Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

We're not partying, just getting ready for the party tomorrow. We have always had a New Year's Day open house serving blackeyed peas and cabbage for good luck and prosperity in the new year. We also have all kinds of other stuff. I am about to go grocery shopping, have to muster the troops to get the patio cleaned off, party lights put up, other chores. The troops did a good job of sweeping and washing down the carport yesterday. Now they just have to put the bins back in place, put up some lights around the door.

We have to stay home on New Year's Eve since we got Tippy. He's VERY sensitive to thunder and fireworks. Fireworks are illegal in the city but that doesn't stop people from setting them off. Even indoors, he has trouble finding a safe enough spot to lie down and chew on his rawhide. So we stay home and start cooking for the New Year's Day party.

I'm currently having my coffee and forming my plan for the day. We'll see how well the troops perform. Some of them are still asleep.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Carport Kitties

The official pets have been introduced, but we also have a full complement of carport kitties.

Peanut belongs across the street, where her name is Abby. Her small head is the reason she got the name "Peanut" on this side of the street. She sometimes goes home, but stays in our carport or side yard if we're home. If you take too long loading or unloading your car and leave the doors open, she will go inside to scope it out. She was very freaky and shy, but now she meows at the kitchen door if she's gone too long without kitty treats. She will also sneak in the kitchen door - she will sniff noses nicely with Tippy but she runs if she sees Jasper.

Jake has many aliases. He was abandoned by a renter down the street over a year ago, and patrols the street looking for handouts. I tried to get a good home for him but now I'm too attached. Jake reminds me of O'Malley the Alley Cat in "The Aristocats". The people down the street call him "Jackson," the next door neighbors call him "Tiger". He is friends with Blue, the large charcoal cat next door. His fur is soft like rabbit fur and he's very affectionate with people he knows. He makes the rounds, many people on the street know him and feed him.

Blue lives next door, used to come over and chase Tippy around the yard. Jasper put a stop to that, so now Blue hangs out with Jake and Peanut. Blue is a troublemaker. Any time he sees another cat relaxing, he has to sneak up on them and pounce.

I don't have a current picture of Milky Way, neighbor cat to the east. He thinks he owns the block, and has a power struggle with Blue and Jake over driveway ownership.

If I'm not careful, I could be the crazy cat lady of the block. However, all these cats have official owners except Jake.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Short-Sleeved Christmas

We had a cold front come through last weekend so I was able to comfortably cook for the holidays - but the cold never lasts long, and we've had temperatures in the 70's all week. Another air-conditioned Christmas.

We went to east Texas to see relatives - didn't even take a jacket. It was good to see everybody. Sent the daughter on a sleepover at her little cousin's house Christmas night - the B-I-L, S-I-L, husband and I got giddy with laughter over a video of "Borat" which none of us had ever seen. They had to watch all the trailers, interviews, and other extras on the DVD. We had played the singalong edition of "Mamma Mia" in the afternoon, got plenty silly with that.

Tip and Jasper were happy to see us this afternoon when we got home.

Now we have to get the house straightened up, plan for the blackeyed peas and cabbage open house we'll have on New Year's Day. Daughter is busy planning her evening with friends - before we left Texas, it was a party, now it's a screening of "Benjamin Button" and a sleepover with the girl gang. Between that and ice skating Saturday night, I plan to get lots of work out of her since much of the clutter seems to be hers.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You Know What's Fun?

I'll tell you fun. I got into the car at the grocery store last week, and Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" started up. So I rolled down the windows (temps in mid '70's), maxed out the bass, and turned up the volume almost as high as it would go.

Didn't sing the words because I only know one line of the chorus that goes "When I ruled the world."

It would have been more fun if I had been in a Mustang convertible instead of a silver bullet Dodge Caravan mom-mobile. Anyway, tried to imagine I was.

The spell lasted as long as the song. Oh well, simple pleasures for simple minds.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Smells of the Holidays

I love the smells of the holidays. At our house, you smell the Douglas fir if you come in the patio door, and you smell citrus by the front door. We have to do a real tree every year. This year, I shopped for one very late, got a heck of a good deal on a nice fat little tree. The top is a little squirrely but that makes it individual.

