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Wine is my one of my four favorite beverages* and it’s a pity I don’t drink more of the stuff. Whenever I have a glass with my dinner I always vow to drink more and then I do not. Someone isn’t keen on the stuff (certain reds give him headaches); he prefers soft drinks with supper. Drinking alone is not much or a pleasure as wine is like whisky viz.it is a social drink to share and talk about.  

I used to study wine, I wanted to know all there is about the stuff; I tried keep up on all the news in the world of wine but it is just not humanely possible. Wineries spring up like weeds. Thanks to technology and clever-folks with the unpronounceable -ologist title the quality of wine has improved to the point getting a decent bottle is easy.

I live a mile away from “Total Wine”. They have heaps and the staff are knowledge and enthused about the stuff. There are studies showing people tend to feel overwhelmed and unhappy when given too many choices and I feel this whenever I go shopping for wine.  I can afford the expensive stuff, but I like getting a good bottle at the fraction of the price of pretentious types.  My palette cannot easily discriminate a Grand Cru rated at a ’92’ priced at 300$ from something similar from Washington rated at ’89’ for 20$.  What I like is finding are the bargains: bottles about $10 that are pretty good enough. 

In every wine book and course I’ve taken they always start with the French wines yet I’ve never really had any. They were either unavailable or outrageously expensive. About six months ago there is a French fellow named Sebastian now working at TW who is introducing me to some affordable table wines from Loire. ‘This one is from my home!” I don’t think I am being sold the alcoholic equivalent of “Summer Rain” perfume.  

I seldom buy the same thing again even when I like it. I like ‘moving on’ to try as many as I can –  “no wine untasted” as it were. However as I age I am settling into some favorites like a Malbec from Argentina and Pinot Noir from Oregon (if it isn’t too expensive). 

A grape varietal I am fond of (but no one else likes) is Baco Noir. It is a dark earthy red wine that would go with roast beef or game I suppose. I call it “Earth-blood” while less charitable types call it ‘mud’.  I’ve never found it outside the Niagara-on-the-lake region in Southern Ontario. Alas they do not ship and I’ve not had any in years, worse luck.  

It is nearly impossible to keep wine for long where I live when the inside temperature can be a cool 80F to the outside 110F for many months. We have wine coolers but they don’t last long in the ardent heat. So much for collecting! Best to run out and get a bottle as one needs, like the milk. The current incarnation holds a handful of $$$ lovelies that were given as gifts that wait for a ‘special day’ that never comes.

We are still eating Thanksgiving leftovers which includes two bottles of wine: a beaujolais nouveau (young, red, and not too tannic for Someone) and a Gewurtztraminer from Washington. Perhaps at Christmas I will open that 100$ Duckhorn Napa Valley and pretend it is a Baco.  

Spo-fans: if you enjoy a certain wine please tell me as I am always open to new ones.  

 

*The others (if you are interested): tea, whisky, and water – good water, no rubbish. 

The 2020 holiday season looks to have quite the ‘pagan’ theme to it. In July Someone  (the dear!) gave me for a birthday prize a collection of fourteen ornaments from Iceland consisting of The 13 Yule Lads and Jólakötturinn A.K.A. The Yule Cat.  Starting on the evening of 12 December I will hang each lad on the tree as his turn comes

.  

Then there is The Yule Goat. For those unfamiliar with this entity every year in the city of Galve in Sweden the townsfolk erect a large straw goat in the center of town. Then it’s a guess as to whether it survives the Christmas season as usually somebody burns it down. Its survival record is not a good one although it’s done good in these more recusant years thanks to security resembling East Berlin. In years past I often rooted for the miscreants but this year I want the goat to win.

Santa Claus stopped visiting La Casa de Spo years ago but Odin Claus drops by every Yule now. Saint Nick and Odin are very similar like Coke and Pepsi. Indeed the former has ‘borrowed’ many of the latter’s attributes although when Odin flies through the sky he does so using not eight but one reindeer – and it has eight legs how cool it that. 

