Sunday, November 26, 2006

Giving Thanks

So Thanksgiving has come and gone and things are more or less back to normal here (whatever that is exactly). My younger son and his GF came for the holiday--and we had a lovely, restful couple of days. Even the cooking seemed restful! It has been a long time since I cooked a turkey dinner (probably at least 10 years) but I guess it's like riding a bicycle--it comes back to you. Maybe because there were only a couple of other people in the house and I was able to assign them tasks. Also because I deliberately cut excessive food out of the plan--no appetizers/hors d'oeuvres, only two vegetables, only one kind of cranberry, etc.

But while I was making dinner I was giving thanks for having such a well-outfitted kitchen that I had just the right tool for everything! It makes me glad I have hung on to all the equipment accumulated over the years instead of dumping it 'cause I wasn't using it on a regular basis. So thanks for:

• the old-fashioned, table-mounted meat grinder (do people still buy these?) for grinding the cranberries and oranges for the relish

• the food processor for crumbing the bread for the stuffing; coarse crumbs (from a nice sourdough bread) are much better than cubes in my opinion

• the electric juice squeezer for squeezing lemons for juice for the turkey broth (cooked my turkey with 1/2 inch of broth, wine, lemon juice, and herbs in the roasting pan--never did this before but I really liked the way it turned out, plus the pan was extremely easy to clean!!)

• the hand mixer for blending the ingredients for the pecan pie (I just do apple and pecan--don't particularly like pumpkin pie, so I don't make it, and two pies was certainly more than enough for three people! Also, I make my apple pie with a crumb topping--thank you Betty Crocker!--and find regular apple pie with two crusts to be too doughy.)

Also thanks to:

• Barbara Downs, who told me back in the '70s that I didn't actually need to put the stuffing in the turkey--much neater and faster to bake it separately (and a few squeezes of broth and drippings from the turkey pan gives it that turkey flavor)

• Marie Callender for some great frozen pie crusts (used to buy Oronoque Orchards crusts back east, but they don't exist here--had to search for a while to find these, but they were excellent!)

• Betty Crocker again for packaged potato buds--with all the last-minute prep on Thanksgiving, mashing potatoes is not in my plan, and I really think these are very good

• Wild Oats for selling me a non-frozen turkey on Tuesday night--everywhere else in town only had frozen

• Trader Joe's for really nice fresh green beans

• Albertson's for the last four rutabagas in Santa Fe and for the Jonagold apples for the pie (after years of using Macintosh, I am making a change!)

The Big Thank Yous

• Thanks for getting relocated to Santa Fe (there were times I thought I'd never fully make it through that maelstrom) and for the ability to turn my house into the home I want to live in

• Thanks for the presence of family on this holiday

• Thanks for the restoration of some sanity to the US electoral process, with high hopes for some changes in Washington under the new Congress

• Thanks to my faithful readers (you know who you are) for continuing to motivate me to write this blog

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Own Private Crop Circles

I have a driveway that would probably fit about five cars if necessary. Sweeping the entire driveway of leaves would take some time. But, NOT NECESSARY! The leaves blow into a perfect oval (over on the side of the driveway that I typically don't use), and then it's easy to rake them up. So instead of a crop circle, I have a leaf oval! I'm sure the scientists among you could figure out why this is the case (direction and speed of wind, right angle of the house and garage, etc.) but I'm not entirely sure aliens are not involved.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thinking About the Election

It's So Orwellian

In every election I have voted in so far (all in the East) I have voted in a school, in a wooden booth with a curtain that pulls shut. But here in Santa Fe, I voted in the Small Animal Barn at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds. No actual small animals were present, but the walls were full of memorabilia about various notable S.A.s who who have passed through there over the years.

We used a brand-new paper ballot system (New Mexico having rejected electronic voting machines) and voted in cardboard booths--basically a waist-high cardboard box with low cardboard walls on three sides--low enough to see over. A tad flimsy, but I guess it does the job (though trying to focus my wandering brain on the details of the zillions of ballot initiatives while able to see and hear EVERYTHING in the Small Animal Barn was tough!)

You go, Frank!

In the Sunday, November 12 New York Times, Frank Rich concludes his commentary with the following:

But his [Karl Rove's] party was routed anyway. It was the end of the road for the boy genius and his can't-miss strategy that Washington sycophants predicted could lead to a permanent Republican majority.

What a week this was! Here's to the voters of both parties who drove a stake into the heart of our political darkness. If you'll forgive me for paraphrasing George Allen: Welcome back, everyone, to the world of real America.

I do have hope that the country has finally come to its senses--even though it took an awfully long time! It reinforces my belief that democracy works eventually if you let it....