We have a little angel on top but the snowman near the top is Mr. Bingle, instantly recognized by anyone who grew up in New Orleans. He's a mascot of Maison Blanche, a store bought by the Dillard's chain. He has his own jingle and everything. Can't have Christmas without Mr. Bingle. You can look at him as a symbol of everything crass and commercial, but to us he's a folkloric figure, a snowman Santa helper. His hat is an upside-down ice cream cone, and he's the personification of the ubiquitous New Orleans snowball treat. Yes, everything in Louisiana culture has a connection to food.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Most Aggravating Ornament of All

I just found this bow - it's one of my favorite ornaments but my family hates it. It has a motion detection setting that can see any car drive up or any cat cross the carport. You can turn the song off or on by hitting the red button, or you can set the motion detect on so it freaks out anytime anything moves. Not only does a song play, but the tail twitches and makes the bells chime. It sings several songs including Jingle Bells. I'm trying to figure out how to load a video of it. You can see the YouTube version here. In practice, the motion detect has to stay off because my family members have nervous breakdowns from its normal operations.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kumquat Queen

Life in our backyard centers around harvest - right now it's citrus time. Most of our trees are still getting over the early December frost of 2006. We had about 6 satsumas, 4 Meyer lemons, no blood oranges, but about a million kumquats and calamondins. (Satsumas are easy to peel mandarins, few seeds usually, ready to eat green in late September or October, hold on the tree pretty well through December. Calamondins are a cross between satsumas and kumquats.)

I made 2 batches of Meyer lemon/kumquat marmalade already - half a dozen half-pints per batch. Trying to save them for Christmas presents - they go pretty fast. My neighbor across the street has more lemons than they can use, so I will probably use some of theirs.

I picked a bunch of kumquats yesterday - the tree started leaning so I got the ripest ones. The tree sets fruit continuously for several months so there are ripe and green ones. I am in the process of making candied kumquats; have to boil/cool them over a couple of days. Also made a batch of kumquat-only marmalade. I am gratified by the popping of the jars in the kitchen.

Now the husband is getting jealous of all the kumquats I'm using - he wants to make pickled kumquats and kumquat brandy. We made quite a few quart jars of kumquat brandy with the last ones last winter, but the recipe says to wait for 5 years before drinking.

A friend came over while I was working on kumquats - bringing two boxes of mandarins that someone gave him. Now we have towers of fruit. Usually keep it on the covered patio to stay fresh but we have a freakish warm weather spell now, it was about 76F today, not going to be cooler than 62 tonight. We had record breaking snow less than a week ago. Mother Nature definitely acts bipolar during these gulf south winters.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Diva Daughter

OK, she's not really a diva - I just like the alliteration. She's in 10th grade, second year of high school. We live in walking distance to her school, so she's been happily independent of the school bus the last two years. She can run around after school with the gang or stay late for school clubs. This year, she's on the bowling team, active in art club and sign language club. She insists on driving everywhere we go, and is pestering me about getting her license. She's had her learner's permit for nearly a year so I guess I'll have to cave soon.

She went to St. Simon's Island, Georgia with a friend's family the weekend before Thanksgiving 2008 - this picture was taken at the top of the lighthouse there.
The other picture is the Homecoming Dance - for those of you who haven't seen her in years, she's the one on the right.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Snow Post

Please skip the pet post to see the real reason I started the blog - the Snow Post!

Who are Tippy and Jasper?

Tippy and Jasper are the official pets of the house. Tippy is the terrier mix (maybe some Jack Russell in there?) that we got from the pound almost 4 years ago. Tippy is gentle but can be nervous and excitable. He is so ticklish all over he almost can't stand to be patted. He is a friend of cats. When we walk around the neighborhood, cats on several blocks come to sniff noses with him. Before Jasper threw his weight around, there were several cats who would come to our backyard to play rodeo with Tippy.

Jasper is the Formerly Feral. He showed up to share our old cat Pichou's food as a tiny kitten in the spring of 2002 and became tame enough to catch in about a month. Jasper's only animal friend is Tippy. Jasper is too territorial to be friends with the cats around here and most of the dogs besides Tippy are big black barkers.

Record Breaking Snow!

Well, it snowed Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008. It was the first measurable snow ever recorded in December. There are many 1 and 2 foot tall snowmen all over town. Our schools did not close, but lots of kids stayed out and played. It melted by early afternoon. My high schooler is still mad because I made her go. The orange fruits are kumquats. The tree in the middle of the yard photo is a calamondin - they say it's a cross between a satsuma and a kumquat.

There were no pet tracks in our snow - Tippy and Jasper stayed in their beds on the patio. They are both southern-bred and had never seen snow before.