Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Harlem Holiday Lights

The streets of Harlem are lit up like the Rockefeller Christmas tree tonight!  Swags of lights with their stars sparkling in the traffic bring a seasonal cheer to 125th Street that brightens up even my dark commute.

I love this time of year as the holiday lights come on all over the city.  They even outshine the headlights on the cars.  

All the way home on the train, Christmas lights are starting their cheery glow in the little towns along the way.

The sun may have set on my commute, but the holiday lights make the whole city and countryside just perfect.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

31 Christmas Trees

This is what 31 Christmas trees look like all crammed into the backend of a pickup truck.  We don't normally go around with 31 Christmas trees crammed in the backend of our pickup, but this weekend we thought we would make an exception and just go ahead and cram them in there.  Just for fun.

I kid.

We had to go to pick up the "holiday" trees for the town.  With some careful stacking on my Dear Honey's part, we were able to fit all 31 trees into the pickup and make our way back home without incident.

We were able to transport all of the trees and get them to the town square in time for decorating day.  They are all decked out with pretty little red ribbons and galvanized wire securely holding them in place.

Next weekend is the tree lighting event, so the streets of our town are bedecked and ready to go.

Aside from being allergic to pine (itchy itchy) it was a lot of fun!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas is Coming

Christmas is coming and it's coming fast.  This year, taking a hint from my Thanksgiving plan, I put together my Christmas Check-It-Twice Checklist.  There are only 12 things on my list.  It looks so easy! I'm sure I'll be right on time with everything.

So here's the Christmas Check-it-Twice Checklist:
  1. Update Card & Gift List
  2. Make Out Cards
  3. Mail Cards
  4. Decorate Porch
  5. Decorate Tree
  6. Make Gifts
  7. Wrap Gifts
  8. Deliver & Mail Gifts
  9. Stuff Stockings
  10. Gifts Under Tree
  11. Menu for Christmas Dinner
  12. Make Christmas Dinner
You can download a .pdf of the list here.

Sure, there may be some steps that are more involved than others (#6 - Make Gifts), but overall I think this is going to go ever so smoothly.

Sure.  Yup.  No worries here...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Family Picnic

I was out shopping and noticed a family of turkey vultures picnicking alongside the road.  There had to be more than 35 of these huge birds hanging out in the trees, chattering with each other.

You can just make them out as little black spots on the branches of the trees.  In person they are much bigger.  About the size of a child.

I once read a story about these birds.  There was a young boy who would go out to his backyard and play after school.  He would toss a red ball around by himself.  Apparently a turkey vulture spotted him and sort of adopted him as a playmate. (Shame on you if you thought this was a Stephen King posting!) Every afternoon the boy would come home and the bird would be waiting to play - sometimes meeting him at the bus stop and walking home with him.

These birds eat dead animals.  If they find road kill, they will drag it off of the road (how considerate) and then feast out of the way of traffic.  Once they 'complete the digestive cycle', the 'remains' are completely sterile.  Their digestive tracts get rid of any parasites, bacteria, viruses, etc., that was in the dead animal.

If the animal that they find is too large for their family to eat by themselves, like a deer or a cow, one of them flies over to invite other families to come and join in the feast.  Party time!

Judging by the amount of birds and the smell - oh the smell - I would say that they found something rather large.  I wasn't about to investigate further.

But what a nice place to have a picnic!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What Thanksgiving Means to Me

We had a contest at the office.  It was simple enough to enter, just have your child create a work of art in the theme "What Thanksgiving Means to Me".  Naturally, I had to participate.  After all, it's all about participation!  Only one tiny problem - my child is not human.  She's a dog.

No matter.  If I could get her to create a work of art, they would let her enter.  This was going to be fun!

We got out the paper and food coloring and got to painting!

Yup.  My puppy's first painting.  You can see the intense concentration as she manipulates the colors.  She's really into this.  I think we may have a Picasso on our hands.

Or maybe it's just the roasted chicken that she is hunting for?  Naw, she's all about the art!

Here she is, with all of the other Pre-K artists.  So maybe she doesn't do lettering or shapes.  And she didn't do multi-media, just a simple watercolor.  But even though she didn't get a blue ribbon, I think she did a fantastic job!

It was a great experience for us all.  Our pup was really enthusiastic, not just for the chicken, but for the mental challenge.  She loves to figure things out.  We will definitely be trying this again.  

Most importantly, my Dear patient Honey and I had the best laugh!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Setting Bud

When do I prune which shrub?  Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall - it depends on the shrub.  The one thing that seems to be true for all of the flowering shrub is that they are to be pruned after flowering, but before they "set bud".  

I get why gardening references don't say to 'prune your rhododendrons on April 23rd'.  It's way too specific of a time.  What if you still have snow on April 23rd and the flowers haven't even blossomed yet?  What if the flowers blossomed on March 23rd?  What then?

