Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Wonderland

It was very weird--very weird--to walkabout the historic area today. When the snow hadn't arrived by eleven pm Friday night, I went to bed convinced it would never come. I woke up to five inches, with more to come. All day Saturday it snowed, petering out around ten with a dusting of snow fine as mica flakes.

The snow put a pretty effective stop to traffic, indeed to civilisation as Virginia knows it. Poor Kismet was up to his chest in snow, which it made it rather difficult to potty, especially since the person at the other end of the leash was shivering so badly she could barely clutch the loop. Jeff and I spent all day tucked inside cooking. First crepes for lunch, then a hearty potato soup. We only went outside once, when my roommate talked us into seeing "Young Victoria." That required a slog through unplowed roads, wearing makeshift Wellies to keep my feet dry.

I remember, vaguely, weeks of this, snow and cold, with only more snow to follow. Here it's a marvel, a wonder, something to talk about in years to come. And it will probably be gone in a day or two. Already today the sun was out, heating up roofs and cars until snow slid off, drying plowed roads. Jeff and I, and Kismet (who was suffering from mega-cabin fever), took a long walk around the historical area. It was amazingly beautiful, even though the snow had been pretty trampled already, but still lovely. The historical area looked nothing like itself with a thick coat of white all over and a shield of pure blue sky above.

Best Potato Soup Recipe EVAR:
6 white potatoes as big as your fist, peeled and cut up to bite-sized pieces
Fresh fried bacon, cut into bits
Spring onions, chopped fine
A quarter of a red onion, chopped fine
2 cans Campbell's cream of chicken soup
1 quart chicken broth
Pepper to taste
Rosemary (which we did not actually put into the soup, because we did not have any, but I would have liked to try it...the chicken broth seemed to want a savoury herb)

Put everything into a crockpot and let it simmer while you and your sherpa slog through knee deep snow to see a historical drama. (approx. 3 hours) Mash up the potatoes with a hand-masher and let cook for another hour. Serve hot. Eats hearty enough for a meal, but try it with some Jiffy buttermilk biscuits for a real treat.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Smells like snow

The entire state of Virginia is in a state of mass hysteria because we're supposed to get snow tonight. Anywhere from four to fourteen inches. I sigh, because people keep freaking out all around me, when they could really benefit from some Yankee wisdom: get your beer and toilet paper and just hole up for a couple days. Really. Who wants to go anywhere any way? If it's cold and snowy and crappy. So there's no reason to panic...unless the power goes out. But hey, at least we've all go our laptops charged, right?

So it's eight-fifteen and no snow yet...any second now I expect the flakes to start falling...I just took Kiz out and it sure smells like snow... I'll keep you posted. If there's anything interesting to look at when I wake up tomorrow, I'll post some pictures

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Snap to It

Allright, politics first, cookies second.

While I was jaunting over to blogspot to update, I happened to catch a headline on Yahoo! news that read "Obama Grade From Historians Will Drop Without Healthcare Bill." *sigh*

I'm sure most of my loyal readers have been wondering what I, liberal, Obama-supporting, healthcare-for-all-with-women's-rights-advocating Nicki, has thought of the recent developments that have occurred on Capitol Hill. Well, I'll give you all two cent's worth of opinion, which is I am thoroughly disappointed. I have to admit I thought that Obama would take his majority and get something slammed through Congress. I know he said--and we all want--he would work with Republicans, throw away all the partisan bullpatties, but the fact of the matter is: The Republicans are not playing ball right now, even though Obama is trying. So instead it's politics as usual and nothing is getting accomplished. The thing I am most disappointed in is universal healthcare being thrown away (I know, I know the problems with it, but still). There are many people (like myself) who would love an opportunity not to be tied to a job just for the benefits...but we will not see that opportunity in this lifetime apparently.

But this article is a little upsetting. The bloody Nobel peace prize committee did the same thing: can we please let him finish one term in office before we start looking at his tenure through history's lenses, please? I'm less enthusiastic about Obama, even though I still support him. Right now I just want people to stop analyzing his every move so he can actually get some work done. I still trust him--hell, I put him in office because I knew I could let him do his work without me needing to prod him every step of the way--and I still believe he can do great things.

I just wish he would stop acting like such a bipartisan nonentity, go a little Red and draw some blood. Just sayin'.

Okay! Who wants cookies!