Then there is the Nisse or Tomte, the little guy with the whiskers and red cap who better get his porridge on Christmas Eve or there will be hell to pay.

These fine fellows (many of them not over four feet) are all welcome and I look forward to their arrival. That is, provided I am around to welcome them. I need to get through Krampusnacht first. I suspect I was exceedingly bad this year so the chances of me being hauled away in a wicker basket are alas quite good. 

If I should make it to Christmas day with the lads on the tree and the cat satisfied I got new clothes and the Tomte satiated on Cream of Wheat I will be glad to sip glogg from my Odin Claus mug. The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections would certainly approve. 

Yesterday Friday felt like Saturday as we did many Saturday chores. As a consequence this morning feels like a Sunday when I try to do little or nothing. Sunday is my day to write non-sequitur Spo-bits so here it is a day early.  Spo

Yesterday I made stock from the carcass which seemed to go OK but this morning I took it out of the fridge to skim off the fat the whole thing was a gelatinous mass, a sort of ‘fatberg”. Disgusting. I wonder what went wrong. Maybe it’s possible to warm it and melt it back into liquid form but my first thought is to toss the nasty looking thing as an experiment gone wrong. 

We have a lot of leftover meat which will be made into a stew and a pot pie.  Today is cooking such. 

Many homes in the neighborhood have already put up Christmas lights. A block away from me on another street is a house notorious for its over-the-top decorations that light up the district like a Carnival Cruise ship. Yesterday on our dog walk we saw the owner outside still setting things up suggesting this year’s spectacle should be more foudroyant than usual if that is possible. I wonder what his immediate neighbors think of it.

My outside decorations pale by comparison to the whorehouse productions surrounding me. Last night the two white lights on either side of the garage door were exchanged for green and red. I made sure the green one was on the starboard side as one leaves port A.K.A. the garage. We haven’t put out lights in years; if I can them (and they work) I may put up some strands. Nothing mars the Christmas spirit more than trying to untangle Christmas lights. Bah Humbug. 

Who knew masks would still be needed by year’s end?  It is a tragedy this is so. It is an ill wind that blows nobody good; it gives me an out to get out remnants of Christmas fabric and make me some masks apropos of the Christmas season. 

The one with the stars comes from fabric I used to make the Christmas tree skirt. 

I love holly and now I get to wear some. 

The blue mask was made from a runner made fifteen years ago when I was learning how to sew and it didn’t turn out so good.  I wonder if anyone will call me a snowflake when I wear it. 

The Grinch mask was made from the fabric used to make a Spo-shirt so now I have mask and shirt to match.  It is my favorite of the four. 

 

 

*Fat chance of that.  I should go into the office for a few hours, as is my wont on Saturday mornings, to do some paperwork. 

 

Some time ago a Spo-fan suggested I write on the ticklish topic ‘what to buy the man who has everything’. This is a timely as Someone’s birthday is pending (12/12) and then there is Christmas.*  I want my own advice. I hope something inspires me as I write this entry. 

Let’s start with what NOT to buy the man who has everything. 

#1 – Do not buy a“Tom Spo gift”. 

A “Tom Spo gift” is a prize the giver gives that the recipient doesn’t really want or plan on using but the receiver sure will. Once upon a time my father Thomas was visiting my house. He was rummaging around the kitchen asking where was my coffee machine. I reminded him I drink tea and I didn’t have one. That year at Christmas I got as a Christmas prize a Mr. Coffee.** You get the point. 

#2 – Avoid prizes of self-improvement.

Clothes are well intentioned but won’t likely work to better his (poor) taste in dressing or to replace that awful worn out favorite shirt of his. Exercise devices evoke suspicion you are telling him to shape up. Worse are the self-help books. Ugh.


#3- Knick-knacks.  Most men see these as dust-collectors 

#4 – shoes.    That includes cha-cha heels. Black ones.

 

With that out of the way, here are some notions:

#1 – Virtual things. Rather than buy him an actual book, buy it on audiobook so it does’t take up space on the shelf waiting for the next garage sale or trip to Goodwill. Wrap the receipt or a printed photo of the dust cover to put under the tree for him to unwrap. Subscriptions to podcasts and on-line magazines work this way as well.


