Sunday, December 31, 2023

Dropping the potato

Happy New Year, everyone! How many people plan to (or watched, depending on when you see this blog post) the ball drop in Times Square?

We sure didn't. It's almost physically impossible for me to stay up until midnight (though as an early bird, it's not unusual for me to get up around 3:30 am to 4 am in the morning), so I don't even try.

Besides, it's not like there's a lot going on in our rural neck of the woods on New Year's Eve. We might hear a few gunshots at midnight as someone sends a blast skywards, but that's it. That's fine with me. There are few things I'd want to do less than cram myself into such a crowded place as Times Square, especially at the turn of the year.

But just today in church, our pastor mentioned something in passing that somehow – despite living in Idaho for 20 years – we'd never heard about: the Idaho Potato Drop.

Yes, Idaho has a modest New Year's Eve celebration of its own at the state capital in which an 18-foot potato with wings is "dropped" from a crane, because ... of course it is.

"The Idaho Potato Drop, it's Idaho's signature holiday event that has been happening for 11 years," says this article. "We celebrate New Year's Eve and ring in the New Year together with the dropping of a giant Idaho potato, a great firework show, lots of live entertainment, VIP experiences, and a ski and snowboard exhibition right on the Capitol grounds at Cecil D Andrus Park."

Well, why the heck not. 

I doubt I'll ever see the Idaho Potato Drop for the simple reason it's at the other end of the state (and would also require venturing into dense crowds), but I'm pleased to live in a place with such a goofy and fun tradition.

Happy New Year, dear readers. Let's pray 2024 is not a dumpster fire, but instead is full of fun and silly things such as winged potatoes.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Busy but fun Christmas

Merry (belated) Christmas, dear readers!

We're coming off two days of celebration, bracketed by three (three!) church services. It started the morning of Christmas Eve which, since it was Sunday, started with the regular church service.

Then we came home and indulged in a modified "junk food feast." (For a history of this silly tradition, read this post.) As adults, we don't have quite the lavish spread we did when the kids were younger, but we each got a few treats.

We follow the tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve. For years and years – since we arrived in Idaho in 2003 – we always had our neighbors Dallas and Susie over for this part. Now that we live so far away, we missed them terribly. So we called them before we opened our gifts and we all had a chance to chat with them and wish them Merry Christmas.

Then Don read the second chapter of Luke out loud (as he does each year), and Older Daughter recorded it on her phone so she could send the recording to Younger Daughter, currently stationed in Europe. Then we opened our presents.

In the evening we all went to our church's Christmas Eve "Lessons and Carols," which consisted of relevant Bible readings interspersed with singing appropriate Christmas carols. The church was packed, and the volume of hearty singing from the combined voices was enough to send chills down my arms.

Christmas morning, Don and I got to church very early, at least 90 minutes before the service started, to start the heat in the building. (The morning was 17F, and 45F inside the church.) Don was recently elected a church elder, so this was one of his duties. Normally the heating system is on an automatic timer, but holiday services are outside the timer's capabilities.

The congregation had gone in together for a new alb (vestment) for our pastor. Apparently his alb was something like 14 years old. We think he hasn't gotten a new one since he was ordained as a pastor.

We got home around noon and had a light lunch, and then Older Daughter shooed us out of the kitchen to prepare a culinary surprise. Here's what she did.

We had plans to watch "A Christmas Carol" with George C. Scott, which is the best (in our opinion) rendition of that classic tale ever made.

We watch this every year as a family. But this year Older Daughter planned a surprise. She set up a screen on a table (we have no television) to stream the movie. She set a smaller coffee table in front of three chairs. We all settled in to watch the move.

Then, at intervals, she served food to correlate with what was taking place in the movie! She got the idea from this article.

She started with an appetizer of potato soup as a stand-in for the gruel Scrooge was eating by himself in his lonely room near the beginning of the book. She choose potato soup as a hat-tip to Scrooge doubting his senses because Marley's ghost might be "a bit of under-done potato."

Then we watched the movie until Old Fezziwig's party, at which point she served meat pies and mulled wine in lieu of mince pies and hot negus.

The next course came when the Ghost of Christmas Present made his dramatic appearance. Older Daughter served a charcuterie board to represent the abundance of what's at the feet of the Ghost. It was beautiful!

Besides meats and cheese, she included nuts and fruits, since those were Christmas treats being sold in the market as Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present walked through.

Then came the highlight of the meal. In the scene where Scrooge is watching the Cratchit family enjoying their Christmas dinner, he snarks about how small the goose is. The Ghost of Christmas Present snaps, "It's all Bob Cratchit can afford."

