Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

Ian and I invited our friends Marcia and Dan to join us for a sumptuous lunch on Christmas Day. Marcia drove from home in Hopkins and swung through Grandy to pick up Dan. They arrived an hour before we expected them, but being good family friends they tiptoed over the still wet kitchen floor and kept talking as I did the last bits of dusting.

Marcia, who graduated last weekend with her master's in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, is already an accomplished massage therapist, fab cook and master cookie/candy maker. She brought us an oval-shaped plate of sweet assortments. I look forward to eating the toffee every Christmas. This year she added 2 new recipes; Oreo truffles and an almond bark type of white chocolate delight that I passed on to her from a Facebook group I belong to:

Melt a package of white chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler. Stir in about a cup of dried cranberries and about a cup of shelled pistachios. Spread on wax paper and chill. When hard break up into bite sized pieces and enjoy.

Both were delish!

Dan is a self-taught master gardener, who works his butt off in our many gardens during the warm weather. We spent some time thumbing through hobby farm and garden magazines talking about the raised beds, split cedar fencing and the many varieties of sunflowers we’ll work on in the spring.

Son Richard and I both worked nights; him 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the local casino, me 11 p.m. to 9 a.m. Christmas morning. Since I did not get home 'til 9:30 and Richard was fast asleep, Ian had the lunch menu planned and ready to go; smoked ham, a whole roasted chicken, cheesy mashed potatoes, gravy, fresh green beans in portabella mushroom cream sauce and a bagged green salad that I adore from Costco. Truth be told, while I do have the odd Martha Stewart inspired moments, Ian is the better cook. I had contemplated making a pumpkin pie, but there was no space to enjoy it, so it was voted down. That fact alone should attest to how full we were.

We talked, laughed, ate, drank, then cleared dishes and started the dishwasher's first load. Our dogs got to lick clean pots and pans. I had set aside leftovers for Dan that were clearly too near the floor and our 15-year-old poodle, Tucker, decided he'd help himself to a bit of Christmas cheer until he was busted. Thankfully, we salvaged both the leftovers, which were rewrapped, and Tucker's age-sensitive stomach.

It was just shy of 3 p.m. when the 'must sleep' wave washed over me and we said our good-byes. It was a nice day, well spent. Merry Christmas and God bless.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy December

This year, winter's first official day is December 21, also known as the Winter Solstice. To me, the days feel noticeably shorter since the ends of Daylights Savings Time at the beginning of November; we do chores in the dark and try to squeeze in all other outings during the sliver of remaining daylights hours that are not already reserved for work. Once home, I am not wont to bundle up, warm up the car and go wherever, as few things hold that great appeal. We have already felt winter's bite with temps in the teens and below-zero ranges, usually reserved for January and February. Record snowfall and vicious winds deflated the Minneapolis Metrodome roof and generally wreaked havoc across the State. Our farm is a good 90-minute drive north of the Twin Cities and while we too had snow, wind and cold temps, we were not buried like our friends to the south. There is plenty winter left between now and the March 20 Vernal Equinox and w'’ll make the best of it.

All of the farm animals are well. The horses have their deep, furry coats. Here is an excerpt from an online article on winter horse care:

The horse’s winter coat is a horse's first defense from the cold. When allowed to grow, a horse's natural hair coat acts as a very effective thermal blanket, it increases both in length and density as the days grow shorter. A horse’s winter coat is also naturally greasy, which helps it repel snow, ice, and sleet. A heavy winter hair coat a tremendous insulator and provides as much warmth as the best blankets. Horses that are to be maintained outside should be allowed to grow a long hair coat, plus the hair within the ears and around the fetlocks should not be clipped throughout the winter months. Horses have the ability to fluff out their coats in cold weather, thereby trapping a layer of air in the coat which provides them an insulating layer. Once the hair coat becomes wet, the hair lies down and loses its insulating ability.

Our grey cat Zeus marks the change of season with a transition from barn to house cat. Usually, our orange tabby Tiger is our only inside feline, but Zeus presented his face at the second story office window in early November to let me know it was time again to make him welcome. I'm always glad that he remembers his cat box skills from season to season. The chickens, geese and dogs are also well.

Last year, I began volunteering as co-editor for the Minnesota Arabian Horse Association newsletter. I really enjoy this type of thing, I like the opportunities to give back and this is a core principle for this club. In 2011, I will be its sole newsletter editor and for good measure, I lobbied to be the MAHA webmaster too. These are skills I have in abundance and it's another opportunity to give back, learn more about the Arabian horse industry and network; win-win.

In September, I chose to take a part-time paid position with Volunteers of America of Minnesota. I began working 10 hours a week as a direct support person working with VOA clients in our local community. In October, even though I was not particularly looking for more hours, fate intervened, and I was offered a full-time position working the graveyard shift in one of VOA's residential houses in the neighboring Mora, from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Ian and I decided as a couple we could do this (he continues to work weekdays 9-5) and I accepted the position, which began the first week of December. I manage the night hours alone and awake. I like the quiet of the overnight hours and the fun of making the four residents breakfast and getting their day off to a happy start. The transition between sleeping nights and days has not been a problem, which makes this all easier. Sundays do feel like a long day because when I come home at 9:30 a.m., I try my best only to catnap so I can switch back to sleeping nights. So far, so good. With Christmas and New Year's Days falling on the weekends, I will be working, sleeping and celebrating quietly when home.