On New Year's Eve, Jeff and I rented Julie and Julia, the movie about a woman (Julie) cooking her way through Julia (Julia) Child's book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In a fit of romanticism I went into Barnes and Noble a few days later with the vague idea of purchasing said book and working through some of the easier recipes. (Although I did want to attempt the stuffed duck at the end of the movie...mmm, pound of beef wrapped in boned duck wrapped in pastry with butter...mmm...) When I got to Barnes and Noble I discovered two things: One, Mastering the Art of French Cooking is bloody expensive--at least eighty dollars for at two book set with the "vintage" original cover. Two, I really have no interest in learning French cooking. I am a jolly jack tar after all, consumed with cooking the perfect roast beef over an open hearth, using the drippings to create the perfect Yorkshire pudding and following it all up with the perfect Boiled Baby.

So instead I bought Betty Crocker's Cookbook. I thought it was the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, but it's very similar, red binder, lots of "how-to-melt-butter" kind of advice and pictures of the different cuts of meat. It's a lot more practical, and the recipes are a lot easier to follow. I have enjoyed several meals already, and I've got the ingredients for Tuna Salad for this weekend.

Each week at work someone is assigned to make and clean up coffee, and this is my week. Generally, people bring in a treat one or two days as well. It's a chance to show off baking skillz and try out new recipes. I was going to bake up a pan of box brownies, but instead I was brave and tried out the Gingersnap recipe. They turned out pretty good...I watched them like a hawk, mindful of the Great Cookie Carnages of time past, but this time...I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of.

PS: If you are following the events in Haiti and want to contribute, please consider donating to the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Their overhead is not as high as some groups, like Red Cross, and they already have long-term missions and groups established in Haiti. Cheers!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The First First

Yesterday was Jeff and my's anniversary. (and yes, for those of you who got The Christmas Card, that's not his real name, but he likes his allows him to carry out his spy missions more covertly). It's slightly incredible to me how I went from being super single for twenty-seven years to slipping into a long term relationship so easily. Especially when at first glance it appears we have nothing in common: he's a Virginian who can trace his family back to 1634, I'm a hated Yankee who has only legends to plant my family tree in. We are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, both today and two hundred years ago. But that by itself is a good indication of why we work so well together--instead of arguing about people currently in office, we fight about the policies of "T.J." versus "G-Dubs" We cook a lot together, we spend time dreaming about historical clothes and walking Kismet. Basic, domestic stuff...I guess I sewed--I mean sowed, geez--my wild oats in London. Now I'm definitely all about the domesticity. With a few occasional jaunts overseas, of course. But for right now...very happy just cooking, working and writing.

Mom and Dad were making fun of me last Sunday when I called to console Dad about the Packer's loss. Poking fun at me for being so giddy about an anniversary. Until I pointed out to them that this is the first time I've ever made it to a first anniversary. So let me enjoy it while I can. Jeff and I spent it like we do a lot of our weekends: we went out for Mexican food, then took Kiz to the dogpark and then came home and watched a movie. It's been a happy first year...hopefully, the first of many.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dating the Fork Fantastic

This is why I love doing historical re-enacting. Every now and then you run across an actual artifact that's of the period, but is still in good enough shape that you can continue to use it for its original purpose. Case in point: my fork. Forks--well, eating utensils--were carried by soldiers or sailors, in lower-class households, every person might have had one that were taken care of and kept track of. No taking a real fork to work and then losing it in the utensil drawer because you've got more at home. Every reenactor needs their own utensils. When you go to an event and someone offers you a piece of chicken, you whip out your plate and dive in with your own knife and fork.

So I bought a fork. I found one (okay, Jeff pointed it out to me) at the local Antique Mall, a big, barnlike structure where individual merchants rent cases and you can spend hours wandering around fondling everything from vintage prints to vintage clothes. There were five forks, originally, pewter, with three tines, the initials I.C.R. stamped in the handle. For $25, with a twenty-five percent Christmas markdown, a piece of history could be mine! So I bought one.

This is what my fork looks like:

(Can I just interrupt myself here to say again how truly awesome this computer is? I was bemoaning the fact I'd have to get out my camera and cables and dig up some rechargeable batteries when I remembered that my computer has a camera on it! So now y'all get to see my fork AND what I look like in my pjs!)

Jeff and I were slightly disappointed to discover (once we got the fork out of the case) that the fork had "JAMAICA" stamped on the back...clearly this eighteenth century fork had been exported in the twentieth century. But it was still a good investment...$25. We figured it was from ca 1715-1760, so definitely something that a lower class person could have used in the Revolutionary War.