To honor this famous put-down, she presented us with ... a single roasted game hen!

She choose a game hen because (a) it was small, and we were having a multi-course meal; and (b) because it was funny. It was. We howled. (It was also delicious.) Baked with the game hen were onions, potatoes, and carrots, since those would have been inexpensive and filling vegetables the Cratchit family might have enjoyed.

The next course was a small baked potato each to represent the potatoes the poor and homeless family was roasting over a fire. (No photo, sorry.)

After that, when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come showed up, Older Daughter served angel food cake with black icing (a little darkness over the angel).

The final treat was a chocolate "gold coin" ("half a crown") to represent the pay Scrooge gave the boy at the end of the story for fetching the poulterer on the next street over.

Well I'll tell you, Don and I thought this was just a wonderful gift. We smiled for hours over it! It was clever and creative and delicious, and made you think about how fortunate we are to have abundant food.

And remember:

For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor,
The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

How was everyone's Christmas?

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Five golden rings

I took photos the other day of some ring-necked turtle doves on top our blueberry enclosure.

But wait, are these Eurasian doves or ring-necked turtle doves? A comparison between the two species didn't yield much insight. My bird books both favor ring-necked turtle doves.

At any rate, I happened to show these photos to Don. He chuckled and remarked, "Five golden rings." This made me laugh.

Then he mentioned an article he had just read entitled "Are All Gifts Mentioned In ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’ Actually Birds?"

Everyone knows the lyrics to "The Twelve Days of Christmas," the final verse of which lists everything:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Twelve drummers drumming
Eleven pipers piping
Ten lords a-leaping
Nine ladies dancing
Eight maids a-milking
Seven swans a-swimming
Six geese a-laying
Five golden rings!
Four calling birds
Three french hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree!

The song lists a lot of birds, but the author of the above-linked article argues that all the gifts were, in fact, birds. Since the song is Medieval in origin, these are birds that were likely commonly seen and/or eaten during those times.

She suggests the "five golden rings" are ring-necked pheasants. These are Chinese in origin, but had been introduced to Europe during the Roman times, and thus were common.

She speculates the "eight maids a-milking" were either pigeons (which feed "crop milk" to their young) or the elegant cattle egrets which, as the name implies, hang around with cows to eat the insects stirred up by their legs.

The "nine ladies dancing" might be the northern lapwing, the cormorant, or the Eurasian common crane, all known for their vigorous courtship dances.

"Ten lords a-leaping" might be grey herons, wading birds with long legs that were frequently eaten. "Eleven pipers piping" could be any number of shore birds in the sandpiper family. "Twelve drummers drumming" could be woodpeckers, grouse, or snipe.

These are all mere speculations; but considering how Medieval songs originated, none of it would surprise me. At any rate, it was certainly a new take on an old song.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2023

Three years ago

It was three years ago that we stumbled into our new home, exhausted.

A dear friend once mentioned that it takes three years to really move into a new place, and she's right. It's taken us this long to settle in, decide what we need and don't need, get rid of the excess (via yard sale and donations), learn the lay of the land, and otherwise make order out of chaos.

We've started and completed an endless number of projects, made improvements, and dealt with plumbing woes.

This year is, we pray, the year we'll get back on our feet to establish the same level of self-sufficiency we had in our old place. We're actively moving toward getting cattle. The garden is about half complete. By the end of the summer, we hope to have a chicken coop in place as well.

So yes, it's taken us three years. But that's okay. We're here for the long haul.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

I'm not normally a poetry fan, but there is something incomparable about Robert Frost. On this, the shortest day of the year, I thought one of his most famous poems was apropos.

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

You too can join the Illuminati!!

Don got an email the other day inviting him to join the Illuminati. Yes, really. Here it is, copied exactly as written:

Greetings, from the illuminati world elite empire, Are you a business Man/woman,
politician, musician, student, employee.

Do you strive to expand your knowledge and personal development, Do you want to be rich?,
need protection, be powerful and famous.

if YES!. Then you can achieve your dreams by being a member of the great illuminati empire,
Once you are a  member all your dreams and heart desire can be fully accomplish.

With this brief summary, If you are interested to become a member of the great illuminati then
get back to us for more information about joining the illuminati.

kindly reply us back on our direct recruitment email only at:

Please note, Kindly make sure all your response are send directly to the email stated above only at:

For more instructions on our membership process.

Note:  We don't support dirty game, It's a brotherhood of peace, a great group of illumination Lighting.

Gosh, all this time I never realized the Illuminati invited peasants like us to join its illustrious ranks. Silly me! And yowza, we can "achieve" our "dreams" simply by clicking here! (and no doubt sending them lots of money). I'm sure this email is completely trustworthy because they assured us "we don't support dirty game." Convincing, n'est-ce pas?