#2 – Comestibles.  Food and drink maybe transient but enjoyable. Fancy cheeses, meats, and smoked fish (no rubbish) are all good and one never goes wrong giving a really good bottle of whisky.  This is starting to border on a ‘Tom Spo’ wish list so I will stop now that you get the gist.

#3 – Hobby stuff.  If he is into tools or collectables or leather gear consider getting him something along that line – but here is the important part: save the receipt. The item is unlikely to be exactly what he had hoped for so this way he can exchange it for what he really wants. Hopefully he will appreciate the thought. 

#4 – Ask others. He may be mum as an oyster with you disclosing his fancies but his pals and relations and coworkers probably have heard a thing or two. 

#5 – Threats. Announce you need a list of wants and give him a clear deadline to provide such or you will be forced to get him “X”. Make “X” as loathsome as eating rats at Tewkesbury.


If all else fails, get him a ‘Tom Spo’ gift. Over time he may learn his lesson. 

 

 

*I vow every year I will gather ideas throughout the months so my future self won’t be crazed bereft of ideas. No such luck. 😦 

**Turns out it was a good gift; later visitors were most grateful I had such.

 

This entry will be something I’ve not done before: an ongoing add-on entry, when every few hours (when there is something to say) I will come back and add to it.

7AM – The turkey is sealed in a bag, bathing in its brine bath. It looks like it is ready to burst. Someone made the sensible suggestion I put it in a large bowl lest this happens. Fingers are crossed it holds out until 1PM.

8AM – I boiled the shrimp for pre-supper hors d’oeuvres and I made the kung pao sauce for the Brussel sprouts. Someone is Pie-master; he is making the pumpkin pies. I thought to supervise using my newly-learned cooking critiques but these were not well-received. I was told to buzz off / get out of the kitchen and go write a blog or something. Mercifully there was no shooting.

9AM – I finally found the roasting pan, a small detail I forgot to provide. I’ve decided today we shall use the good china, of which we have plenty. I think we have four or five sets each large enough to feed a family of fourteen, none have seen daylight in years. There may be savagery in the decision which set to use. Wish me luck.

1020PM – Yikes! I forgot to make the cranberry relish! It is supposed to chill in the fridge for a few hours. Mother made two types: a ground berry concoction made with sugar and orange bits and a homogenous maroon gelatinous version from a tin. I forget who in the family preferred which but there were always the two. I made the former, dividing the batches into two versions: one with white sugar, and the other with brown. Let’s see if there is a difference.

The brine has leaked from the bag into the fridge down to the vegetable drawer. Oh the pain.

12PM – On Thanksgiving should one eat lunch or skip it? I thought the latter but Someone (who was hungry) brought home some grocery store sushi. We ate with relish. It seemed just enough to stay our stomachs until dinner, which may be as early at 4PM and as late as 7PM depending on how quickly the bird cooks. As I ate a California roll dipped in wasabi with soy sauce and drank my tea I thought how spicy and foreign is lunch compared to dinner which will be seasoned by the fine herbs of the Midwest salt and pepper.

2PM – I have nothing to compare it to but the drained turkey out of its brine looks water-logged. The legs seem ready to fall off, so they had to be bound. I am too old to remember knots from my Boy Scouts days and too inexperienced in bondage to get help there, but I digress. The cavity was filled with ‘aromatics’ and all was put into a 500F oven x 30 minutes to give it a browned/hopefully not scorched look prior to dropping the temperature to 350F and coving the breast meat with a tinfoil cover resembling an aegis from a bad Wagner opera production. In the process of oiling the bird I fear I’ve managed to coat every surface of la cocina de Casa de Spo with Salmonella. Let’s hope the 500F x 30 minutes kills off the wee-beasties on the carcass.

