Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday Saturday

As most of you know (from direct personal experience or, failing that, from someone relating tales of same) the day after Thanksgiving is the heaviest shopping day of the year and as such, it's been christened "Black Friday."

Fine.

For me, the day that deserves the moniker is the day after that because that is the day my wife invariably stresses out, glowers, shouts and otherwise lets loose with all the feelings she's bottled up for a year. This is the day all the Christmas stuff gets placed in its, um, place. Shipping containers, weighing tons each, must be dragged down from their place of dormancy. The voyage is perilous and precarious and dust is liberally applied to our breathing passages and retinæ with each one that is brought forth.

Then the tree's lighting system must be assembled, its failure to light up scrutinized, the various checks performed, oaths and imprecations muttered darkly. Ornaments must be examined, those which fared poorly in their year of storage jettisoned and replaced.

To say nothing of the fact that Christmas music must play throughout this decoration endeavor.

Any and all failures are my fault and, even those which are not my fault, they will be put on my account, for the sake of expediency. Sometimes, if I am very, very lucky, an errand will present itself and I will be allowed to be along those absent and I will only receive a terse phone call or two during my excursion.

The upside of all this is that once the decorations have been finished, they look amazing and my beloved shelves the Mr. Hyde bit for another 12 months.

Photos to ensue.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:08 PM 4 comments

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quite simple, really.

The best way -- these days, anyway -- to get a half-decent blog entry out of me if for me to have ample time to sit down and type flailingly until something coherent emerges compose a post.

The best way -- these days, anyway -- to get that sort of time is for my insomnia to act up. So, check the time stamp.

As usual, and as reported previously, the Thanksgiving food was a treat. I discovered a weak link in my menu planning, though. I'm not really sure how to fix it, but mayhaps some kind soul will chime in with usefulness and advice. Basically, every year I (and NOS and, briefly, NTS) cook for a brigade of people. (This year, for reasons which were not adequately explained, the mob was down to +/-40 people.) Anyway, when it comes to making side dishes I make enough for the estimated population. But then, not everyone will have 1/40th of every side dish, if you see my meaning and there are other side dishes* besides mine. Plus, the crowd being 95% Iberic, people bring assorted tapas -- do not let the cultural incongruity rattle you -- with garlic shrimp, assorted interesting cuts of cured porcine goodness, at least 6 different cheeses I have never seen before including one I strongly suspect of having arrived here without Customs being properly aware of it, although by the scent that seems impossible to believe.

So I wind up with drums of leftovers.

As we speak, I am trying to see what I do about 2 gallons of superfluous soup.

Anyway, to me, there is nothing more enjoyable than the afterglow of having cooked yourself moribund and enjoying the accolades and then settling down with your plate and, more importantly, a large glass of red Zinfandel. It feels illegally good...and unlike the afterglow of, er, other** things, it lasts to such an extent one isn't tempted to cook for a 2nd round.

There were some weak points, alas; NTS came down with some sort of throat thing and was in a fevered state. This slightly hampered his ability -- and greatly hampered his desire -- to help in the kitchen. So, not only were we one man down, but we also had to cater to that one man down. The last thing he wanted to do (and I agree with him fully here) was to array the outer man in finery and sit at table with 39 other people. So, NTS, being NTS, did what comes naturally to him. He quietly waited for a lull, and then disappeared. In fact, he was feeling so bad he even skipped dessert*** and was found in the TV room, snoozing merrily to Wall-E.

(Which is the only way to watch Wall-E, if'n you ask me...an insufferably preachy, tedious and undelightful film if there ever was one; the only real dud in the Pixar canon. Looks great on BluRay, though.)

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for a number of reasons which likely do not meet any criterion of reasonableness. There IS the "giving thanks" aspect, which is key. As a rule, people who are grateful for the blessings they have are not absolute bastids. Then there is the fact I get to spend the whole day cooking for family, and even better, it's my wife's family and not mine. Plus there is all the dopamine, endorphin and ethanol. The food is better than any other holiday. Um...what else?

Our plans were to drive up to WDW at a ridiculous hour of the morning (i.e., now) and spend an overlong day, and then drive back absolutely spent. Seeing as how NTS is absolutely spent as it is, we'll have to reschedule. Which is a shame, since due to the global cooling phenomenon we've been having the coolest November in 13 years and touring WDW when it's not sauna-like (nor teeming with peak-season crowds) is a particular treat.

But I digress.