So they tell you to prune before the shrubs 'set bud'.  And this makes sense.  If you know what 'set bud' means.

As I see it, here's a year in the life of a shrub.
  • The shrub blossoms.  
  • The flowers die.  
  • There's a spurt of new growth - leaves and such.  
  • And then the plant kind of quiets down, just hanging out - not much going on.  
  • Then there's another spurt of growth.  
  • Then it chills out again.  
  • Then it starts changing color, or it's leaves get dull looking, or they sort of curl up a bit.  
  • Then I stop looking at the shrubs because it's too cold out and they're covered in snow.
  • Then the leaves turn back to their regular color and it looks perky.
  • Then the flower buds get really big.
  • The shrub blossoms.
If you notice, nowhere in there does it say 'set bud'.  And how big is a bud when it sets?  Do I need a magnifier?  Just how precise do you have to be about this whole 'set bud' business?

It turns out you don't have to be that precise at all (unless you are going for the ultimate in flowering shrubbery - in which case you know all about setting bud - in which case you are most likely just reading this for a laugh!).  

After the flower dies, prune the shrub.
  • The shrub blossoms.  
  • The flowers die.  
  • There's a spurt of new growth - leaves and such.  
  • And then the plant kind of quiets down, just hanging out - not much going on.  
  • Then there's another spurt of growth.  
  • Then it chills out again.  
  • Then it starts changing color, or it's leaves get dull looking, or they sort of curl up a bit.  
  • Then I stop looking at the shrubs because it's too cold out and they're covered in snow.
  • Then the leaves turn back to their regular color and it looks perky.
  • Then the flower buds get really big.
  • The shrub blossoms.
The shrub is going to set bud in the growth spurts, so prune before the growth spurt.

Or you can just prune when you cut some flowers to bring into the house.  I think that this is what I do most often.  Too easy and too pretty.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I spent today with this wonderful pup.  He's not really a pup, more of the old man of the pack, but his spirit is still that of a pup and he spent the day reminding me just how many things there are to be thankful about.

I'm thankful for spending the day with this pup and his family.  Thankful for the continuous love his human parents give him which makes him the sweet pup he is.  Thankful for the veterinarians who decided to become vets and study hard so this pup is with us today.

I'm also thankful that he listened when he was told "get down from there" - saving the turkey from becoming his next doggie dinner. 

And I'm thankful that he was looking out for my little spills and mishaps in the kitchen, slurping up bits and pieces that fell his way.

Ever vigilant, loving and sweet.

Thank you, pup! And Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Going Home

The work week is over.  Everything is prepped for the holiday tomorrow.  The train is coming.  It's time to go home.

Tonight the train will be crowded.  Families with pets and loads of luggage.  I've always wondered why someone traveling to visit for 4 days needs 2 suitcases and several bags.  It seems like they are planning on staying upstate for the winter, but they'll be headed back to the city come Monday morning.

I traveled light today - just my shoulder bag.  I hope to get a seat for my long ride, but I'll settle for standing room inside a car for the first hour, then a seat will most likely open up.  

It would have been nice to just stay home today instead of going into the city to work, but I think I'll focus on having a job to go to and be thankful for that.

Many of my family are traveling all over the country tonight on their way their Thanksgiving destinations.  I wish them - and you - safe travels.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pizza Party

Sometimes you just have to take happiness wherever you may find it.  For me, happiness is found with good friends and good food - or pizza!

Tonight we are having a party on the train.  My commuting friends and I love coming up with just about any excuse to make our 2 hour ride seem just a bit shorter and what better way than a party.

Since I get on in northern Manhattan, not at Grand Central, it generally falls to me to pick up the pizza so it will still be warm by the time we start the festivities.  It also doesn't hurt that the Famiglia's Pizzeria near the station has really good New York pizza.

For those of you not familiar with New York pizza - it has a thin crisp crust, no dripping oil and is generally eaten folded in half.  Exactly the opposite of a deep dish Chicago style pizza.  In fairness, both are equally yummy!

Tonight we will be celebrating the birthdays from August through October.  We kept having to push back the party night because of hurricanes, major snow storms and vacations.  Tonight, though, the weather is good - okay, a little drizzly - and everyone in our group will be there.

Here comes my train!  Gotta go.

Monday, November 21, 2011

City Sky

I was looking through photos on my camera - trying to decide which to post today - when I ran across this pic from October.  The pinks were unbelievably amazing!

It's hard to believe that only 4 weeks ago I still had daylight on my way home.  These next few months will be all about the darkness of the early morning and evening.  

Last year I didn't see an actual ray of sunshine during the week until May 2.  There should have been some sun before that, but it was so rainy that any chance of a drop of golden sunshine falling on my windshield was washed away by heavy cloud cover.

Over the weekend I spent as much time outside in the sun as possible.  It's not just the sun, though.  It's the lack of snow and bitter cold.  Oh, I know it is coming.  Right now those freezing temps are sitting up in Canada just waiting to come on down to the Lower 48.  