5PM – Last week I bought a new cooking thermometer as I didn’t trust the old one. Then I could not remember which is the new one, So I inserted both; they came out with the same temperature. I can not tell by looking if it is any good/done. The bird seems darker than the ones I’ve seen before; I am anxious to cut into it and see. Is it overdone or underdone? Will it be flavorful? Such suspense! Meanwhile the sweet potato soufflé’s and the Kung Pao Brussels are a-cooking; time to hope in the shower and put on a clean shirt so I look presentable at table. 

 

6PM – A triumph! A triumph!  The breast meat was quite moist and had good flavor. The brining process and tin foil hat did good I guess. Someone remarked another factor was we bought a more expensive bird than usual but I want to think it was my industry that made the difference.  I almost didn’t use any gravy as it was good enough without any. The Kung pao sprouts and the hot crock stuffing were good too.  

I finish the day with my head held high. 

I am thankful for many things and this includes you the Spo-fans.  OXOX

 

I want to write some Christmas cards; I cannot remember when I last wrote any.*  In a drawer in the office reserved for stationary are a couple of boxes of Christmas cards from goodness knows how long ago. I see them every time I go rummaging for a postage stamp. I decided this year to post a few.

Mother had an elaborate system which included a ‘card register’ book of addresses which included two rows of check boxes: one to record which years the receiver was written one ; the other was a checklist as to whether or not the recipient wrote us a card. I suppose Mother would stop sending cards to the ones who didn’t put out.  She ordered the personalized cards months ahead of time and we kids helped in the assembly line of applying stamps and return addresses to the envelops.  It was a lot of work that took place over a few days.

Thanks to blogging, social media posts, and continual texting my dears already know what I have been doing so there is no point in writing out the events of the past year lackluster as they were.  My cards are not going to be about news or Christmas. They are going to be about gratitude.  I want to write one or two sentences telling the recipient how grateful I am for having them in my life, especially this awful year.

My challenge: gather up the addresses. Unlike Mother I do not have an up-to-date address book let alone a Christmas card register.  I hate to miss sending a card to X and to Y or to (heavens forbid!) Z.  I may have to directly ask X, Y, and Z to provide their address, which will spoil the happy surprise but there it is. This is better than not sending a card at all.

I hope my Midwestern wiring doesn’t get too neurotic about this project viz. have I missed anyone and what about thems who send me a card and I hadn’t thought to reciprocate. If the list surpasses my cache of cards I may have to go out and buy new ones. Do they still sell Christmas cards I wonder? I haven’t looked in years.

First step: compose a list of thems to whom I wish to send a card.

Second step: obtain their addresses.

The third step is getting stamps – something I haven’t bought in ages. I think they have them at Uncle Albertsons.

In whimsy, Mother often wrote her notes using red or green ink so queiro compar boligrafos verde y rojo.   

This already sounds a lot of work, but my gratitude is large enough I want it expressed in writing .

 

Spo-fans: do you send Christmas cards?

 

 

*I use the verb ‘to write’ as that is what Mother did. She did not ‘send’ Christmas cards, she ‘wrote’ them. Prior to adapting the awful Christmas letter she would write a few lines of personal information suited for the recipient.  I thought this an awful lot of unneeded work but now I see it as the height of good manners. It shows the recipient she cared enough to do so.

My Nordic blood continually bubbles urging me to move northwards. Even as a boy I wanted to live ‘up north’. It wasn’t that Michigan was bad* but Canada, England, and Norway seemed so much better. I figured it was a case of ‘the grass is always greener’ and I would grow out of it. Alas the more I learned about the northern kingdoms the better they became and my longing did not dissipate. The countries of Scandinavia and The Great White North consistently rank as some of the happiest countries in the world while the cranky U.S.A. ranks much lower. I am a fish out of water as it were living as I do in the American Southwest.

My latest longing is to go to Iceland.  This is influenced by Icelandic history and poetry  Like Norway Iceland has a lot of fairy-folk which is a selling point, as well as gorgeous Viking-types, most of them well over four feet. Iceland has fabulous Christmas traditions including all children must receive a book at Christmas. So what’s not to love about living in Iceland?  Jaeja!