Remember the Real Pirates exhibit I went to last weekend? (Yeah, I'd hyperlink it, but all you have to do is scroll down) Among the artifacts that were recovered from the pirate ship Whydah was...wait for it...A FORK. Which looks like this:

Look familiar? Yeah, I thought so too. The Whydah went down in 1717, which gives me definite cause to think that my fork was made before Jeff and I did some more research and came up with another shipwreck. This one was the Belle, and it was recovered off the coast of Texas. One of the things the dive team pulled up was a chest of mysteries--here's an interesting article about it--and one of the things in the chest was...guess now!...a FORK.

Belle's fork looks like this (you have to click on this one, it won't let me put a photo on here)

Notice how this one is even more similar to my fork. Three tines in a squared off setting. The three scrolls on the handle. But the crazy part about this? Belle went down in 1686. That puts the "circa" dates for my fork anywhere from the late seventeenth to the early eighteenth centuries.

So with those dates, and the modern export mark "JAMAICA" I am seriously thinking this fork may have come from the ruin of Port Royal, Jamaica, which sank under the waves during a tremendous earthquake in 1692. Whether it's a recovered artifact from an archaeological dig or something that someone finally dug out of grandma's attic, there's no doubt that it's a genuine piece of history...

That is at least THREE HUNDRED YEARS OLD!!!!

I am planning on harassing some of the archaeologists at CW about possibly working out the maker's mark on the back (I can't read it, it's too faint), or at least definitively telling me if I'm on the right track. Either way, it's a very special I still plan on taking re-enacting with me, although not until I make it a safe little pouch to hide in my pocket in.

Friday, January 08, 2010

hate pigeons so much

And the reason why this is funny is because the book has a map of the Tube on the back, so it's clearly a London pigeon...ugh, they are such filthy, filthy birds!!!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Pirates! Right behind you!

As a loyal member of His Most Imperial Majesty's Royal Navy, I, of course, abhor pirates, which is why I don't play pirates on Facebook. I'd rather wear a shiny blue uniform than a gold earring and parrot. Last Saturday Jeff took me to Nauticus, a huge maritime museum in Norfolk Virginia, where the USS Wisconsin is parked, to see the Real Pirates! exhibit. It was cold and windy and miserable, which are three of the best reasons I can think of for traipsing around a museum exhibit.

The Real Pirates
! exhibit is hosted by the National Geographic Society. It is comprised solely of artifacts lifted from the Whydda (say it like a Southerner saying "widow" --widda) which went down in 1717. Originally built to be a slave ship, the Whydda was captured by Sam Bellamy of New England, an out of work sailor who turned pirate so he could earn enough money to marry his sweetheart. Unfortunately the ship sank on his way back to Cape Cod. I'll let you read about the rest of it on the website. Nauticus has actually hired some real pirates, the Moody Crewe, to come and set up their gear every other Saturday and explain things to guests, letting them touch original tools and guns. I was hard pressed not to point out the inaccuracies of their clothes (one guy was, I swear, wearing his Civil War shirt), but they did make me snigger.

What made me laugh the most though was Jeff's careful examination of a model of the ship: "Why does it have a British flag on it along with a Jolly Roger?" I replied, merrily, "Oh, to confuse the enemy. 'Hum, hum, hum, just a British ship, here we are, being British, just sailing---OH NOES, WE'RE REALLY PIRATES HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, GIVE US YOUR BOOTY.'"

I can see why people like pirates, just as long as you remember that pirates are not Johnny Depp in eyeliner. Pirates are apparently a very democratic crew, but they like to kill and pillage and drink far more than is good for anyone's health.

I'm in a better mood today...I came home to two emails about the Billy Lee project, one with an attachment that contained all the sources mentioning Lee. Love historians so much. You get someone who shares your passion, and you can geek out for hours. I also got an email from a person at CW, saying how the play what I wrote for them has a "sparkle we haven't seen in the evening programs before." Ooooh, I'm gonna print that out and put it in my journal. Little bit o' praise goes a long way.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

le sigh...

Now that evening programs are over, I suddenly find myself with ungodly amounts of time on my hands. I thought that my room would be cleaner, projects would get finished, beagles would get marathon'd, but instead I find myself playing despondently with my new computer. I'm taking it to the Apple Store next weekend for a tutorial, and to have them transfer all my old files since I don't have a cord that will talk to my external hard drive. In the meantime, has never looked so good.

I'm slightly depressed tonight. I was filled with excitement about finally being able to devote some serious evening time to the Billy Lee Project, but after doing some research tonight I discovered not one but two plays dealing with that very man. One of them musicalized. Before you say it, I know--no one else has done it from my viewpoint, and that's true, but it's depressing nonetheless. So, beyond getting Office installed in preparation for beginning the Great Work, not much else has happened.