Things That Brought Tears to My Eyes

Deval Patrick's election as governor of Massachusetts. I've liked this guy for a long time--and I'm proud of the fact that Massachusetts is only state in the union to have elected a black senator and a black governor.

HIlary's overwhelming majority in her election. Well, OK, she didn't have strong opposition and she spent $23 million. But still....

Nancy Pelosi's rise to the Speaker of the House slot--the closest a woman has come to the Presidency in this country (so embarrassing). I'm not a huge personal fan of hers--largely (and unfairly) based on a commencement speech I heard her deliver in 2004--not inspiring.....But it is, I think the right time for a woman to take on this job--that a woman's skills in teamwork, niceness, and compromise could be just the right thing right now.

And hey, winning all those seats in the House!

And Finally, Heather and Patsy

Well, still no results in the District 1 Congressional election in New Mexico. Heather (the Republican) leads by 1,500 votes, and will probably take the election, but they are still processing nearly 4,000 provisional ballots, which are expected to break for Patsy. And, I imagine, there will be a recount. Heather held a press conference a couple of days ago where she announced she had won, and was heading back to Washington to do the people's business, but there are no official results yet, and Patsy certainly hasn't conceded.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Elections Tomorrow!

Spending the pre-election period in a new state has been very interesting! I realized that there has been much more political advertising here in NM for a congressional seat that's up for grabs than I am used to in Massachusetts--where pretty much the Democrats always won.

The noisiest campaign has been that between incumbent four-term member of Congress Republican Heather Wilson (on the left) , and her Democratic challenger, New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid. This is not even my congressional seat--my rep in congress is Tom Udall, and apparently he's a shoe-in, since I haven't seen a single ad for him. Ditto with the senatorial race, where Democrat Jeff Bingaman also appears to be coasting to an easy victory.

But the Wilson/Madrid ads are all over TV and they are (on both sides) mean, annoying, and negative. So far, all I know about either candidate is that she thinks her opponent is bad for the country. Patsy says Heather is too cozy with Bush and supports the war in Iraq ("even though 22 troops from New Mexico have died"--an interesting usage of "troop" to mean one individual in the military--a usage not supported, I must say, by my really big English language dictionary, which says that a troop consists of two or more platoons and a headquaters group.)

Heather says Patsy is in bed with the lobbyists, was a lousy Attorney General, and has been too close to corruption scandals in the state. After watching the ads (which, according to a New Mexico newspaper writer, have cost over $11 million dollars--for an astonishing 11,500 ads!!) my feeling pretty much is that I wouldn't want to vote for either one of them. I also think it's too bad, when the House still has a long ways to go to achieve gender parity, to see women knocking each other off the podium in races like these, when there are so many other races with only male candidates.

Bill Richardson, running for re-election as governor and pretty much a shoe-in, has been content to decorate my front door with earnest and cheerful doorknob hangars urging me to vote, telling me where my voting station is, and making sure that I know that Bill Richardson is the current governor. The only ad I've heard from the other side is one that criticizes Richardson for being out of state too much. "Where oh where is Bill Richardson?" The ads criticize him for being interested in the presidency--an interesting observation, since clearly most people would think it would be a plus for NM, not a negative, to have their governor elected president!

New Mexico as a state allows people to vote weeks in advance, and they estimate that about half the turnout has already occurred. But this just seems wrong to me--I want to vote on Election Day! So I will be there tomorrow, probably waiting in line (I've done a lot of that since I got here), but enjoying democracy in action. I have my lists of key Republican upset states waiting to inform my TV election observations tomorrow night--one thing about living in a more Western timezone is that I don't have to stay up as late to see meaningful results! (Rick, Marilyn, Bobbie, Andy--remember that late night watching the presidential election 6 years ago?)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The 1st of November

Well it's actually November 2, but I didn't want to mess with the title sequence! We've recovered from that blast of cold weather, and it's been beautiful and sunny--high 50s, low 60s by mid-day (though it drops down to 30 or so at night--and warms up slowly in the morning).

For my seasonal observation this month, I've chosen to focus on trees and bushes. There is such an interesting mix of full and bare, northern and southern, green and color in the landscape.

The photos here were all taken yesterday and today on the campus of the college where I work and demonstrate trees that have lost all their leaves, trees that are still green, evergreens that look very New England, a Southwestern-looking plant (maybe yucca?), trees in several stages of red and gold, and flowering plants still flowering.

It all appears to my New England eye as if it shouldn't be happening at the same time--like one of those dreams where your grade school classmates and your work colleagues and your ex-boyfriends and your neighbors from 20 years ago all seem to know each other and be in the same place at the same time for some unaccountable reason.