Norway is still high on my list as it has all the charms of Iceland and as a bonus: it has trolls, Ibsen, fjords and Grandiosa pizza.

As for England I would be gladly become a subject of Her Majesty, having been an Anglophile from the get –go.  I recently learned there are 48 counties in England which vary in character as much as The States. There must be a few in which I would be happy, maybe one of the northern ones would be best with their Viking/Nordic elements thus combining Norway and England.  Tewkesbury is in Gloucestershire I think which would be poetic justice to call my home.

Alas, Babylon! All three kingdoms probably have up ‘no vacancy’ signs up towards immigrants and they only want my tourist dollars not my U-Haul items. This leaves Canada which has the advantage I have some Canadian genetics so perhaps I can persuade Mr. Trudeau I am merely returning not immigrating. French sounds easier to learn than Northern Germanic tongues and I already have a Tim Hortons mug. Which province would I move to I wonder? British Columbia looks too expensive. Ontario is familiar and it feels like home in a way. I would do fine in the Maritime Provinces like NS and PEI. There are fine fellows there who could  sponsor me as a person of character or adopt me in a pinch.  Yes this sounds the best solution:  become a Canuck and go a-viking to the other places.

What a lovely notion this is, a happy velleity not to happen.  It does cheer me up to consider such. 

 

 

*Certain counties in western Michigan exempted.  

The Mouse in the House remains at large. Yesterday we bought some ‘humane’ traps but so far no luck. At one point we had the thing boxed behind a bookshelf with Someone on the one side and Urs Truly on the other playing the proverbial game of cat and mouse but we lost. Someone thinks it not a mouse but something else, a small rat perhaps. I know it’s a mouse. Imagine if you will us on other sides of the bookshelf giving each other updates:

“I just saw the mouse. It’s headed your way now”

“I don’t think it’s a mouse I think it’s a small rat”

“It’s a mouse – oh! he’s back I almost got him!
“Don’t make sudden moves, sent it back my way. It don’t think it’s a mouse”

“It’s a mouse” 

etc. 

On Saturday morning we went early to Uncle Albertsons to get our foodstuffs for Thanksgiving. I was anxious the place would resemble The Fall of Saigon but at 8AM it was not bad. Uncle A wasn’t short on anything on my list. I was shocked and dismayed to see once again all the TP was gone. I almost wept with the dismay; can we never learn anything or are we doomed to forever repeat folly?* Someone and I did not succumb to this lunacy last spring and we won’t this time.  We should have plenty of tissue until the next Loony-Tunes episode.

Last night Someone ushered an outdoor Arizona Opera showing of an opera.** This is the first public gathering I have attended since March.  It resembled a small sports stadium with astroturf. I sat on my chair in my ‘pod’ for one, a healthy distance from the others, wearing my mask at all times.

Speaking of masks I am pleased to see nearly everybody in the store and out and about are wearing them. By now everybody has the over-the-ears store-bought surgical masks but I continue with the homemade tie-it-yourself types. Today I got out some Christmas-themed fabric to make some more masks.  Alas that this drags that I need some!  These four will be of holly, snowflakes, Christmas stars, and The Grinch. 

Someone advises me if I am going to launch my turkey endeavor I should start today by pulling out the bird from the freezer. I am looking forward to trying this. Part of yesterday’s shopping was thinking ahead to how to use the leftovers. I might make a turkey casserole or soup. Perhaps I will make both as I suspect we will have a lot of leftovers provided I don’t ruin it. 

 

 

*History says hell no. 

**The opera was Hansel and Gretel. The production was awful. Act II was more or less a food fight taking place in an industrial-type kitchen. The witch was sung by a man in drag. After she/he turns into gingerbread the spectacle ends in a sparagmos. It was rawther unusual. 

A few days ago I heard a blood-curdling shriek from Someone emanating from the east wing of the house. I ran to investigate.  Had he cut himself while chopping the parsnips?* Rather he had seen a mouse running across the kitchen floor. We’ve had crickets, countless scorpions, and even the occasional stray bird that has flown in but never a rodent. I was surprised a mouse could survive in the Sonora desert what with all the hawks, owls, and coyotes, but there it was – or at least reported. 