In the meantime - I think I'll just soak up as much sun as possible and look through pictures of brighter days.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Foolish Forsythia

It's Spring!!!

Imagine my surprise on seeing the forsythia in bloom out in the garden.  After all, it's November and the only blooms I except to see are the blisters blooming on my hands from Fall clean-up.

Thanks to the October snow, this foolish forsythia was tricked into thinking that it is Spring so it bloomed.  It's tiny yellow flowers started popping open on the bare branches.  Not a full bloom - there are plenty of buds that are still closed up tight.  But enough to make a definite splash of yellow.

On the one hand this was a nice surprise because these are cheery little blossoms that put a smile on my face.  On the other hand, it's a bummer knowing that the blooms are now spent so we won't have flowers there in April.

What? Not Spring? Oh.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Today was grocery shopping day for Thanksgiving and I dutifully went out and shopped my little heart out.  Of course, the plans have changed a little bit as plans tend to. 

1 - There will be 2 more for dinner
2 - I won't be cooking dinner at home
3 - Cranberry Souffle has been added to the menu

These are all good changes, I assure you!  We will be traveling to Connecticut and cooking dinner at my dear friend Laurel's house (yea!).  She and her dear hubby are great company - and she has a fantastic kitchen!  

So, Laurel and I went grocery shopping today and got all of the goodies that we need to flush out our pantries and make this moveable feast.  Here they are - pictures compliments of the fine grocery store that put up images on Google.

Crackers for Antipasto Platter

Fresh fruit for Antipasto Platter

Fresh vegetables for Antipasto Platter

Assorted olives for Antipasto Platter

Asiago cheese for Antipasto Platter

Jarlsberg cheese for Antipasto Platter

Salami for Antipasto Platter

More Salami for Antipasto Platter

Walnuts for Cranberry Souffle

Gelatine for Cranberry Souffle

Mayonnaise for Cranberry Souffle

Lemon for Cranberry Souffle

Pineapple for Cranberry Souffle

Sugar for Cranberry Souffle and Pumpkin Pie

Ginger for Pumpkin Pie

Cloves for Pumpkin Pie

Cinnamon for Pumpkin Pie

Flour for Pumpkin Pie

Fresh eggs for Pumpkin Pie
(I get my eggs from the Farmer's Market and they come in all sorts of pretty colors.  I personally believe that this makes them taste just that much better!  Or maybe it's just that they are really fresh?  Nah, it's the colors.)

Evaporated milk for Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Puree for Pumpkin Pie
(This will be my first "if it's not fresh, use Libby's pumpkin" pie so I was nervous choosing this brand of pumpkin which I have never heard of before. However, I have been assured by Laurel that this is a great pumpkin puree.  And I know that it is made in New England, so buying local is a bonus on this purchase!)

Pillsbury Grands Southern Homestyle Biscuits
(We debated back and forth about the biscuits.  After all, they are there to sop up any leftover gravy once the potatoes have run out - and the odds of the potatoes running out are slim to none.  There were frozen dinner rolls, fresh dinner rolls, crescent rolls, butter, high fat, low fat, buttermilk.  Ack!!! So many choices!!! We picked these.  Maybe it was because we were in the refrigerator aisle?)
Fresh Cranberries for Cranberry Souffle
(Laurel will also be making her dear hubby's cranberry and orange cranberry sauce - so we will have 3 cranberry dishes this year.  What a treat!!! I think it's the northerner in me that is rejoicing the most over the cranberry feast.  Tangy, tart, sweet, acid - without the cranberry you may as well just cancel Fall!)

Jellied cranberry for Cranberry sauce
(Yes, we will make sure it comes out in one piece with the indentations in place.)

Pearl onions in cream sauce for the Creamed Pearl Onions
(Okay, we could have made these from scratch - but why?  This is easy and it is a side dish, so we are saving some time and effort on this one.)

Mushrooms for the String Beans Almandine

Slivered almonds for the String Bean Almandine

String beans for the String Bean Almandine

Corn for the, well, Corn

Wondra flour for the Gravy

Milk for the Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes for the Mashed Potatoes

Baking powder for the Stuffing
(It makes it fluffy.)

Celery for the Stuffing

Onion for the Stuffing

Black pepper for the Turkey, Stuffing and String Bean Almandine

Salt for - pretty much everything

Fresh Sage for the Stuffing
(This is why we overwinter our herbs.  SO much better fresh!)

Bread cubes for Stuffing
(another time saver)

Butter for Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Corn, String Bean Almandine and Rolls

Turkey for the Turkey, Gravy, Giblet gravy and Au Jus
Chicken broth for the Stuffing

Some of the items were already in the pantry.  When you live far away from a grocery store, you learn to stock up.

Here is the grocery list.  It has all of the ingredients listed and the approximate amount of each item.

So far we are on target for Thanksgiving, but I feel that the clock is ticking faster!