Perhaps this day will be spent putting up Christmas lights and stuff. Some people have done this since +/- Halloween and it drives me MENTAL.

Now you know.

-J.

P.S. Suckitude-wise, it looks as though there may be "a break in the clouds," so those of you chanting, praying, etc. do NOT stop, as it's working.

* Some were even VERY good. There was a broccoli/cheese thing that I really enjoyed.
** You know what I mean, but this is a family blog.
*** Pity, as there was ice cream, which would have helped his "thwoat."

Posted by Joke at 3:15 AM 6 comments

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgivingness, the aftermath

I am a good kind of tired.

Make that exhausted.

Food was good. The gravy was especially excellent, as was the pie, which NOS half-baked with me. (This was the first time for him, so the crust wasn't, um, quite as thin and delicate as we might have wished.)

More later.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:34 PM 6 comments

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It bears repeating

I posted this a couple of years ago. Wouldn't hurt to look at it again.

The Thanksgiving narrative usually starts with the Pilgrims' ship, The Mayflower, finally alighting on Plymouth Rock. What people never hear or read about is how miserable a voyage it was. The trip was long, arduous and, frankly, odiferous. Once the ship had landed, fires were set throughout the ship to smoke out the stench of 102 people crammed in there for months on end with no plumbing facilities. Then it got worse. The place was barren and desolate (even the indigenous types knew to give it a mighty wide berth) and during the first winter, half of the Pilgrims died of starvation, sickness or exposure.

Finally, Spring sprang and the Indians showed the Pilgrims how to plant corn, fish for cod and trap beavers for fur. And pretty much this is where the story stops, and we all skip ahead to Pilgrims eating turkey. The fact is the Pilgrims were managing to scrape out a survival existence, but not being much more of a hit than that.

Here's the part you didn't know. The Pilgrims didn't actually have the coin needed to swing the cruise from Europe to Plymouth Rock. So, they made a contract with some backers in London (the system was called mercantilism) and agreed to pay them back with whatever their community could produce. Being a starry-eyed bunch of Neo-Utopians, they had agreed to produce things in common and everyone was given an equal share of the total.

Of course, they didn't ask me and were therefore quite surprised this system of production and allocation sucked dead wombats. Gov. Bradford, desperate for a new system that would generate serious production, not only for survival but to cover their debts to the merchants in London, changed the scheme. He assigned individual parcels of land to each family to farm and control as they best saw fit.

About this whole matter, Bradford wrote:
"The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years ...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God. For this community [this] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense...that was thought injustice."
Then came the changeover from common to individual property. Gov. Bradford wrote
"This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was [harvested] than otherwise would have been."

By the late summer, the Pilgrims realized they had much more crops than could be eaten by their settlement. They set up a trading system whereby they exchanged goods with the local tribes. They experience such profits they were able to pay off the the merchants in London. They were so grateful to God for this turnabout in their fortune they held a feast of Thanksgiving.

Now you know the real story of Thanksgiving.

A particularly apt thing is George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks -- for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York
the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

It was, of course, Abe Lincoln who made Thanksgiving the yearly holiday it is now:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Feel better?

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:45 AM 5 comments

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pre-exhausted

Thanksgiving is only a few days away and I have been getting as much stuff done ahead of time as I can manage.

Do NOT ask how many piquillo peppers I have roasted and peeled for the soup, or, for that matter how much effort it takes to wind up with +/- 3 gallons of chicken stock. Tomorrow, I envision a marathon of pie baking.

So that's why blogging will be lightish. I mean, lightish-er than it has been of late.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:16 AM 7 comments

Monday, November 24, 2008

Does this make me look fatwa?

"France’s nudist mullahs 'at war with swingers'"

-J.

Posted by Joke at 5:33 PM 0 comments

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yes, yes, I know I'm pestering.

As re. this previous entry, I am posting this email in its entirety. PLEASE click on the link and do the right thing. Repeatedly. (Vote early and vote often.)

Oh, and pass it on.

-J., feeling almost ashamed...but not quite.

Hello friends,

I know I promised no more emails but I feel this update must be addressed: This morning ARIAS was bottom 2 which means that him along with another girl had the least amount of votes of the 8 finalists left. Luckily, ARIAS passed and made Top 7 but tomorrow they will be eliminating another and as it stands ARIAS has the least amount of votes. I know many of you have been voting non-stop and we truly appreciate all your support. ARIAS has worked really hard on this audition and we are pushing to get him at least to the Top 3 so that he can have the opportunity to open for Reik December 3rd at Cameo!