Well, that's not true. I walked Kismet and plunged the toilet and made hot cocoa. It's still thirty degrees out, and every time I have to go outside I shake uncontrollably. Until I remind myself it could be worse: it could be snowing.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

UNGH the soliloquy....

Mom and Dad bought me a new MacBook Pro with a seventeen inch monitor for Christmas. I was not expecting this: I had asked for a robe. And when mom prompted me with a "that's it?" I thought for a moment and went "oh, and slippers. Slippers would be nice." When I got home from the funeral, a box of Christmas presents was waiting for me...I unpacked it and set them all under the tree to await Christmas morning. I thought the funny thin heavy box with a handle on the top was maybe a toolkit...possibly for my car? And ironically that was the last box I opened. Jeff had moved on to discussing how we were going to handle food for our party that evening when the look of shock on my face cut him off...I couldn't believe it. Sitting here now, wearing my new robe and slippers, typing on keys as smooth as butter, I still can't believe this beautiful machine is mine. THANK YOU MOM AND DAD. So much potential opens up before me. I can actually take this laptop places, since it actually holds a charge. There's plenty of room for music, movies and writing. So far all I've done with it is surf the weekend I'm going to take it down to the Apple Store in Norfolk and have them give me some tutorials. It's like having a Mustang in your need someone to show you how to shift properly. LOVE IT SO MUCH.

I feel like I owe everyone a big ol' blog post to get you all up to date. Recently, a blog I follow didn't update for nearly a month and I panicked, thinking the writer had died in a horrible fiery car crash...turns out she was busy. I know the feeling. So where to begin? Let's not go back to the funeral, even though now that I'm here in Williamsburg I keep forgetting Grandma is gone. Keep thinking "oh, I have to tell her about this" or write her name down on my Christmas card list...then I catch myself. I guess this will continue to happen for a little while. But that's okay.

Christmas Day was spent with Jeff and his family. We went over to his godparent's house for Christmas dinner, Virginia-style, with turkey AND ham, collard greens, cornbread stuffing, cranberry relish, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, dozens of other dishes I can't remember and three kinds of pie to finish. I was stuffed. We couldn't linger too long, however, because we were planning on hosting a little party of our own. Only seven adults here, but I had instructed my guests to come hungry and we had made enough food for a regiment. Jeff made his rum balls and salmon dip, I made mom's meatballs and whiskey weiners, and our guests brought over their Christmas specialties, padded out by chips, veggies, and a big ol' crockpot full of wassail. We finally had to kick them out around midnight. I had a bridesmaid dress to finish.

Boxing Day was a laaaazy day. Jeff and I worked our way through the six-disk set of Monty Python I had bought him for Christmas while I frantically tried to finish my 1930's bridesmaid dress and attach buttons to my coat. I also had to pack. It was luxurious, being able to throw as much stuff as I wanted into the car, including most of our Christmas leftovers. But alas!! Apparently Gladware isn't waterproof!!! Oh, how sad was I to get down to Florida and discover my whiskey weiners and meatballs were completely saturated with ice!!! The saddest day ever...

But I'm getting ahead of my story. December 27th, four-thirty AM, I jump in Chi-Chi and begin the drive down to Florida. I stop and pick up Erin and her husband Mike, who are also in the wedding, and we begin the trek. Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, all pass by in a blur as the sun comes up and begins to slide down. We are in holiday traffic, occasionally slowing and stopping. Then we hit our biggest slowdown yet--for two hours we are creeping until we finally pass by a horrific traffic accident. We are thankful for our safe journey and take it easy, arriving two hours late, but in one piece.

Nicole and Evan's wedding took place at the Beach Club Resort, which is one of the Disney hotel properties. It sits on a little lagoon with the Yacht Club on one side and the Boardwalk on the other. It is huge. Airy, blue with white trim, it really looks like a giant version of a nineteenth century seaside resort. We check in and are promptly whisked off to Disney Downtown (what used to be Paradise Island) and have a late, late supper. The next day I am awoken at seven-thirty and by nine-thirty I am on Big Thunder Railroad at the Magic Kingdom. I seem to recall Big Thunder Railroad being a lot more intense when I was ten years old, but I scream and throw up my hands anyway. Magic Kingdom is brilliant when you're an adult. We make fun of the animatronic animals on Splash Mountain, squeal like girls when the water from Pirates of the Caribbean splashes us and run to the Adventure River to catch Princess Tiana's Showboat Spectacular, knocking over several small children on the way. Magic Kingdom is hellaciously busy. After the eleven o'clock parade the park is suddenly overrun with parents pushing strollers and little kids wandering hither and yon. Little kids meaning kids under two years old who are never going to remember this, and are only going to exhaust their parents with their nap-deprived demands for toys and food. Disney has a new thing called Fastpass, which allows you to scan your ticket at certain rides and receive a time when you can skip the line and get straight on the ride. A one-thirty scan for Space Mountain spits out a Fastpass time of eleven-fifteen at night. We opt for dinner.

