then they want us all to use their delicate, mercury-containing swirly flourescents in our lamps and round ceiling fixtures.  Everybody is not the same, people! Not everyone is in a year-round warm climate. Many, many people live in places where the "waste" heat from an incandescent light bulb is helping to heat the house in the winter. And some of those cold seasons are long. Furthermore, the swirly bulbs come with completely unworkable suggestions for disposal. Who is going to be able to find an approved hazardous disposal site for the broken glass after one of those gets dropped? Are the Cool People going to come around every couple of days and inquire whether they can help clean up broken glass and whatnot? I doubt it. People generally have a much better idea of what will work in their own, personal, local situation than some complaining person with an agenda that lives in another part of the country, or the world, in a different kind of building and situation. (End rant. Sorry about that. A little!)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Weather change coming!

Hello, everyone.

Today the weather is very warm--the prefrontal heating as I call it. Tomorrow it will be colder than today, by about 35 degrees F. And Monday we will probably not get out of the 40's (F) at all.

It reminds me of winters some years back, when I'd dig out all the incandescent light strings in the house, and all the worn-out bedsheets, and do things like this:

Tomatoes wrapped against the cold in February 2011. Right hand plant needed two sheets.

At night, we plugged in the extension cords.
We're not supposed to get that low this time, only in the tip-top of the 30's, so I probably won't wrap tomatoes. We did haul the potted frangipane up onto the porch, out of the wind, and draped it with incandescent C7 bulbs. And the orchids are coming inside for most of the week.

User tip, in case you are looking at sudden near-freezing weather and want to cover up a tender garden plant: bring your fabric all the way to the ground and weight it down with rocks. No openings at the top, especially not the kind of openings where if the plant had eyes it could see the stars. (Much of the freeze is by radiation of the existing warmth out to space. Overhangs or old sheets block the radiation.) Bonus points if you tie or safety-pin the fabric so it won't inflate in the rush of cold wind when the front arrives and blow over. (Or completely away!)

Down here, where it almost never freezes, we have our water service going through the air on the way into the house. These pipes need to be wrapped in fabric.

I remember in the 1983 killing freeze, we didn't know that. Our water pipe froze. I got to take a table lamp outside, and a cardboard box, and get the lamp inside the box. The wind was blowing a lot, and I had to drag a bag of BBQ charcoal out to the hose bib to hold the box against the wall so the pipe would thaw out. (Ah, memories.)

In the 1989 killing freeze, the water line was wrapped, but the air got so cold that the faucet froze that part of the line inside the wall. At least that time the wind wasn't blowing away my impromptu warming setup apart!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

This n that

Hello, everyone.

I really wanted to post a picture of something I saw this morning, but the traffic was busy and there was nowhere to pull aside and often when you pull over to look at birds they flee. There is a good-sized pond (AKA "water hazard") at the city golf course that we pass going home from church. Today I observed 12 white pelicans, 1 white crane, at least 1 dark-gray anhinga (native cormorant species) and a large flock of whistling tree ducks. It is doubtful that all would have fit into the water at once. As was, the tree ducks were hanging out on the grass alongside.

Just for pretty, from the other day when it was misty and foggy in the morning:

The young red oak is coloring this year. And this spider web is highlighted so beautifully by the dew that it had to be photographed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Banana wine

Hello, everyone.

A few months back, the neighbor's banana plants fruited. Giant stalks of yellow bananas drooped down. DH watched them ripen and droop and asked the neighbor what he was planning to do with them. The neighbor said that DH could have them all!

Banana wine
The wine is now ready for drinking and it has proved to be a dry white. We mostly just sip it chilled.

And this recipe didn't even use up all of the bananas from the plants!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

During the holiday rush, daily life and maintenance incidents continue

Hello, everyone.

It's been an incredibly busy week at ye Olde Homestead. There were family duties to attend, there was a Christmas party for (dozens of) school children to work at, and in the midst of it all, the modem died.

It was a couple of days before I could find time to figure out why the internet wasn't working.

I had two very productive phone conversations with ATT tech support (my ISP) and at the end of it, and a quick run over to Best Buy, we have a new modem in place and working.

There was a cabinet in the way of the phone plug/line filter combination. It's a tall cabinet and it was stuffed with fabric. After moving it, I concluded that this whole incident was a message from above: organize the sewing/craft room first, before other desired projects.

Where the big fabric cabinet was. 

Maybe there is a better way to organize all the stuff. Sewing up some more quilts would help, of course! And using up beads.

But definitely, the new arrangement will not have a large, laminated particle-board cabinet blocking the computer bits!

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Candles Row (Christmas decorating again)

Hello, everyone.

The baby quilt is moving right along. For the fun of it, here is a picture showing what the many battery candles did last year, when there was a bit more space to put things on.

Dollar store battery candles, with a glass angel that was a gift some years ago, and almost invisible in the foreground a glass Nativity scene.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

More Christmas decorating

Hello, everyone.

As I'm still hip-deep in finishing the baby quilt--the time approaches!--a little more on the theme of Christmas decorations.

A couple of years back, I was making table centerpieces for a party. They involved battery candles, glass balls, and artificial floral picks. Seasonal floral picks, of course.

Fast forward to this year, the battery candles are sitting in the storage box and the silver trays--who knows where they are now? (Some of the glass balls are in the post a few days back showing the golden balls hanging from the other chandelier.) But! The floral picks have come into their own.

They tuck nicely into the breakfast area chandelier.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Go for a walk. Look around! You never know what you'll find

Hello, everyone.

Today we strolled down our own street, past the tall, untended hedge of oleanders, toward something we were curious about up the road.
As we walked, we looked around--and saw a completely unknown (to us) plant in the said oleander bushes.  It was a lush green (so green that I am surprised the cutter ants haven't taken it all!) leaf, with the veins all running from the base at the stem to the outside. And there were brown papery-skinned blobs on it, and fallen on the ground around it. It had already climbed most of the way to the top of the oldeander, too, and if you know oleander that isn't a mere 3 foot bush (1 meter for my metric zone readers) but more like a 12 to 20 foot one. (erm, 3 1/2 m to 6 m approximately)

Here are some photos of it (I love the camera in my new-ish Samsung Galaxy 5!)

DH held up the stem for it's glamour shot--see the baby bulbils on the stem

One that fell on the ground

We carried one home. It's on a 4 inch tile.

And I cut it open, too.
The first web search didn't help. That might be because the brown things weren't fruit. Who knew? But then I tried the old reliable Valley plants list. That turned up a possibility: Dioscorea_bulbifera.
When I searched again with this name, the pictures matched. It turns out this plant is one of the Evil Invasive Species of Florida! It can grow to 60 feet tall and overtake tall trees, killing them with the shade of its leaves, and reproduces wildly with the aid of its aerial bulbils.

It's also one of the yam family, and its tubers contain components that can be used in the manufacture of birth control pills. (Not that this has any bearing on anything, it's just interesting trivia.) Apparently it's cultivated in Panama, at least some varieties which are allegedly edible.

Encouraged by this info, I cut it in half and discovered that it does look like a potato inside. Hence its common name of Air Potato. And when I licked it, it did have a sort of bitter, pharmaceutical afternote. I don't think I'd like to eat it. Perhaps it would improve if  it were grated and flushed with plenty of water and then boiled. But we're not so desperate that we need to try such tricks. (And if we were, I'd try it with the acorns of our Chinkapin Oak instead. Flushing out the acorn tannins is actually something the North American Indians did to make oak acorns edible.)

So the thing I took away from this was, you never, never know what you will see on a walk. Even on on a paved, in-town road in your own neighborhood!