I am asking you all today to PLEASE VOTE: http://www.mega949.com/pages/megaEpoll.html We are very behind in votes compared to the other 6 and between now and tomorrow we need to get our votes up to keep him safe. Send the link to everyone you know.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow to 94.9 between 7am-9am to listen to the next finalist to be eliminated.

*Also: Please save the date WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 3rd....If ARIAS is chosen Top 3 I am asking that everyone please come out and support him and show Mega what a fan base ARIAS has!! I know its a weekday but if I'm in law school and smack in the middle of finals and can find a way to make it there are no excuses. ARIAS needs you!*

Also be sure to check out the YouTube video Mega posted and feel free to leave comments about ARIAS:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaLCWThUetg

Posted by Joke at 2:12 PM 4 comments

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oh, joy.

Experts are divided.

Medical science is baffled.

Basically, nobody really knows for sure if our house has been struck by plague or if it's pestilence. Either way, there has been an inordinate amount of mopping and laundry.

Decorum prohibits my listing any more.

It ain't pretty, people.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:56 PM 5 comments

Monday, November 17, 2008

"People, get ready..."

This is a heads-up that I shall begin blogging on matters related to Thanksgiving very shortly. Over at my wine* place, I have already started, with this year's selection of wines for the day when we thank God for all our blessings by trying to send as much of His bounty down our digestive tract as can be accommodated without danger of rupture. Please click.

(You'll be pleased to know most of those wines retail for +/- US$10.)

I will also, Deo volente, try to post a video on my heretic mashed potatoes. Almost everywhere you read a recipe for same they will tell you (not without reason) that potatoes ought be mashed with relative gentleness, and to never do that which I specifically advocate.

But there is method to my madness.

What I am trying to do is suffuse the potatoes with buttery goodness. I'd love to take credit for the concept but, alas, the guy who "invented" this was Joel Robuchon (all true foodies may genuflect reverently heah) who reckoned that he could get about a pound of butter to go into a couple of pounds of potatoes. In order to do this, you need to shear the potato cells open to release their starch (which will allow them to get a chokehold on all that butter). Normally, this would turn the potatoes into wallpaper paste, but not if you inject butter liberally into the proceedings.

Think of making hollandaise, only you are using potatoes, into which you gingerly feed countless pats of butter.

Yes, it is horrifically caloric. And while you may get a glow from eating this, it may also be because your blood pressure is placing you in immediate danger of exploding. But it is really, really good. And not stiff and spackle-ish. But I know most of you are a hardbitten, cynical bunch and as such, you will need videographic evidence.

So that's it for now.

-J.

* I'll be doing up some Australian wines next. Just be cool.

Posted by Joke at 9:05 AM 7 comments

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Don't we all know someone like this?

This is insane.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:45 PM 6 comments

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Well, I thought it was cool.

The wine website to which I contribute -- stay tuned for some Thanksgiving selections -- has just gotten a bit of a nice write up.
That is all.
-J.

P.S. In other news, the entire household has been laid low by a tummy "bug" which decorum prohibits me from mentioning.

Posted by Joke at 11:33 PM 0 comments

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Once more, into the breach, as it were.

I demand -- OK, "politely request" -- your clickery!

Back to the salt mines,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:51 PM 4 comments

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Another, sillier, click request

This comes from my beloved wife, who asked me -- kind of how the police ask you to obey the speed limit -- to spread the word.
PLEASE VOTE FOR "ARIAS"* AS YOUR FAVORITE ARTIST ON THE FOLLOWING LINK:
WE NEED AS MANY VOTES AS WE CAN GET! WITH YOUR HELP WE CAN MAKE IT TO THE TOP!
PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!
Yes, you can click for him as often as you can stand it, and may do so from anywhere in the world.

Thx,

-J.

* He's actually my kid cousin -- some days it seems like he's my oldest son, but never mind that -- and he is one of my fave relatives

Posted by Joke at 2:58 PM 1 comments

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Good riddance.

Daylight Savings Time is OVER.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 5:19 PM 6 comments

Of interest only to Red Sox fans.

...among whose number I am not, but I know a few of you are (like, say, the exceedingly lovely and amazingly gracious Poppy or Julia) and this may be of interest to you. I live to benefit humanity.

DirtyWatah.com

The rest of you, feel free to move along to the next spot on your itinerary.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:17 AM 2 comments