Dinner is at O'hana's, at the Polynesian, another Disney resort. It is a set menu: BBQ chicken and potstickers, salad, steamed broccoli and noodles, then skewers of steak, turkey, pork and shrimp, with pineapple bread pudding to finish. We all overeat and stagger back to the hotel at nine-thirty.

The next day the only one up and perky at seven is the bride. I manage to stay in bed until nine. Then we pop over to the gazebo to scout out where the ceremony will be held before Erin and I head over to the salon and get our hair done up for the wedding. A nineteen-thirties hairstyle that leaves me looking like Eva Peron's mom from the movie Evita takes two and a half hours. I hurry back and get into my dress and shoes. I have been worried about these heels for weeks, but anything less than two inches is not an option. Somehow I manage to stay upright for the walk over to the gazebo, the brief but beautiful ceremony (I cried), and the pictures afterward. Nicole arrived at the pavilion in a 1958 white Rolls Royce...Erin and I enjoy a brief ride down the boardwalk to the spot where we're taking more pictures, earning more than one double take as people notice the "Just Married" sticker in the window. We take a boat back to the Yacht Club and the shoes come off. Dinner is a small, intimate affair...with less than thirty people at the wedding, including the wedding party, it is easy to get to know everyone. Not much dancing (not that my legs would be in any sort of shape for dancing), and by nine-thirty we've sent the couple off to start their honeymoon. The wedding party changes and takes one last walk around the lagoon. A brief walk...never seen Florida so frosty.

Then home again. This time it's the traffic what cooperates and the road-trippers who are dallying. We turn off the main path and have lunch in Saint Augustine, which is a tiny little town, the oldest one in a America, full of cute little stores, cobblestone streets and farby pirates. And good pizza. The rest of the drive home is uneventful. I am in bed by two-forty five, so I get nearly four hours of sleep before I have to go to work.

But it's only one day and I have a three day weekend. Jeff comes up to Williamsburg, bearing a freshly-washed Kismet, and we watch movies until it's time for the ball to drop. I finally have someone to smooch on New Year's Eve, and it's wonderful. The next day I meet up with him down in Norfolk and we go see The Real Pirates exhibit at Nauticus in Norfolk. It is wonderful. There are chests overflowing with silver, guns, tools, pieces of clothing and even smells floating around. You can tell it was put on by National Geographic--it's done incredibly well. Some of Jeff's friends are there, guys who rent themselves out as pirates occasionally, and they add to the atmosphere by doing demonstrations and letting kids handle their reproduction guns. I have to correct a small child who attempts to cock a flintlock by making a modern "chk-chk" sound.

We go see Sherlock Holmes, which was pretty good. Not quite sure how I felt about the story, but the acting was good and London was pretty underneath all its dirt...the same could be said for Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. of course.

Now it is noon. January 3rd, 2010. It is freezing: the temperature is probably in the teens with the windchill and the wind is howling. Kismet is bugging to go out, so we'll probably head to the dogpark this afternoon. (His chomping of a pork bone seems to have affected him not at all, little stinker) Life is good. I will put up some pictures of the wedding as soon as I get any...and I promise to post more liberally in the new year.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Ringing in the new year

I wanted to write about the emotionalness of a funeral so close to Christmas...waking up to my first Christmas without my family nearby...celebrating with Jeff's family, the triumph of meatballs on my own (next year: not lean ground beef)...the shock of unwrapping a MacBook Pro with a seventeen inch-screen (THANK YOU MOM AND DAD) traveling thirty hours to attend a fairy-tale wedding in Florida, managing to stay upright in two and a half inch heels for nearly three hours...finally having someone to smooch on New Year's Eve...discovering a new Deutsche restaurant on the first day of a new year...

But, idiot Nicki saved the pork chop bone from dinner. Knowing that her beagle had a love of pork but also a killer chomp, she hung on to it while he chewed gingerly until WHAM--and she was holding a half a pork chop bone in her hand. A very sharp half. Which leads her to believe that the piece of bone now traveling through Kismet's digestive system is also very sharp.

And that is why this blog post, instead of being about the emotional crazy last two weeks, is about Nicki spending the evening of New Year's Day feeding her beagle some cotton balls (wrapped around leftover cheese curds) so that it will cushion the deadly splinter of bone in his stomach and cursing her momentary stupidity. ARG.