Perhaps WCS‘s mouse emigrated to the USA Southwest. So much for The Rotten Orange and his silly wall. 

It is curious what makes us anxious. I was not at all perturbed. I grew up with three brothers who among them had countless gerbils that were forever escaping their cages.** This morning while ironing the Spo-shirts I too spotted wee-mousie that wasn’t at all that ‘wee’. Indeed it was rawther large and avoirdupois. There is a part of me that thinks if el raton has the successful temerity to get in than it can jolly well stay. Perhaps it can play the role of “Santa Mouse”. This approach has been shot down and the general consensus at La Casa de Spo is to be rid of it ASAP before the place resembles The Ministry of tourism at Tewkesbury. Today we are off to Casa de Depot to buy us a mousetrap. 

We haven’t determined which sort of mousetrap to purchase. The traditional cheese-baited snap-trap type is gruesome but at least it settles the matter.  The other option is one of those ‘humane’ traps although this means someone (probably not Someone) has to carry the creature outside and release it while saying a prayer it won’t just make a beeline back into the house. 

We (meaning I) need to be more mindful at keeping the screen doors tightly shut (poor Harper!) and the floors better swept for crumbs and bits of dog food. Perhaps we could get a cat. When I lived in Chicago I had a couple of cats A.K.A The Mouse Police. They regularly brought me dead mice, proud of their industry.  It was a bit creepy but sweet.

As I write this I can hear a faint scurrying sound emanating from the kitchen and it is not Someone.  I am off to locate a trap. 

Santa Mouse, your days are numbered. Sooner I’d eat mice at Phoenix than live with this hypervigilence. 

*I should have known better. We have no parsnips – or any root vegetables for that matter, worse luck.  

**The gerbils, not the brothers. 

I suppose a lot of people are itching for some comfort or cheer this year and have moved everything up. At La Casa de Spo the tree is erected on 12/15, which is Someone’s birthday. Between Thanksgiving and the feast of day of his nativity I like an Advent wreath only and Christmas can wait its bloody turn.

I will start somethings earlier than that. Brother #3 (the dear!) sent me a delicious Advent calendar of 25 days of hot sauces.  I shall be ho-ho-ho-ing a lot this holiday season.  The 13 Yule lad ornaments (along with  Jolakoetturinn the Yule Cat)  will being making their debut one by one correlated to the night each ones arrives. I think this starts about 12/12 – I need to check.

I stopped by Heorot Johnsons the other day to drop off paperwork and some road kill to discover the halls bedecked for the holidays. I was surprised by this. The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections has strict rules no Yule stuff before Thanksgiving lest the gods become angry and/or the HOA writes a letter. I was a little peeved to see this: the great boughs of pine, the yule logs ,and the boars heads stuck on spikes (the traditional trimmings at Yule time). I don’t haul out the holly prior to Turkey Day. Last week when walking the dog we noticed a tree was already up at one of the neighbors – and the political lawn signs had not yet been taken down! Oh the horror.

At work the patients convey they are ‘keeping it sweet’ this holiday season by not trying to drive and fly all over creation like Odin Claus obliging the relations to be in three places at once at Christmas.  Overall they are not so disappointed  but relieved they have an excuse to blow off the in-laws and the obnoxious uncles and aunts.

With that said I am itching to play me some Christmas music. Thanks to the generosity of my friends’ offer to pillage their CD s I have a half dozen of new CDS of Christmas music.* Unlike TBDHSR I will hold off until next week Friday.

 

Spo- fans: when do you usually decorate and are your holiday plans altered this year?

When do you put up your tree?

Does anyone else decorate the halls with boars heads on spikes? 

 

 

*These are nearly all ‘classical” recordings, but Linda Eder somehow got into the pile. I didn’t know Ms Eder had a Christmas album. I hope she doesn’t shout too much.

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