Hard pass.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Happy birthday, Older Daughter!

Today is Older Daughter's birthday!

We had nothing special planned for the day – we're not big on going overboard for birthdays – but we did just take a trip to town for errands and we bought her a Subway sandwich of her choice. We also got her a gift card to her favorite cafĂ©, and that was about the extent of it.

But we're all together and all healthy, so that's what matters.

And here's the obligatory newborn photo, just to embarrass her (smile).

Monday, December 18, 2023

Canned chicken

I stumbled upon a YouTube video recently in which someone calling himself "Chef Prepper" did a comparison of 12 brands of canned chicken (Kroger, Kirkland, Tyson, Sam's Club, etc.).

He carefully accounted for total weight (with liquid) of each brand, weight of the actual meat, ingredients (including additives), taste, etc. His goal was to determine the best bang for the buck in terms of price and taste. Most of the chicken was canned in 12.5-ounce cans. When he calculated everything out, the very best deal he came up with was Sam's Club chicken which, when all was said and done, cost about $5/lb.

We don't have Sam's Club around here, but I got onto the Costco website and looked at their canned chicken.

The online price as of Dec. 18 was $15.00 for a pack of six cans. Zooming in on the actual amount of meat:

So that's 2.6 lbs of meat for $15, or $5.77/lb

Here's the thing: I can my own chicken meat. What I do is purchase bulk frozen 40-lb. boxes of boneless skinless chicken breasts from Chef's Store, a regional chain of restaurant-supply stores (and my favorite place to shop for bulk foods). I defrost the meat and fit about one pound of meat per pint, or two pounds per quart, after it's all canned up.

As of Dec. 18, the price for a 40-lb. box of boneless skinless chicken breast at Chef's Store was $56, or $1.40/lb.

This frugal alternative to commercial canned chicken, Don reminded me to add, is because I already have a pressure canner, jars, lids, and all the other canning accouterments – as well as the skills and experience – necessary to process the meat properly. And, of course, there's the time spent. It usually takes me an entire day to process all 40 lbs. of meat. How much is my time worth?

Still, when everything shakes out, it's nice to have canned chicken in the pantry – and for a lot less than I might spend at Costco for the same amount.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

The elk are back

Over the past few years, elk have been frequent visitors to our little valley. We noticed they tended to hang around during the cooler months, then migrate higher into the mountains in the summer.

But not this year. Their absence was a bit worrisome. Normally we'd start seeing them around September, but this year ... nothing.

Then day before yesterday, while we were chatting with Younger Daughter via Facebook Messenger at her overseas duty station, Don came into the house and said, "There's a whole herd of elk across the road on Bill's property." (Bill is a neighbor with a large pasture right across from us.)

Immediately I left Don to chat with Younger Daughter while I snatched my camera and went outside. Sure enough! A whole bunch, casually bedded down in the chilly afternoon sunshine.

Suddenly we're seeing them everywhere. I've counted at least 40 in the herd, which is much more than we've ever seen before.

Now it's almost like we can't even glance out the window without seeing at least a few scattered here and there.

When they move as a herd, there are so many I can't get them all in one photo.

They're certainly among the most picturesque of wildlife.

The herd showed up yesterday, once again in Bill's pasture across the road from us.

This freaked out Bill's four horses, which galloped to the other side of the field and then stood, watching warily. I've noticed horses don't care for elk at all.

About this time, something disturbed they elk and they moved en masse out of sight.

I'm glad the elk are back. I've missed them.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Want tankards?

Older Daughter created an Etsy page for some tankards.

Pieces have free (priority) shipping through the end of the month. If you order immediately, they might arrive by Christmas.

 Just letting you know! Go check out the selection.

Currently there are no "coffee cup"-sized tankards (capacity of about 16 oz.) available. Most of the styles available on the page hold about 24-26 oz.

To reiterate, these tankards are suitable for hot as well as cold beverages. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 14, 2023

First snowfall

There's always something magical about the year's first snowfall. We had a bit of snow earlier, but this was the first definitive dump of the white stuff.

I usually get up before daybreak, and I snapped this photo of the Christmas lights on the porch rail covered in snow.

Here's the porch rail at dawn. The air was just a wee bit pink with the rising sun.

The birds were avidly feeding. Easier than scrounging, obviously.

Doves, waiting for me to go away so they could take over the feeder.

We got about four inches, just enough to make everything look magical.

Even our firewood stacked on the porch looked dressy.

The snow didn't last more than a couple of days, but it was pretty while it lasted.